In 1906 what was to become known as the Pentecostal movement began at a small African Methodist Episcopal church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles CA. For about nine years, at this location, a series of rather vibrant meetings took place and this segment of religious history became known as both the Azusa Street Revival and the "Latter Rain Movement". From this revival / movement several denominations took root in our society. Among these were the Assemblies of God, the Church of God in Christ, the United Pentecostal Church and, most importantly, the Pentecostal Church of God at the Sharon Orphanage in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada since it is from this root of the Pentecostal movement the Assembly of the Body of Christ would sprout many years later.
Meetings held under the name “The Pentecostal Church of God” started in 1948 at the Sharon Orphanage. These meetings were the seed that began the rebirth of what is still called the “Latter Rain Movement”. This movement, through several of its key players, would directly influence my father, Ramon A Haas when he created the “Assembly of the Body of Christ” (ABC) denomination twenty-one years later in Seattle WA. The following is an excerpt from a text held at the University of Virginia Library about the Sharon Orphanage revival. To read the entire text, go to RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
"The Latter Rain Movement began as a revival at Sharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, among students assembled by former Pentecostal Assemblies ministers George Hawtin, and P.G. Hunt and Four-Square Gospel minister Herrick Holt" (Melton 84) in 1948. This was a Pentecostal movement parallel to the healing movement that arose in the midst of the post-World War II evangelical awakening. The movement also bears similarity to the movement that arose at Azusa Street.If one closely examines the specific doctrines of the ABC you will find them nearly identical to those espoused by the Latter rain Movement. A few of these doctrines include: the fivefold ministry, the laying on of hands, the feast of Tabernacles, the foundation truths of Hebrews 6:1-2, head coverings and more. These are all carryovers from the teachings at the Sharon Orphanage which were directly influenced by a man named William Branham, and his teachings, in the fall of 1947.
The movement was led by William Branham and Oral Roberts. Oral Roberts was a Pentecostal Holiness Preacher who started his own independent healing ministry in 1947 (Riss, 107). In the fall of 1947, Branham held meetings in Vancouver, B.C. and the meetings were attended by many pastors and teachers (Riss, 106). Among those that attended were people from North Battleford and they "returned to supply the spark that ignited the controversial Latter Rain movement" (Riss, 106). Therefore, the Latter Rain Revival actually originated at Sharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. Former Pentecostal Assemblies minister George Hawtin, and P.G. Hunt and Four-Square Gospel minister Herrick Holt assembled the students (Melton 84). The need for a new revival such as the healing movements by Roberts and Branham and the Latter Rain movement, stemmed from the perceived "dryness" of the Pentecostal faith. Pentecostalism was lacking in the manifestations of the Spiritual gifts and the Latter Rain revival focused primarily on the Spirit so it catered to exactly what people wanted (Riss, 113). In 1949, Assemblies of God and Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada tried to suppress the revival and the revival was forced out of the Assemblies of God church.
The reasons for denouncing the revival according to the Assemblies of God were "(1) it relied too heavily upon present-day apostles and prophets (i.e., a self-appointed charismatic leadership); (2) it practiced the confessing and pronouncing of forgiveness by one member upon another; (3) it advocated the practice of bestowing spiritual gifts by the laying-on-of-hands; and (4) it distorted Scripture so as to arrive at conclusions not generally accepted by members of the Assemblies" (Melton, 84).
The revival continued to spread and ministers left the Assemblies of God church and took part in the Latter Rain movement. In the 1950s, William Branham and Oral Roberts were very influential in encouraging the spread of the Latter Rain revival. The revival died down slowly and most people considered the Latter Rain movement dead along with all of its doctrines. In actuality, the Latter Rain movement had quite an impact on Pentecostal beliefs and certain Latter Rain doctrines can be seen in Pentecostalism such as: the fivefold ministry, the laying on of hands, the feast of Tabernacles and the foundational truths of Hebrews 6:1-2 (Riss, 124). Manifestations of the Latter Rain movement can be seen in the Vineyard movement and most recently the Toronto Blessing and Pensacola Revival. These movements are not new but really just resurgences of Latter Rain."
In the next post I will examine the link between William Branham and the three men who most influenced the doctrinal development of the Assembly of the Body of Christ denomination; Derek Prince, James A Watt and Ern Baxter. I will also review their ties to the Sharon Orphanage and School and some of the connections the ABC has to these people and movements.