2-It happened at Azusa Street

Despite the Assembly of the Body of Christ's (ABC's) assertion they are not a denomination, have no historical root, and sprang spontaneously from a prayer meeting at the Wilcrest Apartments in Seattle Washington, this is simply not true.  All denominations have roots in prior church history and not a single one sprang spontaneously from a vacuum. There is nothing new under the sun, not even the ABC. 

To completely understand the beginnings of the ABC one must first step back in time and understand their ties to the Latter Rain MovementSharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada, William Branham, James A Watt, Derek Prince and a few other people and movements.   


In 1906 there was what could best be described as "a happening" at a small African Methodist Episcopal church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles CA. This eventually morphed into the Pentecostal movement. For about nine years, a series of  lively meetings took place at Azusa street and this segment of religious history became known as the Azusa Street Revival then later the "Latter Rain Movement".  From this revival / movement  several denominations took root; 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. It is from this North Battleford 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 Sharon Orphanage. These meetings were the seed that then re-birthed the “Latter Rain Movement”.  It was this movement, and several of its key players, that would directly influence my father, Ramon A Haas in his constructing of his church movement. Principals and doctrines passed down from this movement nurtured the soil of 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.  I have bolded the people and movements my dad followed. 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.

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."
If one examines the specific doctrines of the ABC you will find them nearly identical to those espoused by the Latter Rain Movement, including head coverings, which I will examine later. A few other doctrines include: the five-fold ministry, the laying on of hands, the feast of Tabernacles, the foundation truths of Hebrews 6:1-2, and many more. These are all carryovers from the teachings at the Sharon Orphanage which had been directly influenced by a man named William Branham in the fall of 1947.
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 the ties to the Sharon Orphanage and School, as well as some of the connections the ABC has to these people and movements. 

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