Introduction
DEFINITIONS AND ONE HUNDRED YEARS
OF HISTORIOGRAPHY ON SEYMOUR
gastón espinosa
The Pentecostal movement is one of the most powerful and fastest grow-
ing grassroots religious movements in the world today. This book explores
William J. Seymour, the Azusa Street Revival, and his influence on global
Pentecostal origins across the U.S. and around the world from 1906 to 1912
in select countries like England, Norway, Sweden, Liberia, South Africa,
China, and India.1 The following chapter will set the context for the biog-
raphy and documentary history by defining key terms, phrases, and move-
ments and by providing an historical overview of how Seymour has been
interpreted over the past one hundred years.
Most scholars break the global Pentecostal movement into three
main groupings: Denominational Pentecostals (Classical Pentecostals/
Pentecostals) (16 percent), Charismatics (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox)
(39 percent), and Neo- Charismatics (Independents/Postindependents/
Nondenominationals) (45 percent). In this study, denominational and clas-
sical Pentecostals will simply be referred to as Pentecostals. Pentecostalism’s
proliferation into twenty-three thousand denominations has understandably
led some to question whether it’s even possible to define a Pentecostal and
a global Pentecostal movement.2 While clearly there are many streams and
combinative theological traditions that feed into the larger global movement,
there are nonetheless two salient beliefs and experiences that tend to unite
most Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo- Charismatics around the world.
The first is the necessity of having a personal, born-again conversion expe-
rience with Jesus Christ and the second is a desire to be baptized and filled
with the Holy Spirit—or being “born-again and Spirit-filled.” Contrary to
stereotypes, a person does not have to speak in tongues to be considered
a Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian, but they normally desire to do so.
These core beliefs reportedly helped unite forty-five thousand Pentecostals,
Charismatics, and Neo- Charismatics from 113 countries around the world
in spiritual unity across races, languages, denominations, and nationalities
at the Azusa Street Revival Centennial Celebration in Los Angeles on April
25–29, 2006, where participants claimed there was no confusion about the
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