The year was 1916. The Assemblies of God faced deep doctrinal divisions that threatened to tear apart the young Fellowship. A significant minority of Assemblies of God ministers had identified with the emerging Oneness movement, which denied the doctrine of the Trinity. In the face of this turmoil, the fourth General Council of the Assemblies of God, which met in St. Louis in October 1916, voted to adopt its Statement of Fundamental Truths.
Stanley H. Frodsham’s observations of the meeting were published in the Oct. 21, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Frodsham (1882-1969), a young British Pentecostal pastor and writer, had a unique perspective. He was not just an observer, those in attendance elected him to serve as general secretary of the Assemblies of God.
Frodsham described how early Pentecostals initially thought they were “being led by our Joshua, out from the wilderness, over the Jordan, into the promised land.” This triumphalistic view was soon tempered by divisions within the Movement. Frodsham quoted Scripture to describe the disunity: “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). He lamented, “This new spirit has crept in and brought shipwreck and havoc in many directions.”
Frodsham described at length how General Council participants discussed their doctrinal differences and, ultimately, voted to “set forth a clear statement of the things most surely believed among us.” The Statement of Fundamental Truths has provided a basis of fellowship for the Assemblies of God for 106 years.
But the adoption of the Statement of Fundamental Truths was not the most important accomplishment at the 1916 General Council, according to Frodsham. While the decision to adopt the Statement was important, he believed that the meeting’s missionary spirit was its best and most memorable feature.
Frodsham explained, “The mightiest factor in this great Pentecostal Revival has been the wonderful missionary spirit that has characterized it from the first.” Frodsham stated that the “paramount needs of the hour” were a “large spiritual horizon, a revelation of the need of souls, a passionate desire to see them saved, [and] intense prayer for multitudes to be pressed into the Kingdom.” These two characteristics of the 1916 General Council — a missionary spirit and a desire for solid doctrine — continue to animate and define the Assemblies of God to this day.
Read the article, “Notes from an Eyewitness at the General Council,” by Stanley H. Frodsham, on pages 4 and 5 of the Oct. 21, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Vision of the Lord,” by Arch P. Collins
• “Thirsting after God,” by Andrew Urshan
And many more!
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Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.