Pentecostal Assemblies of the World

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Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
Classification Apostolic Pentecostal
Orientation Oneness Pentecostalism
Associations Apostolic World Christian Fellowship
Founder J.J Frazee
Origin 1914
Los Angeles
Merge of Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (pre-merger) and General Assembly of Apostolic Churches
Separations Church of our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith and Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) is a Pentecostal Christian organization n. Founded in 1914, the PAW is the oldest Oneness Pentecostal organization in the world.[1] Its headquarters are in Indianapolis, Indiana. The church's official publication is The Christian Outlook. In 1998, it had a membership 1.5 million in the United States.[2]


Early years (1914-1917)[edit]

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World is the result of the merger of two Oneness Pentecostal bodies in the early years of the Pentecostal movement. The oldest body was founded in 1914 by a Oneness minister named J. J. Frazier. The church was centered on the West Coast and was the first to use the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World name.[1]

The second body resulted from a schism within the General Council of the Assemblies of God in 1916. That year the General Council disapproved of the Oneness doctrine and adopted a Trinitarian Statement of Fundamental Truths. This forced a large minority of Pentecostal ministers and churches to withdraw from the Assemblies of God and form a new group based on Jesus' Name principles. They were led by Garfield Thomas Haywood, formerly the leading African-American pastor within the Assemblies of God. This group met in Eureka Springs, Arkansas to create an organization capable of issuing ministerial credentials named the General Assembly of the Apostolic Churches. The top officials of this new organization were D. C. O. Opperman and Howard A. Goss, formerly important leaders of the Assemblies of God.[1]

Early Pentecostals were believers in non-violence. As the likelihood of America's entering World War I increased, the General Assembly of the Apostolic Churches attempted to gain government recognition in order to protect its young ministers from the draft law. Being unsuccessful in this endeavor, it was decided to merge with a similar organization already possessing incorporated status. Such a group was found in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, and the two groups merged in late 1917. The first chairman of the merged group was C. W. Doak, a white man, and the first secretary was G. T. Haywood.[1]

1924 division[edit]

For nine years after the merger, the PAW was able to maintain its status as an interracial fellowship of churches. Certain factors, however, would eventually lead to a breakdown in the communion between whites and blacks. One contributing factor to division was the reality of segregation and Jim Crow laws in which Southern churches worked. Because no racially integrated meetings could be held in the South, all of the PAW's conventions had to be held in northern cities. Due to the distance, there were always fewer Southern representatives in the church's governing bodies. Since the majority of northern members were black and the majority of southern members were white this created a situation where whites were always outvoted.[3] In 1924, white leaders of the organization separated from the PAW to form the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated. This group subsequently merged with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ to become the United Pentecostal Church International.[4]

The head of the organization held the title of General Elder or General Overseer until 1925, when it was changed to Presiding Bishop. At the same time, it established a Board of Bishops with five members. Of the five members, one of them, G. T. Haywood, was elected Presiding Bishop. Haywood was a real stabilizer for the organization. In the days of the separation of the Trinitarians from the Oneness, Haywood was a supporter of the Oneness message.

In 1932, the PAW was reorganized.


The leadership of the PAW consists of a Presiding Bishop and a Board of Bishops. The board also includes lay-directors from various regions of the United States and emeritus bishops who once served but are either semi or fully retired.

Under the oversight of the Board of Bishops are geographical units called councils, or dioceses. Councils correspond to state or national boundaries and each council is headed by a diocesan bishop, who is appointed by the Board of Bishops. A diocesan bishop can have as many as three assistants, called suffragan bishops. These suffragan bishops hold only the authority given them by the diocesan bishop. Typically they will have authority over a region or part of a state. Reporting under the suffragan bishop are district elders, who oversee and assist the elders (pastors and their churches) in his district. A district can contain as few as three churches and with typically no more than 25.

In 1998, the number of PAW churches in the US was 1,750 served by 4,500 clergy.[2]

The following is a list of Presiding Bishops:

  • Garfield Thomas Haywood (1925–1931)
  • Samuel Joshua Grimes (1932–1967)
  • Ross Perry Paddock (1967–1974)
  • Francis L. Smith (1974–1980)
  • Lawrence E. Brisbin (1980–1986)
  • James Archie Johnson (1986–1992)[5]
  • Paul A. Bowers (1992–1998)[6]
  • Norman L. Wagner (1998–2004)
  • Horace E. Smith, M.D. (2004–2010)[7]
  • Charles H. Ellis III (2010–Present)


  1. ^ a b c d Vinson Synan, The Holiness–Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), pages 173-174, ISBN 978-0-8028-4103-2.
  2. ^ a b "Denominational Profile Association of Religion Data Archives". Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  3. ^ Synan, The Holiness–Pentecostal Tradition, 174.
  4. ^ Synan, The Holiness–Pentecostal Tradition, 161.
  5. ^ "Our Pastor: Bishop James A. Johnson". Bethlehem Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. Archived from the original on 27 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Bishop Paul A. Bowers". Greater Emanuel Apostolic Temple. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008. 
  7. ^ "Biography: Bishop Horace E. Smith M.D.". Apostolic Faith Church. 

Further reading[edit]

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