An Overview of Religion in
Los Angeles from 1850 to 1930
by Clifton L. Holland
When California was
admitted to the Union in September 1850, Southern California had experienced few changes
through American control and settlement. Only three small towns existed in all of
Southern California: San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. However,
smaller settlements were to be found around the old Spanish missions and on some of the
large ranchos that dominated the economy of Southern California, a region that had a total
population of only 6,367 in 1851 (McWilliams 1946:64).
religion in Los Angeles was Roman Catholicism, which had been
established throughout California by Franciscan friars who came from Mexico, beginning in
the 1770s, to establish a chain of missions for the purpose of evangelizing the Native
Americans and of developing agricultural colonies using forced Indigenous labor. The
pueblo of "Our Lady the Queen of the Angels" had been established in 1781 on the
banks of the Rio Porciuncula, now known as the Los Angeles River.
As the Anglo
American population of Southern California began to grow after 1850, small Protestant
denominational churches grew out of union services in small towns.
During the late 1860s and the decade of the 1870s, as more churches were planted in new
settlements and the size of denominational groups increased along with the rapidly growing
population, regional and state associations of Protestant churches were formed.
Whereas the Baptist and Congregational preachers simply came with the people
as part of the western migration, the Methodist preachers were usually sent west to form
new churches, and the Presbyterian ministers were called to serve a church by a previously
1869 and 1909, the construction of several railroad lines within the Southland spurred a
series of real estate booms that brought a flood of Anglo American settlers from Northern
California, the Midwest and East Coast, as well as from many foreign countries, to begin a
new life in "sunny Southern California." Between 1880 and 1900,
hundreds of towns and thousands of orchards and farms emerged in the region, and the
population of the City of Los Angeles grew from about 50,000 in 1890 to more than 100,000
It is worth noting
that the majority of Anglo Americans in Southern California during this period were
strongly biased and discriminatory against Indians, Mexicans, Asians and Roman Catholics (see
McWilliams, 1968; Bean, 1968; and Wollenburg, 1970). The Spanish-speaking population
(mostly Roman Catholic) of Los Angeles totalled about 12,000 in 1887, or less than 10% of
the Anglo- American population; also, there were a few hundred Chinese in Los Angeles, most of whom
lived in an area north of the Mexican Plaza, near the present-day Chinatown (Pitt, 1970).
Excerpts from Clifton L Holland,
The Religious Dimension in Hispanic Los
Angeles: A Protestant Case Study. South Pasadena, CA:
William Carey Library, 1974.
The Religious Situation in Los Angeles from 1850 to 1900:
the beginnings of ethnic and religious pluralism
historic presence of the Roman
Catholic Church in Los Angeles and environs accentuates the region's
distinct spiritual heritage. Under the charge of a resident bishop, by 1859, this
denomination benefited from the ministrations of clergy and nuns, outside funding and
capable administration. Roman Catholics also remained a numerical plurality in the
Los Angeles area through the early years of U.S. statehood, and their clergymen spoke the
Spanish of the Californio residents, who were the descendants of Spanish and Mexican
settlers and the local Indigenous population (see Leonard Pitt, The Decline of the
Californios: A Social History of Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890). The
institutions of local Catholicism therefore endured the tumultuous 1850s and 1860s with a
stable church organization, staffed by clerics conversant in the language of the majority
of the citizenry: Spanish. The remnants of the Native American Indian
population in the Los Angeles area lived near the Spanish Franciscan Missions established
in San Fernando, San Gabriel and San Juan Capistrano, as well as in the poorer sections of
the growing town of Los Angeles, and were ministered to by clergy and lay workers of the
Roman Catholic Church.
establishment of lasting congregations in the town of Los Angeles, Protestant settlers
were initially far less fortunate than Roman Catholics, Jews and Chinese.
The greatest obstacle faced by pioneers of the Protestant tradition was the
division of a small number of people into separate denominations. These
"godly" folk struggled with a scarcity of clergy, a paucity of funds, local
violence, and the distance from fellow believers. Lack of familiarity with Spanish
also precluded outreach to the broader local community. Increased Ango American
immigration was necessary for the survival of the churches so long identified with western
frontier Christianity. Neither the circuit-riding Methodist nor the Baptist
farmer-preacher could succeed initially in this isolated pueblo of Los Angeles.
- The Rev.
John Brier, a Methodist
minister, was the first Protestant clergyman to preach in Los Angeles, in the spring of
- The Rev.
John W. Douglas, a New-School
Presbyterian minister, arrived in Los Angeles a few months after the
departure of Brier in 1850. Douglas departed for San Francisco in August 1851.
- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey-Los
Angeles was established in 1853, which included the southern California
counties, under Bishop Thaddeus Amat (1810-1878, a Spanish-born theologian of the
Vincentian Order who had previously served in Missouri and Pennsylvania), who arrived in Los
Angeles in late 1855.
February 1853, the Northern
Methodist Episcopal Church in San Francisco sent the Rev. Adam Bland to Los
Angeles to begin Methodist work in the southland; he has replaced by the Rev. J. MacHenry
Caldwell in 1854. Occasional Methodist worship services were held in private homes
and rented halls, as well as a series of camp meetings for the Ango American settlers.
- A group
of Texas Baptists
settled in the town of Lexington (now named El Monte) on the banks of the San Gabriel River
in the 1850s. The first Baptist church was organized there in November 1853 with
four members. During 1854, the Methodists and Baptists held joint services in Lexington.
Episcopal Church services were
first held in Los Angeles in October 1855 in a rented hall, where the Methodists also held
their services. However, it was not until October 1857 that St. Luke's Parish was
Hebrew Benevolent Society was organized
in Los Angeles on 6 July 1854, with 30 members, and a Jewish Cemetery was
established on 9 April 1855.
preachers only occasionally supplied the Southern California District of the
Methodist Episcopal Church, North between 1854 and 1869, when first
permanent Methodist congregation was established: Fort Street Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1856, this district reported only 42 worshippers.
- As early
as 1854 a congregation of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church existed in Los Angeles. The colored
people of this denomination first held services at the house of Robert Owen (" Uncle
Bob") in 1854. In 1869 a church was organized and a building was erected in
April 1871, known as "Little Church on the Hill." The first members of
this congregation were Mrs. Winnie Owen ("Aunt Winnie "), Mrs. Biddy Mason and
Miss Alice Coleman. The Wesley Chapel (colored) was organized August 24, 1888, with
twenty-three members and eighteen probationers; now there are fifty-six members and
seventeen probationers. Services are held in a hall on Los Angeles street; Rev. F.
H. Tubbs (white) has been the pastor of this body from its beginning.
- On 18
March 1855, the Rev. James Wood, an Old-School Presbyterian
minister, organized the first Protestant church in Los Angeles, but it lasted only about
six months, due to the departure of Wood for greener pastures.
- In May
1859, the "First
Protestant Society of the City of Los Angeles" was organized as an
interdenominational effort by the Rev. William E. Boardman, an Old-School Presbyterian
minister. A modest church building was constructed in 1862 that was passed over to
the Episcopalians in 1866, who later sold it to the County of Los Angeles in 1883.
- On 2
November 1860, Boardman organized the First Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles,
but only sporadic services were held until this congregation was reestablished in 1874
under the Rev. Fraser.
- In 1864,
the Rev. Elias Birdsall, a "missionary pastor" from Indiana, arrived to
reestablish the Protestant
Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. In March 1865, Birdsall established St. Athanasius Episcopal Church,
which was renamed St. Paul's Episcopal Church in 1883.
- In 1866,
the American Home Missionary
Society of the Congregational Church (related to New England Puritans) in San
Francisco sent its first two missionaries to southern California: the Rev. R. A.
Johnson to San Bernardino (originally a Mormon settlement) and the Rev. Alexander Parker
to Los Angeles.
- In 1867,
the Rev. J. C. Miller of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, South arrived in Los Angeles to establish the Los
Angeles Circuit; Miller was succeeded by the Rev. Abram Adams in 1869. The center of
their work was in the rural community of Los Nietos-Downey, but by 1869 Trinity Methodist Church was
established in Los Angeles.
- The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles
was organized on 21 July 1867; the first church building was completed and dedicated on 28
August 1869, the Los Angeles
Baptist Association was organized in El Monte (formerly known as Lexington),
composed of five rural churches in the Los Angeles basin; by 1876, the Baptists had 16
organized congregations with 633 members in five counties of southern California.
- In 1870,
the Rev. William C. Harding arrived in Los Angeles, where he organized a short-lived Presbyterian Church with
only eight members; however, Harding retreated from Los Angeles and reestablished his
ministry in the community of Wilmington, near the port of San Pedro. By 1872, six
Presbyterian congregations had been organized in southern California under the Presbytery
of Los Angeles. After several years of frustrating ministry in Los Angeles by the
Rev. Thomas Fraser, he was successful in reestablishing the First Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles
on 11 January 1874. However, a permanent pastor for this church did not arrive until
1875, when the Rev. A. F. White (from Carson City, Nevada) was appointed.
By 1870 there were only five Protestant churches in Los Angeles that were fully
organized: Fort Street
Methodist Church (Methodist Episcopal Church, North) with 40 members; Trinity Methodist Church
(Methodist Episcopal Church, South); First Congregational Church
with 36 members; St. Athanasius
Episcopal Church (later known as St. Paul's Episcopal Church); and the African Methodist Episcopal Church
(organized in 1869). In 1870 the town of Los Angeles only had 5,728 inhabitants.
- In 1872,
Carl Zahn, a German dentist, established an independent
"deutsch-evangelisch" (German Evangelical) church in Los Angeles;
this congregation later joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, North and part of its
German Mission, in 1876.
- On 8
September 1874, the First Baptist
Church of Los Angeles was organized with eight members, under the leadership of the
Rev. William Hobbs. He was followed by the Rev. Winfield Scott, who served as pastor
first Chinese Temple ("joss house")
was established in Los Angeles in 1875 among an estimated 170 Chinese immigrants, some of
whom had lived there since the early 1850s as "house servants" for Anglo
American settlers. Most of the Chinese population lived together in an ethnic barrio
(the first "Chinatown") near the town Plaza. It was here that the famous
"Chinese massacre" occurred on 7 October 1871, when a mob of Anglo Americans
killed 19 Chinese in the neighborhood known as "Nigger Alley." Chinese
religion at that time was a polytheistic blend of Buddhist, Confucianist and Taoist
teachings and traditions, known as the "Three Teachings."
Joss house or Miu is a place for worshiping a variety of
indigenous Chinese deities, saints and supernatural beings from Taoist, Buddhism, Confucianism,
heroes and folklore. Joss house is usually translated as temple, although it
was in common use in English in western North America during frontier times, when joss
houses were a common feature of places with Chinatowns.
Joss houses are distinct from Taoist temples and Buddhist
monasteries in that they are established by nearby villagers or fishermen to pray for
good luck; only few or none of monks, nuns or priests study religion or stay in joss
houses. Joss houses are usually small houses decorated with traditional figures on
their roofs although some evolve into significant structures. The name "joss
house" describes the environment of worship. Joss sticks, a kind
of incense, are burned inside and outside of house. The Chinese character Miu means
"ancestor hall," a place to worship ancestors. It is later extended
to places for worshipping others.
also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_language)
- The First Christian Church/Disciples of Christ
was founded in Los Angeles in 1874; previous congregations of this denomination had been
founded in San Bernardino, Los Nietos-Downey and El Monte.
- The Unitarian Church
(Unitarian-Universalist) was informally established in Los Angeles under the leadership of
Caroline M. Seymour Severance in May 1877; the congregation was inactive between 1880 and
1884 when Mr. and Mrs. Severance returned to Boston, but it was formally established in
1884 with the Rev. J. H. Allen as pastor and with the support of the Severances.
- Trinity German Lutheran
Church (Missouri Synod) was founded
in Los Angeles in 1882. Later, other Lutheran churches were established that used
English and Swedish for worship.
- The Reorganized Church of Latter-Day Saints was
organized in Los Angeles in the autumn of 1882, with about a dozen members; it had about
eighty members in 1890. Worship was held in a hall rented by the society.
1862, the Jewish community of Los Angeles (about 200 persons) established the first Jewish
synagogue with 32 charter members, Congregation B'nai B'rith,
led by Rabbi Abraham Wolf Edelman and lay leader Joseph Newman.
Mission was established in Los Angeles by T. P. and Manie Ferguson in
- In 1887,
the Roman Catholic Cathedral of
St. Vibiana was dedicated at the corner of Second and Main Streets in Los
Angeles; whereas most of the other Roman Catholic churches and Missions were constructed
of wood, rock and adobe materials, the new Cathedral (see picture below) was made of steel
and cement, and designed by Los Angeles architect Ezra F. Kysor.
Several Theosophy groups (founded in
New York City in 1875 by Madame H. P. Blavatsky, William
Q. Judge and others) arrived
in Southern California during the 1880s. A branch of The Theosophical
Society existed in Los Angeles as early as 1886. Jerome A. Anderson was active on the Pacific Coast and was an author
of elementary books on Reincarnation and Karma, Immortality, and Septenary Man. He was a
frequent contributor to the pages of the New Californian, a Theosophical monthly
founded in Los Angeles in 1891. The editor of this magazine, Miss
Louise A. Off, was among the most active members on the Pacific Coast, writing on
Theosophical subjects for the California newspapers as well as in the New Californian. She
also conducted in her home well-attended weekly meetings for the discussion of
Theosophy. The United Lodge of Theosophists was
formed in 1909 in Los Angeles under the inspiration and guidance of Robert Crosbie,
who was a Boston Theosophist during the time of William Q. Judge. He worked very closely with
Judge, enjoying his confidence. When, after Judges death in 1896, the members most
active at the New York headquarters raised Mrs. Katherine Tingley to the position of
Judges successor, Crosbie gave her his loyalty and support. About 1900
he went to Point Loma, near San Diego, to be of assistance in the work of The
Theosophical Society there, founded in 1900 by Mrs. Tingley. However, in
the course of a few years, he came to feel that nothing constructive was to be
accomplished by remaining at Point Lomathat, in fact, the teachings and philosophy
of Theosophy had suffered an almost complete eclipse by the methods and sensational
program instituted by Mrs. Tingleyand he quietly left the Point Loma Society in 1904
and came to Los Angeles. He secured work in Los Angeles and gradually began to
gather around him a few studentsmost of them entirely new to Theosophyto
undertake once more the task of promulgating Theosophy in the same form as originally
presented by the founders of the movement. When, in 1909, he had been joined
by a small nucleus of persons who shared this ideal, The United Lodge of
Theosophists was formed to carry out the purposes in view. The Theosophy Company began in 1925
as a non-profit corporation devoted to the dissemination of theosophical literature and
the publication of the quarterly journal, Theosophy (a synthesis of science,
religion and philosophy), first published in 1912.
German Evangelical Friedenskirche
("Church of Peace") was founded in Los Angeles in 1887
and had about 50 families by 1890. This church was named after the Peace
of Westphalia of 1648, which ended both the Thirty Years' War in Germany and
the Eighty Years' War between Spain
and The Netherlands. This permitted the Lutherans in the Roman Catholic parts of the
Roman Empire to construct their own churches, to be built outside the city walls and
made of wood with no nails.
the Seventh-Day Adventist Church had about
eighty members in Los Angeles, and it also had churches in Pasadena, Norwalk and Santa Ana.
arrived in southern California during the 1880s and established an
agricultural colony at Loma Linda, near Redlands.
In the fall of 1893,
Plymouth Brethren ("Open Brethren" tradition) evangelist W. J.
Mc Clure held tent meetings in Los Angeles, which led to the establishment of one of the
earliest Brethren Assemblies in California at 806 Temple Street in Los Angeles. This
assembly later moved to 1231 West Jefferson Blvd. and built the West Jefferson Gospel
Hall, which remained at that location for many years. This assembly held Saturday
night street meetings and sponsored tent meetings of one to two month's duration from time
to time. For more information about their history, see: http://www.emmaus.edu/files/Documents/History%20of%20Brethren%20Mvt/history_3.htm
1870 the growth of religious groups in Los Angeles can be attributed to four specific ways:
increased membership, the construction of new church buildings, the formation of new
ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and the appearance of additional denominations.
population of Los Angeles doubled from 15,309 in 1870 to 33,381 in 1880 as more
Ango-American Protestant families arrived from the Midwest and East, thanks to the new
intercontinental railway connections via San Francisco that reached Los Angeles in
September 1876 and to major real estate promotional efforts to attract newcomers to
"sunny southern California."
Southern Pacific Railroad reached Los Angeles in 1876, followed by the Santa Fe Railroad
nine years later. The two rival companies conducted a rate war that eventually drove
the price of a ticket from the eastern United States down to five dollars. This
price slashing brought thousands of settlers to the area, sending real estate prices to
unrealistically high levels. By 1887, lots around the central plaza sold for up to
one thousand dollars a foot, but the market collapsed in that same year, making
millionaires destitute overnight. People in vast numbers abandoned Los Angeles,
sometimes as many as three thousand a day. This flight prompted the creation of the
Chamber of Commerce, which began a worldwide advertising campaign to attract new citizens.
By 1890, the population had climbed back up to fifty thousand residents.
the 1890s, oil was discovered in the City of Los Angeles, and soon another boom took hold.
By the turn of the century almost fifteen hundred oil wells operated throughout Los
Angeles. In the early 1900s, agriculture became an important part of the economy,
and a massive aqueduct project was completed. The city's growth necessitated the
annexation of the large San Fernando Valley, and the port at San Pedro was also added to
give Los Angeles a position in the international trade market.
to Engh, by 1889, 17 religious congregations had been established in Los Angeles by the
denominations previously reported above, and four of these denominations had begun
missionary activities among the Chinese, Hispanic, German, Swedish and French population:
the Presbyterians, Northern Methodists, Congregationalists and Northern Baptists.
Between 1880 and 1885, the Seventh-day Adventists, the United Presbyterians, the German
Lutherans (Missouri Synod), various Holiness groups, the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
Spiritualists, Theosophy and "a society of American Buddhists" established
themselves in Los Angeles. Other religious groups created new settlements in
nearby areas, such as the Quakers in Whittier, the Presbyterians in Westminster, and the
German Brethren (now known as the Brethren Church) in Lordsburg, now known as La Verne).
source states that, in 1890, Los Angeles contained forty-four church organizations, of
twelve different denominations, besides a few representatives of other faiths, such as Spiritualism, Mohammedanism (Islam),
Buddhism, Parseeism (a religious community of India, practicing Zoroastrianism), Confucianism, etc., and also an organization auxiliary to the
National Secular Union (SOURCE: http://www.calarchives4u.com/history/losangeles/socal1890-770.htm).
Protestants finally began to exercise an influence in the community of Los Angeles similar
to what they had known in settlements extending from the Old Northwest to the Midwest.
Gregory H. Singleton, in Religion in the City of the Angels:
American Public Culture and Urbanization, Los Angeles, 1850-1930,
presents an interesting discussion of the nature of the "voluntaristic"
denominations that came to denominate the religious scene in Los Angeles at the turn of
from Chapter 1 of Michael E. Engh's, Frontier
Faiths: Church, Temple and Synagogue in Los Angeles, 1846-1888; for
Plymouth Brethren sources, see: http://www.emmaus.edu/files/Documents/History%20of%20Brethren%20Mvt/history_3.htm)
a more detailed history of the religious development of the City of Los Angeles, see: Churches
in Los Angeles in 1890.
Pentecostal Movement Arrives in Los Angeles in 1905-1906
has surely come and with it the Bible evidences are following," writes the editor of The Apostolic Faith:
many are being converted and sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit,
speaking in tongues as they did on the day of Pentecost." The modern
Pentecostal Movement began on January 1, 1901, with Agnes N. Ozman at Charles Fox Parham's
Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. Then on April 9, 1906, at 214 Bonnie Brae
Street, "the first Pentecostal effusion came" to Los Angeles.
Although those events delineate the beginning of the modern Pentecostal Movement, their
foundations are clearly found in the nineteenth-century Holiness Movement.
Los Angeles, Joseph Smale, pastor of
the First Baptist Church, after visiting Wales (then in the midst of a great
revival) in 1905, began prayer meetings in his church modeled after what he had seen in Wales,
and healings began to occur there. However, the things Smale was doing caused him
trouble with his board, and he left to found a "New Testament Assembly,"
which met in a house on Bonnie Brae Street. Meanwhile, in April, 1906, at the
instance of Neeley Terry, who had just visited Houston, the small black [Church of the]
Nazarene congregation she attended invited [black Holiness preacher William J.] Seymour to
preach in their church. He accepted the invitation, and preached his first sermon
out of Acts 2:4 on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many in that Nazarene church
believed Seymour to have preached false doctrine, and he returned that evening to find the
door padlocked. Those who followed Seymour out of the Nazarene church started
to meet in the home of some Baptists (from Smale's flock) on Bonnie Brae Street.
On April 9, 1996, "the Spirit fell upon this small group of
African-American believers." The group soon moved to a former Methodist
church building at 312 Azusa St., where it met 3 times a day, 7 days a week for the next
is noteworthy that California had by far the most diverse population of any state in the U.
S. and had no apartheid laws requiring racial segregation of public meetings. What started at Azusa Street was entirely
inclusive; under Seymour's leadership, the Azusa Street congregation would tolerate no
racial or ethnic divisions in the Body of Christ. Although it started among a group
of African-Americans, the Azusa Street meetings were completely interracial, and many
whites became involved. Many people of all races, and from various countries, came
to Azusa Street to observe or to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Though
Parham continued to preach in Houston and elsewhere, and his students also spread around
the U.S., after April 1906 the focus of activity was in Los Angeles, not in Parham's
The practice of
glossolalia at Azusa Street was important for more reasons than its controversial nature.
"The great significance of the Azusa Street revival," writes William
Menzies, "is its role in transforming the embryo Pentecostal outpouring into a
worldwide movement." Mills goes a step further: Azusa Street was
not only the spark that ignited the Pentecostal revival, but in its earliest days, most of
the doctrinal issues surfaced there that would later become determinative for the
formation of the major Pentecostal groups. Those issues were: 1)
doctrine of sanctification; 2) Jesus only doctrine; 3) latter rain covenant; and 4) race
as a basis for denominational division.
After 1909 the
influence of Azusa Street began to fade. One reason for this
was the success of many of the children of Azusa Street. Pentecostal missions sprang up
all across Los Angeles. Many of these missions replicated the success of Azusa.
Added to this were the many thriving centers of Pentecostalism across both the United
States and Canada. It became increasingly unnecessary to travel to Azusa Street to
Almost one hundred years later, the Azusa Street revival remains an important touchstone
in the history of modern Pentecostalism. The building has long since been torn down.
Today the Japanese-American Cultural and Community Center sits on the site where the Azusa
Street mission was once located. However, Pentecostals fondly look on the site and the
revival housed there as the cradle of Pentecostalism.
famous Azusa Street Revival (1906 - 1913) in Los Angeles was a
key milestone in the history of Christianity, and it helped to place the City of the
Angeles on the world map as thousands of people came from far and wide to witness the new
phenomena of "speaking in tongues," prophesy and divine healing. Los
Angeles, with a population of about 300,000 in 1910, became known as the modern birthplace
of the Pentecostal movement, which has had a significant worldwide impact as one of the
fastest-growing religious movements on the planet. See the following websites
for more information: http://www.ag.org/enrichmentjournal/199904/026_azusa.cfm
Also, the interracial
Azusa Street Revival touched the lives of hundreds of Afro-Americans and Hispanics in Los
Angeles, and led to the establishment of several new Pentecostal denominations: the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
(originally interracial but later composed mostly of Afro-Americans) in 1907 and the Apostolic Assembly of Faith in Jesus
Christ (Asamblea Apostólica de Fe en Cristo Jesús) in 1914 among Mexican
immigrants and Mexican-Americans.
Groups in Los Angeles & Environs in 1914
Most of the
Protestant churches and denominations that existed in Southern California by 1914 were
mainstream groups: Baptist
(Northern Baptist Convention: 1853 in El Monte, 1874 in Los Angeles; Swedish Baptist
Church in Los Angeles, 1887; Second Baptist Church in East Los Angeles, an Afro-American
congregation, prior to 1890), Congregational
(1865-67, American Home Missionary Society; the first Congregational Church in Los Angeles
was organized in 1867 by the Rev. Alexander Parker), Protestant Episcopal (1857), Methodist Episcopal (1853), Presbyterian (1855) and the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ
1913, a Comity Agreement had been established in Los Angeles between the major Protestant
denominations, whereby they agreed not to enter neighborhoods occupied by another
denomination. By 1914, some of these denominations had begun to minister to the
minority population of Mexican, Asian and Portuguese immigrants. Ten of thousands of
Mexicans began arriving in the Los Angeles area after the beginning of the Mexican
Revolution in 1910; this created an emergency refugee situation in Los Angeles, which was
responded to by most of the Protestant denominations by organizing settlement houses,
welfare services and a variety of Spanish-speaking ministries.
Also, several other
Protestant denominations had arrived in Los Angeles by 1914: the African Methodist Episcopal Church
(1854), Lutheran (Trinity
German Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, 1882), the German Evangelical Friedenskirche ("Peace
Church," 1887), the Free
Methodists in 1903, and various Holiness groups in between 1886 and
1906, including the nondenominational
Peniel Mission (established by T. P. and Manie Ferguson in 1886); the Burning Bush Holiness Church; the First New Testament Church (Joseph
Smale, formerly the pastor of the First Baptist Church, established this congregation in
Burbank Hall at 542 South Main Street, Los Angeles, in early 1906); and the Household of God Church (1904-05, W. F. Manley,
possibly linked to the Free Methodists).
* * *
Union Rescue Mission (URM)
was established in 1891, dedicated to serving the poor and homeless in downtown Los
Angeles. Today, the URM is one of the largest rescue missions of its kind in the United
States and the oldest in Los Angeles. The mission provides a comprehensive array of
emergency and long-term services to their guests, including: food, shelter,
clothing, medical and dental care, recovery programs, transitional housing, legal
assistance, education, counselling and job training to needy men, women, children and
In 1902 Captain
Charles Farr approached the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles City Christian Endeavor Union
and asked it to support a Sailors Mission to be conducted by him in San Pedro, CA.
After an investigation by the committee, it took over the work. Meetings were
held aboard the Warrior, an abandoned tugboat moored on the east side of the San
Pedro Bay. After about two years, a site was selected at 331 S. Beacon Street.
A corporation was formed in 1905 under the name of Southern California Floating Christian
Endeavor Association and the mission was named The Sailors Rest Mission.
In 1945 the name was changed to Beacon Light Mission
and it became a regular rescue mission.
* * *
first Jewish synagogue
(B'nai B'rith) was organized in Los Angeles in 1862 by Rabbi A. W. Edelman, the Unitarians began to hold
services in Los Angeles in 1877, and the Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints
in 1882. By 1890, the City of Los Angeles contained more than forty-four
Christian churches, of at least twelve different denominations, besides a few
representatives of other faiths, such as Spiritualism, Metaphysical-New Thought
(including Christian Science and Theosophy), Islam, Buddhism, Parseeism (a
Zoroastrian religious sect from India), Confucianism, Shinto, etc.,
and also an organization auxiliary to the American Secular Union and Freethought
Federation (formed in Albany, NY, in 1885 by Colonel Robert Green
Ingersoll and his associates).
* * *
Claremont School of
Theology traces its history
back to 1885 with the founding of the Maclay College of Theology in San Fernando,
California. In 1900, Maclay College moved to the campus of the then Methodist-affiliated University of Southern
California in Los Angeles. In 1956, the School withdrew from the
University and became an independent corporation, related to the Southern
California-Arizona Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. The School
moved to its present Claremont site in 1957.
distinguished past presidents have provided extraordinary leadership and have set a strong
foundation for Claremont School of Theology: Ernest Cadman Colwell (1957-1968),
Gordon Elliott Michalson (1968-1977), Richard Wilson Cain (1977-1990), and Robert W. Edgar
(1990 - 2000). Dr. Philip A. Amerson became the fifth president of the School on
February 24, 2001. Dr. Jerry D. Campbell began as Claremont's sixth president in
June 2006. SOURCE:
* * *
Society of Friends established the town
of Whittier in 1887 and the Whittier Academy the same year. Whittier College grew from the
academy and was chartered by the State of California in 1901 with a student body of 25.
The college began construction on its first building, Founders Hall, in 1893.
Initially, Founders Hall housed all classes, dormitories and the library.
Both the town and the college were named in honor of John Greenleaf Whittier, prominent
Quaker, poet, and leader in the abolitionist movement.
the college is no longer affiliated with the Society of Friends, the college is proud of
its Quaker heritage, which is evidenced in many ways, including respect for the
individual, commitment to a diverse student body and faculty, freedom of conscience, and
respect for human differences.
* * *
Los Angeles Pacific
College was founded in
1903 as a four-year liberal-arts college by a group of ministers and laymen of the Free Methodist
Church. The college ceased to exist as an independent entity in 1965 and was
merged with another college to eventually form Azusa Pacific
University. The founders of the college were the original founders of the
community of Hermon, situated in a half square-mile valley bordered by the Arroyo
Seco and the historic 110 freeway to the west, Monterey
Hills to the south, and South Pasadena to the north and east. In 1903 a group of Free Methodists
obtained the isolated valley from owner Ralph Rogers to establish a school. The
school grew to become Los Angeles Pacific College in 1934, then merged with Azusa Pacific
University in the 1960s.
called Los Angeles Free
Methodist Seminary, it was not a seminary for the education of ministers,
but a school for young children of the community who wanted to raise their children in a
Christian atmosphere. The Seminary (grades 1-12) opened in the fall of 1904 with 70
students. In 1911 the seminary added a junior college to its school, the first
junior college in the state of California. As the community of Hermon continued to
expand, a four-year college course was added in 1934 and the school came to be called Los Angeles Pacific College (LAPC).
origins of Azusa Pacific
University reside in 1899, when a group of spiritual leaders from various
denominations met in Whittier, California, and established a Bible college geared to
training students for service and missionary endeavors. This was the first Bible
college founded on the West Coast. The initial class of students met on March 3,
1900, with Mary A. Hill serving as the earliest president.
institution, named the Training
School for Christian Workers, moved three times before settling in Huntington
Park in 1907. In 1939, the Training School became Pacific Bible College, and
four-year degrees were offered. Cornelius P. Haggard, Th.D., was appointed president
and served for 36 years, until his death in 1975.
the mid 1940s, Pacific Bible College had outgrown its Huntington Park campus. The
Board of Trustees decided then to purchase a 12-acre school for girls in Azusa.
Classes began on the new campus in 1947, and in 1956, the name was changed to Azusa College.
College merged first in 1965 with Los Angeles Pacific College,
a four-year liberal arts institution founded in 1903 by the Free Methodists, acquiring the
name Azusa Pacific College,
and again three years later with Arlington College, which had
been founded in 1954.
* * *
The Adventists also arrived in
southern California during the 1880s and established an
agricultural colony at Loma Linda, near Redlands. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church
had about eighty members in Los Angeles in 1890, along with churches at Pasadena, Norwalk
and Santa Ana.
September 29, 1913, the Adventist
College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda (near Redlands, in San
Bernardino County) opened a small storefront clinic at 941 East First Street, in the heart
of Los Angeles. It was from these humble beginnings that White Memorial Medical
Center was born. Three years later, the influx of patients was so great that there was a
need to expand the clinic. The fundraising campaign began for a hospital to be built
at a nearby site on Boyle Avenue and named in honor of Adventist prophetess Ellen G.
White. Thanks to the Herculean efforts of 50 Adventist women, the Adventist Church
purchased property on Boyle Avenue in 1916. In 1917, a new dispensary opened on the
site. Meanwhile, construction began on cottage-style buildings that were to become a
permanent hospital. On April 21, 1918, a crowd of 2,500 people gathered to
dedicate White Memorial Hospital, built at a cost of $61,000. When the first patient
entered White Memorial "Cottage" Hospital in 1918, its 11 one- and two-story
buildings could accommodate up to 200 patients. It quickly emerged as the largest
facility of its kind west of Chicago. By the mid-1930s, the initial jolt of
the Depression had passed, and White Memorial Hospital began looking again to the future.
Responding to an ever-growing demand on its original facilities, the hospital built
a 180-bed, five-story concrete and steel structure at a cost of $330,000. Dedicated
in 1937, the building was the first earthquake-resistant hospital in California.
The Boyle Heights
section of East Los Angeles was part of an area
that eventually became the largest Hispanic community in the U.S. by 1950.
Situated just east of the Los Angeles River, Boyle Heights has long been a gateway for
newcomers to the city. From the 1920s to the 1950s it was Los Angeles' most
heterogeneous neighborhood, serving as home to large concentrations of Jews, Mexicans and
Japanese Americans, as well as Russian Molokans, African Americans, and people of
Armenian, Italian, and Chinese descent. Today the neighborhood is primarily Latino,
and it continues to serve as a port-of-entry for a number of the city's immigrant groups.
* * *
The University of
La Verne was founded in 1891
as Lordsburg College by members of the Church
of the Brethren. Both the surrounding agricultural community and the
College were renamed La Verne in 1917. The College reorganized in 1977 as the University
of La Verne. At present, the structure of the University consists of the College of Arts
and Sciences, the College of Business and Public Management, the College of Education, the
College of Law, and Regional Campuses. The school conferred its first master's
degree in 1965 and began an adult education program in 1969. ULV awarded its first
doctorate in 1979. In 1981, the University founded a campus in Orange County
and has since opened campuses throughout Southern California. Today, the University
of La Verne is an independent, nonsectarian and non-profit institution. SOURCE:
East Los Angeles Church of the Brethren
3231 N. Broadway and Gates
St., East Los Angeles, CA
Photos and text below
courtesy of Jeanie L. Woo
In 1906, my
grandmother, Caroline Dierdorff (Deardorff), moved with her family from Illinois to Los
Angeles. They lived on Manitou Ave. I am sure you know there were many
members of the Church of the Brethren of German descent who lived in Lincoln Heights at
the turn of the century. They
built the East Los Angeles Church of the Brethren on Hancock St. (234 S. Hancock St. now
renumbered as 2218 N. Hancock St.) in 1896. I believe that church is now
the First American Indian
church. The Brethren also built the Berean Bible School, a
three-story brick structure, at 3231 N. Broadway and Gates St. in 1911. That
building no longer stands which surprises me since there are so many other vintage
structures in the community. No one seems to know when, why, or how the building was
removed from the site.
are photos of the students, teachers, and leaders of the Berean Bible School ca. 1912.
Berean Bible School, Chinese Sunday School, 1908-1951
A ministry of the East Los Angeles Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, California
row: L. to R., (third) Tom Yee Woo (student); (sixth) Clarence Lehmer (Superintendent);
unidentified leader and students.
row: far right, Elder Solomon G. Lehmer (Trustee); unidentified students and little girl.
Berean Bible School,
Minister and Missionary Training Branch, 1908-1916
A ministry of the
East Los Angeles Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, California
Back row: L. to R.,
(fourth) Bessie Deardorff Lehmer (teacher); (sixth) (Caroline) Carrie Deardorff
(teacher); unidentified teachers.
row: L. to R., (fifth) Clarence Lehmer (Superintendent) with unidentified students.
Berean Bible School,
Minister and Missionary Training Branch, 1908-1916
A ministry of the
East Los Angeles Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, California
Back row: L. to R.,
(second) Bessie Deardorff Lehmer (teacher); (third) Clarence Lehmer (Superintendent);
(Evangeline) Rhea Deardorff (teacher); (thirteenth) (Caroline) Carrie Deardorff (teacher);
unidentified teachers and leaders.
Center row: unidentified students; Front row: unidentified students
* * *
Los Angeles Examiner,
February 7, 1909
COSTLIEST CHURCH ON
THE PACIFIC COAST NEARS COMPLETION
When the Second
Church of Christ, Scientist, on West Adams Street, near Hoover Street, is finished, Los
Angeles can boast of having the largest and most magnificent church west of Chicago.
Of Roman Corinthian architecture, it will be an imposing structure and will cost
nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
Church of Christ, Scientist
Rosenheim, Architect, 1907-1910
at 948 West Adams Boulevard in the Historic West Adams District, the Second Church
of Christ, Scientist is a most imposing edifice in the Beaux-Arts Classical Style.
Authors David Gephard & Robert Winter in their authoritative work An Architectural
Guidebook to Los Angeles claim the church was inspired by the Mother Church of
Christian Science located in Boston, Massachusetts.
The church was declared a Historic-Cultural Monument in the City of Los Angeles in 1968
(No. 57). Six massive Corinthian columns and a copper-clad dome are its most striking
First Church of Christ, Scientist, was established by M. Paul Martin in Los Angeles
in 1902; under Elmer Grey in 1911, First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Los Angeles moved
to its second building (address unknown).
Pacific Historical Review
Vol. 72, No. 2, Pages 229-263
at the Golden Gate:
Christian Scientists on the Pacific Coast, 18801915
There has never been a social history of Christian Science, a distinctive and
controversial new religious group that emphasized metaphysical healing. The group appeared in the United States in
the 1870s and 1880s under the leadership of Mary Baker Eddy. This article
examines the early rapid growth of Christian Science on the Pacific Coast, for the
religion flourished to a greater degree in this health-conscious and socially fluid region
than in any other section of the world. Analysis
of the occupations of more than 1,000 members and spouses of six Christian Science
churches in California, Oregon, and Washington for the years 1905-1907 provides detailed
conclusions at variance with previous conjecture. The new evidence shows that Christian
Scientists on the Pacific Coast were an ethnically homogeneous, uprooted, and energetic
lot from all social levels, with a surprisingly large contingent from the working classes.
Science is ''a religion and a system of healing founded by Mary Baker Eddy c. 1866, based
on an interpretation of the Scriptures asserting that disease, sin, and death may be
overcome by understanding and applying the divine principles of Christian teachings." -- Webster Dictionary
publication in 1875 of Science and
Health, Eddys primary work on spirituality and healing, readers began
meeting to discuss the ideas and share their healing results. Then, in 1879, Eddy
established what became The First
Church of Christ, Scientist (The Mother Church).
Church is designed "to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should
reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." (Church Manual,
page 17). Eddy had a lifelong reverence for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ
and a deep desire that his healing works be universally practiced.
consists of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and around
2,000 branch churches and societies of Christ, Scientist, worldwide.
Church has no ordained clergy. In 1895, Eddy named the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
as Pastor for worldwide Churches of Christ, Scientist.
Holiness Movement in Southern California
of the Holiness Movement
Originating in the U.
S. in the 1840s and 50s, this was an endeavor to preserve and propagate John Wesley's
teaching on entire sanctification and Christian perfection. Wesley held that the
road from sin to salvation is one from wilful rebellion against divine and human law to
perfect love for God and man. Following Wesley, Holiness preachers emphasized
that the process of salvation involves two crises.
the first, conversion or justification, one is freed from the sins he has committed. In
the second, entire sanctification or full salvation, one is liberated from the flaw in his
moral nature that causes him to sin. Man is capable of this perfection even though
he dwells in a corruptible body marked by a thousand defects arising from ignorance,
infirmities, and other creaturely limitations. It is a process of loving the Lord
God with all one's heart, soul, and mind, and it results in the ability to live without
conscious or deliberate sin. However, to achieve and then remain in this blessed
state requires intense, sustained effort, and one's life must be marked by constant self
renunciation, careful observance of the divine ordinances, a humble, steadfast reliance on
God's forgiving grace in the atonement, the intention to look for God's glory in all
things, and an increasing exercise of the love which itself fulfils the whole law and is
the end of the commandments.
the mid-nineteenth century several factors converged that contributed to the renewal of
the Holiness emphasis, among them the camp meeting revivals that were a common feature in
rural America, the Christian perfectionism of Charles Finney and Asa Mahan (the Oberlin
theology), the "Tuesday Meeting" of Phoebe Palmer in New York, the urban revival
of 1857 - 58, and protests within the Methodist churches about the decline of discipline
which resulted in the Wesleyan
Methodist secession in 1843 and Free Methodist withdrawal in
1860. These two became the first denominations formally committed to Holiness.
After the Civil War a full fledged Holiness revival broke out within the ranks of
Methodism, and in 1867 the National
Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness was formed.
From 1893 it was known as the
National Holiness Association (NHA) and in 1971 was renamed the Christian Holiness Association.
Until the 1890s Methodists dominated the movement and channeled its enthusiasm into their
The increasing number
of Holiness evangelists, many of whom were unsanctioned by their superiors, a flourishing
independent press, and the growth of nondenominational associations gradually weakened the
position of mainline Methodism in the movement. By the 1880s the first independent
Holiness denominations had begun to appear, and tensions between Methodism and the
Holiness associations escalated. The gap between the two widened as Methodist
practice drifted steadily toward a sedate, middle-class American Protestantism, while the
Holiness groups insisted they were practicing primitive Wesleyanism and were the true
successors of Wesley in America. The small schismatic bodies gradually
coalesced into formal denominations, the largest of which were the Church of God,
Anderson, Indiana (1880), Church of the Nazarene (1908), and Pilgrim Holiness Church
(1897, merged with the Wesleyan Methodists in 1968 to form the Wesleyan Church).
polity of these bodies was a modified Methodism in that there was generally somewhat more
congregational autonomy, and the "second blessing" of entire sanctification was
an integral part of their theology. Most operated with a strict perfectionist code
of personal morality and demanded from their adherents plain dress and abstinence from
"worldly" pleasures and amusements. Also, nearly all of them allowed
women to be ordained to the ministry and occupy leadership positions.
Holiness Movement on the Pacific Coast
By the late 1870s
some rural holiness preachers were organizing their converts into holiness
"bands" independent of the regular denominations, and more local and regional
"associations" were sprouting. By the 1880s the first independent holiness
churches had begun to form. In California a radical Methodist named Hardin
Wallace, who had already evangelized throughout Texas, began to preach in Los Angeles and
elsewhere, often together with evangelist Harry Ashcraft and gospel singer James Jayns.
Out of their work
the Southern California and
Arizona Holiness Association was formed, led by James and Josephine
Washburn. This organization was very strict: all members had to experience
sanctification; all had to dress plainly, abstain from tobacco and the use of gold
ornaments, and abjure membership in any secret society. They erected plain buildings
and forbade musical instruments in church; ordination was by the "baptism of
fire," with no preacher designated before the service. The Southern California
and Arizona Holiness Association remained quite small, establishing churches in only a
handful of southern California towns; a more moderate organization, the Pacific Coast Holiness Association,
appeared in 1885. Nevertheless the radicals caused concern in the
Methodist church when in 1885 one of their leaders, B. A. Washburn, proposed that all
holiness groups separate from the mainstream churches. The California Methodist
establishment was not at that time antagonistic to the holiness movementquite the
contrary. The radicals, however, felt alienated from the regular Methodists.
Eventually (1896) they organized into the Holiness Church, which continued to be very
The urban sector of
the movement, more intellectual and interdenominational, less concerned about regulating
details of outer behavior, had so far stayed within the Methodist church.
Nevertheless tensions were building. Holiness Christians were inclined to ally with
those in other denominations, at least for revivals and general meetings. They
wanted more evangelism focusing specifically on sanctification, whereas the Methodist
bishops believed all church activities were already designed to promote holiness, and no
special means should be instituted. Meanwhile many churches supported activities
such as fairs, plays, and concertsnot to mention higher biblical
criticismwhich, to holiness people, were tangential to the Christian life.
Those seeking to help the poor through missions to urban families and neighborhoods were
not getting much support for their efforts. The stage was set for a split in the
was rapidly being urbanized as Los Angeles grew, and developments there were similar to
those in other large cities. The city mission approach was vigorously represented by the
work of T. P. and Manie Ferguson. T. P. Ferguson, born in Ohio in 1853 and converted
at Oberlin in 1875, came to Santa Barbara in 1879 and soon thereafter was sanctified at a
holiness revival. He became an itinerant preacher and settled in Los Angeles during
the boom of 188586. Late in 1886 he set up the Los Angeles Peniel Mission, the
first in what would become a chain of Peniel ("Face of God") Missions
dotting the Pacific Coast and mountain states. Together with his wife Manie, he
offered street-corner meetings in the afternoons and evangelistic services nightly, with a
meal afterwards. Their entire work, like that of most of the city holiness missions,
was oriented toward soul saving and the promotion of holiness. The mission was not a
church, however; converts were supposed to join one of the regular denominations. It
was, rather, a holiness revival station spreading the message of Christian perfection.
development in Southern California came when Phineas F. Bresee arrived on the scene.
Born in 1838 in Delaware County, New York, he had gone to Iowa in 1855 as a circuit
pastor, and was highly successful for a time. In the early 1880s, however, he went
bankrupt due to the failure of some Mexican iron mines in which he had invested, and he
left Iowa for California, arriving in 1883. Soon he won fine appointments in the
Methodist church, notably as pastor of First Methodist Church in Los Angeles
and as one of the editorial committee of the Southern California Christian Advocate
himself with the holiness movement and experienced sanctification himself in 1884 or 1885.
In his church he emphasized revivals, gospel singing, and spontaneous
congregational responses. Some ministers opposed his outright holiness stance, but
he was supported by his general popularity and the approvalor at least the
neutralityof the bishops until 1892. In that year an anti-holiness clergyman,
John Vincent, became Bishop, and he assigned Bresee to churches that could not offer
adequate financial support. In 1894 Bresee sought a supernumerary relation so that
he could do mission work instead of a regular pastorate, but Vincent refused permission.
At that point Bresee withdrew from the Methodist ministry.
At first Bresee
joined with the Fergusons at the Peniel Mission in Los Angeles,
where he tried to persuade them to open a school and organize to receive members like a
church. They refused, however, and other difficulties led to his parting with them
after one year. In the fall of 1895 he, together with Joseph P. Widney, began
holding independent services in a rented hall. Their ministry was so popular that
three and a half weeks later they organized as a church, the Church of the Nazarene.
Bresee and Widney were appointed to life tenure as pastors and superintendents.
* * *
Church of the Nazarene
The Church of the
Nazarene, a holiness body,
was founded in 1895 in the Los Angeles area by Dr. Phineas F. Bresee (1838-1915) and Dr.
Joseph P. Widney (1841-1938). Their primary purpose was to bring the
Gospel to the poor and underprivileged. Widney came up with the name for the new
church. He explained the choice of the name had come to him one morning after
spending the whole night in prayer. He said that the word "Nazarene"
symbolized "the toiling, lowly mission of Christ. It was the name that Christ
used of Himself, the name which was used in derision of Him by His enemies, the name which
above all others linked Him to the great toiling, struggling, sorrowing heart of the
world. It is Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth to whom the world in its misery and despair
turns, that it may have hope" (Called Unto Holiness, Volume I).
after moving to Iowa from New York State in 1856, was granted a district preacher's
license by the Methodist Episcopal Church, North. Soon he was given his own
church to pastor. He had a difficult time there, which was pleasantly interrupted by
a trip back to New York in 1860, where Phineas married Maria Hibbard, the sister of a
close friend of his. Shortly after the Civil War broke out, Bresee was
ordained by the Methodist Episcopal Conference, which meant that he was now a full
minister in the Methodist church.
years that followed were rather difficult for the Bresee family. Numerous different
preaching assignments and other occupations were assigned to Mr. Bresee, and the family
lived in poverty most of the time. In 1883, they decided to move to California.
With their six children they made the eight-day trip in a train wagon, into which
they had stuffed most of their belongings.
Pasadena, near Los Angeles, Phineas became the minister of a Methodist church, which grew
strongly under his leadership. At the same time he was heavily involved in
addressing social issues, such as the liquor business, which brought him many threats, but
also contributed to his preaching, as more and more people became Christians and members
of his church.
Yet, Dr. Bresee (by
this time he had received an honorary degree from the University of Southern California,
established in Los Angeles in 1880) felt a calling for a new ministry - reaching out to
the poor, the needy. He helped organize (along with T. P. and Manie Ferguson) a
nondenominational project, which they called "Peniel Mission." The
leaders of the Methodist church did not like this project. They feared it might hurt
the image of the church. So Dr. Bresee was forced to either give up the
mission or leave the church. After a night of struggle, he decided to leave
the Methodist Church.
October 20, 1895, the first Church of the Nazarene was organized in Pasadena, with 135
charter members who pledged to commit their lives to the work of Jesus the Nazarene.
By the end of the first year, 350 people had joined the church. After five
years the membership had increased to almost 1,000. New churches were started, and
other groups joined the fledging Church of the Nazarene.
sought to return to John Wesley's original goals of preaching to the poor and needy.
The original name of the denomination was the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene,
however the term "Pentecostal" soon proved to be problematic. In the
Wesleyan-holiness movement, the word was used widely as a synonym simply for
"holiness." But the rise of 20th century Pentecostalism, especially after
1906, gave new meanings and associations to the term--meanings that the Nazarenes
rejected. In 1919, the name was shortened to avoid any confusion in the public mind
about the church's place on the theological spectrum.
Widney was a medical
doctor and the second President (1892-1895) of the University of Southern California in Los
Angeles. Prior to that, he was the first dean of the USC College of Medicine.
He was the brother of Robert Maclay Widney, one of the founders of USC.
* * *
Fundamentalism, which was decidedly anti-Liberal and anti-Pentecostal, received its name
and crucial promotion in Los Angeles. In 1909,
Lyman Stewart and his brother Milton (co-owners of the Union Oil Company of California,
currently known as Unocal) anonymously funded the publication of a twelve-volume series of
articles called The Fundamentals, published between 1910 and 1915, and distributed
free of charge to a wide range of Christian teachers and leaders, "Compliments of Two
Christian Laymen." These volumes were intended as a restatement of conservative
Protestant theological teachings, primarily in response to the growing influence of
modernist theology in the Protestant churches. In 1917 these articles were
republished in a revised, four volume set by the nondenominational Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA).
The term "Fundamentalism" is in part derived from these volumes.
founded in 1908 by Lyman Stewart and T. C. Horton, a well-known preacher and
Christian writer. By 1912, the school had grown sufficiently in its outreach and
constituency to call Dr. Reuben A.
Torrey (1856-1928), a well-known leader in the field of Christian education, as the
first dean. Dr. Torrey previously had been president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago
and had conducted many well-publicized evangelistic crusades across America and in Great
Britain. Between 1912 and 1928, BIOLA was an established leader in conservative
Protestant Christianity in North America, publishing The King's Business (a magazine
similar to Christianity Today), operating one of the largest Christian radio stations in
the U.S. (KTBI), and running the BIOLA Press, which sold and distributed Christian
literature worldwide, including material for the Los Angeles- based Pentecostal preacher,
Amy Semple McPherson. After Stewart's death and Torrey and Horton's retirements, William
P. White, a well-known Christian leader and speaker, became BIOLA's first president in
Torrey also helped to organize and served as the first pastor of the non-denominational
Church of the Open Door (1915-1924). There he preached to great throngs and
thousands were trained at the school, including Charles E. Fuller (1887-1968), famed radio
preacher of the next generation. For decades, the Church of the Open Door was
the largest Protestant church in Los Angeles, located adjacent to BIOLA at Fifth and Hope
streets. Fuller was the radio pastor of "The Old-Fashioned Revival
Hour" (1937-1968); for nearly 17 years (1941-1958), beginning with World War II, the
program was broadcast each Sunday afternoon from the Municipal Auditorium in Long Beach,
where it drew huge audiences. At the time of Dr. Fuller's death, the broadcast was
heard on more than 500 stations around the world. Charles E. Fuller, a graduate of
BIOLA, became chairman of the board and he later founded the nondenominational Fuller
Theological Seminary in Pasadena, which later became one of the largest Protestant
seminaries in the world.
Meanwhile, BIOLA fell
into hard times during the Great Depression and was forced to sell its publishing company
and radio station. The 13-story downtown building that housed the school was also
under threat of loss. It was during this time that Dr. Louis T. Talbot became
BIOLA's second president in 1932. Talbot also served as the pastor of the Church of the Open Door,
which held services in the school's downtown building, with its famous red neon
"Jesus Saves" sign on the roof. In 1935, Paul W. Rood became BIOLA's third
president. He was instrumental in establishing the Torrey Memorial Bible Conference,
which is one of the longest standing Bible conferences today. He resigned in 1938.
During Rood's presidency, Talbot was instrumental in helping to save the
school from financial ruin caused by the Great Depression.
entered a second term as BIOLA's president from 1938 to 1952. During this time, the
Institute program became a four-year course, leading to degrees in theology, Christian
education and sacred music. The School of Missionary Medicine came into being in
1945, laying the foundation for BIOLA's current baccalaureate nursing program.
In 1946, Talbot also established the Biola Institute Hour, a national radio
program, that was later called the BIOLA Hour. The Institute was renamed BIOLA
College in 1949. Under the leadership of Samuel H. Sutherland, president from
1952 to 1970, BIOLA moved its campus to its current location in La Mirada in the summer of
1959, where it later became an accredited four-year evangelical university.
* * *
Groups and Activities in Los Angeles after 1914
Midnight Mission established in 1914
Mission is one of the oldest continuously operating human services organizations in the Los
Angeles region. Centered in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, the Mission
runs one of the most efficient direct service operations in the country. With only four
executive managers through out its ninety-year history, the Mission has been a consistent
beacon of light for those with no where else to turn.
The story begins
with the founder of The Midnight Mission - Tom Liddecoat. In 1914 this kind
man, nicknamed "father of the poor," opened the doors of the Mission as a refuge
to the men of Skid Row. A successful business man and lay minister, Liddecoat would serve
a meal at midnight (hence the origin of the name) after church services were completed.
Realizing the need to offer more than a meal and that additional resources were necessary
Liddecoat sought help from the local community.
as a non-profit in 1922, The Midnight Mission named a Board of Directors and continued to
expand their services with showers, shaves and haircuts. Religious services were no longer
a requisite and the organization began to focus on the rehabilitation of men and boys.
Billy Sunday Comes to Town
Fundamentalist evangelist William
"Billy" Ashley Sunday (1862-1935) held an evangelistic campaign
in Los Angeles during September and October of 1917. He returned to the Los
Angeles area for a series of meetings in 1931 and 1934.
to evangelical Christianity in the 1880s, Sunday left his [major league] baseball career
for the Christian ministry. He gradually developed his skills as a pulpit evangelist
in the Midwest and then, during the early 20th century, he became the nation's most famous
evangelist with his colloquial sermons and frenetic delivery. He became an ordained
Presbyterian minister in 1903.
1910, Sunday began to conduct meetings (usually longer than a month) in small cities like Youngstown,
Bend, and Denver, and then finally, between 1915 and 1917, in the major
cities of Philadelphia, Syracuse,
City, Detroit, Boston,
and New York
City. During the 1910s, Sunday was front page news in the cities where he held
campaigns. Newspapers often printed his sermons in full, and during World War I,
local coverage of his campaigns often surpassed that of the war. Sunday was the
subject of over sixty articles in major periodicals, and he was a staple of the religious
press regardless of denomination.
was welcomed into the circle of the social, economic, and political elite. He
counted among his neighbors and acquaintances several prominent businessmen. Sunday dined
with numerous politicians, including Presidents Theodore
Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and counted both Herbert Hoover
and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. as friends. During and after the 1917 Los Angeles campaign, the Sundays visited
stars, and members of Sunday's organization played a charity baseball game against a team
of show business personalities that included Douglas
held heavily reported campaigns in America's largest cities, made a great deal of money,
and was welcomed into the homes of the wealthy and influential. Perhaps more than a
million people came forward at his invitations, and he may have personally preached the
gospel of Jesus Christ to more people than any other person in history up to that time.
Sunday was a strong supporter of Prohibition, and his preaching almost
certainly played a significant role in the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment in
SOURCES: adapted from
See also http://billysunday.org/ http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/061.htm
Aimee and the Foursquare Gospel
In the 1920s, the flamboyant Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson
(1890-1944) established a thriving ministry at the $1.5 million Angelus Temple in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles.
This church created notoriety by allowing both Blacks and Whites to become members,
as well as people of many nationalities, including Mexican immigrants. She also
developed an international radio ministry under the auspices of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel,
which today has affiliated churches in 83 countries and claims more than two million
"Sister Aimee" went she was an immediate success. The novelty of a woman
preacher brought out the crowds, but McPherson's power as a speaker and her reputation as
a formidable "soul-saver" and healer built her reputation. In 1913, she
embarked upon a preaching career in Canada and the US. In keeping with a promise she
made to God during a serious illness, she began evangelizing and holding tent revivals,
first by traveling up and down the eastern part of the US, then expanding to other parts
of the country. Finally, in 1919, McPherson found her home base in the rapidly
expanding City of Los Angeles, where the movie business was booming. She frequently
recalled that she arrived there with "ten dollars and a tambourine" and her
ministry quickly grew from a simple storefront to large auditoriums. "Sister
Aimee" did not promote herself as a healer, but the crowds came in hope of miracles.
She herself said, "Jesus is the healer. I am only the office girl who
opens the door and says, 'Come In."'
Sister Aimee, ca.
music, and she is credited with bringing popular music into the churchjazz in
particular. She later composed operas, a natural outgrowth of her performances in
the pulpit, which were elaborate spectacles featuring "Sister Aimee" in costume,
props (which included animals) and a supporting cast of followers. In just four
years she opened the 5,300 seat Angelus Temple in 1923, built by the contributions of her
faithful followers, "entirely debt-free" as she proudly asserted.
McPherson allegedly became the first woman in history to preach a radio sermon; and, with
the opening of Foursquare-owned
radio station KFSG on February 6, 1924, she became one of the first women
in the USA to be granted a broadcast license by the Federal Radio Commission (which became
the Federal Communications Commission in 1934).
the Great Depression, McPherson was active in creating "soup kitchens," free
clinics and other charitable activities; with the outbreak of World War II, she became
involved in war bond rallies. On September 27, 1944, shortly after giving a
sermon, she was found dead in her hotel room in Oakland, California, of an overdose of
prescription barbiturates. Once again, rumors flew, this time conjecturing suicide.
However, it is generally agreed that the overdose was accidental, as stated on the
more information, see: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/sister/filmmore/fd.html
* * *
Fellowship is a religious organization founded by Paramahansa
Yogananda (1893-1952) in 1920 and based in Los Angeles, California. The group carries on
Yogananda's teachings, including Kriya Yoga, a form of yoga the group claims originated millennia
ago in India.
of Trinity Methodist Church in Los Angeles
Pierce Shuler (1880-1965): A short biography of an out-spoken Methodist preacher
Shuler was born August 4, 1880, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
At the age of nine, kneeling between his mother and his preacher-uncle in "the meetin' house" at Comer's Rocks, he received Christ to be his Lord and Saviour. His primary education consisted of a three- month school, where he mastered the McGuffey's Readers. In 1897 he
entered Emory and Henry College as a sub-freshman, and was
graduated in 1903. Two years later he married Nelle Revees, and
the same year entered the Holston Conference of the Methodist Church. Endowed with a good mind and an even better wit, he was an excellent extemporaneous speaker. In addition to this, his great courage, coupled with his conservative
theology and evangelistic fervor, prompted him to ever preach with the altar call in view.
In 1920 he became pastor of the Trinity Methodist Church in downtown Los Angeles (organized
in 1869), a position he occupied until his
death. He began with a depleted congregation and saw it grow to 5,000
in the 1930s. In 1929, he was given a radio station that was
housed in the tower of his church. It became a strong voice
against crime and corruption in Southern California. His life was
threatened many times, his church was bombed, he
was sued and put in jail. He ran for United
States Senator on the Prohibition ticket in 1932 and lost by only 50,000 votes.
writings included The Methodist Challenge, What New
Doctrine Is This?, Some Dogs I Have Known, and I
Met Them on the Trail. Three of his sons followed him in
The growth of
Shuler's church paralleled the growth of the population on the West Coast with its
"rootless" people from all parts of America. These masses found in him a
"champion of the common man," for Shuler's cry against corruption was the
complaint of the masses. The politicians hated Shuler and tried every means to silence his
preaching. His life was threatened, his church was bombed, he was sued and finally put in
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Party candidate who received the highest vote in any election in U.S. history was Rev.
Robert P. Shuler. In the 1932 California election for the US Senate" US
Senate, he received 560,088 votes (25.8%) and carried Orange and Riverside counties.
Following his defeat, Shuler placed an awful curse on Southern California.
Bob Shuler owned radio station KGEF, which existed from 1926 to 1932. He said that
KGEF stood for Keep God Ever First and your Kind Gentle Emphatic Friend. The
temperance movement leader lost the broadcasting license for his station in 1932 after his
controversial broadcasts attacking Catholics, Jews, African Americans, and the Hollywood
elite for their consumption of alcoholic beverages and their alleged dishonesty,
corruption, and immorality (1).
Shuler was pastor of
the Trinity Methodist Church, South in Los Angeles, California. He is unrelated to
the pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.
Prohibition Party candidate who received the highest vote total in a single election was
Rev. Robert P. Shuler in a 1932 California race for the US Senate. He garnered 560,088
votes (25.8%) and carried Orange and Riverside counties. He had previously played a key
role in exposing corruption in other states. He was one of those involved in the
investigation which led to the ouster of Gov. Ferguson in Texas.
thought I knew all the meanings of the early Los Angeles radio stations, but recently, I
did a websearch on KGEF in Los Angeles (1926 to 1932), and found a website that had the
slogan for KGEF radio. KGEF was owned by Rev. Robert P. Shuler of Trinity Methodist Church
in downtown L.A. He was also known as "Fightin" Bob Shuler.
story on the website says KGEF stood for: K)eep
G)od E)ver F)irst That may be entirely possible, though I have never seen it in print
in any of the Los Angeles radio magazines of the day....Unknown if it was heard on the air
on KGEF, but that is likely. These slogans were mostly created after the call letters were
assigned, and KGEF got their call letters in December 1926, assigned in sequential order.
Shuler lost his license for KGEF in 1932, due to his controversial broadcasts attacking
Jews, Catholics, Blacks, and going after the sinners in the L.A. Hollywood community who
he deemed to be corrupt, dishonest, immoral and such.
found another meaning for KGEF from an individual who did a thesis on the station in 1975
for journalism class. He found KGEF not only stood for K)eep G)od E)ver F)irst, but they also made up
this slogan: K)ind, G)entle, E)mphatic
F)riend. I'm not sure if they mean the radio station or the pastor of the
church, Bob Shuler, who owned the station and was pastor of Trinity Methodist Church where
the KGEF studios were.
Rev. Robert P.
The Prohibition Party
candidate who received the highest vote in any election in U.S. history was Rev. Robert P.
Shuler. In the 1932 California election for the US Senate he received 560,088 votes
(25.8%) and carried Orange and Riverside counties. Following his defeat, Shuler
placed an awful curse on Southern California and some people attributed a
later earthquake in that region to his curse.
Bob Shuler owned radio station KGEF, which existed from 1926 to 1932. He said that
KGEF stood for Keep God Forever First. The temperance movement leader lost the license for
his station after his controversial broadcasts attacking Catholics, Jews, African
Americans, and the Hollywood elite for their consumption of alcoholic beverages and their
alleged dishonesty, corruption, and immorality. However, there is no evidence that
he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, which also strongly supported Prohibition.
Shuler was pastor of
the Trinity Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California.
In the 1940s,
Charlotta A. Bass (1880?-1969), the African American editor of The California Eagle, discovered
that the powerful pastor, Robert Shuler had aided the Klan from his bully pulpit at his Los Angeles Trinity Methodist Church
With his fire and
brimstone Air Raids from the Pulpit radio shows, Shuler delivered vivid
scriptural revelations aimed at civil rights leaders and minorities, including Roberto
Galvan [1911-1958, a labor union organizer and tireless worker for human rights], calling
them criminals who spoil paradise.
Historian Kevin Starr
has labeled Shuler the Methodist Savonarola of Los Angeles, referring to the
Dominican priest who preached against the moral corruption of the clergy in the early
and his close friend, John Clinton Porter, mayor of Los Angeles from 1929 to 1933,
insisted that civil rights leaders would bring about Armageddon. They also fought against
relief programs to aid those in poverty.
Material Dreams: Southern
California Through the 1920s
is the foremost chronicler of the California dream and indeed one of the finest narrative
historians writing today on any subject. The first two installments of his monumental
cultural history, "Americans and the California Dream," have been hailed as
"mature, well-proportioned and marvelously diverse (and diverting)" (The New
York Times Book Review) and "rich in details and alive with interesting, and
sometimes incredible people" (Los Angeles Times). Now, in Material Dreams
[published by Oxford University Press in 1999], Starr turns to one of the most vibrant
decades in the Golden State's history, the 1920s, when some two million Americans migrated
to California, the vast majority settling in or around Los Angeles. In a lively and
eminently readable narrative, Starr reveals how Los Angeles arose almost defiantly on a
site lacking many of the advantages required for urban development, creating itself out of
sheer will, the Great Gatsby of American cities. He describes how William Ellsworth Smyth,
the Peter the Hermit of the Irrigation Crusade, the self-educated, Irish engineer William
Mulholland (who built the main aqueducts to Los Angeles), and George Chaffey (who diverted
the Colorado River, transforming desert into the lush Imperial Valley) brought
life-supporting water to the arid South. He examines the discovery of oil, the boosters
and land developers, the evangelists (such as Bob Shuler, the Methodist Savanarola
of Los Angeles, and Aimee Semple McPherson), and countless other colorful figures
of the period. There are also fascinating sections on the city's architecture the impact
of the automobile on city planning, the Hollywood film community, the L.A. literati, and
much more. By the end of the decade, Los Angeles had tripled in population and
become the fifth largest city in the nation. In Material Dreams, Starr captures
this explosive growth in a narrative tour de force that combines wide-ranging scholarship
with captivating prose.
Strange Case of Maurice M. Johnson
A religious group known as The Church Which is Christ's Body was
founded in 1925 in Los Angeles by Maurice McArdle Johnson [1893-1979], a former minister
of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South [MECS]. He was licensed to preach by the
MECS in Texas in 1912 and moved to California in 1921, where he served as an assistant to
the Rev. Robert [Fighting Bob] Pierce Shuler [1880-1965] at Trinity Methodist Church
in downtown Los Angeles, from 1921 to 1923. He was known as a gifted singer and
preacher and served as a MECS Conference Evangelist and pastor during part of 1923-1925.
the Fall of 1925, Johnson left the MEPS with about 75 followers and established an
independent Fundamentalist church, Maranatha Tabernacle, in nearby Glendale. Then,
in 1927, he renounced all formal denominational structures with their salaried pastors and
began to form house churches, which he called The Church which is Christs
body, led by laymen who were called to preach and teach a New Testament message
along the lines of the Exclusive Plymouth Brethren Assemblies.
Johnson and his associates are known as undenominational Christians, today
they have affiliated assemblies in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Maryland,
Virginia, Mexico and Central America; their mission work in El Salvador is known as
"Christian's who meet in the Name of the Lord" -- "Cristianos congregados
en el Nombre del Señor." There are no formal headquarters and each affiliated
group is an autonomous assembly.
At the time of
Johnsons official retirement in 1972 at age 79, he and his wife were living in Orangevale,
CA, in Sacramento County, but until 1969 his ministry was centered in the Los Angeles
metro area. In 1972, he turned over his radio ministry to his associates Berl
Chisum, Jack Langford and James Cox. The current presiding elder is alleged to be Robert
A. Grove (known as RAG), President and Chairman of "Robert A. Grove Ministries,
Inc." (A Virginia Corporation), 149 Edgemoor Street, San Leandro, CA 94579-1414.
Adapted from A
Classification System of Religious Groups in the Americas by Clifton L.
Holland, pages 55-56; see: http://www.prolades.com/clas-eng.pdf
information, see the following websites: http://www.churchgrowth.cc/Holy%20Love.htm
http://www.churchgrowth.cc/April%201927.htm http://www.bibletruths.org/ http://www.bibletruths.org/contacts.html
familiar with the "non-denominational" no-name church assemblies that go by
"The Church Which is Christ's Body" or "Christ's True Church"? There
are groups in California, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Canada, Mexico and Peru. Maybe
a couple thousand members, all led by Robert A. Grove (California, was in Virginia), and
his sons Scott Grove (Virginia) and Jeff Grove (Texas). This church was founded by
Maurice Johnson in the 1920's in California, and has been under the leadership of Robert
Grove since the 1970's.
purports to be a manifestation of the church from Christ's time, and requires of its
members utmost subservience to the leaders and complete conformity to a rigid,
hyper-orthodox dress code, speech code and behavior code. There is no room for
any individual thought or life choices. Members deemed threatening are marked and shunned,
and this fear of ex-communication from family serves to keep members in line.
OF THE PAST AND PRESENT
("Fighting Bob") Shuler, D.D., LL.D.
appeared in the December 1945 issue of
"The Methodist Challenge" and reprinted in 1955 in
"Bob Shuler - Met These On the Trail"
I passed him on
Spring Street. He was looking into a window where old books were being displayed.
Something about his sagging shoulders and rather frayed clothing shook me. For a moment I
felt compelled to speak to him. But a voice within seemed to forbid. I walked on. He
did not see me. I had
first seen Maurice Johnson in Eastland, Texas. He
was my song leader in a tabernacle revival, and God was certainly with us. It seemed as
though all Eastland County came the way of that revival.
had been a taxicab driver in Fort Worth, had been wonderfully converted, and God was using
him as few young fellows I have ever known. He could sing like a lark. He could win the
toughest to Christ. Nothing was too hard for the Christ of Maurice Johnson.
too, was a bit spectacular in those days! So, one Saturday night I preached on "Some
Dogs I Have Known." Maurice walked out just before my sermon and sang, "You've
Got to Quit Kicking My Dog Around." No Negro in the Old South could sing the
Negro songs with more telling effect, and he could mimic a "Hard-shell Baptist"
preacher to perfection.
persuaded him to go to Los Angeles with me. He became my young people's leader and
directed the music of the church. It was a departure from all the rules of the game.
He had never been trained for any of this work. He was simply God's
man. That was enough.
the leadership of Trinity Methodist Church is largely made up of men and women led to
Christ and typed in their Christian lives by the influence of this remarkable fellow.
No man ever came the way of Trinity who had a more vitalizing and invigorating
effect upon the people, young and old.
But Maurice Johnson
had what we call a "kink". Most of us have a dozen. His was fatal.
He was impulsive and stubbornly insistent when he thought that he was right, but he
lacked that something which the really great men of history have had -- a balance!
He came just that near to being great as God's prophet. He was so effective that his
faults seemed trivial. I recall that once I had an invitation to go to a camp as
speaker with a Y.M.C.A. group of picked high school students. At the last moment, I
discovered that I could not keep the engagement. I persuaded the Y.M.C.A. secretary, at
first very reluctant, to take Maurice. That secretary came back tremendously
enthused. It seemed the whole camp had been led to Christ through the personal touch
and magnetic messages and singing of young Johnson.
on earth did you get that fellow?" asked my Y.M.C.A. friend. "Off a Fort Worth
taxicab," I said.
where was he trained?" he insisted. "He got his training, equipment,
and everything else from Heaven," I replied.
Had Maurice Johnson
been able to hold his balance, it is my honest opinion that he would have become a
nationally-known power in the evangelization of this nation. But suddenly he became
obsessed with the idea that he must brand all the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites,
castigate the false teachers and anathematize, as the agents of Hell, every man who
happened to disagree with his thinking.
almost every position that he took, he was right. He discovered Unitarianism and other
poison in the Sunday School literature. Immediately he published a pamphlet denouncing the
Sunday School board of the church and quoting Scripture to show that the Sunday School
editors of Methodism were the direct agents of the Devil. Time has pretty well
vindicated his statements.
ecclesiastical heads of our church in California would not stand for such an attack.
They brought charges of insubordination against him and moved his location, forcing
him out. I fought for him to the last breath. I begged the brethren to give me
a chance to talk with him and see if I could calm him down. But just as I had about
succeeded in my defense, Maurice got the floor and reiterated all that he had said, and
then said a little more. I confess I admired him for it. But his speech in his own
defense finished it. They put him out.
organized an independent church in Glendale, which failed. He tried out an auto,
touring about, preaching to anybody who would listen. He got on the radio.
He turned his guns on all organized churches. He fired cannonballs at
men whom he had held up in his earlier ministry as his idols. He became a spiritual
isolationist. So, there he stood on Spring Street, dressed shabbily and looking
haggard. His face was the gray of ashes. His hungry eyes read the titles of
the moldy volumes in the window of that secondhand book store. I said to myself as I
walked down the street, "Why did it have to happen!"
could have packed the Church of
the Open Door, preached to crowds that would have overflowed the great Moody
Church in Chicago. He could have done what Appelman did in the great tent in Los Angeles.
He could have thrilled the crowd I saw in Hollywood Bowl on the Saturday night of
October 6th. Why did it have to happen? Especially when he was so nearly right
practically all of the time!
don't feel good about it. I wonder if somehow I failed God and this fine young
fellow who left his taxicab and followed Jesus! Every now and then I tune in on
Maurice [Johnson's radio programs], when he can get hold of enough money to buy some time
over the air. He is still 90 per cent of the time right! I wonder if I am!
can hear him now singing, "There's honey in the rock!"
. . . . . . . . .
Robert (Bob) P. Shuler
1201 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, California
Dear Brother Shuler:
said: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are
deceitful" (Prov. 27:6). He also said: "The legs of the lame
are not equal ..." (Proverbs 26:7). It was, therefore, not at all surprising to
me to observe the "long and short" of your article concerning me.
believe no Spirit-taught child of God can doubt that a preacher is "lame" when
his "talking-leg" keeps fair step with the "fundamentalists" while his
"walking-leg" maintains his place in what he condemns as often as Lot must have
verbally condemned Sodom. For instance, in your Bob Shuler's Magazine, Sept. 1925, you
thus daringly declared:
need not attempt to deceive ourselves longer ... Modernism is massing ... How can we live
together if we be not agreed? How can a house divided stand? ... Therefore, I say the
clash is certain ... I cannot see how there can come anything else less than a division
..." Then in December: "We Southerners are a loud-mouthed set.
If Modernism begins to creep into our Sunday School literature, we talk.
If our Mission Board begins to foster a liberal movement in China, we discuss.
If the Methodist Review begins to look like one of Bob Ingersoll's books, we
remark upon it ... We are hard to silence." "We reserve the right as a
Methodist preacher, personally supporting with our money our Methodist schools, and taking
collections every year from our people for this cause, to voice our protest when our
educational leaders come out boldly and go on record on the side of materialistic
philosophies that are wrecking the religious faith and zeal of our young people to right
and left ... NOR WILL OUR PEOPLE AROUSE. Many of them recognize the futility of protest.
There will never be another formidable stand against modernism in Methodism.
The tide is set in against us."(March 1927)
"We can make, my
brethren, by turning against the whole church and fighting everything and everybody."
inch by inch we retreat before the advance of that sure and steady gain of modernism that
few men will longer deny ... It is needless that we seek to comfort ourselves with the
idea that such retreat will not in the ultimate prove fatal ... Methodism is being
steadily, surely, purposely liberalized and modernized ... We are loyal to the church.
We will not desert the banner of the fathers. We expect to stand and fight to
the end." (February 1928)
pastor of the leading church within my denomination (So. Meth.), I wish to say that I
have never failed to send up to the proper authorities every cent of the assessments laid
against my charge." (May 1928)
Bro. Shuler, I am rather ashamed that I "shook" you by permitting you to
discover me in front of that Spring Street secondhand book store as my "hungry eyes
read the titles of the moldy volumes in the window" when my "face was the gray
of ashes, looking haggard" with "sagging shoulders and rather frayed clothing
... dressed shabbily ..."
a moment I felt impelled to speak to him. But a voice within me seemed to forbid ... I
walked on," you wrote. Was that the voice, Bro. Shuler, that says in I John 3:17:
"Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth
up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
But I was no longer in "the church" to which you are so
"loyal" and generous. It is quite true that I am now merely your brother
I honestly wasn't in actual need of anything at the time unless it was that I was in need
of a little more consideration as to my personal appearance in such a public place. You
see, just about nineteen years ago, Bro. Shuler, Phil. 4:79 canceled all my earthly
insurance policies; 2 Tim. 3:16,17 dynamited all my sectarian straight-jackets; Col. 2:6
and I John 1:5-7 provided me with the most intimate fellowship with the Triune God and all
Spirit-led saints; and 2 Cor. 12:9,10 with Phil. 4:11-13 have been showing me the wicked
extravagance and the obvious poverty of covetously "window-shopping" at
Babylon's windows, so, for the life of me, I don't know how I happened to present such an inaccurate
spectacle as that which you so minutely and tenderly described.
were right when you said that I speak over the radio "when he can get hold of enough
money to buy some time." Frankly I think that's all the radio speaking a Christian
should do - only what he can pay for. By-the-way, Bro. Shuler, did you ever hear me
asking for money over the radio? Nor has anyone else!
But how in the world
do you suppose I "get hold of enough to buy" radio time for six weekly programs
now in four states, Ohio, Kansas, Washington, and California? To be exact, the answer
isn't "in the world" but in the WORD -- the Word of God. Remember that you said:
"He is still 90% of the time right." (Of course, you couldn't KNOW that I was
90% of the time right unless you were likewise right so as to know right from wrong.
It is possible, I admit, for one to be a hypocrite, knowing better than he is doing.)
the grace of God, I believe that "no good thing will He withhold from them that walk
uprightly" (Psa. 84:11). Incidentally, every penny of the money that I invest
in radio time, renting halls, etc, is voluntarily placed in my hands without any
stipulation as to what I do with it, so, you see, Bro. Shuler, I COULD buy better clothes
and PINK powder for my face (now "ashen gray"). Indeed, my "hungry
eyes" could have read more than "the titles of the moldy volumes in the
window" of that secondhand book store!
let your conscience bother you too much, Bro. Shuler, for having obeyed that "voice
within" that forbade you to speak to me (or even slip me 15 cents to satisfy my
"hungry eyes" for I think I later went in and bought one or more rapidly
molding books that were Methodist "best sellers" a couple or more years ago.
see, there are others besides "we Southerners" who are "loud-mouthed",
therefore, their yesterday's writings are quickly discarded to make room for their today's
mouthings. I am thus enabled to keep just "a second-hand-book-store"
behind you "men of the cloth" who buy the first-hand modernist mouthings before
they are obviously "moldy". I only read those by BIG men "of the
cloth", however. And there is some value, at least, in the light Bible
prophecy, to see what the "black shirts", the black coats, the black vests, the
"silver shirts", the silver tonguers, the "brown shirts", the Popish
lock-steppers, the modernist high-steppers and the fundamentalist side-steppers are doing.
(I'm speaking of the systems rather than the individuals.)
"He became a
spiritual isolationist", you wrote of me. I pray that you are right for that
would mean that I am separated ONLY to the spiritual. I can now sing: "Blest be
the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love" and sing it with understanding and
satisfaction that I never knew nor could I know before I became "spiritual
isolationist." "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from out from
among the dead and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph. 5:14). "And
the Lord said unto Abraham, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now
thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and
eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it ..."
(Gen. 14:14,15). I would to God, Bro. Shuler, that you saw the inverted
pyramid that your whole man-made Methodism is. You apparently don't dream that TIME
and SENSE are the greedy Mortgage Co., from which you have so largely borrowed in building
yourself up as a BIG preacher Fighting Bob Shuler. And when that heartless pair,
TIME and SENSE, foreclose on you it will be the most sickening and frightful awakening you
have ever known. Your fight has NOT been "the good fight of faith", but of
sight. It has been the confused and confusing bluffs and wild swingings of a
blood-bought, fearless and fervent soul that somewhere back in his life became an orthodox
"Front" for that immense "holding company", TIME and SENSE, the silent
but controlling partners.
believe the day will come when your two usually talented boys, Bob Jr. and Jack, will all
but curse you for not pleading with them to forsake their father's religio-political
appeasement policy; your "magnanimous-back-slapping" with your denomination
modernists and your "Good Friday" orthodoxy with inter-denominational
fundamentalists. I say these severe things ONLY because I love your soul and believe
they may be used of God to arrest you before you bluff away the rest of your earthly
Later, I expect to go more into the subject of just what is a "great man."
Suffice it now for me to say that I firmly believe you would rather have had
your son, Jack, appear on the platform, as he did, at that "Youth For Christ"
mass meeting in Hollywood Bowl than to have had him be alone with John the Beloved on the
Isle of Patmos or caught up to the third heaven with Paul, to have him, or yourself,
DIRECTLY called by an angel of the Lord, as was Philip, to LEAVE the city and "go to
Gaza, which is desert" (Acts 8:26) would suggest a "kink" or spiritual
"isolationism" to you, I cannot doubt.
A servant of Christ,
/signed/ Maurice Johnson
Letter from Maurice M. Johnson about his retirement
Orangevale, Ca. 95662
May 8, 1972
my brothers and sisters in the family of God and fellow-soldiers in the good fight of
As most of you
know, in November of 1969 shortly before my seventy-sixth birthday, my wife and I moved
permanently from Los Angeles County which had been our home base, so to speak, since our
marriage in June, 1923. At that time I was
soloist, choir director and director of young peoples work at Trinity Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
In the fall of 1923 I resigned these positions and was appointed one of the
Conference Evangelists at the Annual Methodist Conference in November.
first meeting I held, preaching and singing with my wife assisting at the piano, was in
the Southern Methodist Church building in Sacramento, Ca. The pastor and his wife were
dear Christians, "fundamental" in their Bible beliefs, but completely
discouraged by the coldness and indifference of most of the members. I preached my
heart out, with no visible results except a profession of faith on the part of a young
hitch-hiker who had stopped in the church vestibule late one evening for a drink of water.
meeting followed sponsored by the young people of the Central Methodist Church in Phoenix, Ariz. I had known many
of these young people in Epworth League work. They were enthusiastic and worked hard and
there were several who professed faith in Christ for the first time, but the pastor soon
revealed himself as a modernistic infidel. I left Phoenix with a heavy burden for those
young "lambs" with a wolf in sheeps clothing for a
pastor and so-called shepherd.
third meeting in San Diego was likewise a disappointment. The pastor and his wife were
earnest Christians, but the Sunday School literature was almost completely modernistic in
content; and again the few converts were left to feed on infidelity except for the
pastor's Sunday sermons. I left that meeting convicted that I could not with a good
conscience continue to help add to the membership of such a congregation. There were some
troubled Christians in all three of these places; but they could do no more than
"just Lot" vexing his righteous soul (2 Pet. 2:7).
The next nine months
were spent in Chicago as choir director and assistant pastor to J. C. O'Hair at the North Shore Congregational Church;
but the burden to preach the Word myself was growing on me. I went back to California to
the annual Methodist Conference in November and was assigned to the pastorate of the Broadway Methodist Church in Glendale, Ca.
During the year [1924-1925] we doubled the membership of the local church and many of the
new members were admitted on profession of faith in Christ. Many of you have heard
me say to my shame that I "opened the door of the Methodist church" and shut
these babes in Christ in, because when I led in saying every Sunday morning, "I
believe in the holy, catholic church" I had never really believed that there was only
one church and that Christ was the only Door.
At the end of the conference
year  I was put out of the Methodist ministry on the grounds of general
unacceptability, mainly because we had refused to use the official Sunday School
literature and were teaching the Bible in All the Sunday School classes. Over seventy-five
people came out of the Methodist denomination with me and we straightway organized a
"fundamentalist church" [Maranatha Tabernacle in Glendale] modeled after three
of the "best" in the nation. I thank the Lord, the Head of His church, that He
did not let me succeed. A little over a year later we dissolved our corporation, I gave up
my salary and began the walk of faith with El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One. The
small handful of Christians that had stood the storm with me also came out unto the Lord,
free from all sectarian ties. We still have the joy of fellowship with many of them, and
in some cases with their children and their grand-children.
November of this year I will be seventy-nine years old; my wife will be seventy-four.
It has been a grand and glorious battle, and we have worked together joyously and
in unity, but we are both tired---not tired of the work, but tired in the work. I
had hoped to continue in public ministry in the Orangevale area, but the Lord saw fit to
"retire" me by means of major surgery in 1970 and a stroke in 1971 that left me
with a severe form of aphasia---a condition in which I know WHAT I want to say, but the
right words do not come out. My poor health has placed a heavier burden of
responsibility on my wife than she should have to bear and her health has suffered also.
After much prayer and
waiting on the Lord, I have
decided to give up the radio broadcasts, and since most of the money
received by me is designated for the M. M. Johnson Gospel Fund I shall close that out,
too. We have set the time for this closing out of funds and broadcasts for the end of
May---the end of forty-nine years together in the work of the Lord. We do not intend to
stop serving the Lord, of course, but will seek His mind for further direction.
broadcasts I now am responsible for will be turned over to Bros. Berl Chisum, Jack
Langford and James Cox, to be carried on in whatever way they may decide. The continuation
of the local broadcast over K-POP will be left to the decision of the men in the Orangevale
assembly and the financial responsibility will be theirs.
explanation may be necessary for some of you who do not know how the gospel fund is used.
Until a problem with the Internal Revenue Service arose as to whether contributions to
Maurice Johnson were tax deductible, our personal funds and the funds for the Lord's work
were in one account. Twice before I had set up a gospel fund when we were working in Texas
and the mid-west, but they were used up and closed out before 1953.
1957 I set up the Maurice Johnson Gospel Fund in South Pasadena so gifts to it would be
tax deductible, and opened a separate joint account for my wife and me in Arroyo Grande,
where we moved temporarily on account of her poor health. I was still active and she would
have been alone at times and perhaps need immediately accessible funds.
1957 until now, the gospel fund has been used ONLY for the work of the Lord---hall
rentals, radio broadcasts, advertising, office supplies and machines, traveling expenses,
etc. I have taken for our personal needs only the cash in the offering box and
checks made out to me personally without any designation as to where they were to be used.
In many cases where we did not need the cash or the checks they were also deposited
in the gospel fund. If it had been necessary to draw on the gospel fund for any of
our living expenses I'm sure I would have felt free to do so, but it was never necessary.
When we left Los
Angeles in November of 1969 Russell Ross made an examination of all accounts handled by us
from 1942 to 1969. A copy of these accounts can be made for anyone who needs to verify
Orangevale in December, 1969 I set up a new M. M. Johnson Gospel Fund in which were
deposited checks from here and other areas. As before, we used the cash and undesignated
checks for our personal expenses when needed. The expenses of the Orangevale assembly,
office expenses, tapes, recording supplies and other miscellaneous expenses have been paid
from the gospel fund as well as a total of $11.996.00 to the Berl Chisum Gospel Fund up to
date, as a part of the radio broadcasting expense to stations on which I shared time with
Bro. Chisum. A total of $2,900.00 has been sent to Bro. Jack Langford to help with his
printing and radio expenses, and $100.00 to Tom Murley for general expenses. Bro. Bill
Hagan is preparing a summary of this account from December 1969 to May 31st of 1972 which
can also be inspected upon request. At no time has our son, Jim Johnson, had knowledge of
the amount in the fund, nor any access to it, nor profited from it personally.
of you who have contributed regularly to the Lord's work through my ministry are asked to
send no more to me, but to seek the mind of the Lord through the leading of the Holy
Spirit as to the distribution of your gifts to the other ministering brethren.
second fund should be mentioned, called by my wife the "Postage Fund". It
consists of all cash received from the radio audience and is used for mailing tapes,
literature, issues of Sound Words, yearly calendars, etc. It is put in a desk drawer and
used when needed, generally used up after each big mailing. All checks from the radio
audience are put in the gospel fund. A shorter, but similar letter will be sent to our
regular radio contributors as soon as it can be done.
lengthy letter may seem unnecessary to some, but my wife and son and I are in full
agreement that we want to be crystal clear in this matter, so that there will be no need
for explanations or interpretations from other sources. If there remain any questions in
the minds of any of you, will you please for Christ's sake, ask us FIRST? We will be happy
to answer them.
ask your prayers for further direction in our lives. For many years our children have
begged their mother to write the story of our "adventures" in our long and
eventful and happy Christian service, especially the years they were too young to
remember. If the Lord allows us that much time we may do it, and have already begun to
assemble material for that purpose. Whatever He allows us to do will be worthy of Him as
long as we have a single eye and seek only the honor and glory of our Savior and Lord
If present plans work
out we also hope to be able soon to offer free tapes of previous sermons and radio
broadcasts, and to mail out literature by request as long as our supply lasts. If you
should be interested in the radio tapes, please let us know. We hope those of you passing
through the Sacramento area will stop by often for a little visit. We do not expect to do
much traveling now. EBENEZER -- I Sam. 7:12.
the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of
the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect in every good
work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through
Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen."
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