Macquarie University
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The spirit of Pentecost: origins and development of the Pentecostal movement in Australia, 1870-1939

posted on 2022-03-28, 15:41 authored by Barry Mostyn Chant
In this thesis I hope to show that Australian Pentecostalism exhibits distinctive elements which do not fit accepted historical and sociological theories. Neither the deprivation theories of the 1970's and 80's nor more recent sociological and psychological explanations are adequate to explain its development. -- I will also argue that the movement's major contribution to Australian Christianity lies in its rekindling of an openness to experiential religion, specifically through the baptism in the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues, and that this has been both a strength and a weakness. Then it will be seen that the movement grew from three major nineteenth century tributaries. These were the Wesleyan movement with its emphasis on entire sanctification; the ministry of John Alexander Dowie with its focus on divine healing and separation from the world; and the Evangelical movement, with its fervent and growing desire for revival. -- The early development will then be examined. This was mainly attributable to Sarah Jane Lancaster who was the outstanding pioneer of Australian Pentecostalism. She was responsible for the establishing of many local churches, she engaged in extensive welfare work during the Depression and there was a strong emphasis on experiencing the presence and power of God, especially through 'Tarry meetings.' Although certain unorthodox beliefs marginalised her from the Evangelical mainstream, her life and ministry were highly influential in the early development of the movement. -- This study will then trace the origins and development of three extant Pentecostal denominations - the Assemblies of God, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the Apostolic Church. It will be seen that while local leadership was indigenous, there was a strong multicultural element in these groups. Disputes over doctrine reflected the dilemma which arose when experience-based approaches to Scripture proved to be in conflict. -- Dedicated and determined efforts to take the gospel to the Aborigines will be considered. In spite of limited resources and the fragile state of the early movement, there was ongoing mission among the indigenous people. -- Three aspects of the dynamics of the movement will then be discussed. First, the role of women. The Spirit was seen to be bestowed on both men and women equally and so, in the initial three decades, women had a unique freedom to preach, administer the sacraments and lead churches. Over half of the first thirty Pentecostal congregations were founded by women. -- Secondly, for all its emphasis on the spontaneous work of the Spirit, Pentecostal preaching was not confined to this. An analysis of extant sermons reveals a range of topics and a primary focus on the Second Coming, Christian living and the work of the Holy Spirit. -- Thirdly, it was their experience of God through the Holy Spirit that motivated the early Pentecostals. Historically, it will be seen that the movement's distinctiveness has rested in its enshrining of the practice of glossolalia in an experiential encounter with God. -- Note: The phrase 'spirit of Pentecost' is used in this thesis both in reference to the Holy Spirit and to the ethos and spirit of the movement. The context will usually indicate the intended meaning.


Alternative Title

Origins and development of the Pentecostal movement in Australia, 1870-1939

Table of Contents

PART ONE - DEFINITION -- The south land of the Spirit -- 'Testing' the Spirit -- PART TWO - DERIVATION -- The Spirit of Wesleyanism (1870-1908) -- The embryonic Spirit of Pentecost (1875-1920) -- The Spirit of evangelicalism (1875-1920) -- PART THREE - DEVELOPMENT -- Following the Spirit (1908-1934) -- The Spirit of love (1922-1934) -- The free flowing Spirit (1926-1934) -- The Spirit of revival (1925-1939) -- The Spirit of prophecy (1930-1939) -- Obeying the Spirit (1905-1939) -- PART FOUR - DYNAMICS -- Women of the Spirit -- Preaching in the Spirit -- The experience of the Spirit -- PART FIVE - DENOUEMENT -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 681-712

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Division of Humanities, Dept. of Modern History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History

Year of Award



Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Barry Mostyn Chant 2000.






712 p. ill

Former Identifiers

mq:20041 1559176