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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

LUCY FARROW: FORGOTTEN APOSTLE OF PENTECOST

Although William J. Seymour is acknowledged as the leader of the Azusa Street Revival, it was a black woman, Lucy Farrow, who provided the initial spark that ignited that revival. No one associated with the little prayer meeting led by Seymour had spoken in tongues until Farrow, at Seymour’s request, arrived on the scene and began laying her hands on people and seeing God fill them with the Holy Spirit as in the book of Acts. She also ministered with power across the southern United States and in Liberia in West Africa. She lived out her final years in Los Angeles where there were reported healings and remarkable answers to prayer through her ministry.

Farrow Overcomes Prejudicial Opposition
Little is known of Farrow’s early life including the exact date of her birth. What is known is that she was born into slavery in the state of Virginia. As a black woman living in the South during Reconstruction, life would not have been easy. But in spite of being continually confronted with prejudice and injustice, she became a powerful voice in the early Pentecostal revival and provided the spark in Los Angeles that ignited the revival that has spread around the world and impacted all of Christendom. She is an example of how one can become a force for God and good even in the most difficult and aggravating circumstances.

Somewhere along the way Farrow moved to Houston, TX, probably around 1900, and became the pastor of a small, black, Holiness congregation. In Houston she would have lived under southern Jim Crow laws that were passed by southern states to keep blacks “in their place.” These laws mandated racially segregated public facilities including separate public restrooms and drinking fountains, and separate seating in restaurants and on buses. Public schools were segregated and voting laws made it next to impossible for blacks to vote in elections.

These laws, however, were only outward manifestations of a deeply ingrained prejudice and hatred that Farrow faced every day of her life. But instead of becoming bitter and taking on a victim mentality, she allowed the faith of God and the love of God to so fill her heart that she was able to be used by God to minister powerfully to both blacks and whites in the fledgling Pentecostal revival.

Divine Connections
While pastoring in Houston, Farrow met Charles Parham who came there from Baxter Springs, Kansas in October of 1905 to hold a meeting in Bryan Hall. Parham was preaching a message about a baptism in the Holy Spirit that would be accompanied by speaking in tongues, which he called the “Bible evidence.” He also told about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that had occurred in his Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas in January of 1901 when virtually every student had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues.

Farrow attended these meetings (probably in a segregated area) and was intrigued by what she heard. She acquainted herself with the Parham and his wife, Sarah, and they obviously were impressed with her. When the Parhams returned to Baxter Springs, they invited her to go with them and live in their home, acting as a governess, particularly in the care of their small children. She agreed and turned the pastorate of her congregation over to a younger friend by the name of William J. Seymour.

While in the Parham home Farrow experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. This proved to a turning point in her life that positioned her to be an important catalyst in what would turn out to be the most dynamic and fastest growing movement in modern Christendom—the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement.

When the Parhams returned to Houston in December to begin a Bible school in the New Year, Farrow returned with them and reconnected with her congregation. She also encouraged Seymour to enroll in the Bible school. Seymour followed her advice and enrolled in the school where he learned about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the “Bible evidence” of speaking in tongues. Although he did not receive the experience while in the school, he was convinced of its veracity and began to preach it to others. Farrow, demonstrating the true humility of her character, volunteered to be the cook for the school.

Seymour Precedes Farrow to Los Angeles
Seymour was in the school for about six weeks before departing for Los Angeles to accept the invitation to pastor a small store-front church in that city. When the elders of this church rejected Seymour and his message of a Spirit baptism accompanied by speaking in tongues, he accepted an invitation from the Edward Lee family to stay in their home. He and the Lees began attending prayer meetings being held in the Asberry home at 214 Bonnie Brae Street, and Seymour soon became the recognized leader. Although he had not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit himself, Seymour taught the people about it and encouraged them to pray for this Pentecostal experience.

The deep respect Seymour had for Farrow (who would have been about ten years his senior) is shown in his desire that she come and teach the people in Los Angeles about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and pray for them to receive this experience. When he shared with the group about Farrow and how the baptism in the Holy Spirit had impacted her life, the group was so stirred that they took up a collection to purchase a train ticket for her to come to Los Angeles. They sent off the ticket with their invitation and a prayer that the Lord would speak to her to accept their invitation.

Farrow Sparks Pentecostal Revival in Los Angeles
Probably out of her deep sense of need, Farrow had developed a radical dependence on God and a rare sensitivity to His Holy Spirit. This dependence on God characterized every part of her life and ministry. She did not have an “assembly line” approach in praying for people but only prayed as she was prompted by the Holy Spirit. This sort of radical dependence on God and sensitivity to the Spirit would characterize the revival that would break forth through her ministry in Los Angeles.

She arrived in Los Angeles probably in late March and was taken to the Lee home where she would be hosted. Shortly after her arrival, Edward Lee arrived home from work and met Farrow for the first time. Lee was so hungry for the baptism in the Holy Spirit that, after a brief introduction, he pleaded, “Sister, if you will lay your hands on me I believe I will get my baptism right now.” Farrow humbly replied, “I cannot do it unless the Lord says so.”

Shortly thereafter, while eating the evening meal, Farrow laid down her fork and pushed her chair from the table. She arose and walked around the table to Edward Lee and said, “The Lord tells me to lay my hands on you for the Holy Ghost.” She then laid her hands on Lee who immediately fell out of his chair and, while lying on the floor, began speaking in tongues.

Revival Breaks Forth
That same evening the Lees and Farrow departed for the prayer meeting at the Asberry home with their hearts overflowing with the presence and joy of the Lord. As Edward Lee walked through the door, he lifted his hands and began speaking in tongues. The power of God fell on those present and several fell to the floor and began speaking in tongues. Different gifts of the Spirit began to manifest and the meeting lasted through the night. Word spread quickly that God was pouring out a new Pentecost on Bonnie Brae Street and people began to come from every direction. The house filled with people and the crowed overflowed onto the porch and into the yard. One participant said, “By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house.”

Realizing they needed more space, they searched and found an old abandoned building in downtown Los Angeles at 312 Azusa Street. They moved the prayer meeting to that location and had their first meeting on April 14, 1906. For the next three years the meetings ran around the clock as thousands flocked to Azusa Street from across America and other nations as well.

Revival in Houston
After the move to Azusa Street, Farrow remained in Los Angeles for another four months, ministering with Seymour and providing a much needed stability in the early days of revival. In August she departed for Virginia, planning from there to go to Liberia in West Africa from whence her ancestors had been brought as slaves to America.

On her journey eastward she stopped in Houston and preached in Parham’s summer camp meeting. The large audience, mostly white, was electrified as she told about the revival that was underway in Los Angeles. She then prayed for many to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and, again and again, as in the book of Acts, they would break forth speaking in tongues as she laid her hands on them. One participant said, “She had an amazing gift for laying hands on people and them receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Revival in Virginia & Africa
Farrow lived by faith, having no settled fund from which to draw, but trusting God to meet every need as she walked in obedience to Him. From Houston she traveled on to Virginia and in Portsmouth held a series of meetings that lasted several weeks. It was reported that about 200 were saved and 150 received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Sensing an urgent call to Africa but realizing the powerful work that had begun in Portsmouth, Farrow contacted Seymour and asked that a replacement be sent so she could continue on in her mission to Africa.

After help arrived from Los Angeles, Farrow traveled to New York and then sailed for Africa. She settled in Johnsonville about 25 miles from the capital of Monrovia from where she carried on a ministry of preaching, teaching , praying for the sick, and leading people into the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was reported that many were brought to Christ during her short stay in that country.

Final Years in Los Angeles
Farrow returned to Los Angeles and lived out her final years in a small “faith cottage” located behind the Azusa Street Mission. Many visited her there to receive of her wisdom and her prayers. Many testified of being healed, baptized in the Holy Spirit, or to having received a “greater” infilling of the Spirit through her prayers. The time and circumstances surrounding her death are unknown.

By Eddie L. Hyatt

Lucy Farrow is just one of many Christian women whose lives and accomplishments have been ignored or diminished by historians. The vision of the Int’l Christian Women’s Hall of Fame, now merged with God’s Word to Women, is to write these women back into history so that the present generation can learn and be inspired by their examples. If you would like to know more about the Hall of Fame and God’s Word to Women, go to www.icwhp.org and www.godswordtowomen.org.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

PAUL & WOMEN OVERSEERS

5 Reasons Why “Husband of One Wife” Does Not Exclude Women

This is a faithful saying: If a man (Gk. tis) desires the position of a bishop (Gk. episcopas), he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife . . . (I Timothy 3:1-2; NKJV).
Among the criteria that Paul’s lists for anyone serving as a bishop-overseer is that they must be the husband of one wife. This has been used by many to exclude women from functioning in this role of oversight, for only a man could be the husband of one wife.
In teaching “The Pastoral Epistles” (I and II Timothy & Titus) in various educational venues for many years, I had come to accept the view of Dr. Gordon Fee who says that just because most of the overseers in Ephesus (Timothy’s location at the time of Paul’s writing) happened to be men, should not be taken to mean that they all have to be men.
Fee’s commentary was helpful but did not completely satisfy my heart. Then one day while thinking on I Timothy 3:1-7, I had a eureka moment in which I suddenly and clearly saw why Paul’s requirement that an overseer be the husband of one wife does not exclude women from functioning in leadership roles of oversight. Here are the reasons.
Reason # 1
Throughout this discussion
Paul uses Gender Inclusive Language.
Nowhere in this passage does Paul use the Greek word for man, aner, but instead uses the gender inclusive personal pronoun tis, which means “someone” or “anyone.” For example, in 3:1 it is not, if a man . . . as the KJV and NKJV have it, but if anyone (NIV) or if someone (NRSV). This is also true of vs. 5 where Paul again uses tis, not aner, to confirm that oversight is not restricted to males. If Paul had wanted to exclude women from this function of oversight he could have easily done so by using male-specific language. Instead, he uses gender inclusive language throughout the discussion.
Reason #2
Women were known to be heads of households, which
Paul says is a proving ground for serving as an overseer
(I Timothy 3:5)
.
Verse 5 says, If a man anyone does not know how to manage their own household . . .. As mentioned above, Paul purposely uses a gender inclusive personal pronoun, tis, in this verse. As in vs. 2, it is not if a man, as the KJV and NKJV have it, but if someone (NRSV) or if anyone (NIV). Managing a household was not the province of the male in Paul’s world, for in his travels he had encountered women who were heads of households. In Philippi, he and his team were received by Lydia and she and her household were baptized (Acts 16:15) and her estate became the base for Paul’s ministry in that city. In I Corinthians 1:11, Paul mentions those of Chloe’s household who had brought him unfavorable news about the Corinthians. Chloe too is a feminine name and is further proof that women managed households in the ancient world, which qualified them to serve as overseers in the church.
Reason #3
In the pagan, patriarchal culture of the Greco-Roman world, men could divorce, remarry, keep mistresses and still be respectable, but women could not, which is the reason for this requirement being included.
This is where I had the eureka moment that highlighted and underlined for me the fact that Paul was not excluding women from oversight when he said the overseer must be the husband of one wife. Interestingly, because there is not a separate word for “husband” in Greek, this passage literally reads that the overseer must be “a man of one woman.” Again, this particular criterion would not relate to a woman for women did not have the legal right or the cultural freedom to divorce and remarry and carry on illegitimate relationships as did the men. Women would be considered sluts and whores if they carried on in this way, but for men it was acceptable in that culture. It was necessary, therefore, for this condition, that relates particularly to men, to be included in this list of criteria for tis (anyone) who would serve as an overseer.
Reason #4
This is Not an "Office" but a “Work,” i.e., a Responsibility.
The word “bishop” or “overseer” in this passage is a translation of the Greek word episcopas, which literally means to “watch over.” It is not unique to the New Testament but was used in the ancient Greco-Roman world of teachers who had the responsibility to “watch over” the academic progress of their students, of the superintendent of a building project, of watchmen stationed on a city wall, and of army scouts. Paul used it to designate the responsibility of elders to “watch over” the affairs of the congregation.

That episcopas was not a distinct church office at this time is confirmed by the fact that it is used interchageably with prebuteros (elder) and poimen (pastor) in referring to the same people by Luke in Acts 20:28. Episcopas as a distinct church office was a later development in Christian history. 
Paul, in fact, does not use the word “office” or “position” at all in this passage (nor anywhere in the New Testament). Such words were added by the translators who thought they were helping clarify the passage. I am convinced, however, that they actually skew the meaning of the passage, which should be left as actually stated by Paul. What Paul is referring to is not an office, but a “work,” i.e., a function or responsibility. I Timothy 3:1 literally says, This is a faithful saying, If anyone aspires to oversight, they desire a good work.
Writing in the 5th century, the famous African church father, Augustine, noted that a mark of the true church is that its leaders are servants. He then went on to explain that the original meaning of episcopas is related to function and responsibility, not office and authority. “Therefore,” said Augustine, “He who loves to govern rather than do good is no bishop (episcopas)” (vol. 2 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 413).
Reason #5
Women Can Serve and Do Good.
I suggest to you that Paul had no problem with women serving and doing good, which is what New Testament leadership is about. We have been so brainwashed in an official, institutionalized, hierarchical form of Christianity, that we have a hard time grasping the open, free-flowing nature of New Testament Christianity.
But if we can catch the vision of what the Spirit is saying in this regard and move from gender-determined roles to Spirit-guided functions in all areas of church life, who knows what exploits may be wrought for God in the days ahead!