I was actually not planning on doing a sixth article in the series, but so much information necessitated its creation. The groups in this article - with the exception of the first - are all interrelated; they all have fellowship with each other, have similar histories and convictions, and the one thing that really binds most of them together is an Oklahoma-based periodical that is published bi-monthly entitled The Holiness Messenger. First, I want to give some introductory material, and then I want to get into these groups themselves.
As the 1970's dawned, many of the larger Pentecostal denominations began to strive for more respectability in the wider Christian spectrum, and when churches start to do that it usually means a shedding and eschewal of many aspects of their early heritage. Therefore, many people who were members of congregations affiliated with the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland) and other such groups began to take on the more worldly trappings of society around them, and in doing so they sought to be indistinguishable from the wider world by supposedly "becoming those to whom they minister." Not only Pentecostals, but many groups considered as historically conservative Evangelical had similar transformations. This naturally led to concerns among many more conservative members of these churches, concerns that grew to such a magnitude that in time many congregations of more conservative Pentecostals began withdrawing from fellowship with the large denominations. Such things as the growing popularity of "Contemporary Christian" music, worldly dress, and even the acceptance of social drinking and the use of tobacco products were incomprehensible to many old-time Pentecostal folks, and it was often seen by them in an eschatological context as a "falling away" or a "deception of the elect." Seeking to preserve what they believed were their core convictions as Spirit-filled Pentecostal Christians, the dissenting churches began to fellowship with one another, and a number of small new groups emerged that embodied old-time Pentecostalism as it once was. Many of these groups were informal fellowships, but some in time did develop structural mechanisms for ordaining clergy, promoting missions, and also Bible schools came into existence. With this new developing of a conservative Pentecostal/Holiness identity naturally gelling into a movement, it is estimated that close to 20% of all Assemblies of God, Church of God, and other larger Pentecostal denominations experienced an exodus of membership to these new fellowships.
I write much of this material because I in many ways sympathize with people who are part of these fellowships because in many ways I share their convictions, although not with 100% agreement necessarily. Oftentimes, you have to wade through some legalism, anti-Catholicism, and other things to see the real assets of such fellowships, but they are there. I have, for instance, been subscribed to The Holiness Messenger since sometime around 2003. And, I am also interested in seeing much of the Pentecostalism I knew in my childhood preserved at its best, and these groups are doing that in an exemplary way.
I am going to focus on first a group out of Palatka, FL, called the Pentecostal Revival Center Association, and then I will devote much more space to those groups and fellowships which in some way are associated with The Holiness Messenger, as there are many of them.
The Pentecostal Revival Center Association
A Christmas tree vision birthed a church in early 1966. A lady minister by the name of Dolly Harrell had a vision in the early 1960's of a large cedar tree that she really took to heart, and from the vision a church emerged in Palatka, FL, called the Pentecostal Revival Center. First, I want to tell a little of Dolly's story, and then we will discuss the PRCA.
Dolly Baer was born in 1920 in Charlotte, NC, and at an early age her folks moved the family to the town of Branford, FL, where young Dolly grew up. She married her husband of 54 years, James Harrell, at the age of 14 and the young couple moved to Palatka where James worked in a paper mill. After their move, Dolly worked as a Sunday School teacher in a local Methodist church until 1958, when she became involved with a local Assembly of God doing evangelistic work. In time, she would be educated at Southeastern College (the same school I got my degree from) and she held credentials with the Assemblies of God beginning in the mid-1950's. In December 1965, she established the Pentecostal Revival Center, later moving it to its present location in 1976 after confirmation of the tree vision she had. At close to the same time, she began a radio ministry which later culminated into a TV ministry in the early 1980's, known today as GospelVision TV. She continued in active ministry until her passing on April 13, 2009.