The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) is a Pentecostal Christian denomination. Founded in 1906, is the oldest Oneness Pentecostal organization in existence. Headquarters are in Indianapolis, Indiana, and The Christian Outlook is the church’s official publication. In 1998, it had a membership 1.5 million in the United States.
The PAW traces its origins to the Azusa Street Revival of Los Angeles, California which marked the beginning of the Pentecostal Movement. J.J. Frazee founded the PAW in 1906 and was its first General Superintendent. At its founding it was Trinitarian and had not yet adopted Oneness Pentecostal doctrine and liturgy of water baptism.
Controversy over the “new issue” arose. The “new issue would divide the Pentecostal Movement between the Trinitarians and the Oneness or Jesus’ Name believers. Oneness believers reached the conclusion that the singular name in Matthew 28:19 was Jesus Christ and that the one true God who revealed himself as the Father in creation, as the Son for redemption, and as the Holy Spirit in the church was none other than Jesus. Thousands of Pentecostals began to be rebaptized with the shorter formula “in Jesus’ name,” claiming baptisms under Matthew 28:19 were not biblically valid. This belief was based on interpretations of Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48. Those wanting to be baptized or were previously baptized under the threefold titles of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” were admonished to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ according to those scriptures.
In 1916, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World was reorganized in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the Christ Temple Assembly of the Apostolic Faith, where Bishop G. T. Haywood was the pastor. Bishop Haywood became the organization’s first Presiding Bishop at that meeting. During that meeting, the organization’s headquarters were established in Portland, Oregon.
In 1918, a merger between the PAW and the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies under the chairmanship of J.J. Frazee occurred in St. Louis, MO. This merger retained the name Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Later that year, E.W. Doak became Chairman and W.E. Booth-Clibborn (son of Kate Booth-Clibborn and grandson of the Booths who founded the Salvation Army in London) became Secretary. At this time, the PAW was the largest Oneness Pentecostal organization.
On January 25, 1919, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World headquarters moved from Portland to Indianapolis, and formally incorporated in the state of Indiana. The incorporators were E. W. Doak, G.T. Haywood, and D.C.O. Opperman.
In 1924, white leaders of the organization separated from the PAW. Their separation was the result of the enforcement of Jim Crow laws, racial segregation policies in the United States. The white leaders formed their own organization which subsequently became the United Pentecostal Church International.
The head of the organization held the title of General Elder or General Overseer until 1925, when it was changed to Presiding Bishop. At the same time, it established a Board of Bishops with five members. Of the five members, one of them, G. T. Haywood, was elected Presiding Bishop. Haywood was a real stabilizer for the organization. In the days of the separation of the Trinitarians from the Oneness, Haywood was a supporter of the Oneness message. In 1932, the PAW was reorganized.
The leadership of the PAW consists of a Presiding Bishop and a Board of Bishops consisting of 12 formal members. The board also includes lay-directors from various regions of the United States and emeritus bishops who once served but are either semi or fully retired.
Under the oversight of the Board of Bishops are geographical units called councils, which are similar to dioceses. Councils correspond to state or national boundaries and each council is headed by a diocesan bishop, who is appointed by the Board of Bishops. A diocesan bishop can have as many as three assistants, called suffragan bishops. These suffragan bishops hold only the authority given them by the diocesan bishop. Typically they will have authority over a region or part of a state. Reporting under the suffragan bishop are district elders, who oversee and assist the elders (pastors and their churches) in his district. A district can contain as few as three churches and with typically no more than 25.
In 1998, the number of PAW churches in the US was 1, 750 served by 4, 500 clergy.
The following is a list of Presiding Bishops:
- Garfield Thomas Haywood (1925-1931)
- Samuel Joshua Grimes (1932-1967)
- Ross Perry Paddock (1967-1974)
- Francis L. Smith (1974-1980)
- Lawrence E. Brisbin (1980-1986)
- James Archie Johnson (1986-1992)
- Paul A. Bowers (1992-1998)
- Norman L. Wagner (1998-2004)
- Horace E. Smith, M.D. (2004-Present)