Pentecostal Historiography in Canada: The History Behind the Histories

Linda Ambrose


2019 is the centenary year of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), and therefore it is both timely and appropriate to reflect on the historiography of denominational histories that have been produced for and promoted by this, the largest of Canadian Pentecostal denominations. Between 1958 and 2018 five different books were published about this denomination, with the PAOC’s endorsement. The authors of these books were clear about the purposes they hoped their work would accomplish, including inspiration for current and future members of the PAOC churches. Writing denominational histories is no easy task. Bruce Guenther, a Canadian Mennonite Church historian and past president of the Canadian Society of Church History, critiques denominational histories in general, saying that many “are poorly written works of triumphalistic hagiography in which well-intentioned amateur historians have copiously compiled as much detail as possible concerning the people, places and events they wish to celebrate or commemorate.” Guenther concedes that while such histories are “an invaluable source of information,” they usually fail to “situate a denominational story within larger social-cultural, national or theological trends.” Pentecostal history books suffer those same weaknesses identified by Guenther. Yet by exploring officially endorsed histories published by the PAOC, one can trace identifiable trends in those books over time. The historiographer’s task is to analyze what has been written and to explain why the presentation of the narrative changes over time. This paper analyzes each of the history books published by PAOC to identify the messages behind the narrative. The paper also provides some context for each book to explain why particular approaches to the history were taken and what the denomination hoped those history books would accomplish.


Pentecostalism historiography Canada

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