Fifty years ago, an unpretentious meeting took place on the outskirts of Dunn, North Carolina, in the home of Dr. O. Talmadge Spence. This meeting proved to have far-reaching importance for Dr. Spence, his family, and a remnant of individuals. The birth of the “Christian Purities Fellowship” was Dr. Spence’s last major attempt to call his fallen, spiritual mother denomination back to her legacy of the Fundamentals and separatist living.
Dr. Spence’s ministry commenced in 1952, in the Pentecostal denomination in which he was born. Over the succeeding years, the Lord brought him to prominence within this ecclesiastical system. He became a noted pastor, literary and music author, Bible conference speaker, teacher, assistant and professor in its oldest theological seminary, and founder and president of a college within the denominational system. Nevertheless, continued change at the conference and local church levels of leadership caused deepening grief to his soul.
The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the inroads of a “Neo” Christianity that eventually destroyed the Pentecostal system of the twentieth century. During these years Dr. Spence was a puritan within this system, endeavoring to bring the system back to its historical roots of holiness and the separatist message, with a greater emphasis upon godly living.
The Neo-Christianity Movement Within
One of the great influential changes taking place in the Pentecostal churches during the mid-decades of the twentieth century was the emergence of Oral Roberts, who was a member of the Pentecostal Holiness Church denomination. My grandfather, Hubert T. Spence, was the Bishop of the denomination at that time. He was a strong defender for the supreme authority of the Word of God, believing in its complete revelation from God. When Mr. Roberts came into prominence, he declared that the power of God was in his right hand and that God was personally giving him extant revelations and voices. Bishop Hubert T. Spence took a strong stand against Mr. Roberts during those years of his “Healing Waters” ministry. Mr. Roberts’ teachings were clearly unbiblical and were birthing a “Neo” movement that became known as “Neo-Pentecostalism.” Because the general board of the denomination refused to do anything about Mr. Roberts and his heretical teachings, Bishop Hubert T. Spence resigned from his position. Throughout his remaining years (passing away in 1969), he stood firm against the heresy and apostasy of Mr. Roberts and the “Neo” movement which later spawned the Charismatic movement.
As the 1960s unfolded great turbulence in our country (through the powers of rock-’n’-roll music, drugs, and the hippie movement), the Neo-Evangelical movement within the denominational systems of America began to lay aside the “old” and invite the “new” into its inner sanctuary of worship. Although both Neo-Evangelicalism and Neo-Pentecostalism were born in 1948 (along with the World Council of Churches), during the 1960s they became bedfellows within all the Pentecostal churches. One example of this strange relationship was Dr. Billy Graham’s invitation to Oral Roberts to attend the World Evangelism meeting in Switzerland, and Oral Roberts’ invitation to Billy Graham to be the dedicatory speaker for the newly built Oral Roberts University.
These two movements in return prepared the Pentecostal denominations to open their doors to contemporary Christian music. The leading influences of CCM in Pentecostalism included Ralph Carmichael, the increasingly popular Bill Gaither, Kirk Kaiser, the Oak Ridge Boys, Jake Hess and the Imperials, the Singing Rambos, and the deceptive sway of Southern Gospel and Convention music. Neo-Evangelicalism and Neo-Pentecostalism, along with the contemporary music trends, profoundly began affecting the dress standards of these denominations that once held to personal separation as well as ecclesiastical separation. Places that were once forbidden for attendance were being tolerated and finally accepted as proper. Means to manipulate a crowd to respond became the greater burden in sermon preparation rather than the truth of doctrine and holy living. Changes and their consequences rapidly increased in just a few short years. Emerging from this unalterable decline, a number of puritans stepped forward to voice their concern; only a few took their burden to the pulpit.
The Charismatic Movement
The year of 1967 birthed from the Neo-Pentecostal movement a new strain of spiritual virus: the Charismatic movement. This “Neo” movement was originally found outside the Pentecostal denominational context. The Charismatic movement actually began in Lutheran, Episcopal, and Methodist denominations through the influence of men such as Oral Roberts. Around this time, there appeared within the liberal Protestant context some of the earlier signs of “tongues” and operating “gifts.” The emphasis was upon the “Spirit” and the “Charismata,” or the “gifts” of the Spirit operating during the church services or small prayer gatherings. This was in response to the formal churches that had gone so long in their apostate coldness of religion and “worship.” Passivity was the congregation’s place amidst a liturgy of cold sermons read word for word from books. The religious climate was right for such a birth. This new Charismatic movement began to undermine doctrine, truth, absolutes, holiness, and godly living. It emphasized a “spirit” kept unencumbered by rigid rules and “doctrine.” Feelings and emotions were to be enjoyed without any restriction of dogma or principles of Scripture.
The Charismatic explosion came to international notoriety when this diabolical wind swept through the doors of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1962, the Pope at Vatican II predicted that there would be a fresh move of the Spirit of God, the “winds of Pentecost,” that would open the doors of the Roman Catholic Church and bring in fresh air. The changes that came to the Roman Catholic Church through Vatican II greatly aided in the growth and popular acceptance of the Roman Catholic Church by the end of the twentieth century.
Between 1968 and 1972, this Pentecostal wind swept across the Roman Catholic Church, Christianity’s oldest apostasy. It was this movement within the Roman Catholic Church that popularized the term Charismatic. By 1972, major Charismatic meetings began to be held at Notre Dame with tens of thousands of priests and nuns claiming a new spirit. They called this experience a renewal rather than a baptism, because they believed the Holy Spirit first came to a Catholic believer at his Confirmation at the age of twelve. This popular new experience, with the accompaniment of speaking in tongues, was viewed as a renewal of their confirmation.
Because of this movement within the Roman Catholic Church, by 1972 most Pentecostal denominations were accepting the Roman Catholics as bona fide “Christians.” The historical view of Romanism by all Pentecostal denominations heretofore designated it as the Harlot of Revelation 17. However, prominent Pentecostal leaders, such as Dr. Vincent Synan, began calling for “Charismatic bridges” to be built back to Rome. This diabolical “spirit” was perceived as a unifying principle that would unite divided brethren. Health and wealth began to be promoted as signs of God’s favor; sickness and poverty were noted as signs of God’s disfavor.
By 1973, it was merely a matter of time before the carnal, worldly, Charismatic movement would sweep the entire Evangelical spectrum and, hand-in-hand with Neo-Evangelicalism, bring about the demise of any God-centered denomination.
The Christian Purities Fellowship
Somewhat like a Methodist society that is longing for spirituality, purity, biblical revival, and deeper interest in communion with God within the church, the Christian Purities Fellowship was born as a puritan movement. It was initially the hope that preaching and fellowship rallies would be held in local churches to stir the hearts of the people to Christian purity. Amidst its small beginning, the CPF received strong opposition from the conference level leadership. Harsh attacks from the conference leadership served only to reveal the diseased heart of the system. As has been well documented in history, apostasy has no antidote— its only remedy is judgment.
By 1974, it became evident that the puritan Dr. O. Talmadge Spence had to become a separatist, a pilgrim. Within this exodus from a fallen denominational system, Foundations Bible College and Church were birthed on June 2, 1974. Although an independent, non-denominational, Fundamentalist-separatist ministry was formed, the CPF remained an independent ministry. It continued to be a help to those who were still struggling as puritans within the system. However, the following year its board voted unanimously to come under the canopy of the Foundations Ministries. Although its governing body is Foundations Bible College, it still has a membership of individuals throughout the world who are found in both the puritan and pilgrim contexts.
A Sovereign God ordains the home into which we are born, whether it be, for example, an atheist’s home, a drunkard’s home, a Jehovah’s Witness home, a Roman Catholic home, a Baptist home, or a Southern Baptist home. My father and I were appointed by Providence to be born in Pentecostal homes. Although my father was never a Charismatic, he was in a Pentecostal system, endeavoring as a puritan to call this spiritual mother back to days of purer concepts of truth in doctrine and living. However, this Pentecostal system was on a collision course with the last days’ “new time” religion. It has now been proved that this uniting element is bringing Protestantism back to Rome and becoming the spirit for the global ecumenical movement.
When my father and I made this exodus in 1974, he was 48 years old and I was 26. Having been ordained to the ministry at the tender age of 19, I had pastored a small church for a summer during school terms and pastored for two years in the early 1970s. I also taught for three years in the Pentecostal Bible college my father started. However, from the early 1970s, my father knew that our days were numbered in this system in light of the powers taking over the leadership and conferences of the denomination. One must understand that the “manifestations” of the gifts of the Spirit were not the emphasis of the historic Pentecostalists. The legacy of the historic Pentecostalist sought the spiritual emphases of biblical holiness, godly standards, and deeper preaching that called men and women to spirituality in days when the church was being controlled by carnality and worldliness. To them, the power of the Spirit was to be manifested moment by moment in the living of life.
When spirituality dies within a system, the leaders and people are automatically drawn to an outward “form of godliness.” Moreover, there is no greater outward form of “spiritualities” displayed than that of Neo-Pentecostalism and Charismatism. They place the greater emphasis upon the fleshly manifestations and their subjective visions, dreams, and voices which compete with the written Word of God. They live from one week to the next to see these manifestations; they believe worship is not true worship unless these elements are present. Yet all kinds of sexual lusts and sins dominate the movement; their music is “rock,” catering to the flesh. It truly is the end-time “Corinthian Catastrophe” where the flesh dominates the “spiritualities.”
God called my father through Isaiah 54 and other passages to begin the Foundations Ministries in the summer of 1974. To this day, we have never regretted the exodus from the system. My dear father desired a school for the Body of Christ without any label or tag other than a Fundamentalist-separatist school. He wanted it to be a laboratory of the exploration of Truth in an environment of spirituality—a place where anything that was true could be said without the fear of condemnation from a church board or denominational hierarchy.
Likewise, the Christian Purities Fellowship has had an honorable purpose for these last days before the secret coming of the Lord. On July 14, 1973, in its first meeting in my father’s living room with twenty individuals present, my father presented the “CPF Pledge,” which stands to this very day.
The Christian Purities Fellowship is committed to this singular principle to preach and teach, to declare and defend the historic and basic tenets of fundamental Christianity in a pertinent context of Christian purities as set forth in the biblical remedy of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our object to pursue this principle through our daily witness of soulwinning and soul-building, performing a mission with methods and means that are holy and clean, amidst the apostasy of the last days before the return of our Lord.