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An Examination of Kingdom-, Dominion-,
and Latter Rain Theology
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An Examination of Kingdom Theology - Part 1/3

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The Sharon Brethren

In the fall of 1947, two former pastors for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, George Hawtin and Percy G. Hunt, joined with Herrick Holt, a pastor of the North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Church of the Foursquare Gospel, in an independent work. That work - Sharon Orphanage and Schools which Holt had originally started in a large residence in North Battleford - had come to occupy about one thousand acres of farmland about ten miles distant from the city limits.

With Hawtin and Hunt came seventy students from Bethel Bible Institute where both had formerly taught before Hawtin was asked to resign for lack of cooperation, and Hunt resigned out of sympathy. George Hawtin's brother-in- law, Milford Kirkpatrick, and Ernest Hawtin, George's brother, soon joined in ministry at Sharon.(38)

Herrick Holt had been preaching that God was going to be doing a "new thing" in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah 43:18-19offsite:

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing; Now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Of great influence upon the work at Sharon were the teachings of William Branham. Several of the school's brethren visited one of his campaigns shortly after George Hawtin and P.G. Hunt had come on staff. With renewed fervor, the brethren took Branham's teachings back to Sharon, unaware that the supernatural power bestowed upon them by Branham would make their ministry the focal point of the Latter Rain Movement for several years to come.(39)

Another influence, on the Hawtin brothers in particular, was J.E. Stile's book, 'The Gift of the Holy Spirit,' which asserted that if one were truly repentant, and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, all that was necessary for him to receive the Holy Spirit was for another believer to lay hands on him.(40)

Franklin Hall's book was especially utilized at Sharon. Ernest Hawtin wrote:

The truth of fasting was one great contributing factor to the revival. One year before this we had read Franklin Hall's book, entitled 'Atomic Power With God Through Fasting and Prayer.' We immediately began to practise [sic] fasting. Previously we had not understood the possibility of long fasts. The revival would never have been possible without the restoration of this great truth through our good brother Hall.

On February 11, 1948, a young woman at the Bible school prophesied that a great revival was about to break out. The next day, according to Ern Hawtin, the Holy Spirit fell with great power.

Day after day the Glory and Power of God came among us. Great repentance, humbling, fasting and prayer prevailed in everyone.

Because of the manifestation of power at North Battleford, news of the outbreak spread, and soon people were coming from everywhere to receive that power. They believed that the long drought was over for Pentecostals, whose use of the gifts had gradually declined since the advent of Pentecostalism at the turn of the century.(43)

A striking characteristic of the Sharon revival was the effort to avoid the establishment of another denomination as had happened during the earlier Pentecostal Movement. George Hawtin was especially adamant about this and labored to instruct those who were touched by his ministry not to fall into that trap. He felt that the unity of the Church was essential to bring about its restoration, and therefore encouraged the establishment of autonomous, local congregations.

It became a hallmark of the Latter Rain Movement that innumerable independent churches sprang up with no denominational affiliation. This did not sit well with the Pentecostal denominations, who lost many members to this "new thing."

A major point of controversy between the North Battleford brethren and some Pentecostal denominations was the teaching by the former that there are present-day apostles and prophets for the Church.(44)  And though George Hawtin wrote in the June, 1948, issue of 'The Sharon Star' (the school's newsletter) that "no church exercises or has any right to exercise authority of jurisdiction over another church, its pastors or members," the traveling "presbytery" from Sharon, of which he was a part, did indeed exercise authority over people in other congregations through personal "directive prophecy."(45)   [See also: Apostles, and Apostolic Teams]

In spite of the Sharon group's insistence upon autonomy, they eventually became sectarian to the extreme, holding to the notions that no teaching was valid unless it originated with them, no fellowship was to be engaged in with anyone outside their own confines, and they alone were the purveyors of God's truth. If anyone would be an "overcomer," it must be through obedience to their authority.

Even some who were endorsed as apostles and prophets by the Sharon group eventually became disillusioned and broke ties from Sharon. Among these was Reg Layzell who wrote:

At the first camp meeting you were made a member of the Body of Christ by the Spirit of God. And even if you said you were not in the Body you still were. No man could put you in or take you out. Now the error: they claim you are only put in by them and can be put out by them.

A significant event in the history of Sharon Orphanage and School was its July 7-18, 1948 Camp Meeting, during which thousands of people from Canada and the United States flocked in hopes of receiving something special from God. Residents from at least twenty states attended, and the great Latter Rain Movement burst upon the world.

From that time the movement spread rapidly and Sharon shortly became just one of many centers of teaching for the Latter Rain Movement.

In his thesis on this movement, Richard Riss states: "It should be noted however, that prior to the revival, these practices [laying on of hands and acceptance of apostles and prophets] were already commonplace in some places, including Elim Bible Institute, which was at that time in Hornell, N.Y., and which, until the revival, had not had contact with North Battleford."(47)

It should also be noted...that prophecy was a major distinguishing mark of the Latter Rain Movement, whereas, in the case of the healing evangelists, healing was more prominent, and in the case of the early pentecostal revival, tongues had prominence.

Elim Bible Institute was for years prior to the outbreak of the Latter Rain Movement a center for neo-Pentecostal teachings. Although it was Sharon Orphanage that gave real impetus to these teachings, it is Elim Bible Institute that has continued even to this day with its influence, while the Sharon group has largely been relegated to obscurity.

Continued

- Footnotes -

  • 38 Richard Riss, 'The Latter Rain Movement of 1948 and the Mid-twentieth Century Evangelical Awakening' (Vancouver, B.C.: Thesis), p.79.
  • 39 Ibid., p.80-81.
  • 40 Ibid., p.83-84.
  • 41 Ibid., p.86.
  • 42 Ibid., p.89.
  • 43 Ibid., p.89-90.
  • 44 Ibid., p.101.
  • 45 Ibid., p.102.
  • 46 Ibid., p.154.
  • 47 Ibid., p.108.
  • 48 Ibid., p.116.



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