The Dixon Pentecostal Research Center is celebrating 50 years of ministry to the Church of God and Pentecostal/Charismatic Movements on March 2, 2021. Founded under the leadership of Charles W. Conn on the campus of Lee University, the center is one of the world’s largest repositories of Pentecostal publications, documents, and artifacts. Along with its extraordinary growth, the center has expanded its mission to preserve Pentecostal voices as it seeks to fulfill the biblical mandate of Psalm 78:4: “We will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did” (NLT).
The Dixon Pentecostal Research Center began in 1971 as a special collection in the Lee College Library. Library Director LeMoyne Swiger and her staff had assembled a collection of books by Church of God authors. When Charles W. Conn became president of Lee College in 1970, he saw the potential of developing a leading research library documenting the global Pentecostal movement.
Conn was uniquely positioned to understand the value of a research collection. While he was serving as editor-in-chief of Church of God publications, denominational leaders commissioned him to write the movement’s history. Like a Mighty Army appeared in 1955 and established Conn as the denomination’s historian and an important voice in the Pentecostal Movement. Following his tenure as Church of God general overseer, Conn became president of Lee College in 1970.
In response to President Conn’s vision, the college created the Pentecostal Research Center, raised a budget, moved its Pentecostal books to a designated room, and hired a part-time director. Desiring to build a collection “as nearly exhaustive as possible,” Conn challenged the Church of God and Pentecostal Movement “to preserve for future generations those things of the past that have made us what we are.”
The Church of God General Assembly adopted this vision to preserve Church of God and Pentecostal heritage in 1980. President Conn, along with Church of God School of Theology President Cecil B. Knight and General Overseer Ray H. Hughes proposed to plan to construct a facility that would include a library to serve both educational institutions along with the Pentecostal Research Center. The General Assembly approved the proposal, and the building that houses William G. Squires Library and the Hal Bernard Dixon Jr. Pentecostal Research Center was completed in 1985. Adding to its mission as a world-class research library, the Church of God designated the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center as the archives of the denomination.
Fulfilling Conn’s vision, tens of thousands of resources are available for students, faculty, visiting researchers, church leaders, and congregations. Today’s holdings exceed 20,000 cataloged books and other media as well as a large number of archival records. Among the many archival holdings are the Bennie S. Triplett Collection, Conversations with Charles W. Conn Video Interviews, the Finis J. Dake Collection, the French and Frances Arrington Papers, Lee College Records, North Cleveland Church of God Records, the Pathway Press Photographs Collection, the Ray H. Hughes Papers, and the Tomlinson Family Collection.
Under the directorship of Dr. David G. Roebuck, the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center has increased its emphasis on sharing the Pentecostal heritage with the Christian community through teaching, historical exhibits, publications, and an annual Azusa Lecture. Dr. Roebuck teaches at Lee University and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and is available for local church heritage services. The center works closely with the Church of God Historical Commission to design and create a major historical exhibit and accompanying publication for each Church of God General Assembly. Its most recent exhibit, “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Century of Church of God Education” is available for public viewing at the center. Since 2006, the center has sponsored an annual Azusa Lecture and presented the Spirit of Azusa Award to celebrate the rich heritage of the Pentecostal Movement.
Roebuck has served as director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center since 1997. Holding a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, his research interests include the holiness and Pentecostal Movements with attention to minority voices. An ordained bishop, he has been a member of the Church of God Historical Commission since 1996, and the Church of God International Executive Committee appointed him as Church of God historian in 2004. He is a frequent contributor to books and periodicals related to the Pentecostal Movement and edits the columns “Church of God Chronicles” and “Where Are They Now” for the Church of God Evangel.
Serving alongside Roebuck, the Reverend David “Gene” Mills, Jr. is archivist at the center. Mills’ educational experience includes advanced graduate studies in American religious history, philosophy of religion, and theology. He has taught at numerous educational institutions and was president of Discipleship College in Eldoret, Kenya.
In commending the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center for 50 years of ministry to the Kingdom of God, Church of God General Overseer Timothy Hill announced that he is donating the original manuscripts of his father’s sermons as well as his own sermons. Regarding his father’s sermons, Hill noted, “I can’t think of a better way to utilize the messages as to make them available in the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center for anyone that may come and use them at any time in their own research.”
Offering his congratulations, Lee University Chancellor Paul Conn stated, “The Pentecostal Research Center is something that we at Lee are really proud of. We are glad that it is here, and we are proud of its growth and its effectiveness serving scholars and church people over all these years…. It has become a very valuable asset and resource for the Church of God at large, for the Pentecostal movement around the world, and for all scholars who care about the Pentecostal Movement and want to know more about it.”
You can be part of fulfilling Psalm 78:4—“We will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did” (NLT). The Dixon Pentecostal Research Center continues to preserve our Pentecostal heritage to support and inspire the ministries of congregations, pastors, students, and scholars around the world. In 2021, we will focus on increased online access to the historic voices of General Assemblies, Camp Meetings, Forward in Faith programs, and the Church of God Evangel.
The Church of God Evangel has been the printed voice of the Church of God since 1910. For more than a century, Evangel pages have taught Bible doctrine, shared good news from local congregations, reported global progress, and proclaimed the gospel. The Dixon Pentecostal Research Center is digitizing historic issues so they can be freely available via the internet. With the help of Church of God Publications and others, we have completed 62 years—just over half. Yet, there are still 28,500 pages to scan. With projected costs of 60 cents per page, we can make every page available for $17,100.
You can partner with us to provide global access to this vital voice of our heritage. Every contribution will make a difference—$30 will allow us to digitize 50 pages, $60 will digitize 100 pages, and $600 will digitize 1,000 pages. You can give in honor of a faithful editor, a general overseer, or a writer who has ministered to you through the pages of the Evangel. Send your check to Dixon Pentecostal Research Center, 260 11th Street NE, Cleveland TN 37311 or contribute online at https://www.dixonprc.org/donations.html.
You can view previously digitized issues online now at https://pentecostalarchives.org/. With our membership in the Consortium of Pentecostal Archives, this important resource is available to every member and friend of the Church of God as well as students and scholars anywhere in the world. Church of God Publications will continue to offer the most recent printed and digital issues through their subscription opportunities.
Earlier this month, the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center honored Dr. John D. Nichols and Dr. John M. Gregory with the Spirit of Azusa Award. The Research Center presented the awards in conjunction with its fifteenth annual Azusa Lecture. For the first time, the Leadership and Communications Center of the Church of God International Offices in Cleveland, Tennessee, hosted the live-streamed event. Both the presentation of the Spirit of Azusa Awards and the Azusa Lecture highlighted benevolence ministries in recognition of the centennial of the Church of God’s oldest benevolence ministry—the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home.
In honoring Nichols, Dixon Pentecostal Research Center Director David Roebuck noted that while serving on the International Executive Committee Nichols was the liaison to the Church of God Department of Benevolence. Compassion for benevolence gripped Nichols heart, and when tenure limitations necessitated a new place of ministry, he asked to serve as director of the Department of Benevolence.
During his twelve-years of service, Nichols transformed benevolence ministries in the Church of God. Central to the changes was the creation of the Church of God Division of Care. During his directorship, Nichols was especially fruitful at creating partnerships with others who shared his passion for caring for the “least of these.” Among those was a partnership with Entrepreneur John Gregory and Church of God World Missions Director Gene D. Rice that resulting in a $5 million General Assembly offering to establish and support orphanages around the world. In 2006, Nichols became executive director of the Lazarus Foundation and worked alongside Gregory to establish and finance multiple benevolence projects both in and outside the Church of God.
In honoring Dr. John M. Gregory, Dr. Roebuck noted Gregory’s extraordinary career as a pioneering leader in the pharmaceutical industry. Currently the chairman and CEO of Gregory Pharmaceutical Holdings, Inc., Gregory began his career in Bastian, Virginia, where he opened the town’s first retail pharmacy. He later co-founded General Injectables and Vaccines, which he turned into a successful enterprise with annual revenues of more than $150 million. In 1993, Gregory founded King Pharmaceuticals in Bristol, Tennessee, which grew into a Standard & Poor’s 500 Index Company with revenues exceeding $1 billion. Ten years ago, the Gregory family sold King Pharmaceuticals to Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for approximately $4 billion.
Roebuck cited Gregory’s deep commitment to benevolence ministries. In 1992, he established the Lazarus Foundation, which for almost 30 years supported evangelism ministries, jail and prison ministries, educational ministries, and childcare ministries. The Lazarus Foundation undergirded many Church of God care ministries. Today, Gregory is chairman emeritus of Kingsway Charities, an international ministry that provides pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to developing world countries. He also serves as president of Serving Orphans Worldwide, an international charity supporting orphanages and children’s homes in 27 countries on five continents. Their partnership includes training opportunities to raise standards of care and pursue self-sustainability in order to provide a future that is more than mere survival.
As part of the award presentation, General Overseer Timothy M. Hill spoke on behalf of the Church of God. Hill noted that the word “benevolence” in the Church of God is synonymous with John Nichols and John Gregory. He expressed appreciation to Gregory for being a friend and partner with Church of God ministries around the world and characterized Gregory as “a man sold out to saving lives, to saving souls, and to saving people.” Recognizing the late John Nichols, Hill recalled his influence as a preacher during Hill’s early ministry and the passion with which Nichols promoted benevolence ministries.
In thanking the Church of God for the honor, Gregory acknowledged that God’s blessings on his businesses allowed him to water ministries that others had planted. He thanked his wife, Joan Patricia Gregory, who has been an essential part of his life and business. He then recognized several Church of God leaders for their partnership, encouragement, and commitment to benevolence ministries. Among those were Gene Rice, Donnie Smith, Raymond Culpepper, Richard Baker, Ken Anderson, John Nichols, Paul Conn, and Bill Leonard.
The Dixon Pentecostal Research Center has presented the Spirit of Azusa Award each year since the inauguration of their annual Azusa Lecture in order to honor a person whose lifetime of ministry reflects the Pentecostal Movement’s spirit of renewal. The Azusa Lecture and Spirit of Azusa Award celebrate the rich heritage of this global renewal movement.
Following the Spirit of Azusa Award presentation, Dr. Roebuck presented the Azusa Lecture entitled “Unto the Least of These: Roots and Fruit of Church of God Benevolence Ministry.” Roebuck’s lecture revealed the early roots of Church of God benevolence ministries beginning with A. J. Tomlinson’s Samson’s Foxes ministry in Culberson, North Carolina, and concluding with the development of the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home. The Smoky Mountain Children’s Home opened its doors in Cleveland, Tennessee, on December 17, 1920, as the Church of God Orphanage. The orphanage began with four children and a century later serves more than 400 children and youth through it ministries in Sevierville, Tennessee.
In introducing Roebuck, Assistant General Overseer J. David Stephens noted Roebuck’s more than twenty years as director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center as well as his service as Church of God historian since 2004. Roebuck has written numerous articles on the holiness and Pentecostal movements and is assistant professor of the history of Christianity at Lee University.
Church of God International Executive Committee members Raymond F. Culpepper, David Ramirez, and John D. Childers also participated in the Azusa Lecture and Spirit of Azusa Award presentation. The program included musical performances by Lee University’s Evangelistic Singers, Ladies of Lee, and the sanctuary choir of the First Assembly of God in Forty Myers, Florida.
The Dixon Pentecostal launched the annual lecture and award in 2006 on the centennial of the renowned Azusa Street revival in Lost Angeles. The revival began when African-American Pastor William J. Seymour preached a message of Spirit baptism following salvation and sanctification. What started as a home prayer meeting attracted throngs of seekers as hundreds traveled to the Azusa Street Mission, received a personal baptism of the Holy Spirit, and took that message to their homes, churches, and communities. The Pentecostal Movement quickly became a great missionary movement, and the twentieth century came to be called the “Century of the Holy Spirit.” Church of God Historian Charles W. Conn noted that the Los Angeles revival, which lasted from 1906 to 1909, “is universally regarded as the beginning of the modern Pentecostal Movement.
The Spirit of Azusa Award honoring Nichols was the second time the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center has presented the award posthumously. Dr. Robert E. Fisher received the first award in 2006 for his leadership in envisioning and planning the centennial celebration of the renowned revival. As director of the Center for Spiritual Renewal, Fisher connected global Pentecostal leaders to develop a centennial celebration, but died unexpectedly prior to the event. Following his death, more than 40,000 people from around the world gathered in Los Angeles to commemorate what God did in the 1906 revival.
Founded by Charles W. Conn on the campus of Lee University, the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center is one of the world’s significant collections of Pentecostal resources as well as the archives of the Church of God. In addition to students at Lee University and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, numerous scholars use the center’s holdings related to the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement. Dr. Roebuck serves as director, and the Reverend David “Gene” Mills, Jr. is archivist.