Republished article from The Pentecostal Herald, May 2013
During the last couple years, Oneness Pentecostals have anticipated this centennial mark in their brief, yet heavily influential, movement. Now that the year has arrived, we can only stop and reflect on the historical moments, miraculous revelations, and pivotal and irreplaceable men and women which were instrumental in the unfolding events that took place at the revival of Arroyo Seco, CA in 1913 and the years that followed shortly after. Yes, of course, everyone remembers the prevailing and timely sermon that was preached so passionately on that April afternoon by R. E. McAlister concerning Jesus Name baptism. History has upheld the fame and impactful presence of Maria Woodworth-Etter, who was hosting the revival in which McAlister preached. And recalling the impactful presence of men like Howard Goss, Frank Ewart, and G. T. Haywood is almost a requirement for salvation in the ranks of modern Oneness believers.
Yet, when I stop to contemplate the lasting effects of that southern California camp meeting, I cannot help but think about the impact that one man, whom history has all but forgotten, left on a revival that would soon explode into a globalized movement. “Who is John Schaepe?” you ask. Well, to be honest, I don’t know. As David Reed points out in his book, In Jesus’ Name, “Schaepe soon dropped out of sight,” (p 140) and was not depended on for any formulation of the Oneness doctrine. What we do know is there was no other person during the Arroyo Seco camp meeting that caused more of a stir concerning Jesus Name baptism than did he. While Pentecostals are quick to herald McAlister for preaching his revolutionary sermon, Robin Johnston points out in A Pentecostal Life that even he quickly dismissed the Acts 2:38 mandate as necessary when the crowd acted uncomfortable with his sermon, “insisting that just because the apostles baptized in Jesus’ name it was not wrong to baptize according (sic) the Matthew 28:19 formula” (p 100).
While it was McAlister’s declarations that initiated the ripple in the water, it was Schaepe who kicked them headlong into a tsunami whirlwind. The rest of the crowd may have been settled by McAlister’s disclaimer that Matthew 28:19 was still acceptable in regards to baptism, however, Schaepe remained distraught about the issue. That night he did not sleep. Rather, he spent the whole night in prayer and study of the Word. Just before dawn the next morning, Schaepe began running through the camp shouting at the top of his lungs and proclaiming that he had been given a revelation of the Oneness of God and baptism in Jesus’ name. He then commenced to share his revelations with all who came running out to see what the commotion was about. Harry Morse later wrote in the December 1943 issue of the Apostolic Herald (p 9), “After we listened to Brother Schaepe’s new ideas on water baptism in Jesus’ name and the Oneness of the Godhead, we agreed that we believed that he had something…. In the following months, God began to deal with Brother Ewart, Brother Haywood, and finally with me, and we came out on this line.” David Reed further states in his book that the “Oneness tradition depends more upon Schaepe’s ‘revelation’ in the night than McAlister’s exegesis” (p 141) because of the design of early Pentecost and its desire for experiences of revelation.
For me, as a young preacher of the gospel, the story of Schaepe is not so much impactful because of what he did, but rather because of whom he was. In terms of prestige, fame, and accolade, Schaepe was a “nobody” before the revival, and he continued to be a “nobody” after the revival. He was not a big time camp meeting preacher, if he was a preacher at all. He didn’t have the bloodline of parents who pastored large churches, and he carried little, if any, influence at all. Yet, he, because of his faith and willingness to be used, caused a rift in Pentecostal, and generally even Christian, history that was unprecedented. Too many times, we, in the church, want to sit back and wait for someone “more important” to be used by God. We are afraid to move with the Spirit’s urge because “we don’t have the power of pastor.” Yet, we fail to realize that God doesn’t need a Ewart or a Haywood to create a revival. All He needs is one Schaepe. Revival is waiting. So, go ahead and shout it out Mr. Schaepe… and let the rip tides role!