I found a document I had saved to my files…

I found a document I had saved to my files and thought this extract about the early development of Earl Paulk, Jr at the Hemphill Church of God in Atlanta. It is a good read about the denominational’s stress between conservatism and liberalism.

“In the midst of this, Earl Paulk Jr. was also embroiled in a larger denominational struggle between the up‑and‑coming younger urban ministers and the older established, often rural, denominational leaders. As stated above , these more traditional leaders were conservative in their outlook and very resistant to change, especially in regard to cultural accommodation. One historian of the Church of God noted that, even with term limits on denominational positions, a small group of older, and significantly more conservative clergy, controlled the church from the 1940’s to the 1970’s (Conn, 1977). This group, which included Earl’s father, perceived accommodation to “the world” as tantamount to heresy and apostasy. With so many members taking advantage of military educational benefits, the accumulation of wealth, and a bolstered Southern economy, the upwardly mobile Pentecostals soon found themselves with increased amounts of wealth and leisure time. This increase of middle class families in the denomination after the Second World War brought considerable pressure to bear upon Church of God leaders to drop many of the cultural prohibitions. During this time period heated debates about movie attendance and the wearing of jewelry took place (Crews, 1990). Prohibitions concerning sports involvement, the use of medical doctors and the attitudes toward education began to be relaxed. The cultural and social context was ripe for progressive visionaries. As Earl Paulk Jr. would soon find out, the traditional denominational leaders and the institutional structures under their control were not so easily changed.
In 1952, Earl Paulk Jr. was appointed to the National Boards of Sunday School and Youth. Weeks reports that he was seen as one of the spokespersons for the younger leaders who held progressive ideas about the direction of the denomination (1986:146‑47). He spoke against the prohibitions on mixed gender swimming and the wearing of wedding rings. Paulk reported that he was frustrated with the hesitancy of denominational leaders to change. Weeks relates that because of his outspokenness members of the denominational hierarchy began to label Earl Jr. as “everything from a young liberal intellectual to a trouble‑making communist” (1986:147). If this is an accurate account, these were harsh accusations especially during the early 1950’s and the era of McCarthyism.
Earl’s relationship with the denomination must not have been all negative, however. He sat on the National Youth Board for six years from 1952 to 1958. Likewise, in 1953 he was the first Church of God minister to televise his services. This broadcast came at a time when the denominational leaders were still debating members’ personal use of the medium (Crews, 1990:44‑45). Paulk wrote an article for the denominational magazine Evangel the following year entitled “Church of God Makes Television Debut” describing his efforts. He enthusiastically reported on the evangelistic potential of the medium, stating, “many have come to our regular services as a result of seeing the television service” (Crews, 1990:46). The rapid increase of television ownership between 1950 and 1960 in the United States augmented the potential exposure one had with this medium. Even Paulk’s biographer noted that, “Television exposure brought Earl public recognition as a well‑known pastor throughout the Atlanta area” (Weeks, 1986:160). Earl Jr. was, according to Weeks, “a natural actor, relaxed but dynamic, in front of the camera” (1986:158‑60). From these early experiments with television, Paulk developed a commitment to its potential for outreach. He has firmly held to the evangelistic use of radio and TV throughout his years of ministry.
This media exposure continually pressured Paulk and the Hemphill congregation to produce quality, performance‑oriented, worship services. The church was home of a famous Southern Gospel singing group, the LaFefver Trio. This group sang at denominational functions, touring engagements and weekly church services (Church of God, General Assembly minutes, 1954). In an interview, one nonPentecostal minister from the Atlanta area remembered that he, and others, would often go to Sunday evening services and special performances to hear the group. This talented trio was quite a drawing card for the church. Earl Paulk learned the lesson well, and professional quality music as an evangelistic “hook” became another aspect of Paulk’s later ministry that formed during his Hemphill days.”

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