One of the earliest contributors to the Pentecostal religion is Charles Fox Parham, an Evangelist raised as a Methodist. Parham believed strongly in faith, worship, and the power of divine healing. He is considered vital to the creation of the Church of Pentecost, having started a spiritual school of his own known as the Bethel Bible School. This school was incepted near Topeka, Kansas in 1900, and there he brought his beliefs and connection to Jesus and the Holy Ghost to his followers.
Parham believed that speaking in tongues provided evidence of the effects of baptism with the Holy Spirit. His services were consistently filled with speaking in tongues, and he preached that his followers would eventually not need to learn foreign languages for missionary trips. In Parham's Christian philosophy, conversion and sanctification could cleanse a believer, but the act of baptism with the Holy Spirit led to empowerment in which followers were primed for service and able to channel the power of God.
Parham's teachings reached a man named William J. Seymour, who, as a Black man, sparked a movement known as the Azusa Street Revival in 1906. The Azusa Mission stood out for many reasons, but one of the most notable in a racially charged America was the integrated congregation. Followers would testify to being moved by the Holy Spirit and adhered to the tradition of speaking in tongues. This movement garnered plenty of media attention, and thousands would visit the mission. Although involving many contributors, the Pentecostal religion and Pentecostal belief were considered to have their start in the Azusa Street Revival.
With racial harmony at its forefront, Pentecostal belief defied political and social norms. Although under pressure to conform and practice segregation during the era of Jim Crow laws, the Pentecostal Holiness Church and various others initially refused. Over time, they would succumb to the pressure and divide into white and Black branches, with interracial worship eventually returning after the civil rights movement.
Another unique aspect of Pentecostal movements following Azusa Street was the advancement of women's rights. Through Pentecostal belief, women were able to circumvent societal norms of the time, claiming that the empowerment gained through the Holy Spirit allowed them to engage in what were considered taboo activities. Women were given leadership duties otherwise denied to them in traditional Christian movements, running religious schools, and participating in services through singing and speaking in tongues. Women were also able to serve as pastors, and in the early days of the Pentecost Church, female membership was on the rise.