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Out of Zion Into Philadelphia and West Africa: Faith Tabernacle Congregation, 1897-1925

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In May 1897 Faith Tabernacle Congregation was formally established in North Philadelphia, emerging from an independent mission that shortly thereafter became the Philadelphia branch of John Alexander Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church. Faith Tabernacle probably abstained from merging with Dowie’s organization because, unlike the Christian Catholic Church, it rigorously followed the faith principle for managing church finances. Like the Christian Catholic Church, Faith Tabernacle established many similar institutions, such as a church periodical (called Sword of the Spirit), a faith home, and a missions department. After Assistant Pastor Ambrose Clark became the second presiding elder in 1917, many of these institutions began flourishing in connection with a marked increase in membership, particularly in the American Mid-Atlantic as well as in Nigeria and Ghana. Unfortunately, a schism occurred in late 1925 that resulted in Clark’s leaving Faith Tabernacle to found the First Century Gospel Church. This event halted much of Faith Tabernacle’s growth both domestically and in West Africa. Subsequently, many of the former Faith Tabernacle followers in Nigeria and Ghana founded the oldest and largest Pentecostal churches in both countries.

Affiliations: 1: Medical Anthropologist and Faculty Member; University of Pennsylvania, Email:


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