Roy H. Wead and the history of the Assemblies of God

Roy H. Wead, former executive presbyter, Assemblies of God

It’s Fathers’ Day and I remember an extraordinary man, Roy H. Wead, my father.  He was the first District Superintendent for the fledgling Assemblies of God in Indiana.  It was May,1946, the month I was born, and the old Central District was split into two separate organizations, one for Ohio and one for Indiana.  Dad was the youth director and then missions director for the old district so most of the pastors in the state knew him.  He was elected Superintendent on the first ballot at the District Council in Bloomington, Indiana.  He had just turned thirty years old the day before.

Roy Wead served as District Superintendent for 13 years and saw the Indiana District grow to prominence.  According to a story in the Pentecostal Evangel, the District became the fastest growing in the nation, opening a new church, every month, for 13 straight years. (March 15, 1959, Pentecostal Evangel, Triple in Twelve Years, p. 14.)

Throughout the 1950′s three of the top ten A/G churches in the country were from Indiana, South Bend Calvary Temple, Evansville Calvary Tabernacle and Fort Wayne Assembly.  When Pastor Ted Vibbert sparked growth for Abundant Life Tabernacle in Indianapolis there was one astonishing two year period when four of the top ten A/G churches in the nation were in Indiana. (Counselor.)

Dad had to find a campgrounds, which they did on Lake Placid, near Hartford City, Indiana.  And he had to raise the money to buy it and build a dining hall, dorms, cabins, a tabernacle and a baseball diamond.  Paul Davidson, a retired missionary from the Philippines took on the task of maintaining the place and every summer the Wead kids and the Davidson kids would roam the campgrounds.

The first headquarters for the Indiana District was an office in Terre Haute.  In 1952, dad moved the headquarters to the more centrally located Indianapolis.  Out in the suburbs, on 56th street, across from a cornfield, he built the first two parsonages for the Superintendent and the Secretary Treasure.  We moved into one of the limestone houses, Rev. Dale Zink and his family moved into the other. The son, Paul Zink, is now pastor of New Life Church in Jacksonville, Fl. He was my childhood playmate.

Today, although arguably in decline, the Assemblies of God, is one of the nation’s larger Protestant denominations but it was a different animal in those days, more of a dynamic fellowship and less an official organization.  Almost all of the pastors had come out of mainstream denominations, many were Methodist.  They had been persecuted for their Pentecostal beliefs and practices.  Some had been pastors who found their churches padlocked by superiors while they were thrown out on the street without salary or housing.  A “fellowship” was about all they could take.  There was a clear anti-denominational streak and anti-education streak as well.  The universities were the fountainhead of all of the new “modernist” doctrines that were undermining the faith.

Somehow, Roy Wead, had to organize a District out of chaos.  There were hundreds of independent Pentecostal churches with pastors twice his age.  Dad took his cue from them.  Thomas “Pop” Paino, Glenn Horst, William “Fletcher” Duncan, Roscoe Russell and young men like Gordon Matheny, William Van Winkle, Cecil Enochs, Vern Stoops, Bill Thornton, Wilson Shabaz and Lester Sumrall.  For years, Leroy Sanders was the Assistant Superintendent, followed by Paul Paino and then Paul Evans.  All of them would have distinguished careers as pastors and leaders in the greater evangelical world.

There were reasons for unity.  Without an official denomination their numbers would not be recognized by the federal government and there would be no army chaplains to help their young men in arms.  They experienced power when they were together and inspiration from their exchange of ideas.  So dad tread very carefully and respectfully and eventually succeeded because he genuinely agreed with the idea that decentralized power would bring more success and growth.  He was an anti-denominationalist, building a denomination.   Participating Churches could be official members or just “in fellowship” with the right to withdraw.  It worked and Indiana became a mecca for young A/G graduates.  It was growing and it was open to new ideas.

There were sometimes conflicts.  Some national denominational leaders saw Indiana as a rogue district that was too tolerant.  Healing evangelists that were banned elsewhere were welcome in Indiana.  But so too were neo-Pentecostal intellectuals.  Ward Williams, who married my aunt, became the first A/G ordained minister to earn a doctorate, as well as her first military chaplain.  He was a favorite camp teacher.  J. Robert Ashcroft, president of Evangel College and father of Attorney General John Ashcroft, was invited almost every year.

This “openness” characterized the spirit of the A/G at that time, at least in Indiana.  Dad didn’t like the idea of kicking someone out of the “fellowship” over a doctrinal or policy dispute.  He said, “If you keep kicking everybody out, you will eventually be kicking them in and YOU will be out.”  When the A/G, threatened by the new Oral Roberts University, decided to pull the papers from any minister or teacher involved, dad defended them.  He hosted Oral Roberts events in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville and South Bend.

In 1959 he resigned and became pastor of South Bend, Calvary Temple.  For many years it was the largest church in the A/G and the first to have its own daily television program. All of the Christian musicians and evangelists came through, anxious to get some television experience and videotapes of themselves.

The great Catholic Pentecostal movement saw some of its beginnings in our church when a layman, Ray Bullard, hosted a prayer meeting for Kevin Ranaghan and others from Notre Dame.  When a group of the Catholic students wanted to take the movement to Ann Arbor and Michigan University, our church provided the start up money to make it happen.  Dad was called a traitor.  When Ranaghan journeyed to Springfield, Missouri to meet with the General Superintendent of the A/G he was turned away.

Roy Wead, suffering from heart disease, and in retirement, returned to his roots in North Dakota, planning to finish out his days as president of a small college.  But when the the North Dakota State University closed its campus in Ellendale and offered the multimillion facility to the organization who could come up with the best plan, dad awakened.  His plan won the day and Trinity was awarded the Ellendale University campus for a dollar bill.

The denomination must have had a love-hate relationship with my dad.  In spite of his independence and resistance to centralization and a domineering, controlling leadership, or maybe because of it, they voted him in bi-annually as an Executive Presbyter were he served for a generation on their governing board.  So I was a bit surprised when I attended the A/G General Council in Indianapolis in 2007 and the program featured a “history of the Indiana District of the Assemblies of God.”  My dad was not mentioned.

“If you do good things,” he often said, “people will challenge your motives.  If you do great things, they will challenge your methods.  But don’t let that stop you from doing good things or great things.”

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12 Responses to Roy H. Wead and the history of the Assemblies of God

  1. Your dad was my hero Doug our family loved him so very much. The last time I saw him was at the Indianapolis District Council and my sister Jacquie and I took him to the airport when he was flying out.

  2. peacewerks says:

    I loved your Dad.m

    Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2013 16:49:46 +0000 To: maryachor@hotmail.com

  3. What an incredible blog!!! My life was changed by Roy Wead whom I never met. Years later when I met Doug who has been a culture creator in his own right I saw the shadow of his great father. Thank you for sharing about your earthly dad Doug – one of my own spiritual fathers. You made my day.

  4. Your Dad was a wonderful man of God. Our family thought very highly of him. It was so interesting to read this tribute. I knew a great deal of what you wrote, but it freshened my memory. One of the persons you mentioned was Wilson Shabaz. He still attends the church that I attend. He, too, is a wonderful man of God. You also told about the camp. I was there as a child from the very beginning. In fact, I visited there before A/G purchased it. I was saved during girls camp when I was 12 yrs. old. What wonderful memories!!!
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Sean Wead says:

    What an impact my Grandfather has on me! I was thinking about him on Father’s Day too. It seems like he is right there with me during my ministry giving encourgement with his deep and powerful sighs of encourage that seem to always end words from the psalmist, “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, Oh my soul!

  6. Surfisher says:

    Watch the usurper of our White House lie through his teeth!

    Time to Impeach !!!

    Attn: NSA ( Nazi Spy Agency) — The Criminals directing PRISM,
    and the anti-Americans working for them, that have no shame
    spying on all American Citizens and spitting on the US Constitution — save my posts, go ahead you despicable freedom hating scum! I’m getting old, and want to die free, so have no care if your gun-totting thugs come and kill me in the dark of the night! Go ahead punks — make my day!

  7. Beverly Johnson-Miller says:

    I have the fondest memories of Roy Wead. He was my pastor at Calvary Temple, South Bend, Indiana. At about age 4, Pastor Wead, would pick me up in his arms and carry me almost every Sunday. One Sunday, holding my hand, he walked me to his office where he gave me a large photo of himself and Rosamae, something I still have and treasure. I am currently gathering the history of Calvary Temple, in part because of these wonderful memories.

    Beverly Johnson-Miller

  8. Kathryn Tuttle Smallwood says:

    I too have fond memories of Bro. & Sis. Wead….He was my pastor as well, at what was South Bend Gospel Tabernacle before the name change to Calvary Temple….Lester Sumrall initially began the ministry….Bro. Wead came after Bro. Sumrall went to Hong Kong to begin a work there…I babysat for the Sumrall family. Pastor Wead affiliated the ministry with the A/G and was a great administrator as well as a sweet and loving Pastor…He was overseer for the building of our new Calvary Temple building there in South Bend…I felt a special bond with he and the Wead family. Rosamae was a great role model for we young ladies and we loved and respected her as such….I was sad to leave my church family in 1968 when we moved to Florida, but kept in touch with the Weads and with their son Doug and wife Gloria…I still remember scriptures that Pastor Wead had us learn as a congregation and recite, such as Ephesians 4:4-8….The many souls that were won through his ministry and consistent Christian example will only be revealed in eternity….

    • Beverly Johnson-Miller says:

      Lester Sumrall did not start the South Bend Gospel Tabernacle. In fact, he arrived 10-15 years or so after it began. I’ll try to send the details later. Its an interesting story.

  9. Dwayne Swezey says:

    Your dad was an incredible man! I attended Trinity from 79-82 and even to this day do many things attributed to your father, like the simple things of keeping a 100 bill in my wallet just in case. And how many countless of us can quote Psalms 100 because of your dad.

    I was somewhat taken back that the district in which your dad served did not honor him; that saddens my heart but is not unexpected as i was disgraced in my own district over a horrible rumor, that even when proven wrong the district would not apologize or do anything to make it right with me or stop its results in complete devastation of my home and the church…

    Your dad is honored by so many and im sure a treasure in heaven that to this day is amongst the great cloud of witnesses.

    • Doug Wead says:

      Thanks Dwayne. If you want your story told, just let me know.

      • Dwayne Swezey says:

        Doug, thank you so much! I am open to allowing my story to be told but am somewhat cautious as i don’t want to 1. Discredit the Lord in any way 2. Concern over legal back lash Though i am extremely concerned how many others are living in the ashes of harsh misjudgement.

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