|David W. Flower (left) with author Dr. David K. Ringer holding a picture of an Assemblies of God founding father, J. Roswell Flower.|
A new biography of Assemblies of God founding father J. Roswell Flower is planned for release in time for the centennial celebration in August 2014.
The book titled J. Roswell Flower: a Brief Biography is an adaptation of the dissertation J. Roswell Flower: Founding Father and Generous Spirit by Dr. David K. Ringer, an AG Theological Seminary graduate and College of the Ozarks associate professor of humanities. Ringer is also J. Roswell's grandson-in-law.
David W. Flower, son of J. Roswell Flower and father of Ringer's wife, Kathryn, says he is thrilled with the production of the book. "The timing of the release of this book in light of the AG centennial emphasis is remarkable. I am excited as I believe the Assemblies of God needs to hear from one of our founding fathers to help guide us into our second century."
Flower, who is now 89 years old, is a retired AG minister of more than 70 years and also a former superintendent of the Southern New England District. He is the youngest of J. Roswell's six children.
"Dad would feel positive about David's book," he says, "but would be a little embarrassed. He never sought attention for himself."
Though the two men never met, J. Roswell's practicality was Ringer's initial inspiration.
"The first thing I recall was hearing Dad [David] Flower mention J. Roswell's support of an MBA savings program," Ringer says. "That was so unusual for early Pentecostal leaders. They believed Jesus was coming so soon that there was no need to save for or even think about retirement. J. Roswell saw that the first generation preachers were aging and needed assistance as they had not saved or never had enough to save."
Chronologically, Ringer says, the book covers J. Roswell's life in his various geographical contexts, leadership roles in the AG, and contributions to the Pentecostal movement from his early years in Canada until his death in 1970. Intellectually it focuses on his contributions to the key teachings and practices of the AG.
It also includes more personal information about J. Roswell than is included in Ringer's dissertation, which is nearly double the book in length and highly analytical of J. Roswell's writings and ideas.
Ringer has been part of the collegiate world for more than 40 years and initially began work on the dissertation under the academic advisement of Dr. William W. Menzies.
"His influence on me was profound," Ringer says. "He was retired at the time, but he agreed to oversee the dissertation because J. Roswell was one of his heroes."
Following Menzies' death in 2011, Doctors Stanley and Ruth Burgess accepted the responsibility of seeing the project through to completion.
The finished book will be 150 pages and will be available electronically with print on demand "for those like myself who want paper and ink in hand," Ringer chuckles. He also plans to produce a full-scale, scholarly biography of J. Roswell within the next three years.
Ringer, who deeply admires the balance J. Roswell maintained between his spiritual and intellectual pursuits, hopes his book will serve to anchor Pentecostal scholarship in "careful, ongoing, Spirit-guided study of Scripture, not allowing extra-biblical concepts, assumptions or ideas to be the starting point or center of our scholarly work." For the public, he also hopes that it will help stir up love for Christ, the Church and the lost.
In his writings, J. Roswell made clear there can be no shortcuts to spiritual maturity for individuals or movements. He emphasized that Jesus' death and resurrection came before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so ongoing death to self and lingering in the presence of the Spirit are necessary to spiritual life. He lamented the sharp decline of tarrying meetings in Pentecostal churches after the mid-1950s.
"J. Roswell said Pentecostals should be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual," Ringer concludes. "He believed our natural life in all its dimensions should be infused with the Holy Spirit's presence and control so that our spiritual lives flow in a natural way — not tacked on in addition by conscious effort, often becoming hypocritical."
Flower agrees, saying, "My hope is that this book will renew the early commitments to the person and work of the Holy Spirit."