When the war broke out in 1914 he registered as a ‘conscientious objector’ to military service and was sent to work on a farm in Buckinghamshire which he found to be ‘a divinely arranged college that provided deep preparation of spirit, soul and body for the years of strenuous ministry that, all-undreamt-of, lay ahead.’ He considered these times ‘some of the most richly formative of a lifetime.’
A year later he moved to another farm where he led a small Pentecostal fellowship and then, after the war ended in 1918, he returned to London. In 1920 he accepted a call to the pastorate of a small chapel in Leith, near Edinburgh, Scotland. The church grew and Bonnington Toll Chapel was built and became his place of ministry for 12 years to come. Many great Pentecostal pioneers like the Jeffreys brothers, W.F.P. Burton Burton, Howard Carter and Smith Wigglesworth ministered here. In 1921 he attended the International Pentecostal convention in Amsterdam and became acquainted with the wider Pentecostal Movement.
In 1922 he began writing articles for Pentecostal periodicals and in 1924, as an accomplished musician himself, he produced the first British Pentecostal hymnbook, Redemption Tidings. He considered joining the Elim denomination but in 1924 Donald was one of the pioneers of the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland. From 1925 to 1963 he sat on the executive presbytery as an esteemed and valued contributor.
In 1928 he responded to an invitation to go to Australia and New Zealand as a Bible teacher, a ministry in which he excelled. En route he wrote his famous first book, ‘Concerning Spiritual Gifts.’ Thereafter he lectured across the five continents of the world as an itinerant teaching minister, always gathering new information for his magnum opus, a history of the worldwide Pentecostal Movement, published in 1949, later called Wind and Flame.
During the war he was restricted to travelling in Britain encouraging small Pentecostal fellowships, but thereafter resumed his international travels and at the Pentecostal world Convention in Zurich, in 1947, was chosen to become the editor of the magazine Pentecost producing 76 issues until 1966. Here he published some of his finest and most provocative essays for the still adolescent Pentecostal family.
He was highly ecumenical and received harsh criticism for cooperating with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Campaign at Haringey, London in 1954 and for fraternising with denominational leaders who subscribed to the World Council of Churches. In 1961 he was invited as an observer at the New Delhi Assembly of the World Council of Churches, but pressure from Pentecostal leaders in the USA forced him to decline.
In 1951, when he was 60 he accepted an invitation to become the principal of the newly reorganised AoG Bible College at Kenley where he spent the next 13 years. He died two years later of heart failure, aged 75.
He wrote almost 30 books and innumerable magazine articles published in Pentecostal periodicals around the world, 500 in the AoG’s Redemption Tidings alone. His Biblical teaching, his bridge-building and conciliatory manner and his magnanimous attitude to the burgeoning charismatic movement during his evening years made him a true Christian statesman.
Bibliography: Colin Whittaker, ‘Seven Pentecostal Pioneers’ 1983; Donald Gee, ‘Wind and Flame,’ 1949; D.D.Bundy art. 'International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements' 2002.
Tony Cauchi 2005