Monday, May 25, 2009

Rolf McPherson, son of Aimee Semple McPherson, Has Died

Rolf K. McPherson, son of Foursquare Church founder Aimee Semple McPherson, died last Thursday, aged 96.

When his famous (some would say infamous) mother died in 1944, Rolf took over the radio station his mother had founded and several other corporations, including the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and L.I.F.E. Bible College, now known as Life Pacific College. He also became the pastor of Angelus Temple, a church that had a capacity for seating over 5,ooo--not so unusual now days, but striking for the time.

The son of a Methodist father and a Salvation Army mother, "Sister Aimee" had built her ministry with a combination of drama, music, and a flamboyant preaching style. Criticized for her "antics" some would say she was just ahead of her time. I tend to agree about that, though I am well-aware that there were some highly questionable things about her life as well. Even her death was questionable.

Nonetheless, there were many things to admire about this woman--a person who defied the man-made restrictions of her day and blazed a trail for many women who came after her. Rolf McPherson seemed to have many of his mother's positive traits and not some of the less-desirable ones. As far as I ever knew, he was well-respected by his peers. Under his leadership, the Foursquare Church grew to a membership of several million worldwide. Today the Foursquare Church is found in 63 nations and has about 60,000 churches.

As a young teenager In the mid-60s I attended an Angelus Temple Sunday night service--my first Pentecostal service. I never forgot it. I was astonished at the emotional worship displayed by the congregation--all those hands in the air! And everyone praying out loud at the same time! Eyes closed? What was that about? I came home feeling a little smug about my more sedate Baptist worship style. Hearing that the church had been started by a woman was just plain weird to me and just added to my opinion that, while these people were probably sincere, they were misguided at best. Life is ironic, isn't it?

However, there were elements of that service that stayed with me. I've written about that before, and that isn't the point of this post, except to note that I recall standing in front of an enormous glass case somewhere in Angelus Temple that contained many crutches and other devices for aiding physically ill or disabled people. I didn't know what to think. I still don't. I have prayed many prayers for someones healing. I have been present when a healing that occurred was undeniable and verifiable. Still, I am sceptical of much of what passes for "healing" ministry today.

Regarding his mother's prayers for the sick, McPherson said in an interview a few years ago, "They used to bring ambulances and stretchers, and they left empty. Often Mother would-right in the middle of her message-go down and pray for somebody on a stretcher. They would get up off the stretcher, and the stretcher would be carried off empty." He believed in the veracity of his mother's ministry, and he once remarked that he had been part of the greatest move of God that the city of Los Angeles would likely ever experience.

Reading of Rolf McPherson's passing reminded me of my long-ago visit to Angelus Temple. If the crutches and other artifacts I saw in that glass case were from genuine healing miracles...well then I know of no one today who is experiencing those kind of healing gifts in their ministry. Not in America, at any rate.

I wonder why? I wonder, are we so disgusted by the antics of some of the more "renowned" charismatic or Pentecostal healing ministries or methods that they will simply never happen again? Was the Holy Spirit doing something remarkable in those days that simply is not happening now? Is it a general atmosphere of unbelief?

Don't you envy the ease with which Peter and John must have been able to share the good news of Jesus? I mean, so far no one has been healed when my shadow fell upon them.
The scriptures list ministries of healing among the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I say, please, Holy Spirit, reveal yourself to a hurting world. Use whomever you choose. Use me, if you will. Give us people of passion and purity and devotion in today's church, of whatever denomination.


Ruth said...

Perhaps the lack of those kinds of healings aren't happening because we doubt that they could but because so many people would take advantage of the healings to build themselves up rather than the Lord? I know God heals. I've been healed in miraculous ways. But I've watched "healers" take credit for things that the Holy Spirit did even as they claimed to be crediting God. That heart attitude just seems wrong. Perhaps that's the problem.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I think that is at least part of the problem, that's for sure!

LoieJ said...

I read an interesting book from our church library about healing, during Bible times and now. There were several authors of the book and if I can find it again, I'll send the title to you. One of the many points in the book that stood out to me was that the authors/editors heard about miracles from some of the modern "healers." They sought medical documentation, which they were assured they would get, but it never arrived. One of the authors concluded that some of these people believe in their own ministry of healing, but the actual results might be more in the mind of the healed person, sort of like they are expected to get up and walk. I hardly think that could be true either. But there is a difference between being cured and being healed.

Diane M. Roth said...

two books on healing from long ago: Francis McNutt's Healing and Agnes Sanford, The Healing light.

I have been fascinated by Sister Aimee's life since college, when I attended a small four-square gospel church for a time. also fascinated with her as a woman leader.

Betsy said...

Every time I go to our Cathedral Center/diocesan offices, I turn left at the Angelus Temple. I've never been inside, but have always been curious; maybe one of these days I'll stop for a visit. In the meantime, now it will make me think of you and of some of the questions you raise!

Gilly said...

I am a "healing skeptic!" I am not denying that God heals. he does, and sometimes in ways we would never imagine.

But those who go to these healing meetings go with expectation. And they like that to be fulfilled, whether its for themselves or for others. And we often get what we expect, especially in an emotionally charged, perhaps hyped-up meeting.

There is also the "placebo effect" This is medically verified by reliable research, for medical conditions that you would not expect to be affected by a harmless dose of "non-medication". So, if you think you are getting the right medicine, you have a good chance of getting better.

I could go on, but I won't! There's enough published on that subject.

But I am certain God does heal. Sometimes directly, by a healer praying, or laying on hands. Sometimes later, and like I said, sometimes in ways we would never have imagined.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I agree 100% Gilly.

But it also does seem that there are more healing instances--whether outright miracles or healing over time--in some periods of time (or through some individuals) than others.

Sally said...

I have seen miraculous healings, and had other prayers go unanswered, sometimes the compulsion to pray in faith has been strong and I believe it must be Spirit driven, at other times I agonise ....

living with Chris's heart condition has been a learning curve for me, he should not be here but has not been fully healed... God knows, and I will continue to pray!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Diane, I was very interested in Francis McNutt "back in the day." I wonder what he is doing now and if healing gifts are still manifested throught him...As for A.McP., she is one fascinating person, isn't she? Maybe someday in Heaven we will sit down with her and hear the real story of some things. :-)

Bless you, dear Sally. I understand that so much, and I continue to pray for Chris.

One of the healings that I know was real, and WAS verified by a physician, was my husbands brother. He had insulin dependent diabetes. And after prayer he simply did not. This lasted for some time--but was gone when he made a conscious decision to turn his back on God and live as he pleased. It is a tragic story, and he has come back to faith in Jesus Christ, but not without some horific results of his years of rebellion. Still, I know the healing was real. The doctors had no explanation. Does this mean that one must live a righteous life to be healed? No, I've seen the other kind of case as well. Don't think I haven't wondered many times why Ken remains unhealed, and still a faithful man of God, and his brother received that blessing only to fall away for a very long time.

I once spoke with a woman, very trustworthy, grounded person, who has many times prayed for couples who could not have children, and they have later conceived. However, she did say that she does not pray unless she gets that sense of the Spirit--probably something like you describe. She says she cannot explain why she is "not allowed" to pray for everyone, but when she does, pregnancy happens. It is an amazing story.

And one final point...not an answer, just a story. I know a very dear man who was a "hopeless" alcoholic. I won't go into details, but he did love the Lord. Not long ago I heard from his wife. He has been clean and sober for over a year. He prayed, and that was that. Was it the first time he prayed? By no means! Or been prayed for? Nope. was the time. That says to me that we do the asking and trusting, and the results are up to God. I don't think I will ever really understand it.

Truth said...

I have pondered this many, many times. Years ago, when my faith was young, I was so certain of faith healings. That is, until I never saw anyone I prayed for healed. But I continued to see healings by others. It did seem to me, though, that some had a gift for it.

Honestly, I do believe my son has that gift-just not really using it at this time. I posted once a bit about this,

All of these years, I've held the belief in my heart that one day my son would be used by God for miraculous healings. (This is the first time I've probably told anyone.) He is currently in S. Korea and I've recently these thoughts have come back to me.

This past year, I found out that 2 of my brother-in-laws (married to 2 of my husband's sisters) received miraculous healings after their mothers dragged them to a healing service. One was healed of a back injury that the doctors hadn't been able to help, the other asthma. The funny thing is, neither one of these men is really following God at this point in their lives.

Anyway, a lot to think on.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Some (misguided) charismatic people went through a period of time, and some are still there, where all the emphasis was placed on faith. If you have faith, you will be healed. Period. Thus, if it didn't happen the burden was on the sick person. Bleech. In the first church Ken and I pastored was a widow whose husband had been prayed for by the "faith camp" (who had split the AG church and started another "Word" church across town. When he was not healed they had the audacity to tell her it was because SHE did not believe. How despicable! That was before we arrived, but it still haunted her. I remember thinking, "Now abideth these three, faith, hope and love, but the love." Where was love in that?

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Forget to say, Truth, that I spent some time praying for you son--that he will walk with God and use whatever gifts the Holy Spirit has given him. :-)

Gilly said...

Yes, I';ve met the "Faith" camp! They can really hurt people. And did.

the Dragon's Right Wing said...

The "blab it & grab it" idea of faith has always seemed horrible to me - as if we could manipulate God through our believing strongly enough. It would seem to reduce the Creator to a Coke Machine - put in your "faith quarter" and get out your healing! On the contrary, I believe that God will not be mocked, nor made light of - and our attempts to manipulate Him are not likely to succeed. Rather, our humble requests in a real faith in His wisdom are much more likely to be clearly answered - even if the answer is not to heal, I believe that we will be better able to recognize it as an active answer (not just the vacuum that a "No" answer can sometimes seem to be) ...

Rufus said...

The mega churches have been taken over by charlatansike Benny Hinn- net worth nearly $50 million. When Amy Simple McPherson died she was worth $10,000. Millions had gone through her hands which was spent on soup kitchens and financial aid to the poor (white, black, Mexican).

Anonymous said...

If McPherson was even a dime infamous as the gossip claimed, I doubt she would have maintained the empowerment God appeared to have given her regarding the successful faith healing especially on Stretcher Day.
Here is an interesting paper I ran across:

Scandal and Censure: A Reinvestigation of the Socio-Political Forces Surrounding the Disappearance of Aimee Semple McPherson

The takeaway from the article is the case against her was motivated by the era 's male chauvinism that simply thought it impossible that women could be anything but dainty.

If she was a fraud, the deception and skullduggery to accomplish it against a 1926 $500,000 funded grand jury investigation ($6.4 mil in 2016 dollars), which was ultimately dropped, was far more miraculous than if she were simply kidnapped, escaped and walked half day / half evening; 13 hours/20 miles through the Mexican desert to freedom.

By the way, do you know the source of that interview Rolf gave about the ambulances and stretchers?