Editorís note: Aimee Semple
McPherson will be remembered as one of the greatest women evangelists of
our time. Much like Kathryn Kuhlman she would find herself in several
disputes that didnít agree with church leaders of her day but the
testimony of her work is still fascinating.
In one meeting in a Los Angeles, California, crusade it was recorded
that ushers with garbage cans and shovels had to go through her tent to
shovel the cancerous growths that had been left on the ground after
scores of healings.
McPherson was also recognized
as the first person to have a Christian Radio station in the United
States of America as she built a radio station at the Angeles Temple in
Los Angeles, California.
By David Littlewood - Remnant
With a flair for the dramatic which
appealed to the movie capital of America in the glamorous 'roaring
twenties', Aimee Semple McPherson provided the best show in town. And
with her emphasis on divine healing -- many outstanding miracles were
reported under her ministry -- it wasn't surprising that she drew the
People queued for hours hoping for
admission to the 5,300-seater Angeles Temple where her illustrated
sermons held audiences spellbound. From relatively simple beginnings,
such as when she dressed as Little Bo Peep (seeking lost sheep), they
grew to spectacular productions involving the use of elaborate sets and
full orchestras. Having once been stopped by the police for speeding,
she appeared in the Temple on a motorbike dressed in a police uniform,
warning her hearers to stop speeding down the road to hell! And on a
night she announced a new illustrated sermon, the city provided
additional trolley cars and police to control traffic.
Aimee Semple McPherson was
undoubtedly the most prominent woman leader Pentecostalism has produced.
A strikingly beautiful woman, she was a colorful and, at times,
controversial figure who won the hearts of a whole generation of
Essentially Pentecostal, preaching
the 'Four Square Gospel' of Jesus as Savior, Healer, Baptize, and Coming
King, she nevertheless appealed to Christians across the board. At a
time when Pentecostalism was in danger of becoming narrow and
separatist, Aimee used the popular idioms of the day to communicate the
gospel and, in an era devoted to vaudeville, caught the public
imagination. She was way ahead of her time and also made extensive use
of writing and broadcasting.
Born Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy on a
small farm near Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, in 1890, she was nurtured in
the Christian faith by her mother Minnie (at that time a Salvationist)
and came to a personal knowledge of Christ at 18 through Pentecostal
evangelist Robert Semple. After receiving the baptism in the Spirit,
Aimee married Robert and the young couple set about pioneering in Canada
and the USA.
Determined to serve as 'faith'
missionaries in China, the Semples reached Hong Kong in June 1910 but
within a few weeks Robert died of malaria, leaving Aimee widowed with a
newborn baby at the age of 20.
Recovering from the shock, she
returned to New York where she met and married aspiring evangelist
Harold McPherson. They toured together in their 'Gospel Car' holding
evangelistic campaigns. Harold acted as the advance man while Aimee
followed him up with her preaching -- and her striking presence,
wonderful powers of communication and emphasis on healing drew the
crowds. In 1917 she launched 'The Bridal Call', a monthly magazine in
which she wrote many articles expounding the essence of her teaching.
Unfortunately Aimee's success
strained her marriage beyond redemption. Harold seemed unable to accept
the fact that his wife's ministry far exceeded his own and left Aimee to
pursue an (unsuccessful) evangelistic career of his own. For her part it
appears that Aimee put her own call well before her duties as a wife and
the couple were divorced in 1921.
Dedicated, talented and energetic,
and with a burning desire to see the lost won for Christ, Aimee toured
America. Known simply as 'Sister' to her many followers, she showed not
only formidable oratory in the pulpit but a deep compassion for people
in all walks of life. She would go anywhere -- nightclubs, theatres,
dance halls, jails and even brothels -- to tell people of the Savior.
There was no pleading, no fire and brimstone, no criticizing -- just a
warm-hearted welcome from a woman who cared. Believing that people who
most needed the gospel were not likely to be found in church, she
visited red-light districts where she hugged, cried and prayed with the
Settling in Los Angeles, Aimee
founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the
Angeles Temple was dedicated in 1923. She became the first woman to
receive a license to operate a radio station, and programmers from the
Temple brought the gospel to thousands. (On a visit to Britain in 1928
she met the inventor Marconi and told him that God had raised him up to
enable the masses to hear the gospel.) Seeing the need for training, she
established the Lighthouse for International Foursquare Evangelism
(LIFE) Bible College and also invested in foreign missions. But her
later years were dogged by controversy. Her mysterious disappearance,
believed drowned, in 1926, gave rise to speculation of an affair with a
former employee. But in fact she had been kidnapped in Mexico and such
was the relief at having her back that 50,000 people lined the streets
to welcome her on her return to Los Angeles.
Nevertheless Aimee and her mother
were charged with perjury and ridiculed from pulpit to press. Ultimately
the charges were dropped and the district attorney who instigated the
case was himself sent to prison for corruption.
A nervous breakdown in 1930 may have
precipitated a disastrous marriage to David L. Hutton in 1931 which
alienated some of her contemporaries. But her tremendous resilience
prevailed and during the depression she met the physical needs of over
1.5 million people regardless of race, creed or color. A journalist sent
to investigate relief efforts reported, amidst much corruption among
charitable organizations, Aimee's compassion for the needy: "I saw
her feeding, encouraging and giving hope, faith and strength to the poor
as they jammed the Temple...and I saw her insulting those who had
folding money into parting with it for their destitute brothers. She had
sick women on the floor of her home and old men in her garage."
By the time of her death in 1944,
Angeles Temple had over 400 branch churches (with some 22,000 members)
and 200 mission stations abroad. Her son Rolf McPherson took over the
leadership of ICFG and today the denomination has over 25,000 churches
in 74 countries with a total of 1,700,000 members. Such is the legacy of
this remarkable woman who liked to be known as 'Everybody's Sister'