By Roscoe Barnes III
Author, F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind Christ the Healer
Copyright (c) 2018
In a magazine that played a key role in the divine healing movement of the 1950s, F.F. Bosworth is listed among 30-plus preachers as being a legitimate healing evangelist. He is also listed as one of several associate editors of the magazine, which was called, The Voice of Healing (VOH). Bosworth’s book, Christ the Healer, is promoted in the publication along with books by other evangelists.
At 73, Bosworth was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of the evangelists serving with the VOH in 1950. His decades of success as a healing evangelist made him the perfect mentor. T.L.Osborn once said, “Old F.F. Bosworth used to share a lot of secrets with us.” William Branham, acknowledged leader and initiator of the post-World War II healing revival, stated, “I believe Brother Bosworth knows more of the Bible on Divine healing than any man I ever met in my life.”
It is clear that Bosworth had much to offer. VOH Editor Gordon Lindsay wrote about his success and his massive city-wide campaigns held throughout the United States and Canada. But for all Bosworth had to offer, his presence did not prevent some of the critical problems and controversies that would plague some of the traveling preachers.
The Voice of Healing magazine originally appeared in April 1948 as the official organ – and promotional tool – for the ministry of William Branham. But after a short time, it expanded and became a publication for a select number of evangelists, some of whom had independent ministries.
The magazine promoted the evangelistic healing meetings with compelling testimonies and news reports. It also used sensational headlines, eye-catching superlatives, and photographs of large crowds at various meetings. At the same time, the magazine, which was headed by Gordon and Freda Lindsay, tried to present the VOH preachers as legitimate men and women who possessed not only integrity, but the power to produce miracles of healing in evangelistic crusades. On page two of the July 1950 issue, the magazine reports:
We list in this directory the names of those who we believe have a proven Divine healing ministry, and who are laboring in harmony with the policy of THE VOICE OF HEALING to unite in spirit the members of the body of Christ, and whose lives are above reproach.
The magazine listed in alphabetical order the names and “permanent addresses” of the evangelists. The list included A.A. Allen, William Branham, F.F. Bosworth, Jack Coe, Frank Cottingham, Charles Dobbins, Clifton Erickson, William Freeman, Velmer Gardner, W.V. Grant, Franklin Hall, Dale Hanson, L.D. Hall, John Hauek, H.E. Hardt, W.A. Henry, Harold Horton, Gayle Jackson, U.S. Jaeger, O.L. Jaggers, Louis Keplan, Gordon Lindsay, Harvey McAlister, E.H. Miles, Louise Nankivell, Thelma Nickel, Wilbur Ogilvie, T. L. Osborn, Oral Roberts, Abraham Tannen Baum, Richard R. Vinyard, James B. Reesor, Doyle Zachary.
Some of the preachers were notoriously competitive and some became more famous than others. A few of them found success and watched their ministries grow -- and extend into the 21st century. Unfortunately some became roiled in controversy and eventually left the ministry. Even so, the magazine tried to make a good faith effort in presenting the VOH evangelists as sincere men and women of God who were gifted to bring salvation and healing to a dying world. A glimpse of this effort can be seen in a single paragraph on page three of the July 1950 issue under the heading, “Announcement.” It reads:
THE VOICE OF HEALING is a publication devoted to the encouragement of the great healing revivals that are now springing up over the world. We are now carrying reports of quite a number of men whom God has given a prominent ministry. Most of these ministers we know personally, some however, we have not met. We believe that on the whole these ministers are consecrated men who are worthy of the highest endorsement. Naturally it is up to each minister to conduct his life in such a way that his own ministry will be his best recommendations. Though we receive many inquiries, we do not attempt to recommend this or that minister for campaigns in any special city. We feel that the Spirit of God should lead in these matters.
The announcement, including the list of names, may have been viewed by readers as a commendable gesture. It might have also been reassuring. But for me, it prompts a few questions that have practical, ethical, and theological implications. For example: How exactly were the preachers validated? What system of accountability did Lindsay and others use in their determination? What were the standards?
I also wonder about the issue of transparency: Was the editor fully transparent about the evangelists’ payment for placement in the magazine? Paul Asa Allen, son of A.A. Allen, has said the evangelists purchased ad space in the magazine to promote their meetings. When they acquired a set number of subscriptions from their followers and mailed the names (along with the subscription fees) to VOH, they could receive a free page in the magazine, according to Paul. He said his father earned more free pages than the other evangelists. As a result, the Lindsays encouraged him to start his own magazine. It seems that if the evangelists were literally buying space, the readers of the magazine should have been informed.
There's also the issue about women preachers: How successful were the women? And why don’t we hear more about them? The magazine featured articles about the women, but only two of them are listed in the directory on page two: Louise Nankivell of Chicago and Thelma Nickel of Tulsa. Were there not other women who were used of God in the healing ministry.
It is true that other women appeared in later issues of the magazine, but the number was still small compared to the number of men.
Another important question: How close were these ministries monitored? And to what extent were they held accountable? We now know about the extreme tendencies of some of the preachers, as well as the errors in their doctrine. Some fell out of the ministry because of sickness and some because of scandal. Although Gordon Lindsay may have had the best intentions, he soon found that he was working with men with flaws. Some were deeply flawed.
Despite some of the negative fall-out due to the failure of some of the evangelists, I think Lindsay should still be commended for his enduring work as a writer and chronicler of the divine healing movement. It's because of his work that many unknown preachers rose to prominence and found ways to share the Gospel throughout the world. Lindsay has given the church a solid record of history, showing the warts and all, to some degree. Through his efforts, churches were born, preachers were mentored, schools were created, and yes, people found Christ as savior and healer. So for all of the negative points that peppered the history of the VOH, it's probably accurate to say that the good outweighed the bad, and we have Lindsay to thank for such an exciting legacy of Pentecostal church history.
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For more information: Visit ffbosworth.strikingly.com. Questions about the research and commentary on F.F. Bosworth may be directed to Roscoe Barnes III via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For updates on F.F. Bosworth history, simply follow this blog or @Roscoebarnes3 on Twitter. #ChristTheHealer
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