FourSquare Gospel Church

Aimee Semple McPherson

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American evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, b. near Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, Oct. 9, 1890, d. Sept. 27, 1944, founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Converted by her first husband, Robert Semple, a Pentecostal evangelist, she joined him in revival campaigns and then in the mission field in Asia. When he died in 1910, she returned to the United States with her infant daughter, married Harold McPherson, a grocery salesman from Rhode Island, and began to hold revivals.

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"Sister" Aimee's following grew, but her marriage began to fail, and in 1918 she settled in Los Angeles. That year she established a headquarters there and spent the next 5 years on the revival road. Her dream of establishing a more permanent "foursquare movement" built around her understanding of the four roles of Jesus Christ - savior, baptizer, healer, and coming king - became a reality when she opened (1923) Angelus Temple, a 5,300 seat auditorium. She subsequently founded a radio station, a Bible college, an evangelistic association, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (1927).

Scandal repeatedly touched her personal life - most notably in 1926 when she disappeared for a month, reappeared with the story that she had been kidnapped, and was tried (case dismissed) for perjury. Nevertheless she persisted and her movement grew. When she died in 1944 from an accidental overdose of barbiturates, leadership of her church passed to her son, Rolf McPherson.

John F Piper

Bibliography
G H Douglas, Women of the Twenties (1986); A S McPherson, The Story of My Life (1951); L Thomas, Storming Heaven (1970).


FourSquare Gospel Church - Aimee Semple McPherson

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(1890-1944)

Aimee Semple McPherson was a Pentecostalist revivalist and radio pioneer, one of America's best-known religious figures in the 1920s and 1930s. She married first the man who had been influential in her conversion, Robert Semple, a Pentecostal minister, with whom she went to China as a missionary in 1908. When Semple died, his wife returned to the United States. She then married Harold McPherson, from whom she was subsequently divorced. A third marriage and another divorce came later. With her mother as companion Aimee Semple McPherson began after World War I a very successful series of revival tours across the United States. "Sister Aimee" was an attractive woman who knew how to exploit her vibrant personality and captivating energy to win the attention of the media. She broke new ground in radio evangelism (1922) and may have participated in a staged kidnaping of herself in 1926, a case which remains clothed in mystery. Her teaching was probably not as important as her personality in her great success, but it did include standard fundamentalistic and Pentecostal emphases: sanctification, baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues, Christ as Savior and healer, faith healing, and the imminent return of Christ. In 1922 she settled in Los Angeles, where she preached to thousands each week at her $1.5 million Angelus Temple. The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel arose as a result of her ministry in 1927. It continued under the direction of her son after she died, and now numbers well over 100,000 members worldwide. Part of the sensation surrounding McPherson's career arose from allegations, romantic and otherwise, which she knew how to exploit to her own advantage. She was a force in American popular religion who blazed trails that others, who did not necessarily share her convictions, have followed.

M A Noll
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Bibliography
McPherson, The Story of My Life; L. Thomas, Storming Heaven.


The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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