Biography of Famous Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson Part 1

About the famous American preacher and spiritual leader Aimee Semple McPherson, biography and history of the church evangelical.


From the Wesley brothers in the 1750s down to Billy Graham in the 1970s, Americans have always loved their evangelists. Yet no revivalist in our history has been more enthusiastically loved--or more thoroughly disgraced--than Aimee Semple McPherson, who became a national institution in the 1920s.

Though she was ultimately to make millions through her preaching, Aimee's career got off to a shaky start. In 1907, while a farm girl of 17, she married an itinerant preacher named Robert Semple who took her to China and died shortly thereafter, leaving his young wife pregnant and destitute. After the birth of her daughter, Aimee found her way back to the U.S., where she married Harold McPherson, who fathered her 2nd child, a son, but restlessness soon overcame her. Packing up her mother, 2 children, and a large tent, she set out in a battered car for a career as a traveling revivalist.

Her 1st great success came in Southern California, which provided fertile ground for her ecstatic, optimistic rendering of the gospel. In 1921, while Sister Aimee was speaking at an outdoor rally in San Diego, an inspired old woman rose from her wheelchair and tottered toward the podium. She was followed by hundreds of other cripples, as hysteria swept the arena. Overnight, Aimee Semple McPherson developed a national reputation as a faith healer. Nevertheless, Sister Aimee remained modest about her miracles. "I am not a healer," she said. "Jesus is the healer. I am only the little office girl who opens the door and says 'Come in.' "

Soon Sister Aimee had raised enough money to open the Angelus Temple near downtown Los Angeles, which was to serve as a permanent base for her activities. This building, which cost $1,500,000 to build (a handsome sum in 1923), was topped by a huge rotating lighted cross which could be see for a distance of 50 mi. There was also a powerful in-house broadcasting station which sent the message of Sister Aimee's "Foursquare Gospel" around the world. A special "Miracle Room" displayed stacks of crutches, wheelchairs and braces left over from faith cures. The main temple provided seats for 5,000 of the faithful, and Sister Aimee was able to attract a full house nearly every time she preached.

Instead of the familiar fire and brimstone of traditional evangelists, Sister Aimee stressed a gentler brand of salvation which emphasized the pleasures of heaven rather than the torments of hell. Her dramatic stage presence and her beautiful golden hair added powerfully to her appeal. There was always a good deal of show-business pageantry in Aimee's services. In her "Throw Out the Lifeline" number, a dozen maidens clad in white clung desperately to a storm-lashed Rock of Ages, while special-effects men labored mightily to create thunder, lightning and wind. Just when all seemed lost, out jumped Sister Aimee in an admiral's uniform to order a squad of lady sailors to the rescue. They tossed out the blessed lifeline, while the male chorus, dressed as coastguardmen, swept the mechanical waves with searchlights. The virgins were saved, trumpets blared and the congregation cheered while the American flag waved triumphantly over all.

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