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Saturday, 25 May 2013

Baxter and Branham: were they Latter Rain men?

Ern Baxter (left) and William Branham
by Archibald Thackeray

"During his years in ministry, Ern Baxter participated directly or indirectly in Classical Pentecostalism, the Healing Revival, the Latter Rain Movement, and the Charismatic Renewal" - S. David Moore, The Shepherding Movement: Controversy and Charismatic Ecclesiology
What made Baxter useful - and prominent - in each of those movements was his "unique blend of what he called 'Word and Spirit'" (Moore, page 36).

While not formally trained, Baxter was always a student of the Scriptures and theology (over 4,000 of the books he collected are now housed in the Ern Baxter Memorial Library in Mobile, Alabama ---  UPDATE: In 2015, the entire collection was donated to The King's University in Southlake, Texas); thus, he was a man of the Word. But at the same time, he was passionate for the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit. He was equally at home in his study preparing masterful teachings or serving as William Branham's right hand man as Branham prayed for the sick and cast out demons; thus, he was a man of the Spirit.

While Moore is correct that Baxter preached in many classical Pentecostal and Latter Rain churches, Baxter is best known for - and most accurately identified with - the Healing Movement of the 1940s and 50s and the Shepherding Movement of 1970s.

And he is a useful figure for untangling popular notions about Branham and the Latter Rain Movement. Branham, who had one of the most - if not the most - powerful healing ministries in the mid-twentieth century, is often blended into the discussion of Latter Rain topics on the internet. It is even frequently asserted that he was the leader of the Latter Rain Movement.

Baxter is immediately helpful as one broaches that topic, as he informs us that Branham was not even really a Pentecostal, saying in a December 1978 interview with New Wine magazine:

"He and I had many sessions that were hours long. During one of these, he told me he didn't believe that tongues was the evidence of the baptism. So I asked him about speaking in tongues, and he said that he had gone to a Pentecostal mission and had told God, 'These are apparently the only people that will accept my [healing] gift - let me talk in tongues so I will be acceptable.' And he said that God let him talk tongues, but he never talked in tongues again. That seemed to be his introduction to the Pentecostals, and they apparently accepted him because of it. Few people would know that story, but I mention it because as his gift became more apparent as he grew older, he saw that the Pentecostal people were probably the only ones that would receive it.... He was a missionary Baptist, so his tradition would not link him into historic Pentecostalism."

So, those that assert Branham's leadership of the Latter Rain Movement are confronted with some difficulty right off the bat because Branham's sentiments are certainly not in keeping with Latter Rain beliefs.

Then, as we observe how Baxter came to work closely with Branham for the better part of a decade
more light is shed on the Branham/Latter Rain assertions. Ministers in Vancouver (where Baxter pastored the large Evangelistic Tabernacle) wanted to bring Branham and his dramatic healing ministry to their city in 1947:

"I was asked to lead the meetings, which I did," Baxter told New Wine, "Later, Branham asked to see me personally. He said that he had been in prayer and the angel of the Lord had spoken to him and told him that I was to be his companion in ministry. He invited me to join him.... I started to travel with him as often as I could be away from my church. One year I was away eight months.... I was with Branham from 1947 until I had to leave him, in about 1953 or 1954."

According to Robert K. Burkinshaw, "Branham had attracted overflow crowds to Vancouver's Exhibition Garden in late 1947 with what appeared to many to be genuine demonstrations of miraculous powers of insight and physical healing. The 'North Battleford brethren' (as they came to be known) and many others viewed the events of the Branham meetings as evidence that old-time Pentecostal power and fervour could be revived" (Pilgrims in Lotus Land: Conservative Protestantism in British Columbia, 1917 - 1981).

James Watt
They were influenced by what they observed in Branham's meetings, but they had no relationship with him - he certainly was not their leader. Jim Watt, another of the leaders in North Battleford, confirms this on his website:

"Some years later Winston Nunes (now deceased) sought me out as the last living elder of the seven. He sought confirmation to his theory that William Branham, J. E. Stiles and Franklin Hall were the three catalysts that God used to launch the 1948 Northern Canada Revival. I agreed that these three were certainly key principles that motivated the prayer and fasting that birthed this move. But I pointed out that there were other principles equally critical. There was the Presbytery revelation itself; the 5-fold ministry emphasis of Ephesians 4:11-12; the high point of worship through the Heavenly Choir; the 'team spirit' operating within the eldership; the humility and teachability of the leadership; the sensitivity to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit."

Interestingly, after the outbreak of revival at the Sharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battleford, on February 12, 1948, leaders from that site (such as George and Ern Hawtin) traveled back to Vancouver to minister in November - but did not do so at Baxter's church, but at Glad Tidings, pastored by Reg Layzell.

Baxter and Branham were Voice of Healing men (VOH being the loosely federated ministries led by Gordon Lindsay and that included men like Branham, Oral Roberts, A. A. Allen, and Jack Coe). The Hawtins, Jim Watt, Reg Layzell, and others were Latter Rain men (those at the North Battleford site actually prefer the term, 1948 Move of the Spirit, wanting to distance themselves from teachings and practices that occurred later as the revival spread across the world).

While with Branham, Baxter was the 'Word' man - he taught in afternoon sessions, while Branham
Ern Baxter (1914-1993)
flowed in the gifts of the Spirit in the evening meetings.

"Branham had a tremendous word of knowledge," Baxter told New Wine, "Before praying for a person, he would give accurate details of their lives - their home town, activities, actions - even way back in their childhood. Branham never once made a mistake with a word of knowledge in all the years I was with him. That covers, in my case, thousands of instances."

But eventually it became necessary for Baxter and Branham to part. Ernest Gentile says:

"Although Baxter honored Branham for his honesty and handling of money, and felt him to be a sincere and godly man, their doctrinal differences became too great for continued compatibility" (Your Sons and Daughters Shall Prophesy: Prophetic Gifts in Ministry Today).

Branham spoke both of their disengagement from each and of his affection for Baxter during a sermon delivered in Chicago in 1958:

"I haven't got an official campaign manager at these times, since our dear, precious brother Ern Baxter had to return to his church. It was calling for him. His church is almost the size of this auditorium. So to be gadding around across the country with me, his church wouldn't stand for it any longer. He had to return back to them or he'd probably lose his church. A wonderful soul, a wonderful man of God, I love him. But he had to go back and since then I haven't had a campaign manager so I have to try to speak myself" (in Door to the Heart, Chicago, Illinois, January 12, 1958).

Branham died after a car crash in 1965. He was 56 years old.

Baxter, as Moore notes above, was never confined to one movement or one fellowship. Though he was primarily with Branham and the Voice of Healing crowd in the period of 1947-1954, he was also impacted by the revival that occurred in Saskatchewan (read: Latter Rain, if you will). In a sermon where he laid out a sketch of his long ministry (EB001 in the Broken Bread Teaching collection), Baxter said:

"Another momentous thing happened - at least for me and many others - and that's something called the Latter Rain.... I went to their second convention in Edmonton, Canada and I never saw such a concentration of the power of God. This was a tremendous movement."

After disengaging from Branham, Baxter went back to pastoring in the Vancouver area for awhile and was often a guest speaker at churches that would have been considered Latter Rain - churches like Bethesda Missionary Temple in Detroit, Gospel Temple in Philadelphia, and Bible Temple in Portland, Oregon. During these years he would often preach a much-loved message, Life on Wings (EB201 in the Broken Bread Teaching collection), which used the development of an eaglet as the metaphor for growth in the Christian life.

In 1974, Baxter became deeply involved in the Charismatic Renewal. He committed himself to be a part of Christian Growth Ministries - joining forces with Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and Charles Simpson. The Charismatic Renewal encompassed much more than CGM and its adherents, of course, but CGM was a very focal segment of the Renewal.

According to the New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, the "initial thrust of CGM was to bring Spirit-baptized Christians to maturity and to teach church-building". However, the five also promoted a concept of church leadership that was labeled Shepherding and/or Discipleship. Despite the Biblical usage of those terms, in practice the oversight in believers' lives often became overly authoritarian by those the CGM leaders had set in authority.

In 1975, he moved to Ft. Lauderdale where CGM was headquartered. It was also in 1975 that he preached the message that he is probably best known for, Thy Kingdom Come (EB202 in the Broken Bread Teaching collection).

During this period of his life Baxter enjoyed immense popularity in the United Kingdom. In this 
Ruth & Ern Baxter
video
, British charismatic leader Terry Virgo tells of Baxter's impact in the U. K., referencing Baxter's teaching series, The King and His Army (recordings EB701 - 706 in the Broken Bread Teaching collection).

Although the ministers of CGM had a very high profile and much influence during much of the 1970s, Moore recounted in an article in Minstry Today magazine how things unraveled:

"In 1975, several high-profile charismatic leaders accused the five of trying to take over the charismatic renewal and dominate the lives of their followers, charges the five always denied. Rumors abounded as many unsubstantiated allegations were made against the movement and its leaders.

"The heated controversy divided the renewal for more than a decade, and the dispute was never satisfactorily resolved. Even among the five leaders there were conflicts, and Derek Prince quietly withdrew from the group in 1984. Two years later the other four broke formal ties and ceased publication of New Wine, ending the Shepherding movement as an expression of the five men's shared commitment."

But the total scope of Ern Baxter's life is captured by this eulogizing statement that was until recently posted on the website for his memorial library:

"For more than 60 years, Ern Baxter served the Lord as an evangelist, pastor, teacher, musician, and prophetic leader. He was one of this generation’s outstanding Bible teachers. Ern went to be with the Lord on July 9, 1993."

Baxter and Branham in Battle Creek 1952Baxter and Branham in Battle Creek 1952 · Wed, Aug 13, 1952 – Page 8 · Battle Creek Enquirer (Battle Creek, Michigan) · Newspapers.com

2 comments:

  1. Personal for Br. Archibald Thackeray: Please contact me via email as I would like to provide you with several materials from the Outpouring of 1948 and current happenings that may be of interest to your subscribers. Greetings from Sharon Schools at North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Terry Miller, one of the Brethren from Sharon. (diakonos.travelling@gmail.com)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brother Terry, I did send an email - and am looking forward to your response :-)

    ReplyDelete