Thursday, October 10, 2013

Aimee Semple McPherson—Scandal Tinged Saint

Blonde. Beautiful. Charismatic. Shrewd. Innovative. Saintly. Maybe occasionally tempted by forbidden fruit.  Aimee Semple McPherson revolutionized evangelism and touched the lives and faith of millions.  At the height of her fame and influence she was alleged to fake her own kidnapping and was engulfed by scandal.  Yet she recovered and continued to preach.  And she just may have been the most important woman in American religion of the 20th Century.
Elizabeth Kennedy was born on a farm near Salford, Ontario, Canada on October 9, 1890.  Some sources say that Aimee was part of, or was intended to be part of, her name.  Others have it that she adopted it in adolescence.  If so it was the first of many self-inventions.
Her farmer father was a devout Methodist of the strict old school.  Her mother, Mildred or Minnie, was a devoted Salvation Army volunteer.  Her household was saturated with religious fervor.  But young Aimee showed a rebellious, independent streak.  She read the worldly novels that her mother had forbidden her.  She snuck out at night to dances—strictly forbidden temptation to her Methodist father.  Exposed to Darwinian evolution theory in high school, she began to doubt and shocked her father with a demand for an explanation of how he knew there was a God.
Whatever her adolescent crisis of faith was, she overcame it.  She shocked herself by how easily she had been led astray.  In one of her first public acts she wrote to the Family Herald and Weekly Star, questioning why tax supported public schools had courses on evolution, which undermined Christianity. 
As for the temptations of the flesh, well, those would always prove harder to resist.
But resist she bravely did, falling under the influence of the new and charismatic Pentecostal movement whose meeting she began attending while still in high school.  It was at one of those meetings in 1907 that she met Irish born missionary Robert James Semple.  After a whirlwind courtship the couple married in a Salvation Army ceremony in August 1908, pledging not only their troth, but their mutual devotion to God’s work.
Robert at first supported the couple while working in a foundry and preaching on weekends.  Aimee often witnessed at those meetings.  She later claimed that her husband taught her everything she knew about the work of the Lord.  Others believe she brought more to the marriage than she let on.  And she was ambitious, both to leave behind the drudgery of provincial life and to do God’s work.
Within months the couple moved to Chicago to join William Durham’s Full Gospel Assembly.   Both fell under his tutelage and Aimee developed a talent for vividly and articulately translating the speaking in tongues which was the hallmark of Pentecostal services.
In an amazingly short period of time Robert and Aimee were embarked on a world evangelical tour to Europe and the Orient.  While not a grand affair, the couple spoke to meetings and raised enough money to continue traveling.  In June 1910 they arrived in Hong Kong where they both fell ill of malaria.  Robert additionally suffered from dysentery.  Aimee was pregnant at the time.  She survived.  Her beloved husband did not.  He died on August 19 leaving a 19 year old widow who soon delivered a daughter stranded penniless in China. 
Aimee’s mother scraped together enough money for passage home.  On the long voyage Aimee conducted Bible classes for her fellow passengers who were so impressed that they took up a collection for her train fare home.  After recovery she joined her mother, who had left her farmer husband, to do Salvation Army work in New York City.
It was at one of the meeting that she met and quickly married accountant Harold Stewart McPherson in May of 1912.  The couple set up a home in Providence, Rhode Island where Aimee gave birth to a son, Rolf, almost exactly 9 months later.
She tried to live the life of a dutiful Christian wife and mother.  But she was driven to distraction by boredom and went into fits of depression and rage punctuated by manic cleaning episodes.  Although she doted on her children, she took her frustrations out on her new husband claiming that he was keeping her from her calling.  Even a little side preaching at tiny local Pentecostal congregations did not balm that itch.
In 1914 she fell desperately ill and according to her later account lay at death’s door after a failed operation.  She claimed she heard voices in her delirium telling her to preach or die.  She claimed a miracle recovery from the episode.  After a recovery at home, she acted on the voice’s instructions.
Her husband came home from work one spring morning to find his wife and both children gone.  A few weeks later, Aimee sent him a note explaining her call to preach and inviting him to join her. 
She began her automobile ministry, roaming the country with her children, setting up meetings and preaching in Pentecostal churches, a fire with the word of the lord.  It was boom and bust.  Large collections in one town would be followed by slim pickings in others.  She and the children were often hungry.  She claimed she was once reduced to steeling fish from a pelican in Florida.  But slowly her reputation grew.  Her children later recalled the life as a grand adventure.
Her husband eventually decided to track his wife down, determined to bring her home.  But when he saw her virtually glowing in her ministry to a large crowd, nothing like the almost deranged woman he had known at home, he agreed to stay on with her as an aid.  He claimed to have had a Pentecostal conversion experience himself and when not erecting tents and setting up folding chairs, did a bit of preaching himself.
But he tired of the road and returned to Rhode Island without her in 1918.  They were divorced in 1921.
By that time Aimee Semple McPherson’s traveling tent revival was doing booming business.  Her mother had joined her as her business manager, a task for which she was well suited.  Despite resistance to women preaching, and the reluctance of local mainstream Protestant ministers to support her emotional and charismatic services, she won over many critics.  She denied that she was working for any denominations, only for the community of Christ, and promised to send those who accepted her conversion calls back to their own churches fired with new faith.  And when those local preachers saw their pew ranks swell after her revival hit town, they became more supportive.
While retaining the emotional pitch of a Pentecostal service, she knew that the unbridled emotional spontaneity of those services with shouting, speaking in tongues, and fainting frightened many.  She seldom used her own gift for tongues, breaking it out sparingly for dramatic affect.  A Tarry Room or tent was set up away from the main tent or meeting room where those overcome by tongues or fits were let to express their ecstasy in private. 
As early as 1917, when things were still rough on the road, the ambitious evangelist was finding new ways to spread her message.  That year she founded her own religious magazine for women, The Bridal Call, in which she characterized the connection between Christians and Jesus as a marriage bond.  She also wrote extensively about an expanded role for women in the church and defended her preaching.
As crowds and her reputation grew, so did opportunities.  In 1918 she was invited to preach in Los Angeles where William J. Seymour, an African American preacher had built an integrated Pentecostal following with his Azusa Street Revivals.  Her mother, Minnie, booked the 3,500 seat Temple Auditorium for a series of wildly successful revival meetings with overflow crowds.  Enthusiastic worshipers built a home for McPherson and her family.  She made L.A. her home base ever after.
The next year Minnie booked her into another large hall in Baltimore where she thrilled audiences with seemingly spontaneous faith healing.  The next day the Baltimore Sun splashed an interview and story on the front page along with a flattering photo of the female evangelist.  It was her first major, mainstream publicity on the east coast.  It helped her—and her faith healing to become a household name.  She considered it a turning point for her ministry and for Pentecostalism in general.  And for the next few years, faith healing, heretofore a minor component would become a centerpiece for her ministry.
For the next three years McPherson and her revival meetings toured the major cities of the country, usually appearing in the largest venues for four week engagements.  Sometimes temporary tabernacles were built just to accommodate her.  He services, held two to four times daily, now included elaborate musical numbers, original “operas” she wrote herself, dramatic sketches, other preachers, and altar calls of the saved.  Newspapers breathlessly reported incidence after incidence of successful healing.  For her part, McPherson demurred credit for the healing, claiming that it came through the power of prayer and was available to anyone.  She was just a vessel for the prayer.
When she became concerned that the healing was overwhelming other aspects of her mission, she personally cut back, as she had earlier almost completely eliminated personally speaking in tongues, leaving healings to be routinely performed by other members of her traveling organization.  Still, sometimes she would be called on and would work her “miracles.”
In 1923 wearing of the road and eager to provide her children a more stable home, McPherson and her mother decided to permanently settle in Los Angeles.  She announced plans to build an elaborate temple while holding daily meetings in rented facilities.  Determined not to go into debt, she decided to build using money as it came in donations, as well as donated labor and materials.  Starting with $5000 she had the foundation for her Angelus Temple.  Money poured in and her original plans expanded.   
She became one of the first evangelists, and certainly the first women, to launch a radio ministry that covered the whole western United States.  Loyal listeners sent in their contributions.  When the gigantic Angelus Temple was completed it included two powerful radio transmitters.  Her own station, KFSG went on the air in February, 1924.  McPherson was only the second woman granted a license to own a radio station.
The 3,500 seat Angelus Temple was opened and dedicated on January 1, 1923.  Its elaborate auditorium spread out under the largest unsupported re-enforced dome yet built. It had numerous meeting and class rooms, and space for the many charitable endeavors McPherson supported.
She held three services daily, personally leading each one, plus a virtual extravaganza on Sunday.  All had overflowing crowds eager for the spectacle she promised.  Although she felt that movies and popular culture were corrupting agents of sin and the devil, she was more than eager to use all of the techniques of the entertainment industry herself.  She felt that conventional Sunday services were listless, grim affairs that could not inspire people to accept Jesus in their hearts.  She often dressed up and acted out skits—on a motorcycle in a police uniform for a sermon Stopped for Speeding to Hell or as an airplane pilot.  She brought a live camel on stage to illustrate Jesus’s claim that it was easier “for a camel to thread the Eye of the Needle than for a rich man” to get into heaven. 
Her message mixed social conservatism in some things with progressive social ideas in other.  She steadfastly supported William Jennings Bryan in his crusade against evolution in the Scopes “Monkey Trial.”   She supported Prohibition, attacked pornography and white slavery, and generally railed against modernism.  On the other hand, she insisted on preaching to integrated crowds, even in the face of Ku Klux Klan threats, supported full equality for women in public life, conducted many highly praised charities, and eventually supported the reforms of the New Deal.  She spoke so often in support of labor that progressives like Upton Sinclair came to regard her as a “patroness”—so long as strikes remained non-violent and unions resisted Godless Communism.  Like many Pentecostals, she was a vocal pacifist.
Much of this seeming contradiction grew out of the nature of Pentecostalism as she saw it—a kind of radical egalitarianism under the saving grace of Christ.  Likewise her refusal to “give up” on lost souls, like the many unmarried pregnant women who came to her or even abandoned their babies at her door, came from her resolute belief that no one ever ran out of chances to be saved until their last breath.  It was possible even to be saved, fall again and again, and yet be saved again. 
Her beliefs coalesced around what she called her Foursquare Gospel Movement, with the Angelus Temple as the mother, or Salvation Navy, to a network of Lighthouses.  Those Lighthouses became congregations and despite her reluctance to slip into sectarianism or cut her and her movement off from a wider Christianity, she eventually created a new denomination.  Rival Pentecostal denominations like the fledgling Assemblies of God initially supported her efforts but broke with her and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel when they refused to reject mainstream Protestant and Evangelical denominations outright.
McPherson wanted to both keep to her Pentecostal roots and reach out to an ecumenical.  She invited faith leaders from most Protestant churches—and to the shock of conservatives—even Catholics to speak to and lead services at Angelus Temple.
By the late ‘20’s McPherson, who had died her red hair blonde and abandoned her old simple attire of a white dress and blue cape for fashionable togs, was probably the most famous woman in America and rivaled popular male celebrities like Charles Lindbergh.  The press had, on the whole been generous to her.  She had reached a pinnacle of respectability in Lost Angeles where she regularly spoke to all of the leading service clubs and was made both an honorary Police and Fire Chief. 
But she was not without enemies.  The local Chamber of Commerce felt that she was bringing ridicule on the city for her strident opposition to Evolution.  Many local ministers, led by the Rev. Robert P. Shuler felt that her doctrine was unsound and her methods simple flashy hucksterism.  They were also upset that up to 10% of the total Los Angeles adult population identified with her church while their own Sunday morning attendance sagged.  They were waiting for an opportunity to cut her down to size.
And McPherson famously provided them with that opportunity.
At the height of her popularity, on May 18, 1926, McPherson disappeared while swimming in the Pacific Ocean near Venice Beach.  She was presumed drown.  That evening her mother Minnie conducted the evening services in her stead announcing that “Sister is with Jesus.” The congregation erupted into wails of grief.  Media coverage of her presumed death, particularly in William Randolph Hearst’s Los Angeles Examiner and a widely publicized poetic eulogy by Upton Sinclair kept the story alive for days as mourners crowded the beach from which she disappeared and the Temple.
Then reports began to circulate that McPherson had been spotted alive, sometimes in the company of a man.  Sometimes as many as 16 of these sightings a day, many at impossibly widely spread locations, were reported.  Rev. Shuler and the business community began to clamor for an investigation into her disappearance.
These calls gained urgency when Minnie reported receiving ransom notes claiming to hold Aimee in exchange for sums ranging from $500,000 down to $25,000.  Some were obviously opportunistic frauds.  Notes from mysterious Avengers were delivered to Minnie by a lawyer who claimed to be in contact with the kidnappers but died mysteriously in an accident within days.  The notes were taken into custody by police, but like other important documents in the case, vanished while in their custody.
Meanwhile there were reports that Kenneth G. Orison, the married engineer for KFSG, who had disappeared a few days prior to McPherson, was seen in her company driving along the coast. 
Then on June 23, McPherson stumbled out of the desert near Agua Prieta, Sonora, a Mexican town across the border from Douglas, Arizona and collapsed after reporting she had been kidnapped and tortured before managing to escape and walk three miles alone across the wasteland.  Taken first to a hospital in Douglas to recover, she was questioned by authorities who initially believed her story.
When McPherson arrived back in Los Angeles, she was greeted at the train station by 30,000 loyal supporters.  But as she recovered from her ordeal Rev. Shuler hammered away with more demands for an investigation, highlighting every possible inconsistency in her story and reports of her appearances elsewhere, particularly with Orison.  For his part Orison steadfastly denied he was with McPherson, but did acknowledge renting a “love nest” retreat with another woman.  Other claims of sexual impropriety surfaced.
The previously supportive district attorney, under heavy pressure from the Chamber, turned against McPherson.  He convened a Grand Jury on July 8.  It adjourned 12 days later citing lack of evidence to proceed with any charges against either alleged kidnappers or perjury by McPherson.  The DA vowed to keep the case open and return with new charges.
Witnesses were found that placed Orminston and McPherson together at the rented cottage at Carmel-by-Sea. Later, all but one witness recanted saying the woman was not McPherson.  Grocery store recipes were found on the ground of the property signed by a woman with handwriting similar to the preacher.  Other witnesses in Mexico claimed that the shoes and clothing worn by McPherson when she emerged from the desert showed no signs of wear or damage from the ordeal.
The Grand Jury reconvened on August 3 and took further testimony.  They were shown the receipts which a police handwriting expert identified as McPherson’s.  Although California Grand Jury evidence and deliberations were by law private, prosecutors leaked every possible detail to an eager press and Shuler used them in his relentless campaign against her.  For her part McPherson defended herself vigorously from her pulpit and on the radio.  She even submitted to an interview by the very hostile H.L. Menken, a leading critic of her work in trying to drive evolution out of schools.  Menken expected a fraud.  Instead he was either charmed by McPherson or genuinely convinced that she was being railroaded.  “The trial,” he wrote “…was an orgy typical of the half-fabulous California courts. The very officers of justice denounced her riotously in the Hearst papers while it was in progress.”
The trial he was referring to was to be on the charges of “criminal conspiracy to commit acts injurious to public morals, to prevent and obstruct justice, and to prevent the due administration of the laws, and of engaging in a criminal conspiracy to commit the crime of subordination of perjury.” Her mother was indicted on the same charges.  The trial set to begin in January of 1927.
But the prosecution’s case fell apart before that.  The defense produced proof that the grocery receipts, which had lain outside exposed to the elements for months, were not in her handwriting.  The only witness tying McPherson to the love nest, Lorraine Wiseman-Sielaff had originally claimed to be a nurse for Orminston’s lover.  Then she tried to extort the Temple into paying her bail on a bad check charge.  When they refused to do so, she changed her story and told prosecutors that McPherson had paid her to lie.  That fell apart and so did other parts of the case.  Prosecutors dropped the charges before the trial and even acknowledged that a “grievous wrong had been done.”
Despite having the charges dropped, rumors continued to swill around McPherson,  More wild stories of sexual escapades emerged, one by one discredited.  Her image was permanently tarnished and she never regained the wide spread adulation that had once been grudgingly extended by her critics.  But it did not, as is now widely supposed, kill her career.
That idea was firmly fixed in the public mind by Sinclair Lewis’s novel Elmer Gantry about the rise and fall of a charlatan preacher associated with a female evangelist closely resembling McPherson.  In the novel the woman is disgraced and dies in the flames of her Tabernacle. 
McPherson, on the other hand, retained the loyal support of her many followers.  She continued to preach in person and over the airways.  She maintained her wide charities, and spoke up more and more on social issues, particularly the plight of the poor as the Depression closed on the country.
There were, however, more travails.  After her adult children married and established home of their own, she was lonely and spoke of yearning to be once more a wife.  That loneliness drove her into the arms of actor and musician David Hutton, a performer in her sacred operas.  He was ten years younger than she when their married in a highly publicized ceremony at Angelus Temple on September 13, 1931. 
As a result of the publicity Hutton was sued for breach of promise by an old flame, Hazel St. Pierre.  A court disbelieved Hutton denials and awarded her $5000.  When he informed McPherson of the verdict, she reportedly fainted, fracturing he skull in the fall.
She went to Europe to recover her health, and likely to avoid more scandal.  But when she refused to pay the judgment to Pierre, Hutton took advantage to launch a cabaret act as “Aimee’s Man.”  He also filed for divorce alleging she had limited his role at the Temple, left him with an insufficient allowance, andinflicted grievous mental suffering.”  The divorce was granted in 1934.
Maybe even more troubling to her was a struggle with members of her own family for control of the Angelus Temple.  McPherson had taken on another woman evangelist, Rheba Crawford Splival from New York as her Associate Pastor to take over part of the burden of both preaching and day-to-day business administration.  She wanted more time to travel and explore widening interests in social reform and in world religion
The match did not work out well. In 1935 took note of financial difficulties with Temple accounts and of rumors that Splival was plotting to oust her from the pulpit.  McPherson ordered a staff overhaul that reduced Splival’s authority.  The dispute went public and McPherson’s attorney issued an ill-advised public statement blaming Splival and McPherson’s daughter, Roberta Star Semple for the financial mess.  The irate daughter sued the lawyer for defamation.  Meanwhile Splival sued McPherson for over one million dollars for alleged statements that she was a Jezebel and a Judas” and “unfit to stand in the Angelus Temple pulpit.”  Even more distressing, McPherson’s mother sided with her granddaughter and Splival in the cases.
A judge awarded a $5000 judgment to Semple.  Now fully estranged from her mother, she moved to New York and was cut out of Temple and denominational posts.  The other case was eventually settled out of court, “for the good of religion.”  Whatever settlement she may have gotten, Splival was out at the Temple.
McPherson then turned to a professional administrator to straighten out the Temple’s tangled finances and manage the staff.  Some more long time hangers-on were let go, operations streamlined, audit procedures tightened and by 1940 the Temple was back on firm ground.
Her world travels took her to India where she sat for a long afternoon with Mahatma Gandhi who gave her a sari hand woven from yarn he personal spun.  She was impressed with his philosophy and respectful.  He was surprised that she did not try to convert him—although she did later say that he must have been touched somehow by the teachings of Jesus.  This and visits to the battlefields of France where she heard horror stories of the Great War, reconfirmed her pacifism.  She said she would try to use Gandhian non-violence to prevent America’s entrance into another war.
But subsequent European and Asian trips alarmed her with the rise of Fascism and Nazism and Japanese militarism.  Unlike other Pentecostals and many conservative Protestants, she did not see Fascism as a necessary alternative to Godless Communism, but as an equally dangerous and soulless tyranny.  Increasing harassment and ultimately persecution of Jews and Japanese atrocities in China incensed her.  As World War loomed, her position became more nuanced.  She personally said that armed opposition to overwhelming evil might be an equally legitimate moral stance to absolute pacifism in direct contradiction to the flatly pacifist position taken by the Four Square Gospel Church since 1932.  Still, when she exchanged mutually supportive letters with Franklin D. Roosevelt as late as 1940, she expressed hope that war could ultimately be avoided.
McPherson also vigorously pursued her long cherished dream of a genuine multi-racial revival at the Los Angeles Temple.  She invited more and more black preacher and leaders to speak.  In 1936 she hosted the 30th Anniversary of the Azusa Street Revivals over the objection of many associate who not only feared the presence of so many Blacks would drive away Whites, but that their raw and robust style of Pentecostal worship would alienate those who had been carefully nurtured by McPherson’s own reduction of that style in her services.  Now she was ready to reclaim emotionalism and to endorse a color-blind community.  The Revival sessions lasted for a solid month to packed houses and there after many more blacks felt comfortable coming and worshiping at her regular services.
As the Depression dragged on, she ramped up her charitable work.  She operated the largest and longest standing soup kitchen in Los Angeles as well as offering all sorts of direct aid to distressed families.  And offered without the religious tests or requirements for worship that were still the hallmark of the Salvation Army.  She also operated employment agencies, prison and post release ministries, child care services for working mothers, and homes for both unwed mothers and abandoned children.  A Federal report from the late 30’s said that the Angelus Temple, operating entirely on donations raised by McPherson, was by far the largest social service agency in Los Angeles.
Even old enemies were impressed as she also refined her already notable speaking skill and deepened her message.  Rev. Schuler now admitted “Aimee’s work is now the envy of the Methodists.”  In turn she graciously invited him to speak at the Temple.  In 1943 when against Pentecostal tradition she applied for membership in the National Association of Evangelical Churches on behalf of Foursquare Gospel, Schuler endorsed her for acceptance.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, McPherson re-assessed her evolving views on pacifism vs. resisting evil.  She publicly opted for the latter and began publicly calling on her followers to take arms in the battle.  This was not opportunistic or the jump-on-the-war-bandwagon of many former pacifists and religious leaders.  Early in her career she had resisted even more intense pressure during World War I when any professions of pacifism had be denounced as treason and government prosecutors were sending war critics to jail. “It is the Bible against Mein Kampf. It is the Cross against the Swastika. It is God against the antichrist of Japan... This is no time for pacifism,” she declared.
She and the Angles Temple plunged into war work--hosting rubber and scrap metal drives, urging adherents to dedicate two hours a day of labor to supporting the war effort in any way possible, hosting and entertaining service men, conducting regular special services and visiting GIs and sailors in their camps and bases, turning over unlimited air time on her radio station to the Office of War Information.  Like many other celebrities, she sold War Bonds.  But she did it better than anyone else—even the movie stars and musicians who headlined famous rallies.  Twice she set a record for the most sales within a single hour—over $150,000. 
This dedication had a price.  Some of her old Pentecostal supporters abandoned her and her Foursquare Gospel Church when she got them to completely revoke their pacifism clause in 1942.  But whatever she lost on that side, she gained in new, admiring adherents.
In many years the war years were the most satisfying of her life.  She was able to largely leave behind the stigma and controversy of the 1930’s.  If she was no longer daily in the headlines, she regained the respect of many in the wider society.  Her radio ministry, Temple, and denomination continued to thrive.
Perhaps the nearing war’s end took some of the focused purpose from her life.  Perhaps she could not quite orient herself to the post war world.  Certainly she was lonely, estranged from her family except for loyal son Rolf.  No life companion.  And her always fragile health was not good.  She was experiencing malarial relapses and suffering from arthritis.  Her schedule of regular worship, special revivals, and war work were exhausting.
On September 24, 1944 she fell ill in her hotel room in Oakland where she was conducting a revival.  She called doctors three times, somewhat disoriented, to report that medication she was taking was making her sick.  The doctors either ignored the calls or failed to get back to her.  The next morning she was found unconscious in her bed with open containers of pills strewn around.  She never regained consciousness. 
The news struck her followers hard.  And the press returned to old sensationalism.  Suicide was widely suspected because the drugs included not only prescribed sleeping pills but the heavy pain killer Seconal for which she had no prescription.  Still, the coroner ruled it an accidental overdose compounded by kidney failure.
Her body was laid in state at Angelus Temple where 45,000 waited in line for hours to view her.  More than $50,000 of flowers were wired to the funeral from all across the country, breaking a record that went back to Will Rogers’ death.  She was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Her estranged mother, daughter, and even Rheba Crawford Splival showed up to pay their last respects.
For those who assumed that McPherson must have enriched herself with the millions of dollars in donations that flowed through her hands, her estate was a revelation.  She died with only $10,000 in personal assets of which daughter Roberta was left $2,000 and son Rolf the rest.  But both the angelus Temple and Foursquare Gospel Church were in fine shape and worth millions each.
Rolf inherited his mother’s ministry serving both the Temple and the Foursquare Gospel Church a leader for 40 years.  Angles Temple remains the home church of Foursquare and is on the national registry of historic places.  Adjacent to it on its sprawling grounds are a separate and thriving Angelus Temple Hispanic Church conducting worship in Spanish to a large congregation, and the Dream Center located in a former hospital where refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were welcomed and sheltered.
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel today claims 8 million adherents, with almost 60,000 churches in 144 countries—all most certainly an exaggeration.  But it is a major force for Pentecostalism in the developing world, especially Kenya it is now the second largest Christian denomination and the Philippines.  In the United States, where figures are more reliable the church reported 353,995 members in 1,875 churches spread across the country but concentrated on the West Coast where it is the dominant Pentecostal voice.
After recovering from a near financial collapse in the 1990’s due to inept and possibly criminal investment schemes by the President at the time, the denomination seems to be fully recovered and is launch a new missional church initiative including hoped for creation of thousands of home churches using common worship materials. 
But, of course, they will never have a charismatic leader like Aimee Semple McPherson again.

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