Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Why Ern Baxter Left the Ministry of William Branham

A Look at Problematic Concerns About Faith and 'Borderline Psychic' Phenomena

By Roscoe Barnes III
Author, F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind Christ the Healer
Copyright © 2018

#FFBosworth
#BosworthMatters

This image is taken from the April 1949 issue of The Voice of Healing.

NOTE: The material shared in this article is based primarily on an undated interview Ern Baxter (1914-1993) had with Dewey Friedel (a source on YouTube suggests the interview occurred around 1991. See here). A transcript of the interview, which was culled from four videos entitled “Life on Wings – Interviews with Dr. Ern Baxter,” was published as a book. The book, in some places, has been described as Life on Wings Transcripts. It has also been titled, “Warfare follows Ern Baxter wherever he goes … he is constantly in the middle of warfare.” The book was released by Ritch Carlton, Baxter’s administrator. Carlton has given me permission to share this material.

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Even in the early days of his work with Evangelist William Branham, Ern Baxter felt something was wrong. He initially felt uncomfortable with Branham’s understanding of faith, particularly as it related to divine healing. However, he later found Branham’s “gift of healing” to be quite disturbing. Baxter talked about both issues in an interview with Dewey Friedel, and he said those issues prompted him to leave the ministry of Branham. While he believed that Branham sincerely loved the Lord Jesus, he could not blindly accept Branham’s teachings or his supernatural gift that Branham claimed was directed by an angel.

Background

Baxter was a Canadian minister who supported Branham when Gordon Lindsay brought the evangelist to Vancouver, B.C. in November 1947. At the time, Branham’s ministry was just starting to gain traction and become well-known. Lindsay reported on the meetings in the April 1948 issue of The Voice of Healing Magazine. In an article titled, “Eighteen Days of Branham Meetings in the Northwest Yield Great Results,” Lindsay reported the following:

The great Northwest meetings will long be remembered by the many thousands of people that attended. The first of the services of three or four-day campaigns was held in Vancouver, B.C. Much of the success of this meeting came as the result of the fine work and preparation made by the local committee which included Rev. Walter McAlister, Rev. W. J. Ern Baxter, and Rev. Clarence Hall. The report of the meeting by Rev. Baxter has appeared in print elsewhere, but it so admirably describes the Vancouver campaign that we reproduce part of it here:

“Scenes of indescribable glory were witnessed during the all-too-brief, four-day, city-wide campaign with Rev. William Branham. As in other cities, so in Vancouver, the largest available auditoriums were inadequate to accommodate the teeming multitudes that waited on the ministry of our brother. Surrounding towns and villages seemed to literally empty into Vancouver, until the whole city was conscious of the spiritual impact of thousands of praying, believing people. Ministerial delegations from various cities attended with a view to securing the ministry of Brother Branham for similar meetings in their various fields of labor. Thousands were unable to gain access to the meetings, and this in spite of transportation strike involving all street cars and buses.

It appears that Baxter’s praise of Branham spread far and wide. Lindsay would later include his comments in the book, William Branham, A Man Sent From God (1950). In addition to commenting on the massive crowds that attended the meetings, Baxter also noted claims of miraculous healings, which were nothing short of astounding. He explained that the number of healings that occurred was so great, an exact count or figure could not be given. He wrote:

“Many testimonies of healing have continued to come to the attention of local pastors, and many marvelous works were wrought by the immediate action of the Holy Spirit at the time of prayer. To undertake any kind of a report on the healings experience would be an impossible task, for should one speak of crossed eyes straightened, or of bed-ridden invalids raised, or of the deaf hearing, or of the dumb speaking? Or should one seek to recount the thrilling testimonies of those relieved of cancers, tumors and goiters? The task is too great, and when seeming completed, it has only begun. Final records will only be read when we stand before the Giver of every good and perfect gift.”

Baxter’s work with Branham

Baxter later joined the Branham team. According to Branham biographer Owen Jorgensen, Baxter “was so impressed that he – like Jack Moore and Gordon Lindsay – canceled all his own commitments so he could follow the Branham campaigns from city to city.” Baxter would serve as manager, campaign organizer and teacher. It was Lindsay who recommended Baxter as campaign manager, according to Jorgensen. The recommendation came around the end of September 1948. In his book, Supernatural: The Life of William Branham – Book Four (Tucson Tabernacle, 2001), Jorgensen wrote:

Then Lindsay, who was now busy publishing The Voice of Healing magazine, suggested that Bill consider using Ern Baxter as his campaign manager. Not only did Ern Baxter have organization skills, he was also a dynamic preacher, and he had offered to help in any way he could. After praying about it, Bill agreed to the switch.

Reverend Baxter did prove to be a good campaign manager. He and Fred Bosworth planned to work Bill slowly back into his deliverance ministry. Protecting Bill’s heath from overwork was their main concern.

Baxter and F.F. Bosworth were two of the most prominent members of Branham’s team. They traveled with Branham throughout the United States and they worked with him in South Africa and other countries. The assistance of Baxter and Bosworth was important, according to C. Douglas Weaver. In his book, The Healer-Prophet: William Marrion Branham – A Study of the Prophetic in American Pentecostalism (Mercer University Press, 2000), he wrote: “Several factors contributed to taking Branham to the pinnacle of success. The dynamic revival trio of Branham, Bosworth, and Baxter was a highlight of the early years.” Weaver also underscored the contributions of Lindsay, Jack Moore, and his daughter Anna Jeanne who “skillfully publicized Branham as “a man sent from God.”

Weaver noted that Branham’s role in the revival meetings was basically limited to his ministry of healing. “Although the members of Branham’s team varied from time to time, F.F. Bosworth, W.J. Ern Baxter, and Gordon Lindsay were the most prominent co-workers,” he wrote. Typically, Baxter and Bosworth would teach or preach in the morning and afternoon services, and Branham would minister in the evening services. “Baxter usually fulfilled a preaching role, emphasizing Bible teaching and evangelism,” Weaver observed.

It is worth pointing out that Baxter once believed so strongly in Branham’s gift that he used Scripture to encourage him in the use of the gift. Branham was going through a period where he doubted his abilities, according to Jorgensen. He was starting to question whether he still had the gift of healing. That’s when Baxter stepped in with a word of encouragement. He said:

“Brother Branham, I can assure you that the ‘gift of healing’ hasn’t gone from you. Romans 11:29 says that ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,’ meaning that they are not based upon our actions. God would be untrue to His promise if He took the gift from you. It can’t leave you. Samson slept all night with a harlot, but his strength didn’t leave him. The next morning he tore off the city gates and carried them to the top of a hill.”

Baxter feeling ‘disturbed’

In his discussion about Branham, Baxter used the term “disturbed” to describe his feelings and concerns about certain elements in Branham’s ministry. As noted above, Baxter was concerned about Branham’s teaching on faith and the source of his spiritual gift of healing. The issue of faith, according to Baxter, seemed problematic from the beginning.

Baxter felt something was wrong and with his growing concern about the supernatural elements, he felt the need to eventually vacate his position on Branham’s ministry team. In the following excerpt, Baxter speaks about Branham’s testimony and his rise to fame. He also comments on the state of Pentecostals and their waning power during that time. His comments provide context for Branham's role as the leader of the post-World War II healing revival.


Interview (Pages 40-41)
Dewey Friedel:

Dr. Baxter, you were discussing William Branham, your relationship with him and how you went to many nations and seeing the hand of God in the meetings and yet you were beginning to be disturbed, in your spirit and could you talk some about that?

Ern Baxter:

Well this isn’t coming out of a set of notes, it’s just coming out of my memory. I think one of the things that began to disturb me was the matter of faith. Basically my understanding of the matter of faith – when I began to travel with William Branham – was that he had received a special commission from an angel who had appeared to him, telling him that he was to take his gift of healing to the peoples of the world and that if he was faith, they could believe that nothing could stand before his prayers, including cancer and in the early days of my association with him there was a high excitement and anticipation because I think (as I have already mentioned) the supernatural element in Pentecostalism had sort of waned and my last contact with Pentecostalism was a conference where I attended and they had a committee to find out why people weren’t getting converted and a committee to find out why they weren’t being filled with the Spirit – it was almost like everyone was on a committee to find out what was wrong.

And when I read in Time magazine about William Branham – to read that same thing today would be received in an altogether way than it was then, because there no one doing that.

Baxter’s growing concern

While it is clear that Baxter believed in Branham’s ministry during their early years of ministry, it appears that whatever it was that made him uncomfortable began to grow. In discussing the issue of faith, he attributes the teaching to Branham. Surprisingly, he does not mention Bosworth, who had an impact on Branham’s understanding of faith and divine healing. In the excerpt that follows, Baxter elaborates on the issue of faith and how it bothered him.

Interview (Page P. 47)

Friedel:
Now Branham was not really in the Latter Rain – he was a simple man that was doing evangelistic work but increasingly you were troubled with something you discerned.

Baxter:
Branham was a missionary Baptist, which is a denomination I believe mainly in the South and he has this gift of healing as he later told me. This was in operation in him as a boy so it was something that he always had. When he became a Christian minister he incorporated it into the Christian thing.

One of the early things that started to bother me was the whole question of faith. And the whole idea was that you could get healed if you had faith. And faith became the focus point. And so it became a matter of having faith in your faith. And if your faith was in good shape then you had faith in your faith. But the Bible doesn’t talk about having faith in your faith; it talks about faith in God.

So while I was quite disturbed about it I thought I’d better arm myself biblically.

Baxter’s exit

Baxter said that in Branham’s case, faith was “becoming a metaphysical thing – it was becoming a form of Couism.” In other words, he seemed to teach, “If I keep repeating day by day that I’m getting better and better” – it was a kind of metaphysical positivism,” Baxter explained. He noted: “This bothered me and I saw it was an ‘out’ to accommodate people who weren’t getting healed. ‘There must have been something wrong with their faith.’ And so that disturbed me.”

For Baxter, Branham’s understanding of faith was not the only thing that bothered him. He said “there were aspects of the supernatural that began to disturb me.” He explained:

And I don’t know just how far to go with this but I began to be disturbed with some of the phenomenon that were occurring – some of them I felt were good, others I felt were borderline psychic. And I became quite disturbed about it. I continued with Branham until I felt that in my conscience I couldn’t go on.”

The exact time of Baxter’s departure is not known, but according to Owen Jorgensen, he stepped down from his position as manager in 1954. Jorgensen provided no reason or explanation. He simply wrote that Baxter “had resigned as his campaign manager.”

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For more information:
Visit ffbosworth.strikingly.com. The Bosworth page is here. Questions about the research and commentary on F.F. Bosworth may be directed to Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., via email at doctorbarnes3@gmail.com or roscoebarnes3@yahoo.com. For updates on F.F. Bosworth history, simply follow this blog or @Roscoebarnes3 on Twitter. #ChristTheHealer

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Coahoma Community College Writing Seminar

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