Healing Line

Healing Line

How I Changed My Ecumenical Approach

by Francis MacNutt
Mar/Apr 2007

I will share this very embarrassing story of my approach to Christians of other denominations only because I suspect that some of you have gone through this same transformation. It’s hard to admit how wrong I was and, all the while, thinking I was so right.

I grew up in the Catholic Church years ago — long before the Second Vatican Council (I’m now 81 years old). Even though I never attended a Roman Catholic grade school or high school, I had learned that the Catholic Church was the one true church and every essential Christian truth was already there. Protestants were to be loved as individuals, but their churches were only founded because of their attachment to some error or due to a spirit of revolt. It was wise to stay away from Protestants, because, unless you knew more theology than most of us did, you could be led astray.

Much emotion was injected into the issue of separation because of our ethnic history. Those of us with Irish blood in our veins knew something about the history of English soldiers (Cromwell) killing and massacring Catholics in Ireland and of priests being hanged, drawn, and quartered during Elizabethan times, just for the simple reason that they were priests. We thought that the reason Thomas More, the High Chancellor of England, had his head chopped off was because he would not say “yes” to Henry VIII founding a new church so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Standing up for your church was not only a question of truth but it meant being loyal to your ancestors and to your family. To deny your faith was like being a traitor.

Another area of division was the working of healing miracles, which was meant to attest to the truth of Christianity as taught by the Church. Even now I remember reading in the seminary in our text on ecclesiology (De Ecclesia by Paris) that Protestants could not work miracles of healing, because miracles are meant only to attest to truth, and they could not give witness to the error that was to be found in Protestant churches. (This teaching about miracles was only printed in a footnote and not in the main text, because teaching about healing was not a major topic in a text on the Church.)

After my ordination, when I was teaching homiletics (preaching) in our seminary in Dubuque, IA, I took to visiting the Presbyterian Seminary in Dubuque (c.1960), because I realized that Protestants spent more time on their sermons and had much to teach us. Such fraternization with Protestants was seen by some of the older men on our faculty, who were from Boston, as distinctly dangerous and I was viewed by some with suspicion because I had grown up in a non-Catholic environment.

Then came the baptism in the Spirit in 1967. I had met several Protestants through my preaching contacts and they told me about what had happened when they were baptized in the Spirit. They told me some amazing personal stories about healings they had seen. I recognized that their teachings and experiences corresponded to what I had read about in the lives of the saints in the early centuries of Catholic history and I was fascinated. When I was offered a scholarship to a Protestant camp in Tennessee, I decided that I needed to go and see for myself what they were talking about.

There were 700 people at that camp and I immediately realized that this group were truly dedicated Christians who knew Jesus and loved him — perhaps more than I did. I was amazed to see that this large group of people were living up to what we Catholics believed to be an ideal. I was a priest in the Dominican Order and St. Dominic, our ideal model, was said to spend his time either “talking to God or talking about God.”  Here was a group of 700 who were doing just that. It was coming right out of their hearts.

These people who prayed for the sick and saw them healed and who spoke so naturally about God ascribed all of this to their baptism in the Spirit. Of course, in the Catholic Church, we believed in the Spirit and even had a feast of Pentecost to celebrate when the Spirit descended upon Peter and the first 3000 Christians to be empowered by the Spirit. We believed in all those things. We believed in healing and we believed in Pentecost, but we had narrowed it down, so that only occasionally would someone be healed. I certainly did not expect healing through my prayers. We certainly believed in Pentecost, but we didn’t think that the manifestations that happened to Peter and the other apostles on that first Pentecost would ever happen to us personally. It was enough to believe in it and we felt like true believers in comparison to those Protestants who followed Bultmann in “demythologizing” the Gospels.

To meet Protestants who were actually experiencing the supernatural gifts that I believed in was a mighty experience. It radically shifted my attitude towards Protestants. I found that, instead of expecting error and criticizing it when I met Protestants, I might instead expect to find some truth (which had perhaps led them to separate from their various churches). Instead of error, I should look for truth and then bring it back to my church — and these weren’t small truths. I wasn’t fellowshipping with Protestants simply because they sang better than most Catholics, nor just because the sermon was more central to their worship and I could learn a lot about preaching from them.

What I could learn was at the very heart of the Christian faith. I needed to humble myself and change things around so that I wasn’t simply defending and praising the Catholic Church. I had to take the risk of bringing out what was missing in my own church. If enough of us discovered these truths and shared them, perhaps the Catholic Church might change and, eventually, we would all believe the same things

♦ and there would no longer be a reason for separation!

And that’s the way it has been. I believe that Protestants can find valuable truths in the Catholic tradition, but I also openly celebrate that I discovered great and essential truths from my Protestant brothers and sisters:

♦ I discovered about the reality of healing from a member of the Church of the Brethren — and her rediscovery could be traced back to Azusa Street and the Pentecostal churches.

♦ I discovered the great need for the baptism in the Holy Spirit from Agnes Sanford (an Episcopalian), from Tommy Tyson (a Methodist evangelist) and from David Wilkerson’s books (Assemblies of God).

♦ Then I found out soon afterwards about deliverance from evil spirits from Don Basham and Derek Prince (non-denominational Pentecostals).

So it went: I learned so much from all kinds of Protestant friends. Happily, I was also able to find all these elements of Pentecostal truth in the history of my own tradition and so be able to point out to critics that I was not a rebel, but was really a traditionalist who was going back to our common beginning.

"I was a secret conservative who was a tongues-speaking faith-healer who believed in the Gospel!"
(from a talk given at Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.)

 


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Mar/Apr 2007 Issue


Walking in the Gifts of Healings

by Anne Early
Mar/Apr 2007

Erling Larson, one of the special people who serves on the team of prayer ministers at CHM, is a retired physician — retired from his busy medical career as an internist,  but still very active in God’s healing. While working for 45 years as a medical doctor, Erling facilitated God’s healing of his patients through medicine and prayer; now he relies totally on the Holy Spirit to heal those with whom he prays.

Testimony of a Retired Physician, Active CHM Prayer Minister

I gradually retired from active practice as an internist, going into semi-retirement after 45 years of practicing medicine full time. While in semi-retirement, one of my patients, who was an alcoholic*, called me to say he had been free for three years with not one drink of alcohol.  When I asked him how he had done it, I expected him to say “through AA,” but he didn’t; he said he had done it through Christian Healing Ministries (CHM). Then he added, “Do you want to hear more about it?”  Of course I said “yes,” and he proceeded to tell me how he had gone to CHM for prayer to break the habit, and it had worked. He got my attention.

I went to CHM for training as a prayer minister. After the last class, I went home and prayed about what I should do in retirement. While I was praying, the phone rang. It was a call from CHM, asking me to serve as a prayer minister. I said, “Lord, that was too fast!”

Since receiving that phone call seven-and-a-half years ago, I have served as a prayer minister every Thursday and have tithed my time by praying in the 3-Day Intensive Prayer Ministry that is held each month. This has been a wonderfully fulfilling time in my life. The age of miracles is not over!

Erling sig

*This wonderful man, whose testimony inspired me, has remained sober for more than ten years and is serving as a prayer minister in another city.

Erling showed me a note he had received a few days ago from this friend and former patient, in which mention was made of a mutual friend of theirs, a Roman Catholic priest  who was also a former patient of Erling’s office and was doing well. Erling related that 20 years ago, the priest who was mentioned had suffered 4th-stage colon cancer. Erling had stood beside the operating table as a surgeon opened the man’s abdomen to find massive amounts of malignant tissue. Erling told me, “I saw the inside of his belly. It was covered with malignancy. The surgeon removed what he could and sewed him up.” Sometime later, the patient called to say he had been healed during Mass. He submitted to a second operation, and when he was opened again, there was not a trace of malignancy. Erling said to me, “I saw that; all the malignancy was gone! God had healed him.”

No sooner had we received Erling’s testimony than the following “praise report” arrived: another testimony to the healing power of the Holy Spirit and to Erling’s dedication as a CHM prayer minister.

Several months ago as I was opening the front door of my car, which was parked in my yard, I became the victim of an attempted armed robbery. Impulsively, I pushed against the perpetrator’s chest, and he walked away. Later that week I noticed that two fingers on my right hand, the hand I had used to push the robber away, were very swollen at the joints; I could not close my fingers into a fist. That condition continued for approximately three weeks before I went to Christian Healing Ministries for prayer. Thinking that perhaps the swelling was due to an arthritic condition, I asked the prayer ministers to pray for the swollen joints. The swelling did not subside and I still could not close my fingers.

The next time I met with the prayer ministers, one of whom was Erling, they were able to trace the cause of the swelling and finger rigidity to fear that I had felt every time I opened the front door of my home to go to my car. The memory of the attempted robbery had allowed a spirit of fear to creep in and take hold. Through prayer we were able to get rid of the fear, replacing it with confidence of living in the strength and protection of Jesus.

The swelling is gone, and I can close my fingers to make a fist.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear . . . .” (2 Tim. 1:7)


Mar/Apr 2007 Issue


Many Pentecostals Don't Pray in Tounges

by Francis MacNutt
Mar/Apr 2007

An encouraging finding of a recent ten-nation survey is that Pentecostal and charismatic churches are growing at an amazing rate, and at least a quarter of the world’s two billion Christians now embrace Pentecostalism. Dr. Vinson Synan notes that, historically, churches that embrace tongues have grown larger than those churches that rejected it. For example, the “Assemblies of God” has ten times as many members as the “Christian and Missionary Alliance,” which took a “seek not, forbid not” position on tongues.

Traditionally, Pentecostals have taught that praying in tongues was the initial evidence that people have really been baptized in the Spirit, but a new finding is that today most Pentecostals do not pray in tongues! The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that in six out of ten countries studied, at least 40% of Pentecostals said they never pray in tongues. In the U.S., 49% of Pentecostals report that they don’t pray in tongues. Among “charismatics,”1 that figure is 32%.

Now, healing prayer has become a more common practice among Pentecostals than praying in tongues, while some charismatic leaders no longer consider praying in tongues as an essential sign that someone has been baptized in the Spirit. Nevertheless, the three major Pentecostal denominations (Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, and Foursquare Gospel) still consider tongues as the “initial evidence.” Foursquare President Jack Hayford said that no matter where theologians fall on the initial evidence debate, if tongues is not practiced, there is no reason to label the movement “Pentecostal.” He also says that some Pentecostals don’t realize the practical value of tongues, which leads to spiritual enablement beyond our natural capacity. The fascinating finding is that divine healing is now more commonly practiced than praying in tongues!2

(Footnotes)
1 “Pentecostals” are those who belong to churches that were founded due to the rediscovery of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and exercise of the charismatic gifts, such as healing. “Charismatics” are those members of the established churches who remain within their churches, but have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
2 Information taken from: Charisma magazine, December 2006, p. 18-19.


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM.   Mar/Apr 2007 Issue