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Agnes Sanford: Apostle of Healing and First Theologian of the Charismatic Renewal, Part 2, by William L. De Arteaga

This concept of “levels” of spiritual power was broadened to explain the relationship between the powers of the soul (the “psychic” powers) and the powers of the Spirit-filled human spirit.

The Holy Spirit does not do violence to our natures, but only increases and develops in us gifts that are already potential to our natures. Some people have natural-born spiritual sensitivity, and if they use them only in the realm of meditation and spiritual living, avoiding séances, Ouija boards and automatic writing, the gift can be greatly used in God’s service (Behold Your God, 146).

Agnes believed that certain natural powers of the soul are increased when a person becomes Christian and fulfilled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. For example, the gift of prophecy is a spiritualized fulfillment of the soul’s ability to perceive non-material realities, often manifested in pre-cognitive dreams. Similarly, the gifts of wisdom and knowledge are increments of powers of the soul to make intuitive judgments. This is a modern version of the traditional Catholic doctrine that “grace perfects nature.” It was later used by Catholic theologians of the renewal to explain to fellow Catholics the gifts of the Spirit.43 This understanding of the gifts is contrary to that of many other Pentecostals and charismatics, who base their understanding of the gifts of the Spirit on Calvin’s doctrine of “total depravity.” In this theology, the human soul was so ruined by original sin that anything “psychic” is sinful. This position – popularized by Watchman Nee and well established among Evangelicals, Pentecostals and charismatics—does not make biblical sense. It makes, for instance, the prophetic dream of Pilot’s wife a psychic and sinful experience, quite contrary to the biblical text (Matt. 27:19). However this theology is so set among evangelical and a majority of charismatic circles that when Dave Hunt and other critics of Mrs. Sanford call her theology “psychic” and “occultic” because of its nature-to-grace basis, the accusation felt “true” in spite of its biblical contradictions.

The School of Pastoral Care44

One of the most important achievements of Mrs. Sanford during the late 1950s was the founding of the School of Pastoral Care. She and her husband Ted were deeply grieved by the destructive nature of the instruction provided by the major seminaries, which resulted in pastors who knew little of effective prayer and nothing of healing or exorcism.45 The Sanfords wanted a place where pastors, medical professionals and seminarians could be taught the spiritual dimensions of healing and effective prayer and integrate these with in their professional ministries.

Although the Sanfords loved the institutions of the church missions and especially the CFO camps, both had limitations. They attracted few ministerial or medical professionals, and because they were open to all, had the problem of slow learners or persons too deeply wounded or neurotic to receive much instruction. To remedy these shortcomings the Sanfords founded the School of Pastoral Care. It was based out of Westborough, Massachusetts, their “retirement” home, with Ted as first director and administrator. The Episcopal diocese of Massachusetts provided their retreat facilities for the School. The first School began in October, 10, 1955, lasting from Monday to Friday. The audience was limited and screened to include only pastors, medical professionals and seminarians. The participants at this School, and the ones following came from practically every denomination of mainline Protestantism. The program taught effective prayer, prayer for physical healing, inner healing and deliverance. The staff for this and all subsequent school included an ordained minister, a medical professional (physician or nurse) and a lay person experienced in prayer and bible teaching. Like the CFO camps, time each day was spent on practicing with each other the lessons of prayer and healing.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2006

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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