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Agnes Sanford: Apostle of Healing and First Theologian of the Charismatic Renewal, Part 1, by William L. De Arteaga

Rev. Hugh White’s ministry taught his daughter Agnes, in her years of special impressionability, that certain elements of normative, “consensus orthodox” could be stubbornly unscriptural. It also showed her that perfectly sincere Christians, such as the fellow missionaries who opposed her father, were all too ready to confuse consensus doctrines with biblical revelation.

Birth, Education and Marriage

Agnes White was born in the Chinese city of Hsuchoufu on August 15, 1896, the eldest child of six. She received “home schooling” from her mother that stressed the conventional topics of Bible stories, verse memorization and reading. Mrs. White obviously did a good job, as she was able to encourage Agnes’s talent for writing to the point that at age ten she sold her first piece of writing to the Shanghai Mercury.

At age nine, during one of her father’s periodic home leaves, Agnes attended a revival in rural Virginia and made a “born again” commitment to Jesus Christ. By age eleven she was entirely dissatisfied with the conventional arguments that miracles were for the Apostolic Age alone. Later, as a teen-ager she became deeply depressed and bewildered over the denominational disputes over doctrines that split the American missionary effort in China, yet her commitments to Jesus and the Bible were unshaken. In 1914, age seventeen, Agnes returned to the United States to finish her education. She received a teaching certificate from North Carolina and subsequently attended Agnes Scott College for a year as an auditing student.

Agnes returned to China where she found a teaching position in Shanghai at a secondary school for missionary children.14 In that city she met and fell in love with Edgar (Ted) Sanford who was an Episcopal priest and principal of another Christian school. They were married in April of 1923 and the first of three children arrived the next year. Soon Ted moved his family to a post in the interior of China. That station proved to be a harrowing experience as the young missionary family was caught in battles between warlords.15 After this the Sanfords decided to take a temporary leave from China so that Ted could get an advanced degree. The year was 1925, and while in graduate school Ted felt a calling to go into the pastorate in America. He accepted a call as rector to a small church in Moorestown, New Jersey, Trinity Episcopal Church.

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Spring 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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