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

Continuing Education in Moorestown

After the Sanfords settled in Moorestown they had their third and last child, John—later to become the distinguished psychologist and writer. When John was a year and a half old he developed a severe ear infection. After several weeks of illness it seemed like John might die. The rector of a near-by Episcopal Church, Rev. Hollis Colwell dropped by the Sanford residence to see Ted on church business, and learned of John’s situation. Fr. Colwell had read New Thought literature on healing, and by the time of his visit to the Sanford’s he had developed into a practiced and faith-filled healer. He laid his hands on John’s ear, after which the toddler promptly went into a deep sleep and awoke completely well. In the days before antibiotics this was indeed a miraculous recovery.16

Fr. Colwell encouraged Mrs. Sanford to pray for the healing of others. At first Agnes was reluctant to do so. However, with Fr. Colwell help, she began to investigate the topic. He believed that a necessary ingredient of the healing ministry is an adherence to a strict health-food regime. Apparently Fr. Colwell had read the works of the Episcopal healing and health food pioneer, the Rev. Robert B. H. Bell, and had taken Bell’s dietary insights to an extreme position.17 Agnes looked into this and read some of the health-food literature available at the time (1931). In fact, for the rest of her life she adopted what would now be recognized as a moderate health food diet for herself and her family, avoiding processed foods and stressing fresh fruits and vegetables. However, she also discerned that although eating health foods was good, that could not be the foundation of either Fr. Colwell’s or anybody else’s healing power.

Agnes then set out to find out as much about healing as she could, and at this stage made a critical decision. She determined to compare whatever she read or heard by the standard set up by Jesus in the four gospels.18

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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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