|Name:||William M. Branham|
|Birth Day:||April 6, 1909|
|Death Date:||Dec 24, 1965 (age 56)|
Christian minister who is credited with founding the "divine healing movement" following World War II. William M. Branham raised controversy after claiming to be the end-time prophet to the Bride of Christ.
As per our current Database, William M. Branham died on Dec 24, 1965 (age 56).
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William M. Branham had a short-lived boxing career and worked on an Arizona ranch.
William M. Branham was born near Burkesville, Kentucky, on April 6, 1909, the son of Charles and Ella Harvey Branham, the oldest of ten children. He claimed that at his birth, a "Light come [sic] whirling through the window, about the size of a pillow, and circled around where I was, and went down on the bed". Branham told his publicist Gordon Lindsay that he had mystical experiences from an early age; and that at age three he heard a "voice" speaking to him from a tree telling him "he would live near a city called New Albany". According to Branham, that year his family moved to Jeffersonville, Indiana. Branham also said that when he was seven years old, God told him to avoid smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. Branham stated he never violated the command.
At 19, Branham left home seeking a better life. He traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, where he worked for two years on a ranch and began a successful career in boxing. He returned to Jeffersonville when his brother died in 1929. Branham had no experience with religion as a child; he said the first time he heard a prayer was at his brother's funeral. Soon after, while working for the Public Service Company of Indiana, Branham was almost killed when he was overcome by gas. While recovering from the accident, he said he again heard a voice leading him to begin seeking God. He began attending a local Independent Baptist church, the First Pentecostal Baptist Church of Jeffersonville, where he converted to Christianity. Six months later, he was ordained as an Independent Baptist minister. His early ministry was an "impressive success"; he quickly attracted a small group of followers, who helped obtain a tent in which he could hold a revival.
During June 1933, Branham held revival meetings in his tent. On June 2 that year, the Jeffersonville Evening News said the Branham campaign reported 14 converts. His followers believed his ministry was accompanied by miraculous signs from its beginning, and that when he was baptizing converts on June 11, 1933, in the Ohio River near Jeffersonville, a bright light descended over him and that he heard a voice say, "As John the Baptist was sent to forerun the first coming of Jesus Christ, so your message will forerun His second coming". Belief in the baptismal story is a critical element of faith among Branham's followers. Branham initially interpreted this in reference to the restoration of the gifts of the spirit to the church and made regular references to the baptismal story from the earliest days of the healing revival. In later years, Branham also connected the story to his teaching ministry. Baptist historian Doug Weaver said Branham might have embellished the baptismal story when he was achieving success in the healing revival.
Branham issued a series of prophecies during his ministry. He claimed to have had a prophetic revelation in June 1933 that predicted seven major events would occur before the Second Coming of Christ. His followers believe he predicted several events, including the 1937 Ohio River Flood. In 1964, Branham said judgement would strike the west coast of the United States and that Los Angeles would sink into the ocean; his most dramatic prediction. Following both the 1933 and 1964 prophecies, Branham predicted the rapture would happen by 1977 and would be preceded by various worldwide disasters, the unification of denominational Christianity, and the rise-to-power of the Roman Catholic Pope. Peter Duyzer, among other of Branham's critics, wrote that either none of Branham's prophecies came true or that they were all made after the fact. Weaver wrote that Branham tended to embellish his predictions over time. Branham's followers believe his prophecies came true, or will do so in the future.
Following his June tent meeting, Branham's supporters helped him organize a new church, the Branham Tabernacle, in Jeffersonville. Branham served as pastor from 1933 to 1946. The church flourished at first, but its growth began to slow. Because of the Great Depression, it was often short of funds, so Branham served without compensation. Branham believed the stagnation of the church's growth was a punishment from God for his failure to embrace Pentecostalism. Branham married Amelia Hope Brumbach (b. July 16, 1913) in 1934, and they had two children; William "Billy" Paul Branham (b. September 13, 1935) and Sharon Rose Branham (b. October 27, 1936). Branham's wife died on July 22, 1937, and their daughter died four days later (July 26, 1937), shortly after the Ohio River flood of 1937. Branham interpreted their deaths as God's punishment for his continued resistance to holding revivals for the Oneness Pentecostals.
At the time of Branham's conversion, the First Pentecostal Baptist Church of Jeffersonville was a nominally Baptist church that observed some Pentecostal doctrines, including divine healing. As a result, he may have been exposed to some Pentecostal teachings from his conversion. He was first exposed to a Pentecostal denominational church in 1936, which invited him to join, but he refused.
Branham married Meda Marie Broy in 1941, and together they had three children; Rebekah (b. 1946), Sarah (b. 1950), and Joseph (b. 1955).
Branham held his first meetings as a faith healer in 1946. His healing services are well documented, and he is regarded as the pacesetter for those who followed him. At the time they were held, Branham's revival meetings were the largest religious meetings some American cities he visited had ever seen; reports of 1,000 to 1,500 converts per meeting were common. Historians name his June 1946 St. Louis meetings as the inauguration of the healing revival period. He said he had received an angelic visitation on May 7, 1946, commissioning his worldwide ministry. In his later years, in an attempt to link his ministry with the end time, he connected his vision with the establishment of the nation of Israel, at one point mistakenly stating the vision occurred on the same day.
After holding a very successful revival meeting in Shreveport during mid-1947, Branham began assembling an evangelical team that stayed with him for most of the revival period. The first addition to the team was Jack Moore and Young Brown, who periodically assisted him in managing his meetings. Following the Shreveport meetings, Branham held a series of meetings in San Antonio, Phoenix, and at various locations in California. Moore invited his friend Gordon Lindsay to join the campaign team, which he did beginning at a meeting in Sacramento, California, in late 1947. Lindsay was a successful publicist and manager for Branham, and played a key role in helping him gain national and international recognition.In 1948, Branham and Lindsay founded Voice of Healing magazine, which was originally aimed at reporting Branham's healing campaigns. Lindsay was impressed with Branham's focus on humility and unity, and was instrumental in helping him gain acceptance among Trinitarian and Oneness Pentecostal groups by expanding his revival meetings beyond the United Pentecostal Church to include all of the major Pentecostal groups.
The first meetings organized by Lindsay were held in northwestern North America during late 1947. At the first of these meetings, held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canadian minister Ern Baxter joined Branham's team. Lindsay reported 70,000 attendees to the 14 days of meetings and long prayer lines as Branham prayed for the sick. William Hawtin, a Canadian Pentecostal minister, attended one of Branham's Vancouver meetings in November 1947 and was impressed by Branham's healings. Branham thus became an influence on the Latter Rain revival movement, which Hawtin helped initiate. In January 1948, meetings were held in Florida; F. F. Bosworth met Branham at the meetings and also joined his team. Bosworth was among the pre-eminent ministers of the Pentecostal movement and lent great weight to Branham's campaign team. He remained a strong Branham supporter until his death in 1958. Bosworth endorsed Branham as "the most sensitive person to the presence and working of the Holy Spirit" he had ever met. During early 1947, a major campaign was held in Kansas City, where Branham and Lindsay first met Oral Roberts. Roberts and Branham had contact at different points during the revival. Roberts said Branham was "set apart, just like Moses".
Branham faced criticism and opposition from the early days of the healing campaign. According to historian Ronald Kydd, Branham evoked strong opinions from people with whom he came into contact; "most people either loved him or hated him". In 1947, Rev. Alfred Pohl, a minister in Saskatchewan, Canada, stated that many people Branham pronounced as healed later died. A year later, W. J. Taylor, a district superintendent with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, raised the same concern and asked for a thorough investigation. Taylor presented evidence that claims of the number of people healed were vastly overestimated. He stated, "there is a possibility that this whole thing is wrong". The number of people who claimed to be healed in Branham's campaign meetings "is impossible to approximate" and the numbers vary greatly between sources. According to Kydd, by watching films of the revival meetings, "the viewer would assume almost everyone was healed" but the results proved otherwise the few times follow-up was made. No consistent record of follow-ups was made, making analysis of the claims difficult to subsequent researchers. Pentecostal historian Walter Hollenweger said, "very few were actually healed". Some attendees of Branham's meetings believed the healings were a hoax and accused him of selectively choosing who could enter the prayer line. Some people left his meetings disappointed after finding Branham's conviction that everyone in the audience could be healed without being in the prayer line proved incorrect. Branham generally attributed the failure of supplicants to receive healing to their lack of faith.
Branham spent many hours ministering and praying for the sick during his campaigns, and like many other leading evangelists of the time he suffered exhaustion. After one year of campaigning, his exhaustion began leading to health issues. Attendees reported seeing him "staggering from intense fatigue" during his last meetings. Just as Branham began to attract international attention in May 1948, he announced that due to illness he would have to halt his campaign. His illness shocked the growing movement, and his abrupt departure from the field caused a rift between him and Lindsay over the Voice of Healing magazine. Branham insisted that Lindsay take over complete management of the publication. With the main subject of the magazine no longer actively campaigning, Lindsay was forced to seek other ministers to promote. He decided to publicize Oral Roberts during Branham's absence, and Roberts quickly rose to prominence, in large part due to Lindsay's coverage.
Branham partially recovered from his illness and resumed holding meetings in October 1948; in that month he held a series of meetings around the United States without Lindsay's support. Branham's return to the movement led to his resumed leadership of it. In November 1948, he met with Lindsay and Moore and told them he had received another angelic visitation, instructing him to hold a series of meetings across the United States and then to begin holding meetings internationally. As a result of the meeting, Lindsay rejoined Branham's campaigning team.
Branham told audiences the angel that commissioned his ministry had given him two signs by which they could prove his commission. He described the first sign as vibrations he felt in his hand when he touched a sick person's hand, which communicated to him the nature of the illness, but did not guarantee healing. Branham's use of what his fellow evangelists called a word of knowledge gift separated him from his contemporaries. This second sign did not appear in his campaigns until after his recovery in 1948, and was used to "amaze tens of thousands" at his meetings. According to Bosworth, this gift of knowledge allowed Branham "to see and enable him to tell the many events of [people's] lives from their childhood down to the present". This caused many in the healing revival to view Branham as a "seer like the old testament prophets". Branham amazed even fellow evangelists, which served to further push him into a legendary status in the movement. Branham's audiences were often awestruck by the events during his meetings. At the peak of his popularity in the 1950s, Branham was widely adored and "the neo-Pentecostal world believed Branham to be a prophet to their generation".
In January 1950, Branham's campaign team held their Houston campaign, one of the most significant series of meetings of the revival. The location of their first meeting was too small to accommodate the approximately 8,000 attendees, and they had to relocate to the Sam Houston Coliseum. On the night of January 24, 1950, Branham was photographed during a debate between Bosworth and local Baptist minister W. E. Best regarding the theology of divine healing. Bosworth argued in favor, while Best argued against. The photograph showed a light above Branham's head, which he and his associates believed to be supernatural. The photograph became well-known in the revival movement and is regarded by Branham's followers as an iconic relic. Branham believed the light was a divine vindication of his ministry; others believed it was a glare from the venue's overhead lighting.
In January 1951, US Congressman William Upshaw, who had been crippled for 59 years as the result of an accident, said he was miraculously healed and had regained the ability to walk in a Branham meeting, further fueling Branham's fame. Upshaw sent a letter describing his healing claim to each member of Congress. Among the widespread media reports was a story in the Los Angeles Times that described it as "perhaps the most effective healing testimony this generation has ever seen". Upshaw died in November 1952, at the age of 86.
According to Hollenweger, "Branham filled the largest stadiums and meeting halls in the world" during his five major international campaigns. Branham held his first series of campaigns in Europe during April 1950 with meetings in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Attendance at the meetings generally exceeded 7,000 despite resistance to his meetings by the state churches. In Norway, the Directorate of Health forbade Branham from laying hands on the sick and sent police to his meetings to enforce the order. Branham was the first American deliverance minister to successfully tour in Europe. A 1952 campaign in South Africa had the largest attendance in Branham's career, with an estimated 200,000 attendees. According to Lindsay, the altar call at his Durban meeting received 30,000 converts. During international campaigns in 1954, Branham visited Portugal, Italy, and India. Branham's final major overseas tour in 1955 included visits to Switzerland and Germany.
In 1955, Branham's campaigning career began to slow following financial setbacks. Even after he became famous, Branham continued to wear inexpensive suits and refused large salaries; he was not interested in amassing wealth as part of his ministry and was reluctant to solicit donations during his meetings. During the early years of his campaigns, donations had been able to cover costs, but from 1955, donations failed to cover the costs of three successive campaigns, one of which incurred a $15,000 deficit. Some of Branham's business associates thought he was partially responsible because of his lack of interest in the financial affairs of the campaigns and tried to hold him personally responsible for the debt. Branham briefly stopped campaigning and said he would have to take a job to repay the debt, but the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International ultimately offered financial assistance to cover the debt. Branham became increasingly reliant on the Full Gospel Businessmen to finance his campaign meetings as the Pentecostal denominations began to withdraw their financial support.
Finances became an issue again in 1956 when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) charged Branham with tax evasion. The American government targeted the other leading revivalists with lawsuits during the same time period, including Oral Roberts, Jack Coe, and A. A. Allen. The IRS asserted income reported by the ministers as non-taxable gifts was taxable, despite the fact Branham had not kept the gifts for himself. Except Allen, who won his legal battle, the evangelists settled their cases out of court. The IRS investigation showed Branham did not pay close attention to the amount of money flowing through his ministry. It also revealed that others were taking advantage of him. Branham's annual salary was $7,000 while his manager's was $80,000. Oral Roberts earned a salary of $15,000 in the same years. The case was eventually settled out of court with the payment of a $40,000 penalty. Branham was never able to completely pay off the debt. Amid the financial issues, Lindsay left Branham's campaign team. Branham eventually criticized the Voice of Healing magazine as a "massive financial organization" that put making money ahead of promoting good.
By the mid-1950s, dozens of the ministers associated with Branham and his campaigns had launched similar healing campaigns. In 1956, the healing revival reached its peak, as 49 separate evangelists held major meetings. Through the Voice of Healing magazine, Branham and Lindsay ineffectively attempted to discourage their activities by saying Branham wished they would help their local churches rather than launch national careers. The swelling number of competitors and emulators further reduced attendance at Branham's meetings. His correspondence also decreased sharply; whereas he had once received "a thousand letters a day", his mail dropped to 75 letters a day but Branham thought the decline was temporary. He continued expecting something greater, which he said "nobody will be able to imitate". In 1955, he reported a vision of a renewed tent ministry and a "third pull which would be dramatically different" than his earlier career.
Branham first spoke about original sin in 1958; he rejected the orthodox view of the subject and hinted at his own belief in a hidden meaning to the story. In later years, he made his opinion concerning the sexual nature of the fall explicitly known. Weaver wrote that Branham may have become acquainted with serpent's seed doctrine through his Baptist roots; Daniel Parker, an American Baptist minister from Kentucky, promulgated a similar doctrine in the mid-1800s. According to Pearry Green, Branham's teaching on the serpent's seed doctrine was viewed by the broader Pentecostal movement as the "filthy doctrine ... that ruined his ministry". No other mainstream Christian group held a similar view; Branham was widely criticized for spreading the doctrine. His followers view the doctrine as one of his greatest revelations.
By 1960, the number of evangelists holding national campaigns dropped to 11. Several perspectives on the decline of the healing revival have been offered. Crowder suggested Branham's gradual separation from Gordon Lindsay played a major part in the decline. Harrell attributed the decline to the increasing number of evangelists crowding the field and straining the financial resources of the Pentecostal denominations. Weaver agreed Pentecostal churches gradually withdrew their support for the healing revival, mainly over the financial stresses put on local churches by the healing campaigns. The Assemblies of God were the first to openly withdraw support from the healing revival in 1953. Weaver pointed to other factors that may have helped destroy the initial ecumenism of the revival; tension between the independent evangelists and the Pentecostal churches caused by the evangelists' fund-raising methods, denominational pride, sensationalism, and doctrinal conflicts—particularly between the Oneness and Trinitarian factions within Pentecostalism.
Annihilationism, the doctrine that the damned will be totally destroyed after the final judgment so as to not exist, was introduced to Pentecostalism in the teachings of Charles Fox Parham (1873–1929). Not all Pentecostal sects accepted the idea. Prior to 1957, Branham taught a doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. By 1957 he began promoting an annihilationist position in keeping with Parham's teachings. He believed that "eternal life was reserved only for God and his children". In 1960, Branham claimed the Holy Spirit had revealed this doctrine to him as one of the end-time mysteries. Promoting annihilationism led to the alienation of Pentecostal groups that had rejected Parham's teaching on the subject.
In 1960, Branham preached a series of sermons on the seven church ages based on chapters two and three of the Book of Revelation. The sermons closely aligned with the teachings of C. I. Scofield and Clarence Larkin, the leading proponents of dispensationalism in the preceding generation. Like Larkin and Scofield, Branham said each church represents a historical age, and taught that the angel of each age was a significant church figure. The message included the description of a messenger to the Laodicean Church age, which Branham believed would immediately precede the rapture. Branham explained the Laodicean age would be immoral in a way comparable to Sodom and Gomorrah, and it would be a time in which Christian denominations rejected Christ. As described by Branham, the characteristics of the Laodicean age resemble those of the modern era. Branham described the characteristics of the Laodicean messenger by comparing his traits to Elijah and John the Baptist. He asserted the messenger would be a mighty prophet who put the Word of God first, that he would be a lover of the wilderness, that he would hate wicked women, and be an uneducated person. Branham claimed the messenger to this last age would come in the spirit of Elijah the prophet and cited the Book of Malachi 4:5–6 (3:23–24 in Hebrew) as the basis for claiming the Elijah spirit would return. His belief in a "seventh church age messenger" came from his interpretation of the Book of Revelation 3:14–22.
Despite his rejection by the growing Charismatic movement, Branham's followers became increasingly dedicated to him during his later life; some even claimed he was the Messiah. Branham quickly condemned their belief as heresy and threatened to stop ministering, but the belief persisted. Many followers moved great distances to live near his home in Jeffersonville and, led by Leo Mercer, subsequently set up a colony in Arizona following Branham's move to Tucson in 1962. Branham lamented Mercer and the actions of his group as he worried that a cult was potentially being formed among his most fanatical followers.
Branham preached another sermon in 1963, further indicating he was a prophet who had the anointing of Elijah and was a messenger heralding the second coming of Christ. Branham did not directly claim to be the end-time messenger in either of his sermons. Weaver believed Branham desired to be the eschatological prophet he was preaching about, but had self-doubt. Branham left the identity of the messenger open to the interpretation of his followers, who widely accepted that he was that messenger.
Branham continued to travel to churches and preach his doctrine across North America during the 1960s. He held his final set of revival meetings in Shreveport at the church of his early campaign manager Jack Moore in November 1965.
On December 18, 1965, Branham and his family—except his daughter Rebekah—were returning to Jeffersonville, Indiana, from Tucson for the Christmas holiday. About three miles (4.8 km) east of Friona, Texas, and about seventy miles (110 km) southwest of Amarillo on US Highway 60, just after dark, a car driven by a drunken driver traveling westward in the eastbound lane collided head-on with Branham's car. He was rushed to the hospital in Amarillo where he remained comatose for several days and died of his injuries on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1965.
Branham's death stunned the Pentecostal world and shocked his followers. His funeral was held on December 29, 1965, but his burial was delayed until April 11, 1966; Easter Monday. Most eulogies only tacitly acknowledged Branham's controversial teachings, focusing instead on his many positive contributions and recalled his wide popularity and impact during the years of the healing revival. Gordon Lindsay's eulogy stated that Branham's death was the will of God and privately he accepted the interpretation of Kenneth E. Hagin, who claimed to have prophesied Branham's death two years before it happened. According to Hagin, God revealed that Branham was teaching false doctrine and God was removing him because of his disobedience.
Among Branham's emulators was Jim Jones, the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple. According to Historian Catherine Wessinger, while rejecting Christianity as a false religion, Jones covertly used popular Christian figures to advance his own ideology. To draw the crowds he was seeking, Jones needed a religious headliner and invited Branham to share the platform with him at a self-organized religious convention held at the Cadle Tabernacle auditorium in Indianapolis from June 11 to 15, 1956. Branham critics Peter Duyzer and John Collins reported that Branham "performed numerous miracles", drawing a crowd of 11,000. Jones later became known for the mass murder and suicide at Jonestown in November 1978. According to Collins, Jim Jones and Paul Schäfer were influenced to move to South America by Branham's 1961 prophecy concerning Armageddon, but ultimately concluded that Jones and Branham "did not see eye to eye", and that Jones rejected Branham as a dishonest person.
Though Branham is no longer widely known outside Pentecostalism, his legacy continues today. Summarizing the contrasting views held of Branham, Kydd stated, "Some thought he was God. Some thought he was a dupe of the devil. Some thought he was an end-time messenger sent from God, and some still do." Followers of Branham's teachings can be found around the world; Branham claimed to have made over one million converts during his campaign meetings. In 1986, there were an estimated 300,000 followers. In 2000, the William Branham Evangelical Association had missions on every inhabited continent—with 1,600 associated churches in Latin America and growing missions across Africa. In 2018, Voice of God Recordings claimed to serve Branham-related support material to about two million people through the William Branham Evangelical Association.
Currently, William M. Branham is 113 years, 7 months and 22 days old. William M. Branham will celebrate 114th birthday on a Thursday 6th of April 2023.
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