Charismatics, etc., etc.
Sister Aimee in 1920
After 35 days (on June 23), McPherson stumbled out of the desert in Agua Prieta, Sonora, a Mexican town just across the border from Douglas, Arizona. She claimed that she had been kidnapped, drugged, tortured, and held for ransom in a shack in Mexico, then had escaped and walked through the desert for about 13 hours to freedom.
Several problems were found with McPherson's story. Her shoes showed no evidence of a 13-hour walk; indeed, they had grass stains on them after a supposed walk through the desert. The shack could not be found. McPherson showed up fully dressed while having disappeared wearing a bathing suit, and was wearing a watch given to her by her mother, which she had not taken on her swimming trip. A grand jury convened on July 8 to investigate the matter, but adjourned 12 days later citing lack of evidence to proceed. However, several witnesses then came forward stating that they had seen McPherson and Ormiston at various hotels over the 32-day period.
The bad press never ultimately hurt McPherson's reputation or her church: The Interntaional Church of the Foursquare Gospel's 5300 seats were always filled, three times a day, seven days a week! Over 100,000 repentant sinners per week! Parsley, Hagee, Osteen, Jakes, are you READING this? She also had a Foursquare Gospel radio show!
On the right Aimee and her "Gospel" car
Forerunner of personal jets.
As of 2000, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, commonly referred to as the Foursquare Church, had a worldwide membership of over 5 million in almost 30,000 churches in 123 countries. This includes 1,844 churches with 218,981 members in the United States.
Was Aimee a fraud? Her teachings were very much in line with Pentecostals and charismatics today: 1.The Bible as the inspired word of God, 2.The atoning death of Christ for sinners, 3.Salvation through the grace of God by Faith Alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, Baptism by immersion, Divine Healing, Return of Jesus Christ, Final Judgment, and, of course, Tithing and Offerings. She lived well (above is a picture of her "parsonage"), but not so extravagantly that there were grumblings of inappropriate expenditures.
She wasn't a "Word of Faith" preacher who extolled faith in God being rewarded with money. She wasn't a hell-fire preacher, but she put on a great show. She knew that she was what the times needed (especially after the Crash). She made herself famous (in addition to her radio show, she appeared at civic events and parades). She didn't spew hate or politics. Of course, if she had conquered television, she might have had her own broadcast network by now. She obviously had enough charisma to raise millions of dollars for her church and her causes. Her church endures even to this day (although, quite tellingly, most of the congregants are in foreign countries - the megachurch pastors have seen fit to ease the Foursquare Church out). In effect, she's still with us.
Will the Word of Faith mega-pastors be able to say the same in 70 years?
We hope not.
Angelus Temple then...and now.