Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody’s Sister

Blumhofer, Edith L. Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody’s Sister. Library of Religious Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993.

Edith Blumhofer’s book on Aimee Semple McPherson takes a “fresh look” at the life, ministry and widespread influence of this evangelist and founder of the Foursquare Gospel Association, exploring the significance of her extraordinary life in the context of the Canadian/American culture in which she lived and the rise of Pentecostalism in the first half of the 20th century. Rather than focusing on the “brashly journalistic or forthrightly apologetic” dimensions of her career as a Pentecostal evangelist/pastor, the author traces her life from birth to death to examine the larger themes which characterized her style, message, achievements and relationships. Blumhofer contends McPherson’s early years in Canada, her mother’s involvement in the Salvation Army and her first marriage to Pentecostal evangelist Robert Semple shaped her non-sectarian, restorationist message of “Bible Christianity” and helped chart the course of her international preaching ministry spanning more than three decades. <p> Blumhofer finds that “Sister” drew heavily from her Salvation Army experiences to craft her ministry and message. McPherson, believes the author, expertly blended religion and theater in her preaching style, all the while connecting to the common person with a message centered not on the Pentecostals gifts as such—gifts she never denied but earnestly desired for herself and others—but rather on the saving, healing, baptizing and coming Christ whose unchanging character was best captured in the movement’s most important biblical passage, Hebrews 13:8. Blumhofer refers to Sister as a “proto-charismatic,” a preacher whose revivals demonstrated spiritual ardor while also evidencing reverential order. In this way, says Blumhofer, McPherson’s message appealed not only to Pentecostals but to others outside the Pentecostal fold as well. Above all, Blumhofer holds McPherson to be an important 20th century spokeswoman for the gospel. “Sister’s place in the roster of American evangelists is secure. The content, style, and piety she advocated stood solidly within the American revival tradition.”