Christian Healing Ministries (CHM) in Jacksonville, Florida, founded by Dr. Francis MacNutt and his wife, Judith, is one of the premier Christian healing centers in North America. The CMI staff haave instructed thousands of ministers and lay leaders on healing, inner healing, and deliverance prayer. It is effectively continuing the work of the Schools of Pastoral Care that were started by Agnes Sanford. The books the MacNutts have authored are among the most influential and effective in the contemporary Christian healing movement. In fact, when I teach a workshop on healing prayer, I tell the audience that the best general introduction to healing prayer is Francis MacNutt’s Healing, and that the best introduction to exorcism and deliverance is his Deliverance from Evil Spirits. Several of their works have also branched out into other areas of Christian spirituality. For instance, Judith produced a fine work on angels and Francis did a book on the phenomenon of being slain in the spirit, which is now a standard on the topic.
Francis MacNutt was born in 1925 to a well-to-do Catholic family. His father was especially devout and passed his spirituality on to his children. Francis went to Catholic prep school and then attended Harvard as a pre-med student. This was interrupted by World War II. Drafted in 1944, he served as a Navy medic and surgeon’s assistant. He later returned to Harvard, where he graduated with honors, but changed career goals to speech therapy and got a master’s in speech from the Catholic University of America.
While there he read Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, a book on modern monasticism that was deeply influential among Catholics in the postwar era. MacNutt decided to become a Dominican monk, who famed for their preaching, and entered that order in 1950. He was ordained as a priest six years later. His speech training served him well, and he developed as an excellent and anointed preacher. The Dominicans sent MacNutt to the Aquinas Institute, where he earned a PhD. He then taught homiletics at the Dominican seminary and wrote a homiletics textbook for Catholic priests. During this period he founded the Catholic Homiletic Society. He was a rising star among Dominican priests.
The 1960s was the decade when Pope John XXIII opened up Catholic scholarship to outside influences and allowed priests to attend conferences and services of other denominations. In 1960, at the Presbyterian Seminary in Dubuque, MacNutt heard a presentation on the Christian healing ministry by Dr. Alfred Price, then the OSL national director. But it was not until he met a CFO workshop leader, and a person gifted in healing prayer, Mrs. Jo Kimmel, that his curiosity about Christian healing was really kindled. After a lengthy conversation, Mrs. Kimmel not only invited Francis to attend a CFO but even paid his expenses there.
It was the 1967 CFO in Maryville, Tennessee, led by Agnes Sanford, Derek Prince, and Tommy Tyson. Agnes later recounted her meeting with this handsome, white-robed Dominican priest. He immediately told her that he wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Agnes directed him to go to a group that was doing that type of prayer at the end of the day. MacNutt did so, but was disappointed. Agnes recalled his response:
“Oh, I spoke in tongues, that was no trouble. But nothing really happened inside.”
Well, then, I had better pray for you,” said I. We went with two others into my room, and there with the laying on of hands, I prayed for the real entering of the Spirit of God—into the heart, into the soul, into the unconscious. And it happened! He was so overwhelmed with holy joy that he laughed aloud, not in any hysterical fashion, but in a deep outpouring from his heart.
“Oh, this is the way I thought it would be!” he cried again and again. . . . He has since led countless others into this experience.
Agnes also prophesied over Fr. MacNutt that he would be used by the Lord to bring healing prayer back to the Catholic Church. The next year he attended a School of Pastoral Care in Wadesville, Massachusetts, for further instructions in healing ministry. This was led by Agnes and the Rev. Tommy Tyson. Agnes recognized MacNutt’s theological learning as well as his anointing in healing, and from then on had him assist in her SPCs and missions. Francis learned all he could from Agnes and has repeatedly declared his indebtedness to her teaching and writings.
As Mrs. Sanford prophesied, MacNutt became one of the key leaders of the new Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and a teacher of healing prayer to that movement. He was a frequent speaker at its early conventions and meetings, and a keynote speaker at the famous Kansas City conference of 1977, which gathered together classical Pentecostals and the new charismatics for the first time. MacNutt’s keynote address, delivered in his flowing Dominican robes, made a profound impression on those attending. Two years later, Fr. MacNutt was the lead figure in spreading the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to Latin America in a series of missions to Central and South America. Sadly, after the 1980s the Catholic Charismatic Renewal fizzled in the United States. However it has flowered in Latin American and especially in Africa, where it is a major component of Catholicism’s growth.
When not on the road, his home base was the Dominican Merton House in St. Louis, which was the center of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the area. Francis was also the founder of the Association of Christian Therapists, which aimed at integrating healing prayer into the medical profession. The group continues its work to this day and produces the excellent Journal of Christian Healing.
The year 1974 saw the publication of Francis’ first work on healing prayer, Healing. It became a bestseller, as it explains in simple terms the varied aspects of healing prayer, as in physical healing, inner healing, and deliverance. It supplemented Mrs. Sanford’s The Healing Light as the preferred book to introduce new charismatics to healing prayer. Healing includes a very wise chapter on why some persons are not healed, a problem that has bedeviled the healing ministry since its beginnings.
In those years Francis labored constantly to interpret Pentecostalism and its understanding of the Holy Spirit to his Catholic audience. For instance, he tackled the thorny problem that some Catholics were asking about being rebaptized. Pentecostal brethren often suggested rebaptism to newly Spirit-filled Catholics, but ancient doctrine and tradition forbade repeated baptisms. Fr. MacNutt cut the Gordian knot on this issue by suggesting that infant baptism is good, as it often results in unexpected healing and protection from demonic influences, but every Christian needs to make an adult recommitment to Jesus. Francis rebaptized those Catholics who requested it with the words, “I renew your baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
It is difficult to overestimate the positive influence that Fr. MacNutt had on the healing ministry of the Catholic Church. He was not the only Catholic priest of the early Catholic Charismatic Movement, nor the only one who promoted the new inner healing ministry. But he was undoubtedly the most prominent among them. It is safe to say that, through his writings and ministry, the “Galatian Bewitchment,” the idea that only very holy persons, as in the saints of old, can do healing ministry, was largely weakened in the Catholic Church. It lingers in the more traditional sectors of the Church.
This achievement has not been adequately noted since the Galatian Bewitchment was never an official doctrine backed by encyclicals or catechism statements, etc., but only a strong tradition. Thus its passing was not fought against once it began to dissolve. I know of no Catholic clerical Pharisee who made an argument that healing prayer must be restricted to monks or designated holy persons. The obvious biblical basis for the laying on of hands and the immediate effectiveness that this ministry brought to countless Catholic charismatic prayer groups simply made the Galatian Bewitchment a ghost of a doctrine. This is in contrast to what has happened in Protestantism, where Calvin’s elaborated doctrine of cessationism continues to be defended by many evangelicals.
Perhaps only persons old enough to remember the healing practices of 1950s Catholicism can appreciate the sea change that has occurred. When I was a boy, healing prayer practiced in our parish in New York City ranged from lighting a votive candle to Mary or some saint to saying a rosary for a healing intention. No one laid hands on the sick with the intention and expectancy of real healing to be accomplished. Priests ministered the sacrament of extreme unction for those dying with no expectancy that they would experience physical healing. Thankfully that changed with Vatican II in the 1960s.
Fr. MacNutt’s Catholic ministry came to an end when he married Miss Judith Sewell in February of 1980. He was not given the usual dispensation of vows from his superiors, and this closed his ministry to Catholic churches and conferences. This saddened the MacNutts, but it unexpectedly opened new doors of ministry for them with Protestant and Pentecostal churches. Many conservative Protestants and Pentecostals would not invite “Father” MacNutt to speak at their functions, but would certainly welcome “Dr.” MacNutt.
The MacNutt’s joint ministry grew to become today’s preeminent charismatic prayer and teaching institution. Ultimately, in 1993, the Catholic hierarchy relented and officially laicized Francis. That is, he and Judith were received as Catholics in good standing (he could say mass in private). Catholic invitations resumed. In 2008 Francis, then eighty-three, handed over the reins of Christian Healing Ministries to Judith, who now does most of the speaking and teaching at CHM, as it continues its work in carrying on the legacy of Mrs. Sanford.
Dr. Francis MacNutt and his wife Judith with the staff of Christian Healing Ministries
 Healing, Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1974. Deliverance From Evil Spirits. (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 1995
 Judith MacNutt, Angels Are Real (Terrytown: Chosen, 2012) and Francis MacNutt, Overcome by the Spirit (Terrytown: Chosen, 1990).
 New York; Hardcourt & Brace, 1948.
 S. F. MacNutt, Gauging Sermon Effectiveness (Dubuque: Priory, 1960).
Rusty Rae, “Extraordinary Becomes Ordinary, A Profile on Francis and Judith MacNutt.” Sharing (May, 1988) 23.
 Kimmel, Prayer Power (1972). The work could aptly be entitled “Praying the CFO Way,” as it is a synthesis of the works of Glenn Clark, Frank Laubach, Agnes Sanford, and the other leaders of the 1950s CFOs
 Agnes Sanford, Sealed Orders (Plainfield: Logos International, 1972) 225–26.
 David K. Foster, “Conversation with Francis and Judith MacNutt,” Pneuma Review. Posted, March 20, 2014. http://pneumareview.com/conversation-with-francis-and-judith-macnutt/
 MacNutt, Healing, 12–13, and also, Francis MacNutt, “Sharing God’s Love,” (Ardmore: Lord’s Own Tape ministry, n.d.) audio cassette.
 Their website is at http://www.actheals.org.
 MacNutt, Healing, chapter 18, “Eleven Reasons Why People Are Not Healed.”
Francis MacNutt, “A Proposed Solution.” “A Proposed Solution to the Re-Baptism Dilemma.” Ministries 3 no. 2 (spring 1975) 58–61.
I explain the sad shift of the meaning of the sacrament of healing oil (James 5) from a healing sacrament to a “get out of purgatory” rite in my work, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996).
The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.
The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE
Just released is my first book of plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.
The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.
Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.
The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.
The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4
My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together. It may be purchased HERE.
Dr. MacNutt and Judith with the staff of Christian Healing ministries.