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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Hunter's Revolution in Healing Ministry

The Hunters Revolutionary Christian Healing Ministry 



          One would think that after over a hundred and fifty years of developing the Christian healing ministry by brilliant, graced, and devout people, from Charles Cullis (in the 1880s) to Oral Roberts, and others, all that the Bible teaches about healing has been recovered.  That is a common sense assumption, but it is probably not true.
          A case in point was a humble husband and wife healing team, Charles and Francis Hunter. They revolutionized the Renewalist world (Pentecostals, charismatics, and other Spirit-filled movements) from the 1980s on with their discovery that the healing ministry is most effective when spoken commands are given, just as Jesus did.  The Hunter’s method of the Christian healing also incorporated aspects of chiropractic theory, specifically in “calling out” arms and leg lengthening for back problems. This made it especially effective as “evangelistic healing.” That is, many persons have the sort of back problems that the Hunter Method can rapidly and dramatically heal, and then introduced to the Gospel. (Their website, where their books and DVDs may be purchased is HERE.
          We will return to the chiropractic, arm and leg lengthening aspects of the Hunter Method below, but first let us examine the “command” part of Christian healing. This has long been sporadically recorded in the Christian healing literature. For example, spoken healing commands were common in the ministry of the famous faith teacher, evangelist and healer, Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947). In one of  his several resuscitations from the dead he came into a sick room as a woman died:
…I reached over into the bed and pulled her out. I carried her across the room, stood her against the wall and held her up, as she was absolutely dead. I looked into her face and said, “In the name of Jesus I rebuke this death.” ….her whole body began to tremble. “In the name of Jesus, I command you to walk,” I said. I repeated, “In the name of Jesus, walk!” and she walked.[1 


But command prayers of this sort have not been understood as something to be used regularly by all Christians.



Below is a photo of Smith Wigglesworth praying over a sick person. This is they only picture of S. Wigglesworth praying for the sick I could find. Hey, this was a more innocent and less suspicious age. My wife would quickly correct me if I prayed for a woman like that!


Command healing in the New Testament:

          Command healing was apparently done by the disciples from their first commissioning when Jesus sent them into the countryside of Judea:
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, `The kingdom of God is near you.' … The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." (Lk 10:8-9, 17)
          Although we have no precise descriptions as to exactly how the seventy two ministered to the sick and demon possessed, it is significant that they were amazed by their authority, and did not mention prayer. From earliest times Christians have practiced the exorcism of evil spirits as a direct command to the malignant entity, but past Apostolic times commands for healing were not used regularly. This is particularly unfortunate because all the accounts of healings recorded in the Book of Acts were ministered through commands. For example, when Peters saw the lame beggar near the Temple:
Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. (Acts 3: 6-7)


          Command healing in Jesus’ name was not just a prerogative of the Apostles. We see the same thing in Paul’s retelling in Jerusalem of his healing from the blindness he suffered when he first met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.
"A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, `Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him. (Acts 22:12-13)



          How and why post Apostolic Christians drifted into healing via petition prayer has not been examined, but it certainly must be understood as part of the general decline of the healing ministry that took place from the Third Century on. Christians in modern times who have believed in healing prayer have almost universally prayed prayers of petition, as in, “Oh Father, in Jesus’ name, please heal Aunt Sue of her cancer,” etc. This is because prayers of petition are an important and valid way to pray, and we are most accustomed to it. But it is not the biblical pattern for healing prayer.

Learning about command healing in the 1980s

           Let me relate some personal experiences of how the command method was thwarted back in the 1980s, as it was coming into use. When Carolyn and I married (1979) we settled into a charismatic Episcopal church in North Atlanta. I became the conviener (chairperson) of the parish Order of St. Luke (OSL), a group that practices and sponsors healing teaching and ministry in Christian churches. (They are still on the job, and are excellent in getting a healing ministry going in churches that have none. Their website is HERE) The rector of our North Atlanta church had a reputation as one of the leaders of the charismatic renewal in the Episcopal Church, but he also had a hankering for liberal theology - a dangerous tendency.
          About 1986 Carolyn and I were invited to attend a Hunter method course taught by Zeb and Maida Burnett (both have gone to be with the Lord). They worked out of a nearby non-denominational charismatic church. The eight week course was a model of good teaching and organization.  Before being given a certificate we had to view 15 hours of videos, read the two principal Hunter books on healing, How to Heal the Sick, and Handbook of Healing, and we were tested on all the materials. Carolyn and I became convinced the method was both soundly biblical and often more effective than the traditional petition prayers we had practiced.
          We taught an abbreviated version of this to our OSL group back at our parish, and began doing it as part of the church ministry.  It was especially effective in a "prayer station" ministry that we did in downtown Atlanta. (For a view of this ministry see HERE. One Sundays Carolyn and I tried it as part of the normal healing ministry that took place right after Holy Communion. The rector saw, but did not like it. He called me into his office and told me command healings were part of the folly of the new “name it, claim it” heresy of the “Tulsa folks” (i.e Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, etc.). He would not be swayed by the biblical evidence I showed him and forbade us to do it at his church.
          That saddened me and I tried to be obedient. Wouldn’t you know a few Sundays later Carolyn and I were again on prayer team duty, and a person came to us with a terrible back ache – just the thing the Hunter method does best. I fudged, and healed the man via the “arm extension” – just as the rector glanced over at us.
          About that time I also became enthusiastic about the possibilities of healing homosexual behavior via inner healing. The classic book on this had just come out, Leanne Payne’s The Broken Image (HERE) The rector strongly disagreed with this also, and advocated the liberal view, now quite common, that homosexuality was not curable and should not be a healing ministry issue. Principally on this dispute, Carolyn and I were finessed out of the church leadership circle and replaced by a more “rector friendly” and more liberal minded person.
          At that point we sought another church home and found one at St. Jude’ of Marietta, a really great church where we stayed for over a decade. The rector there, Fr. Frank Baltz, had no problem with either Lean Payne’s work or the Hunter Method.  He asked me to lead one of the church home groups.          
          At our home fellowship group we practiced the Hunter method of command prayer, and arm/leg extensions, etc. Here is a picture from that home group. You can see I was anointing one of our members with oil. The Hunters were classically Pentecostal and did not believe that anointing with oil was either necessary or effective - but we can excuse them for that error. I have always used the Hunter Method with sacramental additions, as in anointing with oil and praying for persons at Holy Communion.





             The lady pictured being anointed is Mrs Judy Walsh, now one of Carolyn's best friends. She was diagnosed with scaladerma, a fatal disease that hardens all of the organs, including the skin. With command prayers, laying on of hands, anointing, and Holy Communion she was healed, and has survived to this day with only very mild symptoms.
             All of this happened in early 1990s. In recent years the command method of healing prayer has peculated through many churches and is more widely accepted, though some more conservative groups still oppose it as heresy – the web is full of ignorant “Christian anti-cult” sites that lambaste the Hunters and their teachings.


The Happy Hunters:

          But now let me say a few things about the Hunters themselves.[2]  Charles (1920-2010) and Francis (1916 -2009) were humble people, and scandal never touched their ministry.  They lived in a middle class home, and collected a modest salary from their ministry. They donated the very substantial royalties from their books into their healing and evangelism ministry.          
          Charles and Francis met and married late in their lives, in 1970. Charles had been a believer all of his life, but in a cessationist denomination - Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). Luckily, both he and his first wife, Jeanne, had read Agnes Sanford’s Healing Light and Genevieve Parkhurst’s Healing and Wholeness are Yours.[4]  Through those books the Charles and Jeanne had come to reject cessationism and believe in healing prayer.  Mrs. Parkhurst was a disciple of Agnes Sanford and wrote a half dozen books on healing prayer, including one on the most important early works on inner healing, Glorious Victory Through Healing of Memories.[5]
          Mrs. Jeanne Hunter came down with ovarian cancer, and in seeking prayer support Charles was able to contact Mrs. Parkhurst. She came to visit and pray for Jeanne. The Hospital room where Jeanne lay seemed filled with the glory of God, and Jeanne rallied. During this period she received a deep inner healing, but she ultimately passed away, happy to go to her Lord.[6]  Charles grieved his wife’s loss. He knew however that she had gone to her true home, and renewed his own ministry of evangelization. A few months later he met Francis Gardner, who was on an evangelistic speaking tour.
          Francis had been a widow for many years, and became a born-again Christian relatively late in life. She was raised in a liturgical church, baptized as an infant, and went to church regularly - but never had the gospel plainly taught to her until she was forty nine. At that point she became a self-describe “Gospel fanatic” and joined an Evangelical church. She learned soul-wining through instructors from Campus Crusade for Christ.  Francis discovered she had a special anointing in this and practiced it whenever and however she could. She wrote about her efforts in her first book, God is Fabulous.[7]  
          She also learned about the Holy Spirit. Although her church was not charismatic or Pentecostal, she began reading some of the charismatic books then just coming to print. On one of her evangelistic tours to Houston, Francis was introduced by a local pastor to Charles Hunter.  The couple began corresponding, and within a few months were married.  Soon after, they began ministering together. But now, not only proclaiming salvation, but the message of Pentecost and healing.

Observing and Experimenting:
          From the very start of their ministry the Hunters observed and learned healing techniques from a multitude of sources. They picked up the longstanding Pentecostal technique of praying for a person’s back ache by “leg extension.” That is, having the person sit in a chair and extend his legs, and praying that the legs be equalized in length.  As the legs equalize the spinal column comes into alignment and often this heals the backache. Below is a recent picture of yours truly demonstrating a leg extension at Faith Point Church, where Carolyn and I help out.

They learned a similar technique, arm extension, from healing evangelist, Joe Poppell. He had been doing it for years to heal upper back pain and chest disorders. Here is a picture of the arm extension method.


Command breakthrough:
          As the Hunters ministered they experienced many miraculous healings. But not to the degree that they expected and saw described in the Bible, where all who came to Jesus were healed. (Mt. 8:16, etc.). They asked the Lord for a breakthrough. Charles described what happened:
          One night a man came on the stage, held up by two people, and leaning heavily on two walking canes. He did not have the strength to life his feet off the floor; he scooted them along…When we finished praying, instead of saying “Praise the Lord and go on your way,” we said, “PICK UP YOUR CANES AND WALK!”  He lifted his canes off the floor and slid his feet forward, and he didn’t fall!...pretty soon I was running alongside of him across the stage, and he began to say,
Praise the Lord!”
[8]
          Now, what makes this moment significant in the Renewalist movement is not that it was an original discovery, which it was not, but that thereafter they did it consistently and consciously. Furthermore, from the beginning of their ministry together the Hunters understood that every disciple (born again believer) had the authority and duty to heal the sick and cast out demons in Jesus’ name. They taught command healing as the prerogative of every believer, and not just those especially gifted with faith such as Smith Wigglesworth.
          Their technique was not perfect. At the beginning they believed that it was necessary to shout healing commands. My sister, a nun, and who was among the first in her religious order to become charismatic, recalls a healing event that the Hunter’s did in her parish in Scarsdale, New York (about 1974). A large Catholic charismatic congregation came, over four hundred people, and although some healings were done, most person were entirely put off by the Hunter’s shouts and commands. The Hunters soon discerned that the authority of the command did not depend on its decibel level.  
          In spite of some missteps, the Hunters learned quickly and adjusted. In order to focus the force of the command (and healing energies), they began asking the supplicant “What does the doctor say about your situation?”  This proved to be very helpful in understanding exactly what was wrong and what organ was afflicted. Through trial and error, and consultation with medical professionals, they developed patters of command prayers for specific diseases. For example, in praying of a person with diabetes they would cast out any spirit of inheritance, then command a new pancreas to be formed “in the name of Jesus.”[9] In 1981 the Hunters published their now classic work, How to Heal the Sick.[10]
          This book incorporated a quasi-chiropractic understanding of healing ministry. That is, they had learned from chiropractic physicians, and from observing the results of the arms and foot extensions, that straitening the spine was an effective part in healing all sorts of ailments. This is basic to chiropractic. They added two other laying on of hands, one to the neck and another to the pelvis. All of these were combined with commands for healing. 
          A renowned chiropractor, Dr Roy Le Roy, heard about the Hunter’s ministry and came to witness one of their events with the specific intention of exposing and debunking them. He was astounded at what he saw, and became instead their close friend and ministry adviser.[11]  He produced videos and wrote a book to support the Hunter discoveries in healing. (You can get his book HERE) Since then the Hunter’s ministry became more self-conscious chiropractic in slant.
          We should make it clear, that the Hunter method and books do not teach chiropractic manipulation. Rather they teach the laying on of hands in conjunction with command prayer - and the Spirit does the spine adjustments and other creative miracles.[12]

Healing Explosions:

          What has made Hunter’s ministry so extraordinarily influential among Renewalist is the way in which they propagated their belief that all Christian should participate in the healing ministry. They were unlike other evangelists who held large healing rallies and individually prayed for hundreds of person in “healing lines.”
          In contrast, the Hunters held what they called “healing explosions” where healing teams trained in their command prayer method do the healings while they prayed and supervised. The first headlining explosion was held in Pittsburgh in 1985. These were mass events, usually held in a sports area, or similar large venue. The healing explosions were based on coordination with local churches. These churches would supply hundreds of volunteers to become trained in the Hunter Method.
          Below is an old publicity flyer used by the Hunters for their Healing Explosions.



          Carolyn and I participated in a healing explosions that came to Atlanta in March of 1988. The venue was the Omni sports center. The place was packed. The church where we learned the Hunter method under Zeb and Maida had trained a healing team of over twenty persons.
          The healing explosion began with talks by both Francis and Charles, who stressed the ability of all Christians to heal the sick in the name of Jesus. The Hunters’ talks were followed by a dramatic skit showing the Devil trying to ruin a believer’s life – as in a medieval morality play.  The crowd loved it, I thought it was awful (I’m a playwright and tend to be critical – see my earlier blog posting for a sample of my work). 
          The Hunters then called out the healing teams to the floor of the arena, and invited all who were sick to come forward and receive healing prayer. Hundreds came. That night our healing team of four persons prayed for three supplicants.  One received complete healing from a back and neck problems, and another person received much improvement in an arthritic knee. The other person had a blood disease that we could not test for healing effectiveness.
          All of this was truly a blessing to experience. The two hundred odd healing ministers cum novices really did effective healing ministry in Jesus’ name. Those healed were invited up to the stage to witness to their cures, a few from very serious diseases. These healing explosions have been repeated successfully in many countries, such as Brazil, Nicaragua, South Africa. In the healing explosion in Bogotá, Colombia, over one hundred wheel chair patients left their wheel chairs and walked out in healing and soundness.
          This is really a revolutionary change from traditional mass healing services. From the time of Dr. Charles Cullis’ healing campaigns of the 1880s, to the present events led by Bennie Hinn, the sick have been placed in “healing lines” to be prayed for by the anointed evangelist. In my own Christian life I have been blessed by these healing line type events.  The first time was in a Kenneth Hagin service in the late 1970s. Hagin laid hands on me and I felt a surge of God’s healing energy go through my body and rest on my feet. I was instantly healed of fallen arches which had prevented me from jogging or prolonged walking.
          But in the Omni, our healing team did not have that type of special anointing - no one was slain in the Spirit or felt a dramatic surge of healing energies. Yet very effective healing was accomplished.
          The Hunters are right about insisting that all Christian should lay hands on the sick. Their book, If Charles and Francis Can Do It, You Can Do It Too!, says it again and again. What they do not mention is that indeed there are persons with unusual gifts of healing anointing, including themselves. Francis had, for instance, a special anointing to heal cancer – a difficult disease to tackle. Saying any Christian can minister healing prayer as well as they is an exaggeration – very few people have their level of anointing.
           I did two cycles of teaching the Hunter method as pastor to Hispanic congregations in the 2000-2007 period (not nearly as thoroughly as Zeb and Maida, but enough for the essentials). I have found all persons who go through this teaching develop some ability to heal, and a few flower with extraordinary graces in ministry.  Most of these persons would not have tried healing prayer without the encouragement and step-by step instructions easily derived from the Hunters’ How to Heal the Sick.          
         The Hunters continued to search out and test for any new scrap of information that may help in the healing ministry till the day they went to be with the Lord. They had a panel of medical doctors and chiropractors who advised them and kept them posted on new medical discoveries. For instance, in recent years medical investigators have discovered that human cells give out faint electrical pulses, but that cancer cells give out significantly different and disharmonious frequencies.[13] The Hunters developed this specific anti-cancer prayer to be prayed over all cancer victims. encourage the following prayer over cancer victims:

“Devil, I bind you right now by the Spirit of God in Jesus’ name. You foul spirit of cancer, I command you to come out right now in the name of Jesus. …We speak a new immune system into you and we also speak a new blood system so that the cancer cannot spread any further. We command all of the electrical and chemical frequencies in every cell in your body to be in harmony and in balance and digest the bad cells in Jesus’ name.”[14]

The Hunters and Testing Discernment:

          One of the reasons for the great success of the Hunter’s healing methods and career is that they have operated in the Biblically mandated mode of “testing discernment.” Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil. (1Th. 5:19-21)

          Paul wrote with the assumption of the continuous presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church - and also the continuous presence of harassing and confusion causing demonic spirits.[15] The cessationism was far into the future and probably unimaginable to him. But Paul made it clear that Christians needed the tool of discernment/testing to separate what is good and from the Holy Spirit, from what is false and destructive – either “flesh” or demonic.  Although the context of Paul directions in 1 Thessalonians 5 is the prophetic ministry, it is plain that what Paul meant by “test everything” was precisely that: to test every kind of spiritual activity, phenomenon, or manner of spirituality.
          With the arrival of heavily doctrinal Christianity, and later with cessationism, the mandate to test was rendered incomprehensible, and in effect became a “historic” passage like 12 Cor., with no present application. The traditional churches, Catholic,  Protestant or Eastern Orthodox, believed they had it totally right - so what is there to test?
           The ministry of Charles and Francis Hunter has been a golden example of testing discernment. They rediscovered the power of “command healing” and compared it to the biblical text for verification. They tested the utility of combining chiropractic understanding as part of healing prayer and found that it gave good fruit, even though it was not specifically mentioned in the Bible.
          The Hunters should be recognized as having greatly elevated the Christian healing ministry among Renewalists throughout the world. They labored from the 1970s to the first decade of the 21st Century through prayerful observation and experimentation to bring the healing ministry ever closer to the New Testament standard, where all who came to Christ for healing were cured.
       We should note that the Hunter's Ministry is continued and ably led by their daughter Joan Hunter, who can be contacted HERE.


P.S I do a Saturday workshop on healing prayer that centers on the Hunters Method. It will teach the essentials, and help jump-start a healing ministry in your church. You can see a description of one of my recent workshops HERE

Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest 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 You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

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.

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]


         
         



[1] Stanley Howard Frodsham, Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith, (Springfield: Gospel Publishing house, 1990), 59. Originally published in 1948.
[2] Other than Charisma magazine, the Christian press has ignored the Hunters. A “Google” search gives their website and hits on where to buy their books, plus a few ignorant anti-cult sites – the web is full of them.  A search in the Christian academic literature shows no hits. The Charisma article are: Shepson, “Still Happy,” and E.S Caldwell, “It is the Hour o Believe” Charisma & Christian Llife, (October, 1987). Reprints of the latter article are available from Hunter Minstires on request, at cfhunter.org. 
[3]Bill Shepson, “Still Happy After All these Years,” Charisma and Christian Life (August 200), 95.
[4]Agnes Sanford, The HealingLlight (St. Paul: Macalester Park, 1947), Genevieve Parkhurst, Healing and Wholeness are Yours (St. Paul: Macalester Park, 1957).    
[5]Genevieve Parkhurst, Glorious Victory Through Healing of Memories (St. Paul: Macalester Park, 1973).
[6] The story of her sickness and death is told in Charles Hunter’s, A Tribute to God (Kingswood: Hunter Ministries, 2008) Mrs. Parkhurst’s ministry to Jeanne is found on pp. 17-43.
[7]Francis Gardner Hunter, God is Fabulous: The story of an “Unsave Christian” (New York: Family Library, 1973).
[8]Charles Hunter, and Francis Hunter, How to Heal the Sick (Kingwood: Hunter books, 1981), 45-46.
[9] Charles Hunter, and Francis Hunter, Handbook of Healing: Supplement to How to Heal the Sick (Kingwood, TX: Hunter Books, 1987), 114.
[10] Charles Hunter, and Francis Hunter, How to Heal the Sick (Kingwood, Hunter Books, 1981).
[11] Dr Roy J. Le Roy, and Norma Jean Le Roy, The Supernatural Spine (Kingwood: Hunter Books, 1993).
[12] For example, see the chiropractic charts in the Hunter’s book, If Charles and Francis Can Do It, You Can Do It! (Kingswood: Hunter Books, 1997), 44, 92-93
[13] On the body’s electrical mechanisms see, Robert O Becker, M.D., and Gary Selden, The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the foundation of life (New York; William Morrow, 1985). On the electromagnetic properties of cancer cells see the internet article by Steve Haltiwanger, M.D. C.C.N., “The Electrical Properties of Cancer Cells,” at http://www.sanum-per-aquam.de/pdfs/spa-study-alkaline-14.pdf.
[14] From the Hunter’s website: http://www.cfhunter.org/Prayer_Cancer.htm
[15] James Kallas, The Satanward View: A study of Pauline theology (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), is especially good on this latter point.
[16] This point was brought up by Fr. Augustine Poulain, in his classic on Christian discernment, The Graces of Interior Prayer: A treatise on mystical theology, trans by Lenora L. York-Smith  (St. Louis; Herder & Herder, 1964), 380ff. Modern editions are available.