A.B. Simpson


A(lbert) B(enjamin) Simpson (1843-1919), evangelist, founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Simpson was born on Prince Edward Island, the son of Scottish Presbyterian parents. Undergoing a conversion experience at age 15, he entered Knox College (Toronto) in 1861 and became a Presbyterian minister, leading a prestigious church in Hamilton, Ontario.

Sensing a wider calling, Simpson moved to a church in Louisville, Kentucky in 1874. There he came into contact with the teachings of the Holiness movement, underwent an experience of sanctification and came to believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit held the key to power and blessing in the lives of individual Christians. By the time he moved to a church in New York City in 1879, Simpson was increasingly influenced by dispensationalist interpretations of the Bible as well as a burden to help the missionary movement and reach the unchurched urban masses. Shortly after opening the independent Gospel Tabernacle in 1881, Simpson underwent an experience of divine healing and became an outspoken proponent of that burgeoning movement. Attracting a growing number of followers and a network of ministerial associates, Simpson touted a “fourfold Gospel” of Christ as “Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King,” combining ardor for revivalism, missions, pietistic holiness, and prophecy.

In the late 1880s he created the Christian Alliance and the Evangelical Missionary Alliance to promote his vision, two groups which officially merged and became the Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA) in 1897. In the following two decades the unofficial “denomination” continued to move forward despite losing a large percentage of its leadership and supporters to the emerging Pentecostal movement. In 1974 the CMA recognized that it had become a full-fledged denomination. Today the group claims over 400,000 members within the United States, supports over 800 full-time missionaries, and claims a worldwide membership of some three million people in forty different nations.

For further reading see Bernie A. Van De Walle, The Heart of the Gospel: A.B. Simpson, The Fourfold Gospel, and Late Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Theology (Pickwick, 2009). 

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