Critics allege that Bro. Branham’s claim to be a Baptist was untrue, and that he was really always a Pentecostal. In this article we are going to examine their allegations and the facts.
What do the the experts say?
Bro. Branham has been the subject of multiple researchers over the years, including the Baptist historian of American Religion, Prof. Douglas Weaver of Baylor University. Let’s examine what the sources say.
After accepting the call the preach, Branham was ordained an independent Baptist minister.Weaver, C. Douglas (2000). The Healer-Prophet: William Marrion Branham (A study of the Prophetic in American Pentecostalism). Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0-865-54710-0. p. 33
Ordained an independent Baptist minister, Branham attracted a small group of followers who furnished him a tent.Harrell, David (1978). All Things Are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-525-24136-1. p. 28
Founder: Baptist minister and healing evangelist William M. BranhamLarson, Bob (2004). Larson’s Book of World Religions and Alternative Spirituality. Tyndale House Publishers. Inc. ISBN 0-8423-6417-X. p. 77
The simple Baptist preacher was considered a man sent from God.Sims, Patsy (1996). Can Somebody Shout Amen!: Inside the Tents and Tabernacles of American Revivalists. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813108865. p. 193
Branham was ordained a Baptist minister and briefly did tent evangelism in 1933.Crowder, John (2006). Miracle Workers, Reformers, and The New Mystics. Destiny Image. ISBN 978-0-7684-2350-1. p. 325
Coming from a Baptist background, Branham was later converted to Pentecostalism.Moriarty, Michael (1992). The New Charismatics. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-310-53431-0. p. 40
He began attending a local Independent Baptist church, the First Pentecostal Baptist Church of Jeffersonville, where he converted to Christianity. Six months later he was ordained as an Independent Baptist minister. His early ministry was an “impressive success”; he quickly attracted a small group of followers, who helped obtain a tent in which he could hold a revival. At the time of Branham’s conversion, the First Pentecostal Baptist Church of Jeffersonville was a nominally Baptist church that observed some Pentecostal doctrines, including divine healing. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_M._Branham
What did his fellow evangelists say?
Bro. Branham was widely known at the peak of his popularity. He traveled extensively with Gordon Lindsay, founder of Christ for the Nations, and prominent charismatic minister Ern Baxter. These were among his closest associates at the time.
After his conversion, Brother Branham became a Baptist preacherGordon Lindsay, William Branham: A Man Sent From God (1950)
I was very careful to check that out at the time. Branham had no direct link with pentecostalism in terms of his gift. In his home there had been no deep spiritual life, but he told me stories that indicated this gift was with him as a child. (He made some very significant prophecies, for instance, concerning the collapse of a bridge in his area of Ohio.) He once said to me, “If anybody ever writes my biography, you’re the only one I’ve ever told everything to.” He and I had many sessions that were hours long. During one of these, he told me he didn’t believe that tongues was the evidence of the baptism. So I asked him about speaking in tongues, and he said that he had gone to a pentecostal mission and had told God, “These are apparently the only people that will accept my gift – let me talk in tongues so I’ll be acceptable.” And he said God let him talk in tongues, but he never talked in tongues again. That seemed to be his introduction to the pentecostals, and they apparently accepted him because of it. Few people would know that story, but I mention it because as his gift became more apparent as he grew older, he saw that the pentecostal people were probably the only ones who would receive it.
He was a relatively illiterate man, and so had not read widely. He was a great hunter. His abilities were in the realm of natural and intuitive abilities. I questioned him about many people. He didn’t know Dr. Charles Price, who had had quite a healing ministry back in the 1920’s – 30’s, or any others whom I mentioned.
I do not see any inspiration for his ministry coming from any of these earlier men, certainly not in the realm of his word of knowledge. Concerning whatever God may have done in the spirit, I have no knowledge. But in the realm of his word of knowledge, there were no apparent human models he could have patterned himself on. He just seemed to break from a whole new source. He was missionary Baptist, so his tradition would not link him into historic Pentecostalism.Ern Baxter, New Wine Magazine, “New Wine Interviews Ern Baxter”, Christian Growth Ministries, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, pp. 4-7, 22-24
For the past year, Branham, a humble, Indiana, Baptist preacher had been conducting his crusades up and down the west coast.Stewart, Don (1999). Only Believe: An Eyewitness Account of the Great Healing Revival of the 20th Century. Treasure House. ISBN 978-1-56043-340-8.
First Pentecostal Baptist Church
Critics rely on two important pieces of “evidence” to establish that Bro. Branham was never a Baptist. The first item is their analysis of the church where he was converted to Christianity in 1930. The name of the church was the First Pentecostal Baptist Church of Jeffersonville. Secondarily, they point to newspaper articles describing the church as a holy ghost church that taught divine healing.
Does that mean Bro. Branham was not a Baptist? No.
As you can see from reading all the previous quotes, every expert who has wrote on this subject labeled Bro. Branham a baptist. Baptist historian Douglas Weaver was fully aware of the church where Bro. Branham was converted as referenced in his footnotes, yet still called him a Baptist.
The pastor of the church was Roy Davis, and newspaper articles wrote by him can also be found. How did he identify? The critics tend to only give the first sentence in the article, but we will look at the whole context.
I am the minister who received Brother Branham into the first pentecostal church he ever frequented.
I had been a Baptist preacher for many years and had been taught to disregard such ideas and concepts of spiritual things as visions, talking with the Lord, and kindred things. This explains my impatience with Bro. Branham at the time…Roy Davis, Voice of Healing Magazine, October 1950, p 14
Davis clearly self-identified as a Baptist, and his church as pentecostal (with a small “p”). The editors of this website find only one way to logically interpret this, which is the same way Douglas Weaver has interpreted it. The church was nominally Baptist, but observed some pentecostal doctrines. Thus, it was a Baptist church and Bro. Branham was indeed a Baptist.
Billie Branham Pentecostal Tabernacle
The third piece of evidence critics point to is the name of Bro. Branham’s church: in 1936 his church was called the Billie Branham Pentecostal Tabernacle. This can be seen on the 1936 deed to the church.
Once again, this is matter of semantics. Branham had been ordained a Baptist minister, not a Pentecostal minister. His church had “Pentecostal” in the name, but just at it did not necessarily make him Pentecostal at his first church, neither did it at his second. We find the word “Pentecostal” was soon removed from the name of the church.
What does Pentecostal mean?
Critics are taking advantage of people by playing word games. Did you know “pentecostal” can mean more than on thing? Churches had been including the word “pentecostal” in their church names going back to the 1800s, before the modern Pentecostal movement had even began. The term “Pentecostal” had a very different meaning in 1800s than it does in modern times. In those days it was a term that referred to a great shift or spiritual awakening, rather than the display of the gifts of the spirit. Pentecostal Baptists Churches, just like Pentecostal Nazarene churches, were common in the United States at the turn of the century, and they did not emphasize speaking in tongues. These churches ultimately dropped Pentecostal from their names to avoid being confused with the Pentecostal churches which emphasized speaking in tongues.1
There are still Pentecostal Baptist Churches in the United States today. There are many churches which employ names that fit more than one denomination, like the Methodist Episcopal Church, which is an
Episcopal church that observes Methodist teaching. The Pentecostal Baptist churches are no different; they are churches that do not fit easily into one stream of Christianity.
What does the Pentecostal Baptist Church believe?
The Pentecostal Baptist Church as listed in the Handbook of Denominations of the United States believes in the baptism Holy Spirit and divine healing, and sanctification as a second work of grace, like the Pentecostal church. But it does not believe in tongues as the evidence of the Holy Spirit, and believes in predestination, like the Baptist church. Does that sound like a familiar combination of teachings? It is the same combination Bro. Branham taught. It is the same mixture of Armenian and Calvinist doctrines that Pentecostals came to hate when his teaching ministry gained prominence.
See also: https://pfwb.org/about/beliefs/
What do members of the Pentecostal Baptist Church call themselves?
What did Bro. Branham say?
Ultimately, in the opinion of the editors of this website, what matters in the case is what Bro. Branham said. Our faith is something personal to each individual. If Bro. Branham identified with the Baptists in his early ministry, it is his prerogative to claim to be a Baptist. There are examples of Jews attending the Catholic Church, does that make them Catholic?2
President Trump identifies as a Presbyterian, but clearly does not live up the beliefs of the Presbyterian church. Is that grounds for us to question his self-identification? Mayim Bialik identifies as an Orthodox Jew, but clearly does not observe all the customs of Orthodox Judiasm. Does that give us grounds to question her self-identification?
Ultimately this allegation is very nasty type of personal attack that would not be tolerated in polite society.
Bro. Branham identified as a Baptist in his early ministry, and that is the only basis we feel is needed to accept it.
- Handbook of Denomination in the United States, by Frank S Mead. Abdindon Press. Page 96, 199.