We thank God for Canadian pioneers like A.B Simpson, who have helped send thousands of Alliance missionaries throughout the globe.
Albert Benjamin Simpson was born on Prince Edward Island on December 15th, 1843 of Scottish Covenanter heritage. His family had emigrated from Morayshire, Scotland to Bayview, P.E.I. After the collapse of his father’s shipbuilding business in the 1840’s depression, his family moved from P.E.I. to a farm in western Ontario.
Fresh out of seminary in 1865, Simpson had accepted the call to pastor Knox Church in Hamilton, a congregation with the second largest Presbyterian church building in Canada. Over the next eight years, 750 new people joined the congregation.
Unexpectedly, Simpson was called in 1873 to lead a Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The recently ended Civil War (1861-1865) left bitterness and division between the various churches. As a neutral Canadian pastor, Simpson was used to bring racial reconciliation, healing, and forgiveness among the churches. At Simpson’s revival meetings, many pastors went to their knees and poured out their hearts for such a baptism of love as would sweep away their differences. From such racial healing among the clergy came two months of continuous nightly gatherings across the denominations. As the pastors joined their hands together in unity, over 10,000 local residents joined them in prayer meetings lasting for a year.
In 1879, Simpson was invited to lead Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church, a prestigious New York congregation. Simpson loved to reach out to those who wouldn’t normally feel comfortable in a traditional church setting. When 100 Italian immigrants responded to Simpson’s message, he asked his church board to admit them as new members. His board “kindly but firmly refused” for fear of being overwhelmed by immigrants and poor people. Out of that rejection came Simpson’s vision of a fellowship of christians where everyone was welcome, regardless of race, income, denomination, or social class.
The Alliance Church (C&MA) was envisioned by AB Simpson from its very start as a missionary society, “To the regions beyond I must go, I must go. Where the story has never been told; To the millions that have never heard of His love, I must tell the sweet story of old.” Being a publisher, Simpson produced a highly regarded illustrated missions periodical entitled The Gospel in All Lands – believed to be the first of its kind. He was compelled by a sense of urgency to take the Gospel to all nations because of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Former Alliance president Dr. L. L. King said of the C&MA that it “was not established as a mission divorced from the normal activity of a church, but a church which had within it the life and function of a mission…. The mission came first, and the church grew out of a mission.”
Simpson resisted the use of the term ‘church’, discouraging Alliance societies from even meeting on Sunday morning. Alliance members were expected to attend their own denominational church on Sunday morning, and then gather on Sunday afternoon with their Alliance compatriots.
Abandoning his security and reputation, he started a community where all were welcome in Christ. With just seven other people, he began afresh in a poorly heated dance hall. Two years later, the Gospel Tabernacle (as the church was called), had grown to 217 members. More than 700 people would crowd into the evening worship service.
AB Simpson had been such a workaholic that he had destroyed his health. In 1881, his medical doctor gave him 3 months to live. But upon meeting an Episcopalian (Anglican) physician, Dr. Charles Cullis, at Old Orchard Camp in Maine, he experienced a remarkable healing of his heart condition. The next day, Simpson was able to climb a 3,000-foot mountain, and successfully pray for his daughter Margaret’s healing from diphtheria. This was the very disease which had earlier killed his son Melville. Simpson believed that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, he is still healing people today. (Hebrew 13:8) His first of many books was fittingly called The Gospel of Healing.
Word spread fast regarding these healings. He was inundated by many with pleas for help. By others, he was vilified and ridiculed as another quack miracle worker. Simpson started Friday afternoon healing & holiness meetings, which quickly became New York City’s largest attended spiritual weekday meeting, with 500 to 1,000 in attendance. He even turned his own home into a healing home where people could come for prayer ministry.
AB Simpson was a Kingdom innovator, bringing together four separate movements (1) missions & evangelism (2) healing (3) holiness and (4) the Jesus Second Coming into one alliance. His four-fold gospel emphasized “Christ our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.” Similar to John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard, Simpson saw that the healing ministry was vital in the fulfillment of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.
AB Simpson saw that Holiness/Christ-likeness made the good news more believable to a lost and cynical world. The Second Coming of Jesus was seen by Simpson as a motivator to not procrastinate in reaching the nations for Christ.
In 1883, AB Simpson founded the Missionary Alliance and a missionary training college in Nyack, New York. The first team of Simpson’s C&MA missionaries went to the Congo in 1884. Landing near the Congo River, the band of missionaries faced great resistance from slave traders. Shortly after the team’s arrival, their leader, John Condit, died from malaria. After his death, three of his fellow missionaries sold their gear to fund their returning home. Only one man, Francis Gerrish, determined to carry on for three years. In 1888, a second missionary party went to the Congo, successfully establishing the first Alliance mission station. Between 1884 and 1919, Simpson sent 300 workers around the world including the Congo, West Africa, Jerusalem, the Philippines, Japan and South America.
By 1928, the Alliance Church in the Congo (DCR) had become the largest and fastest growing Alliance church overseas. The Alliance Church now serves in more than seventy countries throughout the globe, with more than 20,000 churches and over 4 million congregants.