BelieveTheSign.com Issues a Public Apology for Promoting William Branham as a Modern Prophet

by Sierra

(Cross posted from Sierra’s blog - the phoenix and the olive branch)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll recognize William Branham as the name of a faith healing evangelist in the mid-20th century who inspired a group of churches that collectively call themselves “The Message of the Hour.” The name refers to the belief that Branham served the role of a major Old Testament prophet for the modern age, delivering the Word of God “fresh” to pre- and post-World War II America (and, increasingly, the rest of the world). Though few have heard of him now, Branham was actually rather famous in his day. He preached a circuit similar to Oral Roberts and Billy Graham (though he was considerably older than Graham), regularly attracting crowds of 50,000.

 

Branham was famed for two reasons: (1) his healing gift, and (2) his prophecies. He fell very much within the apocalyptic premillennialist camp, which is a fancy way of saying that he prophesied about a number of signs that would immediately precede the return of Christ. One was a flood in Ohio. One was a self-driving car. One was the sinking of Los Angeles like Atlantis and the nuclear destruction of the United States. But there were many more than that.

And now, apparently, Message believers all over are beginning to recognize and speak out against the flaws in those prophecies.

Jeremy Bergen, editor of BelieveTheSign.com, posted this public apology today:

Humble Pie: a formal apology for publishing and distributing false doctrine.

Dear Reader,

From the start, the purpose of Believethesign.com has been to provide evidence to support truth. Having grown up in a Message Church, the truth being supported was naturally that William Branham was Elijah the Prophet in fulfillment of Malachi 4:5 and Revelation 10:7. In the fall of 2011, we changed the main scripture reference of the website to “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever”(Hebrews 13:8) in order shift the focus of the site clearly onto Jesus Christ.

The driving force behind this change is that we have uncovered a number of significant issues with the evidence supporting William Branham’s prophetic ministry, as he proclaimed it. At the same time, we have not found any significant issues with the evidence supporting the healings and word of knowledge that brought attention to William Branham’s ministry.

In 1963, William Branham said:

If I say anything that you don’t believe, why, do it just like I do when I’m eating cherry pie. I love cherry pie. But when I hit a seed, I never throw the pie away; just throw the seed away. So you do the same thing. Eating chicken, when you hit the bone, you don’t throw the chicken away, you just throw the bone away. If I say something you don’t believe, just throw the bone away. (Conferences, June 8, 1963, Tucson, Arizona).

What you now read on Believethesign.com should be an accurate historic account of William Branham’s life. By bringing to light supportable evidence, we hope that you find yourself in a better position to separate any pits from the pie.

In other words, BelieveTheSign will no longer prop up failed prophecies by asserting truth without evidence. It will, however, maintain its section on Branham’s healing ministry, as the editors have not found evidence to contradict it. Basically, they’re only going to publish verifiable facts. And take down unverifiable conjecture. Like good journalists!

This is an incredibly brave thing for Bergen to do. A couple of facebook comments on his announcement should give you a good sense of what he’s up against:

Selected comments on Believe The Sign’s facebook page. View the entire conversation here.

I commend Jeremy Bergen for his humble willingness to be corrected when the truth does not line up with the doctrine he has received. I hope that his example will lead others in the Message to honor the questions they have been bottling up and to believe in something bigger than William Branham.

Comments open below

Read everything by Sierra!

Sierra is a PhD student living in the Midwest. She was raised in a “Message of the Hour” congregation that followed the ministry of William Branham. She left the Message in 2006 and is the author of the blog  the phoenix and the olive branch

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About Suzanne Calulu
  • Mayara

    On a side note:
    I always have a hard time understanding what believers are saying. I mean, English is my second language so sometimes I don’t know all the words, but I usually understand non-believers and yet believers seem to try to talk in a way that’s not understandable. Is that part of the doctrine? Learn to ignore or use the language in a way that it confuses people?

  • Jenny Islander

    Inventing a particular jargon that makes it hard for believers to talk with nonbelievers is a classic cult marker. I have a hard time parsing Message messages too.

    Branham does not deserve the title of prophet for one thing alone, or rather, this one thing would brand him a false prophet even if he had said nothing else wrong. Branham is the earliest verifiable source, AFAICT, of the fable of Breaking the Lamb’s Leg. No shepherd can be found who has ever done this. It isn’t in the Bible. It isn’t in historical sources. It’s Branham, and Branham said it was a message from God. So where Jesus said He came to proclaim freedom to the captives, and gave dire warnings to anyone who caused His little ones to stumble, and Isaiah said of Jesus that He would not so much as break a bruised reed or quench a dying lamp, and furthermore Jesus said that He would lay down His life for His flock . . . Branham said to do terrible harm to the little ones because they would learn not to go where you didn’t want them to go as a consequence. Talk about snakes and stones, he sure knew how to give ‘em out.

  • Molly, NYC

    “And, you know, the thing about a big-time evangelist like William Branham is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be living.”

  • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

    It’s amazing how the responders seem to practically worship Branham, putting him practically on a par with Christ. If nothing else were wrong, this constant talk of Branham, Branham, would make it clear something was wrong. I remember how the apostle Paul protested strongly that anyone would say, “I am of Paul.” But “I am of Branham” is the constant refrain here.

  • David Abel

    Greetings to every one. Personally Im a beliver of the message that was preached by bro Branham since 1985. However I have never found a place in the message were Branham said should be worshiped or suggesting for religious sect to be formed in his name. However he empasised on people to receive Christ and get true baptisim of the Holy Spirit. I recall in the message titled the token he mentioned that the teaching on baptism of holy Ghost as the sole message he was send to preach and invited people to go and receive the Holy Spirit as this was the token God required from worshipers. I think what is going on in the message today is a matter of difering understanding of Branham’s teachings, similar to how christians end up getting difering understand on same sciptures which where taught by apostle Paul or other ministers. I think forming an opinion based on how so and so imterpretes the teaching of a gospel minister and coming up with concrete position could be missleading. Let our word be few.

  • chervil

    ” I think forming an opinion based on how so and so imterpretes the teaching of a gospel minister and coming up with concrete position could be missleading. Let our word be few.”

    Considering everything I’ve been reading that’s been grinding out of the Fundie religion/political/propaganda machine, I really couldn’t agree more.

  • ShalomShalom

    William Branham had blue eyes.

  • texcee

    “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

    Sierra, just a minor bit of advice: People have chastised me before for putting facebook screenshots, with their names, photos and opinions, on a blog. I had to edit it by blurring their identies, which explain the blurring here: http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/thoughtful-christians-get-it/
    Perhaps, to avoid trouble, you could do it too?

  • ShalomShalom

    One day we read in the daily newspaper of some leading man in the community who had fallen and brought discredit on the cause of Christ. This unfaithful one was described as having been “an active member in the church.” Yes, that was the trouble. He was too active; he was not passive enough. He had omitted to “lie down” and feed in “green pastures” and drink by the “still waters” of God’s Word and by prayer.

    A friend tells us that while in the Orient he visited a Syrian shepherd. He observed that every morning the shepherd carried food to the sheepfold. On inquiry he found that he was taking it to a sick sheep. The next morning the friend accompanied the shepherd and saw in the sheepfold a sheep with a broken leg. The friend asked the shepherd how the accident happened. Was it struck by a stone? Did it fall into a hole? Did a dog bite it? How was the limb injured? The shepherd replied, “No, I broke it myself.”

    In amazement the friend replied, “What, you broke it! Why did you do that?”

    The shepherd then told him how wayward this sheep had been, how it had led others astray, and how difficult it had been to come near it. It was necessary that something should be done to preserve the life of this particular member of the flock, and also to prevent it from leading other sheep astray. The shepherd therefore broke its leg and reset it. This breakage necessitated the sheep’s lying down for a week or more. During that time it was compelled to take food from the hand of the shepherd. Thus had the compulsion of lying down cured the wondering and wayward disposition of the sheep.

    It is said that when a sheep will not follow the shepherd he takes up the lamb in his arms—and then the mother follows.

    So it sometimes happens with the children of God. Our Great Shepherd has to lay us aside, put us on our backs, perhaps, for a while in order that we may look up into His face and learn needed lessons. A little girl lay dying. She looked up into the face of her father, who years before had been a very active church worker, but on account of business prosperity had drifted away from Christian moorings, and said, “Papa, if you were good as you used to be, do you think I would have to die?” God was making this man to “lie down,” do you see?

    A deacon in a Baptist church told me this story. When first married, he and his wife observed family prayers every day. This worshipful spirit continued for some years after their first child was born; then gradually the father became so engrossed in business that the family altar, Bible reading and prayer were gradually neglected and finally altogether dispensed with. One day, on coming home from the office, the deacon found his nine-year-old girl very ill with a fever. For weeks they watched over her, but finally the angel of death took her home. As the deacon told me this story, the tears filling his eyes, he said, “Then I knew that my daughter had been taken for my sake and that God was making me to ‘lie down.’ From that day until this, which is over a quarter of a century, the family altar has been maintained in our home.”

    William Evans, Ph.D., DD. The Shepherd Psalm and Looking Beyond 2nd ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1921, 1932) 27-29.


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