Louise Nankivell: Pioneer Assemblies of God Evangelist

Louise Nankivell: Pioneer Assemblies of God Evangelist

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This Week in AG History — April 29, 1951

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 27 April 2023

Louise Nankivell (1896-1972), a female Assemblies of God evangelist, was frequently dubbed by newspaper articles as “the second Aimee Semple McPherson.” Her public ministry stretched from 1923 until 1962, when illness forced her to retire from travel. She continued to write for the Pentecostal Evangel until just a month before her death in 1972.

A native Chicagoan, Nankivell had no formal theological education. After her marriage to Alfred Nankivell in 1916, the two worked together in street evangelism, with Louise playing an organ while her husband sang. After hearing her address the crowd in one meeting, her husband began urging her into full-time ministry with him as her musical support.

After receiving ordination with the World’s Faith Missionary Association (WFMA) in 1924, the Nankivell duo traveled around the United States often drawing crowds in the thousands. In one meeting in Clarksburg, West Virginia, a crowd of more than 3,000 attended with many gathering outside the auditorium to listen through the doors. Many healings took place in these meetings and thousands professed faith in Christ as a result.

Nankivell was known for preaching a strong holiness message against the ills of society — divorce, common-law marriages, evolution, and other fundamentalist causes of the day — and often wore a long white robe with one single rose pinned to her dress. In one newspaper advertisement she advised the readers of the Brooklyn Daily Times that, “Bright lights, white lights, footlights, dancelights, spotlights, cannot illuminate the way to heaven. Jesus Christ is the greatest light that ever came into the world, and He is the remedy for all our ills.”

A typical week’s meetings included the topics of the end times, the work of Christ on the cross, focus on physical healing, and the inclusion of her testimony along with a defense of women’s authority to preach, posing the question, “Why were spiritual powers given to women if not for use?” Often she would leave out a “question box” for attendees and take time in her meetings to personally address their questions and concerns. Services always included her husband leading in worship or providing musical accompaniment.

In 1940, Nankivell transferred her ordination to the Assemblies of God. After attending the 1941 General Council, she became gravely ill and was not given much hope to recover. She was out of the pulpit for more than a year until one Saturday night Christ appeared to her in a vision. From that time on, she vowed to never preach in any attire other than sackcloth. While many did not understand this vow and she was often criticized as “dramatic,” she believed that standing on the platform in a sackcloth dress was a reminder to herself of her humility and dependence on Christ and a reminder to those around her of the need for repentance.

In the April 29, 1951, Pentecostal Evangel, a report was given by Pastor Leonard Norville of First Assembly of God in Fort Worth, Texas: “For nearly three weeks in February we witnessed many wonderful works at the hand of our mighty Christ in saving the lost, delivering the bound, and healing the sick and afflicted. We were privileged to have evangelist Louise Nankivell with us … We thank God for these meetings … Our faith has been strengthened to a great degree and God is more real than He has ever been in our lives.”

While there were many reports of miraculous healing in Nankivell’s meetings, Pastor Kopp of Los Angeles commented, “Lest any should think that the preaching of the Word is neglected … let me say that she brought powerful and informative messages from the Word of God, which resulted in great altar calls.”

Nankivell continued to hold ordination with the Assemblies of God while also being closely associated with the Voice of Healing ministry of Gordon Lindsay in the 1950s. She was the only woman included in his book of evangelists, Men Who Heard From Heaven. While drawing large crowds, she avoided many of the pitfalls that can come with large-scale evangelistic ministries.

After traveling together for more than 40 years, Alfred and Louise Nankivell retired from full-time evangelism due to health concerns. Alfred died in 1970, after having been a faithful companion and ministry support for 54 years. Louise followed him in death two years later. Her last article in the Pentecostal Evangel called for readers to live lives full of faith, completely surrendered to the will of God, no matter the cost.

Read Leonard Norville’s report of the Nankivell meetings on page 13 of the April 29, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Sufficiency of Simple Trust in God,” by James Salter

• “A Chinese ‘Cornelius,’” by Glenn Horst

• “’Until,’ or Christian Persistency,” Elizabeth Sisson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

For more information on the ministry of Alfred and Louise Nankivell, see Heather-Gail Rhoden Belfon’s article, “The Life and Ministry of Louise Nankivell,” in the Summer 2004 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage Magazine.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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