March 30, 2009

Branham, Moreau, and East Africa

A. Scott MoreauWe’re continually on the lookout for existing resources on cults in East Africa. Recently I came across A. Scott Moreau's article on the Branham movement in the East Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology (April 1989). Moreau was a missionary in Africa and now serves as Professor of Intercultural Studies and Missions at Wheaton College and as editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly. He writes:
Almost every Kenyan student at the Nairobi International School of Theology has had encounters with a Branhamite and found them to be extremely difficult to talk to without having to engage in a defense of the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity or of the baptismal formula “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Moreau first summarizes the history of the self-proclaimed prophet William Branham (1909–1965) and the movement that grew from his international healing ministry. Then he details the Branhamites’ core beliefs, especially that 1) while the Bible is inerrant, we need Branham’s gift of prophetic revelation to fully understand God’s message, and 2) God is not a Trinity; instead, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are different manifestations of a single divine person. After mentioning several other doctrinal deviations, Moreau provides a basic evaluation of Branham’s ministry and teaching, concluding that Branham was a false prophet and his end-time message was in serious error. He concludes by classifying the Branhamites a theological cult and gives several suggestions for how to approach the movement’s followers.

There’s such a wealth of information in this brief article that I barely know where to begin. I especially appreciated Moreau’s practical emphasis. He wasn’t simply an academician dryly describing another religious group; he was an evangelical Christian on the front lines recognizing the need to more effectively engage this cult in Africa. For this Moreau deserves our sincere thanks.

Still, his article is twenty years old. Not only does this render his research somewhat outdated (William Branham Ministries is now deeply entrenched across the continent), but the lack of related research since then is a sad indication of how little has been done by serious theologians in East Africa to address harmful groups of this nature.

May God help us to build on the work of such scholars and equip East African believers with the tools and training they need to effectively refute those who follow false prophets—and share the true Gospel with them in love.