06 One of a Kind? The Auckland Ministry of A. H. Dallimore.

Laurie Guy, ,

One of a Kind: The Auckland Ministry of A. H. Dallimore.

By Laurie Guy

Question: when is a Pentecostal not a Pentecostal? One answer is: when the person in question is Arthur Henry Dallimore.

In this article I will outline Dallimore’s beliefs and ministry. I will note that these largely fit classic definitions of Pentecostalism (though also recognising idiosyncratic dimensions that characterised the man). However, I will further indicate that Dallimore did not see himself as a Pentecostal, dissociating himself on several occasions from Pentecostalism. This in turn raises the question: Is Pentecostalism a position that can be identified by objective criteria such as belief systems, practices and claimed experiences? Or is it rather a ‘fellowship’ of like-minded people who mutually recognise their bonds and commonality? If the former answer is correct, then Dallimore was a Pentecostal; but if the latter, then his self-categorization has to be taken seriously.

The beginnings of the Revival Fire Mission:

The early Arthur Dallimore was a man on the move, originating in Britain (where he was born in 1867, and first experienced healing from typhoid fever as a child), and living successively in New Zealand (1886), Alaska and Canada before shifting to Auckland, New Zealand to set up an evangelistic, healing and Pentecostal-type ministry there in late 1927. While in Canada, Dallimore had been influenced by written materials relating to John Alexander Dowie,[1] Aimee Semple McPherson,[2] and (more directly while in Vancouver) by the example of John G. Lake (the prominent ex-Dowie-ite healing evangelist, who he met in at a British Israel Conference)[3] and the dynamic Pentecostal evangelist, Charles S. Price.[4]

Shortly after arriving back in New Zealand, Dallimore began the ‘Revival Fire Mission’ with a handful of people. Meetings remained small for a couple of years, with Dallimore later claiming that on one occasion he preached in the 1200-seater hall that he rented at East Street to an audience of one, a fourteen-year-old girl. However, there was remarkable growth from about 1930.[5] Thereafter reports of Dallimore’s meetings started appearing from time to time in various newspapers.[6] Eventually this turned into a flood-tide of newspaper reporting every week in October-December 1932. The media spotlight served rather to accelerate an already-emerging pattern of growth than to create it. In 1931, prior to the publicity boom, Dallimore baptised 100 people at one time in the Auckland Tepid Baths.[7] A year after this mass-baptism, another 71 were baptised at one time.[8] By 1935 Dallimore indicated that he had baptised over 1100 people in his Auckland ministry (a period spanning a little over seven years).[9]

A significant part of this growth came through Dallimore’s passion for evangelism. In outlining his plans in the first issue of his Revival Fire Monthly magazine, his primary stated aim was to talk about ‘God’s Plan of Salvation’.[10] Dallimore’s passion for evangelism and healing led to his conducting weekly meetings for extended periods of time in places such as Hamilton, Ngaruawahia and Rotorua. A young mother, Thelma Irvine, was converted from nominal Christianity to a vital faith at a Dallimore meeting (the first and only Dallimore meeting she ever attended) in Hamilton in 1931. In her words, ‘When he called people to accept the Lord I couldn’t get up quick enough’; ‘the Lord was calling’. She felt the ‘warmth of the Spirit’ and fell down when prayed for. The outcome was a lifetime of Christian faith, not only for her but also for her husband, which was then passed on to subsequent generations.[11]

Dallimore’s healing ministry:

When Dallimore looked back on the beginnings of his Auckland ministry several years later, he summed up its essential focus as ‘Jesus saves and Jesus heals’ (in addition to which one had to include his British-Israel emphasis). However, while Dallimore had a strong emphasis on evangelism, it was healing that was even more to the fore. That certainly was the crowd-drawing feature of his ministry. The Auckland Star, in reporting one of Dallimore’s meetings referred to the healing time as ‘the main feature of the gathering’.[12] Similarly an Evening Post account referred to the healing time at one meeting as ‘the part of the proceedings for which the crowd had obviously been waiting’, with as many as 550 people coming onto the platform for healing.[13] Two months later, a newspaper account of the previous day’s meeting referred to ‘many hundreds’ coming forward for healing.[14] Most of those who came forward would ‘fall under the power’ such that, at any one time, the stage could be filled with prone bodies. In 1932 Auckland magistrate and supporter, E.C. Cutten, claimed that ‘going under the power’ had occurred between 20,000 and 40,000 times in Dallimore’s ministry over the previous five years without any mishap.[15]

Another feature was Dallimore’s use of ‘blessed handkerchiefs’ which had been anointed with oil. These were sufficiently prominent that, when Dallimore published a booklet which largely comprised letters of people testifying to healing through his ministry, nearly half of the 127 published letters included reference to the application of blessed handkerchiefs.[16] While most of these were utilized for absent people, in a number of cases they were applied to animals: cows, roosters, horses, kittens etc.[17]

One key healing occurred within the wider family of Palmer Lidgard (who much later took over the Dallimore meetings when their founder finally gave up his leadership at the age of 84, in 1957).[18] Lidgard’s family was drawn into the Dallimore orbit when an aunt was healed of breast cancer about 1930.[19] The aunt’s husband was custodian of the Magistrates’ Court, and the healing led to E.C. Cutten, a stipendiary magistrate (in today’s language a district court judge), becoming a Dallimore supporter.[20] Cutten’s support in heading up a delegation was crucial in Dallimore’s regaining use of the Town Hall for his meetings in December 1932.[21] Despite Dallimore’s idiosyncrasies, Cutten remained a long-term supporter, evidenced in his presentation to the Dallimores at their silver wedding anniversary in 1936, and in his letter of support read out at Dallimore’s 70th birthday celebration in 1943.[22]

Dallimore’s healing ministry made him a household name, especially because of some of the more unusual incidents that occurred. As an example, although the author’s late father did not attend church regularly in the early 1930s and never attended Dallimore’s meetings, he was very aware of their controversial nature and spoke (through the 1950s) of ‘Dallimore and the Holy Rollers’. One of his favourite stories involved a Dallimore follower who had a motorbike that would not start. The follower obtained a ‘blessed handkerchief’ from Dallimore, placed it on the motorbike and gave one kick on the kick-start. Immediately the motorbike fired into life! Dallimore carried a letter in his monthly magazine that may well be the original version of the incident:

Dear Bro. Dallimore,-

I must tell you of the wonderful answer to prayer I have had this week, all thanks to our wonderful Jesus. I have no electric generator on my motor cycle and sidecar, so have only to depend on the battery for lights, which you know one must have, especially going through town. Last Sunday night I only just arrived home from your mission when my battery went flat. Knowing I had no means of getting it recharged, I tied a blessed handkerchief round the battery box and prayed in faith for it to be ready to use tonight. This morning when I went to the garage and switched on the lights they were as bright as ever, and the battery was fully charged. I have still the hanky on the battery and will be in the meeting to-night with it. Wishing yourself, Mrs Dallimore and family every success in the noble work for our Lord.

Your brother in Christ[23]

Whether it was the same incident or another is not clear, but Palmer Lidgard recalls a motorbike owner, Bob Morris, having a motorbike with a dead magneto. He applied a blessed handkerchief. Two separate attempts to start the machine failed, but a day later it started. Morris then brought the machine onto the stage at the next Dallimore meeting, setting the engine roaring into action via the kick starter.[24] Such demonstrations made for good theatre.

Another sensational dimension was the reported cure of animals, usually via blessed handkerchiefs. There seems to have been a particular burst of focus on such occurrences in October-November 1932, partly through their prominence in Dallimore’s own sermons. Maybe it was the publicity that stemmed from his narratives that encouraged him to persist in this emphasis – the newspapers regularly included that aspect of his sermons as a news headline in their reporting of his sermons. Healed horses, lambs, hens, a cow and a cockerel all made the headlines.[25] There appears to be a pattern of certain types of events having a ‘season’ or becoming a fad in Dallimore’s later ministry. Thus in the mid 1930s Dallimore’s magazine carried testimonies of the restoring of non-working household items through blessed handkerchiefs. Broken-down clocks were apparently restarted by blessed handkerchiefs.[26] The reporting of such incidents seems to have encouraged supporters to follow the same procedure with other household items. In one case this involved the restoration of an electric kettle that needed a new element:

I thought if the Lord can mend broken watches he can fix the kettle, so I put a blessed handkerchief on it and asked the Lord to make it heat. Then I kept feeling it to see if it was heating but it wouldn’t so I left it switched on and went away. About an hour after, I heard it singing, and it is going as good as ever now.

I remain

Your sister in Christ[27]

A similar testimony related to an electric sewing machine:

Hearing the testimony of the magneto of the motor-cycle I suddenly thought of the worn-out machine, and the next day put the blessed handkerchief on the machine, and left it for four days. I was afraid to try it again, for fear my faith was not strong enough, and suddenly I said to myself: ‘No! I must have more faith,’ and immediately tried the machine again, and it has been going beautifully, as good as the day I bought it. That happened six weeks ago, and it is still going perfectly.

May you be long spared to strengthen our faith and lead us to Jesus.

Sister Hill.[28]

Later again the ‘season’ seems to have been for broken-down irons, one becoming ‘hotter than usual’ when a handkerchief was applied.[29]

The high-tide of Dallimore’s ministry:

By 1932 Dallimore had outgrown the rented hall in which his Auckland ministry had begun. This led to a move into a number of theatres for his meetings before preaching to packed-out audiences in the Auckland Town Hall itself from August to December 1932. A newspaper report indicates one meeting involving people queuing for up to two hours prior to the service, with hundreds turned away because of an overflowing audience.[30] During these boom times the services were also brought to a wider audience through use of the newly emerging medium of radio.[31]

Dallimore’s meetings were an entertaining spectacle. In addition to the healing time – itself colourful with the ‘going under the power’ phenomenon - further colour was added to the meetings with the noise of a band of more than twenty instrumentalists playing in semi-jazz style.[32] By the mid-1930s \the instruments included a home-made electric guitar (a remarkable feature for that time).[33] Utterances in tongues – significant in New Zealand only from the time of the first Wigglesworth meetings of 1922 – provided further novelty to the gatherings.[34] Added liveliness and colour came through crowd participation. In some cases this could involve cheering (reprimanded Dallimore) when ‘tough nuts’ failed to fall down under the power.[35] On one occasion Dallimore rebuked the mockers, calling them ‘the scum of the intellect of the city’ and warning, ‘It is only a fool that mocks God.’[36] Now and again dead cats were thrown into the meetings, and there were sometimes scuffles when ushers ejected troublemakers from the meetings.[37] In one case this led to an usher being prosecuted and convicted for punching someone outside one of Dallimore’s meetings.[38]

Dallimore certainly added to the colourfulness of his meetings through his energetic language. On one occasion Dallimore displayed a healed woman who, after being gored by a bull, had had ‘organs cut away until she was practically next door to empty’.[39] Dallimore indicated one Sunday evening that he had been challenged to drink cyanide (based on Mark 16.18). While declining the challenge on the basis that one should not tempt God, he claimed that a Canadian farmer had proved his faith by allowing a poisonous snake to bite him twice on the wrist. The farmer suffered no ill effects but the snake died.[40] On at least one other public occasion Dallimore claimed that he himself had been raised from the dead.[41] The unreported background to this claim was Dallimore’s being restored to health as a child through the prayers of his mother when he had typhoid fever. Was he dead as he had claimed, or simply at death’s door? James Worsfold, an Apostolic leader who wrote a seminal history of the Pentecostal movement in New Zealand, was clearly uncomfortable with the resurrection account, describing Dallimore’s restoration as being from ‘death’s door’.[42] (Given that Dallimore’s accounts explicitly stated that he had been raised from the dead and given that Worsfold provided no evidence to support modifying that extreme claim, one presumes that Worsfold simply made a personal judgment call that Dallimore’s own account involved exaggeration.)


Dallimore was markedly hostile to conventional medical practice. God’s method was healing by faith and faith alone: ‘As Jesus is the one remedy for every form of sin, SO HE IS THE ONE REMEDY FOR EVERY FORM OF SICKNESS’.[43] ‘On the one hand stands Jesus, the God ordained healer of all disease, and on the other stands the monster, medical colossus’.[44] Dallimore argued that modern healing drugs were a pagan practice, supporting this with the argument that the New Testament Greek word for sorcery, pharmakeia, was a term that also applied to the use of drugs.[45] He went on to quote with apparent approval a Dr Traherne who referred to ‘the sinfulness of the medical profession and drug business’ and claimed that those who sought help from such sources were doing so ‘in disobedience to God’s commands’.[46] Dallimore would apparently not pray for people if he knew they were continuing to see a doctor at the same time as seeking healing prayer.[47] Dallimore made the claim:

If the whole of New Zealand would renounce the entire medical system and turn to Jesus Christ and put a childlike, sincere and simple faith in him, NEW ZEALAND WOULD SEE AN ASTONISHING TRANSFORMATION IN ITS CONDITION OF APPALLING SICKNESS AND MISERY. BUT NOT EVEN THE CHURCH BELIEVES THAT FAR IN JESUS.[48]

Dallimore’s success in drawing large crowds catalyzed opposition from other churches. The focus of most of their attacks was the evangelist’s extreme stance on healing. It was not that the other churches rejected the notion of God’s direct intervention in healing. J.J. North, for example, (editor of the NZ Baptist and principal of his denomination’s theological college from 1926), although strongly opposed to Dallimore, had previously expressed cautious support for the early healing ministry of T. W. Ratana.[49] What the non-Pentecostal churches did reject was the notion that God would certainly heal all who had faith, that healing was in the atonement and that conventional medicine should be rejected. Espousal of those views - Dallimore’s views - was seen as misleading and dangerous fanaticism.

Voices within most non-Pentecostal denominations attacked Dallimore’s ministry over the healing issue.[50] Particularly strong attack came from Free Methodist minister, Kenneth Melvin, who ran a series of Sunday night sermons against Dallimore’s approach, ending with packed-out Town Hall ‘indignation meetings’ against Dallimore’s claims.[51] Further significant opposition came from the interdenominational Auckland Council of Christian Congregations, which (with the local branch of the British Medical Association) set up a Committee of Inquiry into Dallimore’s healing claims. The committee consisted primarily of clergy and medical experts, but also included two representatives from the university. Unsurprisingly Dallimore refused to co-operate. It may partly have been because of his perception that the committee’s mind was already made up.[52] However, there was also a matter of principle. Why submit healings to ‘experts’ whose methods you had already rejected, for the purposes of verification? It would be like casting one’s pearls before swine:

I advised all my following not to submit their healings to examination, on the sound grounds that they were all the result of prayer and faith in God and to allow them to be questioned and analysed and examined by a band of unbelievers in Christ’s healing touch, to me, was utter sacrilege.[53]

Dallimore’s opposition to medicine meant that there could be no independent verification of any healings. The only evidence we have of the healings is what Dallimore said and the testimonies that he published. There are two weaknesses to this evidence. In the first place, those testifying may not have had a good medical understanding of their previous condition and their long-term later state. In the second place, those testifying were (by definition) believers, a factor that drew suspicion on their reports. An exception seems to have been the journalist and writer Margaret MacPherson, who wrote in 1934 of being healed from long-standing ‘lumbago’ in 1931 in a Dallimore meeting.[54]

The outcome of the Committee of Inquiry investigation was a damning report in October 1932. Most cures were considered unsubstantiated. In some cases breakdown or even death was felt to result from reliance on Dallimore. Even where improvement did occur, it was best explained as mental suggestion. The ‘incomprehensible gibberish’ of speaking in tongues was attacked, as was the ‘degrading spectacle known as “going under the power”’. Dallimore was a ‘sensation monger’ running a ‘vaudeville show under the cloak of religion’.[55]

Dallimore’s opponents used the committee report to get the Auckland City Council to refuse the evangelist any further use of the Town Hall.[56] Opposition and adversity did not, however, seem to cause Dallimore any great anxiety; in fact he later confessed to enjoying the opposition.[57] Moreover, ‘it advertised us greatly free of cost to ourselves’.[58] When denied the use of the Town Hall, Dallimore claimed he would take the matter as far as the Privy Council to get justice.[59] In the end, a 7,000-person petition, combined with a delegation headed by the magistrate E.C. Cutten, led to Dallimore’s reinstatement in the Town Hall in December 1932 (based on a split 12 to 10 council vote).[60] Such developments were grist to the mill of media publicity, which in turn fed and sustained his gigantic audiences.

This sort of attention was unsustainable long-term. Very soon after the reinstatement, the media ceased to pay much attention to Dallimore and his meetings. Attendances rapidly shrank. After only two more weeks in the Town Hall, Dallimore’s meetings were back in the hall where he had begun in 1927. Thereafter his star was on the wane, although he could still draw crowds of 600 or so in 1939.[61]

The narrative to this point would suggest that Dallimore was a colourful early Pentecostal preacher. One might almost call him ‘typical’, though that may not be the best word to use, as Pentecostalism was markedly fluid and varied in that period of time. Many of his practices, however, were common features of the young Pentecostal movement. Smith Wigglesworth’s New Zealand ministry in 1922-24, for example, which effectively inaugurated modern Pentecostalism in New Zealand, involved a similar use of anointed handkerchiefs.[62] People collapsing on the platform and remaining in a state of semi-consciousness after being prayed for were also an early Pentecostal phenomenon in New Zealand.[63] Even distrust of or opposition to conventional medical treatment was also not unusual. According to Wigglesworth, ‘You could afford to burn all the druggists’ shops in the place and be the better off for it.’[64]

Dallimore also seems to have adhered to a classic Pentecostal belief in a baptism in the Holy Spirit. In discussing the marks of the true church he later stated: ‘They who constitute the church must have the evidence of a literal Holy Ghost filling, or Baptism. Distributed among this Body are the nine gifts, which witness to the active presence of the Spirit.’[65] Dallimore once spoke of a power that came to him one night and suffused him with a strange warmth which remained with him ever since in varying degrees.[66] Certainly a baptism of power was a dimension of his gospel:

Cut out the social end, and the man-invented theories and ideas, and slam sin and extol righteousness, pray for the sick, open the heart for a Holy Ghost Baptism of Power.[67]

It is noticeable, however, how little Dallimore discussed Holy Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues in his monthly magazine across the nineteen years of its publication. While these things were a part of his teaching, they were by no means its focus. Nevertheless Dallimore was ‘Pentecostal’ on this point.

However, Dallimore articulated a number of convictions which were rather more idiosyncratic than ‘typical’ of broader Pentecostalism.

Idiosyncratic beliefs:

When Dallimore set out his primary concerns in his first issue of the Revival Fire Monthly, he put British-Israel teaching as one of those concerns: ‘Our Claim [is] that Britain is the Headquarters of the So-called “lost” Ten Tribes of Israel, and that the Anglo-Saxons wherever found are the literal descendants of the House of Israel’.[68] Such a viewpoint stemmed from the influence of the British Israelite Dr William Pascoe Goard, during the time Dallimore was in Canada.[69] His understanding of Britain as the new Israel and as the ten lost tribes of Israel was reinforced by matters as simple as the fact that an ordinance map of England showed the name Jericho occurring six times, Paradise five times, Mount Zion four times etc. His article reflecting on this is headed, ‘Another proof of our Israel identity’.[70] While such teaching may appear bizarre today, it was less a ‘lunatic fringe’ issue in Dallimore’s time. In fact a New Zealand Prime Minister, William Ferguson Massey, had been a patron of the British Israel World Federation, and the teaching would divide trans-Tasman Pentecostalism well into the 1950s and 1960s.

Allied with his British-Israel teachings was his focus on the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, which Dallimore viewed as built according to divine plan such that its measurements provided markers for the unfolding of subsequent events. This perspective was based on the notion that each inch of the passageways represented a year of chronological time (though to complicate matters, ‘pyramid’ inches were about one-thousandth part longer than imperial inches).[71] Dallimore’s ideas on the great pyramid were not altogether novel - Charles Russell, founder of the ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ movement, and several other dispensational teachers had already engaged in similar speculations.[72]

Dallimore’s amalgam of British-Israel and Great Pyramid teaching led to his prediction in 1932 that the heir to the British throne was actually going to be a second Davidic messiah, never marrying, but ushering in the reign of Jesus Christ in 1936. He even named the exact date when this glorious event would occur – ‘September, 15th, 1936’.[73] Unfortunately, the future Edward VIII failed to live up to expectations. Dallimore had to run an ‘Error’ article in 1937 explaining that he ‘should have stated that on Edward VIII’s 30th birthday, June 23rd, 1924, there was completed from David to that date, one hundred generations each of 30 years, not 100 kings’.[74] What was the significance of the new calculation? Having been burnt once with patently erroneous predictions, Dallimore was not going to be quick to make the same mistake again: ‘What the significance may be we have yet to find out.’[75]

Dallimore’s belief in British Israel doctrine was a strong one. He spoke of his first discovering this ‘truth’ almost as a revelatory experience. It was a ‘real awakening to “the glorious truth that we were God’s 10 Tribe Israel people”. . . . We were Israel!’[76] The result was a glorification of things British and of the British Empire, along with a xenophobic warning against the ‘detestable “rats” of Europe and Asia’, who needed to be ‘exterminated’.[77]

Beyond this idiosyncratic teaching, and along with several other early Pentecostal founders (such as Sarah Jane Lancaster, in Australia, and the Australian Frank Ewart), Dallimore also articulated anti-trinitarian teaching that mainstream Christianity and mainstream Pentecostalism have labelled as heretical. Dallimore focused on the fact that there is one God whose name is Jehovah. Jehovah of the Old Testament is not Jesus of the New Testament. Rather Jehovah is the Father of Jesus, who is his Son.[78] Dallimore did not believe in the pre-existence of Jesus.[79] While Dallimore accepted that Jesus was begotten by God, he seemed to have an adoptionist understanding of the Father-Son relationship. In making this assertion Dallimore focused much on texts such as ‘Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by deeds of power’ (Acts 2.22), and, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’ (Acts 13.33).[80] Dallimore seems to have articulated an anti-trinitarian stance from the beginning of his New Zealand mission, though perhaps not as prominently as he did later on.[81] However, anti-trinitarian perspectives were much articulated in his Revival Fire Monthly magazines, 1934 -1953. It may indicate something of Dallimore’s strength of conviction that, even after he largely withdrew from public ministry in 1957, he was still engaged in a running trinitarian debates with the Brethren leader, W.H. Pettit, in lengthy weekly advertisements in the Saturday personal columns of the NZ Herald.[82]

While Dallimore made anti-trinitarianism a major emphasis, it was not his primary one. Right through his ministry it would seem that the doctrine of healing by faith was Dallimore’s chief emphasis. And here too Dallimore drifted into heterodoxy. An aspect of Dallimore’s anti-trinitarian viewpoint was the belief that the Holy Spirit is not a person but is rather the power or ‘Breath’ of God.[83] Such teaching tended to disconnect the ministry of the Spirit from the person of Jesus Christ and this may have contributed to other heterodox developments late in Dallimore’s career. While he began with the conviction that the name of Jesus was the key to healing, he later started to drift from this perspective. Dallimore’s earlier healing ministry was based on a literal reading of certain New Testament scriptures, along with phenomenological evidence: simple observation, the previously sick person’s claim to healing, and a heart conviction that this was so. Eventually, however, this phenomenological proof clashed with Dallimore’s focus on Scripture. The reason for this was that Dallimore also saw cures occurring in spiritualism (through healers such as Harry Edwards), in Christian Science and in Hinduism through yogis.[84] Dallimore’s eventual conclusion was that healing occurred via natural (though God-given) laws through faith. This faith did not have to be faith in Jesus – any kind of faith in a positive outcome would do: ‘We say: “Jesus healed me,” but really it was “faith” that brought us into possession of the promised relief’.[85] The medicine man and the Christian faith healer would get ‘the same results exactly’.[86] Did all these people connect with God’s Spirit? The elderly Dallimore seemed to suggest that they did: ‘When the “healing wind” of God is blowing, every “ship”, and every little “boat” that sets its sails for the “wind” can get it’.[87]

One consequence was that Dallimore ended up endorsing Coué’s techniques of auto-suggestion. He also ended up advocating yoga breathing practices: inhaling ‘prana’, the breath of life, and then sending ‘prana’ while exhaling ‘to any part of the body by WILLING IT TO GO WHERE YOU DESIRE or have a need of healing’.[88] Dallimore’s critics had argued in Dallimore’s heyday that any positive results he had achieved were the result of his powers of suggestion, a hitching of ‘mental suggestion on to the Star of Bethlehem’.[89] This they commonly linked with Dallimore’s charismatic personality, the ‘strange spell’ of his almost mesmeric influence upon his supporters.[90] The Dallimore of the 1930s indignantly refuted that viewpoint. The elderly Dallimore, probably unwittingly, largely agreed with them, even to the point of recognising that certain people had a ‘higher than average spiritual capacity’ and therefore could become ‘AN OPEN CHANNEL through which the “Prana” flows to the sick’.[91] People he named as having this capacity included J.A. Dowie, Charles Price, Aimee Semple MacPherson, William Marion Branham and himself.[92] Such a perspective created division and further shrinkage in Dallimore’s work, which eventually ended up with only 30 or 40 attendees when he finally laid retired in 1957.[93]

Another of Dallimore’s departures from contemporary orthodoxy was his view that Christians face soul sleep at death, with an awakening something over a thousand years later (after the millennium).[94] Why did Dallimore travel on less conventional theological roads? By his own admission, he was very much a self-taught person:

It is fifteen years ago that I began a study of the Bible and that was rather an intense reading of it than a systematic study. Fortunately, I had not had a Bible for twenty-five years prior to that time. That sounds queer, doesn’t it? But I mean that my receptive mind was not clogged up with rubbish and error. I was a fallow field as it were, and that is the best for cultivation and planting. I had been lying fallow for twenty-five years. When I did begin to read, I read clear of earlier impressions. I had no text books to help me to understand thank goodness.[95]

Dallimore’s pride in his self-learning, his strongly opinionated nature and his adventurous spirit all made his high levels of deviance from conventional orthodoxy not too surprising. His ministry in many ways was built around himself. He created no peers to match him, or to whom he was accountable. The sub-title of his magazine throughout its nineteen years of publication was ‘Dallimore’s magazine’. Although he did engage in reading, his tendency to be a one-man band in terms of leadership meant that he was insufficiently shaped by a theology worked out in a denomination and in fellowship with others.[96]

Was Dallimore a Pentecostal?

The received wisdom is that Dallimore was indeed a Pentecostal. The article on Dallimore in the influential Dictionary of New Zealand Biography lists him as ‘Pentecostal minister, British-Israelite’.[97] What was long the primary monograph on early Pentecostalism places Dallimore firmly in those ranks.[98] Even historians, however, have their own histories. When James Worsfold wrote to Dallimore in 1968 seeking information to include in his forthcoming ‘history of the Pentecostal Churches in New Zealand’, Dallimore’s daughter replied for her 94-year-old father: ‘As he has at not time had any connection with a Pentecostal mission, but has at all times been entirely independent, he feels that there is no justification for the records of his work being included in your survey.’ Worsfold then had to back-pedal and explain that he wanted to include Dallimore because while Dallimore ran an independent work he emphasised Pentecostal teachings.[99] Given that Worsfold’s work barely touches on the charismatic movement (then at its beginnings in New Zealand as this work was being written) it is rather unusual that he should have captioned the book, A History of the Charismatic Movement in New Zealand. It makes one wonder whether Worsfold changed the title from ‘Pentecostal’ to ‘Charismatic’ in order better to accommodate Dallimore’s material and viewpoint.

Dallimore’s objection to the term ‘Pentecostal’ as a self-description was long-standing. In 1934 Dallimore claimed not to be Pentecostal, deploring Pentecostalism as characterised by ‘“wild fire” and noise and extravagance’.[100] Two months later he spoke of the excesses he saw in Pentecostalism:

There are abroad many voices, all claiming divine authority and all speaking in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most pronounced of these is that of ‘The Pentecostal healing movement’. A deliberately ‘cooked up’ frenzy of emotionalism of the most morbid type, abandonment to which can bring nothing but harm to the soul.[101]

For Dallimore, then, a feature of Pentecostalism was an excessive, manipulated emotionalism from which he dissociated himself. He argued for order, not for a free-for-all. Thus, while welcoming utterances in tongues, he took seriously the qualifications to such expression in 1 Corinthians 14.27 and would not allow more than three such utterances in one meeting.[102] Dallimore conceived an emotional distance between himself and self-identified Pentecostals, howevermuch his practice was identical with their own.

Perhaps an early Auckland experience contributed to this. Dallimore had begun his ministry in Auckland at an East Street hall rented from a Methodist Trust Board on a continuing short-term basis from December 1927. Dallimore’s story is that about twelve months later the Assemblies of God offered the landlord a higher rental and Dallimore lost the premises.[103] It was a sore point, softened only by the fact that the AOG work later declined to the extent that they surrendered their lease and Dallimore was able to regain use of those premises about January 1931. Dallimore used the incident to show that he was not Pentecostal: ‘If I were, would the “Assemblies of God” have engineered me and my flock out onto the street? I trow not. No, I am not “Pentecostal”.’[104]

Was Dallimore a Pentecostal? He certainly had many of the features of a Pentecostal-type ministry. However, his emphatic word was that he was not a Pentecostal. What then was he? Like many of the healing ministers who preceded the rise of organised Pentecostalism (such as J. A. Dowie or Maria Woodworth-Etter), Dallimore was one of a kind who perhaps belonged to another era.


[1] The NZ Herald, 14 July 1930, p.10, reports parts of a sermon by Dallimore. In it he refers favourably to Dowie’s faith-healing. A number of newspaper cuttings relating to Dowie were held by Dallimore (now held in NZ Baptist Archives).

[2] NZ Herald, 24 October 1932, p.10 includes reference to McPherson by Dallimore. As with Dowie, a number of newspaper cuttings relating to McPherson were held by Dallimore (now held in NZ Baptist Archives, Carey Baptist College, Auckland, New Zealand). For an article written late in Dallimore’s public ministry on these figures, see RFM, Vol. 17, No. 6 (October 1950) pp.6-8.

[3] Auckland Star, 24 October 1932, p.3. Dallimore himself refers to the influence of Dr John Lake, ‘one time elder in Dr. Dowie’s great mission of healing in Chicago’: Revival Fire Monthly (RFM), Vol. 2 No. 4 (August 1935) p.3 (copy held at NZ Baptist Archives). See also RFM, Vol. 7 No. 13 (May 1941) p.5.

[4] Auckland Star, 24 October 1932, p.3.

[5] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 1934) p.5.

[6] For example, NZ Truth, 20 November 1930, p.1; Waikato Times, 2 July 1931.

[7] Dominion, 8 November 1931, p.10.

[8] NZ Herald, 19 December 1932, p.13.

[9] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 11 (March 1935) p.2.

[10] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 1934) p.1.

[11] Personal knowledge of the author and telephone conversations with Thelma Irvine 24 April 2003 and 12 May 2003.

[12] Auckland Star, 31 October 1932, p.3.

[13] Evening Post, 24 August 1932.

[14] NZ Herald, 31 October 1932, p.10.

[15] NZ Herald, 16 December 1932, 13.

[16] A.H. Dallimore, Healing by Faith, n.pl: n.pub., n.d. [c.1932].

[17] Ibid., pp.83, 100 and passim.

[18] NZ Herald, 21 December 1957, p.1.

[19] Letter, T. Palmer Lidgard to Laurie Guy, 13 May 2003 (NZ Baptist Archives).

[20] Transcript of interview by Laurie Guy with Palmer Lidgard, 13 March 2003, p.6 (NZ Baptist Archives).

[21] Minutes of meeting of Auckland City Council, 15 December 1932 (Auckland City Archives: ACC 101/39); NZ Herald, 16 December 1932, p.13.

[22] RFM, Vol. 2 No. 11 (March 1936) p.2; Vol. 11, No. 6 [actually Vol. 10, No. 6] (October 1943) p.7.

[23] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 7 (November 1934) p.8. Cutten died in 1945: NZ Herald obituary 26 April 1945.

[24] Letter, T. Palmer Lidgard to Laurie Guy, 3 January 2004 (NZ Baptist Archives).

[25] Auckland Star, 24 October 1932, p.3; 21 November 1932, p.3; 28 November 1932, p.9; NZ Herald, 24 October 1932, p.10; 28 November 1932, p.11.

[26] RFM, Vol. 2, No. 12 (April 1936) p.7; RFM, Vol. 5, No. 5 (September 1938) p.7.

[27] RFM, Vol. 2, No. 1 (May 1935) p.8.

[28] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 8 ((December 1934) p.8.

[29] RFM, Vol. 4, No. 3 (July 1937) p.4; Vol. 4, No. 5 (September 1937) p.8.

[30] NZ Herald, 31 October 1932, p.10.

[31] These broadcasts covered quite a period of time. A letter from the 1ZR Broadcasting Station to Dallimore dated 11 November 1931 marks the time when the broadcasts began (NZ Baptist Archives). A Revival Fire Mission advertisement mentioning the services being broadcast over Radio 1ZB in NZ Herald, 3 September 1932, p.4 indicates their long continuance.

[32] Auckland Star, 24 October 1932, p.3; 7 November 1932, p.9.

[33] For a description of the making of the instrument see letter, T. Palmer Lidgard to Laurie Guy 13 May 2003.

[34] NZ Herald, 14 July 1930, p.10; 31 October 1932, p.10; 12 December 1932, p.10; Auckland Star, 7 November 1932, p.9; 14 November 1932, p.3

[35] NZ Herald, 31 October 1932, p.10; 12 December 1932, p.10.

[36] Auckland Star, 5 December 1932, p.9. For a similar situation and similar reaction from Dallimore, see NZ Observer, 7 September 1933, pp. 4-5.

[37] Transcript of interview with Palmer Lidgard 13 March 2003, p.4. See NZ Herald, 24 October 1932, p.10 re one interjector’s removal.

[38] NZ Herald, 3 December 1932, p.14.

[39] NZ Herald, 12 December 1932, p.10.

[40] NZ Herald, 14 July 1930, p.10.

[41] NZ Herald, 21 November 1932, p.10; Auckland Star, 21 November 1932, p.3. Dallimore explicitly made this claim also in RFM, Vol. 10, No. 5 (September 1943) p.3 and in RFM, Vol. 19, No. 3 (July 1952) p.1.

[42] J.E. Worsfold, A History of the Charismatic Movement in New Zealand, with a Breviate of the Catholic Apostolic Church in Great Britain, Bradford: Puritan Press, 1974, p.224n2.

[43] RFM, Vol. 3, No. 9 (January 1937) p.7. Emphasis original.

[44] RFM, Vol. 10, No. 5 (September 1943) p.2.

[45] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 9 (January 1935) p.2.

[46] Ibid., p.4.

[47] Conversation with Palmer Lidgard 13 March 2003.

[48] RFM, Vol. 4, No. 3 (July 1937) p.3. Emphasis original.

[49] NZ Baptist, April 1921, pp.37-8.

[50] For Anglican opposition, see NZ Herald, 29 October 1932, p.11; 3 November 1932. For Baptist opposition, see J.J. North, ‘A Miracle Man?’, Reaper, Vol. 10, No. 11 (January 1933), pp.220-2. For Methodist opposition, see NZ Methodist Times, 26 November 1932, p.7.

[51] NZ Herald, 31 October 1932, p.10; 7 November 1932, p.10.

[52] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 10 (February 1935) p.2.

[53] Ibid.

[54] NZ Referee and Social Tattler, 1 February 1934, p.31.

[55] The Dallimore Campaign Exposed: The Full Report of the Joint Clerical, Medical, and Professorial Committee of Inquiry into the Faith Healing Mission Conducted by Mr. A. H. Dallimore, 1932, Auckland: Wilson & Horton, 1932, pp.6-7.

[56] NZ Herald, 4 November 1932, p.12.

[57] RFM, Vol. 11, No. 6 [actually Vol. 10, No. 6] (October 1943) p.3.

[58] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 4 (August 1934) p.4.

[59] NZ Herald, 28 November 1932, p.11.

[60] NZ Herald, 16 December 1932, p.13.

[61] Non-sourced newspaper clipping (probably from Pix in the first part of 1939): Dallimore papers currently being classified at N.Z. Baptist Archives.

[62] Otago Daily Times, 21 June 1922, p.6.

[63] NZ Baptist, December 1923, pp.247-8.

[64] Otago Daily Times, 21 June 1922, p.6.

[65] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 7 (November 1934) p.3.

[66] NZ Truth, 20 November 1930, p.1.

[67] RFM, Vol. 2, No. 2 (June 1935) p.5.

[68] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 1934) p.1.

[69] Transcript of interview with Palmer Lidgard, 13 March 2003, p.2. Information on Dr Goard accessed at www.associationcovenantpeople.org/articles/alden/aldenarticle23.htm on 19 November 2003.

[70] RFM, Vol. 2 No. 6 (October 1935) p.7.

[71] A.H. Dallimore, Britain-Israel, Auckland: no publ., 2nd edn, n.d. [1932], pp.75-7.

[72] On this see E. Francke, ‘A Pyramid Scheme: How C.T. Russell’s Great Pyramid Changed with the Times’: http://quitplaying.com/~neirror/neirr.org/pyramidscheme.htm accessed 24 March 2003.

[73] Dallimore, Britain-Israel, pp.80-1, 84-5.

[74] RFM, Vol. 3, No. 9 (January 1937) p.3.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Dallimore, Healing by Faith, p.9. Emphasis original.

[77] Dallimore, Britain-Israel, pp.86-7.

[78] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 1934) p.6; Vol. 2, No. 4 (August 1935) p.3.

[79] RFM, Vol. 2, No. 8 (September 1935) p.5; Vol. 3, No. 4 (August 1936) p.3.

[80] RFM, Vol. 2, No. 2, (June 1935) p.3; Vol. 3 No. 4 (August 1936) p.3; Vol. 16, No. 11 (March 1950) p.5.

[81] Here I part company with Worsfold, A History of the Charismatic Movement, who suggests at pp.234-5 that Dallimore’s anti-trinitarian teaching did not come to the fore until the late 1940s. The Revival Fire Monthly magazine shows that this stance was strongly articulated by Dallimore in the 1930s. RFM, Vol. 1 No. 1 (May 1934) p.6 indicates that Dallimore had a falling out in about 1928 with the British-Israel Association through his insistence that Jesus was not God but only his Son.

[82] NZ Herald, 3 August 1957 to 21 December 1957.

[83] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 7 (October 1934) p.4.

[84] RFM, Vol. 20, No. 4 (August 1953) p.3; Vol. 17, No. 6 (October 1950) pp.2-5.

[85] RFM, Vol. 17, No. 6 (October 1950) p.5.

[86] RFM, Vol. 20, No. 4 (August 1953) p.3.

[87] RFM, Vol. 19, No. 1 (May 1952) p.3.

[88] RFM, Vol. 20, No. 1 (May 1953) p.4. Emphasis original.

[89] J.J. North, ‘A Miracle Man?’ The Reaper, X, 11 (January 1932) pp.220-2. For other voices linking Dallimore’s ministry with suggestion and/or hypnosis see Auckland Star, 21 November 1932, p.3; NZ Herald, 15 October, 1932, p.13; NZ Herald, 17 October, 1932, p.11; NZ Herald, 29 October, 1932, p.11.

[90] Auckland Star, 24 October 1932, p.3; editorials, The Reaper, X, 7 (September 1932) pp.129-30; X, 8 (October 1932) pp.149-50; X, 9 (November 1932) pp.169-70; X, 9 (November 1932) pp.189-90.

[91] RFM, Vol. 20, No. 1 (May 1953) p.4. Emphasis original.

[92] RFM, Vol. 20, No. 1 (May 1953) p.4.

[93] Transcript of interview by Laurie Guy with Palmer Lidgard 13 March 2003, p.3.

[94] RFM, Vol 3, No. 3 (July 1936) p.2.

[95] RFM, Vol. 2, No. 2 (June 1935) p.5.

[96] Dallimore’s being a one man band was emphasized in transcript of interview with Palmer Lidgard, 13 March 2003, pp.1-2.

[97] Dictionary of New Zealand Biography: Vol. 4, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1998, p.126.

[98] Worsfold, A History of the Charismatic Movement, pp.224-35.

[99] Letter J.E. Worsfold to A.H. Dallimore dated 9 March 1968. Reply M. White to Worsfold undated. Reply J.E. Worsfold to Mrs M.W. White dated 22 March 1968. Originals held in NZ Baptist Archives.

[100] RFM, Vol. 1 No. 5 (September 1934) p.5.

[101] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 7 (November 1934) p.2.

[102] Letter T.P. Lidgard to Laurie Guy dated 13 May 2003 Original held in NZ Baptist Archives.

[103] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 2 (June 1934) p.7.

[104] RFM, Vol. 1, No. 5 (September 1934) p.5.

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