CR writes: “Should I stay away from this couple’s [Francis and Judith MacNutt] ministry and writings? I am concerned that he gave up his priestly vocation to marry, and that this might be an indication of something unseemly in their deliverance ministry.”
I am happy to report that there is nothing unseemly about the ministry of Francis MacNutt, but the fact that he left the priesthood is indeed a “red flag” worth investigating.
Although Francis left the Dominican Order to marry Judith Sewell in 1980, he received a dispensation from the Church in 1993 and their marriage was blessed by the Most Reverend John Snyder, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, at Marywood Retreat Center in Jacksonville.
For those who have never heard of Francis MacNutt, he is currently serving as the President Emeritus of Christian Healing Ministries, an organization dedicated to making “Christian healing prayer a way of life in families, churches, and medical professions.”
The ministry’s aim is to be a visible presence of Jesus’ desire to heal. They seek to accomplish this goal by providing healing prayer for the sick, teaching people to pray, offering resources for ministry and training, expanding the role of healing prayer in medical professions and offering leadership support to pastors, churches and seminaries.
According to his official bio, Francis was born in 1925 and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He wanted to be a physician after finishing college and medical school; however, he was drafted right out of school and served in the U. S. Army as a surgical technician during World War II. After the war, he returned to college and graduated with honors from Harvard and went on to earn an M.F.A. from Catholic University of America. It was during these years that he was profoundly impacted by the writings of Thomas Merton in the Seven Storey Mountain, and he began to feel the stirrings of a vocation.
He eventually entered the Dominican Order and was ordained in 1956. From there, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in Theology and began to teach homiletics (preaching) at the Dominican Seminary in Iowa. During this time, he wrote three books on preaching and helped found the Catholic Homiletic Society (which no longer exists).
In 1967, he was invited to a week-long Protestant charismatic retreat where he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Not long after this, he experienced what he describes as a “dramatic turning point in his ministry.” One of the retreat leaders, Agnes Sanford, told him that he would be used to bring healing prayer back to the Catholic Church.
Francis immediately began to pray for the sick and many were either completely healed or very much improved. He became one of the first Roman Catholic priests to be involved in the charismatic renewal and in an active healing ministry. He and a group of other charismatic leaders formed the Charismatic Concerns Committee (CCC) in the early 1970s, later renamed the Charismatic Leaders Fellowship, which he has served as chairman.
During the heyday of the charismatic movement beginning in the 1970’s, Francis became widely known and respected among Catholics and Protestants for his teaching about healing prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. In just a few years, he ministered in 31 countries on five continents. In 1976, he founded the Association of Christian Therapists for the purpose of bringing healing prayer into the medical profession.
In 1975, he first encountered a psychologist named Judith Carole Sewell at a conference in Jerusalem. They met again a few years later and were married in 1980. The couple settled in Clearwater, Florida where they had two children, Rachel and David, and established Christian Healing Ministries through which the two have been ministering for decades.
In 2007, the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service in the Vatican co-sponsored an international conference with Christian Healing Ministries for 450 Catholic leaders from 42 countries with the purpose of bringing the teachings of Francis and Judith to the worldwide Church.
He is the author of numerous books including Healing, Power to Heal, The Prayer that Heals, Overcome by the Spirit, Deliverance from Evil Spirits, Homosexuality: Can it be Healed? and The Healing Reawakening.
In 2008, Francis named Judith as his successor at Christian Healing Ministries and now serves as its president emeritus.
I have no reservations about his writings.
ADDENDUM 04/12/16: A reader found this recent interview with the MacNutts and passed it along to me with concerns over what seems to be the MacNutt’s pro-Protestant bend. It is definitely worth reading as you form your opinions about this couple and their work!