A Brief History of the Order of St. Luke the Physician

By Erica Andrews

Order of St. LukeIn the 20th. century there has been a widespread awakening to the tremendous resources of God’s healing power, available to the human race, not just through scientific medicine, but through healing prayer.

God’s healing power was revealed through Jesus Christ, when he healed the sick in body, mind and spirit during his active years of ministry  here on earth.  He also promised his disciples:

Very truly, I tell you the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will  do greater works that these, because I am going to the Father I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the father may be glorified in the Son.  If, in my name, you ask me for anything, I will do it.
(Gospel of St. John 14:12-14)

The disciples then began to practice a healing ministry following their Lord’s example. Thus the ministry included believing prayer; the laying on of  hands and anointing with oil; or a word of authority, spoken in the name of Jesus. However, during the years, faith dimmed and this source of healing power, though still available, was almost totally lost and forgotten – only occasionally reappearing as in the History of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th. Century, or at the grotto of Lourdes in the 19th. century. At the beginning of the 20th. century, we know that the Pentecostals were drawing on God’s healing  power through believing prayer, but in most other Christian denominations this type of healing was no longer a normal part of the ministry.

A re-awakening of this ministry began in England through a variety of leaders– men and women, clergy and laity, who formed the Society of the Nazarene in 1914.  This Society was sponsored by William Temple who later became Archbishop of Canterbury Cuthbert Bardsley, Bishop of Coventry, and others. Revd. John Maillard formed a Healing Life Mission at Milton Abbey Healing Home and Revd. William Wood with the London Healing Mission.  Dorothy Kerin started her healing home at Burrswood.

In 1926 the Society of the Nazarene was officially approved and endorsed by the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops as the healing organisation of  the Anglican Communion.

In the USA. in 1920, Revd. Henry Wilson established an American branch of the Society of the Nazarene with Revd. John Gayner Banks.

Dr. Banks had gone to the USA. from England as a layman to study for a doctorate in therapeutic psychology at the University of Missouri.  Encouraged by Henry Wilson, he went on to be ordained and felt a call to spread the Good News of the divine healing ministry to all the world.

He was convinced that Christ’s healing power to heal today is just as great as it was when he walked on earth. One of Dr. Banks’ sayings was, “A little faith brings little results, greater faith, greater results; and a marvelous faith, marvelous results.” This truth he had come to accept was by personal experience.

The American branch of the Society of the Nazarene, withered away for the lack of organisation and leadership after the death of Dr. Wilson in 1929.  John Gayer Banks was determined to do something about it, while conducting a healing mission in California he was introduced to Miss Ethel Tulloch, who had been convener for the Southern California Chapter of the Society of the Nazarene.  They were drawn together by their shared interest in the healing ministry and were married at Calvary Church, New York City by Sr. Samuel Shoemaker, who was one of the spiritual founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.  On their honeymoon John and Ethel Banks visited all the healing homes in England and the USA. and they dreamed of drawing them all together under the umbrella of a world healing fellowship.

In 1930 they shared this dream with a small prayer group at St. Luke’s Church San Diego, where Dr. Banks was Vicar, and it was decided to name the umbrella organisation, the Fellowship of St. Luke the Physician. “Sharing” a healing newspaper was formed.  In the 30s and 40s Dr. Banks devoted much of his time conducting healing missions at home and abroad, lecturing, teaching and praying, for many who were ill in body and soul and drawing new members into the healing fellowship. Chapters were formed, the discipline of a rule of life added and a member’s manual published.  By 1947, the fellowship of St. Luke had matured into what we now know  as the International Order of St. Luke the Physician and was so incorporated in 1953 in the USA.

Revd. Dr. Banks first introduced the Order to England in 1950 and a branch of the International Order of St. Luke was formed with Revd. Bill Woods as Associate Warden. In 1969 when Revd. M. Wynne-Parker was Warden, we became autonomous and The Order of St. Luke the Physician in the UK. was formed.  We were registered as a Benevolent Society by the commissioners of Friendly Societies.

Teachings of OSL

Members of the Order of St. Luke believe healing to be an essential part of the teaching and practices of our Lord Jesus Christ, as set forth in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles.  They aim to bring back this teaching to its rightful place within the Christian church, through constructive teaching, and through co-operation with clergy, ministers and members of the medical profession.

Every member of the Order is expected to do their best to aid and promote the work of the Order through promoting healing missions and services of healing;organizing prayer and study groups; offering intercessions and circulating literature on healing. The Order of St. Luke is an Order, similar to religious orders with which we are more familiar. It is similar in that it has a Rule of life, which it asks and expects its members to observe, according to their differing circumstances. It is dissimilar in that members are not asked to make vows of any kind.

The Rule of life embraces all aspects of a normal Christian life, in addition to the commitment to the Ministry of Christian Healing contained within it.

Prayer of the Order

Almighty God, who inspired your servant St. Luke the Physician to set out in Gospel the love and healing power of Your son. Make obvious in Your Church the love and power for the healing of our bodies and souls, to the praise and glory of Your Name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.