- Roberts, Oral
- (b. 1918)prominent Pentecostal healing evangelistGranville Oral Roberts was born in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, on January 24, 1918. His father was a preacher in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. At the age of 17, Roberts developed tuberculosis but after some months of suffering, in July 1935, was healed of both the disease and the stuttering that had been a part of his life for many years. Roberts learned evangelism work from his father, and in 1936 was ordained as a Pentecostal Holiness minister. Through the early and mid-1940s he pastored several churches.In 1947, Roberts held his first set of healing revival meetings in Enid, Oklahoma, and published his first book on the subject, If you need Healing - Do These Things! He subsequently established a headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, issued the first copies of his magazine, Healing Waters (later renamed Abundant Life), and started a radio ministry. A capable orator, he had immediate success. His work emerged just at the time that a new emphasis on healing was emerging in American Pentecostalism.In 1951, Roberts threw his support to the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, founded to help spread the Pentecostal message. Roberts addressed the first gathering of the group in southern California.In 1955, Roberts began a weekly sunday morning television show that introduced the wider American public to Pentecostalism and to Roberts's healing ministry and made his name a household word. It also attracted controversy as many doubted his healing message. The show continued into the early 1980s. During this time, besides conducting an average of 15 healing crusades a year, Roberts wrote many books on healing and related Christian themes. His column appeared in hundreds of newspapers, and his magazine peaked at a quarter million subscribers. In 1968, he opened Oral Roberts College, which immediately took its place among the leading Pentecostal-related institutions of higher learning in North America. A decade later, it had grown to become oral Roberts university.In 1968, Roberts left the Pentecostal Holiness Church and joined the new United Methodist Church. He subsequently pursued the course of study prescribed for those ministerial candidates who have not attended seminary, and was eventually granted elder's orders. The Charismatic movement was on the rise among Methodists, as thousands were enjoying their initial encounter with the Pentecostal experience. Roberts expanded his television work to include a series of prime-time television shows designed to attract a more secularized audience.In the 1970s, Roberts began to groom his son Richard (b. 1948) to continue his ministry, though that effort received a setback in 1978 with Richard's widely publicized divorce. However, Richard remarried in 1980 and gradually assumed more duties in the television ministry. In 1993, Roberts celebrated his 75th birthday. He ceded the presidency of the university to Richard and was appointed chancellor.Roberts's fame and interdenominational following in the last half of the 20th century was rivaled only by evangelist Billy Graham (who spoke at the dedication of oral Roberts College in 1967). Roberts was a major force in changing the image of Pentescotalism from the enthusiasm of uneducated "holy rollers" to a legitimate and attractive form of Christian piety.See also revivalism.Further reading:■ David Edwin Harrell Jr., Oral Roberts An American Life (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985)■ Oral Roberts, The Miracles of Christ (Tulsa, Okla.: Pinoak, 1975); , Oral Roberts' Life Story As Told By Himself (Tulsa, Okla.: Oral Roberts, 1952)■ Jerry Scholes, Give Me That Prime-Time Religion: An Insider's Report on the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1979).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.