A. B. Simpson was a pastor, hymn writer, author, educator, and magazine editor who founded The Christian and Missionary Alliance. He was born in Bay View, Prince Edward Island on 15 December 1843 and was baptized in 1844, in the Cavendish (P.E.I.) Presbyterian Church by John Geddie, a Presbyterian missionary. His family moved to Chatham, Ontario in 1847. He was converted in 1858, and in 1861 wrote a "covenant" in which he dedicated himself to God. From 1861 to 1865 he attended Knox College in Toronto. In 1865, after graduating from Knox, Simpson received a call to Knox Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Ont. He accepted the call, and that same year married Margaret Henry (1841-1924), with whom he had six children.
In 1873 he accepted a call to Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The following year he experienced "the baptism of the Holy Ghost" after reading W. E. Boardman's The Higher Christian Life. In 1879 he became pastor of Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. During this pastorate he began editing his own missionary magazine, The Gospel in All Lands, which lasted from February 1880 to October 1881. In 1881 he experienced physical healing from a heart condition and was baptized by immersion. That year, increasingly at odds with his upper-class congregation, he resigned his pastorate in order to devote his ministerial efforts to “the poor and neglected masses.”
His efforts led to the founding of the Gospel Tabernacle in 1882, the same year in which he began publishing The Word the Work and the World, a periodical for the promotion of missions and "the higher Christian life," that later became the official organ of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. By 1883, the newly-incorporated Gospel Tabernacle had grown to the point where it could launch its own missionary sending society, the Missionary Union for the Evangelization of the World. It also opened a "home for Faith and Physical Healing" ( renamed the Berachah Home in 1884) and began the New York Missionary Training College (now Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary) which graduated its first students in 1884. That year the Missionary Union sent out its first missionaries (to what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Simpson organized his first conference for the promotion of evangelism, the deeper life, and missions. The Friday evening services at the conference were dedicated to holiness and physical healing.
Simpson encapsulated his movement's teaching in the phrase "Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King," which became known as "the Fourfold Gospel".
In 1887, he founded the Evangelical Missionary Alliance (EMA). Its major object was "to carry the Gospel 'to all nations', with special reference to the need of the destitute and unoccupied fields." It sought "to unite all Christians of evangelical denominations in its work." The organization’s name was changed to the International Missionary Alliance on its incorporation in November 1887 (Alliance Yearbook 1888, p. 52-55).
That year he also founded the Christian Alliance as a "fraternal union of believers in cordial harmony with evangelical Christians of every name." It was responsible to hold annual conventions and form local "branches". These were intended as fellowships, not as churches, for the purpose of bearing testimony to the Fourfold Gospel, diffusing its truths, providing community for those who believed them, and praying for the evangelization of the world. (Alliance Yearbook 1888, p. 48-51).
On 31 March 1897, the boards of the two organizations authorized a merger; it was made law on 1 April 1897 by a special act of the New York legislature and ratified by a special convention held 14-18 April at the Gospel Tabernacle. The aims of the newly-minted Christian and Missionary Alliance combined those of the original bodies: (as stated in the Fraternal Letter that resulted from the 1898 annual convention) the C&MA was "to preach a full Gospel at home and send missionaries; to carry the same glad tidings to the unevangelized regions beyond; to preserve our non-sectarian and interdenominational attitude; to study to confine the [administrative] machinery to that which is necessary…." (Pardington, George P. Twenty-five Wonderful Years, p. 74, 75).
In October 1897 the Missionary Training College relocated to Nyack New York, a town about 30 km. from New York City., and was renamed the Nyack Missionary Training Institute. Simpson and his family also moved to Nyack so that he could participate more fully in the activities of the school. He commuted daily to New York City to minister at the Gospel Tabernacle and to work at the C&MA's headquarters.
The C&MA encountered a major crisis in the decade following the beginning of the Pentecostal movement in 1906. Simpson believed that all of the charismatic gifts were available to believers, but he rejected the Pentecostal belief that glossolalia is the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To his great sadness, many Alliance folk disagreed with him and left the C&MA for Pentecostal churches. A significant number of those who left became leaders within the Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal groups.
Despite these losses, the C&MA continued to expand, both in North America and overseas, and so the movement was strong enough to be saddened but not demoralized by Simpson's death when it came on 29 October 1919. The Alliance continued to grow under the leadership of Simpson's successor, Paul Rader (1879-1938), and subsequent leaders, so that today it numbers 6 million adherents worldwide (of whom about 600,000 are in North America).