On Thursday, May 21, 2009, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson, son of the founder and the president emeritus of The Foursquare Church, passed from this life into the presence of the Lord. He is survived by his wife, Evangeline Carmichael McPherson; his daughter, Alicia McPherson Santacroce; two granddaughters, Heidi Ledesma and Leslie Young; a grandson, Ronald LaRue; a niece, Victoria Salter. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Lorna De Smith McPherson, and a daughter Marlene McPherson LaRue.
Rolf Kennedy McPherson was born on March 23, 1913, in Providence, Rhode Island, to Harold S. and Aimee Semple McPherson. He was only a small child when he traveled to the West Coast with his mother, who evangelized her way across the country to Los Angeles, where she established Angelus Temple.
While he was in his late teens, Dr. McPherson met Lorna De Smith, who helped him realize that, even though he had been raised in the church, he must make a personal commitment to God. In 1931 he and Lorna De were married in a ceremony officiated by his mother. To this union were born two daughters, Alicia Kay and Marlene. Throughout their more than sixty years of marriage and until her death in 1993, Lorna De worked tirelessly alongside her husband to advance the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. In January 1997, Dr. McPherson married Evangeline Carmichael.
As part of his preparation for ministry, Dr. McPherson attended both LIFE Bible College and Southern California Radio Institute. It seemed only natural for Rolf to become involved with KFSG, the radio station his mother had founded in 1924. KFSG was the third station to be established in Los Angeles, and Rolf was responsible for its operation from 1944 until 1988. Under his management, the station became the most prominent Christian radio station in Los Angeles, with the distinction of being the oldest, continuously operating Christian radio station in the world. At the time of its sale in 2000, its value had grown from a few thousand dollars to $250 million.
Upon the death of his mother in 1944, Dr. McPherson became president of the four corporate entities she had established: Echo Park Evangelistic Association, The Church of the Foursquare Gospel, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and LIFE Bible College. In addition, he became the pastor of Angelus Temple. Even though he was very young, 31, he had prepared for several years to assume these responsibilities. It had been his mother’s wish that he would succeed her in leading the church, and she had spent the last decade of her life training him to assume that leadership role.
For 44 years, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson led the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, expanding its ministry into 63 countries around the world; the number of churches worldwide grew to more than 19,000 (Currently there are almost 60,000 Foursquare churches and meeting places in 144 countries.). The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel quickly became known as a missions-minded denomination, taking the Gospel to remote areas of the world to people who had not previously heard the Good News of the Savior. Dr. McPherson retired from the presidency of the Foursquare Church in 1988, but he remained president emeritus. He was also pastor emeritus of Angelus Temple, having retired from actively directing the affairs of the church in 1997.
The strength and far-reaching influence of The Foursquare Church today are directly attributable to Dr. McPherson’s personal integrity and administrative giftedness. The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, born out of the evangelistic fervor of Aimee Semple McPherson, became firmly established under the leadership of her son, Rolf Kennedy McPherson. His lifetime of service became an inspiring and enduring legacy.
Foursquare’s current president, Pastor Jack Hayford, expressed his gratitude for Dr. McPherson’s long ministry to The Foursquare Church: “Dr. McPherson gave of himself selflessly and faithfully for more than four decades as he carried on the work that his mother had begun. The blessing that we are currently experiencing is due, in large part, to the work that Dr. McPherson accomplished during his presidency. He laid a foundation that made it possible for The Foursquare Church to move forward around the world and take the Foursquare Gospel to many nations. He will be missed, but the legacy that he left will result in eternal blessedness for millions.”
The memorial service will be held at Angelus Temple, but the date and time have yet to be determined.