A SHORT BIOGRAPHY OF EDWARD JEFFREYS

Edward Jeffreys was born on 6 October 1899 in Maesteg, South Wales, the only son among four children born to Stephen and Elizabeth Jeffreys. Stephen was a miner, whose conversion during the Welsh Revival of 1904 revolutionised his whole family. From that time on he spent his days in the pit and his evenings in the prayer meetings and open-air services.

A few years after his conversion Stephen along with his brother George launched out into their hugely successful evangelistic campaigns. Both men were very gifted evangelists and they both preached to huge crowds over a period of many years. Through their revival crusades tens of thousands of people were converted and healed and many churches were either planted or greatly enlarged. It was George who pioneered and led what is now known today as the Elim Pentecostal Church (there are several such churches in Liverpool and the Wirral today).

As a young man Edward accompanied his father Stephen on his crusades, often singing solo in the meetings. His teenage years were spent at the Elim Church in Llanelli where God moved in an extraordinary way with hundreds being converted and the whole town affected. Whilst at this church a miraculous event took place on Sunday 2 July 1914 in the evening when as his father preached from Phil 3:10 a vision appeared on the wall behind him. It was a vision of a lamb’s head, which presently turned into the face of Jesus, with the appearance of the ‘Man of Sorrow.’ This vision lasted for 6 hours and was witnessed by hundreds of people in Llanelli. It was interpreted as a sign of impending sorrow, for within a month the First World War had begun. Edward Jeffreys who was present in the meeting also witnessed the event and it no doubt had a profound effect on his forthcoming ministry.

Edward Jeffreys was by no means a full-time preacher from his youth, however, serving in the 1914-18 war first in the Royal Flying Corps and then as a prison camp attendant in France. He later had a variety of jobs, at some time becoming an FRGS (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society).  In 1921 he married Evelyn Arnold from Neath in South Wales, and they settled, firstly in Llanelli and then in London. They had 2 children, Arnold and Irona. During the 1920’s his father conducted more and larger crusades and Edward was often with him, helping with practical arrangements and supporting the meetings by leading the singing. His move into full-time Christian ministry came in 1926 when, in conjunction with his father (who had recently left Elim) he mounted a campaign in Southend-on-Sea. This gave birth to a large church, which Edward pastored for 2 years.

In 1928 an event took place which changed the course of Edward’s life. His father was leading some meetings in Bristol when the intended young leader of the new congregation pulled out, unable to cope with the size of the crowds and the responsibility involved. Stephen decided to appoint Edward as the temporary leader, a role that he faced with great trepidation. To his amazement, however, at the end of his first meeting in charge 250 people were converted.

Thereafter the Bethel Evangelistic Society was formed and within 12 months of the founding of the Society in Bristol it became possible to purchase a building in the city for £4000. Here the first Bethel Temple was established by Edward Jeffreys amid scenes of religious fervour. Some 500 people attended the Communion Services and many more the Gospel meeting each Sunday.

From Bristol he moved on to Fishponds about five miles from the city and established the first Bethel branch in an old disreputable chapel, which was then used as a warehouse. The next branch was opened at Worcester after a successful campaign. At Gloucester in 1929, he had a hard fight. After three weeks the congregation increased from six to sixty and the campaign was £119 in debt. Many advised him to close the campaign, but he was determined to carry on. His efforts were rewarded in the following days as three of the largest halls in the town were inadequate to hold the crowds. At the close of the campaign at Luton he and his colleagues founded the ‘Bethel Crusaders’ designed to link the young people in the crusades, giving them suitable training for aggressive evangelism.

One newspaper describing the scene at the Newport campaign, said at the close of the meeting that a table was laden with twisted wooden instruments, cast aside by the people who were healed, and it looked like a shop where surgical appliances were sold. A special staff had to be engaged at Birmingham to deal with the letters that poured in daily. Snowstorms did nothing to abate the enthusiasm and people waited from six in the morning to be in time for the evening service – and this in the middle of winter. Clearly when God is moving people will endure anything to be where He is at work!

Following on from this he invaded the Potteries and received a temporary setback when the local halls were closed against them, but eventually the Hanley Council removed the ban and the campaign carried on with the success met everywhere. He remarked that "the persecution we have suffered has only served to advance our cause." When the campaign concluded there were three meetings during the day and the attendance estimated at 10,000 people. In this campaign he addressed about 100,000 people. The revival tide rolled on through the cotton towns of Lancashire and in many of them Bethel churches were formed.

During this time the ‘Bethel Full Gospel Messenger’ magazine was launched and Gospel caravans were purchased for rural missions and a Bible College and Missionary Training Centre was opened in Bristol in 1931.

Sadly in the midst of all this considerable growth problems were emerging. There were many critics and opposition was being received from local authorities, which were uneasy about the removal of surgical implements from patients in the crusade meetings. The main problem, however, concerned divisions within the Bethel Movement itself that came to a head in 1932. There was unease about Edward Jeffreys’ leadership style, doctrine and perceived lack of financial accountability which led to the resignation from the Society of the entire advisory board and 12 out of the 60 Bethel churches. The Society was never the same again.

In the following year (1933) there was further split when due to doctrinal differences over the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a number of people left the Bethel churches or took their churches out of the Bethel movement, many of them joining the Assemblies of God, or the Elim Pentecostal Church.

Edward Jeffreys, however, continued to hold crusades throughout the 1930’s mainly in the Merseyside and Lancashire areas and he planted several strong evangelical churches, which continue to this day.

By the end of the 1930’s, however, large-scale evangelistic crusades had begun to decline in popularity and success, with the Second World War now occupying the public’s time and attention.

In 1939/40 his uncle George Jeffreys had resigned from the Elim movement, which he had founded, over the issue of church government and formed the Bible-Pattern Church Fellowship which was built on the philosophy of independent, self-governing assemblies, as opposed to Elim’s centralised form of government. He managed to persuade his brothers Stephen and William together with his nephew Edward to become ministers of the Bible-Pattern Church Fellowship. It was not to last, however, with Stephen dying in 1943 and William in 1945 and within a year Edward and George had parted company after Edward had sold his church building in Southport to Elim and published a biography of his father through the Elim Publishing House.

In 1948, with the Pentecostal movement, the Bethel Evangelistic Society, and the Bible-Pattern Church Fellowship all behind him he decided to enter the Anglican Ministry. He studied for a year at St Aidan’s College in Birkenhead, before being ordained to the priesthood at Chelmsford Cathedral in 1948.

His first appointment in his new ministry role was to be the first Priest-in-Charge of St Elizabeth’s, Buckhurst Hill, North East London. It was not a great success, however, and in 1953 he was instituted as vicar of Higham’s Park, a few miles away. Both the congregation and building were in a very poor condition, but he worked hard to rebuild the work from the foundations up. Still an evangelist at heart and gift he enjoyed a very successful period of ministry for a number of years. Some 12 years later he retired with a thriving congregation in place and a completely refurbished church building.

Edward and Eveline retired to Bournemouth in 1965 and he died on 6 November 1974. His wife died in May 1997 when 97 years of age. Their son Arnold who was Secretary of the University of Lancaster until 1981 died 3 years later, aged 61 years, and their daughter Irona now lives in retirement in Bath.


Adapted from "A life of contrasts: The extraordinary story of Edward Jeffreys" by Robert Mountford, City Vision Ministries (used with permission) and from an interview that Edward Jeffreys gave to the Bootle Times in June 1934. Also from "Revivalism in Bootle" by Peter Gallagher.