Carter, Russel Kelso

Russell Kelso Carter was born November 18, 1849 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was brought up in a strong Christian environment. He struggled with a personal decision for Christ until he was fifteen. At that time he attended a prayer meeting at his military academy and committed his life to God and the Presbyterian Church, which his parents' attended. He went to meetings and grew sporadically over the next few years. He graduated from the Pennsylvania Military Academy (now Widener University) in Chester, in 1867, and became instructor there in 1869. He was commissioned as a Captain in the Pennsylvania State Line and appointed adjutant to the Military Academy by Governor Geary. He is often referred to as Capt. Carter in his writings.

Carter was a professor, at the academy, of chemistry and natural sciences. While teaching in 1872 he began to have heart trouble. In 1876 he went to California for three years as a sheep rancher to try and strengthen his health. In 1879 he was back at his parents house in a state of collapse. He had heard of the ministry of Charles Cullis in Boston and decided to try healing by faith. He prayed that God would heal him, and then took a trip to see Cullis. He was healed and when he returned three days later he went back to work at the military academy and became a professor of civil engineering and advanced mathematics.

By the end of 1879 Carter was looking for more of the presence of God. He started to attend Methodist meetings. He struggled with their emphasis on the sanctification experience but prayed about it and asked God to give him everything from the Bible. He had an experience, which filled him with the Spirit in a new way. He allied himself with the Methodists. In 1880 he wrote "Miracles of Healing". In 1882 he republished a book originally published in England called "Pastor Blumhardt". Also in 1882 Carter, with a man named George McCalla, called for a convention to cover the subject of Divine Healing. They held a meeting but just a few people came. In 1884 he wrote a book called "The Atonement for Sin and Sickness". His premise was that healing was in the atonement and that Jesus took not only our sins but our sicknesses on the cross. Carter was one of the strongest proponents of atonement theology. In 1886 he began publishing a periodical called "The Kingdom". He had a strong musical ability and wrote hymns in "Promises of Perfect Love" with John Sweeney in 1886 and "Hymns of the Christian Life" in 1891, in conjunction with A. B. Simpson. One of his most famous songs is "Standing on the Promises".

In 1887 Carter became associated with the Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church and was given a license to preach by Bishop Foss. He is sometimes referred to as the evangelist R. Kelso Carter in newspaper articles of the 1890s. He also seems to have had some kind of breakdown, which he refers to as "brain prostration". Dr Cullis prayed for him but he did not receive any significant relief until he attended a camp-meeting in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland in July of 1887. In 1888 Carter had an attack of malarial fever. He was sick for two weeks and recovered. However he was left feeling chronically weak. He was eventually prayed for by Charles Cullis, A.B. Simpson, and John Alexander Dowie but did not improve. He initially took some medicine, but discarded it within a short time. He committed to seek healing through prayer alone but continued to struggle. Carter was also under marital pressure as his wife Josephine was possibly mentally ill. In 1889 he was ordained as a Deacon in the ME Church by Bishop Bowman. The ME Church was opposed to the teaching that healing was in the atonement.

In the summer of 1892 Carter made some very major changes in his life. He went to California, ostensibly for his health, leaving his family back east in Maryland. He conducted a few meetings with the Alliance until the fall of 1893. Things became difficult, however, when he filed for divorce from his wife. That would have been viewed as scandalous at the time. His relationship with the people he'd been closely associated with for almost twenty years was shattered. He ended up breaking with the Alliance and their teachings on divine healing, specifically on their stance of no help from physicians. He seemed to swing wildly in the other direction. Carter became connected with a couple of quack patent medical devices called the "Electropoise" (see the ad) and the "Oxydonor Victory." (see the ad) These machines were so bogus that they were one of the first products taken to court for mail fraud by the US Postal Service, which eventually won its case against the manufacturers.

Carter changed his theology from "healing is in the atonement" to "healing by faith in this age is a matter of special favor from God, and is always peculiarly under the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit." * He was remarried around 1895 to a woman named Elizabeth. In 1897 he wrote a book called "Faith Healing Reviewed After Twenty Years" where he reviewed his own experience, along with others, to take another look at the "Prayer of Faith." Carter's proposition was that he was not healed because God did not want it. The book attempted to address the common question - why are people not healed when they sincerely believe and put themselves in God's hands? He did not suggest that prayer was never effective, in fact he gave several positive examples of healing experiences. He did, however, point out that only a small percentage of people were healed in answer to prayer and it was important to bring that issue out for discussion. Many people in the Divine Healing movement saw the book as a repudiation of their sincerest beliefs. Since the book addressed healing prayer under John Alexander Dowie in a less than positive light Dowie made a point to denounce Carter's personal life in his Leaves of Healing magazine and suggest that Carter's lack of healing was due to personal sin.

In 1898 Carter became very ill again and was diagnosed with "consumption" (tuberculosis). Bacteria had recently been identified as the medical cause and a new treatment became available about the time Carter was diagnosed. He was healed through medical means within 90 days. What had been a potential death sentence was relieved by the medical breakthrough. Carter declared that God worked through the medicine just as surely as through prayer. He said that both were critical and necessary. Carter and his wife returned to the Baltimore area sometime in the late 1890s. Carter evidently received medical training in the Baltimore area as he is listed as a physician in the 1900 Federal Census. Kelso continued his work as a doctor until he died on August 23, 1928, in Catonsville, Maryland. He is buried in the Greenmount Cemetery, in Baltimore Maryland.