The Bethel Story

The Bethel Ministerial Association, Inc. is a fellowship of ministers allied for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was originally founded by Albert Franklin Varnell as the Evangelistic Ministerial Alliance in May of 1934. Brother Varnell, who was affectionately referred to as “Doc” by his minister friends, was born in Arkansas and raised in California. At the age of nineteen, he was called to preach and began his ministry as a tent evangelist and Bible teacher. Through the years, he grew in his study of scripture and became a man of great conviction. He submitted himself to the Word of God and valued its truth over any tradition or preference of man. In 1933, the organization, which Rev. Varnell had helped to establish, voted to teach a new doctrine which stated that speaking in tongues was the first evidence of the reception of the Holy Spirit; and the organization required all of its members to accept this teaching and preach it or they would not be permitted to remain in good standing. Rev. Varnell felt it to be unscriptural and held to the teaching of 1 John 3:14. He returned to a church he had recently started in Evansville, Indiana and continued doing what he knew to do, which was to simply teach the Bible and minister to the needs of the people. God continued to bless his work and used him to inspire many young men toward the ministry. He helped them receive a solid foundation, and with his contagious zeal for the Word of God, he became like a spiritual father to many of the young ministers.

During the course of his life, Doc. Varnell pioneered thirteen churches, all of which are functioning today. Because of his writings, the Bethel Publishing House was founded. His influence continued to grow. In 1951, the E.M.A became the Bethel Assembly and in March of 1960 the group became incorporated as the Bethel Baptist Assembly, Incorporated. Yet, through all these changes, the assembly maintained its distinctive features and continued to be an organization of ministers with autonomous congregations affiliated with it. Finally, in April of 1969, the name was changed to the Bethel Ministerial Association, Incorporated, as it is known today.

In 1971, Doc Varnell was presented with a plaque from the ministers of the BMA which read, “ appreciation of his enlightened Bible teaching, faithful leadership, spiritual inspiration and fifty-five years in the Lord’s service.” Those words best expressed their deep respect and gratitude toward this man. Although Doc. Varnell is no longer with us, the conviction with which he lived remains in the hearts of the Bethel Brethren and many others who were touched by his life. He was a man who would stand for what he believed in, even if he had to stand alone. This fellowship maintains his philosophy:

In things essential..........Unity
In things non-essential.........Liberty
In all things..........Charity

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