J. Edwin Orr

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James Edwin Orr (January 15, 1912 – April 22, 1987)[1] was a Baptist Christian minister, hymn-writer, professor, author[2] and promoter of Church revival and renewal.


James Edwin Orr was born in Britain on 15 January 1912 in Belfast in northern Ireland, of American-British parentage. He was one of the five children of William Stewart Orr and Rose Orr (nee Wright). He studied at the College of Technology, Belfast.

In 1930 or 1931, after spending some years as a baker, Orr began evangelising, not only in Britain but also elsewhere in Europe, North America, Australia and South Africa. During these years he also wrote several accounts of his tours of preaching.

On 15 January 1937 he married Ivy Muriel Carol Carson. They would have four children. After their marriage the Orrs evangelised in Australia (1979), China, Canada and the United States of America.

In 1939 Orr enrolled at Northwest University. On 15 January 1940 he was ordained into the Baptist Christian ministry, at Newark, New Jersey, USA. He received his MA from Northwest University in 1941, and his ThD from Northern Baptist Seminary in 1943.

During World War II he served as a chaplain in the US Air Force in the Pacific.

After the war he continued his studies and took his PhD at Oxford University in 1948, with a thesis on the second evangelical awakening in Britain.

In 1949 he and his wife made the USA their permanent base, while continuing to travel the world promoting church revival and renewal. They eventually travelled to 150 countries.[1]

In 1966 or 1967 Orr became a Professor at the School of World Missions, in Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. He remained a professor there until 1981, and a professor emeritus thereafter. Of him Billy Graham wrote, "Dr. J. Edwin Orr, in my opinion, is one of the greatest authorities on the history of religious revivals in the Protestant world.[3]

From 1951 he was influential in the Campus Crusade for Christ, and was one of the five original board members of that organization.[4]

He wrote numerous books—many of them histories of evangelical revivals—and authored a number of hymns. One of them—"Cleanse Me"—was selected for inclusion in Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions[5] and The One Year Great Songs of Faith.[6] The words of "Cleanse Me" are based on Psalm 139:23-24 and Psalm 51:2; it is set to the Maori folk tune PO ATA RAU (translated as "Now Is the Hour"). It was written in 1936 when Orr was at an Easter revival meeting in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand, where he heard and was enchanted by the Maori Song of Farewell.[7] "Cleanse Me" has been recorded numerous times, with performances by Bill and Gloria Gaither, Irene Bridger, Kenon D. Renfrow, Lloyd Williams, the El Paso Wind Symphony, and Nick Reynolds and Tom Parsons available from one online music store.[8] Nowadays "Cleanse Me" is commonly rendered to "Search Me, O God" and the PO ATA RAU tune named MAORI in hymnals.[9]

Orr was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the American Geographical Society, the Royal Historical Society, and the Royal Society of Literature.[2]

He died on 22 April 1987, at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, USA.


  • The Inside Story of the Hollywood Christian Group (1955) Zondervan
  • Can God? 1934.
  • Prove Me Now. 1935.
  • The Promise Is To You. 1935.
  • Times of Refreshing. 1936.
  • All Your Need. 1936.
  • If Ye Abide. 1936.
  • Such Things Happen. (Combined volume.)
  • Telling Australia. (with other Authors.)
  • The Church Must First Repent. 1937.
  • Always Abounding. (biography of Oswald J. Smith.)
  • The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain. 1949.
  • Full Surrender. 1951.
  • The Second Evangelical Awakening in America. 1952.
  • Through Blood and Fire in China.
  • Good News in Bad Times. 1953.
  • The Inside Story of the Hollywood Christian Group. 1955.
  • Faith That Makes Sense. 1960.
  • Evangelical Awakenings in India. 1970.[10]
  • The Eager Feet. Evangelical Awakenings. 1790 - 1830. 1975.
  • The Fervent Prayer. The Great Awakening of 1858, and its Worldwide Impact. 1974.
  • The Flaming Tongue. Evangelical Awakenings in the Early 20th Century. 1973.
  • Evangelical Awakenings in Southern Asia. 1975.
  • Evangelical Awakenings in Eastern Asia. 1975.
  • Evangelical Awakenings in Latin America. 1978.
  • Evangelical Awakenings in Africa. 1975.
  • Evangelical Awakenings in the South Seas. 1976.
  • The Faith that Persuades. (1977) Harper & Rowe
  • The Re-study of Revival and Revivalism. 1981.

Posthumous publications[edit]

  • My All - His All. (an upgrading of "Full Surrender.") 1989.
  • The Event of the Century. (The 1857 - 1864 Revival in the U.S.A.) 1989.
  • Campus Aflame. (revised edition.) 1994.


  1. ^ a b Newsletter of the American Scientific Affiliation-Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation, Volume 30 Number 1, February/March 1988-retrieved 2009-08-15
  2. ^ a b Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004, document H1000075036
  3. ^ Orr, J. Edwin (1951). Full Surrender. Edinburgh: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott. ; introduction by "William Frankland[sic] Graham," p. 3, subscribed "Billy Graham" at end, p. 4 Online pdf
  4. ^ "The Original Five".  (The other board members were Henrietta Mears, Billy Graham, Dawson Trotman, and Dan Fuller)[self-published source?]
  5. ^ Kenneth W. Osbeck (2002). Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Kregel Publications. ISBN 0825434483. 
  6. ^ Robert Kevin Brown; Mark R. Norton; William J. Petersen; Randy Petersen (2005). The One Year Great Songs of Faith. Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN 0842350721.  p. 271
  7. ^ Kenneth W. Osbeck (1985). 101 More Hymn Stories. Kregel Publications. ISBN 0825434203. , p. 59
  8. ^ The Apple iTunes Store.
  9. ^ “Search Me, O God” at the Cyber Hymnal. The “Search Me” wording ties the hymn more closely to the biblical reference, Psalm 139:23 (“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts”).
  10. ^ Masihi Sahitya Sanstha, 70 Janpath, New Delhi, India

External links[edit]