Gordon Henderson, well-known Seventh-day Adventist singing evangelist, pastor, and administrator, is now retired but still active as a pastor, having served as an interim basis for nearly twenty times since his retirement. He and his wife, Phyllis, provided music in countless crusades nationally. They were associated with the Voice of Prophecy for a number of years.
Gordon was born in Seattle, Washington, and raised in College Place, Washington, the second of three sons of Carl L. and Edith Landus Henderson, a native of Norway. Both of his parents were active as singers in the church and his mother played the piano. Music was a central activity in the Henderson home from their earliest years and Gordon and his older brother Norman began singing together publicly as a duet when Gordon was eleven.
He attended Walla Walla College Academy, now Walla Walla Valley Academy, in Washington. Following graduation in 1950, he enrolled at nearby Walla Walla College, now University where he completed a major in religion in 1956. During this time he conducted a theology glee club.
While at WWC he met Phyllis Christensen while seeking assistance from the speech department, where she was working as a reader and student secretary. She was a gifted natural musician and had been playing in evangelistic meetings since her early teenage years. They began working together musically, singing on campus and going on trips for the college, and married in June 1953.
Following his graduation, the Hendersons became active in evangelism, initially in Washington state, and then in the Texico, Arizona, Southeastern California, and Michigan conferences, he as a soloist and she as an accompanist, joining her husband in duets while seated at the organ or piano. For two of their four years in Michigan he pastored the Oakwood Boulevard Church in Detroit.
They returned to Southern California, where they worked for the Voice of Prophecy beginning in 1966. Seven years later he accepted a position in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, serving as the ministerial secretary for five years, and in 1978, after working briefly as executive secretary for the conference, became president of the Pennsylvania Conference, where he served for three and a half years.
In 1982 Henderson became pastor of the Avon Park Church in Florida where he served until 1985, when the Hendersons returned to the VOP. He was appointed director of the VOP International Evangelistic Association, a group of nine evangelists. In this position he scheduled appearances by those in IEA and on occasion assisted as needed. He then became Director of Field Service and Station Relations at VOP and just prior to his retirement in 1997 also became coordinator of the VOP area of the Adventist Media Center when it was reorganized in 1993.
The Hendersons’ work in evangelism would lead to their travelling coast to coast and in Canada performing for crusades and singing at schools and for other church events for nearly forty years, until her death in 1993, when they were living in Newberry Park, California.
They recorded four records with Chapel Records, including Gordon and Phyllis Henderson Singing Evangelists, Above All Else, and Prelude. The latter featured Phyllis playing both the piano and organ. The fourth record, Sweet, Sweet Spirit, featured the Hendersons and their daughter, Paulette Marie, who sang in trios with them, along with an adopted son, Gregory Dean. Paulette would eventually sing with the Heritage Singers. An 8-track recording of Gordon and Phyllis was later released by Chapel Records.
Gordon recently talked about the role his wife played in their work in music evangelism:
From the beginning Phyllis played an important role and we were known as a team, everyone knowing us as Gordon and Phyllis. She was not only a good singer but had an amazing talent for accompanying, quickly transposing to the right key, and making smooth transitions. She was a natural musician with a play by ear talent, more adept as a musician than I was, and played a critical role in any success we enjoyed.
Since his retirement in 1997, Henderson has served as Interim pastor in nineteen churches in the Rocky Mountain Conference. He presently resides in Casper, Wyoming.
Sources: Interviews, November 2013; Record liners for Gordon and Phyllis Henderson Singing Evangelists, Chapel L/S 5072 and Above All Else L/S 5119; “Pennsylvania’s President has Evangelistic Background,” The Columbia Union Visitor, 10 August 1978, 2; Multiple online sources in SDA church publications; personal knowledge.