a column of the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1990, page 5. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.
Controversial Prophetic Movement Is Incorporated Into The Vineyard
John Wimber, leader of Anaheim, California-based Vineyard Ministries, released a 15-point statement in late June listing errors he found at the controversial Kansas City Fellowship (KCF).
A short time later, Ernest Gruen -- pastor of the Full Faith Church of Love in Shawnee, Kansas -- released a letter apologizing for "any unnecessary pain that I have caused" in charging the 3,000-member, six-church KCF and its leaders with "charismatic heresy." He also retracted three questionable charges he had brought against the KCF, while affirming the essential accuracy of his documentation. He released the situation into Wimber's hands for correction.
Many leading voices in the charismatic movement are glad the matter is apparently coming to a resolution. The battle between Gruen (with his allies) and the KCF has been among the most cantankerous to strike the movement in years.
As a result of the correction, limitations on public ministry were placed on KCF prophets Bob Jones and John Paul Jackson. Jones's controversial tapes have been withdrawn from distribution and his ministry is limited to church leadership "behind closed doors."
Part of the reason for Wimber's involvement was that in May (a month earlier) the KCF came under his leadership when the movement joined the Vineyard*.
The KCF was founded in 1982 by Mike Bickle. By 1986, its leaders formed Grace Ministries, an umbrella organization designed to facilitate the emergence of a "new breed" into the church -- end-time prophets. These they held to be part of the restored "five-fold ministry" (Eph. 4:11). These ministries immediately came under fire in the Kansas City area due to the teachings of KCF pastors Bickle, Jones, Jackson, and others. Strange stories were emerging of these men experiencing angelic visitations, visiting heaven and hell, perceiving auras around people, and giving public prophetic instructions to people (many of which did not come to pass). They also claimed to have received revelations from God on many subjects -- including the economy, weather patterns, and natural disasters (many of which also proved to be false).
Later, Paul Cain -- a former associate of William Branham (1909-1965) -- joined this leadership circle. Cain is considered by KCF leaders and by Wimber to be a powerful prophet on the cutting edge of a new wave of end-time "superprophets." Cain -- alleged by some to have predicted the California earthquake of December 3, 1988 and the Soviet-Armenian earthquake of December 8, 1988 -- has also become affiliated with Wimber. Together, this new prophetic movement has gone national and has been promoted by influential voices in the charismatic movement, including Charisma and Christian Life magazine.
Gruen, one of the fathers of the charismatic movement in Kansas City, said little on the movement until January of this year when he released a tape titled "Do We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing?" In the tape, Gruen accused KCF of sending out false prophets, of "prophesying" area churches would close down (and then join KCF), and of outright lying.
Gruen also released a 233-page document to Christian leaders across America listing other alleged abuses at the KCF -- including charges that its leaders were involved in occultism and with teaching variations of the elitist "Manifest Sons of God" heresy of the Latter Rain Movement (1948-1952). This teaching, based on an unorthodox interpretation of Romans 8:19, is that in the end times certain overcomers will be glorified or "manifested" to the world as sons of God. Some hold they will even attain immortalization and be able to move in and out of the supernatural and natural realms.
Due to the agreement with Wimber, however, Gruen stopped sending out the report in July.
Wimber's 15-point statement agrees with many of the main points outlined by Gruen. Wimber admitted KCF has a "lack of accountability for prophecies that do not come true," and that KCF leaders were wrong in engaging in the following practices:
Despite the attempt at correction, however, questions remain about the role of Wimber and the Vineyard in correcting the KCF problems. There are suspicions that the KCF had already affected Wimber prior to the battle with Gruen. Charismatic leader Jamie Buckingham wrote in the May/June issue of Ministries Today that, "Now John Wimber has picked up the prophetic baton [from Mike Bickle's KCF] and is running strongly. His February Anaheim conference featured many of the prophets from the Kansas City Fellowship. It drew a reported 9,000 -- with 4,000 turned away."
Wimber's own testimony is another factor. In the Fall 1989 Equipping the Saints magazine (a Vineyard publication), Wimber wrote that in October 1988, while on a trip to Scotland, Bickle convinced him to consider changing the Vineyard's emphasis to that of a prophetic ministry. Two months later, he was hooked up with Paul Cain, who soon became an important part of the Vineyard ministry. Wimber also strongly affirmed his belief that the prophets in the new movement need not be accurate with their pronouncements: "Prophecy's first expressions will likely be infantile," Wimber wrote. "Babies are messy and they make messes."
The centerpiece of this issue of Equipping the Saints -- an article by Kevin Springer entitled "Paul Cain: A New Breed of Man" -- introduces the new prophetic ministry to the Vineyard. The story highlights the life of Cain and how he became affiliated with KCF and with Wimber himself.
"As the years rolled by Paul kept looking for the new breed," the article states. "Then in 1987 God directed him to a small meeting of pastors in Birmingham, Alabama. There he met Mike Bickle and several of his colleagues from the Kansas City Fellowship."
The article concludes with a call to "join the new breed of men and women whom God is raising up in the "90s."
*Christian Research Institute began receiving numerous phone calls and inquiries in 1989 from concerned members of Vineyard fellowships about the Kansas City prophets. This began an investigation by CRI into possible aberrant doctrines being promoted by these men. CRI has expressed concern regarding their teachings and has met with KCF and Vineyard leadership. A statement is forthcoming from CRI that will express concern and caution about KCF and the future course of the Vineyard movement.
Infighting and Lawsuits Affecting AMORC Rosicrucians
A bitter legal fight over control of the San Jose, California-based Rosicrucian order has thrown that organization into unprecedented turmoil that has left two men claiming to be the "imperator," or leader/chief executive officer, over its 250,000 members.
The infighting has been so intense that it has dominated southern Bay-area newspapers for most of the year, giving the public a rare glimpse of feuding and alleged financial wrongdoing inside the secretive, mystical organization.
Although there are at least eight other active Rosicrucian groups operating in the U.S., the San Jose-based group is "by far" the world's largest, according to J. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions. The formal name of the group, which claims to be a fraternal organization rather than a religion, is "The Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis," or AMORC.
The intense publicity began in early April when Gary Stewart, the imperator since 1987, was ousted by an apparent coup from within AMORC. The rival Rosicrucians forced Stewart's ouster through a court order, and claimed Stewart had mortgaged the order's world headquarters on Naglee Avenue, embezzled $3.5 million, and hid the money in the tiny European republic of Andorra, according to the July 1 San Jose Mercury News.
According to AMORC spokeswoman Pam Johnson, the worldwide board of directors of AMORC elected Christian Bernard, 39, as the new imperator, although he was not formally inducted until August 7.
Stewart fought back with a $31.5 million countersuit. He claimed that it was the rival Rosicrucians who embezzled funds, and that they engineered his ouster after he started asking the treasurer about money, the Mercury News reports. He also claimed to be the true imperator for life.
The Mercury News also reports that there is no end in sight to the litigation. And court documents have alleged:
Despite AMORC's denials that it is a religion, many consider it one because it offers followers a New Age type of belief system. AMORC claims its origins are in "ancient Egypt during the 18th Dynasty, or the reign of Pharaoh Akhnaton, about 1350 B.C.," according to the group's booklet, "Mastery of Life." In AMORC's pamphlet called "Master Your Life," the organization claims to have "over 250,000 members in over 100 countries" and lodges and chapters in over 450 cities throughout the world.
The late Dr. Walter Martin considered AMORC Rosicrucianism a religion. In his Kingdom of the Cults, he called it "an eclectic theological system which mixes pagan mythology with Judaism and Christianity, with traces of Hinduism and Buddhism throughout...[it] seeks to synthesize the basic truths of all religions and absorb them into a master system."
AMORC claims a linkage with Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Rene Descarte, and other famous figures by maintaining they were Rosicrucians. But such claims are met with skepticism outside the order. Melton notes in his Encyclopedia that the order wasn't even founded until 1915 by the late H. Spencer Lewis, the first imperator.
Lewis "had been associated with the various British occult orders and...met [the famous occultist/magician] Aleister Crowley," Melton noted. He also added that Lewis borrowed Crowley's Rose Cross emblem from one of his periodicals and claimed some of Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) teachings as his own.
"Lewis was not above pure plagiarism," Melton claimed. "Whole chapters of his Mystic Life of Jesus were taken from the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus by Levi Dowling."
AMORC's history is laced with conflict with other Rosicrucian groups over its claim to be the sole legitimate Rosicrucian order in the hemisphere, Melton noted. Perhaps the most heated clashes have been with its chief rival, the Rosicrucian Fellowship -- founded in 1907 by Max Heindel and headquartered in Oceanside, California.
Melton listed the oldest Rosicrucian body in the U.S. as the Fraternitas Rosae group, which was formed in 1868. Another group, the Lectorium Rosicrucianum, claims 10,000 North American members and has an international headquarters in the Netherlands, according to Melton.
Lewis died in 1939 and was succeeded by his son, Ralph Lewis, who died in January 1987. Stewart, 33 at the time, was quickly named imperator, and immediately engineered a shakeup that triggered the departure of more than 100 employees, according to the May 14 Mercury News.
Bob Weiner's Plans Unclear a Year after Maranatha Disbands
Charismatic leader Bob Weiner's plans are still unclear almost a year after his announcement that the doors were closing at the international offices of the Maranatha Christian Churches in Gainesville, Florida.
In a move that took many off guard, Maranatha's senior leaders held a board meeting in Florida in November of last year and decided to dissolve its entire corporate structure -- a move that would give its 70 Maranatha congregations in 22 nations around the world total autonomy.
A month later in San Antonio, Texas, Weiner publicly broke the news to delegates at Maranatha's annual conference.
Although many reasons were given for the breakup of the confederation of churches, the main one cited by Weiner and other former top leaders came as no surprise to cult researchers. The churches -- founded in 1972 by Weiner and his wife, Rose, as a charismatic outreach on university and college campuses -- had been guilty of spiritual authority excesses.
According to an article in the March issue of Charisma and Christian Life magazine, Maranatha leaders decided at a July 1989 board meeting that too much of a "spirit of control" had entered the ministry. The article also noted that four Maranatha elders suggested Weiner take a sabbatical during which time he would evaluate his "personal character."
During the sabbatical, Weiner concluded that "I have been struggling with anger, unkindness, contentiousness and a tendency to control," the article quoted him as saying.
In 1984, however, Weiner steadfastly denied that the ministry engaged in abuses of authority. According to the August 10, 1984 Christianity Today, Weiner was responding to the just-released conclusions of an ad hoc committee of cult watchers that charged Maranatha Christian Ministries with having "an authoritarian orientation with potential negative consequences for members." Weiner accused the committee of having an anticharismatic bias.
The Christianity Today article, and another article a year later in the Wall Street Journal, publicized allegations that Maranatha members were not allowed to date and were required to submit their lives to shepherds who made decisions for them. Marriages of staff members were subject to Maranatha's entire board of elders.
Those participating in the committee were James Bjornstad (chairman), Brian Onken (representing Christian Research Institute), Steve Cannon, Ronald Enroth, Karen Hoyt (representing Spiritual Counterfeits Project), and Gordon Lewis.
In issuing the report, the committee said it "would not recommend this organization [Maranatha] to anyone," and noted that Maranatha was guilty of faulty methods of biblical interpretation, questionable practices, and deficient theology -- including an unclear view of the Trinity. Some former Maranatha leaders have said that the organization worked hard at clearing up most of the perceived doctrinal problems the committee cited.
Lee Grady, former editor of Maranatha's publication The Forerunner, said there was little chance Maranatha would reform itself into a new organization. Grady added that some of those involved in the church's college campus ministry are now involved in a new autonomous organization based in Austin, Texas, called Campus Ministries International.
End of document, CRJ0044A.TXT (original CRI file name),
release A, April 25, 1994
R. Poll, CRI
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