column from the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1988, page 5. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.
The Unification Church Seeks Influence, Acceptance among the Political ("Christian") Right
After newspapers across America last December revealed Unification Church attempts to infiltrate the political "Christian Right" through gifts to political action committees and conservative Christian groups, the Moonies quieted their activities.
Now some Unification Church-watchers are concerned that the group is stepping-up another tactic which may result in political acceptance: infiltrating independent charismatic ministries to gain favor in the burgeoning charismatic movement as a whole.
"They're out there winning friends and influencing people," said a source at the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) who did not want to be named, adding that gaining acceptance in America is essential to the church's objective of having their leader Sun Myung Moon recognized as the second coming of Christ.
Last December's articles, which appeared mostly in prominent Knight-Ridder newspapers, stated that in March 1987 Moon forged an alliance with the Christian Voice, the largest conservative Christian lobby in America. They also reported that Moon has been funding anticommunist guerrillas in Central America, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, and that the Unification Church gave the late John T. Dolan, founder of the 300,000-member National Conservative Political Action Committee, a $775,000 gift. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Anderson had also been paid $127,500 as a Unification Church consultant.
Recently the NAE warned its members to be wary of Unification Church attempts to infiltrate their ranks by joining with organizations that seem to have conservative goals. Moon-watchers say two points of Moonie infiltration into the Christian community have been over issues of religious freedom and anticommunism.
In recent years certain Christian leaders have been criticized for what some perceived as drawing too close to the Unification Church. Several years ago Tim LaHaye, Christian author and head of the American Coalition for Traditional Values, came under fire for accepting a gift from Col. Bo Hi Pak, a former Korean intelligence officer, president of the Washington Times newspaper, and Moon's right-hand man. Since then, a number of pastors from a broad spectrum of denominations have received free trips from CAUSA, a Unification Church-funded anticommunism organization. Churchmen have also been speaking at CAUSA rallies (e.g., Jerry Falwell spoke at a conference in Miami last year which was co-sponsored by CAUSA).
Another group admitting Unification Church funding is the American Freedom Coalition (AFC), publisher of the monthly Religious Freedom Alert, headed by Donald Sills as president and Robert Grant as chairman. Although LaHaye, Florida pastor D. James Kennedy, and others have left the AFC because of the Moon connection, others, such as Trinity Broadcasting Network's Paul Crouch, Ben Armstrong of the National Religious Broadcasters, evangelists James Robison and Rex Humbard, and other prominent evangelicals have remained on AFC's executive committee. (Although there is no known direct connection between CAUSA and AFC, Sills often speaks at CAUSA functions. CAUSA is headed by Phillip V. Sanchez, former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and Columbia.)
In recent days Sills has been concentrating on attacking anti-cult organizations as a threat to religious freedom to audiences with a high percentage of charismatics. Sills (who visited Moon during his prison term) appeared May 3 on Crouch's "Praise the Lord" show on TBN and denounced the secular Cult Awareness Network (CAN). From there Sills went on the AFC's radio network hosted by Grant and sharply criticized CAN and cultwatchers in general. (In recent months Sills has emerged as a public affairs spokesman for the Greater Grace World Outreach -- formerly The Bible Speaks World Outreach, a controversial group a federal judge recently ordered to return $6.6 million in contributions it swindled from a former member.)
But many agree that the church's best attempt at influencing the political right is Bo Hi Pak's Washington Times newspaper, which is reportedly losing $200 million a year. Moon himself is widely reported as saying he is having an influence on President Reagan "through the Washington Times."
Unification Church Tries to Quell Rumors About Rev. Moon's "Reincarnated" Son
Rev. Sun Myung Moon made headlines again in late March when reports surfaced that the Korean-born leader of the Unification Church was "channeling" voices from the dead and that he had contacted his late son, Heung Jin Nim Moon.
More striking were revelations that a black church member from Africa was being possessed by Heung Jin Nim, who had been killed in a 1984 car crash at age 17. According to the Washington Post, church members were startled by the news, but they went along with it because it came from Moon.
But as the bizarre story has unfolded with the appearance and subsequent coronation of the unnamed Zimbabwean as Moon's son, some church members have become skeptical, while others have been working to quell rumors of theological differences inside the sect.
The Zimbabwean, described as a baby-faced black man in his early 20s, has been a member of the church for the past three years. Last year he began claiming to hear the voice of Heung Jin Nim. After a church-sponsored investigation concluded that the man probably was Moon's son, he came to America and met with Moon. According to the Post, the man knew the answers to five questions only Moon's deceased son could have known, and thus won Moon's enthusiastic acceptance.
Since then the Zimbabwean has gained tremendous power in the church, and has spoken at a number of functions, with some of them promoting the American Freedom Coalition, a Moon-sponsored political lobbying group. Other reports have stated that the man has become very authoritarian, and has beaten and slapped church members, including Moon's second-in-command, Bo Hi Pak.
South Carolina Prophet of doom Attracts Widening Audiences
Radio preacher Brother R.G. Stair of Walterboro, South Carolina, claims God speaks directly to him. In fact, he claims God has appointed him "God's end-time prophet to America," and that he was designated to anoint the end-time "Elijah" -- which he did several years ago when he met a young man during a trip to the Soviet Union.
What the Almighty told him, Stair thundered early this year over his daily radio broadcasts heard on more than 50 stations nationwide, was that the US would face an economic collapse by the end of April, that President Reagan would be removed from office shortly thereafter, and that a limited nuclear war would strike the US before the end of the year, wiping out every major city. A way to escape the horrors to come, the self-proclaimed prophet declared on his "Overcomer" broadcast, was to get out of the cities and flee to the countryside.
A number of people all over the US have done just that. Convinced America is under God's wrath, some have sold their homes, given all their money to Stair's Faith Cathedral Fellowship, and joined him at his Waterboro campground and at other rural sites Stair's ministry owns.
Stair's sensational prophecies, coupled with complaints from parents of his followers that their children have been brainwashed by his teachings, attracted national attention. That's when he changed the date of America's economic collapse from April to May, and declared himself a false prophet if his prediction did not come true at the end of May. When May breezed by with the economy strong, Stair pushed the date back to the end of the year.
Stair didn't back down on his other predictions. In June he went on a television show in the Philadelphia area still affirming a nuclear war by the end of the year and declaring that if it didn't happen, his ministry "was down the drain" and he'd quit the ministry.
But in his June newsletter, Stair changed his story again and blamed God for it. He insisted that God did prophesy the calamities through him, but He was apt to change His mind just as He did when He decided not to destroy Ninevah in the book of Jonah.
It turns out that Stair has a history of false prophecies. Back in August, 1986, he told the local Walterboro weekly newspaper Press and Standard that God told him that "President Reagan will be removed from office after seven more months and that we may never have another presidential election."
Stair continues to gain a following. With the boosted income from new followers joining him, he has been able to beef up his broadcasts. At press time he was on 88 Christian stations nationwide.
Holy Order of MANS Sect Changes Name, Joins Eastern Orthodox Church
The Holy Order of MANS (HOM), a controversial group founded in San Francisco in 1968, has changed its name to "Christ the Savior Brotherhood," and joined the Eastern Orthodox Church.
However, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Queens, New York (Vasiloupolis jurisdiction), with which the HOM was granted affiliation, is not a member of the Standing Committee of Orthodox Bishops of America (SCOBA), which oversees most US groups in the Orthodox tradition.
But that doesn't mean that HOM has not moved into Christian orthodoxy, said Father Andrew Rossi, director general of the sect and successor to the late Earl Blighton, who claimed he founded the sect after receiving a "divine revelation."
The Holy Order of MANS ("MANS" standing for Mysterian, Agape, Nous, and Sophia in Greek, or mystery, love, mind, and wisdom in English) amassed numerous critics in the early 1970s due to its occultic theological position and practices. In an early critique of the group by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project (SCP) of Berkeley, California, researchers brought out the fact that HOM believed it was their mission to "unite all faiths." They believed Jesus was a great teacher (but mere man) who had attained contact with an impersonal kind of "Christ-consciousness." They also embraced the classical occult "sciences" of alchemy, tarot, Cabala, and astrology, according to the SCP.
Rossi said his order has repudiated all those beliefs and now affirms biblical orthodoxy, including the belief in the Trinity, salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and the Nicene Creed.
"We had a lot of New Age elements in the brotherhood," Rossi continued. "What they (SCP) were critical of, they had a right to be. We began to purge ourselves of New Age elements and by 1979 we started going the other direction....The mysticism got out of hand. We were searching for experiences and found that it would lead us astray without sound doctrine."
The changes accelerated after HOM leaders began reading Christian authors such as C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said Rossi.
However, many of the group's controversial practices have not ended, and under the terms of the merger, the group will continue to have a great deal of autonomy. Rossi affirmed that members who have taken second vows to the group still take them for life -- a sore point among critics. Additionally, the group is still highly liturgical, with members adorning themselves in robes and clerical collars. Rossi said the group has about 1,000 members spread throughout the US. Although it maintains its headquarters in Forestville, California, many of its main functions take place in Portland, Oregon.
National Council of Churches Gathering Explores Mystical Prayer
While one group practiced principles of Buddhist meditation, another was introduced to Asian spiritual exercises. In another workshop, a group of people were celebrating feminine "biblical" images of God through prayer, song, mime, and dance.
The occasion wasn't the latest New Age convergence, but rather "A Gathering of Christians," a mega-event sponsored by the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC), which drew more than 2,000 people to Arlington, Texas, May 21-25, 1988. Assisting the ecumenical body in planning the event was a 25-member team that included representatives of Protestant, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Roman Catholic churches.
Other "how to pray" sessions during the special "Explorations in Spirituality" workshops included: Quaker, black oral, and Eastern Orthodox prayer, ancient Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer, monastic prayer, and "creation spirituality" prayer. The NCC said the reason they sponsored the various workshops on prayer was to demonstrate unity and to affirm diversity.
"Gathering planners commented that each Christian tradition has created unique forms of prayer in response to specific secular and spiritual needs," according to an NCC press release on the event. "Experiencing the prayer of another tradition can be a powerful means of understanding and appreciating that tradition and of affirming diversity."
There was no acknowledgment by the NCC that some of the forms of prayer and spiritual exercises, being from non-Christian sources, might be unbiblical and unchristian.
Copeland-Martin Meeting Fails to Materialize
"Don't be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you're God," Ft. Worth evangelist Kenneth Copeland claims Jesus said through him. "The more you get to be like Me, the more they're going to think that way of you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn't claim I was God."
This statement was found in Copeland's February 1987 Believer's Voice of Victory magazine.
In a July 19, 1987, Kenneth Copeland crusade televised by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Copeland further said: "I say this and repeat it so it don't upset you too bad .... When I read the Bible where He [Jesus] says 'I am,' Yes, I am too!"
These statements, which seem to deny the deity (or at least unique deity) of Christ (along with others by Copeland in recent years), caught the attention of Christian leaders who already were publicly critical of the popular evangelist's "word of faith" theology. One of these was Walter Martin, founder and director of Christian Research Institute (CRI), who had been trying to meet with Copeland in recent years to discuss some of his teachings considered heretical, according to CRI researcher Dan Schlesinger.
CRI contacted Copeland's office in May, 1987, and invited Copeland to meet with Martin and "explain what he meant by the (Feb. 87) prophecy," Schlesinger said. Martin also began to pursue a meeting with Copeland through TBN President Paul Crouch.
In spite of assurances from Copeland's office that they were working on setting up a meeting, no meeting took place. One tentative meeting between Martin, Copeland, Crouch, and Church on the Way pastor Jack Hayford was postponed and never rescheduled.
Despite the lack of a meeting there has been written contact between the Copeland camp and CRI. Following CRI inquiries, Copeland sent CRI a 5-page treatment of the Incarnation which he claimed vindicated his belief in the deity of Christ. Copeland added he was going to publish the paper in an upcoming Believer's Voice of Victory. But when CRI found that the paper advocated an extreme view of the Incarnation (i.e., that Christ ceased being God while on earth) they sent Copeland a 5-page response detailing major problems with his view. "We asked him if he understood what he was doing if he published it," said Schlesinger. Copeland published the treatise in the August Believer's Voice of Victory.
Meanwhile, after all of Martin's attempts at arranging a meeting with Copeland through Crouch fell through, he sent Crouch a letter dated January 27 cancelling a future appearance on TBN. In the letter (which was also sent to nine other Christian leaders) Martin said he would not appear on TBN until Crouch arranged for him to meet with Copeland and another TBN regular, Atlanta "kingdom now" teacher Earl Paulk. This would be to discuss their doctrines, especially their statements that Christians can "hold the rank of a god." Martin also cited the teachings of TBN regulars Charles Capps and Randy Shankle, and charged that by doing little to stop the spread of heretical teachings on TBN, Crouch is perceived as supporting it.
Crouch wrote a detailed letter back defending his right to offer varied teachings on TBN, and told Martin he's "called, pled and asked all of these brethren to come [and talk with you]... but to no avail." Besides, wrote Crouch, "everyone has a 'little heresy' in the opinion of another teacher, so why not preach salvation...and let the Holy Spirit work it out?"
Now it looks like there will be no Martin-Copeland meeting. In a letter from Copeland to Martin dated April 7 Copeland wrote: "It would not be in your best interest, or mine, or the Lord's for us to get together until you do something about the hate you have for me and my ministry." Copeland then added that he had re-read the prophecy and he stood by it, affirming: "I did not say Jesus was not God."
"I hold you responsible for ever misquoting me again for that statement," Copeland said in conclusion.
Alamo Foundation Falls Under Increasing Scrutiny
Sixty sheriff's deputies swooped down on properties owned by the Alamo Christian Foundation (aka Holy Alamo Church Consecrated) in Saugus, California on March 24 and arrested four men on charges of child abuse.
In recent days former members and parents of members have been reporting that the controversial sect, founded by Tony and the late Susan Alamo in 1967, has been applying increasingly strict discipline to members and their children, sometimes in the form of beatings.
The raid stemmed from the case of Carey Miller, 34, and his brother Robert, both 16-year ex-members of the Foundation. The Millers, who own a trucking business in Arkansas, left the sect in 1987 during a dispute with leader Tony Alamo over their business. Their wives, however, refused to leave with them, fleeing west to an Alamo ranch in the Saugus area (30 miles northwest of Los Angeles) where the sect in recent years has shifted much of its resources and people. Before long they were living along with their three children with new "common-law" husbands, according to court documents.
Although Carey and Robert Miller won custody of their children in court late last year, their wives never returned them. The deputies recovered the children during the raid on two church communes in the Saugus area, and in late June the courts awarded permanent custody (with no visiting rights) of the children to their fathers.
According to Cynthia Kisser of the Cult Awareness Network, the Miller situation marks the third active case in which the sect has tried to whisk away children from their families.
In the other two cases the parents (both ex-members of the group) who won legal custody of children were not able to recover all of them. In one case a mother's two daughters, ages 10 and 11, have been missing and presumed to be somewhere in the sect since 1982. In another case a mother who recently exited from the sect and told law officials that children are being harshly beaten in the group, was able to get her two-year-old daughter out of the sect, but her son, born August 28, has not been recovered and she believes the church is hiding him.
Watchtower Reverses Itself on Resurrection Doctrine
In a major doctrinal reversal, The Watchtower magazine of June 1, 1988, announced a new viewpoint on the resurrection: the individuals who were killed when God rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah will not be raised up again -- not even to face Judgment Day. According to the new view, "Jesus saying that it 'would be more endurable on Judgment Day for Tyre or Sodom' did not necessarily mean that those people will be present on Judgment Day...It is apparent, then, that those whom God executed in those past judgments experienced irreversible destruction (pages 30-31)."
The Watchtower's wording in presenting the new doctrine is similar to the wording used 23 years earlier when presenting the former view on this matter: "For it to be 'more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah' than for others, it would be necessary for former inhabitants of that land to be present on Judgment Day...So apparently individuals who used to live in that land will be resurrected (The Watchtower, August 1, 1965, p. 479).
Former Jehovah's Witnesses now actively opposing the sect reacted by pointing out that the new view represents a return to what had been taught prior to 1965. Notable among the ex-Witnesses who objected to the June 1988, article as a "flip-flop" was David T. Brown of Alpha & Omega Ministries in Phoenix. Brown circulated photocopies of a June 1, 1952, Watchtower article that ruled out resurrection for the Sodomites (p.338).
Current Jehovah's Witnesses received the new teaching with more than mere academic interest since, to them, the fate of the men of Sodom has some bearing on whether or not they can expect to see their own non-Witness relatives raised up.
End of document, CRJ0092A.TXT (original CRI file name),
release A, May 10, 1994
R. Poll, CRI
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