Broock No Criticism

Stephen Mansfield, author of the best-selling The Faith of George W Bush, has written a spirited defence of neo-Pentecostal leader Rice Broocks (whom I’ve covered before) on his blog (Feb 21; no permalink – thanks to a reader for the link):

Recently, some friends showed me a web site on which critics were trying to make a connection between Maranatha, a ministry Rice was a part of in the 1980’s, and Every Nation Ministries which Rice now leads. I was shocked. I’m used to heresy hunters who do nothing but attack everything. They are the mental midgets we all have to put up with to do anything of consequence in this world. I was not prepared, though, for the nature of the attacks on my dear friend.

Mansfield is almost certainly referring to this FACTNET message board; as it happens, several of its contributors were recently featured in the North Carolina media in relation to the AIO fraternity story (they have also been in email contact with me). As with all message boards, quality is variable, and indeed many of the posters are concerned that Every Nation (formerly Morning Star International) is heretical. But the issue of orthodoxy (which is of little interest to me either way, aside from historical value) is only one concern: as I have noted before, the campus ministry Maranatha disbanded in 1989 after newspaper reports of authoritarian and abusive behaviour. Even today, feelings run high when Maranatha is mentioned: when sz at World O’Crap referenced my previous entry on the subject, a couple of readers added comments to her site about their experiences with the group, including someone (anonymous) who alleged that despite not even being a member, Maranatha adherents had harassed and assaulted her on her campus on the assumption that she was a lesbian. Broocks was a Maranatha leader, and the Every Nation grouping has a number of sub-ministries, including Victory Campus Ministries.

Mansfield addresses the Maranatha problem rather gingerly:

Rice graduated from college in 1979 and went into campus ministry with Maranatha. As both an historian and a minister, I can tell you that there were many wonderful things that happened in Maranatha. The critics seem interested only in the mistakes. It was common in those days for ministries to lack theological depth and to suffer from the absence of worldview and boundaries that a good grasp of history, particularly theological history, provides. Nevertheless, Rice helped guide Maranatha to an honorable end in 1989. Oddly, he has sometimes been accused since of “destroying Maranatha,” which is, of course, untrue.

Well, of course critics are going to focus on the “mistakes” (a nice way of describing “abuse”, as if it were some sort of accident) if they themselves have been hurt as a result, and no-one has had to take responsibility. But back to Mansfield:

To learn from the mistakes of the past and to build a ministry in a theologically responsible way, he enrolled in one of the most respected institutions in evangelical Christianity, Reformed Theological Seminary, where he earned a Master’s degree in theology. This helped him wed biblical thinking to the spiritual power he already had and laid the foundation for the good things that were to come.

Ahh, a Charismatic embracing Reformed theology in order to get a bit more intellectual muscle. Now who does that remind me of? And I’m glad that being involved with those “mistakes” at Maranatha didn’t cause Broocks to lose confidence in his special “spiritual power”:

I don’t need to tell the whole story here, but Rice ended up teaming with Steve Murrell and Phil Bonasso to form Morning Star International, now known as Every Nation Ministries. I’ve never seen anything like it…I’ve been all through the various ministries and churches of Morningstar/Every Nation and have never seen anything like the discipleship extremes [that were found in the highly authoritarian Shepherding movement] in this movement. If such things should arise, I know that these leaders are committed to doing things the right way and are very much open to admitting shortcomings.

Well, maybe we don’t need the whole story, but Mansfield could have cleared up some oddities – like why Broocks and another Maranatha leader named Greg Ball founded a sub-ministry called Champions for Christ back in 1985, but after the end of Maranatha they told Charisma magazine that it dated back only to 1991 (thanks to a reader for pointing that out. CFC has itself also been a subject of controversy). [UPDATE: The 1985 date comes from this Charity Navigator Rating on Wayback; since I wrote this blog entry the profile was changed to reflect the 1991 date]

I’m sure that Mansfield is truthfully reporting what he has seen, and that there are many people associated with Every Nation and its various sub-ministries who are very happy to be where they are. Studying a religious group purely from the viewpoint of disaffected ex-members is methodologically unsound; but so is dismissing the concerns of ex-members just because you yourself are an insider – and Mansfield tells us that he himself is now under Broocks, who invited him to join Morning Star when Mansfield lost his pastorate following a divorce. What about the disturbing accounts from people like Darrell Lucus, who claims to have been subject to abuse by a campus ministry related to Every Nation? Mansfield completely ignores such stories in his defence of Broocks, preferring instead to rail against vague “heresy hunters” and “mental midgets”.

But despite what happened under Maranatha, Mansfield is unable to give us any details about mechanisms of accountability that might prevent such abuses happening in the new organisations formed by ex-Maranatha leaders; instead, all we have is a very vague assurance that the leaders are now “committed to doing things the right way”. Given the unhappy history of Maranatha, this is really not enough, and with the very strange tendency of Every Nation sub-ministries to downplay their links to their mother organisation, it is far from unreasonable to be suspicious of the whole movement.

Mansfield finally comes to a peculiar conclusion:

I don’t have many friends but I plan to be faithful to those few I do have. Rice Broocks is my friend. They’ll have to come through me to get to him.

Erm…that’s not actually how the internet works, Stephen…

UPDATE: Mansfield has written to me with further thoughts about EN. See my entry for today.

17 Responses

  1. Richard, this is a query rather than commentary on Broocks, Morning Star, Maranatha…what is your take on connections between the Morning Star enterprise and C. Peter Wagner’s multiplatform operation in Colorado Springs? I was led into this welter in the course of research for a book project. I’d appreciate your insights. –mr

  2. I was just curious as to why you appear to have a bone to pick with Rice Broocks. Indeed, Maranatha was a troubled ministry, but he was only a campus minister, not the leader of the whole thing. Is it impossible for someone to learn from past experiences and move on? No offense intended, I’m just curious where you are coming from. Thanks.

  3. I hope that Broocks has learnt from the past – but the burden is on him to show it. Instead, there seems to be “damage limitation” going on: just what is it with “Champions for Christ” supposedly starting in 1991, but really in 1985, for instance? I get the impression that historical details and links are being downplayed, or even suppressed, and that makes me both curious and suspicious.

  4. I had an insider view on what went down when Maranatha went down, and the essential problem was: the main leader refused to support or submit to the decisions of his board. Before and after the confrontation that eventually disbanded Maranatha (a period of some months), board members and other leaders banded together for support. Unfortunately – or fortunately, Maranatha’s infrastructure wasn’t strong enough to survive without authoritarian influence. Morningstar/Every Nation’s leaders – all Maranatha veterans – intended to create a group that included the good parts of Maranatha and reformed the bad. Despite the good that it accomplished, Marantha’s system of government was personality-driven, its vocabulary was hyperbolic, and its theology was faddish. Many young, zealous groups (religious or political) can be described the same way. Does Morningstar/Every Nation still show those kinds of tendencies? Let the inquirer to decide.

  5. The main bone of contention that liberal journalists had with Maranatha was its political conservatism and ties with Christian Reconstrucionist teachers. It had less to do with accusations of abuse from ex-members. Every church has these. I was very happy to be a part of Maranatha and it was difficult when the group split. I a happy with my current church association as well. I do not, however, continue to work with Rice Broocks or Bob Weiner because my views and experiences as a Christian teacher have evolved in the past 15 years. I applaud former charismatic leaders who have tied to embrace some type of historic orthodoxy (whether Reformed / Calvinistic / neo-Puritan / evangelical / Augustinian Catholic etc.) I continue to cooperate with members of Morning Star/Every Nation as well as former members of Maranatha. We certainly agree that there were serious problems with the ministry and ought to in humility agree that we have a long way to go before we are the perfect Christian witness in God’s earth. On the other hand, some of the brightest young people in ministry that I have met were in Maranatha. I don’t hide me ties to the group. Write what you want about me. My views are apparent from my record as editor of The Forerunner. But critique me as an individual. Guilt by association is intellectually dishonest.

  6. […] I’ve posted on this topic several times before, and I’ve received a few critical emails. The problems at Maranatha were due to youthful inexperience; Broocks has learnt from the past; it’s unfair to judge the modern Every Nation grouping by what happened back then. Stephen Mansfield has also recently written a spirited defence of Broocks along much the same lines (which I critiqued here). […]

  7. Hi, I am responding to Elizabeth’s post, about the demise of Maranatha. I too had an inside view but from a different angle, so to speak. Christians that did love and care for this capmus group, did met sevral times with the board of Maranatha. Some of these people were once featured in the groups, leadership meetings and national convocations of this church. They had legitimate concerns; and there also were some lawsuits pending, and some being formed

  8. This is a response to Adam, to say that Rice Brookes was only a campus minister is dead wrong. Rice Brookes is the number two guy of Maranatha, next to Bob Weiner. He was discipled and taught by Bob Weiner himself. We all know about what Bob Weiner did, but Bob Weiner have repented and move on. Rice Brookes did not. I never heard him repent nor say where he was wrong.What are the things he did was wrong. In fact when you ask Rice Brookes, to be specific where he was wrong , he could not even tell you, because he himself has no clue where he is wrong. All he can tell you is that maranatha has authoratarian problems and it lies with Bob Weiner, all of them blames Bob Weiner.

    In the meantime, I have heard Bob Weiner repented TWICE ! Talking about his past and being specific too. With Rice Brookes, you will never hear that. Instead you will hear Rice Brookes talks about the glory of his past this is during Maranatha days. ANd how glorious his testimonies are and these are during marantha days. I would sit there and wonder , huh ? I thought maranatha was bad and dead ?

    • i heard Rice Brooks speak once at Marantha Ministries in Chapel Hill.. I hope he has repented. He did not come across as loving and caring for the flock.. but rather puffed up..It made an impression on me and not a positive one at all. My friend went on to suffer alot of unhappiness and confusion in being involved with this ministry..

  9. […] People denomination. That was led by Paul Daniel in South Africa; His People later became part of Every Nation, and Daniel was removed from leadership after a sex scandal. Around this time Giles rebranded his […]

  10. […] Nation, a grouping whose leader Rice Broocks was recently defended by Faith of George W Bush author Stephen Mansfield? With claims of a “covert belief” this is hard to say, and in the 1998 book The […]

  11. […] Morning Star International), has been a recurring theme on this blog. Several months ago I wrote an entry on the subject that addressed best-selling author Stephen Mansfield’s defence of the group and of […]

  12. Are we seekers of truth or looking for salacious gossip that enamours the flesh? What group has not had some authoritarian problems? Baptist, Presybeterian, Episcopal, Rome, WOW~! etc.? Does that mean they are all bad or evil? Silly… Maranatha, was the best college ministry that I knew of, I went there, they helped me and the other alternatives were shallow in there commitments to Christ compared to Marantha in the 80’s, when attending college. Many people in Marantha that I knew led college students to Chrst regularly, lived a godly life, loved the bible ,and were steller Christians. So whats the beef? Mistakes of a movement led by college kids who impacted many for christianity is not the worse thing that can happen on campus. I know some liberal journalist who hated Christian influnce,and really disliked they impact of this ministry. Yes, there was immaturity, but these were college preachers and young people, by and large, go figure? Foolish, to say all was bad, or sinister, it simply is not true, many of the leaders went on to get master in theology or doctorates like Mansfiled, with a charismatic experience and are some of the best and brightest in this country now, Fuller, Rice, Mansfield can preach with the best of american evangelicals or reformed, believe me I have been at meeting with these men, and they are solid theologically as you can get, and live Christian lives, like few ministers I have been around, anywhere! Stop the silly judgementalism, and lets show some virtue and a little common sense in this! The very yardstick of immaturity that concerns some about Marantha, seems to be used to judge them unfairly, and replicate a new form of immaturity in the blog folly world of unaccountablity and ahistorical charges without facts or evidence, and many exaggerations! Caveat emptor to this discussion!

    John Holmes

  13. […] Every Nation (formerly Morningstar International) emerged from the wreckage of the 1980s student movement “Maranatha”, which collapsed amid claims of authoritarian behaviour. I blogged on the controversy around the grouping in 2005. […]

  14. I can speak from first hand knowledge that the spirit at marnatha was no different at Morningstar. Now that Bob Weiner is not around Rice,Phil,Jim.Ronnie and the others are more emboldened, The fact they changed the name to Every Nation was not a PR play but rather one of necessity based on the carnage Morningstar generated. I wont mention those in this post but i know all of them. Personal favoritism, Money focus, slave labor for the field ministers while the apostolic team and other higher leaders live the life of luxury. I know because I provided it to them. Authoritarianism and the countless hearts broken from people who went against the ministry was common. Two suicides, several sexual scandals and an all out revolt unless the financials were shared with the “Little People” which they weren’t should tell it all. Every nation is like Mexico. There is no middle class. Your either very well off and privileged or your scrapping by just to survive while the conferences are suppose to pump you up and make you forget your crummy circumstances. Those conferences cost $100,000 alone and that not include the “Private” one for Leaders at Palm Beach for a week. I know these men well and although they love Jesus they love the ministry, perks, power and using people until they are no longer useful. No bitterness. Just facts. Just understand what your getting into. Lots of great folks in the ministry but like any organization its operates based on the leaders at the top. Steve Murrell is one of the few men you can trust and his heart is right. Unfortunately he is in Manila..

  15. I can speak from first hand knowledge that the spirit at marnatha was no different at Morningstar. Now that Bob Weiner is not around Rice,Phil,Jim.Ronnie,Russ and the others are more emboldened, The fact they changed the name to Every Nation was not a PR play but rather one of necessity based on the carnage Morningstar generated. I wont mention those in this post but i know all of them. Personal favoritism, Money focus, slave labor for the field ministers while the apostolic team and other higher leaders live the life of luxury. I know because I provided it to them. Authoritarianism and the countless hearts broken from people who went against the ministry was common. Two suicides, several sexual scandals,Financial scandals and an all out revolt unless the financials were shared with the “Little People” which they weren’t should tell it all. Every nation is like Mexico. There is no middle class. Your either very well off and privileged or your scrapping by just to survive while the conferences are suppose to pump you up and make you forget your crummy circumstances. Those conferences cost $100,000 alone and that not include the “Private” one for Leaders at Palm Beach for a week. I know these men well and although they love Jesus they love the ministry, perks, power and using people until they are no longer useful. No bitterness. Just facts. Just understand what your getting into. Lots of great folks in the ministry but like any organization its operates based on the leaders at the top. Steve Murrell is one of the few men you can trust and his heart is right. Unfortunately he is in Manila..

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