Agape Press Attacks Every Nation

UPDATE (9 March 2007): Agape has withdrawn the story, and has stated that its linkage of EN with the New Order of the Latter Rain was “mistaken”. See here.

Don Wildmon’s Christian news service Agape Press lays into the neo-Pentecostal grouping Every Nation, in a report about the Bethel World Outreach Center:

Bethel World Outreach Center is a member of the Every Nation family of churches, which is part of “The New Order of the Latter Rain.” The “New Order” is a cult movement that covertly believes its leaders are the collective reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

That’s unexpectedly strong stuff. As I’ve covered on this blog before, Every Nation was formerly known as Morning Star International, and some of its leadership was previously associated with the controversial Maranatha Ministries (critics allege MSI/Every Nation is just a continuation of Maranatha). Bethel is just one of Every Nation’s many outreaches, but it’s not the first to find itself in controversy. Previous entries I’ve written on the subject (assisted, I should acknowledge, by some disaffected ex-members) have also noted how Every Nation-affiliated sites are often very cagey about their connections, and sometimes contain dates in their histories that simply don’t add up. While I’m not particularly interested in whether Every Nation is “orthodox” or not, these anomalies and controversies have caught my attention.

So what about the claims by Agape Press? I find it very hard to believe that any conservative Christian group would use the word “reincarnation”, and I think we can see that as a polemical interpretation of Every Nation’s alleged covert belief. “The New Order of the Latter Rain” (NOLR) is also probably better seen as a trend rather than as a tight organisation. The Religious Movements Homepage offers a neutral description of the NOLR that includes the following:

The movement was led by William Branham and Oral Roberts. Oral Roberts was a Pentecostal Holiness Preacher who started his own independent healing ministry in 1947 (Riss, 107). William Branham began his healing ministry in the fall of 1946. He claimed to be divinely inspired by an angel and his reputation as a healer grew quickly (Riss, 106). Stemming from Ephesians 4:11 of the Bible, the Latter Rain followers believe in the restoration of the five-fold ministry. This ministry consists of apostles, prophets, missionaries, evangelists, pastors and teachers with the addition of apostles and prophets being the most controversial (Melton, 418).

…The doctrine of Manifest Sons of God holds that “anointed” ones can enter into sonship and hence become divine (Holy Laughter link). The belief that humans can become gods is highly controversial because it blurs the line between creator and created (Melton, 420). Latter Rain supporters think the doctrine of sonship is aligned with Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:45-47 and Romans 8:19) so that “sonship is an actual gaining of the image and likeness of Christ” (Melton, 420).

Joel’s Army is another doctrine of the Latter Rain faith. This claims that the Latter Rain advocates must conquer and dominate the world in order for the new millenium and Christ to come.

Another common theme in NOLR is the “new thing” of Isaiah 43:19 and Acts 17:18-21. This belief is similar to gnosticism in that they are always seeking a “new thing” or revelation to escape the material world.

But does this apply to Every 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 Apostolic Churches (edited by C Peter Wagner) Broocks writes that

None of us at Morning Star think we are in the same league as the original 12 apostles or that anything we say is equal to Holy Scripture (144)

Quite likely, the Agape journalist made use of a bundle of documents that an ex-member has put together, and who kindly sent me a copy a while back. This ex-member claims that the founder of Maranatha, Bob Wiener, had been “initiated” by a Latter Rain figure named Royal DeWayne Cronquist back in 1967 (the source was a phone call between the ex-member and Cronquist’s widow; Every Nation apparently rejects the link). Weiner was also quoted as having talked of the Body of Christ bringing “to birth a race of God-men and women”; the ex-member claims that these are now identified with the “Apostles and Prophets” of Every Nation and its affiliated organisations. There are also a number of polemical websites linking figures such as C Peter Wagner with the Latter Rain, such as this one.

But what can we infer leaving that polemical material aside, and accepting the possibility that Broocks may not share all the views of his mentors? We’ve got the fact that Every Nation is an “Apostolic Church”, and led by an “International Apostolic Team”. Rice Broocks also appears to believe that he has a special “spiritual power”. The “Joel’s Army” idea might well explain why Christian Reconstructionists appear to have influence with Every Nation (particularly George Grant, a non-member who has taught at Every Nation’s Victory Leadership Institute); it also chimes with warfare/Crusade rhetoric I’ve seen in some MSI/Every Nation materials.

It would be an unexpected twist if the definitive answers finally emerged thanks to a news source of the US Christian right.

*******

Religious Movements Homepage references:

Melton, Gordon J., ed. 1996. Encyclopedia of American Religions. Detroit, MI: Gale Research. “Latter Rain Revival, Independent Churches of the, pp. 418-420.

Riss, Richard M. 1988. A Survey of 20th Century Revival Movements in North America. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. pp. 105-124.

Riss, Richard M. 1979. The Latter Rain Movement of 1948 and the Mid-Twentieth Century Evangelical Awakening. Vancouver, BC: Regent College, MA Thesis.