Another View of Every Nation

The neo-Pentecostal grouping known as Every Nation (formerly 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 its leader, Rice Broocks (see here, scroll down to Feb 21). At the end of his piece, Mansfield wrote:

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.

True to his word, Mansfield recently contacted me and offered to ask EN leaders about my concerns. Stephen is a courteous and thoughtful correspondent, and he has given me permission to publish his response. Here is our exchange:

Dear Stephen

I think there are basically two problems with Every Nation. First, there have been three occasions where groups associated with MSI/EN have provoked negative media reports: a few years ago there were ongoing concerns about Champions for Christ, and in the past year there have been complaints concerning the AIO fraternity at the University of North Carolina and a club at the Hillsboro High School in Nashville. I know that secular media may have a general bias against religious groups, but it seems to me telling that with all the different groups out there, EN should be such a lightning rod for negative attention from disconnected media outlets.

But the main issue, I think, concerns the legacy of Maranatha. I know you consider that Broocks led Maranatha to a decent conclusion, and that may be so for all I know. But there is also a sense that the Maranatha past is being “managed” rather than dealt with openly and honestly – and if you want to concentrate on one issue, I think this is it.

1. I’ve been told that the website of the MIT chapter of Victory Campus Ministries used to mention Maranatha, but this reference was pulled when it came to general notice.

2. Champions for Christ presents itself as something which belongs firmly to the post-Maranatha era, when in fact it goes back to 1985. Comparing these two versions of its profile on Charity Navigator is instructive: here (from Wayback) and here.

3. Ron Lewis, who runs an EN affiliate in Chapel Hill, told the media that he left Maranatha in the late 1980s; yet in 1990 he registered Maranatha Christian Ministries International and planted the Maranatha Christian Church of Boston.

Now, I’ll grant that none of this is earth-shattering, but combined with the media reports about AIO and Hillsboro it has a cumulative effect. The impression it gives (fairly or not) is that this is a secretive organisation which has whitewashed past mistakes from the 1980s, and now shows signs of repeating those errors.



Here’s Mansfield’s reply:

Richard, thanks for being straightforward with me about this. Let me answer briefly.

I know that MSI/EN has had some negative press recently. It has been interesting for me to observe the movement as a newcomer because I watch them do the right thing and get negative press for it. Recently, for example, Rice has removed one of the primary leaders of MSI/EN because  of misconduct. He is about to remove another. This has taken serious moral courage. At the same time that this is going on, the movement is getting bad press because a suicidal teen tried to commit suicide again when her  mother pulled her out of an MSI/EN campus group against the girl’s wishes. This will all blow over, of course, but it is the kind of thing you mention. I think that any large, rapidly growing movement devoted to challenging the philosophical status quo would get similar treatment. I find that most of these charges are baseless or minor matters exaggerated while the major moral stands taken by the MSI/EN’s leaders are ignored.

On the continuation of Maranatha: I called Ron Lewis and he admitted that after they had closed Maranatha officially, he did continue the incorporation of a ministry in South Carolina by the same general name. This was on the advice of his attorney who was trying to save a young pastor with a church of 75 people a little bit of money. The spirit of Maranatha was dead but the name lived on due to what Ron himself called his “stupidity.” Later, when he realized how symbolic retaining the name was–again, he was an inexperienced pastor in his early 20’s–he changed it, as you’ve observed.

I’m willing to answer any questions you have, Richard, but my primary issue is that I see a movement doing a great deal of good that tends to get spanked due to blogs like yours. You have the right to blog what you will, but if you are serious about truth I’m hoping to help you see things a bit differently. If you are willing, let me know how I can help you.

Either way, I wish you well.

Stephen Mansfield