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.

Regards,

Richard

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
www.mansfieldgroup.com

8 Responses

  1. […] UPDATE 2: Author Stephen Mansfield has now contacted me with more details about why Ron Lewis kept the Maranatha name for a while. See this entry. […]

  2. […] Mansfield has written to me with further thoughts about EN. See my entry for today. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)When Wagner’s Prophecy FailsEvery Nation […]

  3. Mr. Mansfield, however kind to give us insight into the EN/MSI cause, is uninformed in the facts of the case regarding the “suicidal teen tried to commit suicide again when her mother pulled her out of an MSI/EN campus group against the girl’s wishes”. None of your information is correct with the exception of “teen tried to commit suicide”. There is obviously a difference of opinion as to what constitutes illegal, life threatening behavior, and what is protected under the shield of religion; however this dispute does not change the facts of the case.

    The lawsuit is public record. I would ask Mr. Mansfield, in the interest of finding truth and understanding, to research his material prior to responding to your questions.

  4. It discourages me to hear a man with the educational background of Mr. Mansfield referring to people as “mental midgets.” I’ve read many of the posts on the site he refers to and find a wide range of participants. And Mr. Mansfield is mistaken in saying all the posts are negative. Perhaps his doctorate in theology did not provide him the truth that Jesus is our best friend and ALL men on earth will fall short. OK – in writing I’ve just reminded myself to not be discouraged because I have Christ in my life. Mr. Mansfield’s accusation of such a diverse group of people as “mental midgets” is just a true reflection of his character.

  5. Tsk, tsk. Mr. Mansfield is being played like a violin and he doesn’t know it.

    If Ron Lewis was really as disgusted with Maranatha as he has claimed in so many forums, all he had to do was head to the North Carolina Secretary of State (it’s the University of North Carolina, not South Carolina, btw, Richard), rip up the old charter and get another one. But then again, we’ve seen time and again that this guy is too full of himself to think people will ever be on to him.

  6. Mr. Mansfield – I’ll use your own quote to make my point. You said, “It has been interesting for me to observe the movement as a newcomer …” You should STOP right there. 1. Stay interested. 2. Keep observing. Don’t be so quick to run to the defense of something you CANNOT see. As a former big-shot pastor and as a best-selling author, you are a perfect trophy for Rice Broocks. Has he gotten you on stage at one of his conferences yet … Come on up here champ! PLEASE don’t tell me you are so naive as to think you are getting normal treatment from your “new best friend” Rice. Oh yeah, you said somewhere else that Rice called you a knucklehead after your divorce. Hmmmm … oh … I get it … anyone that would have the balls to call you a knucklehead certainly wouldn’t let all this misconduct go on. Come on Mr. Mansfield. Next time, at least let one of Rice’s more tenured cronies defend him – since he wouldn’t do it himself.

  7. He need not to defend himself from all those accusations, let the truth speak for itself. Complicate the truth, twist it distort or exagerate, it doesnt matter anyway. Let hte accusations be hurled at him but still this leader will be steady in his convictions.

  8. This is for Stephen Mansfield,
    It would be good if you followed up with your initial letter noted here of 9/01/05 as I know you would want to be accurate as possible.
    You mention with great pride in Rice Brooks’ action as to removing a primary leader, and getting ready to do that to another. You note that it takes great moral courage to do so.
    Would it interest you to know, that the person you noted, never left the group MSI/EN was supported, bought a grand house on golf course, in spite of small church as noted with Mr. Lewis ? He later sold that house,and is now attempting to start another EN church in Ca. The monies he misused were never replaced.

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