Ethiopia Gets Rapture Ready

Premillennialist founds 1,000 Churches

Keeping with the subject of missionaries, news from Crosswalk:

Dr. Charles Blair and the Blair Foundation, Denver, Colorado, announced August 31, 2005 the successful completion of a two-year project to secure sponsors to fund the planting of 1,000 evangelical churches in the previously unreached region of Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopia, bordering the Sudan. The project began in response to a plea from the region’s born-again president, Yaregal Aysheshim, and officially launched September 1, 2003, at which time there were only seven churches in the entire region.

…Land for construction is granted by President Aysheshim as soon as a village congregation reaches 25 adult members. Typically, each Ethiopian missionary establishes sister churches in at least two neighboring villages, making possible the complete evangelization of all 3,000 villages and the estimated one-million+ populace of the Benishangul-Gumuz region in the next two years.

Must be nice to be the president of a region where you can just hand out government land to any religious group you happen to sympathize with…

The website of the Charles E Blair Foundation gives some details about the mission and the man:

Founded in 1967, the Blair Foundation remains committed to expanding, worldwide, the teaching ministry of Dr. Charles Blair by providing on-site leadership and discipleship training, and Bible resource materials.

And what would that teaching ministry be?

He is the best-selling author of When the Journey Seems Too Great; Lose the Weight of the World; and The Man Who Could Do No Wrong – required reading at several leading Christian colleges and seminaries. In 1990, he served on an editorial committee for Thomas Nelson Publishers, providing the commentary for the book of Job in The Spirit-Filled Life Bible…

He serves on several international missions boards; and is an active member of the Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group, a group of esteemed Bible scholars devoted to instructing, encouraging and equipping the Endtime Body of Christ [actually, this should be Tim LaHaye’s Pre-Trib Research Center – RB].

Apocalypticism and Christian Zionism are central to Blair’s teaching, and he is the author of a DVD set entitled March of Prophecy:

The March of Prophecy is an unforgettable, fast-paced expedition through time.  Armed with personal full-color charts of their own, your congregation – and the many visitors they bring – will travel through 6,000 years of human history – “His-Story” – God systematically making and keeping His promises to man.  It’s God’s plan through the ages – graphically displayed – larger than life!

…We’ll watch the great scroll of Revelation unfurl, unleashing Tribulation wrath, Armageddon, the Millennium, the Final Judgment of all mankind, and Eternity Future – mysterious Apocalyptic events revealed as God – ordained closures to previous chapters of human history!

Back in 1967 Blair also authored a Prophecy Chart, which features a “great period of world-wide evangelism” following the creation of the State of Israel (next comes the “First Resurrection” of the dead into heaven, followed by the inevitable “Antichrist makes peace treaty with Israel.”). His “21 Signs of Christ’s Return” can be seen here.

Meanwhile, web-based information about Benishangul-Gumuz is somewhat thin on the ground, but there are these statistics from 1996:

The religious composition of the population is:

Muslim 44.1%

Orthodox Christians 34.8%

Traditional religions13.1%

Protestants 5.9%

No information was available in the census data on the remaining 2.1 percent.

Yaregal Aysheshim (var. “Yaregal Aysheshum”) was the governor of Benishangul from 1995 until last month. Details are scarce, but he seems to have had a commitment to development, education, and democracy (although he was involved in the brief jailing of a journalist who refused to reveal his sources back in 2001).

In 2003, Charisma provided some more background information to Blair’s involvement:

The foundation for the Ethiopian partnership was laid in 1989 when Calvary Temple in Denver opened its door to a congregation of Ethiopian believers who had come to the United States to escape persecution by the communist regime in their homeland.

When the socialist government of the country fell in 1991, Calvary Temple pastor Charles Blair was invited to Ethiopia to help local church leaders make the transition from underground cell groups to thriving, visible congregations.

[Dr Howard] Foltz [of Accelerating International Mission Strategies (AIMS)] accompanied Blair in 1996, helping to train Ethiopian church leaders, pastors and missionaries. Today the ongoing partnership continues to yield a harvest of new believers and church plants.

According to Pamella Foster, AIMS director of operations, the evangelical church in Ethiopia faces many challenges. In addition to persecution from Muslims, Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church leaders have joined forces with the Islamic movement to persecute evangelical Christians. “Leaders from the evangelical church in Ethiopia believe they alone stand between their government and a total Islamic takeover,” Foster reported.

In spite of these obstacles, more than 8,000 Muslims in one region alone have come to Christ in an 11-month period. “A Muslim man who converts to Christianity will have his wife taken from him and given to another Muslim man,” Foster said. “In addition, he may be disinherited and even stoned.”

The report also noted that Blair was working in conjunction with the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia. Christianity Today takes the story further:

Talargie Yeshidenberb was the national representative of the Blair Foundation in Ethiopia. Two years ago, Yeshidenberb, a veterinarian, looked up from his desk in the capital city, Addis Ababa. In the doorway was Yaregal Aysheshim, president of the Benishangul-Gumuz province and one of the few Christians in government.

Blair said Aysheshim was impressed by the transforming power of Christianity, and so “challenged us to help the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia begin 1,000 churches in that many villages in his province, before his current term of office ends this September.”

And Benishangul-Gumuz is just the beginning – Blair hopes to see 14,000 churches across the country.

However, there is one aspect to Blair that is only lightly touched on. Charisma also reported in February that:

In the 1970s, he found himself the subject of newspaper headlines after he unwittingly sold unsecured securities in an effort to raise funds for a retirement center. He was fined and put on probation, and the church went on to repay the investors.

Christianity Today adds:

In August of 1976, a jury found the Reverend Charles Blair, pastor of the 6,000-member Calvary Temple in Denver, Colorado, guilty of seventeen counts of fraud and illegal sale of securities. Blair had raised $14 million from about 3,400 investors to finance the church’s ill-fated geriatric center.

…From all reports, Charles Blair is a man of integrity, a conclusion reinforced by his commitment to repay every investor. No evidence suggests he, or his family, benefited in any way from the illegal sale of securities. Though Blair knowingly allowed financially troubled investors to invest in the Life Center, nothing suggests he intended to defraud them.

All of which makes this scenario more troubling: this is not the story of an evil man reaping the wages of sin but the tragic account of a good man whose vision exceeded his judgment.

However, Alan Prendergast was rather less indulgent in the Denver Westword in 1997:

…True, Blair has made attempts to help out some investors, liquidating personal assets in the process. But he’s also helped himself to funds that were supposed to repay folks impoverished by his huckstering, thereby compounding his original sin. And he has never publicly acknowledged the degree of his guilt in the affair, preferring to speak vaguely of past “mistakes” and failure to properly supervise his underlings. As a group of Christian mediators put it more than a decade ago, “His public response to the problem has been to trivialize his own fault in it, which is really a form of denial.”

…1983: Claiming that Blair has a moral obligation to help the most destitute victims of his failed dream, several Life Center investors seek the help of the Christian Conciliation Service of Denver, an evangelical dispute-resolution group. Blair tells the CCS panel that he has donated “about $100,000” to investors and can’t afford to give more; he also insists he was guilty only of a “technical” violation of failing to offer a proper prospectus. After a thorough examination of the evidence, the panel disagrees, finding that Blair had engaged in “a pattern of dealing unfairly with other people’s money.” The group urges Blair to make restitution to his victims and to publicly confess his responsibility for the disaster. Blair does neither.

Two years later, Prendergast followed the story up with an account of Joel Levitt, a Calvary Temple ex-member who believed that Blair had broken his promises to pay back a remaining $1 million or more:

“I showed him a letter he signed in 1991,” Levitt says, “promising that he was going to work as hard as he could to repay them. He told me, ‘I didn’t mean to pay back the people who sued. Why would I do that?’ He said that these people were hidden enemies of the church and that they should be my enemies, too. He said that all distressed investors who didn’t sue were repaid, with a few exceptions, and that’s an absolute lie.

“I confronted him, probably like no one confronted him. He got up and prayed. I told him he had to make restitution, and he said something like, ‘Oh, I’d give a couple of bucks.'”

In 2000, the unhappy affair was reported in the Denver Business Journal, and the outstanding figure was given as $1.8 million. Levitt had been expelled from the church, and so he could no longer legally demand access to church records. In 2001 he lost an appeal against this, but the appeal decision also noted that (emphasis added):

The Church, a Colorado nonprofit corporation, has a complex financial history closely linked to the activities of its former pastor, Charles E Blair. A series of fundraising campaigns and financial failures in the 1970’s and 1980’s resulted in multiple lawsuits and extensive debt. The 1986 Second Mile Campaign, intended to pay off the remainder of the Church’s unpaid creditors, resulted in further class action litigation. In 1991, that lawsuit was settled by agreement of the majority of the class members, obligating the Church to pay a $700,000 settlement. Notwithstanding this settlement, the original debt to unpaid creditors was never paid in full. In March 1999, the congregation voted not to attempt to repay any remaining unpaid creditors.

Well, why would they, when the church has far more important work to do in Ethiopia? And who needs savings anyway, when the Rapture is just around the corner?

One Response

  1. Need to contact Brother Bartholomew by personal e mail vis his article l6 Oct 2005 ETHIOPIA AND DR (sic) CHARLES BLAIR

    Natiuonal Faith Base Coalition Disabled Veterans Enterprises is filing a qui tam on Tuesday vis the use of the Catholic church tax exempt funds to cover up criminal acts – defendants include the IRS

    All funds will go to start the needed Matthew 18 TELL IT TO THE CHURCH MEDIATION CENTER FOR VETERANS WHO HAVE NO RECOURSE WITH THE VA AXIS OF EVIL OF OUR TIME The War Widows Laekwood CO 80214

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