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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Am I Anti-Pentecostal?

Over the past sixteen months I have written six different pieces of what I would characterize as serious reporting on Samuel Rodriguez, with a number of other shorter blog posts/ responses. I am glad to see that Timothy Dalrymple has become the first reporter besides me to interview Rodriguez and to ask him for the record some difficult questions about his public statements and organizational commitments. I wish the interview had been done differently, but I do appreciate that some key questions were asked and that Rodriguez was invited to give a thoughtful response. Unfortunately, instead of careful responses what Rodriguez has given is inflammatory charges, with not even a shred of evidence quoted or linked to, of anti-Latino and anti-Pentecostal bias on the part of either me or Mark Silk. Given the context of Rodriguez’s smear, it seems quite clear that Rodriguez was referring to me and to my work reporting on him and on broader issues about the New Apostolic Reformation. I want to respond clearly and concisely to these two charges in the hopes that readers will then turn to my actual reports and see for themselves the content of what I have written. This post will focus on the charge that I am anti-Pentecostal. My second post will look at the anti-Latino charge.


My reporting on the charismatic movement and Pentecostalism has been with regards to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a movement that key Pentecostal figures and denominations agree is very problematic. For Rodriguez to say that criticism of NAR means that a person is against charismatic/Pentecostal expressions of Christianity is absurd on its face. Consider just two examples of criticism of NAR written by Pentecostal leaders. First, from a post I did a while back when similar charges were made against me:

        I am hardly alone in viewing the New Apostolic Reformation, as envisaged by C. Peter Wagner, as a significant movement and a troubling one. I would point readers to none other than Vinson Synan, the noted Pentecostal leader and highly regarded scholar of Pentecostalism. In 2010 Synan wrote a fascinating memoir entitled An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit. The 12-chapter, 206 page book includes three chapters that touch directly on Wagner’s life work. The most important of these chapters is called “The New Apostolic Reformation” and it is dominated by Synan’s reflections on Wagner. I would encourage anyone who has questions about this movement’s importance and potential danger to the Pentecostal movement to read that chapter and reflect in particular on these words from Synan:

From the outset, I was concerned about any movement that claims to restore apostolic offices that exercise ultimate and unchecked authority in churches. The potential for abuse is enormous. Throughout church history, attempts to restore apostles as an office in the church have often ended up in heresy or caused incredible pain. These attempts seemed similar to the Discipleship/Shepherding movement that had done so much damage to the charismatic movement….In 2005, in the General Conference of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, I warned the bishop and delegates about adopting apostolic language in the manual of the denomination. I predicted that we might see “short-term growth, but long-term confusion.” (183-184)

A second example that shows major Pentecostal leaders expressing serious concern about NAR and similar movements within Pentecostalism comes from the leadership of the Assemblies of God. I would refer you to the complete statement titled “Endtime Revival—Spirit-Led and Spirit-Controlled”, but here is a key quote from a section titled “Deviant Teachings Disapproved”:

The problematic teaching that present-day offices of apostles and prophets should govern church ministry at all levels. It is very tempting for persons with an independent spirit and an exaggerated estimate of their importance in the kingdom of God to declare organization and administrative structure to be of human origin. Reading in the Bible that there were apostles and prophets who exerted great leadership influence, and wrongly interpreting 1 Corinthians 12:283 and Ephesians 2:20 and 4:11, they proceed to declare themselves or persons aligned with their views as prophets and apostles. Structure set up to avoid a previous structure can soon become dictatorial, presumptuous, and carnal while claiming to be more biblical than the old one outside the new order or organization. (emphasis in original)

I have always tried to be quite clear in my writing that I am concerned about precisely these wrong interpretations and dangerous structures that I see in the New Apostolic Reformation. Rodriguez’s attempt to equate those criticisms with criticisms of the entire Pentecostal and charismatic world is understandable given his own considerable activity in the NAR and his active and spirited collaboration over many years with one of the most controversial NAR figures, Cindy Jacobs. But any reader or writer who allows themselves to be confused by Rodriguez’s baseless charge against me will be doing a real disservice to the genuine concerns of many thousands of people, Pentecostals and charismatics most definitely included, who are concerned about NAR.

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