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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bishops and Sharia Law--My article for Commonweal

A few weeks back I did a short post on the Catholic Bishops' statement on religious freedom, taking special note of the absence in it of any mention of anti-Sharia law. From that I received an opportunity to write a more substantive reflection for Commonweal, which I am proud to say is now up at their website.
It begins like this:

The U.S. Catholic bishops' recent statement “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” which calls for resistance to growing threats to religious freedom, mentions Islam once. Defending religious liberty, the bishops wrote, “is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.” The bishops’ case for the universality of their cause would have been more persuasive if, in their list of specific concerns, they had included examples of how compromised religious liberty is, in part, a “Muslim issue.” One phenomenon they might easily have mentioned is the rise of “anti-sharia” laws in the United States.
Read more here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Baker in Her Own Words (Not mine!!)

I am engaged in a fascinating and frustrating dialogue at Christianity Today's website over this Heidi Baker story. The charge being made is that I am reaching so unfairly by describing Heidi as being part of an apostolic ministry vision known generally as a New Apostolic Reformation. The people who are making this claim simply have not examined the public record. This video below here could not be clearer and it is produced by her own Burn24/7 ministry. This is not Greg Metzger concocting some story or exaggerating some claim. This is her video being described by her people as Heidi Baker being on an "apostolic council". If you watch this video as well as reading their own description you will see for yourself why asking questions about the broader vision of the Bakers, and comparing that with what they said in the CT article, is a perfectly legitimate thing to be doing.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baker's Testimony in all its inspiration and controversy

Anyone who wonders why Heidi Baker is such an inspiration to so many people, and so hard to understand for other people, simply watch this video. The first ten minutes are totally focused on charity for the poor flowing from her Toronto Blessing, the second ten minutes on "apostolic anointing"and her claims to miraculous work for Mozambique. Both are there, both are her. Her ministry is deeply tied up in the Toronto Blessing, acts of charity, miraculous signs and beliefs about apostles. Reflecting on the meaning of this ministry and the veracity of her claims is a worthy endeavor whatever your final opinion might be.

Answering questions about Baker, Stafford and NAR

My writing on Tim Stafford’s story on Heidi Baker for Christianity Today has continued to receive comment both in private correspondence and at my blog and the CT comment page for the article. In light of this feedback I feel compelled to address a few important issues and to reemphasize a few others.

1)   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)

It is precisely in this spirit of concern and historical perspective that I raise questions about the Bakers’ public record of promoting and participating in the New Apostolic Reformation. To do so is neither anti-Pentecostal or overly critical as I see it.

2)   Rachel Tabachnick’s commentary on Heidi Baker is well worth reading but as she would be the first to admit, she does not speak for me and I do not speak for her. We come at many questions similarly and I am indebted to the extraordinary amount of time and research she has put into questions about the global impact of C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation. Having challenged her pointedly in the past and been proven wrong, I am not in the habit of questioning her conclusions or her data; having said that, she and I write from different perspectives and for different purposes. If you have a question or concern about her writing, please comment at her posts because she is excellent at responding to questions and welcomes your feedback.

3)   I recognize the great potential harm to my soul that can arrive from being overly critical or judgmental of others. I appreciate the reminders I have received about that danger and I try to guard my soul from what the gospels call “the yeast of the Pharisees”. I would simply say that I try to write carefully and circumspectly about the motivations and actions of others. As I look at what I have written about Heidi Baker, I do not see myself questioning her love for the poor or the sincerity of her prayers to God for healing of others. What I have done is address my concerns to the way in which her decades long ministry has been a part of the highly controversial New Apostolic Reformation movement. It seems entirely possible to do this without showing spite for her charity and doubt for her sincerity in working with the poor. It also seems quite relevant to examine her broader ministry given the fact that she does, by her own account, spend 1/3 of every year away from Mozambique speaking and because she and her husband are highly visible leaders in John Arnott’s ministries and in the Revivial Alliance.

4)   I freely admit that my history is shaping my reactions to the Baker story and their claims about their involvement in promoting NAR. I do bring to the story a suspicion rooted in the fact that I have seen numerous figures in NAR similarly deny their involvement when the heat was put on them. It is a disturbing pattern and one that leaves me perhaps more aggressive in seeking the truth whenever I hear someone make that claim. As it stands now, I see the Bakers continuing this pattern of actively promoting NAR to certain audiences and then attempting to sanitize that history of promotion when asked about it by reporters and columnists. It is in the vocation of a researcher to react as strenuously to lies and distortions as to stories of miracles and healings and I carry no shame in living out that vocation. I will try to do my writing carefully and with awareness of the impact of my words, but I will not shy away from a story because of the potential for controversy or a misunderstanding of my motivations.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Some of you will be familiar with Ryan Boyette, whose story I had the opportunity to intersect with a few months ago. I have received updates from him in the time since but only one other time did I feel it needed to be posted. This email I just received is of a different kind all together. PLEASE lift up Ryan, his wife and the witness for peace that they represent. If you are not familiar with his story, there are interviews with him that I did here and here, and an earlier update here. There are also many stories in the mainstream media about him, including the vital piece done by Nicholas Kristof on Ryan and his vital work for the peace of the two Sudans. The photo is scraps from his home effected by the bombing. Here is the text I received from him:

Update-May 11, 2012 – Today I was targeted.  

Today at exactly 9:50am the Government of Sudan targeted my wife and I in our house.  An Antonov airplane flew over the house dropping a total of six bombs in a row.  The first bomb landed 30 meters to the west of our house and the second about 50 meters east of our house and the rest of the bombs landed in a line from the first two bombs.  

Some friends were visiting me in my house when I heard a Sudanese Government Antonov Airplane.  I went outside and noticed the plane was coming directly for my house.  When I saw the plane coming directly over me, my friends and I  ran behind the house and laid down as quick as possible.  We could hear the bombs falling through the air and within seconds there was a huge explosion less than 30 meters from where we were laying down.  My wife was visiting our neighbor at the time of the bombing.  She also took cover behind a rock very close to where the third bomb exploded.  She saw a large piece of shrapnel fly over her as she laid down.  After all 6 bombs exploded the plane went back towards the north.  

I rushed to find my wife and we were both relived that neither of us was hurt and we quickly checked with people in the area if any one was wounded or killed by the bombing.  Despite all 6 bombs landing near homes only one 75 year old woman named Halima had a small wound on her head.  After treating the old woman's wound, we then assessed the damage at our house.  Some shrapnel from the first bomb hit our house causing minor damage to the outside wall and punching a hole in our roof.  My wife and I sat and prayed to thank God that we were ok after the bombing.  

Not a single soldier lives in the village that I live in and it is far from any front line.    

I realize that I am now a target.  I have experienced many bombings here in Nuba but today I realize that someone woke up this morning and got in the airplane with the mission to kill me.  This was also the closest bomb that has exploded near me.  I realize the fear that men, women and children have when the bombs are falling on them.  

I am not surprised that I have been targeted by the Sudan Government as they  do not want the world to know the truth about what is happening in Sudan.  Recently, Omar Bashir made the statement that he will conduct Friday prayers in the SPLA-N controlled town of Kauda in Southern Kordofan.  Omar's Bashir's soldiers are far from Kauda and have realized that Bashir's attempts to overrun the people of Southern Kordofan is his own prideful mission and does not help Sudan as a country.  As a result many of his soldiers have no desire to fight with there brothers in Southern Kordofan.  Since he was unable to enter Kauda he decided to drop bombs yesterday in Kauda and today at my house.  He drops bombs from an airplane very high in the air in rural civilian areas, where he is unreachable by any weapon of the SPLA-N.  

What surprises me more is that the international community is doing nothing to stop the bombings that are affecting the lives of some many people in Nuba.  Many have died, many have been wounded and maimed and even as I write this email people are dying of starvation because they were not able to plant last year due to the daily bombings.  The rainy season is coming.  If the bombing continues and people are not able to plant, more will die.  But yet the international community does nothing.  They write it off as a North / South issue and all they can do is tell Khartoum and Juba to stop, instead of really looking at the core issues of why Sudan has no peace.  Why was there fighting for 21 years between the North and the South that lead a separation.  Why has there been fighting in Darfur since 2005 up to now.  Why is there protest in Khartoum and the east of Sudan.  Why is there all out fighting in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan with aerial bombardment every single day.  The government of Sudan has failed its own people in Nuba, Blue Nile, Darfur, and other parts of Sudan.  The UN, the AU and international governments are failing the people of Sudan by allowing Sudan to bomb its own people.  That is what surprises me.  I have seen how the government of Sudan acts towards its own people for the past nine years so I expect such behavior but what surprises me is that leaders even in Africa and other international governments are not willing to make a stand against what this government is doing to its own civilians.  

I have attached a picture of the bombing.  

Ryan Boyette

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mama Heidi, Mother Teresa and C. Peter Wagner

In correspondence with someone who has met Heidi Baker and read her works I learned that she is apparently a fan of Mother Teresa. This adds to the reasons listed in my last post for her to break decisively with C. Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic ideology that she has helped to promote. I say this adds to the reasons because one of the more scandalous claims of Wagner and his New Apostolic crowd is that the death of Mother Teresa was a sign of God's judgment on her in coordination with prayers uttered against a supposed "demonic Queen of Heaven spirit". If Baker is who her supporters claim she is, here is another reason for her to break decisively from Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation ideology. My original post on the Mother Teresa story is here and Racehl Tabachnick's 2008 piece is here. Both of those articles explain the extraordinary claim by Wagner and show how it is reflective of a significant stream of thought in his work.

Discerning Heidi Baker: C. Peter Wagner and the Public Record

My own life would be a lot simpler right now if I could come to a clear conclusion about Heidi Baker--either she is a Pentecostal Mother Teresa or a complete fraud. I am in a process of discernment that has me seeing a foggier picture than either of those conclusions. What I am certain of is that I see major factual errors in the Bakers' account of their ministry in relationship to the New Apostolic Reformation. In the days since my first post on Heidi Baker I have received considerable feedback from people urging me to explore a variety of different stories about the Bakers and their global ministry. Some argue that I am missing the sublime, Christian purity that they see as the core of Heidi’s life work and they urge me to embrace the whole of her ministry. Others raise urgent questions about the nature of her accounts of healing and want me to focus on what they see as abuse of dignity in her accounts of healings. What I see my task as now is to focus on the range of public evidence that I think quite clearly refutes the Bakers’ description of the meaning they attach to the miraculous ministry of which they are a part. What I want to do, in other words, is raise questions about the discernment that is to be central to classical Christian reflection on the miraculous—a discernment that is in traditional Christianity every bit as important as the questions of whether miracles are happening or not. I hope many more will join with me in this process of discernment and go much deeper into their ministry's story than just one article or blog post.

In the Christian tradition Christians are not seen as the only people for whom miracles are done or the only people who have the power to perform miracles. Whether we are talking about Jewish Scripture, Christian Scripture or Christian reflection through the centuries into the present, we see that what makes a miracle a “Christian” miracle is the meaning that it points to—a distinctly Christian meaning, a “sign” as the Gospel of John calls it. The controversy surrounding Heidi Baker and the extraordinary accounts of her ministry is at this point, for me, not one of “are they happening” but rather “what meaning is being attached to them?” What is the narrative that is attached to the apparently amazing “signs and wonders” that accompany her? A reader who only looked at Christianity Today’s articles on Baker—the lengthy piece by Tim Stafford and the shorter one by Tim Morgan—would assume that the meaning attached by the Bakers is the traditional meaning that Christians have given to “signs and wonders”—namely, as pointing to Christ and ushering in the Kingdom’s presence. But for the Bakers there is more, much more, that they claim to discern in the presence of these miracles. This broader meaning is not merely ignored by Stafford, it is by my reading of reams of public evidence actively distorted by the Bakers in the one paragraph in the article in which the decades old controversy is even mentioned. I want to look closely at this paragraph because I am well aware that the charges I am going to make are serious and speak to the Bakers’ integrity and to Tim Stafford’s reporting. Here is the account:

Though they have lost financial support due to their association with the Toronto movement, the Bakers are loyal to its leaders and attend their Catch the Fire conferences in North America every year. Several leaders involved are active in the so-called New Apostolic Reformation, a controversial charismatic movement. But the Bakers do not promote the New Apostolic Reformation or consider themselves to be modern-day apostles.

From reading this paragraph—the only paragraph that even touches on the controversy over the alternative meanings the Bakers attach to their miracles—the reader would assume that the only real controversy is that the Bakers are “loyal” to leaders of the Toronto movement, some of whom are “active in the so-called New Apostolic Reformation.” This one controversial activity of theirs is considered by Stafford to be not a problem for three reasons: 1) It is a virtuous loyalty in light of the fact that “they have lost financial support” because of it. 2) Outside of their visit to this yearly conference nothing is happening in their ministry that would make anyone think they “promote” NAR. 3) They do not “consider themselves to be modern-day apostles.”

I will start with the last reason because I have nothing to say with reference to the first reason, and lots to say with reference to the second. As I wrote in a different post, the fact that someone does or does not “consider themselves to be modern-day apostles” is not at all a factor in a person’s participation in NAR. By anybody’s definition, NAR is not a movement that is just for apostles and its main leaders are by no means just apostles. One of the things that distinguishes NAR from other movements—and this is absolutely vital to understand—is the belief that we are in a new era of Church History in which God is restoring to the Church some of the so-called “five-fold gifts” of Ephesians 4:11, namely Apostle and Prophet. Crucial to this understanding is the belief that miracles are accompanying this “restoration” of apostolic and prophetic gifts as signs of their authenticity. This is why the term that is often used as a label in place of New Apostolic Reformation is the term “apostolic and prophetic movement”. In many of the groups that participate in this movement the leadership is made up in part by Prophetic Elders that often meet with apostles in what one of the major groups calls an Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders. One need look no further than the prophetess Cindy Jacobs, a person who is virtually synonymous with NAR and C. Peter Wagner, to see that active leadership in apostolic and prophetic movements associated with NAR is in no way limited to people who “consider themselves to be modern-day apostles.”

And as should be obvious, one does not need to be either a prophet or an apostle to be active in NAR and committed to its new vision for government of the church. NAR sees itself as a place for all Christians to bring all of their gifts. So the key questions are whether or not the Bakers and their ministry are a part of prophetic and apostolic movements and whether or not they actively promote those movements. What the publicly available evidence shows overwhelmingly is that the Bakers are in these prophetic and apostolic movements, they are said to be leaders of these movements and their work to expand the impact of these movements is very much linked with the work of C. Peter Wagner. Not a few evangelicals would be troubled if they were aware of the theology and practice that this all carries with it.

The easiest place to start with the evidence is a look at the Bakers’ own ministries referred to in the CT article, Iris Ministries and Partners in Harvest. At Iris’ global base in Nashville it is quite clear that the Bakers view their ministry as part of an apostolic network. The website says, under the question “Who is your pastoral covering?”, that “As an Iris Global missions base, our direct apostolic covering are our founders, Heidi and Rolland Baker.” This is consistent with the fact that the Bakers themselves view their Partners in Harvest churches as being, as they put it, under the “Apostolic Leadership" (see page 25 of link) of John and Carol Arnott, the Founding Pastors of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, now known as Catch the Fire. The Arnott’s are also the leaders of Spread the Fire ministries, which hosts the conferences that the Bakers attend every year. In addition to the fact that the Bakers’ hundreds of churches are under the apostolic leadership of the Arnotts and they regularly speak at major Arnott led functions, the Bakers and Arnotts are in another very significant grouping called the Revival Alliance. In the promotional material for all of these groups, reference to “signs and wonders” is constant.

At this point in the story it is commonplace for people who are devoted to the Bakers to insist on a point that they sincerely believe:  The Bakers are completely separate from C. Peter Wagner. This is said in part because Wagner has become somewhat notorious in informed circles, be they religious or political. People are beginning to understand the full dimensions of his radical spirituality and revolutionary ecclesiology and this makes some people who have been in public ministry with him understandably nervous about their reputations. I do not know what the Bakers think and I do not know what the Bakers say to reporters or scholars, but I do know what the Bakers have done for years with C. Peter Wagner and with his key leaders. An examination of this record shows that the Bakers--their ministries, their alliances, their writing, their speaking---are in fact actively participating in ministry with C. Peter Wagner and his broad range of ministries.  It is impossible to sustain a narrative of their life's ministry consistent with what they claim in the paragraph above. This reality makes it incumbent upon the Bakers to make dramatic changes if they really do feel about Wagner what some of their supporters seem convinced they feel. Here is the evidence I refer to.


Che Anh is a long-time member of and leader in C. Peter Wagner’s groups of apostles, Global Spheres and International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). Che Anh is also the International Chancellor of C. Peter Wagner’s very own Wagner Leadership Institute which has its one sentence vision statement the development of apostolic leaders in line with their understanding of the five-fold gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12. Anh and his wife are, together with the Bakers and Arnotts and three other couples, the leaders of the Revival Alliance that I referred to earlier. Randy and DeAnne Clark are one of the other couples in this Revival Alliance. Randy teaches a class at the Wagner Institute available online, with C. Peter Wagner and Che Anh, titled “Developing Structure for Apostolic Ministry” which bills itself as teaching “the ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ that we see transpiring in the Body of Christ Today”. Bill and Beni Johnson are another couple in the alliance. Bill is on the faculty of the Wagner Leadership Institute where you can take his course “Walking in the Supernatural”. Che Anh is refreshingly blunt about his view of what the Church is to discern in the miracles and revivals he believes are happening through the works of so-called prophets and apostles today. He made his five-fold convictions abundantly clear in his book When Heaven Comes Down, a book with a foreword by the Bakers. Here is his explanation of current religious revivals:

As I look back through the history of revival, I see that every wave of God’s outpouring is important because, in each revival, He restores something.  In fact, over the past half-century, we see that in each movement God restored an office within the five-fold ministry, including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. 

...In the “Third Wave” of the 1980s, God brought forth prophets, as John Wimber introduced the “Kansas City prophets” Paul Cain, Mike Bickle, Bob Jones, James Goll, and Jill Austin.  Other prophets emerged during that period, including my friend and covenant brother Lou Engle, my sister in the Lord Cindy Jacobs, Jane Hamon and Chuck Pierce.  The 1994 revival in Toronto restored the office of the apostle with the birth of many apostolic networks, including John and Carol Arnott’s Partners in Harvest, Rick Joyner’s MorningStar, Bill Johnson’s Global Legacy, Heidi and Rolland Baker’s Iris Ministries and or church’s own Harvest International Ministry.

Now, in 2009, we see the convergence of all five of these restored offices coming together and being expressed through the Body of Christ in His followers the saints.  

When you know how the Revival Alliance was formed, all of these interconnections and shared purposes between the Bakers, the Revival Alliance and Wagner’s ministries are not a surprise. Che Anh tells the story often of how Heidi Baker received a prophetic word from the prophet Bob Jones calling for an alliance of major apostolic networks. The coming together of these various networks was widely heralded in 2008 in mainstream charismatic media, one of which emphasized the global significance of the alliance under the headline “Revivalists Aim to Spark Worldwide Revival”.  


One of the immediate “fruits” of this worldwide revival was in Lakeland, Florida. It is here that the prophetic certainty of the Revival Alliance and its narrative of a new day for Christianity took on the appearance of profound scandal. In a speech that must be seen to be fully appreciated, Che Anh spoke in Lakeland with Todd Bentley. With great conviction the two of them explained that the prophetic word from Heidi Baker via Bob Jones was part of a tremendous, supernatural confirmation that both fulfilled the work of the Toronto Blessing and helped launch a so-called “third wave” of the Holy Spirit. The timing of this proud pronouncement could not have been any worse for Anh and the Revival Alliance. Anyone who knows what comes next can understand why the Bakers would be particularly ashamed to admit and would actively hide from their participation in apostolic ideology and practice. Under all of the “prophetic” power and “apostolic” zeal that the Revival Alliance could muster they engaged in an elaborate, “sacred” commissioning service of Todd Bentley as an apostle. In this dramatic service, prophets and apostles from around the world gathered around Todd in a sign of unity and power in this new apostolic age. C. Peter Wagner, together with other representatives of the most extreme forms of New Apostolic Reformation fervor, spoke words of prophecy and anointing over this man with the certainty that the miracles of Lakeland were part of the confirmation that Bentley was to be commissioned as an extraordinary apostle. Given the deep connection between Baker’s Revival Alliance and the Todd Bentley scandal it is not surprising that Bentley felt compelled to single out the Revival Alliance for apology when the true scope of his problems became evident. But the damage was done. The questions were being asked. The accountability was being demanded. Even within those elements of the charismatic movement that have most welcomed the notion that apostles and prophets are being restored in a direct act of God, there was pause for reflection and concern. A man whose miracles were seen as a vital part of the evidence of his anointing into this new, fast-growing reordering of the church around apostolic leadership was quickly seen as a seriously immature Christian in spite of the rush to anoint him an apostle.

C. Peter Wagner was shaken by this incident. By his own telling he had been involved in the Lakeland Outpouring, as he and others call it, from the earliest stages. It is clear from the narrative that the working relationship between Wagner’s group of apostles, at that time just the ICA, and Baker’s Revival Alliance was as strong as critics have suggested. Given Che Anh’s participation in both groups, this should not be a surprise, but it must be emphasized because some continue to hold to an illusion that an invisible wall exists between Wagner’s extremism and Baker. Wagner’s account speaks matter-of-factly of how his ICA worked with the Revival Alliance throughout the outpouring and into the immediate aftermath from Bentley’s scandal. Writing on the day that the scandal hit the news, Wagner recounted the history of the Outpouring before and in the immediate wake of Bentley’s fall.

Lakeland Outpouring I, in which Todd Bentley was the main figure, is now history. Lakeland Outpouring II, in which Stephen Strader of Ignited Church is the main figure, has begun. The Outpouring started in a local church, went to a tent, and now is back in the local church. My suggestion is that we no longer use the term “Lakeland Outpouring” but rather distinguish between Lakeland I and Lakeland II because they are very different… In the Lakeland I case, I am elated at the way things are turning out. The Revival Alliance with whom Todd was aligned on June 23 has kicked into action with a vengeance. Ché Ahn and Bill Johnson, like me, were overseas when things broke, but John Arnott stepped up to the plate and moved in apostolically. It has since become clear that Todd’s Fresh Fire Board could not have handled the situation, Stephen Strader and Ignited Church could not, nor could any of his other close friends. Only the Revival Alliance could.

Wagner’s explanation of his and the Revival Alliance’s participation in the commissioning service is equally candid and equally clear about his active role in it.

Previous to around the middle of June, my interest in Lakeland was about a 2 on a scale of 1-10. Then I got a call from Stephen Strader, the host pastor who was a member of ICA, which I lead, with a passionate appeal for apostolic intervention because chaos and confusion had begin to invade the Outpouring I. Toward the end of the hour we were talking, I received one of my infrequent direct words from God: “Alignment!” Just one word, but I knew I had a divine command and responsibility.
Once I knew that God had assigned me to initiate some sort of apostolic intervention at Stephen’s side, I began praying and consulting with close colleagues. In less than two days I discovered that Todd Bentley had no formal, established apostolic alignment. I asked God how I should proceed, especially since I had no inclination to attempt an apostle-evangelist approach and expect that Bentley would submit to or even listen to what I had to say if I made an appointment with him in Lakeland. I felt that proper apostolic protocol would be for me to deal with one or more peer-level apostles to whom Todd had aligned apostolically. Since as yet he had no such alignment, I began asking God how such an alignment might come about. He directed me to my close friend, Ché Ahn, who himself is apostolically aligned with me and who also had been close to Bentley for years. Ché agreed that the best apostolic protocol would be for Todd to align with the Revival Alliance if he were willing. Ché called him and Bentley agreed to submit publicly to the Revival Alliance.
This scandal afforded the Bakers an opportunity, a very public opportunity, to make clear whatever differences they had with C. Peter Wagner and his conception of the New Apostolic Reformation. It would have been perfectly understandable for them to have done so. But in the years since this scandal highlighted for anyone interested the connections between Wagner’s work and Baker’s, not much has changed institutionally to warrant anything like the assessment the Bakers provided Stafford. Everything I have written above about the membership of the Revival Alliance, Wagner’s ICA and the Wagner Leadership Institute is based on up to the date material. Che Anh remains a bridge figure between the two groups, the Revival Alliance remains a uniting group between the various factions and the Wagner Leadership Institute is available for those who want to be trained by figures from both groups. The Arnott’s ministry continues to advertise its television ministry with C. Peter Wagner’s picture on the web page and its conference page continues to feature Heidi Baker as an upcoming speaker. Videos of Heidi Baker advertising the next big event on the movement’s calendar are available for anyone to see. While the symbiotic relationship between these major individuals and institutions in the New Apostolic Reformation has not changed, what has changed, remarkably, is that a central figure in this movement is being lauded in a cover story in the most significant Christian magazine in America. Its sanitized history of Mama Heidi’s active participation in a movement that most would consider outside the mainstream of evangelical conviction is a sad day in the proud history of Christianity Today. That magazine has been a part of my journey for 25 years. I am proud to be published in the pages of its sister publication, Books & Culture. But I am troubled and disappointed. I understand those who call for this story to be corrected and I hope those with access to the Bakers will share my determination to set the record straight. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Heidi Baker and the New Apostolic Reformation


Christianity Today is out with an extraordinary cover story by Tim Stafford on Heidi Baker. Her story is a powerful one and her ministry in Mozambique sounds like one that is bringing great hope to people. I doubt that she could have hoped for a more sympathetic presentation of her story for an American evangelical audience than what Tim Stafford has provided. But in presenting her personal story and her work in Mozambique, Stafford chose to be nearly silent about the broader framework of her life and ministry, a broader framework that is marked by her active participation in prophetic and apostolic ministries that are core components of what C. Peter Wagner calls a New Apostolic Reformation. Stafford does not completely ignore this important part of the story, but he might as well have because what he does include is very misleading. Here is the extent of Stafford’s coverage of Baker and NAR:

Though they have lost financial support due to their association with the Toronto movement, the Baker’s are loyal to its leaders and attend their Catch the Fire conferences in North America every year. Several leaders involved are active in the so-called New Apostolic Reformation, a controversial charismatic movement. But the Bakers do not promote the New Apostolic Reformation or consider themselves to be modern-day apostles.

This is a very questionable characterization of her history. It implies that the only reason anyone would consider her active in NAR is that she attends an annual conference of a group with some people who are active in NAR. For the Bakers to say that she does not promote NAR is technically true in that there is no one group called NAR—anymore than there was one group called Reformation. And the fact that she does not call herself an apostle is besides the point—Cindy Jacobs does not call herself an “apostle” either, yet she is a central figure in the NAR world. What Stafford seems unaware of is that NAR is not limited to apostles at all--it explicitly draws on the leadership of "prophets" as well as apostles. Like Baker, Jacobs goes by the term “prophet”, but like Baker she is very active in what any informed person would call the NAR. Six very clear examples can be given to show that Baker should be rightly considered an active player in the New Apostolic Reformation.

1.     She is an instructor at C. Peter Wagner’s own school of ministry called the Wagner Leadership Institute.

2.     Her organization, Iris Ministries, is the major component of Partners in Harvest, under the “apostolic leadership” of “apostles John and Carol Arnott”.

3.     She is a founding member of the Revival Alliance (RA). RA organized and hosted an important moment in the history of apostolic restoration—the anointing ceremony of Apostle Todd Bentley, featuring significant participation by Apostle C. Peter Wagner. RA was so important to the apostolic authority of Todd Bentley that when his ministry later crumbled under the weight of serious ethical violations he specifically apologized to RA’s leadership.
4.     In 2011 she was a headline speaker at Voice of the Apostles 2011 conference. Her tape from the talk is published by the sponsors who are called Apostolic Network of Global Awakening. A video was produced of Heidi promoting Voice of the Apostles by talking about the many gatherings she has been to.
5.     She is one of ten authors of The Reformers’ Pledge, a major publication that features chapters by C. Peter Wagner, Che Anh, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Lou Engle and other noted NAR figures.
6.     She headlined a conference together with Chuck Pierce, the new leader of Wagner’s Global Spheres network of apostles. 

 These are just some of the examples--many more exist to demonstrate that Heidi Baker is active in apostolic and prophetic ministries, including those led by people who characterize themselves as part of the New Apostolic Reformation. Anyone who views or reads these links will have a hard time understanding why Baker tried to present herself as a peripheral figure to this movement, and an even harder time understanding why Stafford did not press her on this significant aspect of her public ministry. 


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Anti-Abortion Democrats and Anti-War Republicans---Worth a Try

Jimmy Carter is out voicing support for efforts to change the Democratic Party's Platform on abortion. These efforts have been spearheaded by the outstanding organization Democrats for Life of America (DFLA). Given the harsh divides represented by slogans like "War on Women" and "War on Religion" we need voices like DFLA that point to the deeper moral imagination of what Ron Sider used to call "completely pro-life" voices in the Christian community. Having been an anti-war Republican in the past, and an anti-abortion on demand Democrat in the present, I am used to feeling like an alien presence in the culture war foxholes our political discourse invites us to enter. I am glad to see voices like DFLA pushing for a big-tent in the Democratic Party on abortion just like I welcome the efforts of American Conservative magazine to push the envelope on national security questions in the Republican Party.

A Year Later on Osama, Netanyahu and Obama

The anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden and the latest controversy from Israel concerning the head of Israel’s military pushing back against Netanyahu’s saber rattling on Iran bring to mind a couple of pieces I posted at my old blog site Defending Obama. I did that blog for many months after the mid term elections in response to the extraordinary attacks on Obama’s person and record that so marked his first two years in office. I tried to voice objections to the more extreme attacks on Obama coming at that time from both the Left and the Right. The most viewed I post I had was one I did on Tom Wright’s criticism of Obama over the attack on bin Laden. Some of the posts I felt most proud of were the ones done around the time of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, DC around the time of the president’s remarks on the pre-1967 borders of Israel. As I noted at the time, Netanyahu’s critics included major military figures in Israel, something worth remembering as we again see the IDF voicing concerns about Netanyahu’s bellicose ways.