ARCHIVE NUMBER TWELVE
Push to Unity
spelling and phraseology is UK English)
the goals (perhaps the major goal) of the present-day churches is total
visible denominational unity. This has been the dream of the Roman Catholic
system for centuries, but in their case moves to "unity" involve
compromise on fundamental doctrines and/or swallowing up Protestant denominations
into their own religious system.
we now have a more subtle move towards unity, also involving compromise
on doctrine, but it is being perceived as "safe" because it
is a Protestant or Pentecostal partnership or network.
this is another belief that should concern us greatly. It's a belief that
is not often publicly taught but is driving many of the leaders of the
"New Apostolic Church": that today's denominational Church must
be completely removed to make way for a "new wineskin" fit for
the coming "glory of God".
be exploring this concept in greater depth in my new
series on the Cell Church and the Church Growth Movement, but for
now here are three reports on "unity" to give a flavour of current
NEWS SERVICE Wed, Jun 05, 2002 Vol. 4 No. 68
LEAD STORY: by Andy Butcher
Historic Gathering Bridges Pentecostal and Charismatic Divides
Joint ministry effort could follow from groundbreaking meeting
(all bold emphasis mine)
Leaders of America's
major Pentecostal and charismatic movements have met secretly in a historic
meeting intended to build bridges between different groups
(see my comments below) that have been at odds or a distance for years.
Almost 30 senior
figures representing Word of Faith, charismatic, traditional Pentecostal
and Oneness Pentecostals met for three days at a Washington, D.C.-area
hotel to talk and pray in an unprecedented move toward unity.
The diverse group
plans to cement the groundbreaking gathering, held at the end of April,
with some sort of united ministry effort in the months to come, possibly
a combined church-planting effort in a major city.
Among the participants
were TV preachers Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, International Foursquare
President Paul Risser, Assemblies of God General Superintendent Thomas
Trask, International Pentecostal Holiness Church General Superintendent
James Leggett, and United Pentecostal Church (UPC) International General
Superintendent Kenneth Haney.
Also taking part
were Billy Joe Daugherty, pastor of Victory Christian Center in Tulsa,
Okla.; Church of God of Prophecy General Overseer Fred Fisher; Lamar Vest,
general overseer of the Church of God Cleveland; Bishop George McKinney
of the Church of God in Christ; and Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church
in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Together 2002, as
the gathering was named, was convened by Robert Fisher, director of the
Center for Spiritual Renewal (CSR) in Cleveland, Tenn. He was also behind
Solemn Assembly 2001, which brought thousands of Pentecostal leaders and
lay members together for a 50-hour prayer vigil renouncing past divisions
CSR described the
meeting as "the first time ever, top leaders from all the streams
of Pentecost-classical, charismatic, Oneness, Word of Faith, Third Wave-came
together in a spirit of unity, not to discuss doctrinal differences, but
to rejoice in their common spiritual heritage.
Vinson Synan, dean
of the School of Divinity at Regent University, Va., and a leading Pentecostal
historian, who took part in the meeting, said it had been "truly
a first." It was especially significant because of the participation
of those who have not usually attended Pentecostal leadership events,
including the Copelands, healing ministry leader Francis McNutt, and Haney
and Nathaniel Urshan from the UPC.
brethren were warmly received and participated equally in all the discussions,"
Synan said. "This may mark a new day in relations with Oneness
and Trinitarian Pentecostals." The two camps split in the early
1900s because of differing views of the triune nature of God.
Oneness Pentecostals do not believe in the Trinity as accepted by all
the Church since the earliest times. In times past, one of the tests of
orthodox belief was belief in the Trinity but these days as you see, people
are prepared to compromise for the sake of unity. What unity can there
be between those who hold to truth, and those who do not? Fellowship demands
spiritual unity and truth: "If we say that we have fellowship
with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship
with one another..." 1 John 1:6-7 See also 2 Cor 6:13-18 and
Eph 5:11. Please see this report
of similar moves to unite Pentecostals, including Oneness Pentecostals,
as they met on TBN.]
For his part, Daugherty
found the meeting "especially significant in bringing the streams
of the Pentecostal-charismatic believers into a mutual appreciation of
one another." He added: "People work together when
they know and trust one another. We know each other now, and trust was
built. There are no limits to what God can do when we come together."
Haney said that he
appreciated the opportunity to meet with others he had only known from
a distance or met briefly. "I found them to be sincere, caring
men and women," he said. "We have varied agendas and
some theological differences but share a common bond as advocates
of the Pentecostal experience that is being poured out in unprecedented
measures around the world, and must not allow focus on this great
experience to be derailed."
What did he just say? We differ on doctrine, but as long as we share the
great outpouring we can work together. And let's not let a pesky thing
like biblical doctrine and truth get in the way! Is this now the basis
for unity, a goose-bumps spiritual manifestation that has been proven
over and over to be bogus?]
Jeff Farmer said
it was "the most empowering, encouraging and affirming" meeting
he had been in during six years as president of Open Bible Churches. "There
was no bottom line other than that God was among us and that we would
meet together again and keep listening."
Second Report on Unity:
Leaders of faiths sign pledge to foster unity
P J Bonthrone, "Daily Telegraph" newspaper: 03/06/2002
bold emphasis mine]
A historic document
committing English Church leaders to work together for greater Christian
unity was signed in Windsor yesterday in the presence of the Queen.
The parties to the
agreement - the first of its kind - were the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Dr George Carey; the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor;
the Free Churches Group Moderator, the Rev Tony Burnham; and the Rev Esme
Beswick, representing smaller Churches.
The covenant, signed
in the Vicars' Hall, Windsor Castle, commits the signatories to pray and
work together, to consult each other and to join in working for justice.
It sets out their
common understanding of the Christian faith and expresses their
appreciation of the progress made in relation to unity between Churches.
The four Church leaders
are each presidents of the ecumenical group, Churches
Together in England, and met for consultations with other
religious leaders at St George's House, Windsor, at the weekend.
A spokesman for Cardinal
Murphy-O'Connor said last night: "Although the agreement does
not put in place a particular series of talks or meetings, it is nevertheless
significant. The fact that they have put their names to this is another
step in the right direction."
A spokesman for Dr
Carey said the covenant bound Church leaders, though not Churches,
to work together. However, he added: "It is hoped that
the leaders will take their Churches with them."
(c) Copyright of Telegraph
Group Limited 2002.
At this historic meeting, a Personal Covenant
was signed between the Presidents of Churches Together in England. [Please
see my previous News Flash
report about a Covenant!!] THIS
LINK to the Anglican Church website gives a fuller explanation of
the Covenant, including the mention of their "common pilgrimage"
to "work towards the visible unity of the Church
of Jesus Christ in the one faith, expressed in common discipleship, worship,
witness and service".
Those meeting to sign
the Covenant pledging to work together for unity are leaders of the Anglican
Churches (ie. Episcopal), Roman Catholic, Anglo-Carribean churches, and
the Free Churches which is a loose group including Independent, Methodist,
Baptist, Pentecostal and House churches. But we can suppose all the 22
member churches of Churches Together were in approval and will likewise
sign the pledge. Should we be concerned? Take a look at who is involved:
- The Baptist Union
- Cherubim and Seraphim
Council of Churches
- Church of England
- Church of Scotland
- Council of African
and Afro-Caribbean Churches
- Council of Oriental
Orthodox Christian Churches
- Greek Orthodox
- Independent Methodist
- Ichthus Christian
Fellowship [Roger Forster's Restoration F'ships]
Ministerial Council of Great Britain
- Joint Council
for Anglo-Caribbean Churches
- Lutheran Council
of Great Britain
- Methodist Churches
- Moravian Churches
- New Testament
- The Religious
Society of Friends (Quaker)
- Roman Catholic
- Russian Orthodox
- Salvation Army
- United Reformed
- Wesleyan Holiness
How much do the Roman
Catholic churches have in common with Afro-Carribean or Pentecostal fellowships?
How much unity is there between the Greek Orthodox and the Methodist?
Yet the cry is all of "building bridges", a much-used buzzword
meaning making connections from church to church and group to group networking
them all together no matter what their beliefs
The symbol of the
bridge is one of a device linking two structures or lands on the same
physical plane. Clearly, building a bridge involves connecting two organisations
with a view to people passing freely between them. What does this have
to do with unity, which is (according to the word of God) a spiritual
reality created by our sharing a common family bond: that of being children
of the same Father.
we are united CORPORATELY only because we are INDIVIDUALLY united to God
The unity for which
Jesus prayed was a spiritual, organic unity, not a visible denominational
or institutional coming together of all beliefs - for He prayed that we
in His Body might be one, even as HE was one with His Father! His prayer
All true believers
who are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ share a unity that cannot be seen
but which is felt, known and practised in a simple but very profound way
whenever believers meet for fellowship. This is a precious unity that
we do not need to CREATE but which we are commanded to MAINTAIN and GUARD
by every means at our disposal.
The term "building
bridges" also has a deeper esoteric meaning. It's a New Age buzzword
but in that instance means the "lucifer bridge" that links earth
with the invisible spiritual realms. Commonly shown as a rainbow, this
bridge takes a human being from the earthly reality to the "heavenly"
reality (godhood) by means of a mystical inward experience.
The Goddess of the
Rainbow is called "IRIS" so she not only denotes the rainbow
bridge, but the inner eye that needs to be opened in order for the initiate
to pass over into the spiritual realm.
Bridge metaphor has
been around for a long while, and it is particularly connected to the
Ancient Roman religion, in which the "Pontifex Maximus" (chief
bridge-builder) was the chief pagan priest.
This term was taken
over by the Roman Catholic religion, whose Pope is named the "Pontiff".
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 11, page 549:
term, borrowed from the vocabulary of pagan religion in Rome, early
made its way into Christian discourse. Lexicographers derive it, though
with clear misgivings, from the Latin words pons (bridge) and facere
(to make, build). If this derivation be accepted, it is easy to see
how readily it applies to those who build a bridge, make a way for men
to God. In any case it designated in Roman religion members of the council
of priests (pagan..ed.) forming the "Pontifical College",
which ranked as the highest priestly organization at Rome and was presided
over by the "Pontifex Maximus".
is not clear when it first made its appearance as a designation for
Christian religious leaders, or whether Tertullian's ironic use of the
designation "Pontifex Maximus" (in his De pudicitia, c. A.D.
220) for a Catholic bishop represents current terminology or not. In
the Vulgate Pontifex is used in Hebrews for the Greek a'pxlepev's (chief
priest, high priest).
present ecclesiastical usage the term "Pontiff" (with its
derivatives, "Pontifical" and the verb "Pontificate")
is applied to bishops and especially to the Pope. Though we still for
the sake of clarity prefix supreme (sovereign) or Roman to the word
Pontiff in designating the Pope, it is generally to him that there is
reference when we speak of "the Pontiff".
The bible, however, makes it
quite clear that we no longer have an earthly High Priest, pagan or otherwise,
for Jesus Himself is THE WAY to Heaven. Jesus built, in his own Body,
the only "bridge to heaven" that can ever exist from this time
forward. By Him we enter in. Jesus is THE DOOR of the Sheepfold! We no
longer need a Priest to show us the way, or to become the way. "For
there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man
Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified
in due time." I Timothy 2:5-6
However, modern religious
bridge-building is not about introducing man to God, or to Jesus the Saviour.
It is about connecting different religions or beliefs so that they can
have access to one another. This is NOT what the Christian faith is all
about! Any bridge connecting two different faiths has to be, by very definition,
a compromise and a blurring of the edges so as to gain common acceptance
Yet see the following:
Leaders Start Peace Council
June 12, 2002
By VIJAY JOSHI Associated Press Writer
(AP) - More than 100 religious leaders of major faiths launched a world
peace council on Wednesday, pledging to work toward reducing sectarian
conflicts, especially in Asia and the Middle East .
The council was established
at the start of a three-day meeting in Bangkok of Christian, Buddhist,
Jewish, Jain, Muslim and Hindu clerics with the support of the
The World Council
of Religious Leaders, which aims to actively intervene in conflict areas,
is the outcome of the recommendations of the Millennium World Peace Summit
held at the United Nations in August 2000.
"There is a
sense of somber urgency among the leaders" to work for peace, said
Bawa Jain, secretary general of the Millennium World Peace Summit. "The
use of religion to promote divisiveness and violence must be countered
by religious leaders from all traditions willing to become actively engaged
in peace building," he said.
He said the conference
is expected to lead to specific recommendations for involvement of religious
leaders in the crises confronting the world. The recommendations are expected
to be made public after the signing of a council charter on Friday. The
conference is being held in the backdrop of increasing military tensions
between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and the continuing spiral of
violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
A statement by the
conference organizers said the council would become an active
partner with the United Nations in reducing conflict, poverty
and environmental degradation. Addressing the conference, Israeli Chief
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau said religion has caused many gulfs between peoples.
"But religion can also be a bridge. Let's build the bridges
and work together to freedom, to love, to peace for the entire world,"
Lau also made a fervent
appeal for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, saying a lot can
be learned from the courageous actions of former Egyptian President Anwar
Sadat and late King Hussein of Jordan, who signed peace treaties with
Israel despite vehement Arab opposition.
To this I have only
one thing to say:
not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship
has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with
darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a
believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God
with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. 2 Cor 6:14-16