The Push to Unity

(all spelling and phraseology is UK English)

One of 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.

However, 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.

Beyond 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".

I'll 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 event.

CHARISMA 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 in Atlanta.

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.

"The Oneness 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.

[NOTE: 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."

[WHOAAA!!! 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

By P J Bonthrone, "Daily Telegraph" newspaper: 03/06/2002

[all 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.

NOTE: 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
  • Congregational Churches
  • Council of African and Afro-Caribbean Churches
  • Council of Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches
  • Greek Orthodox Church
  • Independent Methodist Churches
  • Ichthus Christian Fellowship [Roger Forster's Restoration F'ships]
  • International Ministerial Council of Great Britain
  • Joint Council for Anglo-Caribbean Churches
  • Lutheran Council of Great Britain
  • Methodist Churches
  • Moravian Churches
  • New Testament Assembly
  • The Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)
  • Roman Catholic Church
  • Russian Orthodox Church
  • Salvation Army
  • United Reformed Church
  • Wesleyan Holiness Church

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.

As Christians we are united CORPORATELY only because we are INDIVIDUALLY united to God our Father.

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 was answered!

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:


"This 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".

"It 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).

"In 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 between them.

Yet see the following:

Religious Leaders Start Peace Council

Wednesday, June 12, 2002
By VIJAY JOSHI Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand (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 United Nations.

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," he said.

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:

Do 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