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John Allen on Latin American Catholicism & Pope Benedict's Visit PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 04 May 2007 08:44
John Allen has a most interesting column this morning light of the series of posts on Independent Christianity and Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to Brazil. It's all illuminating but here are the passages that are especially pertinent to our discussions here on ID.

John Allen:

Pentecostals: While Latin America is home to almost half the world’s Catholic population, in some sense the Catholic church is under siege. Belgian Passionist Fr. Franz Damen, a veteran staffer for the Bolivian bishops, found that the number of conversions from Catholicism to Protestantism in Latin America during the 20th century actually surpassed the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the 16th century. In 1930, Protestants amounted to one percent of the Latin American population; today it’s between 12 and 15 percent. A study commissioned in the late 1990s by CELAM found that 8,000 Latin Americans were deserting the Catholic church for Evangelical Protestantism every day. Some religious demographers believe that Guatemala has already become the first majority Protestant nation in Latin America.

Theories to explain the attrition abound. Some conservatives blame liberation theology for politicizing the church, while liberals fault the hierarchical and clerical nature of Catholicism. Conspiracy theorists point to heavy funding and logistical support from Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in the United States. In the end, however, most observers seem to believe that the key factor is the failure of the Catholic church to deliver even rudimentary pastoral care to a large segment of the population, leaving millions of nominal Catholics without any real catechesis, spiritual formation or regular access to the sacraments. That created a vacuum which the Pentecostals have exploited. In turn, this failure is attributed to a severe priest shortage. (That point will be addressed below.)

One response to the Pentecostal challenge has been the growth of the Catholic charismatic movement, an enthusiastic and spontaneous form of spirituality focused on the gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, and inspired preaching. A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 62 percent of Guatemalan Catholics call themselves “charismatic,” the highest percentage in the world, followed closely by Brazil at 57 percent. Overall, charismatics now account for roughly half the entire Catholic population of Latin America.

Some observers believe the growth of the charismatic movement is helping to stem the Pentecostal tide, because it offers most of what Latin Americans find attractive about Pentecostalism within the Catholic church. Others, however, worry that it too closely mimics the Pentecostals, especially when it comes to the “prosperity gospel” and an emphasis on immediate emotional gratification.

In that light, two challenges await Benedict XVI.

First, can this notoriously cerebral pope, famous for generating more light than heat, wear enough of his heart on his sleeve to win over audiences steeped in the charismatic style? Second, can Benedict affirm the enthusiasm and deep faith of the charismatics, while at the same time ensuring that they remain rooted in the broader pastoral concerns of the church?

Priests: By universal consensus, the shortage of priests throughout most of Latin American has created enormous holes in the church’s network of pastoral care. While the priest-to-person ratio in the United States is 1 to 1,229, in Brazil it’s 1 to 8,604, and in Honduras it’s 1 to 14,462. The experience of Fr. Ricardo Flores, pastor of San Jose Obrero parish in a residential neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is typical: he’s responsible for his large urban parish, as well as 14 other churches in the area that have no resident priest; he’s a professor at the seminary, teaching a full load of four courses each semester for around 60 students; and he’s the ecclesiastical moderator for two large national movements.

Though there are upticks in vocations in some countries, there’s no foreseeable future in which there will be a sufficient number of priests to staff all the parishes in Latin America, to say nothing of comforting the sick, teaching the young, and conducting the other ministries of the church. For many Latin American Catholic leaders, the answer is obvious: lay empowerment.

“Our current pastoral model is exhausted,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras. He favors an aggressive program of forming laity to fill the gaps, learning from the success of the Pentecostals in fielding small armies of lay preachers and evangelists.

Given that liberation theology also promoted lay empowerment, however, in a way that critics saw as forming a kind of “church from below” in opposition to the hierarchy, other Latin Americans remain wary. In that light, if Benedict XVI chooses to speak positively about lay collaboration, it could have decisive significance for which way CELAM chooses to move.


 
The Challenge of Independent Christianity (part 7) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 04 May 2007 05:16
Posted for Sherry W.

See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

Just a reminder for my readers:

NONE of the staff or teachers of the Catherine of Siena Institute have ever been or are currently part of the “Independent Christian” movement! Nor have any of our posters on ID ever been part of it (as far as I know).

I am writing about this movement as a journalist, not an apologist. I am describing the second largest, fastest growing, and most missionary-minded Christian community in the world today because we have to recognize their existence in order to deal with them.

As a journalist, my job is to try and help you grasp the nature and significance of the movement. Since Independent Christianity is complicated to describe, I will spend most of my time describing and secondarily exploring some of the implications for the Catholic Church. I will not be spending my time in a detailed analysis and rebuttal of their many theological problems, not because I agree with their stance but because it would require another 20,000 words to do so and this is long enough as it is!


Power Orientation

The Wagner Leadership Institute’s offerings begin to make sense when you realize that the heart of church government and ecclesiology for the New Apostolic Reformation/Independent movement is restoration of what is called the “Five-fold Ministry” (based on Ephesians 4:11). The five ministries are: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.

By now I’m sure it’s obvious that, within the New Apostolic Reformation, the word “apostle” does not refer to apostolic succession in the sense that Catholics understand it. For Independents, “apostle” refers to both a charism (spiritual gift) and an office bestowed directly by God on an individual as an “anointing” or spiritual empowerment. This anointing or spiritual authority is understood to operate within a specific sphere. So “ecclesiastical apostles” exercise authority over a number of churches, presumably in an apostolic network headed up by the apostle, while “ambassadorial apostles” have itinerant, frequently international, ministries of catalyzing and nurturing apostolic movements. There are numerous other recognized apostolic “specializations”. Some women as well as men are recognized as apostles.

In their understanding, when the office of apostle has been bestowed, it is usually revealed by God directly to the recipient and then confirmed in his or her life through supra-local spiritual authority, signs and wonders, and remarkable evangelistic effectiveness. As Matthew Green, editor of Understanding the Fivefold Ministry puts it, each apostle

. . . demonstrates humility and servanthood, intent not on building a personal empire, but on equipping and releasing others for effective ministry. Each received a dramatic call and possesses unique gifts as a pioneer in his or her area of ministry. Each has experienced signs and wonders in the wake of his or her ministry. Each is passionately committed to sound theology, both in its practical and doctrinal expressions. (p. 3)

Naomi Dowdy would be a good example of a recognized “apostle”. When Tennessee-native Dowdy founded Trinity Christian Centre in Singapore 30 years ago, her colleagues in the Assemblies of God regarded her as a missionary. But today this successful pastor and church-growth consultant is usually referred to as “Apostle Naomi.”

“Apostolic networks” are voluntary gatherings of individual congregations and pastors under the personal spiritual “covering” of an individual apostle. Dowdy seems to lead several networks. Her Global Leadership Network is described as “a network of networks committed to fulfilling the Great Commission in our generation.” One member of the GLN is David Mohan, pastor of the largest congregation in India, New life Assembly of God in Chennai. David writes, “After we embraced the GLN Cell Church model, the new converts were nurtured and were transformed in their character and lifestyle. Now we have grown from 2,500 to 30,000 in 15 years”).

Dowdy “provides apostolic covering, mentoring, and impartation for strategic leaders in key ministry positions globally” via her Global Covenant Network . Leaders ordained through Dowdy’s network are required to have the following qualifications:

  • Five years in one of the ascension gifts [five-fold ministry]
  • Strong integrity and Christian character
  • Recommended by members of GCN
  • Two years as a Licensed Credential holder (conditional)
Dowdy is currently working hard to raise up other women apostles. “‘Women must arise and take their place beside the men,’ Dowdy told delegates last week at the Apostolic Women Arising conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hundreds of Christians from seven nations—including Bahrain and Vietnam—received three and a half days of training at the event.” (Fire In My Bones: A New Assignment for Women - Apostolic Conquest by J. Lee Grady, Charisma online, October 11, 2005 - select from drop-down list of archived columns). The Apostolic Women Arising conference, featuring several well known women apostles, will be held in Jakarta and in Atlanta in July 0f 2007.

Typically, an apostolic network includes 50 – 150 local congregations that may be spread around the world. (Sherry’s note: remember that David Barrett estimated in 2000 that there were about 22,000 such networks or para-denominations in existence involving 1.7 million congregations.) In 1968 Terry Virgo started a small community of Christians on the south coast of England. His goal was to build a radical church life founded on the principles that he saw in the New Testament. Other English churches asked for Terry’s help and by 1980, he was working with 20 different congregations. 25 years later, New Frontiers has become “a worldwide family of churches together on a mission to establish the Kingdom of God” (http://www.newfrontiers.xtn.org/). That family includes congregations in Africa, North America, Asia, and Europe. Some apostles such as Bill Harmon of Christian International Ministries, use the title “Bishop”. Here is a map of Harmon's global apostolic network which includes about 80 congregations and 54 ministers at large in 20 countries.

By this point some of you are asking, “Haven’t these people ever heard of Montanism?” Yes, gentle reader, a number of Independent leaders have graduate degrees and know about Montanism and its condemnation by the Church in the late second century. But suspicion of Catholics is part of their Reformation DNA; they don’t trust the Church’s judgment on that score. Vinson Synon, a Pentecostal elder statesman, calls Montanism “Charismatic” and is carefully agnostic as to its validity: “In the end, rightly or wrongly, the church rejected Montanism” (Understanding the Fivefold Ministry, p 50). Unlike Catholics, most Independent leaders do not feel bound by the practice or decisions of earlier generations.

Continued in part 8....


 
"The Future of Worldwide Catholicity is at Risk" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 03 May 2007 13:15
Posting for Sherry W.

This is intense!

Via Indian Catholic

BRASILIA (CNA): The prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, called on the faithful in Latin America to reach out to fallen away Catholics who have joined other Christian denominations.

"We can’t sit and wait in the parishes," he said. "We should go out ourselves to bring the baptized back. We should go out to poor on the outskirts of town, who need our solidarity, our warmth. We should help them with their daily problems, but also to fulfill their dreams, because the poor also have dreams," the cardinal said.

"In recent years," he continued, "the Church in America has lost 1% of its faithful each year." Therefore, he encouraged Catholics to create new initiatives of evangelization in the region where almost half of the world’s Catholics live. "Perhaps the future of worldwide Catholicity is at risk," he said.

Among the reasons Catholics leave the Church to join other Christian denominations is "the moral relativism imported from Europe and introduced into Latin America, especially by local leaders, the mass media and intellectuals," the cardinal said, citing the recent legalization of abortion in Mexico as an example."The Church in Latin America should ask itself what it has not done right and why it has not been able to implant a more profound faith in the baptized," he continued, warning also that this is not a problem affecting solely the Church in Latin America but also in the rest of the world.
 
The Challenge of Independent Christianity (part 6) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 03 May 2007 13:10
Posting for Sherry W.

See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

Just a reminder for my readers:

NONE of the staff or teachers of the Catherine of Siena Institute have ever been or are currently part of the “Independent Christian” movement! Nor have any of our posters on ID ever been part of it (as far as I know).

I am writing about this movement as a journalist, not an apologist. I am describing the second largest, fastest growing, and most missionary-minded Christian community in the world today because we have to recognize their existence in order to deal with them.

As a journalist, my job is to try to help you grasp the nature and significance of the movement. Since Independent Christianity is complicated to describe, I will spend most of my time describing and secondarily exploring some of the implications for the Catholic Church. I will not be spending my time in a detailed analysis and rebuttal of their many theological problems, not because I agree with their stance but because it would require another 20,000 words to do so and this is long enough as it is!

The Dummies Guide to the Independent Christianity

What does David Barrett mean when he says that this emerging group is “post-denominationalist”? The vast majority of “independent” Christians have “replaced historic denominationalism by non-centralized lifestyle and church order” (World Christian Encyclopedia, p. 29).

A common theme among Independent Christianity writers is rejoicing at having escaped 1700 years of “Constantinian spectator Christianity” that began when Christianity moved from being “a dynamic, revolutionary, social and spiritual movement to being a religious institution with its attendant structures, priesthood and sacraments.” (The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church, Michael Frost &, Allen Hirsch)

This movement is often described as the most radical change in the Church since the Protestant Reformation. Many prominent leaders regard even the structures of 20th century evangelicalism as “old wineskins” that can and should be sloughed off in order to open the door to the new things that God is doing today. Novel approaches for classic Protestant ways of doing church is what really sets apart the New Apostolic Reformation. Peter Wagner lists a number of “new wineskins”, including new authoritative structure, new leadership training, new ministry focus, new outreach, and new “power orientation”. (The New Apostolic Churches, C. Peter Wagner, editor, p. 19-25.)

Authority

In denominational Protestantism, the pastor has historically been regarded as the employee of the congregation. As Wagner dramatically puts it,

In my judgment, the view of leadership and leadership authority constitute the most radical of the nine changes from traditional Christianity. Here is the main difference: The amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals.... We are seeing a transition from bureaucratic authority to personal authority, from legal structures to relational structure, from control to coordination and from rational leadership to charismatic leadership.

The New Apostolic Churches, p. 19-20.

The distinction between clergy and laity, as understood within both Catholicism and Protestantism, is actively repudiated by Independents. Seminary and ordination by a denomination are no longer considered essential pre-requisites for pastoral ministry. Leadership is charismatic. Men and women are “ordained” by their local pastor in recognition of their personal faith and God-given “anointing”. What matters are an individual’s personal faith and holiness, and their demonstrated leadership in evangelism, church-planting, and vision-casting.

Leadership Training

Because seminary is optional, many staff of new apostolic churches are “homegrown” and alternate forms of leadership formation are emerging. The Wagner Leadership Institute is one model of the new style of pastoral formation. Catholic seminarians would not recognize the short courses offered this past November at the Wagner Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs: Prophetic Evangelism, Releasing Your Anointing, and Moving in the Apostolic.

(Sherry’s note: My comments about Ted Haggard were written 11 months before his widely publicized “fall” in November of 2006. Although he is no longer in leadership, the dynamics that he represented are still very much at work and so I chose to retain my paragraphs about him.)

Pastors and leaders do not need to be a part of this new movement in order to be heavily influenced by it. The stature of Ted Haggard, the current President of the National Association of Evangelicals, shows us how the influence of Independent leaders and ideas has moved far beyond the Independent Christianity movement. Haggard’s dazzling smile was featured on the November 4, 2005 cover of Christianity Today, the premier magazine of evangelicalism. He manages to be both an icon of the Independent movement and a top leader among more traditional denominationalist evangelicals—an excellent example of how porous is the boundary between the two. The influence of New Apostolic ideas and practices upon “denominationalists” is facilitated by their common Reformation heritage and, most importantly, a common commitment to evangelism and world mission.

More on ministry focus and outreach in my next post.
 
The Challenge of Independent Christianity (part 5) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 03 May 2007 05:01
Posted for Sherry W.

Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, part 3 is here, part 4 is here.

Just a reminder for my readers: NONE of the staff or teachers of the Catherine of Siena Institute have ever been or are currently part of the “Independent Christian” movement! Nor have any of our posters on ID ever been part of it (as far as I know).

I am writing about this movement as a journalist, not an apologist. I am describing the second largest, fastest growing, and most missionary-minded Christian community in the world today because we have to recognize their existence in order to deal with them.

As a journalist, my job is to try and help you grasp the nature and significance of the movement. Since Independent Christianity is complicated to describe, I will spend most of my time describing and secondarily exploring some of the implications for the Catholic Church. I will not be spending my time in a detailed analysis and rebuttal of their many theological problems, not because I agree with their stance but because it would require another 20,000 words to do so and this is long enough as it is!


Meanwhile, a spontaneous spiritual fire swept the globe in 1994 -1995. It was called the Toronto Blessing because the first well-known manifestations took place in January of 1994 in a small Vineyard church near the Toronto airport.

The Toronto Blessing was associated with dramatic scenes of hundreds being “slain in the Spirit” or experiencing “holy laughter” when prayed over. The blessing seemed to be transferable and could be passed on through what they termed “impartation”. An individual who had been prayed for and had received the “anointing” passed the blessing on to others by praying for them in person, usually through the laying on of hands.

Within months, the Vineyard Church had become a spectacular international draw. Toronto Life Magazine billed the Toronto Blessing as the top tourist attraction in 1994. By September, 1995, 20,000 Christian leaders and 200,000 first-time visitors had come from virtually every country and denomination to experience the blessing and bring it home. (See Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship)
.
In May, 1994, the Toronto blessing reached London and Holy Trinity Brompton (read the Mystery Worshiper’s impression of HTB here), the charismatic Anglican parish that birthed the popular Alpha course. A strange phone call pulled Sandy Miller, then vicar of Holy Trinity, out of a very serious meeting. The church secretary reported that all the staff had been slain in the Spirit and couldn’t get off the floor. Eleanor Mumford, who had "received" the blessing in the US, was invited to speak at all the Sunday services about the experience and many present were affected.

Although Holy Trinity Brompton could not be characterized as an Independent movement congregation, its leadership had strong ties to both John Wimber, until his death in 1997, and to Fuller seminary, which strongly promoted the Alpha course in the US. It is very characteristic of the New Apostolic Reformation that traditional denominational ties are much less important than a shared passion for evangelization and openness to the present action of the Holy Spirit.

After this event, the Alpha course, a 15 week introduction to Christianity, took off in a big way. In 1991, only 900 attended; in 1996 there were 250,000. An important part of the course is a weekend away where participants pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit and are encouraged to speak in tongues.

Sherry’s note:

8 million people have been through Alpha over the past 20 years. In mid 2006, there were 31,763 Alpha courses running in 164 nations. Alpha has been adapted for the workshop, the armed forces, schools, prisons, campuses, and youth versions and has been translated into 64 languages. The course is being used by nearly all Christian communions – including the Catholic church. 1.6 million have attended in the US alone as of 2006, 2 million in the UK out of a total population of 60 million.


In September 2006, a
60-second Alpha commercial was shown in cinemas nationwide. Alpha postcards were placed in every multiplex cinema foyer in the UK and a full page advertisement in the October edition of Cosmopolitan magazine came out on September 16. There were also posters on the sides and backs of over 2000 buses throughout the UK.

Catholic dioceses all over the world are using Alpha with the support of local bishops. Go here for what the Alpha people say about running an Alpha course in a Catholic context. Note there are national Alpha offices in a number of overwhelmingly Catholic countries such as France (take a look at this article about the beginning of French Alpha, which is now running in 2/3 of the Catholic dioceses in the country.) And check out the Alpha national offices in Ireland, Austria, Poland, and Spain. Information about the Spanish language version of Alpha is here. A good deal of the positive signs about the resurgence of Christianity in Europe being reported lately are Alpha-related or influenced.

Nicky Gumbel, who heads up the Alpha movement, met Pope John Paul II in 2004, and met with Pope Benedict XVI when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. He says the present Pope already knew about Alpha because he had previously met with Alpha leaders from Germany.

In August of last year, Gumbel began his Canadian visit in Quebec City with a positive meeting with Canada's Roman Catholic Primate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. "His love for Christ came through," Gumbel said. "His passion for evangelization, for unity, for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is all so obvious in his life and his ministry. I felt so refreshed being with him."

From a Catholic perspective, Alpha is a mixed bag. What Alpha does very well is present the basic kerygma and challenge participants to a conscious discipleship which is life-changing. Another reason for its popularity is that it is designed to be highly accessible to the unchurched of no religious background, a factor very important in the UK, its birthplace. The majority of churches that use the Alpha course grow. Alpha is designed to take the initiative to reach out rather than wait for the unchurched to come to us. And it seems to be attractive to young adults.

Which is why Catholic leaders often approve its use (see this
list of approving letters from various US bishops and other Catholic leaders).

From a teaching perspective, there are serious content problems with Alpha which I have outlined in the Siena Scribe article “
When Evangelical is Not Enough.”

Catholic leaders are often aware of Alpha’s doctrinal deficiencies but regard it as a necessary trade-off. Alpha is pre-packaged, polished, effective, and heavily supported. Pastors and staff are very busy and don’t know how to go about evangelizing so it is much easier and very attractive to go with a tested “plug and play” program. The assumption is that doctrinal issues will be, ideally, dealt with later in a post-Alpha follow-up teaching such as the DVDs produced by
Catholic Faith Exploration which were specifically developed by the Archdiocese of Westminister as a Catholic answer to Alpha.

Back to the development of Independent Christianity:

By 1996, a consensus was developing among many evangelical leaders that a new sort of global Christianity was emerging. That year, Peter Wagner convened the first National Symposium on Post-Denominational Church at Fuller. One of the participants later wrote, “The consensus of the panelists was that there are still apostles and prophets in the Church, and there is an emerging Apostolic Movement that will revolutionize the 21st Century Church” (Prophetic Destiny and the Apostolic Reformation, Bill Hamon, p.18).

I will return to the subject of apostles in my next post.
 
The Challenge of Independent Christianity, part 4 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 18:19
Posted for Sherry Weddell:

Part 1 is here; part 2 is here; part 3 is here.

Just a reminder for my readers:
NONE of the staff or teachers of the Catherine of Siena Institute have ever been or are part of the “Independent Christian” movement! Nor have any of our posters on ID ever been part of it (as far as I know).

I am writing about this movement as a journalist, not an apologist. I am describing the second largest, fastest growing, and most missionary-minded Christian community in the world today because we have to recognize their existence in order to deal with them.

As a journalist, my job is to try to help you grasp the nature and significance of the movement. Since Independent Christianity is complicated to describe, I will spend most of my time describing and secondarily exploring some of the implications for the Catholic Church. I will not be spending my time in a detailed analysis and rebuttal of their many theological problems, not because I agree with their stance but because it would require another 20,000 words to do so and this is long enough as it is!
-----
The pace accelerated in the 90s. A complex series of planned initiatives and spontaneous spiritual movements all fueled the global emergence of the Independent Christianity. In July 1989, more than 4,300 participants from 173 countries gathered at the Second International Congress on World Evangelization in Manila (Lausanne II). It was at that meeting that the “AD 2000 & Beyond Movement” was born. The movement sought to “encourage cooperation among existing churches, movements, and entities to work together toward the vision of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000” ( www.ad2000.org/histover.htm).

AD 2000 focused its energies on what was called the “10/40 window”. The 10/40 window comprises that part of the world extending from 10 to 40 degrees north of the equator, stretching from North Africa to China. This area contains the largest population of non-Christians in the world, and 82% of the poorest of the poor live there.

Also emerging from Lausanne II was the concept of a network of intercessors dedicated to what is termed “strategic-level spiritual warfare”. Independent Christians take Ephesians 6:12 very seriously: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world..." They believe that dealing through prayer with the spiritual obstacles to wide-spread awakening is an essential part of preaching the Gospel.

The result was “Praying Through the Window”, the largest movement of coordinated intercessory prayer in history. Starting in 1993, Peter Wagner headed up four massive global campaigns of strategically focused prayer for the peoples and places of the 10/40 window. Tens of millions of Christians took part through prayer, and tens of thousands made “prayer journeys” to the most un-evangelized cities and communities on earth. After each campaign, any reported impact would be gathered and published.

Participants strongly believed that that such “spiritual warfare” would be the catalyst of a changed spiritual atmosphere and, therefore, of a remarkable increase in miracles and a remarkable expansion of Christianity. Stories of the conversion of whole families and villages, miraculous healings, deliverance from demonic spirits, prophecies and visions--even the raising of the dead--have poured out of the 10/40 window in the past 15 years becoming almost commonplace in Independent Christianity circles.


The heavy rain in the monsoon period drives many snakes out of their territories and into the villages. That leads to many snake bites, and only lucky people can be treated in time. Mohit was in the forest with his herd when he was bitten by a snake. He managed to make it back to his village and tell people what had happened, then lost consciousness. Neither the snake-charmers nor the village healer could do anything to help him. One of his neighbours asked a follower of Christ to pray for Mohit; 25 minutes later, he regained consciousness. Many people became open for the gospel through this miracle. (DAWN Friday Fax 2005, #32, www.jesus.org.uk/dawn/2005/dawn32.html)

By 1993, Peter Wagner felt that he was seeing a new pattern in church growth. He had been studying three major church growth movements in Africa, China, and Latin America. He put his observations of these groups together with his studies of Independent charismatic churches, which had been the fastest growing congregations in the US. Wagner came to the conclusion that “a pattern of divine blessing today on certain identifiable groups of churches is discernible” (The New Apostolic Churches, p. 17)

In January of 1995, the Global Consultation on World Evangelization brought together some 4000 Christian leaders from 186 countries. South Korea was chosen to host the event because it contains some of the largest and most mission-minded churches in the world. More than 70% of GCOWE 95 funding came from Africa, Asia and Latin America. With this conference, the two-thirds world demonstrated its full partnership, if not primary initiative, in the cause of world evangelization.

Continued in part 5, here.
 
Revival on Campus? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 13:57
New York Times has a interesting piece on the revival of faith on college compuses.

Peter J. Gomes has been at Harvard for 37 years, and says he remembers when religious people on campus felt under siege. To be seen as religious often meant being dismissed as not very bright, he said.

No longer. At Harvard these days, said Professor Gomes, the university preacher, “There is probably more active religious life now than there has been in 100 years.”

Speaking of Harvard, I've heard rave reviews of the work of this woman at the Harvard St. Paul's Catholic Church - Faye Darnall, the undergraduate chaplain.
 
The Challenge of Independent Christianity (pt3) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 09:07
Posted for Sherry W:

Part I is here; part II is here.

Just a reminder for my readers:

NONE of the staff or teachers of the Catherine of Siena Institute have ever been or are currently part of the “Independent Christian” movement! Nor have any of our posters on ID ever been part of it (as far as I know).

I am writing about this movement as a journalist, not an apologist. I am describing the second largest, fastest growing, and most missionary-minded Christian community in the world today because we have to recognize their existence in order to deal with them.

As a journalist, my job is to try and help you grasp the nature and significance of the movement. Since Independent Christianity is complicated to describe, I will spend most of my time describing and secondarily exploring some of the implications for the Catholic Church. I will not be spending my time in a detailed analysis and rebuttal of their many theological problems, not because I agree with their stance but because it would require another 20,000 words to do so and this is long enough as it is!

How Did We Get Here?
Independent Christianity emerged from the convergence of two major spiritual tributaries. The first is the world-wide growth of evangelical-style Christianity that David Barrett and many others have documented. The second is the global spread of Pentecostal/charismatic spirituality.

The demand in the early 70’s for a moratorium on Christian missions from the West noted by Peter Phan proved to be an important catalyst. 2500 evangelical missionaries and strategists from 150 countries met for 10 days in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 to discuss the challenges before them of maintaining two central tenets:

· the uniqueness of Christ, called into doubt by the advocacy of tolerance for other religions

· the validity of missions, challenged by the call for a moratorium on missions that was issued by some third-world church leaders.

Their conclusions, captured in the Lausanne Covenant, were to shape history:

We affirm that there is only one Saviour and only one gospel, although there is a wide diversity of evangelistic approaches. . . We also reject as derogatory to Christ and the gospel every kind of syncretism and dialogue which implies that Christ speaks equally through all religions and ideologies . . . To proclaim Jesus as "the Saviour of the world" is not to affirm that all people are either automatically or ultimately saved, still less to affirm that all religions offer salvation in Christ...

In the Church's mission of sacrificial service evangelism is primary. World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. The Church is at the very centre of God's cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the gospel. (www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=12891)

This gathering, commonly referred to as Lausanne I, gave birth to a fresh commitment to global evangelization and a greatly intensified level of cooperation across denominational and organizational lines.

Meanwhile, the paths of two remarkable men converged. C. Peter Wagner began as a conservative evangelical missionary to Bolivia who was extremely skeptical of Pentecostal claims. Wagner changed his mind after being healed at a prayer service in India. In 1971, Wagner became Professor of Church Growth at the Fuller School of World Missions. (Fuller seminary, located in Pasadena, California, is the largest interdenominational seminary in the world with 4,300 students from over 67 countries and over 108 denominations.) In the early 70’s, Wagner wrote his first book documenting Pentecostalism in Latin America as a rising missionary force. Shortly thereafter, he struck up a friendship with John Wimber, an evangelical Quaker pastor with a gift for evangelism, and eventually invited him to work at Fuller as a church growth consultant.

After a few years, Wimber left Fuller to begin pastoring a church of 50. This small group was the genesis of the Vineyard Association, a hugely influential family of churches that now includes 850 congregations around the world. The turning point for Wimber came in 1977 when his wife Carol was dramatically healed. Wimber's attitude regarding divine healing changed from skepticism to openness. He began asking why healing and other miracles were happening in third world countries but not in North America. He wrestled with God and prayed for the members of his congregation every Sunday for 10 months before he saw his first physical healing.

In 1982, Peter Wagner invited Wimber to teach the class, “Signs and Wonders and Church Growth,” which quickly become the most popular course at Fuller. Hundreds of missionary leaders from around the world attended during the three years that the course was offered. I took it myself. John Wimber published the book Power Evangelism in 1986, which introduced the evangelical community at large to ideas that now are considered axiomatic among most Independents, especially that effective evangelism needs to be preceded and undergirded by supernatural demonstrations of God's presence.

I attended a week long seminar taught by Wimber on healing at the Anaheim Vineyard. Although I knew nothing about his history at the time, I can see now that Wimber had come a long way. I appreciated both Wimber’s confidence in God and his freedom to say “I don’t know”. He talked openly about his friend, David Watson, a high-profile Anglican pastor in England from whom he had prayed and who had recently died of cancer. But he also spoke of witnessing the instantaneous healing of a woman who had been born blind. The highlight of the conference for me was hearing the story of a small group of ordinary participants who had spent all night praying for a young woman bound to a wheel-chair. At dawn, she rose and walked. (Sherry’s note: this wasn’t just a rumor circulating around the conference, I talked to the woman myself.)

Wimber wasn’t the only proponent of signs and wonders at Fuller in the early-mid 80’s. David Hubbard, President of the seminary from 1963 to 1993, was the son of ordained Pentecostal ministers and supportive of integrating the insights and practices of charismatics. I had a required class with Peter Wagner where we spent the first 30 minutes praying for one another’s healing. Chuck Kraft, a professor of anthropology, pointed out that our western worldview, shaped by Enlightenment rationalism, had systemically filtered out the possibility that God might act directly in miraculous ways. (Sherry’s note: I have never been part of the charismatic renewal myself so this was new to me. This was not why I choose to study there. I was preparing to be a missionary and Fuller came highly recommended. )

Since two thirds of my fellow students were mid-career missionaries or non-western pastors and leaders, we inexperienced westerners learned first hand of the great strides that evangelicalism was making in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Many of the non-western students were already “neo-charismatic” in their practices. The Fuller School of World Missions had become a global center of influence where the re-vitalized missionary movement and neo-charismatic spirituality merged. Professors like Wagner and Kraft also played major roles in the new structures for world-wide missionary cooperation like the Lausanne Committee.

Continued in Part 4, here.
 
Immigration Information PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 06:51

Written by Keith Strohm

Immigration has been a very hot-button issue lately--particularly in our post 9/11 environment. How do we balance meeting the needs and sustaining the dignity of immigrants who are often fleeing poverty and oppression while safeguarding and strengthening the overall common good. I'm still taking time to reflect, pray, and learn about this issue, and I'm always happy when I can find a lot of resources in one place.

Katerina Marie over at Evangelical Catholicism has gathered together a number of important resources and posts (including papal and conciliar teaching) regarding a Catholic perspective on immigration. If, like myself, you are looking for the best way to apply Church Teaching to this issue, stop by EC and take a look at those resources.

It's so easy to get sucked into talking points from the Right and the Left, and forget that we are called to bring the wisdom and Truth of God into our response to this issue.

I know I've been drawing a lot from Michael and Katerina over at Evangelical Catholicism, but they have really turned their blog "up a notch" lately! Check them out.


 
Cafe Apostolique PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 May 2007 20:14

Written by Keith Strohm

I'm not sure why I'm in a French mood tonight, but I did see a fascinating article at Dom Bettinelli's about a Cafe in Denver (thanks Sherry!) that seems like a wonderful application of the lay apostolate in action. So All May Eat Cafe serves both the the homeless and the homed, offering healthy, balanced meals--without charging a fixed price. The owners ask only that a patron pay what they can:

After years of volunteering in soup kitchens, Libby and Brad wanted to create a place that would nourish the hungry without setting them apart. No assembly-line service, no meals mass-produced from whatever happened to be donated that week. Just fresh, sophisticated food, made from scratch, served up in a real restaurant -- but a restaurant without a cash register.
Pay what you think is fair, the Birkys tell their customers. Pay what you can afford.

Those who have a bit more are encouraged to drop a little extra in the donations box up front. Those who can't pay are asked to work in the kitchen, dicing onions, scrubbing pots, giving back any way they can.

The Birkys could probably feed more hungry people, with far less effort, by donating the cash they spend on groceries to a homeless shelter.

That's not the point.

"It's not just the food," Libby says. "Often, homeless people, people in need, don't receive the same attention and care. Here, someone recognizes them, looks them in the eye, talks to them like they're just as valuable as the next person in line. That's why we do this."

This is a beautiful example of a Christian approach to service. You can read more about it here.


 
St. Joseph, the Worker PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 01 May 2007 19:20

This is a bit late, but I thought a quick reminder of the Church's teaching on the dignity of work and the rights of workers would be in order on this memorial of Joseph which focuses on his vocation as a carpenter.

"The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative."
 
The Challenge of Independent Christianity (part II) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 01 May 2007 19:04
Part I is here.
Sherry's note:
As I begin to describe the movement of Independent Christianity, I need to make a few things very clear. NONE of the staff or teachers of the Catherine of Siena Institute have ever been or are part of the “Independent Christian” movement! Nor have any of our posters on ID ever been part of it (as far as we know).

I am writing about this movement as a journalist, not an apologist. I am describing the second largest, fastest growing, and most missionary-minded Christian community in the world today because we have to recognize their existence in order to deal with them.

As a journalist, my job is to try and help you grasp the nature and significance of the movement. Since Independent Christianity is complicated to describe, I will spend most of my time describing and secondarily exploring some of the implications for the Catholic Church. I will not be spending my time in a detailed analysis and rebuttal of their many theological problems, not because I agree with their stance but because it would require another 20,000 words to do so and this is long enough as it is!

The Basics About Independent Christianity

Dr. David Barrett is the foremost expert in the world on the status of global Christianity and editor of the massive 2001 edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia published by Oxford University Press. He divides the contemporary Christian world into six ecclesial traditions or what he calls “Christian megablocs”. Five of these blocs are familiar historic groups: Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and what Barrett calls “Marginal Christians”; a bloc that would include groups like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The sixth bloc is a 20th century phenomena that goes by the name of “post-denominationalist Independent”. This new kid on the block is already a major player. As of mid-2007, Barrett estimates that Independent Christians number 437.7 million, or roughly 20% of all the Christians in the world. (The updated mid-2007 figures that I will be quoting are available online at Status of Global Mission, 2007 in the Context of the 20th and 21st Centuries (hereafter SGM), http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/globalchristianity/resources.php.) If Barrett’s figures are close enough for government work, Independent Christianity is second in size only to Roman Catholicism. It is larger than all historic Protestant groups (excluding Anglicanism) combined, twice the size of Orthodoxy, and over five times larger than the entire Anglican communion.

Independent Christianity is growing faster than Islam. Independents constituted only 1.4% of world Christianity in 1900. By 2050, Barrett estimates they will make up nearly 25% of all Christians and 8.5% of the world’s population. In 2007, the Catholic Church showed a minimal growth rate of 1.14%, while Islam’s annual growth was 1.81%. Independent Christianity led the way with an annual growth rate of 2.12 % - nearly double that of Catholicism. (SGM)

None of this is surprising in light of Independent Christians’ passionate commitment to proclaiming Christ – to the baptized and non-baptized alike. As a group, Independents are what Barrett calls “Great Commission” Christians. That is, they hold that mandate of Christ to evangelize, baptize, and disciple all nations is still valid and is the central mission of the Church. (According to the SGM, 703 million or 32% of all Christians in 2007 were “Great Commission Christians”.). The five nations with the largest numbers of Independents in 2005 are China, the United States, India, Nigeria, and Brazil. According to Barrett, 52% of Asian Christians, 30% of North American Christians, 22% of African Christians, and 7.3% of Latin Christians are part of the Independent movement.

In light of its global size and dynamism, you would think that “Independent” Christianity would register on the Catholic ecclesial radar. One reason it does not is that this post-denominational Christianity has only been recognized as a unique movement in the past 20 years. It is so new that it can be easily dismissed by the historically-minded as yet another fly-by-night “sect”. Granted that the word “church” has a very specific meaning in Catholic thought, this does not mean that “sect” is an adequate label for Christian communities who do not qualify as churches. This word tells the listener nothing and gives the strong impression that the group in question is too marginal to be taken seriously. In any case, the term “sect” is manifestly inadequate to describe a movement that is 437 million strong.

A second reason we may overlook Independent Christianity is that it is a development from within evangelicalism that intentionally leaves historic Protestant practice far behind. They are therefore not an obvious partner for the sort of ecumenical dialogue we are familiar with that engages traditional Protestant denominations.

A third reason is that the Independent movement is not structured in standard ways. Most Independent Christians are part of loosely affiliated “apostolic networks” held together by personal relationships, a common charismatic spirituality, and a joint commitment to proclaiming Christ. Barrett estimates that there were about 22,000 such networks or para-denominations in existence in 2000 involving 1.7 million congregations.

The fourth and most critical reason is that Independent Christianity is nearly devoid of and completely uninterested in the marks of the Church that are so central to Catholic ecclesiology: historic, apostolic, creedal, and sacramental. The movement is almost a perfect antitype; it is a-historical, anti-hierarchical, anti-intellectual, and non-sacramental. It is also massively “pentecostalized” in spirituality and ecclesiology.

There has been considerable debate about appropriate names for the movement within the movement itself. Peter Wagner, who has played a central role as journalist, networker, teacher, and leader, examined and rejected 60 different possible names. (Churchquake!, p. 38). There were leaders who objected to “post-denominational” because some churches involved are still active members of their historic denominations. Wagner now uses the term “New Apostolic Reformation” to connote the same group that Barrett calls “Independents.” A third term that is sometimes used is “neo-charismatic” (Barrett) or “Third Wave” (Wagner) meaning a person, church, or network that embraces Pentecostal/charismatic style spirituality but is not connected to a mainline or Pentecostal denomination. These alternative terms: Independent, post-denominationalist, New Apostolic Reformation, and neo-charismatic/Third Wave all reflect important qualities of this new bloc of Christians.

Click here to jump to Part III.
 
Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 01 May 2007 14:36
From Pope Benedict's March 25 homily at the Roman parish of St. Felicity and Her Children, Martyrs:

Here you have the Vocationist Fathers. The word "Vocationist" is reminiscent of "vocation". We can examine two dimensions of this word. First of all, we think immediately of the vocation to the priesthood. But the word has a far broader, more general dimension.

Every person carries within himself a project of God, a personal vocation, a personal idea of God on what he is required to do in history to build his Church, a living Temple of his presence. And the priest's role is above all to reawaken this awareness, to help the individual discover his personal vocation, God's task for each one of us. I see that many here have discovered the project that concerns them, both with regard to professional life in the formation of today's society -- where the presence of Christian consciences is fundamental -- and also with regard to the call to contribute to the Church's growth and life. Both these things are equally important.
 
Just Being Plain (Catholic) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 01 May 2007 11:32
Posted for Sherry W:

It looks like Kathleen has a fan here at Just Being Plain. They very nicely linked to her post in light of the big discussion last week at Amy's. Why so many Catholics "read into" our conversation about evangelization ("only one way") is fascinating. It's probably the liturgical instinct (always what's the rubrics?) and the fact that most lay movements are quasi-religious in tone and tend toward "one way" rather than the expansive universal approach of the parish.

Kathleen adds: Thanks for the hat tip!

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