Apostle Ed Silvoso, a pioneer of the New Apostolic Reformation sweeping the nation, has mentored and supported both Republican and Democratic candidates across the nation through his franchise-like “Transformation” organizations. After getting his International Transformation Network entrenched in Uganda and other nations, he has initiated similar entities in U.S. cities.
Silvoso’s “Transformation Vallejo” promotional video features a local pastor, Anthony Summers, who is running as a Democratic candidate for city council. Summers worked to dismantle efforts of local public schools to enact anti-gay bullying proposals. However, in “Transformation Vallejo” and other media, the movement’s goals are camouflaged in their promotional campaigns with language about eradicating poverty. The agenda of the movement is to eradicate separation of church and state and to have adherents – likeminded Christians – take authority over what they call the “Seven Mountains” of society and government. According to the movement’s leaders, taking control of the seven mountains, along with the purging of “demons” from communities, will result in supernatural healing of societal ills.
Vallejo’s current mayor, Osby Davis, who told the New York Times in 2009 that being gay prevented one from going to heaven, has endorsed the Transformation movement in Vallejo and events featuring leading international apostles Silvoso and Cindy Jacobs. Jacobs heads a 50-state prayer network that disseminates prayer guides with calls for divine assistance in shutting down California’s major labor unions.
Although the NAR’s apostles are better known for their work in support of Republican candidates – including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, and the 2010 GOP candidate for governor in Hawaii – they are increasingly cultivating Democratic candidates who mask their authoritarian agendas in progressive language. Max Myers, former head of the Global School of Supernatural Ministry (GSSM) at a major New Apostolic center in Pennsylvania, entered the 2014 gubernatorial race as a Democratic candidate. Despite teaching his GSSM students that the church is “losing the battle on the abortion and gay” issues, Myers kicked off his campaign at the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia.
The following is a reprinting of a summary of the “Transformation” movement from PRA’s report Colonizing African Values:
The “Transformation” Movement
“Transformation” describes a dramatic shift in strategy for conservative evangelicalism: rather than convert souls on a one-by-one basis, followers of the Transformation movement attempt to assert “dominion” over a geographic area. Since the 1990s, the term “Transformation” has been used to brand a franchise-like network of groups espousing a belief in using “strategic level spiritual warfare” to entire communities, cities, and—ultimately—nations. Often described as the Seven Mountains Mandate, this concept demands that evangelical or “born again” Christians unite in order to take control over seven spheres of society: the arts, business, education, family, government, media, and religion.
The Seven Mountains Mandate and the Transformation organizations are products of a rapidly growing undertaking called the apostolic and prophetic movement or New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which teaches that human agency is required to retake the earth from Satan and enable Jesus’ return. A loosely organized international effort to eliminate denominational divides and unite evangelical Christians in the effort to “bring the Kingdom to earth,” the New Apostolic Reformation advocates reorganizing churches under modern-day apostles and prophets, whose authority would extend to all areas of society and eradicate separation between church and state. The apostles consistently promote a “free market gospel” that is anti-union, anti-regulatory, and pro-privatization of public services, including education.
In his 2008 book Dominion!: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World, C. Peter Wagner, one of the movement founders, claims that Christian dominion can take place through democratic means when like-minded Christians are in the majority and “rules and sets the ultimate norms for society.” (C. Peter Wagner, Dominion!: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World) Wagner states that this “rule” by like-minded Christians will not be a theocracy but occur through aggressive evangelism facilitated by a “worldwide prayer movement” employing the NAR’s spiritual warfare methods. Resistance to evangelization is blamed on literal demons who control most communities or “people groups,” including adherents to all other religions and non-evangelical Christian faiths.
The apostolic and prophetic movement is rooted in the Pentecostal and Charismatic stream of Christianity. In this context, Charismatic refers to a second conversion experience beyond being “born again” and the receipt of supernatural “spiritual gifts,” which may include speaking in tongues, faith-healing powers, ability to prophesy, and other gifts. The NAR has merged some traditional Pentecostal practices with others previously considered rogue or even heretical and repackaged them to appeal to larger evangelical and Mainline Protestant audiences.
Although the NAR and its Transformation organizations around the world have received little media coverage in the United States, these groups and their leaders have a growing political impact beyond what this minor attention would suggest.
Transformation organizations under the authority of NAR apostles exist across the globe, including numerous locations in the United States. The first experiments (C. Peter Wagner, Dominion!: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World) took place in Argentina, led by Ed Silvoso, who went on to establish the International Transformation Network, headquartered at his ministry Harvest Evangelism. He later initiated Transformation organizations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas based on “Resistencia, Argentina,” (C. Peter Wagner, Apostles and Prophets) the site of the original “strategic level spiritual warfare” waged by Silvoso and movement pioneers C. Peter Wagner and Cindy Jacobs. (C. Peter Wagner, Apostles and Prophets; Cindy Jacobs, Possessing the Gates of the Enemy: A Manual for Militant Intercession and Deliver Us from Evil; Ted Haggard and Jack Hayford, Transformation: Change the Marketplace and Change the World and Loving Your City Into the Kingdom)
Both Wagner and George Otis, Jr., another early movement leader and filmmaker, had leading roles in the missionary project “AD2000 and Beyond,” a massive international project to evangelize as much of the world as possible in the decade before the millennium. The project claimed to network hundreds of millions of participants around the world, providing a stage for Otis and Wagner to promote their new spiritual warfare and strategies.
Wagner had been a well-known professor of Church Growth for three decades at Fuller Theological Seminary, but as AD2000 and Beyond drew to its scheduled close, he moved to Colorado Springs to continue his efforts to pioneer the movement he would dub the “New Apostolic Reformation.” There, he established a strong partnership with Ted Haggard (later the president of the National Association of Evangelicals), building the World Prayer Center to house the movement’s nerve center and computer systems adjacent to Haggard’s New Life Church.
Political Impact of Transformation Organizations
The Transformations efforts are seductive to a broader audience than might be expected, given the movement’s radical and anti-democratic agenda. At the local level, Transformation efforts are presented as charitable activities geared toward ending poverty. Transformations entities provide services to underfunded and struggling municipalities, often with inner city populations — which provides them the access to public institutions and schools necessary for establishing dominion.
Although the Transformations efforts appear to target inner city and minority populations in the domestic United States, such as in Newark and Jacksonville, well-developed statewide efforts exist. Apostle Alice Patterson, credited with much of the NAR organizing in Texas, stood quietly to the side of Gov. Rick Perry while he spoke at the day-long prayer event in Houston in August 2011 that essentially kicked off his presidential campaign. Patterson’s ministry is known for outreach to African Americans for Rick Perry and the Republican Party, and has hosted a conference promoting school privatization and vouchers that featured former Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Gov. Rick Perry.
Prior to the 2010 midterm elections, Silvoso and other apostles declared Hawaii to be the state closest to being “transformed,” claiming that their “Kingdom movement” included both a Democratic and Republican candidate for governor. While, their Democratic candidate lost in the primaries, the Republican gubernatorial nominee was Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, a Catholic who had been involved in the Hawaii Transformation organization for many years and featured in promotional materials.
Much of ITN’s publicity at that time went through Ed Silvoso’s Harvest Evangelism Ministry. One piece of promotional material featured a photo of Silvoso and Aiona and stated,
The September prayer rally at Castle High featured the Lt. Governor asking Jesus ‘to come in to be the Light of all Hawai’i,’ a prayer that in effect unleashed a spontaneous movement toward transformation that began to reach throughout the islands and touch not only schools, but also the marketplace sectors of government and business.
…On December 2, 2004, the Transformation Hawai’i core team, along with Harvest Evangelism Sr. Vice President Dave Thompson, met with 23 key leaders from around the entire state and took ownership of the vision of Transformation Hawai’i. The dream to equip and commission 10,000 Christians as ‘marketplace ministers’ was birthed.”
Conference video showed participation of Lt. Gov. Aiona and other Hawaiian politicians, including the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, at an ITN event where Canadian Apostle Pat Francis declared, “We put our foot on Hawaii… we will rule.” Participants chanted warfare prayers to evict demons and claim Christian rule over the state.
Duke Aiona lost the gubernatorial race following media coverage of his participation in ITN, although most media outlets in the state were hesitant to cover a story based on Aiona’s religious agenda. After activist organizations challenged Aiona, he denied all involvement with ITN, a claim countered by ITN video and promotional materials made available to the press.
The list of politicians involved in the Transformation movement is primarily, but not exclusively, Republican. One exception is Jacksonville, Florida, a city with a thriving Transformation effort. Movement apostle Kimberly Daniels, celebrated in Charisma Magazine as a “demon-buster,” ran as a Democrat and was elected to Jacksonville’s city council in May 2011.
The next month, Jacksonville hosted the Global Day of Prayer (GDOP), an evangelizing event developed in South Africa, making it the first U.S. city to do so. The event had been recognized with an official proclamation from the mayor, and reportedly involved 10,000 people and broadcast to 500 million more (many of whom likely know nothing about the NAR or the Transformations movement). Some of the GDOP sessions during the three-day event took place at The Potter’s House, led by Bishop Vaughan McLaughlin, a partner in Ed Silvoso’s Transformation efforts.
Jacksonville has followed the model of other Transformation projects under the authority of Apostle Silvoso, which includes the adoption of each street in the city by a “prayer warrior,” often with precincts and neighborhood “prayer captains.” These adoption programs are described as prayer evangelism, but organized more like political campaigns. Specific assignments include selecting local leaders to head the effort for the effort of taking control or dominion over each of the seven “mountains.” For instance, an apostle typically assigns prayer warriors to each school in the area, leaders who meet with local principles and administrators to set up church adoption programs of schools.
Newark has also been held up as a model for Transformation community organizing. In 2008, Silvoso’s Transformation movement took credit for the reduction in crime the city, claiming that it resulted from their street adoption efforts and prayer warfare. ITN produced videos (now at Transform Our World) promoting the New Jersey effort as a model for other cities and touted their ties to city government. However, the crime rate began to rise after the city led by Mayor Cory Booker eliminated the positions of over 150 police officers in cost-cutting measures. Thus, while solid evidence of the prayer network’s actual impact is lacking, the extent of infrastructure development and its applicability to political campaign organizing is notable.
Transformations Ideology Promotion and Film
Much of the promotion of the Transformation ideology has occurred through the series of films promoting Christian dominion produced since 1999 by George Otis, Jr. and the Sentinel Group. The ongoing series is presented as documentaries on the “move of God” through communities and cities around the world that Otis claims have been transformed and overcome poverty, crime, corruption, and even environmental degradation.
The films claim that these dramatic changes take place after communities reject denominational divides and join together to repent. They then have the power to supernaturally dislodge the demonic principalities claimed to have control over their geographic area. In the early films, these demonic powers were represented as witches, dehumanized figures who were driven out of town or suddenly died following the prayer and repentance of the community. Early Transformations films show the destruction, often by fire, of the icons or structures of other belief systems.
Like the Transformation organizations, the films are superficially about unity, peace, and charitable activities. However, underlying the films is an eliminationist message. The human representatives of the demonic powers are portrayed in an utterly evil figure, whose death or expulsion from a town elicits little sympathy from the viewer. The use of witches as a device opens the door to the concept that certain humans are the agents of demonic powers and must be eliminated to save the community. Outside of the films, many leading apostles and prophets describe the humans harboring these demons as homosexuals, freemasons, and those of other religions and faiths.
The first film, “Transformations,” was the topic of the keynote speech given at the 2006 international symposium on Pentecostalism at the University of Southern California. Leading American Pentecostal scholars attended the conference and listened to the keynote by NAR pioneer and Guatemalan Apostle Harold Caballeros, currently the country’s minister for foreign affairs and one of the film’s stars. The symposium was sponsored by the Pennsylvania-based Templeton Foundation, which has provided millions in grant money to academic studies at American universities promoting NAR apostles and prophets as “exemplars of godly love” and capable of miraculous healing.
The first Transformations film had such an impact on the Anglican Charismatic renewal group Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA) that it held a four-day conference on the topic of “Community Transformation” in South Africa in 2000. The entire conference was dedicated to study of the Transformations film, with speakers including George Otis, Jr. and the evangelists starring in the movie. Following the gathering of international Anglicans, SOMA leaders argued for the teaching of this brand of spiritual warfare and spiritual mapping. According to the November 27, 2000, update on the Episcopal Digital Network,
“The West and Central African group called for spiritual warfare to ‘break the grip of strongholds,’ admonishing western delegates that their churches also need to take up the challenge of spiritual warfare. They also called for the use of ‘spiritual mapping,’ a technique described in the books Breaking Strongholds in Your City, edited by Peter Wagner, and Informed Intercession by George Otis, Jr., a Christian researcher who addressed the meeting.”
SOMA subsequently put together a manual on “Community Transformation” with the stated goal to,
“complement the most helpful theoretical work written up by George Otis Jr, Alistair Petrie and others. Since it was first used, material from it has been used in India, New Zealand, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda and the UK; and the interest in this whole subject is increasing all the time.”
Financing has been provided for some of the Transformations movies by the family foundation of Ken Eldred, which has also made large grants to the virulently anti-LGBT American Family Association. In turn, the American Family Association financed Rick Perry’s Houston prayer event in August 2011, which was organized and led by numerous NAR apostles and prophets. Eldred is also a known funder of the United in Purpose nonprofit and its efforts to register millions of conservative evangelical voters prior to the 2012 presidential election.
Behind the smiling faces, charitable acts, and claimed miracles of the Transformation movement PR machine lies an agenda bent on ending separation of church and state and bringing about “dominion” over the institutions of society and government worldwide. The movement has achieved a measure of international success—NAR’s apostles have described Uganda and Guatemala as the most “transformed” nations of the world—but seen less traction in the U.S. Apostles assert that the United States is resisting a Transformation-style renewal because of the population’s Enlightenment mentality and unwillingness to acknowledge the impact of supernatural beings in the temporal realm.
Despite NAR leaders’ dissatisfaction with the state of U.S. “Transformation,” the movement has had a large outreach since its start in the late 1990s, much of it due to its media efforts. The millions of viewers of the Transformations series have not been limited to members of the NAR or even Pentecostals. Used as promotional and outreach tools, the films are popular with “renewal groups” and introduce the NAR-brand of demon warfare to Anglican/Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, and other Mainline Protestant churches. Yet even with this growing popularity, the movement has received almost no coverage in secular media.