Profiles on the Right: New Apostolic Reformation

7 mountainsThe New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which is also known as the “apostolic and prophetic movement,” seeks to remake the theology and structure of Christianity in a theocratic mold. It is also refered to as the “Apostolic & Prophetic Movement.” Its most influential advocate, the late American theologian C. Peter Wagner, described it as the “greatest change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation.” NAR attempts to transcend and break down Christian denominational boundaries, creating instead a loose structure—or relational network—for organizing churches and ministries. Though it consists primarily of independent, Neocharismatic churches, the NAR relational network also encompasses individuals and ministries across a wide range of Protestant denominations, as well as some Catholic Charismatics and Messianic Jews.

Neocharismatics are rooted in the same theological tradition as Pentecostalism, which emerged in the United States in the early 1900s, and the Charismatic movements that influenced many Christian denominations in the mid-twentieth century. Pentecostals and Charismatics believe in the necessity of a second conversion experience—a “baptism in the Holy Spirit”—and in supernatural spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues and healing. Neocharismatic churches share this theology. They are distinguished primarily by their independence from traditional church denominations.

Wagner described the “New Apostolic” age as beginning in 2001, following the restoration of the office of apostles and prophets as authority figures inside (and outside of) the church. Apostles are evangelists or pastors who are spiritual mentors to other evangelists and pastors, and are “commissioned by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the Church,” in Wagner’s words. They are key to NAR’s relational networks, and they work outside of—and are entirely unaccountable to—denominational structures.

Wagner believed NAR’s mission is to reestablish “dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden.” He described this theology as the “bedrock” of the movement, providing a mandate for Christians to exert authority over every sphere of human society. NAR leaders commonly refer to this mission as the “seven mountains mandate,” with the “mountains” being the realms of arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion.

NAR’s relational networks, and the movement’s emphasis on “taking dominion” over society, are deeply influential across Africa, including in Uganda, where NAR apostles with close ties to U.S.-based institutions are among the nation’s most prominent religious leaders. Many helped generate support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was first introduced in 2009 and eventually passed Uganda’s Parliament in 2013.

Contemporaries of Wagner are rebranding NAR as “Independent Network Charismatic” or “INC” Christianity. In an interview with sociologists Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, one INC leader explained, “The goal of this new movement is transforming social units like cities, ethnic groups, nations rather than individuals … If Christians permeate each mountain and rise to the top of all seven mountains … society would have biblical morality, people would live in harmony, there would be peace and not war, there would be no poverty.”

International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (formerly International Coalition of Apostles)

A group of NAR founders initiated the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL), which was originally named the International Coalition of Apostles, in 2000. Peter Wagner was named its leader, or “presiding apostle,” later that year. ICAL is a self-described “professional society” for apostles and a model for the reorganization of religious institutions according to NAR’s apostolic and prophetic structure.

ICAL membership is limited to established apostles and is by invitation only. Its membership list is no longer publicly available, but it has included up to about 500 apostles, some of whom have hundreds or even thousands of ministries under their authority.

NAR’s fluid relational networks and anti-institutional nature make it difficult to quantify its size and influence. They also allow ICAL to make grandiose claims of engaging 200 million people—or, conversely, to deny its significance altogether. But anecdotal evidence suggests that the apostolic and prophetic movement has a growing global influence. Wagner began turning over his leadership roles to leading apostles in 2010, when he turned 80, and John Kelly, based in Texas, became ICAL’s head. Since then, Kelly has accelerated the organization’s international efforts. The report for the 2015 ICAL annual convention claimed that “Sixty nations were represented by Conveners, and Ambassadors and leaders who are making a significant impact in all areas of international society.” ICAL claims to relate to over 70 nations, including Ghana, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, where established apostolic coalitions already exist. In Rwanda, Paul Gitwaza serves as the Convener for the Rwanda Coalition of Apostolic

Leaders, and is also the director of Rick Warren’s PEACE Plan development program. Peter Wagner served as Warren’s advisor and mentor while he attended Fuller Theological Seminary, and his influence is evident in Warren’s theocratic advances in Africa.[3]

Africa Profiles ArrowFor more details, see American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism. 

Updated 5/8/18.