Religious Right Leaders Strategize: Who Needs SCOTUS When You Can Control Everything Else?

Last week, hundreds of “God fearing, freedom loving Americans” gathered at Skyline Wesleyan Church—a conservative megachurch in the San Diego area—for the “Future Conference: What You Thought Was Coming … Is Here Now.”

Michael Brown, author of Navigating as a Christian in an LGBT Dominated World," speaks at the 2015 Future Conference.

Michael Brown, author of “Can You Be Gay and Christian?,” gives a speech called Navigating as a Christian in an LGBT Dominated World at the 2015 Future Conference.

For four days, Skyline’s $12 million “worship center” served as host to some of the Religious Right’s leading voices as they outlined the impending doom brought on by “secular totalitarianism,” “homosexual fascists,” and other “evil, anti-family” elements of society. Major themes of the conference included religious liberty, “militant Islam,” abortion, pornography, marriage, and “biblical economics.”

Spend a day listening to right-wing news outlets, and you would likely hear many of the same inflammatory talking points covered by the 50+ speakers featured at the conference. Terrorism “experts” reported on the threat of ISIS, Christian educators discussed the encroachment of civil rights legislation on their freedom to discriminate, anti-LGBTQ activists outlined strategies for moving forward after the Supreme Court rules on marriage equality, communications and media professionals offered tips for more effective promotion of right-wing rhetoric… it was a seemingly endless stream of dire warnings, grave threats, and galvanizing calls to action.

The content, though substantive, was not the most compelling feature of the gathering; rather, it was the diverse cast of characters, representing a vast array of institutions and organizations, all coming together in one place for a singular event and openly associating themselves with an event put on by the U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (USCAL), the American organizing body of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

NAR disciples seek to take dominion over the “Seven Mountains” of society:

  1. Arts and Entertainment
  2. Business
  3. Education
  4. Family
  5. Government
  6. Media
  7. Religion

NAR is a hierarchical network of “apostles” that seeks to “remake the theology and structure of Christianity in a theocratic mold.” (See PRA’s profile of NAR.) Just four years ago, Religious Right leaders were reluctant to openly affiliate themselves with this extremely controversial movement, but it seems that NAR’s dominionist agenda is no longer a thing seen to be shameful.

USCAL is part of the U.S.-based International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL), which was conceived in 1999 and initially led by C. Peter Wagner. ICAL’s mission is to “connect apostles’ wisdom and resources in order that each member can function more strategically, combine their efforts globally, and effectively accelerate the advancement of the Kingdom of God into every sphere of society.”

To clarify, this “advancement of the Kingdom of God” is a theocratic mandate to exert authority over what they see as the power sources of society. Specifically, NAR disciples refer to the various spheres of society as the “Seven Mountains,” consisting of arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion. You can be sure that each of these spheres was well represented at the Future Conference.

USCAL was officially launched in November 2014. Joe Mattera—who declares that his mission is to “influence leaders who influence nations”—currently serves as the national convener. Mattera boasts that through his books, weekly writings, and regular mainstream media appearances, he reaches “thousands of leaders in more than 130 nations.”

This new American division of ICAL already claims approximately 300 “significant leaders” as dues-paying members from both religious and corporate realms (the annual fee for regular members is $450). Among them is Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church.

Garlow, who was a key leader on the anti-LGBTQ side of California’s 2008 Prop. 8 marriage equality battle, served as the principal organizer of the Future Conference—USCAL’s first large-scale national event. He has been a prominent apostle in the NAR movement for many years, and stacked last week’s line-up (56 speakers in all) with his fellow NAR comrades. The program included some of the most infamous NAR leaders in the world: Joe Mattera, Lou Engle, Dennis Peacocke, Harry Jackson, and Lance Wallnau.

Wallnau—a business consultant, leadership coach, and “growth strategist” based in Dallas, Texas—functions as one of the leading Seven Mountains promotional speakers, and has referred to the concept as a template for warfare. His presentation on the final evening was the Future Conference’s culminating event.

With the enthusiasm of a high school football coach trying to rally his underdog team to victory, he delighted the crowd with sloppy dry erase board diagrams, self-aggrandizing stories, a candid sense of humor, and a fiery passion. He began his speech by reviewing the doom and gloom that previous speakers had covered—“We’ve got people being martyred, killed… homosexuals are taking over… Muslims are attacking… the economy is collapsing… what’s left to traumatize you with?!”

The intention of this design, however, became increasingly evident as Wallnau laid out the Seven Mountains strategy—a plan to ultimately gain control over all realms of society. This was a long-awaited salve for an audience filled with fearful, demoralized individuals. If they weren’t already convinced upon arrival, by day four, conference participants seemed thoroughly persuaded of the fact that their country, their families, and their faith was under attack. Wallnau had a solution, and the crowd of several hundred (plus countless more watching the livestream remotely) laughed, cheered, applauded, and amened with enthusiasm and relief.

“We are losing the battle of culture!” Wallnau shouted as he paced the stage. He then proceeded to make his case for the New Apostolic Reformation: Christians, he explained, have been too disconnected, pursuing their own paths and ministries. “We are in need of a centralized hub,” he declared.

During a 2008 interview on Pat King’s Extreme Prophetic TV broadcast, Wallnau claimed that it would only take 3-5% of people aggressively working in any given location to create a tipping point and gain control over the Seven Mountains. That small group of leaders, however, must be unified.

According to Wallnau, the LGBTQ community’s success has come because they have been more connected and unified than Christians in their efforts to create societal change.[1] But contrary to what some might believe, Wallnau’s unifying strategy isn’t dependent on top-down domination; instead, he promotes domination from within. “Our people should be sitting at the gates [of influence],” he explained, “and we should be ruling—not instead of, but in the midst of.”

“We need be getting our people up those mountains,” and through the establishment of what he calls “micro churches”—small strategic prayer groups within institutions of power across all Seven Mountains—Wallnau asserts that those leaders will be able to “hear from heaven and legislate what God wants them to do.”

“Proximity is power,” he explained. Indeed, a member of Skyline Church’s pastoral team is currently based full time in Washington, DC, where he facilitates a weekly prayer group for Congressional staff members. The Jefferson Gathering, as it’s called, is convenes every Wednesday night in the Capitol.

“This is a whole different level of strategic alignments,” Wallnau asserted.

And these alignments aren’t limited to the United States. NAR’s relational networks, and the movement’s emphasis on “taking dominion” over society, are deeply influential throughout the world. In Uganda, for example, Lou Engle, an NAR apostle and featured speaker at the Future Conference, staged TheCall Uganda in 2010 to promote the Anti-Homosexuality Bill amidst heated debate over its death-penalty provision. And in Singapore, Lawrence Khong—one of the country’s leading anti-LGBTQ activists and part of the original group of apostles responsible for the formulation of ICAL—has hosted Jim Garlow at his megachurch on multiple occasions to further advance his efforts against LGBTQ equality.

As increasing numbers of Religious Right leaders (many of them affiliated with highly influential organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, and National Organization for Marriage) continue to align themselves with NAR’s Dominionist agenda, unifying themselves around this “centralized hub,” we can anticipate that the future—much like the present—will be marked by the continued oppression of LGBTQ people, women, Muslims, and countless others.


 

[1] As well as being unified, Wallnau declared that LGBTQ activists are like Nazis, who will just keep coming at you (no matter “what you offer as a sacrifice out of love”) because they’re motivated to “annihilate the opposition.” This association was especially poignant given the number of comparisons made throughout the conference between the atrocities inflicted on Jews during the Holocaust and the current experience of Christians in the Middle East.

The Response: A Christian Right Rally for Dominion

The Christian Right hopes that the mass prayer rally tomorrow, January 24, at Louisiana State University will be one of the largest in recent history.  Organizers are also seeking a thousand clergy willing to be trained to run as Christian Right candidates for office at all levels of government—the controversy when the event was announced last December (when they included claims that natural disasters are the result of abortion and support for marriage equality) notwithstanding.

The event, known as The Response, will be hosted by Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and is a follow-up to the large prayer rally in 2011—also called The Response—that served as the de facto launch of the presidential campaign of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).  Some 30,000 people turned out for the 2011 event, which was unprecedented in the history of American politics.

But whether or not the organizers are able to meet the expectations and the high bar set in 2011—the numbers will not tell the whole story.

Organizers of the Jan 24, 2015 "The Response" in Baton Rouge, LA, hope to beat the turnout of the 2011 "The Response" in Houston, TX

“The Response” in Houston, TX in 2011

The Response in 2011 was largely organized by top leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a movement that has evolved from historic Pentecostal and Charismatic evangelicalism. Many of the NAR leaders are open about seeking cultural and political dominion over the rest of society, as Rachel Tabachnick detailed in her groundbreaking study in The Public Eye.

NAR leaders were prominently involved in organizing the event, notably Alice Patterson, Doug Stringer, and Jim Garlow, who headed the campaign for the anti-marriage equality Proposition Eight in California.  Numerous NAR leaders played roles or were prominently present at the event, including Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and NAR’s central figure, C. Peter Wagner.  Doug Stringer is said to be the principal organizer for this year’s The Response in Baton Rouge.

The Christian Right had hoped to rally around one candidate for the GOP nomination—and Rick Perry was their great, White, hope—and The Response was a way to give their blessing without actually formally endorsing the candidate.  The honorary co-chairs of The Response included Focus on the Family founders James and Shirley Dobson, The Urban Alternative president Tony Evans, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Richard Land,  Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez.

But like the best laid plans of mice and men, Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign faltered, even with the help of several smaller events which were also organized under the rubric of The Response in key states.  The Christian Right did not manage to find a plausible candidate against the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney.

A lot of the same organizations and money behind the 2011 event is also involved in this year’s event, notably from the American Family Association and United In Purpose/Champion the Vote.  These groups guided by political operative David Lane, and have been organizing state level events called Pastors Policy Briefings for years, particularly in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida, early states on the Republican presidential nomination calendar.  The Pastor Policy Briefings are all-expense-paid events for clergy and their spouses, intended to ground conservative clergy in the dominionist worldview of the organizers, and to showcase candidates who are likely to appeal to the Christian Right.

Training Theocratic Candidates in the Name of Liberty

This time, although Gov. Jindal is the host and keynote speaker, the event seems to be more about movement-building than about propelling the ambitions of a single potential candidate.  At the end of 2014, Jindal sent a letter to a reported 100,000 pastors (presumably gleaned from the Pastor Policy Briefings) with the aim of getting a thousand of them to come to Baton Rouge the day before and attend something called The Issachar Training to prepare to run for office. Jindal claimed that the Lord has a role for them to play “in protecting Religious Liberty in our nation.” He also said this can be achieved by clergy engaging “in the public square with Biblical values… to reset the course of American governance,” and thereby bring “America back to God.”

The Issachar Training and The Response, while technically unrelated, are both funded by the American Renewal Project of the AFA, led by Lane.

“The thought that came to me,” Lane told the Christian Examiner, “if the Lord called 1,000 pastors to run for an elective office, and each of them had an average of 300 volunteers, that would be 300,000 grass root, precinct-level, evangelical conservatives coming from the ground up, engaged in the political process. It would change America!”

“Nobody’s confused that politicians are going to save America,” Lane continued. “These engaged evangelicals would be voting for their biblically-based conservative values.”

Same Event, Different Year

Contrary to some reports, this year’s event is not just “similar” to the 2011. In addition to the sponsoring organizations and organizers being the same, so are the details.

“Isn’t just like The Response — it is The Response,” said PRA fellow Rachel Tabachnick, who wrote about The Response in 2011.  “They are using the same web site and many of the video endorsements from 2011—including one by Samuel Rodriguez.”

“They also didn’t bother to update their prayer guide from 2011,” she added.

Indeed, the prayer guide became a national controversy soon after the December announcement of the Baton Rouge rally, because it suggested that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina were God’s punishment for legal abortion and growing support for marriage equality in the United States.  In order to avoid worse and more, they claimed, repentance is necessary.  The prayer guide was quickly scrubbed from The Response web site — but not before the contents had been documented and exposed:

“We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before.  We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle.  Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C.  Pornography is available on-demand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes.  While the United States still claims to be a nation ‘under God’ it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity.

“This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many and crippled entire cities, such as Tuscaloosa, AL & Joplin, MO.  And let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, which rendered the entire Gulf Coast powerless.”

Although The Response pulled back the controversial rhetoric, there is no indication that they have in any substantive way changed their views—any more than the candidates they train are likely to hold views much different than these.  The idea of taking cultural and political dominion in order to save America from God’s wrath is not new, and whether David Lane et al succeed in getting a thousand pastors to abandon their pulpits to become politicians remains to be seen.  But the determination of the Christian Right to develop and sustain a theocratic electoral capacity seems undiminished.

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Profiles on the Right: Dennis Peacocke

Dennis Peacocke

Dennis Peacocke, one of the leading modern-day apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), and, interestingly, an alumnus of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (FSM) protests.

Dennis Peacocke was arrested in the 1964 protest and was one of the participants interviewed in a 1984 San Francisco Examiner series of articles on the veterans of the event.  The interview provides insight into his conversion from student activists in the Free Speech Movement to an authoritarian religious leader. Peacocke was already in a leadership role by the time of the 1984 interview in which Peacocke stated, “We do not believe that the Kingdom of God is democratic.”

Peacocke is one of the early pioneers behind the networking of modern-day apostles and prophets and continues as one of the leaders of the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), now called the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders.  (Lou Engle is one of the modern-day “prophets” in the NAR and has been part of the parallel Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders.) The NAR has been influenced by Christian Reconstructionism and its Dominion Theology, an offshoot from Calvinism, but it also has roots in a parallel brand of dominionism from the Charismatic/Pentecostal sector, sometimes referred to as Kingdom Now, and taught through the Latter Rain Movement of the 1950s and the Shepherding Movement of the 1970s and early 1980s. Following his conversion, Peacocke would become a disciple of Bob Mumford, one of the leaders of the Shepherding Movement.

Peacocke was interviewed for the six-day series of articles in the San Francisco Examiner recognizing the 20th anniversary of the FSM protests.  Peacocke is described in the 1984 series as not being typical of the FSM alumni chosen for the 20-years-later survey and as a minister in the “shepherding” movement.  The author continues, “It demands total life commitment from members. He calls himself ‘an extreme activist’ in the service of Christ.”

The following is a segment of that interview and the accompanying photo:

Peacocke had attended Cal on a football scholarship but suffered a disabling injury on the field.

He was 21 when he journeyed from the sunlit steps of Sproul Hall through a cultural looking-glass of radical politics, LSD and Eastern philosophy.

“I was a Zen Buddhist, took drugs—the whole shot,” he said, “It was a strange thing. If anybody had told me then I’d be a Christer, I’d say they were crazy.”

Peacocke said he still embraces the FSM legacy of political activism. It taught him, he said, that the church should lead the way.

Unlike the FSM, the shepherding movement is authoritarian.

Peacocke said, “We do not believe that the Kingdom of God is a democracy.”

Dennis Peacocke newspaper photoAs president of the Christian Covenant Fellowship based in the Bay Area, he oversees dozens of shepherds, who in turn oversee those lower in the movement’s pyramid.

“The church missed a golden opportunity to take a truly Christian posture and challenge people to change,” he said. “Today, I want the church in the vanguard, not the tail.”

He has helped set up “alternatives-to- abortion” counseling clinics I throughout the Bay Area. He worries about what he calls the deterioration of the family.

As for his fellow FSMers, Peacocke said he does not question their sincerity. But he disputes what he calls the premise of socialism, that the individual is largely produced by economic, social and political relations of the time.

“The great battle is about the two opposing views of man,” he said. “Is man a product of human engineering? Or of God?”

Real change, he said, begins with souls, not social institutions. “Jesus said it best,” said Peacocke, the man twice transformed into radical activism.

“Unless you are born again you can’t really change anything.”

By the late 1980s, author Sarah Diamond described Peacocke as “one of the most significant behind-the-scenes operators of the Christian Right.”  Diamond goes into detail in her books about the role Peacocke played in the Coalition on Revival (COR), a 1980s organization that worked to unify an array of leaders from different theological beliefs in support of a religo-political agenda of taking control over all “spheres” of society and government.  Peacocke, Bob Weiner of Maranatha Campus Ministries (also now an apostle), and others represented the Kingdom Now or Charismatic arm of the partnership while the  Christian Reconstructionist representation included Rousas Rushdoony, David Chilton, Gary DeMar, and Gary North.

One of the products of COR was  A Manifesto for the Christian Church, signed by participants in 1986, and a series of Worldview Documents describing the goals in each of 17 spheres including government, law, economics, business, education, science, technology, and more.  The apostles and prophets of the NAR would later simplify this concept as possessing the “gates” or “mountains,” packaged and marketed internationally as the “Seven Mountains Mandate.”

Peacocke brought Shepherding/Discipling Movement techniques to the COR along with serving as shepherd over some participants. Diamond reported that COR recommended application of these authoritarian tools to churches, including the use of small “cell groups” or pyramidal structures to hold members accountable for biblical obedience to leadership.

These authoritarian structures and ideology have been refined and toned down since the 1980s, but thrive and are being used in churches and ministries today through the growing influence of the NAR and neo-Calvinist churches.

Today Peacocke continues as a leader in training disciples for taking the “seven mountains” through his Strategic Christian Services, working in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, Asia, and Central America. Describing himself as a former Marxist before his conversion, today his emphasis is on the business mountain, describing economics as “truly the engine of dominion.”  Peacocke’s biblical economics is similar to that of Gary North and other Christian Reconstructionists, a Kingdom economics that looks like the marriage of Ayn Rand to Old Testament law.

Gary North dedicated his book Wisdom and Dominion, part of his series on biblical economics, as follows:

“This book is dedicated to

Dennis Peacocke

A revolutionary who switched sides”

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Profiles on the Right: Mike Bickle, Founder of the International House of Prayer

Mike Bickle

Mike Bickle is the founder and director of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and one of the pioneers of the apostolic and prophetic movement (also known as the New Apostolic Reformation or NAR).  IHOP, based in Kansas City, Missouri, is a model for youth-oriented prayer ministries around the world and shares board members and tax affiliation with Lou Engle’s TheCall.

Bickle and the Prophets 

Bickle is a Charismatic evangelist who led the Kansas City Fellowship in the 1980s and 1990s and was at the center of a group often referred to as the “Kansas City Prophets.”  The group, including Bob Jones (not affiliated with Bob Jones University), Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, Francis Frangipane, and others, claimed to be the part of God’s plan for the reemergence of the role of apostles and prophets. Bickle and the church were the subject of controversy in the early 1990s following the distribution of a report by another Charismatic pastor titled “Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teaching of the Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries).”  The controversy died down after the leader of the Vineyard Movement of churches, John Wimber, agreed to take the church into his network.

The IHOP Vision 

Bickle and Bob Jones claim they had received visions and prophecies that Bickle would lead an international movement— a “young adult prayer movement led by prophetic singers and musicians”—and in 1999 founded the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  Bickle teaches that today’s youth are the “eschatological generation” who will experience the End Times, and that they must prepare for the coming “Antichrist.”  Like Engle, Bickle teaches his youth followers that they must prepare to be martyrs.  Bickle stated in 2009, “It will be your greatest honor if the Lord chooses you to be a martyr.”

Bickle’s IHOP has spawned an international movement of “houses of prayer” that feature ongoing prayer around the clock.  The organization provides training materials from its Kansas City headquarters and is live streamed to 24/7 houses of prayer around the world. There are approximately 500 similar houses of prayer based on this model in the U.S. and more worldwide.  IHOP also trains students at its Kansas City campus in media, music and in preparation for missionary work, like that seen in the movie God Loves Uganda.  Bickle and his fellow apostles and prophets are fixated on the role of Jews in the End Times, and lead a project titled the “Israel Mandate” to support Messianic communities and the conversion of Jews around the world in order to advance the return of Jesus.  Bickle claims biblical prophecy indicates there will be another era of concentration camps for Jews before Jesus returns.

Mike Bickle and Lou Engle lead TheCall Jerusalem, held simultaneously in 2008 with the Global Day of Prayer.

Pioneer of the Apostolic and Prophetic (NAR)

Bickle was one of the co-authors of a 2000 book on integrating the new role of “prophets” into churches and ministries, edited and published by C. Peter Wagner, titled Pastors & Prophets: Protocol for Healthy Churches. He was also one of the speakers for the Wagner-initiated “National School of the Prophets” in 1999 which was advertised as “Prophets help[ing] to prepare the way for the apostles to establish the Lord’s church,” and included leading NAR apostles Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets, Rick Joyner and Barbara Wentroble.

Bickle was also one of the initial members of the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders formed by Wagner as he developed a model for New Apostolic networks and ministries designed to replace the traditional denominational structure.

Politics and Religion

Bickle’s IHOP has the stated mission of influencing “the seven spheres of society -family, education, government, economy, arts, media, and religion.” IHOP prayer leaders and musicians led Gov. Rick Perry’s all-day prayer event in Houston in 2011, a week before Perry announced his presidential campaign.  Bickle himself led much of the event, which used New Apostolic language and imagery to call for the country to repent for abortion and gay rights (referred to as sexual immorality) and for the conversion of Jews.  IHOP puts a trendy and youthful gloss on a movement that is fiercely opposed to reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and has played a role in TheCall events held around the nation.  The Desert Streams ministry of Andy Comiskey, former head of Exodus International, was temporary housed under the umbrella of Bickle’s ministries after leaving the Vineyard network Next Profile arrowand continues to work closely with IHOP.  One of many IHOP tax affiliated entities is Exodus Cry/Nefarious, a ministry dedicated to ending sex trafficking, whose leadership teaches that conversion of prostitutes is a priority and that it is necessary to expel demons from prostitutes.

Mike Bickle leads Rick Perry’s “The Response” prayer event in Houston in 2011.

Anti-LGBTQ, Anti-Union “Apostles” Fielding Another Democratic Candidate

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.

Transformation VallejoSilvoso’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.

Global Origins

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.

Conclusion

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.