Continuing this series on what in the world are our denominational and ministry leaders doing, today I want to talk about the Assembly of God (AG). I will be reviewing an interesting event that happened 7 years ago in that denomination. Now remember, the AG had just spent a decade recovering from three of their licensees' scandals - Jim Bakker, Jerry Swaggert and Marv Gorman. By the year 2000, the AG leadership (at least some of it) seemed to be favorable to the Brownsville AG "revival." At the AG yearly conference Steve Hill, the evangelist at Brownsville at that time. was their main speaker. Many AG pastors were understandably upset. Their reasoning had to do with a resolution passed by the AG in 1949 against the Latter Rain teaching which these pastors agreed with. Of course these teachings are once again showing up in the Third Wave Charismatic "river" Revival. You see, this teaching and accompanying manifestations aren't so "new" after all. Here is what the 1949 resolution basically said,
1. The overemphasis relative to imparting, identifying, bestowing, or confirming of gifts by the laying on of hands and prophecy.
2. The erroneous teaching that the Church is built on the foundation of present-day apostles and prophets.
3. The extreme teaching as advocated by the "New Order," regarding the confession of sin to man and deliverance as practiced, which claims prerogatives to human agency which belongs only to Christ.
4. The erroneous teaching concerning the impartation of the gift of languages as special equipment for missionary service. (Interestingly this is the only tenet no longer being promoted. Why? Because it didn't work the way it was advertised.)
5. The extreme and unscriptural practice of imparting or imposing personal leadings by the means of the gifts of utterance.
6. Such other wrestlings and distortions of scripture interpretations which are in opposition to teachings and practices generally accepted among us.
So these AG pastors decided to present another resolution at the yearly AG meeting in 2000 to basically reaffirm what was already in their statement of faith - in other words, what they apassed in 1949. They felt that at least some of their leaders were caving into it mainly because of Brownsville, although there were (and still are) other AG churches that were getting into this too.
The Resolution they presented was labeled Resolution 16 and tabled for a year until a special presbyter committee could respond. To their credit, a year later, they did pass it with little editing and some good stuff added. Here is part of what the AG finally came up with,
RESOLVED, That this General Council reaffirm the decision of the General Council of 1949, as stated: We recognize a hunger on the part of God's people for a spiritual refreshing and manifestation of His Holy Spirit [and] That we set our hearts to seek for a continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit founded upon the clear teaching of the Word of God. Be it further
RESOLVED, That we disapprove of Latter Rain doctrines and practices such as "impartation," "birthing," "Joel's Army," and the "five-fold ministries" taught as "offices" with "predictive prophecy," and other extraneous teachings "which, being unfounded scripturally, serve only to break fellowship . . . and tend to confusion and division."
1. The overemphasis on identifying, bestowing, or imparting spiritual gifts by the laying on of hands and naming, supposedly by prophecy, specific gifts.
2. The problematic teaching that present-day offices of apostles and prophets should govern church ministry at all levels.
3. The practice of imparting or imposing personal leadings by means of gifts of utterance.
4. Wresting and distorting Scripture through interpretations that are in opposition to the primary meaning of biblical passages.
-Kingdom Now or Dominion theology
-Manifest Sons of God and Joel’s Army
-Spiritualizing Biblical Events and History
-The Prosperity Gospel
5. Excessive fixation on Satan and demonic spirits
To save space I didn't quote out all the explanations under each point. But essentially most points were acknowledged as perhaps having some Biblical points, but it was the excesses that concerned the committee.
I am very happy to see that the AG took the positions they did on that topic. Now however, I think what we will look for in all of our denominations and ministries including the AG is will the leadership speak out against other heretical trends that are flooding in? There seem to be AG churches that are into emergent or seeker sensitive; some that are still enthralled with the Third Wave, and others into other weird stuff. Will the leadership of the AG (as well as other denominational leaders) keep silent? Or, will they embrace some of these heresies? Or will they speak out against them AND discipline their member churches a little more? Only time will tell.
Thomas Trask, the outgong leader of the AG, gave an astounding speech at the 2007 AG convention ongoing now. I say astounding because he was also leading the AG in 2000. But his present view is very welcome and basically should be uttered and followed by every evangelical denominational and ministry leader. Here are parts of his speech,
Many churches in America today [are] offering … new religion that guarantees no hell, requires no holiness. It is a limp, spineless Christianity that does not confront sin for fear of being judgmental. It is an impotent gospel that tells people everything is okay. May it never … invade this church!