Documenting the 'Shadow War' on Mainstream Faith
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon May 29, 2006 at 12:52:45 PM EST
Talk To Action contributor the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer has kindly provided me with these scanned examples of literature ( see full story for complete set of full size images ) used in attacks on United Churches of Christ churches by fundamentalist "renewal group" para-church groups associated with the far-right funded Institute on Religion and Democracy Listen to a recent, groundbreaking Talk To Action / State of Belief radio show [ link to archived podcast of show ] on these attacks, hosted by Interfaith Alliance head C. Welton Gaddy. See "State of Belief" show description.

John Dorhauer writes an ongoing series here, on Talk To Action, detailing methods used to attack individual UCC churches and also methods for protecting and innoculating churches against takeover efforts.

Such takeover efforts can be highly traumatic to church congregations, and even among those which succesfully resist such attacks - which often feature covert tactics of innuendo and misinformation - those who have lived through such conflicts can be loath to talk openly about the experience.

That has worked to cast a veil over the subject which has in turn facillitated this ongoing "shadow war" which is detailed in Dorhauer's writing and also in a dedicated section of collected writings here on Talk To Action which - although very far from comprehensive - nonetheless may have no equal, in its range of material and sustained treatment of "The Shadow War"

All mainline Protestant denominations are under such attack ( see: The Shadow War ), and both the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches face possible schism this summer.

The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer was also recently featured on a groundbreaking Air America /. State of Belief radio show*, the result of a collaborative effort between Talk To Action and Interfaith Alliance head C. Welton Gaddy's new "State of Belief" show, which featured a discussion between Gaddy and two other prominent leaders in the fight against far-right engineered church takeovers, Dr. Andrew Weaver - also a Methodist Minister, and Dr. Bruce Prescott - also a Baptist minister : the show was very likely unprecedented in that the subject matter had never before been openly discussed in a detailed way in on such a public forum as  radio or television broadcast with wide distribution. Here is an archived podcast of the show

*Produced by Isaac-Davy Aronson

"Welcome To The Matrix" :

In John Dorhauer's latest installment he discusses one document that is central to the attacks on UCC churces. "The Matrix", however, is not merely found in attacks on UCC churches. Analogues of "The matrix" seem to be used in attacks on the  entire range of Protestant denominations under attack : The United Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Congregationalist, and UCC churches and also in attacks on Baptist churches not yet affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Perhaps one of the most often used devices circulated amongst our churches under attack is a document we refer to as "The Matrix."

sample 'matrix'

This particular document purports to be an objective analysis of how the United Church of Christ compares to biblical principles, orthodox theologies, and the historic faith. It is most often presented as the work of a "Research Committee" whose purpose it is to present objective analysis about the merits of staying or leaving the UCC; and it is presented with the assumption that the members of the committee came up with this information on their own.

It is, in fact, a document that - though in each location it goes through some editorial revision to appear "new" and particular to that church - began circulating almost 20 years ago and which gets handed to the activists in a local church by whomever it may be that is coaching the takeover.

Here is a brochure for a group attacking the UCC which goes by the name of "Faithful and Welcoming" : what are these "Faithful and Welcoming Groups ? - John Dorhauer explains

Other Denominations :

For evidence of attacks on other Protestant denominations, here are two recent examples : here is a recent Talk To Action member submitted post on a recent IRD attack on the United Methodist Churchin the form of a letter sent to various Methodist leaders. A new study has traced the funding of groups attacking the Presbyterian Church : As Talk To Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson narrates, "The two-part series by former Washington Post and New York Times reporter James Naughton ( "Follow The Money" ) examines, according to a press release, the network of conservative groups, "their donors and the strategy that has allowed them to destabilize the Episcopal Church.... The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion "to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face a possible schism.

For more, see : "The Shadow War"

I listened to that fine broadcast on "State of Belief" and really enjoyed that (and I let Air America know how much I enjoyed it).

I belong to Church of Religious Science (  - that one).  I guess that we are too small for the RR.  

It makes me wonder what is the best way to protect a progressively-minded church from this type of invasion.  Is the answer to not put assets in the churches' names?

Progressives don't ruin the services of the far-right churches; why don't they just leave progressives alone and allow them a place to call their own?

by Maat on Mon May 29, 2006 at 05:31:51 PM EST

As it is, there is no good way to assure that your church will not be targeted.  (The origins of these church hijack attempts actually date at least 35 years and closer to fifty, were originally started by the same "dominion theology" preachers who invented "cell churches" and much of the "spiritual warfare" theology you see in groups like BattleCry, and which have already claimed a number of casualties.)

The groups (including the Institute for Religion and Democracy, Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International, and lesser known groups) that push this generally make thirty-year plans (or more) in that they will "farm" congregations within a mainstream congregation for years or decades--and then "movements" like the ones linked to IRD will be actively encouraged once a critical mass of "convertees" has been reached.

These same groups also believe that "sheep-stealing"--the deliberate attempt to convert people who are already members of a Christian faith--is not only acceptable but to be encouraged, because (in their worldview) all non-dominionist Christians are "lukewarm" Christians at best (and thus seen as damned because "God will spit them out") and as frank blasphemers at worst.  (Yes, you're reading that right.  These groups literally do not see non-dominionist Christians as being fellow Christians at all but as heretics.)

Typically the groups actively farming this stuff encourage members to stay in their home churches (rather than split), encourage them to recruit others in stealth, and demonise the leadership and emphasize the importance of hijacking.  The recruitment tactics in some cases strongly resemble the deceptive tactics used in recruitment to dominionist groups linked to--or actually identified as--coercive religious groups.

The best things you can do to protect your church from this:

a) Learn how groups like the IRD and other "church hijack" groups operate (the IRD is by far not the only one).

b) Keep a careful eye on "charismatic" groups within your church.  Whilst some are legitimate and unaffiliated with dominionist groups, some "charismatic" and "evangelical" groups within mainstream denominations are in fact "seeded" groups from dominionist neopente churches (the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International, a de facto front of the Assemblies of God, is downright infamous for this; among groups hit have been the Catholic Church (a lot of "Charismatic Catholic" congregations have been FGBMFI seeded), the Southern Baptist Convention (which eventually was hijacked entirely by dominionists; there is strong evidence that the takeover was farmed as early as the 1960's by planting "Charismatic Baptist" congregations in mainstream SBC churches, and at least one of the persons linked to the SBC hijacking was a "Charismatic" Southern Baptist; this same person was a member of the "Fort Lauderdale Five", a group of "dominion theology" promoters who invented the coercive "cell church" setup specifically as a tool for church hijacks and originated the tactics now usd by the IRD), and (in proof that no church denomination is immune) possibly even the Friends (the "Evangelical Friends", one of the three main Friends congregations in the US, is a dominionist split which has more in common theologically and in its worship services with neopentecostals than other Friends groups, and was largely the result of close partnering and "sheep-stealing" by neopente "evangelical" groups targeting conservative Friends).

c) Educate yourselves, and your church body, on the tactics used by spiritually abusive groups in general.  (Yes, this is a very powerful "dominionist-proofing" tool; the major way in which church hijacks and splits are "farmed" by dominionist groups is by outside groups or infiltrators starting "cell churches" within your church.  "Cell churches", as used by dominionist groups, tend to be highly controlling of facets of members' lives and are in fact increasingly considered a warning sign of a spiritually abusive group as is (because in practice these groups have almost inevitably turned highly abusive).  Other bits of dominionist theology--especially among the "dominion theology" practitioners who breed these groups--also qualify as highly abusive and learning how abusive groups in general recruit and control members is a valuable tool to keep them from coming in to begin with.)

c) Keep an ear out--both with your fellow pastors and in your congregation--for possible hijack attempts.  This includes keeping a watch out for "renewal" or "revival" movements in general.  (Again, some of these are legitimate; basically you have to find out some information first.)

d) You may have to end up placing a specific church bylaw in regards to what to do re infiltration or split attempts--including disfellowship, if your church bylaws allow it.  (Yes, I know it's extreme.  Sadly, these groups are determined enough that just about the only sure way to keep them out is to "IRD-proof" the congregation as much as possible and boot anyone out trying to breed a "cell church" group.  Speaking as a survivor of one of the very denominations most infamous for breeding these "revival" movements used to hijack churches, I can safely say that you must be this vigilant.)

e) Realise that if you have found one group that is pulling this in your church, you may well have up to five other "cells" or cell members that you aren't aware of.  (Again, stealth is a BIG part of how they spread.)

by dogemperor on Tue May 30, 2006 at 12:14:57 AM EST

In regards to the SBC Takeover under Section B, I am interested in knowing what evidence you have to show that these supposedly planted "Charasmatic" Baptist congregations in the 1960's had to do with the Fundamentalist Takeover of the 80's?  To my knowledge, Charles Simpson was not an influential man among the takeover-leaders.  One thing that both fundamentalists and moderates shared in common during this period of time was their distaste for Charasmatics within their denomination.  

You seem to imply that Charles Simpson was this powerful and influential guy in SBC life!  Hardly.  Did he not leave the SBC?  There was not room at the table for a Charasmatic like Simpson!  The Takeover was about power and control.  I haven't seen much evidence to support your conclusion that the takeover was farmed in the 60's by planting these congregations!

Please fill in the holes?

by Big Daddy Weave on Wed May 31, 2006 at 01:31:14 AM EST

To understand how folks like Charles Simpson were involved in the hijacking, one has to understand how church hijacks are typically farmed.

Specifically, the typical "modus operandi" of, say, an Assemblies-linked church hijack group is that they will get a "convert contact" in a targeted church and establish links with them--usually through the FGBMFI or, more recently, IRD-linked "renewal and revival" groups.  They will specifically instruct the person to stay in their home congregation and then convert as many of the people as possible--also instructing them to stay in their home group--and to form cells.  (In other words, they are instructed to essentially form a "church within a church".)

In fact, the whole "cell church" structure was originally designed to break up churches--and in fact, documentation of the period shows that the SBC was specifically chosen as one of the first targets to "test" this.

The big connection here is that Charles Simpson was one of the first to promote frank dominionism, and "Cell churches" as a method to promote it within churches:

(from article on dominionism and "cell churches" within "covenantalist" movement)

It is significant that Charles Simpson, one of the leaders of the old shepherding-discipleship movement, is the founder and Chairman of The Fellowship of Covenant Ministers and Churches (FCMC), head- quartered in Orlando, Florida. One of FCMC's purposes is to promote covenantalism with the goal of establishing pastors as the disciplers of a dominionist agenda.

Em Baxter, Simpson's associate in the shepherding-discipleship movement, is an Advisor to FCMC. In its first two years FCMC granted membership to some 120 churches as well as many independent ministries, and is growing steadily. In its first two years FCMC granted membership to some 120 churches as well as many independent ministries, and is growing steadily.

According to the thinking of those at the forefront of covenantalism, dominion cannot be achieved without worldwide evangelism which, in turn, is dependent upon a sufficient number of Christians being groomed to "take their communities and nations by force." This does not mean preaching the Gospel, although that is a part of the program. Rather, it means taking control of the spiritual and temporal forces that govern the world system. It is by nature ecumenical and concerned more with establishing a society based on biblical ethics I than on true righteousness in Christ.

I've written a more in-depth article on the general role of cell churches and church hijacks here.

It's not so much that Charles Simpson was an Al Mohler, a major leader--it's more to the point that he, and other persons (most of whom are quite anonymous) who have farmed "cell churches" in mainstream groups, are more like the cuckoos who lay eggs in the nests of other birds--once the baby cuckoo hatches, it crowds out the other nestlings (killing them) while the mother and father bird feed the cuckoo to the detriment of their offspring.

Since the dominionist hijacking, the SBC has become much friendlier to those in the neopente "dominion theology" community (including having increasing partnerships by folks like Bill Gothard and Ron Luce, both of which had their start with neopente dominion theology groups)--more and more, the SBC is slowly turning into "Assemblies Light".  (This is by design, and they've also been targeting the Catholics like this too.)

The ultimate goal with these groups is to lay a "cuckoo egg" (which is basically what Simpson and others like him did), and eventually the cuckoos will crowd the other nestlings out.  Carried to its logical conclusion, soon you won't have any other birds but cuckoos.

by dogemperor on Wed May 31, 2006 at 09:57:07 AM EST

I'm extremely interested in this documentation that you speak of which shows that the SBC was chosen and that these methods were used within the Convention during the time period of the Takeover.

I don't doubt the influence of Charles Simpson and the eggs that his ideas laid.  I've found the information you've provided to be very useful and educational.  However, I'm not sure that the ideas of Charles Simpson (or those outside of the Convention) helped bring about the Takeover or were responsible for the Takeover.  As a result of the Takeover, dominionism has been brought in the backdoor.  I agree.  

I spoke with a couple of my fathers friends earlier today (at Baylor) who were deeply involved as Moderate Leaders during the Takeover - they were befuddled as well in regards to the Charasmatic Congregations that you previously spoke of.  I'd be very interested in more information on that or perhaps where I could find the additional documentation mentioned in this post.  

During the Takeover, Al Mohler was just a boy at Samford and then a student at Southern.  While at Southern, Mohler was in many classes with my Father and Uncle (who were MDiv and Phd students during that period).  They both claim that Mohler was a MODERATE and not a Five-Point Calvinist.  I was recently playing tennis with one of Mohler's former Professors and he also affirmed that Mohler was a Moderate.  After the Takeover, Mohler jumped ship - disgusting opportunist.  It's amazing what people will do to gain power.  

by Big Daddy Weave on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 04:45:53 AM EST

This article (admittedly from an anti-ecumenicalist viewpoint) is from a former FGBMFI member who documents how the "Catholic Charismatic" movement was largely started by that frontgroup of the Assemblies of God, and also gives some backgrounder as to how long this has been occuring.

Another highly recommended resource documenting the history of the use of "cell churches" to hijack and split congregations is Sara Diamond's book "Spiritual Warfare" (you should actually be able to find it in the bookstore link to your left).  Several of the articles I quoted actually have sourced most of their info from Diamond or from the dominionists in question themselves.

by dogemperor on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 08:30:54 AM EST

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