Exploring Every Nation
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 06:27:09 AM EST
Every Nation is an international neo-Pentecostal denomination with a number of outreach ministries, such as Victory Campus Ministries (VCM) and Force Ministries (aimed at the military). As a "New Apostolic Church", it enjoys the endorsement of powerful neo-Pentecostal figures such as C Peter Wagner. However, its leadership also formerly had links with Maranatha, a campus ministry that imploded amidst claims of "cult-like" shepherding behaviour and extremism in the 1980s, and in the past eighteen months, Every Nation has found itself embroiled in controversies of its own.
The denomination was formed in 1994 under the name of Morning Star International (MSI). The founders were Rice Broocks, Steve Murrell, and Phil Bonasso, who at the time were leading a religious revival in the Philippines (known to enthusiasts as the "Manila Miracle"). The three had previously been part of Maranatha, and to detractors, MSI was simply a way for Maranatha figures to re-launch their project once the scandal had died down. Every Nation's defenders, meanwhile, are firm that Marantha's excesses were not the fault of Broocks and his associates, and that Broocks in particular had sought to be a moderating influence as Maranatha wound down.

Every Nation's public difficulties began in March last year, when the North Carolina News Observer reported on a dispute over a Christian fraternity at the University of North Carolina. Many of the fraternity's members attended King's Park International Church under Pastor Ron Lewis, and the News Observer noted that this church had formerly been known as Maranatha Christian Church of the Triangle. Lewis admitted that he had been associated with Maranatha, but told the newspaper that he had quit in the 1980s. However, the fact that he had registered "Maranatha Christian Ministries International" in 1990 created doubt about the story, although according to Christian author Stephen Mansfield (in correspondence with me), this was simply an ill-judged decision by a young pastor to reuse the old name for something new. The News Observer also gave an account of King's Park's own campus ministry, Waymaker Christian Fellowship, and included an interview with an ex-member, Darrell Lucus. Lucus alleged that the fellowship had tried to control him, to the detriment of his studies. Lucus subsequently told me that Waymaker had since become a branch of Victory Campus Ministries (VCM).

Two months later saw a second controversy, concerning a religious club at Hillsboro High School in Tennessee. Two sets of parents complained that the club had hidden its true purpose, and that their daughters had been psychologically damaged by it. The club was called the Victory Club, and was one of a number affiliated with Nashville's Bethel World Outreach Center, where Broocks himself ministers. The allegations inspired an attack from the American Family Association's Agape Press, in which Every Nation was described as part of "a cult movement that covertly believes its leaders are the collective reincarnation of Jesus Christ". Agape's surprising antipathy is perhaps evidence that the old fundamentalist/Pentecostal rift is not yet completely healed, and I find the claim that Every Nation would make any use of the concept of "reincarnation" to be extremely doubtful.

However, while Every Nation has been repudiated by Agape, it maintains links with other conservative Christian strands - including dominionism. This can be seen from Every Nation's Victory Leadership Institute, which has invited input from Reconstructionists like George Grant. Victory Campus Ministries is also seriously involved in campus politics, and Craccum, the student newspaper of Auckland University, recently claimed that in 2000 no fewer than fifty VCM missionaries were flown in from the USA to assist with the election campaign of a VCM member who was seeking to become chair of the Auckland University Student Association. Craccum compared this campaign to a similar effort undertaken by Maranatha in the 1980s, taking its information from The Forerunner, Maranatha's old magazine which now exists in archive form on-line. Craccum cited a Forerunner article which boasted of how Christians were defeating "militant homosexuals" in student elections in Auckland; curiously, soon after Craccum cited this article, it was removed from The Forerunner's website.

There is also some evidence that Every Nation is involved in South African politics, through the His People grouping of churches in that country. His People used to be headed by Pastor Paul Daniel, under the spiritual oversight of MSI/Every Nation, but in 2002 Daniel resigned his position following an admission of adultery, after which MSI took direct control of his group of churches (Daniel was then brought to Nashville by MSI leaders, since when he has disappeared from public view). According to one source I found, His People heavily funds the African Christian Democratic Party, which is led by Kenneth Meshoe, through a Christian business called the Louis Group of Companies. While this cannot be confirmed, the Louis Group certainly does have an affiliation with His People (As an aside, it's worth noting that Townhall columnist Doug Giles' Clash Church in Florida used to be a His People church, and that Giles has continuing links with South Africa).

Broocks is also a committed Christian Zionist, and in 2004 a columnist at The Tennessean reported on a dinner hosted by Broocks that included the far-right Israeli politician Yuri Shtern.

Meanwhile, evaluating the extent to which Victory Campus Ministries is a continuation of Maranatha remains tricky. Ex-members of Every Nation have set up discussion boards, where accusations of linkages and abusive behaviour are traded back and forth. Stephen Mansfield assures me that the accusations made there are mostly "baseless or minor matters exaggerated while the major moral stands taken by the MSI/EN's leaders are ignored". But given that Every Nation figures have sought to gloss over their involvement with Maranatha, getting a full picture remains difficult - and with so much apparent secrecy, people are likely to imagine the worst.

For background on Maranatha, check out the news stories archived on this site.

by Richard Bartholomew on Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 08:13:34 AM EST
I think I may have been the first 'promoters' of FORCE ministries ( back in mid 2004 when the site still featured its original menacing Flash presentation and the site hit counter was in the single digit low thousands ) , but I didn't have the sort of deep background knowledge - you've drawn on - that would have enabled me to  to connect the ministry to its parent orgs.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 10:43:44 PM EST

It's been part of Maranatha's past history (in practically every incarination that it's been under, including MSI/Every Nation) that critics have been demonised, told they are "exaggerating", and so forth.

This is something that occurs in every spiritually abusive group--the Assemblies (which are heavily infected with "third wave" neopentecostalism) have tried to sue critics and have even attempted to put people who have successfully won damages through endless appeals in order to prevent paying those damages (in a case where someone was falsely imprisoned during an "deliverance ministry" exorcism, the victim (one Laura Schubert) sued the Assemblies church in question and won damages of $300,000; the church has made multiple attempts at preventing paying Mrs. Schubert her due, including attempts to have all court testimony showing that "deliverance ministry" is part of the Assemblies' core theology thrown out (which, well, it is part of their core theology, no offense); once she won, the church started filing endless appeals including trying to have the damages thrown out altogether or reduced--one appeal included attempts to have all damages from lost wages resulting from complex PTSD thrown out (Schubert is appealing this), using claims that complex PTSD essentially does not exist--and also has apparently claimed to its members that the court system is conspiring against them).  In the Schubert case, it's actually been documented that the Assemblies headquarters is supporting the abusers (the Assemblies filed an amicus brief in support of the abusive church).

Scientology, too, is very well documented in using what are essentially SLAPP suits (as well as endless appeals in court) for the specific purpose of bankrupting critics, as are the Moonies (Steven Hassan has been threatened with lawsuits multiple times, as he is both an exit counselor and a walkaway from the Moonies).

I myself am of the opinion here that "where there's smoke, there's fire"; Maranatha has the reputation of being one of the singularly most abusive "spiritual warfare" groups ever documented, to the point it is literally one of two groups frequently used as a model for abusive "Bible-based groups" and in particular abusive neopentecostal groups and it was flat out banned from University of Minnesota (Maranatha, in a tactic that directly parallels the abusive Assemblies church that attempted to "exorcise" Laura Shugert, attempted to sue the University of Minnesota and lost) and and Kansas State.  It was also one of the very few "Bible-based" groups that the (old) Cult Awareness Network would specifically warn about before CAN was itself sued into bankruptcy--and later hijacked--by the Scientologists.

It was in fact the bad press resulting from their very abusive tactics that led to Maranatha disbanding; walkaways have since documented that Every Nation has continued many of the same abusive tactics post-reorganisation.

Very often--largely because abusive churches try to deny patterns of abuse as "abberations"--it is often the walkaways who are the only reliable source of information.  And, frankly, from all I've seen something is still rotten in Denmark.

(This should probably not be surprising, though; "deliverance ministry" movements in and of themselves tend to be nearly as abusive as Scientology both in theory and in practice, and hardline dominion theology in general crosses the line towards being spiritually abusive).

by dogemperor on Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 03:14:35 PM EST

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