Palin's Churches and the Third Wave
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Sep 05, 2008 at 12:02:44 AM EST
Part One
History and Theology of the Third Wave

Sarah Palin has refused to acknowledge belonging to any specific denomination or any particular religious stream.  However, it is now well documented that she spent her youth in an Assembly of God church and has regularly attended another AoG church, as well as two Independent Churches. At least three of four of these churches have close ties to prominent organizations and leaders in the Third Wave movement, also known as the New Apostolic Reformation.

This is a worldwide movement so completely ignored by the press that there is no single accepted term that has been coined for the identification for the group. In addition to Third Wave and New Apostolic Reformation, it is also referred to by the names of some of its more extreme theologies, such as Joel's Army and Manifest Sons of Destiny. Its roots are in a revival of the manifestations and beliefs of the New Order of Latter Rain which has been repeatedly condemned by the General Council of the Assemblies of God since 1949.

Palins's refusal to define her denominational background has resulted in much speculation about her religious beliefs and their impact on her worldview.  An enormous amount of misinformation has resulted, since many of the writers lack the benefit of knowledge of these diverse theologies. Writers who are  knowledgeable about the Third Wave movement have posted similar information on this site. However, this post is intended for use as a history and theology reference for the material in Part Two.

Part Two is documentation of the extensive links between these churches and major leaders of the Third Wave.

The following is a brief primer on the history of Pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God (AoG), the largest Pentecostal denomination worldwide.  This overview includes the development of a movement known as the Third Wave or New Apostolic Reformation, which has taken root not only in AoG and other Pentecostal denominations but across the Evangelical spectrum.

The Third Wave is one of the largest movements in Dominionism, a group of theologies that promote taking "dominion" over the social and governmental functions of the U.S. and the world. This material has previously been covered in much greater detail by writers on this site, but my purpose is to create a single summary that can be used as a foundation for those writing or blogging about this movement, but are unfamiliar with its history and theology.  The Evangelical world is not monolithic, and many well intentioned writers and activists may do more harm than good in the coverage of Palin's churches.  I plead with you to read this historical explanation before jumping to my next posting on Palin's churches.

Pentecostalism and Fundamentalism

Pentecostalism emerged almost exactly a hundred years ago.  Its beginnings were simultaneous with the organization of the Fundamentalist movement, but distinct in many beliefs and practices. Fundamentalists emerged as an anti-modernist group drawn from many mainline Protestant denominations.  The name Fundamentalism actually comes from a series of publications titled "The Fundamentals" sent to churches across the country, outlining the group's support of literal interpretation of the Bible. They organized in support of their shared beliefs and against the prevalence of the Social Gospel and perceived movement away from orthodox belief in the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy. (This is the theological meaning of the word Fundamentalism despite its current use as a synonym for extremism.  I have capitalized theological terms in this post so they will not be confused with generic counterparts.)

Pentecostalism was preceded by the Holiness movement of the 1800s.  A series of revival meeting which featured the "outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit" are considered the beginnings of the movement. It was believed that the emergence of these signs indicated a renewal of the supernatural gifts at the biblical Pentecost. The early Pentecostals believed that the bestowal of these gifts, such as speaking in tongues, were mission tools that would allow them to save the world for Christ before the end times.  As it grew, the movement splintered into various cooperative fellowships, including Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, Church of God (Cleveland), and International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Eventually the movement would result in literally thousands of denominations worldwide. Today the combined number of Pentecostals and related movements is estimated at 500 million people.

While sharing many beliefs, the Fundamentalists shunned Pentecostals.  Fundamentalists generally believed that supernatural manifestations had ended with the New Testament Christians (cessationism) and objected to the ecstatic form of Pentecostal worship. Furthermore, Pentecostalism began as a racially integrated movement and included women in positions of leadership.  Fundamentalists also differed in their end time theology (eschatology), since they had widely embraced Dispensationalism, the belief that the world is growing increasingly evil, and the church increasingly apostate, while the world is hurtling toward a cataclysmic end. True believers will be spared the horrors of the end time when they are secretly Raptured from the earth. Following the Rapture, those remaining will suffer through the horrors of the Tribulation, reign of the Antichrist, and the wars of Apocalypse until the return of Jesus. A detailed explanation of this doomsday timeline and the corresponding theology was developed in the mid 1800s by John Nelson Darby, and widely distributed through the use of the Scofield Bible.  A distorted version was later popularized in the fiction of Hal Lindsay, and more recently, Tim LaHaye's Left Behind Series.

The Scopes evolution trial of 1925 marked a significant downturn in the status of the Fundamentalist movement in America.  William Bell Riley and colleagues, who had recently formed the World Christian Fundamentals Association, hired William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution. The newly formed ACLU hired Clarence Darrow for the defense. Despite the fact that the Fundamentalists actually won their case, the ridicule they received from the public was credited with sending the movement on a culturally separatist path for decades. During the time of separation that followed, Dispensational belief spread rapidly through much of Pentecostalism, marginalizing its restoration impulses.  Interesting hybrid theologies emerged as Pentecostals tried to fit their revivalist message into a Fundamentalist doomsday mold.


After World War II, several young Fundamentalists including Billy Graham, whom William Bell Riley personally chose as his successor to lead his bible college, decided to bring Fundamentalism back into mainstream society.  This group of young Fundamentalists headed a movement to discard Fundamentalism's separatist nature and reintroduce their beliefs to a wider audience.  The new neo-Evangelical movement, as it was known, used television to directly market their message to large audiences.  Their remarkable successes resulted in the creation of an Evangelical umbrella that brought together a vast array of Fundamentalists from a variety of denominations and Pentecostals.  The National Association of Evangelicals, the National Religious Broadcasters, and hundreds of cross-denominational entities were formed.  A number of Pentecostal denominations joined the NEA, including the Assemblies of God.

Latter Rain

As Pentecostal denominations were developing institutionally and joining forces with the larger Evangelical body, a new revival was brewing.  It was grounded in the ideas of Latter Rain, a theology that had, from the beginnings of Pentecostalism, been used to juxtapose their belief in their end time supernatural gifts with the imminent doomsday scenario of Dispensationalism.  The New Order of the Latter Rain was led by faith healer William Branham. George Warnock wrote Feast of Tabernacles in 1951, considered to be the classic text of the movement.

These theologies greatly altered the doomsday narrative of Dispensationalism.  Dispensationalists were consumed with the role `ethnic Jews' must play in the apocalyptic drama by returning to Israel and rebuilding the Temple.  Warnock's Feast of Tabernacles redefined the Jewish feast days in Christian terms with each representing a fulfillment of the coming Kingdom of Jesus.  The Feast of Tabernacles, which corresponds with the Jewish celebration of Sukkot, is not yet fulfilled.  Its fulfillment signifies the manifestation of the Sons of God or Overcomers who would take dominion over the earth.  There would be no more waiting passively for the Rapture.  A non-denominational and global church not divided by doctrine would be restored through the Fivefold Ministry and recapture the earth from evil, therefore allowing the return of Jesus.  The most extreme form of this theology included the idea that these Manifest Sons of Gods would achieve perfection of the saints and become like small gods themselves with great supernatural powers.

In 1949, the General Council of the Assemblies of God condemned the movement as heretical. The practices condemned included overemphasis on bestowing gifts by the laying on of hands, personal prophecy, Manifest Sons of God teachings, branding of those who denounced the movement, and more.  Many left the Assembly of God to continue the movement. Others continued to blend together aspects of Dispensationalism with the ideas of Latter Rain.  Many of the young leaders of the period like Paul Cain, Bill Hamon, and Oral Roberts would survive to lead another wave decades later.  Since 1949 the term Latter Rain has been linked to the beliefs and manifestations of the condemned movement and therefore the term is sometimes avoided by its adherents.

Charismatic Movement

By the 1960s a new movement brought practices of Pentecostalism to mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church.  This was called the Charismatic movement, and was considered separate from Pentecostalism, as its participants sometimes stayed in their home denominations.  This movement opened the door for a greater acceptance of charismatic style worship and belief outside of Pentecostalism.   The Third Wave is sometimes referred to as the hyper-charismatic movement.  However, Charismatics are not necessarily advocates of Third Wave beliefs.

The Third Wave

The Latter Rain heresy began to be revived in the 1960s by some who had been involved in the earlier movement and also by former hippies who became involved in the charismatic nature of the Jesus Movement.  John Wimber (formerly keyboardist of the group that became the Righteous Brothers) is credited with reviving many of the ideas through the Vineyard Movement. Wimber was the founding director of the Department of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary.  C. Peter Wagner also taught in the program and later became head of the department.  Through this program they introduced the concept of "Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth."

By the 1980s extensive revivals of the Latter Rain type manifestations began taking place. These included the Kansas City Prophets, Toronto Airport Blessing, and many other revivals, as well as the hundreds of ministries that have been built around this renewed movement. Wagner named the post-denominational movement New Apostolic Reformation, but it is also referred to as the Third Wave of the Holy Spirit, and Kingdom Now.  The term Latter Rain is avoided by some because of its heretical connotations.  
Manifestations of outpouring of the spirit at these revivals include holy laughter, slaying in the spirit, and episodes of uncontrollable jerking or shaking.

Again, in 2000, the General Council of the Assemblies of God confirmed the validity of 1949 ruling condemning Latter Rain in Resolution 16.  The movement and its many unorthodox beliefs and manifestations are spelled out on the conference site.  The heretical activities and belief include Dominion or Kingdom Now theology, Joel's Army, Manifest Sons of God, Prosperity Gospel, Birthing, and Generational Curses.  However, this time the resistance by the Church has done little.  The movement has overrun many Assemblies of God churches, as well as much of Pentecostalism, and has made incredible inroads into the larger body of Evangelicalism.

The movement is organized in the U.S. and around the world by networks of Apostles.  The most extensive Apostolic network is headed by C. Peter Wagner, who has several hundred Apostles for whom he provides `Apostolic cover.' These Apostles then may have authority over hundreds or even thousands of churches or ministries, according to Wagner.  Wagner is the founder of Global Harvest Ministries and the World Prayer Center, (sometimes jokingly referred to as the Pentagon of Spiritual Warfare) which shares the property of New Life Church in Colorado Springs.  At the time of development of the center, the church was led by Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals before his scandal and departure.

Many of the unorthodox ideas of the Third Wave such as "spiritual mapping" and  "strategic level spiritual warfare"  were developed as missionary tools during the frenzy of missions that occurred by these groups in the lead up to the year 2000.   Wagner developed a strategy for territorial spiritual warfare based on spiritual mapping.  This idea came from Third Wave colleague Ed Silvoso who claimed to have used spiritual warfare to expel a warlock from the area of Arroyo Seco in Argentina which was blocking their efforts to plant churches.  This supposedly cleared the way for the development of 82 new evangelical churches in the region.  The methods of spiritual mapping were further developed and spread through the efforts of Wagner as a tool for world and U.S. missions.

The AD 2000 mission and focus on the 10/40 window (referring to all the countries that fall between the 10th and 40th parallel) were coordinated by Wagner and Luis Bush.  Wagner writes in his book, 100 Gateway Cities, that the 10/40 window is targeted, "Because is a stronghold of Satan."  The book maps out each country in the 10/40 window along with every group of unsaved peoples.  Spiritual mapping, 24/7 intercessory prayer, and other data is now managed through the computer systems of the World Prayer Center.  This was first publicized to the mainstream in an article by Jeff Sharlet in Harper's Magazine, May 2005, titled "Soldiers of Christ."

Another Wagner partnership is with George Otis, Jr., creator of the Transformation Videos. These videos document the success of spiritual warfare in transforming various cities around the globe. This is based on the belief that transformation of social ills can only occur through the supernatural means of a unified Christian effort. It is the presence of demons and territorial spirits, witches, and generational curses that cause problems in society.  If the demons are driven out through spiritual warfare, prayer, and fasting, then the community will have conquered the enemy.  Crime and corruption will decline, crops will overproduce, and enormous vegetables will grow. The problems of environment degradation, lack of water, and other severe ecological problems can only be solved if communities take the necessary steps taught by the transformation ministries to get God to heal the land.

The first Transformation video was produced in 1999 and the idea of community transformation through this method continues to grow.  A number of revivals and ministries are based on the idea of driving sin out of cities through this method.  Various city testimonies are used to demonstrate miraculous examples of transformation through intervention of God after the Christians in the community band together.  The term Transformation with its spiritual dominion connotations has become a buzz word in faith-based programs.  It implies that government social services and aid programs are in vain unless linked to a spiritual effort and campaign to lead the community toward Christianity.  These videos are used as testimony to that idea.  The belief that sin and generational curses are the obstacle to wealth and health is also the belief behind the Prosperity Doctrine or Word Faith ministries.  Many of these are also associated with the Third Wave.

The Apostles of the Third Wave believe that they hear directly from God, and have a divine mandate to form a new worldwide global church for the end times.  The Third Wave leadership's greatest vitriol is directed toward those church-going Christians who are not open to the new visions and prophecies .  One of the most prominent leaders and authors of the movement is Rick Joyner who heads Morningstar Ministries.  (This is not to be confused with Morningstar International, another New Apostolic network founded by Rice Broocks, formerly of Maranatha. Because of the confusion they changed their name to Every Nation. This is the parent organization for the controversial Force Ministries.)  Frequent references are made by Joyner to the coming war with those in the church with those who are not genuine Christians. The Southern Poverty Law Center site features an excellent piece on Todd Bentley of the Lakeland Healing Revival, who was supported by both Wagner and Joyner until Bentley's recent fall from grace. The SPLC points out that most objections to the movement have come from other conservative Christian churches.

The movement is youth oriented, and is designed to raise a young `Joel's Army' which will dominate the world both spiritually and politically.  All opposition to their goals is branded as evil. A glimpse into this world was shown in the movie Jesus Camp, which featured Becky Fisher, a former pastor of Morningstar Ministries, one of the best known Third Wave ministries, closely associated with Wagner.  Youth are told that those born since 1973, the year of Roe vs. Wade, will take control of the world to present to Christ on his return.  Wagner now claims that the `Second Apostolic Age' began in 2001.

The movement stresses obedience to authority.  The term Shepherding has been largely dropped because of the negative connotations of groups like Maranatha which were accused of cult-like control over college students.  However, structures in which members answer to someone in authority over them still exists.  

The movement's leadership is strongly opposed to the Roman Catholic Church despite their attempts to portray a unity with Catholic believers.  For them it represents the ultimate example of an institutionalized apostate church.  Wagner and his leading Apostles take trips to foreign countries to hold extended prayer vigils and conduct spiritual warfare to "confront the Queen of Heaven."  This refers to a super demon from the time of the Babylonian empire which they believe is the source of Mary veneration in the Roman Catholic Church.  This is a similar concept to that of the Great Harlot of Mystery Babylon frequently featured in John Hagee's sermons.  Hagee was an Assemblies of God pastor until defrocked after his divorce.

 The Third Wave beliefs concerning Jews are a complex hybrid of Dispensational and Latter Rain teachings.  (This will be addressed in a future series of postings.)  Many Third Wave leaders, including some of Wagner's Apostolic network, are currently involved with Christian Zionism through John Hagee's Christians United for Israel and associated activities. Latter Rain participants in the Christian Zionist movement emphasize terms like `Restoration of the Tabernacle of David' and `Davidic worship.'  While Dispensationalists believe that a remnant of "ethnic Jews" are required to fulfill the end time drama, many Third Wave adherents teach that Messianics, or converted Jews, along with Gentiles will share the Kingdom together as "one new man."  The Feast of the Tabernacles is now celebrated by thousands of Christians in Jerusalem and hundreds of locations around the world.  (Some participate in this event due to their embrace of Latter Rain ideas, but many others are adherents of a revival of Armstrongism, a variant of British Israelism, which is the belief that Anglo-Saxons are the lost ten tribes of Israel and will fulfill the role of Israel in the end times.)


The Third Wave/New Apostolic Reformation is one of the largest streams, but not the only movement which is now identified by the term Dominionist.  The use of the term identifies those Christian groups which believe that they must work not only to improve the world, but that they are mandated to literally take dominion over  society and government of the U.S and the earth.  That which is considered evil must be fought and destroyed. Dominionists do not believe in the separation of church and state or religious pluralism.  While Dominionists work together politically, the Third Wave stream is, for example, a separate entity from the Reconstructionist movement which emerged under the leadership of Rousas J. Rushdoony.  An ardent Calvinist from an Armenian background, Rushdoony viewed himself as a second Calvin, and wrote a tome promoting theocracy. The Institutes of Biblical Law and other Rushdoony teachings have provided much of the doctrinal guidance for the political activity of the Religious Right.

Dominionism can take a number of different forms and involve different theologies, although there is beginning to be a startling merger of efforts of these various streams. For instance, both have similar blueprints for taking dominion over the various "kingdoms" such as the education, law, science, etc.  This has been a difficult movement to follow because Dominionism is not synonymous with Evangelical, Fundamentalist, or any specific denomination, and therefore is difficult to isolate unless you follow the activities of individual ministries and networks.  Many Evangelicals avidly support the separation of church and state, and should not be painted with the same brush as those who would support an American theocracy.

The Dominonism that has emerged from the Fundamentalist movement has been much better documented than that which has emerged from Pentecostalism.  Perhaps this is because religious and secular scholars are much more knowledgeable about those groups that emerged from a lineage of mainstream Protestantism denominations.  The Third Wave movement has gone almost unnoticed, even by those who write regularly on Dominionism, even though the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream of Dominionism is by far the larger movement. Wagner claims that there are as many New Apostolic Reformation churches in the U.S. as Southern Baptist churches. The movement worldwide is estimated as high as 100 million people.  And yet its impact is completely under the radar of most researchers outside of those in the movement itself.

Understand the Differences

It is important to recognize that Pentecostalism is not monolithic.  Many of the greatest opponents of the Third Wave movement come from inside Pentecostalism, and there is increasing concern about the movement from numerous Evangelical groups. The best descriptions available online often come from these groups, but have to be read understanding the viewpoint of the writer.  For instance, some of those most closely following the extreme activities of the Third Wave may also object to women as religious leaders or have objections to interfaith gatherings.  For this reason I have not linked this article to any of those sites, despite the value of their extensive information.

Part Two contains the information on the Third Wave activities and organizations in which Palin's churches have participated.

Additional Note: When I first entered this posting I used both 'Latter Rain' and 'Latter Day Rain' interchangeably. While this is often done, the more correct term is 'Latter Rain' and I should have used it thoughout in order to avoid confusion. This movement has no relation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

A tiny and unimportant correction in an otherwise excellent and informative piece:

The ACLU did not "hire" Darrow to defend Scopes. At that point it's unlikely that they would have been in a position to. It was the long-dead Baltimore Sun that paid the bills and Darrow's fee, a condition of which payment was that they could send a reporter to cover the trial "from the inside". That reporter was none other than HL Mencken, soon to become America's most famous - and loudest - atheist.

If Darrow's brilliant cross-examination of Bryan was the core of "a significant downturn in the status of the Fundamentalist movement in America", it was Mencken's equally brilliant columns that told the country in no uncertain terms just how dangerous fundamentalism was. The level of their success (Darrow's and Mencken's) may be judged by the fact that it took the fundies more than 50 years to counter the powerful case the two men made and turn the society back to their way of thinking.

"Credit where credit is due" sort of thing.

- mick -

by mick arran on Fri Sep 05, 2008 at 03:28:05 PM EST
Thanks for your comments.  You are correct!  ACLU attorneys were representing Scopes and then were upstaged by Darrow after he was hired.  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Sep 05, 2008 at 04:03:04 PM EST

Some argue that it was Mencken's brilliant but cutting wit carried across America in his columns that helped push Fundamentalists out of the public square until the efforts of Graham and others in the 1950s.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Fri Sep 05, 2008 at 09:54:22 PM EST

Ruth - I have started a facebook group linking to your research.  Please join.

by zow5088 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 12:34:53 PM EST

Wanted to comment about the following:

"The New Order of the Latter Rain was led by faith healer William Branham."

A review of William Branham's sermons will show that he did not consider himself to be a part of the Latter Rain movement of his time, nor did he start a "new order" of Latter Rain.

Specifically, he stated:

"Now, there's a difference between prophecy, a gift of prophecy, and a prophet. Did you know that? There's where you brethren in the latter rain went off at. Everybody ... Somebody make a prophecy, you called them a prophet. That's wrong. The next time, you've seen an error. A gift of prophecy and a prophet's different."

Pursuant to Deuteronomy, a prophet had to be accurate whereas a prophecy did not.

Branham also disagreed with the practice of "laying on of hands to impart spiritual gifts" and the "sowing of discord among brethren," such as is caused by the sectarianism seen in the "new order" of Latter Rain.

Branham taught the end times would be a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel, and elsewhere, regarding an outpouring of a latter rain.

And, he taught that there would be a time in which the former [teaching] rain and latter [harvest] rain would fall together. Joel 2:23

He suggested that time was now, and most in the Branham movement believe his ministry represented the former [teaching] rain, and the latter [harvest] rain is yet to come.

I summarily reject the statement, "The New Order of the Latter Rain was led by faith healer William Branham." William Branham led no such movement.

The movement tries to tie themselves to Branham as an authority, but that appears mainly to be because of the inadequacies of their own ministries.

It has come to pass, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."

In my opinion, many of those foul spirits and unclean, hateful birds can be seen in the New Order of Latter Rain and Third Wave today.

by BroSteve on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 12:17:01 PM EST

Richard Riss classifies Branham as helping lead a healing revival movement that preceded and ran parallel to the Latter Rain movement.

The two were very much related but, yes, there were doctrinal differences.

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Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (9 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)

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