Apocalyptic Pastor Claims to be Protecting ex-Muslim Teenage Runaway
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 08:01:04 AM EST
A blog at Christianity Today sounds a note of caution over the case of Fathima Rifqa Bary, a Sir Lankan teenager living in Ohio who recently fled to Orlando claiming that her parents planned to kill her for converting to Christianity:
"They [my parents] threatened to kill me," Bary says tearfully in aYouTube video... posted Tuesday. She goes on to explain the logic of honor killings: "They have to kill me. My blood is now hallal, which means that because I am now a Christian, I am from a Muslim background. It's an honor, they love God more than me. They have to do this.

Sgt. Jerry Cupp with the Columbus missing persons bureau disputes Bary's claims, telling The Columbus Dispatch that Mohamed Bary has known about his daughter's conversion for months and appears to be caring. And today, the attorney for Bary's parents issued a statement that they have never threatened Bary: "If this case is perceived as a clash of religions, it is because Mr. Lorenz recklessly and without authorization put someone else's child in front of television cameras to publicly renounce her previous faith," McCarthy said in the statement. "The parents who love Rifqa are in the best position now to protect her from the mess that Mr. Lorenz has made."

Bary headed for Florida after contacting Pastor Blake Lorenz through Facebook. Video footage and photos of the two together show her hugging the pastor for protection.
The girl gives a rather strange interpretation of what an "honour killing" is for; rather than being the remedy for a perceived dishonour suffered by a family, she tells the journalist that to kill her would be an especially "great honour" because she is the the first Christian in her family for "150 generations" and it would show her family's love for Allah (Lorenz concurs with a "yes" at 5:03). This seems to me to be a garbled "Christianized" understanding of the phenomenon, making it into something like a human sacrifice. Her claim that Muslim converts to Christianity in Sri Lanka (where Muslims are a minority) are confined to a mental hospital is not one that I have seen reported anywhere else.

Lorenz used to pastor the Pine Castle United Methodist Church, but he now runs the Global Revolution Church, which has no apparent links to any other church or grouping. He believes that he receives special personal messages from God about the imminent end of the world:

Recently God gave Blake a new call to share with the church, Israel, and the Gentile nations that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. After 24 years as a United Methodist pastor and evangelist, Blake retired from the Methodist Church in obedience to Jesus Who told him to separate himself and serve only Him. This led to the founding of Global Revolution Ministries and Global Revolution Church, based in Orlando, Florida.

Blake has written many articles, tracts, and pamphlets on Jesus and His salvation. He also authored "Visits to the Gate of Heaven," and has begun a weekly television ministry to share the word that Jesus is coming and to teach how one can be ready for His return.

Some of his sermons can be seen here; his wife introduces them, telling us that God gave him a "new calling" one day while he was out jogging.

The girl's parents and brother can be seen in the news report here; they do not give the impression of wanting to kill her. However, Robert Spencer - fresh from scrubbing details of the bogus "mass paedo wedding in Gaza" tale from his website - assures us that this is undoubtedly a "slow-motion honor killing".

Young female converts have been "rescued" before for the purpose of religious propaganda; in the 1950s in Northern Ireland, a young Catholic girl named Maura Lyons joined Ian Paisley's fundamentalist Protestant church. According to the story, she said that

Her father beat her and called in three Roman Catholic priests who 'seemed determined to force me into convent life', she said later. She escaped by jumping from a bedroom window. Free Presbyterians smuggled her into Scotland - a criminal offence. Irish newspapers, north and south, went wild. The Royal Ulster Constabulary searched for the girl, and found a wall of silence. Two months later, Paisley publicly played a tape-recording of Maura Lyons describing her conversion. He was laconic with the truth: the tape, he said, had been found among milk bottles on his doorstep. He also showed his talent for playing the beleaguered hero. 'If I knew where the girl was I would not take her to the police,' he said. 'Very well, I am committing an offence. I will do time for it. I would be proud to do time for Protestant liberty.'...Most Ulster Protestants were embarrassed.

Name variations: Global Revolution Ministries; Pastor Blake William Lorenz

Firstly, I think you're dead on target--she was recruited for the purpose of essentially having a "tame ex-Moslem", and I'd be shocked if she isn't being groomed to eventually be essentially an "ex-Moslem preacher" (similar to the "Walid Shoebat" show, or how "ex-goths" and "ex-Satanists" were trotted out in the 80s; of note, most of these turned out to be bogosities and were popular largely because they were seen to be "steals from The Enemy").

In regards to Global Revolution Church, I'm not surprised it's pulling this stunt.  As it turns out, they're a typical "non-denominational" New Apostolic Reformation/Joel's Army/Elijah's Army/(insert branding of the month) church.

Among other things, the calendar in its events shows the linkages, including describing itself as the "Bridegroom Company" (an NAR buzzword often used as a newer alternate phrasing for "Joel's Army" or "Elijah's Army"), and one of their pet causes is anti-abortion stumping.

Like a number of other NAR groups, they are very Christian Zionist and lead "Bible tours" which are often held for purposes of (illegal) recruitment of Israelis (missionary activity is technically illegal, but "Bible tours" often are used as a method of "evangelising").

The group is unusually open in its promotion of NAR theology.  Among other things, their "vision statement"--and particularly the full version thereof--notes a number of NAR buzzwords about "spiritual revolutions" and so on.  

The pastor's story itself is also a bit of a story--apparently he was recruited from a UMC church, possibly via a failed steeplejacking (seeing as NAR groups as well as the IRD have heavily targeted mainstream Methodist congregations, this can't be discounted).  Interestingly, this split seems to have been precisely over prosyletising to other "people of the book"--specifically Jewish people in Israel and Moslem people in the Middle East.  It's entirely possible, of note, that his wife may have been involved in the recruitment.

The recruitment (and possible steeplejack) of what would become GRC does have very strong links to Assemblies of God-linked NAR groups via their youth pastor (in fact, this may be an indication that GRC may be operating as a "stealth Assemblies" congregation, which is also a dead giveaway we are dealing with an NAR group).  The "Southeastern University" in question is an Assemblies of God "Bible College" with some liberal arts training, and ordination standards in the Assemblies are so low that one can become an ordained minister merely by going through a "Bible college" and working for two years with a "youth ministry".

The group runs a plethora of front businesses and recruitment fronts including not one but five separate fronts targeting women's clinics and their clients (including not only "pregnancy counseling centers" but various protest orgs--some of which are linked to groups like Operation Save America--and groups promoting "post-abortion syndrome" bogosity) as well as a "theophostic counseling" clinic targeting "spiritual illnesses" (I've written extensively on the dangers of these groups and their similarities to Scientologist practices here and multiple frontgroups targeting inner-city youth and families.  The group also has confirmed links with Campus Crusade (recently confirmed to be an NAR group itself, and which co-authored the "Seven Mountains" strategy along with coercive NAR group Youth With A Mission).

Another strong indicator (in fact, a probable proof) of this being a hardcore NAR church is the partnerships section including linkage to the confirmedly NAR "International House Of Prayer" as well as a group working at steeplejacking UMC churches in Zambia, a "Messianic Jew" group promoting emigration of Jewish people to Israel, a dominionist TV station (WACX-TV, an Inspiration Network affiliate whose programming can be best said to be "All NAR and "Prosperity Gospel", all the time).

So...yeah, this would almost, to a veritable T, match the general profile of a group that would LOVE to recruit a "tame ex-Moslem convertee".  

by dogemperor on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 04:17:07 PM EST

I have just confirmed that GRC's existence is likely due to a steeplejacking.

According to the timeline presented in his bio, apparently Lorenz left the UMC in 2008--24 years after he earned his ministerial credentials in 1984.

I was able to find out via Googling that apparently his church as of 2007 was Pine Castle UMC of Orlando and that he was head pastor--and it was already considered a megachurch within that denomination of nearly 2800 members as of 2006 (pp.17 of document); this would also match info on his ZoomInfo profile (and the article itself obtained via Internet Archive confirms that he was a pastor at this point in the church working in foreign missions).

Pine Castle, which is a UMC church with some potentially worrisome promotion of "small groups", but otherwise seems to be a typical if somewhat evangelical UMC group) apparently split with what would become GRC at that point, possibly as recently as when a church elder at Pine Castle UMC condemned speculation over whether Obama was the Antichrist during the 2008 elections.  (Ironically, the bit that sparked this was seeing multiple students at Southeastern University (of A/G) with shirts on stating "Kerry Is A Liar".)

Very interestingly (and further pointing out the time period in the split) is a mocking post from "Blake", possibly J. Blake Lorenz:

You shud reelly pruuf reed your bloggs be4 posting them. I agree we should pray for our leaders though. And i saw you wearing your Obama is liar t-shirt the other day you closet Obama hater.
Comment by Blake August 29, 2008 @ 3:38 am

The impression I get--especially after looking at Internet Archive pages dating back from 2007 of Pine Castle UMC's site--are quite possibly of Pine Castle's present membership being the remnants of a church that tried to fight off a steeplejack and split in the process; the Pine Castle website at the time even had an early version of the "God's Vision" statement now at GRC and shows Lorenz as head pastor.

The period where the attempted steeplejack of Pine Castle UMC occured can be dated at least to December 2003 per Internet Archive; before that, Pine Castle UMC's page was one of non-steeplejacked UMC groups promoting "open doors, open minds" (aka the moderate faction).   The actual act of steeplejacking may have been going on before this, however.

Among other things, the December 2003 archive indicates Lorenz was only pastor of Pine Castle UMC since 2000 and was only properly ordained in 1987 (so he's actually telling porky-pies on how long he's been a minister).  Kirkman Rd. UMC was the first church he was head minister of--and it is apparently so small as to not have a website (though there are some links to Pine Castle as being possibly a "home church").

The "patient zero" here (to borrow an epidemiological term) seems to have been through a Sunday-school course, now discontinued, called Spiritual Formation; this is also the point where Pine Castle UMC started having "small groups" meetings, and generally both cell-church groups and "Adult Sunday School" courses have tended to be where NAR infections spread outside of neopentecostal churches.

Looking through Internet Archive copies of the website, one can see how Pine Castle UMC was led further and further down the primrose path; a 2006 archive shows the church had become nearly NAR-neopentecostal in practice, promoting "Holy Spirit Encounters" and had replaced the UMC Statement of Faith with a series of NAR "Values"; Lorenz also at this point had published a book called "Visits to the Gate of Heaven", a typical neopentecostal "conversion story" of the "former sinnin' star loses it all and finds God in the process and NOW HE'S A PREACHER" variety (yes, these are so common you can pretty much group them as genres of folklore; the "Ex-(insert Group Of Evil Here) Converts And Goes Into The Ministry" is another, and likely what the Sri Lankan-American girl is being groomed into).

By December 2007 the church's literature is pretty much indistinguishable from that of GRC; this is also the last page available via Internet Archive.

So, in short, GRC is likely a very young NAR congregation resulting from a failed steeplejack (or, more likely, a successful one in which a substantial part of the church body took things back a la the foiling of the AWARE steeplejack).

Unfortunately, Pine Castle UMC would be but one of a number of UMC churches under heavy attack by NAR steeplejackers in particular (as Archaeobob on here can describe firsthand).  Another church showing signs of steeplejack of this nature is Asbury UMC, presently under target from a "steeplejacking period" Pine Castle UMC ex-youth pastor with association with the Campus Crusade frontgroup Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  

In addition to Campus Crusade (which maintains links to GRC today), Pine Castle (during Lorenz' stint as pastor) was confirmedly infiltrated by Youth With A Mission as well.

by dogemperor on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 05:09:18 PM EST

This is a classic example of how, after the fall of Communism, Islam per se (as opposed to politicized Islam) has replaced Communism as the bugaboo of the Religious Right. I wonder if Rev. Lorenz would be as accommodating as Mr. Bary if one of the children of a family belonging to Rev. Lorenz's flock left Rev. Lorenz's church for another denomination or faith.

by khughes1963 on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 09:18:51 PM EST

Muslim parents' "honor killing" of daughters, over perceived "loose" behavior around men, is rare but not nonexistent in the US. A case occurred in St. Louis about 15 to 20 years ago. (A larger number of such murders occur among the Christian population of the US, not surprisingly, given the relative population of Christians and Muslims.) Christian parents have murdered children on the pretext that the children are "demon possessed".

Far more likely are attempts by parents to lock kids up at home, or less drastically, to let kids go to school but then sequester them at all other times. For teenagers, merely being grounded for a week or month can be an occasion for drama.

This girl is 17, a cheerleader (so the parents can't be too strict about dress code or public behavior), is non-white, goes to public school in an outer suburban district NE of Columbus OH, a suburb likely to be as overwhelmingly white and as oriented to megachurch religiosity as the rest of suburban and rural mid-Ohio. It wouldn't be too surprising if she did something that would reassure her that she was not an outsider.

Too bad she's fallen into a situation where the adults won't help her reconcile with her family.

by NancyP on Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 10:47:20 AM EST

It was Tina Ali, whose parents killed her in 1992. There was also some indication her father might have killed her for overhearing some conversations about funding for Palestinian militants. Her parents were convicted of her murder, and her father, Zein Ali, died in prison.

by khughes1963 on Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 07:24:17 PM EST

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