Evangelical Right Politically Organizes in Newark, NJ
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 11:00:47 AM EST
Consider the following short video documentary (see full story), which presents what it calls the "transformation" of Newark. Initiated by New Jersey residents Lloyd and Joanna Turner in early 2008, the Pray For Newark effort involves a consortium of church volunteers who are working closely with Newark's police and the mayoral administration of Corey Booker. The effort claims to be able to field an entire army of volunteers, one for each street in the city, organized by city ward - almost like a neighborhood watch.

Neighborhood watches have been shown to be effective at reducing crime. So what's not to like ? Well, as I documented in my story Movement Behind Uganda's "Kill the Gays" Bill Organizing in Newark, Pray For Newark is closely tied to a an international evangelical ministry whose leaders are in the forefront of opposing gay rights in Hawaii and are closely allied with Ugandan leaders who are leading the push in Uganda for the so-called "kill the gays" bill that would in effect legislate an entire segment of Ugandan society out of existence. As a simple point of fact, the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill is harsher than any comparable anti-gay legislation passed, prior to World War Two, in Nazi Germany. The movement can't currently aim so high in the United States but in Hawaii, where it is highly influential in the executive branch of government, gay rights activists are being treated as second-class citizens whose civil rights can be determined by majority vote.

Another slight problem with Pray For Newark is that it is being led by a Newark minister, the Rev. Bernard Wilks, whose literature for the effort lists the goal of "enemy identification," (see my Newark story, above) and the Pray For Newark website cites the "Seven Mountains" program which encourages Christians to achieve dominance in all sectors of society. In the video, Pray For Newark founder Lloyd Turner notes that Newark was founded as an overtly Christian city, which is correct. Turner says he wants to return the city to those roots but omits to note that Newark was set up as a theocracy.

The Rev. Bernard Wilks is an apostle in the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), one of the major organizational bodies of a new reorganization of charismatic Christianity known as the New Apostolic Reformation - whose leaders practice exorcism, burn "witchcraft items," and have become the new de-facto prayer leaders of the Republican Party.

In this article ICA head C. Peter Wagner explains what's distinctive about the New Apostolic Reformation. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is extremely closely tied to Wagner's movement. Talk To Action features a resource directory on the major known entities in the New Apostolic Reformation, here.        

Pray For Newark has become so closely tied to Newark's police department that early in 2010 Newark leader of the effort, the Rev. Bernard Wilks presided over the graduation of 54 new Newark police officers. The graduation was held in a church Wilks preaches at, with Newark's mayor Corey Booker and other top Newark city officials in attendance.

So where is this headed ? It's impossible to say, but given that the apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation say they're working to implement Christian theocratic rule, the indications are not promising. In all likelihood, Newark, NJ is a developing template for the implementation of Christian theocratic government.    

Heinlein was a "just a bit" right of center . . . but he still knew what freedom was. He also knew who many of the real enemies of freedom really are. Don't always agree with him, but I greatly fear he may have been right on this one. "If This Goes On" currently published in a volume called "Revolt in 2100." It should be more widely read.

by cloyd on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 01:08:13 PM EST

Given the explicitly theocratic aims of "Pray for Newark" and the "New Apostolic Reformation" in general, it is very scary to see them cozying up to Newark's police department in the manner that they've succeeded in doing.

We really need to have a media spotlight on this.  Otherwise, there's a high risk of a surge in police harassment of gays and religious minorities.

However, it's an exaggeration to suggest that "Pray for Newark" has already succeeded in its longterm goal of establishing full-fledged "theocratic rule" in Newark.  Hence I wouldn't call it a "Model for Christian Theocratic Rule in America."

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 03:04:09 PM EST

I should add:  Thanks for all the work you've been doing to expose the NAR.  I look forward to seeing whatever further information you manage to dig up about "Pray for Newark."  With more solid info, I hope that NYC-area gay newspapers can be persuaded to take an interest in this matter.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 03:12:53 PM EST
From the digging I've done on their web site, I very much doubt it is worth anyone's time giving them any more free publicity.  There is no evidence (except for a couple of unsubstantiated claims from its leaders) that "Pray of Newark" is still operating in any organized capacity.

And given that the murder rate went up last year, and all credit for crime reductions is going to decidedly Earthly causes, it would seem to me that the program has already declined into irrelevance.

Click here if you want to check for yourself.

by tacitus on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 05:12:41 PM EST

It's about a movement. I've covered aspects of this story in a number of posts at this web site.

At Ed Silvoso's 2008 Argentina conference, Lloyd Turner announced the launch of Pray For Newark. At Silvoso's December 2009 conference (attended by, among others, Hawaii GOP gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona) Lloyd Turner claimed almost 100% coverage of Newark city streets.

How do we know it's not a ruse, smoke and mirrors ? Well we don't, but the video I reference in this post (probably produced in 2008) features high level Booker administration officials endorsing Pray For Newark, and Corey Booker and other high-level Newark city officials attended the police graduation ceremony mentioned in my post, held in early 2010. That ceremony was officiated by Pray For Newark head Bernard Wilks. The Booker administration seems to be taking Wilks' politcal influence quite seriously, and that alone is notable given he's an ICA apostle.  

Your assumption that I'm merely drawing on evidence from a single web site surprises me. In this post I'm referencing dozens of stories both colleagues of mine and I have written - which cover various initiatives of the movement in question on several continents across the globe.

As for your suggestion that "given that the murder rate went up last year, and all credit for crime reductions is going to decidedly Earthly causes, it would seem to me that the program has already declined into irrelevance" - The point (which I'm rather surprised you are not aware of - have you read the numerous backing stories I have linked to here ?) is that a heavily politicized (eliminationist in fact) strain of charismatic Christianity claims to be fielding an army of volunteers on Newark's streets, and its leader have demonstrable influence in the Newark mayor Corey Booker's administration.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 12:03:39 AM EST

A movement is more than a few leaders making claims they have not, and perhaps cannot substantiate. Maybe they are organizing through email only, or by good old fashioned telephone, but they spent a considerable amount of money --- probably at least a couple of thousand dollars (I am a web designer) on that web site, only to abandon it six months later.

This is not a sign of a flourishing movement intent on expanding and networking to other cities around the country.  It looks very much like a pet project that got some initial traction and publicity, but was then slowly ignored and abandoned when other matters and interests superseded the program.

It's quite possible that Wilks's own congregation is still actively involved in this in some way, but that would be entirely typical of the types of outreach programs that thousands of evangelical churches do around the country. Indeed, if you look at Rick Greene's site, at Metro Christian Fellowship, you can see they are even having a rally to discuss how to change the city of Newark, street by street, block by block, but they don't even mention "Pray for Newark" as the means or even as a component.

To me this looks like nothing more than an evangelical inner city black church performing outreach to their community to help better the city their way. Do I agree with their conservative Christian message?  Of course not.  Do some of the leaders have grandiose ideas of taking the city back for God and "Biblical values", of course they do, but I can go to any conservative church here in Austin (and probably the nearest one to my house) and hear the same type of language there too on any given Sunday.

As for Booker, well, he's dealing with problems of inner city crime, much of which involves the black community. Whatever else they are, it appears that Wilks and Greene are prominent religious leaders in the African American community, and spend much of their time in the city streets of Newark (Greene holds outdoor services all over) reaching out to their community.  Unless you are telling me that it is unusual for prominent local religious leaders to be present at the swearing in of a new class of police officers, then I don't see any sinister intent on behalf of Booker to have invited these two pastors to this event.  Booker is a liberal, and is an intelligent man, and even if he agrees that prayer is an important weapon in fighting crime in Newark and thus was happy to reach out to two inner city pastors who put together a prayer program (not least from a political point of view, of course) I very much doubt he endorses any kind of theocratic intent the leaders of the program intend for it.  He may not have even heard of such talk.

I am not disputing that Silvoso sees this as a blueprint for a theocratic take over, and such talk is always worth taking note of. What I am disputing is the level of threat you seem to think this talk implies. To me, this has all the appearance of being a bit of a gimmick (aping the adopt a highway schemes) that's already drifted into irrelevance, and where the leadership involved has long since turned to other matters at hand.

Finally, I should say that everyone who runs and contributes to Talk-2-Action is performing a valuable service by keeping an eye on the religious right and their shenanigans, and I thank you for that.  

(BTW: If you want to see where I stand on these issues, all you need do is search for my contributions (under "tacitus") at forums.crosswalk.com!)

I do think that in your earnestness you sometimes overstate your case (as in this example), but given that you have to study this bunch of yahoos in the Religious Right every day, then that is quite forgiveable. :-)

Keep up the good work.

by tacitus on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 03:01:18 AM EST

My guess would be that they abandoned it because they deemed it to be not as fruitful as their other means of outreach.  To this day, a lot of poor people in the inner cities don't have computers.  Most likely, they could reach a lot more people via announcements in churches plus the local religious radio stations.

So I would not draw the conclusion that the effort is dead based on lack of use of the website.

Of course, it would indeed be desirable to obtain more evidence of their activities.

by Diane Vera on Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 08:04:39 PM EST

It's an interesting story, but I wonder whether you really have enough to make this claim:

In all likelihood, Newark, NJ is a developing template for the implementation of Christian theocratic government.

I did a little bit of digging, and I couldn't even come up with enough evidence to substantiate the claims that the "Pray for Newark" has had anything like the success they say they have.

First of all, the prayfornewark.org web site hasn't been touched in two years.  It's quite a detailed site that has PDF maps of all the city streets and a list of streets and their adoption dates. The problem is that the last update I can find to any page was in August 2008.  The first and last press release was in January 2008, and there isn't a single entry in the calendar of events on the site.

The web sites of people associated with the program have made a couple of claims that they were making progress and finally completed their task earlier this year, but there isn't the slightest shred of evidence I can find that "Pray for Newark" is actually still operating as an organized entity (though I have little doubt that individuals are still praying for their streets from time to time).

And when you take a look at the crime statistics in Newark in 2009, you find that the murder rate increased, even though they claimed that more streets than ever were covered by prayer.  What's more, in all of the press coverage I have been able to find about the drop in crime rates in the last few years, credit has been given to three different sources: the police, the surgeons (they have a top notch gunshot surgical team), and new high-tech law enforcement techniques, including automatic gunshot detectors.

Google News doesn't have a single news report that mentions "Pray for Newark" since its inception.  If the theocrats are really gaining ground in Newark, they are being singularly successful in avoiding any kind of publicity.  More likely, the program is yet another example of a religious right program with lofty goals with embarrassingly amateurish followup.

So if you dig underneath the bold pronouncements from those who has a vested interest in talking themselves up (i.e. people like Wilks) then there doesn't seem to be anything much to this story at all, and if Newark is any kind of template, it's a template of failure of the Religious Right to gain any sort of real traction in local government.

I will grant that certain religious leaders, like Wilks, will always court and be courted by local government, but it was ever thus, and really don't see how his presence at a swearing in of 54 new officers is a major indication that they are gaining ground in their efforts to have Newark run as a theocracy.  And just look at the list of religious leaders recognized at that ceremony:

Chaplain Walter Dukes, Imam Det. Mustafa Shakoor (Clergy Affairs), Pastor Rick Greene

There is a photo of this Muslim Imam standing between the two Christian leaders involved in the "Pray for Newark" scheme.  Does that mean we should be worried that the Muslims are conspiring with the Christian Right to turn the city over to God too?

I have to reiterate that I would be just as appalled as you are if this was really a power grab for theocratic power, and would be up in arms about it too, but I see little utility in granting unwarranted publicity to a program that has every sign of already being moribund for months, if not years, and for which dubious claims have been made without a shred of evidence that it is working, or even still operating.

by tacitus on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 04:14:21 PM EST

There is no question whatsoever - Lloyd Turner speaks at Ed Silvoso's conferences and declares that Newark will be the "next Resistencia" (no time now to explain what that refers to, maybe later) and declares that Newark will be a model for transformation of cities across North America.

That's on video, from Silvoso's conference. Just one data point - thhttp://www.talk2action.org/story/2010/6/26/14354/6904ere are many.

There is zero doubt on this. I stand by my characterization.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 05:14:33 PM EST

I fixed it up to the following:


which does work, but does not appear to be relevant.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 06:14:37 PM EST


( Lloyd Turner stating that Newark will be the "Resistencia" of North America )

Introducing Lloyd Turner is ICA apostle Ed Silvoso, who has ties to several world leaders including the Musevenis of Uganda. Silvoso's International Transformation Network, as I've written on at length, is in the forefront of fighting against gay rights in Uganda.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 12:09:42 AM EST

Newark Apostles (and ICA) Bernard Wilks and Frank Dupree also included a Muslim leader in their 2009 National Day of Prayer. Could this be strategic?  Dupree has been very busy this year setting up their latest effort ... in Pakistan! See http://www.metroapostolicnetwork.org/

I'm not sure why they don't update the Pray for Newark website. They may now be using Rick Greene's Metro Christian media networks or Bernard Wilks' Dominion Coalition.  The "Pray for Philly" movement has been touted on Greene's MCTV in a 2010 video, and is modeled after the Pray for Newark. I've watched the Philadelphia leaders talk about attending Ed Silvoso's conference on transforming cities and they claim they are now working to connect with government authorities and businesses in that city, although there is zero web presence of the organization.  Are they exaggerating, or are these groups now able to network out of sight?  Certainly they are deeply entrenched in Newark government and social programs. There has been a buzz lately in the apostolic and prophetic world about cutting edge social networking systems which allow them to "message and mobilize" privately.  

Clearly they have not yet had the success in the U.S. that they have had in Uganda, for example.  But once they do, it will be a bit too late to do anything about it.  Another lesson from Uganda is that some Muslim groups can be recruited to participate in the gay bashing part of the program.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 06:23:20 PM EST

The power isn't so much in what they claim they have accomplished, how they got there, and proving it, but rather what they can CONVINCE people of what they've accomplished. If cities around the country see and believe this video, they will think about setting up the same system.

But I think police director, Garry McCarthy, has a different take on where the results came from. The police had already been working hard to reduce crime with new tactics and equipment long before "Pray for Newark" showed up. Here's an article dated Feb. 2008:


And this one from Jul 2008 is very telling:


Besides, anyone who lives in the area will tell you that Irvington, next door, is much worse. See comparative chart here:


by GenieO on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 06:05:25 PM EST

I think this is also the case with the Transformations videos, produced by George Otis, Jr. and Sentinel Group, and shown to churches worldwide.  Many of the outrageous claims in these movies are demonstrably false, although strong ties were formed with government leaders in  several of the countries featured such as Uganda. The point is that viewers buy into the idea that this is a good idea and believe that they should start conducting "spiritual warfare" and taking over government and social programs in their own hometown.

People repeatedly comment that Thomas Muthee in the first "Transformations" movie (and pastor famous for anointing Sarah Palin) did not really expel the witch from Kiambu, Kenya, so what's the big deal?  But that misses the point. The point is that the people watching the movies are being convinced that they should also spiritually map and chase the people who are they believe are demonic out of town. "Transformation" entities based on this concept have popped up all over the globe.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Sat Jul 31, 2010 at 09:36:24 PM EST

A second point being missed is this:

The researchers who investigated his claims and published the truth did not do so to make him look less harsh or cruel. They did it to prove he was a charlatan and liar.

by GenieO on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 12:18:02 AM EST

This same apparent pattern holds in Orlando and maybe elsewhere - the movement seems to latch on to cities which are reducing crime with good or innovative police practices. It then aggressively promotes the claim that declines in crime occurred for spiritual reasons, because of prayer campaigns.  

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 12:19:14 AM EST
Many of her primary 'picks' have been people who were well on their way to winning before her endorsement. If we conveniently overlook that point, it will then appear that Palin has more political heft than she really has.

Then Fox comes along and magnifies the illusion even  further.

by GenieO on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 01:27:35 AM EST

You may have toned it down a bit more than  necessary.

The folks organizing the prayer-walking aren't just the "evangelical right."  They do indeed have explicitly theocratic ambitions, and I think it was perfectly fine to mention this in you title.

My only problem with your original title was that it suggested they have already achieved their goal of full-fledged theocracy, which obviously they have not, even if they've succeeded in cozying up to the Newark city government, to whatever extent.

by Diane Vera on Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 07:51:41 PM EST

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