Eddie Long Has Apostolic Authority Over 79 Churches in Georgia and More Nationwide
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 11:45:37 PM EST
Kingdom Now or 'Dominionist' theology has resulted in a shift in many charismatic churches to authoritarian leadership.

Bishop Eddie Long may or may not be guilty of the charges of abusing his authority and having sexual relationships with four young men.  However, the current Dominionist trend results in congregations where members are supposed to submit to the almost absolute authority of their anointed leaders, a change that removes the congregation as a balance or check to the power of the pastor.  Long claims spiritual authority over more than his New Birth mega-church in Lithonia, Georgia.  He is the 'apostolic authority' over churches in The Father's House network, including 79 churches in Georgia alone and a total of approximately 275 in 38 states.  Many evangelical churches are shifting away from their traditional democratically governed structures.  A model for making the transition was the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, formerly led by Ted Haggard (who defended Long in broadcasts over the weekend).  Haggard wrote his 1998 book The Life Giving Church as a guide to pastors in making the transition to what he and his colleagues dubbed 'New Apostolic' churches and networks.

When Haggard's scandal became public it was not his New Life congregation but his apostolic Overseers who had the authority to remove or discipline him.  According to Article Thirteen of the bylaws of the nonprofit corporation (as of 2001), the "sheep" or congregants never pass judgment on the shepherd; only the Overseers have authority over him and "may discipline him in any way they deem necessary."  Ultimately Haggard did not follow their instructions in his rehabilitation.   Last year when Haggard started a home prayer group, C. Peter Wagner was quoted in Charisma magazine in November 2009 as stating,
"Haggard should receive approval from apostolic overseers before leading people in prayer and worship. My reservation is that he has not followed through completely on apostolic protocol."

Haggard was a partner with C. Peter Wagner in pioneering the New Apostolic Reformation and building the World Prayer Center.  Wagner not only founded the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), one of the many hundreds of apostolic networks around the globe, but was a major figure in popularizing and giving legitimacy to these new authoritarian church structures.  

Once a church has shifted to this model, the pastor can no longer be hired and fired by the membership but becomes the authority over his flock.  Only his overseers or spiritual authority figures can remove or discipline him.   In these networks an apostle (or bishop in some cases) provides spiritual or apostolic "covering" over others.  (Near the end of the article I describe the process through which a number of African American Baptist ministers came to be called bishops. The designation was already in use in some Pentecostal denominations.)

In his 2009 book Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism (available to download on Kindle), Jonathan L. Walton describes Eddie Long's shift to an authoritarian church structure.

According to the bishop, the democratic systems in place at Baptist churches, featuring management by the traditional deacon or trustee boards, are ungodly governmental structures that are outside God's order.

... In Long's theological framework, the church in God's order, like the family in God's order, is run, not democratically, but according to divine authority and the concepts of respect, submission, and obedience.

...Bishop Long dissolved the various boards at New Birth and wrested desision-making power from the trustees and deacons.  Bishop Long believes that on the day he changed new Birth from a traditional Baptist polity to his own church, no longer allowing a deacon board to "grip the purse strings" or accepting for himself the role of "the hired preacher," he became the "true pastor" of the congregation.

Walton goes on to describe how Long is called "Daddy" by many in the congregation.  But Long's status as father extends far beyond the mega-church in Lithonia.

The Father's House and Long's Global Apostolic Council

From the website of The Father's House:

"The Father's House is a ministry that is intended for Senior Pastors who are led to submit themselves under the spiritual covering and apostolic authority of Bishop Eddie L. Long."

This model requires tithing (payment of ten percent) into the leader's network.  The website for Long's The Father's House network list the benefits and responsibilities of "covering" provided by Long.  Some of the requirements of those being "covered" include:

-Lead a church that is legally incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) and submit a copy of your certificate.
-Covenant to pray for Bishop Eddie L Long and The Father's House Ministry Sons and Daughters.
-Covenant to tithe into The Father's House.

Tithing means donating ten percent, but I'm not sure in this case from what this ten percent is being taken; whether it refers to a tithe of gross or net income and if this refers to the pastor or his church. Certainly it indicates that the spiritual sons and daughters are expected to make monetary contributions to their apostolic authority or spiritual father.

The Father's House list member churches in states across the nation.  In addition to the 79 in Georgia, there are 21 in Alabama, 31 in South Carolina, 26 in North Carolina, 14 in Florida, and many more in other states.  In 2009 Long registered his Global Apostolic Council, Inc. and throughout 2009 and 2010 anointed bishops and ambassadors for the network.

The New Birth Missionary Baptist Facebook website featured the following description and photo of the ordination of Bishop Kim Brown which took place earlier this year:

June 30, 2010 was a night we will ever forget. In all His splendor, the God we serve showed up, laying His mighty hands on our spiritual father, Bishop Eddie L. Long and the newly consecrated Bishop K.W. Brown!!! It was such a joyous occasion, marked by the splendor of a God who always does exceedingly, and abundantly above all we could ever ask! In the presence of Bishops from all over the country, including the Global Apostolic Council and other invited guests, we watched in awe as our very own entered the ranks of the highest office of government in the church.

On Long's Facebook site, one of his members recently asked if Long would explain the meaning of the Global Apostolic Council during a service.

Tithing Up

Long is not the only pastor to employ the idea of receiving tithes from those under his spiritual authority.

John P. Kelly emphasizes tithing to those above you in the spiritual pyramid in New Apostolic Churches, a 1998 book edited by C. Peter Wagner which explains this emerging model for evangelical churches. The book's jacket describes the New Apostolic Reformation,

"..the grassroots phenomenon in which God is raising up churches and leaders worldwide for the last awesome push to fulfill the Great Commission."

Contributors to the book included Wellington Boone and Bill Hybels.

John Kelly now heads the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) which was founded by C. Peter Wagner.  Kelly describes the need for pastors to have apostolic covering like that provided by the Antioch Churches and Ministries he founded, which he claimed to be in 46 nations at that time the New Apostolic Churches was pubished. Senior pastors were instructed to tithe to the level above them, not back into their own church:

If they tithe to their local church, they are tithing back into their own paychecks...

...Many pastors will declare they have a covering, but the question is, do they tithe to that covering?  By tracking the tithe, we can literally track the order in the house of God.

Our local churches also tithe, but they tithe for a different purpose.  Instead of tithing to their spiritual covering, they tithe to the network for global impact and a global harvest.

Apostle Kelly is pictured leading prayer sponsored by the Metro Apostolic Network in the Newark, New Jersey City Council Chambers in 2001. Newark has an extensive apostolic network which now claims to have a 'prayer warrior' assigned to every street in the city and to be a model for other similar city 'transformation' programs.

Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine was listed as an apostle in Wagner's ICA network, but apparently became disillusioned after the Todd Bentley scandal in 2008. (Bentley was leading a healing revival that was drawing thousands to Lakeland, Florida, but during the revival was discovered to be cheating on his wife, among other things.)  In a March 2009 article titled Reclaiming Genuine Apostolic Anointing Grady writes,

Some charismatic apostles became mini-popes who carved out their fiefdoms. Suddenly the independent charismatic movement had more invasive authoritarianism than the denominations these pastors abandoned 10 years earlier.

In some circles apostles demanded total allegiance from the leaders who were "under" them. Some required a policy of "tithing up," creating a monstrous organizational structure similar to a spiritual Amway. So-called apostles with huge "downlines" made exorbitant amounts of money. One leader even offered pastors the opportunity to become "spiritual sons" by contributing $1,000 a month to his ministry.

Despite Grady's frustration, it is clear from the article, and many others since, that he is still dedicated to the concepts of the New Apostolic Reformation, as is Charisma publisher Stephen Strang who has also been an ICA apostle.

Note that I am not implying that Long is part of Wagner's network.  Dominionist ideology spreads far beyond Wagner's immediate circles and is the foundation for numerous apostolic networks throughout the country and the world.  Long works closely with a number of ICA apostles as well as pastors in other networks, but it appears that Long may be at or near the top of his own particular structure.

John Kelly is also head of the International Christian Wealth Builders Foundation which works to prepare for the 'great wealth transfer' prophesied by the movement and to aid in the "advancement of the Kingdom of God on earth." This is not redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.  Dominionists are diehard free marketers who rave against the country's supposed decline into Marxism. Wishful progressives have described the charitable and faith-based work of some dominionists as a return of the social gospel, but these dominionist forcefully reject any association with the social gospel, describing it as socialism.  The wealth redistribution that they are referring to is a future windfall that will go from the ungodly to the godly, a belief that the New Apostolics share with many prosperity doctrine or Word of Faith preachers.

Part Two in this series includes Wagner's presentation of Long as a model for gaining influence in government and taking 'dominion' over a city through charitable enterprises.

Sarah Posner's God's Profits describes some of Long's primary mentors including the late Earl Paulk and Mark Hanby.  Although I have read suggestions in chatter in the blogosphere that Long's spiritual authority is T.D. Jakes, I have not found anything reliable that would indicate whose Long's Overseers would be, or even if he has  Overseers.

As mentioned earlier, there was a point in time when Long and a number of other Baptist pastors made a decision to take on the title of bishop. A group of pastors broke away from the 8 million member National Baptist Convention USA, the largest denomination of black Baptist to form the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship. They were led by Pastor Paul S. Morton, who had been raised in Church of God in Christ (COGIC), a Pentecostal denomination which has bishops who oversee geographic regions of the country. Eddie Long was one of the original pastors who worked with Morton to form an association that would blend components of Baptist tradition with charismatic practice. The group held their first convention in New Orleans in 1994 in the Superdome with over 20,000 people in attendance.

The new organization differed significantly from Baptist churches in both adopting charismatic practices of speaking in tongues and laying on of hands, and also in introducing the positions of bishops and elders. Baptist churches are traditionally independent and nonhierarchical. As stated in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Long's leadership in the organization helped launch his career and as his mega-church and associated ministries grew, he no longer needed to rely on the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship. Despite the repeated use by the press of the term Baptist to describe Eddie Longís congregation, one could argue that the church is Baptist in name only. Numerous other Missionary Baptist churches joined the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship and quite a few are now part of Longís The Fatherís House network.

Long's legal issues will continue to be in the news but hopefully there will also be some attention given to the role that Dominionist theology is playing in creating an environment where pastor's have absolute and unquestionable authority over their congregants.

[This article is continued in Part Two which includes a prophecy by Long's New Zealand 'spiritual son' Bishop Brian Tamaki. Tamaki claimed in 2004, with Long present and supporting the announcement, that he would take over that country in five years.]

This article focusing on the creation of bishops and hierarchy is the missing link in my contention that the far Right's eventual goal is the restoration of feudalism. The European version of debt peonage called feudalism differs from debt peonage in other lands in part because it features a powerful Church and hierarchy as one of the three forms of divided sovereignity along with king and nobility. This hardly seems to characterize the chaos of Protestant denominations, but you have explained the key to Protestant diversity: the congregations have the power to fire the pastor. Once the congregation loses that power, the history of the Catholic church begins to be replayed. First the bishops arise with control of multiple congregations, then the bishops unite to create a centralized power base capable of doing what Catholicism did in Rome; land one of their own on the throne. The hatred of that Catholic order was so intense in America that a century ago the very term "bishop" probably would have been anathema in many Protestant denominations. Yet now it is used openly with the ever-looming implication that next come the cardinal and the pope.

by super390 on Fri Oct 01, 2010 at 12:05:01 PM EST
Back when I was a Pentecostal/Dominionist, there were sermons against the term 'Bishop', and lots of ranting and raving.

After I walked, I used to support the Episcopal structure because the Bishops provided a means of controlling the rest of the clergy.  However, as I learned (the hard way), if the Bishop is uncaring and 'Religious Right', the priests and deacons under him will start going that way (either through some form of osmosis or because of overt pressure and control).

Now it's all turned on its head- the very thing that the Pentecostals/dominionists I was 'under' is now their goal.

Funny how it also violates some of the very things that Jesus sought to teach... like "and whoever would be first among you must be your slave" (Matt 20:27).

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Oct 02, 2010 at 10:21:18 AM EST

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