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Demos Shakarian and His Ecumenical Businessmen

By 1993, when Demos died, the FGBMFI in the United States was undergoing a decline – the natural course of a revival institution that succeeded. Its initial message: that God acted in everyday life of ordinary people with the power of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, was now common. The theology of Faith Idealism and Christian New Thought prosperity, which it did so much to spread, was well established if still controversial.

Demos Shakarian

From the 1980s the FGBMFI underwent a tremendous expansion overseas, especially in the majority world. In many of these countries the combination of the concepts of “businessman” with “honesty” and “holiness” and the power of the Spirit had never been made. The FGBMFI presence and modeling have been truly revolutionary. It suddenly injects, in a sense, the “Protestant Ethic” and Puritan respect for commercial life in places where those things were unknown. Especially in Africa, the FGBMFI has been a conduit for the spread of the Charismatic renewal and the gifts of the Spirit.[9] In that continent, where many persons are still under the bondage of witchcraft and almost everyone believes in the spiritual dimensions of dreams and visions, the strong Pentecostal/charismatic message of FGBMFI speakers is readily accepted. [10] Similarly, the FGBMFI has experienced dramatic successes in Latin America in recent decades.

No matter what perspective you look at FGBMI with, its revolutionary “worship ecumenism” is its greatest legacy.

 

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[1] The history of the FGBMFI is documented in Demos Shakarian’s autobiography: Demos Shakarian, “as told by” John and Elizabeth Sherrill, The Happiest People on Earth (Old Tappan: Chosen Books, 1975). A later, general history of this important para-church ministry was written by the dean of Pentecostal historians, Vinson Synan, Under His Banner (Gift Publications, 1991). The FGBMFI website has a brief history and wonderful pictures, at: http://www.fgbmfi.org/home.htm

[2]I first encountered the FGBMFI as a new and very “Catholic” Charismatic about 1975. I was struck by this ritual of denominational ecumenism. Having been well educated in Church history it impressed me immediately that such a multidenominational meeting would not have been held two hundred years ago, and three hundred years ago they might have been at each other’s throats with the cutlery on the table. Catholics would have had all Protestants declared as heretics and worthy of the stake. Calvinists would have attempted the same for the Baptists. This “worshiping ecumenicism,” where doctrines were not discussed, prompted me to reconsider the meaning of heresy, and its over use in conservative theological circles.

[3] Demos Shakarian (“As told by” John and Elizabeth Sherrill), The Happiest People on Earth (Old Tappen: Chosen books, 1975), 36

[4]Ibid., 70-71.

[5] Ibid., 83

[6] Ibid., 118

[7] Ibid., 133

[8] Editor’s note: Camps Farthest Out, founded by Glenn Clark in 1929, is a Christians retreat ministry. Glenn Clark described their mission as being “dedicated to the purpose of discovering the wholeness of that abundant life which Christ promised” (acfona.org).

[9] Opoku Onyinah, “African Christianity in the Twenty-first Century.” Word & World, 27 #3 (Summer 2007) 305-314.

[10] Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, “Missionaries Without Robes: Lay Charismatic fellowship and the evangelization of Ghana,” Pneuma, 19 #2 (1997), 167-188.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2014

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook AnglicalPentecostal.blogspot.com

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