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Henry I. Lederle: The Third Wave: New Independent Charismatic Churches, Part 1

With the advantage of hindsight, it is probably true to say that the differences that existed between the proponents and detractors of the shepherding/discipleship/submission teaching belong well within the parameters of acceptable diversity within basic evangelical Christianity. Had a new church grouping been formed, it is probable that the extremes which were being evidenced on the fringes (shepherds claiming too much authority, manipulation, etc.) would have been corrected within the movement over time.

Perhaps the reasons why this greatly feared “new denomination” was not formed and momentum and support for this whole movement was lost could be summarized as follows: (1) There was still a deep theological aversion to forming new “denominations.” This tendency had been more recently illustrated in 1948 by “the New Order of the Latter Rain” and its across-the-board rejection of Catholicism, Protestant denominations, and even Pentecostalism. In these Restorationist type movements, organized, institutional structures and personal relationships were seen as mutually exclusive. (2) The overreaction of, especially, mainline Protestant Charismatics and some of their Classical Pentecostal allies unnerved the Fort Lauderdale Restorationist leaders. Their motives and personal integrity had been questioned. Their growth was said to be largely by transfer of believers, and the reproach of “sheep stealing” was leveled. The forming of a national network of churches would have confirmed the worst fears of their detractors. (3) There seemed to be theological differences on the nature of the church, as well as practical issues like unbridled individualism, lack of moral accountability, pride, and authoritarianism that muddied the waters.

Apart from the Fort Lauderdale movement, which was then called the Christian Growth Ministries (but renamed itself several times), there are many other examples of Restorationist style groups in the USA. A typical example may be Silver Spring Community, also known as the People of Destiny International (PDI), under the leadership of C. J. Mahaney and Larry Tomczak. These two young evangelists, coming originally out of the Jesus movement, formed a network of churches in which relationships, communal living, and exuberant worship were of pivotal importance. The movement started in 1977 in Wheaton, Maryland. Tomczak’s background was in the Catholic Charismatic renewal. He later left PDI and was for a time connected to the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida. Mahaney’s background is Reformed, and the official stance of PDI expresses this with its new name “Sovereign Grace.” The designation PDI has been retained as an acronym: Proclaiming God’s grace, Developing local churches, and Influencing our world with the gospel. The ministry is now led by an apostolic board of six men, with headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Catholic scholar Peter Hocken discerns an influence on PDI from the Bradford (Harvestime) group of restorationism in Britain. There is a similar focus on an end-time restoration of the New Testament church and the concept that spiritual gifts are to be used in mission and ushering in God’s kingdom rule.

In his 1985 study on restorationism titled Restoring the Kingdom: The Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement, Andrew Walker explored the influence of the Catholic Apostolic Church (associated with Edward Irving) and the Christian Brethren (associated with John Nelson Darby) of the nineteenth century on the contemporary restoration movement in Britain. Walker distinguishes two factions, which he dubs Restoration 1 and 2, after their separation by 1976. The first group is identified more clearly by its apostolic teams, involvement in the annual Dales Bible Week, and the magazine Restoration. Restoration 2 is more loosely structured and contains many who have distanced themselves from Restoration 1. Leaders in the second group include John Noble, Gerald Coates, and David Tomlinson, while Arthur Wallis, David Matthew, and Bryn Jones and, later, Terry Virgo of New Frontiers, placed their stamp on Restoration 1. The connection between the British and American Restorationists came about through contacts between Bryn Jones and Canadian Pentecostal Ern Baxter, who was part of the “Fort Lauderdale five.” Together with the Vineyard Association, which will be referred to below, these Restorationist groups are called the New Churches and number about a half million in Britain.

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Winter 2012

About the Author: Henry I. Lederle, D.Th. (University of South Africa) and M.A. (University of Orange Free State), is Professor of Theology and Ministry at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. He is the author of Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of Spirit-Baptism in the Charismatic Renewal Movement (Hendrickson, 1988), Theology with Spirit: The Future of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century (Word & Spirit Press, 2010), and several collections of essays, articles and reviews.

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