by Rachel Tabachnick
October 17, 2011
One week before announcing his candidacy for president, Texas Governor Rick Perry hosted an all-day prayer event titled The Response. Perry told the animated Houston audience of about 30,000 participants, “This will be a day that people are going to discuss for years to come.” He may have been right, but it remains to be seen if it is for the reasons he had hoped.
The Response was patterned after similar large venue events held around the world under the name TheCall. Staff of TheCall and a related ministry that shares the same Kansas City, Missouri, campus, the International House of Prayer (IHOP), organized and led the American Family Association-financed event in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. IHOP was founded by Mike Bickle, who led part of The Response.
The next stop for TheCall is scheduled for Detroit on November 11. Some of the same religious leaders who organized and supported Perry’s event have been working throughout the past year to prepare and promote the upcoming 24-hour “solemn assembly.”
According to TheCall’s website, Detroit was chosen because it “has become a microcosm of our national crisis — economic collapse, racial tension, the rising tide of the Islamic movement, and the shedding of innocent blood of our children in the streets and of our unborn.”
Pre-event activities include a daily “prayer wall” along Eight-Mile Road (near Lahser Road), which TheCall’s website describes as “unanimously known among native Detroiters as the most prolific socio-economic, racial, and cultural ‘dividing line’ in the region.”
These leaders are part of the apostolic and prophetic movement, dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) by one of its leading apostles, C. Peter Wagner. Although Gov. Perry is not the first politician to partner with the apostles, his event has brought the movement to the attention of national press.
The Response included three primary themes of TheCall events held around the world — ending legalized abortion, fighting the growing tolerance of homosexuality, and supporting partnerships with Messianic Jews. The last mandate is for the purpose of converting Jews, particularly in Israel, which is considered a necessary prerequisite to advancing Jesus’ second coming. Under the program heading of “Prayer for Israel,” The Response included a prayer for conversion of Jews led by an apostle and a Messianic rabbi.
While calling for the end of tolerance of abortion and homosexuality, TheCall promotes the breaking down of racial and ethnic barriers. TheCall and the larger NAR movement have encouraged outreach to Hispanic, African American, and Native American churches and communities, as well as those who have converted from other religions.
Preparations for TheCall Detroit have also included outreach to African American churches in the region, but the major focus of the event is what the organizers are describing as a spiritual battle against the “demonic spirits” of freemasonry and Islam. By bringing together black and white believers in repentance and reconciliation, the leaders claim that demonic forces that cause the region’s problems will be expelled, allowing for mass conversion of Michigan’s Muslim population. (Dearborn, next door to Detroit, is home to what is believed to be the nation’s largest mosque, the Islamic Center of America.) One of the leaders speaking in Michigan this year prophesied that the region would become “Mecca with a cross.”
This unique view of cause and effect is better understood in the context of the movement’s history and ideology.
TheCall is led by Lou Engle, a prophet who has shared the event’s stage with religious and political leaders including James Dobson and Sam Brownback. Engle has been a part of the inner circle of prophets of the NAR, called the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, and is part of the apostolic network of Ché Ahn, a leading figure in the movement and co-founder of TheCall in 2000.
Engle is also the founder of Bound4Life, which initiated the practice of anti-abortion protestors placing red tape over their mouths with the word “LIFE” written in black. Rifqa Bary, the Muslim girl whose flight from home after converting to Christianity was in the news for months, was involved in Bound4Life before running away from family in Ohio. She called Lou Engle “her hero” in testimony taken by the court in Florida.
Engle has compared the late George Tiller’s abortion clinic to Auschwitz and was in the documentary Jesus Camp, seen handing out plastic fetuses to young children while leading in shouting “righteous judges.” He was internationally televised “laying hands” and praying over Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, and led prayer at the anti-healthcare reform event that included Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sen. Jim DeMint, and other members of the House and Senate.
Engle’s activism has included calling for martyrs from the stage of TheCall San Diego in 2008, an event in support of California’s Proposition Eight (which removed the rights of same-sex couples to marry). He took TheCall to Uganda in 2010, where participants spoke in support of the still-pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would broaden penalties to include execution and prison sentence for “promotion of homosexuality.”
The controversial prophet was not visible at Gov. Perry’s rally, but numerous other apostles and prophets emceed, spoke, prayed, and endorsed the event. Other apostles were in the audience, including C. Peter Wagner, as he confirmed in an October 3 radio interview with Terry Gross, host of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air.
Wagner dates the New Apostolic or Second Reformation of the church as beginning in 2001. The NAR has a structure and ideology that is controversial with much of the conservative evangelical and fundamentalist world. NAR leaders teach that throughout the 1980s and 1990s, God was restoring authority to prophets and apostles who are anointed to lead a post-denominational church in preparation for the end times.
This unified church is expected to take authority or “dominion” over seven spheres, or mountains, of society and government — arts, business, education, family, government, media, and religion. A media campaign has been built around this concept called “Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture” or simply the 7-M Mandate.
The apostolic and prophetic movement was dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation by C. Peter Wagner, who streamlined and widely marketed the movement’s ideology and structure. It emerged from the Charismatic and Pentecostal sector of Christianity and draws primarily from the estimated 300–400 million nondenominational or Independent Charismatics worldwide, also referred to as neo-Pentecostal or neo-Charismatic. Charismatic describes belief in a secondary conversion experience in which born-again believers receive supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, faith-healing or prophecy.
Up until his 80th birthday, Wagner was the “Convening Apostle” of a network called the International Coalition of Apostles, now under the leadership of another leading apostle. Under Wagner’s leadership, other networking entities were developed, including faith-healing and demon-deliverance centers, an inner circle of prophets, and international training programs. Some of the apostles in the network have numerous ministries under their apostolic authority and there are similar networks besides Wagner’s throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Those outside the nuclear church and working in the other six “mountains” of culture are called marketplace or workplace apostles.
Another distinguishing feature of the NAR is its “strategic level spiritual warfare.” Unlike traditional evangelizing methods, the apostles teach that communities can be converted and transformed through spiritual warfare. Evangelism is approached in terms of taking geographic territory away from the enemy, described as literal demonic beings that can take possession of individuals or entire people groups.
Strategic level spiritual warfare is described as fought on three levels. The first is ground level warfare and involves expulsion of demons from individuals. The second is occult level warfare against the demons they claim are behind freemasonry, witchcraft and Eastern religions. The third is strategic level against the most powerful demonic principalities or those described as controlling entire “people groups,” including the adherents of Roman Catholicism and Islam.
A series of “Transformations” movies were produced beginning in 1999 to document communities that used these spiritual warfare techniques to expel demons and unify the communities in reconciliation, repentance, and prayer. These communities are then shown as beneficiaries of supernatural cures for societal ills, including the miraculous healing of AIDS, dramatic decrease or end of corruption and crime, and instantaneous reversal of environmental degradation. Similarly themed “Transformation” entities have been initiated by the apostles and prophets in communities around the world.
One of these entities is Transformation Michigan, which is partnering with Lou Engle and the upcoming TheCall Detroit. Transformation Michigan is an affiliate of the Oak Initiative, founded by another major prophet, Rick Joyner, based in South Carolina. The Michigan Oak Initiative Coordinating Council includes former Michigan State Rep. Fulton Sheen and Amy Hawkins, executive director of Citizens for Traditional Values.
TheCall, Transformation Michigan, and the Oak Initiative, along with several other ministries around the state, have sponsored activities for more than a year in preparation for the spiritual warfare battle to culminate in TheCall Detroit on 11/11/11. The date is believed to have significance as a time of “divine convergence.”
The Oak Initiative is an organization that blends social conservative issues with a Tea Party-style policy agenda. Prior to the 2010 elections, the organization produced a video featuring one of its board members, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William “Jerry” Boykin, who also served as former deputy undersecretary of Defense. In the video titled Marxism in America, Boykin claims that the nation is in the grips of a Marxist insurgency. The Oak Initiative has worked with Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy in promoting the center’s report on the dangers of Islam and promoting anti-Sharia laws.
The retired general has traveled to Michigan to give presentations on applying his “Nine Principles of Warfare” to spiritual warfare against Islam. Transformation Michigan conference calls, available to the public on their website, have also included two of the apostles who are the authorities over the 50-state prayer warrior networks — Cindy Jacobs and John Benefiel, both of whom endorsed Perry’s Houston event.
Benefiel described preparations taking place in advance of TheCall Detroit, including a series of ceremonies he said were being held outside each of the Masonic lodges across Michigan. He told listeners that teams were performing divorce ceremonies from the demon of Baal, and driving stakes into the ground that had a verse from Jeremiah written on them in order to claim the land from demonic influence.
Another leading apostle explained the significance of linking the spiritual warfare at Masonic lodges to Islam. Bill Suddeth heads the International Association of Deliverance Ministries, a network of hundreds of demon-deliverance centers, as confirmed by Wagner in his Fresh Air interview. Suddeth summarized his elaborate teachings on the relationship of freemasonry and Islam to the Transformation Michigan conference call participants and explained that the practice of freemasonry allowed the demon of Baal to enter communities and subsequently allowed Islam to enter. He also informed listeners that teams would begin holding similar ceremonies outside mosques throughout the state.
Speaking of the spiritual warfare preparations, Rick Warzywak, head of Tranformation Michigan, asked Suddeth, “Is it important to be praying on site of these mosques?” Suddeth responded, “Absolutely, we have to take the ground. We have to have a physical presence there.”
Warzywak continues, “What you’re saying is we go back and occupy and take back the land, right?” And Suddeth answered, “Every advance in the Kingdom of God is met with resistance, and the problem is the church has not resisted the advance of the enemy. By us physically going to these Masonic lodges like we did, physically going to these mosques like we’re planning, and these other altars if you will, we are advancing the Kingdom and pushing back the darkness.”
National leaders of the NAR, including Cindy Jacobs and John Benefiel, claim that freemasonry-influenced sites harbor demonic spirits. They include in their lists courthouses, buildings and monuments across the nation. They also claim that heirs of Masons are afflicted with “generational curses” such as health problems, including asthma.
MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show drew attention to Benefiel’s claims that the Statue of Liberty is demonic, and Jacobs claims that the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy led to the death of flocks of birds. Maddow also broadcast video of C. Peter Wagner claiming that Japan’s economy was damaged because the emperor slept with the Sun Goddess.
During the Fresh Air interview, Terry Gross mentioned the recent 40-day campaign led by Jacobs and Benefiel to rename the District of Columbia to the District of Christ, in order to remove the name of a goddess and “change the spiritual atmosphere over Washington DC forever.” Following Perry’s prayer event, Cindy Jacobs stated that the land was starting to rejoice because The Response had broken the curse caused by Native American cannibals.
The sensational nature of these quotes drew attention to the three apostles, all of whom had endorsed Perry’s prayer event, but subsequent press did little to explain why so many politicians, including a candidate for president, are anxious to partner with the NAR.
Politicians have partnered with leaders of the NAR during political campaigns for years. The 2006 U.S. Senate campaign of former Florida congresswoman and secretary of state Katherine Harris encountered controversy when audio was made public of a conference call in which Harris prayed for the conversion of her Jewish brothers and sisters. The call was with the leader of Florida’s apostolic prayer network, and Harris referenced Cindy Jacobs and other leading apostles in her prayer.
Hawaiian gubernatorial candidate James “Duke” Aiona tried to dismiss his involvement with the movement, but prior to the 2010 election it emerged that he had been part of a leading apostles’ Transformation entity for years, even appearing in promotional literature and overseas conferences.
Why risk association with a movement that would be viewed as extremists by many voters?
The NAR markets its efforts to transform cities by breaking down barriers between races, generations, and denominations. It has had significant success in community organizing around the nation and is behind an array of charitable and faith-based projects.
On the surface, the multi-racial movement that allows women to be apostles and prophets has little in common with the traditional religious right of the past. Advocacy for social hot-button issues, including fighting legal abortion and gay rights, is merged with support for anti-tax, anti-social safety net, and anti-regulatory policy. This worldview is being aggressively marketed to minority populations and to youth.
In a recent promotional video for TheCall Detroit, Rick Joyner and Lou Engle tell the story of Willie Lynch, who is claimed to have given a speech on the banks of the James River in 1712, providing guidelines for maintaining the institution of slavery for 300 years. They describe their racial reconciliation efforts and TheCall as potentially ending a 300-year demonic curse over African Americans.
These reconciliation ceremonies have a political application. When Gov. Perry spoke at The Response, two people stood at his side. One was Apostle Alice Patterson, author of Bridging the Racial and Political Divide, and the other was Rev. C. L. Jackson of Houston. Patterson has written and spoken about their reconciliation efforts across the state of Texas and claims they have increased the percentage of African American voters supporting Perry.
Beginning in 2002, a team including Patterson and Jackson spoke to African American churches in Texas, bringing a message of repentance and racial reconciliation. Part of this message was a history lesson from David Barton, a former vice chair of the Texas Republican Party and frequent guest on Glenn Beck’s former television show, who teaches that the Founding Fathers did not intend separation of church and state.
In his presentations Barton describes the Democratic Party as the source of racism in America. The KKK’s lynchings were Democratic attacks on Republicans, Barton says, and leads the audience to believe that Republicans and conservative religious leaders have always been the champions of civil rights throughout the history of the nation and into the present.
Patterson teaches that the Democratic Party is controlled by a demonic structure called Jezebel and the Republican Party by a demon called Ahab, named after the Old Testament figures. Patterson explains that Democrats are guilty of worship of Baal and Republicans are, like Ahab, guilty of empowering Jezebel by tolerating the sinful agenda of Democrats. Patterson describes Democratic policy as having “enslaved” the poor because they have substituted government for God.
In 2007 Patterson’s ministry hosted a conference titled African American Pastors’ and Leaders’ VIP Summit. Speakers included former Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Gov. Rick Perry.
Nevertheless, most journalists reported that there was no politics visible at The Response.
The NAR apostles and prophets argue that they are not partisan, but are working to organize 500,000 prayer warriors for the 2012 elections. Although most of the politicians who have actively partnered with the apostles are Republicans, several have been Democrats, and one leading apostle was elected to the Jacksonville, Florida, City Council as a Democratic candidate.
It remains to be seen how the sudden national exposure will impact the movement. Previous TheCall events have drawn anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 people, and the initial event in 2000 on the Mall in Washington, D.C., was reported to have drawn around 400,000 participants.
TheCall Detroit has been promoted in videos and to ministries as taking place for 24 hours beginning on November 11 at Ford Field. At the time of publication, staff from Ford Field reported that the reservation had not been confirmed, and earlier this month TheCall posted video of pleas for financial support.