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Assemblies of God in USA and Italy

I am a second generation Pentecostal. My parents were AoG pioneers in Wales and in England and later in New Zealand. I studied in the official AoG Commonwealth Bible College (CBC) then based in Brisbane, Australia under veteran Scottish Principal James Wallace.
IN those days there was virtually no hierarchy, just an administrative committee to ensure the smooth running of what was intended to be a fellowship of Assemblies. Sadly AoG has lost the plot in many countries, notably in Australia and New Zealand where men, who are ambitious for their own promotion and prosperity, have jockeyed for and secured high office. Largely speaking it has ceased to be the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and has become a human organisation that exists for the benefit of the leaders, who have lost all sense of the fear of God and who fail to obey the injunction of scripture to be holy in their living and impartial in their judgements. In many places, particularly within Australasia, cronyism and nepotism prevail. This will always produce a fertile seedbed for corruption, confusion, immorality and spiritual abuse, which is precisely what is happening, in increasing measure. The only remedy is for those responsible to openly repent.
While the terms Worldwide and International Assemblies of God are misnomers, both legally and intrinsically, they do represent what is a very mixed bag. AoG in UK is different from AoG in USA, which in turn is different from their counterparts in Italy, Japan, Australasia and so on. Much the same thing could be said about most of the national expressions of other Pentecostal denominations. In countries like NZ and Australia the battle for traditional Pentecostalism, within the denominations that go by that name, has virtually been lost. Those, such as CWM, are fighting it from outside the denominational fold. In the USA and in Italy the case is different. In the former there are those who retain a commitment to biblical doctrine and practice and who are willing to lobby their peers for action against the heretical Revival Now Movement. (Some call it The River Movement).
In the USA good men within the movement are going down the legal route, in their efforts as the following REMIT put to the General Council in Orlando, Florida in August 1999 shows.
In addition they are following an open policy of public debate and discussion on two web sites: <cpi-edg@pentecostal -issues.org> and <http://www.biblical-integrity.com/>. For those who have
concerns or who, like Terry Arnold, in Australia and Peter Glover in UK, have adopted the broad shot method of attack against Pentecostals, we recommend visiting the battle scene in the USA.

USA: A LEGAL BATTLE

Resolution 16: A return to biblical Integrity, 48th General Council in Orlando, 1999
WHEREAS, the first of the 16 fundamental truths asserts unequivocally that the scriptures are the "infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct"; and
WHEREAS, the report of the Spiritual Life Committee in Minutes, Revised Constitution and Bylaws of the General Council of the Assemblies of God 1993 states: We believe that God's Spirit never goes where His Word does not…. We have been lambasted by elements of the electronic church and charismatic renewal as being backslidden and non-Spirit led when we have not jumped on popular bandwagons of the day loaded with the meringue of personality and spiritual excess rather than the plain meat of God's Word. So be it! If criticism is the price we must pay for asking the question: "What saith the Lord in His written Word?"—then let us wear that criticism gladly as a sign of fidelity to Christ; and WHEREAS, the current "river of God" includes many alleged manifestations of the Spirit which are extra-biblical. These extra-biblical manifestations have become a de facto evidence of a new level of spirituality and/or a new anointing. They are eclipsing in importance the biblical anointing called the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is witnessed by speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance; and WHEREAS, Latter Rain doctrines such as impartation, birthing, Joel's Army, and the five-fold ministries taught as offices with predictive prophecy are again being heard in the new revival; and
WHEREAS, As a result, ministers and churches are being divided and members are becoming confused about the authority of the Scripture; therefore, be it RESOLVED, that this General Council reaffirm the decision of the General Council of 1949, as stated:
We recognize a hunger on the part of God's people for a spiritual refreshing and manifestation of His Holy Spirit [and]
That we set our hearts to seek for a continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit founded upon the clear teaching of the Word of God.
Be it further RESOLVED, That we disapprove of Latter Rain doctrines and practices such as "impartation," "birthing," "Joel's Army," and the "five-fold ministries" taught as "offices" with "predictive prophecy," and other extraneous teachings "which, being unfounded scripturally, serve only to break fellowship...and tend to confusion and division.
Sponsors: I. Donald J. Evans, Craig Grigson, Carl E. Guiney, Rayder O. Jacobsen, John D. Marston, Orrel Steinkamp, John R. Teeter, Terry W. Wiles

Italy:One bright light in a dark sky

Italy has stood firm against all the "funny stuff" to such an extent that each Assembly of God has taken on an unspoken rule not to invite any outside speaker who is not personally recommended by someone known to them. This has worked well in the past, but now with the event of more open TV the battle is being joined as the following article reveals. For some time there has been concern about Thomas Trask, General Superintendent of AoG in USA, who gets a mention in this article. It is understood that Thomas' father was pro-Latter Rain, when AoG outlawed it back in 1947. Trask is alleged to have said not so long ago: "We missed it back then. We're not going to miss it again". We believe that perception is wrong. Latter-Rain is false doctrine and false doctrine will corrupt, even if it appears to produce quick results — c/f the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven — Matt 13:31-35.
Thomas Trask seems to be made of different stuff to his predecessors, such as Thomas Zimmerman, who in his early Superintendency was a strong leader. He opposed Yongi Cho over his mixed signal about ancestral worship. Unfortunately due to fear about litigation he tended later to water-down his stand against error and false teachers. Back in the 70s I had occasion to seek his advice regarding Morris Cerullo. He was less than open in his letter to me though later in private conversation he tried to explain his reticence to state his honest position. Men whom I look to as mentors, such as James Wallace, William F P Burton, David Powell and to a less extent WTH Richards were always strong in their stand for truth and against error. During my period as a student in bible college, Principal James Wallace stood alone in opposition to one of these "con-artists" from overseas. William Burton wrote to Oral Roberts back in the 50s warning him that his teaching about a point of contact was Romish and would corrupt him and his message. Billy Richards gave the manager of a big-time healing evangelist short shift when he offered him money in exchange for promotion in the UK. Brother Richards told him, "Your money perish with you." I was present in the AoG British Conference when my paternal uncle, now in his 91st year warned about humanism, emotionalism and demonism invading the movement through the big-time healing evangelists. Sadly, within the denominational structure their likes are now very rare. Most, like Andrew Evans have gone the Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuler route.

Refer also to M Cerullo Court case

Trask sends mixed signal in Europe

By G. ROSSINI of Italy

In Europe we have recently been "privileged" in seeing TBN almost all day long. I confess that after church, late at night I take a look at what's going on there. A few weeks ago I witnessed a service held on the PTL show where Creflo Dollar (talk about what's in a name!) brought an inspiring and edifying message on being rich. As Jesus was a multi-millionaire, and as we are told to walk like Jesus, the Rev. Dollar wants money. And all Christians are entitled to money, and if they are broke or poor they are a disgrace to Christ and a miserable witness to the world.
During the exposition of these profound and illuminating thoughts, I was shocked to see a small child coming to the front of the hall, right in front of the Rev. Dollar's pulpit and drop what I thought was litter on the steps leading up to the pulpit. To my amazement, at first one by one, then in bunches and groups, almost all the audience got up, walked to the front and dropped... dollars, cheques and other offerings. When I preach and someone from the pews gets up, I get nervous, I lose my concentration. But no such affliction seemed to affect our worthy Reverend. He went on regardless promising the wealth of the world to all who would believe him. But soon we moved into the most spiritual moment of the service; Dollar welcomed a friend, whose name I have forgotten and who has apparently been divinely appointed to free the body of Christ from debt and poverty.
This minister came forward, got everyone on their feet with outstretched arms and clenched fists as if they were grabbing something and shouting, "Money, come in," while pulling down imaginary millions from heaven. This holy rite was repeated a second time. Then, behold, the Minister told us a mystery. In order to have effect, the pulling in money gesture had to be done three times; such was the instruction he had received from God. And so for the third time, hands up, fists clenched, they pulled in all the money they could.
I was so disgusted I did not watch TBN for a while. But two weeks ago I was home from Sunday service late so switched on the TV and there was Thomas Trask on PTL! Now, Brother Trask was in Italy last year at the AoG Pastors' convention and his preaching was great. To see him now where only a few weeks ago Creflo Dollar had poured such rubbish on believers was a shock. Brother Trask said nothing wrong, prayed and was edifying. But what I am saying is that his being there could cause confusion. I have heard other good ministries on TBN. Do they know they are on the same channel that promotes charlatans?
In Italy we have mercifully been spared this confusion because of the very cautious stance of our leadership, and the fact that we didn't have things like TBN. We do now and they broadcast in Italian. And it becomes very important that we do know how to tell what is from God and what isn't; what is biblical and what is spurious.
I would like to share a thought on a famous passage that may shed some light on this issue. In Acts 16:16-19 we read
"As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, `These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.' And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, `I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.' And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers."
One of the most common demon manifestations is through fortune telling and spirit guides. Then as now a lot of money was involved. Here we have some basic elements of satanic activity in society:

• The presence of demons. People don't know them, but admire their power. They admire magicians, mediums etc.
• The presence of slaves of demons. The girl was a slave both of men and demons. Our society is full of them; mediums, prostitutes, drug addicts, magicians etc. They are slaves to demons and often to men.
• The presence of exploiters. In Satan's reign there is always someone who takes advantage of the misfortunes of others, like these slave-owners. Even though they exploit people, they themselves are slaves of another god: Mammon.
• Human life is worth only what it can earn money wise. Nobody was interested in the person of the girl; her life was important not in itself, but as a moneymaker. This is evident today where unborn babies are killed, old people abandoned, and the poor of this world treated like lepers all in the name of Mammon.

When preachers behave like these slave owners, when they want the people's money, when they aren't at all interested in them as persons and when people are so dependent on the words of a minister, like a drug addict depends on his daily dose, are we not allowing demonic activity into the body of Christ? What is also interesting here is that the demon shouts out to everyone telling them to follow Paul and Silas because they have the message of salvation. A few more points to think about:
1. Demons can and do speak of salvation. Why? Becoming "Angels of Light" they attract a lot of people. They know very well how to cover lies with truth. Their aim is not the salvation of people but their death (John 10:10). Many are those today who preach around Christ, but their aim is carnal and sensuous.
2. This spirit specialised in fortune telling and predicting the future. Today many so called prophets are fortune telling and predicting the future, basing their arguments not on the bible but on what they claim "the Holy Spirit" told them. Millennium doom prophecies should have taught us a great lesson. When a ministry bases itself on telling the future, or specialises in particular prophecies that have no biblical basis, we must beware! Demons do that!
3. This spirit also got a lot of money for the girl's owners. We must be clear about this; the gospel did not make Paul rich! False prophecies made this demon possessed girl's owners rich. Now I know God blesses materially; but He does not promise unconditional wealth. If that is taught in a ministry, the teaching is associated with demons and we do well to stay away and not mix with them.
4. This spirit spoke well of Paul and Silas. He didn't say they were wrong or they were enemies. It invited its clients to go and hear Paul and Silas too. In other words the demon was saying, "Paul and Silas are with me. You can go and hear them. I guarantee they're okay!" People would say they were basically the same. "There's not really much difference in what Paul's preaching and the slave girl's saying. She even agrees with him." But the message is not the same. When we accept everyone and anyone because they mention Christ, we are courting danger and inviting demons into our midst. Is this not what is happening on channels such as TBN? Those that preach prosperity and easy prophecy may say they are Christians just like others; but we must beware. Unless they teach and preach, not their fancies, but what the bible clearly teaches they are not the same.
Had that demon slave been allowed to go on, the work in Philippi would have been seriously compromised. Paul put a stop to it. He knew that that demon didn't promote the cause of Christ; it caused confusion. We today are allowing all sorts of trickery to go on. Promising prosperity, fortune telling, easy prophecy, laughing in the spirit (and being slain in the spirit); these are just not taught in the bible. And I guarantee that in Europe at least, they are giving the Pentecostal movement a very bad name! Paul did none of these things nor did he tell his people to do them. Nor did Jesus. Isn't that enough?
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" 1Timothy 4:1.

God bless you all.

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Appeared in Volume 6.1 April 2000


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-Last revised-Wednesday, 20 December 2000