The New Apostolic Reformation


Rachel Tabachnick is an independent researcher who specializes in End Times narratives. In 2008 she assisted Bruce Wilson in publishing a video of John Hagee’s sermon about Hitler being sent from God as a hunter of Jews. She continues to provide research on the Religious Right for political campaigns from local school boards to national organizations and was a presenter at the recent PA Progressive Summit 2010 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where she spoke on the "sacralization" of economic and political issues by the Religious Right.

BERKOWITZ:  Most people aren’t aware of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Tell us what we should know?

TABACHNICK: Imagine for a moment that a large block of the evangelical world decided to re-organize themselves in a hierarchy resembling the Roman Catholic Church, with leaders in authority over each nation and region. Imagine that every person—from the congregants to the top leaders—has someone to whom they are accountable.

Although this is not the first time this has been tried, this "second reformation" is having more success. It is organizing within a mega-block of Protestants larger than all the traditional denominations put together, as well as "post-denominational" churches. It’s heavily charismatic, made up of born again, but also "spirit-filled" Christians—sometimes called neo-charismatics or neo-pentecostal. They believe that spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, casting out demons, and faith-healing powers, are signs and wonders that will help evangelize unbelievers in preparation for the End Times.

C. Peter Wagner, a key figure in the movement, streamlined the ideology and named it the "New Apostolic Reformation." Wagner serves as the presiding apostle of the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), which includes several hundred apostles across the U.S. and about 40 nations, international training centers, and "prayer warrior" networks in all 50 states and worldwide. Those in the top tier each have apostolic authority over other ministries, sometimes hundreds or even thousands.

Many of the leaders teach prosperity doctrine—or the belief that the more you give to ministries, the more God will bless you. But this is not just a church movement. Market apostles work in business, finance, communications, media, and lead the "Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture" mandate.

"Kingdom" businesses play an important role. For instance there is an apostle in Toronto whose ministry includes an oil and gas company. Two ICA Apostles head Markets Unlocked, a business matchmaking system that connects Kingdom business customers and suppliers, and claims exclusive agreements for over a half billion dollars of products and services. Trained intercessors are now paid to pray for businesses. ICA Apostles work closely with the International Christian Chamber of Commerce.

Leaders are encouraged to get involved in social services to expand their influence in government and society. One apostle, a former fitness instructor, is now listed as a policy expert at the Heritage Foundation and claims to have distributed $30 million in gifts and donations during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He has expanded his organizations to Fiji, Poland, and Southeast Asia.

Wagner teaches that there will soon be a great transfer of wealth from the ungodly to the godly and has set up structures to prepare. Wagner’s Leadership Institute teaches courses in prophecy, but also in foreign currency exchange.

How has this movement grown so rapidly?

Church growth is the key concept. Other Christian dominion movements propose austere biblical law, but Wagner explains in his 2008 book Dominion that theocracy will not be necessary. He believes rapid growth of the movement will allow Christians to take dominion inside a democratic framework.

Wagner, who will be 80 this year, was a professor of church growth for 30 years at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has mainstreamed cell church ideology, a strategy which began in Asia and South America and has resulted in congregations of tens of thousands. Cell churches are organized like a pyramid marketing scheme with small groups, usually with no more than 12, tasked with spinning off new cell groups and growing the church. This also resembles a military structure—each cell has a leader and lower level leaders are accountable to their superiors on up the chain.

Such schemes used to be called shepherding, but, because of bad press and reports of coercive and abusive practices, they have been re-named "discipling." Laypeople in cells perform many of the functions that would normally be carried out by pastors—and pastors then become like corporate CEOs. The New Apostolics are now trying to apply shepherding to entire communities and even nations.

What do the terms spiritual mapping and spiritual warfare mean and where do they come from?

Spiritual warfare is not a new term, but the New Apostolics have now co-opted it. With the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Wagner promoted unique evangelizing tools as part of a frenzied effort in the 1990s to evangelize the world before 2000. Instead of slowly winning souls one by one, Wagner proposed that entire geographic areas and people groups be targeted, speeding up the process.

These new strategies include strategic level spiritual warfare and spiritual mapping designed to win territory. This is accomplished by doing battle with demons or principalities that they believe cause entire ethnicities, religions, and geographic areas to resist conversion. After expulsion of the demons, the evangelized population can take "dominion" over local government and culture. Then the community supposedly experiences a foretaste of "God’s Kingdom on Earth." These mini-utopias are advertised as having reduced poverty, corruption, and disease. This is the ultimate faith-based initiative—remove the demons and society will be healed.

Spiritual mapping is the reconnaissance mission for spiritual warfare and involves the literal mapping of neighborhoods and cities to determine where the demons are. This includes "generational curses" or those things in a city’s history that allowed demons to take hold of the entire populous. Spiritual mapping is the ideological foundation for the now popular "prayer walking" and the formation of many citywide prayer groups.

Wagner, George Otis, Jr., Ed Silvoso, Ted Haggard, John Dawson of Youth With a Mission, and others created an entire genre of books, texts, videos, and other media teaching spiritual mapping and spiritual warfare, including a glossary of new terms. The Transformation DVDs produced by George Otis, Jr. are promotional "documentaries" showing prototypes of this process in which supernatural transformation of a community takes place, including the healing of AIDS, instantaneous purifying of polluted streams, and even growth of huge vegetables. These movies have been shown to millions globally, and Transformation organizations are attempting to replicate these prototypes in their local communities.

The Transformation ideology originated from western evangelicals—witch-hunting and all—and the prototypes have included cities like Hemet, California. Ugandan Julius Oyet, who starred in one of the Transformation movies, is a key figure in the recent proposed draconian anti-gay legislation in that county.

How are these strategies put into practice?

Although many of the claims made in the Transformation movies can be easily disproved, the movement’s advancement appears to be partially due to the promotion of Transformations prototypes. Supernatural healings of AIDS, spontaneous destruction of property of other belief systems, and even claims that the prayers of the movement have killed other humans are featured in films shown worldwide, including to mainline Protestant churches and "renewal" groups, which have subsequently broken from their parent denominations.

The movies appear to have played a role in encouraging mythology that flourishes in the Religious Right and beyond, particularly in their assertion that thousands of cases of AIDS in Uganda have been miraculously cured. Medical leaders are warning these claims are interfering with their HIV/AIDS treatment. Since altering their AIDS programs to abstinence-only, promoted by U.S. evangelicals, Uganda has had an increase, not decrease, of new AIDS cases.

To give you an idea of how deeply entrenched the New Apostolics are in this policy, consider one of the most celebrated abstinence-only programs in the U.S. "Recapturing the Vision" and "Vessels of Honor" are names for abstinence-only programs headed by Jacqueline del Rosario, who testified for Title V abstinence-based funding in Congressional hearings in 2002. Since 2001, her Miami organizations have received $3,147,589 of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant money, as well as significant sums from other public sources. This funding came despite the fact that her organization was one of four in a long-term, federally-funded study that showed no measurable results.

Del Rosario was a speaker, along with Wagner and other top apostles, at a conference in January where she was described as an Apostle in the promotional literature. Her relationship with the Apostles is not new, however. She incorporated her organizations in the mid-1990s with leading Florida Apostle Diane Buker, head of Battle Axe ministries, and Cindy Trimm, described as a "general in the art of strategic warfare." Buker is the author of God’s Power to Multiply for Wealth and her Battle Axe Brigade ministry website features a graphic of an arm swinging a medieval mace, as well as virulent attacks on Catholicism and other faiths.

Another political area in which New Apostolics is deeply entrenched is John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Hagee is still teaching that the Rapture may happen any moment, but many of his directors and leaders teach that they must take dominion over the earth, including Israel, before Jesus can return. These include ICA Apostle Stephen Strang, who heads the Strang charismatic publishing empire, and regional director Robert Stearns, who publishes a New Apostolic journal titled Kairos. Stearns also leads the largest single international Christian Zionist event, involving 200,000 churches worldwide. His ministry has been endorsed by the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus and by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Are there well-known politicians involved with the NAR?

The Transformation movies show that they have access to many political figures, from Fiji to South America to Africa. Transformation Hawaii has the full participation of Lt. Governor Aiona, who has spoken at conferences and written for the movement. Lou Engle, a prophet in Wagner’s inner circle, has recently been in the news leading an anti-health-care reform prayercast with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), among others. In May, Engle led another televised event in which he prayed over Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee.

The New Apostolic movement more closely resembles a political campaign than a denomination. Wilson has written about PrayforNewark, a citywide project in which every precinct and street has been assigned to a volunteer and mapped out for prayer. However, PrayforNewark is part of Ed Silvoso’s ITN, the same operation that is "transforming" Uganda, and promoting the belief that homosexuals are possessed by literal demons.

Where does Sarah Palin fit into all this?

The movement made early inroads in Alaska through an ICA apostle named Mary Glazier, who claims that a 24-year-old Palin joined her spiritual warfare network. These networks allow apostles to communicate and disseminate new prophecy to their prayer warriors. During the presidential election this included such prophecies about Palin, as when Glazier described a vision that Palin would take the mantle of leadership after a period of national mourning following the death of John McCain.

The first Transformation movie so impressed pastors in Wasilla, Alaska that they contacted some of the religious leaders featured in the movie—including Thomas Muthee, shown driving a "witch" out of Kiambu, Kenya. The Wasilla Assembly of God developed an ongoing relationship with Muthee and a 2005 church video shows him anointing Palin. Unfortunately, the press picked up on the witch part of the story, not the more important fact that Palin has ties to top leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation.

Why should the American people be concerned about NAR?

I believe this movement’s threat to separation of church and state is greater than some of the more overtly theocratic movements of the Religious Right. Unsuspecting people are becoming involved in New Apostolic activities without understanding its agenda.

Wagner’s ideas have spread widely into mainstream evangelicalism with little public notice. Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, partnered with Wagner in founding the New Apostolic Reformation and building its early headquarters, the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs. Despite the fact that Haggard has written books on New Apostolic strategies, his participation in promoting this massive reformation of both church and society is so little known, it could be described as Haggard’s other secret.

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Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.