RECENT PENTECOSTAL SCANDALS
Enlarged December 29, 2008 (first published July 18, 2006) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
From its inception the Pentecostal movement has been marred deeply by scandals, as we have documented in our illustrated 317-page book The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements: Its History and Its Error. If the movement had the fullness of the Holy Spirit unction and power that it claims, we would not see such an exhibition of the flesh, but in fact moral and other scandals have continued to plague it in recent history. The following are some prominent examples:
In 1977 ORAL ROBERTS claimed that God had appeared to him and instructed him to build a medical center called the CITY OF FAITH. In 1980 he claimed that he had a “face to face” conversation with a 900-foot-tall Jesus who told him that he was going to solve the City of Faith financial problems. Seven years later, Roberts said that God had appeared to him yet again and told him that he would die if he did not raise $8 million within 12 months. The wild-eyed visions and unrelenting appeals could not save the City of Faith. In 1989 Roberts closed it to pay off debts! Yet the Pentecostal world in general did not decry Roberts as a false prophet and a religious phony. Thousands continued to flock to ORU from Pentecostal churches across the country, and millions of dollars continued to flow into Roberts’ ministry from gullible supporters.
In 1989 JIM BAKKER, head of the very influential Pentecostal PTL television program went to prison for defrauding his followers out of $158 million. He was paroled in 1994 after serving five years of a 45-year sentence. His trial brought to light his lavish lifestyle, which included six luxurious homes and even an air-conditioned dog house. Prosecutors charged Bakker with diverting to his own use $3.7 million of the money that had been given to his “ministry.” Bakker also committed adultery with church secretary Jessica Hahn and paid more than $250,000 in an attempt to hush up the matter. Bakker’s wife and the former co-host of the PTL Club, Tammy Faye, divorced him while he was in prison and married Roe Messner, an old family friend whose company helped build PTL’s Heritage USA resort complex. Today Tammy Faye has a non-judgmental ministry to homosexuals. She appears at “gay-pride” events nationwide, including a Tammy Faye look-alike contest in Washington, D.C., where she was “surrounded by men in falsies and pancake makeup…” (Charisma News, November 2002). In January 2000 Bakker told Larry King, “Every person who died in the [Jewish] Holocaust is in heaven.” Bakker defended this heretical doctrine in a letter to the editor that appeared in Charisma magazine in June of that year.
A year after the PTL scandal first hit the world’s headlines, JIMMY SWAGGART, one of the leading Pentecostal preachers of modern times, created his own scandal when he was caught with a prostitute. At the time, Swaggart had a 6,000-member congregation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a 270-acre headquarters, a Bible College, an influential television ministry that reached to many parts of the world (broadcast on 9,700 stations and cable outlets), and a ministry income of $142-million per year. Swaggart is the cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis and both can pound the piano, but whereas Jerry Lee pursued a flamboyant rock & roll career Jimmy pursued a flamboyant gospel career. A report from a Swaggart crusade in Calgary, Alberta, described the “gospel music at acid-rock volumes” and said “it is a good show” with Swaggart “hammering away at the grand piano, sweating and gesturing like Elvis Presley” and “working the audience like Frank Sinatra” (The Courier News, Elgin, Ill., May 20, 1991, p. 5A). Swaggart refused to stay away from the pulpit for a year as the Assemblies of God in Louisiana stipulated for his discipline, so he was disbarred but he continued preaching anyway. He lost three-fourths of his television audience and his Bible college students and a large percentage of his church members; his finances crumbled. But the Jimmy Swaggart scandal wasn’t over even though he claimed that when he asked God, “Lord, do you still want me to take this work?” God replied emphatically, “Yesssss! You’re in better shape today that you’ve ever been before” (“Swaggart Back in Pulpit with Tales of Nightmares and Revelation,” Religious News Service, May 23, 1988; reprinted in Christian News, June 3, 1988, p. 5). In a television broadcast in May 1988 Swaggart had the audacity to boast, “You are looking at a clean preacher!” and “I do not lie!” (Don Matzat, “The Same Ol' Jimmy,” Christian News, May 16, 1988). Perhaps this is because Swaggart had sought counseling from Oral Roberts and Roberts had observed demons with long fingernails digging into Swaggart’s flesh and had cast them out (Huntsville Times, Huntsville, Alabama, AP report, March 31, 1988; reported from Calvary Contender, April 15, 1988). Just like that. The exorcism didn’t last though. In 1991 Swaggart was again in hot water when police in Indio, California, stopped him on a traffic charge and found that the woman riding with him was a prostitute. In spite of all of this Swaggart is still swaggering, though his crowd isn’t very large. On his Sept. 12, 2004, program he said, “I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.”
By the 1980s Pentecostal evangelist PETER POPOFF had a ministry on 51 television channels and 40 radio stations and an annual income of seven million dollars. He also held healing crusades in many cities, during which he would exercise a “word of knowledge” by calling out the names, addresses, and illnesses of strangers who were in attendance. In 1986 the news broke that Popoff’s amazing “revelations” were actually broadcast to him by his wife after she had conversed with members of the audience. She transmitted her information by radio signal and Peter could hear her voice through a tiny receiver in his ear. A team of skeptics discovered the ruse and recorded the private broadcasts using a scanning receiver and recording equipment (Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1986). When questioned about the matter by John Dart, religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, Popoff replied that his wife only supplied him with about 50% of the information and the rest he got from the Lord! Popoff was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1987 but by 1990 he was back in business with a new book entitled Dreams, which he announced in a full-page ad in Charisma magazine
ROBERT TILTON, who was voted one of the most popular Pentecostals by Charisma magazine readers in 1983 and appeared on the cover of Charisma in July 1985, was the founder of the Word of Faith Satellite Network, host of Success-N-Life broadcasts, and founder and pastor of the Word of Faith World Outreach Center in Farmers Branch, Texas. He taught the Kenneth Hagin Word-Faith doctrines and promised prosperity and healing to those who supported his ministry and exercised faith. He wrote, “You are ... a God kind of creature” (Tilton, God’s Laws of Success, pp. 170--71). In 1990 he said: “Being poor is a sin, when God promises prosperity. New house? New car? That’s chicken feed. That’s nothing compared to what God wants to do for you” (John Macarthur, Charismatic Chaos, p. 285). In 1991, when his ministry was taking in $80 million, Tilton’s empire was shaken when ABC-TV’s PrimeTime Live exposed his extravagant lifestyle and his shady fund-raising practices. His estate included an 11,000-square-foot home near Dallas, a condominium in Florida, a yacht, and other assets worth $90 million. The show reported that Tilton’s ministry threw thousands of unread prayer requests into the trash even though Tilton claimed to pray over them. He had even claimed: “I laid on top of those prayer requests so much that the chemicals actually got into my bloodstream, and ... I had two small strokes in my brain” (Robert Tilton, Success-N-Life, November 22, 1991). Though Tilton protested that he was the victim of falsehood and sued ABC for libel, the case was thrown out of the courts. Because of the scandal Tilton lost much of his television audience and most of his church members, but he is still on the air and still preaching the prosperity gospel and still begging for donations and still promising God’s blessing on those who give.
In 1991 Kansas City prophet BOB JONES’ tapes were removed from the Vineyard Ministries International product catalog after he admitted to “a moral failure” (Lee Grady, “Wimber Plots New Course for Vineyard,” Charisma, Feb. 1993, p. 64). Jones was using his alleged spiritual authority and “prophetic anointing” to induce women to disrobe.
Pentecostal preacher JAMIE BUCKINGHAM (1933-92) was the author of 40 books that sold 20 million copies, editor-in-chief of Ministries Today magazine, a columnist for Charisma magazine, and pastor of the 2,000-member Tabernacle Church in Melbourne, Florida. Buckingham began his ministry as a Southern Baptist pastor but after being “baptized by the spirit” at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship meeting, he became a Pentecostal. Buckingham’s “spirit baptism” made him a radical ecumenist who called for unity between Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, and Pentecostals. In an article entitled “Bridge Builders” (Charisma, March 1992, p. 90), he said there is no higher calling than ecumenical bridge building and he praised David Duplessis for building bridges between Pentecostals and Roman Catholics, and Jewish rabbi Yechiel Eckstein for building bridges between Jews and Christians. Buckingham taught that God has promised healing through Christ’s atonement, and when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1990 many Pentecostals, including Oral Roberts, prophesied his healing. Buckingham said that God told him personally that he was going to live to be “at least 100 years of age in good health and with a clear mind.” The April 1991 issue of Charisma magazine featured this testimony in “My Summer of Miracles.” Note the following excerpt from that article:
“One day my wife … suddenly spoke aloud [and] said, ‘Your healing was purchased at the cross.’ … Here is what I discovered. YOU HAVE WHAT YOU SPEAK. If you want to change something, you must believe it enough to speak it. … If you talk poverty, you’ll have it. If you say you’re sick, you’ll be (and remain) sick. … despite what the doctors said, I refused to say ‘My cancer.’ It was not mine. It was the devil’s. I didn’t have cancer. I had Jesus. The cancer was trying to have me, but THE WORD OF GOD SAID I WAS HEALED THROUGH WHAT JESUS DID ON CALVARY. … I popped a videotape into my VCR and lay down on the sofa. … The tape was an Oral Roberts’ sermon … I came up off the sofa, shouting, ‘I’M HEALED!’ My wife leaped out of her chair and shouted, ‘Hallelujah!’ For the next 30 minutes all we did was walk around the house shouting thanks to God and proclaiming my healing” (Jamie Buckingham, “My Summer of Miracles,” Charisma, April 1991).
Ten months after the publication of this article, on February 17, 1992, Jamie Buckingham died of cancer about 40 years shy of his 100th birthday. Not only did Jamie Buckingham lead others astray with his false teaching but he also deceived himself.
The Cathedral at Chapel Hill near Atlanta, Georgia, founded by EARL PAULK, has been plagued with moral scandals and radical false teaching. At the height of his power Paulk was exceedingly influential. He authored many books, had a large television ministry, was the founder of the International Charismatic Bible Ministries, and a “prophet” in Bill Hamon’s Christian International Network of Prophetic Ministries. Paulk amalgamated the Word-Faith doctrine with Reconstructionist or Dominion theology and promoted it widely among Pentecostals. As for the Word-Faith doctrine, Paulk echoes Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland and others when he wrote: “Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, God has little gods. Until we comprehend that we are gods, and begin to act like little gods, we can’t manifest the Kingdom of God” (Paulk, Satan Unmasked, pp. 96, 97). Paulk merges this Kingdom Now Word-Faith theology (that Christians are little gods with the authority of Christ on earth) with the dominion doctrine the churches are to unify and then retake the world from Satan and ruler over it before Christ returns. He gives this teaching in books such as Satan Unmasked (1984), Held in the Heavens Until (1985), and Ultimate Kingdom (1986). Paulk wrote in his book The Wounded Body of Christ, “We need not wonder whether He [Jesus] will come back; HE CANNOT. Christ can only return when the people of God have reached that place of unity in which the Spirit and the Bride can say, ‘Come’” (p. 73). By 1992, Chapel Hill Harvester Church had 12,000 members and was one of the most prosperous churches in America, but that year DON PAULK, who had taken over as senior pastor from his brother Earl, admitted having an “improper” relationship with a woman staffer. He resigned but was immediately reinstated by the church council. Allegations were made by a group of women about sexual relationships with the Paulks and in 2001 another female church member filed a lawsuit claiming that Paulk molested her when she was a child and into her teenage years, but the accusations were denied and swept under the rug. In August 2005 long-time church member and soloist Mona Brewer and her husband Bobby, who was a major financial supporter of the church, filed a lawsuit against Earl Paulk alleging that she was manipulated into being his paramour for 14 years. Brewer says that the members were conditioned to give unconditional obedience to the pastor, who called himself “Archbishop Paulk,” and that he taught her that those who are spiritually exalted can have sexual relationships and it isn’t adultery. He called it “kingdom relationships.” She says that Paulk even shared her with family members and visiting Charismatic preachers. This case was featured on CCN’s Paula Zahn Now program on Jan. 19, 2006, but as of March 2006 Paulk’s television program was still broadcast on Trinity Broadcasting Network.
In 2000, CLARENCE MCCLENDON, pastor of Pentecostal Church of the Harvest International in Los Angeles and prominent “bishop” in the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, divorced his wife and a mere week later married another woman. His first wife, who accused him of fathering a child out of wedlock, took their three children and moved to Hawaii, but Clarence went right on as if nothing had happened and he had all of the support he needed. Charisma magazine observed that “in just a few months, members of his new congregation were dancing in the aisles in their new facility, and the talented young preacher was back on the conference circuit, no questions asked. ... McClendon enjoys the spotlight on Christian television, and he shares pulpits with top leaders in our movement” (Lee Grady, “Sin in the Camp,” Charisma, Feb. 2002).
In 2002 ROBERTS LIARDON, pastor of Embassy Christian Center in Irvine, California, and influential Pentecostal author, acknowledged that he had “a homosexual relationship” (Charisma News, Jan. 31, 2002), though he was back in the ministry within weeks.
On September 12, 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported that PAUL CROUCH OF TRINITY BROADCASTING NETWORK had paid $425,000 in 1998 to Enoch Lonnie Ford, an employee at TBN, to keep him from going public with his allegation that they had a homosexual encounter. It was after Ford threatened to sue that Crouch paid almost a half-million dollars to keep the matter quiet. TBN also paid thousands of dollars in debts that Ford had accrued. Crouch denied the allegations and tried to blacken the character of his accuser, which was not difficult to do. Ford is a convicted sex and drug offender, but it seems very strange that Crouch would pay such a large sum to a man if there was no truth to his allegation. Ford wrote his testimony of the affair but it was sealed by the courts after Crouch sued to have the matter squelched.
In October 2004 PAUL CAIN, the most prominent Pentecostal prophet, was exposed as a homosexual and an alcoholic by Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle, and Jack Deere, who said that Cain had refused to submit to discipline (“Paul Cain, “Latter Rain Prophet of Renown Is Now Discredited,” The Plumbline, December 2004). Eventually Cain admitted his sin, saying, “I have struggled in two particular areas, homosexuality and alcoholism, for an extended period of time. I apologize for denying these matters of truth, rather than readily admitting them” (“A Letter of Confession,” February 2005, http://web.archive.org/web/20050225053035/http://www.paulcain.org/news.html).
In 2007 wrongful termination suits were filed against Oral Roberts University by former professors alleging that the founder’s son RICHARD ROBERTS and his wife LINDSAY misappropriated school money and other improprieties. According to the suit, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund their lavish lifestyle, including a stable of horses for their daughters, a $29,400 trip to Orlando and the Bahamas aboard a university jet for a daughter and her friends, and a $39,000 shopping spree at one clothing store for Lindsay (“Healing ORU,” Christianity Today, September 2008). The suit also alleges that the Roberts’ home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years, that Lindsay spent nights in the ORU guest house with an underage 16 year old male, and that she frequently had cell phone bills of more than $800 per month, with “hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. to underage males who had been provided phones at university expense” (“Oral Roberts University Faces the Blue Screen of Death,” http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2007/10/oral-roberts-university-faces-blue.html). The professors were fired for trying to expose “the leadership’s moral failings and financial improprieties.” On November 13, 2007, the tenured faculty of ORU approved a nonbinding vote of no confidence in Richard, and he resigned as president on November 23. Lindsay is his second wife. He and his first wife, Patti, divorced in 1979.
In August 2008 the four-month long “Lakeland Outpouring” led by TODD BENTLEY ended in scandal. Some had prophesied that the healing crusade in Lakeland, Florida, was the beginning of a national revival and that entire cities would be “shut down.” In fact, it was the Lakeland Outpouring that was shut down after Bentley announced that he was separating from his wife (“Todd Bentley, Wife Separating,” Charisma, Aug. 12, 2008). A week later it was further announced that Bentley was stepping down as head of Fresh Fire Ministries, after the ministry revealed that he had an “unhealthy relationship” with a female staffer (“Bentley Stepping Down,” OneNewsNow, Aug. 19, 2008). The Lakeland meetings began on April 2, 2008, at the Ignite Church, and continued nightly in various venues for more than three months, with Bentley dispensing his medicine by slamming people on the forehead, shoving them, flinging the Holy Spirit, yelling “Blah, blah, blah, blah,” crying out, “Come and get some,” and staggering around like a drunk. He has kicked an elderly lady in the face, banged a crippled woman’s legs on the platform, kneed a man in the stomach, and hit another man so hard that a tooth popped out. My friends, God has given us clear instructions in Scripture about healing, and James 5 does not describe a raucous “healing crusade.” We believe in divine healing for today, but we don’t believe in Pentecostal showmen. See “I Believe in Miracles” http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/ibelievein-miracles.html.
Also in August 2008 MICHAEL GUGLIELMUCCI of the Assemblies of God in Australia admitted that he had been lying about having an advanced stage of cancer. For the past two years Guglielmucci, a popular contemporary worship leader and former pastor, had claimed to have terminal cancer. He even recorded a song called “The Healer” that became a hit and was featured on Hillsong’s latest album. For two years he allegedly fooled even his wife and parents and closest friends into thinking that he had cancer. He sent e-mails to his wife from phony doctors, shaved his head, walked with a cane, and carried around an oxygen bottle. In one church performance that attracted one-third of a million hits on YouTube, he sang with an oxygen tube in his nose! He claimed that God gave him the song after he learned that he had “an aggressive form of cancer.” Guglielmucci now claims that he faked cancer to hide a longtime addiction to pornography. He is the former pastor of one of Australia’s largest youth churches called Planetshakers. More recently he was the worship leader at Edge Church International, an Assemblies of God congregation pastored by his father, Danny. Hillsong is the ministry of Hillsong Church in Sydney, the largest church in Australia and prominent in the contemporary worship field. Brian Houston, who co-pastors the church with his wife, is the head of AOG in Australia (which has been renamed the Australian Christian Churches).
THE PENTECOSTAL-CHARISMATIC MOVEMENTS: THE HISTORY AND THE ERROR. I have been examining and re-examining the Pentecostal-Charismatic movements for more than three decades since I was led to Christ by a Pentecostal in 1973 and began to seek God’s will about tongues-speaking and the miraculous gifts of the early churches. I have built a large library of materials on this subject and have interviewed Pentecostals and Charismatics and attended their churches in many parts of the world. I have also attended large Charismatic conferences with press credentials. I have approached these studies with an open mind in the sense of having a commitment only to the truth and not to anyone’s tradition. I am a member of an independent Baptist church but Baptist doctrine and practice is not my authority; the Bible is. Each fresh evaluation of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement has brought an increased conviction that it is unscriptural and dangerous. This book begins with my own experience with the Pentecostal movement. The next section deals with the history of the Pentecostal movement, beginning with a survey of miraculous signs from the second to the 18th centuries. We then examine the movements in the 19th century that led up to the creation of Pentecostalism and the outbreak of “tongues-speaking” at Charles Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901, and at William Seymour’s Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles in 1906. We examine some of the major Pentecostal denominations, the Latter Rain Covenent, the major Pentecostal healing evangelists, the Sharon Schools and the New Order of the Latter Rain, the Manifest Sons of God, the Word-Faith movement and its key leaders, the Charismatic Movement, the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the Pentecostal Prophets, the Third Wave, and the recent Pentecostal scandals. We conclude the historical section with a look at the Laughing Revival. In the last section of the book we deal with the theological errors of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movements (exalting experience over Scripture, emphasis on the miraculous, Messianic and apostolic miracles can be reproduced, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of fire, exalting the Holy Spirit, tongues speaking is for today, sinless perfectionism, healing is guaranteed in the atonement, spirit slaying, spirit drunkenness, visions of Jesus, trips to heaven, women preachers, and ecumenism). The final section of the book answers the question: “Why are people deluded by Pentecostal-Charismatic error?” David and Tami Lee, former Pentecostals, after reviewing a section of the book said: “Very well done! We pray God will use it to open the eyes of many and to help keep many of His children out of such deception.” And Mary Keating, also a former Charismatic, said, “The book is excellent and I have no doubt whatever that the Lord is going to use it in a mighty way. Amen!!” 317 pages. $9.95, available from Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061. 866-295-4143, email@example.com.
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RECENT PENTECOSTAL SCANDALS