This year’s CLF took place in Augusta, Georgia, and was hosted by the Alleluia Community of that city. The Alleluia Community is a predominantly Catholic (but ecumenical) covenant community where families live in close proximity to worship together and support each other. Like other covenant communities, the Alleluia Community attempts to follow the pattern of the Jerusalem Christian community described in Acts.
My friend, Bob Garrett, a Methodist lay person has led the community for years. He also led the worship team in skilled and wonderful worship music.
Mr Garrett is with the guitar in the dark blue shirt.
A better picture of him with his wife
The sessions took place in the Alleluia Community’s school, a wonderful Christian school for grades k thru 12. Our encounters with the children of the school, were universally positive, even awesome. The kids parade every morning around the school’s perimeter with a cross and prayed for spiritual protection and guidance for that day – a great idea in view of the current school shootings.
The CLF is the descendent of the “Charismatic Concerns Committee” which in the 1980s did great work in discerning the various movements within the Charismatic Renewal. Now the CLF is of less importance, but it still attracts many of the heroes and pioneers of the Charismatic Renewal. Sadly for us, some of these pioneers are now going to their reward with the Lord. The meetings opened with the announcement that the Rev. Larry Christenson, who was the leader of the Lutheran Charismatic Renewal, and a faithful attendant of the CLF, had passed away a month before. Thankfully, Sister Nancy Kellar, one of the most important leaders of the Catholic Charismatic renewal (dating back to 1970) attended, and I had the pleasure of renewing my friendship with her. She and my sister had been members of the same charismatic Catholic convent (Sisters of Charity, New York) for many years.
Sister Nancy Kellar is to my right, and her traveling
buddy is sister Mary McCormick
The theme of this year’s meeting was “spiritual warfare” and various speakers presented their experiences and denominational perspectives on the topic. The Rev. Scott Kelso, a Methodist minister and seminary instructor, and moderator for the CLF, opened the sessions with a talk reminding us of our authority and position in Jesus Christ.
The second session was by Mrs. Jane Guenther. She is an exorcist with the Catholic diocese of St. Louis, and coordinates her ministry with the official priest exorcist of that diocese. She also teaches exorcism to Catholic seminarians. She presented the traditional Catholic understanding of the demonic, including a description of the work done by the desert Fathers in developing the understanding of the seven deadly sins. Many of the attendees found this information fascinating, as they had never been exposed to it.
I was somewhat disappointed in the fact that her presentation covered only the Catholic perspective on exorcism. I wondered if this is how she taught the seminarians. In the question period, I asked her if she was familiar with the Pentecostal contribution by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond, Pigs in the Parlor, with its revolutionary contribution to ministering to schizophrenics. She acknowledged she was aware of it, but did not indicate it was part of her program for seminarians or that the Pentecostal contributions mattered much.
The next presenter was from the Alleluia Community, Chuck Hornsby, an elder and one of its original founders. He presented “tidbits” or various incidents of prayer and spiritual warfare that the Alleluia Community had done in its corporate life. For instance, when they first settled in Faith Village, their cluster of homes, they had a number of break-ins. This was stopped when the members got together and performed a prayer walk around the perimeter of the community.
The Next presentation was by Fr. Timothy Cremeens, a priest of the Orthodox Church and regular attendee of the CLF. He gave a description of Eastern Orthodox liturgy and worship as spiritual protection and warfare. Most of the attendees found this interesting, as few Americans know much about Eastern Orthodoxy. But I found the presentation lacking specifics about spiritual warfare. When I asked Fr. Cremeens about how the Eastern Orthodox tradition handles ghost hauntings, he described how Orthodox homes are always blessed with holy water – not a very satisfying response. When I pressed further, he responded that on occasion he had used holy water plus a prayer from one of the Fathers to discharge a ghost. I commented on how the false Gospel of Nicodemus had confused “sheol” with hell and muddled the possibility of our understanding of ghosts. He replied that the Gospel of Nicodemus was loved by many of the Church Fathers - a puzzling reply.
Very significant was what transpired the next day, when time was given for mutual prayer and ministry. Fr. Cremeens came to the podium and shared his sorrow (and despair) over the state of Orthodoxy today. He lamented that after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe (1989) the various Orthodox Churches had fallen into a form of “demonic nationalism.” This has resulted in rivalry and non-cooperation among the various Orthodox churches. For instance, Russian bishops and priests bless the men, weapons and bullets of Russian volunteers sent to fight in the Ukraine against Ukrainian Orthodox soldiers. The Russian Orthodox Church boycotted last year’s Orthodox Ecumenical meeting when it appeared it could not get its way. In America the various Orthodox churches (Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, etc.) are all loosing members and most priests only welcome into their parishes members who are of their own ethnic origins. In other words, there is no serious evangelism in the American Orthodox churches. Naturally, Orthodox churches are mostly graying and decaying.
As he went on with this, Bob Garrett went to his side and started to pray for him and the Orthodox churches, and invited all of us to do the same. It was a touching sight, but also a negation of his presentation. Splendid liturgy, incense, vestments, and classical theology are not enough in themselves to prevent serious demonic confusion and destruction in the churches.
The sub-text to all of this is equally tragic. The Orthodox Churches in this country and abroad are contemptuous of the Western churches and their wreckage in liberal theologies of various sorts, as in acceptance of homosexuality. They will not listen to anything that comes out of American or Western Christendom, as in the splendid literature on spiritual warfare and territorial spirits that has developed in recent decades, and could be so helpful to their present situation.
But now to return to the presentations at the CLF. Session #5, the evening of the second day, was given to Dr. Richard Roberts, M.D. His theme was not spiritual warfare, but a description of a new denomination in the UK called simply “The New Church.” This was a great presentation and held everyone’s attention. The New Church is a Charismatic fellowship, with minimum hierarchy, and practically no distinction between ministers and lay persons. They do not ordain their leaders. They claim their roots are in the Pentecostal theology of Smith Wigglesworth, with some influence from the American “Fort Lauderdale Five” (Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, and the others). They are growing rapidly as they minister in “signs and wonders.” It was wonderful to hear that the UK, where the Church of England is in such sad decline due to its own fall into liberal theology (a special sorrow to me) has an area of church growth that is flourishing.
Perhaps the highlight of the CLF conference this year was the presentation by Deacon Johannes Fichtenbauer, an Austrian Catholic, who is coordinator of Jewish - Christian reconciliation for the Pope. He led the 50th anniversary (penitential) walk of the “death march” of Hungarian Jews to concentration camps in Germany.
His life id a great witness to God’s grace and mercy. His grandfather was a dedicated Nazi, even after Germany’s catastrophic defeat in WWII. He convinced the boy Johannes of the righteousness of the Nazi view, including blaming the Jews for Europe’s woes. Johannes did not repent of that view until he came to Christ at age 17, and began to love the Jews.
His talk was called. “The Mystery of the Olive Tree” based on Paul’s use of that image in Romans 11. It laid out “ten hypotheses” about the Messianic Jewish churches, and their importance in fulfilling the task of the Church Universal and in ushering in the Second Coming. We have space to mention only several.
- The historic splits among Christian denominations and groups began after the establishment of “replacement theology” which discarded the importance of the Jewish churches.
- The Body of Christ will not be complete until its Jewish component is restored.
- There needs to be a miraculous (not man planned) resurrection of the Jewish component of the Body of Christ.
In the discussion period Deacon Fitchtenbaur related that the work of reconciliation has much distance to go. Presently the Jews of the world mostly disdain the Messianic churches and consider them to be Christian churches with Jewish window dressing. Thus the last point mentioned, the need for God’s sovereign intervention in this reconciliation.
Another highpoint of the CLF this year was the presence and ministry of Mrs. La Donna Taylor. She was raised in a Pentecostal church and very dedicated to the Lord from an early age. As a young girl she discovered she had a gift of healing, which included people being healed while she played the violin. She did that at the conference several times with especially good results during our ministry time.
This is an unusual form of the healing ministry, but it is biblical. Recall that David playing the harp soothed and bound the demons resident in King Saul. About 30 years ago I recall seeing Dr. Francis MacNutt, one of the greats of the Charismatic Renewal stand in front of an audience and sing in tongues for their healing. I do not believe he did that consistently, as Mrs. Taylor does in her healing ministry.
Over all, this year’s CLF was a wonderful event, in spite of a few weak presentations. The fellowship was terrific, learning and seeing something of the workings of a covenant community was a great experience. If you are in a leadership position of a Pentecostal or charismatic church consider coming to the next one. We will be meeting at the Alleluia Community again.
 See my article “More Mercy,” Pneuma Review. Posted March 5, 2017. http://pneumareview.com/more-mercy/
 The Hungarian Government during WWII was allied with Germany against Stalin’s Soviet Union, but it tried to shield and protect its Jewish population until finally forced to turn them over to the Nazis in 1944.