Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Exorcism in public places

Exorcism on a park bench:

It was a Saturday afternoon in August, and very hot, Carolyn my wife, and I were standing by the “prayer station” at Little Five Points in Atlanta. For those of you unfamiliar with this ministry, a prayer station is a place where Christian intercessors set up a sign, or sometimes a table and sign, saying “prayer station” to offer prayer to passersby.[1]  

Two other prayer intercessors for the prayer station were a few yards away on folding chairs we had brought. The four of us alternated between standing by the prayer station sign and sitting in the shade (and sipping cool drinks). When Carolyn and I were at the prayer station sign, it was I who did the invitation to the passersby, “Would you like prayer today for anything?” We had had a good number of prayer supplicants that Saturday, with good results, including one who dedicated his life to the Lord, and we still had an hour to go before we closed. 

A tall, light skinned African American male in khaki shorts and white shirt passed by and I gave my usual invitation. He stopped and considered for a second, and then stepped up to the prayer station.[2] “Yes, I have a neighbor who is addicted to drugs and it is ruining his life.” 

Carolyn and I prayed for his neighbor in proxy, by laying hands on Tom (that was not his name).  I rebuked the spirit of addiction and asked the Lord to totally set him free. The supplicant was happy with the way we prayed, and went off thanking us.  I resumed my invitations to other passersby.
Ten minutes later he returned and confessed that he also had a serious drug problem. 

This is not an uncommon pattern, as many persons are reluctant to share their most pressing (or embarrassing need) to total strangers.  But our prayers had convinced him that we could be trusted. He shared his tragic story. He was an engineer and well on his way to the American Dream. But he became addicted to cocaine, and lost his job and family, and now was on the edge of skid row. He had been a church-going man, but after his wife left him he stopped going.

We invited him to sit at the nearby bench under the shady tree, and asked if he would let us pray for him by casting out the demons of addiction and anything else in him.  He agreed.  I motioned the other team members to join us. We began with prayer, Carolyn and another team member began praying in tongues. After a few moments, I began, “In Jesus’ name I come against any and all evil spirits inhabiting and harassing Tom! I come against the spirit of addiction and I command you OUT!”

Bill and Carolyn: A mean and lean exorcist team!

Tom shook as if he was struck by some invisible object. Carolyn immediately added, “Spirit of despair.”  She was functioning with the gift of discernment of spirits (1 Cor 12:10) and I commanded, “In Jesus' name, spirit of despair, come out!” Again, Tom shook. Carolyn injected, “Spirit of suicide.” I continued, “Spirit of suicide, leave NOW!” Again, Tom quaked. “Any more?” I asked Carolyn. She prayed in tongues for a few seconds, “Spirit of rejection, from childhood.” 

By this point a group of half dozen or so counter-cultural teens (bizarre hair cuts and black clothing - uncommon at that time) stood silently watching our every move at the side.

I continued, “Foul spirit of rejection, leave now in Jesus' name!” Tom shook. “More?” I asked.  Carolyn answered, “I don’t see anything else.” I stepped up to Tom and laid my hand on his head.  “In Jesus’ name, I ask the Holy Spirit to flow into you, and fill every empty space that the demons occupied. I command your neurological system, especially the brain, to be cleansed of all addiction to cocaine or any other drug.”  As I was saying this I could feel the vibrating energies of God flowing into Tom. His face came alive with surprise and joy.

A few moments later he got up, declaring, “I feel like a new man. I am completely set free.” We prayed for him a little longer, asking the Lord to restore his career and family. I counseled him that he must go back to church, and join a Bible study or such to get Christian fellowship and continued support to rebuff any demonic re-infestation. Tom agreed and walked away thanking us and praising the Lord. The counter-cultural teens sleeked away, whispering to each other. I prayed this exorcism would open their hearts to the Gospel. 

I never heard from Tom again, so I can’t affirm that his deliverance stuck, or if he allowed the spirits to come back in and finish the ruination of his life (Matt 12:43-45). But I can affirm that he was delivered that day. This, by the way, is a disadvantage of having a prayer station far from your home church, you cannot invite the person to your church to do follow up discipleship.

Issues raised:

That street exorcism occurred back in 1987. Since then I have done several others, but always in the setting of a church, and after I was ordained as an Anglican priest. As I was ready to do the first draft of this chapter I thought I would say that such public exorcisms are imprudent, and the successful case of Tom's was due to God’s grace overcoming my youthful indiscretion, etc.  Rather, exorcism should be done with preparation and care, and at least in privacy and possibly with medical screening beforehand, etc. In effect, a prayer station deliverance should not be done.

But I received a check in my spirit about taking this approach. And I was reminded by the Holy Spirit of the exorcisms in the New Testament. There exorcisms were done by Jesus, his Apostles and disciples in public, and with no lengthy preparation. Exorcisms occurred as unplanned confrontations with the demonic. In fact, in the first ministry campaign Jesus’ disciples reported back with great joy that they had healed the sick and cast out demons (Luke 10:17) There was no hint there of special preparations, nor of privacy concerns, which have become a modern fetish.[3] 

Jesus Christ healing a mute man by performing an exorcism, as described in Luke 11:14, in an engraving from Merian's Illustrated Bible, published c. 1627 

Rather, exorcism was an integral part of the healing ministry and a confrontation with the demonic. In the Gospels and Acts, when a person is sick from a disease, hands are laid on and the disease cast out (command mode), but when the sickness or disorder is due to a demon, the demon is cast out. It is all a seamless ministry of restoring wellness.

As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.'  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Mt. 10:6-8)

Similarly, in the early church, exorcism was generally a lay matter in the hands of those gifted in that ministry. Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishop and writer against heretics wrote:

“Those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform miracles, so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe in Christ and join themselves to the Church . . . others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole.[4]

Misinformed attitudes towards the demonic and exorcism:

Our attitude towards exorcism and deliverance ministries, and our ability to accept the plain biblical evidence, is distorted by multiple factors. In the secular West there is a tendency to disbelieve in the reality of the demonic, and reduce demonic manifestations to instances of abnormal psychology.
Most seriously, the poverty of Protestant tradition on exorcism, produced by the theology of cessationism, has basically left many Christian with nothing to say about the topic, leaving a tremendous ignorance gap.[5]  

This leads many Protestant ministers, especially those influenced by liberal theology, to dismiss or reduce demonic activities and manifestations as psychological abnormalities, and more than likely refer the demon infested person to a psychiatrist.[6] Also, the predominance of the Roman Catholic traditions on exorcism, as portrayed in the film “The Exorcist,” has sown certain distortions. In fact, it is only among the Pentecostals and charismatics that the Protestant wing of Christianity has substantially recovered a robust and biblical practice of exorcism and deliverance as a general practice.[7]

There is also a raging theological divide among Protestants, fueled mostly by its non-charismatic Evangelical wing, which states that a Christian cannot possibly be possessed or infected by demonic entities. The constant experience of ministers who actually venture out in this field should put that theory to rest. Cases like Tom, i.e., persons who are Christian but have slid in their spiritual lives, come up frequently.[8] Scripturally, the account of Ananias and Sepphira (Acts 5:1-3) a born-again and Spirit-filled couple in the Jerusalem Jewish/Christian community who let Satan “fill their hearts” is biblical proof enough that at times Christian need deliverance ministry.

The Catholic tradition has several good points and is especially useful in dealing with persons who are seriously possessed. That is, when a person’s behavior is dominated by a demonic spirit, and which may manifest bizarre phenomenon. This was well represented in the movie the “Exorcist,” based on the book of the same name, and which in turn was based on a real case.[9] Such total possession is very rare (and very destructive). I personally have never encountered anything that severe, but the witness and literature on such sever possessions is consistent throughout the ages and should not be doubted.  

But the Catholic understanding of possession and exorcism, with the priest as lead minister, leaves unanswered and under-ministered the whole issue of lessor spirits and lesser states of demonic infestation. For instance, Tom, the engineer, was not possessed in the classic sense, but he had a spirit of addiction and other lesser spirits.[10]  The Catholic lack in this area came home to me when I watched the excellent PBS program “The American Experience” on President John Kennedy.  As president, and even before, he had repeated trysts and affairs in spite of having a beautiful wife. 

Kennedy was asked by a friend why he had so many of these, and he answered, “I am compelled to do that…”[11] President Kennedy was not “possessed” in the Catholic definition of the word, but he did need serious deliverance ministry for a spirit of fornication and other attaching spirits. No priest or anyone else ministered to him in that way, or even understood the issue.[12]

The Episcopal/Anglican tradition has no written rules as to who can lead in exorcism and deliverance ministry. When I first encountered the Charismatic Renewal as a Roman Catholic in the 1970s, our prayer group often worshiped together with an Episcopal group across the street at St. Philips’ Cathedral. 

There the Dean of the Cathedral was the Rev. David Collins, who was prominent in the Episcopal Church as the leader of the Episcopal House of Deputies. He was an excellent priest and preacher, but it was his wife Jenny who had the anointing and the gift of discerning of spirits for the deliverance and exorcism ministry. Whenever some case presented itself at the Cathedral that might have demonic origins, the person was referred to Jenny[14] This is not to say that having an ordained, trained and designated clerical exorcist is not useful.  In my own denomination (Anglican Church of North America) there is in fact such a diocesan position, and that person, just like a designated Catholic exorcist, handles the more serious cases of possession.

A very limited recovery of exorcism and deliverance ministry in Protestantism came via Nineteenth Century Protestant missionaries in Asia and Africa. There missionaries encountered societies where the Gospel had never been preached and the demonic presence active and overt. The most famous instance of this was the work of the Rev. John Nevius, perhaps the most distinguished American missionary in a century filled with heroic and dedicated missionaries. He came to China out of seminary a convinced cessationist, as all his colleagues. He was led by the example of his own converts, who read the Bible simply and without its cessationist overlay, that demons were real, and could be exorcised by the name of Jesus. This was a general pattern among missionary churches, and the native lay exorcists not only taught the ministry of exorcism to their Protestant missionary teachers, but also did most of the actual ministry in this area.[15]

That lesson from the 1900s was mostly ignored or rationalized away as pertaining only to non-Christian countries, and therefor unnecessary in Europe and America. It was forgotten until a few evangelical scholars half a century later began a new series of investigation into the occult and demonology.[16] Many mainline ministers, especially in the liberal persuasion still dismiss the matter of the demonic and exorcism as mere “superstition” or misdiagnosed as abnormal psychology.[17]

On the issue of lay exorcism ministry, let me share my witness on this. When I was pastor of a Hispanic Church in Marietta GA, I taught all in my congregation healing prayer which included instruction on deliverance. We demonstrated healing at practically every service as someone or another would invariably have some ailment or bring someone who did. Several in the congregation caught this and floured in that ministry.

On one occasion we had a serious deliverance right in the middle of a service. Demons really do not like intense praise music, and will often act up during its performance.[18] The lady manifesting was one of our regulars, and a good Christian, but she had played with the Ouija Board in her youth, and a demon got in (not a rare occurrence). My assistant priest and several lay persons cast the demon out right then and there as I resumed with Holy Communion.

Years later, after I had retired from the church, I received a call from Ruben, one of my elders. I could hear chaotic background noises. He said, “Padre Bill, I am at church, but the priest is gone. We have a lady with a demon; I need your help in casting it out.”  (More noise and commotion.) “Oh wait, I remember. I will call back.” Phone hangs up. Ten minutes later he calls, “I remembered and I cast the demon out. Everything OK here. Thank you.”  I answered, “Good job Ruben, blessings to your family.”  When I hung up I felt God was telling me, “Good job, Bill, you taught them well.”

All of which is to say that, in spite of the disdain of this type of ministry by many clergy, and certainly their opposition to lay persons doing anything like this in public, Tom’s exorcism at the park bench was in Biblical order. That is important to acknowledge.

Every prayer station person should be prepared to address and confront the demonic, and at least one person in the team have some knowledge on this topic - as in reading some of the basics books on deliverance I am suggesting below.

Suggested readings on deliverance/exorcism:

Randy Clark. The Biblical Guidebook to Deliverance (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2015.  Terrific and practical. 

Frank and Ida Mae Hammond. Pigs in the Parlor. A classic Pentecostal view. Very useful. The chapter on schizophrenia is a classic

James Kallas. The Stanward View: Studies in Pauline theology. (Philadelphia, Westminster, 1966). Sadly, this work is out of print and hard to get. It is a masterpiece of biblical theology which shows how central battling the demonic is to the Gospel. Kallas shows that Paul understood Jesus’ ministry as principally that of undoing the havoc and sin produced by Satan’s intrusion into the earth.

Francis MacNutt.  Deliverance From Evil Spirits (Chosen: 1995). Marvelously balanced and intelligent view of the demonic and the Christian’s responsibility to do deliverance ministry as part of the healing ministry.

John L. Nevius, Demon Possession and Allied Themes (London: George Redway, 1897). Modern editions in print.  This classic work is worth reading today

[1] My blog on this ministry is: “The Prayer Station,” Anglican Pentecostal. Posted June 25, 2013.
[2] This exorcism was briefly described in my original article, “Ministry at Little Five Points,” Acts 29, May, 1988) 2.
[3] To be fair, there is an instance where Jesus hints certain types of demons need prayer, and not merely by command (Mk 9:29). This leaves room for the Catholic understanding of substantial preparation.
[4] Irenaeus, Against Heresies.
[5] I discuss this extensively in Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996) and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015). By the mid-Twentieth Century there was some attention to the demonic by Protestant pastors and theologians, way over-due and still mostly ignored by their colleagues.
[6] A recent book that compares the varies exorcism traditions of Christendom calls the renewed Protestants understandings of exorcism “Evangelical Fundamentalist,” James M. Collins, Exorcism and Deliverance Ministry in the Twentieth Century (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009).
[7] The classic Pentecostal text on this is the book by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond, Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance (Kirkwood: Impact, 1979). Don Basham’s Deliver Us From Evil (Old Tappen: Chosen, 1972) might be cited as one of many excellent early works in the charismatic wing.
[8] A good presentation from someone experienced in healing and deliverance of this issue is found in the blog, “Can a Christian Have a Demon?” Great Bible Study.  Accessed July 18, 2017.
[9] William Peter Blatty The Exorcist (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). A discussion of the original case upon which the novel and movie were based is found in Howard Newman’s, The Exorcist: The Strange Story Behind the Film (New York: Pinnacle, 1974).
[10] I believe these lesser spirits to be the “elemental spirits” mentioned by Paul in Gal 4:3 and Col 2:8, and are more “psychic clusters” than demonic entities – this is opinion, not provable fact.
[11] PBS, “JFK” The American Experience series. Aired Nov. 11, 2013. Access to the entire program is at:
[12] It is probable that Kennedy’s spirit of fornication, and other lesser and “elemental spirits” which laid unmolested by any deliverance ministry, led to his weakness of character. He was not only unfaithful to his wife, but unfaithful to the Cuban heroes at the Bay of Pigs who were defeated for lack of promised American air support. Further, he had campaigned that President Eisenhower (and Nixon) had allowed the Russians to outpace the U.S in ballistic missiles, but when he got to be President he was shown the intelligence date which showed that claim was not true. Rather than face embarrassment, he chose to order 1.000 new intercontinental missiles to “catch up” with the USSR. This ignited the very costly missile, anti-missile arms race, as the Russians interpreted this as an attempt to build a “first strike” capability.
[13] Although there are priest or monk led liturgical exorcisms in Eastern Orthodoxy, exorcism ministry never underwent the codification of its Western counterpart in Roman Catholicism. See Torsten Lofstedt, “Countering Exorcist Excess in Russia,” Penteco Studies, 13, no. 1 (2014) 80-111.
[14]For the story of the Collins’ joint ministry to the charismatic community in Georgia, see Dean David Collins autobiography, There is a Lad Here (Darien: Darien News, 1996).  Dean Collins passed to his heavenly reward in 2017, “full of years” – he was a naval officer in World War II.    
[16] Collins, Exorcism and Deliverance, chapter four.
[17] A classic of this destructive form of interpreting the demonic in liberal theology is Henry Ansger Kelly’s, The Devil, Demonology and Witchcraft: The Development of Christian Belief in Evil (Garden City: Doubleday, 1968).
[18] This is more common in Africa, where witchcraft is prevalent. In fact, some pastors consider a service incomplete and lacking in the Spirit if a demon does not manifest and is thrown out.


The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE 

Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4

My latest published work is practical and evangelical: The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones. It can be purchased on Amazon as either a print copy or Kindle. HERE 

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

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