Thursday, May 07, 2009

Early Experiential Emergents

"Not only did AA, almost by default, begin to supplant the pastoral authority of the professional clergy and open the door to spirituality in the experiencing of a nondoctrinally specific Higher Power, but it also revived the small group dynamic that would come to characterize later twentieth-century Protestantism...."
- Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence (Baker Books, 2008), p. 93.

Part 2: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970

The fact that Faith at Work was attempting to start an Emerging Church Movement as early as 1970 is quite relevant to the Emergent/Emerging Church today. The ramifications of this are quite stunning. For example, Faith at Work was a leading sponsor of Brian McLaren’s "Everything Must Change" tour a year ago. [1]

What is Faith at Work? According to its official website:

  • FAW has always emphasized practical experience instead of doctrine, "how to" instead of "should."
  • Today the emphasis is on self-discovery through biblical reflection, telling your own story and trusting the presence of Christ to "speak the truth in love." [2]

Faith at Work is an experiential-based group movement that has provided resources, events and training to emphasize this small group hyper-pietistic life. In 2009 this organization officially changed its name to Lumunos, which, according to both Dr. Dennis Cuddy and Constance Cumbey, writers of expertise in the study of New Age Theosophy, is yet another word play on the name Lucifer.[3] The Lumunos website states that its basic mission of relational experiences will remain the same:

Officially beginning in 2009, we will be known as Lumunos, with the tagline ”Faith & Light for the Journey.” We are excited about the ways our new name will help us relate to a whole new generation of people. Our core mission is not changing—we want to invite people into deeper relationships with themselves, each other, and God; we want them to hear the Spirit’s call in those relationships. [4]

A quick survey of who’s who at this website gives an indication of just how far this organization is “emerging” into a head-on convergence with the New Age movement.[5]

Faith at Work history describes how “In 1927, Sam Shoemaker… founded Faith at Work by publishing The Evangel, ‘a magazine of faith at work.” In the 1930s, Faith at Work “used a format of personal witness similar to AA [Alcoholics Anonymous].” It emphasized a “streamlined system of doctrine” that the only “one thing needful is salvation or conversion.” “Deep sharing” in small groups with “emotional intimacy” characterized this movement. In 1959 Bruce Larson, who had a graduate degree in psychology, took over and expanded the ministry into the “lay witness” movement. Under his leadership the small group procedures blended in state-of-the-art psycho-social-spiritual group manipulation mechanics, described as

partly the outgrowth of the Human Potential movement and related behavioral principles and processes. Transactional Analysis with its emphasis on personal O.K.ness, the National Training Laboratories with their interest in honest and open encounter, Parent Effectiveness Training which argued for seeing the child as a person, Esalin, Gestalt and a host of other workshops, laboratories, strategies and training centers-all put the total human being at the center and pleaded for a greater awareness of personal growth and identity.[6]

Sam Shoemaker “deserves to be called the father of Faith at Work.”[7] Shoemaker was “instrumental in the Oxford Group [8] and founding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.” [9] Shoemaker was trained by Frank Buchman who was instrumental in the Oxford Group (“a Christian revolution for remaking the world” [10] which became Moral Re-Armament. [11] He was a pioneer in the use of intensive small groups to effect confessions, conversions and change. Frank Buchman’s role in Faith at Work “looms large” in its history. He brought in a “special kind of mysticism” with an “emphasis on ‘quiet time,’ which he himself observed… listening to God for specific directives, or ‘guidance.’” He was said to “have been influenced by a French 19th century mystic, Alphonse Gratry, who in his book Les Sources indicates that this is the way to concretize the divine message in human experience.”[12] Buchman was a Dominionist, in that he thought that his moral revolution (“Moral Re-Armament”) could “transform the world” by “peace and make it enduring,” redistribute the wealth of the world, and “build a new world and create a new culture with peace and prosperity.” His moral theology appealed to all of the world’s religions and was said to be “helpful in re-discovering and re-applying the principles” of their faiths.[13]

Buchman was a pioneer of multi-faith initiatives. As he said, 'MRA is the good road of an ideology inspired by God upon which all can unite. Catholic, Jew and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Confucianist - all find they can change, where needed, and travel along this good road together.' [14]

Faith at Work has a long and interesting history that connects it to the Washington Fellowship, the secretive cult-like quasi-religious political group that is the topic of Jeffrey Sharlet’s recently published book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (HarperCollins, 2008), which we have occasionally cited on Herescope posts. Sharlet described a key meeting between Buchman and Abram Vereide, founder of The Fellowship, in a subsection of chapter 5 titled “Buchmanism.” The following brief excerpt reveals not only how the two men first met, but also gives indications of the Dominionism and the mystical hyper-pietism that would characterize both men and their subsequent movements.

In the early 1930s, he [Buchman] and Abram [Vereide] crossed paths…. The two met, and Abram suggested to Buchman that he come on with Goodwill as a chaplain, to infuse the organization with his ‘life-changing’ evangelical fervor. Buchman answered by proposing a Quiet Time.

Besides confession of sexual sin, Quiet Time was the core practice of Buchmanism: a half-hour-long period of silence in which the believer waited for “Guidance” from God. Guidance was more than a warm feeling. It came in the form of direct orders and touched on every subject of concern, from the transcendent to the mundane.... Guidance meant not just spiritual direction but declaring one’s own decisions as divinely inspired....

“What did God say to you?” Buchman asked Abram when their Quiet Time was completed. Abram believed he had heard God’s voice several times in his life, and had even considered the possibility that he might be a prophet, but he had not yet been exposed to the idea that God spoke to men regularly and in detail. “He didn’t say anything,” Abram confessed, disappointed.

Well, Buchman replied, God had spoken to him. “God told me, ‘Christianize what you have. You have something to share.’”

Blander words no Sunday school teacher ever spoke, but to Abram they seemed like a revelation….

Thereafter he transformed his daily prayer ritual into Buchmanite Quiet Time. And, soon enough, God filled the silence with instructions: go forth, he said, and build cells for my cause like Buchman’s.

…When Buchman spoke of Christianity’s “new illumination,” “a new social order under the dictatorship of the Spirit of God” that would transform politics and eradicate the conflict of capital and labor, Abram took him literally.
(pp. 126-8)

In other words, the Faith at Work organization is connected to the cult-like Washington Fellowship ("The Family"). It attempted to give birth to the original Emerging Church Movement back in 1970. The ramifications of these pieces of data are far-reaching. There are many parallels to the modern-day Emergent/Emerging Church, including the emphasis on small groups that are experience-based, leadership training, the mystical (contemplative) piety, the all-encompassing ecumenism, the Dominionism,. . . the list could go on and on. The emergence of a New (Age) Spirituality, a blend of Theosophy and evangelicalism, is another significant similarity.[15] And yet another interesting outgrowth of all of this interlocking history is the use of orchestrated prayer in groups, large and small (cells).

Praying in an Emerging New Order

The connections between the Washington Fellowship’s National Prayer Breakfast and the National Day of Prayer are many and various. For instance, J. Edwin Orr, one of the founders of the National Association of Evangelicals and a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary,[16] was a “field representative in the 1950s” for International Christian Leadership (ICL), one of Abraham Vereide’s early organizations. Orr “was an advisor of Billy Graham's from the start of that evangelist's career, a friend of Abraham Vereide and helped shape the prayer breakfast movement that grew out of Vereide's International Christian Leadership..." [17] and that the "success of Campus Crusade for Christ was a direct result of the groundwork layed [sic] by Orr."[18] Richard Halverson, also worked for the Vereide’s Fellowship Foundation from the 1950s on and helped to coordinate the National Prayer Breakfasts. “Halverson, along with Vonette Bright [Bill Bright’s wife] was influential in having the Senate declare the National Day of Prayer.”[18]

To be continued, Lord willing. . . .

The Truth:

"Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God." (Isaiah 50:10)

7. Ibid.
10., Remaking the World, 29.
13. Ibid.
Buchman, Remaking the World, p. 166.
15. See Constance Cumbey's 5-part article series, "'The Family' and its Hijacking of Evangelicalism," posted on that give more in-depth history of the interlockings between these early movers and shakers in the evangelical world, who were also working in Theosophical circles.