by C. Peter Wagner
Given at the Annual Meeting of the ICA in Orlando, Florida, December 10, 2008
This constitutes only the Lakeland portion of Peter’s full address. A time of Q&A followed this presentation and is available on audio from Global Harvest.
For better or for worse, ICA has become implicitly involved in the events surrounding the rise and fall of the Lakeland Outpouring under Todd Bentley. Let me say up front that as I processed my decision whether or not to become personally and publicly involved, especially with the vast international GOD TV audience looking on, I was painfully aware of the implications this would have on ICA in general and on individual ICA members in particular.
As I will explain, I was approached specifically on the weight of my office as ICA Presiding Apostle, which I then could not disguise in my attempt at implementation of apostolic protocol and alignment. I knew ahead of time that some ICA members would approve of what I was doing while others would disagree with me. My hope was that most ICA members would, at the end of the day, trust me to hear the Lord correctly and to make the right decisions whether they fully understood them or not. This hope has been largely fulfilled and I am happy to report that most previous relationships have emerged intact. I know of only two who opposed me so strongly that they have chosen to break relationships and they have resigned from ICA. Some other members scolded me severely, but they have remained.
I have been quite forthright and thorough in my public emails reporting the entire Lakeland process, so I feel that here I only need to give a brief summary.
A Brief Summary
While I had been aware that something unusual was happening in Lakeland and while I may have watched the GOD TV broadcast for a total of a couple of hours, my personal interest in the event was at best two on a scale of one to ten. I had begun hearing that some serious criticisms concerning doctrines and ministry practices of Todd Bentley were being voiced, but I had no desire to learn details. Dutch Sheets gave his analysis of what was happening one Sunday in Freedom Church, highlighting both the good and the bad. I found it interesting that he would speak in public about the subject but gave it little further thought.
Things changed decidedly when I received a telephone call from Stephen Strader of Ignited Church, host of the Outpouring. Stephen, a member of ICA, called me as the Presiding Apostle of ICA. He talked for an hour, first reciting the many blessings being received, then summarizing the criticisms, including Dutch’s sermon and columns by Lee Grady, both of whom were also ICA members. He was concerned that things were getting out of order, and he said, “Peter, where are the apostles at a time like this?” By the time he asked that question I had become convinced that something needed to be done to try to bring order, especially since it was being broadcast to a reported international audience of five million. About 40 minutes into the call, God spoke a clear word to me: “Alignment!” My immediate understanding of that word was that order in Lakeland would never be established until Todd Bentley’s apostolic alignment was properly in place.
I went to work first on the assumption that Todd had established his apostolic alignment, and, when I had found what it was, I would deal directly with the apostle or apostles involved. However, I soon discovered that unfortunately Todd had no formal apostolic alignment. I did by then have a list of six or eight leaders with whom he reportedly was in close contact, one of whom was Ché Ahn and another, of course, Stephen Strader, the only two ICA members on the list. As I talked to Stephen, he gave me good reasons for disqualifying himself from being a potential apostle with whom Todd would desire to align. That left Ché, whom I called. Ché assured me that he had developed a very close and positive relationship with Todd over the years, and he told me that he would be pleased to call Todd and talk to him about possible alignment. However, when he did, he would want to bring in Bill Johnson and John Arnott, with the three of them representing the newly-formed Revival Alliance. I would convene the alignment ceremony, turn the alignment itself over to Ché, and the Revival Alliance would then commission Todd as the evangelist over the Lakeland Outpouring.
The ceremony took place, as planned, on June 23, 2008. Meanwhile I had come into contact with several other apostles who desired to participate, many of whom were ICA members, with others representing different apostolic streams such as Revival Alliance and Rick Joyner’s MorningStar. They joined us on the platform and many of them prayed and/or prophesied after the commissioning. My immediate assignment had been completed.
Sadly, many of those who had been criticizing Todd’s doctrine, ministry practices, and even character shortcomings turned out to be correct. It was only a day or so after Todd’s apostolic alignment that longstanding veils of secrecy began to be pulled off and that serious issues of reprehensible behavior and moral turpitude began to be disclosed. Days later he announced separation from his wife, admitting that he had turned his affections toward another woman. The Revival Alliance, working closely with Todd’s Fresh Fire Ministries Board, had him step down from public ministry immediately. Since then, Revival Alliance has outsourced Todd’s disciplinary and possible restoration process to a committee headed up by Rick Joyner and including Bill Johnson and Jack Deere.
While these happenings were occurring. I began getting requests that I take charge of dealing with the questionable doctrines and practices arising from Lakeland. I put together a team of eleven apostles who would work together with me on the process, but admittedly I did not undertake the task on a direct assignment from the Lord, but rather from a sense of apostolic duty. I was greatly relieved when later Dutch Sheets approached me with the suggestion that he form such a team and take charge of this responsibility, with the caveat that I would agree to be a member of the new team. I gladly agreed and happily, I am now relieved of this as a primary burden for what undoubtedly would have been weeks to come.
However, before I turned this task over to Dutch. I had led the team of eleven through the process of forging a policy addressing one of the list of 24 issues which we had identified who, like Bentley, had allowed sin to come into their lives and to discredit their ministries.
The sad fact is that our charismatically inclined evangelical camp has been developing a regrettable public image of improperly dealing with sin in the lives of high visibility leaders, allowing them to return to public ministry prematurely. Lee Grady has labeled it “greasy grace”. Part of the cause of this has been the uncanny ability of fallen leaders to slip out from the apostolic oversight or accountability structure to which they had voluntarily submitted in favor of a more lenient person or group who would presumably accelerate their restoration process. Some would even take it upon themselves to repent in public and declare themselves restored.
“The principle is that the prescribed restoration of a fallen leader should be undertaken only by or under the direct supervision of the apostle or apostolic group (whether or not the term “apostle” is used) with which the fallen leader has previously aligned. The practice of the leader, himself or herself, slipping out from under a recognized accountability structure in order to select what would inevitably be a more lenient person or group of persons should be regarded by the body of Christ as unacceptable behavior. The proper apostolic protocol should be for those involved in the initial apostolic alignment, and those people only, to make any public announcement on the progress of the restoration or that the restoration has been completed and that the restored leaders be allowed once again to resume public ministry.”
While this is the rule, an aversion to legalism would leave room for certain exceptions, but the rare exceptions would need to be adequately justified openly and above board before they would be considered appropriate by the body of Christ in general.
I have intentionally avoided using specific names in this section, but both ICA members and non-ICA members have been guilty of this in recent years. I believe that the integrity of the New Apostolic Reformation itself will never rise to the level it should unless and until the matter of apostolic protol for discipline and restoration is agreed upon and uniformly practiced.
None of these comments should be taken to demean the apostolic movement in the slightest. As I mentioned earlier, we belong to the most vibrant segment of Christianity in the world at the present time. But to whom much is given much is required. If we are trailblazers, each trail must be clearly marked with the highest standards of holiness and accountability.
The Bible requires that leaders must be “blameless” ( 1 Timothy 3:2) and especially those of us who are members of ICA should settle for nothing less.
We can do it, and for the most part we have been doing it. I am constantly energized by this association with kingdom-minded leaders who walk in the paths of humility, anointed leadership, stalwart character, love for the body of Christ, righteousness, faith, power, discernment, and service.
May God bless you all!