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Witches, Pastors, and Fame.

One of my co-workers (non-Christian) pointed out an article in the on the cover of the Wall Street Journal today about Phil Wyman, an Evangelical pastor who was expelled from his denomination because of his outreach to the pagan community in Salem MA.

The story in the newspapers is fairly one sided. The Foursquare denomination declined to comment, correctly in my opinion. They probably see this as an internal matter, and treat it with a certain amount of care and respect. Mr. Wyman on the other hand is using this incident to generate a ton of publicity for his ministry.

It looks like a lot of bloggers are rushing to judgment and supporting this guy based on the information in the article.

Searching the The Gathering website for the word "Jesus" yields very few results. It is only mentioned on one of the 4 front pages. I dug pretty deep into the website, and didn't find anything too obvious outside of the "What we believe" page, which mirrored the denomination's doctrine.. Witches are people too, and they need the message of Christ, not a loaner stage for their festivals.

Looking at the pastor's musings, many of them are fictitious extra-biblical stories about God. I don't see any direct teaching from the Bible. For Halloween, the church was hosting a seminar on Dream Interpretation. Obviously some biblical heroes where gifted in this area, but I would be interested to know what Salem gathering teaches in these sessions.

It is unclear what the specific charges against this pastor are. It is clear from the article that his church was loaning equipment to the local Halloween festival. It is clear from the website that they promote the traditions that cross over easily from Witchcraft. (Dream interpretation, Meditation, etc.) The pastor describes himself as a practical mystic.

Looking at the "what we believe" parts of the website, there is no doubt that they subscribe to the Christian faith. (I am fairly sure that they lifted these tenets directly from foursquare.) Hopefully their ministry is fruitful. There is no reason that their overly apologetic and accommodating approach should be endorsed or supported by a denomination that is not ashamed of the name of Christ.

It will be interesting to see if the denomination responds. I wouldn't blame them either way.


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There are some glaring inaccuracies in your post. So allow me to respond.

We do not loan equipment to the event. We sponsor, organize all the music, and run the largest stage in town for 7 days. This is a significant difference. We create a party within the Halloween party, and attract people by live music, and free hot cocoa into our personal ministry tents. They stand in line for up to an hour to sit with us. Quite remarkable actually, and we have had Baptists, Pentecostals, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and many other denominations join us. This includes Gordon Conwell seminary students, and Foursquare Pastors. (even this year!)

The extra-biblical fictitious stories as you call them, are either personal stories of real events placed into teachings, or musings on church life.

I was actually removed from Foursquare because they said I was "not operating in the spirit of cooperation." Whatever that means. I made two appeals to have the District and the National decision reviewed and they refused to speak with me.

I did not pursue the Wall Street Journal. They came to me. I decided to go ahead with the article because 4sq patently refused to respect their own bylaws and allow an appeal process. They did this twice. The original accusations came to me, as a surprise. Not as personal correction, but by a inaccurate and extremely accusative letter simultaneously sent to myself, and to many other Foursquare leaders.

If you desire to see our original accusations, and our defense against them, we would be willing to make them available to you personally.

It was Foursquare who made this public initially. We tried for 8 months to seek reconciliation, and they refused each step of the way.

If you have further thoughts, I am willing to talk with you personally, or send you some of our extensive documentation of items (even from Foursquare's own mouth) on this issue.

Your assumption that I am pursuing fame is just that - an assumption. Wisdom would be to learn more before making such leaps in logic.

4 references to Jesus? Wow I beat James by 2. ;-)

Phil, Thanks for responding! Yes, I am sure we are not getting the full story in the Wall Street Journal article. That is kinda my point.

So often, we read just a glimpse of what a reporter finds important, and then rush to judgment.

I don't pretend to know all of the details. I see a lot of bloggers jumping on your side, without hearing the other side.

I didn't see anything that was inappropriate or unbiblical on your website. My point was that it was a different flavor than most foursquare sites I have seen. The fact that it is un-foursquare doesn't make it un-Christian. If your strategies and methods are different, the organizations are probably better off under separate leadership.

As far as who contacted the media, The article quotes you and indicates foursquare declined comment.

It doesn't really matter though who started it. I just don't like my non-christian co-workers bringing stuff like this to my attention. It would be nice if the Church was on the front page because of our love for one another.

Anyway, I will pray for your ministry. I am sure God will somehow use this turmoil to further the Gospel.

I used to feel the same way you do about not wanting to see church dirty laundry aired before the world. Over the years my opinion has been changed by a few things.

1) As my buddy Jeff Gentry (see http://gentry13.blogspot.com/ ) said during consideration of doing the Wall Street Journal article, "The church has nothing to fear from the truth." I believe this is true even when truth has an ugly side.

2) When all sources of church discipline have been exhausted, and the offender sits in power, I believe God willl bring things to light and shout it from the rooftop. Inevitably, it will occur outside the church walls in such cases, because inside the walls the power silences its detractors.

3) I am no longer worried that non-Christians will see an imperfect church. They already know the church stinks, and their critiques are accurate often. In such cases seeing the struggle for genuineness, and the painful trudge toward learning to live like Jesus is beneficial.

I really hate to kick at you when you are down. Reading through my first post, I am a bit regretful that I speculated as much as I did. Basically I approached the news with the following criteria: Is this church obviously in the business of edifying Christ? Based on my quick glance at the WSJ article and the church website, I couldn’t be sure. As such, I can understand why some leaders in your community might be concerned. I in no way intended to imply that they where correct.

In retrospect, I thought there would be a lot more buzz than there was. I shouldn’t have thrown gas on the fire. The buzz that I saw was taking your side, and I didn’t think that anyone had adequate evidence to do so.

As for as your points:

1: We do not have to fear the whole truth, but that is not what we get from newspapers. We get selected tidbits of the story. In this case from only one party.. In the vast majority of cases, I don’t think it is right for any employer to discuss the termination of an employee. Partial truth can be quite damaging.

2: I hear the shouting, but I don’t hear the case. 1 Timothy 5:19 puts the burden of proof pretty high. I understand that you feel wronged, but I would be wrong to take your word for it. WSJ doesn’t have the same standards.

3: Churches may be corrupt, but the Word of God is not. If we discard Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 and let non-believers judge our grievances, we corrupt ourselves not just corporately but personally. The New Testament is adamant that we make peace with one another. 1 Peter 3:7-9 for example says “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” When we allow ourselves to be corrupt because somebody else is corrupt, we damage our own testimony. Our disobedience tells the world that we don’t fully trust that God is in control.

Anyway, those are my concerns, for what they are worth. In America, lust for justice is one of the devil’s most palatable traps. So many people incapacitate themselves by being entangled in the wrongs that people commit against them. I see Hebrews 12:1-3 as my life verse:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

That seems to fit you situation pretty well.

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