- Word of God (community)
The Word of God is an
ecumenical, charismatic, missionary Christian community that started in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is composed of Christians from many different church backgrounds. The Word of God began in 1967 as an evangelistic outreach to students at The University of Michigan. Initially the group was made up of Catholics, but eventually expanded to include people from all Christian backgrounds or no Christian background. Now Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, as well as Catholicsand others all join together to express the unity they share in Christ as members of The Word of God. [cite web | title = The Word of God Community | url = http://www.thewordofgodcommunity.org/ ]
The Word of God was founded in 1967 by four men, Ralph Martin and Steve Clark (formerly involved in the Cursillo Movement office in Lansing, Michigan) and Jim Cavnar and Gerry Rauch who were involved in renewal work at the University of Notre Dame. They were young
Catholicswho came to Ann Arbor, Michiganafter being asked to leave the ministry in Lansingthey were involved after they became charismatic. They were inspired by the recent encounter they had had with the Charismatic movement. It was sparked by the “ Duquesne weekend” an event that is considered to be the Pentecostof the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
The men began having Prayer meetings in their apartment around the
University of Michigan’s main campus with four people. The meetings began to grow and soon there was a sizable group coming to every meeting. They moved to Saint Mary's in Ann Arbor to accommodate the growing numbers. By 1973 the numbers had grown to 1000. They started to organize the gathering into groups of people to meet together. As meetings grew so did their venues. Soon there were many meetings throughout the week. Membership had grown to 3000 by 1976.
The members of the community, in many cases, lived in common together in houses. There were houses for married couples and houses for single men or women. They also had dorm households at the
University of Michiganand Eastern Michigan University. The different households began to be split up into different “districts.”
National and Global Expansion
As their influence grew they soon began to create communities in other areas. An ecumenical “association” was created in 1983 called “
Sword of the Spirit.” It eventually had twelve branches, twenty-five affiliated groups, and six associated communities. When it began it included communities in The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Philippines, Great Britain, Austria, and Belgium.
Between 1972 and 1976 The Word of God created four churches or “fellowships.” These were created to help people live out aspects of their faith they could not live in a strictly interdenominational setting. The four fellowships were the Catholic Fellowship of the Word of God, Cross and Resurrection Lutheran, Covenant Presbyterian, and Emmaus Fellowship (Now Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor).
Books began to be written by members of the community. The Word of God created a publishing house to put out these books called Servant publications. They eventually started to publish other Christian books they deemed were important. One of these was a book called Songs of Praise. Songs of praise was one of the first contemporary worship books. Around two million copies of it were circulated. It included a number of songs written by members of the community.
New Covenant Magazine
The community published a magazine called New Covenant to teach and guide the charismatic movement and to coordinate its national activities. [cite web | title = A People of Peace Community | url = http://www.peace.mb.ca/08.Doors_to_Christ/xneil08.htm ]
The Cult Question
In the 1980s allegations that The Word of God was practicing too much control over its members prompted leadership of both
The Roman Catholic Church, and The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synodto send teams to investigate the community and determine if what they were teaching was orthodox. Neither investigations concluded that the community was teaching heresy, or warranted the denotation of a cult.
In 1990 some of the differences that the leadership felt on how to move forward came to a head. The Word of God split into two groups: The Word of God, and Washtenaw Covenant Community (Now Word of Life).
In the late 1990s the Word of God began a youth outreach in the Washtenaw county area called Mission Christ. [cite web | title = MissionChrist | url = http://missionchrist.net/ ] Mission Christ began a as a weekly meeting, but soon spread to include meetings at many of the local high schools and Universities, including: Huron High School (Alpha Omega), Pioneer High School (Pioneers for Christ), Ypsilanti High School, Father Gabriel Richard High School, Dexter High School (Genesis), Eastern Michigan University (Mission Christ Outreach), Concordia College, Washtenaw Community College, and the University of Michigan.
These groups became a source of controversy between the years 2000 and 2004 under the leadership of John Luton. There were two lawsuits filed by individuals against their schools over issues of discrimination against Christians. The first was filed by Betsy Hansen against Pioneer High School after her group, Pioneers for Christ, was allegedly barred from discussion in a forum on homosexuality during the schools diversity fair. The second lawsuit was filed by John Luton against Washtenaw Community College after his group was denied official group status over issues of free speech. In both cases they were represented by attorneys at the
Thomas More Law Center. The Hansen case was featured on The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity and Combs.
*cite book | author = Scott J. Stone | title = Unionism: Cause and Effect of the Charismatic Renewal within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Church History Thesis, April 29, 1967
*cite book | author = Csordas, Thomas J. | title = Prophecy and the Performance of Metaphor "American Anthropologist", New Series, Vol. 99, No. 2. (Jun., 1997), pp. 321-332.
*cite book | author = Burgess, Stanly M., McGee, Gary B., Alexander, Patrick H. | title = Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements | publisher = Zondervan | date = 1988 | location = Grand Rapids, Michigan | id = ISBN 0-310-44100-5
*cite book | author = Vinson Synan | title = The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal | publisher = Thomas Nelson | date = 2001 | location = Nashville | id = ISBN 0-7852-4550-2
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