Did Ernie Gruen Recant His ‘Aberrant Practices’ Document Regarding Kansas City Fellowship/Grace Ministries?
October 3, 2011 12 Comments
The prophecy movement carries with it the seeds of deception. At worst in the discipleship/shepherding movement some shepherd told you what to do. In the prophecy movement it’s God(?) who tells you what to do.
- Jamie Buckingham, May/June 1990 Ministries Today1
In context, Buckingham, in the quote above, was speaking of the excesses in personal foretelling prophecies; however, the same could be said for much of the modern so-called “Apostolic/Prophetic” (New Apostolic Reformation aka NAR) movement in general. This would include both the foretelling and the forthtelling varieties, i.e. what some of these “prophets” are claiming God is saying today much of which is at odds with traditional, literal interpretations of Scripture.
Back in the late 1980s Kansas City Fellowship (KCF, aka Grace Ministries) in Kansas City, Missouri, pastored by the young Mike Bickle, was involved in a controversy regarding this new “Prophecy Movement.” This controversy centered around the so-called Kansas City Prophets (KCP) of which Bob Jones, Paul Cain, and John Paul Jackson were the most visible. Ernest J. Gruen, senior pastor of Full Faith Church of Love-West of Shawnee, Kansas, just the other side of the Missouri state line, had growing concerns about the teachings, prophecies, and practices at KCF. After showing concern about these aberrances to Mike Bickle and feeling as though these concerns were not being heeded, Gruen, after prayer, decided to preach his sermon “Do We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing” on January 21, 1990 detailing some of the problems at KCF.
The tape of this January 21 sermon was distributed throughout the US bringing media attention to the Kansas City area. During this time Gruen and some of his staff transcribed tapes distributed by Grace Ministries/KCF and analyzed those as well as teaching materials from KCF/GM resulting in the release of the 233-page Documentation of Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries) [hereafter identified as the “Gruen Document”or “the Document”] in May of 1990. The Gruen Document corrected three mistakes made in the taped sermon of January 21 all having to do with associated details.
Subsequent to this, there have been persistent rumors, speculations and allegations that Ernie Gruen recanted the Document in part or in toto. Is this true? While it is true Gruen conceded portions of the Gruen Document in a letter dated July 1, 1990 some aspects of this statement seem troublingly self-contradictory when compared to the 233-page Document. This raises a number of associated questions. Is this letter real, legitimate? If so, what factors contributed to the release of this statement? If so, were these concessions just honest mistakes or did Gruen fabricate these portions of the Document? Assuming these concessions were made, and given the importance of the Gruen Document, why does this continue to be the subject of rumor and speculation rather than established fact? This article will attempt to answer some of these questions.
This is not an attempt to dredge up the past. This is an attempt to arrive at the whole truth of the matter. Kansas City Fellowship would later become what is now known as the International House of Prayer – more commonly “IHOP” – which is recognized worldwide. Many other similar _HOPs, patterned after the Kansas City model, have been established throughout the US and around the world. In view of this, the history of this movement could be of importance to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, especially since Mike Bickle continues to espouse KCF as part of the IHOP heritage.
Timeline of Events
A timeline of events specifically regarding Gruen and KCF as well as contemporaneous accounts and findings by others regarding KCF and Vineyard (the Association of Vineyard Churches, under John Wimber’s leadership eventually assumed control of KCF) will help in assessing the facts and will shed further light. All dates are from 1990 unless otherwise specified:
- January (inclusive dates unknown): A “massive” two week conference titled “Holiness” is held at John Wimber’s Anaheim Vineyard as mentioned in Bill Jackson’s book The Quest for the Radical Middle, a history of Vineyard. The book does not specifically list the featured speakers. Reportedly, there were 5000 registrants per week.2
- January 21: Ernie Gruen preaches the sermon “Do We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing.” The tape was distributed in the United States and apparently eventually ended up going worldwide. After its release over 40 Kansas City pastors united with Gruen.3
- January 22 (or 29):4 Mike Bickle responds with an open letter. The letter has not been recovered but portions are quoted in other sources:
I am very eager to meet with you to clear up these terrible misunderstandings. I leave the initiative for a meeting in your hands respecting your need to first hear from the Lord in a fresh way. I’d suggest that we call men with national ministries to come and sit with us in order to help us communicate.5
John Wimber, referencing Bickle’s January letter, in an article written after Gruen agreed to stop sending out the Gruen Document states:
Bickle declined to question Gruen’s motives or sincerity, instead claiming that much of Gruen’s accusations were based on a confusion of facts and wrong information.
Bickle took some responsibility for the confusion of facts, saying he should have been more diligent to communicate the nature of KCF’s beliefs and practices to Gruen in earlier talks. He added, “I will not respond to specific issues publicly to avoid further strife and hurt, but will gladly meet with you along with any of your leaders at your convenience.” 6
In an article in the September/October issue of Ministries Today, Lee Grady states this about the Bickle response to Gruen’s tape:
Feeling injured and betrayed, he wrote an open letter to Gruen, denouncing the charges as false and misleading. Most of the specific incidents described on the tape as evidence of KCF’s errors were grossly inaccurate, he said. But Bickle displayed gentility in his response and never once tried to vindicate himself publicly or deny that his ministry had made mistakes. “I open my heart to any correction you have to offer that relates to any of our problems,” he wrote Gruen.7
- March (exact dates unknown): At a conference titled “What the Holy Spirit is Saying to the Church Today” in Sydney, Australia, Wimber/Vineyard were confronted by some locals who wanted Wimber and company to go back home. Jack Deere and Paul Cain were on this trip.8 In April, a very critical report from Philip Jensen’s church – the group that criticized Vineyard – came out in the journal The Briefing.9 Deere would later write about the incident in a 1992 position paper.10
- March 20: Letter is sent to District Superintendents of the Assemblies of God (A/G) by Jewel van der Merwe (now Grewe) as a follow up to an earlier letter (date unknown) listing problems with GM/KCF. In the letter, she relays an account of an individual who moved to Kansas City the previous summer [‘89] as a result of guidance from “one of prophets in Kansas City.” Jewel was in the KC area in October of ’89, contacted the individual and relates, “She told me prophecies had gone out that thousands of pastors would be leaving their churches and moving to Kansas City to be part of what God is doing in the End-time…” When questioned on what authority the individual knew these prophets were of God, the conversation was abruptly ceased by the individual.
This matter has distressed me greatly for the last several months. We have spent hours transcribing tapes from the new prophets. I know that the Assemblies [of God] all over the country are going to be affected by what is happening because of the mass media exposure, massive conferences already planned for the near future and the amount of books and tapes being churned out at a rapid rate.
Listed in the letter are a number of serious errors being taught (from Bob Jones’ tapes/teachings and by extension Mike Bickle who was interviewing Jones on some of these) including the disbelief in a literal anti-christ, the intent to disband denominations including the A/G, the “Elect Generation” (elected seed) doctrine, the practice of the laying on of hands after which the individual “changes radically,” Melchisedek Priesthood teaching [which is taught in Rosicrucianism], disbelief in a literal Rapture, and the claim of power to remit sin. After this list, is the following statement:
…[T]his is just the beginning of the heresy they are teaching. The deity of Jesus Christ is being subtly undermined and replaced with the deification of man.
The letter explicitly identifies the overall teachings of the KCP/KCF as the New Order of the Latter Rain doctrine while pointing out that this was denounced as heresy by the A/G in 1948.11
- March 30: Gruen’s letter to Bickle in response to the January 22 (or 29) letter agreeing to a meeting with “national leaders.”
…I am now convinced that your group does not represent orthodox Christianity; that many of your church’s prophecies are from familiar spirits and actually divination; and that you are very close to becoming a Charismatic heresy and a cult group. The material that we have documented, from your own writings and tapes, has led me to this sad conclusion…
The local Kansas City situation is not the focus now, since we have followed the process and procedures commanded in Matthew 18 precisely through to the third step when we told it to the church [sic]. The message I preached on January 21, 1990, at this point, is no longer relevant. The issue is that you have started a movement that is promoting prophecies throughout the nation that are total fabrications in order to gain credibility for ‘your movement.’ You have done irreparable harm to the [C]hurch in Kansas City, and we do not wish to harm hundreds of thousands of people nationwide…12
Gruen went so far as to suggest twelve men who “would definitely be a fair and responsible group” six of whom he never met and four “only casual acquaintances.” At least one of those listed, Earl Paulk, explicitly taught Latter Rain doctrine including the Manifested Sons of God (MSoG) heresy. Obviously, Gruen was not aware of this at the time since he himself denounced MSoG in the Gruen Document. It’s apparent that Gruen was not familiar with some of his chosen group’s doctrines or affiliations. The full list follows:
Roderick Caeser, Jr.
- April 4: Gruen releases “Open Letter to National Leaders” to the Network of Christian Ministries (NCM). This amounted to a request for a “heresy trial” according to Jamie Buckingham which “would have forced that board into the unenviable and dangerous position of an apostolic council – something charismatics have violently opposed in years past.”13
…The purpose of the meeting would not be that Mike and I be reconciled, because we are totally convinced that many of his prophets prophecy by a familiar spirit and that they are a Charismatic heresy. The purpose of the meeting, therefore, would be for you to examine their doctrine and practices, to ascertain whether our conclusions are accurate; if not, we should be corrected. On the other hand, if our conclusions are accurate, equitable, and righteous, then this should be exposed and such action should be taken as you decide…14
In the letter, Gruen promised to have the documentation available by May 31st and to provide a copy to KCF. It is reported that Bickle and Gruen had agreed to a meeting with the NCM which was scheduled for July.15
- April (date of event in dispute): Bill Jackson’s The Quest For the Radical Middle,16 corresponding with John Wimber’s report in his own Equipping the Saints magazine,17 states that Wimber and Cain “had met with Gruen as early as April to try to resolve their differences.” Given that Cain was not specifically mentioned until the Gruen Document which wasn’t released until May, which seems to have provided the catalyst for Cain’s desire for a meeting with Gruen (see below), and that there is specifically mentioned a May 25 meeting consisting of Wimber and Cain with Gruen, it appears this is in error. This is further evidenced by continuing with the account as told by Jackson, “It was then agreed that Wimber’s associate Jack Deere, would meet with Gruen and his staff and consider all the charges.” This agrees with the May 25 account below as recorded by Jamie Buckingham. A May 25 date seems more likely since: 1) it follows the release of the Gruen Document; and, 2) the follow up meeting consisting of Deere with Gruen and his staff on June 12-14 was only about 3 weeks after May 25 rather than 6 or more weeks if this initial meeting was in April instead.
- April 23: Albert James Dager, author and publisher of Media Spotlight founded in 1977, publishes a Special Report titled, “Latter-Day Prophets: The Kansas City Connection” thus predating the Gruen Document. This includes an interview with Mike Bickle, partial transcriptions of GM/KCF tapes (one of which was not referenced in the Gruen Document), and other associated material (some of which were not in the Gruen document).18 Dager would incorporate this Special Report into his book Vengeance is Ours readapting this material by adding other information including bits from the Gruen Document.
Obviously, given Bickle’s interview with Dager, he was aware that Dager was to publish an article further evidenced by the fact that he subsequently sent a letter to Dager19 after GM/KCF came under Wimber/Vineyard (see below).
- May 12: Grace Ministries/Kansas City Fellowship becomes Metro Vineyard Christian Fellowship, more commonly Metro Vineyard Fellowship (MVF), after coming under the headship of John Wimber and the Association of Vineyard Churches (AVC).20 This was “a surprise announcement,” according to Lee Grady.21 Wimber then wrote to the Network of Christian Ministries apprising them of this change stating it would be best for him to take care of the problems thus side-stepping the possibility of a heresy trial.22
It’s important to note that “[Wimber] and Vineyard Ministries International [had] been the major financial contributors to the Shiloh [Ministries] project” – a part of Grace Ministries – by Fall 1989 or earlier. Shiloh “is a piece of land where various prophets can live together and share their revelations.” Wimber “is credited for a key role as a counselor in helping the team members establish some of Shiloh’s basic principles and practices.”23
- May (specific date unknown) : The 233-page Gruen Document is released. It contains Gruen’s letters of March 30 and April 4 as noted above, letters from other local churches in support of Gruen, testimonial letters reflecting negatively on KCF, transcripts of GM/KCF tapes, excerpts from teaching materials, and explanations as to the problems associated with the GM/KCF material. In the first section of the Document, Gruen concedes three mistakes in his January sermon/tape with respect to the accuracy of specific details of these accounts while affirming their essential truthfulness.24
The Document was apparently released just before, just after, or contemporaneous with the Vineyard assumption of KCF/GM. In a July/August 1990 Ministries Today article, Jamie Buckingham seems to place the release of the Gruen Document after the advent of MVF. After mentioning that KCF submitted to the Vineyard/Wimber leadership and Wimber’s subsequent letter to the NCM thereby averting a heresy trial, he then writes, “Gruen, nevertheless, released a 233-page spiral-bound ‘document’ listing numerous charges…”
Bickle and Cain immediately requested a meeting with Gruen and the board of the National Leadership Conference, which was then in session. In that meeting, Cain said Gruen was not playing “fair” by printing accusations against him without first contacting him. He and Bickle urged Gruen to withhold distribution of the document until Wimber could examine the issues. (It was offered free to all who called Gruen’s church at [phone number].) The NLC board strongly urged Gruen to consider their request. Cain said he was flying to Kansas City and would sit and wait until Gruen talked to him. Gruen refused to withdraw the book, but did agree to a private meeting with Cain and Wimber.25
Note that the National Leadership Conference (NLC) is different from the Network of Christian Ministries (NCM). It seems possible that the NLC would have been more amenable to the Bickle-Cain position as Gruen had already suggested the NCM meet with Gruen and Bickle to review KCF’s doctrines and practices.
Buckingham’s account implies that Gruen defiantly went on with completing and distributing the Document even though Wimber had promised to provide oversight and the NCM agreed to allow Wimber to provide this correction rather than going through with a heresy trial presided by the NCM. However, interestingly, Buckingham was president of the NLC board at the time – an important detail missing from the Ministries Today article above yet mentioned in the 1991 revised edition of David Pytches’ book Some Said it Thundered.26 The mere fact that a modified version of Buckingham’s article27 would appear in Pytches’ (revised) book – a positive view of KCF and the KCP – is troubling enough; however, when coupled with this omission, his objectivity could be called into question.
Compare the bolded portion above with the bolded portion below (The verbiage both directly preceding and following the words in this paragraph below are essentially the same as the above; however, the parenthetical statement about how to obtain a copy of the Gruen Document was deleted since this book was published in 1991, of course.):
…[Cain and Bickle] urged him to withhold distribution of the book until Wimber could examine the issues. As president of the NLC board I called a meeting in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, and we strongly urged Gruen – who was an NLC member – to consider their request. Cain said he was flying to Kansas City…28
In a July 1993 Charisma article, J. Lee Grady seems to place the release of the Gruen Document before the transition from KCF to MVF. The subject of the article was that both Bickle and Gruen “asked each other for forgiveness” thus resolving the three years long dispute in the aftermath of the events surrounding the Gruen Document.29 In this piece, Grady mentions Gruen’s taped sermon in one paragraph, in the paragraph following he discusses the 233-page document, and two paragraphs later he states:
Soon after Gruen aired the accusations, Bickle aligned KCF with the Association of Vineyard Churches…30
Given that the January sermon was nearly four months prior to the May 12 transition to MVF, this appears to indicate that Grady’s “soon after” comment did not refer to the tape but rather the Gruen Document instead thereby placing its release just before the May 12, 1990 transition date. Grady’s article in the September/October 1990 Ministries Today, seems to indicate the same thing implicitly in a similar way.31
Jackson’s book also infers that the release of the Gruen Document followed the change from KCF to MVF aligning closer to Grady’s account by mentioning the tape, followed by the Gruen Document, followed by the Vineyard acquisition:
In a surprise move, however, John Wimber stepped in during the month of May to cut off the controversy’s momentum. He announced that Kansas City Fellowship was going to become a part of the Association of Vineyard Churches…32
- May 25: Three hour meeting is held consisting of Gruen and his staff with Wimber and Cain33 on the Friday preceding Memorial Day which reportedly “totally changed the direction of the controversy,” according to Buckingham:34
Gruen, who later called it a “sweet meeting in the Spirit,” opened by saying, “I do not have war in my heart.” Wimber and Cain said they only wanted God’s best. The result was the issuance of a joint statement to all factions saying:
- The opposing leaders trust each other’s integrity and spirit.
- Vineyard leader Jack Deere, a former Dallas Seminary professor, will oversee a process to examine all the charges.
- Wimber and Gruen want to model to the nation a “righteous method” of handling disputes.35
- June (specific date unknown): Tapes are discontinued from the Grace Ministries “Spring Catalog ’90” [see previous article here on CrossWise] including many of the ones transcribed or referenced in the Gruen Document and Dager’s Special Report. All of the Bob Jones material from the original catalog was deleted and much of Paul Cain’s. Following is a complete list of the deleted items with a corresponding letter denoting the tapes’ reference in either the Gruen (G), the Dager (D), or both (B):
Bob Jones Visions and Revelations B
An Interview with Bob Jones B
The Prophetic History of Grace Min. B
Endtime Prophetic Events (J.P. Jackson) G
Personal Testimony (Paul Cain) G
Our Father’s House (Paul Cain) n/a
7 Spirits of God (Paul Cain) G
Joel’s Army (Paul Cain) G
A New Breed (Paul Cain) D
Personal Testimony (Bob Jones) n/a
Rest in His Mercy & Grace (Bob Jones) n/a
Heaven & Hell (Bob Jones) n/a
Shepherd’s Rod Oct. ’89 (Bob Jones) G
An Intercessory Vow (Noel Alexander) n/a
Intercession With Angels (Mike Bickle) n/a
Video-Interview With Bob Jones *
Video-Interview With Paul Cain *
The asterisk is placed next to the Cain video as it contains the personal testimony on the single tape which is also deleted; so, it could be counted by extension with this in mind. Similarly, the asterisk is placed next to the Jones video for the same reason.. As to the others, we erred on the side of caution as the Gruen Document used its own nomenclature making it sometimes difficult to cross-reference with the GM catalog. Also noted is that Dager’s April 23rd article references Noel Alexander’s Intercessory Prayer: Kansas City Fellowship’s Theology, History and Practice.36 It seems plausible that the tape above titled An Intercessory Vow could have overlapping subject matter.
It’s rather curious that GM/KCF would discontinue the series which “is by far our best seller” – The Prophetic History of Grace Ministries – without having one to replace it [see previous post for list of then current tape offerings].
In the Fall 1990 Christian Research Journal it is reported that all the Bob Jones tapes were taken out of circulation as a result of Wimber’s “attempt at correction”:
…limitations on public ministry were placed on Bob Jones…Jones’s controversial tapes have been withdrawn from distribution and his ministry is limited to church leadership “behind closed doors.”37
Bickle later complained that he took the heat for some of the so-called Kansas City Prophets of whom he had no governing authority.38 While this may be true, Bickle certainly had control over whose tapes he would choose to distribute. Selling taped messages of these individuals – especially those taped at KCF – is explicit endorsement; consequently, any criticism leveled against him regarding an individual whose tapes he distributed, especially with regard to the tapes’ contents, is quite fair. Given that a large portion of the Gruen Document was specifically about Bob Jones, whose tapes Bickle had been selling, some of which included Bickle in conversation with Jones, then this criticism is not only fair, it is expressly warranted.
Also of interest is the fact that Jewel van der Merwe (Grewe) of Discernment Ministries released her first Discernment Newsletter in May, and the June newsletter specifically mentions KCF as well as Bob Jones and Paul Cain.39
- June 12-14: Meeting of Jack Deere with Gruen and his staff evaluating the concerns in the Gruen Document.40
- June (likely, though date unknown): 15 points/errors jointly prepared by Vineyard & KCF obviously prior to the June 28 date in which Bickle “repents” of these specific errors. Following is a list of these 15 in their entirety. Note that these items are mostly, if not entirely, reflected explicitly or implicitly in the Gruen Document. The 15 points/errors are preceded by a statement in all capital letters:
ERRORS THAT BOTH KCF AND VINEYARD HAD DISCOVERED PRIOR TO ERNIE’S REPORT AND HAD BEGUN TO CORRECT.
- The lack of accountability for prophecies that do not come true or do not bear witness to the person receiving the ministry. The releasing of men to minister publicly in a teaching format who are not qualified as teachers.
- The attempt by some prophetic ministers to establish doctrine or practice by revelation alone, apart from clear biblical support.
- Dogmatic assertions in delivery of prophetic words.
- On several occasions revealing negative prophetic words in public without first confronting the individual.
- On several occasions revealing negatives in private without first confronting the individual.
- Predictions concerning babies or marriages (except in cases of barrenness).
- The conferring of governmental authority or staff positions on the individuals, as well as redirecting staff to different church locations without giving these words to the appropriate levels of leadership.
- Giving prophetic words which affect a movement or church without going first to the appropriate levels of authority.
- Public predictions of natural disasters, economic events, and divine visitations without the approval of government.
- The use of prophetic gifting for controlling purposes.
- Using types and allegories to establish doctrine.
- Teaching or implying that KCF and Vineyard are an elite group or that we are the leaders of a new elite group about to be revealed by God.
- Using jargon that reflects the teaching of groups that we do not wish to be identified with.
- Calling John Wimber, or others, apostles and prophets verses (sic) using the terms “apostolic leadership” and “prophetic ministry.”
- Manifesting an attitude of superiority through the possession of a secret body of information. Amos 3:7 is true, but the prophetic people are not to wear a garment of pride because of this knowledge.41
- June 28: Jack Deere, Paul Cain and Wimber present their response to the findings in the Gruen Document to Gruen and his staff. According to Wimber, “After several hours of discussion, Gruen agreed to stop his attacks against KCF and Paul Cain” promising to bring no new charges without contacting Wimber first.42
According to a not unbiased article in Charisma & Christian Life,43 later that day, at a KCF-sponsored conference, Wimber made a statement that he had begun to scrutinize the teachings of KCF, purportedly at Bickle’s request, “before Gruen had started his public questioning.”44 Interestingly, the article states, “They [Wimber and Gruen] had found only a couple areas of agreement”45 yet in Wimber’s own Equipping the Saints article he dogmatically declares the Gruen document is wholly untrue:
After reading every line of Pastor Gruen’s document, listening to his tape, and interviewing as many people involved as possible, my staff and I are convinced that the accusations against Kansas City Fellowship and Paul Cain are untrue. I find no evidence that they teach heresy; have an occultic spirit; have unethical practices; promote bizarre, unscriptural experiences; have cultlike tendencies or teachings; or use prophetic gifting to take over churches.46
After Wimber spoke, Bickle made his statement at the conference admitting the errors established in the 15 points/errors (which, as noted above, are essentially indicated in the Gruen Document) and “detailed mistakes made in reporting two prophecies that had been used to establish the legitimacy of KCF” claiming that “both prophecies were fulfilled” but “the later retelling of these fulfillments were exaggerated.”47 Were the “fulfillments” ‘merely’ “exaggerated” or were these “prophecies” actually fulfilled at all? Of the two “prophecies” mentioned in the article, only the drought prophecy is discussed (identified in the Gruen Document as item I.A48) and this will be more completely analyzed in a subsequent article.
Five years later, while maintaining “that most of Gruen’s accusations were untrue,” Bickle would admit, “God was disciplining us for pride and some wrong ideas.” He continued, “If it hadn’t have been Ernie Gruen, God would have used someone else. The message wouldn’t have gotten through to us if it had been kind. It had to be tough. We were wrong.”49 So, which was it? Did “KCF and Vineyard” discover the KCF errors “prior to Ernie’s report,” as the preface to the ‘15 points/errors’ above indicated, or was it Gruen who provided the impetus to change?
The conference referenced above in which Bickle “repented” was the “3rd Annual Grace Ministries Leadership Conference” held from Monday June 25th through Friday the 29th which was advertised in the “Grace Ministries Spring Catalog ’90.” This catalog was most likely released prior to March 1st as the advertisement mentions this date as the beginning point to write for “conference brochure and registration forms.” At the time of publishing, featured speakers were to be John Wimber, Paul Cain, Ralph Mahoney, Bob Jones, and Leonard Ravenhill, with “other speakers” listed as Bickle, Rick Joyner, Francis Frangipane, David Parker, David Ravenhill, “and other Grace Ministries team members.” Presumably, the featured speakers were recognized as “leaders” given the title of the conference. This is noted since Wimber was critical of Jones being in leadership and he stripped Jones of leadership status as part of the “corrections” made upon the KCF transition to MVF. Thus, it is assumed that Jones did not speak at the conference.
- July 1: Gruen sends a summary letter to John Wimber regarding the June 28 meeting. Included is the promise to stop distributing the Gruen Document after July 30.
Also in this letter, Gruen concedes some “points that could be disputed and argued” in the Gruen Document while affirming the “essential accuracy” of the Document. The three concessions are; 1) the use of some testimonies as these “have the possibility of being totally true or…giving disgruntled people an opportunity to express their grievances;” 2) completely exonerating Paul Cain of “any negative charges;” and, 3) the retraction of the story of a baby who died after receiving personal prophecy in his sermon of January 21 as the account has not been documented. Point 2 is the most troubling as this seems to contradict the whole of item VI.H in the Gruen Document. The whole of the contents of this section of the letter will be detailed in the second part of this article with sections discussed in full.
As to the first point, Gruen “is careful not to say that the testimony of a disgruntled person is not true, but only that it could give opportunity to attack one’s ministry,” as noted by Dager.50 Personal testimonies can provide added weight to other evidence; so, testimonies are not to be wholly discounted as Gruen’s statement infers. Gruen’s concession on this point was in part rather than in toto.
In this letter Gruen states
While I do not regret releasing the documentation or preaching the original sermon, I do realize that I have caused pain to many individuals in the body of Christ. I sincerely apologize for any unnecessary pain that I have caused. We at Full Faith do not want to continue to cause pain or hurts. We do not want a war with Vineyard or Kansas City Fellowship…
…[W]e release the entire situation of Kansas City Fellowship into your [Wimber’s] hands. We recognize that it is not now our responsibility to provide either correction or approval of Kansas City Fellowship. We believe that you are sincerely trying to bring the balance and correction that is needed. We also understand that this will involve a process that will take some time. We again wish to express our confidence in you, John, and state publicly that we completely and fully trust in your integrity.
…Ultimately the issue is in God’s hands. His sovereignty is the final court of appeal. He will bring to all of us the balance and correction that we need. Because we believe in the sovereignty of God, we are willing to submit this whole controversy into His hands. We give you permission to copy these pages as a unit, to use in any way you desire.51
Included as an enclosure with this two page letter are the 15 points above. All three pages were to be sent with the Gruen Document to all those receiving the document from that time until July 30 (at which point the Document will no longer be distributed). In addition, all who previously received the Document were to receive this notice.
- July 5: Gruen letter is released to be used as a cover for the July 1 letter and enclosure. The legitimacy of both letters is evidenced by an extant copy of all 4 pages (July 5 letter, two page July 1 letter, plus one page enclosure) with a fax date/time stamp originating at Full Faith Church of Love-West (stamped “Jul-12-90” at 12:37-39).52
Following is the letter in its entirety:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As one of those who has received a copy of the [D]ocumentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship, or is now receiving a copy of our documentation, enclosed is a copy of a letter I sent to John Wimber together with a statement to us from Vineyard Christian Fellowship concerning KCF.
This letter is the result of meetings with John Wimber and other leaders of Vineyard Fellowship, and a subsequent decision made by myself, the other Full Faith Church of Love pastors, and the elders of FFCL West.
KCF has now become part of the Vineyard association of churches. We ask for your continued prayers for all those involved.
Pastor Ernest J. Gruen 53
- July 9: “A Statement from Derek Prince” is released due to persistent questions posed to him regarding KCF. Prince is very critical. He recounts a conversation that he had with Mike Bickle in March of 1990 which is followed by his scathing assessment of KCF/GM:
…At this time I was asked by Mike Bickle to counsel with him and some of his leaders. I spent nearly three hours in discussion with them. I told them that I felt they were receiving and propagating error. Our meeting was conducted in a friendly spirit and ended with prayer, but no conclusion was reached.
Subsequent to this encounter, I studied [the Gruen Document]…It is based mainly on material published by Grace Ministries, or on transcripts of tapes made in Kansas City Fellowship which they themselves circulated.
Very briefly, I can sum up the main conclusions I have reached:
- The material circulated by Kansas City Fellowship contains many statements which have no basis in Scripture and are frequently contrary to Scripture. Some of the purported “revelations” could be described as absurd and even blasphemous.
- Much of the material is permeated by what I consider to be occult influence.
- The overall affect of the material is to divert attention away from Jesus Christ and the Scriptures and toward subjective experiences and human personalities.
- The circulation of the material from Kansas City Fellowship has exposed the Body of Christ to much error and confusion.
- These errors are deep-rooted and longstanding, dating at least as far back as 1983.
Any effective remedy would require open confession and renunciation of the errors practiced and a radical elimination of the occult element. All this should be communicated as widely as the errors have been circulated. A mere change of label or of leadership, by itself, is not sufficient.54
Prince goes on to stress that it’s the “doctrines and practices” and not the individuals he is judging. He continues:
…We are living in a period when it is more important than ever for all of us to cultivate “the love of the truth.” (See 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.)55
Yes, Derek Prince was part of the “shepherding” controversy; however, his words and advice here are spot on!
- July (specific date unknown): Albert James Dager releases Vengeance is Ours: The Church in Dominion which incorporates and expands on the Special Report released on April 23rd in a chapter titled “Who Are the Apostles and Prophets?”56
In a letter sent out in July to those on Dager’s Media Spotlight mailing list in which Dager announces his book, he also mentions a forthcoming Special Report on Vineyard.57 This report, released in August, contained two articles. One was authored by John Goodwin, a former associate of Wimber at Vineyard, while the other was another update on Dager’s April 23rd Special Report discussing Gruen’s July 1 letter including an analysis on Gruen’s exoneration of Paul Cain.
The Cain exoneration by Gruen will be examined in detail in the second part of this article. And, as noted above, the ‘drought prophecy’ will be fully analyzed as well.
1 Buckingham, Jamie “Buckingham Report” Ministries Today. May/June 1990, Vol. 8 No. 3; p 22. Question mark “(?)” after “God” in original.
2 Jackson, Bill The Quest for the Radical Middle. 1999, Vineyard International Publishers, Ladysmith, Cape Town, South Africa; p 211. Confusingly, at least one subsequent “Re-published” issue has different page numberings. The 2nd issue was Re-published in 2000 as VIP, Cape Town with the same page numbering as the first edition; whereas, the 2010 “Re-published for Amazon” issue (VIP, Cape Town also) has different page numberings. This particular reference is on page 202. Hereafter, all page references will reference the earlier edition followed by the later one, e.g.: p 211 / 202.
3 Buckingham, Jamie “Buckingham Report” Ministries Today. July/August 1990, Vol. 8 No. 4; p 22
4 Gruen letter to Mike Bickle dated March 30 states Bickle’s letter is from January 22, 1990. This letter is included in the Gruen Document. [Gruen, Ernie & John J. Arnold, et. al. Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries). May 1990, self-published, Shawnee, KS; p 35 / <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/kcp/Aberrant%20Practises.pdf> pdf prepared for online posting by Tricia Tillin (Booth) p 28 [hereafter listed as pdf p # / booklet p #]. However, Wimber [Wimber, John “A Response to Pastor Ernie Gruen’s Controversy with Kansas City Fellowship” Equipping the Saints. Fall 1990, Special UK Edition, p 3] identifies the date of Bickle’s letter as January 29.
5 Gruen Documentation. p 28 / 35
6 Wimber “A Response” p 3. Emphasis added.
7 Grady, Lee “Resolving the Kansas City Prophecy Controversy” Ministries Today. September/October 1990, Vol 8 No. 5; p 50. Emphasis added.
8 Jackson, Radical Middle. pp 154-55 / 149
9 Jackson, Radical Middle. pp 154-55 / 149-50
10 Jackson, Radical Middle. pp 154-57, 170ftnt / 149-52, 164ftnt
11 Letter on file; emphasis added
12 Letter included in Gruen Documentation. pp 28-9 / 36. Emphasis added.
13 Buckingham, “Report” July/August 1990; p 22
14 Letter included in Gruen Documentation. p 30 / 37. Emphasis in original.
15 Grady, “Resolving Kansas City” p 51
16 Jackson, Radical Middle. pp 217-18 / 207-08
17 Wimber, “A Response to Gruen” p 3
18 Dager, Albert James “Latter-Day Prophets: The Kansas City Connection” Media Spotlight. Special Report, April 23, 1990, Media Spotlight, Redmond,WA; pp 4-5
19 Dager, Albert James Vengeance is Ours: The Church in Dominion. July 1990, Sword Publishers,Redmond,WA; p 128
20 Jackson, Radical Middle. p 217 / 207
21 Grady, “Resolving Kansas City” p 51
22 Buckingham, “Report” July/August 1990; pp 22-3
23 Dager, “Kansas City Connection” p 4 referencing Lambert, Steve ”Shiloh: A Prophetic Sanctuary” Grace City Report . Special Ed., Fall 1989, p 11. Also Dager. Vengeance. pp 128-29. Emphasis added.
24 Gruen, Documentation. p 7 / pp 3-4
25 Buckingham, “Report” July/August 1990; p 23. Emphasis added.
26 Buckingham, Jamie. “Afterword” in Pytches, David. Some Said it Thundered. 1991, Oliver Nelson, Nashville, TN; p 148
27 Buckingham, “Afterword” in Pytches Some Said it Thundered. pp 145-54. Contains both May/June and July/August 1990 articles with alterations and some additional commentary.
28 Buckingham, “Afterword” in Pytches; p 148. Emphasis added.
29 Grady, J. Lee “Kansas City Churches Reconciled” Charisma. July 1993, Vol. 18 No. 12; p 54
30 Grady, “Kansas City Churches Reconciled”p 54
31 Grady, “Resolving Kansas City” p 51
32 Jackson, Radical Middle. p 217 / 207
33 Grady, ”Resolving Kansas City” p 51
34 Buckingham, “Report” July/August 1990; p 23
35 Buckingham, “Report” July/August 1990; p 23. Emphasis added.
36 Alexander, Noel Grace City Report Special Edition, Fall 1989; p 14 as quoted in Dager, “Kansas City Connection” p 4
37 Alnor, William & Robert Lyle. “Controversial Prophetic Movement is Incorporated Into the Vineyard” Christian Research Journal. Fall 1990, © 1994 Christian Research Institute, San Juan Capistrano, CA; p 5 / <http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/crj0044a.txt>; par 4; as accessed 10/01/11
38 Jackson, Radical Middle. p 212 / 202
39 van der Merwe (Grewe), Jewel Discernment Newsletter. “False Prophets” May 1990, Vol. 1 No. 1 http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990May-FirstEdition.pdf>; “A New Breed” June 1990, Vol. 1 No. 2 <http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL1990Jun.pdf>; as accessed 10/01/11. Presumably, this ministry was started as a direct result of the controversies surrounding KCF and KCP.
40 Wimber, “A Response to Gruen” p 27
41 “15 points” on file as enclosure to July 1, 1990 letter to John Wimber from Ernie Gruen. Obviously, this originated with Wimber or Deere, but, presumably, the inclusion of this with the July 1 letter was a joint decision of Wimber/Deere/Cain with Gruen and staff.
42 Wimber, “A Response to Gruen” p 27
43 “Truce Called in Bickle Controversy” Charisma & Christian Life. September 1990, Vol 16 No. 2; p 42. The article only once refers to the Gruen Document as “public questioning” in paraphrasing Wimber with the balance instead using such verbiage as “accusers,” “leveled charges,” and “printed a book of accusations.” More importantly, the author misquotes Gruen claiming he “acknowledged that he had no authority to question or examine the validity of KCF’s teachings and practices” which is misleading. The July 1, 1990 letter which came about as a result of this June 28 meeting stated, “We recognize that it is not now our responsibility to provide either correction or approval of Kansas City Fellowship” because Gruen and staff had released “the entire situation” into Wimber’s hands while noting that the issue is actually “in God’s hands.” [bolding/italics added for emphasis; underscore in original] Author not known.
44 “Truce Called” p 42
45 “Truce Called” p 42
46 Wimber, “A Response to Gruen” p 30. Also recorded in Jackson p 218 / 208. Emphasis added.
47 “Truce Called” p 42
48 Gruen, Documentation. pp 41-42 / 53-56
49 Grady, J. Lee “Kansas City Churches Mend Rift” Charisma & Christian Life. September 1995, Vol. 21 No. 2; p 34
50 Dager, Albert James “Latter-Day Prophets: The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets and the Kansas City-Vineyard Connection” Media Spotlight. Special Report, August 1990,Redmond, WA; p 16
51 Letter on Full Faith Church of Love-West stationery on file including enclosure. Underscore in original.
52 July 5 letter and July 1 letter and enclosure with fax date/time stamp on file.
53 Letter on Full Faith Church of Love-West stationery on file. Underscore in original.
54 Prince, Derek “A Statement from Derek Prince” pp 1-2. On file. All emphasis added except “doctrines” and “practices” in which underscore is in original.
55 Prince,“A Statement”p 2
56 Dager, Vengeance.
57 Letter on file.