This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Personal Testimony

I come to the altar of the Lord
To the Lord who rejoices my youth
(Psalm 42:4, Duay-Rheims translation, and from the Maronite Liturgy)
 
 
The above passage is my signature verse, as it pretty much describes my life's pilgrimage - returning to the landmarks of my faith.   And, a pilgrimage it has been too in many aspects - I have come so far, yet still have so far to go.   Yet, I stand by what that old mountain gospel song says:
 
 
I am a pilgrim and a stranger
wandering through this worrisome land,
I've got a home in that yonder city, good Lord
and it's not, not made by hand.
 
 
We are indeed on a pilgrimage of faith as Christians, just like the one in the 19th-century Russian Orthodox spiritual classic The Pilgrim's Way that I have read now several times through.   The pilgrimage can get rough, and indeed it does, but we need to stay focused on the destination and not the obstacles.  And, that is a lesson that is lifelong, as it can be difficult to learn.  However, what I have learned is that oftentimes our own agendas can get us off-course of the pilgrim trail, and it takes a total submission to and trust in God to get us back on course again.   Such is, really, the story of my life.
 
 
My beginnings were in a tiny West Virginia town called Parsons, where on a cold November day I was born to my mother, Daisy Mae Strahin Thrower, in the local hospital there.   From that first day, God has had his hand on my life as I continued forward, and he used a lot of great people, starting with my great-grandmother, Ottie Turner, to keep me on the straight-and-narrow.  Granny was a devoutly Christian preacher's widow who spent many of her later years working in the very hospital where I entered the world as a kitchen aide.  She faithfully attended the little Free Methodist Church in our hometown of Hendricks, WV, which was three miles from Parsons, for many years although her own family was German Dunkard in background.  From an early age, she took me to Sunday School there and there was a certain holiness about that little church building - you just knew you were in God's house when you entered it, and that was both humbling and comforting at the same time.   My mother too at one time had strong convictions, although she later backslid not long after her divorce from my father, and she took up drinking and some other bad habits.  Although she never stopped believing in the basic doctrines of the faith - to this day she still knows the Bible even better than I do in some cases, and I went to school to study it! - her life has not been what it should be.  It is my prayer that she comes back to the Lord before she passes away one day.
 
 

My great-grandmother, Ottie Mary (Stevens) Turner (1902-1984)
 
 

My hometown - Hendricks, WV
 
 

The Tucker County Courthouse in Parsons, WV, about 5 blocks from the hospital where I was born
 

The Hendricks Free Methodist Church, where my great-grandmother attended for years and took me to Sunday School as a kid.
 
 
 
Interesting story about my family's religious heritage.  My great-grandmother was born and raised just northeast of Parsons in a little area called Holly Meadows, which was in a beautiful picturesque region of Tucker County called the Sugarlands.   She grew up in what was called the Dunkard Brethren (now Church of the Brethren) tradition, which is a German Anabaptist/Pietist group similar in many ways to the Mennonites, although distinctive in many ways.  She married my great-grandfather, who was a Dunkard minister from nearby Preston County, Rev. Charles Judson Strahin.  Grandad Strahin was what they called a "circuit rider," meaning that he oversaw several small congregations over a wide area that he preached in on a rotating basis over a period of a month or so.   Back in that time, automobiles were just making their appearance, and many rural Appalachian people still used older forms of transport, including horses.  My great-grandparents managed that way too, traveling to the various congregations in the circuit on horseback, often being paid with fresh produce, chickens, eggs, homemade bread, etc., which was a lot of times all the parishioners in those churches could afford.   One night while making a call to a parishioner who was sick, Grandad Strahin had to ford a rapid river on a horse, and as a result he contracted tuberculosis which later landed him in a sanitarium, Hopemont in Terra Alta, WV, where he later died in 1933 or so.  However, his spiritual legacy remains even today, as one of the oldest Pentecostal congregations in Hendricks (and the county) meets in a churchhouse that he helped build in the Hendricks subdivision of Rosendorf.   Today it is called the Rosendorf Pentecostal Church of God, and has been pastored for years by some other relatives on my maternal grandmother's side, the Carrs - the late Sister Lily Carr Plaugher was the pastor there for years, and upon her passing her brother Rev. Floyd Carr took over, and today the church is pastored by Rev Floyd's great-grandson, Adam Snyder.   It is still a vibrant congregation, and I remember years ago as a kid when Mom and Granny would go over there for revivals back when Sis. Plaugher was alive, and one thing in particular I remember was an old man named Virgil Knotts, who played the guitar with a contraption that also sported a harmonica.  It is really unfortunate that many of those great saints are gone today, but suredly they went onto a greater reward.
 
 

The old Sugarlands Dunkard Church, outside of Thomas, WV, where my great-grandmother's folks were some of the founding families.
 
 

My great-grandfather, Rev. Charles Judson Strahin
 
 

The little Pentecostal Church of God in Rosendorf, near Hendricks, which was originally a union church my great-grandfather helped establish at the turn of the last century.
 
 
As I grew older, the religious influence was still there, in particular from my step-grandmother, the late Goldie Strahin.  Goldie was my grandfather Dave's second wife after he and my grandmother, Elsie Summerfield Strahin, separated in the early 1950's.  Goldie was ill at the time with cancer, and she was also devoutly Pentecostal Christian.  Back in the day, Grandad and Goldie lived in a little sleeper town called Bedington, WV, just outside Martinsburg, and Goldie was active in a tiny Pentecostal church in nearby Falling Waters, WV, pastored by an unassuming Pennsylvania-born minister named Rev. Claude Benjamin (or "Jeff") Carbaugh.   At one time, Rev. Carbaugh was associated with the Church of God, but due to his more conservative convictions he began a small Pentecostal fellowship of several churches in Maryland, WV, and VA but unfortunately not much is out there in the way of information about them, although I did contact the WV Church of God office to obtain more information on Rev. Carbaugh's ministry with them during the 1960's.   Rev. Carbaugh passed away in 1997 I believe, and as far as I can tell the Falling Waters church he founded is no longer there.   My step-grandmother Goldie also passed away in 1979 when terminal cancer finally won the battle for her life, but as I grew older, I appreciated her witness much better and realized what a tremendous woman of faith she was too.
 
 
My mom at one time also studied for the ministry, as she served as a WAC in Okinawa during the Vietnam campaign and was led to Christ and discipled by two California-born Free Will Baptist chaplains, Ken and Judy Elits.   Although Mom lost contact with them over the years, she still attributes them as being her spiritual mentors.  However, after a messy divorce with my dad, which ended their marriage in 1974, Mom fell away from the Lord and any church involvement, began to drink heavily, and often when she was intoxicated she saw no problem mixing bawdy jokes with bad theology in the course of a normal evening - as Mom fell away, the basic "hellfire-and-brimstone" mountain religion of our roots became mixed in with some bizarre stuff from both horror movies such as The Exorcist and The Omen,  as well as some eschatology derived from some rather scary Christian movies of the day, notably Baptist pastor Estus Pirkle's docudrama The Burning Hell.  To be honest, by the time I was in my early teens, Mom had me so scared to death of this stuff that I was under the mistaken impression that all Pentecostals thought like this!  Thankfully, later as you will see I had an experience of my own that changed that, and today stuff like The Burning Hell does not bother me - as a matter of fact, that film was Biblically sound, and there was nothing wrong with the theology of it, but it was just the way Mom conveyed it that made it a bit repulsive to me for many years.  It did show, however, that Mom still had convictions, although she was by the early 1980's anything but Christian.  She always made sure, for instance, that I knew the Bible, and she always encouraged me to attend church or Sunday School somewhere too.  Also, amidst some of her bizarre stuff, Mom also appreciated good Gospel music, and I grew up with the sounds of groups like the Statesmen, the Blackwoods, and particularly the Rambos and Chuck Wagon Gang (still two of her favorite Gospel groups today).  Also, it was pretty normal for Mom to listen to Kathryn Kuhlman, whom she considered to be the greatest evangelist of all time (I also admire Kuhlman, although for many different reasons).  Generally, the routine was this - at the time we lived at my great-grandmother's in Hendricks, where Mom worked at the local Kinney Shoe plant in Parsons.  After church on Sunday and an early Sunday dinner - usually consisting of good food such as home-fried chicken, roast, or something else - Mom, Granny, and I would pile in the car and go for a Sunday drive.  With Mom's Chuck Wagon Gang tapes accompanying the trip, we visited some of Granny's old relatives, cemetaries, or just drove around the back roads.  Those were fond memories.  However, they were short-lived as an upheaval that would shape the next several years of my life was about to take place.
 
 
While at the Kinney Shoe factory, Mom became romantically involved with a female co-worker in a lesbian relationship which lasted for about a year.  In the course of that year, Mom and her "friend" moved us to Romney, WV, where we settled until the relationship fizzled sometime around September of 1978, and we once again found ourselves back in Martinsburg with Grandad and Goldie, where they now lived in a rather rough area of town on Schwartz Street.   However, things were so weird that Mom sent me to my Dad's in Georgia that year, which at that time I felt was a bad idea but later realized it was a big favor.  While in Georgia, Dad and my new step-mother, Deborah, got me involved in church again, and this time something was different.   In Brunswick, GA, the primary religion of most people in those days was Southern Baptists, but although Southern Baptists then were fairly more conservative than they are now, there was also something else that made going to a Southern Baptist church a little more of a good experience than it was for me in those little mountain Holiness/Pentecostal churches back in my native West Virginia.   Deborah and her parents attended Beverly Shores Baptist Church, which was fair-sized congregation located in a picturesque oak grove just off Benedict Road there in Brunswick.  They were a much bigger congregation than I had been used to, but so friendly, and I was immediately invited to be part of the Royal Ambassadors boys' group (a Southern Baptist version of the Boy Scouts).  I really enjoyed it, and I got to enjoy church more too.  After coming home that June though, I would find out that maybe that church was something I needed for what was to come1
 
 
After Goldie passed away, Grandad met up with and married almost immediately a woman from back home in Parsons, and Mom was not overly crazy about it and it caused a division.  During that time (summer 1979), we still lived at Grandad's house on Schwartz Street, but I experienced one of the most glaring periods of abject poverty I had ever been exposed to - Mom didn't work then, and we were reduced to eating canned applesauce and corn cakes, although on occasion an old man who lived next door at the time, "Pappy" Beavers, would give us fresh ham and stuff to sustain us.   It was a miserable time for us, honestly, and not something I wanted to repeat anytime soon.  So, Mom, who had been on the outs with my grandmother Elsie, gave her a call and they came and got us, taking us back to Augusta, WV, where they lived in this old farmhouse without pumbing or any other amenities.  And, there we lived until the summer of 1980, when Mom and I moved to Kirby. 
 
 
Our years in Kirby, WV, were very destitute as well - we survived on a combination of Dad's child support, foodstamps, and the local Community Action program which paid our living expenses for several years.  Mom picked up some odd housecleaning jobs on occasion from some rich old bubbas that lived in nearby Hardy County, and the combination thereof helped us to survive.   However, almost all of that ended in 1985, and once again, we were forced into abject poverty - this time, we survived on vegetables I heisted from people's gardens, as well as catching hogsuckers out of the local Grassy Lick Run and an occasional bit of help from the local food bank at a Methodist Church in Romney.  I vowed then and there to become a Christian if God delivered us from that place, and later that year he did.  And, I found I had a promise to keep, and so I did as well.
 
 
 

Schwartz Street in Martinsburg, WV, where my grandparents lived in 1979 in one of the rowhouses on the left.
 
 

Dad and Deborah's old house, at 2008 Ellis Street in Brunswick, GA, as it looks today.
 
 

Beverly Shores Baptist Church, in Brunswick, GA.
 

Nellie Cox's old store in Kirby, WV, where we lived from 1980-1985.
 
 
It wasn't until January 27, 1986, on a blustery winter night, that I gave my heart to the Lord and accepted Him as my Savior.  At around that time, we had moved to Rowlesburg, WV, about 20 miles from where I was born in Parsons, with my grandparents.   It was a rough move, and although I was glad to be out of Kirby and making a new start for my life, it was a tough transition.  Luckily, my step-grandfather's sister, the late Betty Rydzewski, lived across the street and on one Sunday she invited me to go to church with her.  In 1980, the Southern Baptists had begun a group Bible study in Rowlesburg that developed into a church, which by 1985 had a pretty good membership.  Betty and her husband Ted started going there, and both of them became born again and active in that church.   Betty never had to pressure me to go either, and unlike some of the more aggressive Holiness/Pentecostal people of my earlier childhood, she didn't have to badger me into going with some hellfire-and-damnation spiel either.  I was in a state where I was ready to go to church, and I went willingly.  The pastor of the church and his wife, Olen and Linda Phillips, really reached out to me and it had an impact.  I began to struggle within myself, more so than I ever had before, and by the night of January 27th, which if I recall was a Wednesday, I approached Pastor Olen after the service and told him I wanted to be saved.  So, he led me in the "sinner's prayer," and I became born again!  And, despite a few months of challenges - I got a lot of opposition from Mom, which surprised me - within a year I was actively involved in a mission of the Rowlesburg church, Evergreen Chapel in nearby Terra Alta, where we lived there (Mom took a job as a live-in caregiver for a nonegenarian lady named Myrtle Masters on Salt Lick Road between Rowlesburg and Terra Alta).   But, I am getting ahead of myself - Olen baptized me on February 9, 1986 in a service at the Kingwood Southern Baptist Church (the only one that had a baptistry at the time), and that summer when I went off to church camp at Cowen, WV, I got a call to the ministry one night at a fireside assembly outside.   My life had been transformed, and would continue to be so for years to come.
 
Betty Rydzewski, my step-grandfather Alonzo Lipscomb's older sister, who got me back into church again.
 
 
 
The Rowlesburg Southern Baptist Church, Rowlesburg, WV - this is where I was born again on January 27,1986.
 
 
Rev'd Olen Phillips baptizing me on February 9, 1986, at the Kingwood Southern Baptist Church in Kingwood, WV.
 
 
 
Another part of this story is also worth mentioning.  At the time, just before I was born again, I was also invited by two Lebanese Maronite ladies, Mrs. Freda Faris and the widow Bertha Nassif, who also lived in Rowlesburg, to attend Mass at St. Philomena's, the local Catholic Church in Rowlesburg.  Now, I have always had an appreciation for the Catholic tradition, so much so that some years later I became part of it!  From an early age, Mom even encouraged it - I often went to Mass with my cousin Gayle Schroeder when I was in kindergarten when we lived in Baltimore, and there were so many things about the Catholic Church I loved.  Of course, after I was baptized and we settled down in Terra Alta later in 1986, I became very active in the little Southern Baptist mission, Evergreen, there.   The new pastor then, a bearded Maryland native in his late 40's who looked more Amish than Baptist, was Frank Brubaker, and for the remainder of my high school years I got to be very close with him not only as a pastor, but as a friend.   Frank was not what you'd call dynamic as minister by any stretch of the word, but he gave me the discipleship and stability I needed, as well as giving me opportunities to serve in the local church - by age 17 I was teaching Sunday School, and by 18 I was also editing the church paper.   And, I became very interested in denominational affairs as well, and loved attending the conventions, etc., that occurred throughout the year.   But, I had one problem - my earlier fear of my Holiness/Pentecostal roots made me somewhat ambivalent towards the Pentecostals, and I thought they were all flakes, an attitude I held up until a certain book was published in 1988 that educated me profoundly.  1988 was the year that Stanley Burgess and Gary McGhee, two outstanding Assemblies of God scholars, published the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.  With the money I was given for gifts for my high school graduation that year, I ordered a copy of it through the local bookstore in nearby Kingwood, and got it practically on the day I graduated.  It turned out to be a valuable resource, and as I went off to Georgia with my father that summer before I started college in Graceville, FL, at the Baptist Bible Institute (now known as Baptist College of Florida), I began to understand through reading that dictionary that Pentecostals were actually quite diverse, and I started to open up to them more.  The next step, naturally, was to actually attend a service at what I felt like was a quintessential Pentecostal church, and I just happened to find one near where Dad lived - the First Pentecostal Holiness Church (now called Potter's Wheel PHC) over on Newcastle Street in Brunswick.  One night though it happened - the church was having a revival and this evangelist from Michigan was there preaching about the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and as he was doing so, I felt like he was talking directly at me!  So, at the end of the service, they gave two separate altar calls - one was for people to receive Christ, and the second was for people who wanted what they call the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.  I felt led to go up on the second, and at that altar this group of little old Pentecostal ladies crowned with their "glory buns" started praying over me.  The lady pastor of the church, Sis. Mayfield, also was leading in the prayers.  After a few minutes, all of a sudden I felt this sensation like a gushing water hose in my innards, and it bubbled up, and up - then I started talking and didn't know what in the Sam Hill I was saying!  That, folks, was my first time ever speaking in unknown tongues, and it is an experience to this day I have not forgotten, and it is also something I still very much believe in.   However, it would cause some issues at the Baptist College I was going to that year, and boy, did it ever!
 
 
 

The old First Pentecostal Holiness Church (now Potter's Wheel PHC) on Newcastle Street in Brusnwick, GA - this is where I first received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and had my first experience with tongues.
 
 

My old church, Evergreen Southern Baptist Chapel in Terra Alta, WV.  They had built this a year or so after I went to college, as they met in a storefront originally when I went there. 
 
 
 
As mentioned, although my newfound Pentecostal experience was something I received great joy from, I was later to learn that the Baptist college I went to didn't look very highly on this, and therefore I was later compelled to leave the Southern Baptists for good and instead became part of the Foursquare Gospel denomination.   Foursquare is one of the oldest, and perhaps most controversial in its origins, Pentecostal bodies in the US.  It came into being in 1923 solely through the evangelistic efforts of Aimee Semple MacPherson.  The reason I became interested in Foursquare was due to one person - Dr. Jack Hayford, pastor of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, CA, which then was the largest Foursquare congregation in the US.  I loved Dr. Hayford's teachings then, as they mirrored a lot of my own convictions, and I wanted to be part of that church.  So, in February 1990, I contacted the nearest Foursquare church, which happened to be in Midland City, AL (just outside Dothan), and met later with the pastor, Rev. Everett Rowe.   I formally joined the church later that year, and for a while it was OK until some in the congregation got involved in some abusive practices - they were "naming demons" in people who didn't agree with them, and the pastor's messages became very harsh and almost condemning.  Although I would stay part of Foursquare for many years afterward, when I transferred from BBI to Southeastern College in 1992, it was a real blessing.   However, my spiritual growth was still doing things with me, and I was about to have another paradigm change in my life that would impact me in a great way.
 
 
 

This is me back in my BBI days in Graceville, FL (the school had just changed its name from Baptist Bible Institute to Florida Baptist Theological College in 1989, shortly before I started.) I later transferred to Southeastern College in Lakeland, FL, where I earned my undergraduate degree and am now working on a Masters.
 
 

New Life Tabernacle Foursquare Church in Midland City, AL, where I attended from 1990-1992.
 
 
 
Although I attended a Pentecostal college now (Southeastern) by 1994 I was having some odd pangs that God was leading me a different direction.  That all had a backstory too, as in 1988 I became interested in a group of people called the Assyrians, a largely Christian ethnic group that had undergone centuries of persecution by Islamic powers that ruled over them because they themselves were neither Muslim nor Arab - their roots went back to the Assyrian Empire of old.   Although the first nation to become Christian, the Assyrians had a testimony written in the blood of their martyrs.  After initially contacting Fr. Qasha Klutz, who served as secretary to the bishop of the Assyrian Church in the US in Chicago, I received a lot of information on them, and as I did, I began to feel like maybe I had a calling to them, and so I began to prepare for that accordingly.  As I did, I gained a greater appreciation of Eastern Christianity, and as I did I began to see that something was missing from those Pentecostal services I attended, and thus began a journey for me.  In 1995, Barbara and I (I had married in 1992, which I forgot to mention!) began attending a charismatic Episcopalian church, Christ the King, here in Lakeland.  In time, as I grew and evolved in my own spirituality, I eventually was drawn to an even more traditionalist church and was chrismated a Maronite-rite Catholic myself on Easter Saturday 2000.   Although validly Catholic, I was not overly impressed with the growing liberalism in the Roman Church, and beginning in 2007 we began to identify ourselves as "independent primitive Catholics" and became involved with an Anglican Catholic parish, first in Pinellas County where we lived at the time, and then over here when I moved back to pursue graduate studies.   Essentially, that is my testimony, although much more could be said and I feel like I may have left some details out.
 
 
Then there is today!  In recent years I have learned so much as I began studying my own family history as well as beginning to write down my life story.   One thing I have discovered was that sometimes you have to look back to move forward, and indeed I have done that.  For roughly ten years now, I have been seeking to recover much of the best of my past and incorporating it into my present in order to get a fuller picture of the person God wants me to be.   Keeping a journal also has helped me sort out a lot, and I thank God everyday for the miracle of the internet, because I can find so many things here to fill in the gap as well!  Another thing God has taught me all too well, especially in recent months, is this - sometimes our agendas get in the way of his plans, and we have to let God be trusted with control of our lives.  That is one of the most difficult lessons I have personally ever had to experience, and at times I still struggle with it.  Ultimately though, our obedience to God will reap its own rewards, and that today is the major lesson of my own story that I hope will impact others.  God bless until next time.



















Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Highways and Hedges Part III - The Charismatic Independent Sacramental/Liturgical Churches Part 2

Part One of this particular section dealt with the background for many of the groups we will now be discussing in detail here.   These groups all have a few things in common:

1.  They are either openly Pentecostal/charismatic in expression, or they are made up of people who possess those convictions

2.  All are doctrinally conservative.

3.  Many of them also have as their memberships a large number of former Pentecostals and Evangelicals, or they have disaffected Roman Catholic or Episcopalian charismatics in their leadership who felt more spiritually at liberty to practice their convictions as an independent communion.

That being said, again there are some groups we are leaving out.  For one, the Mar Thoma Orthodox Church, as led by Veron Ashe (Mar Enoch).   Although Ashe is a former Pentecostal, and even after becoming an independent Orthodox he was welcomed for a short time on TBN and other mainstream Evangelical venues, Ashe is also affiliated with a New Ager, Joseph Narsai (Vreneburg) of the Federation of Saint Thomas Christians, which mixes Eastern Orthodox and Hindu/New Age mysticism.   Again too, we also are omitting the Convergence groups such as the Charismatic Episcopal Church, because they are a communion of over 100,000 now and thus do not qualify as a "Highways and Hedges" church.   Reiterating those points, we are now ready to proceed.

1.  The Church of the East Tradition and Bishop John Marion Stanley

The first subset of communions we want to examine are those which come from the legacy of Bishop John Marion Stanley (1923-living), a former priest in a small Anglican communion called the Free Protestant Episcopal Church who was also a full participant in the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960's and 1970's, which is reflected in the church he founded in 1959 in Washington State, the Orthodox Church of the East.   According to Karl Pruter's Old Catholic Sourcebook (New York:  Garland, 1983), Stanley was consecrated a bishop by Charles Dennis Boltwood (1889-1985) of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church (Pruter, 82).   Stanley took the episcopal name of Mar Yokhannan, and his church was described as being a benefactor of the legacy of the Assyrian Church of the East with a charismatic emphasis, as many of its members did believe and practice such charismatic phenomena as glossolalia and divine healing.   It is not known how many congregations of this group are left, but an active community still exists on Vashon Island, WA, today.  Stanley is still living as well, although in declining health and advanced age. 


Bishop John Marion Stanley, or Mar Yokhannan, of the Orthodox Church of the East


On April 2, 1977, a bishop associated with Stanley, Bertram Schlossberg (Mar Uzziah) was released by Stanley from "all canonical obedience" and incorporated the Autocephalous Syro-Chaldean Church of North America, headquartered in Connecticut.  In 1983, this communion claimed 4 parishes served by 14 clergy and 200 parishioners (Pruter, 82).  In recent years, this group has a new name, as it is now known as the Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America, a name it adapted in 1992 (noted in The Biblical and Ecclesial Teachings Of the Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America, page 1).   Also, in recent years, they have been active in the mission field, in particular in Korea, and have also acquired as part of their membership Archdeacon Ben Torrey, who is the grandson of famed Evangelical scholar R.A. Torrey.  On their website, http://www.eacna.org/, they list 4 active congregations, including 2 in Connecticut (Rockville and Stanford), one in New York (Tuckahoe), and one in South Carolina (Fort Mill).  They still are open to charismatic expression, although not much position has been taken on it since their earlier days.    Their statement from the Biblical and Ecclesial Teachings on this reads as follows:

True worship is the result of complete submission to the Holy Spirit in any worship service, whether it has a prescribed form or not.  Unprepared services can be restrictive and binding; set forms can and should be used with spontaneity, allowing for complete, yet disciplined, freedom in the Holy Spirit.  (ibid, p. 14)


Like the parent body, the EACNA also uses the Assyrian Church Qurbana as its form of liturgy, and they also do not ordain women, although they do have married clergy.  Both groups also uphold traditional marriage, and homosexuality is condemned as a sinful lifestyle on Biblical principles.  


The current headquarters for this group is in South Carolina, where Archdeacon Torrey is the main administrator.  Torrey also coordinates the Korean mission work through Four River Hill of Refuge Family. 


 A third group sharing this same legacy is the Catholic Apostolic Church of Davis, located in Davis, CA.  This is a fruit of the ministry of Elijah Coady, or Mar Elijah, and as far as can be ascertained, this group never expanded any further than the local parish in Davis.  Coady was a dynamic evangelist, similar in method I am told to many of the great salvation/healing evangelists of the 1950's, and he also was sought-after in Pentecostal circles even up to his repose in 2010.   The most notorious event Coady is associated with though regards Christian comedian Mike Warnke, a former Satanist who was born again in the early 1970's and wrote a book about his experiences called The Satan Seller.  Many Evangelical leaders tried to debunk Warnke, and as a result in the mid-1990's he was all but blackballed by the Evangelical establishment.  Upon searching, Warnke was received by Coady, and ordained a priest by him.  Today, Warnke is in communion with the Convergence movement, and is part of the Evangelical Episcopal Church.


After Coady's death, his small flock in California was sustained by a layman, Henry Bruneau.  I corresponded with Bruneau to obtain more information, and in a letter dated April 23, 2012, that he sent me, I was informed that the Davis congregation had dwindled down to basically 3 families, and eventually the parish disbanded and its membership was absorbed by another communion, the Celtic Orthodox Church based in San Dolay France, under its bishop Mael.  That led me to look into the Celtic Orthodox Church more, and I contacted one of their priests in the US, Fr. Paul DuPuis, and he was very gracious and helpful in providing more detail as to what happened to the Davis group.   In short, Coady's ministry has lived on, but his church did not.  Bruneau in his letter also mentioned that their group was greatly influenced by the Catholic Apostolic Movement in Scotland ("Irvingites") in the 1800's, and they fully believed in the five-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11.   It is really a tremendous shame this group was not allowed to blossom more, but they did leave behind a fantastic legacy.


A fourth group in this tradition was independent of Stanley's line, but was still important to this study because they are a Syriac-rite communion that also has ties to the Charismatic Renewal movement.  This group calls itself the Eastern Catholic Diocese, and is based in San Jose, CA.  They are under the leadership of a Metropolitan Archbishop, Mar Mikhael, and have a long history going back to 1947 in the US.   Their first primate, according to their website, was a German-born metropolitan, Mar David of Edessa, who assumed the metropolitanate in 1934.   The current Metropolitan, Mar Mikhael, is also of German origin and has ties to the German nobility.  Mar Mikhael had conducted missions work overseas in China, and was imprisoned and tortured by the Communist government there - today he sustains physical disabilities as a result of that experience.  He was also ordained to the priesthood in 1968, and on December 29, 1974, he assumed the office of Metropolitan of this communion.  To include him here, Mar Mikhael also has been actively involved in the Charismatic renewal movement since 1972.  Much of this information was taken from the church website, http://easterncatholicchurch.org/index.html, although I have also spoken and corresponded with Mar Mihael myself during a period between 2004-2005, as at one time I was contemplating ordination through him.   However, personally, I found Mar Mikhael to be somewhat abrupt, a little self-pitying, and he tended to react to people who disagreed with him almost with contempt, which is why I did not pursue any further efforts with his church.  This is not to say Mar Mikhael doesn't have his good qualities though, because he does have a remarkable testimony of his ordeals in the Chinese prison, and he has effectively led a diocese for almost 50 years.   Also, he is a strong defender of orthodoxy, and has produced (provided you can get them!) a wonderful series of DVD's of his television broadcasts from the San Jose area that give unique perspective on a lot of issues.   As for the demographics of the Eastern Catholic Archdiocese itself, it is not known how many parishes, etc., they have, although at least three (two in California and one in Hawaii) have been documented, and they also have communion with a group of parishes in Germany as well.   It is not a big group, in other words, but is still active. 




His Beatitude Mar Mikhael, Metropolitan of the Eastern Catholic Archdiocese


2.  Independent Communions Following The Byzantine Rite


There are two openly charismatic groups that follow the Byzantine Rite that I want to mention, as well as one non-charismatic group of former Evangelicals.   Although many Charismatics who came into the sacramental/liturgical tradition tended to gravitate more towards the Syriac liturgies, some did follow the Greek as well, and a couple of those are of note here.


The first of these is the older of the three groups, being named the American Orthodox Catholic Church, with its Archbishop, Stephen Kochones.   I was in touch with Archbishop Kochones many years ago (around 1991) and at one point I had an abundant amount of information on his church as he published many small booklets that contained various aspects of their church teachings.  Unfortunately, I misplaced those, and regrettably I have had to piece information together here from the sources I do have.   Kochones, although born a Greek Orthodox, was actually a former minister in the Independent Assemblies of God (a latter-rain denomination with Scandinavian roots that came into existence in the 1940's) into which he was ordained a minister in 1956.   However, he was also one of the very first Evangelical Protestants to begin the pilgrimage to a more liturgical/sacramental expression of his faith, and he was consecrated a bishop by Bishop David Baxter (who received Apostolic succession from Aftimios Ofiesh's line) in 1980.   However, he started a small liturgical communion called the Catholic Church of God in 1969 that not only incorporated the Greek Byzantine liturgy, but also incorporated elements of Hebraic and charismatic worship as well (Pruter, 71-72).   In the late 1980's, the Catholic Church of God officially changed its name to the American Orthodox Catholic Church, and today it still has a vibrant parish located at 810 East Walnut Street in Pasadena, CA.  


In preparation for this article, I wrote the church to see if I could obtain another set of the position booklets, and one of their priests, Rev. Perez, did send me a doctrinal statement of the AOCC on May 3rd.  In their statement of beliefs, the AOCC reaffirms the Orthodox faith as defined in the historic Creeds (Athanasian, Apostles, and Nicene) but also seeks to define Catholic doctrine in Hebraic terminology, which it does effectively.  As a result, they hold Liturgy on Saturday, rather than Sunday (interesting enough, the first contact I had with this group came not through independent Catholic sources, but rather through the Bible Sabbath Association, as they are listed in the Association's 1990 Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups which I had a copy of at the time), and also observe some Judaic feast days.  In addition, they also observe the ordinance of footwashing regularly, and hold to the ten-percent tithing principle for its members.   As for its charismatic emphasis, that can be found in #28 of their Statement of Beliefs - without quoting it, they affirm the exercise of spiritual gifts as well as the Five-Fold Apostolic ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11.   As of #35 of their Statement of Beliefs, they are also unique among these groups in that they hold to a premillenial eschatology.   As of 1983, the AOCC was documented as having 4 parishes and around 400 members.  Recent numbers have not been given, and unfortunately the AOCC has very little Web presence, unusual considering the ready access of the internet and all its resources.


The second group that observes a Byzantine liturgical worship format is fairly recent in origin, but a dynamic and seemingly growing communion, the Charismatic Orthodox Church.  The roots of the COC go back to 1998, when Georgia native Mark Kersey felt led to study the writings of the Church Fathers, and like so many of us who have made this pilgrimage, he embarked on the establishment of the COC in St. Augustine, FL.  I actually had the privilege of getting to meet this remarkable minister, who since is known as Bishop Simeon John, and in 2005 we met in Clearwater and had lunch.   He is a very down-to-earth man, a self-described "redneck," and he also is very upfront and honest when he communicates with people, which actually made his visit (which he also did on his own volition, which speaks volumes) a real blessing.   Although he came from a Jehovah's Witness background, Bishop Simeon John later was born again and became part of a Pentecostal denomination and was active in ministry in that group for some time.   When he formed the COC, it at first was often identified with the Convergence Movement, which Bishop Simeon John does not concur with - he believes he is restoring the New Testament practices of the Church, and that the Orthodox Church is the closest expression of that and therefore he chose to be part of it based on the study he undertook.   The COC is, unlike other jurisdictions, not seeking to be formally part of mainstream Orthodoxy, but instead maintains that God gave it the vision of the ministry it is to perform.   Although reverently faithful to the Byzantine Liturgy of Saint Chrysostom as the basis for its worship, it is also very much open to Pentecostal spirituality and does incorporate those elements as well into its worship.  And, like Bishop Kochones, Bishop Simeon John also incorporates elements of Hebraic worship into his liturgies as well.  In the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charismatic_Orthodox_Church), the COC is listed as having parishes in several states, including Florida, Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas, as well as missionary activity in the Phillipines and Sierra Leone in Africa.   I personally see the COC having steady, although not explosive, growth in the near future, as Bishop Simeon John is an anointed leader of his church and his people are very well-discipled and vibrant spiritually.   The episcopal see (my terminology) of the church is in St. Augustine, FL, although they do maintain a seminary, Theosis College, in Indiana.   As a communion, the COC is young yet, but it does have a good future ahead of it provided it stays the course. 



Bishop Simeon John (Mark Kersey) of the Charismatic Orthodox Church, visiting the Holy Land in this picture


The third group under discussion in this section is the Evangelical Orthodox Church, which is the surviving remnant of the same group led by Fr. Peter Gillquist and the other Evangelicals who in 1987 entered the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese as the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission.  A minority of the EOC decided not to formally enter the Orthodox Church, and still maintain an independent communion today.   Their early history is basically identical to that described in Peter Gillquist's book, Becoming Orthodox (Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1989), as they were at one time one and the same.   They maintain a website at http://www.evangelicalorthodox.org/, and they have 15 parishes worldwide that are part of their communion.   Their stands on issues are fairly conservative and traditional - strongly pro-life, upholding traditional marriage, and also professing the historic Creeds of the Church as their basis of faith.   They also have an all-male clergy, although they do order deaconesses too.  And, by all appearances, it appears they also allow for a married priesthood as well.   As for charismatic worship and expression, the EOC does not have a statement either advocating or condemning it, although it does say that "Worship in the EOC strives to hold in balance liturgy and spontaneity, antiquity and modernity, exuberance and dignity. All of our forms of prayer and worship are primarily based on those which were developed during the earlier, undivided centuries of Christian history," which means to me that they are open, but not endorsing.  That makes some logical sense, being many of the clergy in this communion were themselves former Pentecostals and charismatics at some point, but unlike the group that became the AEOM, they don't seem to be critical of Charismatics and are not inclined to totally eschew their past like some of the former do.  


The presiding Bishop of the EOC is Bishop Jerold Kliege, who has a Mennonite Brethren background.  He is based out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and is part of Holy Covenant Parish.  The majority of the EOC's parishes appear to be in the area of Indiana and Illinois, although they are also found nationwide and in several foreign fields. 


Presiding Bishop Jerold Kliege of the Evangelical Orthodox Church

Holy Covenant EOC, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada - the Presiding Bishop's home parish



3.  Roman-Rite Charismatic Jurisdictions - the Catholic Charismatic Church of Canada


Although there has been an active Charismatic Renewal movement in the Roman Catholic Church since 1968, some Roman-rite Catholics who had charismatic leanings chose to be independent as well, and the most notable of those groups is a Canadian-based communion called the Charismatic Catholic Church.   Although in reality the CCC doesn't consider itself outside of the Roman Catholic Church, structurally it actually is just that, despite the fact they have petitioned for many years for a "Charismatic Rite" in the Roman Church.   The CCC notes its origins as being in 1968, when its Patriarch, Archbishop Andre Barbeau of Quebec, instituted it.   He received Apostolic succession in his consecration as Bishop by two Old Catholic hierarchs, and held the post of Patriarch until his repose in 1994, when the current Patriarch, Andre Letellier, was elevated.   They have about 4 parishes in the US, including one I once was involved with briefly in 2004-2005 in Dunedin, FL, Holy Apostles Parish.  By personal observation, their worship is based on the post-Vatican II Roman Missal (Novus Ordo), and also incorporates many Pentecostal elements, such as praise choruses, some Hebraic/Messianic worship, and also the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit.  I served as a subdeacon under Bishop Angelo (Fr. William Nicolaro) at Holy Apostles, and my experience with them is that they are a group primarily consisting of people of Roman Catholic backgrounds, although a number of disaffected Episcopalians and also former Evangelical and Pentecostal members were found in this particular parish.  All clergy can marry, unlike in the Roman Catholic Church, and for the most part they follow (as do many of these communions) an Ignatian model of the episcopacy - the bishop is also the rector of the local parish.  They have also an open communion policy, in which validly-baptized Christians can receive the Eucharist.   On other issues, they are fairly conservative doctrinally, upholding a pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and Biblical inerrancy stance on many issues.  And, although they feel they are "in communion" with Rome, in reality they practice many things that Rome does not (married episcopacy, etc).   In recent years, another group has gone into schism also calling itself "Catholic Charismatic Church," but other than common origins relations between the two groups are not the best.  As mentioned, they are based out of Quebec, where the Patriarch of the CCC resides, but they do have approximately four parishes in the US - in Florida, New Mexico, Texas, and Massachusetts.  



The Marian Shrine at Bethany Catholic Charismatic Catholic Church in Brimfield, MA


4.  Primitive Catholic and Related Jurisdictions


I mentioned about Primitive Catholics and gave a brief synopsis of them in the first part of this article, and there are two groups that I want to focus on in particular regarding those.


The first group is one with which I identified until recently, and still maintain good relations with because they really are a fine group of people, and that is the Synod of Saint Timothy.   The Synod was formed in 2007 by a small group of clergy, many of whom were from Evangelical Protestant backgrounds or they were disaffected Episcopalians and others.   Like many Primitive Catholics, these people sought to return Christianity to its roots, free of the legalism and bondage brought on by centuries of unnecessary bureaucracy in the Church yet retaining the liturgies, customs, etc., of the early Church.   Unlike David Bercot and other pioneers in this movement though, the people who organized the Synod did not see an issue with using historic liturgies, and therefore allowed for that diversity.   There were four founding bishops of the Synod, and they were as follows:



Mor Michael

(Michael Joe Thannisch)

Mor Michael is the current bishop and rector of B'nai Avraham Congregation in LaPorte, TX.   He has a background in the Episcopal Church, but was also involved with the Charismatic Renewal movement for many years, and did a lot of missionary work in Latin America.   A Texas German, Bishop Michael over the years has also become a personal friend, and his Christian testimony is one of the most genuine I have seen, especially among the episcopacy of many churches.   His congregation in Texas follows a modified Mozarabic Liturgy, with some Hebraic and Syriac elements.  And, it is a spiritually vibrant congregation as well.



Bishop Paul Stanley


Bishop Stanley and his wife, Deaconess Susan (Sister Brigid) are the bishop and rectors of All Saints Parish in Rome, GA.   The Stanleys come from a nondenominational Pentecostal background, and Sr. Brigid also oversees a prayer order, the Order of Companions, which provides an intercessory prayer ministry for its members.  All Saints Parish uses as its liturgical format the 1928 Anglican Book of Common Prayer liturgy, sans the ex patre Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed (all the Synod parishes use the Eastern form of the Creed, as do I personally).  Bishop Stanley and Sr. Brigid also live a semi-monastic lifestyle at their Georgia home, and as I have personally gotten to know them over the years, they have been a tremendous source of encouragement and prayer support to me personally.   Bishop Stanley also broadcasts messages on the local radio, and they are available online at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/IsaiahTwentySix.  



Mar Martin Severus

(Bishop Craig Davis)


Mar Martin Severus, from a Roman Catholic background, is based out of Hagerstown, IN, where with a Synod priest, Fr. Robert Lyons, he shepherds the Christian Mission of the Ascension.   This parish uses the Syriac Liturgy as the basis for its Mass, and Fr. Lyons also has an active hospital chaplaincy as an outreach.   Recently, Fr. Lyons has been working more with another Synod Bishop, Chuck Huckaby of Knoxville, TN (from the Reformed-Calvinist tradition originally) and they are part of a new but interconnected jurisdiction called the Diocese of Saint Andrew as of 2009.  Fr. Rob is a very gifted liturgist, and also is now rector of St Boniface Mission in Indiana, which unfortunately is in the process of disbanding, which I discovered upon reading their website.  More about Fr. Rob's current ministry can be accessed at www.churchodyssey.com .  I wanted to note as well that much of the information I have gotten on the Primitive Catholic movement is due in large part to Fr. Rob, who has done an exceptional job chronicling it.  



Fr. Rob Lyons


Since the Synod is an loosely-organized fellowship, no actual statistical data exists as far as membership goes, but they are definitely a "Highways and Hedges" church, no doubt.   Also, there is no central headquarters, although the Synod does meet approximately every three years or so to elect a Presiding Bishop and take care of ordinations and other business.   However, they are an exceptional group of people who I have maintained close friendships with for many years now, and I pray for their continued growth and development.  For more information on the Synod, please visit their website at http://christiansynod.webs.com/.


Although the Synod is one of the most visible of the organized Primitive Catholic groups, it is by no means the only one.  There is one other calling itself the Primitive Catholic Church, and it is similar in belief and practice to the Synod of Saint Timothy.   They do have a website that articulates their beliefs in detail - they are conservative, Biblical, and don't consider themselves a "denomination,"  but rather designate themselves as "pre-denominational" in true Primitive Catholic fashion.   That webpage is at http://www.primitivecatholic.com/index.html.  Another group, the Ante-Nicene Christian Fellowship, existed as an independent body until it was absorbed into a Continuing Anglican jurisdiction a few years back.   For more detailed information on Primitive Catholicism, I recommend Fr.Lyons' article series, "The Primitive Catholic Faith," which I used as a reference here for research and can be found at www.members.aol.com/anglicanfather/tracts.html.  


And, there are probably many more groups out there that could be added to this brief synopsis, and perhaps as the project develops and we discover them more, we will elaborate on those.  However, this will give an idea as to a sampling of many liturgical/sacramental groups that also are either openly Charismatic, or they are either founded by former Pentecostals or are open to Charismatic expressions of faith.  This is a work in progress, and by no means is complete, but hopefully this will serve as a good introduction.  And, that concludes this part of the "Highways and Hedges" project article.