St Mary's Theology Course
A Drop-in Course as an Aid to Theological Discussion

[Pages 123 to 129]

Contemporary Evangelical Christianity

The origins of evangelicalism is in the right wing of the Reformation that survived from the Counter Reformation and legitimised Protestantism in the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. From such religious battles of elites came a movement of Protestantism through the middle classes and eventual limitations of State religion. Whilst in Europe denominations have formed institutionally along the lines of the older and ongoing Christian and State religion arguments, in the United States the rise of new parishes with an early dispute between the congregationalist and the episcopal strands developed with the separation of State and religion, giving a competitive edge to the formation of denominations across the religious spectrum.
We add to the evangelical spectrum the Pentecostal movement (that has affected most contemporary branches of Christianity). Tracing its legitimacy from the biblical accounts of Pentecost, the early twentieth century revivals in Topeka, Kansas from 1901, with Charles Fox Parham, a holiness teacher and former Methodist pastor (and Klu Klux Klan supporter by 1910), and at Azusa Street from 1906 in Los Angeles, under William J. Seymour, have since become some 200,000,000 members of denominational Pentecostalists and approaching half a million within other historical denominations. The origins of the revivals exist within historical Christianity: particularly in British perfectionist and charismatic sources such as the Methodist/ Holiness movement, the Catholic Apostolic movement coming after Edward Irving, and the British Keswick "Higher Life" experience. From John Wesley's ideas of a purity of the heart came John Fletcher's notion of the baptism of the Holy Spirit - which at that time was not connected with, say, speaking in tongues. Edward Irving led the first attempt at "charismatic renewal" in his Regents Square Presbyterian Church in 1831. Tongues and prophecies happened there, and glossolalia was established as an evidence of 'baptism by the Holy Spirit', but his followers set up the Catholic Apostolic Church to restore the five-fold ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
It is important to realise that the charismatic movement has affected Catholic Christianity (Anglican and Roman) as well as Reformed, and indeed has even leaked into forms of more liberal Christianity such as the secular dance movement worship experiences (as in  the aborted Nine O'Clock Service in Sheffield). Many of these expressions are disowned by the charismatic movement despite origins from within.
Now this business of the restoring of the five-fold ministry is important for current media based evangelical Christianity, because an issue of division for these evangelicals is whether there can be apostles today.
Some say no. They draw on Acts 1:21-26 to say that only Matthias replaced Judas and he had been with the disciples during the entire time that Jesus taught (verse 21). There is, one allowed exception to this: Paul, who had received a special revelation. Ephesians 4:11-12 is where the list of Church authority types is given, so that today the modern authority order is evangelists and teaching pastors only. 2 Peter 1:3 and Jude 3 are supposed to be the evidences against "latter-day" revelations.
Yet many media personalities are evidenced as contemporary apostles by their ability to generate miracles and some claim latter day revelations in signs and wonders from the natural and political world that suggests the end of the world is not far off.
So what is the argument the other way? In Romans 15:20, Paul building on Christ's foundation alone is an important apostolic role. Galatians 1:6-10 and 3:1-3 and then Revelation. 2:1- 5, show an apostolic function in bringing wayward churches back to scripture; and another apostolic task is bringing Churches back to true doctrine and behaviours. Those who anoint initial leaders are apostles, as in Acts 14:21-23 and Titus 1:5. Then there is promoting unity as in Ephesians 4:1-16 and Philippians 4:2, and networking as in Acts 11:27-30, Romans 15:25-27, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8-9; and - crucial for many media evangelists -  a particular role for apostles of imparting the supernatural dimension of the kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 12:12).
So, even after the apostle John died, these say the apostolic age did not die: because Matthias, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Andronicus, Junias and Epaphroditus were apostles. Today, they say, apostles are needed for: Penetrating completely unreached areas, Church planting and foundation laying, appointing and training leaders (in that many appointed by seminaries are not gifted or adequately equipped), addressing unresolved problems, promoting unity with apostolic insight and authority and, certainly, demonstrating and imparting the supernatural to restore signs and wonders to the Church. For these folks, God is raising up apostles to serve the Church. Apostles are to be found doing various church jobs, but some are in the media (apparently) and well known.
A question might be asked, 'What makes a contemporary evangelical?' Perhaps it is five solas: sola scriptura, or scripture only, sola fide, or by faith in relationship with Christ; solus Christus, which means Christ alone as the only mediator, sola Gratia as Grace alone and not earned by works; and Soli Deo Gloria, or to God alone and not his saints. So quite a few overlapping 'alones' there. Surely, though, some evangelicals draw authority from elsewhere: being low Church does not mean being no Church.
Across the broad span of evangelicalism today then you find several overlapping tendencies. There is the charismatic; the fundamentalist of purist biblicism, the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth as resistance to crises including the secular; the Neo Evangelicalism of dialogue, intellectual pursuit, non-judgmentalism, diplomacy and social application; Paleo-Orthodoxy of legitimacy in New Testament times; the Ecumenism of Protestant movements; conservative Adventism and the often rejected Emerging Church of evangelicalism into the flux of postmodernity. These are not always exclusive; the boundaries can be porous.
If we come to English Anglicanism (and other denominations), there are two groups that represent evangelicalism today (not including the charismatics).
Arguably Church evangelicalism today begins from where neo-evangelicalism meets liberal compromisers, and this is sometimes called Open Evangelicalism, and moves along a line until it becomes conservative evangelicalism and, further on, fundamentalism. The first position is represented perhaps by Fulcrum, associated with the likes of Bishops Tom Wright and Graham Kings. Certainly some conservative evangelicals see it as a movement to be overcome and defeated before the evangelical movement proper takes on the liberals. Anglican Mainstream is a group that can be called conservative evangelical, which stretches from the fundamentalist towards a high view of the Thirty-nine Articles. The connected Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans came from the Global Anglican Future Conference, a kind of alternative movement for overcoming official structures that continue to give too much influence for liberals within Anglicanism. These all use some of the heightened supernaturalism of African Anglican Churches as international ballast in the disputes with the neo-evangelicals and liberals as well as having strategically limited opposition to dogmatic Anglo-Catholicism.
Holy Trinity Brompton is important, being a charistmatically affected evangelical church that has marketed the Alpha Course that attempts to summarise Christianity and teach it on conservative lines, while apparently drawing on people's experiential questions in the process of delivery. This has stretched out well beyond Anglicanism, but can be regarded as an attempt to define and regulate Christianity through its meals, talks, use of media, and opportunity to declare conversion.
But what of the media evangelicalism of the day, that anyone with a satellite TV receiver can watch? There are a limited number of channels that can pay the fees of uploading their signal to satellite gatekeepers and thus spreading the word. The 'reaching out to the unchurched' and the newness of the enterprise raises again whether this is involving what can be called apostles.
Here is a list of channels that can be received in the UK as of May 2010.
Perhaps the main channel of all is God TV, although to save costs it has reduced itself from two channels to one. It is fronted by Rory and Wendy Alec, the latter of whom has written a fictionalised account of the last days which she promotes relentlessly through the channel. It is Christian-Zionist, that is promotes the right of Israel over the pseudo-historical biblical lands and that the return of Jews to Jerusalem is a forerunner of the return of Christ. God TV thinks Christ is returning very soon. It was and still is largely based in Sunderland, but uses a foreign operating licence to avoid most restrictions of OFCOM. Thus it raises money on screen and does so on prosperity theology claims - that is, if you send it money, you will subsequently become gifted by God including financially. The channel relies on video casting charismatic-evangelical worship experiences, as found in the United States: its biggest British contributor is Abundant Life Church in Bradford, a a media church under Paul Scanlon that arguably sucks the life out of other local evangelical churches in the city.
Revelation TV also reduced itself from two channels to one channel. It's other channel was started as a youth-music channel, but just became a place to spread out its programming. It rejects prosperity theology, so is more restrained about raising money through its Revelation Foundation. However, it was criticised and fined so often by OFCOM that it has now adopted a Spanish broadcasting licence even though it continues to be based at New Malden near London. It has its origins in Howard Conder, a one-time pop star who healed someone he encountered across the Atlantic, someone, he was subsequently told, who had been dead. A small number of people are trustees of the station, and it retains a very limited perspective. Partly for OFCOM reasons it did stretch itself to interview a female bishop of the Metropolitan Community Church, who was savaged by the Northern Irish Calvinist guest and slightly restricted presenter (Doug Harris), and the same was tried on a Pagan who rather gave a better account of her beliefs. The channel gets criticised by its own supporters for hearing other voices. Now a key aspect of the channel is its argument for creationism as a necessary belief. It is also as Christian-Zionist as God TV, if not more so in its friendly relationship with the Israeli Ambassador. It promotes a theology that the Jewish faith is the tree and the Christian faith is its branch, and criticises 'replacement theology' (Luther etc.) as in error, and it maintains that the Jews have and retain their own Covenant. So they whilst they will invite in the conservative evangelical Anglican Stephen Sizer (Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water), he gets a roasting from them because of his opposition to Christian-Zionism. Sizer's position is equivalent with Anglican Mainstream. Sizer maintains that God’s redemptive love is not through Israel but through His Church, and this is supported by John Stott, whereas the 'Church without Walls' of Revelation TV claims that Israel is vital to the end times and fulfilment of the Church, including the special chosen role of the Jews. The channel is particularly anti-Muslim but has been curtailed by OFCOM in such expression. This Church without Walls does have a pastoral relationship with numerous watching individuals via its low budget email and telephone responding programmes, but it also has a relationship with many black Churches and also evangelical churches such as the fundamentalist Oxford Bible Church and another in Swansea. It recommends viewers attending approved churches.
The fact is that all the evangelical TV channels tend towards Christian-Zionism. Christian Zionism claims two pieces of evidence regarding the coming of prophecy seen as remarkable because of the dispersal of the Jews and the final end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. One is the birth of Israel in 1949, and the second is the expansion of the European Union and its agreement with Mediterranean states (drawing on the African Union and Arab League). Bible prophecy states that the Roman Empire - the fourth in a succession of ancient empires - will be resurrected in the last days (Daniel 2; 7; Revelation 13; 17). Indeed at one time the idea that Tony Blair could be EU President excited many such evangelicals because he was also involved in negotiation of a false (as they see it) peace treaty between Israel and its enemies. As such and if successful we could have expected Tony Blair to take the chair in a renewed and restored Temple and declare himself to be the Anti-Christ. However, as often with prophecy, it didn't quite work out like that and the worst we saw was a tanned man campaign for Labour in the 2010 UK General Election.
So what is the justification for creationism? The argument presented is that if creation was not pure at the beginning, then Christ is not restoring anything. So creation at the beginning has to be sinless, and therefore there was no death, which it was prior and up to the first actual man and woman some six thousand years ago. The Bible account in referring to dragons and the like shows that large reptiles did exist alongside other animals and with humankind. Another important claim is that in the early days human beings (at least) lived considerably longer than they do now, into their hundreds of years, whereas since then sin has so weighed people down that they live to around three score years and ten. Christ himself defeated death, and at the judgement the believing-saved will defeat death as well and thus the condition of the first days will be restored for them. The importance of creationism is coupled with the significance of the restoration of Israel and the re-emergence of the Roman Empire. In other words, fasten your seatbelts now, although approved Christians should not because they will literally start to float in the high atmosphere.
God TV occasionally shows feature films about the last days, usually centred on the people left behind as they start to struggle to exist, with petrol supplies running out and the weather getting difficult, and the films build up the moral of the necessity to sign on the dotted line before this reality hits people. Early on in the films some do sign up and disappear, whereas others don't and stay in the drama. This is why recent volcanic eruptions are yet another sign of God indicating that the last days are upon us.
There is a more balanced mixture within the evangelical content of United Christian Broadcasters. UCB TV is found on channel 586 and is perhaps the most 'British' of the evangelical channels and tries to produce a diversity of programmes. Before it comes Wonderful on 582, The Broadcasting Network or TBN Europe on 583, and Daystar on 584, all of which are full of American content. Faith+1 now occupies the old slot of Revelation TV, Faith itself being at 593, one above the old and vacant slot of the once Genesis TV. Loveworld is at 588, the Gospel Channel has a large Icelandic and Scandinavian element at 590 and the Word Network is full of imports. Believe TV on 596 seems to be connected with black churches in London.
There are three others on satellite. One of them is the Eternal Word Broadcasting Network, and it is not evangelical at all. It is a totally pope-loyal Roman Catholic channel. It does not represent the breadth of Roman Catholicism, but the official line alone and carries its own programming including Catholic worship and live or as if live relays from Vatican City. It criticises Roman Catholic seminaries when they get too close to political or other personnel who might agree with abortion or artificial birth control. Its news programmes that centre upon Rome are often difficult for them these days because of the reporting of criticism made of Roman Catholicism around its scandals.
This leaves two other somewhat slightly more bizarre channels in the evangelical fold. One is the Deya Broadcasting Network centred around the expressions of Bishop Gilbert Deya Ministries, which involves almost continuous requests for money either by those appearing or by 'tickertape' on screen. Then there is the almost wholly prosperity theology based KICC or Kingsway Christian Broadcasting Centre. This started in 1992 with 200 adults and 100 children renting a hall at Holloway Boys School, buying a property for 1000 people a year on and a separate building for children, and claims to be the fastest growing church in Western Europe with a congregation now of 12000. It is now in flux regarding its actual base (because it had to remove itself from the Olympic site). Its central and often on-screen appearing pastor is Matthew Ashimolowo, and the The King's Ministries Trust that is the guiding charity behind KICC has been investigated by the Charities Commission between 2002 and 2005, that found serious misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity. Matthew Ashimolowo was both trustee and paid employee, which is against the law, as he approved his own payments to him and his wife Yemisi of some £340,000. The Charity Commission spent some £1,200,000 on the investigation. Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo preaches upon and sells DVDs about how you can Winning Financial Freedom. By being a Christian believer, and tithing to the church - like his - you get rewarded, but he further recommends practical steps for money making. He says that having a job is J - O - B or "Just Over bankruptcy" and so you can pay him for his DVDs to find out how to make lots of dosh. There is also the Winning Women led by his wife, Pastor Yemisi Ashimolowo, which does the same for women, categorised as Mothers-in-waiting (wives believing God for babies), Ladies-in-waiting (single ladies), Successful wives (married women) and Senior sisters (aged 50 and above). The singles ministry runs dinners, dances, ice skating, web chats, forums and relationship courts; men can attend Breakfast of Champions meetings held on various Saturdays; the King's Kids is for children up to 12 and TNT ministries for 13 - 19. The church claims to be multi-racial, but there is no doubt that it attracts a predominantly black aspiring audience who wish to be social climbing. There is now, as well,  KICC Birmingham and KICC French Connection. Matthew Ashimolowo also sits on the Board of Reference for God TV and will appear on it among many others for its money-raising. The idea is that the believers can  to reach their potential in Christ and so break free from personal and collective limitations to live a successful life financially and otherwise.
Are these people like Matthew Ashimolowo to be regarded as Apostles. Not surprisingly, they tend to avoid such self-description, but some do promote the view that the miracles they create are evidence of their ministry particularly in the last days. They are able, unlike others, to convert.
Some personalities like Jimmy Swaggart are well known. There are others who are becoming as well known, such as the logo wearing Benny Hinn and the rounded figure of Morris Cerrullo who travel the world seeking converts. T. D. Jakes is another rounded chap, who tends to shout a alot as part of his preaching, and gets very sweaty. Rod Parsley is another, if much thinner and quieter, and then there is Don Stewart. Don Stewart is interesting because he will send any enquirer a green faith handkerchief, because those who possess such a faith handkerchief will receive financial and other blessings from God. There are two main women, being Joyce Meyer and Paula Jones. These women, it has to be said, represent something of American middle class culture transmitted to the world. And stretch that to politics, and you get Pat Robertson, a well known Republican, who fronts the 700 Club. This is a semi-news and semi-comment programme, sometimes with home fires advice such as about what proper food to eat to avoid becoming obese. Pat and his assistants will comment on anything from how to run a home to politics. Meantime the news is provided by so-called Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN - an obvious reference to CNN - that is deliberately Christian and avoids what it sees as the liberal or left wing bias of the mainstream news channels. The presenting and reporting style is exactly like the American news networks. The programme is contracted to appear on many of the Christian TV channels and is seen as cheap good quality programming by stations desperate for a variety of content beyond worship meetings. John Hagee is another right wing political Christian, who has preached about war with Iran as a likely means to bringing about Armageddon and the final victory of selected Christians. Richard Bonkke is the only European fundamentalist of note, and then in Britain Revelation TV is forever using the preacher David Pawson, an evangelical who actually will criticise Israel as being insufficiently faithful and in need of its own religious ethos in order for Christ to return.
This evangelical world deals in right wing politics and right wing money, but sometimes there isn't quite as much money around as some of the empire builders would like. God TV's ambition far outstretches its resources. It keeps having to have Mission Weeks that get criticised by Revelation TV - that they see plenty of money raising but not much mission (said Pastor Yemi Balogun once). They are usually image free: the stages for their worship programmes rarely even show a cross: they just have the band and people with microphones on stage. The relationship against the culture of secularism is nevertheless a positive relationship with rock music and emotionalism. Much of it simply reaches the community already existing of evangelicals, and with the exception of UCB and Revelation TV is tainted by the money raising and the prosperity theology (sometimes a similar 'Word of Faith' stance) and by the pro-Israel right wing position. And what they call the supernatural is often, with the green handkerchief and with some of the healing, more like superstition. There is also the association with a selection of half facts to maintain creationist arguments to its own audience.
In the end, there are a batch of these channels just as there are a batch of Muslim channels, Sikh channels, film channels, soft porn channels and every form of narrowcasting that is part of the postmodern satellite choice. It's a world of broadcasting that you can find if you look for it, and others aren't affected. The same is true regarding churches and large car parks and what they do, which has minimal effects on what others do. Revelation TV made a point of offering exposure and publicity to dedicated Christian candidates in the 2010 UK General Election, who received votes in the odd hundreds.

Main Points

  • Evangelicalism in Churches is roughly divided between conservative and open.
  • Evangelicalism in particular has been influenced by the Pentecostal movement and derived charismatic revival.
  • This is evident in media expressions where evangelicalism is both very conservative theologically and very much of this culture in presentation.
  • Media evangelicalism argues over whether apostles can exist today or not.
  • Media evangelicalism tends to be both creationist and Christian-Zionist.
  • Some media evangelicalism promotes prosperity theology as a money raising tool.

Further Questions

  1. Is there such a entity as open evangelicalism that has a future: the 'cut' between conservative evangelicals and liberals is through its middle (in that arguably either you are 'open' regarding the biblical materials, or you are 'evangelical').
  2. Is there an inevitable relationship between creationism, Christian-Zionism, last days expectations and prosperity theology or can some be separated out?
  3. Can the charismatic movement when with prosperity theology (with Apostles?) be considered as a 'movement of the Spirit' and be separated from evangelicalism? This is the view of Diarmaid MacCulloch looking at South Korea.

Some Bibliography (2008), Azusa Street Timeline: Seymour And the Apostolic Faith Mission; March 2008;, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed: Sunday May 09 2010, 04:19]

Synan, V. (2006), The Origins of the Pentecostal Movement, April 2006; Holy Spirit Research Center, Oral Roberts University, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed: Sunday May 09 2010, 04:23]

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Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful