John Wimber, leader of Anaheim, California-based Vineyard Ministries, released a 15-point statement in late June listing errors he found at the controversial Kansas City Fellowship (KCF). This article was dated Fall of 1990. Treat it as such.
A short time later, Ernest Gruen -- pastor of the Full Faith Church of Love in Shawnee, Kansas -- released a letter apologizing for "any unnecessary pain that I have caused" in charging the 3,000-member, six-church KCF and its leaders with "charismatic heresy." He also retracted three questionable charges he had brought against the KCF, while affirming the essential accuracy of his documentation. He released the situation into Wimber's hands for correction. Many leading voices in the charismatic movement are glad the matter is apparently coming to a resolution. The battle between Gruen (with his allies) and the KCF has been among the most cantankerous to strike the movement in years. As a result of the correction, limitations on public ministry were placed on KCF prophets Bob Jones and John Paul Jackson. Jones's controversial tapes have been withdrawn from distribution and his ministry is limited to church leadership "behind closed doors." Part of the reason for Wimber's involvement was that in May (a month earlier) the KCF came under his leadership when the movement joined the Vineyard.* The KCF was founded in 1982 by Mike Bickle. By 1986, its leaders formed Grace Ministries, an umbrella organization designed to facilitate the emergence of a "new breed" into the church -- end-time prophets. These they held to be part of the restored "five-fold ministry" (Eph. 4:11). These ministries immediately came under fire in the Kansas City area due to the teachings of KCF pastors Bickle, Jones, Jackson, and others. Strange stories were emerging of these men experiencing angelic visitations, visiting heaven and hell, perceiving auras around people, and giving public prophetic instructions to people (many of which did not come to pass). They also claimed to have received revelations from God on many subjects -- including the economy, weather patterns, and natural disasters (many of which also proved to be false). Later, Paul Cain -- a former associate of William Branham (1909-1965) -- joined this leadership circle. Cain is considered by KCF leaders and by Wimber to be a powerful prophet on the cutting edge of a new wave of end-time "superprophets." Cain -- alleged by some to have predicted the California earthquake of December 3, 1988 and the Soviet-Armenian earthquake of December 8, 1988 -- has also become affiliated with Wimber. Together, this new prophetic movement has gone national and has been promoted by influential voices in the charismatic movement, including _Charisma and Christian Life_ magazine. Gruen, one of the fathers of the charismatic movement in Kansas City, said little on the movement until January of this year when he released a tape titled "Do We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing?" In the tape, Gruen accused KCF of sending out false prophets, of "prophesying" area churches would close down (and then join KCF), and of outright lying. Gruen also released a 233-page document to Christian leaders across America listing other alleged abuses at the KCF -- including charges that its leaders were involved in occultism and with teaching variations of the elitist "Manifest Sons of God" heresy of the Latter Rain Movement (1948-1952). This teaching, based on an unorthodox interpretation of Romans 8:19, is that in the end times certain overcomers will be glorified or "manifested" to the world as sons of God. Some hold they will even attain immortalization and be able to move in and out of the supernatural and natural realms. Due to the agreement with Wimber, however, Gruen stopped sending out the report in July. Wimber's 15-point statement agrees with many of the main points outlined by Gruen. Wimber admitted KCF has a "lack of accountability for prophecies that do not come true," and that KCF leaders were wrong in engaging in the following practices: * Prophesying judgment against people without "first confronting them." * Giving "public predictions of natural disasters, economic events, and divine visitations." * Using prophetic utterances for "controlling purposes." * "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." Despite the attempt at correction, however, questions remain about the role of Wimber and the Vineyard in correcting the KCF problems. There are suspicions that the KCF had already affected Wimber prior to the battle with Gruen. Charismatic leader Jamie Buckingham wrote in the May/June issue of _Ministries Today_ that, "Now John Wimber has picked up the prophetic baton [from Mike Bickle's KCF] and is running strongly. His February Anaheim conference featured many of the prophets from the Kansas City Fellowship. It drew a reported 9,000 -- with 4,000 turned away." Wimber's own testimony is another factor. In the Fall 1989 _Equipping the Saints_ magazine (a Vineyard publication), Wimber wrote that in October 1988, while on a trip to Scotland, Bickle convinced him to consider changing the Vineyard's emphasis to that of a prophetic ministry. Two months later, he was hooked up with Paul Cain, who soon became an important part of the Vineyard ministry. Wimber also strongly affirmed his belief that the prophets in the new movement need not be accurate with their pronouncements: "Prophecy's first expressions will likely be infantile," Wimber wrote. "Babies are messy and they make messes." The centerpiece of this issue of _Equipping the Saints_ -- an article by Kevin Springer entitled "Paul Cain: A New Breed of Man" -- introduces the new prophetic ministry to the Vineyard. The story highlights the life of Cain and how he became affiliated with KCF and with Wimber himself. "As the years rolled by Paul kept looking for the new breed," the article states. "Then in 1987 God directed him to a small meeting of pastors in Birmingham, Alabama. There he met Mike Bickle and several of his colleagues from the Kansas City Fellowship."