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Unity not uniformity, diversity not division
by Jonathan Bird

Christians around the world observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity each January. This year the Week fell on the 18th to the 25th, and I joined more than 100 other people, representing about a dozen congregations, at the Unity not Uniformity, Diversity not Division conference held on the 16th and 17th, organized by three Protestant congregations in Richmond.
Jonathan Coutts of Richmond Alliance Church (Christian & Missionary Alliance), Micah Smith of Emmanuel Christian Community (independent, with Brethren and charismatic renewal roots) and Albert Chu of The Tapestry (Christian Reformed) co-sponsored the conference.
The keynote speaker was Gordon Smith, President of Ambrose University (Alliance and Nazarene) in Calgary.
The conference centred on three presentations by Smith who outlined an Evangelical Protestant case for an ecumenism that includes Catholics and other mainline traditions. He began with an appeal to Scripture, explaining that the New Testament everywhere teaches there is only one Church and that this truth is foregrounded the most in Ephesians. . .

More here:
http://lightmagazine.ca/2015/02/two-conferences-focusing-on-christian-unity/

Keynote speaker Gordon T. Smith (previously Vice President and Dean of Regent College), is the new president of Ambrose University College Seminary. The college is a merger of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (Canada) with The Church of the Nazarene (Canada). Smith has written several books. The Voice of Jesus, is built on Roman Catholic spiritual traditions of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Ignatius of Loyola. Alone With The Lord is a self guided prayer plan adapted from The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

Read more about the link between Smith and the Jesuits, here: Ambrose University College hires Jesuit-educated contemplative spirituality proponent as its new president.

It appears that more than one evangelical denomination is being slowly persuaded by the Jesuit agenda to come together in an ecumenical plan and cross the bridge to Rome.

Related:

The Jesuit Agenda and the Evangelical/Protestant Church
http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c97.shtml

C&MA and Ambrose: Welcoming Spiritually Muddy Theology
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/ambrose-welcoming-spiritually-muddy-theology/

Catholics and Evangelicals together at Ambrose
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/catholics-and-evangelicals-together-at-ambrose/

Are Ambrose Lecturers Leading Students into Muddy Waters?
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/are-ambrose-lecturers-leading-students-into-muddy-waters/

Christian & Missionary Alliance Students Taught to Listen to God – Contemplative Style
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/christian-missionary-alliance-students-taught-to-listen-to-god-contemplative-style/

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Recently, more compromise in the C&MA has become evident as seen in Letter to the Editor: Christian & Missionary Alliance (Canada) Promoting Interspiritual, Panentheist Monk, Basil Pennington at Lighthouse Trails.

To add to the already muddy mix, the Western Canadian District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada[1] are embracing the season of Lent this year and are doing 40 days of Lent posts[2]. Also, as Lighthouse Trails reports, on their ‘Deeper Life Resources’ page[3] is a disclaimer:

The following list of resources contain a variety of perspectives that cannot be fully endorsed by the WCD in every manner. We do believe, however, that the discerning reader can benefit greatly from these writings. The following are some of the books that the Western Canadian District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada believes to be beneficial.

While the promotion of the Basil Pennington book is is disappointing, it is not even the most shocking recommendation of all. Another resource they believe to be beneficial is a book called Can You Hear Me? Tuning in to the God Who Speaks by Brad Jersak. This is a book about the practice of listening prayer. Jersak, who believes we can visualize ourselves into the throne room of heaven, is a universalist who does not believe in hell. He has recently become an ordained reader in the Orthodox church, and says he was “’chrismated’ at the end of June (2013) and ordained as a ‘reader’ for the All Saints Monastery…in October.” This was listed in the records of the ARCHDIOCESE OF CANADA, ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA: “Altar server Irenaeus (Bradley) Jersak was tonsured[4] to be a Reader at the Monastery of All Saints of North America in Dewdney, BC.”

Very recently Jersak interviewed Derek Flood who wrote a book called Disarming Scripture[5]. Flood, who blogs at The Rebel God[6], is among others like Brian McLaren who have been wrestling with questions of faith and doubt, violence in the Bible, and the substitutionary atonement of Christ. McLaren has written the forewords in both of his books. In Disarming Scripture, endorsed by Steve Chalke (also a denier of ‘Substitutionary Atonement’) and Jim Wallis, Brian D. Mclaren says “You need Derek Flood.”

If Brad Jersak, Derek Flood and all these men are like minded, why is he listed as an author of a beneficial book by the Western District of the C&MA? Other books by various contemplatives and mystics which are considered beneficial are equally concerning.

Rivers from Eden by Eden Jersak (Brad Jersak’s wife) is a forty-day spiritual exercise in Listening Prayer a lifestyle. Essential Guide to Healing by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark is described by C&MA as “a rich theological and historical foundation for healing in the church today.” However, Bill Johnson can hardly be called theologically sound[7]. The New Mystics by John Crowder is described as an examination of “Christian mystics throughout the ages who focused on the presence and power of God.” This may be the most shocking promotion of all. John Crowder of “Slosh Fest” reputation is often “drunk in the spirit” making animal noises and saying outrageous blasphemous things about Jesus[8].

The other beneficial books listed are mostly the typical contemplative material, such as The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen and Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross. In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson is a book about the offices, or fixed hours of prayer (the Rule of St. Benedict). The foreword is by Phyllis Tickle, who is arm in arm with the usual emerging church leaders and teachers of the new ancient spirituality. Let Go by Fenelon is touted as a classic by one of the church fathers, but Fenelon was the most famous disciple of French mystic and contemplative Madam Jean Guyon. Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius Loyola is another telling recommendation. These contemplative writings and exercises were written by the founder of the Jesuits[9].

In all, it appears that discernment in the Western Canadian District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance has died.

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?Galatians 3:1

[For those who are genuinely concerned about this denomination and would like to know what to contend and pray for, please read about the muddy mixture of spirituality due to lack of discernment by entering: ‘Christian & Missionary Alliance’ into the search box of this blog.]

____________

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.transformcma.ca/
[2] http://40days-faithandhope.com/category/lent-posts-2015/
[3] http://www.transformcma.ca/resources-2/
[4] Tonsure is the practice of cutting or shaving some or all of the hair on the scalp, as a sign of religious devotion or humility. The term originates from the Latin word tonsūra (to clip, or cut) and referred to a specific practice in medieval Catholicism, abandoned by papal order in 1972. Current usage more generally refers to cutting or shaving for monks, devotees, or mystics of any religion as a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashion and esteem
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonsure
[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYbva9J8L2g
[6] http://www.therebelgod.com/
[7] BETHEL CHURCH’S “APOSTLE” BILL JOHNSON: A COMEDY OF ERRORS, PART 1
http://standupforthetruth.com/2014/10/bethel-churchs-apostle-bill-johnson-comedy-errors-part-1/
[8] MYSTIC JOHN CROWDER Exposed – Part 1 of 2:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNGPA6Idopg
Part 2:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKj-pFo11ys
This is Not That: An Analysis of John Crowder’s 
“The New Mystics”
http://www.apostasyalert.org/REFLECTIONS/crowder.htm
[9] http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=6844

UPDATE 2015:

Brian McLaren has just endorsed Brad Jersak’s latest book called A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, published by Plain Truth Ministries (www.ptm.org), where Jersak is a senior editor of their CWR blog (Christianity Without Religion). The recommended reading on the Plain Truth Ministries website speaks volumes (www.ptm.org/quad/bookList.htm). Jersak’s book is reviewed and endorsed by Derek Flood, Richard Rohr, William Paul Young, Brian McLaren, Eugene Peterson.
NOTE: Read more about McLaren’s involvment with Derek Flood here:
Healing the Gospel or Changing it?https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/healing-the-gospel-or-changing-it/

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What does this muddy mixture have in common?

A minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, an archdeacon of an Anglican Cathedral, a reverend of a Presbyterian Church, contemplative prayer, Buddhism, mindfulness meditation, centering prayer, and brain-expanding practices?

Read all about it, here (the article may be a year old but still relevant):

Prayer research opens fresh frontiers of spiritual practice
http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2013/12/24/prayer-research-opens-fresh-frontiers-of-spiritual-practice/

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Father Thomas Ryan is a catholic priest who directs the North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington DC for his community, the Paulist Fathers.[1] He also coordinates ecumenical and inter-religious relations for the paulist community in Canada. A certified Kripalu yoga teacher, one of the sacred practices he teaches is YOGA PRAYER: AN EMBODIED CHRISTIAN PRACTICE.[2] Last fall Fr Thomas Ryan wrote several guest blogs for ‘Shalem Institute’s Living Contemplatively’[3].

This week Father Thomas Ryan will be speaking with Dr. Gordon Smith, President of Ambrose University College and Seminary, in Calgary, Alberta (the seminary of Christian and Missionary Alliance and The Church of the Nazarene). Together they will be leading “Catholics and Evangelicals in God’s Mission—Together,” which is an opportunity to…

“…come together to talk about Christian unity and mission. Church unity is a global issue that matters: Jesus prayed in the closing hours of his life for the unity of his followers, and the church’s vocation is to be a sign in our world of God’s reconciling power. The truth is that Evangelicals and Catholics share much more in common than not.”[4]

This comes as no surprise to those who have been watching the muddy streams of religion converge. Indeed, a picture says a thousand words.[5]

__________

[1] http://www.kripalu.org/presenter/V0000213/fr_thomas_ryan
[2] http://www.paulistproductions.org/movies-yoga-prayer.html
[3] http://livingcontemplatively.org/tag/fr-thomas-ryan/
[4] http://ambrose.edu/global-impact-week
[5] http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=14806

__________

PREVIOUSLY POSTED ON THIS BLOG:

C&MA and Ambrose: Welcoming Spiritually Muddy Theology
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/ambrose-welcoming-spiritually-muddy-theology/

Are Ambrose Lecturers Leading Students into Muddy Waters?
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/are-ambrose-lecturers-leading-students-into-muddy-waters/

Christian & Missionary Alliance Students Taught to Listen to God – Contemplative Style
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/christian-missionary-alliance-students-taught-to-listen-to-god-contemplative-style/

RELATED RESOURCES:

Evangelicals and Catholics Together – Part 1
(December 1994 – Volume 1, Issue 2)
Was the Reformation a mistake, or do fundamental points of doctrine still separate the Roman Catholic Church from us?
Read Parts 1-3 here:
http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/24-ecumenicalism/568-evangelicals-and-catholics-together-part-1

Evangelicals & Catholics: The Next Generation?
McMahon, T.A.
http://www.thebereancall.org/node/5204

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In a Letter to the Editor: Saddened by Christian & Missionary Alliance and Ambrose University Continuing Plunge into Contemplative at the Lighthouse Blog, we read that there are more winds of doctrine blowing through the Canadian Christian & Missionary Alliance doors. One of the concerns mentioned in the letter is in regards to a former teacher once let go for theological differences who appears to be apologetically welcomed back to working with the C&MA denomination. Have black and white issues that were once doctrinally weighed and defended by the Word of God become such a muddy blend that they are now okay?

The person who the C&MA is now looking forward to working with again is Charles W. Nienkirchen, Professor of Christian History and Spirituality at Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta. His bio (here) says that Neinkirchen has also been a Scholar in Residence at Tantur Ecumenical Institute(tantur.org) in Jerusalem, also known as the Catholic Church of The Holy Land (catholicchurch-holyland.com/?p=789). He’s also been a Visiting Professor in Residence at another ecumenical seminary called Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary in South India. Therefore it is no surprise that his teaching and ministry focuses on the subject of renewal and spirituality through ecumenical retreat courses and conferences.

In 2006 Nienkirchen designed a travel study program called ‘Down Ancient Paths’ Travel Study Program (www.downancientpaths.com) which explores the oldest Christian traditions in the world. According to Tyndale, here, Nienkirchen’s areas of specialization are “classical spiritual disciplines, dreams, spiritual direction, renewal movements, ancient Christian traditions, and Christian-Muslim relations.” During his exploration in ecumenicalism and spirituality, Nienkirchen has also attended a School for Spiritual Directors at a Benedictine Abbey to learn more about prayer and spiritual renewal, and now serves on the Faculty of the Pecos Benedictine School for Spiritual Directors near Santa Fe, New Mexico (www.pecosmonastery.org).

Nienkirchen was also a signator on a document by the late Robert Webber called The Call (www.ancientfutureworship.com/afw_wkshps.html), a movement that embraces Ancient-Future worship style and practices based on ecumenism and unity with other faiths. (You can read quite a bit about this here: exnazarene.wordpress.com/2009/03/)

This has all begun to bear fruit which we are now seeing in the C&MA, as revealed last spring when students at their university (Ambrose) were taught to listen to God, contemplative style:

April 24, 2013 | Last fall during the annual Fall Spiritual Emphasis Days, students at Ambrose University College of the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), were taught contemplative spirituality with the theme of Listening to God. Ambrose alumnus Steve Kerr, pastor of Gateway Church in Caledonia, Ontario (a C&MA church) taught sessions about Listening to God. Other contemplative workshops were facilitated by Ambrose staff and faculty. Students were invited to participate in a diverse array of workshops, like “Centering Prayer: A Pathway to Experiencing God’s Presence,” taught by Dr. Miriam Charter. Students learned that “Centering Prayer is a gift to us from the Desert Fathers who sought a way to deepen their relationship with the living Christ. It is “listening” prayer that may become for the serious pilgrim a pathway for receiving and experiencing the gift of God’s Presence.”
Additional workshops included “Hear the Divine Voice…Make the Right Choice,” by Dr. Charles Nienkirchen, “Hearing God through Nature: A Walk Through the Ambrose Aspen Stand,” by Wally Rude, “Making (Some) Sense of the Pain: Hearing God in Times of Difficulty and Suffering,” by Dr. Gordon Smith, “Lectio Divina” (Divine Reading) with Kevin Cawthra, “Going Global? A Conversation about Discerning God’s call to Serve Internationally,” and “Hearing the Voice of Jesus through Imaging,” with Joy Ulrich.

Source – To Hear, To Contemplate, To Act ambrose.edu/news_and_events/hear-contemplate-act

Incidentally, Ambrose University College Seminary (in Canada) is a merger of the Christian & Missionary Alliance with The Church of the Nazarene. Ambrose’s new president Gordon T. Smith (previously Vice President and Dean of Regent College), has written several books. In The Voice of Jesus, Smith’s ideas are built on Roman Catholic spiritual traditions of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Ignatius of Loyola. Alone With The Lord is a self guided prayer plan adapted from The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

A few years ago, Charles Nienkirchen led a Lent retreat in Calgary, Alberta.

Westside King’s Church, Calgary, AB
Lent Prayer Retreat
wkc.org/lent-prayer-retreat/
Lent 2010 begins February 17 and concludes April 3. This year we invite you to deepen your experience of this holy season by joining us in spiritual retreat. Dr. Charles Nienkirchen will lead us in an exploration of the prayer journey of Jesus as it is rooted in the events and emotions of his earthly life. Specific attention will be given to the often neglected ‘minor prayers’ of Jesus which reveal the intimate depths of his humanity. Talks, guided prayers, and conversations will form the essence of these very special days.

One of his media appearances in regards to Lent was an interview, which you can learn about or watch at the following links:

100 Huntley Street Airs Interview with Charles Nienkirchen ambrose.edu/content/100-huntley-street-airs-interview-charles-nienkirchen

The Way Of The Cross
April 20, 2011
http://www.100huntley.com/video.php?id=rAOGVc9D73o

The Way Of The Cross
100 Huntley (6:30)
youtube (click HERE to watch)

In conclusion, the reader who wrote Lighthouse Trails Research has every right to be concerned. The C&MA certainly is crossing the bridge over the spiritually and theologically muddy waters of ecumenism and interfaith unity. There are many reasons, many ways, many winds, some new and some old. This is only one. The troubling question is, how many undiscerning followers will they take with them? Those who are sending students to Ambrose might do well to take heed.

Related:

Ambrose University College hires Jesuit-educated contemplative spirituality proponent as its new president http://suspiciousberean.blogspot.ca/2012/05/ambrose-university-college-hires-jesuit.html

Related posts on this blog:

Christian & Missionary Alliance Students Taught to Listen to God – Contemplative Style https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/christian-missionary-alliance-students-taught-to-listen-to-god-contemplative-style/

Yoga Class at Christian & Missionary Alliance Church https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/yoga-class-at-christian-missionary-alliance-church/

Christian & Missionary Alliance Workers will soon be learning Ancient Spiritual Disciplines https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/christian-missionary-alliance-workers-will-soon-be-learning-ancient-spiritual-disciplines/

Peter Scazzero’s Contemplative Bridge Crossing to Canada https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/peter-scazzeros-contemplative-bridge-coming-to-canada/

Are Ambrose Lecturers Leading Students into Muddy Waters? https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/are-ambrose-lecturers-leading-students-into-muddy-waters/

Christian Missionary Alliance and Focus on the Family Canada leading Christians across the Contemplative Bridge https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/christian-missionary-alliance-and-focus-on-the-family-canada-leading-christians-across-the-contemplative-bridge/

____________

***NEW! Also read a well written review on a book by a Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor who has chosen the contemplative pathway:

Reimer Loses His Way in “Pathways to the King:” A Review

Dr. Rob Reimer, pastor of the Christian & Missionary Alliance South Shore Community Church, adjunct professor at the Alliance Theological Seminary, and speaker at various conferences has authored a book: Pathways to the King: Living a Life of Spiritual Renewal and Power. To look inside is to learn how Reimer loses his way straying onto contemplative and kingdom now roads as he strives to experience, and expand God’s kingdom on earth…

*Click here to read more:

http://whputnam00.blogspot.ca/2014/04/reimer-loses-his-way-in-pathways-to.html

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Last fall during the annual Fall Spiritual Emphasis Days, students at Ambrose University College of the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), were taught contemplative spirituality with the theme of Listening to God. Ambrose alumnus Steve Kerr, pastor of Gateway Church in Caledonia, Ontario (a C&MA church) taught sessions about Listening to God. Other contemplative workshops were facilitated by Ambrose staff and faculty.

Students were invited to participate in a diverse array of workshops, like “Centering Prayer: A Pathway to Experiencing God’s Presence,” taught by Dr. Miriam Charter. Students learned that “Centering Prayer is a gift to us from the Desert Fathers who sought a way to deepen their relationship with the living Christ. It is “listening” prayer that may become for the serious pilgrim a pathway for receiving and experiencing the gift of God’s Presence.”
Additional workshops included “Hear the Divine Voice…Make the Right Choice,” by Dr. Charles Nienkirchen, “Hearing God through Nature: A Walk Through the Ambrose Aspen Stand,” by Wally Rude, “Making (Some) Sense of the Pain: Hearing God in Times of Difficulty and Suffering,” by Dr. Gordon Smith, “Lectio Divina” (Divine Reading) with Kevin Cawthra, “Going Global? A Conversation about Discerning God’s call to Serve Internationally,” and “Hearing the Voice of Jesus through Imaging,” with Joy Ulrich.

To Hear, To Contemplate, To Act
https://ambrose.edu/news_and_events/hear-contemplate-act

Ambrose University College Seminary is a merger of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (Canada) with The Church of the Nazarene (Canada). Ambrose’s new president Gordon T. Smith (previously Vice President and Dean of Regent College), has written several books. In The Voice of Jesus, Smith’s ideas are built on Roman Catholic spiritual traditions of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Ignatius of Loyola. Alone With The Lord is a self guided prayer plan adapted from The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. (Read more about this here: Ambrose University College hires Jesuit-educated contemplative spirituality proponent as its new president.)

Is there any question as to whether this seminary is leading their students over the contemplative bridge to Rome?

Related:

What is centering prayer?
http://www.gotquestions.org/centering-prayer.html

Who Were the Desert Fathers?
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/desertfathers.htm

“Who are the Jesuits, and what do they believe?”
http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesuits.html

Christian & Missionary Alliance Workers will soon be learning Ancient Spiritual Disciplines
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/christian-missionary-alliance-workers-will-soon-be-learning-ancient-spiritual-disciplines/

Christian Missionary Alliance and Focus on the Family Canada leading Christians across the Contemplative Bridge
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/christian-missionary-alliance-and-focus-on-the-family-canada-leading-christians-across-the-contemplative-bridge/

Yoga Class at Christian & Missionary Alliance Church
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/yoga-class-at-christian-missionary-alliance-church/

Ambrose Seminary teaches contemplative spirituality in 2009-2010
http://suspiciousberean.blogspot.ca/2010/02/ambrose-seminary-teaches-contemplative.html

Are Ambrose Lecturers Leading Students into Muddy Waters?
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/are-ambrose-lecturers-leading-students-into-muddy-waters/

Ambrose University (CMA & Nazarene) Full Speed into Contemplative/Emergent
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1452

NEW:

Letter to the Editor: Christian & Missionary Alliance OK With Ruth Haley Barton and Other Contemplatives
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11640

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According to a recent comment on this blog, not only is Roman Catholic mysticism and contemplative spirituality crossing into the Christian & Missionary Alliance of Canada (see Peter Scazzero’s Contemplative Bridge Coming to Canada), it appears to have found a bridge into the C&MA in the United States. The Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS) was founded as a graduate program of Nyack College in 1960. Together, the Nyack College, Seminary, and Graduate School campuses are recognized by the Christian & Missionary Alliance as the denomination’s official seminary in the US today. Now they may also be leading their students into the muddy waters of spiritual formation and contemplative spirituality. Those concerned may check out the facts for themselves.

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