IFAS | Freedom Writer | September/October 1989 | aog.html

Missionaries conceal political aims

By Skipp Porteous

Many erroneously believe that foreign missionaries simply preach the gospel, erect little huts to serve as churches in the bush, and persuade native women to cover their breasts. This is not so. We know it, and the huge Assemblies of God foreign missions department knows it, but they don't want their host countries to know it.

The Assemblies of God (AG), with almost 2.5 million members and adherents in the U.S., is the largest white Pentecostal denomination in this country. Last year, donations to the AG reached a record $140,720,000. More than half, $82,834,000, went to foreign missions. The church has 1,575 missionaries and 16.3 million members in 120 foreign countries.

The AG's executive director of the division of foreign missions, J. Phillip Hogan, said recently, "In almost every nation, missionaries and national workers are cooperatively planning how to reap the Lord's harvest before 2000 A.D." He added, "Satan knows we are gearing up for the greatest evangelistic thrust the world has ever seen, and he is violently opposing it." The Satanic opposition to which he refers is political opposition from certain foreign governments. To the AG, political opposition and "Satan" are identical.

Everywhere missionaries go they intend to change that nation's religious, cultural, and political systems. Undoubtedly, some good is often accomplished along the way. But, whether one is talking about Oral Robert's medical missionaries or the AG's HealthCare Ministries (HCM), these are only tools to open doors to evangelize in otherwise closed countries. This is admitted by the AG in its official publication, Pentecostal Evangel (September 1989). "More than being a humanitarian service, HCM helps accomplish the overall strategy of our foreign missions policy. It provides an open door for the evangelistic, church planting, and worker-training goals of the national churches." Their work is being carried out in Central America, South America, Africa and Asia.

Recently, alter a heated debate, the delegates to the AG's 43rd General Council (held August 8-13, 1989) passed Resolution 9, "Abortion Civil Disobedience," which endorsed civil disobedience by AG ministers and members who oppose abortion:

WHEREAS, The 1985 General Council adopted a Sanctity of Human Life resolution committing the Assemblies of God to a strong pro-life scriptural stance on the question of abortion; and

WHEREAS, The General Presbytery has issued an excellent position paper, "A Biblical Perspective on Abortion;" and

WHEREAS, Since these documents were approved a new development has taken place in the pro-life movement against abortion in the form of nonviolent and peaceful acts of civil disobedience to prevent the killing of the unborn; and

WHEREAS, Members of our Fellowship are looking to the General Council for counsel regarding their participation in these nonviolent and peaceful acts of civil disobedience; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the General Council shall not disapprove of ministers and members who in clear conscience and right attitude engage in acts of intervention, which are nonviolent and peaceful acts of civil disobedience, to prevent the killing of the unborn.

This unusual move was prompted by the advent of Operation Rescue, which is headed by Randall Terry, a Pentecostal minister affiliated with another denomination. The celebrity status of Operation Rescue has inspired the Assemblies of God and encouraged them to enter the fray.

After acceptance of the resolution, missions director Hogan made a desperate plea for reconsideration of the resolution. His reasoning is important to understand. It wasn't that he had suddenly become pro-choice. What Hogan feared was that foreign governments would learn of the General Council's approval of civil disobedience, which in turn, according to Hogan, "would have disastrous effects on foreign missions."

Hogan explained that "areas and nations of the world would close to missionaries if they thought the missionaries had approval to engage in politics and civil obedience."

What Hogan knew, and in a sense acknowledged, was that Operation Rescue is a political, law-breaking organization whose disruptive activities are approved by the Assemblies of God.

The true nature of Operation Rescue was articulated in an opinion of the US. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on September 20, 1989. The court admonished Operation Rescue for its tactics, stating that the organization violated the civil rights of women who were seeking abortions. The condemnation came as the result of Operation Rescue's appeal of a court order which prohibited anti-abortion demonstrators from blocking access to abortion clinics. Operation Rescue's lawyers argued that the group's First Amendment rights of free speech were violated by the order.

The plaintiffs in the case were the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League and various abortion clinics in the New York are David Cole, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represented the plaintiffs, said, "Operation Rescue's actions against women trying to exercise their right to abortions are analogous to the Ku Klux Klan actions, trying to deny blacks their civil rights."

Federal Justice Richard J. Cardamone wrote the decision which assailed Operation Rescue. On various occasions, the judge noted, Randall Terry was served with injunctions which barred him from trespassing on or blocking access to abortion clinics. He further noted that Rev. Terry was also ordered not to physically abuse or harass people entering or leaving the clinics, though the judge did permit Terry to engage in "quiet and non-threatening" voluntary sidewalk counseling. But, the judge wrote, Terry chose to ignore the injunction.

In New York alone, Operation Rescue has accumulated more than $700,000 in unpaid fines, yet it continues to break the law and ignore court orders. The organization and leader Rev. Randall Terry face additional legal battles in Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles.

Any overpopulated, poverty-stricken nation would be unwise to welcome Operation Rescue and its proponents. As clearly pointed out on the program "Abortion: For Survival" (Atlanta's TBS SuperStation, July 20, 1989), abortion must be a legal option for women of every nation. This includes China, which has acknowledged its population problem, as well as the United States.

All efforts to thwart a woman's right to choose a legal abortion are clearly political. The Assemblies of God knows this, and because of fears that foreign governments would learn of their endorsement of "civil disobedience to prevent the killing of the unborn," they altered their resolution.

Although the General Council delegates had already carried Resolution 9, they deferred to Hogan. The resolution was sent to Assemblies of God lawyers for revision. For the most part the resolution remained unchanged. The main change was the removal of the words "civil disobedience," which had originally appeared four times, as reprinted here. The other significant change involved the last paragraph, which was completely revised. The new version of the Resolution is called "Abortion Pro-life Conduct of Ministers." The last paragraph now reads:

RESOLVED, That the General Council reaffirms its strong, pro-life biblical stance on the subject of abortion, and approves participation in the pro-life movement by all scriptural means and disapproves all unscriptural acts by its ministers; and leaves to the discretion of the individual minister the extent to which he may participate in non-violent and peaceful acts of intervention to prevent the killing of the unborn.

The resolve is open to broad interpretation. To find out if the Assemblies of God still approve of their minister's involvement with the unlawful activities of Operation Rescue, we called their headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. The first two people we spoke with told us that participation in Operation Rescue's activities was "not prohibited," and "Yes, they can participate." However, both individuals defined to give their names and referred us to a higher authority.

We were connected with the office of the Assemblies of God general secretary, Rev. Joseph R. Flower. The Rev. Mr. Flower told us, "We take a strong stand against abortion. We disapprove of violence." He added, "Yes, they [their ministers] can [participate in Operation Rescue]. The only thing we state is nothing should be done illegally."

We responded, "Operation Rescue has repeatedly broken the law, so how can one participate in their activities without themselves breaking the law?"

The general secretary replied, "I suppose it's up to individual conscience."

Since the "pro-life" movement is clearly political, the Assemblies of God General Council has essentially given their ministers and missionaries the stamp of approval to engage in political activity. Their attempts to cover this fact have not been successful.

The authors of Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America's Freedoms in Religion, Politics, and Our Private Lives, Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, refer to American missionary efforts as "spiritual imperialism." They say, "Spiritual imperialism is a new affront to personal freedom and national sovereignty. At the local level, it seeks to impose a supreme set of religious beliefs and social values on every individual. Internationally, it targets other faiths and cultures for subjugation. America's fundamentalist right is integrally linked to this new imperialistic thrust. In fact, abroad as at home, the movement's indirect techniques and advanced technology have transformed the historic missionary endeavor into a modern guerrilla operation."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.