Monday, February 01, 2016

Holy Spirit Conferences are big business I've learned

Our Lutheran church had a Holy Spirit Conference, "Power for Mission," this past week-end.  It began Friday evening with worship and prayer with speakers Craig Heselton, Executive Pastor of Vineyard Columbus and Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, Mission Director of the North American Lutheran Church.  Then on Saturday we had worship, prayer or sermons 3 times during the day and 2 workshops, choosing from three topics, Tongues, Signs and Wonders, and Revelation. Rev. Dr. Morris Vaagenes active in many Lutheran organizations and former pastor and missionary spoke Saturday morning.

In the 1970s and 1980s there seemed to me to be a lot of excitement about the Holy Spirit. I remember going to one for the Church of the Brethren in the 1970s, although I was no longer a member, having joined Upper Arlington Lutheran Church in 1976.  We were encouraged to be open, pray, wave our hands during worship, talk more, engage more, expect healing, sing praise songs, etc. Our pastoral search committee (UALC was ALC which became ELCA in 1988) got so carried away in the Spirit after Luther Strommen retired that they wanted to issue a call to a charismatic Episcopal priest, and when word of that got out, a group filled with the Spirit figured out how to pack the search committee so instead we got a charismatic Missouri Synod Lutheran! We had been having healing events, and special evening worship times with praise music and time for prayer, and that eventually evolved into regular Sunday worship times, and the traditional, liturgical services began to falter. We were apparently even led by the Spirit to build a large facility across the river with room for a school and nursing home, but later the Spirit changed his mind, and we sold part of the land after the mortgage became a struggle.  But I hadn't heard much lately, although I know you can't say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is active in all our service ministries and present in all our services whether traditional or happy-clappy.

So I decided I'd just check Google before going much further, and using the terms, "Holy Spirit events conferences" I turned up about 13 million matches--Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Independent, non-denominational, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, private 501-c-3 non-profits, events for women, events for men, events by husband and wife teams, by priests, by anyone who feels called, events at conference centers, at churches, and at colleges. One day, two day, three day, four day, maybe more. No more should anyone claim the Holy Spirit is the forgotten member of the Trinity.  He's alive and well and attending conferences, sometimes leaving God the Son and God the Father at home.

I heard some of the same non-biblical messages I'd heard 30-40 years ago.  For instance, in one small workshop the speaker had us all hold hands and pray for the person on our right, then on our left.  I knew both the people I was praying for.  But the man next to my husband was someone neither of us knew.  After the meeting he said to my husband, "While I was praying for you God gave me a vision of a strong wind blowing a boat that was well anchored."  So I thought, "How nice, that really describes Bob--an anchor in a storm."  But he didn't stop there.  "And I think God is telling you that you should pull up your anchor and let God move you where he wills."  Keep in mind, this man was violating some basic principles--don't interpret your own vision, and for sure don't go off half cocked if you know nothing about the person.  For all he knew, Bob could have been contemplating divorce, or changing jobs, or suicide.  How much of a push would an unstable person need if after prayer with a stranger, the guy offers that?

At another workshop a woman in our row spoke up and said she'd been feeling the energy--that she often encounters people and can feel their energy by taking their hands. It was her gift.  Another speaker spoke highly of Agnes Sanford's books, which I considered the absolutely worst "christian" theology every printed and foisted off on non-thinking Christians.  For her, the blood of Jesus is something that soaked into the ground when he died and is surging through the planet (no resurrection in her fanciful visions) where we might encounter it. No, you're saved by the blood by visualizing it. When I was the church librarian 30 years ago, I quietly withdrew her books from the library.  Yes, librarians get to do that, especially when led by the Spirit. A book can be deacquisitioned for age, condition, space needs or snake oil.

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