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The Vineyard of the Lord of Hosts?

January 19th, 2013 · 19 Comments

From A Vineyard Church website

Rod Dreher has had interesting blogs Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back here and here. The book was also reviewed in the NYT

I am not a staretz, so I will make no judgment about the prayer practices and experiences of the members of the Vineyard Church. Some of it is very familiar and seems on the whole to be well within the bounds of Christian tradition, although at times it seems a little too therapeutic and one misses the hard calls of the Gospel to repentance.

Luhrmann noticed that erotic overtones of some of these practices

Of the Vineyard’s  music, Luhrmann observes:

“God is intensely human in this music, and the singer wants him so badly that the lyrics sound like a teenage fan’s crazed longing for a teen idol she can touch.” p. 5


“Some songs are almost sexual, with a touch so might that teh suggestion could slip past. Here is the megahit “Dwell”: “Dwell in the midst of us/ Come and have your way.” p. 5

Women have “dates” with God.

“That was particularly striking  in the way people spoke about “date night” with God.  Date night was a term only women used. (Men would talk about evenings with “quiet time” with God. The women would set aside the night, and they imagined it romantically; it was a “date.”  They might pick up dinner or set out a plate at the table, and they imagined their way through the evening talking to God, cuddling with God, and basking in God’s attention.” p. 82

Such approaches leave men cold- at least heterosexual men.

Perhaps connected with this, perhaps not, are the sexual irregularities, especially the homosexual ones, that occur in Pentecostal/charismatic communities.

One of the flamboyant founders of the Vineyard Church, Lonnie Frisbee, was a married but was also having homosexual affairs. He eventually died of AIDS.

I was involved with the charismatic prayer group at Catholic University; It turned out that one of the key leaders was an active homosexual who died of AIDS. A renowned liberal theologian at CU was his spiritual director.

In Charlottesville I also attended a charismatic prayer group at an estate outside town. Years later I learned that the married man who was the minister was an active bisexual.

Is there a connection between a eroticized religion and sexual irregularities? I suspect that there is a connection, at least in some cases, and perhaps Pentecostalism is especially susceptible to it

Such phenomenon caused Msgr. Knox to suspect the presence of the erotic element in enthusiasm, but of course it is not confined to emotional movements. Bridal mysticism is a recurrent theme in both Catholicism and Protestantism; very few heterosexual men like to play the role of the blushing bride.


I believe that tongues is a real and legitimate form of prayer. I don’t know what it is, or why it fell into desuetude after the Apostolic era. Decades ago I started praying in tongues spontaneously one night when I was alone. I recently had an operation and was under anesthesia. The doctor reported that I was praying in tongues during the operation. What part of the brain is praying? I don’t know – but it seems to be real and helpful to many Christians to pray with both the rational part of the mind and with whatever part is praying in tongues.

Tags: Popular religion · Protestantism · Women in Church · homosexuality

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Oengus // Jan 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Quote: “One of the flamboyant founders of the Vineyard Church, Lonnie Frisby, was a married but was also having homosexual affairs. He eventually died of AIDS.”

    Actually, his last name was spelled “Frisbee”. While he had important involvement with Vineyard for a time, it is an exaggeration to say he was a “founder”. In fact, in his autobiography, he insistently pointed to Kenn Gulliksen as the Vineyard founder, although John Wimber by not too long a stretch could be called a “co-founder”.

    As to what is currently published on the Internet about Frisbee, I would take it with a little grain of salt. Some of it is rather slanted, and much of it has been “copy and pasted” back and forth. In any case, after a long delay, part of his autobiography was finally published and is available at amazon.com under the title “Not By Might Nor By Power - The Jesus Revolution.” In my review, I give my outlook on the book. At the least, the book is interesting in that Frisbee finally had some chance to speak for himself and give his own perspective about his life, whereas hitherto it seems that everybody else under the sun has been speaking for him.

    Quote: “I suspect that there is a connection, at least in some cases, and perhaps Pentecostalism is especially susceptible to it”

    If there is a connection, it would lie mostly in some charismatics’ tendency to orbit themselves around a narcissistic leader who is good at putting on a “show.” But I will have to defer on this because it is a complex matter and hard to discuss in a combox.

  • 2 caroline // Jan 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    It could be interesting to research the age of those women drawn into the bridal mystique throughout Christian history. How long does it last? Does it eventually settle down into an “old husband and wife” spirituality?

  • 3 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 20, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Oengus, I’d love to hear your opinions of the Lakeland and Toronto revivals, the whole “Latter Rain” movement and Bill Johnson’s ministry in Redding, Calif. Please contact me. Leon has my e-mail address.

  • 4 Oengus // Jan 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Joseph: :”Oengus, I’d love to hear your opinions of…”

    Joe, I am very far from being an expert on anything, and since there is not really much I can say, I may as well just respond here.

    I have kind of a rule about deciding these matters: if I wasn’t actually there, then I ought to be more diffident about making over-confident judgements.

    I was never in Lakeland, and least of all was I in Toronto when that was a kind of focal point many years ago. All I can say, rather vaguely I admit, is that a friend whose opinion I respect sees good fruit at least in the life of one person, a minister who was affected by events in Toronto. I was never in Lakeland and I can’t say much about it, although I am pretty skeptical about Todd Bentley himself. To me, he looks too much like an example of a “leader” who has been too readily given a “get out of jail free” card because manages to put on a “good performance.”

    As for Bill Johnson, I have read several of his books, so I am inclined to have a little more respect for him. But then again, I have never been in Bethel church in Redding, CA, and I have never observed how Johnson operates on the ground, so I am not in the position yet of giving a 100% unqualified endorsement.

    As for “Latter Rain”, I think the term has gotten pretty amorphous and lacks precise meaning. It describes, I think, more the general attitude which holds what we read in the Book of Acts wasn’t intended for us to be merely a curious history (i.e., “a past dispensation or a past era containing may odd but desuetudinous things”) but was meant to be relevant to us now and something that we can actually experience now, that is, if we we are willing to experience them.

  • 5 TheAltonRoute // Jan 20, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Crazy charismatics, bizarre (alleged) Marian apparitions, Zionist neocons, the religious Right, etc…has anything useful come out of the last 50-100 years? I once worked at a bank in a town that has a Vineyard church. The deposits on Monday morning were enormous. Christianity is being further and further degraded by the Vineyard and other fluff such as Saddleback Church.

  • 6 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 21, 2013 at 1:01 am

    Anyway, Oengus, please keep in touch. I miss our internet conversations. Leon, you can give Oengus my e-mail address if he asks for it.

    God bless you, my friend.

  • 7 Mary // Jan 21, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I remember reading a news article from NY. A State Trooper had stopped a woman on the highway who was driving erratically.When he asked her to get out of the car she was hysterical with laughter. The policeman reported that when he touched her arm, he was siezed with uncontrollable laughter too. The article reported that she was returning from a Toronto Vinyard charismatic blessing service.
    I will have to recheck, but a friend of mine had attended the same in Kansas. If I recall correctly, she said some of the priests from Fr Groeschel’s
    Order were there and that after the laying on of hands people were barking ,grunting and roaring like animals on the floor. She and another curious friend literally ran out . I will see if I can find some confirmational sources since this was quite some time ago.
    None of it sounded like a Left or Right religious view of any kind .Just a type of pathological or demonic hysteria.

  • 8 Mary // Jan 21, 2013 at 8:44 am

    My friend was apparently correct………


  • 9 Mary // Jan 21, 2013 at 9:32 am

    An old article below warns where catholicism was headed and how the Toronto Vinyard charismatics entered into mainstrem catholic churches.
    Ralph Martin mentioned in the article was the one that the Domino Pizza man credited with bringing him back to the church and founding Ave Maria University.
    The New Dicastery of the New Evangelization that Pope Benedict recently founded, no doubt employs the charismatic renewal techniques of some of the Movements that fall under it.
    Personally I find all these Movements reminescent of the cult like mentality of Maciel’s Legion in one way or another.They all have the flavor of Jim Jones toxic punch to me.

  • 10 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Mary, the fact that some people misinterpret melodramatic excess for the Holy Spirit does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not working. People are being healed. Muslims are embracing Christ solely on the basis of personal dreams and visions (and no thanks to the institutionalized “churches”). Do some research on a woman named Heidi Baker and the work she’s doing in Africa, with God’s help.

    Do you think such things are a Satanic delusion? Why would Satan want people healed in Jesus’ name, or Muslims to embrace Christ as savior and Lord, or the deaf to hear and the blind to see?

    Satan is more than content working within the institutionalized churches of all denominations. He’s done a great job spiritually emasculating them and convincing them to sacrifice their patrimony for political power, secular influence, intellectual fashion and wealth. It’s a profound pity that more Christians don’t recognize that.

  • 11 Mary // Jan 21, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    I found this site has a pretty good explanation especially after hearing stories about being slain the spirit by some very confused Catholics who experienced this at Medjugorje and other Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conferences.

  • 12 Janice Fox // Jan 22, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    FWIW all I can add to this conversation is that I once knew two people who had been active in a Vineyard Church, who left that church because they could not go along with everything that was going on and became traditionalist Anglicans even to the point of joining a traditionalist Anglican Prayer Society.

    An uncle of mine who passed away two years ago and was a Methodist at some point became very impressed with Pentacostal groups. He claimed that the Pentacostal experience helped to deliver him from the afflictions of tobacco smoking and high blood pressure. He was sure that the end of days was nigh. He went to tent meetings where some elder type men put hands on his head and he passed out. I figure that there was something there that fulfilled his religious needs… something that I do not need, but from which he did benefit. He was a good man, good father, an enthusiastic Christian in whom I could find no obvious fault.

    Back in the 1980s I had two friends who attended charismatic Masses in the Roman Catholic Church who invited me to go with them. After communion we went up for the priest to give us a blessing. Many people were falling backwards after he blessed them When I got there I felt a distinct pushing backwards from this man which I countered by pushing forward as I cannot get into this kind of thing. Perhaps I would be a better Christian if I could be slain in the Spirit. I will probably never know. I just wish I could have the enthusiasm of my late Uncle Bill.

  • 13 Frank Gibbons // Jan 23, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I saw John Wimber speak in person several times, read two of his books and listened to his tapes. I think he was a good man who genuinely loved the Lord. He was very open to working with Catholics. His modus operandi was not to take Catholics out of their sheepfold but to help them find the Spirit in the Roman Catholic Church. When asked where he saw authentic Christianity today (this was in 1990) he answered that he saw it in Mother Theresa and her nuns.

    I know of one woman who was healed of lupus while attending a Wimber conference in the 1980s. I did not attend this particular event but my wife did. The woman was checked regularly by several of her doctors; one of them, in her words, would simply stare at her in disbelief whenever she saw him.

    John Wimber introduced the “Kansas City Prophets” to a wider audience that included Catholics like Ralph Martin. Even in the Pentecostal world, these guys (Bob Jones, Paul Cain and their then pastor, Mike Bickle) were considered controversial. Jones and Cain would both publicly fall but went through a process of repentance and restoration. John Wimber, while acknowledging that these men lacked theological training and were in need of pastoring, was clearly impressed with them. I don’t know if he eventually disassociated himself from them or not.

    I haven’t been to a charismatic event in over twenty years. There were excesses and immaturity in both Catholic and Protestant charismatic movements. I find that the Eucharist is an indescribably a more profound experience of God’s love than the most exuberant prayer meeting or than any “sign and wonder.” Still, I found myself thinking sometimes that the Lord may want the extraordinary gifts operating in the Body of Christ especially during this time of disbelief in the transcendent.

  • 14 Father Michael Koenig // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Frank, I can only say “amen” and “ditto” to what you have written.


  • 15 Oengus // Jan 23, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Frank Gibbons: “Even in the Pentecostal world, these guys (Bob Jones, Paul Cain and their then pastor, Mike Bickle) were considered controversial. “

    By the way, Mike Bickle would later go on to write a book, entitled “Growing in the Prophetic”, wherein he talked pretty honestly about some of the mistakes that he had made back then in KC and what he had learned from those mistakes. For an good example, see the section on pages 140 to 142 under the heading “Dueling Prophet Sunday”.

  • 16 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 25, 2013 at 12:12 am

    If I may, I wish to defend some aspects of Pentecostalism.

    When my beloved mother died of cancer in 2009, I felt abandoned by God. In the last few months of her life, when doctors said they could do nothing for her, I solicited the help of Pentecostal faith healers (Oengus, one from Bethel in Redding came and prayed with me over my mother for six hours about six weeks before she died). Despite her death, the Pentecostals I dealt with taught me how to appreciate the tenderness and compassion of God to a far greater degree than I ever understood previously. They could teach Catholics and evangelicals lessons about God’s tenderness — if Catholics and evangelicals were willing to give up being so caught up in their own identities to listen.

    Moreover, Pentecostals take spiritual warfare seriously. At least, they realize it exists. Catholics and evangelicals seem to be so involved in their own hi-falutin pseudo-intellectuality that they barely notice. In the Catholic Church, at least, we’ve seen the results. Ask Bernard Law, Roger Mahony and Mariscal Maciel, for starters.

    Of course, the movement has its excesses and abuses. Many people aren’t what they seem, and I was burned badly by one person I trusted in the midst of my grief. Nevertheless, Pentecostalism has a lot to offer Christianity beyond the pseudo-charismatic melodrama and stereotypes.

  • 17 Mary // Jan 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

    As with everything involving human nature…. despite Creed ,Race, Gender, Politics and age….
    There are selfless compassionate people and self centered cruel people and a selective range in between.
    Only Christ reads hearts.We, on the other hand are the products of what we see , hear and or experience personally.

    Currently , I am truly impressed by the community outrage of the Black Muslims in Philadelphia towards the kidnapping and sexual abuse that was perpetrated on one five year old child in their own faith community.

    I wonder where the same emotion was/is amongst Philadelphian Catholics who read the files from the Archdiocese’ own vaults that was published in the Archdiocesan Grand Jury Investigation and Report?
    Very few Catholics stood in outrage with signs demanding accountability during those proceedings!

    Is that appropriate emotional outrage response hidden within the Catholic Charismatic Communities?

    To date , I am still searching for it and hanging my head over all the hypocrisy by those who claim to share God’s Love abundantly .

  • 18 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Mary, I’m with you in this regard. Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations have had their own sexual scandals (just do two different Internet searches for Todd Bentley and Calvary Chapel), complete with aggrieved victims and clericalist enablers. Too many Christians of all denominational stripes confuse faith with mindless groupthink and denominational loyalty (let alone loyalty to a particular pastor or individual). The latter two all too often become a substitute for a sincere committment to the Triune God.

  • 19 anonymous // Mar 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    “Women have “dates” with God. …Such approaches leave men cold- at least heterosexual men.”

    Quite. When I first became a Christian, the “I love you Jesus” music sounded downright homosexual. Still does. But I’m a “sinner” for preferring the gravitas of heavy metal….

    It leaves heterosexual men cold in another way too. By eroticizing the female’s relationship with the Lord, the church renders her effectively undateable, unmarriageable. After all, women are innately hypergamous, and who is of higher status than God Himself? No man can compare.

    Around 1997 a destructive little book called “I kissed dating goodbye” swept the evangelical world and made things far worse. God is the ONLY man they’ll date now… A lot of women who followed that book, never got married. Which meant, of course, that the chance for marriage was denied or long delayed for a lot of young men, too.

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