After Ted Haggard confessed
to a gay sex and drug scandal, he lost his Colorado Spring pulpit, his job as
head of the National Association of Evangelicals and underwent a lengthy period
of counseling and discipline.
For the most part, he hasn’t
been seen much since.
charismatic/Pentecostal superstars, however, have rapidly reemerged into the
spotlight with a new wife, a new church, new TV ministry or a new message from
God that seems to dismiss the gravity of their sins.
Lee Grady has seen it all,
and he’s had enough.
Grady, a longtime editor of
the widely read Charisma magazine, says the miraculous and transforming power
of the Holy Spirit he and other charismatic/Pentecostal have experienced is
under assault by the “epidemic of moral failure among our leaders.”
“We can have the gifts of
the Holy Spirit in operation without this circus sideshow going on,” Grady said
in an interview. “I’m waving my hands in the air because this is a huge
problem, and we are going to experience even more serious problems in our
churches if we don’t know how to apply godly discipline to our wayward leaders.”
It’s a message he’s
preaching in his new book, The Holy Spirit is Not for Sale, and one that’s
roiling the waters in one of the fastest-growing segments of evangelical
Charismatic and Pentecostal
Christians — who embrace speaking in tongues, healing and other signs and
wonders — have been raising eyebrows ever since the Holy Spirit first descended
on Pentecost. At the time, skeptical observers figured they were drunk.
Things haven’t changed much
since; Aimee Semple McPherson, a pioneer of the Pentecostal movement that grew
out of Los Angeles in the early 20th century, was known for her fervor, her
pioneering use of radio, and her mysterious 1926 disappearance. The 1980s were
rocked by the sexual and financial shenanigans of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart
Grady was a member of a
Southern Baptist church when, in 1976, he was filled with the Holy Spirit — “when
I became a really radical Christian,” he says now. From 1992 until earlier this
year, he was editor at Charisma, and he still writes a column for the magazine
called “Fire in My Bones.”
Grady says the movement
remains as controversial on the dawn of its second century as it was in its
first. Yet the movement’s embrace of technology — especially television —
carries added risks.
His book explores the fall
of leaders like Bishop Earl Paulk of Atlanta’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit,
who confessed to decades of sexual misconduct before his death last year;
divorced evangelists Randy and Paula White, whose lavish lifestyle at Tampa’s
Without Walls International Church piqued the interest of congressional
investigators; abuse charges leveled against Bishop Thomas Wesley Weeks III and
his ex-wife Juanita Bynum, and the affair that toppled evangelist Todd Bentley’s
Lakeland Revival in Florida.
As if to prove his point,
soon after the book was published, the wife of famed faith healer Benny Hinn
filed for divorce. Hinn defended his sexual purity and said the divorce filing
caught him off guard.
Grady said there’s nothing
unusual about leaders falling — they’re sinners just like anyone else, and
charismatic/Pentecostal leaders are no guiltier than others. It’s just that
their failures are more publicized.
“Our movement has a lot of
television personalities,” he said.
What does concern him,
however, is fallen leaders who try to emerge from scandal without publicly
acknowledging their sin, repenting, submitting to discipline or undergoing
In other words, it’s not the
fall, but the response, that matters.
“Instead of giving into our
celebrity culture and allowing fallen leaders to reappear in a new pulpit the
next week, we need to preserve a sense of purity with standards of
righteousness and systems of accountability,” he said.
Historian Vinson Synan, who has
spent decades researching the charismatic and Pentecostal movements, shares
many of Grady’s concerns.
“Lee’s book is accurate and
fair,” said Synan, dean emeritus at Regent University, the Virginia school
founded by charismatic broadcaster Pat Robertson. “And I share many of the same
concerns Lee has about the lack of discipline and order in our movements.”
Grady said he will continue
his vigilant crusade to do whatever he can to keep modern-day Elmer Gantry’s
from “hijacking our whole movement.”
“I’m unapologetically part
of this movement. That’s who I am and there’s no changing that,” he said. “But
just as the Apostle Paul was outspoken about false prophets, bad doctrine and
bad methodology, I’m going to continue offering words of correction and brotherly