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Editor laments ‘epidemic of moral failure’
Steve Rabey, Religion News Service
May 12, 2010

Editor laments ‘epidemic of moral failure’

Editor laments ‘epidemic of moral failure’
Steve Rabey, Religion News Service
May 12, 2010

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.

Other fallen

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

Christianity.

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

and others.

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

counseling.

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

rebuke.”