On Friday, February 5, as Todd Bentley was starting to collect an offering at the Morningstar sanctuary in Fort Mill S.C., men who have a serious disagreement with the evangelist and his theology started to cry out from the crowd. Not only were Bentley's own security involved, the police were called to deal with and remove the protestors.
Over the past couple days, although there has been apparent silence from Todd Bentley and the local media on this, enough has come out on the Internet that we can now safely say that Bentley, or one of his friends, or admirers, summoned police to ensure that the protestors, who were apparently peaceful, were taken away.
Instead of the "dumanis power" of the Holy Spirit, Bentley has apparently resorted to the power of the truncheon. This seeming sheep has bared some wolf fangs.
I'll try to summarize and report on what Bene D has kindly noted while I was away from the computer yesterday, add what I can, and then offer some commentary.
I am flying on instruments here, but I will try to be careful and fair.
Kathi Sharpe, who I understand was a Christian apologist at one time, was the first source that tipped me off that something was amiss. She is now a great fan of Bentley's and as such, we can assume that her post on the events at Morningstar does not overstate things to make Bentley look bad. She is such a fan of Bentley's, moreover, that she is apparently convinced that the gentlemen that publicly differed with Bentley are not Christians at all. She noted (em[phasis mine):
Security helped them all find the door. All but one went peacefully.
Janet went to the ladies room shortly after that and said the place was swarming with police. I’m not sure if the guys got arrested, or if the cops just gave them a stern talking to.
Evidently whoever called for the police may have implied that these protestors were quite dangerous. Instead of a deputy, which is all that was needed, a "swarming" was produced.
Why did the Fort Mill police respond in this way? Why so many police? Is the local police chief that eager to get involved in what is essentially a loud argument at a church? Why not send one policeman to assess the situation and then call for back-up if necessary?
The response seems odd in another way too.
The local newspaper, the Fort Mill Times, has just updated its newspaper website through this past weekend, when the Todd Bentley "incident" took place. Although the newspaper is running online a story about a local policeman being shot, whatever happened at Morningstar was apparently not even newsworthy enough to make the paper's Police Blotter section yet.
Is this perhaps evidence that "swarming" is overreacting on the police's part?
Fort Mill is located in York County in South Carolinia, so it is possible that the local Sheriff's Office might have been asked to deal with it. There are no public statements to that effect on the department website.
There's nothing in Google News yet about this either. But there is apparently more information circulating in blogs.
Three people who say they participated in the protest have commented online.
A "Daniel Courtney" added his comments to Kathi Sharpe's blog post, writing that as he had been blessed the times he had gone to Morningstar in the past, participating in the protest was difficult for him to do:
I am one of those that spoke out on Friday night at Morningstar. I want you to understand why we did what we did. We are not pharisees and it really grieves my heart that any time someone speaks out against sin and stands up for holiness they are called pharisees. Todd Bentley has not only committed adultery but continues in it unrepentant. Repentance is not just saying you are sorry but there must be action to back it up (Matt3:8).....Our hearts were broken and have been broken before God since the whole Todd Bentley scandal. We prayed before we went to Morningstar that night and searched our hearts. We asked the Lord for a spirit of meekness like He has. With so many young people, who we know love the Lord, looking up to Rick Joyner and the leaders at Morningstar we can't let the dismissal of Todd Bentley's sin go unanswered. Going to Morningstar and publicly rebuking Todd Bentley was a last resort. It was not a thing that we did just for fun or because we have a chip on our shoulders. We did what we did because there is grievous error, concerning Todd Bentley's restoration, in the Morningstar leadership that has gone unchecked for many months.
It is interesting that "Daniel" notes that officers from the Sheriff's office--of York County, perhaps--were there. Perhaps the Morningstar compound is a rural area of Fort Mill, where Sherriff's deputies would be the first responders. [Unlike most Western movies that you have seen, I fear that the Sheriff's men actually helped the guys with the black hats this time.]
This is how Daniel saw the police involvement:
We were not all graciously shown the door. Some of the ushers were rather gracious considering the circumstances, but some where very forceful. Not really sure why the Sheriff's office was called but most of them were pretty gracious.
"Some of [Bentley's security] were very forceful". "Most of the Sheriff's office" were pretty gracious. "Most" does not mean "all". Did one of the police deputies go a bit far? How? If, God forbid, we guess that the Sherriff's deputies could have been a little abusive, that demonstrates why police shouldn't be called to church meetings ever.
A statement by the Sheriff or Police Chief on this affair would be very helpful. Is he comfortable with sending his deputies into a church? Is he going to police annual church meetings to make sure that arguments over how to paint the church do not get out of hand?
Kathi Sharpe, not a friend of Daniel's, comments in turn that she believes she saw this happen:
....Also, I don't know where you and your brother were in the room, nor do I know what happened after people were escorted from the room - but several of your bunch did NOT go quietly. In fact one of you had to be picked up and carried out of the room....
Parenthetically, it's interesting that Sharpe has such a desire for accuracy. It seems, Christian internet apologist Bud Press would say, that this desire to get things right comes and goes. At the bottom of her original post, she writes: "I’m pretty sure that one of hte guys was Bud Press. Sounded like his voice". She includes a smiley face which may indicate that she might be joking. But to even joke that Press would be the sort of person to get dragged out of a church by cops is underhanded.
Press mentions, in a public statement, that he was dog-sitting that night. If only Sharpe had a fully operational Biblical gift of tongues and intepretation...
Bud Press to dog: "Okay now, was I babysitting you?"
Dog: "Arf!" *wags tail*
Kathi Sharpe: "My mistake. I apologize..."
Being serious again...
A second protestor, "Michael" commented on the last post:
As I was present for this event, being one of those demonic aura giver-offers, I may be able to shed some light on our reasons for what we did. Just to clear things up, no it was not staged by Bentley, no we did not know beforehand Oprah’s crew would be there, and no we aren’t demonic. We are Bible-believing Christians who, according to 1 Corinthians 5, are supposed to confront Christians who are in sin....
....We also handed out some pamphlets while we were there, explaining why we were there. I’ll get that to you soon (found this blog before going to bed).
Michael points to a lengthy statement from a third protestor, Ante Pavkovic. Pavkovic is involved with Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, a very conservative evangelical group. I myself find some things to admire in Operation Rescue (which is best known for staging blockades at abortion clinics in the U.S).. But, I do understand and acknowledge that more liberal Christians find fault with what they teach and do, as well as their connections to other groups and I make note of that.
I've linked to the entire statement above. He has perhaps strongly conservative point of view on many questions about Mr. Bentley. To summarize, Pavkovic believes Bentley to be a heretic, an "impentient liar and drunkard". Moreover, Joyner and Morningstar, he argues, are morally lax and theologically unsound.
One particular section alludes to something that Daniel and Michael are also very concerned about, so I quote Pavkovic'a arguments on Bentley's adultery and eventual marriage to his former intern:
"....And Bentley has REFUSED TO OBEY God’s Word and be reconciled to his wife, but instead has married the YOUNG WOMAN he was in adultery with, and this with Rick Joyner’s sanction!....True prophets preach against sin and bring men to repentance. But false prophets strengthen men in their evil doings, as MorningStar and Joyner have done on many levels and now especially with Bentley. Instead of bringing the man to repentance or dealing with him as Scripture would dictate, Bentley has been strengthened in his evil doing, as will many others by this horrible, yet bold example. Adultery, lying, and then marrying a much younger and prettier woman is OK and you can still be in the ministry! Forget that Paul said a minister must be the husband of one wife, above reproach and BLAMELESS! (1Tim. 3:1-13)."
Bentley's friends might say that I am about to go on and "blame the victim", but I believe that even if you don't agree with the protestors' tactics, their indigation with the evangelist is justified. Perhaps even righteous in some ways, if you agree with their views on divorce and remarriage.
Todd Bentley operates as if he believes that he has a sound theology of divorce and remarriage. He has married again to the woman that--let's be frank--caused his divorce.
But we have never seen his theology or divorce and remarriage, even though he has been working on it for over a year. The last hold-up was allegedly due to Rick Joyner having to review it...but that was weeks if not months ago now.
The various restoration videos with the Bentleys and Joyner dance around the question and say that they are going to give frank answers, but they do not.
This theological package allowing Bentley to remarry is so profound that it has allowed Joyner to give his okay to what is happening. But it is top secret. Why not publicize it...unless it would collapse like a house of cards?
If the reasons allowing Bentley to remarry are so strong, why couldn't Bentley have used them to refute the protestors at the meeting last week? He rattles off hour long-sermons at the drop of a hat--why not put the protestors in their place with a few well chosen words? Is he not able to?
Bentley's charismatic audience is strongly conservative. "A man should marry only once" would probably be the default position on this matter for most of them. But Bentley refuses to speak to the question.
Is is any wonder that some are frustrated with his lack of candor?
Is it any wonder that some feel that confronting Todd Bentley in public is the only way to get some straight answers and straight talk?
And let's look at Bentley's actions. Where is the "gentle answer that turns away wrath"? Did Bentley offer one of them some time to make their case, in a peaceful manner? Is he so fearful of contradiction that anyone who wants to confront him, in a responsible way, has to be driven out of the church? Was he brave enough to offer them the mike? You would figure that he should be confident enough that the protestor's arguments would fall apart to not be worried about what they say, right? But at least one of them was, reportedly, bodily hauled out of the service.
Bentley, it would seem, had little confidence in the Holy Spirit's ability to convince and convict the protestors? Was the "anointing" at Morningstar not powerful enough to sway the intruders? If people are being allegedly healed again, wouldn't this be an simple afterthought on the Holy Sprit's list of things to do in the service? Assuming the protestors were in the wrong, of course.
One of Bentley's statements in one of his webinars comes to mind. I quoted it in a post, and I would like to do so again. Emphasis is added:
“I did get remarried. Because I believe that it is better to get remarried than to burn. I said ‘God, I’m in love. This woman [Jessa] is in love with me. God I want to honour you…I’m going through a season of restoration. I want the love of my life to stand with me and support me and it’s gonna happen anyways. I’m gonna get married now.” That may not have been the best decision at the time for all of you, but today I’m very happy. I’ve never been this happy. Sorry for you to hear that. I am happy. Very happy. And I’m glad that I have the lady of my life today that I have today and that doesn’t mean that I dishonour Shonnah. I love her…we’re moving on and I ask you to move on with me.”
I think this is the real answer that Bentley wants to give to those who feel he is an adulterer--I'm happy now. Deal with it. I have.
Is he brave enough to say it as his formal statement on this matter? I suspect that he wants to, but realizes that it would deal a death blow to his hopes of being a famous evangelist.
What happened at Morningstar last week was Bentley with the mask off, and it is a bit scary.
I fear that Todd Bentley wants to do whatever he wants to, and the end will justify the means. If you corner him, he will be blunt. Either rhetorically or literally. And nothing is blunter than a policeman's nightstick.