According to a February 25th press release by the Association of Christian Schools International, ACSI has chosen a new president. Dr. Brian Simmons will be replacing the current president, Dr. Kenneth Smitherman in August 2009.1
Brian Simmons is the vice president for university relations at Indiana Wesleyan University. ACSI Board Chair Beth Elder stated: “At the end of a thorough search and selection process … Dr. Simmons clearly emerged as God’s choice to lead ACSI in its next era of resourcing the Christian schooling movement worldwide.”
Lighthouse Trails reported in September 2008 that ACSI had begun their search for a new president.2 ACSI has been the topic of at least two Lighthouse Trails reports over the last year because of President Smitherman’s promotion of contemplative spirituality and emerging church writers (see report one) (see report two
ACSI, a major resource organization for Christian schools, has 5300 member schools and represents 1.2 million students worldwide. It claims to be the world’s largest association of Protestant schools.
As our previous reports have documented, through ACSI’s Spiritual Formation program, contemplative advocates are being promoted. One of the books endorsed at ACSI is Cultivating Christian Character by Michael Zigarelli. The book gives many contemplative implications including a recommendation for David Steindl-Rast, a Zen-Buddhist trained monk and good friend of Thomas Merton (see A Time of Departing for more on Steindl-Rast). For ACSI to introduce Zigarelli’s book to member schools is troubling.
The school where Simmons is currently working, Indiana Wesleyan University, is one of the schools listed on the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative Colleges page. In general, the Wesleyan denomination (as with many other denominations) has been influenced significantly by contemplative/emerging spirituality (see our 2006 report). As one example, Wesleyan Publishing released Wesleyan Keith Drury’s book for the Lectio Divina Bible Studies. Drury is a contemplative proponent whose books are also used as textbooks in Nazarene Universities. At Indiana Wesleyan University, there is a strong emphasis on Spiritual Formation.
As for Brian Simmons, time will tell what influences he will bring to ACSI. Let us pray that he does not share Ken Smitherman’s or Keith Drury’s affinity for contemplative spirituality.
by Roger Oakland
In the emerging culture, darkness represents spirituality. We see this in Buddhist temples, as well as Catholic and Orthodox churches. Darkness communicates that something serious is happening.1–Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church (foreword by Rick Warren)
On October 12, 1998 in Glorieta, New Mexico, over 500 young leaders came together in what was called The National Reevaluation Forum. The objective was to train and listen to “leaders of the new millennium’s emerging church.”2 A Young Leaders Network article on the event described it as a time to “discuss everything from restoring arts in the church” to dialoguing about “worship, the use of story and the mystical, and the experiential aspects of faith.”3 Plenary speakers included Stanley Grenz, Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, and Sally Morgenthaler. According to the article, Sweet told the group: “The primary challenge in this Postmodern transition is navigational tools.”4
Over the years, since that 1998 meeting in New Mexico, the emerging church has defined many of these “navigational tools,” and has implemented them within the structure of emerging worship. The late Robert Webber is recognized by many as one of the foremost authorities on worship renewal. He regularly conducted workshops for almost every major denomination in North America through the Institute of Worship Studies, which he founded in 1995.
Before his appointment to his position at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Webber taught at Wheaton College for 32 years as Professor of Theology. He authored over forty books and was also a regular contributor to numerous magazines and newspapers including Worship Leader.
I first came across Webber’s views when I read an article he had written titled “Wanted: Ancient Future Talent.” In that article, Webber stated:
I am personally most gratified to see the shift toward a recovery of the ancient. While many good choruses have been produced over the past forty years, the rejection of the sources of hymnody and worship by the contemporary church has resulted in a faith that is an inch deep.5
Webber listed a number of things he believed were necessary for “talented workers” to become a successful part of this new movement. Some of these he listed are:
* Rediscovering how God acts through the sacred signs of water, bread and wine, oil and laying on of hands.
* Rediscovering the central nature of the table of the Lord in the Lord’s Supper, breaking of bread, communion and Eucharist.
* Rediscovering congregational spirituality through the Christian celebration in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost.6
Unfortunately, Webber’s hope to return to “the ancient” was not limited to reintroducing the great hymns of the past. In fact, many of the practices he included in this call to “ancient-future worship talent” cannot be found in the Bible.
Like his emerging church colleagues, Robert Webber was convinced that Christianity needs to be revised for this new century. But in order to go ahead, we must go back (thus the term ancient-future) to the mystics and learn from them. While he acknowledged the Bible is an important book for the Christian faith, he also believed that it needed to be supplemented by the teachings of spiritual mystics from the past. He wrote:
The primary source of spiritual reading is the Bible. But we now recognize that in our love of Scripture we dare not avoid the mystics and the activists. Exposure to the great devotional literature of the church is essential. More and more people are turning to the great work of the mystics. Richard Foster has called us to recover Augustine’s Confessions, Bernard of Clairvaux’s The Steps of Humility, [etc.].7
Webber’s list of recommended books written by mystics includes: Thomas a Kempis, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton and numerous others.8 You may not be familiar with all these names, but they all have something in common–they are Catholic mystics. Webber made the following statement about them:
To immerse ourselves in these great works is to allow our vision to be expanded by a great treasure of spirituality.9
Webber was enamored by the writings of Catholic mystics, and he admonished his readers to embrace them as well:
The value of all these books as well as many not mentioned are indispensable to spirituality. Those who neglect these works do so to their harm, and those who read them do so for their inspiration and spiritual growth.10
This statement by Webber is quite strong: without the teachings of these former mystics, our spiritual lives will suffer. Webber explained that those willing to adhere to these ancient-future teachers do not have to leave their own religious tradition. He said:
A goal for evangelicals in the postmodern world is to accept diversity as a historical reality, but to seek unity in the midst of it. This perspective will allow us to see Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches as various forms of the one true church–all based on apostolic teaching and authority, finding common ground in the faith expressed by classical Christianity.11 …
Going back to the past to find experiences that will attract the postmodern generation is one goal of the emerging church movement. However, a serious question needs to be asked at this point. Why only go back to the Middle Ages, the turn of the first millennium, or the third century? Wouldn’t this open the door for some devious doctrines that may have crept into the church? Why not just stay with Scripture in order to remain in the truth?
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (II Timothy 3:16)
Those convinced that great spiritual insight can be gleaned from church fathers and mystics often overlook such definitive, God-inspired instruction. The Bible is stable and eternal; thus the truths penned in it centuries ago are still relevant today. I propose it isn’t biblical truths that emergents say we need to go hunting for in previous historical periods, but rather unscriptural methods, rituals, and mystical experiences to be gathered and brought into the present time.
Vintage spirituality proponents have an apologetic for those who question leaving scriptural doctrine behind for post-New Testament extra-biblical revelation. Robert Webber wrote:
I once believed that the church became apostate at the close of the first century and hadn’t emerged again until the Reformation. I jokingly say to my students, “We Protestants act as though Pentecost occurred October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church.” This attitude results in a negative view of the early church fathers and Christianity prior to the Reformation. The fact is that God’s church has existed from the Pentecost described in Acts. We belong to the whole church and need, for our own spiritual health, to affirm every part of it.12
Webber recognized some are suspicious about taking instruction from the church fathers, especially when the church fathers are the fathers of the Catholic Church. In order to answer this concern, he wrote:
Because evangelicals fear that a respect for early church fathers will turn them into Roman Catholics, a distinction needs to be made between catholic and Roman Catholic. The early Fathers are catholic in the sense that they defined the classical Christian tradition for the whole church. This is a tradition, as I have been presenting, common to every branch of the church. Roman Catholicism, as such, is a tradition that has added to the common tradition. I believe in the common tradition and share that tradition with my Catholic brothers and sisters. But I do not believe in some of the added traditions of the Romanization of the church in the medieval era.13
Webber, like many emergent leaders, was trying to differentiate between Roman Catholic and catholic (as a universal body). However, the Roman Catholic Church does not make this distinction because they claim an apostolic succession of papacy (popes) beginning with the apostle Peter. Therefore, all of Catholicism is Roman Catholicism. Some in the emerging church do not show an attachment to the authority of the papacy but embrace the practices and early history of the Catholic Church as described above by Webber. But many Protestants who began by attaching themselves to the history, teachings, and practices of the early Catholic Church have now taken the natural next step of becoming Roman Catholic. (For more on this, see chapter 5, Faith Undone.)
1. Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, p. 136.
2. “The National Reevaluation Forum: The Story of the Gathering” (Youth Leader Networks – NEXT Special Edition, 1999), pp. 1-2.
5. Robert Webber, “Wanted: Ancient-Future Talent” (Worship Leader, May/June 2005), p. 10.
7. Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), p. 135.
11. Ibid., p. 85.
12. Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Faith, op. cit., pp. 88-89.
13. Ibid., p. 89.
If you are a subscriber to Country Woman magazine or perhaps Taste of Home (the largest cooking magazine in the world), you may notice a new addition to the publications – ads about Rick Warren. A Lighthouse Trails reader contacted us and said that her latest issue of each magazine had an advertisement for Rick Warren. She explained how surprised she was that magazines that have nothing to do with religion or spirituality have started including Rick Warren, the popular evangelical pastor and new spirituality activist.
There is, however, an explanation for the new ads. Country Woman, Taste of Home, and nine other magazines are owned by Reiman Publications, which was purchased in 2002 by Reader’s Digest. (The name Reiman Publications has been changed to RDA Milwaukee.)1
As Lighthouse Trails reported in November 2008, Rick Warren and Reader’s Digest recently formed a multi-platform partnership, which includes a magazine called Purpose Driven Connection. Thus, it is apparent that this new partnership is resulting in this trickling down effect and will affect not only direct Purpose Driven Connection subscribers but Reiman (aka: RDA) subscribers as well.
In the original press release issued by Rick Warren’s media people, it stated that the new Rick Warren/Reader’s Digest relationship would be a “multi-platform partnership to serve Purpose Driven readers.” But clearly the reach will extend to far more than just those current readers and will undoubtedly broaden the Purpose Driven network, which already boasts of over 400,000 churches and 40 million followers.
Other Reiman publications include Farm and Ranching Living, Country, Reminisce, Cooking for 2, Backyard Living, Birds & Blossoms, Simple & Delicious, Holiday, and Healthy Cooking. According to one press release in 2002, Reiman Publications has over 32 million customers (with a 12% growth rate a year) and Reader’s Digest has over 50 million.
In January, Lighthouse Trails Research ran its first survey. We thought you might like to see the results. However, we would like to make a couple comments about this survey and surveys in general.
While we recognize that surveys can be helpful in gaining insight through gathered information, we have seen what we consider an abuse and misuse of surveys by many groups, both secular and religious. Within the church-growth, seeker-friendly movement, and the emerging church movement as well, surveys have been used to convince Christians that Christianity must be completely restructured because the Christianity of the past has failed. Unfortunately, within these movements this restructuring has resulted in a de-emphasis of the Word of God, and in some cases, such as the emerging church, an actual destruction of the Word of God.
Discernment Ministries has written about the use of surveys to change and manipulate society. We hope you will get the chance to read what they have said. We are posting a couple of their articles on this topic below.
With that said, we want to clarify that the reason for the Lighthouse Trails survey was to help us better understand our own readers and how we can best serve them. We are not using these survey results to make proclamations about trends in the church or the world. We are also not using them to manipulate people into some particular action.
If you are one of the ones who took the survey, we want to once again thank you. And whether you took it or not, we hope you find the results interesting and helpful in some way.
On another note, our latest article we posted is titled: “Trevecca Nazarene University Promoting Contemplative Spirituality in No Small Way.” For some, it will come as a shock to see how far a Nazarene school has gone into contemplative spirituality. But this is the direction many many Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries are going, and it is indeed very troubling.
When one realizes the true nature of contemplative and that in its essence it is a rejection of the Creator and of the Savior (i.e., New Age), then one realizes how serious the embracing of contemplative/emerging spirituality by so many proclaiming Christians really is. Could there be a more effective way for Satan to bring such deception than through the schools where future pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders are trained.
Lighthouse Trails sent out the survey to 9935 people, and approximately 2500 responded. Currently, our readers are from 98 different countries. Of those who responded, about 48% said they had been reading Lighthouse Trails for 1-3 years. Almost 100% of the responders said they read our material at least once a month, with 70% who read LT once a week and nearly 10% once a day. Out of 11 topics listed, the topics that readers were most interested in were as follows: 1) the emergent church movement; 2) contemplative spirituality; 3) signs of the times/eschatology; 4) the Purpose Driven movement.
Survey responses showed a high satisfaction for our customer service, but we learned that ease of navigation on the sites is still difficult for some. This is important for us to know, and we want to continue improving that. We are currently working on the search engine to make it more user-friendly.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the survey for you will be the question which asked readers about their current church situation. Thirty-nine percent (988 people) of the responders said they were currently in Bible-based churches that understood the present day spiritual deception taking place. This number is encouraging in the fact that it shows there are still churches that are standing for truth. Twenty-one percent (547) of those who responded said they attended Bible-based churches, but they had some concerns that deception was entering in. Nearly 15% said their former church had become contemplative, emerging, and/or Purpose Driven, and they had not yet been able to find a Bible-based church. This suggests that there may be a lot of communities where Bible believing Christians have no church to attend. Phone calls and emails to Lighthouse Trails over the past several years would confirm this. Seven percent (almost 200) of our responders said, for one reason or another, they were attending some kind of Bible-based home fellowship.
In the survey, over 700 people gave comments or suggestions, and we are very grateful for all of them. We are still reading them and hope to implement many of these ideas. For the most part, the comments were gracious and encouraging to us. We are very humbled and moved to receive such kind comments from so many.
Some of the most common suggestions included: 1) improving our search engine; 2) adding research about alternative health and medicine; 3) making our material more printer-friendly; 4) linking to other ministries and resources.
On this fourth point of linking to others, we actually do have a links page and thought perhaps many people are not aware of it. You can get to it by clicking here. On that page, there are several ministries, people, and groups whom we list. We have broken them up into the following categories: Research sites, blogs, print newsletters, the persecuted church, Bible prophecy/world events, radio programs, book reviews, pastors’ teachings, free online books, and more. We add to this list from time to time once we have become familiar with a particular group. While we believe the ministries listed offer biblically sound research and information, please use discernment whenever you research. As Christians, we must “Test all things” and “Try the spirits” through the screen of the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1).
In the survey suggestion area, we were exhorted by some to be more loving and to not name names. A few people suggested we shut down altogether. While we have no plans of shutting down, and we believe we must name names in order to effectively identify spiritual deception in the church, we do strive to speak the truth in love, and we will put forth even greater effort to do this in the future. While our articles and books are hard-hitting and strongly worded, it has always been our intention to refrain from vitriolic or mean-spirited reporting and writing. In addition, we do not call names, say who or who is not saved, and we do not attack the personal being of any individual. We think the authors we represent have maintained this standard in their books and articles. And we hope the editors at Lighthouse Trails have done this as well.
For the complete survey results, please click here.
Three Articles Addressing the Improper Use of Surveys
Pseudo-Mission: Barna, Propaganda & Spiritainment
by(Discernment Research Group)
Surveys, statistics and data collection can pinpoint where people are most vulnerable to change. Sophisticated methods of manipulating people have been devised by social scientists and psychologists for many decades. Political campaigns use on-going survey data collection (including focus groups) to tweak their candidate’s image, “spin” his record, and “perfect” his responses. Advertisers use on-going survey data collection to target their market, tweak their product’s image, and increase sales. An entire generation of church leaders have been trained in how to sell new theologies, new music, new worship styles, new buildings, and new programs to the unsuspecting and undiscerning evangelicals in the pews. Click here to read this entire article.
The Transformative Worldview
by Herescope (Discernment Research Group)
Notice the evocative technique that utilizes George Barna’s polls. Barna plays a pivotal role in helping neoevangelical leaders “create a crisis” with his polling. Once he establishes that there is a “need” then people respond to these “felt needs” by being sucked into the Transformation process. The “solution” to this “crisis” is, of course, more worldview training. Click here to read this entire article.
Also see: “Re-Inventing the Church” by Berit Kjos
Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN has now been added to the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative Colleges list. Three other Nazarene universities: MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, KS, Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, OH, and Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, ID are also on the list. We have also now added Point Loma Nazarene University. Nazarene universities are promoting contemplative spirituality (i.e., spiritual formation) in significant ways.
Trevecca Nazarene University’s Spiritual Formation program offers a number of venues through which students are introduced to contemplative spirituality. This article will focus primarily on one of them: the “Spiritual Formation Retreat” (Silence and Listening for the Voice of God) taking place on March 27-29. The retreat will actually be held at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. This monastery is well known for its numerous interfaith “dialogues” between Catholics and Buddhists. In 1996 (and also in 2002), a meeting of Buddhists and Catholics took place called the “Gethsemani Encounter.” Of the 1996 meeting (in which Zen-Buddhist trained monk David Steindl-Rast facilitated), the Dahli Lama wrote a book called Spiritual Advice for Buddhists and Christians. A third Gethsemani Encounter occurred in 2008 as well. The closing talk at the 2008 meeting illustrates the focus of these gatherings: MONASTICISM FOR THE GOOD OF THE EARTH: BUDDHISTS AND CATHOLICS SPEAKING WITH ONE VOICE.” Remember, the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality is interspirituality (all paths lead to God).
Knowing a little history of such interspiritual dialogues is helpful in understanding the significance of the Gethsemani Encounters. In the mid-seventies, three monks wanted to bring contemplative prayer to Christianity. This is how they did it.
They invited to the abbey ecumenically oriented Catholic theologians, an Eastern Zen master, Joshu Roshi Sasaki, who offered week long retreats on Buddhist meditation, and a former Trappist, Paul Marechal, who taught transcendental meditation. The interaction between these Christian monks and practitioners of Eastern meditation helped distill the practice of Christian contemplative prayer into a form that could be easily practiced by a diverse array of “non-monastic” believers: priests, nuns, brothers and lay men and women. 1 (See more on the 1977 meeting.)
Those three monks? Thomas Keating, William Meninger and Basil Pennington – all three mystic and panentheistic interspiritual proponents). And who was their inspiration? None other than Thomas Merton, who had already passed away by this time, but his influence lived on in these men’s hearts. It was there at the Gethsemani monastery that Henri Nouwen once met Thomas Merton, a meeting that changed the life and spirituality of Nouwen forever.2
For those who may be wondering whether Trevecca’s trip to the Abbey of Gethsemani is a benign trip or an isolated event, and TNU has no plans to introduce students to contemplative spirituality, you may find the following helpful when forming a conclusion. First of all, on the TNU website, “Suggested Spiritual Formation Resources” are almost all contemplative authors, some of which are Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster (a disciple of Thomas Merton), Marjorie Thompson (Soul Feast), Morton Kelsey, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (also promoted by Rick Warren3), Dallas Willard, Ruth Haley Barton, and Mike Yaconelli (see Lighthouse Trails Research for information on all these authors).
Secondly, to substantiate our claims that TNU has become a contemplative promoting university, textbooks used in class include a number of contemplative authors. One of those is Keith Drury’s book, There is No I in Church. The book is being used in PRA 3300 01 PASTORAL THEOLOGY. Drury has been the subject of Lighthouse Trails articles because of his contemplative promotion. In the book that TNU is using, Drury points readers to mystics, including Nouwen and Thomas Aquinas. Drury also wrote a book for a series called the Lectio Divina Bible Studies, which is published by Wesleyan Publishing.
Other textbooks used at TNU that have contemplative (and some with emergent) material include three from Upper Room Books, one of which is The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry, a primer on contemplative/emerging spirituality with panentheistic overtones. Upper Room is an organization with strong mystical/interspiritual propensities; they are also the creators of the contemplative Walk to Emmaus. For a complete listing of textbooks used at TNU, click here.
In addition to recommended resources, the retreat at Gethsemani, textbooks being used, TNU also offers students a labyrinth.
We would like to leave you with some thoughts about Morton Kelsey, who is listed on the TNU “Suggested” reading list. Ray Yungen discusses Kelsey in his book, A Time of Departing:
Morton Kelsey is an Episcopalian priest and a popular writer among certain Christian thinkers. His most influential book, Other Side of Silence: The Guide to Christian Meditation has influenced tens of thousands. One publication stated that his book, Companions on the Inner Way: The Art of Spiritual Guidance was a “favorite among spiritual directors”(p. 67, ATOD). Where contemplative prayer has lead Kelsey is apparent in his pronouncement that: “You can find most of the New Age practices in the depth of Christianity…. I believe that the Holy One lives in every soul” (p. 67, ATOD).
Kelsey had a close relationship with author Agnes Sanford, a renowned panentheist who wrote The Healing Light. Sanford, in turn, has influenced a number of authors who have had an impact in Christian circles. Kelsey has been a significant promoter of mysticism within the traditional denominations. He asks the question:
How can the Christian community meet the religious needs of modern men and women pointed up by the New Age–needs that are not now being met by most Christian churches?
Each church needs to provide classes in forms of prayer. This is only possible if seminaries are training pastors in prayer, contemplation and meditation, and group process…. The church has nothing to fear from the New Age when it preaches, teaches, and heals (p. 67, ATOD) – from chapter 3, A Time of Departing)
With Travecca Nazarene University’s openness toward contemplative spirituality and the mystics, an openness shared by Kelsey, Merton, and Nouwen, the question must be asked, would TNU agree with Kelsey when he said, “the church has nothing to fear from the New Age”? And if TNU does not fear it but rather embraces it, will not the results be spiritually catastrophic for TNU students. Considering that many of those students will become pastors, leaders, and missionaries, these results could be widespread.
In Richard Foster’s book Streams of Living Water, Foster talks about an “all inclusive community” that he feels God is forming today. He sees this as “a great, new gathering of the people of God” (p. 273). Yungen explains:
On the surface, this might sound noble and sanctifying, but a deeper examination will expose elements that line up more with Alice Bailey’s vision than with Jesus Christ’s. Foster prophesies:
I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people (p. 274).â€‰
The only place in “the hills of Kentucky” where Catholic monks live is the Gethsemani Abbey. (from ATOD, chapter 7, Seducing Spirits)
Note: The youth of Hermitage Church of the Nazarene in Tennessee are partnering with TNU for the Spiritual Formation Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani.
by Olive Tree Ministries with Jan Markell
America is changing at break-neck speed and many of the changes are not helpful! While Americans were eager for “change,” it is doubtful they anticipated the loss of free speech.
So let me explain the unfair “Fairness Doctrine.” My radio program, Understanding the Times, is in the target range.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) met last weekend in Memphis and according to President Frank Wright, experienced an ominous shroud cast by the issue of the “Fairness Doctrine.” They intend to fight this issue as much as that is possible. However, they may not even be given the opportunity to fight it as they would wish.
In an article posted online by Human Events on February 6, “Christian broadcasters say they will be targeted once President Obama’s appointees gain control of the Federal Communications Commission.”
Warren Kelley, president of Point of View, the first Christian talk show to go on the air via satellite 37 years ago, states, “The Left Wing will immediately start filing complaints, and it will in short order shut Christian broadcasting down.” He concludes, “I think it will so limit what they say that, in essence, they will cease to be Christian broadcasters.”Click here to read this entire article.
Read Jan Markell’s book, Trapped in Hitler’s Hell, the true story of Anita Dittman in Germany during the Nazi Regime.
Keri Wyatt Kent is a popular speaker who has been promoted by many evangelical groups such as Moody Bible Institute who interviewed her and promoted her work) and MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers). Unfortunately, she is a strong proponent of contemplative spirituality. In March of 2007, Lighthouse Trails wrote a book review of Wyatt Kent’s book, Listen, revealing that MOPS CEO and President Elisa Morgan was backing the book. In our book review, we stated:
Wyatt Kent’s book is filled with quotes and references by a literal who’s who of the contemplative/mystical world. Some of these personalities include Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Anne Lamott, Rick Warren and Ruth Haley Barton, all of whom have contemplative proclivities. Wyatt Kent has also included references by some with New Age affinities like Sue Monk Kidd (worships the goddess within) and M. Scott Peck.
Today, Wyatt Kent is continuing her promotion of contemplative spirituality, and Christian organizations are continuing to turn to her. On Wyatt Kent’s website, her speaking schedule shows upcoming engagements with MOPS on three different occasions, as well as a number of women’s conferences and retreats. According to her website, she is presently a contributing author for Moody Magazine. However, Lighthouse Trails spoke with Moody Bible Institute and learned that Moody Magazine is no longer an active publication. Wyatt Kent is still promoted by Moody though: on her website she says that she was on Midday Connection this past January and explains: “I’ve been on many times before and it was quite fun to talk with the show’s host, Anita Lustrea, about my book Rest.” This is a puzzle to Lighthouse Trails as Moody has insisted publicly that they are not promoting contemplative spirituality. They have defended themselves to the point of posting a statement on their website titled “Moody Responds to Lighthouse Trails”, which incidentally still sits on their site today.
For those who question where Wyatt Kent’s sympathies lie with regard to contemplative mysticism, on her own blog on February 10th, Wyatt Kent eagerly recommends an author by the name of Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way. Ray Yungen mentions Cameron in A Time of Departing (p. 19), saying that The Artist’s Way is about the “spiritual path to higher creativity.” According to Yungen, Cameron’s book reflects other books such as Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization in which “one could stay a Jew, Catholic, or Protestant and still practice the [meditative] teachings” of such books.1 Cameron’s “path” to this “higher creativity,” a creativity that Wyatt Kent makes reference to, is meditation techniques. Wyatt Kent resonates with Cameron, and that is clear to see from Wyatt Kent’s own writings. She says she is “learning that certain practices have been helpful in enhancing and strengthening” her conversations with God (p. 6 of Listen). Wyatt Kent says she feels “a deep desire to provide encouragement, as Cameron does in her book, to fledgling creative types who may not have received it elsewhere” (pp. 59, 60).
For those who are skeptical, to gain some insight into the spirituality of Julia Cameron, read this interview on Shambhala Sun (a Eastern mysticism/New Age publication) with Cameron. In that interview, Cameron talks about “the essence” (divinity or God) that “each person” has within him or herself.
It is troubling to know that Christian women who turn to Moody and to MOPS will be getting a hearty dose of contemplative spirituality when they listen to or read about Keri Wyatt Kent. Wyatt Kent’s 2007 book, Oxygen: Deep Breathing for the Soul, gives detailed instruction on breath prayers. As Lighthouse Trails has established in the past, breath prayers (of which Rick Warren also instructs upon in his book, The Purpose Driven Life ) are a form of contemplative meditation, similar to practicing a mantra, used for the purpose of stilling the mind, getting rid of distractions, and entering what contemplatives call the silence (i.e., an altered state). When Moody makes the pronouncement “Moody Bible Institute does not promote contemplative spirituality,” clearly they have not taken their promotion of Keri Wyatt Kent into consideration. Interestingly, in their defense statement, she is not even mentioned. Be that as it may, they are placing Christian women in harm’s way, as is Keri Wyatt Kent.
1. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed.(Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2006), p. 19.