Broad in church tradition, ethnic background, spiritual gifting, fellowship affiliation and ministry emphasis, the group's common denominator was a mutual history of continued commitment to the ministry of God's Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It was an honor to be welcomed and trusted by so esteemed an assemblage with the challenge to draw so dynamic a group of strong leaders into a discussion of potentially volatile issues. However, an atmosphere of open communication beautifully prevailed, yet forthrightness without compromise or reserve of opinion, distilled unto a surprising unity of passion in agreement.
Page 63 distills a statement summarizing a collective conviction reasserting certain priorities and principles regarding leadership in Christ's body.
The significance of this statement is in the scope of the global visibility and voice representing virtually every sector of North America's charismatic/Pentecostal fellowship.
Further, the depth of their concern was dramatically demonstrated. Two very remarkable facts reveal it: first, that such busy people even came--at their own expense, on relatively short notice, and with no promise of platform but solely to interact together; and, second, their clear acceptance of the agenda (perhaps most simply summarized by the spirit of my article and the responses of several national leaders published in the November/December issue of Ministries Today).
The immediate consensus was that weighty issues of ministry accountability and morality are becoming blurred to the detriment of our common testimony as people of passion for the ministry of the Holy Spirit's glorifying Jesus to the world.
It is my perspective that all were and are concerned that the charismatic movement shed an accumulated image which has evolved in recent years, fogging clarity as to our convictions regarding many basic, Christlike values. By reason of an absence of a collective voice to address this, the silence seems to appear to be an approval, or, at the very least, an indifference to righteous standards.
In Orlando, however, clarity on issues resounded. I was impressed with the statesmanship of so many as they, without self-righteousness or smugness, shared concerns with wisdom and responsible discernment.
Clearly, everyone present was unified in seeking to discover points of mutual agreement on how we define standards without appearing to suggest a right to govern or control one another and how to declare those standards without seeming graceless or snobbishly posturing.
I was also impressed how quickly common acknowledgment was made that a reasonably practical, solidly biblical statement be set forth. All expressed concern that a tidal drift from the stream of the Spirit's purity and from leadership accountability be stemmed.
We addressed the sad increase of ministry-leader practices of (1) self-appointed "offices" without relational grounds; (2) casual attitudes toward marital commitment; (3) maverick passivity toward biblical sexual morality; (4) appearances of financial irresponsibility by self-indulgence and; (5) spotty instances of deviation from the authority of God's Word and the finality of Jesus Christ as God's one way to eternal life, were matters pointedly addressed.
My assessment of the meeting's significance--that it was a "watershed moment"--draws on the terminology used to describe that point at the peak of a mountain range where the meltdown flows in opposite directions. In making so affirmative a hope, as I am, I must also indicate the presence of a negative possibility.
My affirmation is one of hope, hope that a "purer flow" will distill around the description of the leadership and lifestyle values of the charismatic movement in the years to come. The bright prospect is that all of us who seek to move in the joy, power and purpose of Holy Spirit-filled life and ministry may, whatever our immediate circle of association, still "flow together unto the goodness of the Lord."
But if indeed a "watershed moment" has taken place, another "flow" will become identified. Though one would hope otherwise, the patterns of history and the depth of commitment which even a supposed Christian leader is capable of making to the flesh (and, frighteningly, ultimately to demonic bondage) argues the likelihood of a partially pained future.
It seems inevitable that there will be "charismatic leaders" who will still maintain an insistent commitment to maverick, unbiblical practices, argue for self-serving lifestyles and exercise a cavalier attitude toward sexual morality.
They will succeed to dupe a following who traipse after them to their own destruction; deceived by leaders who pursue a course of shipwreck, smoke-screening their constituency under the guise of their rights of "anointed" office or their "spirit-led sense of privilege" (capital "S" intentionally omitted).
I do not see the statement we distilled as a tool we who met presume we can or want to use to attempt to exercise control over an entire multi-layered, multi-group movement.
But I believe we have made a statement that can enable anyone truly desirous of keeping (1) within the bounds of God's Word on all issues--especially regarding leadership standards and purity of life; (2) humbly "submitted to one another--in love and in the fear of God" and; (3) warmly available to the truth that freedom has boundaries, and they are clearly defined by the principles of freedom the Holy Spirit brings to a life of faith in Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor. 3:17-18).
By God's grace--which is the charis, the source of the Spirit's charismatic operations--it is my perspective that a quantum leap forward in the sustaining of the pure flow of His works may be steadfastly advanced. I believe this will be the case--fostered and fed with new boldness and purity as the heart and intent of the Orlando Statement is received, affirmed and applied to our future as a movement.
"We all, with unveiled face ... " living transparently before one another, in that same spirit of openness and honesty with each other that was manifest among the representative leadership in Orlando
" ... beholding as in a mirror ... " living biblically before the looking glass of God's eternal Word, submitting to its authority without concession to private interpretations that concede to human pride or sin and entertain satanic confusion and error
" ... the glory of the Lord ... " --living unto Christ Jesus, without private agendas that lose sight of our calling to magnify Him, draw souls to Him, influence the shaping of lives like His, and eager to ultimately bow and offer everything He has given us back to Him
" ... are being transformed ... " --living humbly as ones still growing in Jesus, with the spirit of childlikeness and teachability keeping us available to instruction, correction and adjustment as we are progressively refined into the image of Christ
" ... from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" --living gloriously in the reality of a New Testament order of "charismatic" life--i.e., open to the timeless workings of the Spirit's power, faithful to the Savior Who has "poured out this which we now see and hear," and obedient to the Father, Whose eternal Word is unchanging in its righteous ways, freeing truth and dynamic power.