By Elizabeth Prata
Today is part three of a look at parachurch organizations, and a review of the second of two of them. In part 1 I looked at what parachurch ministries are and why so many go off the rails. In part 2 I looked at a particular parachurch organization, called The Yada Factor. Today in part 3 I look at Transforming Center. I was asked about Yada and Transforming Center by readers and I’m glad to answer their question in these reviews. Tomorrow I’ll conclude with some thoughts in general about parachurch organizations
With the parachurch ministry I review today, I give a thumbs down. Not recommended.
Something you’ll notice with many ministry corporations, is that they promise overblown things to its customers. Christine Caine’s A21 organization is seeking to eradicate sex trafficking in the 21st century. While it is good to minister to women and children who have been abused in this way, please note that sexual immorality has been with us since Genesis 4 when Lamech took 2 wives. Christine Caine is not going to abolish it. Such abolitions will not occur until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs then makes all things new.
I include the section here on grandiose promises because such statements reveal much about a founder’s view of her position before Christ. Manyof these parachurch ministries by women make huge claims and promises as their foundational mottoes. For example, with Jennie Allen’s If:Gathering we see that
“We exist to gather, equip & unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.” That is a surprising statement, because Apostle Paul didn’t even do that.
Christine Caine has made a wonderful statement if true:
“A21 is abolishing slavery everywhere, forever. Together, we are eradicating human trafficking through awareness, intervention, and aftercare.”
But sadly, eradicating sex trafficking would mean that sexual sin no longer existed, and that will only happen when Jesus returns. Her claim is overblown.
Jamie Ivey is her own brand now, and says “Ivey Media, LLC is a media company committed to creating content that encourages. We believe stories change the world, and we work hard to share stories with listeners, viewers, and readers.”
She is big on personal stories, and it is fine to share your own story, but it isn’t stories that “change the world”. It isn’t personal anecdotes. The world is the world. God is allowing sin to corrupt it, satan is the temporary god of it (2 Corinthians 4:4) and will be until Jesus comes to remake the world. Until then, Jesus changes hearts and souls. We don’t change the world.
Disciple a generation…eradicate sex trafficking…change the world.
Now, we see magnificent promises from the Transforming Center (TC).
We exist to create space for God to strengthen leaders and transform communities. (Source)
Humans ‘creating space for God’ is not only mystically nonsensical, it is unbiblical. God goes where He wants.
We serve leaders of purposeful communities – churches, non-profits, and businesses – who long for new rhythms that allow them to flourish in their life and leadership. (Source, same as above)
Watch out for organizations that promise something “new”. Jesus is still building the church and it is the same church with the same mission He announced to Peter in Matthew 16:18 and everywhere else in the Epistles and Acts. He is the same Jesus. The church of Jesus is old and it is the same as it was, or should be.
Man’s chief aim is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. That is why we exist. The biblical ecclesiology was delivered once for all to the saints, and if someone claims to be creating something new in the way to approach our walk with Jesus, it is an overblown claim which will draw you away from the biblical church.
Grounded in a highly ecumenical approach, we reflect and welcome the diversity that is present in the body of Christ. Our gatherings include leaders from all denominations, a variety of businesses and many organizations
Watch out for ecumenical organizations that refuse to honor doctrinal distinctions. Doctrine divides, because it should. Any organization that accepts everything stands for nothing. The founder of Transforming Center Ruth Haley Barton has a degree from Loyola, a Jesuit Catholic University and shares her delight in discovering the Catholic Liturgical year and joined the “modern liturgical movement“. You are getting a muddy doctrinal soup with the TC.
Yet the Bible has many verses warning believers not to teach or absorb doctrines that are not in His word. Doctrine matters.
The resources promoted and used by Transforming Center are mystical in nature. Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Phyllis Tickle, Catholic mystic Joachim of Fiore. Not to mention books promoted by the Center that are authored by false teachers like Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, a “skilled practitioner of the Enneagram”, James Cone, whom Darrell Harrison and Virgil Walker of the Just Thinking podcast call the ‘antichrist of black liberation theology’, and other Catholic/Orthodox devotionals and material.
God opposes mysticism. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Many of the women involved with The Transforming Center are ordained pastors, have operated in leading ecclesial positions, or have doctorates in pastoral ministry. Founder Ruth Haley Barton “has served on the pastoral staff of several churches.”
Board of Directors member Vicki Degner “For many years she served as Pastor of Formational Life at Church of the Open Door.” Another Board member simply calls herself “Rev. Dr. Phaedra D. Blocker,” an ordained minister “who has as served as an associate pastor for a congregation of over 10,000 members, and as an assistant pastor of a small faith community.” She is also affiliated with “Daughters of Thunder, a collaborative effort that supports, nurtures, and empowers female clergy of color.”
Staff member Tina L. Harris “is ordained in the United Methodist Church.”
Yet Jesus said women may not teach or hold authority in church over men, but are to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:12)
The TC is heavy on spiritual formation. Their aim is to rejuvenate pastors and leaders who want to see their congregations grow. However, spiritual formation is not the way to do it. I understand pastors and leaders occasionally need a rest and a retreat, this is wise. However to retreat to an ecumenical center run by rebellious women is not the way.
Founder Barton quotes Richard Foster from his Renovare journal. Here is GotQuestions with more infomation on Spritual formation a la Renovare.
And more info on spiritual formation itself: What is the spiritual formation movement?
Remember, Founder Barton earned her degree from a Jesuit Catholic University. Are Roman Catholics Christian?
Is ecumenism good or bad? Answer: Together Against Ecumenism
If you are a pastor looking to rejuvenate, there are more solid retreats to help you do this. The Transforming Center is not recommended.
I hope if you review part 1, 2, and this part about parachurch organizations, you can see that while many of them do well honoring Christ’s name, do good works in the world for His name, many of them that are founded by women are simply steam valves offering an ambitious or rebellious women a place to usurp, feed her flesh, or promote false doctrine. Be careful when following one or participating a parachurch ministry founded by women. Look beyond their “About” claims in order to determine if this is actually outsourcing your own discipling of women in your local church and compromising your own learning.