I have posted several times in the forums of the Association of Former Pentecostals, and I have read many posts from other participants.
I had never previously seen the kind of violent rhetoric that published reports allege had originated from Matthew Murray, the young man police say killed two people at a Youth With A Mission center in Colorado, and killed two more people at a community church, before taking his own life after being confronted by a security guard.
What I had read at the association’s Web site, ex-pentecostals.org, were difficult, personal stories written by people who were very upset or troubled by their present or past experiences in Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.
It is true that people posting on the forums have expressed anger and frustration with pastors, prophets, fellow church members, and assorted self-styled ministers. Some posters have mocked public figures.
It is also true the people have expressed anger and frustration with every president in our nation’s history. Most public figures are mocked at some point in their careers.
Legitimate frustrations, properly expressed, have nothing to do with violent, anti-social behavior.
What I find interesting is that many people on the forums shared the experiences I had in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement: controlling ministers and laypersons, emotional abuse, outrageous claims of special knowledge, promises that one can manipulate God into granting material blessings, and — I cannot state this too strongly — a complete incapacity to express the Gospel in a way that Martin Luther, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Cranmer, St. John Chrysostom, or the Apostle Paul would have recognized it.
I say this after spending approximately 23 years in nondenominational charismatic churches; you can read about part of my journey by clicking here.
Furthermore, I’m completely baffled by the way some people have suggested that the Association of Former Pentecostals is an extremist group or an anti-Christian group. Based on my experiences while reading the forums and posting on the site, I would estimate that approximately half of the regular posters have remained Christians, while the other half were driven into atheism, agnosticism, or other religions solely by the craziness and unhealthiness of Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.
The media and irresponsible commentators need to stop all attempts at guilt-by-association — Murray’s postings and actions have nothing to do with the tone that is common to the Association of Former Pentecostals’ forum.
And, perhaps most importantly, the administrators of the association’s Web site state in a long-standing note that that purpose of the forums is to share and to heal — and then to move on in freedom and in peace.
-Colin Foote Burch