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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

TOWARDS PENTECOST - 2: ROBBIE LOW INTERVIEWS FATHER MICHAEL HARPER (Orth)


Fr Peter Gillquist

"Becoming Orthodox" - Fr Peter Gillquist - Conciliar Press £8.25
The dedication in the book reads:-

PHIL. 1 v 27 “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel and not frightened in anything by your opponents”.

I bought the book on December 2nd 1993 and got the author to sign it for me. That was the scripture he wrote. I have returned to it often and to the subject of the book.

It is called, “Becoming Orthodox” and the remarkable preacher whose story this is, was Fr. Peter Gillquist. Gillquist, once a major preacher for Campus Crusade for Christ in the U.S.A. and tipped as a likely successor to Billy Graham, had been one of the leaders of an extraordinary movement of protestant radicals, convinced by their scriptural studies and missionary experience, to the ancient church of the East. That day some fifty or sixty, mainly priests, gathered in a country church to hear and worship with the orthodox. Everyone who was there believed the Church of England to have been scripturally disobedient and, in all probability, likely to become more so as the liberal agenda unfolded.

Amongst those trying to make sense of the crisis and discern God’s will for the future of the church in our own land was a rather surprising figure - Michael Harper - founder of the Fountain Trust, Chairman of SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), pioneering charismatic, church growth inspirer, christian healing teacher and encourager. Protestant with a capital P! A most unlikely convert - every bit as unlikely as Peter Gillquist.

Less than three years later Fr. Michael Harper is the Dean of the English Deanery of the Patriarchate of Antioch with pastoral responsibility for those for whom the Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy is now an exciting reality. During the intervening period we have kept in touch by phone. I read his Deanery newsletter and the excellent orthodox magazine, “AGAIN” and he catches up with us through New Directions.

We met on the eve of the Forward in Faith Assembly on one of his visits to the Orthodox Cathedral.



Where did you begin?

“I was baptised an Anglican. My parents weren’t terribly dedicated but my father was keen on having me baptised.

My home was in Welbeck Street, the church was St. Marks, N. Audley Street. Later on I worked at All Souls Langham Place. My wife, Jeanne, was at the Royal Academy of Music and we were received into the Orthodox church at St. George’s Cathedral, Albany Street. So you can see this area of London has been pretty significant in my life”.

What did your parents do?

“My father as an entrepreneur at Smithfield Market selling produce to shipping companies and shops. My mother was a beautician with Elizabeth Arden until the family came along. During the war she worked in an aircraft factory”.

Brothers and sisters?

“Three sisters and then when mother died in 1959, my father retired to a farm in Co. Clare - he’d always had business dealings with Ireland and mum was from Dublin - remarried at the age of 62 and had two more daughters."

Where did you study?

“School at Gresham's, then up to Emmanuel, Cambridge."

Home of famous heretics!

“A bit like Antioch which produced Chrysostom but also produced Nestorius and Arius!"

Who were the great influences on your early life?

“I’m going to write a book on evangelical nannies. Bishop Kallistos once told me his nanny’s last words were, “Washed in the blood of the Lamb”. Winston Churchill had an evangelical nanny and so did I. She took me to a lot of Baptist churches and encouraged my prayer life. I remember when I was seven and Neville Chamberlain brought back his piece of paper from Munich, I was quite convinced that this was a direct result of my prayers.

Then I had a marvellous Headmaster at St. Faith’s in Cambridge, W.G. Butler. Our evacuation was to Devon but he taught us the value of a disciplined life - that, in many ways, it held the secret of happiness. He imparted a strong belief and a duty to God with clear scriptural teaching. His sister was a missionary in India and he got her to pray for me throughout her life. It was a great gift to have such an honorary godparent”.

What were your best subjects?

“Geography and History. I love history. I was interested in sport but I’m one of those chaps who’s not very co-ordinated and my eyesight is limited. So, being a big boy, I got my colours at Rugby by getting my head down and pushing hard.”

What was Cambridge like?

“Difficult to get in if you didn’t have a family connection. I won a scholarship and read law. At the end of my first year I made a decision for Christ. I’d been a member of Christian Union but the conversion moment was during a eucharist at King’s Chapel! I knew my sins had been forgiven. Of course this experience didn’t fit the formula so my lovely friends had me in for prayer to make sure. These were boom years for evangelicals at Cambridge - missions by John Stott and Billy Graham.”

Where next?

“Ridley Hall. Cyril Bowles was Principal, Maurice Wiles was Chaplain and John Earp - Vice Principal”.

What a collection of liberals!

“Yes, but John Earp, who had become very liberal in reaction to his time at Bash Camp, later had a deep experience in the spirit and became a radical and joyful christian and apologised for being a bad vice-principal. God can reclaim liberals - remember Cardinal Ratzinger was once a follower of Hans Kung! We had wonderful university teachers like the Chadwicks and Charlie Moule”.

(I missed the Chadwicks but Charlie Moule was still there in my time and his graciousness and holiness allied to a brilliant mind and wonderful humour gave even the dullest student sudden glimpses of the kingdom.)

How did you meet Jeanne?

“On an Inter-Varsity Fellowship Mission to Norwich in 1951. She was C.U. Secretary at the Royal Academy and had been converted by Dr. Lloyd Jones. I was convinced pretty early on that this was it, but Jeanne took a bit longer. Our courtship was quite difficult because she went to teach in Wales but we got there and this year we’ve celebrated our Ruby Wedding”.

Where did you serve your title?

“St. Barnabas, Clapham Common, with Cannon Reg Bazire who’d been a missionary in China. He’d had a terrible time with terrorists and then interned by the Japs with Eric Liddell the Olympic champion. Liddell was a saint and always volunteered for the roughest and dirtiest jobs. He broke his Sabbath rule in order to give the children sport on Sundays! Reg was a fascinating and mystical man and I couldn’t have had a better three years”.

Then it was All Souls?

“Yes for six years with special responsibility for the commercial world and shops in the parish. Six curates under John Stott who was a very powerful man but easy to work with - an awesome preacher and always interested in your work but not interfering”

Wouldn’t he have made a good bishop?

“Yes, but it’s never bothered him. The establishment has always been afraid of considerable people.”

So when did the charismatic experience happen?

“1962. On a church weekend. It was earthshaking. I knew all these things naturally as a western minded person and then suddenly, baptized in the Spirit, everything leapt off the page of the scripture. The church was revealed as the Body of Christ - I was hit by that ultimate reality and no longer was it just as an idea. It was here. I couldn’t any longer indulge that great evangelical weakness of having no doctrine of the church other than “it’s a good boat to fish from”.

(For the next thirty years the Harpers' lives were dedicated to the revival movement worldwide. First of all with the Fountain Trust, which set them free to have a peripatetic ministry, and then later with SOMA.

Michael’s books on healing and church growth had a dramatic effect on many parishes. The key text, “Let My People Grow” has a glowing tribute in the reprint edition from one George Carey, who claims it as the blueprint for his success at St. Nicholas, Durham.

The travelling brought together like minded Anglicans for renewal at Lambeth 1978 and his early involvement with the Roman Catholic Church and Cardinal Suenens was fundamental. Renewal has been warmly welcomed by successive popes - for genuine renewal is inevitable doctrinally conservative and liberals won’t touch it. The Roman Church has given a lot of time and systematic study to renewal and it is, for this reason, Harper thinks, that they have avoided the equation of modern culture/music with renewal as so tragically happened in Sheffield recently.)

When did you first encounter Orthodoxy?

“At the Methodist Pentecostal Oral Roberts University, Tulsa 1975. Students were singing vespers in albs with incense. The Dean said, “We’ve got an Orthodox revival here”. I had begun to see something of God’s plan with Roman Catholics under the Holy Spirit but all I knew then was that Orthodoxy was very important and one day I would meet her. I must say at this point, the most influential book for me, after the Bible, was Leslie Newbiggin’s “The Household of God”.

When did the affair get serious?

Well, I had become chairman of the International Charismatic Consultation on World Evangelism in 1989. Fr. Tom Forrest (R.C.) had been one of the great inspirers of the “Decade of Evangelisation” - and I was given the job of encouraging the orthodox on board.

I ‘phoned Fr. Peter Gillquist and he clearly thought we were T.V. evangelists and I made some comment about Rasputin, so it wasn’t a great start to what is now a very good friendship. I toured Cyprus, Egypt, Jerusalem trying to fill the Orthodox seats with no luck. Then I went to New Valamo Monastery in Finland and my first Byzantine liturgy. Bishop Ambroisius explained it, we then discussed Orthodoxy and ten priests came to the conference.

In the meantime I read Bishop Kallistos Ware’s book for the third time - but going to the liturgy is the real answer”.

Were you tempted by Rome?

“No. The western emphasis on authority won’t work and there are too many problems at Rome. I couldn’t go through it all again. I never thought it out like that, it just seemed that we were being led to Orthodoxy. I devoured everything that came out post ‘92. I knew I couldn’t stay in the Church of England after the disobedience. We were very sad - we had made no preparations or plans at all.

Then I wrote the Orthodox option article for you and people got in touch and I found myself elected president of the Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy and Fr. Gillquist and I got back in touch.”

How did friends react?

“Very surprised, very kind and pretty ignorant of Orthodoxy. All glad we hadn’t gone to Rome, of course, but little real idea of what we were about. Most thought it was a sort of fairyland for Russian and Greek exiles.”

How do you now relate to Anglicanism?

“We are not fighting the C of E or proselytizing. Our concern is to bring the good news to the British people. Orthodoxy’s relationship with Anglicanism has always been good. Our deanery is a mission deanery carrying on the work of the saints of the undivided church in this land and that is our priority.”

At the beginning the Antiochian initiative seemed to be resented by other Orthodox. Is it still the case?

“No. There was an understandable caution perhaps but once it was clear that we wanted to become fully orthodox and not just on an issue or with anglican strings attached then it was O.K. The moment we were canonically orthodox we were fully accepted and concelebration and joint pilgrimage are absolutely normal.”

How many new Orthodox communities are there?

“Ten at the moment. There are thirty more active priests considering it.”

(This may seem small beer compared with the Roman exodus but it is worth remembering that each priest ministers to a community of faith and that these men have to be self supporting in the manner of the early church.)

There is a lot of talk about Western Rite liturgy for the new communities. How has this worked out in practice?

“In fact all communities must be able to celebrate Eastern rite and eight out of the ten have opted for that traditional rite anyway.”

What’s happening in the U.S.A?

“They’re much further on. A good number of evangelicals have come home. But you have to remember that orthodoxy in America goes back a long way. The ethnic communities go back between one and two centuries but missionaries from Russia were in Alaska before Columbus came.”

And what about the Charismatic Movement?

“I’m as “charismatic” as ever. Indeed the key to orthodoxy is to understand it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Scripture, tradition, the Fathers, the Church - all the gifts are given to edify the body, their is no isolation or individualism. This is where Toronto comes adrift.”

What would you say to “orthodox” sympathizers still undecided in the Church of England?

“Well I suppose the questions that I would have are: 1. How long can you have bishops for an “orthodox” constituency in a church heading away from it? 2. Isn’t there a danger of congregationalism? 3. What future is there for your children?

(As we parted my mind ranged over many things. The courage of those striking out for the ancient truth and the struggle of the early mission church. The resilience of this great church in the long years of minority and persecution unknown to the Western Church and my earliest experiences of the great God centred worship of the liturgy and the contrast with much of the man centred worship / entertainment of the western communions. In the great realignment that is underway the influence of Orthodoxy is vital to the health and recovery of the Western Church and, needs must be out of all proportion to its numbers. But then Jesus settled for a dozen men to mission the world.)



Father Michael Harper (1931-2010)
An appreciation by Charles Whitehead of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

One of the greatest pioneers and servants of the Charismatic Renewal died in Cambridge on January 6th 2010 after a short illness.

Michael Harper was ordained a priest of the Church of England in 1956, and experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1962, speaking in tongues the following year. In 1964 he established The Fountain Trust to further renewal in the power of the Holy Spirit for Christians throughout the body of Christ. He started Renewal Magazine and was a prolific author, as he travelled the world serving renewal within the Anglican Communion and promoting ecumenical relations. 

I first met Michael Harper in 1983. We became friends, and from that time on I worked with him in a number of committees and in the organisation of a variety of international ecumenical events. In 1999 he invited me to succeed him as the chairman of ICCOWE, the International Charismatic Consultation on World Evangelisation, today abbreviated to ICC. We remained in regular contact over succeeding years, and at the time of his death he was still a Trustee of ICC and planning to attend our February Executive meeting, where his wisdom and advice would have been as much appreciated as ever. His experience of the worldwide Charismatic renewal was second to none, and he will be hugely missed by many, many people. He was prophetic, visionary, dynamic, challenging, and entertaining, but he always had time for the individual who wanted to seek his advice or receive ministry from him. Underneath the determined exterior and the incisive mind, beat a loving and caring pastoral heart. He never tired of proclaiming the good news of the Gospel wherever he was, and his books on renewal, healing, and growth have affected the lives of countless readers. It is difficult to realise the impact he had without seeing how many remarkable organisations and events he had the vision and courage to start up.

After leaving The Fountain Trust in 1975, Michael Harper became a key leader in the worldwide Charismatic Renewal. He initiated a charismatic conference for Anglicans alongside the Lambeth Conference of July 1978, and in 1981 formed SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) to share the grace of renewal with the Anglican Church all over the world. His ecumenical work was no less significant, and in the early 1970s he founded the UK Charismatic Leaders’ Conference which brought together leaders from many church traditions and backgrounds, including the new charismatic independent churches. His ecumenical sympathies found further expression through both the European Charismatic Consultation and ICCOWE (later becoming ICC) which he founded with Fr. Tom Forrest and Rev. Larry Christenson in 1989. He had initiated and chaired ACTS 86, the European charismatic conference held in Birmingham, and similar international ecumenical charismatic gatherings in Berne (1990), Brighton (1991), Malaysia (1994 and 2000), and Prague (1997 and 2000).

In March 1995, deeply upset by the ordination of women in the Church of England, he joined the Orthodox Church, and was soon ordained a priest, becoming Dean of the new Antiochian Orthodox Deanery for the United Kingdom and Ireland, which under his loving and dynamic leadership now numbers more than twenty parishes. In all his work he was wonderfully encouraged and supported by his wife Jeanne, who joined him in his pilgrimage to the Orthodox Church.

In a recent interview, Michael stated “I’m as charismatic as ever”, and as we sat in his funeral service at St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral, London, I felt privileged to have been his friend for 27 years, and to have been blessed by his wisdom, insights, and challenges on so many occasions. Certainly Fr. Michael Harper was a giant of the worldwide Charismatic Renewal, and whilst we rejoice in all that he was and did, we are just beginning to realise how much we are going to miss him.





THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Swanwick 2011 Lecture 1: The Holy Spirit in the New Testament from Gregory Hallam on Vimeo.


THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE LITURGY


Swanwick 2011 Lecture 2: The Holy Spirit in the Liturgy and Prayer from Gregory Hallam on Vimeo.


THE HOLY SPIRIT IN MONASTIC LIFE



The charismatic phenomena of the first centuries of 
Christianity repeated themselves in...monasticism; the elders  were bearers of these charisms - the special gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to man directly from God....An ascetic is ideally a God-bearing and Spirit-bearing being....As such he receives spiritual gifts, an outpouring of which distinguished the first 
era of Christianity. The gifts of prophecy, casting out demons, healing sicknesses, and resurrecting the dead are not exceptional. They only disclose a normal step in the spiritual growth of a monk.
- S.I. Smirnov, The Spiritual Father 
in the Ancient Eastern Church



Swanwick 2011 Lecture 4: The Holy Spirit in the Monastic Life from Gregory Hallam on Vimeo.
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