I have uncovered several rather eye-opening articles about Jacob Prasch from the late 1990s. This is the first in the collection:
In the mid 1990s Jacob Prasch attacked the Elim denomination in Australia, denouncing them for their association with the Toronto Blessing and other things, making very public his claims about them via his various Moriel websites that existed at the time. Respected Bible teacher, chaplain, and theologian David Pawson stepped in as an arbiter to resolve the matter, writing an excellent report on it. In reading Pawson’s description of Prasch in 1998 I find little to no difference to what he’s like in 2019. I’ve highlighted Pawson’s several descriptions of Prasch in his balanced reckoning:
‘Elim’ and ‘Moriel’
by David Pawson
Having been asked to arbitrate in the ongoing dispute between ‘Elim’ and ‘Moriel’, I was willing to do so in the hope of ending a conflict which had been public knowledge, both inside and outside the Body of Christ. As well as being an acceptable name to both parties, my relationships with them are similar. Known to both, I have not been directly involved in ministry with either but have had personal contacts with both, which I trust will continue. However, I was largely ignorant of the content of their disagreement until a few days before the joint meeting on Wednesday, June 10th., 1998.
The hearing was attended by the two principals, Wynne Lewis and Jacob Prasch, each with three associates who had become involved, one of whom had been chosen as main spokesman, namely John Smith and Mark Haville. Two of my friends gave me support but did not take part. They later shared their impressions and commented on my conclusions, but I alone am responsible for this report.
Let me state at the outset that I regarded every man at the conference table as a brother in Christ, sincerely seeking to know the will of God in their ministry. I tried to be as fair and impartial as possible within the limitations of time and the pressure of strongly held convictions. A promise by both parties not to use what was said as further ammunition facilitated freedom of speech and honest exchange.
At the very least this face-to-face encounter, maybe the first, was right and proper. It is a matter of regret that it had not taken place earlier. Converstaion is a better communication than correspondence, warm speech less open to misunderstanding than cold print.
However, there were three factors in this dispute which underlay the deep differences and limited the possible achievements of this arbitration. They need to be mentioned before dealing with specific allegations.
The first, comparatively minor, is a certain disparity of authority between the participants. On the one hand, Elim is a large denomination containing many individuals and fellowships, among whom there is bound to be some variety of outlook, other than on constitutionally agreed statements of belief and behaviour. In spite of being centrally organised through an annual conference and standing executive, neither body can be held directly responsible for everything said and done by individual ministers or members, though they would have a duty to deal with cases of obvious heresy or immorality in accredited personnel.
On the other hand, Moriel is a smaller group of autonomous fellowships in loose association, but its publications are the virtual mouthpiece of one dominant personality, apparently operating without mutual accountability.
This discrepancy had clearly led to some misunderstanding. While Jacob Prasch could and should be held directly responsible for statements in ‘Moriel’ publications, it is not the same case with the Elim magazine ‘Direction’, which, like other denominational papers, has a degree of editorial freedom to express opinions.
The second problem was very much more serious, underlying the whole dispute and from which it had all developed. This was a profound difference of opinion, even conviction, about some of the American ministries imported into this country. But this disagreement was far from confined to Elim and Moriel. It has run through evangelical and charismatic circles on a wide scale, well beyond the scope of this arbitration.
Three streams have been the subject of debate. The ‘Toronto blessing’ and the activities of Rodney Howard-Browne. Healing evangelists, exemplified in Morris Cerullo and Benny Hinn. The ‘word-faith’ movement, associated with Hagin and Copeland. All have received a great deal of public attention, often with a high profile in the media. Their critics therefore feel justified in expressing their reservations publicly.
There was a huge gulf between Elim and Moriel in their assessment of and attitude towards these.
One side, while acknowledging ‘questionable’ statements and ‘doubtful’ practices, believed these could and should be dealt with privately and personally. However, the good results attending these ministries far outweighed the faults and justified whole-hearted acceptance and support.
The other side took the very opposite viewpoint. The ‘heretical’ statements and ‘unethical’ practices (particularly in healing claims and financial methods) rendered these ministries dangerous deceptions, to be utterly rejected and ruthlessly exposed, any good in them far outweighed by the bad.
Rightly or wrongly, I declined to arbitrate between these irreconcilable positions and therefore ruled out consideration of ‘evidence’ (video and documentary) brought to the hearing, to the disappointment of some who may have hoped thereby to justify their position and persuade the rest of us to adopt it. My reasons for this somewhat arbitrary decision were as follows:
i. With only a day at our disposal, I felt we could not afford to spend the time needed for an adequate appraisal of the ministries in question.
ii. Neither they nor any representatives were present to defend themselves. I was not prepared to make a definitive ‘judgment’ in their absence, not least because my personal knowledge and experience of them is quite limited.
iii. Since this ‘evidence’ had been brought by one party, I suspected that it would be selective and therefore one-sided, highlighting the negative aspects in this case. Subsequent private examination has confirmed this.
iv. I seriously doubted whether either side had any chance of persuading the other to a change of mind. Agreement was not therefore on my list of objectives in this arbitration.
v. As already mentioned, this difference of opinion is far wider and needs a much more representative body to reach an adequate verdict, as well as a much more thorough investigation.
vi. I felt it my duty and responsibility to concentrate on the situation that had developed between Elim and Moriel, particularly the way they had both handled the deep differences between them.
vii. As arbiter I was hardly neutral, having expressed in print my understanding of one of the movements being argued about — namely, ‘Toronto’.
It may be helpful at this point to expand that last statement in greater detail to illustrate my difficulty.
To me, ‘Toronto’ was a mixed blessing, containing divine, human and demonic elements. Without committing myself to estimate the ratio of these three sources of experience, I advocated caution (a yellow light, though some said mine had an orange hue!) and the need for discernment and discipline.
The general view in Elim, which we will look at later, veered to a green light, which regarded most of what was happening as manifesting the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, with some ‘fleshly’ addition but little if any Satanic interference.
Moriel, to the contrary, dismissed most as demonic deception, with some carnal manipulation, but denied any godly content, seeing a red light calling for a complete halt.
From my point of view, both were faulty judgments, partly right in what they affirmed and partly wrong in what they denied. To rule out either the divine or the demonic is, I believe, mistaken. Total acceptance or total rejection are inappropriate responses. But to both I will be seen as ‘sitting on the fence’, especially as I attribute a higher proportion to the flesh, in action and reaction, than either position, while recognising both divine and demonic activity. To this arbiter, for what it’s worth, both sides in this dispute need to re-examine their assessment more carefully.
At the very least, both parties need to acknowledge that the opposing view is sincerely held, however mistaken it may be considered to be. To believe that a fellow-believer is in serious error, doctrinal or moral, is one thing; and there are clear biblical guidelines for dealing with such a situation. But to accuse them of deliberately and knowingly propagating such error with malicious motives and intentions is quite another; from such false prophets and teachers scripture does demand disassociation. It is against this background that I have read and listened to the mutual accusations between Elim and Moriel.
This brings me to the third problem which has complicated the dispute itself and made arbitration more difficult. Not only is the disagreement a reflection of a much wider debate which is far from settled; the dispute itself has been broadened by one of the parties concerned, namely, Jacob Prasch. This has been done in two ways:
First, he has added a number of other allegations to his original charge against Elim, some quite unrelated to it. He claims that the controversy was sparked off by Elim’s support for the mission of Morris Cerullo, some aspects of which had attracted secular criticism and exercised Christian bodies, including the Evangelical Alliance. The dispute may have begun with this, but it certainly did not end here. Other accusations soon followed, covering a wide range of issues, directed at the denomination as a whole and leading figures within it. We were unable to consider all of these at the conference, for want of time, but I have taken them into account in reaching my conclusions.
Second, he made these allegations in the context of a general attack on other men, ministers and movements. While singling out Elim, his criticisms were by no means limited to this denomination or its personnel.
These two disturbing features have made it virtually impossible to write this report without making some general observations on the ministry of Jacob Prasch and what this dispute has revealed of his mode of operation.
He is a powerful personality with considerable intellectual ability and emotional capacity. He has a unique ministry in Bible teaching, especially in the area of Jewish interpretation and application of scripture. His unusual background, knowledge and experience have attracted many followers though, as with other persuasive communicators, some of his devotees regard his pronouncements as the last word on a subject or issue, an attitude he does not appear to discourage. The title of his newsletters (‘Moriel’ means ‘God is my teacher’) has more than a hint of a claim to special revelation, whether this is intended or not.
This confidence in his insights becomes more serious in connection with another aspect of his activities. Not content with teaching the truth, he clearly believes that he is also called to expose and denounce all the errors he can find in others. He is adept and even seems eager to discover these and disseminate public warnings about them. Elim is only one of many coming under his scrutiny.
In other words, judging other ministries has become a major feature of his own. To be fair, he does publish lists of those he ‘endorses’, though without seeking their approval. With these he is prepared to overlook faults (“who among us cannot make a mistake that results in misunderstanding?”). Significantly, some individual Elim churches are on the list he sanctions.
However, it is in his dealings with those of whom he disapproves that things get out of hand. A rebuke that may have been intended to encourage correction very quickly becomes general criticism, then strong condemnation.
On his own admission, emotion takes over, especially if the initial criticism is rejected or just ignored. A combination of frustration and indignation lead to intemperate language, unchecked accusations and insulting innuendo. The result is a barrage of abuse which not only antagonises his opponents even further but also embarrasses his allies.
Nor is this limited to the ‘culprits’ themselves. In the case of public ministries he has declared ‘false’, all those who have sponsored or supported them in any way are said to be equally responsible for their ‘wickedness’. Guilt by association is a prominent feature of his invective, however tenuous the connection may have been.
These tactics have marked the exchange with Elim, which has become increasingly acrimonious, with mutual insinuations of dishonesty, in accusation and admission. So it is necessary now to consider some of the charges made, whether they were the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The nucleus of the dispute was the charge that Elim had ‘officially’ approved and sponsored the ministries in question, particularly those of Rodney Howard-Browne, Morris Cerullo and Benny Hinn. was this true?
Technically, no. Neither the executive nor the conference had made any statements binding ministers and members to these external ministries. However, the denominational magazine ‘Direction’ had accepted advertisements and articles giving enthusiastic support. The largest Elim church (Kensington Temple) and its pastor (Colin Dye) had been directly involved. Above all both he and other members of the executive had allowed their names and photographs to be used in the advertising.
So, while no ‘official’ stance had been taken, a general impression had been given that Elim as a whole stood with these men. Whether they are to be ‘blamed’ for this depends, of course, on the wider question of whether the ministries did more good than harm or more harm than good. But Elim leaders need to recognise that their approval, apparently unqualified, brought considerable pressure to bear on ministers and members within their ranks who had conscientious reservations about some of the message and method thus encouraged. Some, feeling their disquiet at not being heard, have seen Jacob Prasch as their mouthpiece and formed links with him. There does seems to be a genuine grievance here, whatever the number affected.
Coupled with this was the charge that some Elim leaders were now proved to be ‘false prophets’, having predicted that some of the visits were harbingers of ‘the Revival’ which so many are praying and longing for, but which has not yet materialised in any great influx of new converts. The less than hoped for results of Elim’s JIM (Jesus In Me) outreach is cited as one indication.
Perhaps some hopes have been expressed more strongly than they should have been, but this has by no means been limited to Elim and most of the more specific forecasts were made by others outside the denomination, some of which have been glaringly inaccurate. A distinction must be drawn between opinions, even convictions, about the immediate future and direct claims to divinely inspired information. I have not come across any of the latter kind of prediction in the information I have been given, though I can believe that in the enthusiasm and excitement generated by recent events, exaggerated forecasts may have been given, for which apologies should now be given.
Much more specific is the allegation that Elim decided to take this dispute to court, in direct disobedience to scripture, which forbids believers to enter litigation against each other before an unbelieving judge; rather they should settle such matters amongst themselves. Presumably one reason for this is to avoid Christians causing a public scandal which would bring disrepute to the church and an offence to the gospel of reconciliation.
But this was not a simple case of one Christian being sued by other Christians for all the world to see. The hearing was private before a judge, not public before a jury. Nor was the whole dispute under consideration, only one of the allegations. An injunction was being sought against any repetition of this particular statement, which had put Elim ministers and members in serious danger to their lives, according to the public authorities in Northern Ireland. There was no intention to sue for any damages, though it was later discovered that a purely nominal sum had to be included in order to obtain a restraint (a wholesome reminder that legal action often becomes more complicated than anticipated).
Elim were therefore exercising their civil rights to seek protection of their persons and property, which scripture does not forbid. In fact, Paul himslef more than once appealed for the covering of Roman authorities against the trouble stirred up by his fellow-members of the people of God, the Jews. Whether he would have done so had believers been the cause we cannot know.
Both Elim and Moriel must share responsibility for this matter having come before a judge. It was the latter’s publicised statement which precipitated the crisis which Elim felt needed this action, a statement which I understand has now been withdrawn and an apology made. It is doubtful if any other human recourse was available, even within the church, that could have prevented any further damaging remarks. To endanger the life of a fellow-Christian is at least as serious as seeking an injunction to prevent it.
This is not to justify Elim’s action, which was regrettable even if it was not clearly wrong, not least because those not knowing the full circumstances could misinterpret motive and intention, as indeed has happened. What was wrong was that the dispute had reached this point before an appeal for Christian arbitration had been made. There has been an extraordinary delay in arranging the meeting over which I presided. My name had been proposed and agreed by both parties nearly a year before (July, 1997), but I heard nothing more until quite recently. Whoever or whatever caused this delay (each side has blamed the other, which suggests lack of urgency or communication), it allowed the situation to deteriorate more than it need have done.
We did not have time to work through the many other allegations against Elim, which included: tolerance of British Israelitism (one pastor in Northern Ireland) and Roman Catholicism (one example of ecumenical meetings in New Zealand); embracing ‘New Age’ teaching (no specific details); withholding property deeds from churches wishing to secede; governing the denomination autocratically; failing to discern the judgment of God in financial losses over conferences and recent unexpected deaths of officers.
The evidence for some of these accusations was slender. Half truths can be as dangerous as outright lies, since they are more subtle. Hasty conclusions can be quite inaccurate.
Of equal concern to the content was the language and tone of what I can only call a tirade, leaving an impression of vindictiveness, even if this was not intended. Such a disparate list of complaints suggests a determination to find every possible fault, which in turn raises the question of motivation, especially when expressed so offensively.
An example of unacceptable matter and manner was the outrageous assertion that a Christian denomination preaching an orthodox gospel and seeking to save lost sinners had become “an apostate cult propagating heresy”. Equally offensive was the comparison between its executive and the Sanhedrin (a body which condemned Christ to death) or the Vatican (“kissing the ring of Pontiff Pope Wynn I”).
At the hearing an excuse was offered — that such remarks were rhetorical hyperbole (exaggeration for sake of effect). But it is questionable whether exaggeration is ever compatible with truth, though scripture does contain examples of irony and satire. And hyperbole is surely totally out of place when accusing fellow-believers of error, since it is contrary to love and justice as well as truth.
Nor is the matter covered by what has been said and how it was said. Where it was said is also relevent. Moriel has used the Internet, as well as its own publications. This is as public a platform as other branches of the media and exposes the scandal of Christians fighting each other to all and sundry. To my thinking, this is as damaging to the gospel as the exposed weaknesses of some ministries. It is my conviction that the Internet should not be used by Christians to attack other Christians and it is my strong recommendation that all references to this present dispute be voluntarily withdrawn from it.
Jacob Prasch needs to be accountable to a peer group who will tone down his polemics and curb his apparent compulsion to lash out at those he disagrees with in such an indiscriminate way. His associates at the hearing were clearly aware of this need and gave assurance that this would be in place for the future. This was welcome news. Time will tell whether this will succeed where his present panel of “Advisors” have failed.
It has caused me considerable sadness to write as I have done. My outlook is in harmony with many of his convictions and not a few of his perceptions. I believe the whole body of Christ needs to hear much of what he is saying. His penetrating insights could be such an asset.
But I know that I am far from alone in wanting to disassociate myself from his apparent eagerness to discover and expose the faults in others, often failing to check the facts or putting the worst construction on them. Even when truth is on his side, the way he handles it prevents others who agree with him from standing with him. Tragically, he becomes his own worst enemy when fighting for the truth. I can understand those who regard him as ‘dangerous’. Such a ‘loose cannon’, unpredictable and unaccountable, can damage and divide the body of Christ, even when his motives and intentions are to protect that same body from error. How sad that his weaknesses are preventing his strengths from being more widely used and appreciated.
This has also been a humbling experience for me, since I have also been accused of similar weaknesses. I, too, have closed doors by being outspoken on controversial issues. I, too, struggle with a hyper-critical spirit, not always successfully. I, too, have known occasions when I later realised that my presentation of the truth has been more offensive than the truth itself. So in ‘judging’ my brother I have set the standard by which I will be judged. This enquiry has strengthened my resolve to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable, to speak the truth in love and to combine grace and truth as in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Both He and His apostles, when sending letters of stern rebuke to churches, always began by commending whatever was good before tackling what was not. And these epistles were sent direct to those responsible, not publicly published. They only later became common property as scripture because of this unique authority, which no-one has today. In all the present dispute I have read or heard a single good word about the other party. Enough said!
There have been faults on both sides. While I hold Jacob Prasch to be primarily responsible for initiating and maintaining this dispute, Elim is not without blame for its having reached such an impasse. I have already said that independent Christian arbitration could and should have been arranged with greater urgency once this had been decided.
There is a little more history behind this dispute. Jacob Prasch, then associated with an Elim church, was invited to speak at Elim’s annual conference and took advantage of this opportunity to comment on some aspects of denominational life. Later he requested a chance to enlarge on this at the business session, but this was properly refused since he was not a delegate to what was a closed gathering. Subsequently, a proposition was put forward, from the floor rather than the platform, that he be banned from speaking in Elim, which was carried.
Such a decision may not have been the wisest way to stop his criticism, since it probably made him more determined to find another outlet for his complaints, inevitably making them more public — as indeed has happened. However, I can understand the fears that led to it.
It has to be said that Elim leaders seem quite sensitive to criticism, particularly if it comes from ‘outside the family’, ie the denomination. This seems to me to rest on a misunderstanding of the body of Christ, which is surely transdenominational. All Christians have the right and responsibility to rebuke fellow-believers they see in error, whatever ‘branch’ of the church they belong to. But correction should be sought in private and in person before it is taken any further. criticism should seek to be constructive rather than destructive. Even the most severe sanctions (deliverance to Satan) are to be motivated by the hope of redemption.
There is a Christian way to receive criticism as well as give it. When received with reluctance and resentment it can do us no good. Received in humility, it leads to self-examination to see if there is any truth in it, from which benefit be gained and improvement made. Instinct rushes to self-defence and self-justification, to the protection of one’s image. The flesh wants to give as good as it gets, to retaliate.
There have been mutual accusations of dishonesty in this dispute, telling lies and breaking promises. I am not in a position to adjudicate, lacking full information. But I do urge both parties to look at themselves rather than the other, remembering that it is easier to spot the mote in another’s eye than the beam in one’s own.
I’ve just been judging myself again! It is not unusual for hyper-criticism and hyper-sensitivity to criticism to co-exist in the same person. Indeed, they are probably related to each other, both children of insecurity. In Elim’s reaction to criticism I see a reflection of my own.
Perhaps Elim should have taken Jacob Prasch’s charges more seriously. Maybe he could have been invited to meet the executive face to face — though I have to add that during our conference he did not look his opponents in the eye when addressing us, which made me wonder if he finds such intimate encounter more difficult to handle.
What did emerge more clearly is that Elim leaders do need to become more aware of and sensitive to conscientious reservations about ministers they encourage, especially when these are held by ministers and members within their own ranks. In this connection, the denominational magazine ‘Direction’ needs to allow more expression of differences of opinion on matters other than the official Statement of Faith. The editorial staff need to be aware that the magazine will be assumed to be the voice of the denomination, in spite of its relative autonomy. We were assured that the executive was reviewing this and changes may be made in the direction of a closer liaison with and supervision of this publication.
It could also be made clearer that general support for an external ministry does not mean unqualified approval of all that is said and done. If Elim leaders themselves have some reservations, it would help if it was more widely known that these were being communicated to the ministries concerned in the hope of being corrected. It was good to know that this had in fact been done in some cases.
This concludes my findings, though I do not regard them as either comprehensive or final. My exposure to the dispute has been very limited, in time and extent. But I cannot conclude without looking into the future. What results can be hoped for from this, or any, arbitration?
Vindication is clearly the expectation of each party, that they will be exonerated and the other blamed. An arbitrator who finds fault with both is likely to draw the fire from both! Even that could help with the second objective:
Cessation of the conflict is a higher hope and probably the main aspiration of the arbiter, particuylarly in Christian disputes — that his report will bring an end to hostilities and settle the matter.
Reconciliation is the supreme hope, which I dare to imagine is uppermost in the mind of the Lord. He must be grieved when those who are going to be together in heaven cannot be so on earth. But harmony is not possible while each estranged party can only see what is wrong with the other. Confession of one’s own share, repentance which includes renunciation and reformation, giving and receiving forgiveness — these are the necessary elements in re-establishing relationships.
In this spirit I submit my report. If I have made any errors of fact, I ask forgiveness. The opinions are my responsibility alone. I am glad that both parties agreed that if my findings are published, they will be in full and without comment. I thank them both for their trust in what has been an awesome task, remembering that “in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will measured to you” on that day when all of us involved in this dispute and arbitration are called to account for our words and deeds.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
J. David Pawson
29th. June, 1998