Reflections on Community Chapel

Introduction
Community Chapel

Community Chapel was a "Oneness" Pentecostal church in the Puget Sound area of which I was a member for nearly ten years (1978-1988). When I became a member of the Chapel, I thought it was the best church I had ever encountered or heard of up until that time. In 1988, it collapsed after its doctrines and practices had grown increasingly bizarre over the previous five or six years. Now I look back at it and can see that it clearly had cultish tendencies, although I hesitate to classify it simply as a cult. More importantly, I see now that its doctrine of God and Christ was heretical and that in letting myself be swayed into joining Community Chapel, I was succumbing to a very real and very powerful attack on my faith. Today I am happy to be a member of a fine congregation of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the denomination in which I was raised but which I had left in my early twenties to enter the world of anti-Trinitarian Pentecostalism.

This site documents the lessons I have learned by looking back at the years I spent in Community Chapel and then in other Pentecostal and charismatic churches as I continued to try to live what I had learned at the Chapel. Had it not been for my years in those worlds, as detrimental as they were in some respects, I would have never really learned just how and why Pentecostals in general and anti-Trinitarian Pentecostals in particular are so wrong. That kind of practical education was invaluable.

If it had not been for my Chapel experience—seeing the collapse of that fanatical system and then the subsequent deterioration of my faith and that of other Chapel survivors as we tried to make Pentecostalism work in spite of the Chapel's collapse—probably I would have continued to live as a lukewarm Lutheran, remaining more than half convinced that Pentecostals were right about Lutherans being spiritually dead. Instead, I now wake up every day thanking God for bringing me back into the Lutheran church out of Pentecostalism—for the grace and peace of God in Christ I now know in contrast to the pretense, uncertainty, and instability I lived in for nearly twenty years while a Pentecostal.

Additionally, I now feel I really understand Christian doctrine and the history of the church much better than I ever would have had I not finally felt compelled to sit down and figure out if the Chapel's theological and historical claims were true or not. This site presents the fruit of those efforts.

If you have any questions or comments about anything I've written here, please leave me a note on my new Chapel blog.

Contents

Introduction to Community Chapel

A tragic case history of a false teacher and the unwary believers who came under his influence, many of whom continue today to infect others with his anti-Trinitarian outlook in spite of the damage they saw it do to themselves and to many of their fellow Chapel members.

Was Community Chapel a Cult?

I wrote this in January of 2004 to sort out my thoughts on the Chapel in relation to the frequent charges of cultism that had always been heard against it. The original version was a posting for the "Community Chapel Gathering" Web site, but I've edited it slightly since then (mainly for grammar and conciseness).

Grace and Peace

A reflection on the grace and peace we have as believers in Jesus Christ. These reflections were a result of continued thought about my experiences with Pentecostalism and the Chapel, and of observing the notable lack of grace and peace in the lives of most Pentecostals, illustrated by the posting of a regular participant on the "Community Chapel Gathering" board whose posting (quoted in full) shows just how real the problem continues to be for Pentecostals.

Where Did the Chapel Err?

An overview of what I believe to be the false teachings of Community Chapel.

A Perversion of History

An analysis of the way Community Chapel misrepresented history in order to support its doctrine.

The Chapel & "Private Interpretation"

Some thoughts about the reasons ex-members of the Chapel stoutly defend the private interpretation of scripture today (though, ironically, when they were at the Chapel they were strict advocates of a view that allowed only their own church leadership the authority to interpret the scriptures.)

A Review of Robert Spearman's The God-Man

My review of a book by a former member of Community Chapel about the dual nature of Christ and his "absolute deity."

Speaking in Tongues and the Holy Spirit

A paper that explains what I now think is the correct, Biblically-described role of the Holy Spirit, and the place that speaking in tongues holds in the scriptures, as opposed to what I was taught at Community Chapel.

Have Tongues Ceased?

A response to the conventional Pentecostal belief that tongues have not ceased in spite of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13.

Community Chapel's Christ

My thoughts on Community Chapel's doctrine of God and Christ, this paper includes a description of the Chapel's "dual nature" doctrine and how I think it has led many ex-Chapelites into the denial of the deity of Christ.

Why Is Jesus' Deity So Important?

A brief essay on why I think the deity of Christ is an essential article of Christian doctrine.

Book Review: When Jesus Became God

Here's a book review that I posted November 10, 2007 on the CCG board. It's about a book that I've been hearing about since shortly after it came out about eight years ago, mainly from ex-Chapelites who are now in the JING ("Jesus is not God") camp. Years ago when I first heard of the book, I got the impression that it was a conscious attempt to tear down Trinitarian doctrine, but I found that was not so. It is a book about a certain period of church history written from an unbelieving, Jewish point of view, but once allowance is made for that, there is quite a bit of interest in it concerning the 4th century Arian controversy and the nature of Arian teaching.

The really curious thing about it from the point of view of this ex-Chapelite is that an unbelieving, Jewish view of the history of Christian doctrine is basically what was taught at the Chapel and which I fell for. I continue to be interested in that phenomenon - in how I personally was drawn into something like that in spite of my determination to make the Word of God the absolute and only guide to my spiritual life. Reading this book helped me fit another piece into the puzzle.

Reflections on Two Chapels

This is the previous version of this site. Most of the articles here I first wrote as postings for the CCG board from 1998-2002 after I had come out of Pentecostalism and anti-Trinitarianism, but before I had returned to the Lutheran church. Some of them may no longer precisely reflect my current thought, but I don't think any are very far off. Other articles here are also separately linked to from this table of contents since I think they remain good summaries of various issues my Chapel experience forced me to confront and resolve.

Community Chapel on the Web Today

A directory to all the current Web sites that I know of that discuss the Chapel.

My Lutheran Pages

This site isn't directly related to the Chapel but instead contains various pages I've created as Lutheran resources for myself, including my "Lutheranism FAQ"—answers from Lutheran teaching to specific charges against it I've encountered both before and after my Chapel years.

I Believe in the Holy Trinity

A site I created to affirm belief in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which I am now ashamed to admit I denied while I was at the Chapel. I now think that rejection of this doctrine is an act against both God's Spirit and His Church, so such rejection is of course self-condemnatory. In light of my experience in a church that taught me to take such a stance, I cannot help but highly value this Scripturally-revealed truth now.

Arrive Without Traveling

Or, "Get Righteous Without Working," my current meditations on life, faith, and church.