Christian Fellowship Ministries (CFM) - originally called Victory Chapel - operates a worldwide network of churches under the names "The Door" (not the satirical Christian magazine published by The Trinity Foundation
) "Potter's House" (not TD Jakes
' church), "Grace Chapel," "Praise Chapel," "La Puerta," "Evangeliegemeente De Deur" (Netherlands) and others.
The network of churches appears to adhere to an orthodox
Christian theology with a decidedly Pentecostal
bend (see, for example, these Statements of Faith
, as posted at the website of The Potter's House, Carson City, Nevada).
The Christian Research Institute does note:
[T]heir exercise of certain gifts
do not follow the biblical pattern as set forth in I Corinthians 12 and 14. In a typical Potter's House worship service, tongues are exercised in unison by the entire congregation generally with no interpretation following. The Scriptures teach, on the other hand, that biblical tongues in a congregational setting must be followed by two or three interpreting for the sake of the edification of the body of Christ and as a sign for the unbeliever (1 Cor. 14:22-33). As with the Assemblies of God, the Potter's House teaches that tongues is the "initial evidence" of the "baptism of the Holy Spirit."
The Potter's House has an aberrant view of healing as well. A "come get your miracle" mentality exists which creates an expectancy level which, when not met, is devastating to the young Christian who expected God to meet his needs and is let down hard.** [CRI's position of divine healing is that God can and will heal if He so chooses and that the believer may seek God for healing (James 5:14,15; 1 John 5:14,15) but there is no guarantee that He will heal.]
That said, there are persistent reports from former members (including former pastors) regarding spiritual abuse
and sociologically cultic behavior.
A testimony regarding this movement was included in Ronald Enroth
's book, Churches That Abuse
Watchman Fellowship, in its Index of Cults and Religions, writes:
Potter’s House, Wayman Mitchell, Prescott, AZ: Originally called Victory Chapel, churches affiliated with Mitchell go under the names Praise Chapel, The Door, Grace Chapel, The Christian Fellowship, La Capilla de la Victory, La Casa Del Alfarero, and La Puerta. Begun in 1970, Mitchell has over 1,000 churches in 73 countries including Mexico, South America, Australia, Europe, and the Philippines. Numerous former members have alleged mind control and authoritarian/abusive leadership, and the group was the focus of a CBS News 48 Hours investigative report. Mitchell’s churches are not affiliated with the Potter’s House in Dallas, TX, pastored by T. D. Jakes. Also, The Door is not affiliated with the religious satire magazine by the same name.
In December, 2001, Charisma News reported:
A second major exodus has taken place from a controversial network of churches criticized for authoritarian leadership. Up to 160 of the Potter's House movement's 800-odd congregations are said to have left the group recently.
Officially called Christian Fellowship Ministries (CFM), the Potter's House network was started in 1983 by Wayman Mitchell. A Prescott, Ariz., pastor, Mitchell broke away from the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel to launch his own movement, placing a strong emphasis on evangelism. Most of the group's churches are to be found in the Southwest, where they also go under the names The Door and Victory Chapel.
Some of the pastors who broke ranks recently are apparently upset by the direction CFM appears to be headed. There are also claims that Mitchell - whose movement has long been dogged by criticism that it is controlling, intimidating and manipulative - routinely uses foul language and derogatory remarks in the pulpit.
Mitchell declined to comment to "Charisma" magazine, but Harold Warner, a longtime CFM associate who pastors a church in Tucson, Ariz., said that Mitchell was not the sort of man many of his critics have portrayed him to be. "He is a good, strong leader," he said. "We are given great freedom to pursue our ministry, and it isn't this horribly oppressive atmosphere."
The Potter's House was hit by large-scale defections 10 years ago. When Colorado pastor Ron Jones, who had worked with Mitchell since the early 1970s, severed his ties in 1990, around 100 pastors followed him.
Larry Neville, a pastor who worked with Mitchell for 13 years until 1991, said that because CFM leaders were encouraged to aggressively plant churches, the departure of a few pastors who disagree with Mitchell could lead to a large number of churches leaving the movement.
The exodus was more an issue of churches' loyalty to their founding pastor than one of disagreement with Mitchell, he said. It was about "a personal relationship with someone they love." Mitchell said that around 100 of the 160 churches reported to have left CFM recently did so because of their loyalty to one pastor.
Bryan Hupperts, who was part of Potter's House for several years and was at one stage being groomed to become a CFM pastor, said that many pastors who left the movement did so because of unhealthy control and were later reluctant to talk about their experiences.
"Some of them have family in the Potter's House," he said. "They'll end up getting targeted. They can be pretty vicious." One former leader said there were families divided by departures from the movement who had not spoken for years, and "churches that have been deliberately split, children who don't talk to their parents."
Neville said there had been a move of God in CFM in the past, but over time the group moved into isolationism. "They're not sinning, but they're not moving on." Warner said that those pastors who left CFM recently were "people who have gone in a different direction."
Though a cult of Christianity
is determined primarily theologically - by its denial of one or more of the essential teachings of the Christian faith
- a wider definition takes actions and practices
into account as well.
A movement that appears theologically sound with regard to the central doctrines of Christianity, but whose actions and practices are - sociologically - cultic in nature, can still be considered a cult of Christianity (e.g. International Churches of Christ
Is is not clear whether the cultic tendencies noted in some CFM-churches are present in all of the movement's churches throughout the world.
We advise those who are involved in churches affiliated with Christian Fellowship Ministries (as well as concerned friends and family members) to:
See books listed under the topic Abusive Churches / Spiritual Abuse
Slam The Door
YahooGroups discussion forum for "ex-members of Christian Fellowship Ministries (The Door and The Potter's House) or those still in who are suffering it's effects."
. Related to the Slam The Door! Website
Mind Control Groups
Geraldo Rivera, September, 1988. "This show features members of Potter's House, Children of God and other cults and goes behind the scenes of a counseling session with Rick Ross."
Like the Slam The Door!
website, Apologetics Index does not endorse Rick Ross
. Click here for a list of recommended counselors, organizations and ministries
» Religion News Blog
. News archive operated by Apologetics Index.