PDLTactics within AG-USA
Editorial Note: Following our exposé of AG-USA in CETF 36 and the joint email campaign carried out by James Sundquist and Philip Powell a number of AG-USA “pastors” have responded. In the Letters pages of this issue of CETF we have published some of the responses. The following true story is another piece of evidence that all is not well within Assemblies of God. We wonder how many more Ray Barnetts, Saied Adours and Kevin Bishops have been victims of the high handed tactics of AG leaders like Thomas Trask and Arden Adamson et al in USA, and how many in other countries have fallen foul of the same “lording it over God’s heritage” tactics by their hierarchies. Those who, after reading this article, which, in the first place, came to CWM unsolicited, who have a similar story to tell are invited to contact the publishers—see front cover. The attitude and action of the AG-USA leadership towards Kevin and Sharon Bishop and their young family are almost unforgivable. They lost their church buildings and the church family that they had built up over several years. They were effectively driven into the embrace of the heretical Word Faith movement. Kevin still struggles between their clearly false teaching on the one hand and the kindness on the other of a group which reached out to him when his own “kicked him in the teeth’. That struggle continues and we, in CWM, and our associates in USA, want to stand with Kevin and Sharon Bishop as they get to grips with the real issues. Telling their story is part of that support.
By KEVIN BISHOP with PHILIP L. POWELL
KEVIN BISHOP was saved in an Assemblies of God church in 1985 and was called by God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 1992 he graduated from one of the denomination’s premier schools, Central Bible College in Springfield, MO, excited and eager to serve the Lord and win people to Christ.Immediately after graduating from this esteemed Bible school he served as a youth pastor in Delphos, OH, starting with 13 young people.
Within eight months the group grew to over 80 in each mid-week service, and more than 100 at the Friday night outreach. Young people from every walk of life were being transformed. The services were filled with a sense of the presence, power and glory of God. It was a most rewarding time in Kevin Bishop’s early ministry.
In 1993 he married Sharon. Together they served faithfully and saw numeric growth in their youth ministry as they began to flourish spiritually as a team. Being appreciated and well supported by the church they also led praise and worship and so served in a double role. The church was growing and prospering. Then the senior pastor fell from grace and split the church. At that time the congregation was close to 300 but was soon reduced to seventy-five.
In the midst of the turmoil Kevin and Sharon prayed for guidance regarding their future ministry and received a number of offers and were interviewed at various places. Then the board of the church where they were serving as youth pastors invited Kevin to be their pastor.They were appointed in 1995 with the full backing of the congregation, which increased numerically to become one of the strongest churches in the area. People were led to the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit. Once more the Delphos, OH Assemblies of God was growing and prospering. Challenges associated with the previous senior pastor’s fall were faced by this young couple and were overcome and turned into victories with the Lord’s help and by His grace. By 1999 the financial debt on the sanctuary had been totally discharged.
Then Kevin and Sharon sensing a new burden of ministry and with the total support and recommendation of Robert Crabtree, Ohio’s AG district superintendent began to send out resumes across the country. Their future seemed bright within Assemblies of God. They were strong leaders and God had blessed their ministry with growth and success. They were full of energy and enthusiasm ready to take on the next challenge in ministry.In the autumn of 1999 the late Cecil Dewitt, board member of a struggling church in Wisconsin Rapids, WI invited Kevin to send them a few preaching tapes. A few weeks later, the board of deacons invited the Bishops to an interview. Mr Dewitt told Kevin that his was the kind of ministry that was needed in the church. The Rapids Assembly of God comprised of a 48,000 square feet building with multiple classrooms, offices, a large sanctuary and hardly anyone attending. Kevin saw the potential. He and Sharon ministered and a business meeting followed the service
There were approximately 40 members present. The vote fell just short of the 85% minimum set by Kevin and Sharon so they respectfully declined the offer and returned home.On arrival, there was a message from one of the district officers on their answering system asking them to reconsider. He told them that the total votes in favour was above the minimum required and assured them that their type of ministry was exactly what the church needed.
Kevin went to prayer about it and then contacted the Wisconsin Northern Michigan District Council (WNMDC) of the Assemblies of God and stated that he would accept the pastorate.
In November 1999 Kevin, Sharon and Levi, their only son at that time, moved to Wisconsin Rapids, WI. They went full of faith, to see people saved, healed and delivered. The struggling church began to grow under the blessing of God whose presence was felt among His people. At the first service after installation, twenty people accepted or rededicated their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. After that service Cecil Dewitt, the deacon, cried as he told Kevin that this was the first altar call he had ever seen in almost seven years in that church. The news began to spread through the city and surrounding areas. In a matter of months the Rapids church was numbering close to a hundred.
Approximately six months after being installed into the church, Joel Pavia, the district superintendent, asked Kevin to meet him for lunch and told him that he was doing a great job. During this lunch meeting Kevin was informed that the church had experienced some major struggles in the past with two large splits. This alarmed him yet he responded with faith and courage. In the year 2000 Kevin invited Robert Perdue, a close evangelist friend to conduct a revival campaign. He was an older man of God and Kevin’s mentor, who teaches solely on prayer. It was planned to last for one week, but extended to six with people coming from all over the area. The church experienced another growth spurt to over two hundred.
Sometime in 2001 Kevin received a letter from the Assemblies of God stating that the church he was leading was one of the fastest growing churches in the area. Kevin and Sharon and their congregation felt excited and honoured. The future was looking bright and full of potential.Unfortunately Joel Pavia resigned from his office in the district. Arden Adamson replaced him and this is when the Bishops’ troubles began. Adamson used his power to pressure this young man of God. One night he and another presbyter showed up at a meeting uninvited by the young pastor. They claimed that Kevin was doing everything wrong and that his affiliation with World Harvest Ministries1 in Columbus, OH was alarming.Adamson wanted Kevin and his deacon board to come to Waupaca to “sort out their differences”.The church secretary called the district to cancel the meeting and was told, “You cannot do that. All the presbyters will be here for the meeting”. Kevin knew something was wrong. He sensed they were trying to force him out of the church.
Rapids’ board of deacons worked hard rewrite their constitution and bylaws to prevent district control of the local church. They presented the rewritten constitution and bylaws to the congregation, who approved and adopted the new documents. The church thought it was freed from any district control. They had acted lawfully and “by the book” so they thought. However the district filed a suit against Kevin and his ministry, laying claim to the building and assets. Also, a pastor of another local AG church contacted him and told him that he had received letter from the district stating that he was to “stay away from Bishop”. Rev Perdue also received threatening letter from the WNMDC forbidding him from preaching for the church any longer.
About the same time Kevin received a call from a friend in Texas claiming that he had prophetic word for him that the “denomination will tell others to stay away from the unclean animal”. The local church pastor who informed Kevin of the letter, leaked it to members of his congregation. Rumours and lies started to pile in the small town of Wisconsin Rapids. Attendance began to wane and the struggle took its toll on the ministry. This led to inner turmoil, gossip and backbiting
The district hired some slick attorneys and began to destroy the psyche of Kevin and the church that was now struggling to stay afloat. The district’s attorney *2 aided by the General Council (AG) in Springfield, MO found some loopholes in the constitution and claimed the building and assets of the church. The struggle took its toll on the Bishops’ marriage, health and ministry. Finally, after enough fighting, loss of attendees, legal bills and a destroyed financial base, Kevin resigned as pastor.
His health deteriorating, his marriage strained and his own personal well being almost destroyed by the conflict, Kevin was ready to walk away from everything. He did not know how much more he could take. At one point he contemplated suicide. However, his wife and a small group from the original church encouraged him to keep on going and together they formed Living Waters Fellowship Church now called Cornerstone Community Church of Wisconsin Rapids, WI.
After Kevin started this new church, the AG-WNMDC was still in pursuit of the building and parsonage. Two local church board members dealt with the district including Clifford Smits, who was assured that the WNMDC would pay all the final bills that were incurred by the corporation if the building and properties were just handed over to them.
Smits agreed and the paperwork was completed and signed in a closed meeting. Kevin Bishop was not present in that meeting. The district lied again. The attorneys for the WNMDC sent the bill collectors to the Bishops’ house. Kevin had to appear in court to defend himself. He hired another attorney who suggested that he file for bankruptcy to protect himself from the multiple thousands of dollars of debt. To this day Bishop has an attorney defending him in matters of the state and federal government for back payroll taxes never taken care of by the corporation or by the AG district notwithstanding their promises.The WNMDC sold the church for $500,000 and the parsonage for $120,000—much less than the joint value. So the district walked away with $620,000 while burdening the Bishops with the outstanding bills of the corporation. This ghost of the past is still following Kevin and his ministry.
If it weren’t for the grace of God, he would have walked away from ministry altogether. This is the Assemblies of God in USA and how they will treat their ministers if it suits their purpose. This frightening past continues to hinder his ministry in the town where Kevin serves as pastor in the small church he started. To this day, people attack newcomers. Being a small community it’s like everyone knows everybody. As soon as anyone visits Cornerstone Community Church, Kevin and his group are attacked with lies and rumours. By the grace of God Kevin continues to hold his ground, believing that God has called him to the city where he now serves. A wonderful wife, family and congregation stand with him in the work. The road has been rough, but they have and will persevere notwithstanding the emotional pain that Kevin still suffers. He and his family and their small Church Fellowship know that it is God who sustains them and will see them through.
This is written as a genuine expression of concern about the trend of a one time godly “movement” which Kevin and others of us were proud to serve our Lord among. Sadly, experience indicates that it has become a self serving denomination that is increasingly controlled by ambitious self serving men who claim to be godly ministers.