I-35 revival: A new straight and narrow way?

Sometimes stories come along that leave me speechless for awhile and then with so many things to say, I can’t get the words all out at once. There are so many directions I could go with this story. There is the no-wonder-people-outside-the-church-think-Christians-are-looney angle and there is the sexuality angle. But, for now, I think it best to just get it on here and see what develops.

In case you are not keeping up with prophecies, signs and wonders, there is a group of people who believe a revival is springing up along Interstate 35 which runs from Texas to Minnesota. A CBN article explains it this way:

A number of Christians have come to believe that because of recent prophecies, dreams, and visions I-35 is the highway spoken of in Isaiah 35, verse 8 — “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness.”

The first of these prophetic dreams came to a prominent German prophet in 1984. Prophetic intercessor Cindy Jacobs of Generals International told CBN News, “And in this dream he saw a highway that went from the bottom of someplace to the top that had a ’35’ sign on it. And God showed him that revival was going to begin at the bottom of this highway and go to the top.

Many other prophecies followed. Jeff Baldwin, college and career pastor at Dallas’ Heartland World Ministries Church, said, “There’ve been very specific cities given in these prophetic words, and they say, ‘Go to these cities and cry out for holiness and purity, and I’ll come down and I’ll invade.’ And all those cities were along the I-35 corridor.”

Before you look at the CBN video clip about this prophecy, take a few moments and watch a clip of “Prophet” Sam Brassfield give the details. This description of the video from the Godtube page describes the main points:

Prophet Sam Brassfield delivers a powerful prophecy at Ten Nights of Miracles, October 27, 2005, hosted by Generals International at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, TX. He declares that Interstate 35 in the United States is, like Isaiah 35:8, the “Highway of Holiness”. He details that I-35 splits east and west as it encircles the Dallas metroplex and decrees that Dallas is the epicenter for an incessant revival that is breaking forth in the nation. He stresses that this movement will not be exclusive to the Dallas area, but this revival will affect all 50 states as the fire of God consumes and lights this Highway – the heartbeat of America.

I admit I was skeptical from the beginning but I was pretty convinced this was not legit when he made all of the bad wordplays about mo’ of this and mo’ of that in MO (Missouri). However, two things make me take this seriously. One this movement is being likened to the Brownsville revival which sharply divided Charismatics and non-Charismatics through the late 90s. In fact, one of the principles in that movement, Steve Hill, is involved in this one. The second aspect of this story that made me want to record it here is the following story about James Stabile.

First, watch this clip from CBN describing the I-35 revival and pay attention to the words of James Stabile at about 2:04 into the segment.

Now if you read that CBN article all the way through you knew what was coming.

Then up came James Stabile, a 19-year-old homosexual who’d come by to drink and party.

“I was getting drunk in one bar and I was on my way to go continue getting drunk, and actually I was on my way to meet my fiance,” he said.

But he ran smack-dab into the Purity Siege and Joe Oden, who asked him, “‘Have you ever felt the Presence of God?” Stabile said he answered, “No,” and Oden asked him if he’d like to.

Stabile recounted, “He just barely touched me and he said, ‘Fire!’ and I remember staggering back and I thought I was tripping on acid. It was the weirdest thing ever. And he said, ‘Fire!’ again and I fell in the Holy Ghost.” Stabile said right then he felt God “…just came in and transformed me and radically saved me.”

One thing disappeared immediately: his homosexuality.

“I didn’t feel the desires to be with men like I had felt before,” he said.

Oden recounted the same story from his side of the event.

“We laid hands on him,” he said. “He was hit by the power of God and filled with the Holy Ghost … got plugged into our church, and is just living for God.”

Well, not exactly. There is more to this story that has only recently come to light. According to columnist John Wright of the Dallas Voice, Mr. Stabile’s homosexuality did not go away. But Mr. Stabile went away – all the way to Kentucky’s Pure Life Ministries.

[Pastor Joe] Oden told me Stabile had been shipped off to Pure Life Ministries, which operates a residential treatment program in Northern Kentucky.

“It’s a program for people who’ve lived alternative lifestyles just to get totally clean,” Oden told me.

Pure Life Ministries is the live in program where Michael Johnston now works. Wright continues:

A few weeks later, Oden told me Stabile had been kicked out of Pure Life for being a “compulsive liar,” which rekindled my interest.

Finally, I was able to get in touch with Stabile’s father, Joseph, who gave me the real scoop.

Coincidentally, Joseph Stabile is pastor of Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church, the oldest church in Dallas.

Joseph Stabile said he’s fully accepting of his son’s sexual orientation and believes being gay is neither a choice nor a sin.

Joseph Stabile said James left home to go out that Friday night and never returned. Joseph said James, or “B.J.” as his parents affectionately refer to him, is bipolar and had stopped taking his medication.

James called a few days later and told his parents he was moving out, and that he’d be back to get his stuff. James apparently had moved in with some folks from Heartland.

After that, it would be some time before James’ parents heard from him, as his church friends reportedly advised him not to contact them.

Joseph Stabile said the Heartland folks also may have advised James to throw away his medication, telling him that God would cure his bipolar disorder, too.

Bottom line: Young Mr. Stabile had other issues that he was dealing with that were interpreted within a spiritual framework by the evangelists. Ideas have consequences; what are in my view incorrect information about homosexuality and emotional conditions led to very questionable and harmful practices. Stabile is home now and according to his parents not ready to talk fully about his experiences. I suspect at some point he will be.

I know I do not have this whole sexual identity and religion thing worked out yet. Mark Yarhouse and I are making our best efforts and will revise the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework in 2008. But I am pretty sure what I am described is not the way it is supposed to go. I am not saying that I doubt all claims of miracles presented by Christians, but this story should give serious caution to those who are quick to accept such reports uncritically.