As facts have emerged in the United States about Believers’ Church in India, Gospel for Asia leaders have scrambled to respond to worries that Believers’ Church is not evangelical. In 2014, Believers’ Church worked on a response to questions coming from within Calvary Chapels. Historically, this movement has been supportive of GFA financially and otherwise.
Thus, in the summer of 2014, an assistant to K.P. Yohannan drafted a letter under his name and reviewed by top management to address rumors about the governance and practices of Believers’ Church. I have obtained a copy of that letter. My source for the letter does know for certain that it was sent and so I am calling on Calvary Chapel pastors to read this and let me know if such a letter was ever received (remember GFA won’t respond to my questions and haven’t since May).
Even if the letter wasn’t mailed, it contains talking points geared to Calvary Chapel stakeholders being used in the present and provides an insight into GFA’s stance regarding Believers’ Church. Yohannan makes the surprising claim that Believers’ Church practices are similar to Calvary Chapel polity. Recently disclosures regarding ordination rituals (ring/hand kissing), liturgy, and Communion practices cast doubt on the claims that Believers’ Church is thoroughly evangelical.
The letter in a draft form:
Greetings to you in the name of our Lord.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. In the recent weeks, a few of our Calvary Chapel pastors and friends told us of some misinformation someone was spreading around, saying K.P. Yohannan and his ministry had become Catholic, etc.
This letter is to say we are not Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, or any such denomination in faith or mission. This rumor was originally started by a few Pentecostal brothers who wanted to discredit us for their own gain.
For the sake of the work of the Lord, and to continue the outreach to the most unreached, we had to choose a form of governance that is accepted by the governments in the Asian countries where we work known as “constitutional episcopacy” (this is not the same as an Episcopal church with their , but rather it is the governance of the church). This is exactly what is described in the Calvary Chapel Distinctives book by Pastor Chuck Smith. The church is ruled by episkopos (bishops) and presbyteros (elders).
In order for our pastors to conduct weddings and other legal matters for the church, each one must be licensed by the Magistrate from the judicial system, or be ordained by a bishop of a church within the constitutional episcopacy.
Thus, when we ordain our pastors, sometimes 100 or 200 at a time, the bishop that does the ordination is required to wear a certain attire/uniform and head gear that makes the ceremony authentic, much like is done during a college graduation ceremony here in the west. The wearing of the head gear is only done when he pronounces the statement, “By the authority vested in me, I decree you are now an ordained minister in the church of our Lord.” The wearing of the cap is only for a few minutes during the entire two hour ordination service.
Someone has taken one of these pictures of me in my formal dress as the senior bishop of the church, performing the ordination service. That person is using the picture to try and mislead others by accusing me as Catholic or Orthodox, etc.
We are NOT Catholic, nor are we Episcopalians, nor Anglicans, etc., etc. Rather, we are a Spirit-filled, evangelical church, born out of obedience to Christ’s Great Commission commanded to make disciples in all the world. We are radically evangelical both in our doctrines as well as in our spiritual lives. Please read more information about Believers Church on the page we have on our website.
If you have any further questions, please call me, or you can ask Pastor Skip Heitzig or a host of other Calvary Chapel Pastors that have gone to the mission field with us to teach God’s Word..
Thank you again for taking time to read through this letter. It won’t be long before we stand before Him. Like you, I am longing for that day, for the sake of two billion that wait to hear our Lord’s Name.
For the unreached,
Note the appeal to board member Skip Heitzig as a way of addressing concerns with this group. More recently, CC pastor Damian Kyle has been added to the board, probably for similar reasons. Some in the CC world are questioning the practices of Believers’ Church.
The BC liturgy, particularly regarding Communion appears to be dissimilar to what I know of Calvary Chapel. Certainly the ordination service seems more high church than CC. Yohannan has denied he allowed people to kiss his ring. This video seems to contradict that claim. Watch:
If you are a CC pastor and you received this letter, please let me know either in the comments section or via email.