At New Orleans ‘87 I conducted an interview with YWAM representative Chuck Ellis. He told me that though he wasn’t sure of the exact number of Catholic workers within YWAM, he felt there were at least 1,000, counting short-termers.
“Since the 1970s YWAM has worked with Catholic charismatics, and by 1984 it formally accepted a proposal to work with the Catholic Church (and Eastern Orthodox) in various projects. There are now a ‘good number’ of young Roman Catholics working for YWAM, including Rob Clarke, the director of their discipleship training center in Dublin. YWAM is currently working with three Roman Catholic dioceses in Poland in building local communities of faith” (Calvary Contender, Jan. 15, 1993).
In “Adventures in Reconciliation,” which was published by CatholicIreland.net, June 30, 2008, Rob Clarke tells how that he became a Roman Catholic by attending a charismatic Catholic mass with his sister, who was associated with the Young Christian Workers movement (YCW). He said, “I remember it vividly to this day, as I sensed the presence of God at that Mass and it made a real impact on me.” After meeting a Youth With A Mission team in Holland he attended YWAM’s Discipleship Training Program and became a staff member. He worked with Bruce Clewitt in Austria, who pioneered ecumenical collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church in that country. In 1987, Clarke became the leader of YWAM in Ireland. He says, “I am grateful for the rich heritage I have in the Catholic Church.”
Clarke has said: “We are trying to get away from the idea of simply 'converting' Catholics -- that is turning them into Protestants -- and towards a framework of ministry within the Catholic Church.”
An article in the August 1993 issue of Charisma was entitled “YWAM Builds Bridges to Catholics.” Consider a few excerpts:
Relations between Catholics and Evangelicals in most parts of the world are strained, if not openly hostile. But leaders of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) have been undergoing an epic shift of sorts in their thinking about Roman Catholics, and YWAM staffers in Eastern Europe have been engaged in bridge-building with Catholics for more than a decade.
[YWAM staffers consulted] with Catholic authorities before setting up a discipleship training program for Charismatic Catholic youth [in Poland].
In 1976, Bruce Clewett, a YWAM worker in Austria, was praying about whether it was possible for a born-again, Bible-believing Christian to be a committed Roman Catholic. He decided it was. Beginning in 1978, YWAM workers in Austria began to cooperate with Catholics there.
When this came to the attention of others in YWAM’s 7,000-person staff, questions were raised about the feasibility of Catholic-Evangelical cooperation. In 1984, YWAM adopted a policy allowing staff to work with Catholics when it was possible and desirable. Since then, YWAM has installed a Catholic, Rob Clarke, as director of its discipleship training school in Dublin.
Al Akimoff, YWAM’s director for Slavic Ministries, says YWAM’s missionaries are not aiming to lure Catholics out of their churches. Instead, he says, they are introducing Catholics to the knowledge of Christ and helping to establish Christ-centered, evangelistic Catholic communities.
... YWAM has played an important role in nurturing Catholic Charismatic youth in Germany and England because their discipleship programs meet a need that has not been supplied by the Catholic Church.
Rob Clarke, YWAM’s Roman Catholic national director in Ireland, said, ‘We are trying to get away from the idea of simply “converting” Catholics—that is turning them into Protestants—and towards a framework of ministry within the Catholic Church’ (Fundamentalist Digest, May-June 1993).
Floyd McClung, former head of Youth With A Mission, regularly joins hands with Roman Catholics. For example, he yoked together with tens of thousands of Roman Catholics, including hundreds of priests and nuns, at the North American Congress on the Holy Spirit & World Evangelization in July 1987 and August 1990. Youth With A Mission was at the very center of these unscriptural conferences.
In January 1997, Youth With A Mission leader Bruce Clewett (national director of YWAM in Austria) participated in a historic ecumenical worship service at the City Cathedral of St. Stephen’s in Vienna. Catholic Archbishop Christoph Schonborn invited Protestants and Baptists to direct the program. Roughly 2,000 showed up for the event. A Vineyard church provided the rock-style music with a band composed of electric guitars, saxophone, keyboard, and drums. Charisma magazine described the meeting: “Participants from all denominations were overtly happy—even thrilled, one organizer said. The service contained ‘electrical’ free church worship, contemplative Catholic hymns, personal testimonies, Scripture readings, an Evangelical sermon, worship dance, a Catholic procession carrying the cross, a light ceremony and more” (Charisma, May 1997). YWAM’s Bruce Clewett commented that there were two remarkable things about this service: “Firstly, that the archbishop didn’t invite Evangelical and independent charismatic church leaders just to come as guests, but rather to help run the program. Secondly, that the Protestants were so eager to come!”
Mark Alexander reports the following: “Around February, 2006, I ran into a group of young people who had just completed a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with Youth With A Mission. They said that they were on a mission working with Roman Catholics at a conference in Brisbane City Hall. Not being able to understand how Protestant missionaries could get into a Catholic conference to evangelise, I questioned them to discover that they were practising Catholics (not ex-Catholics) fully integrated with YWAM, and merely helping out at the conference. They vigorously defended Mariolatry, the Mass, Tradition, and other errors of Roman Catholicism. These kids had just been processed by a so-called Protestant mission organisation. They had joined YWAM as Catholics and after their Discipleship Training School were still Catholics. It was most upsetting to see these kids on the Broad Road yet thinking they were serving our Lord. I rang YWAM to be told, “Catholics are welcome, and the beauty of it all is that there is no conflict between denominations.” Since when has Roman Catholicism been a Christian denomination?” (Mark Alexander, “YWAM’s Ecumenical Error,” http://www.christianissues.biz/ywam.html).
John White, missionary to Australia, reports the following:
“Jesus Festival, YWAM Latvia - A 30 kilo cake marked YWAM Latvia’s 5th anniversary during their biggest annual Jesus Festival yet. In Liepaja, on the Baltic coast of Latvia, a city known for festivals and concerts, 500 believers from different denominations gathered to hear speakers including Peter Iliyn [North American directory of YWAM], Tjebbo v.d. Eijkhoff, Maris Dzelzs and Loren Cunningham [co-founded of YWAM] and his wife Darlene in plenary sessions and in seminars on worship, evangelism and Holy Spirit. An evangelism team of Swedes and Latvians, led by Tjebbo, saw over 700 responses. The event was marked by breakthroughs in unity with a Catholic bishop participating as well as singing groups from both Catholic and charismatic churches. Prayer and repentance for the nation and for the Church was a testimony of unity, with people from different denominations together praying for unity. Press and TV coverage was very positive” (“Dangerous Parachurch Organizations,” Heads Up! Aug. 3, 2012).
Buddy Smith, missionary to Australia and editor of Heads Up, reports the following: “A YWAM team came to Malanda some years ago and took the primary school RE class. A charismatic lady was the convener then. There was NO Bible lesson at all. They lined their "team" up in ranks and did a five minute dance in front of the students as they sat on the floor. When they finished and their leader stood up to give his YWAM spiel, one of the little boys on the front row held up his hand to ask a question, so the leader motioned for him to ask it. He said, in childlike simplicity, ‘What did that dance have to do with the Bible?’ And the leader was caught right out. He looked blank for a few seconds, and grinned in embarrassment, and then replied, ‘Well, nothing. We just saw it done in Townsville and liked it so we learned it and wanted to do it here in Malanda.’ I remember thinking how much wiser the little boy was than the YWAM leader. Even a little boy knew that, if it didn't have to do with the Bible, it didn't belong in an RE program” (“Dangerous Parachurch Organizations,” Heads Up! Aug. 3, 2012).
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