Bob Weiner’s Plans Unclear a Year after Maranatha Disbands

Article ID: DM036 | By: CRI Statement

Charismatic leader Bob Weiner’s plans are still unclear almost a year after his announcement that the doors were closing at the international offices of the Maranatha Christian Churches in Gainesville, Florida.

In a move that took many off guard, Maranatha’s senior leaders held a board meeting in Florida in November of last year and decided to dissolve its entire corporate structure — a move that would give its 70 Maranatha congregations in 22 nations around the world total autonomy.

A month later in San Anto­nio, Texas, Weiner publicly broke the news to delegates at Maranatha’s annual conference.

Although many reasons were given for the breakup of the confederation of church­es, the main one cited by Weiner and other former top leaders came as no surprise to cult researchers. The church­es — founded in 1972 by Weiner and his wife, Rose, as a charismatic outreach on university and college cam­puses — had been guilty of spiritual authority excesses.

According to an article in the March issue of Charisma and Christian Life magazine, Maranatha leaders decided at a July 1989 board meeting that too much of a “spirit of con­trol” had entered the ministry. The article also noted that four Maranatha elders suggested Weiner take a sabbatical dur­ing which time he would eval­uate his “personal character.”

During the sabbatical, Weiner concluded that “I have been struggling with anger, unkindness, contentiousness and a tendency to control,” the article quoted him as saying.

In 1984, however, Weiner steadfastly denied that the min­istry engaged in abuses of authority. According to the August 10, 1984 Christianity Today, Weiner was responding to the just-released conclu­sions of an ad hoc committee of cult watchers that charged Maranatha Christian Ministries with having “an authoritarian orientation with potential neg­ative consequences for mem­bers.” Weiner accused the committee of having an anticharismatic bias.

The Christianity Today arti­cle, and another article a year later in the Wall Street Journal, publicized allegations that Maranatha members were not allowed to date and were required to submit their lives to shep­herds who made decisions for them. Marriages of staff members were sub­ject to Maranatha’s entire board of elders.

Those participat­ing in the committee were James Bjornstad (chairman), Brian Onken (representing Christian Research Institute), Steve Can­non, Ronald Enroth, Karen Hoyt (representing Spiri­tual Counterfeits Project), and Gordon Lewis.

In issuing the report, the committee said it “would not recommend this organization [Maranatha] to anyone,” and noted that Maranatha was guilty of faulty methods of biblical interpretation, question­able practices, and deficient theology — including an unclear view of the Trinity. Some former Maranatha lead­ers have said that the organiza­tion worked hard at clearing up most of the perceived doc­trinal problems the committee cited.

Lee Grady, former editor of Maranatha’s publication The Forerunner, said there was little chance Maranatha would reform itself into a new organi­zation. Grady added that some of those involved in the church’s college campus ministry are now involved in a new autonomous organization based in Austin, Texas, called Campus Ministries International.