Cult TV Network Supported by Christians?

Article ID: DO287 | By: Richard Abanes

The January 1997 National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Conference at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, attracted thousands of Christian radio and television talk show hosts, televangelists, and broadcasting advertis­ers from around the country. One of the most impressive and prominent displays at the gathering was that of the new San Fran­cisco-based “Christian WYSIWYG Network,” named after the acronym for a type of computer screen resolution: What You See Is What You Get. According to literature distributed by WYSIWYG representatives, this “Christian” company serves as an umbrella corporation for eight new cable networks that promise to pro­vide family entertainment and Christian programming:

· The WARM network is “designed exclusively for the valuable woman. WARM will provide today’s woman with unique insights into God’s love for her.”

· The WYSIWYG network, a family channel, will run “dra­mas, insightful documentaries, movies and live programming built on a foundation of Judeo-Christian values.”

· The ITTY BITTY network focuses on developing children with building blocks of discovery in God’s imaginative world.”

· The P.U.S.H. network is built on an acronym standing for “Pray until Something Hap­pens .” This will be the “first twenty-four hour prayer net­work dedicated solely to the purpose of prayer!”

· The YES! network is “especially geared towards five to twelve year olds, where God’s awesome power can shine forth from kids!”

· The GOOD NEWS XTRA network airs “24 hour news!”

· The SPIT network targets teenagers with “radical music videos and slammin’ shows.”

· The YEARS network “pro­vides a mature perspective, coupled with youthful vigor to create programming especially inviting to the silver set.”

Contrary to WYSIWYG’s name, however, NRB convention goers did not at all get what they were seeing. The founder and president of WYSIWYG, Richard Gazowsky, is an ordained min­ister of the United Pentecostal Church (UPC), the largest One­ness Pentecostal denomination in America. He is also senior pastor of the Voice of Pentecost Church in San Francisco, Cali­fornia, a Oneness Pentecostal church. According to the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, One­ness Pentecostals had been clas­sified as heretical in 1915-1917, when they were expelled from the Assemblies of God for denying the Trinity doctrine. Current publications from vari­ous Oneness groups, including the UPC, indicate that Oneness adherents vehemently continue to reject the historic, orthodox view of the Godhead.

Rather than seeing God as a triune being, eternally existing as three distinct Persons (i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Oneness Pentecostals maintain that God is a single Person who merely manifests Himself in three different roles. In other words, there is no ultimate dis­tinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As it says in an official UPC publication, “Jesus is the Father incarnate” (Meet the United Pentecostal Church International [Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, n.d.], 59; emphasis added). This doctrinal view, also known as Sabellianism or modalistic Monarchianism, was condemned as heretical back in the third century.

According to WYSIWYG spokesperson Doug Lanza, himself a Oneness Pentecostal, the idea to form new TV networks came to Gazowsky as he was praying near the end of a 40-day fast in April 1995. The allegedly divine origin of his idea was confirmed to Gazowsky two weeks later by a group of fellow Pentecostals who were on a walking pil­grimage through San Francisco. During their journey they paused in front of the Voice of Pentecost Church with a mes­sage for Gazowsky from God:

When they came to the church, they struck the ground seven times with a rod. Well, that’s exactly what happened when Richard was on this mountain praying. He had struck the ground seven times with his rod. And that was to signify the launching of seven television networks, [Note that eight net­works were announced at NRB.] Now, these peo­ple — we didn’t know them, we’d never met them before in our life, other than one of the people that was the leader of the group, but the rest of them, we didn’t even know them. And Richard had not even opened his mouth and said anything to anybody….He took that as a confirmation that indeed God was in it…. So he announced to the church that he felt God was calling him to begin these seven tele­vision networks.

In a recorded tele­phone interview with the Journal, Lanza further revealed that Gazowsky’s main objective is to use his networks to break down denominational walls and bring together all Christians. “In our organiza­tion,” explained Lanza, “we work with everything from Pres­byterians, to Baptists, to Pente­costals, to Assemblies of God, to Church of God in Christ. We have an interdenominational thing going on here.” To accom­plish this ecumenical goal, WYSIWYG has been “working together with many other Christ­ian ministries and churches and production companies.”

When asked to name a few of the more impressive min­istries supporting WYSIWYG, Lanza mentioned Promise Keepers and Focus on the Fam­ily. He made special mention of WYSIWYG’s close link to Promise Keepers. These same organizations are listed in the January 1997 WYSIWYG pro­gramming schedule along with several other well-known Christian personalities, including D. James Kennedy, Greg Laurie, Charles Stanley, Bever­ly LaHaye, and Kay Arthur. The programming guide additionally lists several controver­sial figures within the charismatic/Pentecostal communities (e.g.. Jimmy Swaggart, John Hagee, Larry Lea, and Rodney Howard-Browne).


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In reference to the afore­mentioned individuals, min­istries, and organizations, Lanza told the Journal: “We are in direct contact with them and [they are] supportive of wanting to see us get off the ground.” Part of this support has been in the area of finances. Many people alleged­ly have contributed to WYSI­WYG simply because so many well-respected ministries are backing the network. Accord­ing to Lanza, funds for WYSI­WYG have been secured through private donors contact­ed via Christian churches and ministries, as well as through exposure on other Christian networks and programs (e.g., Lester Sumrall’s LeSEA Broadcasting, Cornerstone Television, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club). Assistance has also been provided to WYSIWYG from “top management people” at the Trinity Broadcasting Net­work (TBN), all of whom are said to be very supportive of the WYSIWYG project.

When the Journal pressed Doug Lanza on the issue of the Trinity, he gave assurances that WYSIWYG was not going to “push any one single doctrine.” When asked how Oneness Pen­tecostals at Gazowsky’s Voice of Pentecost Church might react to non-Oneness Bible teachers on WYSIWYG, Lanza replied that it would present no problem since the church has already hosted a number of mainstream charismatic/Pente­costal preachers: “We’ve had Larry Lea come through [the church]. We’ve had Lester Sumrall come through. We’ve had Mario Murillo come through. We’ve had Dick Bernal come through….We’ve had everything from a Catholic priest to a Jewish Rabbi who was filled with the Holy Spirit and was converted to Christian­ity come through.”

An altogether different pic­ture emerged, however, when the Journal contacted several of the ministries supposedly committed to being on the WYSIWYG network. Brian St. Peters — spokesperson for Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship — stated that he remembers getting only one phone call from WYSIWYG. They represented themselves as a Christian network and offered to provide free air time to Laurie. Although St. Peters told them that it sounded like a good idea, he made no com­mitment to the network. Moreover, as of November 1997, he had not received any more phone calls from WYSIWYG. When told by the Journal of the group’s affiliation with Oneness Pentecostals, St. Peters stated that Laurie “wouldn’t be interested” in having any working relationship with such a network.

Like Harvest Christian Fel­lowship, D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries had only minor contact with Gazowsky’s organization. Walter Warren, head of pro­gramming for Coral Ridge, said he received some infor­mation from WYSIWYG in the mail, but that he never even responded to it. “I have never committed to going on their network,” Warren said. After learning from the Journal that Coral Ridge Min­istries was listed in the WYSI­WYG programming guide, Warren exclaimed, “That’s news to me.”

The Media Placement Director for Focus on the Fami­ly, Bob Dobbs, told the Journal that he, too, was contacted by WYSIWYG — once in April of 1996. Since then, how­ever, he has heard nothing from them. Dobbs was especially surprised to see Focus on the Family listed in a weekly half-hour slot on the network’s schedule because the family-oriented ministry does not pro­duce a weekly television pro­gram. Dobbs said that “Focus has no weekly commitment to any TV studio or network and has absolutely no plans to start a show of that kind.”

When the Journal told Promise Keepers spokesper­son Steve Ruppe about WYSI­WYG, its alleged connection to Promise Keepers, and the network’s programming schedule that lists Promise Keepers, Ruppe said that nei­ther he nor anyone at the min­istry’s headquarters had ever heard of WYSIWYG. “I would be very interested in finding out who they’ve been speaking to,” remarked Ruppe. “We do not even do regular TV programming.”

As of November 1997 the Journal could not reach a WYSIWYG representative for further comment. Consequently, the full story behind Gazowsky’s new television net­work remains a mystery. Ironi­cally, during WYSIWYG’s only interview with the Journal, network spokesperson Lanza stated: “I’m willing to answer any questions because, you know, What You See Is What You Get, and there’s real­ly nothing to hide.”

Richard Abanes