The following statement was originally distributed by YWAM leaders in 1988. It is typical of many of their responses in that it includes a lot of self-praise and self-congratulation for their humility, obedience, growth, prayer, and openness to God. In this case, however, there is also some admission of wrongdoing. Following the statement is the reaction from someone "in the know" to whom it was sent in 2002.
A STATEMENT ABOUT MORAL GOVERNMENT
By YOUTH WITH A MISSION
(Originally drafted in 1988)
Since its inception in 1960, God has blessed the work of Youth With A
Mission. We are deeply thankful for the thousands of people all over the
world who have found a place of service in YWAM and the many thousands more
who have grown through teachings given in our schools and on outreaches.
We are also grateful for those who have come to know the Lord Jesus as
their personal Savior in over 200 countries where our teams have ministered since 1960.
However, we wish to address an area of concern that has existed in our
mission. We want to clarify the correction God has brought to us, and make
ourselves accountable to the wider Body of Christ.
Although many were coming to know Christ in the 1960s through our work, we
became increasingly concerned about the lack of content in the message we
were presenting in our evangelistic outreaches. Many of our converts did
not understand what it meant to repent of their sins. This was reflected
in their lack of holiness and disobedience to the word. Our approach to
evangelism encouraged a kind of "easy-believism" that made us ashamed of
the fruit of our evangelistic efforts.
During this time God led some teachers to our mission with a strong
emphasis on repentance, the lordship of Christ and human responsibility for sin.
Some of these men taught from a Wesleyan theological framework. We found their
teaching to be a great blessing as it answered questions for many of us who
were hungering for something deeper from the Lord. It also brought much
needed depth in the Gospel message we were preaching in our evangelistic
outreaches. It answered the questions of university students educated in
the humanism of 60s campuses where all moral truths were loudly denied. The
emphasis on responsibility also met the needs of many young people who were
coming to us from the Jesus movement and hippie-type backgrounds.
This theological emphasis was called "Moral Government", a term used
commonly by Theologians and preachers in the last century. It is a term
commonly found in Charles Finney's writings. This teaching stressed God's
rule over individuals' lives and freedom either to accept or reject the
Gospel. We added this emphasis to the message we had always affirmed
concerning Christ's deity, virgin birth, His substitutionary death On the
cross, the universal sinfulness of the human family, and salvation and
eternal life through faith in Jesus' finished work on the cross, as
validated by His bodily resurrection.
Unfortunately, we went beyond receiving helpful teaching and fell into a
spirit of theological argumentativeness. Some of us seemed to enjoy
aggressively debating those who did not agree with our particular
understanding of theology. We sincerely regret this. We understand how
wrong this was and how it grieved the Holy Spirit.
Pastors and teachers in the Body of Christ pointed out the need for
correction and change. Subsequently, our international board of directors
(called the International Council) confessed our sins of indulging in a
spirit of religious controversy and asked God's forgiveness. At an
international counsel meeting in the autumn of 1979, we repented of our
proud and divisive attitude and the resulting theological imbalance. We
now recognize a place in our mission for those from both Wesleyan and
Calvinistic backgrounds. We have asked God to forgive our mistakes,
immaturity, and sinfulness. We ask all who have been offended by these developments to forgive us.
We long to be balanced and biblical in our teaching and practice. We
welcome all who trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and who hold the
Bible to be God's infallible word. We are called to be a missionary
movement and we do not want to be sidetracked from missions and evangelism
by theological controversy or imbalance.
A booklet has been written and self-published about Youth With A Mission
that alleges there is currently serious theological error in our
[In 2002 large portions of YWAM are still into MGT and it is arguably a presupposition behind much of "YWAM think," including "the rise of the apostles," "Taking Our Cities for God," "Spiritual Mapping," the "Open View of God," and the "Spiritual Warfare" emphasis.]
[Lead Us Not Into Deception is now available in its entirety at the website of Dr. Alan Gomes of Talbot Theological Seminary in La Mirada, California. Note the approximately 30 pages of documentation in the appendix. The "serious theological error" was not "alleged" -- it was proved!]
We can appreciate the alarm of those who have read this book
We were alarmed ourselves when we saw its claims. However we find the book
highly inaccurate and very misrepresentative.
[The discerning reader should note that Cunningham shows not a single "inaccuracy" or "misrepresentation." Cunningham, by leaving out his evidence for such a charge, is the one who is committing the sins of "inaccuracy" and "misrepresentation." Unfortunately, most people who read this want to believe in YWAM, so they don't notice his serious allegations against a god-fearing seminary professor! If you read Hearing Voices in the Dark, you will see that Cunningham had this superior attitude planted in him during his youth.]
We take exception with its
statement that there are those in our mission who do not believe Christ's
death on the cross was for our sins, and that He did not die in our place,
taking the punishment we deserve. We know of no one in Youth With A Mission
who denies that fundamental truth of the Gospel.
[Notice that he gave no page numbers to substantiate his charge about Dr. Gomes' "statement." All he does here is play word games, avoiding the real issues, which he is no doubt aware of.]
We are saddened that the booklet continues to be distributed even after we
met with the author to express our commitment to being balanced and
biblical and our openness to reasonable and mature correction.
[The book, 1986 issue with an added appendix for documentation, contains a written report about this meeting; it was quite different than he makes it look here. Cunningham's statement here is equivalent to "false witness" about professor Alan Gomes. It makes it appear that YWAM leaders acted as humble men of God and Gomes was simply out to get them.]
There is genuine freedom for theological diversity within our mission
today. We are truly an interdenominational Organization. We have people from all
Evangelical theological traditions. As long as they have a sound view of
the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, they are welcome in Youth With A
The great majority of YWAM's 6,6OO full-time workers around the world have
never been involved in these issues. Most have joined since 1985.
[In 2002 large portions of YWAM are still into MGT ]
The problem of theological imbalance in our mission in the past centered
around three theological issues; original sin, the atonement, and the
foreknowledge of God. All three of these positions were a reaction to an
extreme form of Calvinism. In each instance, we were concerned to affirm
the free will and responsibility of the individual and to lift up the
greatness, holiness, and righteousness of God. [This may actually be a truthful statement!]
We believed all persons are sinners -
[I don't know of anywhere that Cunningham says differently, but George Otis Jr, who got his Moral Government Theology at the Swiss YWAM base in Lausanne (Cunningham's famous "Is that really you God?" "Golf Hotel" base), told us at the 1975 DTS in Sunland, California that there were people who lived sinless lives. Elijah and Enoch were two examples given. According to Otis, that is why they did not have to die.]
that was obvious to us both from the
Scripture and from observing human fallenness. We have no hesitation then
or now in affirming that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of
God" and that we are "by nature children of wrath" like the rest of the
human family (Romans 323 NIV, Ephesians 2:3 NKJV) However, we felt it
important to emphasize every person's part in ratifying Adam's rebellion.
If we emphasized man's sinful nature without also stressing every individual's
choice to sin, [emphasis added] there would be theological imbalance and neglect of certain
parts of God's Word. For example, note the last part of Romans 5:12
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death
through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned..." (NKJV,
[Loren Cunningham had already opened the doors wide for Moral Government Theology and the Lausanne base was a center for the teaching which featured both Gordon Olson and Harry Conn. Apparently this is where Otis picked up the teaching and elaborated further upon it. Otis explains the Moral Government view of the sinful nature thus:
"A sinful nature is developed in our lives through habitual self-indulgence and subsequently begins to affect everything we do. . . .
"Thus we concur that a law or sinful nature is present but we must also see that it originated by choice. A good example of this is a junkie bound by an addiction to heroin. He cannot help put [sic] crave drugs; but its origin was in his choices."
p. 76 of The God They Never Knew, by George Otis Jr, 1978 edition.]
This was in no way an effort to deny human fallenness nor to say that man
could save himself by his good works. Just the opposite was true--it was
an attempt to emphasize humankind's responsibility for our sinful state
Original sin then became to us a description of the universal sinfulness and
rebellion of all people, but not an excuse for sinning. We found there to
be no scriptural basis to believe that because sin entered the world through
Adam, a person could blame his sinful actions on Adam-although we actually
heard people doing that.
We also wanted to emphasize that an individual truly could accept or reject
God's grace and that human free will was not an illusion. We wanted to help
people see that it was human actions, not God's, that were responsible for
the suffering and evil on this planet.
We reacted adversely to the teaching that His death was an exact payment
for the elect alone, and that they had no free choice over the matter. We
emphasized that Christ's death was a general payment for the sins of all
who would respond to the call of the Gospel.
In retrospect, we see that some with a Calvinistic view of the atonement
misinterpreted our rejection of a literal exact payment theory of the
atonement (Christ died only for the sins of those predestined to be saved)
as a rejection of the substitutionary death of Christ. We did not believe
that His death was simply a moral influence on humankind, but that He took
the sins of the whole world upon Himself.
Today there are people in our mission who affirm Wesleyan theories of the
atonement and those who hold to Calvinistic theories, We all agree that it
is not one's view of the atonement that will save you, but Christ's death
on the Cross.
Lastly, we found great excitement in realizing that the Almighty God chose
to allow Himself to be affected by human choices. He is truly a personal
God. When God declared that He would judge a nation, and subsequently that
nation repented. God responded graciously. Whatever words one uses to
describe this marvelous fact, God actually responds to our choices and our
[This is a foundational paragraph for the "Open View of God," proving that it was in YWAM before it ever became internationally popular and accepted by true scholars.]
Questions do arise out of this view about the foreknowledge of God. To
believe that God gives all people a free will and that He responds to our
choices does not lessen God's greatness. This view increased our awe of
God and His infinite ability to respond to all the actions and reactions of a
planet of human beings exercising their freedom of choice for and against
[Should this be considered any less than a defense of the "Open View of God"?]
Our love for God grew as we came to the conviction that He chose to create
humanity in His image and endow humankind with the ability to accept or
reject His love and grace We saw how profound and tragic is the grief that
comes to God's heart because of sin. Every choice we make affects God
deeply (Genesis 6:5-6 Genesis 3:12, Romans 2:3-4~ II Corinthians 7;10).
We came to the belief that prayer was not only for our benefit. God in His
great wisdom and generosity allows His people to participate with Him in
affecting the course of human history through intercession and prevailing
prayer (Jeremiah 18:1-12, James 4:1-l0).
We marveled that God invites us to join with Him through prayer to influence
the choices others make This is a mystery that cannot be explained by human
beings an absolute sovereign God allows those whom He created a certain
realm of freedom. Through the obedience and intercession of the saints a
spiritual battle is waged for the souls of men and women. This spiritual
conflict is not a mockery; it is real. The spiritual destiny of lost people
can be affected by our obedience.
[It can also be affected by our disobedience and especially by the propagation of false doctrine. Such was clearly stated in an email received at Thorn Street Chronicles this past June, where it was said, "I have friends who have NEVER recovered, and still wander in darkness because of the twisted perceptions of God created by MGT, and the lack of grace evident therein. I too, have written to those who wounded me, and have received no response. They are either blind, cruel, or simply don't care enough to make amends and change course."]
Whatever our view of God's foreknowledge and the mystery of human free will
in relation to God's sovereignty, we all agree that God is absolute in His
power an infinite in His wisdom and knowledge, and that He truly has given
each of us responsible free will. He is never surprised by anything a person does. Nothing can take away from God's sovereignty. There are simply some things about God we cannot explain.
[If there are things that cannot be explained, shouldn't we apply that to the foreknowledge question instead of creating new systematic theologies?]
We hope this paper clarifies why there has been a basis for controversy
over these issues in the past.
To summarize, the International Council of Youth With A Mission has
clarified our commitment to sound doctrine in our own Statement of Purpose
(see enclosed). We also affirm the Lausanne Covenant published by the
Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (5950 Fairview Road, III
Fairview Plaza, Suite 202, Charlotte., NC 28210). These statements of
mission and faith make it clear that all people have sinned, that Christ
died for the whole human family and that God's power and knowledge are
We are deeply regretful for our immaturity and sins of the past, and
greatly aware of our need for correction and teaching. We have sought to state
clearly our beliefs in this paper. We affirm the historical truths of the
Church. We also affirm the wisdom and importance of theological diversity
within the confines of loyalty to God's Word. We believe God has not
disclosed full understanding of Himself or His Word to Youth With A
Mission, or to any one person or group, and that we as Christians need each other
for wisdom and balance. This is one reason we insist that every YWAM staff
member belong to a local church.
Youth With A Mission is not a perfect instrument of God's Will - we have
many weaknesses, both past and present--but we want to please the Lord. We
Welcome constructive criticism, correction, and encouragement. It is our
prayer that God will help us serve Him in humility and righteousness, and
that we will be faithful to His calling upon us as a mission.
For the International Council of Youth With A Mission,
President and Founder
Youth With A Mission
In early 2002 this statement was sent, as an attempt to prove that YWAM had repented, to someone who questioned whether YWAM had ever changed. The following is part of that person's response:
"The e-mail you forwarded to me from [name
withheld by request of writer] of YWAM does indeed
change my opinion about YWAM: it removes what lingering doubts I may have
had about whether YWAM leadership might have ever truly repented of the
Moral Government teaching. Though I had no evidence that they ever did, I
held out the hope that over the years they may have reflected on their
errors and repudiated them without my knowing it. The fact that they are
still circulating this false and misleading response (which is the same one
I had read many years back) confirms that no repentance whatever has taken
place throughout these many years. This will certainly help me in crafting
my responses to others who may be wondering whether YWAM has changed. I can
now say definitively to any who ask that the deception continues." [emphasis added]
[A complete copy of this email correspondence is on file at Thorn Street Chronicles.]