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Greater Grace World Outreach
GGWO Schaller preaching
Pastor Tom Schaller preaching at GGWO Baltimore
Classification Protestant
Orientation Evangelical
Polity mixed polity [1]
Leader Thomas Schaller (Chair, Board of Elders)
Geographical area Worldwide
Founder Carl H. Stevens Jr.
Origin Successor to "The Bible Speaks" ministry prior to 1987, reformed as GGWO in 1987
Baltimore
Separations International Association of Grace Ministries [2]
Congregations 478
Ministers 1000

Greater Grace World Outreach (GGWO) is an affiliation of nondenominational, fundamentalist, evangelical Christian churches that emphasize grace, the finished work, and missions. The headquarters of Greater Grace World Outreach is currently located at its megachurch in Baltimore, Maryland. GGWO was founded by Carl H. Stevens Jr. who was succeeded by Pastor Thomas Schaller as Presiding Elder and Overseeing Pastor of Greater Grace World Outreach in Baltimore in April 2005.[3]

There are 472 Greater Grace churches in 68 countries.[4] Most of these churches are located in North America, Europe and Africa, with larger congregations in Hungary, Azerbaijan[5] and Ghana. Most of the pastors attended affiliated Maryland Bible College & Seminary in Baltimore, however there are many other affiliated bible colleges around the world. The ministries of Greater Grace also include the radio program Grace Hour, Greater Grace Christian Academy, Christian Sports Clubs & Verticalink.

Greater Grace World Outreach has been part of several notable controversies including a landmark legal case regarding the undue influence of an heiress to the Dayton Hudson fortune, Elizabeth (Betsy) Dovydenas.[6]

Beliefs and practices

The beliefs of Greater Grace are outlined in its doctrinal statement and detailed in booklets written by Carl H. Stevens. Worship is non-liturgical but generally includes prayer, singing, offerings, and sermons. Songs are usually contemporary, but services may also include classical hymns. Evangelism, raps (devotionals, or informal Q&A meetings, usually following sermons), and informal bible study are also considered important acts of worship.

The organization has a 10-point Doctrinal Statement available on its website.[7] The organization limits the pastorate and/or homiletic role to men due to a literal interpretation of I Tim. 2:12, but allows women to lead in just about any other capacity. The church leadership is strongly pro life.

History

Origins

In the early 1960s, Carl H. Stevens, a bakery truck driver, was praying at Wortheley Pond near Peru, Maine, and developed a vision that would lead to a worldwide Christian ministry . Stevens was later ordained by a council of independent ministers at the Montsweag Baptist Church on March 7, 1963. Stevens' ministry first operated from Woolwich-Wiscasset Baptist Church, where Stevens established the Northeast School of the Bible in 1972. In 1976, the school grew beyond its capacity. As a result, Carl Stevens moved to Lenox, Massachusetts. In Lenox, he established his first ministry, The Bible Speaks[8].

Former organization

In 1976, the Bible Speaks purchased a college-preparatory school for boys in Lenox where they established Stevens School of the Bible and a Christian day school. At this time, several affiliate churches were established throughout New England. Eventually, they also began an international ministry, first in El Salvador and then in Europe and Africa.

In Lenox, Carl Stevens developed ministries including Telephone Time, Bus Ministry, and La Gracia. Telephone Time was one of the first Christian radio talk shows, which is now called Grace Hour. In 2006, this program won an Angel award for Excellence in Media[9]. The Bus Ministry would bring children from the surrounding neighborhoods to church on Sundays. In the early 80s, the Bible Speaks purchased a Norwegian ferry boat that they renovated into an international missions boat called La Gracia.[10]

In 1986, the Bible Speaks convinced heiress Elizabeth Dovydenas to provide a donation of more than $6,000,000. The church was then sued for undue influence and ordered to repay most of the money.[11] However, the church had already spent the money and so filed for bankruptcy. In 1987, Carl Stevens and the leadership of the Bible Speaks moved to Baltimore, Maryland and established Greater Grace World Outreach and Maryland Bible College and Seminary.

Present organization

In Baltimore, Greater Grace World Outreach quickly grew and established ministries including the Grace Hour, Greater Grace Christian Acedemy, Maryland Bible College and Seminary, the Christian Athletics Program, as well as international outreach ministries.

In 2003, Carl Stevens became too ill to continue his leadership of GGWO. In 2005, the elders elected Roger Stenger to become the new chief elder of the church. However, a large portion of the congregation expressed dissatisfaction with the choice and Roger Stenger resigned. In his place the elders elected Thomas Schaller as senior pastor, after a congregatonal vote[12]. Still, many of the elders and senior pastors were dissatisfied with the choice, citing Schaller's views on the role of the senior pastor.[13] In 2004, many church leaders, associated ministry leaders, and affiliate churches elected to disaffiliate. A group of pastors who disaffiliated formed a new organization known as The International Association of Grace Ministries.

Organization

GGWO is an affiliation of pastors ordained by the GGWO of Baltimore who agree to abide by the standards of the church. In return, the affiliation allows pastors to have fellowship and communication with other pastors and churches. Technically, it is an affiliation of pastors and not individual congregations as the GGWO recognizes local congregations as fully autonomous and independent. However, if a congregation’s pastor is a member of the GGWO then that congregation is considered within the GGWO as well. The GGWO cannot interfere within an individual church’s affairs unless assistance is requested.[1]

Criticism

The organizatin has been criticized in the past. A letter was written by the Christian Research Institute, which offers a list of suggestions for the church, attempting to correct any of the false teachings that might exist. The main teaching which was considered a concern was that of delegated authority.[14] However, in this document, Miller concedes that "TBS has, up to the time of this writing, also maintained an orthodox, biblical position on those doctrines most essential to the Christian faith. Thus, we do not consider TBS a non-Christian cult, but rather a Christian ministry."

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Van Doren, Arnold (2007), GGWO Affiliation Handbook 2008, Baltimore, MD: Greater Grace World Outreach .
  2. "Welcome". International Association of Grace Ministries. 2007. http://www.iagm.org/index.php. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  3. GGWO Who We Are: Our Senior Pastor
  4. GGWO Who We Are: Committed to World Missions
  5. Pope, Hugh (2007-07-21). "Religion Is Spread to Ex-Soviets, But Local Clerics Are Inflamed". The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB86943381833191500.html?mod=googlewsj. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  6. ^ "In re THE BIBLE SPEAKS (court case)". Justia.com (1989-03-09). Retrieved on 2008-05-27.
  7. "Doctrinal Statement". Greater Grace Outreach. 2007. http://www.ggwo.org/index.php?module=main&action=docstatement. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  8. "Report on "The Bible Speaks"". Gospel Truth Ministries. 1981-03-28. http://www.carlstevens.org/subpage1.html. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  9. "Winners". Excellence in Media. 2006. http://www.angelawards.com/2006_radio.html. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  10. "Norwegian Homefleet–WW II". Warsailors.com. 2008. http://www.warsailors.com/homefleet/shipst2.html. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  11. "In re THE BIBLE SPEAKS (court case)". Justia.com. 1989-03-09. http://cases.justia.com/us-court-of-appeals/F2/869/628/. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  12. "Timeline". Carlstevens.org. 2007. http://www.carlstevens.org/subpage30.html. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  13. Langfitt, Frank (2004-05-15). "Church dispute spills onto Internet; Web site airs accusations of impropriety by pastor". Baltimore Sun. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/baltsun/access/637903861.html?dids=637903861:637903861&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=May+15%2C+2004&author=Frank+Langfitt&pub=The+Sun&desc=Church+dispute+spills+onto+Internet+%3B+Web+site+airs+accusations+of+impropriety+by+pastor. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  14. "Christian Research Institute". Carlstevens.org. 2007. http://www.carlstevens.org/subpage.html. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 

External links

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