Peniel Pentecostal Church in Brentwood, about 15 miles from my home, has been controversial here in Essex for several years. I have never been there myself. But I did know people at a church here in Chelmsford which perhaps 20 years ago closed down and effectively merged with Peniel, including a family which left that group and joined my own church. Among the controversies is the allegedly overbearing leadership style of its leader, until last week, Bishop Michael Reid.
But the latest controversy tops the lot, and made it into the national newspapers, at least The Daily Mail, as quoted by John Richardson, and The Sun. The story is also in the Church Times blog, despite being completely non-Anglican. For it seems that Michael Reid has fallen into the oldest trap for church leaders, adultery. If the reports are to be believed, he has for eight years been having an affair with the music director (I nearly said “worship director”, but I know what Doug would say to that!) at his church. Indeed he has admitted adultery, without specifying more details, and resigned from pastoral duties in his church.
Simon Jones, who was apparently hurt by involvement in a similar church, has blogged about this matter in a somewhat intemperate way, accusing Reid of hypocrisy. He also writes, accurately:
A quick Google will reveal some truly awful stories about Michael Reid and the way he has dealt with people who have questioned his leadership over the years.
My aim here is not at all to defend Reid or his church, but to put some balance and truth into this story.
First, the current issue is nothing at all to do with his ministry style or church leadership. That is anyway an internal matter for him and his church, at least unless it is clearly unbiblical or abusive. Not surprisingly people who didn’t like his leadership are not sorry about his fall, but any link between the issues is only speculative.
Second, although Dave Walker and Simon Jones use “scare quotes” around the title “bishop”, and Dave even calls him “self-styled”, in fact Michael Reid is entitled to be called a bishop. Simon quotes a letter from the International Communion of Charismatic Churches confirming that Reid was properly consecrated as a bishop:
His consecration to the office of the Bishop was conducted in Benin City, Nigeria by the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa. He for several years after served as the national presbyter for the ICCC and a member of the College of Bishops. However, since his resignation several years ago he has held no position within the organization and the organization has had neither involvement nor oversight in his ministry.
According to the ICCC’s own website their episcopate was recognised by Pope Paul VI in 1978:
the pope saw it as a gesture of genuine desire to identify with the historical church and he defended the actions of the three Pentecostals and called for McAlister and DuPlessis to be brought before him for commissioning as bishops of special recognition and rights thereby establishing them both as direct descendants of apostolic succession.
Robert McAlister consecrated Benson Idahosa, and Idahosa consecrated Reid. So Reid became a genuine bishop in the apostolic succession. And, although he left the ICCC about ten years ago, on the understanding of those who believe in the apostolic succession he remains a bishop for life. So there is no call for “scare quotes” or words like “self-styled”.
As John Richardon writes, we should not be crowing over the fall of a church leader that we didn’t like, but
what all of us should be thinking is, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
And , I suggest, we should be praying for Bishop Reid and his wife, and for the woman involved and her family; also for the church under its new pastor, including that it will turn away from the abuses for which Reid was allegedly responsible and follow God’s leading for it as a church.