Apostles, Alignment, and that other “A” word (Part 2 of 5)

Click here to read part 1: How apostolic alignment relates to accountability

Part 2: Accountability in the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL)

For much of its history, C. Peter Wagner managed ICA/ICAL as Presiding Apostle, with John P. Kelly assisting. In 2008, while presiding over the apostolic alignment of evangelist Todd Bentley at the Lakeland revival, Wagner declared that ICA then included “over 500 recognized apostles.” [4]

This recognition is fundamentally different from the first century, when apostolic credentials included demonstrating the supernatural power of God (2 Cor. 12:12), producing faithful disciples of Messiah (1 Cor. 9:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:1-3), and giving up earthly comforts and honors to do so (1 Cor. 4:9-13). ICAL preserves the New Covenant requirement of receiving the apostolic call from God but accepts different evidence for confirming that call.

In 2011 (Charisma Magazine), Wagner vigorously defended the NAR by proclaiming: “No true apostle is self-appointed. First of all, they are gifted by God for that ministry. Secondly, the gift and its fruit are recognized by peers and the apostle is ‘set in’ or ‘commissioned’ to the office of apostle by other respected and qualified leaders.”

In other words, Divine appointment is proven only when the apostle is “recognized by peers.” In his book Apostles Today (2012), Wagner was more emphatic: “If someone says, ‘God has called me to be an apostle,’ but no one else agrees, then I have to doubt whether that person has accurately heard from God.”

Conversely, he implied that if someone says, “God has called me to be an apostle,” and enough people do agree, there’s no reason to doubt that the speaker heard from God. Under these conditions, false apostles can gain recognition if they have an impressive following.

And what “fruit” qualifies for peer recognition? ICAL’s membership page describes apostolic qualifications that mirror those of the seasoned CEO. Applicants are considered only after founding multiple congregations or ministries, and/or receiving requests from several leaders to “set things in order” for them. Candidates must also be nominated by two current ICAL members, fill out an application form, and pay the membership fee ($350-450 per year). ICAL membership is “by invitation only” from the Convening Apostle.

Taken together, ICAL recognition resembles a hybrid of admission to a professional guild and acceptance into a private club. Members receive a certificate awarding them “the full privileges of membership,” which mostly consist of gaining access to similarly certified apostles for networking.

Wagner declared in 2014 to Charisma Magazine that “the most radical of all the [NAR] changes is this: the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals.” (Wagner’s emphasis) Wagner’s ICAL successor John P. Kelly tempered this autonomy by emphasizing teamwork as a safeguard against “toxic leaders”. However, Kelly’s advisory applied the need to “be a team player” only to leaders working under the apostle. It wasn’t clear that overseeing apostles must be team players themselves.

Promoting the authority of individual apostles suggests accountability of another kind. How does ICAL ensure that its members are healthy for the leaders who align with them? The answer is elusive.

It’s not that an answer is missing. On the contrary, apostolic accountability is mentioned repeatedly throughout ICAL’s website. However, the membership page (linked above) emphasizes that ICAL “should not be considered the primary accountability agent for any of its members.” Here we are vaguely introduced to different degrees of accountability, with a blanket disclaimer for one of them.

More disturbing is the organization’s position on “true” accountability (membership page again): “We encourage our members to establish those kinds of relationships with other individuals and/or organizations that can adequately provide the kind of true covering and accountability that all leaders need on a personal level.”

The “true covering” that “all leaders need” is not provided by ICAL but by others. Nor is this covering mandatory for ICAL members; it is merely “encouraged.” Thus, ICAL recognizes spiritual authority in these individuals without taking responsibility to verify that they actually merit it.

But on the “about” page we read the opposite, under the heading “ICAL Provides Apostolic Accountability”:

“ICAL members are committed to maintaining the highest possible levels of integrity of personal character and operational methodology among its members. The ICAL Advisory Council gives oversight and enforces the code of Biblical conduct required of each member to insure the standards of ICAL and maintain unity among the brethren (Psalm 133:1, Ephesians 4:3).”

A few paragraphs after this primary accountability commitment to ensure apostolic integrity, we find a repeat of the disclaimer found on the membership page: “Although ICAL is not a primary accountability structure, membership in ICAL does imply a secondary apostolic accountability.”

The site supplies no information about the ICAL Advisory Council, the required code of Biblical conduct, or a definition of “secondary” accountability.  Although enforcing a code of conduct requires discipline, ICAL doesn’t mention a disciplinary process for apostles with substandard conduct. A request to ICAL for these details received no reply.

The European Apostolic Leaders (EAL) site displays an accountability declaration nearly identical to that of ICAL, with the same mixed message. A query about their code of conduct and its enforcement received no reply either.

ICAL’s American affiliate USCAL fortified the disclaimer, taking the confusion to new heights (emphasis added):

“The USCAL Advisory Council gives oversight and enforces the code of Biblical conduct required of each member to insure the standards of USCAL and maintain unity among the brethren (Psalm 133:1, Eph .4:3). This does not mean ‘oversight.’ USCAL does not ordain or give oversight to individuals or groups of apostolic leaders.”

The EAL promotes Wagner’s view that NAR is a move “away from bureaucratic authority [committees and boards] to personal authority [the apostle].” Since personal authority can be so easily abused, to whom do the top NAR apostles owe “primary” accountability? In the above-mentioned 2014 Charisma article, Wagner described his own arrangement:

“If pastors report to the apostle, to whom does the apostle report? …Most [1990s] apostles typically have one or more other apostles with whom they have chosen to be aligned. For example, I lead a closed group of 25 apostles who are voluntarily aligned with me and who contribute toward my salary and benefits. I call it Eagles Vision Apostolic Team [EVAT], and it is relational, not legal.”

Over the years, many tried unsuccessfully to identify Wagner’s 25-member relational team. It was indeed “a closed group.” Still, one gets the impression here that apostle Wagner “report[ed] to” EVAT, whose presumed mandate (besides financial support) was to counsel him and confront him when correction was necessary. Unfortunately, elsewhere Wagner refuted that notion.

His Charisma disclosure omitted the fact that like ICAL, he distinguished between “primary” and “secondary” accountability. Unlike ICAL, Wagner partly defined the latter in his book Apostles Today (unnumbered page, accessed via Google Books). There he explained: “With the exception of EVAT… I do not provide the [ICA] members primary personal accountability, although I do provide secondary accountability because as the leader I am responsible for who is or is not a member.” Wagner then commented that he had dismissed four unidentified ICA members and “accepted the suggested resignation of others” after receiving unspecified complaints against them.

Several facts emerge here. First, despite the existence of a board that (according to Juster) made these executive decisions, Wagner reported them in first-person singular. ICA’s founder saw himself personally controlling ICA membership by virtue of his apostolic authority. Second, limiting this control to “secondary accountability” revealed that the priority was to protect ICA’s reputation. When complaints indicated a breakdown in an apostle’s “true” accountability, ICA’s leader took no action except to quietly erase the offender’s name from the books.

Dan Juster defended ICAL as “having greater integrity today” than under the late Wagner. However, he admitted that even now, verifying true accountability remains the job of “the apostolic stream that has real governing, which ICAL does not.” He agreed that ICAL is merely “a professional association” whose only disciplinary leverage is to “remove members,” and perhaps “appeal to their organizations to deal with them.” Even then, ICAL does not publish a list of who was forcibly removed and why.

The resulting picture: When apostolic accountability is needed, ICAL’s first response is to cut the only connection through which it “provides apostolic accountability” of any kind. Thus, ICAL accountability measures protect no one except ICAL. Furthermore, the discreet dismissal endangers others. If a false apostle is ejected, all he loses is ICAL membership, which depends on annual fees as much as on personal conduct. The Body will never know the real reason for his “resignation.”

Lastly, Wagner’s Apostles Today illuminated his relationship with his Eagles Vision team. On the same page as the above quote, he described the primary accountability he provided them with as “vertical,” indicating one-way submission to Wagner from below. This explains why he wrote in Charisma that whereas ordinary apostles “report to” an apostolic team, Wagner “leads” his apostolic team. The EVAT members were “aligned with” him – he was not “aligned with” them.

Because Israeli apostles described “the Church being aligned with Israel” (Intrater, Alignment, p.70), some have questioned whether they mean the same vertical submission model as Wagner. Juster emphasized that this alignment does not include “governmental authority” over believers outside Israel; it is rather “mutual deference” with “first honor given to Israel.”

However, Intrater related (Alignment, p.80) that the Tikkun apostolic team accepted an alignment request from the international organization Women Aglow, who interpreted “alignment” as the decision “to submit to you as renewed apostolic authority in Jerusalem.” Without some form of governance that requires accountability, this talk of “submission” to “authority” is meaningless and inappropriate.

To whom do top apostles submit in Tikkun? There, mutual deference does appear to translate into governance. Juster’s 2015 blog on “Apostolic Order” envisioned that “the apostle himself should be accountable to other senior leaders [who] should hold the senior apostle of a network to accountability.” Juster clarified further by email that each apostle “can only operate with the agreement of a team,” and that a member of Tikkun’s apostolic team “can appeal for the rest to discipline even the senior leader.” But although he likened it to “a Presbyterian type of government,” Tikkun accountability is a closed circuit within its own organization.[5]

Compare this with an alignment structure in which even top apostles are accountable elsewhere, and everyone knows where. At Dove International, ministers and apostles alike submit to a clearly identified outside eldership. The elders’ independence from the Dove network frees them for objective judgment and promotes transparency. A query confirmed that Dove International deliberately chose not to adopt Wagner’s alignment model.

Since many groups have adopted it, ICAL’s accountability issues can affect believers unconnected with NAR. When interviewed in 2015 about his NAR research, author Doug Geivett confirmed the one-way submission of pastors to NAR apostles. He also observed, “In the speaking I’ve done, I’ve discovered that people who know little about the movement soon learn that they’ve had a closer encounter with it than they realized.”

Later we’ll see how NAR alignment performed under real-life accountability pressures, and how those results influence the Body’s debate on apostles. But for context, let’s first explore another ICAL accountability element adopted by virtually all apostolic streams: partnership with prophets. Stay tuned for Part 3.


[4] For more details see Part 4, which documents the Lakeland apostolic alignment.

[5] Juster revealed that Tikkun recently established “a Strategic Advisory Council to which we are accountable like Dove.” No further details were disclosed. He also alluded to unidentified “elders in Israel” to whom Tikkun’s senior leaders are accountable, along with the U.S. Tikkun and Israeli charity boards for “disclosure of program, salaries and finances.” He did not say whether any of these authorities are entitled to review apostolic statements, practices or partnerships that believers outside Tikkun might find scripturally questionable.

Click here to read part 3: The role of prophets in apostolic alignment