Wednesday, 13 January 2010

In memoriam Michael Harper

I recently heard of the death of one of my early 'mentors' Fr Michael Harper. Along with John Stott, David Watson and Michael Green - all Anglican clergymen - Michael Harper deeply influenced and inspired me and it is in part due to them that I am where I am today. Here is a short outline of his life, the first of many I suspect. It is adapted from The International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements article written and edited by Peter Hocken

MICHAEL CLAUDE HARPER (1931-2010) was a pioneer figure in the charismatic renewal in Britain, a leader in worldwide renewal, and a prolific author. Converted as an undergraduate at Cambridge, Harper was ordained a priest of the Church of England in 1956. From 1958 to 1964 he served at All Souls, Langham Place, one of London's major evangelical churches, under John Stott. In the fall of 1962 he had an enlightening and empowering experience of the Holy Spirit, receiving the gift of tongues in August 1963. Harper sponsored talks by Francis McGuire, Larry Christenson, and David du Plessis 1963, and organized residential conferences at Stoke Poges in February and June 1964. He published Christenson's booklet on tongues and his own booklet on prophecy. By the summer of 1964 he resigned from All Souls church and became the first full-time General Secretary of the Fountain Trust. The trust was established to help further Harper's goals and ideals for spiritual renewal, focusing on new life in the Holy Spirit for Christians in all churches, and renewal of the body of Christ.

His organizational, teaching, and writing work now multiplied, with a first trip to the United States in 1965 and to Australia and New Zealand in 1967. Editing the Fountain Trust's magazine, Renewal, from its inception in January 1966, Harper became director in 1972, but in 1975 he
resigned as director and editor to concentrate on his teaching ministry, based in Hounslow, West London, until 1981, when he moved to Haywards Heath, Sussex. Harper was a canon of Chichester Cathedral from 1984 to 1995, when he resigned Anglican orders to join the
Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church.

From the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, Harper's ministry was primarily international with a twofold focus: serving renewal within the Anglican Communion at promoting its ecumenical relations. The Anglican focus developed from his role as convener of a charismatic conference for
Anglicans immediately before the Lambeth Conference in July 1978, which led in 1981 to the formation of "Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA), of which he was appointed full-time international director in1984. Harper's ecumenical service in the charismatic renewal found its
principal expression in the "European Charismatic Consultation" (ECC) formed in 1988 and the International Charismatic Consultation on World Evangelization (ICCOWE), which developed from a consultation held in Singapore in 1987. Harper served as ICCOWE's chairman for the
worldwide ecumenical conference for charismatic leaders held in Brighton, England (1991) and the ICCOWE-ECC European conferences in Prague (1997, 1999).

Throughout his ministry Harper has been supported by his wife, Jeanne, herself musically gifted and for many years active in the Lydia Fellowship for women. Harper's gifts are illustrated in his steady literary output. His practical spiritual teaching is seen in Power For the Body of Christ
(1964), Walk in the Spirit (1968), and Spiritual Warfare (1970). His narrative skills shine in As At the Beginning (1965), an account of Pentecostal origins and the first blossoming of charismatic
renewal; None Can Guess (1971), his own personal story; and A New Way of Living (1973), on the Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas. His ability to clarify contemporary issues in the light of the Gospel is seen in Let My People Grow (1977), Three Sisters (also under the title This Is the Day, 1979), and The Love Affair (1982).

Increasingly troubled by a doctrinal permissiveness in the Anglican Church, which was brought to a head by the ordination of women in the church of England, Michael and Jeanne Harper joined the Orthodox Church in March 1995. Harper was soon ordained as a priest and made
dean of a new Antiochian Orthodox Deanery for Great Britain. His position on women's ordination is set out in Equal and Different (1994); the story of his pilgrimage to Orthodoxy is told in The True Light (1997), and in A Faith Fulfilled, Why Are Christians Across Great Britain Embracing Orthodoxy? (1999).

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