Friday 29 January 2010

Michael Harper dies

This will be meaningless to many readers, but Michael Harper has died. Readers will know that the prophetic in me screams at any reference to divine epithet, Father, Apostle,Pastor,Prophet Smith etc.

But if anyone deserves to be called Father, this man does. Virtually singlehanded...not quite....this man tethered the Anglican church to the wall just long enough while it kicked and screamed blasphemies to introduce into its hallowed/unhallowed walls...the reader picks....the subject of baptism in the Spirit and the spiritual gifts. More detail is listed below.

But beloved...if you are in the UK and you are not a Pentecostal, and you consider yourself in the current move of the Spirit,you need to acknowledge this man.
Without Michael, aided and abetted later by such father figures as Arthur Wallis...
you can forget Dales Bible weeks
you can forget Kingdom Faith and Colin Urquart
you can forget the revival in Dr Challoners in 1972
you can forget the small move we had in Exeter university
you can forget Dr Heribert Muhlen probably in Germany and
then my links to my Catholic Charismatic friend Martin Franke
you can forget Chorleywood and New Wine and Soul Survivor
and Matt Redman
you can forget Mark Stibbe
Barry least being in Chorley wood
Holy trinity Brompton
The Alpha course
The John Wimber days in the UK
The doorway for the Toronto outpouring
......where do you want me to stop.

Michael Harper freaked me out by disappearing off the scene and going into the Orthodox church. Some tuning friends told me of this. But I now understand , for him it was his version of the third level. A way of contemplation and intercession. I am grateful to John Crowder's book....New Mystics for helping me to pick this up.
The Times just has no idea who they were writing about.
From yesterday's Times Obituary column

Father Michael Harper was one of the first priests to leave the Church of England for the Eastern Orthodox Church, in protest at the decision to allow women to enter the priesthood.

The vote was the last straw for him in his growing dissatisfaction with the Church, after 40 years as a leader on the Charismatic wing of Anglicanism during which he earned an international regard and following. He said later that his decision had surprised many of his friends, who were ignorant of the Orthodox Church.

In his 15 years as an Orthodox priest he set about trying to dispel some of this ignorance, continuing to describe himself as a charismatic and charting his journey to Orthodoxy in his book, The True Light.

Michael Harper was born in 1931 in London. He was baptised, although he recalled that his parents were not very devout Christians. His father was an entrepreneur at Smithfield Market and his mother a beautician with Elizabeth Arden. His first real exposure to Christianity was through his evangelical nanny, who took him to Baptist churches and encouraged his prayer life. He once said he would write a book about the influence of evangelical nannies, citing Winston Churchill as another who enjoyed that benefit.

He won a scholarship to Gresham’s School, Cambridge, and then went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to read law and theology.

It was there that he experienced his adult conversion to Christianity, in a revelation during a Eucharist at King’s College Chapel. The following year he put himself forward for ministry in the Anglican Church and after graduating spent two years training for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

His first parish was St Barnabas, Clapham Common, London, before he was invited by John Stott to join the staff of the leading evangelical church of All Souls, Langham Place, where he was given special responsibility for the shops along Oxford Street.

While at All Souls he experienced the second turning point along his faith journey, which he described as his “baptism in the Spirit”, the start of his journey as a charismatic. This experience led to a rift between him and Stott for some years.

Harper and his wife Jeanne, a talented musician whom he had married in 1956, left All Souls and dedicated themselves to the renewal movement worldwide. They formed the Fountain Trust, which organised charismatic conferences all over the world at which he addressed thousands of people. Jeanne co-edited the hugely influential songbook, Sound of Living Waters, which is still used by charismatic churches today.

Harper then went on to found Soma (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), which was committed to sharing ministries between the developed and developing world. He was involved for many years with the World Council of Churches. Colleagues remember him as a man with the ability to build friendships across the Christian traditions, and to encourage vocations. A gentle and humble man, Harper was nevertheless a dynamic speaker and networker, able to draw people in whatever their background or differences from himself.

His ministry was recognised in the Roman Catholic renewal; he spoke at several Catholic meetings and he met Popes Paul VI, John Paul and John Paul II. During this time he also edited Renewal, the longest-established charismatic magazine in the world, and he was a canon of Chichester Cathedral. He wrote 18 books, including the bestseller Equal and Different, which set out his views on women’s ordination and the gender debate.

Harper’s final spiritual step was to join the Eastern Orthodox Church. His first experience of Orthodoxy had been 20 years earlier in 1975, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He said he knew even then that Orthodoxy was very important and he would meet it one day. In 1989 he went to his first Byzantine liturgy at the New Valamo monastery at Heinävesi in southeastern Finland, and that, he later described in an interview, it was the “real answer”.

While the ordination of women in the Anglican Church prompted some clergy to convert to Roman Catholicism, Harper was never tempted by this, believing they would find too many problems in Rome. He described himself as “being led to Orthodoxy”, and in 1993 he was made president of the Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy. Two years later he and his wife were received into the Orthodox Church.

When he was first ordained into the Orthodox Church in 1995 he did not have a parish, so he set about forming an English-speaking Orthodox parish in London. Initially it was attached to the Arabic-speaking Antiochian Cathedral parish, and Harper started an English-language liturgy there on Saturday afternoons. This became the core of the now thriving St Botolph’s parish in the City, near Liverpool Street Station.

He was appointed dean of the new Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the UK and Ireland, and on its tenth anniversary he was raised to become Archpriest. He was committed to educating about Orthodoxy at all levels, and was involved with the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge from its beginnings a decade ago.

He resigned as dean a few months before his death. He had suffered from cancer, but continued to minister at St Botolph’s until a few months ago.

He is survived by his wife, Jeanne.

Father Michael Harper, Archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the UK and Ireland, was born on March 12, 1931. He died of cancer on January 6, 2010, aged 78


Dan Bowen said...

Sorry to hear that - as you say so rightly, Michael Harper was a father of most in the UK. What strikes me is the verse; "Moses, my servant is dead, now rise ...". We have a responsibility as the fathers grow older and go to glory to fill our horns with oil and go!

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

According to The scriptures Israel shall be known by the name of the young in the last days, whereas always before they took their name and stance from the older and wiser.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for posting that fitting tribute to Michel Harper. Commenting from the perspective of someone who's early childhood introduction to Christianity was a CofE church full every Sunday with people seemingly there for no reason at all, coming across Michael Harper, David Watson and Colin Urquhart - all Anglicans and in love with Jesus - was a dreadful shock and one of the battering rams Jesus used to overcome my pitiful arguments against the resurrection and get through to my heart.