Greater Grace World Outreach
|Greater Grace World Outreach|
View of GGWO Sunday morning church service from the AV/IT/WEB studio.
|Leader||Thomas Schaller (Chair, Board of Elders)|
|Founder||Carl H. Stevens Jr.|
|Origin||Successor to "The Bible Speaks" ministry prior to 1987, reformed as GGWO in 1987
Greater Grace World Outreach (GGWO) is an affiliation of nondenominational. 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.
There are 567 Greater Grace churches in 70 countries. Most of these churches are located in North America, Europe and Africa, with larger congregations in Hungary, Azerbaijan 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, along with other internal ministries, and outreaches.
Greater Grace along with its affiliated congregations, organizations and schools such as Maryland Bible College and Seminary are known for having unaccredited schools with unrecognized degrees. The organization and its related affiliates are believed to be a cult by former members.
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. 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 heterosexual, pro life and anti homosexual.
In the early 1960s, Carl H. Stevens Jr., a bakery truck driver, was praying at Wortheley Pond near Peru, Maine, and developed a vision for a worldwide Christian ministry. Stevens was later ordained by a council of independent ministers at the Montsweag Baptist Church on March 7, 1963. From there Stevens went on to build the Woolwich-Wiscasset Baptist Church, and establish the Northeast School of the Bible in 1972. He also began to experiment with radio evangelism, with a program called "The Bible Speaks".
In 1973, following an arson attack on their church building and a controversial church split, Stevens and his closest followers moved the center of their operations to a former Catholic school facility in South Berwick, Maine. There "The Bible Speaks" became the name of the church, and "the Northeast School of the Bible" was renamed as "Stevens School of the Bible". Expanded radio and television outreaches continued to draw in new followers and—both through church planting operations by the organization's Bible school students and graduates, and existing churches affiliating themselves with Stevens' organization—a network of "branch ministries" began to develop.
In 1976, the school grew beyond its capacity. As a result, Carl Stevens moved the "home base" of his organization to a former private boarding school facility which they were able to purchase in Lenox, Massachusetts.
The cornerstone of Stevens' career in Christian broadcasting was the call-in radio show he hosted, originally known as "Telephone Time", now called "Grace Hour". In 2006, this program won an Angel award for Excellence in Media.
In both South Berwick and Lenox, the Bible Speaks developed a considerable local presence, not only through drawing large numbers of young adults into these small communities as Bible school students, but also through operating extensive Sunday School operations, with a private fleet of retired school buses for bringing in children from the surrounding area.
They also established a network of private K-12 schools, beginning with Southern Maine Christian Schools in South Berwick (later moved to Scarboro, Maine), and then Stevens Christian Schools in Lenox. Church planting missionary teams were also sent out first to El Salvador and then to Finland and other European countries. In the 1980s this expanded to include church planting operations in South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Thomas Schaller, the current leader of GGWO, began his pastoral career as the head of their original missionary team to Finland.
In the 1983, the Bible Speaks purchased a Norwegian ferry boat which they renovated to use as a missionary relief vessel in the Caribbean. This boat was named La Gracia, with Baltimore, Maryland as its official home port.
In Baltimore, Greater Grace World Outreach quickly grew and established ministries including the Grace Hour, Greater Grace Christian Academy, 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 Rodger Stenger to become the new chief elder of the church. However, Rodger Stenger chose not to accept the position. In his place the elders elected Thomas Schaller as senior pastor, after a congregatonal vote. Still, many of the elders and senior pastors were dissatisfied with the choice, citing Schaller's views on the role of the senior pastor. 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.
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.
- Van Doren, Arnold (2007). GGWO Affiliation Handbook 2008. Baltimore, MD: Greater Grace World Outreach..
- GGWO Who We Are: Our Senior Pastor
- GGWO Who We Are: Committed to World Missions
- Pope, Hugh (2007-07-21). "Religion Is Spread to Ex-Soviets, But Local Clerics Are Inflamed". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- "Doctrinal Statement". Greater Grace Outreach. 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
- "Report on "The Bible Speaks"". Gospel Truth Ministries. 1981-03-28. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- "Winners". Excellence in Media. 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- "Norwegian Homefleet–WW II". Warsailors.com. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- "Timeline". Carlstevens.org. 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- Langfitt, Frank (2004-05-15). "Church dispute spills onto Internet; Web site airs accusations of impropriety by pastor". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- Greater Grace World Outreach Website
- GGWO U.S.A Churches.org Website
- GGWO Missions Website
- Fisher, Marc (1986-09-04). "Money Talks, Bible Speaks -- How To Spend $7 Million Religiously?" Times Union (Albany, NY). Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- 60 Minutes, (1987-05-31) Part 1, Reporting by Correspondent Roger Mudd. CBS. Season 20. 15 minutes. Retrieved from YouTube 2012-05-15.
- 60 Minutes, (1987-05-31) Part 2, Interviews with Diane Sawyer. CBS. Season 20. 11 minutes. Retrieved from YouTube 2012-05-15.
- In re THE BIBLE SPEAKS, Debtor. Elizabeth DOVYDENAS, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. THE BIBLE SPEAKS, Defendant, Appellant. 869 F.2d 628. United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit. Heard Oct. 4, 1988. Decided March 9, 1989. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Bondy, Flip (2001-04-17). "Church of team pastor has troubled roots" New York Daily News. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Gleick, Elizabeth and Lambert, Pam (2003-04-19). "The Strangers Among Us-It's Not Just Waco: Cults Ruled by Paranoia Flourish All Over America" People Magazine. Retrieved 2012-05-15.