Church of Iran Denies Jailed Members Follow Cult Leader

 

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

iranundergroundchurchcp
One of several underground house churches in Iran.


TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- With several of its members in jail this Easter, Iran's largest evangelical house church movement has denied Iranian media claims that they are "Non-Trinitarian Christians" who follow "an American cult leader".

The Church of Iran reacted to reports by Mohabat News, which describes itself as an "Iranian Christian News Agency", and state-run outlets such as Press TV.

"They follow the teachings of William M. Branham, an American cult leader who claimed to be the last prophet of God on earth," Mohabat News said this week. It also called inmates and other members of the Church of Iran "Non-Trinitarian Christians, also known as 'Branhamists'."

However Firouz Khandjani, a Church of Iran council member,
strongly denied the allegations. "Actually we do not disagree with the Trinity because there are signs of the Trinity everywhere and throughout the Bible," he said.

"We don't disagree with the Oneness of God [and] we have a specific understanding of the Trinity," Khandjani told BosNewsLife. "We are not Non-Trinitarian."

STATEMENT OF FAITH

The Statement of Faith of the Church of Iran, obtained by BosNewsLife and published on the Internet in French and English, seems to confirm that.

Referring to numerous Bible verses, it includes that "With the Holy Spirit, we affirm and confess one God, Creator of heaven and earth" and that "He is revealed in the Scriptures as Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

The Church of Iran also mentions "the Lordship of Jesus Christ, only Son of God, the Word manifested in flesh."
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Khandjani said the Church of Iran focuses on Christ. "Every ministry in our church is centered around Christ not around men. We are a Full Gospel movement," Khandjani stressed.

"MEN OF GOD"

"Allegations that we follow a last prophet shows an Islamic mindset...The Bible speaks of two final prophets who will witness [about Christ during a period of 3.5 years] before the Apocalypse" and return of Christ with His Church, he explained.

The official acknowledged that the Church of Iran may use teachings "of several men of God" ranging from Christian leaders Martin Luther, John Calvin, Billy Sunday, Alexandre Westhpal, Billy Graham or even Billy Branham. "However we are not followers of one of them."

"Our critics are not even able to make a difference between 'Christological' and "theological" affirmations about the Son. In other words, there is some theological illiteracy here, Khandjani claimed.

He said it is "highly possible" that Iran's Islamic regime is behind the distribution of what his church regards as "false information" through Mohamat News and other media.

They made similar allegations when Church of Iran Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani faced a death sentence for "apostasy", though he was recently released following three years of imprisonment.

Some churches with ties to the government and other groups have accused the Church of Iran of "making money with persecution", allegations the movement strongly denies, Khandjani explained.

MONTHS OF DETENTION

The controversy comes at a time when the Church of Iran remains concerned about members who remain jailed on charges linked to their Christian activities.

Among those known to be detained only Soroush Saraei, Mohammad Roghangir and Massoud Rezaei were  released at midnight March 19 and Eskandar Rezaie was freed this week, after each posted 80,000 dollars in bail, Khandjani confirmed to BosNewsLife.

The four Christians and Shahin Lahooti, who is still behind bars, were jailed five months in Adel-Abad Prison in Shiraz, 920 kilometers (571 miles) south of the capital Tehran, the Church of Iran said. "We have to wait and see" when and if Lahooti will be released, explained Khandjani.

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Pastor Benham Irani in better times with his family. He remains jailed despite concerns about his health.


Additionally, concerns remain about other Church of Iran Christians behind bars, including Pastor Pastor Behnam Irani who led an affiliated congregation in Karaj city in Alborz Province.

Iranian Christians have told BosNewsLife that the 43-year-old can "painfully walk again" after he was previously beaten by fellow inmates and guards of the Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, among the toughest jails in the country, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the nation's capital Tehran.

Two other believers of his church, Farshid Fathi and Saied Abedini, are also held there.

NATIONAL SECURITY CHARGES

In Tehran, Church of Iran members Alireza Seyyedian and Mohammadereza Hosseini were also forced to observe Easter behind the walls of the notorious Evin prison.

All are behind bars on charges that include "actions against national security" of the strict Islamic state.

Other believers held on similar charges include 28-year-old Ebrahim Firouzi, who was taken into custody by plain clothes officers on his way to work on March 7, Christians said.  Additionally, Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini has begun serving an eight year jail term in Evin prison, raising concerns from the United States.

"I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs," stressed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement last week.

"I am [also] disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire," he said.

INTERNATIONAL NORMS "VIOLATED"

Kerry said such treatment violates "international norms" and Iran's laws. "The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released," the top diplomat added.

The reported crackdown has been linked to concerns among Iranian officials about the spread of Christianity in the strict Islamic country, which they view as a threat to their power base.

There are at least 100,000 evangelicals and possibly close to half a million Christians in Iran, according to several data monitored by BosNewsLife.

Most of them are former Muslims meeting in underground house churches who operate outside state-supervised churches, according to missionaries  working in the area.

However, "Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years-such such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime," said Elam, a mission group founded by Iranian church leaders.



More on the Web in French on the Church of Iran's doctrine  

11 thoughts on “Church of Iran Denies Jailed Members Follow Cult Leader

  1. The classical Trinitarian confession is neither an essential Christian belief or a Biblical Doctrine. The Trinity was invented by Post Apostolic gentile religious philosophers. It arises out of theo-philosophic speculation not out of the Sacred Text. Neither the Hebrew Prophets or the Jewish Apostles taught a ‘three person’ god. GOD is ONE. Jesus was not the only Son of GOD but He was the ‘only begotten Son’ of GOD. Jesus was not the Father but He was the Son of the Father. GOD is not a person. GOD is SPIRIT. Jesus is a true MAN. The Seed of the Woman. Conceived [not created] by the Holy Spirit [GOD]. The Holy Spirit [in the fullness] was IN Christ reconciling the world unto Himself [GOD]. There is only ONE GOD [SPIRIT]. Jesus the MAN was GOD manifested in the Flesh but Jesus was not the Almighty GOD, the Father. And so He confessed many times in the Gospels. The classical Trinitarian confession of GOD ‘as’ or GOD ‘in’ or GOD ‘revealed in’ or GOD ‘is’ three persons is an error, heresy.

  2. To Anton

    The Trinity as you understand is a teaching of a man. What you should get is the revelation that God’s name is Jesus. That’s why the scriptures say ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1 v 23) not ‘God is with us’ meaning the period God is with the people on earth i.e. that is the time that God took the human form and lived on earth as Jesus. This is what blinds a lot of people and they start saying heresy.

    The truth about God is by revelation and that is why Jesus said to Peter (Matthew 16 v 15-19) that he (Peter came to know Jesus as the messiah through a revelation from God). It is a pity that most Christians have been misled to believe that the rock Jesus mentions here is Peter as a foundation of the church yet the rock here is the revelation of God/Jesus to an individual by God. God is not shallow to then base his very foundation on a frail individual such as Peter (given his stuttering faith in the Bible.

    Pray that this truth is also revealed to you. Bran-ham’s teachings may not be a bad starting point at all.

  3. Dear Anton,

    I disagree with Parham, as I am sure you’re a Christian as well. However I would suggest to read the Statement of Faith of the Church of Iran. There may be some points we could disagree with (in my case perhaps point 10 on the Lord’s Supper) the most important thing that unites us all is faith in Christ. I disagree with your “red flag” about the understanding of trinity, though I completely understand what you mean. I think what they want to say is that Christ says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. Nobody comes to the Father than by Me.” So in other words if you have Christ you have the Father, Son and Spirit (Life). If wine is a symbol of blood, it’s also a symbol of Life. (that’s why the Lord’s Supper is actually NOT only about death, but actually about Life we have in Christ, it was a reference to what would come, therefore I would argue with point 10. But once again, there are more churches and Christians who think this way). God bless you and Happy Easter, Stefan. Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife

  4. Anton!

    You are not competent to speak about the Trinity, because it requires some notions of patristic. Your Iranian friends do not believe to the Trinity according the councils but to a new form of origenism. They are not aware of that because they are illiterates, maybe because persons like you or some Muslims are teaching them.

  5. Hi Stefan,

    The problem is that you cannot take the Trinity out of Christianity without changing Christianity into something else.

    Nor can a church claim to be focused on Christ and the Bible while at the same time using the teachings on William Branham.

    When church leaders say “we have a specific understanding of the Trinity,” that’s a red flag.

    Perhaps the church should spell out what those teachings are.

    In this regard I have to give the report of local Christians more weight.

    Another Christian organization in Iran, Parsa Trust, revealed that pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was a leader in the Branham movement in that country.

    It is a good thing to speak out against human rights abuses. But we have to be careful that in the process we do not allow ourselves to get tricked into giving legitimacy to heretical movements, teachings, and their proponents.

    Regards,

    Anton

  6. Dear Anton,

    I think the point is that the Statement of Faith is that they do NOT promote the teachings of a certain person, including William Branham, but are focused on Christ and the Bible which they regard as God’s Word.

    Best regards,

    Stefan J. Bos

  7. Dear Reza,

    It is written below the French text (just scroll down). But for your convenience and other commentators we also publish it here. Javid and Parham: we believe your questions are answered in the Statement of Faith of the Church of Iran. Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife

    Following is the English text of the Church of Iran’s Statement of Faith:

    With the Holy Spirit, we affirm and confess:
    one God, Creator of heaven and earth (Gen. 1, Isaiah 45.18) Spirit (John 4:24), Light (1 John 1:5) Love (1 John 4:16) and truth (Jeremiah 10.10), Lord (Genesis 21.33) , the Almighty (Genesis 17.1), Faithful (Deu 7.1) and Immutable (James 1.7), Infinitely Wise (Ps 147.5), Upright (Deu 32.4) and Holy. HE is ONE (Deu 6.4, 1 Cor 8.4) and Alone (Isaiah 37.16, John 17.3). HE is revealed in the Scriptures as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19). HE is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exo 3.6).

    the Lordship of Jesus Christ, only Son of God, the Word manifested in flesh. We believe that He is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20) and He was born of a virgin Mary (Matthew 1.23, Luke 34). We believe in His atoning death and redemption (Heb 9.28), in His bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39), in His ascension (Acts 1.9-11), on his return in person to gather His Church (1 Thessalonians 4:17), followed by His coming in glory to judge the rebels and establish the reign of a thousand years. (Rev 1.7).

    The baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt 3.11; Marc 1.8; Luke 3:16; John 1.33; Act 1.5, 2.38) is the new birth (John 3.5-8). It introduces the Christian in the Eternal Life of God and leads into all truth, to holiness in communion with Christ.

    The divine inspiration of Scripture. Whole Bible for the 66-or 70 (depending on whether you consider the Psalter as a book or 5) books of the Old Testament and New Testament is processed and inspired by God. It is an infallible revelation , the only rule of faith and life (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1.20-21).

    total depravity of humanity: the man, while having been created pure and after the divine image (Genesis 1:26-27) is by his own fault (Genesis 3), fallen from the Grace. In Adam (Rom 5.12) all have strayed from the divine path and are lost. The men are absolutely incapable of saving themselves by their works, being dead in trespasses and sins (1 Cor 15:22) and that sin leads to a final destruction away from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1.9) the person who, despite the divine call, do not change path and attitude.

    salvation by grace and unmerited favor of God: We believe, in fact, have access to salvation, rehabilitation in our initial position by unmerited favor of God, yes, only by the Grace of God (Rom 3.24). In Christ, the SON, the Man-God, the regenerated humanity has a new beginning in order to realize itself its divine calling (Eph 2:10). By His bloody sacrifice on the wood of Calvary, His death, resurrection and His ascension to the right of the Throne of the Divine Majesty, we are reintroduced into the intimacy of the Father, restored in our filial relationship (Colossians 1:21).

    that evil comes from a personal being Satan, fallen angel that has led to a part of creation the nascent humanity included in his fall. He is rebellious to God (Isaiah 14:13) and the instigator of evil (Isaiah 1 John 3. 8 and 12), but was defeated by Christ (John 16:33) through the work of the Cross (Col. 2:15). His trial and conviction has been pronounced by Christ (John 12:31) and the hell fire awaits him (Rev. 20:10).

    the resurrection of the dead. First elected to rise again and will be raptured in glory to reign with Christ: it is the first resurrection (1 Cor 15.52, 1 Thess 4. 15-18, Apo 20.5-6). Then, after one millennium the second resurrection for eternal life for some and the final judgments for others (Rev 20.12-13).

    baptism by immersion of commitment: it is a personal response to God’s call to break with the values of this world to follow the Lord Jesus. Whoever believes in His name receives baptism (Acts 2:38, Acts 10.48, Rom 6.3, James 2.7, Mat 28.19).

    10. The Holy Eucharist instituted by Christ to commemorate His death until He returns. The elements of the Lord’s Supper are unleavened bread and wine (Matthew 26.26-29).

    11. The call to ecclesial communion. The Church consists of all those who accept the call of God in Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:12) in order to live in fellowship a life worthy of the Kingdom of God, a Divine Breath animated life bearing fruit after God ( Gal 5:22).

    12. In summary, we believe, confess and affirm everything that Scripture teaches.
    We believe that through His Word and His Spirit, God works to advance the church to a perfect knowledge of the Word. He continues to build his church by five ministries (Eph 4:11) and through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12.4-11).
    Whoever therefore continues to ears to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Amen

  8. The teachings of William Branham and his followers are widely considered to be heretical:
    http://bit.ly/WilliamBranham

    Branham’s rejection of the Trinity, one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, places him and his movement outside the boundaries of the Christian faith.

    Add to this that Branham taught the Word of God was given in three forms: the zodiac, the Egyptian pyramids, and the written scripture. He said that anyone belonging to any denomination had taken “the mark of the beast”.

    So yes, theologically any church that accepts and promotes Branham’s teaching should be considered to be a cult of Christianity:
    http://www.apologeticsindex.org/2765-cult-of-christianity

  9. Javid!

    As your Muslim teachers, you ignore completely the Christian tradition. Ambrose declared: ” “If you say Christ, you have designated God the Father, by whom the Son was anointed, and Him Who was anointed Son, and the Holy Ghost in whom He was anointed.”

  10. They say : baptism by immersion of commitment: it is a personal response to God’s call to break with the values of this world to follow the Lord Jesus. Whoever believes in His name receives baptism . !!!????

    what about father and Holy spirit. !!!???

  11. ” the Church of Iran, obtained by BosNewsLife and published on the Internet in French and English … ”

    HI,

    Could you please give us English version that article ???

    Thanks

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