Bethel responds to accusations of practising occult
Matthias Browning

Matthias Browning

California’s Bethel Church has responded to accusations of practising occult in church services.

Many within the Christian faith circles have accused Bethel Church of allegedly practising New Age occultism in the use of “Destiny Cards,” which are likened to tarot cards which are used for Divination.

In a statement released on January 5, the church has defended the practise. The full statement has been published below:

There has been some recent concern about the ministry of Christalignment and their supposed use of “Christian tarot cards” in ministering to people at New Age festivals. While the leaders of this ministry (Ken and Jenny Hodge) are connected with several members of our community (including being the parents to our much-loved brother, evangelist Ben Fitzgerald), Christalignment is not formally affiliated with Bethel. We do, however, have a value for what they are seeking to accomplish.

When all of this came to our attention, we reached out to the Hodges to make sure we understood what they were doing and how they were trying to accomplish it. We’ve included a letter from them about their way of inviting people to encounter God in the context of festivals (see below). Of course, as we rightly assumed, they are not using “Christian tarot cards,” nor telling the future with cards. They stand in agreement with the Scriptures that all occult practices (like tarot cards) have no place in the kingdom and should not be used.

We understand that the cards have the look of something that Christians don’t value and find dangerous, namely tarot cards. There are times when the way a message is presented is so off-putting that it actually drowns out the intended message. At those times, it is appropriate to speak up and ask questions, and perhaps that is what people are attempting to do. It is our hope that people would direct these questions to the Hodges themselves.

Reaching people where they are with the truth and love of God is our job as believers. Many people will not come to our churches, yet they are in great need of a personal encounter with Jesus. The Hodges feel called to share the Gospel with a people group that most of us would feel unsure of how to approach. We value their efforts to minister to unbelievers in the ways they can more easily receive it and in the places they are going, like New Age festivals.

The Hodges are attempting to contextualize the Gospel and bring people to the realization that God is looking for them and loves them no matter where they are – just like the apostle Paul often did. In Acts 17:22-34, Paul spoke to a group of religious people who didn’t yet know God and lived in a city full of altars, idols, and various religions. In that moment, Paul referred to a single altar in their city that had an inscription to the “unknown god,” and he used this familiar object (something they understood and valued) as a starting point to connect them with the God of all creation. He wasn’t worried that they would get a wrong idea (like that God is merely one of many gods or that idols are appropriate) because he would soon be introducing them to the true God.

The Hodge’s ministry is a form of outreach meant to share Jesus with those who have never met Him, or think they hate Him, or worse, that God hates them. This practice is not what the Hodges do in church, in their devotional lives and Bible study, when making major life decisions, or when discipling people. It is not taught as the next great way of maturity, a secret new thing for young Christians, or an easy syncretism. This ministry is a way of getting people to stop and engage with fellow humans so that they might encounter the love of the Father and the truth of His Son Jesus Christ. If one of our sons or daughters was away from the Lord and looking for truth at a festival, we would be praying for them to meet believers like the Hodges who know the love and truth of God.

All denominations, particular churches, and individual believers have different levels of comfort with a variety of practices – especially in the ways that we evangelize. Attacking and alternately defending each individual practice is exhausting and tedious. One only has to look at church history to realize that very little fruit comes from constantly being suspicious of each other and reactively dividing from one another, devoid of all the nuance of context, life with God, trust, and love for one another.

At times, some of the efforts of a particular ministry may not be wise risks or best practices, and may need to be addressed. If someone is doing something a fellow believer is concerned about, that believer should go to them directly and privately share their concerns, seeing if they can build mutual trust and value for one another. Perhaps, an explanation will bring understanding, or they can adjust to protect their connection in Christ. But even if they must ultimately disagree about the validity of the belief or practice, they have built a bridge for ongoing dialogue and possible change. One might end up saying, “I don’t appreciate the way they are doing such and such and think there are dangers, but I value their priorities and look with generous eyes to see what they are trying to accomplish.”

In general, it is not our desire to respond to every story where someone claims something about our ministry and links us to something we are unaware of. Paul said it well in 2 Corinthians 4:5, ”For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord: and ourselves your servant for Jesus’ sake.” It is not our desire to have people who are followers of Bethel, but rather to be followers of Christ and be servants of one another for the honor of Jesus. The Hodges are serving those at new age festivals; all of us should focus on the assignment the Lord has for us to preach and live the Gospel, make disciples of nations, and build the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

These two resources will hopefully answer any additional questions you may have regarding this issue:
1) A blog post by Theresa Dedmon: This post explains a different type of prophetic greeting card (which happens to also be called “Destiny Cards”).
2) The letter we received from Jenny Hodge:

Hi Kris,

Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to reply to the recent misunderstandings about our ministry and tarot cards. My name is Jenny, the one who several websites have attacked and named us as with Bethel. The reason they said that because we are the proud parents of Ben Fitzgerald, who is part of the Bethel family.

Our ministry Christalignment is a large undercover prophetic evangelism deliverance ministry based in Australia. Our aim is to get people saved, healed, and set free. Over the last six years, we have developed a very successful tested method for ministering to thousands of new age people. The team see approx 7,000 people per year going into all Australian new age festivals, expos, and events.

The cards we use are our own, and are not tarot nor remotely similar to tarot. We know tarot cards are very dangerous and highly discourage it. The tools we made help us lead people into deep God-encounters at our tables, and our aim at Christalignment is to attract tarot reading clients, people who are fully into new age practises, psychics, and witches. All of these people can immediately recognise that our cards are not tarot once they sit down at our tables.

Card sets, including cards we made named “Psalm cards” with scriptures on them, address the gifting in a person’s life. The colour God is showing the person in a prayer encounter will speak to the person through the prophetic image on the front or meaning on the back. It’s the same as when we give someone a prophetic painting, just much smaller. They are all non-predictive, but we call them destiny cards as we believe that giftings and callings given by God for people are certainly part of their destiny. All cards contain beautiful paintings by four different world renown prophetic artists and these paintings alone have deep meanings that have led to salvation and healing for many clients.

The team is trained not only to be able to release deep encounters with the Spirit of Truth to clients but to also release words of knowledge and healing. For clients to see Jesus standing before them in an encounter is not uncommon, and many of them get born again.

The prophetic word given over us four years ago was that we would see hundreds of witches come into the kingdom, thousands of people turn from darkness, and that tarot cards would be disabled. Praise God this is happening!! As a deliverance ministry, we are able to stop clients ever going to a psychic again and this is our aim.

Thank you so much for all you do for the body of Christ, Kris.

God bless,
Ken and Jenny Hodge

Divination for those who don’t know is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultist standardised process or ritual. From ages before us, some people have utilised divination to gain knowledge of the future or as a way to make money. In current times those who claim supernatural insight such as fortune tellers; read palms, tarot cards, star charts, and more.

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