Shepherding Movement

Timeline > Movements

Search Timelines:

Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, and Ern Baxter
Time Period
1972  - 1985
In the early 1970s, certain charismatic leaders promoted spiritual accountability through a shepherding church system, in which parishioners would submit to leaders and pastors would in turn submit to those at the top of the organizational structure. Operating from their base in Florida, charismatic leaders Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson and Ern Baxter (e.g., "Fort Lauderdale Five") established the movement, developed the bylaws of the shepherding structure and organized a network of churches to implement the system. At one point, more than 100,000 followers adhered to their teachings.

The strict hierarchical nature of the movement and potential for abuse drew cult-like comparisons. Popular charismatics, including Pat Robertson and Dennis Bennett, confronted Shepherding leaders in 1975, but no resolution was made.

By the mid-1980s, the movement faded, but the emergence of the Shepherding Movement raised questions regarding the persistent conflict between hierarchical church structures and the potential for abusive leaders.

Interactive Timeline(s)
Social Movements and Religion
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Social Movements and Religion in American History
The Shepherding Movement was a theological development beginning in the early 1970s that garnered controversy for its deep emphasis upon personal submission to spiritual authorities. Its leaders’ desire for order was in response to the excesses and chaotic nature of the interdenominational Charismatic Movement of the same era.

Deriving their views in some sense from the Catholic tradition of spiritual direction as well as the writing of Latin American Pentecostal Juan Ortiz, certain charismatic leaders decided that a system of shepherding was the best answer for the people of the Charismatic Movement. Operating from their base in Florida, Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson and Ern Baxter (also known as the "Fort Lauderdale Five") utilized the power of their ministries to model and encourage the practice of submission and spiritual shepherding. The publishing efforts of their magazine New Wine and development of a media ministry also were utilized toward this end.

Within their own circle, these leaders engaged in mutual submission and accountability. They also expanded this ministry’s philosophy to other churches and adherents that began to follow them. This encouraged a plan of submission that was pyramidal and hierarchical in nature. Parishioners would submit to leaders and pastors would in turn submit to those at the top of the organizational structure. A network of churches developed from this arrangement with the "Fort Lauderdale Five" functioning as authorities of an apostolic nature. At one point more than 100,000 followers adhered to their teaching.

Because of the movement’s concentration of power and the potential for abuse, numerous other leaders in the Charismatic Movement opposed it. Concerns over its cult-like and potentially heretical features abounded. Notable among the skeptics was popular evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman, who at one point refused to share a stage with those associated with the Shepherding Movement. Pat Robertson and his CBN organization also strictly curtailed any connections with or promotion of those engaged in the controversial teaching.

In 1975, a meeting took place in Minneapolis (often referred to as the “shoot-out at the Curtis Hotel”) in which key Charismatic Movement figures like Pat Robertson, Demos Shakarian and Dennis Bennett confronted Shepherding Movement leaders. No resolution came out of the contentious gathering. Strong feelings persisted for years afterward as the two sides coexisted grudgingly within the Charismatic Movement.

The Shepherding Movement eventually faded parallel to the Charismatic Movement, which by the mid-1980s began to lose some of its energy and shape. Eventually the main leaders, who themselves had experienced some tension within their midst, disbanded their affiliation and New Wine ceased publishing in the mid-1980s. Though Charles Simpson continued leading a remnant of those adhering to Shepherding teaching, others like Derek Prince pulled away. By 1989, Bob Mumford issued a public apology for the movement’s excesses.

While the Shepherding Movement is today but a shadow of its former self, at its peak in the 1970s it represented the tensions and potential of the Charismatic Movement. Its rapid growth and popularity among adherents symbolized the passion and energy of those enthused by new teachings and experience. So, too, the questions Shepherding raised about pastoral authority recall the persistent conflict between charisma and order inherent in the fires of revivalism.

Grave of Derek Prince, one of the Fort Lauderdale Five- Flickr- photo by Ron Almog (CC BY 2.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Joshua R. Ziefle

Bookmark and Share