An apology from one of shepherding’s pioneers has resurrected discussion of the pros and cons of the movement.

In the summer of 1982, participants in the “shepherding” movement from across California gathered at San Jose State University to hear speakers call their movement “as revolutionary as the Reformation, as radical as the Anabaptist movement.” Bob Mumford, one of the movement’s five founders, told listeners of his 11-year-old vision of six well-trained horses pulling the king’s carriage.

Mixing giddy humor and fiery preaching, Mumford suggested that believers, undergirded by shepherding, would be that team of horses. But he warned that other groups once had enjoyed the same privileged mission, only to lose it through disobedience: “One day, God said to the Methodists, ‘That’s all! It’s finished as a movement!’ ”

Ready To Unravel

It was a heady time for those in the shepherding, or discipleship, movement, whose teachings on the believer’s need for “spiritual authority” had caused a deep split within charismatic circles. But the shepherding movement—so-called because its members had “shepherds,” who exercised strict control over them—was about to unravel. Its five founders—Mumford, Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Ern Baxter, and Don Basham—would soon begin to go their separate ways. In 1986 the remaining leaders would meet in Chicago to disband quietly. While Simpson and some other leaders would continue to keep their people together under new associations, the controversy began to subside.

But old feelings were stirred anew recently when Mumford issued a formal, public apology for his part in the movement. More than five years after he abandoned shepherding in 1984, Mumford is seeking forgiveness from those who were hurt. ...

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