Bethel Church, a controversial megachurch in Redding, California, is now under fire in Christian circles for allegedly promoting New Age occultism in the use of "Destiny Cards," which critics have likened to tarot cards.
Leaders of the 9,000-member congregation have been accused of working with a Melbourne, Australia-based group known as Christ Alignment, a group that claims to have worked with many churches in that country to do readings.
Christ Alignment staff describe themselves as "trained spiritual consultants," and say on their website that they "draw from the same divine energy of the Christ spirit."
"We practice a form of supernatural healing that flows from the universal presence of the Christ. We draw from the same divine energy of the Christ spirit, as ancient followers did and operate only out of the third heaven realm to gain insight and revelation," they say.
Marsha West of the Christian Research Network argues that the Destiny Cards are just another name for tarot cards which Christ Alignment uses to "practice the prophetic."
"Tarot cards are used to tell one's future. Fortune telling is an occult practice. Occultists believe they are endued with magical or supernatural powers. These folks are into witchcraft, satanism, and other forms of psychic discernment (tarot cards, astrology, séances, Runes, palm reading, teacup reading, etc.). So it is clear that the Christ in Christ alignment is the New Age Christ, not the Christ of Holy Scripture, as God's people are not to participate in occult practices such as Destiny Card reading. (Deut. 18:10)," CRN wrote.
Bethel staff initially denied any association with Christ Alignment and condemned the use of Destiny Cards, according to Church Watch Central.
"Someone told me there is an article stating that some Christians are now using 'Christian Tarot Cards' (apparently called 'Destiny Cards'), and that some people associated with Bethel were doing so," wrote Kris Vollotton, senior associate leader at Bethel Church and co-founder at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, in a deleted response on Facebook.
"This is insane! First of all, whoever is doing this needs to repent and stop the craziness in the 'name of reaching people for Christ.' Secondly, Bethel has graduated 10,000 students, has 9,000 people in their congregation and a couple million followers. For some reason when some 'Christian' does something crazy, the media often want to blame the church they go to or the podcast they listen to etc., guilt by association. Believers are called to love the broken so we are privileged to have them named among us. But broken people often act broken. Assigning their broken condition to the people loving on them is like blaming doctors for their patients' sickness!" he continued.
The post was reportedly deleted after Ken and Jenny Hodge of Christ Alignment publicly wrote about the group's connection to the megachurch and their school while challenging allegations that they are a cult.
"We are not a cult, we hate tarot with a passion, we have not joined 'the world,' we fully support everything Bethel believes in and we do not have to repent as our ministry has nothing to repent off. Jesus celebrates it. ... We have had many Bethel students over the years come out on teams with us — some of your finest. They can attest to you that we have done nothing wrong, rather something right.
"We have developed a method of reaching new agers that is unique and enables us to pluck them out of darkness. We actually teach this method to churches in Australia and indeed shared it to some of your students when we were visiting Bethel," the Hodges wrote. "It is ridiculous that Christians have judged us based on photos where cards appear, yet not one person has asked, 'what exactly are those cards?'"
On Tuesday, Theresa Dedmon, pastoral staff member at Bethel who oversees the Creative Arts Department for the church and the School of Supernatural Ministry, denied in a blog post that the Destiny Cards are tarot cards, and explained what they are and defended their use in ministry.
"First, 'Destiny Cards' are not tarot cards. They do, however, have a similar look that attracts people who are searching for a 'reading.' What they get from Christ Alignment staff is a prophetic word about their destiny, which is to have a personal relationship with Father God through Jesus Christ, and encountered through the Holy Spirit," she said. "Destiny Cards are simply images that help to communicate the message of the Good News to those who are searching for a hope and a future."
She further went on to cite why they were biblically acceptable.
The Christian Post reached out to Bethel for further comment on Friday but was told Dedmon would not be able to respond until January 2018.