Father Michael Harper Foundation
ASPECTS OF FR. MICHAEL’S MINISTRY
By Jeanne Harper
Michael had an ability to relate with all kinds of people – from the beggars on the pavement in a
London street to business executives and Church Leaders. He could adapt his messages to different
cultures and different churchmanships. As Chaplain to the Oxford street stores he was at ease with
the management as with the carpenters. He was equally at home with Zaire’s Kimbangist church, the
different Indian churches as with those of continental Europe or the Scottish and American
Episcopalians. – Incidentally an often forgotten part of the work of the Fountain Trust(1964-75) was
its linking up of people so that Christians in different countries and cultures did not feel isolated in
their search for the things of the Holy Spirit.
In leadership, mistakes are easily made, so Michael’s constant reliance on the guidance of the Lord for
his initiatives surely explains the steady progress of the Lord’s work during these years. The Fountain
Trust, (national) S.O.M.A (international) and ICCOWE (ecumenical: see ‘biography’) followed or
overlapped and all were fruitful and lasting. He never went ahead with anything without first checking
with the Lord and then with others. In 1964 he set up the first of the three: the Fountain Trust
(originally ‘Watergate’ but changed because of President Nixon!)
Canon David MacInnes writes: The Fountain Trust became the primary tool through which the work of
the Holy Spirit became known throughout the country. It brought together different strands of what
the Lord was doing in separate places.
As a result it was used as the means by which the organisation of the Church of England and the
other denominational bodies could relate to what was going on. Michael also used the Fountain Trust
to bridge what was happening elsewhere in the world, in the USA in particular, with what was
happening here. It was one of the great early facilitators of the world charismatic movement in the
‘60s and ‘70s.
It did not fall into the trap of being itself an organisation with it own membership and policies – it was
a facilitator, only. Michael’s leadership was always one of serving - perhaps this was how he always
seemed to bring out the best in people.
3. S.O.M.A. (Sharing Of Ministries Abroad) – (1978 - )
Through SOMA, people in many countries, deprived of the kind of ministry the West takes for granted,
receive from churchgoers (at their own expense) short term ministry. (SOMA, an Anglican body,
accepts invitations from any church.) Team visits continue so that relationships are built up, and new
leadership emerges, both within the SOMA teams which then become cross-cultural, and otherwise in
the Church: The SOMA pre-Lambeth conferences contributed to the input from overseas Anglican
church leaders at the Lambeth Conferences themselves, for instance regarding the ministry of healing,
which became part of the Bishops’ remit from that time on.
Other strategic Conferences were held in different parts of the world which with hindsight one can
see led up to the ecumenical initiatives now taking place. (See globalchristianforum.org)
A glimpse of SOMA in Michael’s own words to a gifted young evangelist: When you see how leaders in
Third world countries have to operate in circumstances of great difficulty, I am sure you will see that
SOMA has to operate with a great deal of uncertainty. Teams have gone out not knowing what they
were going to. One of the best missions I have ever been on was in fact cancelled the day we arrived
in Africa. When we got there nothing had been arranged at all and yet it turned out to be one of the
most important and strategic visits I have ever been involved in. – To the Western mind this sounds
crazy but we have found with all the uncertainties that the Developing world visits carry with them,
that this gives extra scope for the Holy Spirit to work. I can assure you there was no discourtesy in
the Moderator not acknowledging your letter. Very few of my letters are ever acknowledged to people
in these countries but that does not prevent us from going in love to many parts of the world and
finding how deeply loving and caring and hospitable they are. It would be tragic if you never
ministered in the Developing world! But if you make Western demands you will probably never get
there and this would be a great pity. Let us not make demands on the poorer people of this world
which are unfair in the light of their different circumstances.
4. The written word
When there was a gap in the teaching, Michael would write (and only then!) In the end he wrote
eighteen books and as Editor of the ‘Renewal’ magazine, many articles. These provided a much
needed source of news and teaching on a monthly basis for the many who were part of the world-
wide Renewal that was taking place. The ‘Renewal’ magazine, since the year 2000, changed its name
to ’Christianity’. (As ‘Renewal’ it was the longest-lasting Charismatic Christian magazine.)
Edward England, head of the religious department of Michael’s publisher, Hodder and Stoughton,
writes in 1994: ‘It is hard to grasp that in a week’s time you will be retiring from such a distinguished
and strategic ministry in publishing. You raised the whole level of Christian publishing to one of
excellence – something it never possessed before. Books have played a vital part in fashioning a whole
generation of Christians and your prophetic instinct has been remarkable. You knew what was coming
and so your books prepared the way for that, rather than coming on later to tell people what had just
happened! There is a lot more to be thankful about, which you have given- not least your handling of
5. The Catholic aspect
Michael has been closely involved from its early days (1967) with the Renewal in the Catholic Church.
In America this focussed on Communities. Kevin Ranaghan was a prominent leader of one of these.
Michael, having heard that Catholics in the States were experiencing similar blessings in the Holy Spirit
to his own, travelled to see for himself if this was true. Kevin’s welcome to him, clad in shorts and full
of the joy of the Lord led on to abundant evidence that this was indeed the case. The theological
implications had to be worked out but no-one gave a thought to taking issue with the Lord – for He
had chosen the Catholics along with ‘us’.(Acts 11 v.17)
Michael was also very close to Cardinal Suenens whose support of the Renewal meant it had a
profound impact on the whole Catholic Church.
6. The Truth
One of the marks which has been noticed consistently through the diverse situations and challenges
which Michael continually faced, has been his ability to ‘say it as it is’ - or write what needed to be
said, but without any ‘edge’ to it. He was unbending as regards the truth, but would always say it in
love. His forgiveness was such that he genuinely forgot what had happened. You could tell this by his
subsequent actions towards the people in question.
Another mark was his insistence that theology should have its place alongside the general teaching.
People needed protection from the over-emphasis on ‘experiences’ that was an element in the
Renewal. Michael’s own books made a huge contribution here, as they were substantial, yet easy to
read - plus the Theological workshops he organised at conferences.
Michael was always 100% loyal to the Anglican Church which he loved, though he was courageous in
exposing the departure from the fundamentals of the Faith that began to surface publicly in the ‘50s.
But with his strong words there was meekness – (which he always viewed as ‘power under control,’
not weakness.) His ‘Ashe Lecture’ (1979) (see ‘Beauty or Ashes’ in book section) was reprinted five
times and quoted in many magazines and periodicals. It spoke out what most people were thinking -
but without rancour, - just with grief. He counted the Anglican Church as his foster mother, lovingly
caring for him until he found his real mother: the Orthodox Church.
8. Renewal by the Holy Spirit
‘I am as sure of the ‘Promise of the Father’ (see Acts 2) being available for all Christians as I am of
justification by faith’ Michael once said to Canon John Stott, leader of the Evangelical wing of the
Anglican Church. Despite the strength of the Evangelical position, Michael never wavered on this, yet
there was charity through what was an inevitably difficult time. Such a stance needed a raw courage.
But evangelism which was so emphasised by the Evangelicals, needed the power of the Holy Spirit and
Michael’s teaching and writing was in order to root this truth in people’s minds.
When this is born of the Holy Spirit there is no dumbing down to the lowest common denominator.
How the drawing together actually happened, was difficult to work out theologically – for Catholics,
Protestants, Anglicans, House churches, were being changed by an identical experience! On the
national scale through Michael’s first initiative, the Fountain Trust, there had been a remarkable
ecumenism at the Guildford Conference in 1971, - which had lasting international repercussions. With
the closure of the umbrella of the Fountain Trust and the resulting gradual return to
denominationalism, Michael turned to the international scene, helped by the example of David
Duplessis. David Duplessis, dubbed Mr. Pentecost for daring to go as a Pentecostal ‘to Rome’ and give
the Pentecostal message, stated that dramatic blessing would follow the entry of the Catholics into the
Renewal. And so it proved, especially when Michael and *those with him in ICCOWE (International
Consultation On World Evangelism) initiated a world Conference (3,100 delegates from the six
continents) of privately invited Leaders of leaders from all churches. – This was called ‘Brighton ’91
and even included a few Orthodox. There were also representatives from African indigenous
Following the Conference, delegates in their respective areas across the world, planned missions,
which included, on a peer level, leaders from all the churches in their areas, from the planning stage
onwards. No church leaders participated as ‘visitors’. Results were dramatic – though many will
probably never be known because of the problems of communication from many countries. But at the
Conference it was the Catholic speakers whose testimonies and focus on unity had the most heartfelt
response of the week. Yes, David Duplessis was right – blessing did follow the Catholic Church’s
acceptance of the message of the Holy Spirit. And will continue as ecumenism moves on.
Michael was a prime mover also in the holding of Dialogues, which brought together Catholic,
Pentecostal, Anglican and Orthodox Leaders over a period of years. (This top-level ‘official’ theological
pursuit of unity, is equally important as the grass roots ecumenism of the Guildford Conference.)
* Michael was always a ‘team man’ and moved ahead only as others moved with him.
10. Different cultures
This has to be mentioned because of the extent geographically of Michael’s ministry and the
sensitivities of people. Michael was always careful to find out beforehand about the different customs
of the country to be visited and would quietly tell any ‘westerners’ about them, but also in his own
mind there were no barriers, no inequalities. (One example of the importance of customs: In some
parts of the world it is deeply offensive to sit in such a way that one foot is pointing towards
somebody. Another was the different attitude to time and planning ahead. We all knew what ‘Africa
time’ meant!) But it was fascinating to see how Michael’s wholehearted acceptance of people and his
love for them raised their confidence and abilities. We often felt like children before our heavenly
Father, completely equal, just wanting to hear and do His will.
11. Faithfulness to do the humdrum, hidden tasks
Later, we found that becoming Orthodox meant being one’s own secretary! I remember our landing
upstairs at home being filled every month with all the Deanery newsletters – some of which went
overseas – all of which were printed by Michael. The depression which heralded his cancer was a
direct result of overwork – because there was simply no-one available to help him. But the Lord in His
own unchangeable mercy and deep wisdom willed his departure – that we might explore his legacy
and apply its wisdom to a fast-changing world...But one of the qualities I would like to emulate is his
quiet determination to get on with whatever the day brings: work of all types and kinds.
12. Wit and humour
Michael really knew how to enjoy himself. He always took holidays – and never gave work a thought
during them. His weekly day off was really a day off – and we used to have fun together between
whiles – and with others,- so that often he would arrive at conferences ready to let off steam after
all the preparation. The result was that of all the tables at Conference meals those that he headed had
the loudest laughs! Yet essentially he was very ‘low key and English’ so people would say ‘Well if he
can believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then maybe it is OK to follow suit myself!’
Michael never pushed himself or his books. Sometimes I wish he had, for he never wasted words in
his books which were meaty and substantial yet easy to read and well-written.
An example of Fr. Michael’s wit, when confronted with a quip about the great Sir John Tusa who was
a little younger than himself and at the same school. (A conversation between Michael and a friend,
overheard at the 125th Anniversary of the school.)
Michael Harper: ‘Paul it’s good to meet you. So where did you go after leaving St. Faith’s?’
Paul – ‘I went to Gresham’s – and (proudly) I was Sir John Tusa’s fag’.
Michael- ‘I went to Gresham’s too – and (even more proudly) Sir John Tusa was my fag’!
13. The crowning joy
The last fifteen years of Michael’s life was the huge Joy and climax, for Michael felt he had ‘come
home’. The formation and growth of the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery, the very successful Institute
of Orthodox Christian Studies’ course: ‘The Way’, together with the founding of the English-speaking
Orthodox parish in the City of London: St Botolph’s, were the three joys he had before the Lord said
‘Enough!’ and took him to be with the saints in heaven.
Among his last words, speaking of his parishioners at St. Botolph’s in London, were ‘I love them, - I
just love them!’ – And he still does – and prays for us continually with new freedom and power.
Michael as a curate in All Souls
Michael being introduced to Pope John Paul II
Charles Whitehead (to the Pope’s left) who succeeded Michael as head of ICC, introduces Michael to the
Pope. Charles is a Catholic layman and President of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal
Services committee in Rome.
South Korea - Aidan Ahn (centre) was sponsored by
SOMA to study at Trinity Theological college, Bristol.
SOMA in India - Bishop Timotheus of the Mar Thoma
Church, is in the centre. Rev Barry Kissel: left.
Michael in Iceland
A service in the Church in Reykjavik, Iceland
An unforgettable visit with Rev Halldon Grondal and his parish.
SOMA in Japan - The Bishop of Osaka is on the left of the
picture, the Revs. John Yamane and Kimura, who were
prominent in the ministry, are standing behind Michael.
SOMA in Norway - The Rev Hans Jacob Froen, centre,
led the Renewal in Norway.
Fr Michael Harper Foundation
3 West View, Newnham Croft
Cambridge CB3 9JB, UK
Tel: +44 1223 362933