‘God still there with or without Tenney’
2001. Scheduled Raging Fire Conference keynote speaker Tommy Tenney pulled out less than two weeks before the event. After meeting, organizers decided to continue with the event.
Set in the auditorium of Naenae College in Lower Hutt over September 27 and 28, the crisis in America detained him.
Mr Tenney had cancelled trips to Australia and New Zealand, but organizers said he indicated he might visit New Zealand in April.
“You don’t make a decision like that lightly because you are letting a lot of people down,” said conference organizer Tim Findlay.
He says Mr. Tenney is aware of all the money, time and energy gone into promoting him as keynote speaker and that his non-appearance would disappoint delegates who were coming from all over New Zealand.
Mr Tenney issued a letter citing the reasons, which was read to conference delegates in the auditorium. Part of the letter read:
“I am saddened I am unable to be with you all for the Raging Fire Conference in New Zealand. I had so looked forward to spending time with many of you. Due to the recent tragic events that have occurred in America and upon direction from my board and family, we were not at peace with me leaving the states under the current circumstances. This horrific tragedy has affected all our lives, including my ability to be with you.”
Mr Findlay said a lot of delegates understood it was inevitable. Many approached organizers before he cancelled and asked whether Mr Tenney was still coming because of the events in the United States. They realized that gave cause for Mr Tenney to pull out, Mr Findlay said.
He said organisers were also disappointed.
“The board have taken it on the chin, rolling with the punch and are really quite excited about how this conference is very much indigenous.”
Lifeway Ministries founder, Trevor Yaxley, replaced Mr Tenney and local and international itinerant preacher, Kristen Williams, formed part of the indigenous core. Cleansing Streams Executive Director, Chris Hayward, followed through with his commitment, saying he had peace about coming, despite heralding from the U.S.
However, organizers accepted the conference was more than about one man.
“The thrust of the conference is about seeking the face of God and that can be done whether Tommy is here or not, and certainty Tommy’s appearances doesn’t determine whether God turns up or not,” Mr Findlay said.
Prior to Mr Tenney pulling out, approximately eight hundred and twenty had registered. Organizers gave people the opportunity to cancel their registration and approximately one hundred and fifty cancelled and another twenty people did not attend. Approximately fifty registered late, despite Mr Tenney’s absence, and there were many day registrations, with about eight hundred attendees at any one time. They came from provincial areas than the large cities, said conference administrator Kathyrn Weir.
“For the people who didn’t come their main reason was that Tommy isn’t coming, I want to hear Tommy, so I’m not coming. Some were majorly disappointed,” she said.
Organizer Seth Fawcett said personal repentance featured at the conference with an incredible desire and desperation for God to come in New Zealand.
“Lots of people are saying they realise there is a fellowship with God that they never dreamed of before,” he said.
Mr Findlay said there was an intense hunger for God at the conference. On Thursday night three quarters of the way through Kristen William’s message “waves of the Spirit” surged through the auditorium, “as if He were initiating it”, Mr Findlay said. Attendee Beverly Rigg from Masterton said she really wanted to hear Mr Tenney speak and was disappointed when she heard he was not coming, but believed God was still going to be there.
By Peter Veugelaers,
Published 2001, Challenge Weekly