Editor's note: Exorcism has been the topic of many conversations in the metro area after a Satanist group announced its plans to host an event at Civic Center Music Hall that will include a parody of the Roman Catholic rite of exorcism. The Oklahoman recently interviewed three ministers and one professor who have studied exorcism. Read on for their beliefs.
Bill Jordan has received more than 1,000 e-mails from people wondering whether someone they know has been possessed by the devil.
Typically, they describe lots of disturbing behavior that stops just short of the eye-popping stunts of the possessed girl characterized in "The Exorcist," a 1973 horror movie classic.
An ordained Christian minister, Jordan said he replies to each and every correspondence because he is an exorcist — a person who exorcises or says he exorcises demons from people.
He is co-founder and president of the Bible-based American Association of Exorcists, based in Choctaw.
Jordan, 58, said he and a friend, now deceased, formed the Christian association in 2003 when they realized that the number of Roman Catholic priests who perform exorcisms was dwindling in America.
Contacted by The Oklahoman, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on the matter. Loutitia Eason, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said some Catholic dioceses have exorcists, but the Oklahoma City archdiocese does not.
Jordan said he estimates that the number of American priests who perform the Catholic rite of exorcism has decreased from about 23 to six in the past 10 years or so.
That, he said, is not enough these days.
Although Jordan said he has yet to perform an exorcism on a person (though he said he exorcised demons from a house in Missouri several years ago), he said a surge in interest in the occult could mean more exorcists will be needed. Jordan, who is married and works as a registered nurse, said Jesus Christ's imminent return also may trigger an increase in demonic activity.
"I felt a long time ago that the closer we get to the end that there would be more demonic activity bursting loose. That's scriptural," he said.
Jordan said his ministry as an exorcist stems from his desire to help people — much like his call to the nursing field. He said he and his previous ministry partner (he now has another, a Roman Catholic who wished to remain anonymous) developed a curriculum to train people to cast out demons, and a handful of people have received that training. He said he has never advertised the ministry and believes more people will be interested in the program once they find out about it.
"I can't think of anything worse than for a person to be possessed by a demon and have no one to help them."
Fighting evil by the Book
The word "exorcism" often conjures up creepy, hard-to-believe images from various movies such as "The Exorcist."
Jordan said many Christians call exorcism by a different and seemingly more palatable term: deliverance.
Everett Cox, 70, an Oklahoma City resident who founded Deliverance Ministries Inc., and the Rev. John Benefiel, senior pastor of the Charismatic congregation at Church on the Rock, 1780 W Memorial, shared similar sentiments.
"The man on the street doesn't know what deliverance is, but everybody knows about exorcism, because that's the secular understanding of it," Cox said.
He added that Christians affiliated with the Pentecostal or Charismatic (full-gospel) movements may be more familiar with the deliverance term.
Benefiel said he uses the word "deliverance" to speak about the exorcism of unclean spirits because it is a biblical word related to spiritual warfare. And he said he realizes that some people are highly skeptical of the need for exorcism or deliverance.
"Some people believe, some people don't, but that's the same thing with Christianity," he said.
Benefiel said that, in the Bible, Jesus talked about the need for believers to cast out unclean spirits. That is what legitimizes the practice in his eyes, Benefiel said.
"If Jesus said it, I better learn about it. I've seen lots of people over the years helped tremendously," he said.
Though Jordan said he has educated himself about the practice of exorcism but never conducted one on a person, Cox said his ministry hosts deliverance services in which people are freed from demonic and unclean spirits every Monday evening at Citychurch, 136 NW 10. Cox, a University of Oklahoma graduate, former Navy officer and retired commercial pilot, said he was ordained for ministry at Citychurch, but his nonprofit deliverance organization is independent of the Charismatic church.
"I've been performing exorcisms for years. We did 13 cases this last Monday," Cox said.
Cox said deliverance involves praying in Jesus' name that a person be freed from what is oppressing them.
Jordan said his exorcism ritual consists of Bible Scripture, holy water (water that has been prayed over), a cross and a Bible. All these elements are taken from the Catholic rite of exorcism, Jordan said.