Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Family Integrated Church Model and Spiritual Abuse

In prior posts, we've defined spiritual abuse as "the misuse of a position of power, leadership, or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help. Sometimes abuse arises out of a doctrinal position. At other times it occurs because of legitimate personal needs of a leader that are being met by illegitimate means." (David Henke: Watchman Fellowship, Inc.) We've also defined the hallmarks of spiritual abuse: authoritarianism, image consciousness, supression of criticism, perfectionistic demands, and unbalanced views (clearer and truer grasp of truth than other groups).

The Family Integrated Church (FIC) model represents the practices of many within the patriarchy movement such as presented by Vision Forum and those who participate with its family centered mission. A growing number of Evangelical Christian denominations include patriarchy as a central practice and model for their affiliates. Consider this example from the website of one such denomination, the Covenant Presbyterian Church:
It is in such a place that God chose to reveal Himself in the hearts of men and fathers. Our founding churches formed as God opened the truth of the Scriptures to elders who up to that point had been held in sway by modernity and compromise. God showed this group of men that victorious Christian living can come when the Bible is embraced in its fullness. This includes a trust in the historic faith, presbyterian polity, a commitment to the Biblical Creation model, biblical gender roles, and family-integrated worship.

Take special note of the phrase "God opened the truth of the Scriptures to elders..." This statement does not state that their insights are the only possible insights (the only insights that transcend "modernity and compromise)," however, the means by which many "patriarchalists" carry out their convictions suggests otherwise. They (patriarchalists in general) are intolerant of other interpretations, declaring that their interpretation is the only possible conclusion concerning the meaning of Scriptures pertaining to gender roles, family and implications for conducting corporate worship. Bear this in mind when considering this element of spiritual abuse (per Henke), considering the addition of patriarchy as an additional example of "majoring in minor issues":

Unbalanced: Abusive religions must distinguish themselves from all other religions so they can claim to be distinctive and therefore special to God. This is usually done by majoring on minor issues such as prophecy (? and patriarchy ? per Blog host), carrying biblical law to extremes, or using strange methods of biblical interpretation. The imbalanced spiritual hobby-horse thus produced represents unique knowledge or practices which seem to validate the group's claim to special status with God.
Could this "opening of the truth" to the elders and founders of the Covenant Presbyterian Church Presbytery possibly be an example of the "unique knowledge and practice" giving this group a "special status with God" that typifies spiritually abusive ideology?
The examples of their interpretation of biblical gender roles and family-integrated worship do give us some cause.

First, as an example of those who take issue with the FIC model, consider the 2006 Resolution of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International which declares the FIC "errant and schismatic":
  • It encourages schism in the local church bodies by encouraging its adherents to change the theology and philosophy of the churches of which they are members.
  • It does violence to local church authority, calling on local church members to leave their churches when the church does not bow to the philosophical demands of the movement.
  • It espouses an ecclesiology based upon the family that is not based upon the New Testament but rather is an adaptation of Old Testament (Blog host note: ? or pagan Roman ?!) patriarchy.
  • It falsely lays the claim that the destruction of the family in the U.S. is solely the fault of age-graded ministries in local churches. We contend that this is a simplistic and therefore false accusation.
  • It espouses a postmillennial theology that is contradictory to a dispensational understanding of Scripture.
  • It is oddly inclusive, basing fellowship on a particular philosophy of ministry rather than on the great fundamentals of the faith.
Consider also, the related controversy regarding gender roles as a matter of Biblical Authority.

Vision Forum’s endorsed non-optional moral which defines their specific view of complementarianism and family, including concepts pertaining to the FIC:

Keep in mind that “non-normative” connotes sin
and compromise of God’s Holy Word
  • Homeschooling only (Noncompliance once stated to be sin, now is a strong recommendation as "normative") "Tenets"
  • No secular curriculum for children “Tenets”
  • Women are to function only within the sphere of home unless at the workplace of and with the patriarch (Noncompliance once stated to be sin, now is a strong recommendation as “normative”) “Tenets," McDonalds, Bodkins
  • Women to remain under the roof of the father or husband (or family home) at all times (in compliance with the concept of the sphere of home which makes attendance of a school outside of God’s “normative order”) “Tenets,” McDonalds, Bodkins
  • No education of women outside the home (Noncompliance once stated to be sin, now is a strong recommendation as “normative” and suggested to be a poor investment because of no chance of return on money spent on education because of work limited to the sphere of the home) “Tenets,” Bodkins
  • Sons bear the duty of spreading the glory and fame of the father Brown
  • Daughters are the helpmeet of the father and remain in his service until marriage "Tenets," McDonalds, Bodkins
  • Father is keeper of his daughter’s heart until marriage Phillips, McDonalds, Bodkins
  • Militant fecundity (evangelism preferred via godly seed/womb versus evangelizing the lost) Phillips and Brown
  • Christian complementarians are essentially egalitarians which makes them feminists which makes them open theists Russell Moore and Roy Moore
  • Non patriarchal complementarians compromise the Bible as "white washed feminists" and "unruly and filthy stray dogs on washday" Stacy McDonald
  • Patriarchy and complemenatianism as a “plumb line” for determining that which is truly Christian (and other views as less or possibly sub-Christian) Commonly held belief
  • Non-VF homeschoolers are "Canaanites" Commonly held belief
  • “Multi-generational” worship setting, etc. (family remains together during worship and vilifies segregated, age-appropriate groups) BCUCF
  • Pessimistic view of leadership within the church (vilification of group leaders and pastors that usurp the patriarch) BCUCF
These matters are widely debated issues of controversy within and among Evangelical Christian groups. However, it is important to note that many Christians believe that the debate regarding gender is inseparable from the doctrine of God and is thus a matter of sola scriptura or Biblical Authority. They assert that those who view gender as an intramural debate are critically compromising the Word of God and thus, by extention, deny God's Lordship over all creation. It appears that groups that do not advocate subordinationism of Christ as related to gender still carry over the same zeal and emotional engagement conscerning this issue as those who share their view of gender.


Corrie said...
Hi Cindy,This is a very interesting post. "14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Josh. 1:14; Jdg. 4; Acts 16:14)"This is what it says in the "Tenets". What do they mean by "functional equals"? Are men and women in society at large equals when there is no authority involved? Or does this seem to say that all men are over all women? What about men and women in the church? If the man is not an elder, aren't they equals? If the answer is no, that means that they actually believe that all men are over all women. I guess the Tenets of Patriarchy rule out women like Nancy Leigh DeMoss since she is not centered on the domestic front and she works alongside men as a functional equal.I will tell you that their teachings and practice are very confusing since they do not consistently apply any of their teachings. I was under the impression they do believe that a woman working in a job outside the home was sin and that girls going to college was a sin. You said they changed this?
November 10, 2007 6:07 PM

Cindy said...
Corrie,I understand that the first "Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy" appeared circa 2001. In mid 2003 however, the "Tenets" were revised to clearly deliniate the sins of education other than homeschooling and women working outside of the home setting. There was a great deal of controversy over the hegemonic statements of the 2003 "Tenets" that much dialog ensued.Pete Hurst (plug in "patriarchy" at Sermon Audio) spoke about this controversy, and there's interesting response commentary still on Sermon Audio's website concerning them. P. Andrew Sandlin spoke quite sardonically about Phillip's teachings several times that year. If you have opportunity, Vision Forum posted all sorts of polemic essays countering Sandlin's comments on a now defunct "RazorMouth" email group, from several pulpits including some in Texas and by publishing articles (some of which are posted at my other website, If you go to the "Issues" section on the Vision Forum Ministries site, there's an article written by Passionate Housewife, Jennie Chancey, as well as several articles about family and contraception that cite Sandlin as a "cleric." There were also posts included on Doug's Blog during 2003.I'm not sure how long the 2003 "Tenets" were online, but they were pulled and their language softened to remove the obvious, offensive condemnation of Christians who were either unable to comply with their standards of preference or were not persuaded of the validity of Vision Forum's claims. This is very insidious, as they are now only publicly discouraging that which they judge as sinful, however, their behavior and the unwritten stance is widely understood. This is very common and characteristic of the "Sacred Science" and "Doctrine Over Person" tactics of closed systems. Their legalistic standards give them a special edge over regular Christians, consistent with the
"Unbalanced" Element of Spiritual Abuse.
November 10, 2007 6:35 PM

Cindy said...
So, I said all that to say...You would have to ask Phillips, Lancaster and Sproul, Jr. what they meant when they coined the term "functional equals." I think it's their way of saying that they are not demeaning women's role while narrowly defining the role of women. (It reminds me of the many disclaimer statements in the "Federal Vision" book. We believe A, but we deny B, when most insightful people know that when they describe A, it means the same functional and basic thing as B. But you're a "tale bearer" if you say that the patriarchs essentially believe both A and B.)
November 10, 2007 6:50 PM

Molly Aley said...
""You would have to ask Phillips, Lancaster and Sproul, Jr. what they meant when they coined the term "functional equals." I think it's their way of saying that they are not demeaning women's role while narrowly defining the role of women.""AMEN (on it being their way of saying they're NOT saying women are inferior WHILE they are teaching that women are inferior). There is an *excellent* set of essays regarding that issue in the book, "Biblical Equality," and those two chapters are worth the price of the entire book, in my opinion. ...Though, I didn't know that Phillips, et all, *coined* the term. I though the complementarian handbook by Grudem and Piper were the originators of the term (or, if not the originators, then the ones who popularized the concept). I blogged about the concept of "equal in being/unequal in role" a bit here a while back:
November 11, 2007 7:07 PM

Cindy said...
Molly,Thanks for responding! I so appreciate your input and support, both here and elsewhere in these virtual places.You bring much to this discussion here, too. Up until a few months ago, I was unaware that there was so much devaluing of women going on in Christian churches. My brand of spiritual abuse harped on submission but did not get caught up in the emphasis of roles. I may have missed some of this however, as I tend to do a lot of "that can't be what they mean" in my idealistic head.Grudem and Piper probably did originate the term "functional equals." There's been so much available for free online at CBMW, I've only read a few choice books on this subject. (I'm glad to know that "Biblical Equality" is a good one to read for an overview.) There's just so much to process when looking at all the aspects of this topic!Although it's not true of Grudem and Piper that I'm aware, I'm grateful that they do not throw awful names around at their doctrinal opponents, diverting dialogue with nasty rhetoric. For me, it's not the gender debate itself that's troubling, its the complementarian contingent that make this issue a Christian litmus test, creating unnecessary strife and discouraging productive discussion in an environment of mutual, Christian respect. I'm so grateful for the exegetical studies that do present their apologias without resorting to insult.Now, off to an Adventure in Mercy.Thanks again, Molly!God Bless patriarchalists, complementarians and egalitarians alike until we come into true unity of the faith in every way.
November 11, 2007 8:11 PM