Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Family Integrated Church (FIC)

What is the FIC?

The FIC is the Family Integrated Church, an “affinity group” or a “special purpose religion” for homeschooling families, something that emerged from the Christian homeschooling movement. These churches cater to families that homeschool, as apparently, not all churches have a history of being supportive of this population of believers. However, in the FIC, anyone who does not fit the typical ideal of the homeschooling family does not feel welcome in these churches. Therefore, there are no elderly people or people who do not fit the ideal of a traditional, nuclear family. In order to participate in the life of the church, anyone without a husband/father must be “adopted” by a “normative” family. If worship is that complicated for the “non-normative,” then why would anyone who didn’t fit their standard want to attend?

The unique feature of these churches is that they oppose age appropriate education and groups, maintaining that anything that divides the family as a group presents a harm to children and the family itself. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and youth groups are basically “outlawed.” Most of these churches do not engage in much evangelism, but they do direct their evangelistic efforts to those who are already Christian, proselytizing them into patriarchy and the FIC concept. Many of these churches do not have a senior pastor, but rather observe a plurality of elders, even though a pastor is essentially a “teaching elder” in many denominations. Many suspect that the avoidance of a senior pastor position seeks to avoid the development of an unequal balance of power within church leadership.

The documents produced by Vision Forum give the most organized explanation of what typifies the FIC in unique belief and doctrine. This author understands that the registry of FICs maintained by Vision Forum grew out of a list of churches that did not offer Sunday School, a list originally developed by Phillip Lancaster. Vision Forum also organized a National Center of Family Integrated Churches that offers seminars and calls itself a church planting organization. Another denomination that observes family integration is the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly, the group that defrocked R.C Sproul, Jr. a few years ago. Many of these churches observe many socially and culturally based doctrine as well as some other aberrant beliefs including what they have termed “Biblical patriarchy.” The “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” and “Biblical Confession Uniting Church and Family,” as they appear on the Vision Forum website, define these belief systems in an organized fashion. What seems to be more problematic are the unwritten rules and those ideals that are communicated through social pressure and the negative reinforcement that seems to typify the exclusive group.

Other denominations have experienced the FIC phenomenon, and in the short history of the group, the ideology basically produces church splits and schisms. Families desire to change the structure, doctrines and practices to conform to the FIC standards, and many churches (such as Trinity Baptist Church in N.C.) have suffered greatly and experienced church divisions. This has been a problem in many denominations, though I am most familiar with the issues in Presbyterian and Baptist denominations. Thus, it is noteworthy to examine the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International’s 2006 Resolution concerning the FIC movement. This is very telling about the growing and well-attended FIC’s in the United States.

  • The Family Integrated Church Movement was deemed "errant and schismatic" because....
  • * 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.

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?

Vision Forum’s endorsed non-optional moral imperatives
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”
  • Fathers as Prophet, Priest and King of the Home Voddie Baucham
  • 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
  • Equivocation on the issue of Women's Suffrage. (See NOTE below. VF previously taught that women should not vote, but on election day 2008, they altered their documents and published that the founder's wife voted and always has. Documentation of their previous teachings disappeared from the website.)
  • 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, Botkins
  • 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,” Botkins
  • 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, Botkins
  • Father is keeper of his daughter’s heart until marriage Phillips, McDonalds, Botkins
  • 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
  • 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.

NOTE About the VOTE:

Vision Forum -- a group that teaches that women should not/cannot vote according to the Word of God -- boasts on its website that the President and Founder's wife, Beall Phillips, voted yesterday.

The Vision Forum Ministries article that taught that women should not vote, “Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” by Brian Abshire, has miraculously disappeared from http://www.visionforumministries.com/.

In case you don't recall all the hubub about this article, link HERE.


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