The Family-Integrated Church movement is getting some heat by critic, Pastor Shawn Mathis. Pastor Kevin Swanson is forced to make a choice: OPC or National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC)
by Julie Anne
The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches NCFIC began as an off-shoot from the Doug Phillips’ now defunct “ministry,” Vision Forum (I cannot type the word ministry without the quotes knowing what has gone on there). Scott Brown, director of NCFIC, was a close friend of Doug Phillips, both men being proponents of the Homeschool Movement and Christian Patriarchy Movement.
In a nutshell, family-integrated church (FIC) ideology teaches that age segregation in churches is wrong and they blame many problems in churches/society on the age-segregation model. This has led to much division within churches and has been noted especially among the Homeschool Movement community because the FIC movement started within the Homeschool Movement and has spread widely.
This means those churches hold to the confessions of the NCFIC:
The common denominators for those registered in our database are: (1) all parties have expressed a basic, orthodox understanding of Christianity as defined by the Nicene Creed; and (2) all parties have formally testified to at least substantial agreement with the NCFIC Confession on issues of unity between church and family. These are the only known points of agreement among the churches and families in the directory. (Source)
Below is one of the more troubling confessions in Article XI:
“We affirm that there is no scriptural pattern for comprehensive age segregated discipleship, and that age segregated practices are based on unbiblical, evolutionary and secular thinking which have invaded the church.”
Pastor Kevin Mathis Providence Presbyterian Church (OPC), has been following this movement for quite some time and offers the following response to the above confession:
This affirmation uses unqualified language beyond the vague adjective comprehensive. While the confession never uses the words “Sunday school” and the like, the practice and logic is clear: “age segregated practices are based on unbiblical, evolutionary and secular thinking”; modern Sunday schools are age segregated; therefore, they are based on “evolutionary and secular thinking.” This serious charge is echoed through the words of the leaders, their book and their movie. (Why I Cannot Sign the Family Integrated Church Confession)
The movie Mathis refers to is “Divided” which was produced by NCFIC which promotes everything Doug Phillips promoted:
Ok, so now with that background, let’s move on to some new and important developments in the FIC world. In March, Pastor Shawn Mathis presented an hour-long talk on the FIC movement at a seminar in New Lenox, Illinois, which was hosted by the Presbytery of the Mid-West of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).
Labeled a Pastoral Response to the Family Integrated Church Movement, the talk lasted a little over an hour, presenting the history of the movement’s rejection of youth ministries, its confession, practices, goals and beliefs. (Source)
Shawn Mathis is a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, but guess who else is also connected with OPC? Kevin Swanson. Yes, that Kevin Swanson. Kevin Swanson pastors at Reformation Church of Elizabeth OPC in Colorado.
Well, it seems that the OPC was not too keen on Kevin Swanson having signed the NCFIC confession and didn’t like him seemingly straddling the fence. Through their governing presbytery, they called for Pastor Kevin Swanson to make a decision which I summarize to mean:
It’s either US (OPC) or THEM (NCFIC). Choose now, Swanson!
Karen Campbell reported:
During the hearing, Swanson was asked directly if he had both feet planted in the OPC or if his allegiance was divided–would he leave the OPC over this issue? He responded in no uncertain terms that he has both feet firmly planted in the OPC and “one little finger” in the NCFIC. He was also asked if he believed practicing age-segregated Sunday school was a sin. He unequivocally denied it was sin. Later, he was asked if such Sunday schools were “unwise or in error” as opposed to being in sin. He responded with an unclear answer to the effect that he could not answer the questions without knowing the particular churches in question.
Can you imagine Kevin Swanson having to make a public choice before his governing assembly after having promoted NCFIC and the family-integrated church models for years? Check out this video. Whoa!
He had to do it. It was either sever ties with NCFIC, or the OPC would probably be forced to sever ties with Swanson. As a result, Swanson’s church is no longer listed in the network at NCFIC. You can see that Reformation Church is not listed on the Network search in Elizabeth, Colorado.
This is a very strong statement by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church against not only NCFIC, but also the family-integrated church movement. Here is more from Karen Campbell explaining OPC’s concern:
At the April, 2014 meeting of the Presbytery of the Dakotas of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a complaint was upheld against Reformation OPC for signing an NCFIC family integrated church confession that has “the effect of charging our own congregations, and many others of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, of error without employing the process prescribed in our Book of Discipline and thereby introducing schism into our broader Church.”
The NCFIC, in its attempt to have the perfect church ideology, has marginalized other traditional churches which have Sunday schools, youth groups, college groups, etc. This is the same kind of methodology we see from high-controlling and abusive groups:
- black and white thinking
- our way is the right way
- everybody else is wrong
- our way is the biblical way
- our way is the godly way
In this kind of high-controlling environment, if you differ from these views, they will likely question what else in your belief system is off kilter. They may even question your salvation if you get too many “wrong” answers.
I give kudos to OPC presbytery for keeping this destructive ideology away from their church groups. It will be interesting to watch Kevin Swanson maneuver around this when he has been one of the loudest voices in the Family-Integrated Church movement.