Presbytery of the Dakotas rules Kevin Swanson’s church must remove name from NCFIC confession

PastorKevinSwanson

 

At the ruling of its presbytery, Reformation Church OPC in Elizabeth, Colorado, whose pastor is well-known family integrated church apologist, Kevin Swanson, has removed its name from the National Center for Family Integrated Churches confession. Reformation OPC has removed all references to the NCFIC on their website which means that Reformation is no longer willing to be publicly identified with the NCFIC as it has done since at least 2006. 

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 Presbytery’s decision meant that Reformation OPC was required to remove their name from the list and within a week after the ruling, their name was quietly removed from the NCFIC confession. Specifically, it stated that “The Presbytery requested the Reformation session to act expeditiously to remove its name from the NCFIC website until the problems in the NCFIC ‘Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family’ are corrected.” That confession included two articles that were offered as evidence:

Article VII: “We deny/reject the modern trend embraced by many churches to undermine the purpose and government of both family and church, by substituting family-fragmenting, age-segregated, peer-oriented, youth driven, and special-interest programs, which may prevent rather than promote family unity, church unity and inter-generational relationships.”

Article XI, comprised of these statements: “We afrm 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 (Deut. 16:9-14; Josh. 8:34-35; Ezra 10:1; 2 Chr.20:13; Nehemiah 12:43; Joel 2:15-16; Acts 20:7; Eph. 6:1-4). We deny/reject that corporate worship, discipleship and evangelism should be systematically segregated by age, and that it has been an effective method for making disciples.”

The complaint itself was made by a sister church from the Presbytery, a judicial and ecclesiastical body of regional churches in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Another church had also brought similar concerns to their attention. Initially, the sister church, over a reasonable amount of time, tried to convince Reformation OPC to remove their name from the confession. Eventually, the church brought a complaint, which is similar to a charge or accusation. Reformation denied the complaint as legitimate, thus, it went to the Presbytery to decide upon a pressing issue between sister churches.

Both sides were given 30 minutes to defend their respective positions with their pastors as spokespersons. The church that brought the complaint highlighted the negative affects of the NCFIC position, offering prima facia evidence of the wording of the confession.The body of ruling elders and pastors of the Presbytery were then given time to ask questions and debate the complaint.

Reformation’s denial of the complaint rested on various grounds including the existence of other Reformed churches on the list, the fact that 80-90% of the confession is agreeable, the equivocal nature of the points of contention, and that using the confession has helped them contact families as an outreach. Surprisingly, part of the evidence brought forward by Reformation was from the NCFIC itself. Scott Brown told Reformation in a meeting that they polled the churches on their directory and discovered that 25% of them use Sunday schools. (It is unknown if the Sunday schools are age-segregated or not.)

Reformation also had a long-standing statement on the church and family that was offered as evidence of having exceptions to the NCFIC but that has since been removed. This statement never had an explicit and unequivocal denial of the two NCFIC articles in question.

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.

The NCFIC confession also had other offensive elements that had been brought to the attention of Reformation OPC by other sister churches. The opening introduction declares:

“Our fervent prayer is that our God will raise up Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, family-integrated assemblies from the ashes of our man-centered, family fragmenting churches.” And the last article asserts: “We deny that the church should continue as she has and delay dramatic reformations, or that she will escape the wrath of God for the disintegration and destruction of the family by ignoring or taking lightly biblical roles and responsibilities.”

Supposedly, churches that signed this confession agree with these statements. The issue was not about signing confessions but specifically signing this confession given its de facto effect of “charging [sister] congregations…of error” without confronting them in accordance to Matthew 18.

Although Reformation removed its name under a vote from a higher judicatory body, other churches have removed their names for various other reasons, some after the concern was first brought to their attention. Still others were convinced after listening to Pastor Shawn Mathis’ well-received lecture at the Presbytery of the Midwest,  A Pastoral Perspective on the Family Integrated Church Movement. 

Though Swanson’s views on family integrated churches were not properly the issue before the Presbytery, the extent of his involvement with FIC movement is seen in his public defense of it, his endorsement of the NCFIC’s flagship book, endorsement of the movie, multiple interviews with NCFIC president Scott Brown, as well as intimate participation in and endorsement of many NCFIC conferences over many years. In a 2012 interview with Brown, Swanson declared:

“Scott, your [NCFIC] conferences are busting out…This thing is growing. This movement is growing. I mean I see this thing expanding. God may be reforming His church even as we speak…It’s exciting. It’s a reformed experience…they are asking the right question, they are looking to the right words for the solutions…getting back to the sufficiency of scripture. And certainly rooting themselves in a Reformed way of looking at the Word of God. That it is the only sole authority…in church, youth ministry.”

For those unfamiliar with Swanson’s FIC teachings, here is some more information:

 

 

You can also watch the entire movie Divided to see what Kevin Swanson has said about the FIC movement.

 

What is my take away from this turn of events?

 

~ The fact that a well-respected denomination would challenge the NCFIC’s doctrinal positions is monumental and, I believe, signals a crack in the dike of the FIC separatist movement.  Until now, to my recollection, no other denomination or church has taken a public stand in a way that actually challenges the faulty doctrines coming from the NCFIC.

~ Kevin Swanson’s turn about on at least his level of support for the NCFIC itself is pretty amazing. It appears that his church website has undergone a good scrubbing and right on the heels of some statements he has recently made regarding the patriarchy movement itself. I am still waiting for a podcast or two explaining this to his minions.

~ I am now watching and wondering if any others who have insisted the family integrated church is the only biblical way of church life will also acquiesce. Perhaps other denominations will now see the doctrinal error and follow suit. I don’t expect anything similar from those churches who see the FIC model as one of their pillars. But it does make you wonder if the same relationships will continue, i.e., via family camps, conferences, their speaking engagements, etc.

~ It is so encouraging to see an example of a church court functioning properly, a rarity in my experience. I so appreciate the work of those who have pursued this with integrity. I have no doubt that Pastor Shawn Mathis, who has been our podcast guest on this very subject, was instrumental in introducing this difficult subject to his peers to lay the groundwork.

~ I have long contended that the entire body of Christ needs homeschooling families and we need them. Perhaps this will be a start in bringing that awareness to more congregations.

 

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Methinks the fall of Dougie and VF caused his feet to be firmly planted in the OPC. If this had happened a year ago… maybe a different outcome?

  2. says

    I know of at least one OPC pastor who has been staunchly against NCFIC. It’s about time. I’m surprised that he really cares about OPC backing.

  3. says

    Julie Anne, that’s good to hear!

    I hope more denominations will realize what the NCFIC confession is really saying about them and will follow suit!

  4. says

    My guess is that there are other Reformed/Calvinistic churches who are only slightly aware of NCFIC and Vision Forum but increasingly are being made aware of the doctrinal problems associated with them and so you will hear more of this kind of reaction.Should these churches be located in a metropolitan or suburban area without a significant number of homeschool members NCFIC would not likely be on their radar. Just my thoughts. . .which could of course, be way off.

  5. Brian Olsen says

    This is absolutely wonderful news as many churches have been kidnapped by these aberrant belief’s! I hope more and more will wake up.

  6. Michelle says

    that video! my goodness! we’ll eat the “vegetables” you go have your “sumptuous meals.” How loving! We’ll win, you’ll lose! How can a pastor say such things? This is not the heart of Jesus! There was ZERO gospel in this approach…just we’ll have tons of kids and teach them OUR WAY and we will WIN. And in some way, this whole lots of kids/kingdom building approach sounds super mormon to me.

  7. says

    Granddad, the past 10 years has seen FIC leaders addressing homeschooling families at conventions all around he country. They have had a very specific target audience and even go into communities and root out the homeschooling families from there churches. Also, they drawn in “like-minded” families from hundreds of mikes away who make the log trek for their full Sunday events. But I put the blame for much of it at feet of traditional churches who have mocked home discipleship efforts in families and whose ministries HAVE often been shallow if not destructive. I hope this is a wake-up call all around!

  8. Jennifer says

    Perhaps the OPC should take the next step with Kevin Swanson and examine the teachings he promotes on his radio show. What these guys say in their public “ministries” needs to be addressed.

    A few years ago, Federal Vision proponent Peter Leithart, was brought up on charges in the PCA by former pastor Jason Stellman for what he taught in his church and on his blog. Leithart was exonerated, but the fact that it happened at all is very encouraging to me.

  9. says

    Brian, in our situation, we certainly weren’t looking for utopia but we wanted to be someplace where we wouldn’t have to hear snide comments against homeschoolers or “those who don’t participate whenever the church doors are open.” Once a family takes responsibility for their own discipleship of children, you can quickly become a threat to the system, the staff, the need for a larger building, etc.!

    “We need the diversity in the church body that homeschoolers can bring but we need everyone else too. In that process we need to extend the freedom Christ affords us and to just keep encouraging one another to move forward in a process that will only be completed when we see Jesus face to face. What a glorious day that will be! ”

    Absolutely!!!!

    Thanks for your kind words…..and I look forward to your insights here!

  10. says

    Jennifer,

    I am really hoping that will also happen. Kevin’s stuff is some of the most outrageous out there in the patriarchy camps.

  11. says

    I know, Karen – lol – I was being facetious. Gotta love that about-face just in the nick of time when his buddy Phillips fell from his pompous chair.

    Kevin should know better than contradict his words. I’m still laughing that he took down his embedded fetuses broadcast after much push back. People already had it copied and reported on it, so it’s out there all over the place. But I guess in his mind if it’s gone from his site, it never happened.

    He needs a new job – not in ministry. He’s an embarrassment to Christianity with his obnoxious rhetoric.

  12. says

    I am still trying to decide how much of this credit I believe could go to the Phillips debacle.

    I am giving praise where praise is due…to the OPC and those involved in pursuing this to its good outcome. Now 2 months after the fact, I have yet to see any personal fruits in this matter as far as Kevin is concerned. It reminds me of the little girl who was standing up in the car and was told to sit down and when she finally did declared, “I am still standing up on the inside!”

  13. says

    Oh, you think this ties to Phillips? I have some other ideas. I know of others who were questioning Swanson’s public behavior, but the behavior didn’t have anything to do with family-integrated churches, just his rambling mouth of obnoxious and offensive rhetoric.

  14. Ladycelt says

    “Perhaps the OPC should take the next step with Kevin Swanson and examine the teachings he promotes on his radio show. What these guys say in their public “ministries” needs to be addressed.”

    I’m glad to see the OPC finally addressing Swanson’s weirdness in at least this area, but I agree that some of the other things he has said need to be addressed at the presbytery level if the session of his church won’t do it. Some of his more infamous moments are simply unbefitting a minister of the Word and sacraments.

  15. says

    Julie Anne,

    My guess is that the Phillips/Lourdes horror is the tipping point that starts the downfall of the whole patriarchy movement. Here are some reasons why I think so…interested to get your take on it.

    Many have been questioning it for a long time. This just gave them the green light to leave it. Now there are many who are looking for understanding and a different approach to raising children. This is one reason I wrote my book…I have seen this coming for a long time and parents need to be pointed back to the clear Scriptural mandates for one anothering.

    Also, the percentage of homeschooling families who prescribe to this paradigm is waning. As the common core becomes more of an issue with teachers and parents alike, no matter what the religious background might be, homeschooling will continue to grow. The number of patriarch followers, especially in the FIC, goes down and there are smaller groups and even stranger teachings. Its like leaving a tea bag in water for too long…..concentrated stuff no one can swallow, let alone taste.

    Millennials are much more interested in relationships than the hierarchy and regulated life that is presented within these camps. Even if raised in these churches, many will not stay there or raise their families there. In fact, I am seeing many marry outside their FIC churches, which is not a part of the 200 year plan. I recently chatted with an anglican priest about this very topic and he pointed out something I have also seen. Millennials are also more interested in what he described as “transcendence” and I believe he is correct. The manmade rules take away so much that is of God Himself.

    My prediction with Swanson? He and his church will find another denomination for refuge. It will be tricky. I am sure he would fit in with McDonald and Sproul Jr. over at the CPC but would have to embrace paedo communion and I don’t recall reading or hearing him address that. But I do not believe he will remain in the OPC for long. Staying with the OPC, long term, I believe, will mean he will have to recant the core briefs of his entire ministry and I am skeptical. But God is bigger than my skepticism!

  16. Jennifer S. says

    I’m not surprised at all that someone acted against him.

    I feel compelled to point out some polity notes. The OPC as a judicial body didn’t do anything about Swanson. His presbytery did. At this point, it would’ve been inappropriate for the denomination to act because there hadn’t been a failure of his presbytery to do so. The hierarchy of judicatories is such that the presbytery would have to act first. (Indeed, Swanson isn’t even a member of his church; he’s a member of his presbytery, as all teaching elders are. The other members of the session of his church could encourage him to do things differently, but when it comes to matters of discipline he answers to the presbytery. A pastor can never simply be fired by his church; the presbytery has to act to dissolve the relationship between the two.)

    Similarly, the OPC wouldn’t act against his teachings on his radio show, his presbytery would. Given the standards for bring charges against someone, it seems unlikely that anyone could succeed in doing so — barring anyone with a personal injury, that is. A complaint has a lot more latitude to it than charges do, and that would need to be brought by a session, plus it would need to be recent. A session has three months to bring a complaint after an offence. Here’s the Book of Discipline.

    A study committee was formed this year at GA on a subject that I think will end up being relevant to this matter in the long term, but it takes study committees years to do their work, so we’ll see. I am disappointed to learn that Swanson is in the OPC. I hadn’t before realised. But we have had our fair share of oddballs over the decades.

  17. says

    Jennifer,
    Good summary of what happens with presbytery & OPC headquarters. For those not fully acquainted with how we Presbyterians (PCA & OPC) do polity this is helpful. Yes, things can move a little slowly, but I do prefer the system over a typical congregational style.

  18. says

    Karen: Reformed pastors need to stop looking at NCFIC at a “slightly-off’ expression of covenant theology, because it isn’t. I believe many look at it in that way. It’s like union organizers looking at communists and thinking of them as “just a little bit off.” No, NCFIC is a lot off, and it is actually anti-Reformed, since NCFIC is adding something man-made to the third use of the law.

  19. says

    I agree, Jennifer’s synopsis is very helpful. The sheer thought of the time factors addressing these issues “decently and in order” exhausts me! I am not convinced this is the best way of dealing with these things.

  20. says

    Pastor Matthew Kingsbury from Park Hill Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Denver has drafted a template for a complaint document other churches might want to use in situations similar to the one involving Kevin Swanson’s church. You might want to check it out:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8AU7lKA5uC-MU9la3JDUzgwUXM/edit.

    He also commented on this matter and the complaint on his blog at

    http://presbyteriancurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-complaint-against-ncfic-confession.html.

  21. says

    Just got my World magazine this week and am so disappointed to see that the have a full page ad for an upcoming NCFIC conference. Planning to write a note to them and link to this information.

  22. Joanna Kingsbury says

    I’m glad to see you mention my husband, Matthew, in your comments. He has worked at this, prayed abou this, done a LOT of the hard “boring” work meeting with their elders, having lunch with Swanson, building relationships with these men, holding a debate at our church building with Swanson, Mathis and himself, in order to someday get Swanson and his session to see their error. He even paid a transcriber twice to type up a hard copy of a sermon and a podcast. I actually listen to Kevin’s sermons and/or podcasts once a week during a long run I do every Monday in order to keep Matthew abreast of things (he wishes he had more time to devote to it, but still has to pastor our church and produce two sermons a week).

    Finally, after three years of concerted effort, he drafted this complaint that you are writing about. Strangely, certain other OPCs did not get on board with the complaint, despite their professed adherence to its main points of contention. I’m glad to see they are now, however. I pray our denomnination as a whole, and others in our affiliated NAPARC circles, will eventually see the very big danger that being a part of the NCFIC really is.

  23. Anthea says

    Too many initials in this discussion. Some of us aren’t in the OPC, the NFIC — although I do know what PTO means. That’s about the limit of my acronym expertise. Whenever there is too much jargon I have to run away. Does that make me, like Pooh, a bear of small brain?

  24. Joanna Kingsbury says

    It has come to my attention that the word “boring” could be misconstrued from how I intended. I only meant the behind-the-scenes, not-flashy, slow and careful work of relationship building. It was not meant to imply that relationship-building with this particular group of men was in itself boring. I apologize for any hurt feelings this caused. Matthew has actually quite enjoyed getting to know the session of Reformation OPC.

  25. Brian Olsen says

    Kevin Swanson may have cleaned up his web site but not his act. According to the NCFIC blog KS will be at this year’s ‘Burning in the Soul’s Men’s Luncheon’ on October 31st. I think that many of the men associated with the NCFIC movement are less then honest. I know of one who omitted telling his church of his ‘5 year de-programming’ plan that he began after they had approved his pastorship. Ken Swanson seems to be of the same ilk. They preach the gospel but practice the insidious precepts espoused by the NCFIC, in doing so they divide the church of Jesus Christ.

  26. Sue Michaels says

    I was doing some research on Ken Ham and Kevin Swanson’s name keeps coming up. Swanson seems to be moving up the “patriocentrist leader board” lately, especially now that his organization “Generations With Vision” is sponsoring The Gen2 Leadership Conference which will be held at the Creation Museum with Ken Ham in attendance. And of course this next year there will be four “Teach Them Diligently” Conferences. While speakers haven’t been announced, many of the big name patrios were speakers last year. The TTD in Sandusky, OH is affiliated with CHEO, which has always been a patriarchal hot mess. You stated that, because of the Doug Phillip’s scandal, you believe the patriarchy movement is on it’s way out. I was wondering if you still think that way? What is the possibility of Ken Ham (whom everyone absolutely ADORES) becoming the new “leader”, with “Krazy Kevin” as his sidekick?

  27. Granddad says

    Yes, many folks think Ken Ham is wonderful especially if they’re a young earth creationist. However, folks like me who are old earth creationists butt heads with them and they can be quite intolerant of the opposing viewpoint. I wonder if the newest hot-button among the patriocentric crowd will be be this issue? So then they can rant at everyone who is not a Christian Reconstructionists/theonomist/YEC.

  28. says

    Sue, I have been chewing on this the past couple of days. I do believe the patriarchy movement we have known and abhorred since about 2000 is no longer garnering the support it would need to continue to have power in homeschooling circles. Its leaders are falling, one by one, and the fruits of their teachings are being exposed. But, until people recognize that the complimentarians who are in charge of evangelicalism hold views that are very close to those of Doug Phillips et al, a form of patriarchy will continue. Isn’t it interesting to see these changes? Even the Botkin sisters have been singing a tune that is a bit different these days. They even seem to be rejecting the “stay at home daughter” movement they created! (Listen to the presentation they did at the Colorado HS convention this year.) Steve Brown and the NCFIC crowd seem to be trying to take the lead but they lack the charisma and carry the baggage of their connection to Phillips. Here is what came to me in an email this week. I think it portrays exactly what is happening all over. And because the evangelical church is so weak, many will succeed.

    “Karen,

    We have just left a fellowship that has been changed into a FIC with a pastor who is very active in the NCFIC movement. I am concerned that, while much of what they say sounds absolutely wonderful, what they practice is alarming. I went to the leader of our old church and tried to tell him only to find out that he’d come to the church with what he called a ‘5 year de-progamming plan’. At that point I knew I would make no headway and so we left.

    To illustrate the preaching/practice problem I give you this from the NCFIC website:
    NCFIC relates to individual Christians in three distinct ways:
    1. Christians who are members of an established church, we encourage you to graciously and winsomely try to bring about change from within through respectful appeal to your leaders. This has the potential to transform many lives, the lives of some of the people you care about the most.
    2. Christians who are seeking a church, we recommend you use our Church Directory to find a family-integrated church or network with other like-minded Christians to start one.
    3. Christians who are “home churching” or spiritual nomads, this is non-normative at best and downright heterodox at worst. God requires His people to be in biblically constituted local churches with biblical preaching, biblical ordinances, biblical government and biblical discipline.

    Number one sounds good but in practice this ultimately advocates separation form a church that does not march in lock step with the NCFIC ideals. (How do you graciously tell church leadership that Sunday School or Youth Groups are a serious error and sinful?)

    Number two provides the person with a list of ‘safe havens’ to go to after they get ousted after their gracious and winsome efforts fail.

    and Number three pulls the population of ‘house’ churches back under the authority of NCFIC churches, which is just what they want: more adherents.

    The packaging of the NCFIC is great but they are as deceptive as any other cult. Sounding Biblical they create judiasers. The system of rules and controls are very attractive to the flesh and this is exactly what the NCFIC provides. With Paul, I would say, “Oh foolish people, who has bewitched you?” And, like Paul, I know exactly who has done it.

    Please continue to pray for Christ’s people and especially homeschoolers who, historically, have been searching for the better way. The NCFIC is NOT the better way.”

    Thoughts?

  29. says

    BTW, Ken Ham and Kevin Swanson would never work well together. There would be too much inner conflict and jockeying to be in charge.

  30. rpotter says

    the Bible says not to gossip-which is what this blog appears to do. What does it say about age segregation? You have to answer to the Bible not all the gossiping friends who chime in.

  31. says

    To rpotter:
    You must differentiate between pointting out false doctrine (heresy) or aberrantr theology and gossip: there is a significant difference. As for age-segregation I believe the burden of proof lies with those to assert the bible mandates AGAINST it. All of the arguments I have encountered rely upon Old Testament passages wrestled from their theological and historical context. These arguments insist upon making descriptive passages dealing very clearly with the theocratic nation of Israel into prescriptive commandments for church. Their hermeneutics are questionable and the resulting exegesis sloppy.

  32. says

    rpotter,

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the Biblical perspective of integrated church, Sunday school, etc. Could you please share the Scripture that teaches this as the way families must believe and practice? Thanks!

  33. says

    I find it revealing that when asked a direct question, “Could you please share the Scripture that teaches this as the way families must believe and practice?”, individuals supportive of patriarchy as practiced by Swanson, et. al. are want to respond.

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