Back in September, Sam Waldron wrote an article on the Family Integrated Church that set off a firestorm of criticism of the “movement” within Reformed Baptist circles and beyond. Many of our opponents relished the thought of a respected scholar taking the FIC to task. As a result, many linked to the article, drew unwarranted conclusions, and/or used it as validation for their criticisms.
Recently, Dr. Waldron wrote an open letter commenting on his blog post. I am heartened by Sam’s words, and more so by his pursuit of truth, clarity, and charity in this discussion. His letter appears below:
An Open Letter with regard to My Blog on the
Family-Integrated Church Movement
Dear Brothers in Christ,
Several months ago I allowed to have posted on the blog of Reformed Baptist Fellowship a lecture I had prepared several years ago for my Doctrine of the Church course at MCTS on the relation of the family and the church. This lecture was prepared on the basis of interaction over the years with pastors who had dealt with this movement and also on the basis of an inspection of several websites supporting the family-integrated church movement. In my original lecture I noted that some of the groups and websites I mentioned were less extreme than others. I mistakenly thought that I specifically mentioned that the group headed by Scott Brown and originally associated with Vision
Forum and named the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches was in my view more moderate and less extreme than other groups I cited. That was my view as I recall when I wrote the original lecture, but apparently I did not specifically mention that their positions seemed more moderate to me. It is only fair for me to make this clear here and now.
Since allowing this lecture to be posted, I have had numerous email and personal opportunities to talk to Scott. I have also had indirect contact with Voddie Baucham and perused his blogs on the subject. Both men affirm that they hold the 1689 and its view of ecclesiology. They have protested rather vigorously that we are misrepresenting their views when we attribute to them the idea that they believe the family is the basic unit of the New Testament church. In his blog which I cite below Voddie, however, has been honest and candid enough to admit that their description of the church as a “family of families” has been unnecessarily confusing. I recommend for clarity that you read Voddie’s blogs on this subject. Here are the addresses.
I have no doubt that on a host of issues I am in much agreement and real sympathy with Scott and Voddie on how the church should relate to the family. (My wife and I, for instance, schooled our five children at home through middle school.) I am also confident that on many practical issues I am in significant, practical disagreement with their views. This letter is not intended as a commendation of the family-integrated church movement. It is, however, an opportunity for me to clarify that I recognize that the Family-Integrated Church movement is not a monolithic movement and an attempt to set the record straight as to the views of Voddie and Scott on ecclesiology. It is also a recognition that these men hold the 1689 Baptist Confession and that there are too few of us who hold this great statement of faith for us to be unnecessarily or mistakenly divided.
Perhaps it will assist good communication if I try to identify why many Reformed Baptists oppose the family-integrated church movement. It may be that I am speaking only for myself, but I do believe that one reason why many Reformed Baptists have reacted against this movement is that we associate it with the many eccentric and divisive viewpoints which have plagued Reformed Baptist churches. We have seen people with various such ideas come to and then leave our churches because they made their ideas on secondary issues practically matters of church fellowship. Many of us are also conscious that too often good counsel has insensibly become divine command and people have been held accountable to follow good counsel as if it were divine command. Elders have sometimes mistaken the good counsel they give people for Scripture itself. Applications of divine commands have been mistaken for the divine commands themselves. The advocates of the family-integrated church movement need to realize that sometimes it has looked as if this was the kind of thing they were doing. It was not traditional Reformed Baptists being (what perhaps occasionally we have been) ugly and narrow that led them to challenge the family-integrated church movement. It was, in fact, just the opposite. It is Reformed Baptists (rightly or wrongly) trying to avoid such narrowness.
On the other hand, if there are churches and elderships that with an open, good, and friendly spirit decide to have no nurseries and decide against traditional Sunday Schools, these are not confessional issues or even key, doctrinal issues. They are rather issues of practical application. I may (I do) firmly disagree with such practical applications, but I could hold fellowship with 1689 Baptist churches who hold such views if they also diligently endeavor to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Much more could be said, but it is not my purpose to re-enter this debate. It is rather my purpose to have a good conscience by not misrepresenting brethren and to assist the cause of unity among confessional Reformed Baptists by open communication. My heart is to wish all such Reformed Baptists the benediction of Hebrews 13:20-21: Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord Reigns,
Pastor Sam Waldron, PhD