Friday, December 15, 2006

Season Greetings

Wishing you all the best for the festive season, and a prosperous 2007!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Married to the Mob?

Henry Kriete has exposed many fallacies of the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) in his long forgotten letter, ‘Honest to God: Revolution Through Repentance and Freedom in Christ’ (February 2nd 2003), but not a word was said about “the romantic and marriage relationships of Christians” within the ICOC. Many outsiders are unaware of the complex of the wall ICOC rules concerning the intimate aspects of male-female, husband-wife relationships.

This issue of dating and marriage will become the ultimate storm that will bring more heartbreak to this divided Christian community more than any other doctrinal matter since Kriete’s Letter. In general, prolific ICOC leadership in both camps gives the impression on the topic of relationships that they have “cross a line from genuine shepherding to control.”

“Where there’s an intrusion”, according to Ron Enroth, “into the personal lives of parishioners in the name of God, in the name of shepherding, you begin to move in a direction that I think is unhealthy.” The new reformed groups of the former ICOC have done that since May 2005 and March 2006.

The policy on dating and marriage, for the most part, remains like this: ‘A disciple marries a disciple’. Therefore since we can “marry only disciples (2 Cor 6:14, 1 Cor 7:39), it stands to reason that we should date only disciples. Dating non-Christians messes motives up our motives and theirs, and is extremely unwise.” – Shining Like Stars, ii Edition, 1990, Lesson 9: Counting the Cost, p234/316.

Unfortunately, I do not possess, the latest edition on Shining Like Stars. I doubt very much if anything has changed to this regard since 1990.

The question is can these splinter groups of the former era accommodate a future for youngsters? May (ICOC) members, since the awakening of the worldwide ICOC fellowship, marry other Christians, who do not share the same convictions? For example, would the respected family of churches in the ICOC, in practice, forbid intermarriage between a Presbyterian, Methodists or Roman Catholic? And if so, why?

Marrying a Christian is correctly argued from Scripture. Christians must marry only Christians (1 Corinthians 7:39). However, some family of churches in the post-HKL era compromised the organisation’s ideal of marrying only ICOC members – whereupon Kip McKean retaliated by asking in his article, entitled ‘The Honor of God’ (May 2005): “What should we do in our worldwide fellowship of churches?”

Kip stated [emphasis mine]: “Of consideration even the Catholics teach you should MARRY ONLY CATHOLICS, the Mormons believe in ONLY MARRYING MORMONS, and the Muslims have been known to kill a Muslim that DOES NOT MARRY A MUSLIM. Though these groups do not follow the Scriptures’ teaching on salvation, they understand THE CONCEPT OF MARRIAGE in relation to “their view” of “God’s people”. Are Jesus’ TRUE DISCIPLES to be less convicted?”

This means, in a roundabout way, “true disciples” like those fellowshipping with the Portland family of churches (The Portland movement) might not marry Christians in other groups who do not share an equal understanding regarding “their view” on the concept of marriage. On the other hand, “true disciples” who fellowship with the “International family of churches” (United Cooperation Group) might not marry those in McKean’s “new movement”? Who is exactly less convicted?

Nevertheless, the United Cooperation Group, in their document since March 11th 2006, shares McKean’s convictions on marriage. “With holiness in mind, the romantic and marriage relationships of Christians are to be pursued with ONLY THOSE who “belong to the Lord” as defined by Scriptures (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, 1 Corinthians 7:39).”

What exactly will these families of churches teach youngsters on “romantic relationships and marriage”? It is my opinion that both groups will revert to former ICOC doctrine – marrying only “in the mob”. The frightening consideration of this “concept of marriage” is three fold. If we; number one, allow people to “marry only in the mob”, then we; number two, say we are the “one true church” and therefore; number three, the “only biblically saved”!

In the post-HKL era, Enroth’s outlook on unhealthy abuse by leadership by intruding “into the personal lives of parishioners in the name of God, in the name of shepherding” has materialised during the Seattle September 2005 leadership conference. Here, we have evidence to what extend the marriage concept can lead people to trust. Mike Taliaferro, one of the nine brothers selected to serve with the Unity Proposal Group, together with Chris Ogbonnaya shared a lesson entitled, Pulling Your Church Together.

Here, Taliaferro, during his lesson “cross a line from genuine shepherding to control.”
He said: “…we began to call people back to decisions, and we did it one by one. We called the church back to discipling relationships. We called the church back to sacrificial giving… We made that decision. We resurrected church discipline… We confronted people that were divisive; some of them left the church. We resurrected confession of sin in the church… We reminded people of their commitment to all the services… Who’s lost, who’s saved – we had a talk about it.”

But more importantly, on the topic of marriage/church/salvation, Chris Ogbonnaya, shows how it is done to intrude “into the personal lives of parishioners in the name of God.”

Here, Chris expanded on the idea of Mike “Who’s lost, who’s saved” in the same lesson by stating: “WE CANNOT MARRY A NON-CHRISTIAN. WE’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE MARRIAGES BETWEEN US AND A CATHOLIC. You want to do that, hey, you’re welcome as A VISITOR. We had to do it… Is this authority? I say, ‘Yes’. It’s authority, and IT’S AUTHORITY THAT WE HAVE FROM GOD AS LEADERS, to pull ourselves together, so that the church can march forward.”

Clearly, the bible teaches against marrying a non-Christian. However, I wonder if Chris toyed with the idea that Christians in the Roman Catholic Church are condemned? But I will give him the benefit of my doubt.

Which brings us to the next question: who belongs to the Lord?

Kip McKean rightly points to other religious groups (notice the strong presence of established cults) that forbid their members to marry outside their particular group even to the point of death. However, this inclusive viewpoint leads only to the belief in being the “one true church”. It is a form of spiritual apartheid.

If “romantic and marriage relationships of Christians” in the ICOC congregations become regulated, then we need to know how they perceive other Christian groups outside their particular “view”. Clearly, Chris Ogbonnaya’s viewpoint is extreme: “WE’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE MARRIAGES BETWEEN US AND A CATHOLIC. You want to do that, hey, you’re welcome as A VISITOR.”

What does the New Testament teach on marriage between Christians? Here young people who are on the verge to join the former ICOC family of churches need to consult the Scriptures without interference from them. Youngsters need to go back to their parents, families, friends and pastors before getting baptised in either former ICOC “family of churches”.

The Apostle Paul made several contributions on the topic of marriage as requested by the Corinthians. Here individuals are free to choose who they want to marry, but they must belong to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39). If an individual becomes a Christian while the other is not, and the non-Christian partner wants to leave, it is allowed. However, individuals in the Lord may not divorce. If they divorce they are not permitted to marry other individuals. It is permitted for such a couple to get back together. Individuals are free to marry anyone in the Lord after a death of a spouse.

Let us note: The Apostle Paul’s advise on “the romantic and marriage relationships of Christians” makes no distinction between “all the churches”. The same rule applies to all. (1 Corinthians 7:17) Perhaps not entirely to the Jerusalem Church (Acts 21:21). Here the Jewish traditions and customs of the elders as observed in the Jerusalem church would not tolerate Jewish marriages with Gentiles. However, the Apostle made it very clear that we all belong to the Lord. “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23 NIV)

In his time some “forbid people to marry” (1 Timothy 4:3). In later times some forbid people to marry if they’re not in the same church group! The Roman Catholic Church policy was marrying only Catholics.

Today “slaves of men” favours one church group over another. Many Christian groups do not include a subsequent step that members MUST EMBRACE DISCIPLESHIP. Therefore this pre-requisite for the ICOC fellowship enforces “romantic and marriage relationships of Christians” in the Portland movement and United Cooperation Group to observe a type of “slaves of men” rule: “marrying only ICOC members”. If this rule is not applicable, people in the ICOC are free to choose whomever they want to “marry in the Lord” no matter what “Christian” that belongs to a biblically converted affiliation.

So where do they stand?

Many ICOC leaders TEACH AGAINST a disciple marrying someone who did not have these same convictions on embracing discipleship. However, these teachers, for now, will NOT FORBID a disciple from marrying a “biblically converted Christian in another group.”

Let us consider former rules of a bygone era in Episode 1. If we; number one, allow people to marry only in “the mob”, then we; number two, say we are the “one true church” and therefore; number three, the “only biblically saved”!

For your benefit, here are the former rules of marrying to the mob in a bygone era.

Number one.

A South African ICOC study guide, known as ‘Equipping Syllabus’ teaches, “Jesus is Lord of our Dating Life or Marriage” according to implication five:

e. Implication 5: Lord of our Dating Life or Marriage
“Marry only a Christian – obviously will marry someone you date, therefore best to date only disciples. (Exception: an existing dating relationship. Handle with care and wisdom, Not a must to break up – a must to stop sin, if any, and a must to discipline it and a must to make a decision that if a person is not really interested in becoming a Christian or is pulling person down spiritually, will break it off immediately. 1 Corinthians 7:39 – must marry in the Lord – no double standards between first and second marriage.”

Internationally, this teaching is encouraged since the early 1990’s with Douglas Jacoby’s multi-authored book, “Shining Like Stars,” ii edition, 1990.

“Marry a Christian! (2 Cor 6:14ff, 1 Cor 7:39)” – Shining Like Stars, ii Edition, 1990, Study 12: Christian Marriage: Cord of Three Strands, p.258/316.

“Dating and marriage”
a) Since we can marry only disciples (2 Cor 6:14, 1 Cor 7:39), it stands to reason that we should date only disciples.
b) Dating non-Christians messes motives up our motives and theirs, and is extremely unwise.” – Shining Like Stars, ii Edition, 1990, Lesson 9: Counting the Cost, p234/316.

Number two.

A South African ICOC study guide, known as ‘Equipping Syllabus’ teaches, “Jesus is Lord of One Church” according to implication four:

d. Implication 4: Lord of One Church
“Ephesians 4:4 – only those who are scriptural Christians are members of the true church. Church of Christ – only major group I know that baptizes those willing to be disciples for the forgiveness of sins.”

Internationally, this teaching is encouraged since the early 1990’s with Douglas Jacoby’s multi-authored book, ‘Shining Like Stars,’ ii edition, 1990.

6) New Testament Church
a) Explain that we must attend only a church, which follows the Bible.
e) Make sure he understands that it is not God’s will for him to attend any other church.

Number three.

A South African ICOC study guide, known as ‘Equipping Syllabus’ teaches, “Jesus is Lord and Savior of only the Biblically Saved” according to implication three:

c. Implication 3: Lord and Savior of only Biblically Saved
Must have deep convictions of who is lost and who is saved. You are lost (person you are studying with). Others like you are lost – family, friends, old church friends, etc.

Church groups do “differ in their doctrines”. However, the ICOC makes damning statements towards other church groups by stating they are false churches, teaching false doctrine, thus not biblically saved.

Back Tracking [An A4 sheet ‘back tracks’ issues before a prospective member “counts the cost” to become a disciple in the ICOC]
False Doctrines & Denominations
- Is it wrong to baptise babies?
- What is wrong in praying Jesus into your heart to be saved?
- What is wrong with getting baptised after being saved?
- Is there anyone in the churches where any of these false doctrines are taught who is saved?
- Is there any member of your family who is saved?
- Do you know anyone who is a true Christian?
- Is it okay for a Christian to worship at a denominational church?
- What churches will you attend when you visit your homeland?

Internationally, this teaching is encouraged since the early 1990’s with Douglas Jacoby’s multi-authored book, ‘Shining Like Stars,’ ii edition, 1990.

4) Implication of baptism
a) Ask him if he knows other true Christians (e.g. in his old church, at home, in his country, at work, family…)

11) Taking a stand with family and friends
a) Does he understand that they are lost?
b) Is he willing to firmly (and lovingly) take a stand, share his faith with them, and hold to his conviction?
c) Ask him how he would react if they opposed him?

If ICOC leadership hardly compromise on point one, where does it leave them on the other points?

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