Independent Fundamental Churches of America (I.F.C.A.)*

From Separation to Inclusivism

-  The Bible teaches that we are to test all teachings (1 John 4:1,6), expose those teachings that are false (Eph. 5:11), confront and rebuke the false teachers (Titus 1:9,13), and then separate from those who persist in false teaching (Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10), lest in the end, we are disqualified for service (2 Tim. 2:20,21), or worse yet, we are identified with the false teachings and the false teachers themselves (2 John 10-11). But the IFCA, rather than separate, has instead chosen to identify itself with a wide range of false teachings and false teachers.

-  The IFCA was formed in 1930 as a fundamentalist# entity -- this was in response to the infiltration, if not the outright control, of major denominations by false teachers. (The IFCA currently has more than 700 member churches, over 50 member organizations, and more than 1,500 individuals as members.) Were there not a willingness and desire to obey God in the matter of biblical separation, there would have been no reason nor justification for the existence of the IFCA. In the Doctrinal Statement of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America, Article IV. (Faith and Doctrine), Section 2 (Movements Contrary to Faith), the IFCA lists and delineates four movements which are considered to be contrary to the faith: (a.) Ecumenism; (b.) Ecumenical Evangelism; (c.) Neo-Orthodoxy; and (d.) New Evangelicalism. Also, an IFCA 1987 resolution stated, "... historic fundamentalism carefully distinguished itself from theological inclusivism ... with neo-evangelicalism ..."

Yet in recent years, the examples of IFCA inclusivism with new evangelicalism have become legion. One such indication of the rush of IFCA churches into neo-evangelicalism would be psychologizer Ed Dobson's Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Dobson's "church growth" techniques rival even those of church growth guru Bill Hybels -- Dobson started a contemporary-styled, Saturday night seeker-service, complete with drama, avant-garde music, and a question time following the message):

(a) BJU-grad Dobson was with Jerry Falwell's ministry for 14 years (until 1987), and has called for fundamentalists and new evangelicals to unite. Heeding his own words, Dobson is now a senior Editor of the mainline new-evangelical Christianity Today magazine founded by Billy Graham.

(b) Dobson has stated that "those who say that the Papacy is of anti-Christ, lack the love of Christ."

(c) Dobson has stated that charismatics are of the family of God, calling Jim Bakker, "a Christian brother." A "Divorce Recovery" workshop (i.e., a 12-Step program) was also held at the Calvary Church and featured a speaker who was advertised as a graduate of the hyper-charismatic Oral Roberts University!

(d) Dobson believes that Jerry Falwell was led by the Holy Spirit to accept the PTL leadership. (This was in 1987, the year before Dobson's church hosted the IFCA annual convention!)

(e) The 11/9/92 Christianity Today said two Sunday morning services draw a total of 3,500 people (now 6,000 people -- 8/11/97 CT), resulting from an innovative Saturday night service begun in 1987 -- featuring Dobson in ripped blue jeans and a T-shirt, a contemporary band, drama, etc.

(f) Dobson says that rock music "is the musical style I love and listen to." In Starting a Seeker Sensitive Church (1993), he describes the music used in a Saturday night service he began in his church five years ago: "The style of music, without question, is rock. It is the language of my generation. It is the musical style that I love and listen to. It communicates in a language that I can understand" (6/1/94, Calvary Contender).

(g) Dobson's ministry has slowly moved in the direction of the social-gospel -- In the 5/20/96 CT, Dobson says: "Our church is on a journey of discovering the social implications of the gospel." He has had an intensive ministry with/to homosexuals, and including the pro-homosexual Metropolitan Community Church. Dobson said, "If our church gets overrun with homosexuals, that will be terrific." His attitude-toward-AIDS message has traveled as far as the World Council of Churches, which invited him to sit on an HIV consulting group the past two and a half years (8/11/97, CT).

(h) Dobson went to the 1996 Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta with a racially diverse pastors' group from Grand Rapids. [Promise Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history.]

[In 1993, Ed Dobson attended a prayer breakfast with President Clinton. Dobson was seated on Clinton's left, while on the president's right was a "minister" of the homosexual Metropolitan Community Church. Dobson led the opening prayer, praying that the president "would see the face of human suffering in the AIDS crisis" (1/15/94, Calvary Contender). Dobson has also been quoted as saying, "... I believe (Clinton's) more deeply spiritual than any president we've had in recent years" (5/15/94, Calvary Contender).]

-  The IFCA leadership is now officially allowing that which is different from what the IFCA Doctrinal Statement actually says in simple English. For example, a 4/92 IFCA publication allows for "limited liberty" and "interpretive freedom" regarding the IFCA's doctrinal position. (The "interpretive freedom" issue arose in relation to John MacArthur's [then] denial of the eternal Sonship of Christ, even though he continues[d] to sign the IFCA Doctrinal Statement which affirms such doctrine.) "Limited liberty" evidently implies a looser, broader-based fellowship, and therefore, is not in harmony with the IFCA's distinctive, historic, separated position. (A glaring example of this "interpretative freedom" would be the IFCA's 1993 Convention: the "Conventioneers Exhibitors List" included a display by Scripture Press, a publishing house which has a literature division for charismatic churches, as well as displays by such neo-evangelical organizations as Gospel Light Press, HCJB World Radio, and TEAM.)

-  Dr. Richard Gregory, National Executive Director of the IFCA, claims to have a "self-purging" policy in place that prevents aberrant IFCA members (like Ed Dobson's church[?]) from remaining in the IFCA. Gregory describes this "self-purging" policy as one which requires each IFCA member, church, or organization to annually reaffirm its agreement with the IFCA's Doctrinal Statement. He states that the IFCA depends heavily "on honesty and integrity to provide consistency within the Fellowship." In other words, when faced with the situation of an inclusivistic, compromising IFCA church, the IFCA relies upon that church's own honesty and integrity to purge itself in order to maintain the organization's (IFCA's) overall purity! This policy seems incredibly naive, especially in light of the fact that there is an ever-growing number of neo-evangelical IFCA churches which nevertheless, year after year, continue to sign a Doctrinal Statement that prohibits the very activities they are engaged in!

The above statement by Gregory on "self-purging" was made in reference to a question as to the reason why the IFCA did not take action against a member church upon learning that the church was not only going to take part in the Northern New Jersey Billy Graham Crusade for September 1991, but that it was also going to be among the host churches (which also included two Roman Catholic churches) for the Crusade counselor training sessions! Would not any association whatsoever with a Billy Graham crusade fall under at least three Sections of the IFCA's own Doctrinal Statement, which specifically details those "movements" that the IFCA itself considers to be contrary to the faith: to wit, Article IV, Sections 2(a.), 2(b.), and 2(d.)? Yet, when warnings are sounded concerning such blatant compromises, Gregory and his IFCA brethren are more upset with the exposers of the compromises than with the compromisers themselves! (Reported in the 3/15/91, 4/15/91, and 6/1/91 issues of the Calvary Contender.)

-  In the early 1960s, there was a growing group within the IFCA, mainly led by men trained at non-separatist Dallas Theological Seminary, which desired to cease reproving apostasy. Up to this point in time, Voice magazine, the official organ of the IFCA, had always had militant articles encouraging separation from apostasy. Some Voice articles expounded Biblical passages. Others gave factual reports of apostasy in the denominations. Others gave victorious testimonies of those who had come out. In the early 1960s, however, a decision was made to change the image of the publication by eliminating this material (Axioms of Separation, by John Ashbrook, p. 9). It now appears that the Voice magazine will print almost anything, regardless of its doctrinal correctness:

(a) The Jan/Feb 1992 Voice carried full-page ads promoting Moody Bible Institute, Grace College (and a half-page ad for Grace Seminary), and Bryan College, with accompanying articles written by leaders of these neo-evangelical schools.

(b) The Sep/Oct 1992 Voice listed Dr. Joseph Stowell (president of Moody Bible Institute) and Dr. Tony Evans as featured speakers for the 1993 IFCA Annual Convention in Chicago. MBI's new evangelical stance is a matter of longstanding record. Tony Evans is a black ecumenical pastor/leader with recent/current links to Dallas Seminary and with Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family. He has platform-shared with charismatics and liberals. (Reported in the 12/1/92, Calvary Contender.)

(c) An article appeared in the Jul/Aug 1993 Voice by Shawn Thornton -- "How To Live With The New President [Clinton]." Thornton writes that we must "love the sinner but hate the sin" (cf. Psa. 5:5); that Rom 13:1-7 teaches that God commands us to be subject to government, which means that "I must vote," or I have sinned; and that Christians should be involved in political issues, including running for political office, again because Rom. 13 commands us to. (This all sounds like the Dominion/Reconstructionist argument to us.)

(d) The Jul/Aug 1993 Voice ran an ad for the book Strength For His People by Steven Waterhouse: "Families of the Mentally Ill ... a book that answers your tough questions and addresses your deep needs." (See PsychoHeresy, by Martin & Deidre Bobgan, pp. 133-141, exposing the myth of mental illness.)

(e) The March/April 1993 Voice published a favorable book review (by Gene K. Tobin) of Churches That Abuse by Westmont College psychologizer and supposed cult expert Ronald M. Enroth: "This book is about people who have been abused psychologically and spiritually in churches and other Christian organizations. ... This masterpiece sheds much needed light on the often overlooked abusive practices of legalism, authoritarian leadership, manipulation, excessive discipline, and spiritual intimidation. These insights will help the reader to identify abusive traits of fringe groups as well as the abusive tendencies of the normal groups. ... Speaking the truth in love by using a non-judgmental approach, Dr. Enroth uncovers the truth about churches, organizations and groups that abuse their followers spiritually, psychologically, and financially." (Emphasis theirs.) [Yet, the May/June 1993 Voice refused to run an advertisement for Miles Stanford's book on Pauline dispensationalism, stating the doctrine would only confuse IFCA members!]

(f) The July/Aug 1997 Voice published a very positive book review (by Richard McCarrell) of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, a charismatically-oriented book written by Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. (For evidence of Cymbala's charismatic associations, see the 12/98 Charisma magazine, which identifies him as a keynote speaker for a conference on Pentecostal Prophecy and Power in Springfield, Missouri on March 8-10,1999). McCarrell recommended: "This book should be required reading for all those contemplating going into the pastorate and most certainly for those currently serving" (p. 36). [There was also a rave review of the book from an IFCA communiqué (written by Steve Johnson, member of the IFCA publication committee), which was also published by the IFCA bulletin service.] See Pastor Gilley's review of the book for an analysis of Cymbala's charismatic positions on "calling the Spirit down"; "revelation in the inner spirit"; "Azusa Street"; "power evangelism"; "revival and Finneyism"; etc. Gilley concludes, "I believe [the book] to be a largely unbiblical, charismatic, mystical approach to Christian living. That the IFCA could endorse it, without so much as a warning, is beyond my understanding" (12/98, Think on These Things).

(g) In October 1990, IFCA's Voice magazine refused to run an advertisement for a book (Prophets of PsychoHeresy II -- now re-issued as James Dobson's Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology) that critiqued the teachings of one of today's most popular purveyors of the psychological gospel (Dr. James C. Dobson), stating that the Voice does not accept advertisements for books that are merely "exposés." This is another example of the IFCA siding with the compromisers of the truth instead of with the proponents of the truth, and in effect, acting as a censor of the truth (see next item).

-  An example of the "Christian" censorship going on today is that practiced by the IFCA's Voice magazine. PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries attempted to place ads for their Promise Keepers Warning Package and their book, Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible. Both ads were submitted to the Voice, both were turned down. Dr. Richard Gregory, the National Executive Director of the IFCA, said in a phone conversation of 11/11/94, in response to Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible, "We think this is too radical and too reactionary a book."

One of the main principles of the book is this: "Any person who can be used by the Holy Spirit to lead another to salvation or along the way of sanctification is competent to be used by God to give wise counsel without needing specialized biblical counseling training." In response to that statement, Dr. Gregory said, "We disagree with this principle." It is ironic that a professing Christian organization that considers itself to be conservative would fear running an ad for a book that is forthrightly for the Bible and an ad that warns against an ecumenical, psychological movement like Promise Keepers.

For the 1989 IFCA Annual Convention held in Limerick, Pennsylvania, Dr. John Whitcomb was one of the plenary session speakers. The Bobgans arranged for one of their books to be passed out free through Whitcomb at the convention (Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, which critiques the psychological teachings of Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, and Frank Minirth & Paul Meier). Dr. Gregory prohibited the give away, saying that the Bobgan's books were not welcome at the Convention, so don't bother to send them. (Excerpted/adapted from an article in the Jan-Feb 1995, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter.)

-  As far back as 1963 (at the Lancaster, Ohio IFCA Convention), one could observe the weakening of historic IFCA positions. In 1965, during the Terre Haute, Indiana Convention, the President of the IFCA announced to the Council of Regional Presidents that they did not exist as an advisory council to the IFCA National Executive Committee, but only as a body for fellowship and encouragement for each other. In other words, the Executive Committee alone would direct the IFCA movement regardless of the desires of the grass roots.

Then in Berkley, Michigan in 1966, a representative from the National Executive Committee referred to the "scurrilous" editor of The Ohio Regional Visitor, who publishes that "hate rag in Ohio!" These epithets were directed toward a factual Regional paper, not toward an apostate organ; against a Regional editor who sought to reveal the pitfalls of compromise, not against an apostate editor seeking to subvert innocent souls; toward a fellow IFCA member, not toward an enemy of the faith. This tirade was probably due to the Ohio Region's attempt in previous years to pass a national resolution to incorporate monthly into the Voice magazine a goodly amount of material dealing with apostate trends in both modernism and new evangelicalism, so that IFCA members could be alerted to the theological climate in America at that time. The Ohio Regional was accused of questioning the competence of the editor of the Voice. As a result of the IFCA's refusal to follow its own Doctrinal Statement, the Ohio Regional officially left the IFCA in 1968 and formed its own organization, the Ohio Bible Fellowship. (Reported in the OBF Visitor.)

-  At an IFCA Inter-Regional Conference in Terre Haute, Indiana in November 1990, one of the workshops was titled, "Getting Back to the Basics." The promo for this workshop read: "A Pastor renowned for his long-term ministry in one church [40-plus years] shares some of the keys of eliminating the temporary from your ministry and focusing on the elements that will need to change over the years." The workshop turned out to be a 50-minute monologue relating conversations from pastoral counseling cases, hospital visitations, etc., revealing that pastor's apparent sell-out to the tenets of humanistic psychology (i.e., "we need to accept ourselves"; "we must realize that there are truly people who hate themselves"; everyone has "problems" ["sin" was never specifically mentioned]; etc.). Is this typical of IFCA churches and pastors? One would certainly hope not!

-  John Ashbrook, author of New Neutralism II, writes in the 8/93, OBF Visitor:

"Having spent about 16 years of my ministerial life in the fellowship of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America, I have (kept) an ear cocked in that direction. [As stated above, Ashbrook and others in the IFCA's Ohio Regional pulled out of the IFCA in early-1968, forming the Ohio Bible Fellowship.] I have followed (its) association with the open new evangelicalism of John MacArthur; the connection of one of its prominent churches with the New Jersey Graham Crusade; the continued affiliation with Calvary Church of Grand Rapids despite its openly new evangelical pastor, Ed Dobson; and the discussion about allowing 'interpretive freedom' in the application of the doctrinal statement ..."

-  The IFCA would have us go by its official statements rather than upon the actions of its membership -- but "how can we legitimately restrict our judgment of religious groups to their official statements only, ignoring the true state of things in the lives of their leaders and members? Our Lord ... could care less about what the churches claim to be. He is interested in what they actually are ..." [see Rev. 2-3] (Ernest Pickering, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, p. 213).

* As of the IFCA's 1996 national meeting in Grand Rapids, it was voted to no longer use the name "Independent Fundamental Churches of America." As IFCA president Richard Gregory stated publicly, he was embarrassed by the term "fundamental" when checking into motels and the clerk would associate him with militant Muslims. They are now officially known as "IFCA International."

# "A fundamentalist is one who adheres with strong conviction to the fundamentals ... of the Christian faith, and who insists on separation from worldliness, apostasy, and disobedient brethren, ... it is a necessary prerequisite for being called a fundamentalist -- separation must be seen as a defining element of fundamentalism " (Ken Pulliam).  [Return to Text]

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 2/99