Finally, after many months, our church building was repaired and we moved back into it, any discussion about purchasing the rental property lost in the midst of serious problems that had surfaced among the church elders. Though it didn’t directly involve those of us in the congregation at large, it put the entire church into a state of paralysis.

Some of the issues were theological, some were personal preferences being treated as essential doctrines of the faith. But underlying the problems and contention was the negative attitude that continued to be held against homeschoolers, with left over bitterness about the youth ministry and frustration at the lack of enthusiasm for the building program often surfacing in comments. In fact, relationships had disintegrated to the point that the pastor told people that his problems would all be gone if all the homeschoolers left. Had this been a divorce, homeschoolers could have sued for alienation of affection.

During this time, homeschooling families began to trickle out of the church and any who happened to visit quickly sensed that they were unwelcome. Eventually, after several years, only a couple homeschooling families remained and those who did welcomed the new building program and even supported a Christian school where the parents were involved.

At this point, we had grown weary of not only the anti-homeschooling attitude but the direct attacks from the pulpit against those who held to convictions that were different than the elders’. Pro-homeschooling rhetoric that had drawn us to the church, anti-homeschooling rhetoric had driven us out.

We spent a year in another traditional church, basically trying to recover from what had been a terribly painful experience. It was at this point that we heard that several families we knew, including the author of the original brochure that had brought us to the previous church, wanted to begin a family integrated church so we decided to join them. We still have a picture of that first day we gathered for worship, 3 families standing in front of a rented American Legion hall, smiling children and hopeful adults. I don’t presume to know what thoughts went through the minds of everyone else that day, but I remember thinking that maybe we could have peace, at least for a while. And for a while, we did.

I might want to back up at this point and share a couple things about where Clay and I were theologically on that day. Both of us had grown up in American Baptist churches and had gone to an American Baptist college but had been greatly influenced by the writings of Francis Schaeffer and the preaching of John McArthur. We both embraced the doctrines of grace and had been members of a Presbyterian congregation but neither of us was convinced of the necessity of infant baptism, although we didn’t have an issue with babies being baptized. We had no preferences for worship style, the singing of hymns, psalms, or choruses, or any combination of them. We did want to feel the freedom to direct our own family’s spiritual training and education, free from the continual negative attitudes and statements we had experienced previously.

In retrospect, we probably should have had many more questions than we did about the direction the other families thought the church would be taking but we had been under the assumption that there would be freedom of conscience in these areas as well as others.

To begin with, we didn’t realize the amount of influence that the teachings of Vision Forum had on some of the families, including new ones that joined us. Many times someone would bring a tape by Doug Phillips and we listened to it after the noon fellowship dinner. When he was in town for a homeschooling convention, Phillips was asked to preach during our worship service, though it turned out to be an hour and a half talk on keeping daughters from losing the vision for multi-generational family life rather than an expository message. Many visitors came that day, several who later privately told us that they were horrified at the things he had said and certainly would never consider returning. We began to wonder if the church could grow if others had this same opinion.

We also came to understand that everyone in the church, except for our family, held to what is known as the Civil War as a Theological War theology. We began to hear phrases like “Abraham Lincoln was a wicked man. I hate him” and “Had the south only won the war, we would have had a truly Christian nation” and “the war wasn’t about slavery” At one men’s Bible study, one of the men commented “The Klan has done some good things,” referring to the KKK, leaving us dumbfounded. It wasn’t until later that we learned that some of the members had participated in wearing black face for a homeschool co-op production and we also began to see all of the racist teachings in books recommended by Vision Forum and the lauding of men like Confederate chaplain R. L. Dabney. A growing discomfort began to nag at us.

In the midst of this, we learned that a church planter from the Chicago area was interested in helping us grow our family integrated church and the offer was made to bring in a pastor who believed he was called to minister in a home discipleship church. After hearing him preach and getting to know his sweet family, we were thrilled to support his move to our area. And in the back of our minds, Clay and I felt that this influence would help to temper the patriocentric and pro-south leanings we were witnessing.

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