|Emmanuel Enid MOPS Group, September 1, 2016|
Since the publication of Sarah's Open Letter of Concern regarding MOPS, she has been flooded with phone calls, emails, and requests for materials that she has put together in place of the MOPS International material for this fall. Using the same theme, Sarah has put together material that is more Christ-centered. She will send her materials to anyone who asks, free of charge. It's not in Sarah's personality to be a critic of MOPS. She is not a "fundamentalist" in the way that the word is usually cast. In fact, because of our grace perspective at Emmanuel, we are often called "liberal," and Sarah majors on grace. We love people, accept people where they are, and we focus on outreach. However, we also treasure Jesus Christ, and we believe that God's grace through the Person and work of Jesus Christ is the only hope for sinners in need of transformation. Grace transforms; and grace is never understood apart from clarity on the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
We have a very specific reason for following up on Sarah's initial Open Letter of Concern regarding the direction of MOPS International. Since the August 12, 2016 publication of the Open Letter of Concern, some employees of MOPS have sent electronic communication, accusing Sarah of "factual misrepresentation" and suggesting that Sarah's Open Letter of Concern is "based on assumptions, and is no way an accurate assessment of MOPS materials." Further, an official with MOPS has written, "It is disturbing to us the body of Christ is choosing to gossip, slander, and...wound its fellow believers."
In light of MOPS International's denial that anything is wrong with the direction of this fall's MOPS materials (EDIT: see MOPS International board of directors official response to Sarah at the end of this article), I have decided to publish Sarah's follow-up. I trust that if you are a pastor or leader in your church, you will not take Sarah's word (or mine), but you will do your own research. In our opinion, what is at stake is not one's perception of a book, a ministry, or even a blog, but the Gospel itself.
A Follow-Up Blog to the Response We Received from MOPS International to Our Open Letter
This is a follow up blog to the Open Letter of Concern we initially published on August 12, 2016.
Our MOPS group had our first meeting on September 1st. It was a joy. 76 women filled the chairs, and we know of at least 5 more who told us they could not attend the first meeting, but will be at the next meeting. 25 of the women raised their hands to indicate it was their first MOPS meeting to attend. 19 of them listed no church on their registration forms. It’s a brave thing to walk into a church building where you’ve never been, and to join a group of women whom you’ve never met. God is at work in the hearts of His people.
The MOPS International Board of Directors contend that the 2016 MOPS material was written for the purpose of outreach in order to spark discussions among moms who don't know Christ and have no church experience (see their official response to me at the bottom of this page).
Emmanuel’s first MOPS meeting this fall is proof that one does not have to downgrade the theological content of the MOPS material to reach more people. Quoting and emphasizing other belief systems will not make your church's MOPS group open to women who have no church background. Being intentional in getting to know and issuing invitations to all kinds of women in your community to attend MOPS will create an atmosphere where women with no church background are accepted.
After thinking deeply about what was written in Starry Eyed, the companion book and online resources from MOPS, and after watching and reading the sources that heavily influence the book Starry Eyed, I realized my core issue with the MOPS curriculum this fall is how sin, truth and Biblical sufficiency are addressed in the materials. I also have realized that MOPS International seems to have become a major player in a loose trend within traditional Christian churches, a trend in which Truth is represented as something that changes and can't be known. It is a trend where sin is not addressed because personal salvation is deeply rooted in self transcendence. It is a trend in where anyone who takes the Bible as sufficient for one's faith and life is scoffed at as a closed minded and archaic person.
This years’ Starry Eyed theme seems designed to help moms navigate through life's dark challenges, as well as to encourage moms to find hope. Much of the material seems based on the core views of people like John Philip Newell and Rob Bell. The teaching of these two men are linked below for your viewing.
When I spoke to Mandy via phone, I directly asked her about her view on sin. She was nice to me over the phone, and even offered to fly me to Denver to speak on Emmanuel's outreach successes through MOPS, as well as our outreach strategies. But Mandy didn't answer my question on her view of sin. She did talk to me about next years theme, but my heart grew even more troubled by what I heard. There seemed to be deep theological differences between her theology and my understanding of biblical Christianity. Those differences may even be irreconcilable. because it seems to me through hearing Mandy's own words, her views are entrenched. After listening to Mandy's review regarding next year's MOPS theme, I felt compelled to ask her again about her view of sin. Mandy would not speak to me about sin, and it seemed to me that because I pressed for an answer, I was the problem. Our church has partnered with MOPS for over 20 years in ministering to women, and to ask the President of MOPS her view on sin seems like a question that MOPS partners should be able to ask.
Mandy did tell me about how important mystics are to her. On page 93 in Starry Eyed Mandy writes:
"One of my favorite books is The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by Celtic mystic John Philip Newell.It is only this chapter in Mandy's book, but it seems that a large chunk of Starry Eyed is devoted to the thoughts of John Philip Newell. This man does not believe in sin. This man writes and speaks that at birth “We forget our deepest truth.” Newell believes Jesus came to help us remember, and that our goal on earth is to become one with each other, with created things, and with nature itself. Newell teaches in opposition to original sin and the sufficiency of Scripture. This YouTube video of his teaching from February 7, 2016 at a Price Lecture series is a succinct delivery of his non-biblical beliefs, many of which are incorporated into this years MOPS book. At the end of the 45 minutes presentation, John Philip Newell and the participants all chant verses from the Koran, Hebrew texts and the sayings of Jesus, as if they are all on equal footing. I suggest those in doubt to read the book and watch the videos.
You might be wondering why I’m concerned over Newell and his teachings. Mandy Arioto has been traveling the country speaking. Recently in Arizona, Mandy focused heavily in her speech on mysticism where she referenced John Philip Newell. A mentor mom from Arizona emailed me this information. She had gone to hear Arioto speak, and she told me she was sickened by the content of the speech and the absoluteness in which it was delivered. This mentor mom had gone to Mandy's speech having never seen our original Open Letter of Concern. I found MOPS whole strategy this year to sound strikingly similar to the description of Newell’s The Rebirthing of God. Did you know that Newell teaches at the ILLIFF School of Theology in Denver? Did you know that MOPS is paying for employees to go to seminary? I’m left wondering if it’s the one where Newell teaches.
I can prove that this years’ MOPS’ material, based on Newell's ideology, is outside of MOPS International's Statement of Faith. How? Newell speaks openly and often about how his ideas come from Pelagius whom he devoutly follows as an admired mystic. Church history records Pelagius as a heretic from A.D. 420. He was accused by Augustine of Hippo of heresy and tossed out by the Council of Carthage. Seminaries to this day have students write essays about this Pelagius' heretical belief system. Newell (and Pelagius) are not the kind of men I want influencing my moms who are without the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine of Hippo wanted to protect his flock from Pelagius. He and I have something in common to chat about in eternity. It’s worth noting that Newell's and Rob Bell’s belief systems are strikingly similar. Rob Bell even writes a glowing review printed inside Newell’s book.
Though I appreciate that the MOPS Board of Directors have said they will be reviewing the MOPS content more closely to make sure it is not as controversial as this year's material, I think one of their main jobs is to set and maintain MOPS Internationals Statement of Faith. After all, the MOPS Statement of Faith is supposed to be the basis of our partnership contracts. MOPS partnership churches from all over the United States have come to their own conclusions on the materials and have been emailing me to get replacement materials and board contacts to write the board of directors. I don’t believe healthy discussion is Mandy Arioto’s goal. I think Mandy thinks we have it all theologically wrong. I think she thinks we all need to be exposed to Newell’s, Bells’ and mysticism's higher ways of thinking.
MOPS and the board knew this controversy would happen in May when they released the Starry Eyed theme to our MOPS coaches. Many coaches quit. Seven coaches in Illinois quit after their concerns were ignored. Many of these coaches wrote letters to the board and received no response. Instead of keeping the well-being of all MOPS groups in mind and focusing on how MOPS groups can join together for a common cause, MOPS seems to have decided moms really needed to hear this year's message.
There are other controversial thinkers and teachers of beliefs contrary to MOPS Internationals statement of faith in the book Starry Eyed. According to the letter from the board, MOPS believes these mystical ideas are a good way to spark conversation within MOPS. In addition to Rob Bell (modern day controversial teacher), the material references is Carl Sagan, Albert Schweitzer (a mystic against justification by faith), and Carl Jung (the father of self-actualization).
In His Grace,
MOPS, Emmanuel Enid
Listen for yourself to John Philip Newell's lecture on Listening for the Heartbeat of God: An Introduction to Celtic Christianity.
Listen for yourself to Rob Bell's lecture on Everything Is Spiritual.
EDIT - At the request of several readers, MOPS Response to Sarah Wilkins' initial Open Letter of Concern is posted below ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OPEN LETTER FROM MOPS BOARD:
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts about MOPS and our 2016 materials. It is clear from your letter that you are passionate about MOPS as a vehicle to point moms toward Jesus. The MOPS board of directors and leadership team share that passion. This has always been the bottom-line mission of MOPS.
The leaders' materials for the Starry Eyed theme state very clearly that a variety of resources are provided as springboards for deeper conversation about individual relationships with Jesus. We deeply value the trust that churches have in the resources that we provide. We regret that some of these materials designed to encourage discussion with moms who don't currently follow Jesus, have been interpreted instead as promoting a non-Christ-centered theology. This is not our intent. In the future, we will enhance our editorial process to more carefully screen for such potential misunderstandings.
Additional evangelism and devotional tools surrounding this year's theme are available to all leaders via MOPS website. These include monthly devotionals, tips for sharing your Christian journey, Bible studies and more, for your group to download for your MOPS moms.
Thank you for sharing your concerns. They have been heard. Rest assured that MOPS is still a very much gospel-centered mission. As we begin this MOPS year, we would ask that all MOPS leaders and groups unite under the vision of sharing Jesus with moms who don't know Him yet. This is the heart of MOPS. We can be Starry Eyed in this endeavor, with excitement and enthusiasm for this mission, with His light in our eyes and His strength in the darkness.
In Jesus' name,
On behalf of the MOPS International board of directors