Tuesday, September 06, 2016

MOPS and Its Move Away from Biblical Christianity

Emmanuel Enid MOPS Group, September 1, 2016
I (Wade Burleson) have been writing articles for Istoria for nearly fifteen years. During that time, only a handful of posts have attracted as many views in such a short period of time as last month's Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International. Obviously, a number of people have an interest in the ministry of MOPS, and not a few are concerned about the direction of MOPS. Sarah Wilkins, whose testimony of coming to faith in Christ is extremely moving, works as our MOPS Outreach Director. Sarah has been the person responsible for our emphasis on outreach through our MOPS ministry over the last several years.

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).

This is the time to write more letters to MOPS International.  This is the time to read the source material and watch the videos for yourselves. This is the time to take action and ask your ministry partner MOPS to be transparent in theological matters and enforce MOPS' Statement of Faith or change it.

In His Grace,

Sarah Wilkins
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 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MOPS International

Dear Sarah: 

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,

Roger Franklin
On behalf of the MOPS International board of directors


  1. Wade,

    Your Last months’ post on MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) also had a high number of 94 comments.

    This guy, Newell, who quotes the Koran, needs to have his head examined.

    At lease he hasn’t gone as far as Obama saying “The Holy Koran…”

  2. Thank you Sarah for taking the time to address this publicly, once again. I received the same response letter from the Board. Though I have not spoken with Mandy Arioto, I agree with what you have said and I stand with you. I am greatly concerned about where MOPS is headed.

  3. I am sad and surprised because MOPS has been around for a very long time. But I am so glad that I attend a church that is full of grace yet still preaches truth and will not allow materials that veer away from that precious truth.

  4. Debbie,

    Thanks Debbie. You are a wonderful person, a child of the King, and one who understands grace and truth. We are not questioning MOPS motives or even their methodology. As you know, we are all for change! But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. No compromise on Him! He alone is the Way. Nothing else.

  5. Way to go Moms. I am not a mom but my sisters are. My sister attends Emmanuel. I have visited the church when I visited my sister. We as Christians must stand up for the TRUTH. TRUTH is the Word of God. It is unfalliable, and there is no area where we need to add to the Scripture. There is a great warning against adding to or taking away from the Word. God initiated and breathed the Word.
    Thank you Emmanuel and Sarah for taking a stand. God will prosper your ministry.


  6. Way to go Moms. I am not a mom but my sisters are. My sister attends Emmanuel. I have visited the church when I visited my sister. We as Christians must stand up for the TRUTH. TRUTH is the Word of God. It is unfalliable, and there is no area where we need to add to the Scripture. There is a great warning against adding to or taking away from the Word. God initiated and breathed the Word.
    Thank you Emmanuel and Sarah for taking a stand. God will prosper your ministry.


  7. Just heard Mops plan, at least as presented at vision casting, is to go outside of churches. Perhaps that is a reason why MOPS is ok risking alienating churches who will not be ok with content outside of their statement of faith. New customers on the horizon????

    1. Sarah, are you referring to the video Mandy did a few months ago or is this somewhere else?

    2. No...the vision release done for coaches and staff. They announced changing the logo, starting groups not in/sponsored by churches and other changes. There is no video of that meeting.

  8. Wade,

    If you think MOPS has declined in virtue, what do you think about America?

    Will the Senate Confirm America's First Muslim Federal Judge? (Appointed by Obama…birds of a feather…)


  9. Rex,

    I believe there's a much greater accountability for evangelical Christian organizations to abide by their doctrinal statement of faith. America - it could be argued - was never a nation built on biblical laws, but rather on Natural Law.

  10. But, Rex --

    You bring up an outstanding point about Muslim judges. Unless they understand Natural Law and abide by it, a Muslim judge is a horrible, horrible mistake.

  11. Wade,

    I’m afraid that “Natural Law” (A philosophy that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature) will be trampled by the Muslim’s Sharia Law.


    “Sharia deals with many topics, including crime, politics, marriage contracts, trade regulations, religious prescriptions, and economics, as well as personal matters such as, hygiene, diet, prayer, everyday etiquette and fasting. Adherence to Sharia has served as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Muslim faith historically. In its strictest definition, SHARIA IS CONSIDERED IN ISLAM AS THE INFALLIBLE LAW OF GOD. There are two primary sources of Sharia: the Quran [THAT OBAMA HAS CALLED “HOLY”] and the Hadiths (opinions and life example of Muhammad).”

    “Dr. Ronnie Floyd is the Senior Pastor of Cross Church, immediate past President of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
    He is also General Editor of our Sunday School material.

    Wade, do you remember his prayer was for Obama to be impeached?

    It looks to me that Obama is doing everything in his power for Floyd’s prayer to get a YES.

  12. Rex,

    You write, "I’m afraid that “Natural Law” (A philosophy that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature) will be trampled by the Muslim’s Sharia Law."

    I agree.

  13. I am a coordinator in Tennessee and I would love to have the materials you have put together. I have talked with my pastor about this year's theme. We are in prayer about our next step as a MOPS group. He loves MOPS and what it has done for the outreach ministry at our church. My email is Rebecca.harber7773@gmail.com

  14. Rebecca, I'll email over what we are using. Mandy Arioto released a video about the changes. The old Mops was Christian worldview with evangelism with a goal to create ties to a church for discipleship. The new Mops has two tracks 1: all view for everyone so no religion feels excluded hopefully run by a Christian lady with no church tie emphasis or 2: bible study based but we don't know what theology it will be based off of-- they aren't operating within their current statement of faith now, so who knows what theology they will use. Http://Vimeo.com/179370370/9ac450e4b8

  15. You mean that was the extent and substance of the response from MOPS?

    Rather obtuse IMO.

    1. The changes/new direction...boiled out of 40 minutes of loquaciousness about the new thing Mops is doing that is unprecedented in the 2,000 years of Christian history (as per Arioto views Mops' new strategy).

    2. Is there a way to watch this video?

      Can you please send me the materials? I am a coordinator in new York and we are praying about our options. Than you!

    3. Is there a way to watch this video?

      Can you please send me the materials? I am a coordinator in new York and we are praying about our options. Than you!

    4. The address is above just tyoe it into your browser. I'll email it over.

  16. Thank you for your post and your willingness to confront the issue. I too have been concerned over the direction MOPS has gone the last two years. I use very little of their material as a result of the content. I would love to have access to Sarah's curriculum and see how we can incorporate it into our MOPS meetings.
    Please send materials to lkdittmore@gmail.com Your Sister in Christ, Lisa

  17. Could you please send me the materials that you are using? I am a coordinator for a group in Iowa and we are considering not using the materials from MOPS due to some concerns voiced by steering team members. My emails is beckyk911@yahoo.com thank you.

  18. I am a coordinator of a MOPs group in NY. We share your concerns and are very interested in your materials. My email is sarah.elizabeth.fred@Gmail.com. Thank you!!!

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  21. ClixSense is the biggest work from home website.

  22. Thank you so much for standing up for the truth. I just recently attended the Belong Tour and left early, devastated at the teaching of Jen Hatmaker (who has association with MOPS) and the other women. The Bible was never opened. Prayer was never offered to God. We never worshiped--unless you consider a mish-mash of secular songs with a few choruses of Christian songs thrown in the mix. Jesus' name was never proclaimed--the only one who saves. They have gone off the deep end. Thank you for not using these materials. The way they all taught was very self-help and humanistic.

  23. Thank you for taking the time to investigate all of this! I am a member of MOPS and when I saw Mandy's video at our first meeting in September my radar was going off that this was not Biblical. And then I just read the Winter MOPS magazine that came in the mail. The articles seem very "spiritual" to me. There is hardly any mention of God or Jesus and no scriptural backing. It makes me really said that this is happening. To those who have asked for materials you should check out the Moms with Swords website. It is a Christian moms group in Georgia, but they put many materials online.
    I heard one of the leaders on Focus on the Family. I only wish I lived close enough to be a part of this group!

  24. Thank you for writing this! My mops steering team is upset about the way mops is heading. Personally I totally get what they are doing and think that it's a good idea but perhaps poor execution. We don't want to throw jesus at people, we need to love them where they are now and through that love help open their hearts so the truth can be planted deeply and be well cared for in a relationship with Christ and other followers. However since we are searching and weighing our options carefully for our particular group I would be very grateful if you cold email me the material at beautifullife.andreacook@gmail.com. I want to take it to our next steering team meeting so everyone can look it over! Thank you so much for the open and kind way you have presented this and for being willing to share such a wonderful resource that no doubt took much time to complete!

  25. I am grieved by this direction. Our group has also been questioning the disturbing pattern we have seen in the last few years. We are also coming to the point of leaving MOPS. The sad trend in which many evangelical churches are drifting towards Gnosticism and Mysticism rather then staying centered on the Scriptures, the Gospel, and Grace.

  26. How terribly sad that this group has missed the point of MOPS as an outreach to moms so that they feel uplifted, supported and not alone in mothering. It is a service. Not necessarily a path to salvation. To water down that purpose with a theological discrepancy (that is more inclusive to all) is phariseism. I had to quit MOPS after 6 years after the Starry Eyed year because my group became exactly like yours: extremely arrogant about their theology. They were not open to anyone other than those who thought like them and they banned any discussion of politics in a time when women were deeply wounded after Trump was elected. You and your theological views, blinded you to the real needs of women. I am with Mandy and I just wish more people at MOPS get her like I do. In fact, she is the first leader MOPS International has had in my six years who really spoke to me. I left MOPS completly disgusted, hurt and angry because of exactly this kind of over-analysis if theology and therefore exclusivity that MOPS became. People like me who love to study all religions, are liberal, protect nature, and love Jesus just aren’t welcome. I think Mandy is trying to change that. God bless her.


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