Two former staff members of Faith Christian Church in Tucson AZ provided more details about the procedures church leaders told members to use to drive out rebellion from infants. The Arizona Daily Star reported the procedures described by former member and staffer Rachiel Morgan. According to the Star report, church pastor Stephen Hall taught members to spank babies as young as 8 weeks if they raised up their heads while laying on their stomachs.
Wanting to learn more about this claim, I spoke today with Rachiel Morgan. She told me that the techniques were taught in small groups by the elders and that her ex-husband was exhorted to spank his six month old baby in front of church elders to determine if the spankings were hard enough.
Another former staff person, Jeff Phillips told me that the techniques were taught to “drive out the rebellion” in the children. He said, according to church pastors, “The only way to recognize rebellion in a child that small is to place the child on his belly to put him to sleep.” If parents worried about infants suffocating or SIDS, they were told “to live by faith and not worry that our baby would die in the crib if he was on his belly.”
Both Morgan and Phillips described similar tactics. According to Phillips, parents were advised:
When putting the child down, if the child lifted his head, you were to push his head down and say “no” firmly. If he lifted his head again, you were to spank him on the backside with the rubber eraser end of a pencil or a cardboard tube from a clothes hanger. You were supposed to strike the baby hard enough to make him cry. You repeated this process until the baby complied, usually by falling asleep.
I wrote the email provided by Faith Christian Church to allow them to give their side or to rebut these charges but there has been no answer.
Morgan and Phillips described other concerns including financial ones with the ministers of a 400-500 member church getting six figure salaries while most staff were living off donations which had to be shared with the church leadership. Membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was used by campus non-salary staff to raise money for the church. Morgan and Phillips knew of no investigation on the part of the ECFA; according to the former staffers, the church pastors gloated about the credibility they had due to membership in the ECFA.
Faith Christian Church in Tucson emerged from the demise of Maranatha Christian Church in 1990. The church seeks to convert college students as a part of the church’s ministry and as such has had a long standing relationship with the University of Arizona. Now the church is the subject of an investigation by the Arizona Daily Star over allegations of cult-like control over members and inappropriate punishments of children. Faith Christian Church has several affiliated churches around the country and one in New Zealand. I welcome input from FCC members and members of the affiliates. I have contacted FCC for comment about the allegations, especially those relating to children.
An aspect of the investigative report is the role of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA president Dan Busby is quoted extensively in the report in defense of the church. However, his comments raise concerns for me, especially knowing how he responded to the Mars Hill Church situation.
Busby defended several aspects of the church’s practices seemingly without the benefit of an investigation. I have contacted Busby for clarification. I also contacted Arizona Daily Star reporter Carol Ann Alaimo to ask her if she asked Busby if ECFA had investigated the many allegations at FCC. Furthermore, I asked her if she asked Busby his opinion about the corporal punishment of babies described in the article. Numerous former members said the ministers told members to spank babies as young as 8 weeks old for rebellious reactions. One such reaction was demonstrated by babies raising their heads while laying on their stomachs. Members were instructed to spank the baby with a cardboard tube until the baby stopped raising his/her head.
Alaimo said Busby did not respond to her questions about the extent of an ECFA investigation of the church and the corporal punishment of babies.
I will keep up with this story and report any reply I get from ECFA.
Given the allegations, the ECFA should investigate the church. Probably child protective services should as well.
Additional information: The Arizona Daily Star is not the first article to call attention to Faith Christian Church. See this Arizona University student paper article back in 2012. According to the ECFA website, FCC has been a member of ECFA since 2004.
The churches affiliated with Faith Christian Church are (from a former members Facebook group):
Faith Christian Church in Tucson, AZ (http://www.faithchristianchurchtucson.org/)
Grace Christian Church in Fort Collins, CO (http://www.gracechristianchurchfortcollins.org/)
Palmerston North Victory Christian Church in Palmerston North, New Zealand (http://www.pnvictorychurch.org.nz/ and http://www.nzcm.org.nz/)
Cornerstone Christian Church in Tampa, FL (http://www.cornerstonetampa.org/)
Hope Christian Church in Tempe, AZ (http://hope4asu.org/)
New Covenant Christian Church in Albuquerque, NM (http://www.ncccabq.com/)
New Life Christian Church in Flagstaff, AZ (http://www.newlifeflagstaff.org/)
Resurrection Church in Boulder, CO (http://resurrectionchurchboulder.org/)
Living Hope Christian Church in Las Cruces, NM (http://www.livinghopelascruces.com/)