DISCLAIMERI will caveat everything here with the statement that I understand that many will be disappointed with us. I recognize that for a few, the things I post here may provide them with some sort of justification…a sort of "I told you so, I knew they were wrong" mindset. For others it may be confusing. However, it is my two-fold prayer that (1) for some, even if it’s only one, our story will be an encouragement and perhaps a bit of confirmation, and that (2) for ALL it will be a catalyst for some degree of independent thought and self evaluation.
It is not my purpose to convince anyone to adopt a particular belief. I only seek to be as transparent and honest as possible in providing a picture of the experiences and thought processes that my wife and I have gone through in searching our souls during our first two years of freedom from CFCMI.
SEEDS OF AWAKENING (Part 1)
by Phil and Genny DavisTo appreciate our present state, it is necessary to understand a little of the early background even before we left CFCMI.
First of all, I joined CFCMI in 1985 as an 18-year-old single man. My wife, Genny, joined in 1990, also single and 18 years old. We married in 1995 and both served "faithfully" until our departure in 2001. Combined, we had over 26 years of unbroken "service" with CFCMI. We were both "officially" Bible study teachers for many years and both held middle level leadership positions within the Norfolk congregation. Suffice it to say we were well indoctrinated into all CFCMI teachings. We fully embraced, understood and perpetuated all of the doctrine and "the plan of salvation" in particular for the full 26 years.
In June 2000 I received orders to attend a one year joint course at the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. We moved from Norfolk to post (base) housing at Fort Leavenworth and immediately began working to start a CFCMI "Fellowship".
With the full support of Pastor Paine we decided to work within the already set-up "Neighborhood Bible Study (NBS)" program, which involved the post chapel sponsoring over 50 different weekly in-home Bible studies. The format was relatively loose, but it was recommended to go through books of the Bible (vice topically) and the only hard and fast requirement was that the designated leader for a particular neighborhood attend a weekly "Discipleship Breakfast" with the chapel lay-leader, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel named Tom. So, in August of 2000 Genny and I began passing out flyers to our neighbors inviting them to our study and I began attending the weekly breakfast meetings.
To summarize things, we ended up with three other families/couples attending the studies faithfully. I generally taught, but about once every other month one of the other couples volunteered to take the lead. The location rotated amongst our homes weekly and we had an occasional visitor.
The breakfast meetings were interesting and Tom soon developed a relatively keen curiosity with me since the meetings were often discussion format and I expressed some thought provoking views at times. I also maintained a typical CFCMI-style standoff from the rest of the crowd.
By about November, Tom began to ask me more about what I believed, so I set up an appointment with him. He was not a chaplain, but he was the official Director of Lay Ministries for the entire post…probably more active and involved than any of the 5 or so chaplains. As a result of our first meeting, we decided to set up a standing appointment and meet every week. I viewed this as a real open door, as did Pastor Paine (we even discussed tentative plans for him to come down to Kansas and meet with Tom personally as well).
Genny and I would discuss and prepare for the meetings with Tom (I went alone, however) as we went right to the major doctrinal stances of CFCMI. Tom was extremely knowledgeable, totally respectful and, with no particular denominational association (he called himself a "chapel Christian"), an interesting and very worthy "opponent". Through the weekly meetings and our other interactions, we developed a healthy mutual respect. I could see very real, consistent fruits in his life and he acknowledged many of the points I made with respect to CFCMI doctrine. Many times we had to "agree to disagree". Other times we both recognized that the other had seriously challenged our beliefs. And yes, he would frequently challenge my CFCMI-specific beliefs in ways that I could not always answer directly. I remember many discussions with Genny after those meetings that would end with "Well, he has a good point." In the end, we developed a friendship based on our love and dedication to Jesus Christ.
At the same time, back at the Neighborhood Bible Studies, I tried my best to weave CFCMI doctrine into every Bible study I could. Our small group marched through the book of Mark at a pace of about one chapter a week, wrapping up just before Christmas 2000. It was a different way of studying the Bible than I had experienced in 15+ years at CFCMI and it was difficult to get "the plan of salvation" in there all the time. Still, though, Genny and I both recognized that we were learning quite a bit by simply digging deeply into a particular portion of the scriptures. We looked mainly at the historical context and discussed why we thought things happened they way the did or people said what they did. It was actually refreshing to discuss different ideas and to look at the scriptures in a fresh way. And since the studies weren’t topical or "doctrinal" per se, they really didn’t represent much of a threat to our belief structure. It was nice.
As our study of Mark drew to a close, our NBS group decided (with my behind the scenes conniving) that when we came back after the New Year, we’d pick up with the Book of Acts. This would be my big chance to hit them hard with Baptism. I’d already touched on both Godhead and baptism in going over Mark and this would be my chance to bring it all together.