The Family International (TFI), formerly the Children of God, continues to transform itself from a countercultural, quasi-evangelical movement to one much closer to the evangelical mainstream, judging by a new report in Christianity Today magazine (April).
TFI started out as a movement on the radical edge of the Jesus movement of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, living communally and practicing free love, and using sexual favors for proselytism (called “flirty fishing”) under the leadership of David “Moses” Berg. By the 1980s, however, these controversial practices had ceased (particularly under charges of sexual abuse), although open marriage and communal living were maintained. But since 2010, when TFI leaders Peter and Maria issued a manifesto calling for more individuality in the movement, the changes have come hard and fast.
A spokesperson said TFI’s recent “reboot” has meant dismantling the group’s worldwide structure and communal living. Changes in doctrine and practice include a stronger emphasis on biblical authority, thus minimizing Peter and Maria as sources of revelation, and a more conservative sexuality. This drastic shift has met resistance from some members, who view it as a response to dwindling membership and the desire of Peter and Maria to retire with the group’s money.
(Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen, Carol Stream, IL 60188)