What sort of a church did your family go to while you were growing up? Were the other families who attended the church also involved in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
Before my parents divorced in 1987, we attended an American Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. It was quite a liberal church. They had a female pastor and preached about cultural issues with little Scripture, along with the typical Lutheran liturgical traditions. A highlight of my life there was drinking Kool-Aid in Sunday school and their annual sauerkraut dinners with peppered rutabagas.
After the divorce, Mama was convinced that Billy Boy G [Bill Gothard] wanted her to stay at her “husband’s” church and we remained members until my father remarried. Once he remarried, Mama felt that Billy Boy G wanted her to attend a church blessed by him and we became uber-followers of Normandale Baptist in Bloomington, Minnesota, USA.
Everyone at this church thought the same way. They all homeschooled and had large families. A few had radical beliefs but they were easily sidelined or railroaded out of the fellowship. The church built its life around the Basic and Advanced seminars of IBLP and the annual pilgrimage to Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, for the ATI homeschool conference. Everything at this church revolved around the belief that divorce was evil, a scarlet letter on your spiritual chest. I carried this belief baggage around for many years.
It’s hard to identify a pattern except that we changed churches a lot. During my childhood, we attended various Baptist churches. In my early teens when my dad wasn’t attending church, we formed a home church with several CP/Q families that we knew from the homeschooling community. For some reason that fell apart, but at that point my dad was ready to attend church again. We attended two more Baptist churches before we all ended up at Reb Bradley’s church, Hope Chapel. We attended Hope Chapel with many other homeschooling CP/Q families from my mid-teens through early twenties.
I actually grew up in an evangelical megachurch. While it was a generally conservative atmosphere – both doctrinally and politically – almost no one there was part of the Christian Patriarchy or Quiverfull movements. However, because the church was so large, it was possible for us to only socialize with the most like-minded families. Furthermore, we never attended youth group activities (too worldly). There were other churches in our area that were made up primarily or entirely of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull families, but my parents felt those were too legalistic.
Since my Dad didn’t find a denomination that suited him, we switched churches a lot. He thought he had some sort of say in the church community, which caused us to be cast out rather quickly. In some churches, they didn’t want us because we were too legalistic, others we left because they didn’t represent what my Dad believed in. I can’t tell you just how many churches we tried out, but it was certainly more than 10 communities we were involved in over 20 years. Some churches we stayed in for months, others we visited once or twice and didn’t like the people, or the pastor, or something else. But it was mostly Baptist communities, and they were also the ones we stayed at for the longest time. We met a whole lot of like-minded families, some we stayed in contact with, many others changed their ways and didn’t agree with what we believed in (any more). My Dad thought those families had a bad influence on us, so we cut the contacts.
My family attended a number of different churches over the years. We started out in Calvary Chapel, participated in two different Vineyard churches, joined a run-of-the-mill evangelical non-denominational church, and then we moved from CA to VA to be part of a Sovereign Grace Ministries church (then PDI). We attended there for some 10 years, and that was the only church we went to where we weren’t the only large family or the only homeschoolers. At that church, most of the families had 6-8 kids and homeschooled. I left this church when I moved out and went away to college. My family left about three years later, when some abuses of authority by the leadership were exposed.
When I was young, we attended several churches. Usually small, preferably led by an older pastor, and sometimes leaning pentacostal. The women were usually dressed modestly, no loud music. After age 10 we moved again and got more conservative. After that we tried out a couple of churches but nothing was ever approved by my dad, eventually we stopped looking. When I was 18 we started to consistently attend a very conservative church full of very large patriarchal homeschooling families.
When we finally DID go to church the summer before I turned 13, it was a tiny family church with one service, no worship band, and no daycare. Families of 8, 9, and 10 kids were the norm. Families would take up an entire row of chairs by themselves, and we never made it through a service without at least 6 babies crying loudly. Our pastors preached CP/QF doctrine from the pulpit and by example. Many people in our church had followed the leading of God and gone back to having children even thought they were nearing their 40’s and already had 4 or 5 older children. Our church stressed the importance of reading scripture in the home, and encouraged fathers to be “spiritual leaders.” They also had a highly structured and supervised “youth group” that my dad never allowed us to attend.
My church [Branham’s The Message of the Hour] practiced the patriarchy it preached. Most families were also quiverfull, although their children tended to number in the high single digits. In addition to the patriarchy, submission, courtship and purity culture, we lived by extremely strict dress codes. Skirts had to cover the knees while sitting and be loose enough to reveal nothing. Pants were forbidden in every context. Shirts had to be loose, long and absolutely not sleeveless. Hair could not be cut, even trimmed. All makeup was forbidden. Piercings were forbidden. Painting nails and wearing jewelry were treated with suspicion.
We only had Sunday services for most of my tenure there, because we were poor and rented a YMCA building. Special meetings like communion, footwashing, fellowship and prayer meetings were held occasionally in people’s homes.
My parents did a lot of church hopping and shopping before becoming involved with the housechurch movement when I was in my teens. The man who led the housechurch my parents got involved in was one of the more well-known apologists for housechurching in our area. Himself by no means a CP/QF advocate, he tended to attract a mixed crowd and the meetings were usually interesting, to say the least. We were part of that group for many years, until it broke apart and a few of the CP/QF families that were involved, my family included, started a housechurch of their own. After that break, things became much more homogonized and in some ways stifling, because literally everyone in our group was reinforcing the CP/QF paradigm, either by explicitly promoting it or simply by being the people they had become.