Four years ago I posted a few articles looking at and critiquing the women of She Reads Truth (SRT) and IF:Gathering.
This week a reader emailed a question to me. She wanted to know what I thought of the women of IF and SRT now, after four years had gone by. She asked mainly about She Reads Truth. I’ll update my thoughts on that movement on another day, but today I’m going to focus first on the IF:Gathering:
She asked great questions and valid ones, to be sure. I had thought about doing an update, and her question spurred me to do it. In God’s providence and timing, last week the two women of Sheologians, Summer White and Joy Temby, did a podcast reviewing IF:Gathering. Yay! I listened to it. I am including notes on their insights and review. My thoughts will follow.
As a side note, the Sheologians ladies (Summer White and Joy Temby) mentioned how difficult it is to do discernment ministry. Not that the Sheologians, or even I, focus solely on discernment. But whenever we feel called to write about a person, teaching, or movement in the discernment spheres, it is hard. It is hard on the soul to listen and hear such things said about our God or against our Jesus. It is hard to write negatively. It is hard to think of the people that will be hurt by the conclusions we come to. It’s hard – but it’s important. So we do it.
We don’t do it lightly. I pray, I do hours of research, of course consult the Bible, and I check in other discernment ministries, like I did with the Sheologians. I work hard to be accurate and fair, being biblical without compromise despite a certain person’s or movement’s popularity. That said, here is a synopsis of Sheologians’ PLUSES and PRAISES of IF:Gathering:
- They said that the IF ladies produce a conference well, and they know a lot about organizing and using social media and the internet to get their message out.
- They mentioned that the Huffington Post did an article about the women and their movement a few years ago, noting in the article the movement’s emphasis on social justice. Sheologians said that if even a secular publication notices a Christian movement, it’s something. I’ll make a few notes about the social justice and popularity below.
- The Sheologians noted that the IF website and live gatherings are known for their beautiful long tables laden with flowers backlit by fairy lights, gifts, womanly takeaways, and Pinterest-perfect backgrounds and tablescapes. Summer White wondered, what is the IF:Gathering attracting people TO? If you stripped away all of this, would they still come? Is the movement focused solely on aesthetics? Summer said that Jennie Allen addressed this in her speech, downplaying the aesthetics part of their movement and was relieved because of Jennie’s assurances.
- The Sheologians praised the IF:Gathering emphasis on the local church as important, and liked that the IF ladies stated that biblically equipping women is their goal. Summer White said that in Jennie Allen’s speech, Allen said that it is the church that must grow. That if the IF:Gathering disappears, who cares as long as local church is strong. This was the right priority, they said.
- Many minutes went by in Jennie Allen’s speech without scripture, no Gospel talk, no talk of sin. When sin was mentioned, it was framed as part of our ‘brokenness’ or just that the devil was after you.
- When Allen did mention sin 20 minutes into the speech, she made joke about sin, undermining confession of sin and undermining local church by joking about not confessing sin to people you’re in an actual relationship with.
- The Sheologian women noted that Jen Hatmaker and Sarah Bessey have spoken at the conference. Both these women are overtly and obviously heretical. This is a problem.
- Too much of a focus on emotionalism at the conference. There was a wrackingly grief laden testimony from a women whose small child died. Sheologians agreed that faith through grief can help, but there seems to be an over-emphasis with IF ladies. Also, that is the extent of it, there is no scriptural digging. Lots of emotion but not a lot of Jesus. They noted that story time is only beneficial as long as it ultimately points to Jesus.
- Women do not need more emotionalism, we get that in our daily life we need to be pulled away more than running to it.
- Jennie Allen got the Trinity wrong in her 2014 book Restless. She wrote that the Holy Spirit is a form of Jesus Christ. He most definitely is not, Summer White said. He is the Third Person of the Trinity. He is God.
- There’s a lot of ‘God told me’, which is another mixed message since they talk a lot about women being in the scriptures, so why the emphasis on God directly telling them things, Summer White mused.
Ultimately the Sheologians noticed that the IF Ladies say one thing and do another. They say they want to promote the local body, but joke about confessing sin to people you actually worship with.
You can’t preach the importance of the local body when you’re going to remove the necessity of confessing sin to people you’re in a relationship with.
You can’t preach importance of local church when you invite speakers who also undermine that doctrine with their heresies and various declarations against the church.
They could not take the IF ladies’ stated commitment to the Bible seriously when they constantly speak of directly hearing from God.
My warning about the IF:Gathering remains the same as four years ago, if not more fervent. Imagine, a woman who writes a book misrepresenting the Trinity formed a movement that same year where they intend to equip other women. This cannot be.
Direct revelation, ergo, Bible not sufficient
Their continual stance IS direct revelation. Regarding direct revelation, Jennie Allen revealed at the first IF:Gathering how IF got started. The ladies’ penchant to say ‘God told me’ that Summer noticed is in actuality not just a millennial-youth casual phrase. It is based on something terribly unbiblical. Here are Founder Jennie Allen’s words, transcribed from a video clip, actual video below:
For one second I want to give you a behind the scenes of where this all came from. About 7 years ago, a voice from the sky…[nervous laughter] which doesn’t often speak to me, but that day, there was this whisper. It was the middle of the night actually. It was ‘gather and equip your generation. … and for two days my bones hurt.
Doesn’t OFTEN speak to her?
Jennie went on to advise that
not all voices from the sky are God, FYI, but if it IS God he will give you what you need to accomplish what he spoke.
And this women who can’t figure out the Trinity can figure out which voice from the sky is God’s and which is the devil’s?
Margaret Feinberg was a speaker this year at IF:Gathering 2018, and is known for her book “God Whispers: Learning to Hear His Voice” and is a woman who even a liberal book reviewer called an evangelical mystic.
To me, this destroys any credibility the IF Ladies have in urging women to dive into scripture. Obviously for the IF women, it’s important to dive into scripture, as long as there isn’t a voice from the sky giving other orders or whispering into your ear. Then the Bible goes by the wayside.
HuffPo wrote of the movement back when it first started, piercing the notice of even that secular publication. I always go back to Luke 6:26 which I call the curse of popularity.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for according to these things their fathers used to treat the false prophets likewise.
Their first conference sold out in minutes. They were popular even at the start and are gathering even more steam as time goes on. This to me is suspicious, because of the verse. People don’t generally clamor in droves to a solidly Gospel Bible study, in fact, they reject it. Whenever something is instantly wildly popular, be suspicious.
The IF:Gathering is based on social justice, not a Gospel emphasis. They want to equip women with the biblical grounding SO THAT they can be ‘unleashed’ (whatever that means) to go out and promote “healing and reconciliation in the world.” The following is transcribed directly from their own words, an affirmation to the US Federal Government on their non-profit IRS returns,
To gather a new generation of women, equip them with the tools to know God more deeply and live out their purposes and unleash a movement to promote healing and reconciliation around the world.
2014 HuffPo article: ‘IF:Gathering’ Of Evangelical Women Focuses On Social Justice In Austin, Texas
This new wave of evangelical women is fueled by an ever-growing online culture of high-profile women bloggers and savvy social media types who have laid the groundwork for the new focus. [in Christianity of social justice]
While Christians are called to display kindness and charity to those less fortunate, and to meet saints’ needs, it is not our calling to rectify the sins of man globally. Social Justice is not the Gospel. Here is GotQuestions on Social Justice.
Though we as women do feel things deeply, and it is our calling and privilege to nurture, we go overboard with the emotions sometimes. Emotional testimonies are not the Gospel.
The IF:Gathering IRS statement of purpose unfortunately includes an attitude of feelings regarding Bible verses rather than equipping women through teaching its intended meaning. Here is their statement of purpose transcribed. Links are below in the resources section.
“IF:Equip- A holistic, strategic, deep way to connect online with a like-hearted community and relevant resources. We hope to prepare women around the world to know God more deeply and to live out their purposes by sharing comments and feelings about daily passages posted online.”
The Sheologians made mention of several speakers whom the IF ladies had invited to speak at their annual gathering that illustrated problematic associations. Associations are not by themselves an indicator of solidity in a teacher or program, but it is to be taken into consideration. The Bible strictly warns to stay away from those who promote heresy. Mark and avoid them, (Romans 16:17), shut the door and do not even let them into the house. (2 John 1:10).
False teachers corrupt the divine standard and pollute the word, drawing away the unwary and are out greedily to kill, steal, and destroy. Therefore coffee klatches, sympathetic conversations, and mild-mannered toleration is not the biblical method for dealing with them, and are unwise in the extreme to employ.
In its first IF:Gathering, the speakers included feminist heretic Sarah Bessey and Bible-rejecter and church hater Jen Hatmaker.
This year’s Gathering, which concludes tonight, includes
- Rebekah Lyons, (not recommended)
- Christine Caine, (False teacher)
- Ann Voskamp, (panentheist, Bob DeWaay critiques her book; Sola Sisters give her a no go)
- Annie F. Downs, (friends with Jen Hatmaker so, not so good)
- Bianca Olthoff (not recommended, false teacher)
- Jo Saxton (a woman pastor, so, NOT recommended)
- Lauren Chandler (sigh)
- Margaret Feinberg (who wrote an entire book about how to hear back from God)
- Angie Smith, (probably OK, I don’t have much info)
IF:Gathering’s Board of Directors for each of tax years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 consisted of Larry Cotton with his wife Diann also as a Director. Sadly from the NY Times last week we learn that Pastor Cotton, who led Austin Stone Community Church, was “placed … on leave last Friday while it investigates “his qualification for his current role of leadership.” This was due to Cotton’s alleged participation in the coverup of a 1998 allegation of sexual abuse by a youth against one of the other pastors working with Cotton at the time, Andy Savage. While the statute of limitations has run out and Savage will not be prosecuted, the fallout of the accusation includes investigation of Cotton into his possible part in the incident and alleged coverup, so he is relieved of ministerial duty. It will be interesting to see what the IF Ladies, especially Jennie Allen, who called both Larry and Diann mentors, will say or do, if anything.
I believe enough credible and long-term information exists to illustrate that submitting to Bible studies generated by these women is not healthy for your spiritual life. That pursuing unleashing, global healing and reconciliation, and social justice is not the Gospel call to women for a long-term or even short term lifestyle. That these ladies are to be avoided. There are other women to learn from. My stance is that women do not have to learn from women. They can and should learn from men. But if you feel compelled to search for women to learn from, Bible studies or devotionals to obtain, here are a few choices. I also enjoy and take inspiration from the older missionary stories, such as Gladys Aylward whose story is captured in A Little Woman or Elisabeth Elliot, or biographies of theologians’ wives such as Martin Luther’s wife Katherine Von Bora, or Susannah Spurgeon for example.
Ladies, please stay away from IF:Gatherings.
Resources and Links
2014 IF:Gathering public non-profit IRS returns, EIN 46-1978383
2015 IF:Gathering public non-profit IRS returns (change of accounting period)
Mission&Vision Source of information about of non-profits and private foundations.
If Gathering > Financial Report
Financial Report If Gathering From 2013 To 2016
click to enlarge
Painting above is titled Elegant ladies taking tea by Delphin Enjolras, not an IF:Gathering