In the News
Christ Covenant’s Policy on Mormons in Volunteer Leadership for Church-Sponsored Programs
In October 2010, a family who had volunteered for leadership positions in the Christ Covenant Scouting program and could not be accommodated because they are members of a Mormon congregation contacted a reporter at the Charlotte Observer to express their disagreement with that decision and with the related process. The Observer ran this article on October 19, 2010. The story was picked up by the McClatchy News Service and in a different version by the AP, and subsequently ran in newspapers and online news sites all over the country.
The story generated many comments on these news sites and in email, phone calls and letters directly to our church. After careful review and research, Dr. Ross prepared the church’s detailed response to those who did not agree with the church’s decision. That response is re-printed in its entirety below.
In addition, Dr. Ross recommends the following resources for those who want to know more about the differences between historical Christianity and official Mormon teachings:
“Is Mormon Christian?: A Comparison of Mormonism and Historic Christianity”
“Contradictions Between the Book of Mormon and the Bible”
“Considering Joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church)?"
"New Covenant Ministries LDS Archive “Are Mormons Christians?”
Here is the text of the message:
A Message from Dr. Michael Ross, Senior Pastor of Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, NC
Thank you for your email concerning the recent newspaper article about Christ Covenant Church and Mormons in our Boy Scout program. I regret that your email reflected disappointment with our decision. I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify what really happened. The Charlotte Observer did a good job reflecting what actually transpired, and Tim Funk’s article was objective and true. Unfortunately, many have not read that article or have read other posts on the internet that are less accurate.
As the Observer noted, the Stokes were never denied a place in our Scout troop. We have people of many faiths and multiple Christian denominations in our Scouting program. One need not be a Christian to become a Scout, at any level. We were not able to offer a position in leadership to Mr. Stokes. In our church-sponsored troop, leaders must subscribe to the Ecumenical Standards for Christendom: The Apostles’ Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. These are historically known as the “Three Formulae,” and are embraced by Catholic, Orthodox, and Christian Churches.
The majority of Scouting programs in our nation are hosted by a religious organization. Therefore, like ours, many Scouting programs in America have some spiritual guidelines for leaders. Accordingly, at our program, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and others may participate in Scouting or help as parents, but may not lead a Scout troop.
In fact, the Mormon Church (LDS) commonly uses the Boy Scouts of America program as the core of their youth ministry and training for young men. For example, here in Charlotte, Mormon troops use LDS “Sunday School” material to teach their Mormon doctrines to their constituent troops. They are free to do so. Tom Cheney, President of LDS in the “South Charlotte Stake” recently wrote the following to me:
I want to reassure you that we recognize and respect Christ Covenant Church's right to choose leaders of your youth programs or any other programs you sponsor and to conduct your internal affairs as you choose without outside interference.
Therefore, we and the Mormons hold to the same principles concerning Scouting and leadership. One Mormon leader confided to us that non-Mormons would “probably not be welcomed as leaders in the troop at his Mormon Church.” And so it must be. The LDS and Christ Covenant Church are well within acceptable practices by Boy Scout standards.
The greater issue is the question of whether or not Mormons are “true Christians.” We do not judge the state of peoples’ souls. What we evaluate is the doctrine of groups who profess to be Christians. History teaches that merely because an organization professes to be Christian, that in itself does not make it so. Mormon doctrine concerning the Trinity and the Persons of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit do not square with historic Christian dogma – Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. We have substantive differences.
Historic Christianity does not believe the following:
1. That there are many gods and goddesses, or that people can become gods with celestial children who worship them.
2. That God was once a man like us, possesses a material substance, or is a biological father.
3. That Satan and Jesus are brothers.
4. That Jesus Christ was created by a heavenly father and heavenly mother, via sexual intercourse, who later grew to be a god and was later conceived physically in Mary’s womb via sex between God and Mary.
5. That the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three gods; or that the Son and Spirit are literal offspring of the Father.
6. That salvation is through obedience to the commands of the Mormon Church, baptism into the Mormon Church and Mormon Temple rituals.
7. That Christ's death (atonement) is only a partial benefit to all mankind.
8. That the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, that the Bible is corrupted and errant, or that Joseph Smith was the last true prophet of God, or that four books make up “Scripture”: The Bible, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.
9. That the early church fell into irreparable apostasy rectified by “latter-day saints.”
10. That “lost tribes” somehow made their way to America to revive the only true religion.
11. That Joseph Smith received true revelation from God that corrected and augmented the Bible.
12. That Latter-day Saints progress into god-status, with men having their own planet (earth) filled with hundreds to thousands of wives, all for the purpose of each new “god” procreating his own race – as God did to the earth; and that polygamy is, therefore, justifiable or guaranteed.
There are many other core doctrines of Mormonism that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mormonism is not Christianity, and that those who adhere to Mormonism cannot possibly be true Christians. These evaluations are not that of Christ Covenant Church but objective research done by the Institute for Religious Research. You may find a cache of resources that compare Mormonism to historic Christianity at IRR.org: ”Mormons in Transition” (www.irr.org/mit/born-bible.html).
Our rejection of Mr. Stokes as a potential troop leader was on the basis of our standards for leadership: He could not subscribe, in good faith as a Mormon, to the Apostles’ Creed. One ex-Morman, who is now an evangelical Christian, expressed the Mormon perspective on the Apostles’ Creed:
The Catholic and Protestant world declare themselves Christians on the basis of their loyalty to what are known as the Apostolic and Nicene creeds. Thus the creeds become the issue. To fail to pay allegiance to the creeds is to be branded as non-Christian by those who do pay allegiance to them. These creeds, which represent a departure from biblical Christianity to what even their apologists call “philosophical speculation”, define the nature of the Father and the Son in such a way that they are not literally father and son. Indeed, they are no longer viewed as separate and distinct personages, nor are they believed to be corporeal beings. The God of the creeds is “without body, parts, or passions,” and the Son is merely the mind or reflection of the Father. Thus for the Latter-day Saints to be accepted as Christian by such a standard we must deny our faith that Christ is actually and literally the Son of God.” (New Covenant Ministries: LDS Archive, p.4; http://web.archive.org)
The issue at hand centers on the adherence to the standards we correctly set as an evangelical and historic church sponsoring a Boy Scout troop: The Apostles’ Creed. We make no statement about the Christianity of Mr. and Mrs. Stokes. We do observe, quite factually, that as Mormons they do not belong to an historic Christian Church.
In this instance, Christ Covenant Church has merely exercised its religious freedom, in much the same way Mormons do in their churches. In our own Book of Church Order, our “Preliminary Principles” set forth these truths:
1. God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from any doctrines or commandments of men (a) which are in any respect contrary to the Word of God, or (b) which, in regard to matters of faith and worship, are not governed by the Word of God. Therefore, the rights of private judgment in all matters that respect religion are universal and inalienable. No religious constitution should be supported by the civil power further than may be necessary for protection and security equal and common to all others.
2. In perfect consistency with the above principle, every Christian Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ has appointed. In the exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet even in this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.
We have properly exercised our rights to determine the oversight of our own ministries and programs, including Scouting. Each church, temple, synagogue or mosque may exercise these same rights without impunity or undue criticism. After all, these are fundamental principles of Christianity, our nation and the Boy Scouts of America.
Though others may not agree with our decisions, we have not been wrong in exercising our rights and duties. It is inappropriate for Mormons to misrepresent their faith to us, for third parties across the nation to censure us, or for individuals to accuse us of “racism,” “bigotry,” “hate,” and “un-Christlike behavior.” None of these things are true. We ask our critics to do their homework and not rely on the opinions or incomplete information of others. They should study (1) a comparison of Mormon and Christian beliefs, (2) statements of their own churches concerning Mormonism, and (3) the bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America, before they pass harsh judgment on Christ Covenant Church.
We regret any distress or disagreement our decision may have caused anyone. But we cannot apologize for being historic Christians, for being faithful to the Bible and loyal to the historic Christ, or for adhering to our sacred doctrines and creeds. If our doing so has caused anger in others – as many emails and letters reveal – then we suggest that our critics follow the example of the Boy Scouts of America, who are learning to peacefully lead principled lives in a diverse society, with religious freedom, and side-by-side with others who do not share their faith.
While critics may not agree, we believe what we have done is correct. We are taking steps to assure that all of our requirements, including background checks and the correct steps in the application and approval process, for all of our volunteer leaders in youth ministries, including Scouting, are clearly defined, readily understood and widely circulated to parents.
Our desire was not to create controversy. In this, we share the sentiment expressed by Mr. Tom Cheney of the Mormon Church in his letter to us. “Our interest is in building friendships with other faiths in our community, not drawing attention to our differences.”
Grace to you, and peace.
In Jesus’ Name,
Michael F. Ross
Christ Covenant Church