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Xenos Christian Fellowship


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I don't know if this falls under fundie, but is anyone here familiar with Xenos Christian Fellowship? I was browsing a forum and their name was mentioned and I of course googled it and the church seems to be borderline cultic. A big part of Xenos is home fellowship and groups, and from what I have found a lot of it is very controlling. This makes me wonders if fundies who are strictly home churching do it to not be accountable or have to answer to anyone.

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I have an extended family member who is in it. I wouldn't call it cultic, maybe fundie lite. The members wear regular clothes and watch TV and listen to rock music. They do have home church groups, but there is also a regular church service and Xenos operates their own Christian schools. The schools go up to 8th grade, after which time the kids attend public or charter schools.

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They've got a giant compound type thing (I looked on their website, it says it's the Main Campus/Cafe) at the end of my mom's old street. She's not a fundie watcher and said the place gave her the heebie jeebies-- and that's coming from a woman raised old school conservative Roman Catholic. The group by us has a congregation of 4500.

I've got to give them two snaps in a circle though for admitting that they're strange and addressing the cult thing on their website:


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Xenos was my most recent church. I've got a pretty well-tuned BS meter, so as fundie-lite goes, these people are not that weird. Doggie, the whole premise is that is a group of homechurches, so it has nothing to do with "nobody will give them a church" lol. There are about 4,000 people in the Columbus area that are involved in Xenos, and many never/rarely set foot on the "campus". Of course, there are groups of homechurches in that area that use the building regularly, and they also invite speakers and have concerts, conferences, and VBS there and all that stuff. But for many people, it's not even remotely a focal point. In the three years I attended, I was on the property twice, and one time was to get the H1N1 vaccine (they had offered up the venue to county health officials to use for that purpose). They also have various classes there. My husband did take a number of their classes and felt that their interpretation of biblical truth (their hermaneutic), was fairly strong and well presented and they tended not to cherry pick, which he hates.

There are two schools associated with Xenos, and my husband has volunteered at one in their after school tutoring. It is in one of the worst areas of town and they really do a lot of good in that community and provide help for people with no strings attached. I'm not just saying that; they really do. It's a major part of the church philosophy. They do not believe in "we will give you food, but you have to come to our church" or anything like that. Xenos is big into urban ministry in general and fairly socialistic in their paradigm.

Xenos does not have "members". There is no "join our church" stuff as no one "joins the church". You can either come or not come and they don't practice "love bombing" or other cultish behaviors. The premise is that everyone gets involved in their local homechurch, and meets once a week in that venue, and then on Sundays, you can also go to a regional gathering, which is where perhaps 5-10 homechurches that gather together in a more traditional Sunday service. The children are grouped according to age and have a pretty typical Sunday School experience at that venue, so it is nothing like IFC or anything. Once a year they have a sort of accountability meeting where people go to the "main campus" to hear what the leadership has to say on issues like finances, stewardship, leadership changes, etc. It is NOT a top down organization and people will hold the leadership's feet to the fire - I've seen it happen.

Xenos was originally the Fish House back in the 1970s. Basically a bunch of college-aged hippies on the OSU campus starting their own deal. Typical stuff for that era: very casual, very laid back, guitar music, etc, etc. My husband was peripherally involved in it back then, which was before we met. When the hippies "grew up" and as the "church" grew, the Xenos model was created (that's the very compressed story).

The beliefs are pretty typically fundie-lite beliefs, except that the leadership doesn't seem to care if you believe in evolution or whether you are pre-trib, post-trib and all sorts of other things that some churches make out to be dealbreakers. They are pro-science and actually have a lot of people attend who are researchers, doctors, etc. The "membership" tends to be highly educated in general. That may partly be because OSU is a huge research facility, as is Batelle and other institutions in the area.

Xenos is generally pretty disinterested in the culture wars and seem to focus more on poverty issues. Many Xenos folks supported and worked on the Obama campaign, and in practice, at least, they tend lean toward a more socialist viewpoint, although I don't know that they would use that word. Women occupy many teaching and leadership positions and they take a pretty egalitarian approach to marriage and the role of women in general. If pressed, the leadership will concede that the Bible says that men are to be the leaders in their homes, but they are pretty uncomfortable with that in actual practice, in my experience, at least.

They are not very legalistic. You can smoke, drink, curse, etc. and nary an eye is blinked. They do frown upon sex outside of marriage, but it does not seem to be the obsession for them that it is for other churches. They are as inclusive as I believe any evangelical religious institution will be, in my view. They don't care if you send your kids to public school, private school or homeschool and actually do a lot to support public schools.

We attended for about three years, which ended last summer. There was no one thing that caused us to stop, and we don't have that many criticisms of the church or its polity. Some of the people in our local homechurch were strange and just basically not people we'd choose to hang with in general. There were also some very cool, highly intelligent people there, but when a group is so small (30-40), the weirdos tend to stick out more. We just got more weary of some of their crap. Also, some of the people coming to our homegroup (one extended family in particular) had come from a much more fundamentalist church/background and were really trying to shove that stuff down people's throats, and that didn't fly too well with some of us.

One problem with the home church model, even when they're not cultish, is that it is awkward to move from your local homegroup to another group farther away. There's no anonymity which is sometimes helpful to have when you're looking for a church situation. So we basically stopped attending altogether. This all was coinciding with my own strengthening doubts about my faith in general, so Xenos itself is not the only reason I left.

Another reason that we stopped going is that one of the home church leaders is also my boss. After I had to give up my job in early 2008 because of the harassment issue, my now-boss, who owns a successful business, offered me a job. I am very grateful to him b/c attaining new employment after you've filed a harassment suit against an employer is not easy (understatement!). He and his partner have been very good to me (and to all of us) and are highly moral, caring men. Having said all of that, the dual relationship was sometimes awkward for me, to say the least. I felt that he was less open in homechurch settings after I became his employee, and I knew that I was, for obvious reasons.

Not because of us at all, but right after we left, the group kind of broke up. My boss and his wife decided they did not want to be home church leaders any more for all sorts of reasons (mostly burnout). The group eventually reconstituted itself under different leadership and that's that. This happens with some regularity (the switching up of homegroup leaders) and there are rarely hard feelings associated with it. They recognize that people can only do so much for so long and then it's someone else's turn.

I am only relating my experience here, obviously. I have read a couple of things on the internet where people had different experiences, and I don't doubt their impressions, but in my view, those situations were hardly the norms. We weren't deeply involved in the sense that we hung out with the leadership or anything. The only thing I can remember being aggravated over and contacting church leadership about is when they invited Mark Driscoll and Joni Erikson-Tada to speak at one of their conferences. Driscoll, in particular, seemed like a strange choice as his views and Xenos' views do not seem to align too well, as he is very misogynistic and a huge, huge jerk. I can't stand Tada either, and she had signed the Manhattan Declaration which I did not appreciate.

As I said, just my experiences.

ETA: Sorry about the novel!

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