For over 75 years, CEF has enjoyed unparalleled influence and an unchallenged standing with the evangelical establishment. No evangelical group to date has ever raised any significant opposition to the severity and dark emphasis of CEF’s “gospel.”
On the contrary, CEF has a long history of agitation, by some of fundamentalist’s most provocative figures, toward greater “doctrinal purity.” Francis Schaeffer, who in the 1970s and 80s became an influential Christian apologist and early leader of the Religious Right, had been an active board member of CEF’s Summer Bible School Association in the early 1940s in St. Louis, Missouri. Francis, however, restricted participation to members of the separatist fundamentalist American Council of Christian Churches. When, in 1945, the CEF national board ordered Francis to include conservative evangelicals from mainline denominations, Francis resigned and helped organize a more separatist (but now defunct) “Children for Christ” organization.
In 1962, Bob Jones, Jr., cut ties with CEF for failing to “take a stand against compromise with apostacy.” In the 1970s and 80s, Bob Jones, Jr. and Dr. Ian Paisley (a prominent Northern Ireland politician, Protestant minister, and staunch Unionist paramilitary organizer) continued questioning CEF’s commitment to the principle of “separation” (i.e., not partnering, associating, or cooperating with “apostates” such as Catholics, charismatics, and modernist or liberal Protestant denominations or groups). But in the early 1989s, CEF, under the leadership of now President Reese Kaufmann, attempted to mollify their concerns, assuring them of CEF’s fundamentalist bona fides.
In 1988, 22 chapters reportedly left CEF. According to Rev. Michael McCubbins, author of “Sedition in Missions,” the dissenters objected to the infiltration of “charismatics”, CEF’s neutrality on the security of the believer, and CEF’s refusal to condemn Billy Graham’s ties with “new evangelicals and liberals.” The breakaway group initially called itself “Child Evangelism Fellowship Conservative,” later renamed “Gospel Ministries to Children” (GMTC). GMTC has apparently dwindled, now having only a small presence in Texas and Georgia.
The same year (1988), CEF’s Eastern Pennsylvania chapter, voicing similar objections, also broke away, forming “Child Evangelism Fellowship of Eastern Pennsylvania” (CEF-EPA). CEF-EPA has an explicit policy forbidding its staff and volunteers from “speaking in tongues.” Today, CEF and CEF-EPA both have overlapping chapters and “Good News Clubs” in eastern Pennsylvania. Any differences between the two organizations would be imperceptible to most outside observers.
In 2006, First Baptist Church pastor Jack Terrell, of Euless, Texas, broke ties with CEF, citing minor differences, and established the “Kids Beach Club.” Kids Beach Club, which is reportedly similar to the Good News Club but allegedly more “high energy,” has grown rapidly, and now operates in more than 97 public schools in 7 states.
Amidst all the controversy CEF has long experienced on trivial matters of “doctrinal purity,” no major evangelical organization or figure has challenged CEF over the severity of its pedagogy, or how children might be affected by CEF’s intense shame indoctrination