After several years of tension in Child Evangelism Fellowship, Inc. (CEF)—the 51-year-old missions group devoted to evangelizing children worldwide—a faction has parted ways under charges of theological impurity and heavy-handed management.

The new group, organized last October under the name Child Evangelism Ministries, Inc. (CEM), is led by several CEF veterans, including Jim Dowdy, CEM’s general director.

In a 28-page “Document of Crucial Concerns” drafted by CEM, the group accuses CEF’s leadership of fudging on crucial issues, including the organization’s traditional noncharismatic stance, its fundamental teaching of eternal security and assurance of salvation, and its view of the gospel, which CEM’ers say has waded into neo-orthodox and social-gospel thought.

While acknowledging possible isolated cases of improper charismatic involvement or doctrinal teachings gone askew, CEF president Alan George rejects CEM’s allegations. “The home office cannot possibly police every one of these [problems] every day of every year,” George told CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

George cited support from Ruth Overholtzer, widow of CEF’s founder, J. Irvin Overholtzer, as further evidence that his organization has not departed from its doctrinal roots.

But according to Dowdy, while CEF’s policy statements may remain intact, their enforcement is weak. “In essence, what you have is a policy to please some, but a practice to placate others,” he said.

CEF, which employs over 1,600 people in more than 90 countries, remains strong despite the rift, George maintains. He said his organization will continue to seek reconciliation with the splinter group.

However, although Dowdy expresses a desire to see CEF correct what he calls “first and foremost a spiritual problem,” ...

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