Reboot-02: Preface to Reboot Documents

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Preface to Reboot Documents

By Peter; The Reboot Series - Part 2 of 20; 25 May 2010

Before you read the rest of the reboot documents, I want to give an overview of the material that will be covered, as well as mention some practical points.

The documents

The reboot package (the remainder of which you will receive by June 1, Lord willing) contains the following documents:

  • "Change Journey Manifesto": You have already received this document, and it should be read before any of the following material.
  • "Preface to Reboot Documents": That’s this document.
  • "Backtracking Through TFI History": An overview of major contextual points in Family history, their impact on Family culture over the years, and what needs to change today.
  • "Blueprint for the Future": Key concepts at the heart of the reboot changes, cornerstones of the environment we’re creating for the Family of today and tomorrow.
  • "Statement of Faith of the Family International": Updated to better reflect our core doctrines. Presenting our beliefs in terms that will be more user-friendly for prospective members and people interested in knowing what we believe.
  • "Mission Statement of the Family International": An updated statement describing how we put the mission into practice.
  • "Membership": An explanation about TFI membership of the future and changes in membership requirements.
  • "Lifestyle": A summary of lifestyle-related matters, such as communal living, spiritual life requirements, shepherding, civic responsibilities, etc.
  • "Structure and Services": Outline of the concepts and elements of the new structure, and explanations regarding changes in structure and services.
  • "Tithing and Giving": TFI’s updated policies and requirements regarding tithing and giving.
  • "Family Aid Fund": Explanation of the FAF program, with adjusted policies for the future.
  • “TFI Member Works”: An overview of the structure for works and mission projects of Family members; what mission facilitation the Family structure will provide, and the expectations as far as a professional standard of operations.
  • "Building Community": Concepts and principles of mission-centered community, as a means by which to fulfill our core purpose.
  • "Applying the Law of Love": Updated position on the application of the Law of Love to sexual relations.
  • "Membership Accountability": Details of changes regarding disciplinary procedures and membership accountability.
  • "A Safe Haven for Our Children": Addressing points relating to the safety of our children, and our responsibilities as parents and as Christians to provide a safe environment for them. Includes a new TFI child protection policy and “Standard for the Care of Children at Events and Mission Works of the Family International.”
  • "Charter of the Family International (v4)": A new Charter that conveys the rights and responsibilities of membership, and the services and governance of the Family in a clear and concise manner; accompanied by supplementary documents that support the Charter.
  • Closing: Wrapping up the reboot package.

There will be a few other short documents, but these documents (above) present the sum of the reboot changes. They detail the practical changes, requirements, structural changes, etc., all of which are reflected in the new Charter and governing documents. (On the Change Program site, you can find the schedule for when the preceding documents will be posted.)

We suggest that, for the first time around, you read through the preceding documents in the order in which they’re listed. Although each document stands on its own for the most part, some of the later documents refer to the earlier ones, so they will be clearer if they are read in order. Also, what is said on a given topic in one document will not necessarily be the last word on the subject. Some topics will be lightly touched on in one document, and then addressed further in other sections of the reboot material.

Practical points

Some points to bear in mind as you read the reboot package:

  • We trust that you understand that each reboot change has undergone a lot of prayer and counseling. Therefore, we won’t reiterate the process of prayer and counsel that Mama and I carefully worked through to reach each of the conclusions. As you already know from what we’ve written over the past year or so—the prayer requests and updates on the change journey via HIM, and what I’ve expressed in “Change Journey Manifesto”—we’ve spent hundreds of hours counseling, reading input from many of you, praying, and receiving instruction and confirmations in prophecy before making each decision. It’s been a laborious process, both physically and spiritually, and we’ve been desperate to make the right decisions before the Lord.
  • You’ll also notice that we are including very few prophecies in the reboot material. That’s primarily so that you won’t have double the amount of reading to do. But you can know that Mama and I have personally heard from the Lord in prophecy about every major decision, sometimes repeatedly. In many cases, there were several other channels who also asked the Lord for His confirmation. Although we won’t state, in explaining every change, that prayer, counsel and prophecy were involved in reaching a decision, or include the prophecies received, significant time and prayer and hearing from the Lord was invested in each topic and decision.
  • Not all of the documents in the reboot package will feature practical changes. Some—specifically “Change Journey Manifesto,” “Backtracking Through TFI History,” and “Blueprint for the Future”—focus primarily on imparting the thinking and reasoning behind the practical changes, or give explanation about our culture and operations of the past. Please give careful attention to all the reboot documents. Even those that don’t list practical changes or give all the details about the changes contain information that you’ll need to understand in order to have a complete picture of the practical changes that will follow.
  • All changes and policy articulated in the reboot documents are effective immediately, unless otherwise indicated.
  • As you will notice, some of the reboot documents are not authored by Mama or me. We had the help of our communications staff and others in drafting the reboot documents, as there simply wasn’t time for us to write everything ourselves. (Even the documents that Mama and I did author benefited from a lot of help from our team, in order to get them to you in time.)

Although not every reboot document is authored by Mama or me, we studied and approved each document at every turn as it was going through the pipeline. These documents explain the way the Lord has led us and represent our decisions. When the reboot documents refer to “we”—for example, “In the future we would like to provide an option…”—the “we” is representative of Mama and me, even if someone else helped us to draft the document.

  • As I explained in “Change Journey Manifesto,” we are aware that some of what we say in the reboot material will evoke difficult emotions for some of you. In writing to you, dear Family, we are communicating with thousands of individuals, each one of you unique. Your experiences, your circumstances, your relationship with the Lord, your hopes and dreams are different from the next person’s.

Someone might read a portion of text and feel that it brings clarity and improvement to their life; it speaks to their heart. But for another that may not be the case. What’s discouraging to one person might be motivating to another. What’s expressed in a way that one person appreciates might be difficult for someone else to relate to.

If you feel unsettled or discouraged by something we express, we ask for your understanding of the challenges we face in writing to thousands of people who have different experiences, knowledge, and perceptions. Thank you in advance.

  • With the reboot, we aren’t only making surface changes, or revising or rewriting some text in our governing documents. Rather, we’re initiating deep and fundamental change in the culture and fabric of the Family, which has also led to us making practical, apparent changes. Because the reboot material presents the reasoning for why things were done or thought of in certain ways before, and how we now need to change, it won’t be a short read.

Some points are repeated numerous times throughout the reboot material, as many of the topics are interconnected. Some documents are long, but don’t comprehensively cover every point. Some people will already know much of the history or background details that are explained for the benefit of those who weren’t there, and the explanations may be tedious to you.

Some people can readily grasp a matter with only a little information. Others of us require more explanation. We’re all different, but all Family members deserve to understand the scope of and reasons for the changes. For those who require less explanation, we appreciate your understanding of the need to write a lengthier explanation of the changes and the reasoning behind them.

Our intent is to explain things in a manner that is clear and understandable to as many people as possible, not to weary you with much explanation or repetition. But it will likely feel wearying for some of you at times, and we apologize for that in advance.

  • In the course of explaining the changes and the reasons for them, it has been necessary to delve into the past. A challenge in doing so is that while we share a general common history, we each have our own story, our own personal history. You have experiences within our common history that are uniquely your own. You look at our history through the lens of your personal experience and have reached conclusions accordingly.

In writing about the Family’s common history, Mama and I are not attempting to change your outlook or conclusions. We’re trying to impart an overall picture of some of the whys and wherefores of the Family’s past. We’re also expressing how Mama and I look at the past, from the perspective of our leadership. In order to lay the groundwork for what needs to change and why, we’re giving explanation, from our perspective, regarding some of the main events that are part of the Family’s history, the reasoning as to why some things developed a certain way, or why particular practices, policies, or past thinking developed.

In discussing some of the main trends or mindsets, we will also make some generalizations and broad statements about how Family members have felt, or trains of thought we’ve held collectively as a Family. We realize that not everyone in the Family has felt or thought in these ways. When we try to describe the overall tone or culture of the Family at certain times, our generalizations may not always seem accurate to you, as your personal experience and thoughts or motivation for your actions and decisions may have been different.

We may present a viewpoint that’s different from how you see things, or how something played out for you, because your perception or experience was different. We thank you in advance for your understanding of the fact that some explanations won’t satisfy everyone, or will seem to be insufficient.

  • As you read through the reboot documents, you’ll notice that we sometimes use “TFI” in place of “The Family International.” We use these interchangeably, and you are welcome to use whichever you prefer. Since “The Family International” is long and “The Family” isn’t always understood in every situation, “TFI” is another presentation option that we can use. It’s especially handy when you have to attach “The Family International” to another string of words—for example, saying “TFI’s membership requirements” instead of “The Family International’s membership requirements.”

Although we are changing a vast array of things in the Family, we are retaining our name—The Family International (or TFI). We’ve received suggestions from some of you about changing our name, and have considered this possibility. We extensively discussed and prayed about the matter in the course of our change journey deliberations, and the brief answer is that the Lord has led us to keep the name. We will explain the background and our reasoning to you in an upcoming document (after the reboot).

  • Also, shortly following the reboot, there will be a four-part series that addresses the application of the Word in our new context, as well as how to view past applications of the Word and prophecy and our relationship to the Word and prophecy for today. This series is referred to throughout the reboot package, as it contains important background and answers to questions you might have in reading about some of the practical changes. You can expect to receive this series sometime in the second half of June.

Another topic that we will be addressing sometime after the reboot is the care of elderly members. We weren’t able to prepare this in time for the reboot package, but it’s on our list to address.

  • In the reboot documents we’ll begin using the names David and Maria when referring to Dad and Mama. We are making this switch not only in the reboot material, but in all our publications and communications from this point onward.

This is a change that the Lord has shown us to make in order to be more relatable and presentable to our broader audience of the future. Although we are comfortable with these names, having used them for many years, they’re not understandable to non-Family members (or our new Family members of the future).

Mama and I wanted to let you know about this change so that you’d know why we’ll be using David and Maria in both the reboot documents and in future communications.

If you write to Mama, you can, if you want, still refer to her as “Mama.” Addressing her as Mama or Maria in personal communications is your choice. But our preference is that you call her “Maria” when referring to her within your home or in your communications with friends and prospective members.

Mama will continue to use the pen name she has for many years, Maria Fontaine, in her writings for the public. Mama and I might also use Karen Zerby and Steve Kelly in statements to the public, as we have on site.

  • While the changes that we’re presenting in the reboot material are as solid as we can make them at this point in time, please understand that not everything is set in stone.

The foundational principles on which the changes are built, as well as the mindset changes and major practical changes, are solid. But we might fine-tune and improve and build on some of the details as time goes by—such as some of the organizational or structural specifics—as we receive input from you and as we monitor the results of implementing these changes.

We’re laying a solid foundation and framework with the reboot, but, as we follow the Lord, our new “house” might still need a few fix-its as we go along—a new window, a new wall, some new curtains, a paint job, etc.

So, if you don’t like something, or feel that something could be improved or built on, please tell us your thoughts. Or if something isn’t working and needs an adjustment, please let us know. We want to hear from you, because you are the ones that these changes need to work for, to make your lives and work for the Lord better.

We’re interested to hear your reactions to the reboot material as you read it. So please feel free to write us with your thoughts and reactions at

To judge or not to judge?

As we go through the many points in the reboot material where change is called for, or in some cases where we are reversing a past position on a certain matter, one question naturally comes to mind: Was the way we did it wrong or a mistake?

Mama and I have given a fair bit of thought to whether we should try to judge all points of our history, practices, rules, attitudes, and mindsets. Should we attempt to note each as being either right or wrong? Doing so would provide clarity for some people, but is it possible to label each turn of the Family in such a black-and-white way?

The conclusion we have come to is that it’s not possible for us to judge every aspect of our history—whether context, culture, eras of Family life, trends, revolutions, or pendulum swings. It’s not feasible in many cases to judge the past through the lens of the present. Our context today is very different in many ways, as are many of our viewpoints.

We don’t feel it’s wise to put ourselves in the position of judges in each matter, the primary reason being that we’re human and imperfect, and we aren't all-knowing or all-wise. God is the ultimate judge; we aren’t.

Considering that we’ll be addressing numerous topics, communicating with several thousand individuals in the Family—each with a particular set of circumstances, different life experiences, unique understanding and reactions to any given point—we don’t feel there will be many one-size-fits-all answers to whether various writings, decisions, or directions were right or wrong. What might have been difficult or negative for one person might have been helpful and positive for another.

As individuals, and as a Family, we believe in seeking God’s will, asking God to play an active role in our decision-making, and striving to live in accordance with His plan for us. We believe that He is ultimately in control of everything in our lives, and what He allows or doesn’t allow is within His hands, and, at times, unfathomable to us. This is not to say that we reflect on all that has happened in the past and think, God did it.

Certainly there are other factors. For example, people’s choices, decisions and actions enter into the equation—Dad’s, Mama’s, mine, other Family leadership’s, and choices and decisions that Family members made, plus many other factors, all of which played a part in determining the course of events throughout our history.

Sometimes the reason behind the direction God gives and leads us in is inexplicable. It can’t be understood by our finite minds, nor can it be justified through our own reasoning. This is where trust in God enters in. Trust plays a major role in our individual lives and in our organization. Even when we don’t understand what He’s doing or why, we can choose to actively put our trust in Him.

In the course of our history, decisions were made as we followed the way the Lord was leading us. In some of those instances, the outcome was different from what we had expected or hoped for. In those cases, it’s easy to assume that we shouldn’t have done those things or gone that direction in the first place. That could be true. It could also be a wrong assumption.

If the outcome wasn’t what we had hoped for or expected, or what we had concluded in advance would be the “best outcome,” it can be difficult to reconcile in our minds. We tend to look at failed attempts or things that go wrong as being the result of a bad or wrong decision. That is sometimes the case, but there are also times when an initial decision is correct, but other factors affect the outcome.

Perhaps a decision leads to failure in some matter—you move to a new country with the hope of starting a work, but nothing comes together, or you face challenges you didn’t anticipate, and you have to move back to your original country. You might conclude that you made the wrong decision to begin with. But if, through that experience, you learn something that benefits you or others or that ends up being a catalyst for success in your life, then was it a failure?

It’s not uncommon for failures or seeming setbacks to be the very factors that thrust a person or project forward to success, growth, and progress. Therefore it’s difficult to make blanket judgments on such matters.

In the case of the preceding example, if you prayed and the Lord showed you to make that move, then what? There is no logical way to figure it out. Even when we have the right motives and make decisions that are good, the outcome isn’t always what we expect or hope for. In every equation, there are often factors that are out of our hands as human beings. The only One Who sees and comprehends all these details is God.

In the past Mama and I have been more inclined to pass judgment or to lend spiritual value to, or weigh in on certain practical or personal life issues. As we now explain contextual factors of the past and their cultural impact on the Family, you might expect that we would also say, “This was wrong. That was right.” Or, “This was right for the time, but it’s not right anymore.” Or any number of other explanations.

Aside from this being a very complex thing to do, Mama and I have learned certain things as a result of undergoing our personal change journey. We have come to realize that there have been certain aspects of our leadership, or ways in which we’ve directed or instructed you, that haven’t been the best or haven’t been balanced. Our previous tendency to declare many things as either right or wrong, or part of God’s will or not God’s will, is one of those things.

The realm of passing judgment and classifying right and wrong is a delicate one. There certainly is right and wrong; that hasn’t changed. And when the Lord shows us that something is truly wrong across the board, we will state it and apologize, as we have in the past. But we have learned that it isn’t always helpful to try to rigidly categorize or judge everything. In hindsight, we wish we hadn’t weighed in so heavily as to what was right or wrong on certain matters, especially practical matters that should have been left up to your personal choice.

(I’d like to note here that when I say that Mama and I “wish we hadn’t weighed in so heavily as to what was right or wrong on certain matters,” I’m not referring to times when we have officially stated that certain things in the past were wrong, and have made formal apologies—such as those that we published in “The Family’s History, Policies, and Beliefs Regarding Sex” series, or the “Beyond Boundaries” series. The position that we have stated in those GNs continues to be our strongly held conviction and position today. This point does not refer to those apologies or practices that were deemed wrong.)

We acknowledge that mistakes have been made, that some things could have been done differently in the past. We aren’t implying that everything so far has been “just right,” or that every outcome was just as the Lord intended it to be. That’s genuinely not our stance. If that were how we felt, we wouldn’t be having the change program.

We have concluded that certain attitudes, mindsets and positions that we have held were either not right or are not right for today. We will explain these and make our stance clear, giving you the information that we have, to the best of our ability. But we won’t be able to tag every single thing as right or wrong, or indicate at which point something might have gone from right to wrong.

In looking back at the Family’s history, just as is the case when you look back on any aspect of your life, it’s ultimately up to you to determine what you feel was right, good, and positive for you, and conversely, what was not helpful, or what was wrong or negative for you. The same event can affect different people in different ways. For some people, a certain event may have played out well or had a positive impact. For others, it may have played out negatively. Perhaps others weren’t affected significantly, so it was a nonevent for them.

This is not to say that you have to spend a lot of time dissecting and analyzing your past, but if something is weighing on you, you are in the best position to evaluate it in your personal times with the Lord. He’s the One Who can give you the answers, peace, faith, and perspective that is specific to your experiences and personal needs.

As we explore our history, as we make adjustments, modifications, or reversals, and as we express our thoughts about these things and inform you of the changes, we acknowledge that some of our explanations may not be completely satisfactory. Even though we will do our best to give you information and to share our perspective, we recognize that it might not provide you with a full understanding regarding why we’re transitioning from the way things have been to the way we will do them in the future.

The best we can ask in such cases is that you consider the possibility that perhaps the Lord had some reason or reasons for leading us in a certain way or allowing various events, even if those reasons aren’t clear to us or to you right now.—And that, if you don’t understand something, you consider placing it in the Lord’s hands.

As I was writing this, I read something that Mama had planned to post on the HIM site, which I felt is a good illustration of the faith/God factor. Mama graciously let me use this post here instead.

(Mama:) Anne Rice was raised a Christian, but became an atheist/agnostic for 37 years. In that time, she became one of the most famous women writers of the day with her novels about vampires. About ten years ago she came back to the Lord, and has since dedicated her writing to Him. Someone sent me this beautiful quote from her memoir, Called Out of Darkness, which goes along well with some of the unanswered questions that are surfacing during the change journey. Don’t let any question, no matter how daunting or thorny, keep you from the beautiful relationship that Jesus wants to have with you personally.

She says:

“In the moment of surrender, I let go of all the theological or social questions which had kept me from [God] for countless years. I simply let them go. There was the sense, profound and wordless, that if He knew everything I did not have to know everything, and that, in seeking to know everything, I’d been, all of my life, missing the entire point.

“No social paradox, no historic disaster, no hideous record of injustice or misery should keep me from Him. No question of Scriptural integrity, no torment over the fate of this or that atheist or gay friend, no worry for those condemned and ostracized by my church or any other church should stand between me and Him.

“The reason? It was magnificently simple: He knew how or why everything happened; He knew the disposition of every single soul. He wasn’t going to let anything happen by accident! Nobody was going to go to Hell by mistake. This was His world, all this! He had complete control of it; His justice, His mercy—were not our justice or our mercy. What folly to even imagine such a thing.”

Mama and I trust that despite our inadequacies in explaining the whys and wherefores of the past and of the changes today, you will take your questions and struggles to Jesus and ask Him for His insight. He knows and sees all things, and in spite of our lacks in presentation or explanation, He is perfectly able to meet all your needs and answer all your questions, even if sometimes His answer is that, despite your not having full understanding, He wants you to trust Him.


Mama and I want to give thanks and recognition to everyone who has made the reboot possible.

We thank you, dear Family, for your patience, faith, and perseverance during the past 15 months since the publishing of “The Change Journey.” It’s been a tumultuous time for many of you, with personal ups and downs, crises of faith, and new challenges to tackle.

We realize that these last many months have been extremely difficult for some of you. We thank you for your faith and your trust in Jesus, for your trust in us during these months that we’ve been working on the reboot package, especially the first months of this year, during which time you haven’t heard much about the coming changes.

Thank you for your willingness to wait, to see if the Family would pull through these months as an improved organization, one that can continue on into the future as a visible representation of God’s love, living a form of Christianity that helps people to see that Jesus is the answer to their needs, and sets an example to those around us that Jesus loves them unconditionally. We hope you will feel that the wait was worth it.

Thank you for responding to the polls and surveys, for your letters, and for sharing your thoughts and questions, your heartcries, fears, concerns, and burdens. Thank you for your words of encouragement and faith. Above all, thank you for your prayers.

We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the RSs, who, as part of the Family Policy Council (FPC), have advised us in a variety of ways, but particularly in regard to the change program over the past many months.—Most prominently by reading hundreds of thousands of words of questions, discussions, proposals, and prophecies, participating in days of meetings, and commenting/debating/counseling via a website discussion board, on the many topics that we had to work through. They devoted a great deal of time to this work, often on very short notice and at inconvenient times.

They wrote often and expressed their thoughts and ideas on the changes. They were frank with us in their assessments of where they felt the Family needed to change, and about the areas in which they felt leadership, including Mama and me, fell short. They expressed matters that they felt needed to be covered and they shared many progressive ideas on where we should be headed and how to get there. Their assistance has been invaluable, and we couldn’t have done without their counsel.

Having said that, we want to note that the decisions made in regard to the reboot and the Family of the future are decisions that Mama and I have made. The FPC members are valued counselors and they helped us to shoulder the immense workload, but the responsibility for the reboot decisions and changes rests with Mama and me.

We also want to thank all those in the WS homes, who, like everyone else in the Family, have gone through the last 15 months of uncertainty, not knowing what the reboot would bring. It hasn’t been easy for them. Many of them have also endured personal struggles, and have continued on in their ministry regardless of how they felt or what they were going through. It’s been difficult, but they’ve done their jobs—including assisting with reboot work, whether directly or via their support through their other ministries—with professionalism and spirit. We can’t thank them enough.

We’re extremely grateful for the IBCs (also part of the FPC) and members of our communications staff and other counselors in WS, who have participated in hundreds of hours of meetings. They drafted proposals and projections, read and edited hundreds of thousands of words of material, received many prophecies, and helped us with putting pen to paper in explaining the reboot changes and creating the new materials needed.

There would be no reboot, no changed Family, if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of these Family servants. Their love for the Family, their willingness to sacrifice so greatly, not only through giving their time to discussion and meetings, but also in helping us to find and articulate answers and solutions, has given us great respect for them. They have laid down their lives for us and for you, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Most importantly, our thanks go to Jesus, Who has given us the grace to make it through these past few years. There have been many times when the only footprints we could see were His, as He had to carry us. He is our comfort, our God, our Husband, our Friend, and the purpose for what we do. It is an honor to serve Him, and an honor to serve you.

Copyright © 2010 by The Family International