Today I do a profile on the Eastern District which is headed up by Dr. Eddie Cole and is responsible for all Evangelical Free churches in eastern New York, central and eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, eastern Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia. This post also puts the Eastern District on notice that I will write about corruption and polity issues of the Evangelical Free denomination. What drives me to take on this project? The silence by the Evangelical Free denomination on D.A Carson’s corruption, a traumatic experience that Eagle endured and personal knowledge of atheism.
“I have learned the value of a church family. I have been spiritually spoiled my whole Christian life. I met the Lord in a church that was just on fire for God and people were getting saved. I literally saw people who were physically healed from diseases they were going to die from. I saw my family made new. I was loved by that church they brought me in, they brought me close…the end”
Eastern District Superintendent Dr. Eddie Cole at Salem Church, Staten Island October 18, 2015
“Churches without Walls”
Motto for the Eastern District of the Evangelical Free Church of America
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God[i] gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
John 3:31-36 NIV
Eastern Distict video with Steve Musser speaking
Dr. Eddie Cole speaking on Hurricane Sandy
In December 2015 I wrote the following post that put out a call for stories of corruption and polity problems in the Evangelical Free Church of America. There have been a number of people who have responded to that post. However, in that post I also explore the breakdown of all the districts and the history of the denomination. I decided to take this issue on because no blog out there has undertaken issues related to the Evangelical Free and there are a number of problems that exist. I used to be involved in the Evangelical Free, I actually was baptized in one in 2000. Today due to a host of issues I wouldn’t step foot in one, nor would I explore faith in an Evangelical Free church. Just living in the D.C. area and observing the Evangelical Free denomination from a distance has been heartbreaking. There are a lot of issues from abuse of authority, to legalism, to Reformed theology/Neo-Calvinism issues that befall the denomination and this blog is going to write and expose them in an effort to bring about change. Change will come with time, but it will come with each story that is published. The stories will reveal the problems in the polity. As SGM Survivors was a thorn in the Sovereign Grace denomination, it is my goal to make The Wondering Eagle a thorn in the side of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The goal is not to be difficult but in the course of time to help bring change to the denomination. I have 17 districts to work through over the next year. Today I am looking at the Eastern District.
Three Aspects Driving this Post and Blog: D.A Carson’s Corruption, Andrew White and Redeemer Arlington and Atheism
This blog – The Wondering Eagle – is going to hold the Evangelical Free denomination accountable. It is going to write, report and reveal problems and issues with their polity. The Evangelical Free is not a healthy denomination and it needs reform. There are three key things I want to communicate to the Evangelical Free Church so they can understand what drives this project and this blog.
1. In February of 2013 at the blog SGM Survivors which has documented and written about corruption and problems in the Sovereign Grace Ministries denomination the following occurred. A person called “Anonymous” wrote about how she was sexually assaulted when she was 13 at a prominent SGM member’s house. She also wrote about how she hoped the denomination would be held accountable. Shortly there after the largest lawsuit in evangelical Christian history against SGM was dismissed on a technicality and statute of limitations reasons. On May 24, 2013 D.A. Carson who is a prominent professor at the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary Trinity Evangelical Divinity School issued a statement in support of C.J. Mahaney (along with Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung). In that bastardized statement D.A. Carson went after and verbally attacked that rape victim from SGM Survivors. I consider this to be one of the lowest points in modern evangelical Christianity. When this behavior occurred from a prominent professor in the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary the response by the denomination was also telling. No one challenged Don Carson, no one publically rebuked him. No one said, “Now wait a minute you are out of line…”
No one did a damn thing. The Evangelical Free Church’s silence on this issue screams volumes about its health. I wonder if the denomination is familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. You see the lesson of that story is that you help the broken, the wounded, the person hurt alongside the road. In contrast the Evangelical Free has been committed to growth, church planting all while one of its prominent professor’s at its main seminary attacks a rape victim. In the process I would propose that many parts of the Evangelical Free denomination are acting like the high priest consumed with going to the temple who ignore the wounded person along the side of the road in the process.
Gentlemen…D.A. Carson’s behavior is a disgrace to the denomination and it needs to be challenged. But there is another question that needs to be asked…why would Don Carson behave that way? Over at the blog The Wartburg Watch it was revealed that C.J. Mahaney gave at least $200,000 to Al Mohler at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I put a link to that post in the previous sentence. All together now can we say a “Gospel Centered Bribe.” It has also came out over at the blog SGM Survivors that C.J. Mahaney allegedly gave a lot of cash to Wayne Grudem to help finish the ESV translation. You can read about that in this comment below:
That money given to Wayne Grudem was actually certified by Grudem’s own writing which you can read about in this post here. So having said all that if we follow the money it is well within reason to ask the following question. Did C.J. Mahaney give money to D.A. Carson and is that why Carson felt obligated to attack a rape victim? To read more about the Sovereign Grace scandal the Washingtonian and Time magazine wrote about it. Plus there is my analysis of the article as well. All this news coverage by national media…it’s just in time for T4G!! 🙂
2. There is another aspect I want the Evangelical Free denomination to know. Shortly before D.A Carson attacked a rape victim I was thrust into the darkest season of my life, and it happened when I was coming out of a prolonged faith crisis that consumed half my thirties. An Air Force Captain I knew who was a Care Group Leader at Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington (a former SGM Church plant in the Washington, D.C. area) gave birth to a false accusation that took aim at my name, reputation, employment and future employment. An attorney who looked over the situation believed I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit against Andrew. When I saw how a military officer can abuse his power the situation taught me as to why rape and sexual assault is a very serious issue in the United States military. This situation was the darkest season of my life. The situation was so painful to where you had a 38 year old man crying in his bed in the middle of the night in emotional pain. After I was unsuccessfully recruited into Redeemer Arlington and as I slowly picked up the pieces of my life and tried to find a way forward Andrew White focused on recruiting another person. Andrew has not repented, or expressed sorrow for the pain he caused. It actually goes to another issue in modern evangelicalism today. Christians don’t say they are sorry…they don’t repent when they hurt other people. So that situation and the pain I endured drives me and often keeps me up to 2:00 a.m. to make sure that not another soul is harmed by fundamentalism, that no one endures the hell I walked through. There is something deeply wrong when the fruit of your faith is hubris, psychological trauma, false accusations, and pain.
3. Finally this blog also writes about atheism as well. To date I have written 62 articles about atheism, and there are a lot more to write. The reason why I write about atheism in the context of evangelicalism is for the following reason. Corruption in evangelicalism is one of the factors that fuels atheism. I think many evangelicals would be surprised to learn as to how many people have rejected Christianity due to the corruption hemorrhaging out of the Christian faith today. Don Carson’s corruption along with The Gospel Coalition is a prime example. When I was in my faith crisis walking into an Evangelical Free Church in Manassas, Virginia and learning that it was helping to launch an Acts 29 church (in this case Redemption Hill in DC) – even with all the garbage pouring out of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill after all the corruption and issues is stunning. Its not every day that one stands in a church lobby and explains when asked as to who Mark Driscoll is? “He’s that Pastor in Seattle that speaks about the Biblical basis for blow jobs!” You can read about that interaction in the lobby of Crossway Fellowship of Manassas, Virginia right here. It is my contention that the single greatest threat to the Christian faith today is not gay marriage or the secularization of society. Instead its internal corruption which is corrosive and destroying the church. Like I said the Evangelical Free Church denomination has a lot of issues and this blog will write about, monitor and be a deep thorn in the side of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
Making the Eastern District of the Evangelical Free Church Aware
Having explained all that I want the Evangelical Free church denomination to be aware of what I will report and write on.
- This blog will write about church members who are caught up in membership covenant issues where they can’t resign or walk away. I should also note that I have deep reservations and concerns about membership covenants. My views are summed up in this post right here called. “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: the New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War.” In that post I draw similarities between membership covenants being a modern version of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of oppression throughout the Cold War until it fell in November 1989.
- In-appropriate church discipline will be hammered here at The Wondering Eagle. For example in Matt Chandler’s The Village Church one of their members (Karen Hinkley) obtained an annulment and dissolved her marriage to her husband Jordan Root who was addicted to child pornography and sexually attracted to children. You can read about that situation in this post here. If an Evangelical Free church in the Eastern District practices in-appropriate church discipline (Side-note I am not talking about adultery) they will be written up about. For example if a church disciplines a rape victim, or someone who ends their marriage because they were domestically abused. This blog will intervene in those situations for the people in question, and this blog will hammer that church.
- Abusive and questionable church authority issues will be written about extensively as well. Church discipline and membership issues are but one factor. You can have pastors who usurp their authority and force their will. They are often surrounded by yes men who lack any objectivity from outside parties. Nepotism is a major problem in evangelicalism and this issue reveal itself in these situations.
- Theological church hijackings will also be written about. If a Neo-Calvinist pastor comes in under the radar and hijacks an Evangelical Free church and turns it into a hardcore 9 Marks, or The Gospel Coalition church they will be written about. Its in situations like these where members face discipline for things that never were issues previously. Its divisive and forces people away from their congregations. I will have no sympathy for a pastor who hijacks a church and takes it in a direction that was not its prior theology. Hijackings split congregations and drive people from their theological homes for years.
- Child sex abuse along with domestic abuse cover up will be written about as well.
- Following the laws in regards to sex offenders will be researched and emphasized. What I will do is randomly take an Evangelical Free Church and run its staff through the sex offender database in the appropriate state to see if its being compliant, open and transparent with the congregation. If not expect to see a post similar to this one written about Fairfax Community Church in the Washington, D.C. area.
- Financial issues are another aspect that will be written about and covered. Lack of financial transparency, building campaigns that are questionable will be covered in great detail. Church growth is an idol that is worshiped in the modern evangelical Christian church.
Now if the denomination does not like that and Eddie Cole or individual pastors are displeased that a blog has popped up that will write about denominational issues there are two things you can do. One is you can express your personal displeasure to D.A Carson and thank him for attacking a rape victim. Second, in honor of D.A Carson The Wondering Eagle celebrates “Festivus” on Don’s birthday on December 21. As part of the annual “airing of grievances” you can go on the post I wrote or wait until the next Festivus and complain, and grieve about Don Carson or even the existence of this blog. I have no problem with pushback and allow differing points of view. I am not a dictator. I also want to go on record to state that this post has been emailed to the Eastern District leadership of the Evangelical Free Church as well as all the churches and as many Senior Pastors and pastoral teams in the denomination in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Delaware and New York. So they are now noted and have been made aware that there is a blog that will write about this denomination. This blog will have a bite to it, and that bite exists for a reason. It’s to protect and go to bat for the person standing in the pew. There are too many wolves and too much corruption that exists in modern evangelicalism, but especially the Evangelical Free denomination.
For the record I have already written a few stories about the Evangelical Free in the Eastern District. For example in this post I review and look at the membership covenant of Ambassador Bible Church in Chantilly, Virginia which is lead by John Park. I actually used it as a discernment quiz. In addition to Ambassador Bible I also wrote about one of their former pastors Kenji Adachi (the internet is a wonderful tool when it is exploited…) who spoke at Cru’s Radiate Conference in Washington, D.C. To give you more perspective I wrote about and reviewed all the Cru conferences in this post I did. In detail I explained why several I could not support in good faith. I have also written about an article that was posted at The Gospel Coalition by Benjamin Vrbicek who teaches at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I’m sure he remembers my email, this is the second time he will get an email from me. So there have been a few situations that have already warranted writing.
From Steve Musser to Dr. Eddie Cole
The Eastern District of the Evangelical Free Church of America is responsible for all churches in the states of Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey, eastern Maryland, eastern New York, central and eastern Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The District Office is located in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. The man formerly responsible for running the District was Steve Musser, who was the District Superintendent and once responsible for all churches. Part of Steve’s duties at the time included leading the district’s Church Development Team. Before coming on board Steve Musser served as the Senior Associate Pastor at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Steve Musser who also wrote three books retired in January 2016. Since the Eastern District website doesn’t have the biography up for Dr. Eddie Cole, and since all the Evangelical Free Churches in the eastern District are getting this post I thought I’d take the time to introduce your new District Superintendent who was selected late in 2015. Since 2004 Eddie Cole has served as the Senior Pastor of Salem Church in Staten Island, New York. Prior to serving there he worked in rural ministries in Alabama and Tennessee. He also served as one of the campus pastors for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Eddie Cole earned his DMin at Dallas Theological Seminary with an emphasis on discipleship of leadership. According to what I have researched he claims to be committed to Biblical orthodoxy and missional living. Dr. Eddie Cole has a wife named Jessica and a daughter named Madison. You can listen to Eddie Cole’s farewell message at Salem Church which was given on October 18, 2015 here.
Praying for Eddie Cole and his family at Carlisle Evangelical Free Church (from Salem’s Facebook page)
Some Gems I Discovered in the Eastern District
When I was working through the Eastern District I discovered a lot of gems that I just had to share. Off line I know Todd Wilhilm who writes “Thou Art The Man” and Dee Parsons who authors “The Wartburg Watch” got a good chuckle over some of this material. At Grace Memorial Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia which is headed up by Chris Kropf I found the following post quite amusing on how to support Pastor Chris. It includes a part about don’t gossip and speak well of the church body. What this often means is overlook problems and let them fester. Many evangelicals have redefined gossip and slander. It is not gossip and slander to talk about a corrupt church or ministry. It is not gossip to point out serious issues. If that was the case most of the New Testament letters by Paul to differing churches would be viewed as “gossip” and “slander.” In the case of Grace Memorial Church I found a webpage that subtly calls for the worship of the pastor disturbing. But that is one of the many issues with Neo-Calvinism it defies the pastor. Plus if I were a member of Grace Memorial I would make like a bat out of hell for the door and never return. Idolatry is at an all time high in evangelicalism, and pages likes that only reinforce it. There are many pastors today who have a personal sense and feeling of entitlement, in a way that members of the military, physicians, teachers, business owners, and others do not have. If you want to read more about this you can read this post right here.
I found another gem in Valley Bible Church in Radford, Virginia which is not far from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. So I imagine they are trying to get a number of Tech students
indoctrinated whoops I meant to say involved. 🙂 Dannai Burnette runs the Sunday School curriculum for children ages 3 for 11 and uses what is known as The Gospel Project. In it I learned in studying the contributors you have Jonathan Leeman who is the 9 Marks Editor which is a ministry of Capitol Hill Baptist Church writing Sunday School material for young children. I have to state the following after reading that tidbit of information. I went to college and grad school and was up into my arm pits in reading Soviet Union history, Eastern Block totalitarian states, and the rise of the Weimar Republic and the subsequent collapse of democracy in Germany that led to the rise of the Third Reich. As a college history major and a grad student studying history I processed so much historical material, especially about totalitarianism, dictatorships, propaganda, and the like. After reading so much about indoctrination and propaganda in such totalitarian states in my life I was subsequently speechless to realize that the editor of one of the most hard core Neo-Calvinist groups is writing material for children. That is stunning, and that would be in the same league as the indoctrination efforts of the famous propagandist Joseph Goebbels who believed strongly in brainwashing the youth to support the Third Reich. Its why an entire generation was lost in German history. So when I saw that Jonathan Leeman is creating Sunday school material for children I imagine Joseph Goebbels (wherever he is …) is probably smiling on Valley Bible Church’s indoctrination efforts to teach people about Neo-Calvinism before they even are potty trained.
There is another thing I found interesting…from time to time I found simple covenants that were not as demanding as the Neo-Calvinist membership covenants but still reeked of legalism. I saw an example of that in Mark Tindle’s Seneca Creek Evangelical Free Church which they called a “partnership covenant.” Then I saw something else that got me thinking. Mark Tindle’s Seneca Creek quotes Isaiah 1:17 and runs through a number of “Imagine” if ____ (fill in the blank happened) situations of what faith could do for the world. You can read that here. He closes it out by saying the following….”Imagine if hundreds and eventually thousands of us lived our lives this way.Imagine HOPE. Imagine how our world would change.” To that I say the following…can you imagine what would happen if Christians actually practiced repentance and forgiveness? Could you imagine what would happen if Christians said “I’m sorry…” and worked to undo the damage they cause? Could you imagine what would happen if Mark Driscoll went back to Seattle and repented of plagiarism, calling women penis homes, and how he treated Paul Petry and Bent Meyer and others? Could you imagine what would happen if C.J. Mahaney shut down that racket of a run away Sovereign Grace church plant in Louisville and went back to Gaithersburg and repented of his sins of blackmail, shady activities, and allegedly covering up child sex abuse? Could you imagine if D.A Carson and The Gospel Coalition repented to those in the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace for their support of C.J. Mahaney in the face of the facts? In my case could you imagine what would happen if Andrew White sought me out and said, “Eagle I am sorry…lets work all this out and let me repair the damage.” Could you imagine how many lives could be healed, and what the atheist community would think of the church? Could you imagine how many people would cry in joy? So many people talk about The Gospel and yet so few actually practice it. Dee Parsons who writes The Wartburg Watch is one of the people who has been pushing for me to write a book, especially after I worked back through my life and sought forgiveness from so many people. Heck who knows maybe I should preach at T4G! 😉 But anyhow Mark Tindle…nice blog! In studying the Eastern District I’ve seen a few this is one of the best in the district. 🙂
This will be a hard-hitting post for many people and a heck of a way to introduce myself to the Evangelical Free Church’s Eastern District. With that said let me end on a couple of differing notes. In my research I learned that Jim Ramsak the Senior Pastor of Crossway Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent surgery December 18, 2015. I noticed he is preaching again, I just ask that those who read this say a quick prayer for him. My father went through a brain tumor and my heart goes out to his family. On a final closing note I also want to give out a shout out to South Mountain Bible Church in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania for their active prayer ministry and webpage which they update regularly. Most churches don’t care about people and often tend to look at them as their own personal ATM. To see a church respond that way is neat…how I wish more would engage in that manner. In the next couple of days I will reveal the rates of Reformed Theology/New Calvinism in the Eastern District. As always I love you guys..to the Eastern District I look forward to writing about you.