Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity

This is the story of Steve Estes’ Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Its the story of the Senior Pastor’s son who allegedly pulled a loaded gun on his wife and sexually assaulted her.  Hurit’s marriage to Brock Estes was brief. She filed for divorce after dealing with the domestic abuse, his pornography addiction, and alcoholism. The church leadership decided to hold a special service and excommunicate Hurit and declare that she was not a Christian. This is a story of domestic abuse, nepotism, problems with money, abusive church discipline, problems with membership covenants and failed Evangelical Free Church of America polity. It should be noted that some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent in this story.

“A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly. You are students of theology; and, just because you are students of theology, it is understood that you are religious men—especially religious men, to whom the cultivation of your religious life is a matter of the profoundest concern. In your case there can be no ‘either-or’ here—either a student or a man of God. You must be both.”      

Benjamin Warfield

“I could be dead this morning…”

Hurit the morning after her husband Brock David Estes allegedly pointed a loaded gun at his wife.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1 ESV

Steve Estes being interviewed.

**3/6/16 made a couple of quick edits** David

It is this author’s firm belief that the Evangelical Free Church of America is spiritually sick and that people are getting hurt in the denomination as a result. If I scratched under the surface I’m quite sure I’d find some disturbing stories of child sex abuse cover up. Other issues pertain to Neo-Calvinist church hijackings which force people from a congregation and leave them spiritually homeless. Another concern I have is the following: The Evangelical Free Church has done a number of church plants with the Acts 29 network, and with Mark Driscoll’s DNA still remaining on the network David has a question. How healthy are these church plants? Here, in the Washington, D.C. area, an example of such a church is Redemption Hill which is led by Bill Riedel. In addition, I have also wondered about levels of corruption in the Evangelical Free Church and what would the National Evangelical Free and the District do in such a situation? So I wrote a post on December 7, 2015 putting out a call for information on Neo-Calvinist church hijacking stories, corruption or child sex abuse. It only took a few days before people started to email me about differing situations in the Evangelical Free from around the country.

I have recently uncovered a situation at Community Evangelical Free Church located in Elverson, Pennsylvania whose Senior Pastor is Steve Estes. Hurit, who is at the center of the story, is a brave, and courageous individual. When I learned about her abusive marriage to Brock Estes, the Senior Pastor’s son; I felt sick.  In this story I ask you to join me and to stand with this brave person and the other families who left Community Evangelical Free and support them. Pray for them. This is a story that highlights a number of issues in evangelicalism. Those issues include nepotism, money, abusive church discipline, membership covenants, and corrupt church leadership which twisted and manipulated scriptures, along with sexual and domestic abuse. In this sad story a number of people reached out to the district and national Evangelical Free Church to express their concerns and seek help. However, both the District and National EFCA ignored their concerns and refused to get involved. In this story you will hear about the National Evangelical Free Church of America who was aware that a rape victim was disciplined, and fine with that action.

This is a long story and there is a lot to say. As a result I will break this up into six posts. Here is the outline:

  • An overview of Elverson, Pennsylvania and the history of Community Evangelical Free Church (CEFC); the Senior Pastor Steve Estes; the church leadership, and with that background in place, we will tell the story of Brock Estes’ marriage to Hurit. This will overview Brock’s pornography addiction, alcoholism, and domestic abuse to include allegedly pointing a loaded gun at his wife. This will also look at Hurit filing for divorce and Steve Estes’ determination to have her publically excommunicated and treated as an unbeliever.
  • The second post will deal with the excommuncication of Hurit by the Elders at CEFC. This also looks at how evidence of alleged criminal activity was hidden from the congregation out of a desire to “protect Brock.” In response a number of people turned and appealed to Steve Musser the Eastern District Superintendent and eventually the National Evangelical Free Church of America in Minneapolis  who refused to get involved. This issue started to tear apart the congregation and those who left were shunned. Many who have raised questions have been dismissed, ignored, and told to just trust their elders, which required blind obedience.
  • The third post is an open letter to Senior Pastor Steve Estes. Just a talk man to man and why Steve Estes and the CEFC Elders are going to repent and withdraw that public excommunication of Hurit. What they need to do and why they need to admit their error in this mess.
  • The fourth post is an open letter to Hurit. This is an open letter where this author is amazed by her bravery and courage.
  • The fifth post is an open letter to Matt Carter, Community’s Youth Pastor who admitted that Hurit was the victim of a crime, yet a week later decided to preside over her excommunication. This is a frank talk, man to man.
  • The final post deals with a comprehensive analysis of the situation of CEFC and Evangelical Free Church polity. There is a lot to examine in this post to include problems of nepotism, obsession with church growth, membership covenants, abusive church discipline, manipulation of scriptures, among so many other issues.

As I said it is my hope and prayer that each person who reads about this situation stands beside both Hurit and the brave people who went to bat for her, who continue to be shunned. David gladly stands in solidarity with them. It’s my hope that each person here will come alongside Hurit and support and help her carry the burden. It’s my hope that the church which has been both ugly and horrific in this story will also shine as more people stand up and support Hurit.

An Overview of Elverson, Pennsylvania

Elverson is a borough in the Amish countryside of Pennsylvania. According to the 2010 census the population is 1,225 with many people living in adjacent communities of Morgantown, Warwick, Loag, Glenmoore, and Geigertown.  Elverson is a small town nestled half way between Reading, and Philadelphia. The railroad came to Elverson in 1870 and the town is named after James Elverson who owned The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1899. The borough of Elverson was incorporated on April 17, 1911. Today it has a main street with a couple of businesses. People stay there because of family reasons. The largest store in the area is Wal Mart which means a lot to this small community.   In 1993 the Elverson Historic District was listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places.  One family that has deep roots in Elverson is the Stoltzfus family which came from the Amish. When Ammon Stoltzfus left the Amish,  after he found the Lord the Amish shunned him and permanently cut him off. Barbara Stoltzfus who is Merle, Verna and David’s mother gave an interview on her life on being Amish which you can watch here. The Stoltzfus family runs Stoltzfus Enterprises which is involved in building commercial and private homes, the Elverson Water Company and the Nantmeal Sewage Company. They are also involved in renting or buying real estate. Today this is owned by both Merle and David Stoltzfus. Dave and Merle who were also elders at Community Evangelical Free Church during this story.  David Stoltzfus’s sister is Verna Estes who is the wife of Steve Estes. The family relationships are going to be important to know in this story. Community Evangelical Free is a large church but it is not the only one in the area. You also have Hopewell Christian Fellowship and Morgantown Community Church.


Community Evangelical Free Church and Steve Estes

Community Evangelical Free Church started out as an apartment Bible study. In the course of time it held its first service on October 14, 1977 at the Twin Valley Elementary Center. It was a small service with only a handful of families. It grew to a church that eventually ran two services and 400 to 500 members and attenders. Community Evangelical Free was theologically hijacked around the 2000 time-frame . What split the congregation was infant baptism, which Steve Estes added in addition to believer’s baptism. The church was split and about 100 families left. It should be noted that because of Steve Estes’s theology, he could not be ordained in the EFCA. Without this ordination Steve Estes cannot be held accountable for moral failures by the EFCA. Today Community is a Reformed Church and holding to the five “solas” of the Reformation. This church follows both the Philadelphia Confession of Faith and the Westminster Confession of Faith. It should also be noted that this church also adheres to the Plurality of Elders when it comes to church governance. The Elders today are lead by Mike Rudolph. This is the current Elder board.  During this incident at Community Evangelical Free Church the Elder board consisted of the following individuals:

  • Mike Culbert
  • Dave Stoltzfus (brother to Verna Estes who is Steve Estes wife)
  • Larry Kenney
  • Matt Lambert (Project Manager at Stoltzfus Enterprises)
  • Doug Mountiz
  • Matt Griffith
  • Rick Renninger
  • Mike Rudolf
  • Chris Schreirer
  • Merle Stoltzfus (brother to Verna Estes who is Steve Estes wife)
  • Dave Stott
  • Matt Carter (employed as youth pastor)
  • Steve Estes
  • Al Kimball (CEFC associate pastor, pastoral care)
  • Cliff Montgomery

Before I spend time speaking about the Senior Pastor, these are the other key pastors at Community. Matt Carter is the Pastor of Youth and Outreach. He taught evangelism at a Bible college in Southern Ukraine.  He also spent a lot of time in the landscaping and construction industries. Al Kimball is the Pastor of Pastoral Care. He received his theological training at Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary. John Barber is the Director of Ministries. He is a layman in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).

The Senior Pastor of Community Evangelical Free Church is Steve Estes. Steve Estes grew up in Batimore, Maryland and started to attend Community in 1979. At the time Steve was completing his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees at Westminster Theological Seminary. It is important to note that people do not know where Steve Estes has been ordained, or if he has been ordained.  He became the Senior Pastor of Community in 1987. Steve Estes has his own website which you can read here. Steve has authored several books, which I will quickly examine.  Steve helped write two with Joni Erickson Tada. I remember hearing about Tada in my Campus Crusade days. She is paralyzed shoulders down from a diving accident in the Chesapeake Bay. She is a conference speaker who discusses pain and suffering.  Steve helped write “A Step Further Joni“, which was first published in 1978. This was Steve Estes first book that he published if my research is correct.  Steve and Joni wrote another book called “When God Weeps: Why Our Suffering Matters to the Almighty” in 1997. Another book Steve published is titled “Called to Die.” It is the story of Chester “Chet” Bitterman who was a Lancaster, Pennsylvania native who was kidnapped and killed in Columbia as a missionary.  According to this Lancaster news article he was also Steve Estes’s personal friend. The newest book that the Senior Pastor of Community Evangelical Free published is called A Better December.” This book deals with holiday stress by applying Solomon’s Proverbs to the situation. This came out in October 2013. Steve is also adjunct faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary. Here is his write up on the seminary website and he has also taught in the chapel as well. According to what I have read he teaches both preaching and practical theology. Steve Estes is also on the Board of the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation. I should also note that Dave Harvey, whose family has deep issues and who was involved in disciplining individuals at Covenant Fellowship Church while his son went haywire which has been discussed on SGM Survivors, is the Chairman of the Board of CCEF. Steve Estes married into the Stoltzfus family when he took Verna as his wife. Steve Estes and Verna Estes have 8 children. In this story I am going to be discussing Brock David Estes.

CEFC Building

The new building at Community Evangelical Free as taken from Brick Ln in late January 2016.

It should also be mentioned that Community Evangelical Free Church undertook a building campaign.  This was called The Capital Campaign.  This building campaign began in 2012. The local congregation was expected to raise 30% of the project cost before the construction began for the building. The cost of the building has varied starting at $1.2 million in 2012 and jumping up to $4.5 million, and going up again to $6.2 million  and resting somewhere between $5 and $6 million today. Due to the costs of the building, and the excommunication or Hurit support declined substantially.  There was no outside bidding by other construction companies, other than Stoltzfus Enterprises,  despite a strong urging by many that multiple bids should be obtained.  When they decided to build the new building the contract was given to the Stoltzfus Enterprise. As we will see in this story, Community Evangelical Free Church is a Stoltzfus family business as well. Was the driving force behind the building campaign the owners of Stoltzfus Enterprises? After all Dave Stoltzfus was serving as the Chairman of the building committee. Were the plans made available to all the members of the building committee?  The building is in the process of being built.


Hurit and Brock David Estes’s Marriage

Hurit hails from the Mt. Penn, Pennsylvania area. I will cover this in more detail in the open letter I am writing to Hurit, but her heritage is rich as it’s Native American. She is a descendent of the Cree and Ojibwa tribes. The Cree is an Algonquian speaking people who have lived westward of Lake Superior. They reside in Canada, and in the United States, mainly in Montana today. The Ojibwa people are stretched from northern New York out east to Montana in the west. Hurit in the native language is translated as “beautiful.” Hurit met Brock in 2008 when they dated. Brock Estes is a prison guard in the Berks County Jail. On December 31, 2009 Brock proposed to Hurit in the home of a Community Evangelical Free Church member where Hurit accepted. She was going to become Steve Estes’ daughter-in-law. Brock was going into this marriage addicted to pornography.  As we will see the pornography is really the tip of the iceberg in this situation. Brock and Hurit were married at  Schwarzwald United Church of Christ in Reading, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2010. Hurit realized that pornography was a major issue for Brock. They installed internet monitoring software on their computer much to Brock’s frustration. It should also be said that Brock claimed that if Hurit exercised, wore the right make up, and ate right  that it would help with his pornography problems.

There was another concern that started to become an issue, and I wonder if Hurit knew of this issue before the marriage. In the community of Elverson, Brock Estes had a reputation for being a hard drinker since his teenage years. Some in the community viewed Brock as an alcoholic. In the marriage, the drinking of alcohol got worse as time passed. The drinking which took place on the weekends started to occur during the week. Sometimes Brock would come home and take hard shots and ignore Hurit. Brock also has a sleeping disorder. He claimed the alcohol was to help him sleep, but as he medicated himself more with alcohol the sleeping disorder continued to get worse over the course of time. The alcohol problem is linked to one of the more disturbing incidents of Hurit’s marriage. It started out with Brock drinking while he played golf. He came home and drank more and forced himself sexually upon his wife. Hurit didn’t consent to the sexual activity and on that night Brock sexually assaulted his wife with verbal abuse being intense.  Hurit considers this the worst night of her marriage.  When Matt Carter a Pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church heard about Brock’s behavior in regards to the sexual assault he stated that he considered this to be rape. In the same incident Brock had consumed so much alcohol that he was passed out in bed for two days.

As previously mentioned, Brock has a sleeping disorder that he never pursued long term treatment for during his marriage. He did have a sleep study after Hurit moved out. In his sleep, Brock would move around, get up, hide or destroy things waking Hurit on many occasions. There were times where Brock acted violently to Hurit and then claimed he couldn’t remember any of it. The two most disturbing incidents allegedly involve a loaded gun, and putting his wife in a headlock where she couldn’t move or breath. In one incident Hurit woke up to Brock standing bedside and loading a gun which was described as a slide type pistol. Brock waved the gun across the room and in the process allegedly pointed the loaded firearm at his wife. Hurit left the bedroom to go sleep on the couch. Brock came out angry that she left. Then Brock, who claimed that he knew how to handle a firearm, allegedly forcefully threw a loaded gun into a cabinet.  Hurit woke up the following morning after this incident and thought to herself, “I could be dead this morning.” Following this incident Ryan Smith a Police Officer in Lancaster County at the time, he now works for Pottsgrove Police Department took the gun from Brock. This is another legal issue and ethical problem that Ryan faces. Ryan should not have removed the gun without reporting  this incident first to law enforcement.  Ryan’s wife, (then his girlfriend) was staying with Hurit the night this incident happened. When Brock was asked about the incident he claimed that he remembered walking through the home with his gun looking for someone. He stated that he was partly asleep and partly awake. Yet, to other people, Brock claimed to remember the incident. The other troubling incident occurred when Hurit woke up to being in a headlock by Brock. Brock’s grip was firm and she couldn’t get out of it, and she couldn’t breath. After that situation Hurit decided that she would not have children with Brock as she was afraid that a child could be killed. Hurit felt like children shouldn’t be introduced into this situation unless Brock got some help. In addition to the pornography, alcohol issues, the alleged gun incident, and the headlock, Hurit didn’t believe that Brock loved her. She felt alienated, often alone, and was kicked out of the bedroom.

After one of the more disturbing incidents Steve and Verna Estes went over to visit Brock and Hurit. The senior pastor brought Hurit flowers.  Steve Estes never mentioned the incident again. Steve never followed up or offered help to his daughter-in-law.  Steve’s disengagement was a source of frustration for Hurit. So the Senior Pastor of Community Evangelical Free Church knew of the situation involving his son and the severity of it. The question that needs to be asked is this, is the main motivation in Steve’s behavior to preserve the reputation of his family?


Steve Estes’s Orchestrated Excommunication of Hurit

On September 9, 2013 Hurit left Brock. There remained too many issues for her –  from Brock’s deceit over the pornography, to his drinking binges, to his violent sleeping behavior or the incident where he allegedly threatened Hurit with a loaded firearm. This had become a safety issue and she left.

On October 31, 2013, shortly after the separation, Steve Estes held a private meeting with a few handpicked women. Steve introduced Brock as “the most repentant man he had seen in his 30 years of ministry.” The purpose of the meeting was to have the women ‘woo’ and encourage Hurit to return quietly back to Brock. During this meeting, Steve made it very clear that the meeting was to be kept confidential. He stated that he had not shared this situation of Brock’s and Hurit’s marriage with any of the elders at this point. Steve also mentioned that he wanted Hurit to return to this marriage quietly, so she could walk back through the doors of CEFC quietly. This committee was kept from  Hurit, as well as the Elders  of Community Evangelical Free Church’s knowledge until January of 2014.  At the meeting with the women,  Steve shared a letter from Hurit to Brock. There, at the meeting Brock confessed his shortcomings. He claimed that he had repented; however, while talking about his shortcomings Brock never mentioned the incident with the loaded gun. Steve was not concerned for his daughter-in-law’s safety and this remained an issue throughout much of 2013 up until Hurit’s excommunication.

Sometime after the meeting, one of the women reached out to Brock and his parents, expressing her concerns regarding the secrecy of the “Women’s” meeting and believed it would be damaging to Hurit if she ever found out. Steve Estes made it very clear that Hurit was not to find out.   On November 23, 2013 Hurit asked to borrow Brock’s computer. Brock left his email open and Hurit saw the communication between Brock and the women on the committee that Steve Estes put together. All this was done under the table and kept from Hurit. The backhanded, Chicago style politics by the Senior Pastor deeply upset her. That night Steve Estes and Verna met with Hurit and her parents. Steve clearly told her that if she got divorced from Brock then she would be excommunicated from the church and “declared” an unbeliever. Basically Steve Estes had given his daughter-in-law an ultimatum.

On December 15, 2013, Hurit filed for divorce from Brock Estes. In the January 2014 Elders meeting at Community,  Steve Estes told the Elder board of the situation. The news of the situation started to draw attention and members of the congregation spoke with Brock and asked him, “why he was not pursuing his wife?”  Brock claimed that he had repented, but it was hard for many people to see. There was no restraining order or legal action taken against him that would have stopped him from pursuing his wife. It was stated to one member that Brock was guided and coached by Steve Estes, and the Elders not to reach out to Hurit. During  this time David Stoltzfus, Brock’s Uncle, who was also his shepherding elder kept trying to convince people that his nephew,  Brock , “repented.” Many people at CEFC had a hard time believing it. Because he was Brock’s Uncle, some believed he should step away and recuse himself from the situation, after all this was a conflict of interest situation.  Shortly afterward Hurit’s attorney contacted Brock Estes and said that the divorce papers were ready.  Brock Estes said that ‘he couldn’t sign them yet…she needed to be excommunicated first, then he could sign them.’

This communication happened early in the year, the plan that Steve Estes and the leadership had was to discipline Hurit through excommunication and then declare her an unbeliever.  In order for the church to justify Brock signing the divorce papers, Hurit needed to be declared an unbeliever. There was no love in the situation. When Hurit said that Brock didn’t love her, others in the congregation came to realize that Hurit is correct. On February 25, 2013 Hurit was encouraged to meet with the Elders of Community and after thinking about it considerably in April agreed to do so. On April 16, 2014, the meeting took place at the home of a church member who is also a close friend of Hurit.  The Elders from Community that were present were Matt Lambert and Matt Griffith. In the meeting,  Hurit opened up and read about the problems in her marriage. The pornography, the domestic abuse, the alcohol problems and that her husband allegedly pointed a gun at her. Hurit read for an hour and when she finished exhausted the very first question she was asked by one of the Elders’s was “What sin do you bring to the table?” After the meeting Hurit cried and her friend re-assured her that the church wouldn’t force someone back into a domestic abuse situation. During this time the Elder’s requested that Hurit go into counseling and meet with them. When she did seek counsel however, she was rejected. She did agree to meet with the Elders but they were frustrated because it was not on their terms.

During the entire ordeal some of the Elders, communicated that the church had to “protect Brock and his job.” The issue was that Brock had allegedly engaged in illegal behavior and there was concern that his employer the Berks County Jail would find out. Mike Rudolff said the following about  withholding information from the congregation, “it is by design.” Matt Carter said that their behavior is to  “protect Brock.” On June 29, 2014 the Chairman of the Elder Board asked Hurit’s close friend to meet with Brock Estes. At the meeting Brock spoke about how he remembered the gun incident, and the sexual violation of his wife, which he stated that he was too drunk to remember.  He also said he looked at pornography only 5 times in his marriage. In the meantime, members and personal friends of the church contacted Hurit and shared with her that unless she repented she would be excommunicated and her friends would cut her off.

Sometime in July, 2014, a couple from church met with a counselor regarding the situation and she had encouraged them to meet with the church’s leadership and discuss the legal ramifications of Brock’s alleged criminal activity and the impact that it would have on the church. On July 20, 2014 this couple met with Steve, his wife, and 2 other Elders and shared this concern. After the couple shared these concerns, Steve took over the meeting and spent time speaking with the Elders on the situation. Steve spent the rest of the meeting telling those present of the efforts that the elders had made to reach out to Hurit. However, just the opposite was true.  There was no dialog, and/or discussion; there was no ‘seeking to understand.’ The decision was already made by Steve Estes’ the day that Hurit filed for divorce – that unless she submitted to his authority – she was going down.

After many months Hurit finally agreed to go to counseling at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF).  A member of the church who is a close friend picked her up and drove her to CCEF in Philadelphia for counseling. After checking in and completing the paperwork the Director of Counseling Cecilia Bernhardt came and asked to speak to Hurit. Next the Director of Counseling asked to speak to Hurit’s friend stating that Hurit could not get the proper counseling at CCEF due to her relationship with Steve Estes.  Since Steve Estes is on the board of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, it would be a conflict of interest to see Hurit. Hurit’s friend begged and pleaded for them to reconsider their refusal to help Hurit. After all why did CCEF want to turn away Hurit? Were they concerned about the illegal activity and the cover up of allegations especially with Steve Estes being on the board? Did someone from Community Evangelical Free Church reach out and tell CCEF to deny Hurit treatment? Hurit’s friend  was taken to Hurit who had been left crying in a room by herself.  This happened in the office that David Powlison is responsible for running.  Again the person who broke the news to Hurit that couldn’t receive counseling  was Cecilia Bernhardt who is the Director of Counseling.  Hurit’s friend asked for CCEF to intervene due to the issues of domestic abuse.

On July 25, 2014 this same couple who had previously sought counsel regarding the situation had a phone conversation with Barbara Allis who is on the board of CCEF.   When she heard of the situation in Hurit’s marriage she was stunned. She explained and gave two examples of an excommunication that occurred at her church stating that it was a “black and white” situation. Barbara then acknowledged that this situation, “was not black and white.” Interestingly however, Steve Estes, had also contacted Barbara Allis previously and according to him, Barbara did not believe that there were any issues.

On September 14, 2014 Hurit emailed the Elders at Community asking to meet with three of them. She proposed three dates of September 22, 24, and 30th. The Elders denied Hurit’s request. Right before the trial Hurit emailed her sister-in-law on the Estes’ side and told them that she loved them. The one replied saying that she was going to be excommunicated unless she repented, and that she had ‘a lot of repenting to do as Brock had done.’ And with that Hurit was cut off from one of her close friends.


Hurit’s Trial and Month Leading up to Excommunication

A trial procedure is in CEFC’s Church Discipline policies. The person that has been charged is to come before the elder board, and plead guilty to all of the charges that the elders brought against that individual. The elders bring in witnesses to testify against the person that has charges brought against them. The person on trial may invite witnesses as well. Each witness is brought in before the elders, and questioned by them. At the end, the elder decided if the person guilty or not guilty. The first trial was set in July; however, it was canceled because Hurit did not show up. It was rescheduled on September 15.  This trial was created by Ken Sande’s Peacemakers, as we will see this trial had nothing to do with peace.  It should also be noted that 6 out of the 19 individuals attending the trial were related to Brock (his parents, his uncle, and his 2 sister-in-laws); 14 were there to support Brock, leaving 3 to support Hurit. What were the criteria for the selection of the attendees? Who acted as the defense attorney? Who acted as the objective jurors?

Hurit did not attend the trial and it went on without her. The trial which was concealed and held from the congregation was done in silence. One member of Community walked through the door and they were asked to leave. They were puzzled.  The trial started at 5:00 p.m. and lasted until 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Matt Griffith, Joey Culbert, Matt Lambert and much of the Estes family including Steve and Brock came and testified. People were intentionally kept in the dark and called in one at a time. No one knew what was happening. Some just stayed for the duration of their testimony and left. Most of the people there were for Brock’s support. The trial consisted of 15 Elders and though Steve Estes was excused he later got his hands on the minutes of the trial. The feeling at the trial was bizarre and heavy. One of the witnesses for Hurit, was shaking. The charges against Hurit were announced and they were the following:

(a.) When Hurit Estes experienced marital difficulties with her husband, rather than follow the Matthew 18 path of confrontation that pursues reconciliation, she initiated divorce on ground that are unbiblical and violated her wedding vows.

(b.) There has been a refusal to reconcile with her husband despite his contrition for the sins  he brought into the marriage, his seeking her forgiveness, and his significant attempts to win her back.

(c.) Throughout, in violation of her membership vows, Hurit has pursued outside counsel that supports her pursuit of divorce while substantially dismissing the counsel of her church leaders and her family.  

During the trial people were told just to stick on the charges. They were not to raise other issues such as the alleged incident with the gun or Hurit’s alleged rape by Brock. The 12 elders would only hear evidence related to the three charges above.  When the witness for Hurit testified she talked about Brock committing adultery though his pornography addiction.  Despite the call to stick to those charges above this witness  was brave and courageous in challenging the court and speaking boldly about the gun incident. Some Elders knew about the gun, others did not, and despite this, the gun incident was downplayed. During this kangaroo court Matt Lambert who was one of the Elders listened to everything and then came down and testified against Hurit.  At about 4:00 in the morning they called people back in. Present at the time were Brock Estes, Steve and Verna Estes, two of Steve’s daughter-in-laws and the witness for Hurit.  It was pronounced that Hurit was found guilty.

The following day Hurit was sent the following email below.

Dear Hurit, 

Last evening our elder board met for a solemn task. Our goal was to consider three charges against you as a Christian. We wish we could have heard from you personally regarding these points, and that you had brought others to speak in your behalf whom we may not have known.  

All total, we heard from seventeen people who know you, love you, and have been in your life in some way over the past year or years. Several spoke eloquently and at length to defend you of these charges.  

This process was thorough. We heard from these seventeen over a course of nearly ten hours, from 5:00 PM Monday to after 3:00 in the morning. After weighing their words and reports, and after considering every angle we could think of, we concluded that the three points are accurate and fair — they justly portray an unbiblical response on your part to the marriage difficulties you experienced. 

Brock’s sins and faults were not without serious consideration last night. They were neither ignored nor minimized. But we believe Brock to have repented, and we must conclude by your actions that you have not. 

We will meet again quite soon to prayerfully decide what steps of discipline should follow, in accordance with Matthew 18 and similar passages. You can stop that process at any time by meeting with us — not just to talk — but to take divorce off the table, to repent of the items in the three charges, and to work toward reconciliation with Brock (however slow and painful a process that may be) . 

We write this in sadness, and with passages like these in mind: 

(Prov 15:31) “He who listens to a life‑giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” 

(Heb 12::6) “The Lord disciplines those he loves.” 

Feel free to respond to this e-mail with any questions you may have.  

Your brothers,  

The CEFC Elder Board

After ward the following letter was sent to the church. As you can read below in the third paragraph there is the obsession with one member – Hurit. There is no reference to Brock’s sin, or allegedly pointing a loaded weapon at his wife.

Sept 22 Letter

That letter was followed by two more which you can see below:

October 8 letter


Dec 5 Letter

Dec 5 Letter (2)

Shortly before the public excommunication,  Hurit met with Matt Carter at the Bakers Table in Lancaster. At the meeting she described  the domestic abuse and the pornography. She pressed Matt…”is Brock a pornography addict?” Crying at the table she asked to be told the truth. Matt Carter agreed with Hurit and acknowledged that Brock did have deep problems with pornography. When Matt Carter heard of Brock’s behavior especially in allegedly sexually assaulting his wife, Matt responded by saying, “Hurit, I would call that rape.” Shortly after that meeting Community sent out the following letter to the congregation. You will see that last letter below.

December 7 letter

Hurit’s public excommunication would take place on December 14, 2014. It was an awkward time as it was the Christmas holiday season. The special church service was also announced at Community Evangelical Free Church’s regular service.  Matt Carter told a member of the youth group that his parents were wrong for allowing him to read Hurit’s letter to the church (see below), yet members were encouraged to attend the excommunication service and bring their children. All youth activity that night was canceled so that they could attend the excommunication service of a rape victim.

In response to that previous letter Hurit sent out the following a few days before the excommunication service:

December 11, 2014

This past Sunday I received what I understand will be the last communication from the elder board at CEFC. A copy of that letter will be included.

My life and current life circumstances have certainly been a topic of conversation for many this part year. I haven’t spoken up very much. There is a small circle of people who have come alongside me to offer support, love, and words of advice. I am eternally grateful for them… they know who they are and I would not be where I am today without them. Around the time I started thinking about telling my story, a few of them came to me with similar thoughts. This week’s latest developments only served as confirmation. So I write to all of you with the intention of sharing my story from my perspective…I would like to dispel a few myths, clarify some of the facts, and hopefully eliminate the need for speculation and gossip surrounding the pain of the entire situation.

You all know that I got married in the summer of 2010. I think it is important to note that I entered our marriage with absolute confidence that I wanted it…. I was ready and excited to be married, even with all of the work and imperfection that I knew it would hold. Hindsight is 20/20. Signs of what our relationship would look like were there all along. The changes began immediately after engagement. More notable changes came following the day we said “I do.” It wasn’t until a year in that I really began to question things, worry, and primarily blame myself for the rapid decline in our marriage.

I married {my husband} knowing that he struggled with an addiction to pornography. He assured me that marriage would solve the problem. I was satisfied with our agreement to be open about it if it ever became an issue. When we were married about 18 months, he admitted to me that he had been lying since day one and it was a frequent and ongoing issue. After installing a program on the laptop we shared, he said problem solved and was unwilling to talk about it again. A lot began to make sense after that. {He} became increasingly distant throughout our time together. I thought it was some fault of mine and he confirmed that by reminding me of my need to exercise, eat right, wear makeup, and dress according to his specifications. He made it clear when I didn’t meet the standard. Weeks and months would pass between times of his expressing interest in me.

Around that same time, I began to see red flags in the amount of alcohol that was consumed. It started as a weekend thing. When week days became “weekends” due to work schedules and problems sleeping overwhelmed him, the frequency increased. By year two to three, he was coming home from work and drinking before removing his jacket or speaking to me. Several shots were justified with the need to get a good night sleep. As I started to worry, I pointed out the expense and the need to find a medical solution to the sleep issue. I was disregarded. We overdraw our account on an almost weekly basis and he continued to act out at night, despite the “self medicating.” Like any addiction, more and more was needed. The criticism of his sober mind intensified with every drink and late drunken nights turned into a slew of hurtful words and actions. While he never hit me, I reached the end of my tolerance on one night in particular. Words that I can barely repeat were screamed in my face amidst hysterical laughter. He shoved me and took advantage of me sexually that night and claims to have no recollection of a single moment.

I mentioned that there is a sleeping disorder. It is a very real problem… one that I never would fault {him} for. Except in this regard….the unwillingness to address it when we were together allowed so many opportunities for self-harm and harm to me. On a very regular basis, {he} would get up/yell or scream and often need help settling back down to sleep. At first we would laugh when we woke up and furniture has been relocated or random objects hidden/broken. At times he would lift me or move me from where I slept. Several times I woke up in a tight headlock/chokehold and needed to wake him enough to loosen his grip. The sleep episodes brought unnatural strength and I witnessed some strange things. He always said the intention was not to hurt me, but the fact remains that he did. I justified it and defended him, keeping it a secret as requested until one specific night. My friend was spending the night so we could car pool to nursing clinical the following morning when this happened. I woke up to the sound of a gun cocked and opened my eyes to see him standing on my side of the bed, gun pointed at me. I panicked and tried to determine if he was asleep (it was always hard to tell as his eyes would stay open). I got up and tried talking to him before moving to the couch. My friend slept in the spare room. A moment later he came into the living room yelling and demanding that I come back to bed. He was insulted that I didn’t trust his ability to handle a firearm. I told him that it was only because he was not conscious… he grabbed the gun and threw it forcefully into a kitchen cabinet before heading back to bed. I thought him awake at this point. He tells me he doesn’t remember any of it. He tells others he does and was awake. I don’t know what is true. Of course on the way to school, my friend asked what had happened. Her boyfriend, also our friend, addressed it with {him} and insisted that he seek medical help for his sleep disorder. {He} finally agreed. After deciding it must be anxiety related, he went to the doctor and requested a prescription for Xanax. I wasn’t satisfied. He was. He didn’t respond well when I would attempt to bring it up after that. The gun situation happened twice. The other time it was not pointed directly at me…. Simply loaded and pointed randomly.

I would sometimes ask for an explanation. I generally thought it was something I was doing wrong to be treated the way I was. I asked to go to counseling a few times. When it became clear that things weren’t going to improve, I talked to {him} and expressed that I was tired and didn’t see us making it. He pointed to the door and when I didn’t walk out, I was told to sleep on the couch. That was last summer (2013). We were separated at home for about a month before I moved to my parents. It was then that I began individual counseling with a counselor on staff from another church. I talked to only a few from our church. My first was a woman from my small group. I was met with condemnation and told that I was experiencing “normal” marital struggles. While I certainly did not realize the gravity of my situation, I knew that I didn’t think my problems were normal. Even more than that, I knew that if this was what marriage and my life would look like, I wouldn’t make it. I was dying inside. I wasn’t at all myself. I lost all desire to live.

The weeks dragged. {he} changed his tune and demonstrated what I felt to be insignificant and pointless attempts to make things right. He still maintained that he did not have a problem with pornography and took a brief fast from alcohol to cure my worry and doubt. It was a painful process. I was not seeing any evidence of a heart change or real remorse. Meanwhile his family and friends were more and more convinced of his drastic turnaround, leaving me to appear as the stubborn and unforgiving wife.  I decided to file paperwork in November. By mid December I had completed the legal process on my end.

Around the time I made this decision, I had a visit from his parents {the senior pastor and his wife}. In a few hours, it was clearly explained to me that I would be excommunicated from the church if I didn’t change my mind. The pastor/my father-in-law outlined the process and I expected it would begin immediately. The elders were involved shortly thereafter.

After the church was brought up to speed, the meetings began. Initially I asked to not be contacted at all. With some counsel, prayer, and a close friend by my side, I agreed to meet with two elders. I was led to believe that this meeting would suffice in fulfilling my obligation to come to the elders. I shared the whole story. They showed no expression and asked no questions. When the evening had ended, I was informed that we would need to schedule another meeting, and again I was told of the possibility of excommunication.

Much time passed. I had decided to be done with the church process and felt very disappointed in the way things had been handled. By this point, all of my friends from church had already cut me out of their lives and I was exhausted. With much encouragement, I agreed to go to a church within a similar network for counseling. It had become very evident that the church did not see my current mentors as trustworthy sources. When we arrived, I was informed that I could not and would not be seen due to my relationship with the senior pastor who sat on the board. This was despite the fact that a friend had already cleared me for counsel when she scheduled my appointment. The realization that I would not find help or support within the system was devastating. I decided again that I was done for good.

Some time passed. I received more unwanted letters. I was informed of a hearing that had been scheduled. Unable to attend, I requested a meeting with three elders. It was told that this request would not take the place of or suffice as a means for reversing the pending excommunication. I accepted that and still opted to not attend the hearing. Without my presence, no one that wanted to speak on my behalf could attend as they were members of other churches. A group of mostly {my husband’s} friends and family testified that night. I know little about it, except that it swung in his favor.

Soon after, I met with one of the pastors on staff. We talked at length and I was able to clarify many of the questions that he and others had. It became evident that {he} had lied to me more than I realized and some of the testimonies given were inaccurate but also swayed the decision in a drastic way.

I feel I could go on and on. The bottom line is that I found myself in an emotionally, verbally, at times physically abusive relationship void of protection in which my husband also neglected my needs for the sake of other women in the form of pornography. I made a decision to leave based off of a realization that things were not changing and could not change with someone who continually denied the problems. It was hard for me to come to an understanding of what I was truly living with. Leslie Vernick writes in her book about determining the difference between disappointment and destruction in marriage. Mine was destructive. And I chose to protect myself.

If I am excommunicated for that decision, so be it. But my story needed to be told from my perspective with my words. I know that nothing can separate me from the love of my Father in heaven and I know that he will not forsake me. For the sake of other women who are no doubt struggling in similar ways, I hope and I pray for the day when these situations will be approached with more understanding and grace. The pain cannot be wasted. We need to be heard. Only when we address these issues, can we learn an effective way to foster an environment for restoration and healing.



What happened next is deeply disturbing. It involves abusive church discipline on trumped up charges. During the excommunication service crucial information about Brock allegedly pointing a firearm at his wife was concealed from the congregation. It would tear at the congregation and would result in members leaving the church and appealing this issue to the Eastern District led by Steve Musser and National  Evangelical Free Church where it would fall on deaf ears.

37 thoughts on “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity

  1. I have to tell all of you reading that this has been a deeply disturbing story that has weighed on me for the last several months. What has haunted me the most is what Steve Estes’s son Brock allegedly done. He allegedly pointed a loaded gun at his wife. That image of someone in bed with a husband allegedly pointing a loaded firearm at her is burned in my brain. I have had a hard time letting go of that.

    Its my opinion that the problem that also exists is the following…if Brock could allegedly point a loaded weapon at his wife as a guard in the Berks County Jail what could he do to an inmate? The inmates are vulnerable by their position and if they reported anything doubt would probably be cast on them. I am going to do analysis at the second week but I want o post this for all the members in CEFC and Elverson to consider.

    Recently in the Washington, D.C. area a policeman from Prince Georges County, Maryland was sentenced to 5 years in jail for pointing a loaded gun at another individual. You can read that story here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a story of why you never, NEVER sign a membership covenant. Who would have imagined when they signed a membership covenant in 2007 or so that in 2013 that the Senior Pastor’s son Brock would allegedly sexually assault his wife while under the influence of alcohol. This is why you don’t sign membership covenants…man is sinful. Who would have imagined that the Senior Pastor’s son who allegedly sexually assaulted his wife would cause so much division to the community of Elverson, PA.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I noticed two bits of information, one at the beginning of your post and one at the end.
    “What split the congregation was infant baptism, which Steve Estes added in addition to believer’s baptism. The church was split and about 100 families left.”
    I’ve seen this before. If I were to insist on a change that caused a half dozen people to leave I would be labeled divisive. If the pastor does it what do you call it? Leadership? Note we are not speaking of confronting a sin issue as when Paul confronted the Corinthians. If you see this divisive behavior in a pastor early on look out once they have consolidated their power.

    Then this at the end:
    “members leaving the church and appealing this issue to the Eastern District led by Steve Musser and National Evangelical Free Church where it would fall on deaf ears.”
    Time and time again I will hear church leaders complaints that such disputes should be handled via Matthew 18, “go to them alone”. Here we find people did go to them as per Matthew 18 and how was that received? What did that accomplish? So keep that in mind when you hear them now complain that this is not how we should handle it. Well folks read all of Matthew, Jesus makes it pretty clear that authoritarian positions in his church are wrong so “go to them alone” can’t be applicable. Instead take a look at how Nathan confronted King David, publicly, or better yet, how Jesus referred to the Pharisees.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed Bill…in this case people tried to talk to the leadership of CEFC and the Eastern District and national. That is in Wednesday’s post by the way. I have some of the emails where you can see the correspondence and the Eastern District deciding to do nothing. In some of these situations its a damned if you do , and damned if you don’t. All this emphasis of approaching in a Biblical manner and that still doesn’t work. And yet some of these people claim to have a high view of scripture? Come on…

      Liked by 1 person

      • “All this emphasis of approaching in a Biblical manner”
        I’ve had that one used on me in a meeting before. Just because something is in the bible does not make it biblical when it is taken out of context. Encouraging someone with Matthew 27:5, “he went out and hung himself” may be “biblical” but it isn’t biblical.

        I have found that there are many “biblical” teachings going around that aren’t all that biblical. Matthew 18 “go to them alone” may be one of the most misapplied passages used in the church today, likely because it is misused as a means to silence opposition to authoritarian leadership.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. What a gross miscarriage of justice! The excommunication letter the church sent to Hurit is terrible. How could an elder board sign off on that? Community Evangelical Free Church is toxic and any self-respecting individual capable of independent thought should realize that. How anyone remains a member is incomprehensible.

    “What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord.”
    Jeremiah 23:1

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed Todd…this is why many churches should put church discipline on the back burner. They are nit ready for church discipline being prime time. From a rape victim being disciplined, to Karen Hinkley’s story at The Village Church, to the current story being told at The Wartburg Watch about Lakeside Bible Church in Montgomery, Texas. Wednesday’s post gets into the excommunication service and how the Eastern District of the EFCA as well as national responded.

      But as I tweeted last night…when is Steve Estes and Matt Carter and the others going to face church discipline? When is Steve Estes going to be excommunicated and have his faith fall into question?

      Liked by 2 people

      • But as I tweeted last night…when is Steve Estes and Matt Carter and the others going to face church discipline? When is Steve Estes going to be excommunicated and have his faith fall into question?

        Big Brother Can Do No Wrong, Comrade.

        Liked by 3 people

    • The excommunication letter the church sent to Hurit is terrible. How could an elder board sign off on that?

      “Elder Board”?
      Do you mean Pastor’s Sock Puppets?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve read Joni Eareckson’s and Steve Estes’ books that they’ve written together. Joni, in her autobiography, has written about how Steve was a mentor to her. This development is saddening and heartbreaking to me.

    More and more, I find myself not wanting to trust *anything* that evangelical Christianity puts out or teaches.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hurit, I commend you for your bravery in speaking the truth to this situation. I believe every word of your testimony.

    Hurit, it makes me sad that you seem somewhat reluctant to fully comprehend the depths of the abuse piled upon you. It’s as if you have lived with the abuse for so long that is has been normalized in your mind, and thus minimalized. (Not to mention that people you looked up to told you that it wasn’t as it seemed, or it wasn’t so bad, etc. They are wrong, very, very wrong!)

    Let me unequivocally state that it is never proper, Godly, humane, for a husband to wave a loaded gun in the home. I don’t care if he pointed it in your direction or not, the simple fact that a waving gun is in your home, places your life in danger and gives you the right to state that you have been abused, physically and emotionally.

    The verbal threat of harm is all it takes for a wife to be emotionally abused, a physically imposing threat is enough, a loaded weapon is surely sufficient. Girl, you have my permission to not make excuses for your feelings because your feelings are right. You have been the victim of abuse upon abuse upon abuse. (Have you seen the Wheel of Abuse? I think your husband’s behavior hits many of of the abusive points.)

    The physical threats and choke-holds would have made any genuine husband seek to resolve sleep issues and would have caused him to put measures in place to protect his beloved wife until he could safely sleep with his wife.

    The rape is a violation of marital intimacy and not acceptable. Period.

    The “court” was very difficult to read about. Talk about false testimony and strange charges. This increases the former abuses many-fold. Such a horror. Not at all done in love or with God’s holy righteousness as a goal.

    These are evil men with evil intent, in my opinion. I hope this series of articles reveals the truth of your situation to church members and sheds light on the darkness.

    Hurit, dear sister, go forth with head held high. You have come through so many horrible abuses and I wish for you that you can look forward to the future with hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is not a matter of true repentance or even of forgiveness, it is a matter of consequences of what behaviors that are divorce worthy. God has granted divorce for protection, and even had Brock confessed and repented of his sin, due to the nature and gravity of the offense committed by Brock against his wife, divorce was the God ordained consequence and a protection for Hurit.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Accepting the consequences of your actions is a sign of responsibility. That is missing in this story. Brock has not accepted his responsibilities in this mess. or have Steve Estes or Matt Carter. When they call Hurit to repent…..repent of what? Repent of being the wife of an alcoholic? Repent of being a domestic abuse victim? What is she to repent of. Brock ended his marriage by his behavior. Period. There is so much in evangelicalism about being a man, but a true man owns his mistakes. Oh…and btw..if anyone here is interested CEFC is having their Men’s Retreat in a couple of weeks. There is still time to sign up for it.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. It is this author’s firm belief that the Evangelical Free Church of America is spiritually sick and that people are getting hurt in the denomination as a result. David Bonner

    D.B., you don’t appear to grasp – there is NO EV Free Church other than the local congregation. You can’t join the denomination.

    6. The Evangelical Free Church of America affirms the right of each local church to govern its own affairs with a spirit of interdependency with other churches.

    Each individual church is autonomous David. There is quite the variety in the E.V. Free association.

    I recall when Jimmy Carter got mad and announced he was quitting the Southern Baptist denomination..

    He didn’t realize, you AREN’T a member of the Southern Baptist denomination, you ARE or ARE NOT a member of a local church Southern Baptist Church. You can’t join the denomination.

    Same for the EV Free, you can’t join the denomination. You can only join a local church and there is a variety of church polities and a variety of memberships. Each church individually works that stuff out on their own. They do NOT report for marching orders from Minneapolis. Nor can the district superintendant tell then what they must do.

    Each church is autonomous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think its a matter of semantics. Of course it is the church you join. But if the church is part of a denomination, then you, in essence, are also part of that denomination.
      If each church in any given denomination “works stuff out on their own”, even when there are issues of criminal activity or abuse being overlooked. Then what is the point of being part of a denomination? They should actually just be independent churches….who “work stuff out on their own”.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Gigi…
    The point is money. The local church gives a “tithe” to the denomination. Take my personal experience. My daughter was abused by my nephew when she was 3. His parents work at the church my spouse grew up in. After all the family drama and backstapping. (His parents promised they would cooperate with the investigation, they did not. Instead they insisted my 3 year old was mistaken and I’d that we coached her because both my spouse and I had been abused. They turned my spouses family against us). Part of the alleged offenders parents plans at defending the boy was they had the head pastor write a character reference, I did not know this till about a year after the investigation ended and saw the police report. I was livid, he never asked to her exactly what my child said. Never attempted to get a full picture of exactly what caused the situation and corncern. I emailed him twice, asking why he would support the boy without at least talking to us, the parents of the child claiming abuse. No response. I call the district office for the denomation, the pastoral pastor for our area says to contact the churches board, that they handle any problems with a pastor. I do, the head elder takes my info listens to my story, I give him questions I needed asked and answered by the pastor and he says they will have a meeting. Two weeks later he calls and says the board determined the pastor did nothing wrong. But not one question I had was asked or answered, in fact the elder admitted no questions were asked of the pastor. He says it wasn’t a Matt 18 issue (which is what I was trying to do, I went to the pastor first, then to the elder…..) because I was just offended, not sinned against. So, I go back to the district guy, the people who take money from this guy’s church every week. And he tells me that he can’t help because if he doesn’t have enough relationship with the pastor in question to hold him accountable.
    So, yeah it all comes down to money. This particular denomination has a private bank in my area that the churches fund and that gives loans to the churches in the denomation for building projects. The fact that men likes these and churches like you wrote about here make me question where is God.
    I am sorry for the woman you wrote about, please tell her she’s not alone, I think that “making you feel you are crazy” is the newest and most used gifting most these ‘pastor’s minister in.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This was painful to read. Adding this to a lifetime of personal experience with abuse at the hands of supposed Christians, and pastors reinforcing that it was OK, and to all the stories I’ve been hearing lately, I have no good answer to why I still believe. Thank you for making this all public. The more people talk about these incidents, the more likely something will finally be done (I tell myself over and over and over as I watch the pastors and other Christians completely ignore this sort of thing regardless the evidence presented).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The local EV FREE church does not give a “tithe” to the denomination though they are certainly encouraged to support the the denomination. Some do, some don’t. The EV Free is actually pretty poor.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I live in the community where CEFC is located. I grew up with individuals who faithfully attend this church either because it is where they were raised or by distinct choice in adulthood. I am especially close with individuals who love and support Hurit. I am relieved that you are choosing to tell her story. Selfishly so, as it is a story that must be told and I’m glad you’ve taken up the charge.
    Upon reading the comments already made I’d like to say that while I’m also deeply disturbed by these events – especially since I have more or less personal relationships with many of those involved, I’m also very away of the humanness on both sides. Hurit is an amazing individual who has found the strength to thrive despite her difficult circumstances. She is still walking a tough path, and I know it is not easy for her, but she has tremendous support in friends and family. Brock, however, does not have the same support. He is clearly dealing with personal issues and sicknesses that require serious intervention. But because he was being protected, part of which was the church claiming he was truly repentant, he has been denied the kind of help it requires to live a full life in Christ. It is actually worse than being denied help, because he is being convinced he doesn’t need any.
    I am in no way defending his actions, or the actions of the church. But I know the only feelings we should have towards the individuals who wronged Hurit are sadness and empathy. Anger only has a place when it leads to this understanding. Afterwards it is sinful to hold in our hearts. And the greatest actions we should take are to pray for their repentance. They are lost and sick. I should note that any legal action necessary to bring justice is also something I fully support.
    I also know that the individuals who have remained in this church are mostly doing so because the church has fostered a cult mentality. It is very much an “us” and “them” situation which we in the community feel greatly. I am saddened because there are people attending this church that I love deeply, but I know they simply won’t see what they are agreeing to by continuing to attend until they are on the outside. It does no good to put them down, call them names, or assume they are stupid. We must prayer that the walls of the church are metaphorically knocked down, allowing the light to come in and shine on the people who are held captive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. There are two kinds of anger as I see it. A righteous anger which Jesus had and a second anger which I believe is carried out of malice with the intent to get revenge, etc… I believe this situation calls for righteous anger. We all should be upset that a sexual assault victim was treated in such a fashion. It defies dignity and common sense. I think Steve Estes and his family are going to have some hard days ahead of them. What Steve, Matt Carter and the others in CEFC need to do is repent. That is the only way out of this mess. Steve needs to admit that he was wrong. Matt Carter also needs to repent. I don’t think CEFC is going to survive this storm. All the ingredients are there for a perfect storm. Questionable and expensive building campaign, jaded church leadership because of nepotism, questionable church discipline that is unethical, and allegations of illegal behavior.

      Brock needs help with his alcoholism and sleeping disorder. The other catch to this situation which is sad is that because of his job there is probably stigma to seeking out mental health treatment. Its like a Marine or Air Force Officer dealing with mental health needs….there are stigmas in the US military which keep many people from getting help. In this case the Berks County jail also probably has stigma as well. Its a stressful job to begin with, so by the nature of the job people are going to have difficulty. That said Brock needs help. I believe that asking for help is a sign of strength. But since Elverson is outside Philadelphia there has to be resources there for treatment. Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in the country.

      Also I am aware that CEFC looks down on other churches in the area. and refuses to engage. This is part of their problem, in that they are so insular. They have built up walls by their behavior. Its good for all of us, to have people of all stripes and differences in our life. If all we do is surround ourselves with like minded people we are crippling ourselves. We are hurting ourselves in the long run, But CEFC is a very arrogant church that is condescending in many ways.


  13. It is good that you have the courage to shine a light on this.
    I could say a LOT.
    For now, I’m going to wait until all of your posts have been made.
    Thank you for bring this to light.
    It seems the internet is a bit of an equalizer.
    And if someone doesn’t speak up, there are a lot of Bill Cosbys out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. There are reasons why you write and call attention to situations like this. Its done to help make the church healthy and reform it. I see many of us bloggers from Julie Anne Smith, to Nate Sparks, to Todd Wilhelm, and Dee Parsons as being modern day Martin Luthers. Every time they post a story like this it’s like hammering a list of thesis on the door at Wittenburg.

    I wrote a couple of posts that have been well read about why the evangelical church needs to air its dirty laundry. Also why the church needs to address systemic and systematic issues of corruption. It is my belief that the greatest threat to the gospel isn’t the secularization of society, of society accepting gay marriage. Instead it is corruption, and stories like CEFC.


  15. I am in the process of collecting statements on this situation with Steve Estes and CEFC.

    I contacted Westminster Theological Seminary and raised this with them, and asked if they had a comment.

    I also contacted CCEF and spoke with the Philadelphia office where the incident with Hurit happened. I asked if David Powlison had a statement. I am hoping to speak to Cecilia on this situation as well.

    I am also reaching out to Dave Harvey since he is the Chairman of the Board of CCEF.

    I am also reaching out to Joni Erickson Tada to see if she has a statement about all this.

    The next post going up tomorrow night deals with the excommunication service of Hurit and people contacting and dealing with the Evangelical Free Church of America. After that is published I will ask them for a statement.


  16. “Something is wrong my beloved when the Church of Christ just allows this to continue. We are allowing little lambs to be fleeced and slaughtered while those of us who know better are, for the most part, silent. Unless the Body of Christ rises up and starts going after these wolves, we will be just as guilty as they are for allowing God’s children to be destroyed.”
    -Nancy A. Almodovar, “A Modern Ninety-Five: Questions Today’s Evangelicals Need to Answer”

    Liked by 2 people

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  21. Pingback: From D.A Carson to Steve Estes the Following Question Must be Asked: Is the Evangelical Free Church of America a Safe Place for Sexual Assault Victims? | Wondering Eagle

  22. Very painful read. How the church has suffered under the hands of greedy power hungry leaders. My family too has suffered.

    One thing I would like to add is that Hurits mother in law who came with her hubby with flowers is also liable as a pastors wife to deal appropriately with accusations of abuse, she a woman, and mother in law and “older Christian woman who should be teaching younger women how to be godly” has my attention. Sickening. Her son is not helped just coddled.

    Thank you for being SO brave, Hurit, and for this blogger who has taken on the task.

    There are tens of thousands of stories of outright abuse to protect nothing godly just mans positions. I believe with everything in me it angers the heart of God and His wrath one day will be revealed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome! Thanks for visiting you are welcome to stay and participate. I am sorry this is a hard story to read. It has been equally hard to write about. Since I heard about the gun incident with Brock I have had a hard time letting that go. That alone is one of the most disturbing things I have encountered. I want Hurit and her family to find justice. I also want Steve Estes and the leadership to repent and do the right thing. We will see if that happens.


  23. Pingback: Issues of Alleged Underage Drinking, and Drug Activity in Community Evangelical Free Church’s Youth Group; and how One Parent’s Son was Adversely Affected | Wondering Eagle

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