This is an open letter to Steve Estes, the Senior Pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church. In this letter he is confronted on how Hurit has been treated. Steve failed his former daughter-in-law when he put his pulpit ahead of his family. This letter explains how Steve Estes failed. It also offers recommendations of how he, the Elders, and the congregation should repent to Hurit, her family, and those who left who are being shunned. This letter is a reminder that you can’t flee from the situation. You can’t run from your problems. Part of being a man is owning your mistakes and errors. This is David being Steve Estes’ personal Nathan where he goes before him and says, “Thou art the man!”
African proverb: “The ax forgets, the tree remembers.”
“In 2005 Bill Cosby still had control of the media. In 2015 we have social media. We can’t be disappeared. It’s online and never goes away.”
Tamara Green one of Bill Cosby’s alleged rape victims
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13 ESV
***Quick note…I sent and received an email from the Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole. I’ve heard some good things about him. I think he’s kind, loving and very pastoral. The situation at CEFC needs resolution, and I think Eddie is the right guy to help resolve this.***
I am going to write you a very frank letter. Before I get into the issues with Community Evangelical Free Church I would like to tell you about the story of Sarah Morehead. You need to hear this and listen. Sarah Morehead was in the Southern Baptist Convention and a Sunday School teacher. She was married to her husband who was involved in Promise Keepers. Sarah and her children were also abused by her husband. When her 11 year old daughter was thrown into a wall that was it for her and she ordered him out. She went to her SBC church asking for help. They wanted her to submit to her husband who was domestically abusing her. She was denied help in a time of her life when she needed it. She told her story Steve on Richard Dawkins blog a couple of years back. If you would like to read it you can do so right here. The domestic abuse, combined with how the church treated her, as well as other issues such as doubt convinced her that Christianity is a fraud. She was the Executive Director for Recovering from Religion. She has also commented at my blog which you can read here. Today however, she is in the process of organizing the largest atheist rally in the United States at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Today she is helping people leave Christianity. I have to say given her experience of domestic abuse that she endured while in the church I can’t blame her for her feelings. The church failed her. And as I transition into Hurit I tell this story to give you some perspective and say the same thing. Community Evangelical Free Church failed Hurit.
Steve this is going to be a blunt letter, but that is my style in situations like this one.
I don’t think you realized how fortunate you were to have Hurit as a part of your family and CEFC. She is very precious and valuable. You failed on so many levels. You failed as her father-in-law. You failed as a pastor. You failed as a man. In this process you put your position and reputation above Hurit’s safety and wellbeing. Your son allegedly pointed a gun at Hurit, and you just wanted to handle everything quietly and send her back. Jesus said to take care of the sheep and in that area you have failed as well. If you would have intervened in the situation early on you would have demonstrated leadership, love and grace. CEFC keeps using this constant reference to Hebrews 13:17. I hate to break it to you Steve, but if you have to hammer people and pound your chest and say “respect my authority” then you never had authority to begin with. Did you hear me Steve? None, zip, zilch. Leadership comes from making hard decisions and putting others above yourself. Leadership is selfless and done out of serving others. There is a huge difference between authority and authoritarianism. One comes about through example, love and grace. The other comes about because of a desire to control and dictate. Over the years you have had one person on your mind which has driven you and your ambition. That one person is Steve Estes. The Bible is full of countless warnings about protecting and looking out for the sheep. CEFC claims Hebrews 13:17, while I come back and ask about Acts 17:11. Scripture calls us to search the scriptures and test what is being taught. The fact that you require such blind obedience from people is a mark of an unhealthy church. You can’t have Bereans in that environment. The Bereans are being kept out.
I’m amazed, and deeply stunned that your son can engage in alleged criminal activity and you try and cover it up. Romans 13 also speaks about submitting to the state. It calls for us to pay our taxes and to follow the law. I’m pretty sure that allegedly waving a loaded weapon, pointing it at your wife, and throwing it is against the law. I’m amazed that you think you can cover up such activity and think that it won’t come back later and haunt you? What does Proverbs say about covering up sin? Do you honestly believe you can act that way and get away with it? No one can cover up sin Steve. I can’t, you can’t no one can….the truth always come out eventually. Time tells and reveals a lot. One of the reasons why it pays to be honest Steve is that it simply is the right thing to do. What gets people in trouble in life is often the cover up. The covering up of Brock’s alleged criminal activity didn’t just hurt Brock and Hurit. It hurt yourself, Verna, and all of your children. It hurt the community and the people who left CEFC. Scripture contains warnings about covering sin up. Someone needs to be a Nathan in this situation and while it gives me no pleasure, it’s something that someone needs to do. This heinous situation is atrocious. I have to confess Steve that since I heard from multiple people about Brock’s alleged incident with the gun I have not been able to get that out of my head. It’s one of the most disturbing things I have heard. I have had this image in my head of this defenseless woman in her bed with her husband standing next to her pointing a loaded gun at her. Its deeply troubling.
Steve…do you realize that Brock could have killed your daughter-in-law?
Have you stopped and considered what you did to your daughter-in-law? Have you considered Hurit’s feelings? Have you thought about how scared she was? She didn’t want any of this to happen at all! It wasn’t Hurit that ended Brock’s marriage…it was Brock that decided to do that Steve. Your son initiated the divorce when he allegedly pointed a gun at your former daughter-in-law. Why didn’t you get Brock help? As a father why didn’t you reach out to trained medical authorities and have them look at the situation? Here is one of the problems in this situation…it has mushroomed and grown. In your effort to conceal and contain it you have made it worse. In the process it has dragged in other people. One of the issues with corruption and why it needs to be dealt with is because if you don’t it taints other people. It hurts other people. That is what is happening in this situation and it is only going to grow. By not dealing with Brock properly it dragged in other members of the congregation. Some left and others were dragged into it such as Ryan Smith. Why do Christians think they can conceal and cover up sin? Why do they think they can hide it? I have to ask….what Bible are you reading? What scripture speaks about how you can conceal and cover up sin? Allegations of criminal activity is sin Steve. This needs to be nipped in the bud, as its going to grow and fester which is what has been happening in the Elverson area.
Many of the families involved are beautiful Steve. It’s Community’s loss that they are no longer there. How spiritually poor are you that you are forcing such incredibly faithful people who love the Lord from the congregation? These are members that I would love to be in a congregation with! Not only that but what about the times that Jesus commanded Peter to feed the sheep. The sheep aren’t being fed here Steve…they are being driven way and harmed. This has to come to an end. The corruption needs to be contained before more people are hurt. Some of this corruption has the capability to end careers and derail additional lives. its also a safety issue as Brock is seeing another person. Does Brock’s girlfriend know of his sleeping disorder and what he has allegedly done with a gun? What are we going to do…? Look the other away and have another person in the future be in an another abusive marriage with Brock? Are we going to have another incident with a gun and someone else be declared an un-believer and publically ex-communicated? How many former daughter-in-laws do you plan to excommunicate in the course of time? This needs to end Steve, had you intervened and addresses the issues with Brock things could be very different today.
You are a grown man, and you know your Bible. I can’t force you to do anything. You are free to do as you like, but let me take some time and explain what I would recommend you would do. You really need to repent Steve. Community Evangelical Free Church and their elders need to repent.
Here is what I highly recommend that you do in this mess Steve. This is the only way forward for you and your family, and CEFC:
- I highly recommend that you and Verna meet with Hurit, and beg for her forgiveness. I highly recommend that you apologize for how she was treated and not helping out. I highly recommend that you apologize for putting your pulpit ahead of your former daughter-in-law. I highly recommend that you and Verna listen to Hurit and do what she wants of you. In this process you need to stop running. You can’t be both a Senior Pastor and a Jonah simultaneously. I hate to break this to you Steve but Christians sin. This mess indicates that pastors are just as sinful as the other members of the congregation. But I would suggest you and Verna work with Hurit and take back everything that transpired. You really need to show her the love, compassion and concern today in the spring of 2016 that you failed to show her when she was a part of your family.
- I recommend that Community Evangelical Free Church hold a special service. Before the entire congregation and former members the church needs to rescind the public excommunication it gave to Hurit. Before this takes place each Elder who was involved in hurting Hurit should meet with her and seek her forgiveness and ask for grace from her. I highly recommend that at the service each Elder publically apologize to Hurit and say that they were wrong. Its important the church does this publically. Given how Community dragged Hurit through the mud the church needs to publically admit they were wrong and ask for Hurit’s forgiveness. I highly recommend this special service be open to the community of Elverson. Other Christians should be there to witness it. I highly recommend that Dr. Eddie Cole be there as well. I would drive up from Washington, D.C. and sit through it with a number of former CEFC families. But I strongly recommend you hold a special service and right this wrong.
- I highly recommend that Community Evangelical Free approach Hurit’s family and seek their forgiveness and repent to Hurit’s parents. Those in Hurit’s family who were hurt by Community’s action will find some solace and healing by watching you repent. This is necessary for Hurit’s parents and family.
- I highly recommend that Community Evangelical Free Church work and help Hurit as part of their repentance. If she needs counseling or assistance, CEFC should step up and be there for her. This is a part of repentance…I must also add this will take time. Repentance is not like a drive by shooting in Philadelphia. You work and walk with a person and help restore them. In the process you will help restore Hurit.
- You had a number of families that left who are precious, and amazing. They were kind, loving, full of grace, and in my mind model members of the church. They stood by Hurit and this mess caused many of them to leave. I highly recommend you meet with these families individually and ask for their forgiveness. I highly recommend you hear them out, listen and do what they want you to do. Since some of these families were criticized and attacked CEFC and the Elders should repent to them as well. All nefarious comments will be withdrawn, and recanted.
- I highly recommend that as a part of this season of repentance the church body as a congregation repent together. For example all those at CEFC who shunned, isolated, and cut off former friends should reach out and seek forgiveness and listen to those who were hurt. Those individuals who shunned the 50 or so people who left the church should meet with former members and ask for their forgiveness. I highly recommend that this be a church wide effort and all wounds and pain be laid out on the table and discussed and healed. This is an opportunity for all people to heal and become one in the community. I don’t want to see a Paul and Barnabas situation, instead I want to see a Paul and John Mark. Many Christians Steve blow off and ignore Paul and John Mark. I would suggest that would be the model in situations like this, so that all sides can heal. One of the problems in Christianity today is that Christians do not say they are sorry. They don’t own their mistakes and care when they hurt others in their midst. I would recommend that Community Evangelical Free Church in all forms own their mistakes.
- Brock Estes needs to get qualified medical help in Philadelphia. Philadelphia has some fine medical institutions that can help in this situation. Helping your son out will be a part of this process. In addition Brock is going to look into licensed and qualified alcohol addiction treatment. Its going to hard and difficult but I think if all the above happens many people will come alongside and offer support and love to you and your family.
- I highly recommend you walk with your family through any legal issues that come about. Since laws were broken if the legal system reacts and prosecutes Brock you will walk with your son through the process.
- I highly recommend that you repent to the District and National Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) for CEFC’s moral failure and corruption.
- It’s my hope that as a part of this process the Evangelical Free Church denomination would meet with the families that were hurt and personally repent to them. I hope to raise this issue with the District Superintendent Dr. Eddie Cole. The evangelical Christian church needs to collectively own their mistakes and faults. Institutions sin as well, and institutions need to repent.
- Finally let me offer this to you as well. I know Steve that your family may have difficult days ahead because of this scandal. If you repent and admit your mistakes and do it very sincerely people will know and come alongside and help. People will embrace you and your family and help you. All you have to do is ask…there are a lot of people that want to see you repent. I would be willing to help your family Steve. During the difficult days ahead I would be willing to befriend, talk and support you and your family in this difficult season. But you need to do the right thing. Forgive me for putting it like this but true repentance is like pornography. You know it when you see it and people recognize humility. The guy writing this letter to you Steve sought forgiveness from 140 people. You can read what I did here. Yes I know…I did something that C.J. Mahaney and Mark Driscoll can’t and will not do. Maybe I should preach at T4G and publish a book on Humility. But if you repent and say you were wrong your soul will find healing and you will be at peace. And that peace is what you crave Steve.
It is imperative that the community does this together. The Elders are complicit in this situation and I would recommend that they should repent and own this mess as well. If CEFC cares about the Gospel then repentance is the only way forward. I would recommend Community take that course of action and repent to Hurit, her family, and the other former families who are are shunned today. I would recommend that CEFC repent to the community of Elverson. There is a lot of hurt, and pain in this mess and it needs to be addressed. Sometimes to clean out an infection you need to re-open the wound fully and address the issues. It’s painful and its hard, but that is the only way forward. I would recommend you face your moral failures in this mess Steve Estes. You can’t run from your mistakes. Nor can you ignore them. Your attempt to cover them up has only grown them, to the point that you have a blogger in the Washington, D.C. area writing intensely about this issue.
The last part of this letter I would recommend you step aside for a season as the Senior Pastor of Community Evangelical Free Church. You need a season or a time to step back and reflect on all that transpired. But after all the wounds, the pain that has been caused you shouldn’t be teaching right now. You are not in any spiritual position to teach at this point in your life. Some people think that a fallen teacher shouldn’t teach again. I am not of that persuasion…if you do the right thing I believe you could be a more effective teacher the second time around. Not only that but you would have an understanding of grace which today you do not. If you do all of the above Steve, and repent fully I think you’ll discover that people will come alongside you and your family and support you. They will walk with you through this season. And like i said above I will offer this to you as well….I will walk with your family as well if you would like. If you take this advice, such action will show your love for the gospel more than 30 years of expository preaching and publishing books. By taking such action you will reveal that you understand the harm you have caused. You will reveal that you have searched your heart and understand your role in this mess. Mistakes are opportunities Steve Estes…that is what I learned from my mistakes. Christians don’t repent or say “I’m sorry” anymore. I wonder…if that is a driving force as to why people don’t respect Christians today…they can’t show enough humility to say “I was wrong….” I think if you do that then you will be more capable of being part of the church. And the church will be richer to have you in that season if this happens.
This has been a hard letter to write but I try and write it out of love. Sometimes love is speaking the truth. By the way…you guys have re-defined gossip in this environment. But I honestly hope you will you will do the right thing. I hope you will own this mess and do the right thing. As Abraham Lincoln once said…I want to appeal to the “better angels of your nature.” I want you to do the right thing because it is the correct course of action to take. God will be glorified in the process and the Gospel preached. The pain needs to stop, and you are the key to stopping it. This is my plea to you…do the right thing Steve.