An open letter to Hurit who was excommunicated by Community Evangelical Free Church. Her story begs for justice, it cries out for action. If you live in Elverson I ask you to please challenge the sinful leadership of Steve Estes and the Elders. If you do that you will worship the Lord in a mighty and powerful way. This is part 1 of 2 posts today.
“I believe much trouble would be saved if we opened our hearts more.”
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
Chief Seattle Duwamish Tribe
Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long.
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide.
99 Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your laws.
100 I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments. 101 I have refused to walk on any evil path, so that I may remain obedient to your word.102 I haven’t turned away from your regulations, for you have taught me well.103 How sweet your words taste to me;
they are sweeter than honey.
Psalm 119:97-103 NLT
My Dear Hurit-
I write this to you so that you understand that there are elements of the church that love and care for you. They are in your midst, around you, in your community in Pennsylvania and in other parts of the country. I hope you feel the love and grace that many are showing you and will show you. There are times you draw a line in the sand, there are time you go to battle. After what Steve Estes did to you and the way Community Evangelical Free Church treated you, this is a battle I am happy to wage.
There is a lot I have to tell you. I write this to you to offer strong pushback to Brock Estes after what you endured. In your story you said that Brock told you that if you wore more make up, dressed in a certain way, or presented yourself to his desires, that would help with Brock’s pornography addiction. I want you to know that is a lie. The issue of the pornography is Brock Estes alone. He is responsible for it and him telling you how to dress or behave a certain way is shady and wrong. The truth Hurit is that you could do that and Brock would still be a porn addict. It has nothing to do with you and 100% with him. It is also a part of responsibility. I want to let you know that many parts of the Reformed Church talk a lot about male headship, and masculinity. I would suggest that much of what is taught is scandalous, cheap, and harmful to the male personality. But when I read about Brock shoving his pornography addiction on you I thought that was awful. That’s not responsibility…instead that is a copout. What is a man? A man is loving, caring, kind, and obedient to the Lord. He looks out for others, and speaks when he should. A man doesn’t ignore injustice, nor does he look away. He does things that are comfortable to better the human race and honor the Lord in the process. Much of what is taught about “manhood” these days is false and off base. I would suggest that some of the teachings come from people who are insecure with a changing culture and environment. I have to say this…when I consider their reactions I have to wonder..why are they so insecure?
There is another thing I have to tell you Hurit, and its this point. This has been a hard story to write about and cover. It’s been hard, difficult, and haunting. When I first heard about the gun incident I was shocked. I was disturbed. Its my understanding that Al Kimball when he heard about the gun incident was enraged. How crafty and manipulative was your former father-in-law Steve Estes to get all these people on board with your excommunication. I heard there were some late night Elder meetings that went to 3 or 4:00 in the morning. That is some sick manipulation Steve did to get people to turn against you. The story with the gun Hurit has weighed on me. It haunted me and bothered me deeply. Sometimes I lay in bed at night and I have this image of this poor, defenseless girl, in bed with her husband pointing a loaded gun at her. Its been hard to get out of my mind. The other thing that stuns me is how the gun incident is down played. Especially in an area of Pennsylvania that has a lot of hunters and people that do outdoor sports. Years ago in California I took a hunter-safety course and the instructor told us to never, never point a gun at anyone. He also taught us to treat every gun like its loaded. The emphasis on safety is paramount. I have to wonder if Brock got another gun after Ryan Smith took his away, or if he got one through work. Did his employer at the Berks County Jail issue him a fire arm as part of his job, and was that the firearm in question? I have more questions that keep popping up in my mind. But this has deeply troubled me and it puzzles me as to how the gun incident is so downplayed.
Your story is very important because I believe the church should be judged by how it takes care of its most vulnerable. You were in a difficult marriage and you were vulnerable. The church should have come to your defense. Steve Estes and the Elders of Community Evangelical Free Church’s behavior belong more in the 15th century of Europe than in the 21st century of the United States. I was deeply troubled by what I heard. It seemed to be one calamity after another calamity. Your story just begs for justice. Its begs for the right action to be done. It has all the character of a classic Greek drama. It has evil, it has injustice and it has bravery.
Huirt I want you to know that I and so many other people love you. We think the world of you and believe that during this time I want you to know how much you are loved. There are many people who stand alongside you and I want you to know all of us will help support and carry you. Its our goal to have Community Evangelical Free Church to hold a public service and rescind your excommunication. This is key…since Steve Estes dragged your name through the mud, it’s important that he publically repent and fix what is wrong. Like I said above what is a man? A man accepts responsibility and works to alleviate the pain of those who are suffering. There are people who are in your life that are amazing. They have a heart of gold and they risked a lot when they stood up in your defense. They risked relationships, friendships, and some even staked businesses on doing the right thing. Their courage is amazing and I call for the church to single them out and thank them and support them. Could you imagine what would happen if the people who have loved and stood by you for the past year represented the body of Christ? Could you imagine how salty and amazing it would be? Could you imagine if the world got a taste of that instead of the behavior of Steve Estes, Matt Carter and the Elders? The reason why this is so important is that scripture calls for us to contest and challenge for the Gospel. When the Gospel is lost, which I believe it has been at Community, then we in the church are to contest and fight for it. To tolerate evil Hurit is to embrace it. On this situation there is no gray. It’s black or white.
But I can’t emphasize this enough…Hurit I want you to know that you are loved, valuable, and precious. You are not alone and there are many people who love you. From the people who text and see you from time to time to a guy caught up in the D.C. rat race typing away on his computer at 12:38 in the morning. You are not alone. You are not walking through this season alone. I also want you to know that me and others will do everything we can to help bring this about to end the injustice. I have had some late nights in working this story. I’ve been up a few times to 2 or 3 a.m. For you and the others its worth it. I want to lay everything on the table and carry this forward. Knowledge is power, and getting this information into the citizens of Elverson, and the members of Community Evangelical Free Church is paramount. This past week the people of Community learned that your discipline was built on a lie. In the process control was stripped away from Steve Estes and the Elders of Community. This past week people learned that their emperor has no clothes. That their pastor was a sinner, along with the Elder board. Here’s the problem Hurit…there is a movement of people in the church who claim that they are Godly and do not sin. They claim they do not have sin. That is a lie straight from the deepest pit of hell. We are all sinners and sinful. Steve Estes is as sinful as David Bonner.
While you are a strong person I know you are carrying some pain. You never expected your marriage to go this way. Let me spend some time addressing the pain. You, and your friends who stood up for you, myself and so many others have joined a group which I prefer to call the Fellowship of the Wounded. We have run into questionable , shady and horrific church situations. You are going to find yourself in amazing company. Who will you find in this group? You will find the people who stood with you against Steve Estes and the Elder Board of Community Evangelical Free Church. You will find many fine people who used to be involved with such organizations like Mars Hill Seattle, Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, and people burned by authoritarian churches. You will find Dee Parsons who was burned by David Horner at Providence Baptist in Raleigh. You will find Julie Anne Smith who dealt with a questionable and shady pastor who sued her because she wrote a negative review of Beaverton Grace Bible Church. In my case my pain came from a former person who claimed to love me, and tried to get me involved with Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington when it was involved in Sovereign Grace Ministries. He made a false accusation that took aim at my name, reputation and employment. It plunged me into the darkest season of my life. It still hurts if I am going to be honest with you. So I write all this to say the following…don’t despair. Don’t get discouraged. You are not going through this alone. There are many people who have walked through a dark valley in their life. You are not going to go forward alone. There are many people who love, care, and walk beside you. It can be someone from from Reading, Elverson or Morgantown. Or it could be me in Washington, D.C. It could be the people who you encounter in your life. I just want to encourage you to hang in there and keep walking forward. Don’t let Steve Estes, Matt Carter, the likes of Rick Renninger, and Mike Culbert define you. They don’t have authority over you…and they never did. Anyone who has to beat their chest and claim they have authority doesn’t have it to begin with.
Let me just say a few words to people from Elverson and Community Evangelical Free Church. This situation rests in the hands of you. You have the power and ability to bring this about to closure. If you live in Elverson come alongside the many brave people who have stood in support of Hurit. Love them, embrace them, and care for them, and give them support that they need. For those of you from Community Evangelical Free I am asking you to do the following:
- Reach out to those who left and seek out discussions with them. Listen to them, as they are wise, loving and kind. They have the gift of discernment. Learn from them. Ask questions and seek out discussions.
- If you attend CEFC I am going to ask you to vote with your feet. You have the power to reverse this situation. Vote with your feet and leave. I also am asking you to cease giving money to this church. Give money to other causes or ministries. There are people in urban Philadelphia who need it, and there are rural poor in Pennsylvania who can be better served. But you have the power to stop this situation.
- When you leave CEFC seek out those have been shunned and reconcile with them. Embrace them and the healing you will find in that process will amaze and strengthen you.
- Forgive yourself and give yourself much grace for helping to prop up such a system that was totalitarian and spiritually barbaric.
- Press the Elders and the Church to hold a special service to rescind Hurit’s excommunication. Let’s do the right thing.
- Those from Community will accuse these posts of being divisive and I want to respond to that claim. If these are being divisive, then Paul was being divisive when he penned Galatians. We are called to contest and wrestle with scripture.
Huirt as I wind this down I just want to emphasize the following…
You are loved, you are loved, and you are treasured. You are courageous and brave. The fact that you are no longer a part of Community Evangelical Free Church is their loss. But after all that transpired who in their right mind would want to be involved in such a place and support it? Your story of injustice Hurit begs and screams for justice. The one who caused the pain was given a pass, while the one who was hurt was disciplined. Its a bastardization of the Gospel and what happened to you is not what Christianity is about. It goes to the basic question which should be the foundation of absolutely everyone. Why do you go to church? Do you go to church to maintain friends? Or do you attend church to worship God? This is something that everyone who has ties to Community Evangelical Free should be asking. Why do you go to church there? Its hard to disengage but disengage one must. After all dare I ask this..but is God being worshipped in Community Evangelical Free in light of the circumstances? When you consider the teachings of the Good Samaritan, the Least of These, and Jesus warning about Pharisees being white washed tombs…what is being worshiped? Here’s my answer that I hope those from Community Evangelical Free Church realize…in the end in such a place you are bowing down and worshipping the Elders. The Elders are a false God and deified. That is sad.
In signing off I hope you will find this letter encouraging. Keep carrying on and keep walking Hurit. We’re all here behind you.