This is the analysis of the EFCA West. The EFCA West is the largest district of the Evangelical Free Church with 213 churches and led by Steve Highfill. EFCA West covers Central and Southern California, Idaho and Nevada. It covers all of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. This post is the launching of coverage of the Evangelical Free in the western United States.
“There are always dreams when a new congregation forms. People have different expectations but we have found that our church has an important part to play in the ministry of Jesus Christ in this community. I am glad we can be a part of a group of churches that proclaim Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s relationship to God and the source of a meaningful life in the here and now.”
Pastor Bill Smith who founded Creekside Church in Merced, California
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
Isaiah 40:12 NIV
Antioch City Church on Los Angeles neighborhood, “Highland Park Is… “
Paseo Del Ray Church Video of its History
Steve Highfill preaches at Trinity Church Redlands, California
In December 2015 I wrote the following post that put out a call for stories of corruption and polity problems in the Evangelical Free Church of America. There have been a number of people who have responded to that post. However, in that post I also explore the breakdown of all the districts and the history of the denomination. I decided to take this issue on because no blog out there has undertaken issues related to the Evangelical Free denomination and there are a number of problems that exist. I used to be involved in the Evangelical Free, I actually was baptized in one that I will be mentioning today in 2000. Today due to a host of issues I wouldn’t step foot in one, nor would I explore faith in an Evangelical Free church. Just living in the D.C. area and observing the Evangelical Free denomination from a distance has been heartbreaking. There are a lot of issues from abuse of authority, to legalism, to Reformed theology/Neo-Calvinism issues that befall the denomination and this blog is going to write and expose them in an effort to bring about change. Change will come with time, but it will come with each painful story that is published. The stories will reveal the problems in the polity. As SGM Survivors was a thorn in the Sovereign Grace denomination, it is my goal to make The Wondering Eagle a thorn in the side of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The goal is not to be difficult for the sake of being difficult but in the course of time to help bring change to the denomination. I have 17 districts to work through over the next year. Today I am looking at EFCA West. This is the fourth district that I have analyzed. I have to say this is the most difficult due to the size and scope of the churches involved. When I actually finished this district I did a little dance in my kitchen at 1:00 in the morning a few nights ago. If I could make a suggestion I believe the district is too big and should be broken down. I would suggest making California into two separate districts and the rest of the southwest and Utah and Nevada into one district. Today’s post is going to be personal as I will be writing about the Evangelical Free and some of the churches that played a major part in my spiritual development. After all I grew up in Fresno, played high school football there, went to Fresno State for a brief time and had my first experience in evangelicalism at Fresno Evangelical Free Church in the fall of 1999. So I am going to be writing about my stomping ground.
Three Aspects Driving this Post and Blog: D.A. Carson’s Corruption, Andrew White and Redeemer Arlington and Atheism
This blog – The Wondering Eagle – is going to hold the Evangelical Free denomination accountable. It is going to write, report and reveal problems and issues with their polity. The Evangelical Free is not a healthy denomination and it needs reform. There are three key things I want to communicate to the Evangelical Free Church so they can understand what drives this project and this blog.
1. In February of 2013 at the blog SGM Survivors which has documented and written about corruption and problems in the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) denomination the following occurred. A person called “Anonymous” wrote about how she was sexually assaulted when she was 13 at a prominent SGM member’s house. She also wrote about how she hoped the denomination would be held accountable. Shortly thereafter the largest lawsuit in evangelical Christian history against SGM was dismissed on a technicality and statute of limitations reasons. On May 24, 2013 D.A. Carson who is a prominent professor at the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary Trinity Evangelical Divinity School issued a statement in support of C.J. Mahaney (along with Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung). In that bastardized statement D.A. Carson went after and verbally attacked that rape victim from SGM Survivors. I consider this to be one of the lowest points in modern evangelical Christianity. When this behavior occurred from a prominent professor in the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary the response by the denomination was also telling. No one challenged Don Carson, no one publically rebuked him. No one said, “Now wait a minute you are out of line…”
No one did a damn thing. The Evangelical Free Church’s silence on this issue screams volumes about its health. I wonder if the denomination is familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. You see the lesson of that story is that you help the broken, the wounded, the person hurt alongside the road. In contrast the Evangelical Free has been committed to growth, church planting all while one of its prominent professor’s at its main seminary attacks a rape victim. In the process I would propose that many parts of the Evangelical Free denomination are acting like the high priest consumed with going to the temple who ignore the wounded person along the side of the road in the process.
Gentlemen…D.A. Carson’s behavior is a disgrace to the denomination and it needs to be challenged. But there is another question that needs to be asked…why would Don Carson behave that way? Over at the blog The Wartburg Watch it was revealed that C.J. Mahaney gave at least $200,000 to Al Mohler at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I put a link to that post in the previous sentence. All together now can we say “Gospel Centered Bribe.” It has also came out over at the blog SGM Survivors that C.J. Mahaney allegedly gave a lot of cash to Wayne Grudem to help finish the ESV translation. You can read about that in this comment below:
That money given to Wayne Grudem was actually certified by Grudem’s own writing which you can read about in this post here. Plus it was revealed the C.J. Mahaney gave money to Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. So having said all that if we follow the money it is well within reason to ask the following question. Did C.J. Mahaney give money to D.A. Carson and is that why Carson felt obligated to attack a rape victim? Is that why he attacked someone who was sexually assaulted at 13? To read more about the Sovereign Grace scandal the Washingtonian and Time magazine wrote about it. Plus there is my analysis of the Washingtonian article as well.
2. There is another aspect I want the Evangelical Free denomination to know. Shortly before D.A. Carson attacked a rape victim I was thrust into the darkest season of my life, and it happened when I was coming out of a prolonged faith crisis that consumed half my thirties. An Air Force Captain I knew who was a Care Group Leader at Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington (a former SGM Church plant in the Washington, D.C. area) gave birth to a false accusation that took aim at my name, reputation, employment and future employment. An attorney who looked over the situation believed I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit against Andrew. When I saw how a military officer can abuse his power the situation taught me as to why rape and sexual assault is a very serious issue in the United States military. This situation was the darkest season of my life. The situation was so painful to where you had a 38 year old man crying in his bed in the middle of the night in emotional pain. After I was unsuccessfully recruited into Redeemer Arlington and as I slowly picked up the pieces of my life and tried to find a way forward Andrew White focused on recruiting another person into Redeemer Arlington. Andrew has not repented, or expressed sorrow for the pain he caused. He refuses to work things out and goes forward in life totally indifferent to how he could have destroyed another life. It actually goes to another issue in modern evangelicalism today. Christians don’t say they are sorry…they don’t repent when they hurt other people. By the way speaking of healing and growing there is an amazing story I have written about involving Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge. You can read it here, but can you imagine if this was the norm and not the exception? Would Christianity in the United States look so repulsive and ugly? So that situation with an Air Force Captain and the pain I endured drives me and often keeps me up to 2:00 a.m. to make sure that not another soul is harmed by fundamentalism, that no one endures the hell I walked through. There is something deeply wrong when the fruit of your faith is hubris, psychological trauma, false accusations, and pain. Why can’t Christians say “I am sorry, I was wrong, let’s work everything out?”
3. Finally this blog also writes about atheism as well. To date I have written 79 articles about atheism, and there are a lot more to write. The reason why I write about atheism in the context of evangelicalism is for the following reason. Corruption in evangelicalism is one of the factors that fuels atheism. I think many evangelicals would be surprised to learn as to how many people have rejected Christianity due to the corruption hemorrhaging out of the Christian faith today. Don Carson’s corruption along with The Gospel Coalition is a prime example. When I was in my faith crisis walking into an Evangelical Free Church in Manassas, Virginia and learning that it was helping to launch an Acts 29 church (in this case Redemption Hill in DC) – even with all the garbage pouring out of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill which was ground zero for the Acts 29 network after all the corruption and issues is stunning. Its not every day that one stands in a church lobby and explains when asked “Who is Mark Driscoll?” “He’s that Pastor in Seattle that speaks about the Biblical basis for blow jobs!” You can read about that interaction in the lobby of Crossway Fellowship of Manassas, Virginia right here. It is my contention that the single greatest threat to the Christian faith today is not gay marriage or the secularization of society. Instead its internal corruption which is corrosive and destroying the church. Like I said the Evangelical Free Church denomination has a lot of issues and this blog will write about, monitor and be a deep thorn in the side of the Evangelical Free Church of America. It will do that for the people caught up in this troubled denomination. This blog will be the voice for those in the pews.
Making EFCA West of the Evangelical Free Church Aware
Having explained all that I want the Evangelical Free church denomination to be aware of what I will report and write on.
- This blog will write about church members who are caught up in membership covenant issues where they can’t resign or walk away. I should also note that I have deep reservations and concerns about membership covenants. My views are summed up in this post right here called. “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: the New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War.” In that post I draw similarities between membership covenants being a modern version of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of oppression throughout the Cold War until it fell in November 1989
- In-appropriate church discipline will be hammered here at The Wondering Eagle. For example in Matt Chandler’s The Village Church one of their members (Karen Hinkley) obtained an annulment and dissolved her marriage to her husband Jordan Root who was addicted to child pornography and sexually attracted to children. You can read about that situation in this post here. If an Evangelical Free church in EFCA West practices in-appropriate church discipline (Side-note I am not talking about adultery) they will be written up and analyzed. For example if a church disciplines a rape victim, or someone who ends their marriage because they were domestically abused. This blog will intervene in those situations for the people in question, and this blog will hammer that church. I get into trenches, and I will work hard to help get it resolved. If you want to see an example of this look at Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania headed up by Steve Estes. Steve and his Elder board disciplined and excommunicated and alleged rape victim. The Senior Pastor’s son, Brock Estes allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated and allegedly pointed a loaded gun at her. In this story the woman knows she could be dead. I am continuing to write about it as the situation develops.
- Abusive and questionable church authority issues will be written about extensively as well. Church discipline and membership issues are but one factor. You can have pastors who usurp their authority and force their will. They are often surrounded by yes men who lack any objectivity from outside parties. Nepotism is a major problem in evangelicalism and this issue reveals itself in these situations.
- Theological church hijackings will also be written about. If a Neo-Calvinist pastor comes in under the radar and hijacks an Evangelical Free church and turns it into a hardcore 9 Marks, or The Gospel Coalition church they will be written about. Its in situations like these where members face discipline for things that never were issues previously. Its divisive and forces people away from their congregations. I will have no sympathy for a pastor who hijacks a church and takes it in a direction that was not its prior theology. Hijackings split congregations and drive people from their theological homes for years.
- Child sex abuse along with domestic abuse cover up will be written about as well.
- Following the laws in regards to sex offenders will be researched and emphasized. What I will do is randomly take an Evangelical Free Church and run its staff through the sex offender database in the appropriate state to see if its being compliant, open and transparent with the congregation. If not expect to see a post similar to this one written about Fairfax Community Church in the Washington, D.C. area.
- Financial issues are another aspect that will be written about and covered. Lack of financial transparency, building campaigns that are questionable will be covered in great detail. Church growth is an idol that is worshiped in the modern evangelical Christian church, and it needs to be called out.
Now if the denomination does not like that and Steve Highfill or individual pastors are displeased that a blog has popped up that will write about denominational issues there are two things you can do. One is you can express your personal displeasure to D.A. Carson and thank him for attacking a rape victim. Second, in honor of D.A. Carson The Wondering Eagle celebrates “Festivus” on Don’s birthday on December 21. As part of the annual “airing of grievances” you can read this post I wrote or wait until the next Festivus and complain, and grieve about Don Carson or even the existence of this blog. After all according to the calendar Festivus is now only 178 days away! I have no problem with pushback and allow differing points of view. I am not a dictator. I also want to go on record to state that this post has been emailed to EFCA West leadership of the Evangelical Free Church as well as all the churches and as many Senior Pastors and pastoral teams in the denomination within California, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, El Paso Texas and Arizona. So they are now noted and have been made aware that there is a blog that will write about this denomination and their potential church. This blog will have a bite to it, and that bite exists for a reason. It’s to protect and go to bat for the person standing in the pew. There are too many wolves and too much corruption that exists in modern evangelicalism, but especially the Evangelical Free denomination.
EFCA West Under Steve Highfill’s Leadership
Let me just state that in comparison to the Eastern District which is led by Eddie Cole, or Northern Plains District which is led by Dr. Daryl Thompson – EFCA West seems to be disorganized. There is no extensive website at this time, and as such no description or biographies of what is happening in EFCA West. For example on the Northern Plains District page they mention about Elim Care, a housing program for Elderly people in Fargo, North Dakota. The Southeast District which is led by Glenn Schrieber explains their church planting efforts in Haiti. I have done research on the web but I can’t find as much information about EFCA West. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, as they should have a solid website in today’s internet age. Of all the websites I have looked at so far I like the Eastern District the best. I write this to let you know that this biography of Steve Highfill will be lacking in many ways.
Steve Highfill grew up in New Mexico and apparently attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. He worked for Campus Crusade for Christ for three years and then attended the Talbot School of Theology and then Talbot Theological Seminary. Both schools are two of seven schools which makes up Biola University in La Mirada, California. Steve was the founding pastor of Cypress Evangelical Free Church. He was appointed as the District Superintendent of the former Southwest District in 1990. When the EFCA West was created in 2003 he was made the District Superintendent which is where he remains today. There are a couple of things notable about Steve Highfill. One was how he helped resolve an ugly scandal at Southwest Community Church, today known as Southwest Church. In 2002 David Moore was the Senior Pastor of one of the largest churches in the Coachella Valley. His radio program was called “Moore on Life” and was known nationally. He guided this Evangelical Free from a small congregation to an expansion of a $36 million dollar complex on 14 acres in Indian Wells, California. In the fall of 2002 pictures came forward that showed the Senior Pastor David Moore nude in a hot tub with his wife, and one of the female members of the congregation. The husband of the female member allegedly took the nude photographs. The situation tore apart the congregation and eventually David Moore resigned. Steve Highfill apparently played a key role in helping influence this event to resolve it. For more information I am going to refer you to this Los Angeles Times article about the scandal.
The second is why Steve Highfill is so dedicated to the Evangelical Free Church of America. In the EFCA Today in 2012 Steve explains why he likes the Evangelical Free which I will quote directly.
I frequently tell people that I would make my choice of the EFCA again today. Reasons? I have four:
1. It remains Great Commission-minded (think big) and teachable. I think back to the mid-’90s, when there was mounting evidence that membership in mainline denominations was showing vertical downward trends, and denominational leaders had shifted their mentality to thinking that the churches existed for them, not the other way around.
Our EFCA leaders heard and heeded the warning and determined that the local church is what matters; it is the centerpiece of God’s strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. The fact that the leadership of this movement responded so humbly and obediently to the Lord’s signals made this, to me, a very attractive community of fellow servants to identify with.
2. If the EFCA had not genuinely shifted from being a Scandinavian movement to a much more diversified group, I wouldn’t be here. Although Caucasian, I felt enough ostracism from some old-timer Norskies and Swedes that I wouldn’t have stuck around. We have a long way to go, and my heart goes out to our ethnic minority brethren, but I admire them for their patience.
3. The size of the EFCA is ideal, in my opinion. It is large enough to think and act on a global scale, yet small enough that personal relationships are possible—from the president’s office to the newest church plant.
4. And of course, the theological spectrum held by the EFCA is ideally suited to my own preference: tenaciously orthodox, yet focused on a few nonnegotiables rather than a hundred secondary distinctives. I love a recent phrase I’ve heard: The EFCA is the radical middle.
Steve Highfill has also written the editorial review for David Hegg’s “Appointed to Preach,” which you can read on Amazon. You can read a couple of invitations for Steve to preach at The Bridge in Fresno (formerly my home church of Fresno Evangelical Free) and Paso Del Rey Church in Chula Vista, California. Today Steve Highfill allegedly is a member of North Coast Church which is a mega church based in Vista, California which is thirty miles north of San Diego. He is known as the “air traffic controller” of EFCA West. EFCA West’s offices are located in Turlock, California, however Steve lives in San Diego. Steve is married to his wife Deedee and he has two grown children and at least one grandchild. Steve and Deedee maintain a webpage which you can access here. Also another key figure in EFCA West is church planter Dave Page. After much thought I plan to do a separate post on Dave Page and his efforts in EFCA West. I’ve added that to the pile of things to do for The Wondering Eagle.
Some Gems I Discovered While Researching EFCA West
Let me just state up front that in working through EFCA West that there is too much material to put in this post. It would be a profound injustice to try given the issues I stumbled across. So I am going to feature some of the issues here and then expect about 15 to 20 churches to be written about and analyzed in the months to come. Between California, Utah and Arizona there is a lot of material to cover and as this blog is focused on this denomination I am going to write about it. What usually happens is that when people see their church written about some will contact me and say that they have a story or something they want to share.
There are two horrific situations in the Evangelical Free Church of America. One was broken on this blog and deals with Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. I wrote about this up above and will just say that I will keep dedicating time and effort at this topic until it is resolved. The other horrific issue involves an amazing and sweet lady I have talked with by email known as Janet Varin and occurs in EFCA West. The church in question is none other that Cornerstone Community Church in Atascadero, California. The situation and the hell that Senior Pastor John Marc Wiemann deserves focus and attention and I also plan to tackle this issue with not just Community, but also District and Minneapolis as well. What happened can be read in Janet’s blog called “I Kissed Church Goodbye.”
Here is a brief synopsis of what happened with Cornerstone Community Church. Janet Varin had some contracting work done on her house in 2009 and that work turned out to be poor, unprofessional and created financial difficulties for her. The contractor had lied and been deceitful, and broken many contracting laws in California. The damages Janet incurred on her home as a result of this contractor’s shoddy work amounted to $30,000. Janet fired him, and refused to pay him for the money this contractor claimed she owed. He placed two consecutive liens against her house. The Elders at Cornerstone then got involved. They inspected her home, had a recommended contractor look at this situation, who agreed that the work done was substandard. The meditation process Janet had to go through was staged and gave the benefit of the doubt to the questionable contractor. I want to write Janet’s experience into a post but the situation deteriorated quickly. The church sided with the questionable contractor and didn’t care that laws were broken in the process. (So much for Romans 13…) Janet was prevented from filing a complaint with the State Contractor’s board.
Janet didn’t feel welcome at Cornerstone, and eventually contacted the office of EFCA West to raise concerns. Eventually Janet submitted her letter of resignation. In response for resigning Cornerstone tried to place her under church discipline. This process started on January 6, 2012 and involved two charges which I will quote from her blog:
(1) I refused to follow the elders’ counsel to not file a complaint with the Contractor’s Board. I pointed out that until the post-mediation meeting the elders had encouraged me to file the complaint, so I did follow their counsel. Elder Cole did not bring this issue up again.
(2) The charge of slander. (Why did Elder Cole come alone if he believed me to be a slanderer? I could have simply invented more “slanderous lies” about him.) I had asked a female friend to be present as a witness, and what we both witnessed was anything but kind and loving. Her testimony has never been sought by anyone, but has always been available. During this visit, Elder Cole presented me with a list of five statements taken from my emails to the EFCAWest District Office. He told me if I wanted to be reconciled to the elders and church, I would have to sign a statement saying that the elders did nothing wrong and that these statements were all lies. Then I would have to sign another statement agreeing never to talk about any of this with anyone. I refused to sign anything because every statement I made was true. He said he would return in a week with Pastor Wiemann with the same requirements, and if I refused to sign, they would take it before the church. This meeting felt like bullying and threatening. My witness called it strong-arming. During this meeting, when I attempted to refute his allegations that I had slandered the elders, Elder Cole closed his eyes tightly and clenched his teeth and fists. This happened several times until I gave up trying to defend myself. At this meeting, my witness asked Elder Cole why John Marc would make this matter public when I had kept it private (between myself, the elders, and the EFCAWest). Elder Cole said he would ask John Marc and then get back to us. He never did.
EFCA West advised Janet not to participate in church discipline. On February 12, 2012 John Marc Wiemann gave a sermon called “Church Discipline 101” She was slandered and shunned with only three people asking what happened, and one person remaining her friend. EFCA West really did not provide much help or guidance, and today this situation remains unresolved. I want Janet Varin to know that I love and care about her and I plan to tackle this issue so she can receive an apology and be treated with the respect she deserves. Janet needs peace, and closure so she can live her life. She and her family need to heal and the EFCA West and the greater denomination needs to own their sin from Cornerstone Community Church. I want to make it forcefully clear…John Marc Wiemann and Cornerstone need to repent also.
Here is something I am keeping tabs on that I find greatly disturbing. There is a massive scandal hemorrhaging out of K.P. Yohannan’s “Gospel for Asia.” Eventually the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability removed Gospel for Asia from their rooster and asked as to where did $259 million go? Money was allegedly structured, concealed and carried to avoid federal reporting laws. Plus the Office of Personal Management for the United States government banned federal employees from being able to donate to Gospel for Asia through the Combined Federal Campaign due to the financial scandal growing from this organization. Meanwhile the Canadian, Indian, and American press has been writing about the scandal, and against that a RICO lawsuit was filed against Gospel for Asia. Then there is the exodus of Gospel for Asia staff which indicates that this movement is deeply troubled. There has already been a lot of spiritual abuse in this organization. I write all this to ask the following question. In light of all these problems with Gospel for Asia, why is Clovis Evangelical Free, Resonate, and Evangelical Free in Merced (Creekside) still supporting Gospel for Asia? Is that wise especially in light of all this corruption? Why not give that money and support to local resources especially given the high unemployment and poverty rate in the San Joaquin Valley? Or other missions organizations in Asia or Africa that are vetted. Now here is a way that I propose this issue can be dealt with, as this Canadian church who used to support Gospel for Asia decided to cancel, and repent of how they have supported them. For those Evangelical Free I just mentioned this can be a road map in a healthy way.
I found something deeply troubling that I also need to touch on. Mars Hill Seattle was founded by Leif Moi, Mike Gunn and Mark Driscoll. In the course of time Mike Gunn left and Mark Driscoll re-wrote history and we all know what happened. There was the massive spiritual abuse, the treatment of Paul Petry and Bent Meyers. Then there was the outrageous treatment and comments that Mark Driscoll said. For example in addition to once boasting that he stole sound equipment, calling women penis homes, he also said that a repentant women gets down on her knees and sexually services her husband by oral sex. He was kicked out of Acts 29, and the church eventually imploded and he fled. I wrote this post, “A Wolf Rises in Phoenix: Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church” when Mark Driscoll was getting ready to launch The Trinity Church. We are going to see groups pop up on the internet from Phoenix called “Trinity Survivors” or “Trinity Refuge.” Today Mike Gunn is the Senior Pastor at Anchor Community Church of Long Beach. When I look at the resources page of recommended books for training I see several Mark Driscoll being promoted. Plus I am puzzled as to why Mike Gunn’s church would promote Mark Driscoll. But speaking of Mark Driscoll there was another aspect that is equally disturbing. Aspire Church which is in Surprise, Arizona outside of Phoenix is promoting and recommending Mark Drisocll’s “Real Marriage.” As they say in the United States military…”Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot!” Why is Brad Hixon promoting a book that has been discredited and plagiarized? Can I recommend that Brad Hixon read what Warren Throckmorton has written about Mark Driscoll? This is so insensitive and cold to those in Seattle who are stuck and hurting from their involvement in Mars Hill. Can Brad Hixon practice discernment? By the way Evangelical Free in Fullerton also has Mark Driscoll in their library which is troubling.
Speaking of recommended books I found a gem in the women’s ministry of the Evangelical Free Church of Los Banos. They have been using in their Tuesday morning Bible study Kerri Folmar. I wonder if Evangelical Free Los Banos would like to hear the entire story of John Folmar’s United Christian Church Dubai (UCCD). Todd Wilhelm over in Dubai was in line to be a Deacon in John Folmar’s church. Part of his responsibility was to oversee the book store. Todd was aware of the growing scandal in C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries. C.J. Mahaney had allegedly engaged in serious criminal activity to include covering up child sex abuse, and also allegedly practicing blackmail against Larry Tomczak. If you want to read the transcript of that blackmail you can do so here. Todd Wilhelm in good conscious could not be the deacon if UCCD’s bookstore sold C.J. Mahaney’s books and UCCD. Basically UCCD is a knock off of Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Todd then decided that he was going to leave and he resigned. Here was the problem…United Christian Church Dubai would not let him resign. His story was told on The Wartburg Watch which you can read right here. After a period of time UCCD finally relented. But can I recommend that the Evangelical Free Church of Las Banos do some more research before they choose their Bible study material? By the way speaking of C.J. Mahaney I had found that Restored Church in San Diego is promoting his material in light of all the allegations of criminal activity. I mean here you have a situation…you had the largest evangelical lawsuit for covering up child sex abuse beating at the door of Sovereign Grace. And C.J. Mahaney is allegedly engaged in bribery to try and prevent the lawsuit from growing according to what Brent Detwiler has written about here. But I am puzzled as to why a man who no longer meets the basic qualifications for Elder is being promoted? But that leaves me to also comment on my home church of The Bridge Fresno (formerly Fresno Evangelical Free). It broke my heart to see this church start to have C.J. Mahaney’s material pop up in the library. I became quite upset to see that garbage in the online card catalog. In the future I would like to write a post about what Fresno Evangelical Free meant to me and how I got involved. But to start to see some of this material creep in the library was both crushing and sickening.
There was another thing I stumbled across that was quite disturbing. The Senior Pastor (or Elder) for Desert Hills Evangelical Free Church in Phoenix, Robb Brunansky wrote a blog post high on rhetoric about the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. When I read this I honestly get frustrated for many reasons. One is that its sad that many evangelicals can’t differentiate between civil or state marriage and religious marriage. Second when I read the saber rattling from Robb Brunansky and other evangelicals it makes me want to ask…how would Robb have survived in the days of Ancient Rome or Greece? The marriage by many evangelicals of politics and the faith is toxic and its destroying the Christian faith. It creates unnecessary obstacles and blocks many from learning about God. There is not a covenant between God and the United States in the Bible, like there was between God and Israel. This bad theology needs to be called out. And I would highly suggest that the Senior Pastor go back and study his Bible and find ways to serve and love if he wants to make a difference in the gay community. Rhetoric like that does not help, it hurts. The greatest threat to the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes not from two secular gays getting married in Boston, Washington, D.C. or San Francisco. The greatest threat to the Gospel comes from men like Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Al Mohler and men like them. You can’t proclaim Jesus and cover up the rape of children like C.J. Mahaney has allegedly done. You can’t proclaim Jesus and then mock families who are victims of child sex abuse like Al Mohler did at T4G in Louisville. You can’t proclaim Jesus and then abuse your Elders, and call women penis homes likes Mark Driscoll has done. Many of these men are nothing but a cancer to the Christian faith and are the Pharisees who need to be called out. But the church is going to be challenged to find innovate ways to talk to the gay community, but first I think we should repent for how we have treated them. After all will they listen to us with that kind of rhetoric still in the air?
Here is a quick run down of some of the interesting things I found in EFCA West.
- Resonate Church in Fremont, California, which is an Acts 29 outfit links a couple of articles explaining why they use the ESV Bible. I know the ESV is the trendy choice of Neo-Calvinists, yet I think the church needs to be profoundly disturbed that the man deeply involved in the ESV translation has a view of the Trinity that goes against the Nicene Creed. All these references to “sound doctrine” in the Neo-Calvinist camp, and in the end we learn that they do not have “sound doctrine” at all.
- I liked the idea of Evangelical Free Church in Green Valley, Arizona having a faith community nurse that can help out the congregation with health issues. That is really neat and I think that is the only Evangelical Free Church I have come across which has that process. Keep in mind I have a lot of other districts to go through.
- Lake Murray Community Church in La Mesa, California has a very interesting and engaging program that ministers and works with senior citizens. Its refreshing to see a church program that actively engages a part of society that many evangelical churches choose to neglect.
- I honestly appreciate the raw and tender story that Joe Russell, Riverview Church Pastor in Bonsall, California has shared about how his son suffered from congenital heart defect. I want Joe to know that I grieve with his family, but I am grateful for how things are going. It appears they are going well. I would be happy to pray for his family, and he can email me updates if he likes. Evangelical Christians need to learn how to discuss and deal with the topic of pain and suffering. Transparency and an “I don’t know” along with walking with a person through a dark valley can speak volumes. I would like to write about this topic more and use this as an example.
- I thought Merced Evangelical Free had a great resource page that was not bad at all in a lot of ways.
- There is one glaring error that needs to be addressed on the Evangelical Free Church main website. Quail Lake Community Church is in Sanger and not Clovis. That is a big difference and as a guy from the San Joaquin Valley there is a difference that needs to be addressed.
- Also, I can’t believe that David Arnold the Senior Pastor of City Bible Church is recommending Perry Noble to his church and readers on his blog. Perry Noble?!? Really? Has David Arnold read Dr. James Duncan’s blog called The Pajama Pages which deals with Perry Noble and New Spring Church? Does David Arnold know that Perry Noble’s church interfered with an adoption, sent pornography to his house, and submitted a false letter of resignation to his employer in an effort to try and get Dr. James Duncan fired from his job? It can all be read right here. I am not going to give Perry Noble time on this blog as he is not worth it.
- It is a small world in evangelicalism, I keep learning that again and again. Plus I just learned that within the past week or so. I noticed that Jeff Thune is becoming the Senior Pastor at Northwest Bible Church in Tucson, Arizona. Ministry is a family business in the Thune family and I have written about Jeff’s father who pastors an Evangelical Free in Bismarck, North Dakota on this blog. Plus I also did a comprehensive of Cru’s (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) Christmas conferences in the United States. In that post I wrote about Jeff’s brother Bob Thune who leads an Acts 29 church in Omaha, Nebraska called Coram Deo. I panned TCX which I used to attend because of my deep concern about Neo-Calvinist material being promoted in Cru. So as I move through the Evangelical Free Church it will be interesting to write more about the Thune family.
As I wrap this up there are a few things I want to single out as well. At this blog I want to convey my deepest sympathies to Senior Pastor Jim Larson from Chapel City Church who shared about losing his brother. I am profoundly sorry and please let me know if I can pray for you Jim. I would like to give a shout out to Senior Pastor Bob Slack who went to Fresno Pacific College, great school, I may be biased as I come from Fresno! 🙂 I also read the retiring notes to the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Midvale, Utah. I think this Evangelical Free was incredibly fortunate to have Roger and Pam Martin dedicate his life to that church. It appears he will stick around but I wish him well. To the EFCA West I want to say that I look forward to writing about you. Feel free to engage me, and to those who are reading this please know I love you and I’ll see you again in a couple of days.