This is the analysis of the Hawaii District as led by Bruce Campbell. This is the smallest district in the Evangelical Free denomination and I chose to do this one following the completion of the largest district (EFCA West). This makes the Hawaii District aware that I will be writing about them as stories develop.
“For me the magic of Hawaii comes from stillness, the sea, the stars.”
“Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.”
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
A number of the pastors from the Hawaii District posing for a picture at the District conference in February 2015.
Harbor Church in Honolulu
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 in 2000. I wrote about Fresno Evangelical Free (The Bridge Fresno) in this post here. 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 the penetration of Reformed theology/Neo-Calvinism 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 the Hawaii District. This is the fifth district that I have analyzed.
Three Aspects Driving this Post and Blog: D.A Carson’s Corruption, Andrew White and Redeemer Arlington and Atheism
This blog – The Wondering Eagle – is going to hold the Evangelical Free denomination accountable. It is going to write, report and reveal problems and issues with their polity. The Evangelical Free is not a healthy denomination and it needs reform. There are three key things I want to communicate to the Evangelical Free Church so they can understand what drives this project and this blog.
1. In February of 2013 at the blog SGM Survivors which has documented and written about corruption and problems in the Sovereign Grace Ministries denomination the following occurred. A person called “Anonymous” wrote about how she was sexually assaulted when she was 13 at a prominent SGM member’s house. She also wrote about how she hoped the denomination would be held accountable. Shortly 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 Don you are out of line…”
No one did a damn thing. The Evangelical Free Church’s silence on this issue screams volumes about its health. I wonder if the denomination is familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. You see the lesson of that story is that you help the broken, the wounded, the person hurt alongside the road. In contrast the Evangelical Free has been committed to growth, church planting all while one of its prominent professor’s at its main seminary attacks a rape victim. In the process I would propose that many parts of the Evangelical Free denomination are acting like the high priest consumed with going to the temple who ignore the wounded person along the side of the road in the process.
Gentlemen…D.A. Carson’s behavior is a disgrace to the denomination and it needs to be challenged. But there is another question that needs to be asked…why would Don Carson behave that way? Over at the blog The Wartburg Watch it was revealed that C.J. Mahaney gave at least $200,000 to Al Mohler at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I put a link to that post in the previous sentence. All together now can we say a “Gospel Centered Bribe.” It has also came out over at the blog SGM Survivors that C.J. Mahaney allegedly gave a lot of cash to Wayne Grudem to help finish the ESV translation. You can read about that in this comment below:
That money given to Wayne Grudem was actually certified by Grudem’s own writing which you can read about in this post here. 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? To read more about the Sovereign Grace scandal the Washingtonian and Time magazine has written 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. Andrew has not repented, or expressed sorrow for the pain he caused. It actually goes to another issue in modern evangelicalism today. Christians don’t say they are sorry…they don’t repent when they hurt other people. They are often indifferent and apathetic to those who they wound. Its what makes many parts of the Christian faith laughable and a joke. All I longed for is a deep, sincere apology with Andrew understanding what he did. If he would have taken the initiative and approached me and sought forgiveness I would have released him. 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.
3. Finally this blog also writes about atheism as well. To date I have written 81 articles about atheism, and there are a lot more to write. The reason why I write about atheism in the context of evangelicalism is for the following reason. Corruption in evangelicalism is one of the factors that fuels atheism. I think many evangelicals would be surprised to learn as to how many people have rejected Christianity due to the corruption hemorrhaging out of the Christian faith today. Don Carson’s corruption along with The Gospel Coalition is a prime example. When I was in my faith crisis walking into an Evangelical Free Church in Manassas, Virginia and learning that it was helping to launch an Acts 29 church (in this case Redemption Hill in DC) – even with all the garbage pouring out of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill after all the corruption and issues was stunning for me at the time. 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 the Hawaii District of the Evangelical Free Church Aware
Having explained all that I want the Evangelical Free church denomination to be aware of what I will report and write on.
- This blog will write about church members who are caught up in membership covenant issues where they can’t resign or walk away. I should also note that I have deep reservations and concerns about membership covenants. My views are summed up in this post right here called. “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: the New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War.” In that post I draw similarities between membership covenants being a modern version of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of oppression throughout the Cold War until it fell in November 1989.
- In-appropriate church discipline will be hammered here at The Wondering Eagle. If an Evangelical Free church in the Hawaii District practices in-appropriate church discipline (Side-note I am not talking about adultery) they will be written up about. For example if a church disciplines a rape victim, or someone who ends their marriage because they were domestically abused. This blog will intervene in those situations for the people in question, and this blog will hammer that church. 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 an alleged rape victim. The Senior Pastor’s son allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated and allegedly pointed a loaded gun at her. In this story the woman knows she could be dead. At the time the Evangelical Free church ignored the pleas of members and former members to get involved. 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. I plan to tell the stories of a few church hijackings at this blog.
- 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 (which is actually in the Church of God Anderson, Indiana denomination) in the Washington, D.C. area.
- Financial issues are another aspect that will be written about and covered. Lack of financial transparency, building campaigns that are questionable will be covered in great detail. Church growth is an idol that is worshiped in the modern evangelical Christian church.
Now if the denomination does not like that and Bruce Campbell 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 and participate in your own “airing of grievances” at your computer. 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 142 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 the Hawaii District leadership of the Evangelical Free Church as well as all the churches and as many Senior Pastors and pastoral teams in the denomination in Hawaii. 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. Too many people are getting hurt today in church, some of the emails I get are heartbreaking.
Hawaii District Under Bruce Campbell
The Hawaii District is led by Bruce Campbell, but the question remains…who is he? Bruce grew up outside San Diego, California and graduated from Biola University in 1976 and finished Talbot Seminary in 1979. Bruce was a youth pastor in Los Angeles for three years. Bruce then moved to Hawaii in 1979 where he pastored at the First Evangelical Free Church in Honolulu. Bruce then left and planted Grace Community Church on the island of Kona in 1990. According to Kona’s website his style of ministry comes from the fourth chapter of Acts, where the apostles were “devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” His style as a pastor includes both expository preaching and going chapter by chapter through the Bible.
As for some personal information Bruce married his high school sweetheart and they have four boys. In his free time (which is a luxury…) he enjoys golf, landscaping, kayaking, and rooting for Los Angeles sports teams. On a personal note I just watched the Washington Nationals play the Los Angeles Dodgers a couple of weeks ago at Nationals Park here in D.C. I was conflicted because I always have to support the local team, yet I grew up in California as well and have an affinity for the Dodgers personally. I spent time researching the Hawaii District and found limited information about it. There is no webpage, no Facebook page or other information. In some ways I expect that due to how small this district is. I mean consider – the Eastern District is led by Eddie Cole, and EFCA West is led by Steve Highfill. Those demands alone create a Superintendent position who can focus on the district. In the case of Hawaii its so small that Bruce has to wear two hats. That of the Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church in Kona, and as Hawaii District Superintendent.
Hawaii District’s Focus on Burma
EFCA SE which is led by Glen Schrieber had a focus on Haiti and even planting churches in Haiti. I touched on that issue in my post on that district which you can read here. In the case of the Hawaii District they are focused on missionary activity in Burma. I believe this is a priority with the EFCA Hawaii District Board, and Mililani Community Church which is led by Rick Bartosik is the lead church in this effort. Burma is a fascinating and interesting country with a dark and troubled past. Burma borders India, China, Thailand, Laos, and Bangladesh. In the 2014 census the population was recorded at 51 million people. Its capitol city is Naypyidaw while the largest city is Rangoon.
Burma has a long history and in this brief space I am not going to be able to do it justice, to do this I will lean upon Wikipedia and other sources. Also please not that Burma is referred to as Myanmar as well, in this writing I will refer to it as Burma. From my reading up on this country the British arrived on the scene when Burma apparently tried to expand near India which was a possession of the British empire. This led to the first Anglo-Burmese war in 1824 to 1826. The second Anglo-Burmese war was provoked by Great Britain in 1852. The final war which gave the British control of Burma occurred in 1885. Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of Winston Churchill, wanted to annex the remainder of Burma, after doing so he presented it to Queen Victoria as a “New Year’s Present” on New Year’s Day in 1886. Burma then became a province of British India. The British ruled Burma from 1824 until 1948. During World War II Burma was a major battleground, with the Japanese losing close to 150,000 troops in Burma alone. After World War II Aung Son negotiated the Panglong Agreement which guaranteed Burma’s independence as a unified state. Aung San became the leader of the transitional government, but tragically he was assassinated in July 1947. From 1948 until 1962 Burma became an independent republic. This all changed for the worse when on March 2, 1962 the Burmese military under General Ne Win took control of Burma in a military coup. From 1962 until 2011 the Burmese military governed and ruled the state. From 1962 until 1974 the Revolutionary Council governed the country and nationalized or suppressed all media, production, etc.. This was known as The Burmese Way to Socialism which was a combination of Soviet style centralism and central planning. From time to time the military put down protests against Ne Win. But probably the most significant uprising occurred in 1988, and became known as the 8888 Uprising. The death toll in this violent put down varies in estimation from 3,000 to 10,000. A key person during this time was Aung San Suu Kyi who became the face of the resistance, it should also be noted that she is the daughter of assassinated leader Aung San. In May of 1990 the government allowed free elections and Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won 80% of the seats. The military junta in charge refused to turn over power. Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest in 1989 and when offered to be freed if she left Burma, Suu Kyi refused. Sau Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent efforts to resist against the military dictatorship. Military crackdowns continued and then in May 2008 Cyclone Nargis hit the country and the death toll was catastrophic. Over 200,000 were dead or missing. In 2011 democratic reforms took place and then general elections occurred on November 8, 2015. The National League for Majority won seats in both houses of parliament. In February 1, 2016 the parliament convened and then on March 15, 2016 Htin Kyaw was elected as the first non-military President since the coup in 1962. Aung San Suu Kyi was elected as the State Counsellor which is the equivalent of Prime Minister. Burma has a lot of challenges ahead and I am actually encouraged that the Hawaii District is actually engaging this part of the world.
What Stood Out in the District
This is a small district and there were only a couple of things that stood out in my mind as I studied and examined each website. What grabbed my eye were a few things from Acts 29 Harbor Church Honolulu. I read on their mission page of how “we were sent on a mission.” Then when I examined the page I noticed the at risk kids, families of preschoolers, university students and un-reached people groups. Don’t get me wrong as I say this as all hose people need to hear the Gospel. But I was baffled and thought about is the following. “That’s it?!?” Is that all this Acts 29 church going to do? What about the large Japanese population that lives in Hawaii? I noticed that the other Evangelical Free churches working in that area have made a reference to that issue in the area. Is there a reason why this church is not? Also what about the large military population on Oahu? I looked at that and found it baffling to see large people groups that are native and local yet not be addressed. I also noticed as I was poking around on this website that John Piper is held in high esteem, and I still can not figure out why. I used to be a Piper Kool-Aid drinker, in the following post you can see what I did to my mother after her experience with pancreatic cancer. After that and in the course of time I began to see John as a fatalist. Or in other words he is the “Pat Robertson” of the Neo-Calvinist world. One of the essays in the works in the future is to use John Piper’s reaction to the Newtown shooting in Connecticut to illustrate how reformed theology makes the problem of evil worse. Its the end state of a version of sovereignty that is determinism in many ways. In the end it warps the Christian faith and makes evil much worse as acts of evil became acts of worship especially if God ordains every act. The end state of John Piper’s God is one of corruption in this sense. You have a God ordaining evil, a God who lies (which goes against Titus I would suggest) and a God who is a monster. If you follow the connections that is how you get to John Piper interpreting tornadoes, a bridge collapse and saying that Newtown was a warning from God. If John Piper was spouting off on a television network like Pat Robertson has done I think more people would be alarmed and baffled by this man. Its long overdue for John Piper to just retire.
I also noticed that the Reformed Industrial Complex is alive and well and also being promoted at Harbor Church Honolulu. The Gospel Coalition’s Overflow 2016 is being promoted. I noticed that J.D. Greear is getting an all expense paid vacation to Hawaii. Being a celebrity pastor must be exhausting work! On a side note…should I spill the beans on how J.D. Greear helped create The Wartburg Watch? Maybe next time! 😉 Paul Tripp is speaking, that in itself is ironic as I am working on a Paul Tripp post for the future. There are a lot of questions that Paul Tripp needs to be asked about in regards to Mars Hill Seattle. His comment on Mars Hill being the most abusive, coercive ministry he has ever encountered was never meant to be public knowledge. I would like to know from this crowd…is the only function people serve to the Neo-Calvinists is to be a personal ATM to bankroll a celebrity pastor? A week from today Mark Driscoll is launching his circus in Phoenix. Yes this is the same Mark Driscoll who talked about how a repentant woman gets down on her knees and performs oral sex on her husband. Yes this is the same Mark Driscoll who called women penis homes which you can read about in this Time magazine article. But Paul Tripp still stays silent on Mark Driscoll and won’t speak out, challenge or push back. We currently have “We Love Mars Hill” and I can’t wait until “Trinity Church Survivors” pops up and we start hearing more stories of spiritual abuse and manipulation. (Do you detect my sarcasm?) This is a situation that can be prevented if more people took action. I wonder if Paul Tripp has heard the story of the Good Samaritan? I also wonder if one can state that he acts like the priest who leaves the wounded and broken along side the road while he is concerned with the celebrity circuit. Why do people believe he is qualified to speak? Ryan Kwon is also speaking at Overflow 2016 . Ryan leads Resonate which is an Acts 29 church in California. I have written about Resonate when I analyzed the largest district of the Evangelical Free Church – EFCA West. Resonate is still actively promoting K.P. Yohannan from Gospel for Asia which you can see on the Resonate webpage here. After all ECFA took away Gospel for Asia’s approval, it has received extensive coverage not only in the United States but in Canada and India as well. And there is $259 million dollars un-accounted for, a large RICO lawsuit hammering at the door and yet Ryan Kwon of Resonate still is promoting Gospel for Asia. It leads me to ask this one simple question….can Ryan Kwon practice discernment and why isn’t he protecting the sheep? Why is he still promoting a spiritual wolf? Before I leave Harbor Church Honolulu I would like to give a shout out to Matt Dirks. He has an active blog and there is much material that will be used in upcoming posts here at The Wondering Eagle over the course of time.
In looking at other aspects I noticed the long and rich history of Kalihi Union Church which you can read here. They recently celebrated their 100th anniversary which you can see here. Now I am still working through all 17 districts but the only thing that stood close to this is what I discovered in looking at the Northern Plains District. In North Dakota I discovered some of the oldest Evangelical Free so far, but that is to be expected given the movement’s Scandinavian roots and given the way many Scandinavians came to the upper Midwest and Northern Plain states. With the surge in Neo-Calvinists it is my hope that this church is not theologically hijacked when Jonathan Steeper retires one day. In winding this down I stumbled across this Play Dough recipe at Kalihi Union Church which can be helpful if you have kids. Plus they are also selling a cookbook which you can contact them about if you are interested. 🙂 As this is a small district I knew that I was not going to find as much and to be fair that was very much expected. Having explained all that I will now move onto the sixth district within the Evangelical Free Church of America. As always I love you guys!