This is the analysis of the Texas and Oklahoma District of the Evangelical Free Church of America as its led by Bob Rowley. It has 65 churches in it, with the overwhelming number being in Texas. This post now brings me to also begin to write about this district.
“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”
“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it with only consenting adults.”
I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there?
2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
Psalm 121:1-2 NLT
Screen shot of the District logo
The Table Community Church in Fort Worth, Texas
Fellowship Bible Church in Waco, Texas
Restore Austin in Austin, Texas
El Camino Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas
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 California in 2000. Today due to a host of issues I wouldn’t step foot in an EFCA church, 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 document 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 Texas and Oklahoma District. This is the sixth 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 (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. Why can’t Christians say they are sorry? At this blog I wrote about an amazing story out of Florida a while back involving Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge. Its about how a drunk driver repented to the mother of their daughter (Meagan Napier and her friend Lisa Dickson) whom he had killed. 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?” The pain and trauma from that situation drives me incredibly.
3. Finally this blog also writes about atheism as well. To date I have written 85 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 plant 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 the Texas and Oklahoma 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 of 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 Texas and Oklahoma District 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 an alleged 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 an 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 and am committed to writing about it long term.
- 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. (Please note Fairfax Community is in the Church of God in Andersonville, Indiana denomination.)
- 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 Bob Rowley 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 100 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 Texas and Oklahoma District leadership of the Evangelical Free Church as well as all the churches and as many Senior Pastors and pastoral teams in the denomination within Texas and Oklahoma . They have now 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.
Texas – Oklahoma District Under Bob Rowley
The Texas and Oklahoma District is led by Dr. Bob Rowley. Dr. Rowley converted to Christianity in January of 1974 and eventually enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary. He graduated with a Masters in Theology in 1982. Bob actually met his wife JoAnn before he started attending Dallas Theological Seminary. Upon graduation he moved to Laredo, Texas where he helped plant Grace Bible Church Evangelical Free when he arrived in August of 1983. Bob then led Grace Bible Church as the Senior Pastor for nearly twenty years until 2004. On June 14, 2004 Bob was elected as the District Superintendent of the Texas and Oklahoma District. He finally resigned as Grace Bible Church’s Senior Pastor at the end of 2004.
Bob along with his wife have served as Urban Intercultural missionaries with the EFCA. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe Bob served on the district board and five years as the Director of Church Planting. Bob is well known in the EFCA denomination for doing church planting, and coaching and you can see him teach in the Dallas Theological Seminary video above. Bob has been involved in about thirty church plants over the years. In the past he has served on the board of directors of the EFCA. Plus he has also served on the EFCA National Church Planting Team. His dissertation for his Doctor of Ministry in May of 2005 dealt with church planting and how to successfully coach church planters. Plus he has also received the EFCA Church Planting District of the Year award. He is also an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Bob Rowley wants have half of his churches in the Texas and Oklahoma District to daughter a multi-ethnic church in the next ten years. Plus you can also hear him preach at Lakeview Community Church, and Trinity Fellowship Church. Bob and his wife live today in San Antonio, Texas.
Another Way to Look at Church Growth and Planting
As Bob Rowley is very involved in church planting he no doubt is very familiar with Ed Stezter. Last year I wrote “Ed Stetzer’s Warped View on Church Membership” in response to what Ed Stetzer was promoting in regards to church membership. It is my unique way of doing pushback. There is another aspect I also want to communicate as I believe some of this needs to be said. In the medical profession of which my father was a neurosurgeon for years they had another description for uncontrolled growth that is far from healthy. In the medical field that growth is called cancer. And I think its long past time we have a long chat about if some of the church plants going forward today should really go forward. It is my suggestion that the EFCA has deep systemic and systematic problems that go to its core DNA. And church planting is only going to make those problems far worse. Plus its my belief that they will eventually led to the demise of the denomination. Let me explain and illustrate with an example. When I worked through EFCA SE, which is led by Glenn Schrieber, the EFCA was doing extensive church planting in South Carolina. In that case they are primarily planting 9 Marks Neo-Calvinist churches which I would firmly suggest goes against the ethos and the history and culture of the EFCA denomination. Its time for the EFCA denomination to return to its Lutheran roots. Growth for the sake of growth is pointless, and it becomes even more reckless when you cannot deal with rogue churches with clear cut cases. For example in the Eastern District Steve Estes (who Joni Erickson Tada credits with mentoring her.) practiced church discipline on an alleged rape victim, who his son allegedly pointed a gun at. If the EFCA can’t deal with a church led by Steve Estes why do they want to give birth to more? Out in EFCA West its my understanding that a number of EFCA pastors are working with Ryan Kwon of Acts 29 Resonate. There has been story after story of Acts 29 scandals with the latest being at Bryan Loritts Fellowship Memphis which I know is popular in the multi-ethnic church planting scene. Here in the DC area Kenji Adachi is planting a church not far from where I live and its my understanding that he was the pastoral resident at Fellowship Memphis. So before people consider Fellowship Memphis let’s also remember what happened. The worship pastor Rick Trotter was allegedly filming women, which included underage girls in the Fellowship Memphis restroom for two months. In the process Rick Trotter allegedly also created child pornography in a church setting. Bryan Loritts and John Bryson allegedly covered it up and had the evidence destroyed. At least 100 females were allegedly caught on tape at Fellowship Memphis before Rick Trotter went onto another church and did the same thing for three years. At the second church the number of victims could be at least 1,500 people caught on tape. This blog helped break the story and has been working with some of the victims in drawing it out. As I dragged out this story this blog stood up to Bryan Loritts which you can see his comments and emails in “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church” and “Does Bryan Loritts Need Anger Management Therapy? His Behavior on Twitter and Another Email Exchange.” So before Bryan Loritts is considered the model I would read those posts and ask some hard questions about the models being used for church planting. Before the EFCA considers more church planting I suggest you work on your polity, structure and spend some time studying your history before you do any more planting. The EFCA is not healthy and in order to make it healthy internal issues need to be resolved.
Some Gems I Found in the Texas – Oklahoma District
In this district ministries that reach Hispanics are crucial and in Texas I honestly thought I would see that in this area. Retreats are also encouraged at Twin Oaks Ranch which you can see in the El Camino Bible Church video in the leading section of this post. I believe the EFCA owns Twin Oaks Ranch.
In the next post you will find the results of the growth of Neo-Calvinism/Reformed theology in the Texas and Oklahoma District. In studying all the church websites I found a number of things to highlight. It should also be said that this post is but the beginning of writing about this district. Plus I found a number of things that really deserve their own post. So I would anticipate about 20 to 25 posts coming down the pike in the course of time. Please consider that I am also writing stories from EFCA West, Eastern District, and the Southeast District. Plus I am also going to start working on the next EFCA District as I work through this denomination.
Wayside Church in San Antonio recently changed its website. It has its positives and negatives. The positives are that I don’t see C.J. Mahaney’s “Sex, Romance and the Glory of God” being promoted. I find the book title ironic especially when C.J. Mahaney boasted of demanding sex from his pregnant wife Carolyn who was worshipping the porcelain god due to morning sickness. As disturbing as that is its also troubling that a church would be recommending his material especially given the fact that he is dogged by allegations that he allegedly covered up child sex abuse and that he also practiced blackmail. You can read the transcript of that blackmail right here. In other words Mahaney is a fraud so the fact that Wayside isn’t promoting him on the new website I find encouraging. Now on the old website Wayside actually posted their financials which I found refreshing and that it shows remarkable transparency. It was one of the only churches I have seen in examining multiple districts that have done this. I am a firm believer in financial transparency and believe that pastors salaries should be printed in the bulletin and known to their congregations. After all when educators, government employees, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and military and so many more have their salaries readily available why not pastors? I wrote about this in more detail about a church in EFCA West called The Stream. “Kevin Scott’s The Stream in Las Vegas, Nevada; Are these Legitimate Reasons to Give Money to a Church?” That crucial information is lacking on the new website which I think is a major step backward for transparency in Wayside and the EFCA. I hope the Wayside actually starts to resume those postings.
At Hillside Fellowship in Spring Branch, Texas they are promoting The Gospel Project. I have written about this when I did analysis of The Eastern District. A church in Blacksburg, Virginia was using it in its Sunday school curriculum for young adults. The Wartburg Watch did a good article about The Gospel Project which you can read here. But you have to wonder what type of program it is when you have people like Jonathan Leeman writing material for young children? Is this education or indoctrination? I studied German history, Cold War history and more in graduate school just to give you perspective on what I am about to say next. When the editor of one of the more hardcore Neo-Calvinist organizations is writing material for young adults I am sure Joseph Goebbels who was the master at indoctrination of youth would have been amazed to see this program at Hillside Fellowship. By the way speaking of 9 Marks did you know that Mark Dever doesn’t believe communion should be served to elderly people in a nursing home? It makes me want to ask the following question… what is Mark Dever going to do one day when he is 85, in a nursing home and having his diaper changed? Should he be denied communion and reminded of his theology at that stage of life?
I noticed on Redemption Church from Houston that they feature the “HUB” program in their small groups. The more I read and studied it the more questions I have. The biggest question I have is this….is this to insular? Its pretty bad that many evangelicals withdraw from the world and cut themselves off from family and friends who are non-Christians. It begs the question is the HUB program contribute to that problem? In examining Grace Bible Church in Houston some of their ministries which they support show this church to be a little schizophrenic. I noticed that the both support organizations like Intervarsity and Campus Outreach. I myself did Cru and helped found the Marquette University chapter back in the 2000 to 2002 time frame. As I understand it Campus Outreach was created out of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1978. Its my understanding that Campus Outreach is much more controversial that ministries like Navigators, Cru or Intervarsity. Many Neo-Cal organizations use it for practicing the shepherding movement. Its also my understanding that Campus Outreach looks down on other ministries such as Navigators or Intervarsity as being inferior, and not as Biblical. Is this the reason why Capitol Hill Baptist Church works with an organization like Campus Outreach while spurning other para church ministries? After all according to what Jonathan Leeman wrote if a ministry doesn’t submit in its entirety to the “local church” should it even exist? Does it even have a right to exist? Its amazing what one can do with Kool Aid! In Philippians 4:13 in the ESV (Eagle Standard Version) it says “I can do all things with Kool Aid!” Plus there has been some dark stuff about Campus Outreach that have been written which you can read here and here. So if organizations like Campus Outreach have a hard core Calvinist bent and other organizations like Intervarsity do not…why does Grace Bible Church support both? West Brazelton can you provide an answer on that issue?
One thing I found which I did like takes place in Bastrop Bible Church in Bastrop, Texas. They hold a joint father and son Bible study. How cool is that? I think this is the first time I have come across such a study and I strongly encourage it. It would be beautiful if this helped kids bond with their father. I also want to give a shout out to Melissa Forgey and Jay Dill of The Table Community Church in Fort Worth, Texas. I noticed on their staff profiles that they like the eagle and if they could be any animal that is what they would choose. I just want to say you guys have great taste! I wrote for a long time under the pseudo of Eagle, before eventually writing in my full name. You can read my coming out story in the blogging world in this post called, “Revealing My Identity and Bracing for the Long Haul; On Monday We Get to Work.” I also have this question…did the Texas and Oklahoma District hold their annual district conference in 2016? I am guessing it would have been in February. I could not find any information about it but I found information about the district conference in 2014 and 2015.
As this post draws to a close I want to highlight a couple of fun things as I wind this post down. I noticed that Grace Church in Allen, Texas is selling a cookbook for those of you who might be interested. Finally I also want to remind those reading this post from this district that the upcoming Texas and Oklahoma church health clinic is coming up in October 17 and 18th. Given the dark undertones and issues that this blog tackles that should be something that should be on many people’s minds. To the Texas and Oklahoma District I want to let you know that I look forward to writing about you starting with today’s post. The internet is a game changer and I plan to leverage it for as much as a I can in helping people. Take care guys and please know that I love you.