An open letter to the District Superintendent Bob Rowley of the Texas and Oklahoma District of the Evangelical Free Church of America. In this letter I explain to Bob what drives me and the time and effort I put into this blog. An unresolved situation from a former Sovereign Grace Ministries church tears my soul apart. Actually it feels like my soul was raped through spiritual abuse. Plus the work I put into this blog and the feedback I am receiving. This post is dedicated to one of the victims from Bryan Loritts Fellowship Memphis who is a victim of an alleged sex crime. I believe her, and I support her.
“It has been said that time heals all wounds. I don’t agree. The wounds remain. Time – the mind, protecting its sanity – covers them with some scar tissue, and the pain lessons, but it is never gone.”
“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it. “
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5: 3-4 NLT
I am considering writing an open letter to each EFCA District Superintendent as I work through their district or as a way to welcome a new one. The first open letter I wrote is to Steve Highfill of EFCA West. In that post I wrote about the issues and problems in the EFCA as I see them. In the near future I am going to write a post on what my goals are with this blog in regards to the EFCA. But that is a post for another day. Today I thought I would write you an open letter and let you know why I do what I do, the feedback I am receiving, and the time and effort I put into this blog. Maybe its time to share some of what goes on behind the scenes.
When I was working through the Texas and Oklahoma District I studied the website of Oak Creek Bible Church in League City, Texas. In the website I watched the above video by the senior pastor Mike Bauer. I snagged it and put it aside to use for a future post, which coincidentally is this post that you are reading in your office in San Antonio, Texas. In the video above Mike Bauer talks about a Justin who asked a lot of questions to his co-worker before he eventually got involved in Oak Creek.
Let me tell you about another “Justin.” This “Justin” had a profound and deep faith crisis and pushed back from Christianity for half his thirties. He was in deep pain, trying to figure things out and overwhelmed by doubt. The doubts that crushed him were the problem of evil, Old Testament genocide, and issues such as what happens to those who never heard the Gospel because of when and where people lived? For example is someone who lived in Wuhan, China in 400 BC going to hell because he never heard the Gospel? Those were the questions that tore “Justin” apart. During this time that “Justin” was deeply meshed with individuals like Christopher Hitchens, and watched Richard Dawkins. When Hitch said that you provoke, cause conflict and seek out argumentation “Justin” did that exceedingly well. During this time “Justin” probably would have impressed Christopher Hitchens for how argumentative he became. “Justin” also went to a few Center for Inquiry events, and participated in the largest atheist rally in United States history on the national mall in Washington, D.C in 2012.
During this time “Justin” opened up to a co-worker who is called Andrew White. He told him how he lost his belief in God and of the faith crisis he had. But who is Andrew White? Andrew graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2005, and was deeply involved in the Navigators. He is close to his Navigators director today. His Navigators director married him to his wife Gillian shortly after graduation. Andrew loves to draw, loves theater, and donated bone marrow to save a person’s life in Portland, Oregon. In the spring of 2012 Andrew flew to Portland to meet the person he donated bone marrow to. Andrew calls Colorado Springs home, and in my faith crisis he deeply pursued “Justin” and spoke with him quite a bit. “Justin” and him had a lot of lunches together, and he asked “Justin” to have dinner together from time to time. He was involved in a movement called Sovereign Grace which is known for deep corruption, C.J. Mahaney’s blackmail and allegations of covering up child sex abuse. In the process he also tried to get “Justin” to listen to Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler, and for him he also deified John Piper though Andrew will deny much of this fact. He was a Care Group Leader at Redeemer Arlington and reported to Jordan Kauflin. Jordan is Bob Kaulfin’s son, who is C.J. Mahaney’s defender as thus his main enabler in his corruption right now. Andrew tried to get “Justin” involved in Redeemer Arlington and “Justin” was horrified when he saw all the corruption and criminal allegations hemorrhage out of Sovereign Grace Ministries. “Justin” and Andrew clashed and they fought in ways that “Justin” never knew were possible. While “Justin” was trying to figure out God and if he was going to be an atheist he had to contend with this Sovereign Grace situation which was the last thing he needed. That said, Andrew still pursued “Justin.” He pleaded with “Justin” not to give up on God. He sent “Justin” texts imploring him to come back to the Christian faith, and how much he loved and cared for him. “Justin” got some of the most caring and passionate emails and texts from Andrew. In this period there were several times that “Justin” who disagreed with Sovereign Grace and was concerned about the organization was impressed that Andrew pursued him. When there was a medical crisis he pursued “Justin”” in the hospital and showed him deep love. In response to all this there were several times where “Justin” told Andrew that if he ever returned to the Christian faith he would let Andrew baptize him. “Justin” felt that was right given the efforts he played in pursuing him. In March of 2013 Andrew asked “Justin” to stay in his place and hang out with him. They had a huge fight over John Piper teaching women to submit to their domestic abuser which you can watch right here.
In the video above Mike Bauer of Oak Creek Bible Church said that Justin eventually came to faith and got involved in Oak Creek. In the other story of “Justin” something went terribly wrong, and something was done that was so painful it scarred and psychologically traumatized “Justin.” Despite his efforts at pursuing “Justin” and inviting him over to his home, contacting him and more, Andrew did the unthinkable. He gave birth to a false accusation and claimed that “Justin” was a threat to his family. He used his rank as an Air Force Captain to pull off the false accusation. Andrew did this right after his Navigator director asked him to speak about his faith at an event in California. “Justin” was warned about stalking and he was puzzled after all Andrew had reached out to him quite a bit and pursued him deeply. “Justin” was thrust into the darkest season of his life as he was slowly crawling out of a faith crisis. In that time “Justin” lived under the threat of being reported to law enforcement for a crime he never committed. Meanwhile after making the false accusation that abruptly severed the relationship Andrew focused on recruiting another co-worker to Sovereign Grace. “Justin” was left trying to put together the pieces of his life.
For “Justin” it was the darkest season of his life. “Justin” cried in ways that he never had before, and cried more in this period than in other times of his life. There were times he cried in the middle of the night in deep psychological pain. After the false accusation “Justin” would sit on the couch and shake in fear. When “Justin” was out at the gym, the grocery store or going about his life, when he heard the word stalk he froze, sometimes he cried, and shook. “Justin” asked himself “What is happening to me?” When “Justin” saw how a military officer abused his authority he learned why rape and sexual assault is a deep and pervasive issue in the United States military. Rape isn’t about sex, its about abuse of power, “Justin” could now see why sexual assault is a problem in the military. “Justin” also knew that he made mistakes and he set out to own them. “Justin” repented and sought forgiveness from close to 140 people. In the process he put himself at financial risk in seeking forgiveness, and put his neck on the line. This is the story of “Justin” accomplishing the most difficult reconciliation in the process. But there was one person who denied his prayers for peace. That person who rejected any effort of reconciliation is Andrew White. “Justin” knew that he had a defamation of character lawsuit on his hands due to how Andrew threatened his name and reputation. “Justin” had a lawyer look over the situation and he thought a good case existed and explained why. Despite that, all “Justin” wanted to do was sit down with Andrew and work things out. Talk and discuss everything and heal each other and help each other grow in the Christian faith. “Justin” realized given the psychological trauma he endured that he could show Andrew a lot of grace if he came to him and said, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me?” After all “Justin” firmly believed in owning his part of this mess. “Justin” will always own it and never pass the entire blame onto Andrew. Even if “Justin” was under the Christopher Hitchens Kool Aid at the time he still will own his errors and mistakes. That is called responsibility and that is the right thing to do in this scenario from his end.
In the story above “Justin” is me and that pain from that unresolved false accusation is one of the many factors that drives this blog. I feel stuck and the entire experience was psychologically traumatic. Spiritual abuse is very much the rape of ones soul. But here is the other aspect I do not get at all. Why can’t Christians who profess how strong and secure they are in their faith say “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong…” and “Will you forgive me?” The saddest element to this entire situation is that when I repented and sought out forgiveness I thought this would be resolved. Instead you have this guy who walks around who listens to Mark Driscoll, John Piper and Matt Chandler who boasted of how he is in the “healthiest church” he was ever in, be the only Christian out of 140 people who refuses to reconcile, express remorse and say he is sorry. If Andrew approached me and wanted to work things out and things we’re healed this blog would have been put to bed and it would have died. After all…why would one have a need to speak about something if its resolved? But these are the questions below that I would like to find the answers to one day in my life before my death. They haunt me and hover over my life.
- In light of the false accusation I endured when Andrew claimed he loved and cared for me…did he? Or was is it all an act and an effort to get me involved in his Sovereign Grace church?
- Andrew pleaded me to come back to the Christian faith yet he walked away from being able to observe and possibly get in the water and assist in a baptism. What kind of Christian who talks about how healthy their faith is walks away from participating in someone’s baptism? Even if he is just observing?
- Why is Andrew afraid of me? Why has he built a wall and refuse to engage and contact me? I would have showered him with grace and embraced him. After all if he sincerely approached me and I spurned him then the onus would be on me. That would me a case of me being angry or bitter and carrying on a grudge.
- How can someone say they have such a solid faith and refuse to reconcile?
- This question bothers me immensely…but why would a Christian intentionally choose to deny peace to another person? Why would they leave them in knots? And in pain? And wounded? Who does that?
This trauma leaves me in knots and I feel stuck. Like I said I don’t think you will understand spiritual abuse Bob until it happens to you. What happened to me I would not want to wish on anyone.
The Work Involved at The Wondering Eagle
This blog is an intense amount of work. I spend a lot of time reading, preparing and planning future posts. I read everything from The Gospel Coalition to Center for Inquiry. I read from Tim Challies to Greg Boyd, and I examine material all over the landscape. I read as much as I can so I can be current. Its hard to keep up and do this when I also have a busy life in the Washington, D.C. area. I have late nights and I have to edit, write and in between I respond to emails and acknowledge many people. I have my sources that I am close to in the Elverson, Pennsylvania area that I discuss developments with in regards to the Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church situation. Plus I have my sources in Memphis, Tennessee for Fellowship Memphis. The sources I work with often approach me and they have good knowledge. I love them, and look out for them. I spend a lot of time on the phone talking with people as well, and I coordinate times when I can drive and talk to them on my Blue Tooth. I view all the people who contact me as precious. I know that to have a good blog you need to have a lot of material and in order to raise it in the Google rankings you need to publish frequently. That’s why I put up four posts up in a week in most usual situations. The more I write the more the blog rises in the Google rankings. I track its progress on Alexia from time to time. I also use this medium to practice writing and frequently go back and edit and change grammatical errors when I see them. I pour my heart into this blog and I know that the work is felt by many. I also try and spend time on Twitter as well to drive my material and follow other people. Plus I also get writing ideas on Twitter. That is as far as I will go in social media. I will not do Facebook or Linked In due to this being a one man show. I would like to add a couple of people in the course of time who can help me carry the blog. I would like to add someone who can speak to Neo-Calvinist, SGM, and Acts 29 issues. Then I would like to add someone who can write about the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) also. In another post I will do in the future I want to lay out my vision and goals for this blog and the EFCA. That vision is pretty big from helping to illustrate the problem of Neo-Calvinism in the EFCA and encouraging the denomination to return to its Lutheran roots and stay away from 9 Marks theology. 9 Marks I view more as a virus and inconsistent with EFCA history, culture and ethos. But this post will be worked on in the near future.
I will also say this…writing this blog has been hard in so many other ways. I have learned things I wish I had not learned. And it taught and continues to teach me a lot about many disturbing issues. For example in the story of Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania I learned how our judicial system can be harsh to alleged domestic abuse victims and those who are allegedly raped. I learned what reckless endangerment is in hearing how a gun was allegedly misused by the senior pastor’s son on his wife. I have had a hard time letting go of the story of how a husband allegedly pulled a gun on his wife. That has been deeply troubling for me. In the case of Fellowship Memphis I have learned more about child pornography than I wanted to learn. I have also learned about paraphilia’s such as voyeurism. I had misconceived notions on all these issues that were shattered. This blog has learned about dark elements of society that still continue on in churches. To be truthful Bob I could do without much of this, as its incredibly hard to process. But I soldier on carrying this project forward and focused on the long term goal of to prevent people from being hurt. If I could I would do all I can do to prevent someone else from going through what I endured.
Feedback I am Receiving at The Wondering Eagle
The feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. I get emails on a fairly regularly basis of people who thank me for writing and who say they enjoy me. I also get some angry emails as well but I expect that. The stats on this blog are through the roof. In the first year I had 51,000 people who read me. This year I am close to 135,000 and it keeps growing fast. I want to use this blog as a means for positive change and to help others. In Elverson, Pennsylvania I know many people are glued to me and I have people who volunteer information. In Memphis I have had a lot of people reach out to me and who ask me to keep writing. Just the other day I had someone who is grateful that I am writing heavily about the EFCA. But that’s not all the feedback I get.
I also have a good number of atheists, skeptics, and non-theists who like to read me. I correspond with many behind the scenes and I love them as well. I have people in differing faith crisis who also read me and like my posts. I care for them as well. The readership is diverse and I think that’s good. The fact that you have all those groups of people participate in one place is encouraging. I am all about communication and I am all about letting many people have their say. I have traveled around the East Coast meeting with people and telling my story of Redeemer Arlington and Andrew White. I have also listened to them and am grateful for what I have heard. This blog has taken me to a wedding in New Jersey, and differing parts of Pennsylvania. I have attended the Reason Rally and would like to get more involved in atheist events to write about them. I have met and slowly gotten to know differing pastors and I love them as well. Plus I have also had people who travel to Washington, D.C. for business who like to meet with me and I make time in my schedule to do that. If anyone ever wants to meet with me from the EFCA or any of the atheist organizations I will make time for them. I love people. You have to love people if you are going to do this and try and make a difference.
Why I Stay Up to 2:00 A.M. Sometimes
Bob while my story with a former Sovereign Grace church drives me there are other things that drive me as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have been up until 2:00 a.m. in the morning writing and working on this blog. But there is one reason why I write so much and its the reason why I dedicate today’s post to that person. I have poured a lot of time into writing about a corrupt Acts 29 church called Fellowship Memphis. Today in Memphis, Tennessee there is a mother who is the victim of an alleged sex crime. In her most private of moments Rick Trotter the worship pastor, who was allegedly into voyeurism recorded her on film in the restroom. She was traumatized and deeply hurt. She contacted me and asked for help and I immediately said yes. She is deeply encouraged that someone over 876 miles away would care and write aggressively about the situation. You see Bob if a victim of an alleged sex crime is not going to matter to the church today than something is jacked up. When church reputation, building campaigns and church planting become more important than the victim of an alleged sex crime then we cease to be Christians and we are no longer following the Lord. In those circumstances the church is nothing but a business,\ – a franchise that is nothing but a theological version of Starbucks, Wendys or Chiptole. If that is how things are going to be than its best the church close its doors forever because that would honor Jesus the most.
But I would like to have that Fellowship Memphis victim to have peace of mind in knowing that she is loved and supported. I have a number of stories or situations about the Evangelical Free Church of America in the pipeline and I would like those people to find peace as well. Bob spiritual abuse is a serious issue and its hard to recover from. This blog is diverse in speaking to a number of issues but that is one of the themes. I am in a lot of pain, and I don’t think you’ll understand it unless you go through something traumatizing. The fact of the matter is that I don’t want you or anyone else to go through what I did. Recently in the Washington, D.C. area I caught a Major League Baseball game. I watched the Washington Nationals play the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was supposed to be a pleasant and fun time with friends. While I was watching that game the thought entered into my mind. That thought was this…”I can’t believe I learned how rape and sexual assault are an issue in the military.” Here it is after the fact and I am still dealing with the issue. Andrew White ran and fled to Colorado Springs, and refused to deal with what he gave birth to. An attorney who I consulted with encouraged me to try and get the issue resolved with Redeemer Arlington. That was tried and it didn’t work. Something is deeply wrong when you have people into Mark Driscoll and John Piper walking around talking about how sound their doctrine is, and how healthy their faith is. Yet this person cannot take the initiative to approach me and say, “Dave I am sorry, I was wrong…let’s talk this all though…” He can’t and won’t do that and as such I feel stuck. Some of my friends who know of this situation are amazed I got through it. Truth be told I don’t know how I got though it. What I wonder is the following…is Andrew going to be my Peter or my Judas Iscariot in life? He doesn’t have to be a Judas. He alone is choosing to be Judas when I hoped and prayed he would be like Peter. But I am trying to recover from that false accusation today. Day by day step by step. If it took about 10 years to purge Mormonism from my system I honestly wonder how long it takes to process a Kool Aid drinker from Sovereign Grace and get that out of my system? Its with that in mind that I will close with Celine Dion’s new song. Take care Bob, and I look forward to writing about the Texas and Oklahoma District of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
BTW – I signed up for the District newsletter and I don’t know if that was confirmed. Can you sign me up for it? I would like to be appraised of developments, conferences, events, pastoral changes and more.