Guest Post: A Local Perspective on the Situation at Steve Estes’ Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania

Andrea McHenry the Director of FREE writes about the situation at Community Evangelical Free Church. Andrea writes this post not only as a director of an organization combating human trafficking, but also as a concerned resident. This is a local perspective on Steve Estes practicing church discipline on an alleged sexual assault victim.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” 

Elie Wiesel  

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Martin Luther King

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:5 NLT


We are fast approaching the second anniversary of Steve Estes practicing church discipline on an alleged sexual assault victim. Steve’s son Brock Estes allegedly sexually assaulted his wife while intoxicated and pointed a loaded gun on her. Hurit knows she could be dead. If you want to read the entire story you can do so in the  following two posts. “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity” and “Hurit’s Public Excommunication While Alleged Criminal Activity by Brock Estes is Withheld from the Congregation: Appeals for Help Fall on Deaf Ears to Steve Musser of the Eastern District and National Evangelical Free Church of America.”  I have to tell you when I first heard this story in December of 2015 I was stunned. I was also sick to my stomach that such an act would happen in the 21st Century of the United States and that many people would allow this brazen act of injustice to stand. The truth of the matter is that it cannot stand. This situation is not going away and is indeed growing with time. Likewise this situation has major ramifications for the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). If the EFCA allows Steve Estes to practice church discipline on an alleged sexual assault victim, then what took place in a small town in Pennsylvania will reverberate across this evangelical network of churches. It will have implications for Steve Highfill’s EFCA West – the largest district in the EFCA. It will also impact Glen Schrieber of EFCA SE which is in the southeastern United States. If the EFCA cannot solve this problem then it will reveal that this denomination has systemic and systematic flaws, and no accountability.

Another major concern that needs to be challenged is that many evangelical Christians practice the sin of omission. What do I mean? Often times something will happen in their community and many Christians or other churches refuse to look into, or have those difficult conversations with those individuals or organizations that are creating a problem. As a result they often let the situation stand and drag out. Steve Estes’s behavior has not only harmed his church but its harming the community. It is also affecting people in the community who are not even members of Community Evangelical Free Church. I would propose that its not only a sin, but ethically wrong for many Christians in the area to overlook or refuse to get involved in this situation in their back yard. Being silent in this situation only enables the problem and encourages the behavior.

Within the towns of Elverson and Morgantown, Pennsylvania Steve Estes behavior has affected many people far beyond the walls of Community Evangelical Free Church. This has affected neighbors, businesses, acquaintances, and more. This situation is splitting apart the community. Today’s post comes from Andrea McHenry who leads Freedom, and Restoration for Everyone Enslaved (FREE) in Morgantown. FREE deals with sexual exploitation, abuse and human trafficking. Andrea is both the Director of FREE and the wife of a pastor in the area. Andrea has seen this situation affect people she knows. She writes this post not just as the director of FREE but also as a local resident of the community watching this tragedy continue to play out.  I would like to thank Andrea for her courage in writing this post. The next time I come up there you are getting a hug! As always I love you guys!

I am the Director of a non-profit organization that fights human trafficking, which is modern-day slavery.  We raise awareness about human trafficking, advocate for the enslaved and shine Light in the darkness.  We long to see human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, eradicated not only from our community, but from our world.  The Lord put human trafficking on my heart many years ago, and while it can feel like a heavy burden to carry many times, it is what I know He has called me to do. God has wired me to be a social justice enthusiast.  He has created me to be a unique mix of mercy and justice.  He has given me a heart for the oppressed, the least of these, and the one’s society has looked down on and tossed aside.  These are the people I feel most comfortable with; the one’s that know they are broken and humbly come before God crying out for healing and restoration.  The honest one’s. They have an understanding we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. (Romans 3:23)  These are the people I love. These are the people I speak up for.  The voiceless.  I use my voice for them.  They are the people I am called to love and serve.  Because of past abuse in my own life and because the majority of sex trafficking victims are women and girls, I am also an advocate to women.  I always have been and I always will be.

That’s why when I heard about what happened at a local church in Elverson I was completely in shock.  Surely what I was hearing could not be true.  Could it be?  Would something like this really be allowed, let alone allowed in the Body of Christ?  I must admit, when I first heard about it, while I was shocked and concerned, I tried to put it aside.  It was almost too much for me to bear, and I did not know what to do with the information I was hearing.  But then more and more details from this injustice started to be brought into the Light.  That initial shock quickly turned to anger.  Not only was I angry, but I had a deep grief in my heart for Hurit.  I do not know Hurit personally, but she is my sister in Christ which means she is my family.  My first thoughts were how is she?  How is she making sense out of such a blatant offense against her?  As a recipient of alleged physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse, what must it feel like to not be believed by the rest of her “family” in Christ?  What must it feel like to be disregarded, ignored, silenced and literally thrown out?  What must that feel like coming from the Church, the Bride of Christ?  (Ephesians 5:25-27)  I would read the blogs that were being written shedding light on this alleged atrocity that happened to Hurit, and there were parts I had to skim over, because it was literally too much for me.  There were many times I found myself pacing the floors of my house, not knowing how I would channel this anger I felt from what happened.

    Lord, help me to channel this anger I feel from what has happened to my sister.

See, I am not a member of this church.  Never have been.  So I cannot speak from the position of being a member of this church.  But I can speak as someone on the outside looking in.  I can speak as a follower of Christ.  I can speak, again, as an advocate to women.  I can speak, again, as someone that daily fights sexual exploitation of our women and girls.  I can speak as someone who has once been in a physically abusive relationship.  Domestic Abuse, Emotional Abuse and Sexual Violence 101, believe her when she says she is being abused and violated.  Period.  Believe her!  Men, believe her.  Ladies, believe her.  Brothers, believe her.  Sisters, believe her.  Church, believe her.  

According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence can happen to anyone, but  “Women are the overwhelmingly majority of adult victims.  Domestic violence is a major cause of injury to women.”  The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence goes on to say, “Substance abuse, genetics, stress, illness or problems in the relationship, do not cause domestic violence, but are often used as excuses and can lead to increasingly violent behavior.  Without intervention, the violence can become more destructive and sometimes deadly over time.  PCADV collects media reports about domestic violence-related fatalities that occur in the Commonwealth.  In 2011, there were 166 fatalities in 124 incidents:  118 victims killed and 48 killers.”  The PCADV says that behaviors that can make up domestic violence are “physical violence, verbal abuse, sexual, emotional and psychological pressure, stalking and financial control.”  The PCADV says these can be a part of domestic violence in a relationship, “Breaking objects, insults and name-calling, yelling, recklessly endangering or scaring the victim and forced sex.”

According to the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence, “Guns increase the probability of death in incidents of domestic violence.  Firearms were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005.  Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.  Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.”

What can we learn from reading these sobering statistics?  What is the moral of this story?

Do not ask her to stay.  Do not expect her to stay.  YOU support her and ensure her safety.  YOU!  

Human trafficking. Who would dispute that it is evil?  No one.  Most people will not dispute the fact human trafficking is an insidious crime against humanity.  Most people will admit there are victims involved in human trafficking.  What is a victim by the way? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a victim is a person who has been “attacked, injured, robbed or killed by someone else.”  A victim is “a person who is cheated or fooled by someone else.”  A victim is “someone or something that is harmed by an unpleasant event.”

 A woman or girl forced into the sex trafficking industry is a victim.  But a woman in the abusive hands of her husband and under the control of an abuser is also a victim.  Why?  Why do we not see this many times?  Why do we do this in our society?  Why do we do this in our churches?  Why do we not see victims as victims?  Why do we want to hide it?  Why do we want to act like it’s not happening?  Why do we take Scripture out of context?  Why do we expect her to stay?

Why do you take Scripture out of context?  Why do you expect her to stay?

If the Lord gives me an opportunity to ever sit with the pastor and leaders of this church there is a lot I would want to ask, and there is a lot I would want to say.  What would I ask them if I had a chance?  Why was Hurit the one charged with the offense, when she was actually the victim?  I would also ask the one’s who took an active part in excommunicating her, whether you were the one’s that actually “prayed” that she be handed over to Satan, or you were part of the one’s that stood by idly watching and doing nothing to stop it, doing nothing to speak out on her behalf…what would you do if this was YOUR daughter??  Because she is someone’s daughter.  And even more importantly, she is a daughter of the One True King.  And He sees what’s been done to her.  And while He is a God of love, He is a righteous God.  He is a God of justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.  (Psalm 89:14)

Why are victims in our churches not seen as victims many times?  Why are they told to stay and “submit” to their husbands?  Why are they told to try harder, be a better wife, have more sex, cook more meals?  Why is their ability to be a good Godly wife in question?  Why is abuse swept under the proverbial rug time and time again in our churches?

    Why was she not seen as the victim?

    Why was this swept under the rug?

What angered and grieved my heart in this situation with Hurit was that many of her brothers in Christ did not stand up for her.  What angered and grieved my heart a million times more….many of her sisters in Christ did not stand up for her.  The one’s who did have been shunned.  To the one’s who stood up for her, to the one’s who said no more, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”  (Rosa Parks)  

Men, you must start speaking up. You must start using your voice. You must start saying NO MORE!


Church, WAKE UP!!  “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said, Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  (Ephesians 5:8-14)

The Lord has recently given me a dream.  In this dream I was invited into a local couples home.  Upon entering their house she told me they were remodeling their home.  The moment I walked through their front door I saw an emergency room.  I saw doctors with masks on and gurney’s.  It was a sterile environment and the lights were bright.  As I looked forward I could see the rest of the house.  A doctor came and pulled a curtain around blocking off what I could see in the rest of their house.  So all I could see and all I was standing in was this emergency room.  But as I looked to my right, I saw a row of chairs, the swivel chairs you sit in at a hair salon. I saw a row of these chairs and mirrors in front of each chair.  Again, just like a hair salon.  I thought it was so odd seeing a salon in an emergency room, and in my dream I even questioned, “Why is there a salon set up in an emergency room?”  I woke up.  There was an immediate knowing from God and He said people want to look like they have it all together, like they are well-kept and perfect, but they are sick on the inside.  They need emergency care, but they are still wanting to put on a certain facade on the outside.

You see, God knows the condition of our hearts,  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  (Proverbs 4:23)  Everything flows from the condition of our hearts, whether it’s a healthy heart or a sick heart.

    Gossip?  No!  Truth.

Jesus is Truth.  His ways are Truth.  His life was Truth.  He sets us free. (John 8:32)

We must always choose Him and His ways.  We must always allow the Holy Spirit to teach us, to guide us, to speak to us, and to lead us to truth.  We must be listening, because He will always answer.

    Are you listening?

When He answers, we must be willing to repent.


Repentance means to turn from sin.  According to repentance is “deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.  It is regret for any past action.”

How grateful I am for Jesus and that I am always able to repent.  I am always able to lay my sins at His feet.  He is always there.  He never rejects me.  But again, it is a condition of the heart.  I have free will.  I can choose to lay at His feet and say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner,” or I can stay in my sin, indignant and unwilling to change.  I have free will.  I can seek the truth, or not.  I can ask questions, or not.  I can seek answers, or not.  I can apologize, or not.   I can ask forgiveness for what I have done to hurt someone, or not.  I can repent, or not.

You have free will.  You can seek the truth, or not.  You can ask questions, or not. You can seek answers, or not.  You can apologize, or not.  You can ask forgiveness for what  you have done to hurt someone, or not.  You can repent, or not.

You stay supposedly so you can help facilitate change?  You do not agree with what has happened, but you stay?  Vote with your feet!  Actions speak louder than words.


I am praying.  I am praying for repentance in our churches.  I am praying for freedom.  I am praying for truth.  I am praying for healing in the lives that have been adversely affected by this injustice.  I am praying for the marriages that have been adversely affected by this injustice.  I am praying for the families that have been adversely affected by this injustice.

 I am praying for healing in this community.

I am praying for restoration.  I am praying for redemption.  I am praying for unity in the Body.  I am praying for the sleepers to wake up.  I am praying for light to shine in the darkness.     God is good!  His love is never-ending.  He loves us so much.  So blessed to be a part of His Kingdom.  So blessed He is always there waiting for us to turn to Him.  So blessed to be His servant.  So blessed to be His hands and feet. So blessed He gave me a voice to use.  So blessed Jesus has shown me what true love looks like.  (Romans 5:8)  So blessed to serve the One who is Faithful and True.  To God be the Glory forever and ever, Amen.

19 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Local Perspective on the Situation at Steve Estes’ Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania

  1. Someone please explain to me how Elverson has been directly affected by this scandal. And now Morgantown? What businesses have been directly affected? None went out of business because of the scandal, none have lost their patrons because of this scandal. I have lived in Elverson for 10 plus years and do not see the change mentioned at all. In fact if anyone went to the Halloween parade, all you saw were proud business owners and their floats, happy families and their children,, laughter, community spirit and these were all residents of this small town. From my perspective the only people directly affected by this are and were members of the church. And yes they are suffering so some have left the church rather than try to change the atmosphere in it that will never change. Almost two years later? Kind of a sign that it will remain the same. Elverson is a happy little community and life goes on.


    • Jen I have received a couple of emails where people have explained how this affected their job. Maybe they live in the community and they heard about what happened in CEFC and then they are working with someone from CEFC in a position and there is some conflict or tension. Others are afraid to speak out because of blow back to their family. For example I have had a number of people over the past year explain to me their anger in Mike and Kelly Culbert’s role in this mess. In one phone conversation I had with a source earlier this year this person explained to me how someone they knew read about what Mike Culbert was involved in and they lost all respect for him. They were beyond disappointed because he had taught this person’s children. They remembered the loving, kind, teacher of the year. Now they were wrestling with reconciling the role Mike Culbert played in practicing church discipline on an alleged sexual assault victim. You have to remember for all the stuff that I have written…there is much more that is being held back. Its being held back because the leadership of CEFC would then figure out who is saying what, etc… Number one goal in this is to protect sources. Its a messy and complicated situation. To get the information out and yet protect the people who are brave enough to speak up. I have had moving parts of emails from people in the area that I have asked for permission to publish a part of it. People are afraid, people are very afraid. And I understand…writing about my own situation with a former Sovereign Grace church in the Washington, D.C. area is not easy either.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kind of a sign that it will remain the same. Elverson is a happy little community and life goes on.

      All One Big Happy Pleasantville, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha, not Pleasantville but someone from Elverson said it is a cross between “Elmer Gantry” and “Deliverance” 😀 What happens too is the rumor mill. It is very much alive and well and by the time the last person hears the story? It is so changed you would not recognize it. Be very careful of your sources Wondering Eagle. One question how does “pushback” from family cause such fear? What can they do to people that disagree with them?

        And yes life does go on after trauma, it has to or what is the alternative?


  2. First, this community has been directly affected by this injustice. To think it hasn’t is naive. It may not always look like it on the outside, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. There was a time in my life that was tremendously painful and dark, but aside from my immediate family, I didn’t show my pain to others on the outside. I was too embarrassed and ashamed. I also didn’t want to burden people with my problems. I didn’t want to be the one that shows up to my child’s sporting event and burden people with my pain. So on the outside I appeared happy because I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable. But I can assure you, when I got home there were many times I curled up and sobbed. Not wanting to show up to my child’s sport event hysterically crying didn’t mean I wasn’t broken. Just because a parade seems happy in that moment, doesn’t mean there’s not pain in people’s lives. It doesn’t mean everyone and everything is happy. Second, this really isn’t the main issue at all. The main issue is alleged abuse and alleged sexual assault that has been not only ignored, but covered up. Not only should this not be tolerated in this church, it shouldn’t be tolerated in the community. It shouldn’t be tolerated at the highest level of this denomination. It shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere. Period. The fact it has been is sad and unconscionable. Let’s pretend Elverson is a happy little community completely unaffected by this injustice. Well….that’s even more sad and unconscionable. Because everyone should be outraged and appalled someone was allegedly raped and then tossed to the curb. Yes, it’s almost two years later, but it doesn’t have to remain the same. People can speak out. People can help facilitate change, both members of this church and nonmembers of this church. People can help bring justice to this horrible injustice. This happens, even after two years, by people not sitting idly by and acting like everything is happy. Life goes on for people unwilling to seek truth. Life goes on for people who are, unfortunately, completely unaffected by someone else’s pain. Yes, for many, life goes on. I wonder if victims of sexual violence and physical abuse can say, “Life goes on” as easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Not only should this not be tolerated in this church, it shouldn’t be tolerated in the community.”
      good point
      A while back Eagle wrote about a rape committed by some members of the university football team in my locale. Life went on in my “happy little community” also, this was not a positive.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One question how does “push-back” from family cause such fear?
    What can they do to people that disagree with them?

    Jen, what is your real name?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If anyone thinks Wondering Eagle is getting incorrect facts from the “rumor mill”, please identify specifically which fact is incorrect and how you know it’s incorrect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jen, I had one person from Elverson who left a comment a few months back about Steve Estes and CEFC. They did so in their real name. They had either a relative or close friend still in CEFC who believes the Elders. Their friend/family member heard about the comment and it started to lead to deep conflict and she emailed me and asked me to take it down. As for blow back some people will talk openly in private but not openly. They do not want to state the businesses they work for/at where some of this conflict occurred.


      • I can understand conflict at the businesses and completely understand not naming the businesses . But did people actually lose their jobs at these businesses ? Or were they threatened to be fired if they openly discussed the scandal?


  5. Andrea, thank you for standing up for all marginalized women. You are a brave soul to stand for the many enslaved in trafficking, and also willing to stand for a woman who has suffered from the abuse of her husband, then tossed aside by the Pharisees of the EFCA leaders.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Let me quote a few things:

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
    – Martin Niemoller, on Nazi concentration camps

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

    “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:38

    “”41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” – Matthew 25:41-46

    For those that sees evil and keep silent, you yourself have committed a great evil. For those that sees evil abuse the weak and do nothing, you yourself have that same blood on your hands. When the Nazi’s comes after your brothers in Christ, you would have hid and watch them die. When the Romans come after you, you will denounce Jesus and pretend to be a Pagan. How then, can you say your faith was real?


    • If you keep silent when you see these evil abusers abusing others, I pray one day that these very same abusers will come after YOU and your loved ones. Then maybe you will know the pain of getting abused. And then finally, maybe you will realize your errors and repent of your ways.

      It is much better to face pain and suffering right now and come to the truth, then never realizing the truth and be burn eternally in the fires of hell. Then this pain will be a blessing to you. Not because the pain itself is a blessing, but because the pain will lead to you repenting to God.

      I didn’t say this. Jesus did. When that sister in Christ was abused and abandoned by false teachers and was thirsty, did you gave her something to drink? When she was abused and abandoned by false teachers and needed a place to stay, did you invite her in? If you didn’t, then neither did you do these things for Jesus.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Is Steve Estes and Community Free Elders Holding a Repentance Service in the November 14th Business Meeting? | Wondering Eagle

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