Rumors of a repentance service are addressed in this post. If the church is going to admit their error in the excommunication of an alleged rape victim, then the leadership from Steve Estes, Merle Stoltzufs, all the way to Mike and Kelly Culbert need to admit their error. A repentance service should not be a secret and open to the community. Former members should be able to witness it, individuals in the community like Andrea McHenry should be welcome as well.
“A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Matthew 5:23-24 NLT
These past couple of weeks have been very interesting. It started when I received an email from someone in Elverson who left Community Evangelical Free Church (CEFC) many years ago. A current member told her that CEFC is going to hold a repentance service. Intrigued I reached out to some of my “inside” sources and inquired. Steve Estes had allegedly told someone that the church was going to repent. So I called the church on Friday October 23 and spoke with Nancy and asked her if the church was going to hold a repentance service? She did not know. I then left a voice mail for Al Kimball and am still waiting for him to return my call. Earlier last week I called the church again and got no response. I called Stoltzfus Enterprises and asked to speak with Merle. Merle refused to speak with me at all. Let me just say that I am disappointed that Merle will refuse to respect or acknowledge another person. In my shoes I have always engaged everyone with the respect I believe they deserve. I’ve spoken to and responded to the emails I receive or the people who want to speak with me. Merle needs to do the same thing. A while back I called Stoltzufs Enterprises and spoke with Dave Stoltzfus. I thanked Dave for the church removing Brock from the Elder candidate list. I respect Dave for taking the phone call and while the conversation was brief, there was a brief conversation. Merle should learn from Dave on how to be diplomatic.
I am deeply troubled that the church will offer a half hearted apology as a means to do damage control and keep a $5 million dollar loan from the Evangelical Free Church of America in Minneapolis. Two more families recently left. I recently obtained the Community Evangelical Free Directory of February 2013. At the time this church had 435 members, and the bleed has been long and painful. While a couple have joined over a 100 members have left. As of today I believe 330 members are on the Community Evangelical Free Church membership roll. Members are asking questions and others are calling on Steve Estes to resign. I am concerned about an apology to placate those members and control those on the membership rolls and keep them in line. At the same time I am concerned that Steve Estes will do an apology that is more about damage control than doing the right thing. That would include a “service” that appears to be legitimate but that leaves out and doesn’t involve Hurit.
Hurit is key, and any service that takes place, or any effort of apology needs to include her and her family.
Remember Brock Estes allegedly raped his wife. Brock allegedly pointed a loaded gun at his wife. Brock is the one who allegedly engaged in domestic abuse. According to one of the Elders Steve Estes was the quarterback of excommunicating his daughter-in-law. Steve dragged Hurit’s name through the mud in a way that was very public. Steve humiliated his daughter-in-law and drove her out of town. I would go so far as to say that Hurit was allegedly raped twice. First by Brock, second by the church leadership who in the process covered up Brock’s alleged criminal activity because he worked at the Berks County Jail. His Uncle Merle expressed a need to protect his nephew’s job.
If that business meeting occurs on November 14 and an apology is given, but Hurit is left out. Then its a fraud. And those stuck in the church are further being manipulated again. A half hearted apology only adds to the pain and creates further problems. Its insincere, and drags the mess out further. I’ve interacted and met some of the people from Sovereign Grace who are hurt by insincere apologies. In my own story, the point of contention I have with a former Sovereign Grace church (Redeemer Arlington in this case) is over an insincere apology. I wrote about it here and plan on writing more about it in the future. That is part of the reason why I am animated about this topic because if the church is going to hold a repentance service Nancy would know and Merle would speak about it on the phone. The sources and people I know in Elverson would not be frustrated, but instead relieved that Community Evangelical Free Church is doing the right thing. What is even more frustrating is that a blogger in the Washington, D.C. area who doesn’t have any seminary training at all, has to explain this to a Westminster Theology Professor. If Steve Estes doesn’t know this as a part of practical theology, it begs the next question. Why then is he teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary?
What Members Need to Accept and What a Repentance Service Should Include
This is what members of CEFC still there, former members, and the community of Elverson and Morgantown, Pennsylvania should accept.
The leadership of CEFC needs to reach out of Hurit’s family and apologize to them. Hurit, her mother, and her father should receive a sincere and heartfelt apology. In that process Huirt’s mother and father should be able to talk with Steve, David or Merle and ask them, “Do you know what you did to my daughter?” If they did, that is good news. As part of the process whatever Hurit’s mother and father desire should be respected. Maybe Hurit’s mother will forgive them and let it be, maybe she will ask Brock to take domestic abuse counseling. If Steve, David and Merle are apologetic then they will listen to Hurit’s family and do what they ask.
I also believe Steve Estes, Merle and Dave should apologize to the Eastern District of the EFCA. Steve should apologize to Eddie Cole for what he guided his church through. The Elder Board at the time who was involved in this profound act of injustice needs to admit their error. For example Mike and Kelly Culbert should retract their bastardized prayer to the devil about turning Hurit over to Satan. Those on the Elder Board at the time should each read a brief statement as to why they are wrong. I would also suggest that each member of the Elder Board meet with Hurit’s family and seek their forgiveness individually.
A repentance service should be open to the community and all the people listed below should be able to witness and observe.
- Hurit’s family should be able to sit through it. Actually they should sit in the first row and be able to watch and observe Steve say he and CEFC are in the wrong.
- The 100 or so former members who have left CEFC should be able to sit through this and witness this act of repentance.
- Eddie Cole and a couple of individuals from the Eastern District should be able to sit through this as observers.
- Members of the community who have been affected should be able to sit through this. For example last week Andrea McHenry wrote a post about how this situation has affected her and others. Andrea McHenry should be able to sit through it.
- I would also like to sit through this service. I would be happy to drive up from Washington, D.C. and take a seat in the back and watch this. I would like to be an observer to make sure this goes smoothly and is respectful to Hurit and her family.
Hurit is key to the situation if the church repents for how they treated her then the other situations should take care of itself.
What needs to take place next is that those who were hurt and forced to leave who are currently being shunned need to be reached out. The active members there who are shunning the former members should reach out to those former members and apologize. There should be long conversations of why people are admitting why they are wrong. Friendships should be re-born and some of the marriages that have been affected strengthened. If this happens I believe people will find something much deeper, and beautiful than what they knew prior. Many evangelicals use the model of Paul and Barnabas. That is a copout and lazy theology. The model hat many evangelicals should use are Paul and John Mark. There should be healing, closure and unity in the community after all this; and I can finally stop writing about this church. For me my goals in this will have been achieved.
If there is going to be a repentance service, let’s do it right. Let’s do it proper, and let’s make sure that Hurit’s family is included in this act. Anything less is unacceptable and a further act of manipulation and damage control…all to save a $5 million dollar loan from Minneapolis. I am hopeful that Steve Estes will do the right thing. As always guys I love you.