This is an examination, and overview of the Pacific Northwest District of the Evangelical Free Church of America. This is the eighth district that has been analyzed. Commencing with this post this district will start to be written about.
“The Pacific Northwest District exists to multiply healthy and reproducing churches by resourcing and developing healthy pastors and leaders and training them to make disciples.”
Pacific Northwest EFCA District Motto
“I used to think I’d like to have been a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, experience untamed America.”
O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
Psalm 86:5 NLT
The History of Elim Evangelical Free Church in Puyallup, Washington
United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle, Washington
North Marion Fellowship in Aurura, Oregon
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 would stay away from most EFCA churches, plus I would be extremely cautious about exploring 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 Pacific Northwest District. This is the eighth 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 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 “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?” There is a huge problem today in Christianity with spiritual abuse and its time the evangelical church admit and address this issue. 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 100 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 was 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, a Christian baker forced to bake a cake for a gay couple 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 denomination. This blog will be the voice for those in the pews.
Making the Pacific Northwest 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 the Pacific Northwest 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. And they are extremely painful.
- 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 Bruce Martin 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 comment or one can wait until the next Festivus and complain, and grieve about Don Carson or even the existence of this blog. 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 Pacific Northwest 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 Alaska, Western Washington and Oregon area. 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, and that is true for parts of the Evangelical Free denomination.
Pacific Northwest District as Led by Bruce Martin
Bruce Martin who is originally from Spokane attended Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. He earned a BA in Marketing from the College of Business and Economics when he graduated in 1979. He then joined Crown Zellerbach and worked in sales in the Pacific Northwest. The company was broken up and sold in 1985, which you can read about in this Chicago Tribune article. I wonder if that uncertainty about the future of Crown Zellerbach led him to eventually seek a change of careers? He then decided to enroll in Dallas Theological Seminary in 1984, and eventually earned a ThM in Pastoral Ministry when he graduated in 1989. Afterward he eventually moved to Eugene, Oregon and planted River Oaks Community Church in October 1991. He was the Senior Pastor at River Oaks until he became the full time District Superintendent of the Pacific Northwest District in 2009. Bruce is interested in sailing and outdoor recreation. If you want to hear him preach you can do so in this sermon from Elim Evangelical Free or Olympic Evangelical Free Church.
Rick Parker is Another Key Player
Currently Richard Parker heads up the Ministerial Standing and Credentialing of the Pacific Northwest District. He comes from Eugene, Oregon and attended Biola University. After his marriage in 1977 he worked with the Lamb’s Players Theater for 10 years. Rick attended seminary in 1987 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he received a MA in New Testament Studies. Upon graduation in 1990 Rick and his family moved to Seattle where he served on staff at United Evangelical Free Church. Rick serves as the Pastor at Servant’s Fellowship in Corvallis, Oregon. In April of 2010 Rick earned a ThM from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I also understand that Rick is into Neo-Calvinist theology and once believed that Mars Hill Seattle was the church model to follow and thought Mark Driscoll was doing a good job. In light of how Mars Hill turned out I would love to find out what Rick Parker believes now about Mark Driscoll. Remember Mark Driscoll called women “Penis Homes” and taught that a repentant woman gets down on her knees and performs oral sex on her husband. I hope the point person in this district who handles Credentialing for the EFCA doesn’t believe the same theology! By the way if you want to see how destructive Mark Driscoll can be, and how he justified atheism for a person in a faith crisis, consider reading, “How Celebrity Pastors Become Divisive: Mark Driscoll, Andrew White, Eagle and the Launch of Paul and Jonna Petry’s “Joyful Exiles”
Interesting Situations in the District
There are a lot of situations that I found interesting as I studied and examined the Pacific Northwest District. By the way the Pacific Northwest District encompasses Alaska, Western Washington and Oregon. There are 43 churches in this district as of this writing. This post will be followed up with a number of individual posts about different situations within differing churches in this EFCA District. One thing I noticed is that there are a couple of churches in this district that are searching for a new Senior Pastor. Those two are Olympic Evangelical Free Church in Poulsbo, Washington and Bethany Community Church in Canby, Oregon. This blog has been writing about the growth of Neo-Calvinism in the EFCA and it will be interesting to see what happens with these two churches in time. Will one or both by theologically hijacked by a Neo-Calvinist? Will the congregation be split? When I was working through the EFCA Texas and Oklahoma District I noticed that there was a Free Church in Oklahoma that stated they did not want to the theologically hijacked. You can read about it in “What Fellowship Bible Church of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma can Learn from The Bridge of Newbury Park, California” Plus in that post I wrote about an Evangelical Free outside Los Angeles, California that appeared to be theologically hijacked. If this indeed happens with either church and any members are concerned about one or both churches drinking the John Piper Kool Aid, well I would be more than happy to let any members or attenders write a guest post. Or I would be happy to write about that happening in detail.
Here is something I am keeping tabs on in the EFCA denomination that I find greatly disturbing. There is a massive scandal hemorrhaging out of K.P. Yohannan’s “Gospel for Asia.” Eventually the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability removed Gospel for Asia from their rooster and asked as to where did $259 million go? Money was allegedly structured, concealed and carried to avoid federal reporting laws. Plus the Office of Personal Management for the United States government banned federal employees from being able to donate to Gospel for Asia through the Combined Federal Campaign due to the financial scandal growing from this organization. Meanwhile the Canadian, Indian, and American press has been writing about the scandal, and against that a RICO lawsuit was filed against Gospel for Asia. Then there is the exodus of Gospel for Asia staff which indicates that this movement is deeply troubled. There has already been a lot of spiritual abuse in this organization. I write all this to ask the following question. In light of all these problems with Gospel for Asia, why is Toby Logsdon New Beginnings Church in Lynnwood, Washington still supporting Gospel for Asia and promoting them? Is that wise especially in light of all this corruption?
There was one thing that I found deeply refreshing and encouraging and it takes place in Bethany Community Church in Canby, Oregon. They have a very active ministry that reaches out to Senior Citizens. Its called ENCORE and you can read about their activities here. What I find encouraging about this program is that all too often many evangelical churches treat elderly and older people as disposable. When you look at the programs and emphasis every church is exploding with youth programs. Churches often outdo themselves in trying to have the trendiest, latest ministries to attract kids, or young adults. Yet all too often many of these same churches just do not give a damn about the elderly. Today many elderly are isolated and alone and dealing with health problems as they age…in the later years of their life their neglect by many churches is a damning indictment on some of the problems of evangelicalism. So with said, I was thrilled to see Bethany have a program for the elderly and to promote it. It actually reminded me of an EFCA church in Arizona that had a good program that caught my attention as I analyzed EFCA West. The Evangelical Free Church of Green Valley has a nurse that helps the elderly with basic health care needs. I thought that was a neat idea, and perhaps Bethany can reach out to this church and learn some more about their program, and perhaps build upon what they have.
I put the video on the history of Elim Evangelical Free Church up top, I know there is a lot of pride in the history of Elim Evangelical Free as it was a beachhead for the Free movement in Tacoma, Washington and the Pacific Northwest. William Hamel talked about the Evangelical Free’s three oldest churches being in Tacoma, Washington; Boone, Iowa; and Boston, Massachusetts. But I think there may be an error as there could be other Evangelical Free Churches that are older that are not getting the credit they deserve. For example in that video up top it talks about how the first worshippers organized themselves on January 12, 1884 as the Scandinavian Evangelical Free Church. Stop for a second and compare that information with the history of Eagle Valley Evangelical Free in Christine, North Dakota which is in the Northern Plains District. According to their webpage the early church settlers purchased a church building in 1882 . That is a couple of years earlier before Elim. In this project I have worked through eight districts and I have not yet gotten to the districts in the Upper Midwest which is also where there was a high population of Scandinavian immigrants. So I am curious as to what I will uncover when I go through some of the church histories in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The next district for me to tackle is Forrest Lakes, so this will be analyzed. As I am taking notes, that could be a post at the end of this project. A historical post about some of the oldest Evangelical Free Churches in the denomination.
As I wind this post down there are a couple of things I want to promote. First Olympic Evangelical Free Church is having their Men’s Retreat in February 10 and 11, at Whidby Island. So we do not want to miss that! 🙂 So with that I want to communicate to the Pacific Northwest District that I look forward to writing about you. There is a lot to say and a lot to write about in the upcoming year and beyond. There is a lot to take on, and I can easily see about 25 posts or so in the course of time. Plus what also happens is that in time people contact me and tell me about differing situations in their church. Any former members or pastors who want to write anything, even anonymously are free to do so. The stories will not always be negative, and some will be good. But there are a lot of issues in the Evangelical Free Church of America. That’s it for today, so please take care and know that I love you!