The interim pastor for Olympic Evangelical Free in Poulsbo, Washington, writes a blog post article about church conflict. This response asks Charlie how he defines words like “bitter” and “gossip.” Plus it also needs to be pointed out that in my opinion most church conflict comes not from the people in the pews but by church leadership, pastors and those who call the shots who can act very authorterian and controlling.
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
Poulsbo, Washington is in Kitsap County. While it is only 21 miles away from Seattle it takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get there because of the Seattle to Bainbridge Island ferry which one has to use. Poulsbo had an influx of Scandinavian immigrants with the first ones arriving in 1880. The history of the EFCA goes back to Scandinavian immigrants. Elim Evangelical Free which is in Puyallup is the oldest church in this district. To read more about the history of the EFCA I would direct you to “A Brief History of the Evangelical Free Church of America, plus the History of the First Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles.”
Olympic Evangelical Free Church today is looking for a new senior pastor. As I write and chronicle the theological hijacking of the EFCA by Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism it will be fascinating to watch this church in the Pacific Northwest District to see what happens. Olympic is suburban church that in its Sunday services has mixed worship and values expositional preaching. While the maximum number of people who can worship at Olympic is 250 on an average Sunday about 160 attend. The congregation consists of a lot of active duty and retired military. I am going to deduce that those attenders come from nearby Naval Base Kitsap, which is the third largest Navy base in the United States, and on the Kitsap peninsula. This is an older EFCA church with many people being over the age of 55. As Olympic is in the search for a new shepherd in the interim Olympic is being led by Charlie Worley. Charlie’s role in the Evangelical Free is that of Church Planting Catalyst for the Evangelical Free Church of Canada. Charlie attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he earned a Masters of Divinity and Denver Seminary where he earned at Doctor of Divinity. Charlie loves the Pacific Northwest and calls Lynden, Washington home. Last fall Charlie wrote an article for the Olympic Evangelical Free church blog called “Conflict in our Church?” When I was working through the Pacific Northwest District I noticed it and put it aside because there are a couple of points I want to make. What I am going to do is start to comment on what Charlie has written below in red. But let’s start by looking at what Charlie has written.
Is there conflict in our church? The answer is yes, but that’s true in any church or any gathering of people for any reason. The issues behind conflict are: what is the true cause or causes, how is it affecting our relationships & ministries and how are we dealing with it. Conflict can and does happen, even in churches, so how can we allow good to come from it at Olympic EFC? Conflict can even help us as a church family to grow in Christ and expand our ministry and testimony for Christ.
Many evangelical churches are often in conflict I would suggest. They are often in conflict due to the latest fads that swept the church or for a list of other reasons. One thing I must ask Charlie is why does ministry always have to focus on expansion? If you have something special and close why not leave it like that? Why the constant focus on growing as a body? I mean its one thing if you grow naturally in time. Its another issue when you focus on growth for the sake of growth. The EFCA is not a business. Its not being traded on the New York Stock Exchange. If shares of it were being traded, bought and sold then I would say, go for it. Focus on growth, but this obsession with growth is harmful for the Christian church.
Let’s start with a definition. The Cambridge Dictionary defines conflict as: “an active disagreement between people with opposing opinions or principles.” Would it surprise you to know that we want people at OEFC to have opposing opinions and principles, not about everything but about our non-essentials?
Not much to say here…
Unity in our church comes from agreement on the essentials found in our statement of faith. There must also be unity among our church membership on what our mission is and what are our core values or guiding principles. Disunity in our church and growing conflict come when there is disagreement over these things or other views in the church that result in unresolved conflict. In some cases, individuals or a group of people in the church allow issues to go unresolved creating tension, a break in fellowship, anger or even a church split. Let’s be honest. This has happened in our church family before.
There is a lot that can be said in what Charlie writes about disunity in the context of what many Neo-Calvinists/Neo-Puritans are doing in the EFCA. The blog I write is documenting the theological hijacking of this denomination. Are many Neo-Calvinists ever going to be held accountable when they cause the exact disruption, tension, anger, or church splits that Charlie warns about? The stories I have heard behind the scenes about this denomination are heartbreaking. In all that Charlie says is good and in spirit I agree with him. But the reality of the situation is quite different. As I work through each district I look at the growth of Neo-Calvinism and I think of the division and problems that are needlessly being created. I think of the people who lose their theological homes because they are not into Matt Chandler, John Piper or Mark Dever. But when is this message that Charlie writes going to be communicated to the Neo-Calvinists? Or in their case they probably view it as the fact that many people in the EFCA are not Christians and needed salvation. Because for some Neo-Calvinists the goal is not preaching Christ, its about preaching a brand of theology when you don’t think that those who do not subscribe to it are believers in the Lord. Again all I have to do is draw upon my experiences as I reflect upon this issue.
Some of the root causes of conflict that divide the church include making personalities rather than issues the problem between one another, or believing one’s opinions or interpretations are the only “right” way to look at a problem or question. Another root cause of church conflict is an ongoing lack of forgiveness or a lingering spirit of anger or bitterness. Gossip or imputing wrong motives in others can also cause unhealthy conflict, as can possessing a “holier than thou” attitude. Often, unhealthy disagreements can result from simply not listening to others with different views or opinions. We have to create a church culture where different opinions and views are encouraged except on our essentials. To do this, we listen to one another before making any judgments, and then search the Scriptures together for answers.
The above paragraph has a lot that needs to be said. One thing that stood out for me is how does Charlie define “bitterness” or “gossip?” What is bitterness and gossip? Those two words I would suggest are some of the most abused words in the Christian language. When the church does wrong its good to be angry when one is hurt. If such emotions are bad, then why did God give us such emotions and feelings? At The Wondering Eagle I wrote “What is Gossip? What is Slander? Addressing the Issue of Bitterness; Finally the Word Bitter will be Banned at The Wondering Eagle.” Deeply questionable ministries that never should have existed are masterful at using the word bitter. If I remember correctly Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill was manipulative in how they used the word bitter. So was C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries. People who asked questions or raised concerns were told to stop being bitter. So again Charlie Worley I would like to ask you…how do you define bitter and gossip?
There is one other thing I have to point out from the above paragraph. And if I am wrong Charlie you are free to correct me. But as I read the above paragraph I get the vibe that disagreement and conflict is laid upon church members. As if church members, or attenders who stand in the pews are the problem. I have to say for the most part its not the members that cause the division. Its actually the leadership. Let me illustrate with several examples. Consider, in “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity” you can read about an EFCA church that practiced church discipline on an alleged rape victim who knows she could be dead. This blog is still writing about this story. Then you have Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. In Matt Chandler’s church Karen Hinkley annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict in 2015. The Village Church came down on her like a hammer and attempted to practice church discipline on her. For more to the story I would recommend “Has Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Recovered from the Karen Hinkley/Jordan Root Scandal?” Then there is a deeply disturbing story in Memphis, Tennessee in an Acts 29 church. The worship pastor allegedly placed a camera in Fellowship Memphis church restroom and in the process created alleged child pornography. When he was caught he was let go, and went onto another church where he repeated his behavior for years. You can read more in “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.” And then let’s look at an example which is in the backyard of Poulsbo. That of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Seattle. Who caused the division, problems and conflict? Was it Rob Smith, Bent Meyer and Paul Petry? Was it the members stuck in membership convents? Was it the people who got involved in Mars Hill? No..in the end the problems rested with Mark Driscoll who never should have been a pastor to begin with. Mark Driscoll was the one who was abusive. He was the one that was controlling. Joanna Petry wrote that if Mark could kill her husband he would have.
But there is another aspect that should be mentioned especially as this blog writes quite a bit about the EFCA. Does Charlie Worley’s words about conflict apply to the leadership of the EFCA in Minneapolis? Not long ago I wrote a post about how past EFCA President William Hamel allegedly threatened a spiritual abuse victim from a hybrid Acts 29/EFCA church in Columbia, South Carolina with a lawsuit. It was unnecessary, divisive, wrong and out of line. You can read about how William Hamel treated Matt Boedy in “Who Would Jesus Sue? Did Former Evangelical Free (EFCA) President William Hamel Allegedly Threaten Legal Action Against a Spiritual Abuse Victim in Glen Schrieber’s District?” So perhaps Charlie Worley should have written this blog post to the past EFCA President considering how he allegedly acted.
I write all this to say that the members in the church are seldom the problem. Most of the problems I get emailed about and speak to people about involve questionable leadership that is authorterian and abusive. Its often church leadership that is drunk on authority that disrespects the Lord and lords over people instead of care or to love them.
The Bible gives us many guidelines and commands on resolving conflict. Perhaps the best prescription for resolving unresolved issues is found in Matt. 18:15-20. Here’s a hint: conflict resolution most often involves seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. Other Bible texts to study on conflict are the “one-another” passages, especially 1 Cor. 12:25; Eph. 4:32; and 1 Thes. 5:11. Let’s learn to ask non-judgmental questions first, then listen attentively (James 1:19-“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.).
Okay time out, I see that Charlie Worley see you are recommending Peacemakers. Peacemakers is a deeply flawed concept and here is why. Anytime money changes hands that compromises he situation. Peacemakers is flawed because it charges for services as I recall. Peacemakers profits from conflict and is part of the Reformed Industrial Complex. If you want to read some horror stories about Peacemakers spend some time at SGM Survivors and read what happened. When I did analysis of the Northern Plains District I wrote about Peacemakers. You can read about that right here.
Beginning next Sunday, October 23rd, we will begin a mini-series of sermons titled, “Mastering Conflict in Our Church Family,” that will seek to help us all understand how to deal with, survive and thrive through church conflict. One or more of the Elders of OEFC will be preaching with me as we hear from the Head of our Church, Jesus Christ our Lord. We want to learn together how to have healthy conflicts where we listen to each other and learn from one another. We want Holy Spirit controlled communication and fellowship that leads to building one another up as a church family in Christ. Come, listen, learn from God’s Word and grow. And, let’s continue to pray for a heaven-sent unity as we are on mission together.
What Charlie has written is the standard mantra about church conflict but I often find that it pins a lot of burden on members, attenders and people in the pews. Then, like I said above, much of evangelical Christianity ignores is the church leadership, heads of denominations and more. They can and often do things that can be very divisive. All Charlie has to do is look at the ashes of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill and see what abusive leadership did in the end. Its my understanding that many academics who study culture are looking into the debacle of Mars Hill and will be writing case studies about it. Its not the church’s finest hour, rather the church should be horrified about the conflict that occurred.
As long as we’re discussing Mark Driscoll by the way its my belief that in the Pacific Northwest District the biggest fan boy of Mark Driscoll is Rick Parker. When Mars Hill was the rage I have heard that he pushed and promoted Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll’s material among many of the EFCA Churches in the Pacific Northwest District. To do that is profoundly sad, as even then there were warnings and issues bleeding out of the organization. When Mark Driscoll taught that a repentant woman gets down on her knees and performs a “Gospel Centered” blow job I wonder what Rick Parker thought of that? When Mark Driscoll taught that women are penis homes, again I wonder what Rick Parker thought of that? And like many people in the Neo-Calvinist movement Rick Parker probably can’t say that is was wrong to promote Mark Driscoll, and that he made a mistake. Since we are talking about conflict Charlie Worley should know that it was Mark Driscoll who was being recommended and pushed to a one time agnositc/atheist in the Washington, D.C. area. I was baffled and bewildered when I saw the problems and abuse that hemorrhaging out of the organization at the time. For me the spiritual abuse and people like Rick Parker who allegedly promoted Mark Driscoll helped me justify atheism in many ways. You can read about that in “How Celebrity Pastors Become Divisive: Mark Driscoll, Andrew White, Eagle and the Launch of Paul and Jonna Petry’s “Joyful Exiles” Perhaps there is another way to look at the situation…when an agnostic/atheist can see the problems occurring in a place like Mars Hill from Washington, D.C. and someone like Rick Parker is enamored with it, then maybe that is further support for Mark Noll’s theory about the scandal of the evangelical mind. You can read more about that in “From Mormonism in Montana to Sovereign Grace in the Washington, D.C. Area; The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Comes Full Circle.” Again this is something for Rick Parker, Charlie Worley and Olympic Evangelical Free Church to think about. I look forward to writing a lot more about the Pacific Northwest District. Feel free to push back, but as always I love you guys