After a First Evangelical Free Church members meeting in Wichita, Kansas in January of 2016 questions were asked about the EFCA denomination. On the church blog that particular EFCA church wrote a post about learning about the EFCA. I want to use that post to roll out my goals and hopes in terms of encouraging reform in the EFCA. In this post you will find what I believe needs to be done to make the EFCA stronger and healthier in the course of time.
“Every reform was once a private opinion.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“All reforms are matters of the moment; fruit of any kind plucked and eaten before ripe is sure to have unpleasant effects on all sorts of stomachs, political as well as physical.”
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
***The Wondering Eagle would like to extend its sympathies to the Senior Pastor of First Free Wichita for the loss of his mother-in-law. I am dealing with grief personally with my Mother, so to Josh Black and his family I am profoundly sorry for your loss***
On January 31, 2016 First Evangelical Free Church of Wichita, Kansas had their regular members meeting. At that meeting Sandy Friesen was the deacon nominee to be approved. Church financials were also given and speaking was EFCA President Kevin Kompelien. Kevin became president of the EFCA on June 18, 2015. He took over from William Hamel. I don’t know what Kevin said but if I were to take an educated guess it might be something like the following. He probably thanked First Free and Josh Black for letting him speak. He probably also talked about the exciting news in the EFCA. In speaking he also probably discussed the challenges facing the denomination.
After the members meeting a number of individuals from First Free asked questions wanting to learn more about the EFCA denomination. As a result on the First Free blog on February 13, 2016 the following article was posted. It was called “Learn More About the EFCA.”
Why Write about the Evangelical Free? Plus the Goals that The Wondering Eagle has for the EFCA
There are many reasons why one should write about the Evangelical Free movement. First of all I noticed a while back that no one was writing about the EFCA. You have blogs about the Southern Baptist Convention, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and more. But no one is writing about the EFCA movement. Its long past time for someone to write about this organization.
Part of my background is in the EFCA. If you want to read about my history in the EFCA I would direct you to what I wrote about in regards to Fresno Evangelical Free Church, today called The Bridge Fresno. You can read that in “A Personal Reflection on Fresno Evangelical Free Church; Known Today as The Bridge Fresno.” I also briefly became involved in an EFCA church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin area for a short time. When life brought me to the Washington, D.C. area in time I looked at the EFCA. I realized in time that I didn’t belong in the organization. I will get into that shortly and explain why. Over the years I heard of issues in Trinity and the EFCA. Plus I saw growing concerns in the EFCA as time passed. I noticed an organization that was more Neo-Calvinist, and ultimately, more authoritarian than the EFCA I remembered in 1999 to 2000. Authority had replaced love in parts of the EFCA and it was growing. I actually encouraged Dee Parsons to write about the EFCA in the past, but I don’t think she understands the EFCA like she does the SBC. So I wanted to get something going and create a blog that explored the EFCA and its issues, and problems. However, I also want to create a blog that writes about good aspects as I uncover them in my research. After all how can one be listened to if all one projects is the negative?
There are a number of goals that I have at The Wondering Eagle and reforms that I believe that the EFCA needs to undertake in order to become much more solid and healthier. I am going to list both the objectives and the recommended reforms and enumerate them below and then explain it in further detail.
- Create an independent resource for the EFCA.
- Help mange the growth of Neo-Calvinism in the organization for the non-Neo-Calvinists.
- Help create a system to allow those into Neo-Calvinism to be funneled into Neo-Calvinist EFCA churches so that they can remain and be involved.
- Have D.A. Carson apologize for attacking a Sovereign Grace rape victim. Also the EFCA needs to apologize for letting a horrific Gospel Coalition statement stand.
- Encourage the EFCA to apologize more, when necessary, and speak to their lawyers less.
- Guide the EFCA away from the wreckage of C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace movement.
- Move the EFCA away from the Acts 29 network.
- Encourage the EFCA to have Larry Osborne distance himself in an official capacity from Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church.
- Encourage the EFCA to install a database to manage sex offenders and those who commit crimes against children. This will help strengthen child safety in EFCA churches.
- To have Minneapolis and District level offices encourage reforms that deal with the issue of nepotism.
- Tighten up EFCA pastoral credentialing.
- For the health of the denomination tighten up lending policies out of Minneapolis.
- Abolish legalistic membership covenants which I believe are a threat to the denomination.
- Encourage EFCA pastors and staff to be fully trained in ethics issues from how to use social media, to understanding conflicts of interest.
- Have all EFCA pastors and staff attend mandatory sexual assault training.
- Train all EFCA churches to approach law enforcement first before contacting an attorney when allegations of criminal activity occur.
- Have a healthy understanding of terms like “bitter”,”slander”,”gossip” and similar words across all parts of the denomination.
- Encourage academic freedom at Trinity Evangelical Divinity school.
- Write about the good aspects of the EFCA to encourage the denomination forward.
- Write about EFCA history so that it is not lost, but instead documented.
- Encourage guest posts from anyone with ties or history with the EFCA.
An Independent Resource for the EFCA
First Free Wichita listed some resources for the EFCA in that blog post up above. Its my goal in time to turn this blog into an independent resource in writing about the EFCA. In order for it to be effective it needs to be independent of the EFCA. As an independent blog it will be free to write on a wide range of topics both good and difficult about the EFCA. I would like to make this unique for the EFCA. For example some of what I am slowly working on is to create a database of all EFCA churches and where they fall on issues related to Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism. I want to create this and keep it current and regularly work the issue. As of today I have done the Eastern, Hawaii, Northern Plains, Texas and Oklahoma, EFCA West, Pacific Northwest, and EFCA Southeast Districts. Coming up next is the Forrest Lakes District which is Wisconsin and the upper Michigan peninsula. Another task will be organizing and listing the most active EFCA blogs by EFCA pastors in each district. There are some good writers in the EFCA, and its a shame that sometimes that talent is not promoted or shared. In finding and organizing those blogs it can allow individuals from the EFCA to find the work of other EFCA bloggers in California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Florida and more.
Do Non Neo-Calvinists Belong in the EFCA?
I have a question for Greg Strand and Kevin Kompelien. Is there a place in the EFCA for non Neo-Calvinists like myself and others? Let me take you around the EFCA churches in the Washington, D.C. area that I live in. By the way I am going to leave out the EFCA churches in Maryland as that is too far to travel and be involved.
Currently you have Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in the District of Columbia. Redemption Hill is a hybrid EFCA and Acts 29. For me it could have been easy to get involved but I have deep concerns about the Acts 29 movement. I am especially concerned about the DNA of Mark Driscoll remaining in the organization. This is the same Mark Driscoll whop taught that Queen Esther was a slut, that women are penis homes, and that a repentant woman gets down on her knees and performs a “Gospel Centered” blow job. Redemption Hill was planted by Bill Kynes’ Cornerstone and I believe had some assistance from Crossway Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia.
Then you have Cornerstone in nearby Annandale which is led by Bill Kynes. Cornerstone is a part of The Gospel Coalition and 9 Marks. Bill Kynes is a great guy from what I have heard. However I am deeply concerned about Cornerstone being attached to Mark Dever’s 9 Marks network out of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. You can read about the problems with 9 Marks when Mark Dever exempted them from C.J. Mahaney when he was running as his allegations of criminal activity came pouring out. You can read about that in “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.” Those concerns is why I stayed away from this EFCA church.
In Chantilly, Virginia you have Ambassador Bible Church which is led by John Park. Ambassador was planted by Ray Chang in the late 1990’s apparently. He left the Washington, D.C. area in 2000 and returned to Southern California. Today Ray leads Ambassador Church in Brea, California. So having explained the history lets look at some of the issues with John Park’s Ambassador Bible Church. This is a very legalistic church. The pastors have pushed Neo-Cal material on Twitter in the past. In addition I used their membership covenant as a discernment exercise. You can read that post in “Practicing Discernment: Membership Requirements for Ambassador Bible Church a local Evangelical Free Church in Chantilly, Virginia.” In addition I have also written about one of Ambassador’s former pastors Kenji Adachi. You can read about Kenji in “When Neo-Calvinist Church Planting Becomes Idolatry: Kenji Adachi and All Peoples Community Church.” Finally it should be noted that Ambassador Bible Church has a connection to the situation playing out Elverson, Pennsylvania that this blog has written about extensively. In an EFCA church Senior Pastor Steve Estes practiced church discipline on an alleged rape victim who knows she could be dead. You can go to the blog table of contents and read the 56 posts about Community Evangelical Free Church that are written. Anyhow one of Ambassador Bible Church’s Elders Justin Prosser is related to Steve Estes. You can read about that in the Ambassador Bible Church web page. For the record I emailed and offered to meet with Justin and discuss the situation at Community Evangelical Free, but he never responded. This all happening in my backyard tells me how small the world really is.
Another EFCA Church is Crossway Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia. I tried that out once and saw all the indicators and warnings of a church going Neo-Calvinist. I wrote about Crossway Fellowship in this following post called “How to Respond to a Faith Crisis? An Agnostic Tries the Church and Learns the Church Cannot Help.” So that is the EFCA in my backyard. Despite my history with the EFCA that is the options I had. I ask this question to Greg Strand and Kevin Kompelien. Do people like me who are not Neo-Calvinist have a home in the EFCA? Or are we to be forced out and made “dones” in the denomination and be spiritually homeless? Where are people like myself and others supposed to go? No one is talking about this situation and that is one of the goals of The Wondering Eagle.
Manage Neo-Calvinism and Protect Current Neo-Calvinist Churches
One of the issues that exists inside the EFCA is that of Neo-Calvinism. I wrote briefly about the history of the EFCA in “A Brief History of the Evangelical Free Church of America, plus the History of the First Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles.” The EFCA’s history is not Calvinist. That is not its origins and its make-up. The EFCA has a major problem on its hands with un-controlled and un-healthy growth of Neo-Calvinism. Just to remind the EFCA denomination, unhealthy growth is what cancer is. In the case of the EFCA the growth of Neo-Calvinism has pushed away people like me and others from the denomination. As I wrote above, its why I am largely locked out and mostly a “done” to this denomination. One of the goals that this blog has is to help the EFCA mange Neo-Calvinism in a way that benefits both the EFCA, non Neo-Calvinist churches and Christians and those who are into Neo-Calvinist theology. What would be best in time is to steer those pastors who are into Neo-Calvinist theology into already established churches that subscribe to that belief system. This will prevent non Neo-Calvinist churches from being theologically hijacked and flipped. It will also protect and allow those churches into that theology to remain a part of the EFCA. On the flip side here is why those churches who are into Neo-Calvinist theology need to be supported.
- It will help support a culture of inclusiveness and teach people to live and work in the same organization side by side. That currently is lacking now based off what I am hearing from behind the scenes.
- For those churches into that stream of theology it will allow people who have chosen those churches to remain in their “home.” The goal of this blog is not to drive people away from the EFCA. The goal isn’t to make some of the Neo-Calvinists homeless and experience what many non Neo-Calvinists have endured. Instead its to find ways to make those who subscribe to that theology and guide them into a like minded church. This will prevent them from theologically hijacking a non Neo-Calvinist EFCA church, and it will create much more harmony than what currently exists.
- If Neo-Calvinists are going to be in the EFCA, then I also believe its imperative that they understand and acknowledge the historic roots of the EFCA. They need to understand the consequences of their theology, and how much division it can create. That said it is my hope is that the EFCA will eventually return more to its Lutheran roots.
Have D.A. Carson Apologize for Attacking a SGM Rape Victim; Also the EFCA Needs to Learn to Apologize
One of the ugliest situations that this blog is going to write about until its resolved is how D.A. Carson treated a rape victim from Sovereign Grace Ministries. On May 24, 2013 D.A. Carson attached his signature to a statement of support of embattled C.J. Mahaney. In that bastardized statement D.A Carson (along with Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor) went after an alleged rape victim who told her story at SGM Survivors. I wrote about this in detail at “From D.A. Carson to Steve Estes the Following Question Must be Asked: Is the Evangelical Free Church of America a Safe Place for Sexual Assault Victims?” That Gospel Coalition statement that D.A. Carson signed is an abomination. It has also been standing for 5 years. During this time the EFCA has also stood by and done nothing. I don’t care how many books Carson has published. I really don’t care how talented he is. I don’t care about how he helped found The Gospel Coalition. And I most certainly don’t give a damn how many Neo-Calvinists drool in his presence at Trinity. What type of man attacks a sexual assault victim? Is D.A. Carson that corupt that he can’t exhibit the decency to do the right thing? If he can’t do the right thing why is he teaching at the main seminary at he EFCA? D.A. Carson needs to take that statement down and issue an apology. It can’t be like other Gospel Coalition material where it vanishes without a trace and The Gospel Coalition acted like it never existed. I really should not have to write this, as someone who is a professor at Trinity should honestly know better. This is something that Carson himself should do. However the EFCA should also apologize as well for being silent on this issue for 5 years. I would give a pass to the EFCA if it was up for a couple of months and taken down. But for being complicit in that Gospel Coalition statement its my hope that the EFCA will apologize for not acting sooner and doing the right thing. In these situations silence is complicity. But lets look at the EFCA apologizing in more detail next.
One other point that I would like to make as we are speaking about apologies is the following. In the time of writing this blog I honestly hope that the EFCA can listen to the Bible more when it comes to admitting error, and its attorneys less. The EFCA should be a church and should function in a way that is an example. Its my hope that some of the stories where the EFCA has let something fall through the cracks is addressed and worked. For example one situation that I am profoundly grateful for is that the family of an alleged rape victim in Pennsylvania received an apology. It is tied to the Community Evangelical Free Church story in Elverson. That is how it should be handled. But there are other stories playing out in the EFCA that need to be rectified. For example one of this blogs goals is to is get the EFCA to administer an apology to Matt Boedy for his past situation at EFCA/Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He was wronged and the way that he was allegedly threatened by the prior EFCA President with legal action is horrific. In addition I am also sitting on a couple of other dark stories. When they are eventually told and come to light I hope that the people who are wronged will receive a respectful, deep and appropriate apology. Its necessary for all sides to heal..for the people hurt, and the EFCA will be made stronger.
Guide the EFCA Away from the Wreckage of C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Movement
One of the concerns I have with the EFCA is that I am troubled that the corruption of C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Churches is spreading to the EFCA. C.J. Mahaney is deeply corrupt and someone who should not be in ministry. Someone who boasted of demanding sex from his wife while she was having morning sickness has some deep psychological issues. But there is more…a lot more. Mahaney allegedly practiced blackmail against Larry Tomczak. Larry Tomczak’s son allegedly committed a sex crime and Mahaney used the situation to drive Tomczak from the organization. He hid and misled people for years pretending to be humble when I believe he is a narcissistic sociopath. He was strict with church discipline enforcing it regularly. For example did you know that in the shadow of the nation’s capitol in some of the wealthiest counties in the United States people were forced to give so much that if affected their diet and eating habits? People gave so much money to Mahaney’s organization that some did without meat and had oatmeal for dinner. That is deeply disturbing. In addition you also have Mahaney who allegedly cover up child sex abuse in Sovereign Grace. The Washingtonian wrote about that which you can read here. As the largest lawsuit at the time pounded against the door of SGM it was also learned that Mahaney allegedly signed off on a hush fund to keep a SGM pastor in New Jersey from not joining the SGM lawsuit when his own child was sexually abused.
Mahaney has the midas touch when it comes to corruption. My deepest concern is that one of Mahaney’s strongest defenders is D.A. Carson who works at Trinity. That is one of the ways the corruption from Sovereign Grace is affecting the EFCA. Its my goal to convince the EFCA to push away from the Sovereign Grace movement for its own health. The EFCA can be deeply tainted by this corruption. And as Soverieng Grace continues its collapse my hope is that it doesn’t bring down other organizations with it.
Distance the EFCA from the Acts 29 Network
Another goal that I have in writing this blog is that this writer is deeply concerned about issues in the Acts 29 network. I do not believe that the Acts 29 network is healthy, nurturing and constructive. I see an organization that is contaminated with the DNA of Mark Driscoll that remains tainted, legalistic, and fundamentalist. I know in my interactions with a few EFCA pastors around the country that some believe that the issues in Acts 29 were resolved with Mark Driscoll being removed from the organization. I very much disagree. The issues remain and are problematic. For example after the Acts 29 was moved from Seattle to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Matt Chandler assumed responsibility for it, the problems continued. Matt Chandler’s church which is ground zero for the Acts 29 network attempted to practice church discipline on a woman her filed for an annulment of her marriage to her husband who was addicted to child pornography. You can read about that in “The Explicit Gospel” at Matt Chandler’s “The Village” Includes Child Pornography, Church Discipline and Membership Covenants.” I also have received a few emails from people inside various Acts 29 churches which also confirms those concerns.
I have already been writing about Acts 29/EFCA issues. This blog has broken the story about James Walden’s Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina and how it treated Matt Boedy. It was a case of pastoral abuse, authoritarianism run a muck and disturbing spiritual abuse. You can read more in “Disturbing Allegations of Spiritual Abuse at James Walden’s Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina.” As I mentioned emails that I have received about Acts 29 are part of the reason why I am worried about an Acts 29/EFCA church here in Washington, D.C. Led by Bill Riedel to my knowledge it is the only Acts 29 in the Eastern District of the EFCA. You can read about it in “Acts 29 Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C.; How Healthy is It?” As I work through the EFCA I see more and more issues with these Acts 29/EFCA hybrids. Let me use Bill Riedel’s church as an example. Given the mixing of the denominations if it were learned that a child was sexually abused who would be responsible in the end? Would it be neglect on the part of the EFCA? Or would it be neglect on the part of Acts 29? In Matt Bodey’s own story of spiritual abuse and the violation of counseling he ran into this issue in his own case. He went up both the chains of command in the EFCA and Acts 29 and hit obstacles.
The goal that this blog has is to distance the EFCA from the Acts 29 network. Perhaps as a one time deal those Acts 29/EFCA churches are urged to became a part of the EFCA only. If they refuse then they should go exclusively down Acts 29 route so that people in the EFCA can steer clear from these churches. These Acts 29 churches bring a lot of issues, concerns and more. For the safety and health of the EFCA and its members and attenders; the EFCA needs to sever its ties with the Acts 29 movement.
Encourage Larry Osborne to Distance Himself and the EFCA from Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church
Another issue that The Wondering Eagle would like to influence pertains to issue of Larry Osborne and his connections and support to Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll is a man who is nothing but problems and issues in modern evangelicalism. His alleged abuse of individuals such as Paul Petry and Bent Meyer at Mars Hill Church in Seattle when he re-wrote the bylaws is deeply disturbing. So is many of his teachings. For example Mark Driscoll taught that a repentant woman gets down on her knees and performs oral sex on her husband. In the parlance of Neo-Calvinism (which he was at the time this came out…) one could call this a “Gospel-Centered” blowjob. Then there was also Mark Driscoll teaching that women are penis homes. Another disturbing aspect is all the plagiarism that he committed. Could a PhD student at Georgetown commit plagiarism on his doctoral thesis? What a student at Texas A & M? The University of California Los Angeles? Or the University of Florida in Gainsville?
Larry Osborne is a deeply popular pastor in the EFCA. He is the Senior Pastor at North Coast Church which is outside San Diego, California. Larry Osborne has been tied to the issues at Mars Hill in the ending stages of the church. When Mark Driscoll fled Seattle and ended up in the Phoenix, Arizona area it was Larry Osborne who helped him re-launch his church and give him support. Larry Osborne sits on the advisory council of The Trinity Church and advises Mark Driscoll. This behavior by Larry Osborne is deeply troubling and the EFCA is taking a massive hit due to his connections with Mark Driscoll. It makes the EFCA unhealthy, and raises deep concerns as to why an organization would stand by and let itself be attached to such a troubled and disturbing individual such as Mark Driscoll? I am not asking Larry Osborne to end his friendship with Mark Driscoll. I am asking for the EFCA to sit down with Larry Osborne and talk with him about his official support for Mark Driscoll’s questionable church. If Larry Osborne is going to actually be a pastor then he should start by telling Mark Driscoll to go back to Seattle and work things out with the many former members of Mars Hill Church. I wrote about the issue of Larry Osborne and Mark Driscoll in “Why is the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) Silent on Larry Osborne’s Strong Support for Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church? Does the EFCA Also Believe Women are Penis Homes?“
Strengthen Child Safety Practices to Further Prevent Child Sex Abuse
I have to share some fears that I have. Many organizations from the SBC to the Boy Scouts of America have had problems with child sex abuse. My fear is that there have been incidents inside the EFCA, many of which that are not public. I am deeply afraid that in the course of time that it will pop up. My hope is that it does not, but if it is an issue then it needs to be written about and discussed. Its not just the EFCA here in the United States that worries me. What I also worry about is incidents or problems in the EFCA’s Reach Global. I am concerned that out in the mission field in places like Africa, South America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere that there have been child sex abuse incidents that have occurred. Please understand me when I say this…I hope this is not a major problem.
To be fair the EFCA like any major entity can not afford to be bogged down in litigation due to child sex abuse issues. Many of us reading this recall the endless lawsuits and even bankruptcies of parts of the Roman Catholic church. So its really in the EFCA’s best interest to have solid rules in place that are uniform across the organization. In my research I have heard that the EFCA in Minneapolis does not have a centralized database to track and monitor sex offenders or incidents inside the EFCA. But there are parts of the EFCA that do maintain databases about other issues. For example in the North Central District there is this pastoral database called Ministerconnection. This can be tweaked and a section can be added to maintain and keep track of incidents inside the EFCA. Its paramount that this happen so that someone who abuses a child in California doesn’t leave the church and relocate to Illinois and do the same thing. Implementing such a program can help preserve and spare the EFCA harm in the future. Everyone wins in the end…the EFCA wins, children in EFCA churches win, and EFCA churches and pastors win.
Install Additional Rules to Make EFCA Churches Safer
The EFCA is a church system that is congregational in its model. That is the model that it has embraced. That said there are efforts that I believe it can undertake to make the EFCA a safer and healthier denomination. One of the goals of The Wondering Eagle is to help foster and push the EFCA to solve problems on their own, quickly and efficiently. After all a healthy organization can resolve problems of its own; on its own initiative. I have written about and am still writing about Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Steve Estes led a church and practiced church discipline on an alleged rape victim that his son Brock Estes had allegedly raped and pointed a loaded fire arm at. The issue went all the way up to the EFCA in Minneapolis, Minnesota before I finally started writing about it. You can read the story in “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity.” It was my sincere hope that the EFCA could have resolved this situation successfully and peacefully without me writing about it for its own health. Many of the reforms I am going to propose came out of this situation in Elverson, Pennsylvania. But there are other rules that I believe that the EFCA should push from Minneapolis and District level offices.
- Nepotism is a serious problem in evangelicalism. Nepotism erases confidence and turns many churches into family business and organizations. Nepotism can turn a family function into a church meeting without the congregation’s knowledge and awareness. I would like to see the EFCA implement some reforms that prevent one family from controlling a church or an elder board. I would also like to see the EFCA encourage its churches not to have family members hold two or more positions in a church.
- The EFCA and Greg Strand need to tighten up its ordination process. Every person who is a pastor should be credentialed and the EFCA should be able to pull those credentials at any time for misconduct. The EFCA should aim for 100% of its pastors to be credentialed.
- The EFCA needs to tighten its lending polices out of Minneapolis. The EFCA should not be lending or giving money to churches that are unstable or who can’t pay it back. The EFCA needs to better research and hold churches to a stricter standard in many ways. The downside to loose lending is that it puts the EFCA denomination at risk. It opens it up to problems and it also results in money and loans going to the wrong churches. For example in the case of Steve Estes it was wrong for his church to get such a massive loan from Minneapolis when there are other churches in the Eastern District and other districts that are in cramped, crowded buildings, dealing with flooded basements and that sometimes are not easily handicap accessible.
- One of my goals at The Wondering Eagle is to encourage the denomination to abolish legalistic membership covenants. For example membership covenants like the one John Park uses at Ambassador Bible Church in the Washington D.C. area need to be eradicated. You can read more at “Practicing Discernment: Membership Requirements for Ambassador Bible Church a local Evangelical Free Church in Chantilly, Virginia.” Other bad membership covenants that I have written about include Del Rey Church in Playa del Rey, California; and Grace Church in Allen, Texas. Memberships covenants like the ones I just displayed go against the spirit and history of the Evangelical Free movement. They are bonding, legal documents that create problems and I believe can open up the EFCA up to legal risk.
- In my time in writing and in reflecting upon many parts of evangelicalism there is one topic that keeps coming up. That topic is that many evangelical Christians struggle with ethics. Issues such understanding conflicts of interest and how to interact on social media should be explored and pushed in the EFCA. Knowing when there is a conflict of interest and stepping back from involvement is key to good decision making process. Today we live in an age that is very social media driven. There are a lot of ethics issues regarding social media from how to engage others online, to learning what to say, but more importantly what not to say. One of my goals is for the EFCA to learn more about ethics and apply it. If ethics were applied some of the stories I have written about would not have occurred. That is precisely why this is important.
- The Wondering Eagle would like to encourage the EFCA to learn about the psychological trauma of rape and the differing forms of sexual assault. Just as members of the United States armed forces undergo rape and sexual assault training, this blog would like to encourage all EFCA pastors and volunteers to be trained on the issues of sexual assault. Its a major problem playing out today and it can’t be ignored. However, I would also suggest that such training will not only make the denomination safer and healthier but also reduce the likelihood of lawsuits from occurring.
- Illegal activity is bound to occur from time to time as we are human and humans are sinful. Having explained all that another goal I have is to encourage the EFCA to train its pastors and volunteers on what to do when illegal activity happens. Instead of contacting an attorney, why doesn’t the EFCA consult with scripture and go straight to law enforcement? Christians are called to submit to the state. In any efforts to deal with allegations of criminal activity, and attempts to handle it in house will not only further ruin the reputation but create more problems. This goes from a wide range of actions from suspected embezzlement to child sex abuse issues.
- The last point I would like to make is to let open air into the EFCA and dial down authoritarianism issues and get rid of words like “bitter”,”slander” and “gossip.” I am a writer and I have had a lot of issues thrown at me. To have a healthy and agreed upon vocabulary and meanings will help prevent issues from occurring and create a more healthy culture. For example it is not “gossip” to talk about a church scandal that actually happened. That is dealing with the facts of the situation. To face the facts and be upfront is healthy and good. There are times in our nation’s history when we have had to face some difficult facts, but they are indeed facts that had to be discussed and dealt with. The best example I can think of its the facts regarding Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and the details and relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Yes the facts are difficult to read and process, but the reality is that its what happened. It is not gossip to speak and discuss them.
Write about Issues at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Trinity Evangelical Divinity school is the flagship seminary of the EFCA denomination. Academic freedom is very important for a place of higher learning. People should be able to research and write without fear or difficulty of threats of censorship. The Wondering Eagle is committed and open to writing about issues at Trinity. I do know that there are some proposed changes to Trinity that currently exist that I plan to write about in the near future. Forgive me I am an army of one at this time. What I would be open to doing is let Trinity students write anonymous posts about issues or concerns at this seminary. Those anonymous posts could vary from academic freedom to issues of Neo-Calvinism adversely affecting the school.
Reviews of EFCA Conferences
Another item to do on The Wondering Eagle is something that I have already done. This blog will review and write about EFCA conferences from time to time. My interest will be both in the national as well as district. You can learn a lot about trends, developments and changes in theology and organizations by seeing what is promoted or discussed about at conferences. I am also willing to let people who have attended write up their own reviews, positive or negative if they so desire. An example of this is a review of the last theology conference called “The Reformation at 500” which I believe is Greg Strand’s baby, as he runs it. You can read that at “An Overview of The Evangelical Free Church of America’s (EFCA) Theological Conference – The Reformation at 500: Also with Al Mohler Being One of the Main Speakers Does the EFCA Believe Child Sex Abuse is a Joke?” In addition when resources go online its my intention to feature them so that they can be accessed easily. After all one of my goals is to make this blog into a resource into the Evangelical Free movement. You can see an example of that in “Resources for the Evangelical Free Church of America’s The Reformation at 500 – Are Now Online.“
Write about Positive Developments and Feature Them
One of the concerns I have about some blogs is that some can be so focused in a very narrow way that they can become negative. I want to be clear as I write this that The Wondering Eagle will write about difficult and challenging situations in the EFCA. That is true, from spiritual abuse, to changing theology to issues of child sex abuse; if that is an ongoing problem. However, its also my goal to write about positive situations from time to time to feature them. Perhaps the EFCA does not know all the gems that exist in the organization, and for the difficult problems that exist I also want to encourage the healthy sides of the EFCA forward. There are some amazing pastors and churches in the EFCA that are an incredible asset to the organization. Here are a few examples to make my point. When I was working through the Midwest District which is led by Noah Palmer I found a refreshing example of dealing with the topic of grief and mourning. It came out of Westmark Evangelical Free in Loomis, Nebraska which is led Mike Hellum. Mike Hellum does an amazing job in teaching and dealing with the topic of grief and loss. Its my hope that other parts of the EFCA can learn from Mike. You can read about this in “Why Do Neo-Calvinists have a Problem with Phillip Yancey? Plus Mike Hellum of Westmark Evangelical Free in Loomis, Nebraska Promotes “Disappointment with God.” Out in EFCA West I found another good example in a Free church outside San Diego, California. At Riverview Joe Russell and his family wrote a raw blog as a medical crisis was playing out in his young family. Joe and his wife Kim regularly wrote about his son’s Stephen’s birth defect with congenital heart defect during a difficult time. The authenticity and being open about raw pain is quite beautiful especially since many evangelical Christians struggle to address or deal with the topic. You can read about this in two posts, “Riverview’s Joe and Kim Russell’s Beautiful Transparency that is Shared in their Son’s Medical Crisis,” and “An Open Letter to Joe Russell (Pastor of Young Families and Junior High at Riverview Evangelical Free outside San Diego). The last example I would like to use comes from the Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole. Eddie wrote a good article for Christianity Today about death and how to deal with the topic with younger people who are not thinking of eternity. You can read about that in “Some Thoughts on Eddie Cole’s Article in Christianity Today on Sharing the Gospel with those Who Do Not Think of Death or Eternity.” When the EFCA does something solid and worth sharing then I believe that an atta boy is well deserved. In the examples listed that deal with grief and loss, authenticity and pain, or a new way to look at loving people as Eddie Cole wrote about; I believe those and more should be shared with the denomination. And as I read and research I am finding some good things to highlight and feature.
Write about EFCA History
When I was studying history in both college and grad school one of the things I learned is that history is always changing and evolving. As you are reading this post United States history is in the process of changing, and what is happening today will be written by the historians of tomorrow. United States history is complex and we are in the midst of massive social change. We are undergoing massive cultural and political change. Then there are other events that just happen that make their imprint on history. In the middle of all this rests the EFCA. One of my goals is to let people document and write and preserve history about the EFCA in differing circumstances. Let me give some examples. There has been controversy over Syrian Civil War refugees being re-settled in the United States. Has the EFCA been helping with that issue and has the denomination been documenting and/or writing about it? Here’s another topic that crossed my mind when I was writing about the Eastern District of the EFCA. The current Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole pastored and led Salem Church in Staten Island when Hurricane Sandy hit the area. Sandy remains the second most costliest hurricane in United States history. Has the EFCA written about or documented the role that Salem Church played in helping the area recover? Here is another perspective about the EFCA’s Reach Global? How have Reach Global missionaries dealt with political change in Europe, the Philippines, Thailand and other parts of the globe? From how Islam is changing to the rise of Russian backed popularism. Have former Reach Global missionaries been able to talk or write about their experiences in the context of a changing geopolitical events?
History is an ongoing process and many events are shaping culture and society. From massive movements of people to a changing global economy many of these issues are touching upon the EFCA. Is the EFCA capturing, recording and writing about them? Or are they being lost to history. I did notice recently that the EFCA’s archives were expanded and become more accessible online. But one of the goals here to help preserve history as well.
I Welcome Guest Posts from People and Individuals Inside the EFCA
I want those who are involved in the EFCA to know that they are free to publish posts as themselves in name or anonymously. I would like to have this blog become a sounding board independent of the EFCA that could allow for discussion of issues or problems about the EFCA. I do not believe in censorship and anyone who wants to write anything will be given the freedom to publish it. This offers stands for anyone whose life has been touched by the EFCA. It could be pastors or district level personnel. Former EFCA missionaries or volunteers. It can include members or former members of the EFCA. The goal is to allow for discussion about the EFCA to take place.
….Also I am Driven by Spiritual Pain and Psychological Abuse that was Unresolved
I want the EFCA to know that this project came about as a result of unresolved spiritual abuse from a situation involving Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington, here in the Washington, D.C. area. I was unsuccessfully recruited into that former Sovereign Grace church by a co-worker. I was in the midst of a faith crisis and a disciple of the late Christopher Hitchens at the time. Andrew who is an Air Force Captain, alumnus from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and deeply involved in the Navigators at the time (2002 until 2005 his Navigators director married him and his wife in 2005); gave birth to a serious false accusation. The false accusation took aim at my name, ability to earn income, and more. I ultimately learned why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the United States military. The situation was never resolved despite my efforts to resolve it. I sought advice from two attorneys in dealing with the situation, and one attorney believed I had a defamation of character lawsuit. Andrew broke discussions and ran with the false accusation in effect and Jordan Kauflin gave him a pass and excused his behavior. The situation has dragged on for a few years. The latest is that it recently popped up in my Mom’s hospital room as she was dealing with the illness that would take her life. I do not have the strength to write about that issue yet, as I am still grieving the death of my Mom. The false accusation was traumatic, created almost a PTSD situation and I am psychologically stuck. That unresolved situation drives me deeply. Its why I am typing this post out at 12:30 in the morning and researching away in my kitchen. My goal is to make sure that not another soul goes through what I have endured. I don’t want people to be hurt. This blog in some ways deals with the dark side of religion. People need peace so that they can work, shop in the grocery store, exercise, or focus on their job. What makes spiritual abuse so cruel is that people are denied peace. Peace they need to live and function. I was denied peace and that is why I am stuck. Had it not been for that false accusation from Andrew White (pseudo BTW…) I would not be doing this. Due to some of the experiences I have had I am close to being a done. I have one foot inside the church and one foot on the outside. But this issue plays into other issues. Many Christians do not say they are sorry nor do they admit error. In my case all I wanted was to be contacted and have Andrew say “Dave, I am sorry and I am wrong” and undo the damage that he did. If he knew what he did than I would have showered him with grace. So to let the EFCA know…yes I am broken. Yes I know. I am not someone who believes in living by a facade.
One Thing for the EFCA to Remember About Me
As I close out this post I want the EFCA to know one thing about me. I am not a foe of the EFCA. I am not your enemy or trying to harm the organization. In reality I am your friend. My goal is to help make the EFCA safer so that in 2045 someone who moves to the Washington, D.C. area can find an EFCA church and worship in peace. I am an individual who has a history with the EFCA who for the most part is largely a done to the denomination. That said, I am willing to write and work hard to help the EFCA come around and be safe, stable and healthy. That I believe is missing in many parts of the denomination now.
I am very much a people person and this blog has taken me around the East Coast. So feel free to engage, ask questions, or more. I am a person always learning and growing and I have been spending a lot of time reading up on theology, history and more. Writing a blog like this has a steep learning curve. I do not look at myself as a watch blogger. I view myself as someone doing analysis of the EFCA and analyzing the trends and developments of the organization. There is a lot that I do not know and as such there are areas that I will not write about as much. I do know that there are two sides to every story. Its my goal to be objective as well. Plus its not my goal to drag anyone through the mud. With that I wish you well, and I look forward to continue to write about the EFCA. To Josh Black and the staff at First Free in Wichita, Kansas, I look forward to writing more about you.