Proposed Changes at EFCA One in Austin, Texas: Changing the Statement of Faith on Premillennialism, and is Academic Freedom Being Threatened at Trinity International University?

At the EFCA One Conference in Austin, Texas there are two resolutions before the EFCA to consider. One removes premillenial from the EFCA statement of faith and is viewed as good by The Wondering Eagle. This will be voted on I believe in 2019.  The second deals with proposed amendment to the church’s Trinity International University’s bylaws. The Wondering Eagle is deeply concerned about this resolution threatening academic freedom at Trinity. 

“By academic freedom I understand the right to search for truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. This right implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what on has recognized to be true. It is evident that any restriction on academic freedom acts in such a way as to hamper the dissemination of knowledge among the people and thereby impedes national judgment and action.”

Albert Einstein 

“The most important aspect of freedom of speech is freedom to learn. All education is a continuous dialogue – questions and answers that pursue every problem on the horizon. That is the essence of academic freedom.”

William O’Douglas

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds[a];
    rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.

Psalm 68:4-5 NIV 

This is the second and final post dealing with the resolutions before EFCA One in Austin, Texas. The first post I did is called, “Why the EFCA Should Reject the Biblical Sexuality and the Covenant of Marriage Resolution at the 2017 EFCA One Conference in Austin, Texas.” This post deals with two other resolutions that will be presented by the EFCA Board of Directors for the EFCA to vote on. The other two resolutions deal with changing the EFCA statement of faith and removing a premillenial reference. The second deals with changing the bylaws of Trinity International University. I will explain the proposed changes, then I will explain how this change threatens the foundation of Trinity. 

 

Going From Premillenial to Glorious Return…

The EFCA at EFCA One is proposing to change the statement of faith. You can read the proposed change in “Motion to Amend Article 9 of the EFCA Statement of Faith.”  The change was proposed by the EFCA Board of Directors. What the EFCA Board is asking to do is to remove the reference to premillenial and change it to glorious. The proposed change is in paragraph 9, article III. You can see the proposed change below. 

We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.

For those who do not know premillennialism is a form of Christian theology that deals with the end times. In this form of theology it is believed that Jesus will physically return to the earth to gather His followers before the Millennium. The Millennium is a literal 1,000 year golden reign of peace. This is referred to as the second coming. In Premillennialism it is believed that Jesus’ physical return to the earth will occur before the start of the Millennium. In much of evangelicalism this is the standard belief. Premillennialism is based off a literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6.  Premillennialism is what many parts of the EFCA believes. I see this from time to time as differing EFCA churches have statements on why they are premillennial. For an example I will reference Faith Hill Evangelical Free in Spring Hill, Florida. That EFCA church is led by Slayden MacGregor and you can see their statement here

 

Analysis of the Proposed Change 

This is a minor change and will be good for the EFCA denomination. It will make it more inclusive overall. This change, as I see it, will favor many of the Neo-Calvinists and help them fit into the EFCA denomination. I have already heard from a couple of Neo-Calvinist pastors who have said that they welcome this change, and find it good. One thing that is good about the EFCA is that end times issues are secondary, and this change only highlights how the EFCA is flexible in this area. Even though I am not into Neo-Calvinist theology The Wondering Eagle supports this change, and believes it will be for the greater good in the EFCA denomination. I also have to say that I am quite burned out over the subject of end-times theology personally. I still haven’t recovered from watching Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind in 2000. This proposal will be voted upon at the next EFCA One in 2019. 

 

Proposed Changes at Trinity International University 

Another issue up for approval and which will be presented by the Board of Directors at EFCA One deals with proposed amendments to Trinity University’s bylaws. Over 2016 and 2017 the Trinity Board of Regents and the EFCA Board of Directors worked to strengthen the relationship between Trinity International University and the EFCA. I could go quite a bit into the details, but I would recommend you readProposed Amendments to Trinity and EFCA Bylaws.”  Below are the proposals that were agreed to and are being presented by the EFCA Board of Directors for approval.

  1. A commitment to the EFCA Statement of Faith. At Trinity at all times the statement of faith will be the EFCA’s. All members of the Trinity Board of Regents must agree and sign the statement of faith each year.  This will happen without hesitation. Next all members of Trinity’s administration must sign this statement of faith. Finally all full-time, affiliate and adjunct faculty members must sign this statement of faith. This signing he statement of faith will be required at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Trinity College, Trinity Graduate School, and Trinity Law School. 
  2. The composition and selection of the board of regents will change. The proposed amendments enlarge the size and change the process for electing and confirming people on the board of regents. The president of the EFCA (Kevin Kompelien) and the chair of the EFCA Board of Directors will become members of the Trinity Board of Regent due to their position. There will be a new provision that allows the EFCA president to select an additional member to the board of regents. Then the remaining members of the Board of Regents (a minimum of 23 and a maximum of 35) will be nominated by the Trinity Nominating Committee. After being nominated they will then be elected by the Trinity Board. Finally all such members must also be confirmed by the EFCA Board of Directors. The president of the EFCA will be part of the Nominating Committee.  Also the change requires that at least a majority of the members of the Trinity Board of Regents must be members in good standing of an EFCA church. Finally at least four of the members of the Trinity Board of Regents must be EFCA pastors who are ordained by the EFCA and be credentialed by the organization. 
  3. The nominating of the Trinity President will also change. The final authority rests with the Trinity Board of Regents, but the change requires that the Trinity President must be credentialed before taking office, and hold those credentials during his term as Trinity President.
  4. The new changes state that the Board of Regents will have governance authority over Trinity University. The interesting aspect that caught my eye when reading it is the following proposed amendment. If Trinity were to be dissolved all assets will be transferred over to the EFCA.  
  5. The final proposed change is that certain provisions of the Trinity bylaws shall not be changed without the approval of the EFCA Board of Directors.

 

My Concern About Academic Freedom Being Threatened and Why this Should be Rejected

The proposed changes to Trinity are deeply disturbing and I believe they should be rejected. Let me explain why below, but let me ask some questions as well. 

  1. Were the faculty and staff at Trinity allowed to discuss and debate the proposed changes? 
  2. Were the students at Trinity allowed to discuss the proposed changes? 
  3. Was the Student Government Association at Trinity allowed to discuss and debate these proposed changes? 
  4. Have all Trinity alumni been able to discuss and offer feedback on these proposed changes? 

These proposed changes raise quite a few concerns. The biggest I would suggest is that it reveals that the EFCA is deeply insecure in its faith and position. The fact that each year they will be requiring all the faculty, staff, and administration to sign the EFCA statement of faith is incredibly poor. The sad thing about all this is that when D.A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity school attacked a sexual assault victim in a Gospel Coalition statement both the EFCA and Trinity were silent on the situation. No one rebuked Don Carson, no one said he was out of line when he went to bat for the embattled and deeply corrupt C.J. Mahaney. Really no one gave a damn. That situation teaches me that many parts of the EFCA do not take sexual assault seriously, and it makes me wonder…if I scratched the surface of the organization, what would I find underneath in regards to problems with child sex abuse? You can read more in “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?”  If I were to take an educated guess as to what led to this resolution to come about, I would bet my 401K that it was the situation with Larycia Hawkins at Wheaton, and her comments on Muslims. You can read about that in this Washington Post story. When that situation unfolded at Wheaton people at Trinity probably got deeply frightened that something similar could happen there. 

This resolution is also going to kill diversity at Trinity, let me explain why. Now people are going to be mandated to attend EFCA churches in “good standing.” By the way before I continue how is “good standing” going to be defined? This becomes even more complicated when you have such diverse issues inside the EFCA, such as growing Neo-Calvinism. But this is going to kill diversity as it will end people from other Christian faith’s from contributing. For example having a staff and  faculty who attend Southern Baptist, Christian Missionary Alliance, Converge, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Non-Denominational, and more brings a lot of rich tradition and history that make Trinity stronger. That is all threatened by this action. The other aspect that is stunning is what this does to the differing schools. So for example…this applies to Trinity Law School as well, as I interpret it. Will this keep away or scare away visiting professors from doing a rotation or visitation? If Trinity Law School has an opportunity to have a visiting legal professor from Northwestern, Stanford, UCLA, Marquette, or more, will this keep them away?  If that starts to happen then those who will be hurt the most will be the students of Trinity. In the academic community Trinity’s name I propose will take a hit because of this resolution. 

Its one thing to expect to expect professors to have basic common beliefs. For example the theology professors should agree on the trinity and that it exists. (Quick side note, it makes me wonder how Wayne Grudem got hired given that he is advocating a warped view of the trinity. You can read about that inWayne Grudem’s Un-Orthodox View of the Trinity and the Question that Must Be Asked: Can the ESV Bible be Trusted?“) But to require them to recommit “without mental reservation” is too far in my opinion.   Many of the above issues are going to affect academic freedom. For example, let’s say a graduate student is going to do a controversial paper, or say a PH’D candidate is going to do explore something that is difficult in a doctoral dissertation; will the professors who advise be afraid to let that student continue because of that EFCA pledge? Not only will this kill academic freedom, but it will also kill ingenuity as well. People will become afraid to speak their mind, publish what they desire, and participate in conferences that may have controversial features to it. 

In the end this resolution causes the greatest damage in the following way. Its going to cripple the university and cause profound problems. Universities and echelons of higher education should be places that teach people how to think, NOT what to think. If you want to kill someone spiritually teach them what to think and then wait for the first brick wall they encounter after they graduate when they hit the work force. By teaching people how to think, and by encouraging them to wrestle with situations and difficult problem sets individually, they will then be prepared for the adversity that exists in life. If a university is going to become a place that teaches people what to think, then in the end it becomes nothing more than an echo chamber. That is what is at risk here by this resolution that will be voted on before EFCA One.  This resolution is going to create an indoctrination factory that will just crank out people trained to follow, and not think for themselves. The greatest gift God gave mankind when he created man is the brain, and that will be denied and threatened by this resolution. As a result I would also suggest that this resolution could be sinful. 

Having explained all that its my hope that at EFCA One that this second resolution will be panned and struck down. If people care about the EFCA this will be rejected and they will go back to the drawing table and come up with one that still fosters and creates ingenuity. That’s it guys, please know that I love you. And to the EFCA, please do not view this post as being a threat. Diversity is a strength, not a weakness. 

5 thoughts on “Proposed Changes at EFCA One in Austin, Texas: Changing the Statement of Faith on Premillennialism, and is Academic Freedom Being Threatened at Trinity International University?

  1. I also have to say that I am quite burned out over the subject of end-times theology personally. I still haven’t recovered from watching Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind in 2000.

    With me it was The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and Christians For Nuclear War back around 1973-74. (You know, back when the Plain Reading of SCRIPTURE PROVED that Henry Kissinger WAS The Antichrist?) If you follow the same timing I did, you should be heading into the recovery phase some 15 years or so after getting out of the Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist crowd.

    The fact that each year they will be requiring all the faculty, staff, and administration to sign the EFCA statement of faith is incredibly poor.

    Loyalty Test.
    Like Steven Sitler going before the White House press corps to proclaim the crowds for Trump’s inaguration were vastly larger than for Obama’s (AKA the 2 + 2 = 5 test).
    Or (much less silly) Jack Hyles ordering his elders to drink (alleged) poison By His Command.
    Or (even less silly) Muammar Gadhafi demanding proof of Loyalty for inclusion in his Inner Ring: Torture or Kill one of your own family on Colonel Leader’s command (in a culture where family/clan loyalty is paramount).

    (Quick side note, it makes me wonder how Wayne Grudem got hired given that he is advocating a warped view of the trinity. You can read about that in “Wayne Grudem’s Un-Orthodox View of the Trinity and the Question that Must Be Asked: Can the ESV Bible be Trusted?“)

    Because ESS is what will become the new Party Line (Praise Calvin)?
    Salami Tactics, Comrade. One little teeny-tiny slice at a time, again and again.

    But to require them to recommit “without mental reservation” is too far in my opinion.

    “I APPROVE, WITHOUT RESERVE!”
    — facetious tag line of an Eighties-vintage SF writer in San Diego; he told me he lifted it from an aria by Bertholt Brecht, where it was not so facetious:
    http://wordcount-richmonde.blogspot.com/2011/10/ballad-on-approving-of-world.html

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  2. I think it’s very important that you know—and this may render your “academic freedom” point moot—that for quite a long time now, faculty and staff (director level and above) have been required to sign this statement of faith. If anything, there is more faith diversity today on the faculty and staff than ever before.

    Also, the injunction for a majority of the board members to be EFCA church members puts on paper what has already been the case in practice. As the EFCA denomination would no longer govern the board of Trinity should these resolutions pass, this was an apparent trade off. This by no means appears to include faculty and staff.

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  3. Pingback: Results from the Business Meeting at EFCA One June 20, 2017 | Wondering Eagle

  4. Pingback: An Open Letter to Graham A Cole (Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Regarding D.A. Carson Attacking a Rape Victim in The Gospel Coalition Statement out of His Loyalty to the Embattled C.J. Mahaney) | Wondering Eagle

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