First Free Church which is led by Shane Holden in Onalaska, Wisconsin has a feature on their webpage. They are asking you to tell your story. I have agreed and that is what this post is about. This is my condensed story which shows my history, my exploration of Mormonism in college, time in Crusade, the Evangelical Free, a Third Wave church outside Milwaukee and the dark season of being unsuccessfully recruited to a Sovereign Grace church plant and the false accusation I endured. Part of my story is learning why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military from an Air Force officer who drunk the John Piper, and Mark Driscoll Kool-Aid. The story played on into my Mom’s illness which resulted in her death.
We’re ordinary, normal people who have experienced the extraordinary power of God in the midst of our messy lives. Hearing stories of hope, grace, forgiveness and love, encourages others as well as reminding ourselves of the ways we see God move every day. Sharing your story is a great way to help others develop theirs. We would love to hear how God is moving in your life. Please share your story with us.
From the First Free website asking people to share their story.
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
Christopher Hitchens in Letters to a Young Contrarian
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
Jordan Kaulfin of Redeemer Arlington here in the Washington, D.C. area.
After my baptism at Fresno Evangelical Free (known today as The Bridge Fresno) on April 16, 2000.
Greg Marshall teaching at Westbrook (now Elmbrook Lake County) and using me in part of his sermon.
First Free Church is an Evangelical Free in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Onalaska is near La Crosse. First Free traces its roots to 1914 with some tent meetings with the Norwegian Evangelical Free Church. It grew and in 1960 officially became the First Evangelical Free Church of La Crosse. In 1999 the congregation purchased a new building and by 2002 attendance averaged about 700 people a week. As of today attendance is about 2,000 a week. For more about First Free’s history you can check this link here. The current Senior Pastor Shane Holden is from Madison, Wisconsin. Shane planted Mad City Church in Madison in 1996. Shane left Mad City in 2007 to go to the Madison Police Academy. After a year or so Shane left to help plant Damascus Road Church in Madison. In 2010 he left Damascus and joined the staff of First Free which is what he leads today.
At First Free on their website they have a webpage called “Share Your Story.” I took note of it and planned to write about in the future. However, after the email I got from Casey Schmidt which you can read in the prior link, and my response I might as well write about it now. Shane you wanted people to submit their stories, below you will find mine. This is also for Forest Lakes District Superintendent Jon Payne and the Forest Lakes District. There is a lot that will be written about in this Evangelical Free District. So having explained all that, here is my story below.
I was born in Fresno, California and I attended San Joaquin Memorial High School. I was raised Roman Catholic by my parents who were Irish and Polish. I attended Carroll College in Helena, Montana in 1993 and attended school until 1997. I majored in history. While at college I walked away from Roman Catholicism having problems with it. I was attracted to Mormonism and met with LDS Missionaries. I was attracted to the LDS faith because of its family emphasis, level of commitment and the seriousness of it. So I greedily consumed the Joseph Smith Kool-Aid. You can read more at “My Descent into Mormonism and My Cognitive Dissonance.” I read a lot of material on the LDS faith and my parents were deeply upset with where I was going. The fights we had were difficult. One of the things I read is that male Mormons believed that they would become a God and inherit their own planet. The LDS missionaries denied that when I asked about it. And I thought it was fundamentalist material. That was until I learned that it was true in a Gospel Doctrine class. This happened before baptism which I kept delaying. You can read more at “De-toxing From Mormonism…” Pushing back from Mormonism was not easy, but I eventually returned to the Roman Catholic faith. I left Montana and returned to Fresno, California.
In 1999 I got involved in Campus Crusade for Christ at Fresno State. I had my first Bible study there and I also started to get involved in Fresno Evangelical Free Church known as The Bridge Fresno today. You can read about my involvement in this Evangelical Free in “A Personal Reflection on Fresno Evangelical Free Church; Known Today as The Bridge Fresno.” At Fresno Evangelical Free I was baptized and it was a nice, pleasant introduction to evangelical Christianity. I have a lot of fond memories of this church. I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2000 to attend grad school at Marquette University. While at Marquette I was a student leader of Campus Crusade and helped plant the Marquette Cru chapter there. While in Milwaukee I also got involved in the Young Adults program at Elmbrook Church. It was a year after the child sex abuse scandal with Daniel Varga which you can read in “How I Learned Evangelical Christianity is Struggling with Child Sex Abuse: An Incident at Milwaukee’s Elmbrook Church in 1999.” The way I learned that an incident happened a year later was when one of the relatives of the victims outside the book store screamed “They fucking knew!” as she kicked the door open to the church and left. I was stunned and asked my pastor at my home church Wooded Hills Bible what happened? He proceeded to tell me the story. This was the first time I realized that evangelical Christianity struggled with child sexual abuse just like Roman Catholicism. I became a member of Wooded Hills Bible Church (today Wooded Hills Church) which was deeply charismatic and over the top in spiritual warfare. You can read about its history in “A Season of Third Wave Theology at Wooded Hills Church in 1997-1998 in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Area.” The chief Kool Aid dispenser at Wooded Hills was Trish Stern. I still can’t believe that she sent the High School Youth Group to a convenience store in SE Wisconsin to drive a demon from the place. You can read about Trish and my reflections on this church in “How Healthy was Wooded Hills Church? A Personal Reflection on the Issues which Existed; Plus Concerns about the Influence of Mike Bickle’s Kansas City International House of Prayer.” It was during this time that I started to get into John Piper and some of the Neo-Calvinist stuff which would come back to haunt me.
In 2005 I moved from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C. and have lived here ever since. Shortly before I moved here my Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite her illness she encouraged me to move to D.C. I attended McLean Bible and National Community Church (NCC) in the D.C. metropolitan area. I was invited by a guy who became a close friend to get involved in Mark Batterson’s NCC. At this blog he is known as James Crestwood, which is a pseudo. I did a mission trip to the United Kingdom in 2007 through McLean Bible. One of the things that bothered me deeply is when I gave my Mom , who amazingly recovered and pulled through an early pancreatic cancer diagnosis, John Piper’s pamphlet telling Mom that her cancer was a gift from God. It would horrify her and backfire on me later. In 2009 I began to experience a full fledged faith crisis. It was driven by the problem of evil and a series of intense doubts. You can read more about it in “The Doubts which Overtook Me, and the Problem of Evil which Drove me from Christianity…“ If you want to know what that faith crisis feels like I would direct you to “Eagle Writes a Journal Entry Inspired from Neil Carter’s Godless in Dixie on Grieving the Loss of Your Faith” and “What Does a Faith Crisis Feel Like?“ I pushed away from evangelicalism and read William Lobdell’s “Losing my Religion” in which he chronicled his journey into atheism and out of Christianity. I then got into Christopher Hitchens right around his death. You can read how I viewed Hitch in “A Personal Reflection on the Late Christopher Hitchens.”
One of the many notes Andrew left at my desk when he was evangelizing me.
It was during this time that I had a co-worker who started to evangelize me. He wanted to hang out, have lunches, dinners, and proselytized me. He started to invite me to Sovereign Grace as he was involved in the last church plant of SGM before Mahaney’s scandals overwhelmed the ministry. His name was Andrew White, (pseudo) a 33 year old Air Force Captain from Colorado Springs, and graduate from the Air Force Academy in 2005. The Navigator Director at the USAF Academy at the time married Andrew and his wife Jillian in 2005. He was a bone marrow donor for a young girl in Portland, Oregon and was featured in an Oregonian newspaper article. Andrew pressured me to get involved in Sovereign Grace’s Redeemer Arlington. When I googled Sovereign Grace I could not believe all that I had found. Blogs about corruption, Mahaney’s blackmail, child sex abuse allegations and more. What was I being invited to? I was shocked and troubled. Plus as someone into Hitchens who believed that Christianity was a cancer on the face of the earth being invited to a denomination hemorrhaging stories of corruption and criminal allegations helped validate atheism. Andrew also tried to get me into Mark Driscoll. You can read about how an agnostic/atheist reacted to the Mars Hill scandals in “How Celebrity Pastors Become Divisive: Mark Driscoll, Andrew White, Eagle and the Launch of Paul and Jonna Petry’s “Joyful Exiles” At one point as Andrew evangelized me he asked me to meet with someone from his SGM sexual purity group who wanted to talk about the suicide of his father who was a Methodist Pastor after having an internet affair. And with that I listened to Tim Wilson’s story from Redeemer Arlington. One other point to add is that my Mom confronted me on giving her a John Piper pamphlet telling me that her cancer was a gift from God. As my Mom confronted me and cried, to my shock I was horrified. You can read about that in “My Mother’s Pancreatic Cancer, John Piper and Me.” Isn’t fundamentalism fun?
In the spring of 2012 this skeptic into Hitchens participated in the largest atheist rally in United States history on the National Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument. When atheist blogger Greta Christina railed about evangelical pastors who teach women to submit to her abusers I thought of this John Piper video in which John teaches that a woman should submit to her abuser. You can read about participating in that atheist rally (The Reason Rally) in March of 2012 in “A Personal Reflection on Attending the Reason Rally in 2012; Agenda for the Next Two Weeks.” At the Reason Rally I realized that I traded the likes of John Piper for someone like Christopher Hitchens. I also realized that atheism can be a belief system. This was to my profound disappointment, and it put me in a difficult bind as I still rejected Christianity as being both corrupt and decadent. Andrew, along with a couple of other people still evangelized me and wanted to be involved. Andrew in March of 2013 invited me into his home for a couple of days while his wife was away. He wanted to hang out, have discussions and more. One thing he wanted to do was make a ham and cheese sandwich which he explained to me is popular at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. As Andrew evangelized me I told him that if I ever returned to the Christian faith I would let him baptize me, given how much he was proselytize me.
What happened next is terrifying and its why I am stuck. Andrew on May 8 , 2013 triggered a false accusation in which it was claimed that I was a threat to his family. He did this and in the process took aim and my name, reputation, and ability to earn income and future income. I was coming out of my faith crisis and despite the fact that he invited me into his home and even asked me to change the password to his computer; I was spoken to about stalking. I was also told that I would be reported to law enforcement for a crime I never committed and for 13 months lived under that fear. The false accusation was so painful that I cried in ways I never knew possible. It was so traumatic that I developed almost a PTSD affect. I would hear the word “stalk” and would cry or shake at places like the gym, grocery store or other locations. I often wondered to myself “What is happening?” After that false accusation Andrew shifted his attention to another person in time and started to proselytize them. You can read about the false accusation in “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.” As a result of the false accusation when I witnessed how a military officer can abuse their power, I learned why rape and sexual assault can be a problem in the military. When this happened I was on the verge of exiting my faith crisis, after all I learned how to deal with the problem of evil, and I learned why Neo-Calvinism makes the problem of evil worse. You can read both in “How the Sovereign Grace Lawsuit Helped me Resolve the Problem of Evil” and “How Reformed Theology/Neo-Calvinism Make the Problem of Evil Worse: John Piper, Adam Lanza and a Massacre in Connecticut.” Realizing that I had gone too far in being combative I decided the only way forward was to approach as many people as possible and seek forgiveness, and apologize for how I acted. As such in the course of time I approached nearly 150 people and was forgiven by most of them. The only person who heard of what I was doing who rejected it was Andrew, and that was when he heard of it from another party. You can read how my faith crisis came to a conclusion in “The Night my Wrestling Match Ended with God.”
From May 2013 until June 2014 I managed that false accusation day by day. The pain of that false accusation also hurt my family. Andrew as an Air Force Captain was rotated to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs with that false accusation still intact. In time I had the situation reviewed by an attorney who decided that I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit. He determined that this had better chances in court because it was not a “he said/he said” situation. In court a witness could be subpoenaed to testify. But instead of legal action he encouraged me to approach the leadership of Redeemer Arlington and try and get this resolved. What I was to accept was Andrew retracting the false accusation or putting down on paper that I did not stalk him. The attorney said that this needed to be resolved and with that I approached Redeemer Arlington to try and get this resolved. Eric Simmons had me speak to Jordan Kauflin. Jordan Kauflin is the son of Bob Kaulfin, who did SGM’s music and is C.J. Mahaney’s main enabler. I took Jordan out to lunch and explained what happened with Andrew, being invited, my faith crisis and more. Andrew, Jordan and I had a phone discussion on May 18, 2015 in which Andrew said that he was “sorry” for what happened but he would not neutralize the false accusation. I was baffled as to why he feared me as I would have forgiven him and worked with him, if he just asked. After all mistakes are an opportunity to show grace. We first started to talk, then Andrew broke the discussions with the false accusation not being resolved. It came no where close to what the attorney had advised me. Jordan Kauflin then let Andrew off the hook by saying that Andrew said that he was “sorry” and let it drop. I was in knots over what had happened and in a discussion with Jordan said that it was best to get this resolved and not let this drag on because one only knows how this can affect other situations. What I didn’t know in 2015 when I was discussing this with Jordan is that it would pop up in my Mom’s illness and hospital room when she was dealing with the illness that would take her life.
What I also need to say is that in 2014 I was asked to tell my story on a Christian blog called The Wartburg Watch and did so here, here and here. And it has also been used in a couple of sermons, I have one example up above from a pastor friend of mine in the Milwaukee area named Greg Marshall. After pushing back from Christianity for years I got involved in a church here in the Washington, D.C. area called Fairfax Community Church which is led by Rod Stafford and affiliated with the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana denomination. I was baptized there and got involved. Shortly after I got deeply engaged I found myself dealing with an authorterian situation with Andy Gingrich, a pastor there in which he came down like a hammer on me and another person from another small group and said I was not to be in contact with them. The level of control Andy exhibited deeply troubled me, but a far more disturbing situation would fall in my lap that I was unprepared for. Late one night I stumbled across social media that said that the Care Director for Fairfax Community Church was on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry and listed as a violent sex offender. His name is Eric Nickle. I checked this out at the Virginia Sex Offender website and soon learned that the church had concealed this from the congregation and I felt sick at what I had uncovered. This happened in 2014 while I was still managing the false accusation from Andrew White. I struggled with the situation for a long time, remembering what happened at Milwaukee’s Elmbrook Church in 1999 and fearing a similar situation in a large church in the Washington, D.C. area. I left the church and in time, I finally blew the whistle on the situation when I wrote in July of 2015, “Why Does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry?” It led to protests and a church service forcing them to address it. It shocked me as to how corrupt so many churches can be and watching the Senior Pastor of Fairfax Community Church be so deeply dishonest was profoundly disappointing. In my Christian journey I had participated in four churches that either dealt with child sex abuse or had problems with sex offenders. Quite simply First Free I learned that many evangelical churches are gullible in that area.
The unresolved situation with Andrew dragged on since Jordan Kauflin let Andrew off the hook. I realized the only way things were going to change is that I needed to find a new job and start over. In the summer of 2016 I walked down that path and experienced obstacles. As I was dealing with trying to get a new job, then in December of 2016 my Mom entered the hospital in Fresno, California extremely ill. She was dealing with vasculitis, and diagnosed with low grade lymphoma, steroid induced diabetes, and more medical problems. I flew back to California from Washington, D.C. to help out four times. The disease changed my Mom. I watched her suffer and deal with delirium to the point at times she had no idea that her son was by her bedside. On a couple occasions when my Mom was not affected by delirium my Mom asked how the job search was going and expressed concern. I was upset that as a major medical crisis played out that my Mom was expressing worry and concern. Quite simply this had no place popping up in a hospital room in California. I was deeply troubled that this mess from Redeemer still dragged on. My Mom’s illness took a turn for the worse and she died in front of me, my two sisters and Dad on April 1, 2017. I heard my Mom’s last words in the family due to practically living in the hospital and helping out. Another thing that also happened which stunned me dealt with the Evangelical Free that I had many fine memories within. I left a note telling my former church that my Mom was in the hospital and dealing with a medical illness and that I feared for the worse. The Bridge Fresno never responded nor offered to help at the time. It was only when I was sitting in a funeral home helping to plan my Mom’s funeral that I realized what had taken place with The Bridge Fresno. It deeply troubled me, after all why contact a church and tell them your Mom is having a major medical crisis and you fear that she might die, and the church’s response is to be stone cold. Didn’t Jesus talk about taking care of the least of these? I wrote about it in “The Bridge Fresno vs. Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Who was More Pastoral?”
I had no intention of doing this blog in my life. It came about due to pain, and trauma. It focuses quite often on the dark side of faith. While I was skeptical I had hoped that Redeemer Arlington would be different than other former Sovereign Grace churches. It is not, and I look upon them as a cult today. That view came about when I dealt with my Mom’s illness and death and the way this unresolved issue popped up in a time of life that it never should. I find it profoundly sad that a man into John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Mark Driscoll who claimed that he had “sound doctrine” and that his faith was “so healthy” can’t reach out and contact me and say “Dave I’m sorry, I was wrong, let’s work this out and talk it though.” I find this situation to be profoundly damning on not just Andrew White; but Jordan Kaulfin, Eric Simmons and Jon Smith who led Redeemer Arlington. It is a damning indictment on the health of Redeemer Arlington. In the course of time I am going to do a blog post detailing my Mom’s illness and death in great detail and I will ask Jordan Kauflin and Eric Simmons if they believe that a person has the right to die in peace. Detailed pictures will eventually follow Redeemer Arlington’s website. That blog post will be the modern internet era equivalent of the Emmett Till funeral that was held in Chicago in 1955. My Mom had enough to deal with, and this unresolved issue need not be one of them. C.J. Mahaney Sovereign Grace Ministries (now Sovereign Grace Churches) crawled out of hell, and all Sovereign Grace and ex-SGM churches like Redeemer Arlington need to go back to hell where they belong. The beauty of this blog is that I have kept people away from churches like Redeemer Arlington and other questionable entities. I have been contacted from time to time by people thanking me for the articles I write. The goal I have for Redeemer Arlington going forward is simple. This blog is going to work at closing it. I had hoped they could do the right thing. I wanted to be proven wrong and I would have been more than flexible if there was some movement. But both Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin are incapable of doing the right thing. Jordan is the son of SGM Royalty and Eric Simmons has a long history inside SGM. Redeemer Arlington needs to be closed.
Well First Free Church in Onalaska, Wisconsin, that is my story. I want to go on record as saying this post was emailed to the staff of First Free Church, the EFCA District Leadership of the Forest Lakes District, Redeemer Arlington, and Fairfax Community Church which are both in the Washington, D.C. area.