Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson Discussion: Why are People Still Attending Steve Estes’ Church? Plus Results of the June 12 Business Meeting

Brief update on the situation at Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Many people keep asking the question why are people still going to the church in light of all that has occurred? Plus these are the results from the June 12, 2017 business meeting. Its also my understanding that there are people inside CEFC who do not want to leave the EFCA. Is the Stoltzfus clan going to respect their wishes? 

A divorce is like an amputation: You survive it, but there’s less of you.”     

Margaret Atwood

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32 NIV

Church bulletin for CEFC from my visit. 

I have been meaning to do a quick post on Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. This will be brief but I am hoping we can have a discussion and ask the question, why are people still attending Steve Estes’ church? To the best of my knowledge I believe 150 to 170 people have left, in a migration that began in December of 2014. But many people are baffled as to why others are still attending. This is an issue that pops up regularly when I interact with people from the Elverson and Morgantown area of Pennsylvania. Recently I was in Elverson last weekend and one person commented in a personal meeting that the parking lot is full. Many people are baffled and wonder why someone would want to attend in light of all that has taken place. Plus its my understanding that a few people joined. Why would people want to join an EFCA church that is not in good standing with the denomination? If you are new to this story Steve Estes church practiced church discipline on an alleged sexual assault victim. Steve’s son Brock allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated and allegedly pointed a loaded gun at her. When she filed for divorce Steve Estes guided his church through an ex-communication of his former daughter-in-law.  So here is the question I would like to ask you, why are people choosing to to attend this church in spite of all the issues affecting this organization? I keep getting this question asked and I am hoping that we can have a discussion about this topic.  That issue burned in my mind when I read this old CNN article yesterday called “Why people stick by scandal-plagued pastors.” Plus a couple of years ago I wrote “Why Do People Get Involved in Questionable Religious Groups, Cults, and Sects?” Maybe that will help people understand the issues in this situation. 

Here is another update as well. On June 12, 2017 in the business meeting CEFC- Elverson voted 80% to allegedly change the by-laws. This is the first of two steps to distancing themselves from the EFCA denomination. The second and final vote which makes separation from the EFCA final is scheduled to take place in November of 2017. What I am also hearing is that before the vote the Elders explained why the church needs to break away from the EFCA in small groups prior to the business meeting. When I think of the effort Steve Estes put into guiding the church discipline of his daughter-in-law I can just imagine the pressure that was put on people to vote in the affirmative. In the period leading up to the ex-communication service of Hurit in December of 2014 the Elder Board as I heard had late night meetings that lasted until 4:00 a.m. Steve Estes and Al Kimbal allegedly got into heated exchanges with Al yelling “But Brock had a gun!” So I can just imagine the pressure that was placed on people to vote a particular way.   As one former member said, when he expressed concerns to the leadership of not voting the way the Elders wanted the attitude he got from the Elverson leadership is “if you don’t like it you can leave….” On another note I am also hearing that there are people inside Community Evangelical Free who do not want to leave the EFCA. The EFCA is an established and well known denomination. I have been involved in the EFCA both in California and Wisconsin. I am not involved in the EFCA in the Washington, D.C., area because the EFCA here is Neo-Calvinist and I am not in that theological stream. But I have heard from a couple of sources that there are people inside CEFC who do not want to leave the EFCA. Are their wishes being heard and respected by Merle and David Stoltzfus? As I get more news I will post it in time.  For those inside Community Evangelical Free I encourage you to contact the Eastern District office as led by Eddie Cole. If you have questions about what the leadership is saying contact Eddie Cole’s staff. You will get treated with love and kindness. The number of the district office is 610-395-9034 or you can email them at office@edaefca.org. I still need to do a post on the differences between Elder led and Elder rule, I hope to get that up in a week or so. That’s it for the day Elverson I hope you have a good day. Take care of yourself. 

 

8 thoughts on “Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson Discussion: Why are People Still Attending Steve Estes’ Church? Plus Results of the June 12 Business Meeting

  1. My first thought about why people stay: Tribalism. We get some of our self-identity from the groups we are members of. For some people, it’s their whole identity When those groups start going in bad directions, we either have to make internal excuses for their shortcomings, or we have to change our own self-identity. When it’s a big part of your life to say “I am a true and loyal member of my church” it’s really hard to admit to yourself that you have become “an ex-member, who walked away. One of those people”.

    People seem to be able to put up with a pretty large amount of cognitive dissonance if that’s what it takes to keep that self-image going. There’s also the Franklin Effect. (https://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/10/05/the-benjamin-franklin-effect/#more-1459) When we treat someone badly, we justify it to ourselves internally by demonizing them, by creating for ourselves a belief that they are bad people who deserved it. Because otherwise, we would have to admit to our selves that we are not the good people that we believe ourselves to be, and doing that is harder than internal rationalizations.

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      • Ah yes, sunk costs must work into it too. “I can’t leave this church, because of all the time and energy and money I’ve put into it. If I leave, that will all have been for nothing!”

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  2. Here is another update as well. On June 12, 2017 in the business meeting CEFC- Elverson voted 80% to allegedly change the by-laws.

    80% — the Groupthink Threshold where Groupthink locks in and all dissidents are Purged.
    As well as the percentage of white Evangelicals who took the Mark of the Trump.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Having once been an EFC church member for 27 years, some of them in leadership positions, my own experience was that the district and national denominational offices functioned more as a unifying support structure with virtually no authority to respond to the various outcomes of individual congregational governance, short of the congregation outright rejecting the common EFC Statement of Faith. The district office stepped in to try to provide assistance and guidance only if requested to do so by the church itself, and even then could only offer recommendations which the leadership and congregation could choose to act on or not. Our congregation went through some difficult times and I could see how the district office’s ability to influence these situations was quite limited, by denominational design.

    I guess what is very revealing for me in this particular situation is if the leadership feels that even this minimal level of denominational influence is too much to tolerate, that says an awful lot about the leadership. (Here, I am taking the leadership’s claim that their reason for separation is based on eschatological theological differences to be more or less a cover for the real reasons for wanting to separate, given that they seem to have been able to accept the denomination’s Statement of Faith for all these years, and in any case the denomination is likely moving to adjust that statement more in the direction they want it to go.) And so — apart from the potential damage to individual remaining attenders, unfortunately — given that leadership’s control-oriented mindset it is probably better that they not be identified with the denomination and vice versa. It certainly sounds like they want to be a kingdom unto themselves with no accountability.

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  4. “It certainly sounds like they want to be a kingdom unto themselves with no accountability.”

    Excellent summary Dave. CEFC DISMISSES ALL COUNSEL. Very sad state. They are now an island with a multi-million dollar mortgage.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I believe this is a contributing factor to people remaining in such a place:

    From:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog

    “The boiling frog is a parable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually.”

    I was once a boiling frog, who didn’t realize I was boiling until I was nearly completely fried. I probably left the place I was in just in time, though in retrospect, I really left 2-5 years too late.

    Of course, this doesn’t adequately explain why anyone would *join* such a place. I cannot for the life of me think of any reasonable explanation for that, other than complete ignorance as to what is going on there.

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