Crossway Fellowship in Mansass, Virginia installs Kyle Brenon as the new Senior Pastor. This post over looks the changes in Crossway and wishes Kyle well. At the same time The Wondering Eagle does an overview of the EFCA in the Washington, D.C. area and illustrates that the problems of Neo-Calvinism are deeply entrenched. In conclusion, if you are not a Neo-Calvinist, you are going to be a refugee from the EFCA in the D.C. area. The D.C. area is an indicator of the greater problem of Neo-Calvinism in the EFCA denomination.
“Since starting in a Manassas home in 1979, CrossWay’s casual, friendly culture and contemporary worship style have encouraged people to live out their faith in every aspect of life. People are challenged in practical ways to enter into and renew their relationship and devotion to Jesus Christ. Whether you are exploring Christianity or have been part of God’s family for many years, our goal is to be an active part of your spiritual journey.
We are an Evangelical Free Church belonging to an association of over 1,400 interdependent churches united to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We are committed to working with each other as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission which Christ entrusted to His Church. CrossWay’s congregational form of church government allows its members, Elder Board and pastoral staff to work together to determine the strategies, ministries, staffing, and facilities needed to fulfill our purpose.”
From the Crossway website
“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hearthe prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you.
Nehemiah 1:4-6 NIV
Crossway Fellowship of Manassas, Virginia
There are some new developments with Crossway Fellowship in Manassas that The Wondering Eagle needs to report on. With that said let’s explore the new senior pastor at this established EFCA church in the D.C. area.
Kyle Brenon being commissioned at Crossway at July 9, 2017 (From Facebook)
Kyle Brenon Becomes the New Senior Pastor
Jim Ramsak gave his final sermon at Crossway on August 28, 2016. The name of his last sermon is called “Looking Back, Looking Forward” and can be listened to here. The Pastoral Search Team was built over the summer of 2016. The Pastoral Search Team had Sheri Bailey, Lee Brinkley, Alan Cole, Misty Keener, Megan Lavedas and Paul Patton. In the fall the team conducted a survey of the congregation and in the process developed a pastor profile and worked with the Eastern District Office which is located in Camp Hill, which is outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The EFCA has a nation wide database that I believe is called MinistryConnection.net and the Eastern District Office found some candidates that matched the profile for Crossway. The Eastern District Office selected 25 candidates which were given to Crossway. Those 25 were looked over by the Pastoral Search Team in December of 2016. In January of 2017 the team had narrowed the list down to 7 candidates. The Pastoral Search Team sent the candidates written questions, and listened to their sermons. In January, Alan Cole reached out to to Kyle Brenon to inquire and see if he was interested in applying for the position. Kyle went through the application process also and was in the top three final candidates. I do have to say as a writer and researcher I would be fascinated to find out about their selection and their elimination process. Those three candidates were examined in February of 2017 before focusing in on Kyle. Kyle gave a couple of sermons starting in December in 2016 and ending in February of 2017. On March 28, 2017 the Pastoral Search Team recommended Kyle Brenon to the church. In the blog post on the Crossway website it recommends Kyle by stating the following:
These are the top reasons we heartily recommend Kyle as our next Senior Pastor:
-His 11 years of experience both here at Crossway, and the last three years at Faith Christian Fellowship in Hagerstown, MD, have clearly prepared him to be a senior pastor.
-He possesses both the experience and skill in each area of CrossWay’s Senior Pastor job description, including preaching and teaching, prayer, strategic planning and implementation, staff development, shepherding and building relationships.
-His preaching is expository, compelling, and applicable to all generations and types of people.
-He possesses the character, heart, relational and shepherding qualities of a caring pastor.
-He is spiritually mature, humble, devoted to prayer, and a man of deep faith.
-He is transparent, has a strong spiritual strength, and the passion to be a senior pastor.
-His references strongly endorsed him as a senior pastor, including the former pastor at Faith Christian Fellowship and his current Senior Pastor. Jim Ramsak also strongly endorsed him as a Senior Pastor.
We have prayed over this and thank the prayer team for their strong prayers during the entire process up to this point. We are confident that God has prepared Kyle to be a senior pastor. Kyle, with his wife, Sarah’s, strong support, has a fervent desire to serve as the Senior Pastor at CrossWay. We firmly believe there is no better choice than Kyle.
Since the EFCA is congregational in its model the church membership voted on the selection. I looked at the Crossway website and could not find the bylaws to find out what is needed to confirm a pastor. Is it a simple majority or a figure such as 60% need to approve? That would be interesting to find out as I study and learn more about congregationalism. When writing this summary of how Kyle was selected I leaned heavily upon this Crossway webpage. The Wondering Eagle wishes Kyle well and hopes for good pastoral leadership of Crossway. Truth be told I write about quite a bit about the dark side of religion but if I had my way I wish I didn’t have to explore that topic. This blog is the product of spiritual abuse and I hope Crossway Fellowship flourishes because I don’t want to write about anything dark in the future. So this blog wishes Kyle and the Elder Board well.
Who is Kyle Brenon?
Kyle originates from the Manassas, Virginia area. He attended Osbourn Park High School. Kyle then went to Liberty University for what appears to be undergrad and grad school. He went to Washington Bible College for seminary it appears. According to LinkedIn Kyle’s first ministry job was at Centreville Baptist which is here in the D.C. area. At Centreville Kyle was the Student Ministries Assistant from February 2002 to March of 2003. He then went on to Crossway Fellowship where he served as the Youth Pastor from April 2003 to May 2014. I believe much of that time was under Jim Ramsak. After 11 years he then left Manassas to become the Discipleship Pastor at Faith Christian Fellowship in Hagerstown, Maryland. He served in that capacity from May of 2014 until July of 2017 when he became the Senior Pastor of Crossway Fellowship.
Kyle was married in January of 2006. He enjoys backpacking, camping, and motorcycling. Kyle doesn’t appear to have a blog, and when I checked The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God I noticed nothing was published. When I study Kyle’s Twitter feed I see he likes Desiring God, Thom Rainer, David Platt, R.C. Sproul, The Gospel Coalition, and some of the usual Neo-Calvinist cast of characters.
Crossway is the Least Neo-Calvinist EFCA in the Washington, D.C. Area and a Visit in 2012
Let me paraphrase this introduction by saying that I am am referring to either D.C. proper, or the Virginia side of the Washington, D.C. area. Quite simply if you live on the Virginia side the Maryland churches are out of the question, for distance purposes. Of the EFCA churches in that description Crossway is the least Neo-Calvinist of the EFCA. In the section below I will look at all the EFCA churches in the D.C. area.
Crossway is a well known EFCA church in the D.C. area that was established in 1979. And while it is the least Neo-Calvinist when I checked it out in 2012 in the midst of a faith crisis and I could see that it was going in that direction. Jim Ramsak was the Senior Pastor at the time and he referenced John Calvin so much that I knew that Crossway wasn’t going to be a place to explore faith. In the sermon Jim also said that suffering was good and even referenced the budget battle going on in Congress at the time and claimed that a shut down could help Christians with priorities. I remember thinking to myself this question, “If members of Crossway who work for the federal government can’t pay their mortgage and bills, and thereby not tithe, would Jim be happy?” But there was another aspect to Crossway at the time that was troubling. I intentionally avoided Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in D.C. because it was Acts 29. Acts 29 is tainted with the DNA of Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll taught some bizarre and outrageous theology. For example Mark taught that a repentant woman gets down on her knees and gives her husband a “Gospel Centered” blow job. You can read about it here. In two years time it would come out the Mark Driscoll also taught that women are penis homes. While at Crossway I saw that they were promoting Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill and apparently helping with the church plant. I was baffled and thought “why is the EFCA working with Acts 29? Especially with all the issues with Mark Driscoll?” At the time I was into Christopher Hitchens as I was also in a profound faith crisis. You can read about the respect I had for Hitch in “A Personal Reflection on the Late Christopher Hitchens.” So as I was leaving I asked at the person at the welcome desk why Crossway was helping to plant an Acts 29 church, especially with all the concerns about Mark Driscoll? The older woman at the station asked, “Who is Mark Driscoll?” And in disgust I explained “He’s that pastor in Seattle that talks about the Biblical basis of blow jobs!” I wrote about that experience in “How to Respond to a Faith Crisis? An Agnostic Tries the Church and Learns the Church Cannot Help.” That experience was pretty sad, and indicators that the modern Christian church is profoundly sick. Today Crossway is not a part of The Gospel Coalition or 9 Marks, and that is good. We’ll see what happens with Kyle Brenon. Also when I was researching and writing an overall study on the Eastern District I learned that Jim Ramsak had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I felt a lot of sympathy for him and asked people to pray for him. It appears all went well with Jim which is good.
How Does the Rest of the EFCA Fare in the D.C. Area?
Lets look at all the EFCA churches close to D.C. in both D.C. itself as well as Maryland and Virginia. Let me start with the EFCA in Maryland. The closest churches to D.C. are Rock Creek Church in Derwood, Seneca Creek Church in Gaithersburg, and Cornerstone in Pasadena. Let me state up front that I know nothing about David Whitney’s Cornerstone. In regards to Mark Tindle’s Senaca Creek Church I have heard that refugees from Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg migrate to Senaca Creek. Then there is Jeff Martin’s Rock Creek Church. Jeff’s church is affiliated with The Gospel Coalition. Here is how Rock Creek Church describes itself on The Gospel Coalition. Rock Creek is a community of people whose hearts have been captured by God’s love for us in the person of Jesus Christ. We think you’ll find that we are a warm church that longs to see our guests become life-long friends as we grow together. Each week we gather together for Bible-based, culturally relevant teaching, dynamic worship and authentic relationships. Rock Creek Church is a place where questions are taken seriously and people are respected regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey. I have heard from former members of Covenant Life Church that they migrate here and do not last long. One person told me that they heard so much about John Piper at Rock Creek that they left. So at Jeff Martin’s church John Piper is the 67th book of the Bible it appears.
In. D.C. you have Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill which is Acts 29. Bill Kynes at Cornerstone was a key player in planting Riedel’s church. Acts 29 is the main reason why I would reject this church. After all my own personal story of spiritual abuse came from a former Sovereign Grace and now current Acts 29 church. The Wondering Eagle has writen about Redemption Hill, So far I have penned eight articles. The most read is “Acts 29 Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C.; How Healthy is It?” Acts 29 is a flawed and deeply troubled church planting network that is quite authorterian. Many Acts 29 churches were planted to duplicate themselves off Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Seattle. To learn more about the issues at Mars Hill I would recommend “A Wolf Rises in Phoenix: Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church. Plus you can also read about the financial problems in this letter that I penned to the Attorney General’s office of the State of Washington. The issues continued in Acts 29 when the network was turned over to Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. Matt Chandler’s church attempted to place a woman who annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict under church discipline. The Village Church which acts very cult like even pursued Karen Hinkley to North Carolina in attempting to place her under church discipline. Karen is one of the readers of this blog. To read more about the situation I would look at “Has Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Recovered from the Karen Hinkley/Jordan Root Scandal?” That article has the links to all the articles which have been written here at The Wondering Eagle. Bill Riedel from what I have heard is deeply proud to be in Acts 29. That is profoundly sad, and akin to an alcoholic being proud of how many beers he can down. The Acts 29 network is deeply troubled and awash in abuse and problems. I have received emails from people inside or people who have left which are disturbing. One of the goals that I have at this blog is to divorce the EFCA from Acts 29. My goals with the EFCA are laid on in the following blog post. “First Free Wichita Wants to Introduce you to the EFCA; Plus The Wondering Eagle’s Long Term Goals and Agenda with the EFCA.”
Now let’s look at the EFCA in Virginia side of D.C. I will start with John Parks‘ Ambassador Bible Church in Chantilly. This is a very authorterian church, as well as Neo-Calvinist. All one has to do is examine the Twitter feed and see the indicators of that theology. In addition its membership covenant is quite concerning. I used Ambassador’s membership covenant as a discernment exercise. This blog has actually kept people away from Ambassador Bible Church. But you can look at the discernment exercise and how people studied it here, and my breakdown and analysis here. In addition this EFCA church has connections to another EFCA church in Pennsylvania that practiced church discipline on an alleged rape victim who knows she could be dead. Justin Prosser is an elder who is tied to the family of Steve Estes. You can read about the situation in “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity.” But Ambassador also gave the Washington, D.C. area another gift. That was of EFCA pastor at the time Kenji Adachi. Kenji Adachi in conjunction with Fellowship Memphis planted a Neo-Calvinist Acts 29 church in the Chantilly area. This blog broke the story on Fellowship Memphis and actually did a better job in reporting it than the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper. That is what I heard from some of the victims. The worship pastor Rick Trotter at Fellowship Memphis was allegedly into voyeurism, and he secretly recorded about 100 women who were violated while using the restroom. In the process Rick also allegedly recorded two children who were underage, and this Acts 29 church allegedly destroyed child pornography. Rick was let go and he went onto another church and allegedly committed the same crime there. You can read the disturbing tale in “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.” For Kenji’s church and Fellowship Memphis assisting in planting it you can read “When Neo-Calvinist Church Planting Becomes Idolatry: Kenji Adachi and All Peoples Community Church.” Plus you can also read about Kenji and Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in a review of Cru conferences. “A Comprehensive Overview of Cru’s Winter Conferences for December 2015/January 2016 … Paul Tripp, Curtis Allen, Kenji Adachi and Scott Nickell are Some of the Speakers.” When I consider what Fellowship Memphis is planting in Chantilly my question that I would love to pose both to Kenji Adachi as well as John Park is the following. Is child pornography a sin?
The next church in the area is that of Bill Kynes’ Cornerstone in Annandale. This blog has a lot of respect for Bill Kynes and has interacted with some of this church’s former participants. Bill is a great guy, and also nice, compassionate, and caring. That said this church is also 9 Marks and a part of The Gospel Coalition. I have done some brief work on Bill Kynes in “Acts 29 Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C.; How Healthy is It?” Bill Kynes’s Cornerstone helped plant Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill Church. In the EFCA Bill is best known for for working on the EFCA’s Statement of Faith in 2008. You can read about it in this Gospel Coalition article called “Unity When Possible, Fidelity When Necessary.” The most disturbing aspect about Cornerstone is that its a member of 9 Marks, which this blog has written about as well. 9 Marks was invalidated when C.J. Mahaney fled “the dearest place on earth” (a veiled reference to Charles Spurgeon I believe…) and hid behind Mark Dever’s rear end at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. In the process Mark Dever violated 5 of the 9 Marks. The 5 that were violated are membership, “The Gospel”, leadership, discipline and discipliship. You can read about that in “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.” So if you attend Cornerstone and you have Mark Dever’s book available, I hope you need a lot of toilet paper, because that is all “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” is good for.
And some in the D.C. area live in the Fredericksburg area and commute either through a painful drive on the I-95 or by taking the VRE. In Fredericksburg you have Grace Memorial Church which is led by Chris Kropf. Chris from what I have heard is a John MacArthur wanna be, which in all honesty is better than an Acts 29 pastor wanting to be a Mark Driscoll wanna be, dude bro. In addition Grace Memorial is a member of 9 Marks as well. For issues in 9 Marks I will refer you to what I have written about that movement in the section on Bill Kynes.
Those EFCA churches are really the options you have, which means that if you are not into Neo-Calvinism you are going to be a refugee from the EFCA. That is what I will focus on next.
If You are not into Neo-Calvinism You will be a Spiritual Refugee to the EFCA in the D.C. Area
I was involved in the EFCA in California and briefly in Wisconsin. It was before there was a surge in Neo-Calvinism and the EFCA that I knew was conservative but not fundamentalist. You can read about my experiences in Fresno Evangelical Free in “A Personal Reflection on Fresno Evangelical Free Church; Known Today as The Bridge Fresno” To learn a little bit about my EFCA experience in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I will direct you to the open letter I wrote to the Forest Lakes District Superintendent Jon Payne. You can read that in “An Open Letter to Jon Payne (District Superintendent of the Forest Lakes District on Reflecting on my Life in Wisconsin).” The EFCA was a much healthier organization at the time and if you were not into Neo-Calvinism you could call the EFCA home. I did so and the EFCA became a deep part of my life. After moving to the Washington, D.C. area and then my faith crisis I looked into the EFCA and I saw an organization that was deeply troubled. I saw an EFCA that was awash in Neo-Calvinist fundamentalism that really had no place for those who were not into that theology. I reject Neo-Calvinism for the reason that it makes the problem of evil worse. I wrote about how that happens in analyzing John Piper’s response to Adam Lanzas’ massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. You can read that in “How Reformed Theology/Neo-Calvinism Make the Problem of Evil Worse: John Piper, Adam Lanza and a Massacre in Connecticut.” In addition you look at all the scandals and problems that go along with Neo-Calvinism to realize that it is a corrupt and dark movement that is more like a cancer on the Christian faith. So in looking over the EFCA landscape in he D.C. area its pretty clear that if you are not in that stream of theology then the EFCA will not be your home, even if you have a long history with it, and had your first Bible studies, church experiences, and baptism. Quite simply you are going to be a refugee.
I would like to draw a parallel to a situation in the Broadway musical The Lion King. In The Lion King Mufasa is killed and Simba runs away and survives. He is made to feel guilty for his father’s death even though it was Scar who killed Mufassa. As Scar becomes the king the Hyenas now have access to the Pride Lands. However, the Circle of Life is out of balance, and a drought has also hit the lands. The Pride Lands are hurting and as time passes on the situation continues to get worse. Nala then approaches Scar and confronts him on the situation. Scar wants to Nala to give him cubs and she refuses. Against all this Nala decides that she has to leave the Pride Lands. The home she knew for most of her life, is not the place that she can remain. Nala decides to leave so that she can find help and as she begins her journey is prayed over by Raifiki. Its against that that Nala sings “Shadowlands.” You can listen to that song below, but that is how the EFCA has become for many people like myself who are not into Neo-Calvinism. In the Pride Lands of the EFCA the leaves have fallen, the river is dry, and the home is not what is once was; its time to leave and as the journey starts some of us will remember our Pride.