One of the key issues of today is racism and in that area the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) is strategically poised to play a critical role in responding to that topic. My question is this, are they ready and do they realize their capability? In this area its The Wondering Eagle’s belief that Eddie Cole could bring a lot to the table based upon his experience at Salem Church in Staten Island, New York. Plus The Wondering Eagle would like to know, did the EFCA allegedly remove a church from the denomination that had ties to the White Supremacist organization known as The League of the South? If that happened this is a call for information as that should be documented and written about.
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
“The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14 NIV
This post is dedicated to the memory of Heather Heyer who was murdered by a terrorist in Charlottesville, Virginia.
There are two major issues within evangelical Christianity today. This will probably be disputed by many but the first main issue in evangelicalism is spiritual abuse which I believe to be epidemic. Spiritual abuse comes in many different forms. The second issue is that of racism. Racism is a major problem that has never been adequately dealt with. The issue of racism reared its ugly head again recently here in my home state of Virginia and has revealed that it is one of the pressing issues of our day.
History of Elim Evangelical Free in Puyallup, Washington
EFCA Its Time to Embrace Your History and Roots
The history of the EFCA is unique and the denomination should be appreciative of it. After all the EFCA isn’t tainted by its past like the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The SBC which was founded in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, was born out of the belief that slavery is Biblical and to be defended. The SBC in many ways was born in sin, and racial conflict. I would suggest to the EFCA that the SBC has never dealt with its past history of racism, and that it has been quite a millstone on the denomination. In addition the SBC regularly failed and made epic mistakes through the Jim Crow era all the way down to the way that some SBC churches resisted de-segregation efforts and claimed that inter-racial dating was sinful in the 1950’s and 60’s. Richard Land when he went after Obama in controversial racial remarks, as well as Trayvon Martin I believe was just being honest and revealing to the world what the SBC has long been. The recent condemnation of the alt right at the most recent annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona just highlights these problems in how they wavered at first. The SBC won’t be able to do much about the issue of racism until it takes care of its own problems and actually deals with internal issues.
The EFCA is amazingly different, as the roots of the denomination belong elsewhere. The roots of the Evangelical Free Church of America exist in the Swedish and Norwegian-Danish history. The traditional historical narrative is that the Swedish Evangelical Free Church began as the Swedish Evangelical Free Mission in Boone, Iowa in October of 1884. This fellowship came out of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Ansgar Synod, the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Synod and some independent congregations as well. Meanwhile in 1884 two Norwegian – Danish groups formed in both Boston, Massachusetts and Tacoma, Washington, began to fellowship together. By 1912 they had formed the Norwegian – Danish Evangelical Free Church Association. Those two organizations – the Swedish and the Norwegian/Danish – merged in June of 1950 at the Medicine Lake Conference Grounds near Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the time of the merger there were 275 local congregations at the time. The first President of the Evangelical Free was Dr. E.A. Halleen who had served as the president of the Swedish association for 28 years. he served as president for 1 year. In many Evangelical Free early in their history the services were in the local languages of the Swedes, and Norwegian. They transitioned into English in the 1950’s for a number of congregations and started to become more inclusive. The culture is important to know and history is important in moving forward.
In short order the EFCA is a church of immigrants. It became a major denomination in time while being an organization that is composed of immigrants. The history of the EFCA mirrors that of the United States as major immigration waves came to the country in the late 1800’s along with the Irish, Jews, Italians, Polish, and other Eastern Central Europeans came the Swedes and Norwegians. From 1880 until 1920 it is believed that 20 million people immigrated into the United States, with the bulk being from Europe, all in search of a better life. This is the history of the EFCA, and its a proud history. It stands diametrically opposed to the SBC which was founded on the belief that slavery is Biblical.
The Role the EFCA Can Play in Racial Reconciliation
We live in times that are becoming troubling. I fear that we are going to have violence in the future and that some elements of society are trying to Balkanize the United States. Some elements of our society are playing on people’s fears and feeding them. They are playing on fears that come with a globalized economy and a changing society. American society has always been fluid and filled with flux from the days of Colonial America until today. Again this is a reason why history is so crucial and needs to be studied. The use of fear tactics and not being grounded in logic and of a rational mind I find deeply concerning. As our culture becomes more complex and as some parts of society are becoming more xenophobic I believe the EFCA can play a very strategic role in this area.
Racism is one of the issues of our day. Those who live in Virginia have been awakened to this issue especially in light of one of the largest Neo-Nazi rallies in the United States in decades that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer. Racism has long been an issue in the church yet in this discussion the SBC will not be able to rise to the occasion and deal with this topic. How can the SBC successfully engage in discussions on racism and work on the issue when they themselves are still struggling with this topic? In contrast the EFCA really needs to step up to the plate and take the lead on this topic. To quote from the Book of Esther the EFCA is created for “such a time as this.” The EFCA can look forward in this area by first looking backward and remembering its roots. In a culture that has elements that are becoming xenophobic the EFCA can soothe people’s fears and remind them of their past and what immigrants created. In Modern Protestantism this is a topic that can not be ignored. In the EFCA they need to speak up and play a role in social justice in this area. Speaking up and helping immigrants in legal matters, help refugees get settled in the United States and find jobs, help families adjust and find a way to help people with health issues are needed. As a church that consists of immigrant history the EFCA can do this role in a very unique way. In 2017 and beyond the EFCA can do for many Syrians, Hispanics, Chinese, Afghans and more what their ancestors did for Norwegian and Swedish immigrants that came in the United States from the 1880’s until 1920’s. This is a time for the EFCA to shine and to play a role in these issues.
Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole
Perhaps Eastern District’s Eddie Cole Can Help in this Conversation
In tackling this unique problem set the EFCA perhaps can draw lessons from what I would consider the most diverse city in the United States, that of New York City. While other cities such as Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. are international and diverse; New York City is also a metropolitan area that I would suggest has become the most influential city in the United States. It breathes with differing cultures, people groups and societies. As racism remains a major issue in our country perhaps someone who has done a lot of work and thrived in ministry in the New York City area can offer quite a bit to this topic.
Eddie Cole leads the Eastern District of the EFCA and in this area I believe that perhaps he could play a role in this especially after leading Salem Church for 13 years. Salem Church has done quite a bit of ministry in the New York City area even though it is located in Staten Island. Eddie’s experience at Salem, all the good along with all the difficult aspects can help in having discussions on both racism and helping others in need. A good example that Eddie Cole could draw from is Salem’s experience in planting a church in the Park Hill neighborhood on Staten Island. That church plant which would fail in a poor area as I understand taught Eddie Cole a lot. From those experiences and more perhaps Eddie could address some of these racial and cultural issues in our society. Another factor to consider is Eddie being reared in Tennessee. The culture in the American South is very different from the culture of the Northeast. In living in differing cultures in the United States perhaps Eddie could also play a role in bringing people together. After all its my understanding that he is quite diplomatic in many ways. I am hoping that this post can trigger a discussion within the EFCA on how to respond to the issue of racism and other challenges in a changing culture. Before Eddie Cole became the Senior Pastor at Salem Church he was asked if he is ready for leading Salem? In response Eddie Cole stated “is Salem ready for me?” That response I believe still resonates and in a troubling time I think Eddie Cole can play a key role.
Did the EFCA Allegedly Remove a Church from the Denomination that Had Ties to the White Supremacist Organization Known as The League of the South?
The Wondering Eagle gets a number of tips and information that is shared with the blog. Those tips come from people inside and outside the EFCA. That has led to Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania being written about. It also led to Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina and Highland Park Evangelical Free in Columbus, Nebraska being written about as well. Many times I also get tips and I lack the information to corroborate and confirm what happened. Last year I was contacted and told that the EFCA allegedly removed a church from the denomination that had ties to the white supremacist organization The League of the South. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center The League of the South was one of the white supremacist groups that marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12 and 13, 2017.
The League of the South began in 1994 by Michael Hill in Killeen, Alabama. At the time Michael Hill was a British history professor at Stillman College which is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Stillman is considered to be a historically black college, and due to Michael Hill’s activity in The League of the South he had to leave Stillman. The League of the South wants to promote Southern culture and sees Southern culture as being rightfully opposed to American culture. Southern culture is both “Anglo-Celtic” and believes that Southern geography “defines character and worldview.” According to the League Southern culture is based entirely on the Bible. Michael Hill has described The League of the South in the following. “The League of the South is not a “neo-Confederate” or “Southern heritage” organization, although we certainly do honor our ancestors and our largely Christian historic inheritance as Southerners. The League is a present- and future-oriented Southern Nationalist organization that seeks the survival, well being, and independence of the Southern people. We stand for our Faith, Family, and Folk living in freedom and prosperity on the lands of our forefathers.” That actually comes from The League of the South website but I will not link to that website as I do not want to boost their Alexa rankings. In addition The League of the South is opposed to income taxation, flat currency , centralized banking, and property taxes.
The League of the South draws a lot of inspiration from the Confederacy and believes that the Southern states still have a right to secede from the United States. The League of the South is deeply opposed to immigration as that is opposed to their “Anglo-Celtic” views. Plus it is opposed to standing armies and any regulation on firearms. The League of the South has held at least two annual secessionist conventions. It also celebrates the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and holds up John Wilkes Booth as a hero. In 2000 the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups deemed The League of the South as a hate group. You can read the Southern Poverty Law Center report right here. One note of interest is that controversial pastor Doug Wilson who has been promoted by John Piper and The Gospel Coalition wrote “Southern Slavery as it was.” In that book Doug Wilson wrote about how Southern slavery is good for black people. Doug Wilson wrote that book with Steve Wilkins who is a former board member of The League of the South. For more information I would recommend Tim Fall’s “Pastor Doug Wilson Defends American Slavery As Being Good For Black People.”
I have not been able to confirm that the EFCA removed a church from the denomination that had such ties. If that did indeed happen The Wondering Eagle is grateful that the EFCA took such a stand. If possible I would like to research and write about such a situation. In a time where there is a resurgence of Neo-Nazi groups the steps the EFCA allegedly took to deal with a situation would be a fascinating case study. If there is anyone familiar with the situation please contact me at email@example.com. To write such a story I would need access to someone who has primary source material. But if this happened its a story that should be documented and told. There are lessons of courage and of the EFCA allegedly acting in the correct manner which I find encouraging. Those situations should be chronicled to better understand the organization’s health. But to the EFCA if that did indeed happen The Wondering Eagle is grateful that the denomination took a strong stand against hate. One cannot be neutral when it comes to hate. That’s it for today, please know that I love and care for you.