Hershey Free Church in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania is hosting Graham Cole from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). Graham is TEDS Dean and its time for the EFCA to face and deal with the fact that D.A. Carson attacked a rape victim in a statement from The Gospel Coalition while defending C.J. Mahaney. In an era of massive push back against sexual harassment, rape and misconduct now is the time for the EFCA to address this issue. I would like to see the EFCA be on the right side of history.
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
Save me, Lord,
from lying lips
and from deceitful tongues.
Graham Cole is speaking at Hershey Evangelical Free Church in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. This post is going to touch on an ongoing issue inside the EFCA that Graham Cole should be concerned about.
Hershey Evangelical Free Overview
Hershey Evangelical Free began meeting as a Bible study in 1971. The people inside the Bible study wanted to start a new church and then planted a new church that was called Hershey Evangelical Free. It would be a part of the EFCA denomination officially in June of 1972. However, in that first worship service there were 15 people attending. It was held at the home of Sam and Betty Blachly on January 23, 1972. Bruce Burkholder an evangelist from Hershey gave the first sermon in Hershey Free Church. The second week the church met at the home of Ken and Ethel Campbell and had 62 worshipers present. The church had grown too big for home meetings and started to meet in the meeting hall of the Hershey Fire Company. As the church began to grow they needed a large space to meet and then rented space at Hershey Community Center. At the first Palm Sunday on March 26, 1972 there were 107 people involved. By the end of 1973 there were 500 people involved in Hershey Free. In 2017 Hershey Free has more than 1,500 people involved. George Davis is the senior pastor of Hershey Evangelical Free. He has been on staff at Hershey since June of 2009. Previous to that he was at Salem Evangelical Free since January of 2000. I am unsure if this is the Salem in either Staten Island, New York or Fargo/Moorhead, North Dakota, or Florissant, Missouri. George attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School from 1987 until 1989, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky from 1990 until 1992. He then earned a Doctor of Philosophy from Cambridge University upon graduation in 1998.
It should be noted that Steve Estes, the Senior Pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania was a youth pastor at Hershey Free at one point. To read more about the situation at Community Evangelical Free you can read, “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity.” Also Hershey Free has planted Community Evangelical Free in Harrisburg in 1999.
Who is Graham Cole?
Graham Cole is the Dean of Trinity Evangelical School (TEDS) today and is also the professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology. Graham is an ordained Anglican minister. He served in two Australian parishes where he lectured on Christian Thought at Moore Theological College. He also lectured at the University of Sydney. In 1992 he went to the University of Melbourne where he became the Principal of Ridley College. In 2002 until 2011 he was a professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at TEDS. In 2011 he became the Anglican Professor of Divinity at the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2015 he moved back to Trinity and became the Dean. Graham has published a number of books to include “He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Foundations of Evangelical Theology)“,”The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation (New Studies in Biblical Theology)“, “God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom (New Studies in Biblical Theology)” and “Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers.” Graham is going to publish another book shortly that deals with Satan, Angels and Demons. Graham is at Hershey Free this weekend to give the final talk on the Ephesians series which kicked off on September 10, 2017. You can listen to the rest of the series right here. On Sunday evening Graham Cole will be speaking on the topic of spiritual warfare and will be taking questions and answers. He will also be interacting with pastors of the EFCA in the Eastern District on Monday morning December 4, 2017 from 8:30 until 11:30. Before I get into the subject of D.A. Carson let’s look at the corrupt and embattled ministry called Sovereign Grace which was led by C.J. Mahaney.
A Look at C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries
Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) grew out of the Jesus movement and was called “The Gathering of Believers.” In the course of time they purchased land in Gaithersburg, Maryland and it would become known as Covenant Life Church. The name of the ministry changed again to become “People of Destiny.” Eventually SGM became an empire that was headquartered out of Gaithersburg. At its peek it had over 100 churches in the United States and a presence in California, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan, Georgia, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Delaware, Tennessee, New Jersey, South Carolina and North Carolina. SGM was controversial due to its embrace of shepherding theology. It tore apart families, caused division and was viewed by many as being cult like or a cult movement. SGM also had another disturbing problem that started to develop. It hemorrhaged disturbing cases of child sexual abuse or assault. In some cases the SGM church also allegedly told the victims not to go to law enforcement. In one case at Covenant Life SGM forced a young child to reconcile with her alleged molester. When she saw her molester she fled and hid under a chair. In another situation at Sovereign Grace Fairfax the pastor told the wife that she needed to put a lock on her daughter’s door as her husband was allegedly abusing her daughter. She was also ordered to have more sex with her husband and told that her sin had led to her daughters sexual abuse. You can read about this in “The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch” and “What Matt Larson, Anthem Thousand Oaks, Anthem Ventura, and Anthem Camarillo can Learn from Taylor, Noel and Sovereign Grace Fairfax/SGM “Family of Churches.” Soon SGM was wrapped up in a lawsuit and people told their stories on a blog called SGM Survivors. A number of churches broke away and C.J. Mahaney fled to Louisville, Kentucky. There was one story that the EFCA should be particularly focused on as its key to the situation with D.A. Carson.
D.A. Carson Attacks an Alleged Rape Victim and Defends C.J. Mahaney
As the SGM lawsuit was in the legal system on the blog SGM Survivors someone wrote a story. The person was named “Anon” and she wrote about growing up in SGM and her alleged rape. She talked about being in a prominent SGM member’s house. At a Super Bowl party she was allegedly raped against the wall on the exterior of the house. She was also 13 years old. She then offered her commentary about the pending lawsuit which she thought was well deserved and hoped that the organization and perpetrators and those involved in the child sex abuse cover up would be ruined. You can read that post in “Anon’s Story.” On May 17, 2013 the lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality. On May 24, 2013 something happened which I consider one of the darkest incidents in modern evangelicalism. At The Gospel Coalition, D.A Carson along with Justin Taylor went after that SGM rape victim and attacked her in a statement. Someone who was allegedly raped at 13 was attacked in a written statement. You can read that statement in “Why We Have Been Silent about the SGM Lawsuit.” If you would like to read more analysis of the situation you can do so 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?”
Why has Graham Cole and the EFCA Been Silent on this Issue? Can the EFCA Pursue the Correct Course of Action?
I am writing this post in the early morning hours of December 1, 2017. We are at a crossroads in American history and culture. The New York Times unleashed a torrent of sexual misconduct, rape, bullying and sexual harassment. It started with reporting on Harvey Weinstein and its touched on government, entertainment, media, business, and more. Every day we learn something new but the tide against sexual harassment, rape and bullying is rising. After all the other day people started to emerge from the State Department, Defense Department and Intelligence Community to share their stories of abuse, sexual harassment and more. It is my belief that we are going to hear a lot of stuff from the church next. Denominations I believe are going to be next, and that brings us to the topic of this post.
D.A. Carson attacked an alleged rape victim in a written statement through The Gospel Coalition. His statement of support is still up there. Nearly five years have passed and nothing has been done. The EFCA has been silent and D.A. Carson teaches and acts like all is fine. The EFCA just had EFCA One in Austin, Texas and D.A. Carson spoke and taught. You can see him teaching in that video up above. The EFCA by their behavior is communicating that it is okay to attack a sexual assault victim. To the best of my ability Graham Cole has also been silent on this topic as the Dean of TEDS. The continued silence by the EFCA raises other questions like the following. Does TEDS have a problem with rape? Has Trinity International University under-reported rapes on campus or in the community? These questions are forming in my mind based off how D.A. Carson attacked an alleged rape victim and there is nothing but silence.
To the EFCA I have to state that is unacceptable. Many churches and people in the EFCA have the power to address this issue. For example Graham Cole will be in Hershey Free Church, this is an opportunity for Hershey Free Senior Pastor George Davis to just say a couple of words. I am not out to get D.A. Carosn removed from TEDS. I am trying to get him to admit he made a mistake and to have that statement from The Gospel Coalition removed. If Carson did the right thing then he could have more authority to teach in admitting mistakes. One of the reasons why evangelical Christianity is so profoundly sick today is because Christians do not admit they made a mistake. This situation with D.A. Carson and the EFCA is only illustrating that very fact.
Its time for the EFCA to do the right thing. Lets have the EFCA be on the right side of history as these events will one day be written about. If the EFCA does the right thing the response will be incredible. Trust would be built and transparency would help increase people’s faith. The denomination would have more fortitude and greater standing in a time in history where illiberalism threatens institutions. If the EFCA did the right thing and Carson apologized this blog would go to bat for the EFCA and acknowledge that issue. So as I finish up this post the time has come for the EFCA to do the right thing. Graham Cole, TEDS and the EFCA, can we agree to that? The goal of this blog is to help make the EFCA stronger so that issues like this do not repeat inside the organization. That’s all for the day, to the Hersey Free Church I wish you well.