EFCA’s Upcoming Theological Conference: The Gospel, Compassion and Justice. A Review of the Speakers and Some Personal Thoughts

A review of the upcoming EFCA theology conference in Garden Ridge, Texas that deals with racism, racial reconciliation and immigration. Today’s post at The Wondering Eagle reviews the speakers. This also contains my thoughts on the national theology conference which I believe is held once a year. 

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Martin Luther King

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.

Revelation 7:9 NLT 

Where Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville

This year’s theology conference is going to be held in Texas. I am presuming its being hosted by Bob Rawley’s Texas and Oklahoma District. The event itself will be at Northeast Bible Church in Garden Ridge which is led by Drew Leaver. Garden Ridge is outside San Antonio. This conference will be held from January 31, 2018 until February 2, 


The Topic of the Conference

The EFCA Theology Conference this year will be dealing with racism, racial reconciliation and immigration issues. I want to comment below on the topic and share my thoughts. On the EFCA website this is how the conference is being described. 

Recent events in our nation and world have made it clear it is both necessary and timely to address the topics of racial reconciliation and immigration.

The gospel is being undermined and tarnished through the lack of reconciliation among believers, and the lack of concern for the immigrant. As Evangelicals broadly, and as the EFCA specifically, we are people of the Book. One of our EFCA mottos has been and remains, “where stands it written?” which addresses both the biblical truth of a doctrine and the practical outworking of that truth in life. Too often “compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed” are addressed primarily historically, sociologically or politically, with little to no emphasis given to the Scriptures.

On the other hand, for those who do address the biblical and theological issues of this topic, there is too little attention given to the entailments and applications of living out this truth. We are committed both to be grounded in the Scriptures and to live out the truths of those Scriptures. “Christian Living,” Article 8 of the EFCA Statement of Faith, declares our commitment as a movement.

Interact with fellow EFCA pastors and leaders during this conference as gifted presenters address “Christian Living” from biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral perspectives.

Additional Topics:

Understanding Islam, loving our neighbors with Roy Oksnevad and Michael Urton

Legal Update for Pastors and Churches with John Anthony


Reviewing the Speakers 

There are a number of speakers who will present differing points of views on various issues. 

Dr. Daniel Carroll is one the lineup to teach. Dr. Carroll is the Blanchard Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He earned his B.A at Rice University in 1975, his Th.M. at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1980, and his Ph.D.  at the University of Sheffeld in 1990. His focus in his Ph.D. program was the Old Testament. Dr. Carroll taught at Denver Seminary for a while before coming to Wheaton. Dr. Carroll is quite interested in writing about immigration issues and works with churches on issues relevant to Hispanics. At Wheaton he serves on the steering committee on Hispanic Theological Initiative. He has also published eight books to include, “Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible“,”Family in the Bible: Exploring Customs, Culture, and Context“, “Global Voices: Reading the Bible in the Majority World“, “Amos–The Prophet and His Oracles: Research on the Book of Amos“,”Immigrant Neighbors among Us: Immigration across Theological Traditions“,”Wrestling with the Violence of God: Soundings in the Old Testament” ,”Hosea, Amos, Micah (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) andStrangers in the Land: A Six-Week Devotional Guide on Immigration, the Church, and the Bible.”

Dr. Peter Cha from Trinity Divinity School in Deerfield is also scheduled to teach at this conference. Peter is the professor of church, culture and society at Trinity. He appears to be interested in the Korean, or Asian part of the evangelical church. He obtained his B.A. at the University of Chicago, his M.Div and Th.M at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his Ph.D at Northwestern. Dr. Cha has sat on the board of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Catalyst Leadership Center. He has been the co-author ofFollowing Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parentsand co-editor ofGrowing Healthy Asian American Churches.He has contributed to multiple other books. 

Dr. Carl Ellis Jr. is also scheduled to teach at this theological conference. He studied under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri in Switzerland. He completed his M.A in Westminster Theological Seminary, and holds a D.Phil from Oxford Graduate School. He began his ministry as the Senior Campus Minister with Tom Skinner Associates in New York. From 1979 to 1989 we became the assistant pastor at Forest Park Community Church in Baltimore. In addition he served on faculty at Chesapeake Theological Seminary and became an instructor for Prison Fellowship. Dr. Ellis brought seminars and training into the prison. From 1986 until 2009 Dr. Ellis served as an adjunct faculty member at the Center for Urban Theological Studies (C.U.T.S) Plus he has served as the Dean of Intercultural Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2015 Dr. Ellis was appointed Senior Research Fellow with the Reformed Theological Seminary. He co-founded the Makazi Institute in 2012 where he serves as the Academic Dean. Today he also serves as the Pastor for Cultural Apologetics at New City Fellowship. He has published several books to include, “Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience“,”Going Global Workbook“,”Precepts for Living – The Annual Sunday School Lesson Commentary 2005-2006“,”Saving Our Sons: Confronting the Lure of Islam With Truth, Faith & Courage.” In addition he co-authored with Denise Gates, “Going Global Beyond The Boundaries Leader’s Guide“,” 

Dr. John Perkins is also presenting at this event. He is known for racial reconciliation and community development. He comes from New Hebron, Mississippi and after his conversion to Christianity he left California and returned to Mississippi in 1960 where he faced harassment, threats and more. In Mendenhall, Mississippi he founded Voice of Calvary Ministries. In 1982 he returned to California and founded Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena. In 1983 he founded the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development, Inc which works on racial reconciliation. John who dropped out of the third grade received eleven honorary degrees for his racial reconciliation work. Dr. Perkins has partnered with Seattle Pacific University to launch the John M Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, Community Development. He has published many books to include,Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win“,”Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together and Doing It Right“,”Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development“, and “A call to wholistic ministry.He has co-authored with Charles Marsh,Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community (Resources for Reconciliation)“;” and with Shane Claiborne,Follow Me to Freedom: Leading and Following As an Ordinary Radical“; and with David Wimbants, Thomas Tarrants wroteHe’s My Brother: Former Racial Foes Offer Strategy for Reconciliation.” 

Dr. Douglas Sweeny is a staff member of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His speciality is the history of theology, the history of Christianity, and American church history.  At Trinity he is the Chair of the Church History and History of Christian Thought Department. He is also the distinguished professor of church history and the history of Christian thought. In addition he is the director of the Jonathan Edwards Center. Douglas earned his B.A at Wheaton, his M.A. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an additional M.A. and Ph.D  at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Sweeney came to Trinity from Yale University where he edited The Works of Jonathan Edwards. He also lectured in church history and historical theology. He also served as an adjunct professor at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Sweeney also became a visitng professor for Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Sweeney has published multiple books to include, “The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement“,”Nathaniel Taylor, New Haven Theology, and the Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (Religion in America Series (Oxford University Press).)” and “Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought” In addition he also co-authored with Josh Moody, “Jonathan Edwards and Justification“; with Richard Mouw, “The Suffering and Victorious Christ: Toward a More Compassionate Christology“; and he contributed toWhy We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity. 

The last person to speak is Dr. Jarvis J. Williams of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. DR. Williams attended Boyce College where he earned his B.S, his M.Div, Th.H, and his Ph.D from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Williams has served as an Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation since 2013. He has published several books that deal with racism and racial reconciliation. Those include ,”Christ Died for Our Sins: Representation and Substitution in Romans and Their Jewish Martyrological Background“, “Maccabean Martyr Traditions in Pauls Theology of Atonement: Did Martyr Theology Shape Pauls Conception of Jesuss Death?” and “For Whom Did Christ Die? The Extent of the Atonement in Paul’s Theology (Paternoster Biblical Monographs)”  In addition he has co-authored with Thomas Schreiner “One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology” and Kevin Jones Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives.


The Wondering Eagle’s Thoughts on This EFCA Conference 

There are two topics which anger people and cause me to lose readers. Those two topics are when I have written about evangelical Christians and politics and also the issue or racism. This past year has been a difficult year on both fronts. But before I continue let me post some of the articles I have composed that are directly relevant to the topic of this conference. 

  1. A Visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; Plus Some Thoughts on Evangelical Christians and Racism
  2. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the African-American History and Culture, In Pictures
  3. The Season of my Discontent: When the Evangelical Christians are Wrong, the Atheists are Correct, and the Neo-Calvinists Surprise Me; A Reflection on the Neo-Nazi Rally in my Home State of Virginia
  4. Recommended Reads: Russell Moore on Jesus Being Angry on White Supremacy; Plus Jayson Bradley on how if Pastors Aren’t Discussing Racism they Need to Turn Over the Microphone
  5. Why Racism is a Sin, and Why Confederate Monuments in the United States Need to be Removed
  6. The Strategic Role the EFCA can Play in Racial Healing; Plus Did the EFCA Allegedly Remove a Church from the Denomination that Had Ties to the White Supremacist Organization the League of the South?
  7. Recommended Read: Politico on Evangelical Culture Wars; It Wasn’t the Legalization of Abortion that Triggered them it was the Threat of Bob Jones University Losing its Funding due to its Segregation Practices
  8. 1943 War Department Training Film on Identifying Fascism and Some Discussion Questions
  9. What a College Kid Learned from a Japanese-American who was Interned During World War II; Are Evangelical Christians Going to Take Responsibility for the Current Refugee Crisis?

This past year has been an eye opener and one that has given me pause. Let me state that I am a student of history and that I am constantly reading, processing new information and learning. Education doesn’t end when you get your graduate degree, to the contrary that is only the beginning. If people learned and took steps towards personal development some of the issues we are dealing with today would not be issues.   While I wrote about refugees early last year, I have never written about the issue of immigration here at this blog. Its an important topic and deeply critical but I have so many topics that I am wanting to write about. Immigration is tricky because it depends upon where you live. When I grew up in California illegal immigration from Mexico was a major issue. And yet the other troubling aspect is that in California many illegal immigrants would perform jobs that many whites or others would not do. Agricultural and the picking and sorting of crops in the San Joaquin Valley is on my mind as I write about this very topic.

Immigration is a major issue in the church and the reality is that our society is struggling with it. The issues I think you are seeing today are due to a polarization that has grown as people have moved to extremes. The center in our society is evaporating. Take immigration, our political system has failed on this topic as we have not had reform since 1986. I remember when California voted on Proposition 187 which was deeply controversial. I voted for it in my absentee ballet from college in Montana. I thought I made the right decision, yet years later I became convinced I made a mistake. There are more sensible ways to deal with the problem. I am troubled by the situation with DACA and the Dreamers. For them to be held responsible for their parent’s mistakes is awful. They need to be included in immigration reform. Its in this area that the church should step up and help out. There are other issues as well, that of refugees from Syria elsewhere. On this issue I am thinking as an Irishman. There was a time in Ireland’s history where Ireland was described in the same terms Syria is today. As a nation we need to study history. We have accepted immigrants from every major conflict. I knew people in California who fled Cambodia and Vietnam. Fresno after all has a large southeast Asian community. I know a person who was once a boat person, hearing his story shocked me. Decades later he is still haunted by it. This is an issue the church needs to be proactive in, and help in bridging the gap and finding assistance and education. This can all be done while defending our borders which every nation-state has the right to do. 

Turning to racism I have seen something this year that I thought I’d never see. People being open about racism and in some ways embracing it. I have heard and seen stuff on social media that I never saw before. Some of it I believe comes from Russia who is using bots to fan the flames of division. I am a conservative guy in many ways but I have also come to believe that as a white male there is also a degree of white privilege. I read an article by a person I deeply respect, that of Max Boot who wrote about being a conservative and seeing the issue of white privilege. You can read that article here. Racism is an issue that we have struggled with throughout our history. From the discrimination of the Chinese in the Chinese Exclusion Acts to the issue of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination. Our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were slaver owners. I am not saying this to tear them down, but when I was a grad student in history I had to struggle with that issue. It was hard and trying. Look at how much blood we have shed over the issue of racism. At places like Antietam, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Chickamagua, Manassas, and more this nation tore itself apart over the issue of slavery. After all the blood that was shed we then had the Jim Crow era, the rise of the Klu Klux Klan and discrimination. That continued on into the 1960’s at places like Selma, Memphis,  Montgomery and more. We as a nation have struggled with our history of racism. And just when people insist that it is in our past you see a President inflaming the situation through acidic tweets and fanning the flames. I know someone here in the Washington, D.C. area who told me that when Neo-Nazis were in Charlottesville they were driving around neighborhoods screaming, leaning out and waving guns from pick ups. This guys’ 85 year old mother-in-law hid in her house, afraid and scared. This past year has taught me that our problem with racism is deeper than ever. Its also taught me that many evangelicals deeply struggle with the topic. I thought we made great progress since the 1960’s, I learned otherwise. As a white male I also have accepted that white privilege does exist. I am just calling it as I see it. I write all this to set the stage for what I want to say next. 

To the EFCA this conference is needed and necessary. I am grateful and appreciative that the EFCA would take on these difficult issues. My hope is that out of the conference and discussions fresh new ideas will arise and people will be able to implement them and have discussions that clear hearts and minds. As a guy doing analysis of all the Christian denominations I think the EFCA has the most potential on these issues of racism, racial reconciliation and immigration.  Its because the EFCA is a church that was built by immigrants. This conference as I see it, gets to the heart of the EFCA in a good way. You are looking forward while drawing upon your past. That is refreshing and needed. I look forward to listening to the talks after they are released. I will probably write a post or two a few months down the line. One thing I would impart upon the EFCA is that many white evangelicals are living in fear today. I am more towards the edge of the Christian faith, but I don’t believe you and have fear and love together. They cannot co-exist. I hope that this conference is well attended and that this can led to some progress on this issue. To the EFCA I wish you well.