As it appears that Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson has exited the EFCA, the denomination should respond by planting a church in Morgantown, Pennsylvania for a multitude of reasons. Also its now time for Greg Strand, Eddie Cole and the EFCA to issue a statement and go on the record of what happened and how the denomination tried to work with Steve Estes and church leadership. In a post-truth era a solid statement will help the EFCA assert authority in a healthy and respectful way. Any statement needs to be a rebuke of what Community Evangelical Free Church did.
“Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.“
“There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.”
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
1 John 1:9 NLT
Former sign for Community Evangelical Free Church
The Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole
There is some developments going on with Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. If you are not familiar with the story this is what happened. The son of of Steve Estes, Brock Estes allegedly raped his wife when he was intoxicated and in another occasion loaded a gun and pointed it at his wife. Hurit, who knows she could be dead, filed for divorce from the domestic abuse and Steve Estes coached his church through practicing church discipline on his former daughter-in-law and had her excommunicated. It was deeply controversial, divided the community and it went up the EFCA and nothing happened. I started to write about it since The Wondering Eagle writes about the EFCA. The last post I did on this ongoing drama is, “Brick Lane Community Church Changes its Name to Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson; Votes to Rejoin the EFCA for a Month, and Plans to Separate Again from the EFCA.” I looked in the EFCA Church Directory Friday afternoon and I noticed that Steve Estes church is not listed. The website is in the process of being changed. When some time passes I will do a comprehensive overview of what the EFCA can learn from this situation. After writing nearly 70 posts over the last two years there is a lot that can be said.
Why the EFCA Should Plant a Church in Morgantown
Many times churches or denominations do church plants that are questionable. They often are jobs programs for pastors or recent seminary graduates or they go into a market that is already saturated. For example here in the Washington, D.C. area I know of a situation several years ago where three denominations planted a church within a block of each other. I thought it was a waste of resources when I heard of it. And please understand I am not entirely opposed to church plants, In the case of Morgantown this would be a wise move by the EFCA and would help in the fallout from the Community Evangelical Free Church situation.
As of late March 2018 I believe a little over 200 people have left Steve Estes church. The migration began in December of 2014 after Steve Estes practiced church discipline and an excommunication on an alleged rape victim. There has been a long, slow bleed of people who have resigned memberships. I have interacted with a number of them over the past couple of years and when you break down the demographics one of the issues I have noticed is that a number of people who left are older. I have received emails from people who walked away from Community who are in their 60’s or so. I have also heard that other older people are stuck in Community and afraid to leave a church they were involved with their entire time. Some I have been told even want to live out their life in Community after the time they have been involved. The older people who have left have had problems adjusting as when they left they lose friendships, connections and more. This has been exceptionally difficult for them to process. As Community Evangelical Free becomes Brick Lane Community Church the bleed will continue over time. Plus another factor is that some will get involved and learn about what happened and want to leave. In anticipating these problems and considering the other issues that have come about its really time for the EFCA to plant a church in Morgantown, Pennsylvania for a number of reasons.
These are a list of reasons why a church should be done in light of this ongoing situation.
- For those 200 people who have left it could create a community that could serve them. Plus it would be removed from all the corruption of the Stoltzfus family. After all the Stoltzfus are going to stay in Brick Lane, after all its Merle and David’s business for the most part. By having a church free of the Stoltzfus one of the bigger issues will be resolved.
- A church in Morgantown could allow for a group of people to gather together who suffered from Community Evangelical Free. People will know and understand each other better than other churches might.
- The EFCA could pour resources, counseling and more into a church in Morgantown and help those who are dealing with shock, trauma, and PTSD over what happened. If the EFCA does this its best that they get a pastor out of Trinity Evangelical Divinity school who isn’t influenced by Neo-Calvinist theology. It would have to be a person not under the spell of D.A. Carson, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler and other questionable individuals and all about membership covenants, church discipline and more. That would be awful in light of what occurred in Elverson. The EFCA would have to be sensitive on this issue and allow people to ask questions.
- A church plant by the EFCA in Morgantown can be there long term and as people still bleed out of Brick Lane Community Church they can be welcomed into the church in Morgantown.
- A church plant in Morgantown would be a rebuke to the leadership of Brick Lane. By having another EFCA church nearby Steve Estes would find themselves being forced to answer questions by people especially as they realize another local EFCA church that didn’t make end times theology an issue as Community falsely claimed.
- An EFCA church in Morgantown can fill a gap by the EFCA in the area. The nearest EFCA church to Elverson is Crossway Berks in Mohnton and led by Dean Linsky. Crossway I believe was an extension at one point of Community Evangelical Free in Elverson. Crossway is nine miles away from Elverson. The next nearest church is Keystone Church in Paradise. But that is not a church that would be helpful in this situation. Keystone is affiliated with The Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks, and David Powlison’s Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). Keith Rohrer needs to cease greedily reaching for the Kool Aid. The next available church is Tony Hunt’s Lancaster Evangelical Free. If a church plant is done in Morgantown perhaps Crossway Berks and Lancaster can assist. This post has been emailed to all three churches. Lancaster and Crossway Berks can become more aware of this need. And Keith Rohrer can read this following post about how C.J. Mahaney made 9 Marks worthless when he fled Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland and hid behind Mark Dever’s rear end at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. The post is called, “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.” If Keith requests I can do a power point briefing on the scandals, and theological problems of 9 Marks and issues with Sovereign Grace.
This could be helpful to the community and I hope Eddie Cole can contemplate this issue, as this would be a church plant that would make sense.
The Issue of Living in a Post-Truth Era…
This is one of the challenges that exists today, and its a topic that troubles me deeply. We live in a post-truth era and its creating challenges and problems that are going to affect the church, good governance, stability and more in our society. I touched on the issue in an older post called, “How Pizzagate and Fake News Threaten the Legitimacy of Religious Blogs.” Writing is important and should be done carefully as words can inflame, hurt or in history lead to conflict. As I have studied a lot of history there is a good example of what can occur when words are twisted. Any student of German history is not doubt familiar with the Ems Dispatch. Otto von Bismarck took a dispatch that was sent to him by King Wilhelm I of Prussia and edited it. He removed key parts and released the note to the public and deeply embarrassed France. He also made it appear as if France mocked Kaiser Wilhelm. The situation led to the Franco-Prussian War in July of 1870. I don’t take words lightly especially after being on the receiving end of a false accusation. As I read and research I am stunned by how much bad information that is out there on the internet. For me its important to verify the facts and also dismiss bad information. But getting back to what I said in the intro into this section the church will be hurt by false news and more.
Perhaps that is why honest brokers can be so essential in today’s age. People who straddle the fence and reach out and build bridges and help in a post-truth era. The EFCA is going to struggle in a post-truth era like many established organizations will. Trust me I wish that were not the case. The good thing about this kind of writing is that I can push back against certain trends. And that is a responsibility I take seriously. It is tragic that there is a skepticism to establishment today which I think is toxic and unnecessary. I write all this to say the following, there is one way that the EFCA can build up authority in a healthy and solid way. It will help navigate the post-truth situation we live in, and it will allow for the EFCA to re-assert itself in an affirming way.
Why Greg Strand, Eddie Cole and the EFCA Should Issue a Statement, Plus the Benefits to the EFCA in Taking this Action
The EFCA needs to release a statement on the situation involving Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church. The statement needs to be solid, lay out the facts and should come from Greg Strand and Eddie Cole. This statement will help the community of Elverson and allow it to heal. After all Community Evangelical Free now appears to be broken away from the EFCA. So the EFCA itself will have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The statement will help validate those 200 individuals who have left. It will help those inside who are debating about whether they should stay or should they go? It will help those who will relocate to the area and maybe consider joining Brick Lane Community Church. Any statement that is released should explain what the EFCA did in trying to resolve the situation, and how the denomination found Steve Estes church in the wrong,
Here is another reason why the EFCA should release a statement. This blog has written about 70 posts on this rogue EFCA church. In this situation it also helped put the EFCA denomination in a good light in the course of time especially when The Wondering Eagle communicated the time, money and effort that was spent in trying to resolve the problem. That came across in posts such as, “What the EFCA Wanted Steve Estes’s Community Evangelical Free Church to do to Rectify a Difficult Situation” and “An Open Letter to Eddie Cole (Eastern District Superintendent of the EFCA).” Would many people in the community have known about those efforts otherwise? And yes I understand that any resolve would have happened quietly behind closed doors, especially as that is how most business is usually done. When it comes to communication there is also the public effort to drive a message to a community. In this area the EFCA has been lacking. Perhaps Greg Strand has not realized how crucial this issue is. Eddie Cole does, after all I emailed him a couple of months back and encouraged him to release a statement and go on the record. But in not issuing a public statement on this situation the EFCA looks like an organization aloof and indifferent. A public statement can correct that issue, and it also would put the EFCA on the right side of this issue publicly before the entire community of Elverson and South Central Pennsylvania. There is another reason why a public statement is needed. It would help the EFCA establish a precedent that could be used with other difficult situations, So when something like this or another difficult matter happens in an EFCA church in Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado or California the EFCA will also follow precedent. For the EFCA to put out a statement is both logical and necessary. I have talked to many people in the Elverson area and many are hoping that the EFCA will come out and issue a statement. Maybe that would be one way for them to get closure. To see a national organization publicly rebuke a rogue church that has now officially left the denomination. In a post-truth era the EFCA will position itself in a healthy way the next time this happens and I start to write about it. It will also build up trust, faith and not sow disillusionment. So to Greg Strand and Eddie Cole, can that be done? That is my challenge to you. In my next post I will write up a sample statement just to give you an idea of what is possible. Thanks Elverson I love you guys!