Publishing a Comment that was Not Approved on Greg Strand’s EFCA Post on the “Significance of Silence”

The Wondering Eagle is writing about an EFCA church hijacking by Neo-Calvinists outside Minneapolis in the North Central District. Linda left a comment on Greg Strand’s blog post about the “Significance of Silence” and the comment never saw the light of day. I honestly hope this is an accident or that the comment went into the spam folder. Linda tried to reach out of the EFCA regarding her situation for some time. And most of the time the EFCA has mostly ignored her communications. 

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

Albert Einstein 

“Being a good leader requires remembering that you’re there for a reason, and the reason certainly isn’t to have your way. High-integrity leaders not only welcome questioning and criticism – they insist on it.”

Travis Bradberry

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:10 NLT

The Wondering Eagle has been writing about an EFCA church hijacking by Neo-Calvinists outside Minneapolis. A former member and her husband were forced from their church home of 25 years. You can read their story in “A Neo-Calvinist Hijacking at an EFCA Church in Minnesota That Took Place in the Shadow of John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist.” Linda, who is one of the people in the story reached out to the EFCA about her situation. Recently she left a comment that was not approved on Greg Strand’s post at the EFCA blog dealing with the “Significance of Silence.” As I read and studied some of the documentation from her situation I am going to re-print her comment below. But first let’ s look at Greg Strand from the EFCA. 

 

Greg Strand at Trinity International University. 

Who is Greg Strand? 

Today Greg Strand is the Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing for the EFCA in its corporate headquarters of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which he held since 2002. Greg has worked in ministry since 1982. For two years his first job in ministry was a Youth Pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Moorhead, Minnesota. From 1989 until 1994 he served as an Associate Pastor of Adult Ministries at Bethany Evangelical Free Church in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He then served as the Senior Pastor at Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Minot, North Dakota from 1995 until 2002. Greg  is deeply educated and earned a BA at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1982. He then obtained a Masters of Divinity in 1989 and a Masters in the Arts in New Testament in 1992. Both came from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Currently as I understand it he is working with the Evangelical Theological Faculty at Heverlee, Belgium with a doctorate of systematic theology. In addition he has also edited, “Evangelical Convictions” and “Gospel Truths: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada.” Finally he is also an adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

I have heard a lot of things about Greg which are all across the board. I have heard from a couple of pastors and even former pastors as to how Greg is a stickler when it comes to credentialing. In the process he is disciplined and can be hard, and he grills people. Honestly, I recall a challenging oral exam in one graduate level class when I was earning a history degree at Marquette.  So I can sympathize with those who have done an oral exam. When the issue of Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania was dragging on I heard good things about Greg and how he was proactive and worked hard behind the scenes in trying to resolve the situation Steve Estes created. 

So when I was approached and heard about this EFCA situation in Minnesota I was intrigued. The story Linda told me was heartbreaking and difficult. Its been hard on Linda’s family. She gave me documentation to look at, and as I studied it she explained that she commented on Greg Strand’s blog about her family’s situation. The post Linda commented on is, “Why Do We Adhere to the “Significance of Silence”?  To her disappointment the comment was not approved on Greg’s blog post. I don’t know if that was a mishap, if it landed in the spam folder or more. I certainly hope that the Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing just didn’t press delete on her comment as it was awkward or challenging to what he just wrote. Below you can read Linda’s comment that didn’t see the light of day on Greg’s blog. On Monday we are going to look at the “Significance of Silence” in detail and ask the following question. Are Neo-Calvinists exploiting it to flip a church?  After writing about the EFCA for a while now it is the opinion of The Wondering Eagle that this is happening inside the greater EFCA. 


This article drew my attention as “Soteriological Essentials” and the ‘Significance of Silence in the EFCA” is a topic that is close to my heart. I was especially interested in learning about what the EFCA says about how a local church can have both Arminian and Calvinistic beliefs in it and thrive. Greg Strand’s statement that the “significance of silence” does not mean that we will not talk about these issues, or that this is not a lowest common denominator type of approach but one of “robust dialogue without dividing” interests me. Do you really think that in a local church there can be “robust dialogue” without a wedge being driven between those who are of opposing views. Let me tell you a story of one local church. My husband and I joined the local Evangelical Free church after our marriage 25 years ago. It offered basic Christian beliefs in its statement of faith. It offered Christian liberty in “non-essentials.” It was just the church we were looking for. Looking back, it would have been classified “Arminian” though I don’t think anyone would have recognized that term. We just all knew that salvation was for ALL people and Christ’s atonement was sufficient for ALL people. We knew that each person had a choice to make whether to accept Christ as their personal savior.

About 14 years ago, a new pastor was hired. This man contained all the characteristics that the people were looking for in a pastor. Everyone was excited. What was not realized at the time was this man had a Calvinistic leaning in his beliefs. In fact, those on the search committee would have had no understanding of such things if the issue was even addressed. About 2 years into his pastorate at this church, the pastor preached a sermon on “predestination.” This brought protest from a few members of the congregation of which we would have been one of them. After much spiritual struggle and reassurance from the pastor that he would not be focusing on this, we made a decision to stay in this local church we loved.

Several more years went by before we noticed that several families from the metropolitan area nearby had started to filter into the church. These people seemed to have similar beliefs in common. They believed that God ordained everything that happened to us. One particular gentleman who often taught Sunday School focused on this and the concept that everything is about God’s glory. He also stated that “the only people who will be saved are those who were chosen and pre-destined before the world began.” I was confused by the things I was hearing and did not believe them to be true. My husband, as an elder candidate, and I brought up our observations and beliefs to the pastors and current elders. Our concerns were met with shrugs and silence which confused us further. One day while watching a teaching video in Sunday School by John Piper, he made a comment about being a Calvinist. What’s a Calvinist I asked? I went home and looked up Calvinist. I was shocked that Christians would believe any of the things spelled out by the TULIP acronym. But now I understood what was being taught that had vaguely troubled me. I also realized that a large portion of the people in our church would lean towards an Arminian perspective but probably, like me, didn’t even realize that there were two different perspectives or that they were being taught a position different from their basic beliefs.

Several more years slipped into eternity and another pastor was hired. This pastor was young and definitely subscribed to the “neo-Calvinism” beliefs of the “young, restless, and reformed.” He was passionate about them and saw no reason to be sensitive to those on the other side. Now, the pendulum of belief had swung to the side of Calvinism. Both pastors, as well as 2 of 3 elders subscribed to this position on salvation. When approached about the discomfort of some in the congregation about this switch in beliefs, the response was “But we haven’t changed the statement of faith. You can believe either way and serve on the elder board or serve in any other position of the church.” But the question is, Can one truly? It is impossible to debate robustly without being corrected by those who have more learning, more authority in the church, and better debating skills. It doesn’t take long until we feel “marginalized.” When we bring this up, we are accused of making a serious charge against the church that must be substantiated. Frustration mounts for us and we eventually make the decision to leave the church that we have served and held leadership roles in for the last 25 years and is the only family we have.

How is one to hold a position different from the leadership majority when there is no grace, no sensitivity, and no attempt to authenticate the validity of both positions? So how do you have both positions in the local church and not have those in the minority feeling like they are not quite as good of Christians? How do you have charity in “non-essentials” when both sides consider their belief essential? Do you have any examples of a Free Church that has not split when the pastor/pastors have tried to change the church’s position from Arminian to Calvinistic because that is their “conviction”?

This situation in the EF church has left us devastated in our faith. Nothing makes much sense any more. If this important of a doctrine can be understood two different ways, why should we believe that man has rightly interpreted anything that is in the Bible? When one is 60 years old, and your learned pastor who seems to be a dedicated man of God, tells you everything you have ever believed about your salvation since childhood is false, it is devastating. Am I really a Christian or is this just a delusion, is the question?

4 thoughts on “Publishing a Comment that was Not Approved on Greg Strand’s EFCA Post on the “Significance of Silence”

  1. I have been an EFCA pastor for 24 years. I am reformed soteriologically. I have served on our District credentialing board for 12 years and have had some interaction with Greg Strand.

    I wonder if Linda’s comment may have been too long to be posted. I cannot imagine that Greg would intentionally delete or ignore Linda’s request. Hopefully, that will get resolved.

    I know Greg to be extremely theologically acute and one who has the heart of a pastor. Recently I sought his advice on a theological question for a sermon. He corrected my less than irenic tone and I thanked him for it. I have great admiration for Greg.

    Calvinists and Arminians have been peacefully coexisting for a long time in the EFCA. This EFCA doctrinal survey is fascinating.

    https://go.efca.org/sites/default/files/resources/docs/2014/05/efca_doctrinal_survey_and_summary_4.pdf

    Page two details this issue. Of those who responded, “38% are Calvinists; 35% are Arminian/Wesleyan; 28% did not list any logical order” of faith and regeneration. Greg personally told me that the EFCA did lean slightly Arminian at one time. So there has been a wonderful balance, probably since our inception in 1950.

    When I preached through Romans 9 years ago, I did get some pushback from a few folks. I preach exegetically through entire books of the Bible, which helps to keep me from riding on my own theological hobby horses. But when I preach through texts that I think are clear but possibly divisive, I preach them according to my own conviction. When I do so, I present the other viewpoint. If anyone is convinced one way or the other, I want the Word of God to make the difference, not my opinions/convictions. At the time, half of our elders were Arminian and half were Calvinist. They were extremely supportive of my preaching content.

    One person did leave as a result of my position on this topic. However, he had been in the church a long time before he even knew my position, so I think this speaks to the fact that I don’t wear this topic on my sleeves. And this is the key to maintaining the “significance of silence” ethos in the EFCA. If a pastor routinely preaches on this topic, he may be pushing a non-essential doctrine too hard. (I say “may” as each situation needs to be considered separately.) But it would be wrong for churches to never allow pastors to preach on non-essentials. As it is with personal conversations, it comes down to not only what you say but also how you say it. Challenging topics must be communicated with gentleness and respect. Preaching pastors will miss the mark at times but hopefully will be willing to receive loving correction.

    Linda’s experience was unfortunate. “How is one to hold a position different from the leadership majority when there is no grace, no sensitivity, and no attempt to authenticate the validity of both positions?”

    Linda was having a theological crisis at the same time. “When one is 60 years old, and your learned pastor who seems to be a dedicated man of God, tells you everything you have ever believed about your salvation since childhood is false, it is devastating. Am I really a Christian or is this just a delusion, is the question?” Based on her other comment about “no grace, no sensitivity,” I assume she means that the other viewpoint was denigrated to the point of being called wrong or heretical. If that happened, it was clearly the wrong way to handle this topic. Linda, if this was your experience, I am very sorry for the way you were treated.

    I know dozens of pastors who are soteriologically reformed but have never had much or any conflict regarding this topic. The EFCA doctrinal survey and my own experience proves that most EFCA churches handle the non-essential doctrines with clarity and gentleness. But there will always be outliers who have not yet learned how to walk this path. If they cannot see their way through it or simply refuse to be more balanced with non-essential doctrines, then they need to leave the EFCA pronto.

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  2. Pastor Maurer:
    “I preach exegetically through entire books of the Bible, which helps to keep me from riding on my own theological hobby horses. But when I preach through texts that I think are clear but possibly divisive, I preach them according to my own conviction. When I do so, I present the other viewpoint. If anyone is convinced one way or the other, I want the Word of God to make the difference, not my opinions/convictions.”

    Excellent!!!

    This is how an EFCA pastor on Staten Island preached for many years. He didn’t skip over verses, often going through entire books, and he addressed it all directly, presenting what his view of it was, and making clear distinctions between his view, and “the” view, and whenever there was disagreement, he would delineate clearly, “some/many respected theologians believe…”, and then give his views and why. I have a great respect for that kind of transparent preaching. He is now head of the EFCA Eastern District, FWIW.

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  3. Pingback: Inside the EFCA are Neo-Calvinists Exploiting the “Significance of Silence” to Hijack Churches? | Wondering Eagle

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