An Open Letter to Brian Farone (District Superintendent of the North Central District on Some Thoughts on the EFCA, his District, and Other Issues)

An open letter to the North Central District Superintendent. In this letter this writer explain how I have written other open letters to his colleagues in other EFCA districts. I explain my thoughts on the North Central District. Plus I also explain some of the key issues facing the EFCA. Finally I reveal where I am spiritually as I am sure that would probably be a question. 

“My jobs is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.

Steve Jobs 

“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.”

Albert Einstein 

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,[a] the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:15-16 NLT


Brian Farone is on the left of this picture. 


As I begin to write about the North Central District I want to start by writing you an open letter. I have done this with other district superintendents or personalities inside the EFCA. These are some examples to your professional colleagues. To EFCA West District Superintendent Steve Highfill  I wrote about how Neo-Calvinists are exploiting the autonomous nature of the EFCA. To Bob Rowley of the Texas and Oklahoma District I wrote about the work I put into this blog and the job it has become. To Eddie Cole of the Eastern District I wrote an open letter that looked at his history with EFCA’s Salem Church in Staten Island, New York. I also thanked him for his hard work in trying to deal with Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson. This blog broke a story inside the EFCA with a church in Pennsylvania when the the senior pastor’s son allegedly raped his wife and pointed a loaded gun in a marriage filled with domestic abuse. When she filed for divorce the senior pastor led the church into practicing church discipline against her and also her excommunication. The controversial situation which divided the community went up to the leadership in Minneapolis. The church eventually left the EFCA and I wrote 74 posts about the situation which you can go read. To Bruce Martin of the EFCA’s Pacific Northwest District I listened to a sermon he gave and offered feedback. To Jon Payne of the Forest Lakes District which is neighboring you in Wisconsin I wrote about what life was like before enduring spiritual abuse and how I wish I could trust the church again. And while I still need to write an open letter to the Western District Superintendent I wrote one to Andrew Hoffman the Multiplication Catalyst. In that letter I explained why the Neo-Calvinist movement failed and how its time to wind it up.   

Before I continue I want to state that my goal is to make the EFCA stronger in the course of time. I am not about tearing down, instead while talking about difficult topics I am hoping that the end by-product can be peace and reconciliation along with healing and people becoming whole after discussing  these issues. Your district was a lot of work to study and analyze. To go through 156 churches took a lot of time and effort. I had many late nights and I did it while writing other posts about the EFCA, modern evangelicalism or the atheist movement as well. Your district has a lot of history, but I expected that when I consider the Scandinavian history of the EFCA and where the Scandinavians settled in the upper Midwest and some of the plain states. I want to let you know that you are free to contact or speak your mind with me. Anyone from your district is.  If you find yourself on the East Coast I would be happy to meet and talk. That said Bryan I know that reactions to this blog are going to vary. Some are going to be upset with me, others will call be “divisive” or “slanderous” or “bitter.” Yet others may take an interest into what an outsider says about the EFCA. That said I am used to a lot of responses and have thick skin. This blog has led to a lot of traveling on the East Coast and I have also been out to Kansas as well. If I could Bryan I would travel throughout Minnesota to sit in at a number of your churches and observe and take notes. One thing I will say is that this blog was born out of intense psychological pain. I never planned to do a blog like this, but a brush with someone trying to bring me into a former Sovereign Grace Ministries church (now Acts 29 Redeemer Arlington) is what led this blog being birthed. I am a broken person, and a doubter. And had that incident with a person from Redeemer Arlington not happened, or had he sincerely apologized this blog never would have materialized. 

Going into your district I was honestly wondering what kind of influence John Piper had over a number of EFCA churches in the North Central District. Given his ministry in Minneapolis for years I wondered what I would discover. It didn’t take long, actually I learned about it a month or so before I started writing about the North Central. I learned about what happened at Trinity Evangelical Church in Plainview, Minnesota. That EFCA church is led by Ty Spenst and Nick Wilson. I learned that both Ty and Nick helped flip a church. That they taught that people who were not of their Neo-Calvinist theology were not Christian. I learned that the “Significance of Silence” was broken in the EFCA. I learned that there was shunning, and people leaving in pain. I want you to know Brian that I am deeply concerned about Trinity Evangelical Free. What took place should not have taken place. Despite the model of congregationalism that exists there is always the possibility of meetings, discussions and trying to work out the problem. I am going to be writing about Trinity Evangelical Free in the months ahead. 

Now if you were to ask me what do I think are the major problems inside the EFCA? I would say the following. I am deeply concerned about the issue of child sex abuse and that the denomination doesn’t have enough safe guards in place. The #Me Too movement is going to arrive to the EFCA at one point just as it has to the Southern Baptists. I would like to see the EFCA handle it with courage, integrity and strength. Another major issue is that of managing Neo-Calvinism. The denomination is going to have to come up with a plan to guide Neo-Calvinists to like minded churches so that churches aren’t hijacked or flipped. Another issue which I fear is under to radar is that of politics inside evangelicalism. I will get into this more below as I tell you about myself spiritually. But I think those are the top issues from my perspective. I will also refer you to two posts that will help you understand me as well. If you want to know my long term goals with the EFCA you can read about that in, “First Free Wichita Wants to Introduce you to the EFCA; Plus The Wondering Eagle’s Long Term Goals and Agenda with the EFCA.” Another post will tell you how I view the EFCA. Honestly it is a complicated denomination. You can read more in, “How Should the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) be Viewed? Well it’s Complicated.” That will give you a greater understanding as I continue to write about the denomination and personalities and churches inside. Also I have used this blog to journal my Mom’s recent death. Plus I also plan to do book reviews as well. I have read Bill Kynes “7 Pressing Questions” and need to write that up as a review. Currently I am also read John Fea’s “Believe Me” which I also plan to review.

So as I wind this down you probably want to know more about me. Where am I spiritually? Today I am toward the edge of evangelicalism. I have one foot in, and one foot out. Here is how I view evangelicalism. On one side you have the Neo-Calvinist movement. In this movement you find Acts 29, 9 Marks, The Gospel Coalition and more. In this movement you find an obsession with church discipline, authoritarianism, membership covenants, emphasizing Hebrews 13:17, etc… This is a movement that is drunk on authority. They are also into pastor idolatry with people like John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, etc…  I avoid this group because I am not into Neo-Calvinist theology. The main reason why is that it makes the problem of evil worse, because the sovereignty they teach is pure determinism. And I can’t go there and be a part of that movement to be honest with you. 

Then there is the flip side to that movement which is traditional evangelicalism. I have been slowly pushing back from this because I find deep and dark issues with this camp as well. Part of the issue is that this camp can be very shallow and lack depth. Then they can be hostile to science and intellectualism. This side of evangelicalism is  also very political and consumed with the culture wars. Faith is about control of the Supreme Court, or the Oval Office. I have met people who have married the two beliefs systems into one. Faith is very political, and in the past two years it has gotten worse under Donald Trump and since the 2016 election. What we are starting to see in this camp is the emergence of Christian nationalism. Do you know what nationalism is Brian? Nationalism is a way to unify a group of people against another group. Nationalism in history is ugly. In history it always leads to war. I studied graduate level history at Marquette years ago and read and researched Germany. The Germans used nationalism when they invaded Poland and Europe. In Asia the Japanese used nationalism before invading China in 1937. So why are Christians appealing to nationalism instead of Jesus? Are some of these people even Christians to begin with? Honestly I do not know. One thing I admire about the Neo-Calvinist movement is that it is very a-political. I wrote about that in, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.” When I see this traditional side of evangelicalism embrace someone who has had affairs with porn stars or call part of the world “shitholes” I feel sick. Why would the EFCA or any Christians then have missionary activity in these “shitholes?” Isn’t that a waste of time? Have people in this side of evangelicalism stopped and considered the consequences of what they have done?

I was in the traditional camp and I have pushed back from that. So in the end I am really a part of neither. I am not into Neo-Calvinism and the traditional evangelical camp has become very political and about the culture wars. I refuse to go there either. So in a way I guess you can say I am spiritually homeless. I believe in a God but when I look at evangelicalism I really don’t see a place for me. So when I write this blog I write from that perspective Brian. I think I covered a lot of ground in this post. Anyone can reach out and inquire. I wish you well and I look forward to writing about your district. Please have a good week. 

Very Respectfully, 

David Bonner