Senior Pastor Roy Fruits wrote a polarizing blog post that flirted with politics in the pulpit after the 2016 election. This is a look at what the pastor from the EFCA’s Rockpoint Church in Lake Elmo, Minnesota said. This post is a gentle reminder in the current election season that the Johnson Amendment prohibits politics being done from the pulpit. If this blog finds examples of EFCA churches that violate the Johnson Amendment I will report them to some of the atheist organizations I have interacted with.
“Authority is mainly a moral power; therefore, it must first call upon the conscience, that is, upon the duty that each person has to contribute willingly to the common good.”
Pope John Paul XXIII
“We want to be known for what we are, not for what we are against.”
Roy Fruits in 2007
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
From the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri
Election day is in a couple of days and I want to use this post to address the issue of politics and the pulpit inside the EFCA. Neo-Calvinism is a major issue inside both the EFCA and evangelicalism but its not the only issue. Christian nationalism, the culture wars and the way some evangelicals marry faith and politics is another issue. A couple of months back I saw something on the blog of Rockpoint Church in Lake Elmo, Minnesota that I set aside to look at today.
A Brief Overview of Rockpoint Church, Plus Who is Roy Fruits?
Rockpoint Church began as Lake Evangelical Free Church in 1969. It was started as a church plant from First Evangelical Free Church. Ten families began meeting in their homes in White Bear Lake. The first services took place at a local elementary school in White Bear Lake until land could be purchased. The church moved in 2007 to its present location of Lake Elmo, Minnesota. You can read about the move in the local St. Croix Valley Area Lowdown here. Rockpoint is accredited by ECFA and you can see that information here. However, I also have to say ECFA lost a lot of credibility because of the Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill scandal in Seattle a few years back. Plus, ECFA also has credentialed Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, despite the massive amount of debt and financial issues there. This blog has a lot to write about Harvest Bible Chapel in the course of time. So ECFA is problematic and not a sound organization.
Roy Fruits grew up in Cicero, Illinois which is outside Chicago. He attended college at the University of Northwestern St. Paul where he obtained a B.A. in communications. He then went on to Dallas Theological Seminary where he obtained a Th.M in 1992. He served at Grace Bible Church in Arroyo Grande, California from 1992 until 2001. There he was the Pastor of Adult and Family Ministry. Its interesting to note that the EFCA District Superintendent Brian Farone also came from Grace Bible Church in California as well. Brian Farone replaced him as the Pastor of Adult and Family Ministry in 2001. You can read more about that in, “Analysis of The North Central District of the Evangelical Free Church of America.” Plus, you can also read Brian Farone discuss it in this blog post article for the North Central District. Roy joined the Rockpoint staff as Senior Pastor in 2001 and has been in that position ever since. Roy is a chapel speaker for the Chicago White Sox and a bible Teacher at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. You can read his guest post at Family Matters here.
What Roy Fruits Said that is Troubling
Roy Fruits is no doubt an evangelical pastor deeply immersed in the culture wars. An interview he gave in 2000 over California Proposition 22 about making same sex marriage illegal sheds further perspective on his opinion. So when it comes to evangelical persecution and the culture wars I wrote about that in the context of an EFCA church in Northern California recently. You can read about that in, “The Youth Group of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, California Shows God’s Not Dead 2. A Frank Discussion on White Evangelicals Warped View of Persecution.” After the 2016 election Roy Fruits wrote a polarizing blog post at the church blog. This writer and researcher is calculating the growth of Neo-Calvinism inside the EFCA and I do it by studying church websites and social media. This was one of the most political posts I have seen written by an EFCA pastor inside the denomination. And I say this having studied social media for over 800 churches in eleven districts.
I preserved the post in, “Documenting Roy Fruits Political Commentary Through Rockpoint Church in Lake Elmo, Minnesota on the 2016 Election and the Supreme Court.” In his post Roy wrote about how there was one final opportunity to right the Christian ship of the United States. Money reminds us of “In God We Trust” but other aspects of society continues to reject God. Roy talked about how the 2016 election was big and the issue of the Supreme Court and abortion was at stake. Roy wrote about how God moved in the election and quoted Romans 13:1. He wrote about how the Presidency is instituted by God. Then he goes on and discusses the importance of voting. Roy then wound down his blog post by emphasizing four points. The first is trusting God’s sovereign plan, followed by a call to pray, again followed by honoring and respecting those in authority and lastly to go and love one another. In reminding people that God intervened during the 2016 election and of the importance of coming together as “one nation under God.” I will do commentary on what Roy wrote in the post down below.
A Call for Stories About Rockpoint Church
In writing about the EFCA this blog is putting out a call for stories about Rockpoint Church. They can be positive or not. If there are situations of child sex abuse cover-up inside this church or domestic abuse cover up where the situation are dealt with internally instead of going to law enforcement this blog will gladly write about it. Again I also look for positive issues to write about as well, but I write about the negative aspects because they do need to be dealt with. And I am not a pollyanna individual not after the church experiences I have had.
An Overview of the Johnson Amendment
The Johnson Amendment comes from the former Senator of Texas, and future President Lyndon Johnson. It has been around since 1954. Its prohibits all 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Its focus is on non-profit institutions such as universities, non-profits, charitable foundations and churches. With the exceptions of those on the fringe right who are political there is evidence that a number of pastors support the Johnson Amendment. The far rights effort to repeal it are more of fluster and lack credibility. If a non-profit violates the Johnson Amendment the organization risks the loss of tax-exempt status. A couple of years back I actually wrote a post on why churches should be stripped of their 501(c)(3) status which you can read in, “Should 501(c)(3) Status End for Churches? If Evangelical Christianity Can Not Police Itself Against Criminal Activity, Fraud, and Waste…then Yes 501(c)(3) Status Should End.”
Reporting EFCA Churches Who Violate the Johnson Amendment
From time to time I will take the staff of an EFCA church and volunteers that I find and run them through the sex offender registry on the website of that respective state. I do this based off an experience I had in a church here in Washington, D.C. and upon some of the situations I saw in Wisconsin. In addition to that I firmly believe that the EFCA needs to reinforce the Johnson Amendment as well. Every EFCA District Superintendent needs to remind their churches and pastors that politics does not belong in the pulpit. They also need to remind pastors not to support or deny a political candidate. Voter education is one thing and that is different. I believe in being reasonable but I don’t believe partisan politics should come from the pulpit. The issue of politics is driving young people away from many churches and that is something that the EFCA needs to remember. If in my writing and research of the EFCA, if I find evidence that a church is violating the Johnson Amendment I will turn around and contact Dan Barker’s Freedom From Religion Foundation or Americans United for Separation of Church and State. As a Christian on the edge I believe that separation of church and state is good for both the state and the church. So please EFCA do the right thing in the end.
While Jesus Challenged Political Figures the Christian Faith is Not About Politics
This is my analysis on what Roy Fruits wrote in his blog post after the 2016 election. Why would a person who has been raped, sexually abused for years, domestically beaten, or abused want to call Roy Fruits their senior pastor? I wonder if the reason why evangelical Christianity struggles with child sex abuse is because for churches its normal to cover it up. If 81% of evangelicals can dismiss the Access Hollywood tape is that because a majority come form places where child sex abuse is covered up. In other words is covering up allegations of criminal activity in a church normal. The post that I read also made me feel sad for Roy Fruits. I would think as a senior pastor he would be in the prime of his career. That post that he wrote made me realize how small he is and how fragile his faith is and how he lacks faith in many ways. When I read that post the one issue that popped up in my mind is the following. If Roy Fruits thinks he is being persecuted in the United States and someone who boasted of rape is his only hope, then how would his faith survive in Rome? If he can’t deal with two men who are atheists and gay who get married in Minneapolis how could his faith survive in the days of Rome? I find that profoundly sad because it shows that he is not in a solid position to teach in the end.
Roy Fruits also needs to read what John Fea has written about pastors and churches like Rockpoint. John Fea actually attends an EFCA church in Pennsylvania and is a scholar at Messiah College outside Harrisburg who has written on evangelical culture and Donald Trump. I would be willing to send Roy Fruits a copy to read if he so desires. This blog read and reviewed Fea’s book which could be read in, “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Fear, Lust for Power and 81%. A Look at John Fea’s “Believe Me – The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” For many evangelicals faith isn’t about worshiping God and honoring him. Faith is really about political power. That is why so many evangelical Christians are spiritually lost. Jesus challenged the political authority of his day and went to bat for the “least of these.” That has been lost by many evangelicals I would propose. What has arisen amongst many evangelicals is what I would call Christian nationalism. Its a mix of faith and state and it does not honor God and it drives people away from Christianity. If Roy Fruit was an actual pastor I would think he would weep for the lives lost and those going to hell because of how churches like Rockpoint has driven them away. The fact that more evangelical Christians don’t realize that by being so political they have made themselves irreverent is sad. Its to the point where many people in the world won’t listen to what churches have to say because they are immersed in something irrelevant of the Gospel. Christianity is not about control of the Supreme Court or the bicameral legislature. If Roy Fruits thinks that, well then one of the educational institutions along the way has failed to educate him. Plus its time people like Roy Fruits learn that it wasn’t the legalization of abortion in 1973 that triggered the culture wars. Instead it was when Bob Jones University in South Carolina had it’s funding threatened because it still wanted to practice racial segregation. Politico did a good article a couple of years back that documented the history of the culture wars. You can read that in, “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.”
Another point that I want to make is the following. I believe that Rockpoint is the church home of the North Central District Superintendent and his family. If this is the culture that Brian Farone is involved in then that bothers me about him being able to practice discernment or more. There is another EFCA/Acts 29 church in Saint Paul, Minnesota that planted another Acts 29 church with an organization called Fellowship Associates with a pastor whose church in Memphis, Tennessee covered up a child pornography scandal. I am worried that the EFCA leader can’t practice wisdom or discernment if Roy Fruits his senior pastor acts in such a way. If you want to read about Trinity City Church you can do so in, “Acts 29 Trinity City Church Plants Immanuel Fellowship in Minneapolis with Fellowship Associates. Is the Culture that Led to the Alleged Cover-up of Voyeurism and Child Pornography in Fellowship Memphis Being Duplicated in the Twin Cities?“
Anyhow I think this will be enough for Rockpoint church to process. I look forward to reading, researching and writing about the culture and the EFCA at Rockpoint Church. That is it for the day take care of yourselves.