This is the final post for The Wondering Eagle for 2018. This article reviews the stories and situations covered in the year of 2018. From Acts 29, to the EFCA to the Sojourn Network, the atheist community and Harvest Bible Chapel. This is a wrap up of all the work this blog accomplished. Plus I discuss what is coming in 2019 as well.
“Remember it all, every insult, every tear. Tattoo it on the inside of your mind. In life, knowledge of poisons is essential. I’ve told you, nobody becomes an artist unless they have to.”
“Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory.”
He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations
1 Chronicles 1:15 NIV
Tyler Chernesky at the EFCA’s Christ Community Church in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
At the end of the year I step back and do a review of the blog and highlight the different stories and articles written. 2018 has been a busy year for The Wondering Eagle. In that time period over 323 posts have been composed and over 200,873 people have read. Numbers and stats are not my driving force here at the blog. I am more a believer in quality vs. quantity. For example some of my least popular posts (with the exception of one) deal with atheism. Yet I write the topic because it deserves to be explored. Below are the top ten stories that have been told at The Wondering Eagle for 2018.
- The most popular story dealt with an Acts 29 church in Richmond, Virginia. A number of people interacted with me and they were upset over a church that many viewed as being cult-like and controlling. Bryan Laughlin, who leads this church also plays a key role in Acts 29 as the district he leads goes up to Maine. In Remnant the issues that cime out of this organization consisted of a manipulative and controlling culture. One person who wanted to become a military chaplain was discouraged from doing so for theological reasons. A female was told she could not become a police officer due to complemanetairan theology. In another case Remnant interfered in one person accepting a job out of state. This article has been read 2,679 times. It has been popular on the Reddit site for Richmond, Virginia and has been shared at Virginia Union University. You can read that story in, “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives.”
- The Harvest Bible Chapel scandal exploded in late 2018. This is going to be known as the Mars Hill of Chicago. James MacDonald was Mark Driscoll’s sidekick. Deeply controversial the issues with this ethically challenged Neo-Calvinist pastor reached a tipping point when MacDonald fired off a lawsuit against The Elephant’s Debt Blog and journalist Julie Roys who was going to publish a story about alleged financial misconduct and abuse of power. When I wrote two stories about the issue this blog had a number of former Harvest Bible Chapel members who reached out and encouraged me to keep writing. As a result in October of 2018 I waded into the controversy and started doing analysis of this deeply troubled church network based out of Northern Illinois. To date 40 articles have been published. The most read article at 2,000 views asks what was James MacDonald wanting to hide by a lawsuit? “Why did Harvest Bible Go After The Elephant’s Debt Now? What was Julie Roys Going to Break Through World Magazine that James MacDonald is Desperate to Silence?” At 1,900 views this deals with a black budget inside Harvest to cover up alleged questionable activities. “Walk in the Word, a Black Budget at Harvest Bible Chapel and Finances that Resemble a Criminal Syndicate More Than a Ministry.” Those posts were followed by, “James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel Goes After The Elephant’s Debt Blog Accusing it of Defamation in a Lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, Illinois” at 1,531. “Why People Need to Leave Harvest Bible Chapel” at 1,436 and “Jeff Parham of Harvest Bible Chapel is Reported to the Elgin Police for Embezzlement, and Why James MacDonald Will Likely Not Allow a Full Audit” at 1,136.
- Coming up in third place the next most read topic dealt with an Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. This deals with Eric Bonetti’s former church and the abuse of power that allegedly took place. Grace Episcopal is in the Washington, D.C. area for those of you who do not know. This was read nearly 1,500 times. “Additional Allegations of Abuse Arise at Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia.”
- The next topic deals with my former church in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Elmbrook is the largest mega-church in the state of Wisconsin. Its modeled after Willow Creek and is known for their national men’s conference known as “No Regrets.” In September of 2018 Senior Pastor Jason Webb resigned when it was learned that he had engaged in multiple affairs. The surge of traffic this blog had from Elmbrook members and attenders was incredible in a brief time. Nearly 1,000 people read, “An Open Letter to Jason Webb (Former Senior Pastor of Elmbrook Church).” Also worth mentioning is a follow up post read by 700 people which gives Elmbrook a way forward. “How Elmbrook Church Should Respond to a Painful Situation in a Way that Helps the Brookfield Megachurch, Jason Webb’s Family and the Greater Milwaukee Area.“
- The sad story of Anne Marie Miller comes in at number five. I wrote about this because of the controversy it generated inside the Southern Baptist Convention. This blog also covers and writes about David Platt and McLean Bible, and given that David came from the the International Missions Board this deserved to be looked at. What had happened is that Mark Aderholt sexually abused Anne Marie Miller when she was young and the SBC let him go. The story captures the ongoing issue of child sexual abuse inside the Southern Baptist Convention. This was read 967 times, “Anne Marie Miller’s Alleged Sexual Abuse by Mark Aderholt, and Did the Southern Baptist’s International Missions Board Cover it Up? Plus David Platt’s Response.” Also worth reading is a follow up dealing with IMB attorney Derek Gaubatz in “A Closer Look at Derek Gaubatz the General Counsel for the International Missions Board. Does “Religious Freedom” Mean the Right for the Southern Baptists to Cover Up Sexual Assault?”
- The next article is the top performing atheist post of the year. It deals with the former Washington, D.C. Executive Director for the Center For Inquiry Melody Hensley. Melody is a brave and courageous person who was one of many that brought the #MeToo movement to the atheist camp. Melody went public with sexual misconduct allegations against atheist Lawrence Krauss from Arizona State University. Read at 810 times is, “An Open Letter to Melody Hensley (Former Washington, D.C. Executive Director of Center for Inquiry on the Alleged Sexual Misconduct by Lawrence Krauss).”
- Warren Throckmorton, the Grove City College psychology professor is probably the blogger who influences me the most. His academic expertise, analysis, passion and the way he sticks to something is quite commendable. His popularity has crossed many lines, and he is respected by the gay and lesbian community as well for how he has pushed back against conversion therapy. Warren writes quite a bit about the culture wars as well as evangelicals and Donald Trump. For doing so he was given the boot by Patheos in May of 2018. This post has been read by 581 people and is, “Warren Throckmorton is Kicked Off Patheos. Is this Due to the Mark Driscoll and Gospel for Asia Situation? Or is this Something Much Darker?”
- The Evangelical Free Church of America is this blogs bread and butter topic. The top performing EFCA post deals with Josh Black’s First Free Wichita in Kansas. Sean, who grew up under the tyranny of Mike Andrus wrote “Guest Post: Why Sean Left Josh Black’s First Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, Kansas.” Sean’s post was read 510 times.
- Following the story of First Free Wichita is another EFCA and Acts 29 church in the San Francisco Bay Area. It deals with Ryan Kwon who sits on the national Acts 29 board and leads Resonate Church in Fremont, California. This open letter expresses concerns about what Ryan wrote in an article at The Gospel Coalition. Read at 506 times is, “An Open Letter to Ryan Kwon (Acts 29 Pastor at Resonate Regarding Comments Made in a Gospel Coalition Article).”
- The final topic that made this list dealt with The Sojourn Network out of Louisville, Kentucky. Currently is it led by former Sovereign Grace pastor and national leader Dave Harvey. Read at 381 times is, “An Overview of the Sojourn Network out of Louisville, Kentucky.”
The Standout EFCA Posts Written for 2018
There are a number of posts this blog has authored about the EFCA over the year of 2018. These are the highlights that I would like to feature.
- The following post looks at the EFCA in an honest light. How should the EFCA be viewed? Well its complicated. There are parts of the EFCA that are robust, healthy and good. Then there are parts of the EFCA that have systematic and systemic problems. The fact of that matter is that any major organization has positives and negatives. This is my assessment of the EFCA from the perspective of an outsider. “How Should the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) be Viewed? Well it’s Complicated.“
- In May of 2018 this blog told the story of Amanda Farmer. This is the first time that a story here was turned into a book about the EFCA. Amanda shared her family’s experience in an EFCA church outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. The church was theologically flipped by the New or Neo-Calvinists who follow John Piper. In the process the core pillar of the EFCA, the “Significance of Silence” was intentionally broken. Amanda shared her experiences with North Central District leadership and later Greg Strand. She and her husband lost their church home of 25 years and is done with the evangelical concept of church. You can read this difficult story in the following posts. “A Neo-Calvinist Hijacking at an EFCA Church in Minnesota That Took Place in the Shadow of John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist” , “Publishing a Comment that was Not Approved on Greg Strand’s EFCA Post on the “Significance of Silence” , “Inside the EFCA are Neo-Calvinists Violating the “Significance of Silence” to Hijack Churches?” And finally this is the book review of Amanda Miller’s story. “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Amanda Farmer’s “Once An Insider, Now Without a Church Home.”
- The third topic dealt with the EFCA District Superintendent of the Texas and Oklahoma District. His district was holding the EFCA theology conference which dealt with racism, immigration and racial reconciliation issues. While that was happening Bob Rowley liked a deeply controversial racial tweet that Donald Trump sent out. This post asks is that wise? Especially given what his district was going to sponsor? “EFCA’s Bob Rowley Likes a Deeply Controversial Tweet from President Trump on Twitter. In Light of the Upcoming EFCA Theology Conference Does the EFCA District Superintendent of the Texas and Oklahoma District Comprehend Racism?” Bob Rowley subsequently blocked me on Twitter and went on a blocking party against other people as well. The following post is about that situation and how the EFCA needs to train their leadership in social media skills and etiquette. District leadership needs to learn how to adjust to the internet. You can read more in, “Being Blocked by Texas and Oklahoma EFCA District Superintendent Bob Rowley on Twitter. The EFCA Needs to Train its Leadership on Social Media Etiquette.”
- The saga of Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania continued in 2018. For those of you who do not know its the story of the senior pastor’s son who allegedly raped and domestically abused his wife. That included allegations of loading and pointing a firearm to his wife. When she filed for divorce the church practiced church discipline and excommunicated her. This has been dragging on for a couple of years. In 2018 there was the issue of how the church broke away from the EFCA and changed its name, and then briefly rejoined the EFCA and changed its name again, only to separate again. I also encouraged Eddie Cole the Eastern District Superintendent and Greg Strand in Minneapolis to issue a statement and correct the lies that Steve Estes church was telling the community. In the internet era communication has changed and while the EFCA did work hard in trying to solve this problem, it needs to change its method of communication. You can read that in the following posts. “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” , “A Sample Statement for Greg Strand and Eddie Cole on Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania.”
- The Fellowship Memphis scandal which involved the worship pastor at a key Acts 29 church in Tennessee who engaged in voyeurism and the alleged manufacturing of child pornography continues to drag out. Originally it touched on the EFCA when Trinity City Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota worked with Fellowship Associates which is John Bryson’s (of Fellowship Memphis) ministry to launch Immanuel Fellowship, another Acts 29 church in Minneapolis. Its a good example that reveals how corrupt evangelical Christianity can be and how it spreads. You can read about Trent Senske’s church 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?” However there was also news with both Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church in Memphis which was caught up in the deviant and disturbing scandal. On June of 2018 more emerged regarding the scandal. For the first time people learned of Crawford Loritts role in the situation, and how Bryan Loritts covered up the child pornography situation and may indeed still posses the illicit material and be in violation of the law. You can read more in, “Exploring the Role that Bryan and Crawford Loritts Played in Covering up Rick Trotter’s Voyeurism at Fellowship Memphis. Plus How Rick Trotter Got Off Easy Because of the Loritts Family Behavior.” In addition the Memphis Commercial Appeal broke more of the scandal and asks if the Rick Trotter situation was mishandled by the Memphis Police. Plus my former EFCA church in California (The Bridge Fresno) put Bryan Loritts in the pulpit and didn’t care about the child pornography allegations. This blog honestly hopes that the EFCA takes child pornography seriously. You can read about all this in, “The Memphis Commercial Appeal Asks If Memphis Police Mishandled the Rick Trotter Situation? Plus The Bridge Fresno Advertises and Prepares for Bryan Loritts to Speak on July 8, 2018.”
- The Forest Lakes District of the EFCA in Wisconsin had a couple of good posts that I enjoyed composing. An EFCA church in Northern Wisconsin asked if God was punishing the United States for the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012. The post was written by the senior pastor at Three Lakes Evangelical Free. The post I write does an analysis of what is said. “Is God Judging the United States? Three Lakes Evangelical Free Church in Wisconsin Responds to the Sandy Hook Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.” Another post dealt with Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free in Lodi, Wisconsin and their policy on politics. You can read that in “Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free in Lodi, Wisconsin on Why the Church Should Avoid Politics.” In December of 2018 a person who was involved in two EFCA churches in the La Crosse area wrote about their experience inside those two churches. You can read that in, “Guest Post: A Person’s Experience in Two Evangelical Free Churches in the La Crosse, Wisconsin Area.”
- The EFCA’s Midwest District of Nebraska and Kansas had a number of posts that were written. This blog has a deep amount of respect for Christ Community Church in the Kansas City area. I wrote two posts that dealt with this EFCA Church. One dealt with a sermon by Tyler Chernesky and another dealt with a blog post by Jonathan Neef on grief that was a good read. You can read both in, “Jonathan Neef of Christ Community Church in Olathe, Kansas on the Process of Grief” and “Tyler Chernesky of Christ Community Church in Kansas City on Friendship and Proverbs. Seeing What was Taught in a Sermon Play Out in Kansas and Missouri.” The church that has a lot of issues in this district is Josh Black’s First Free Wichita in Kansas. I have a lot to write about in 2019 in regards to this church. First Free violated the “Significance of Silence” when Josh Black allegedly fired a popular pastor from the church for not being Calvinist. Josh Black preached out of the Book of Amos this past summer. He addressed the issues of injustice, the concern this blog has deals with injustice that comes from First Free Wichita. “Will First Evangelical Free Church of Wichita Hear the Lion’s Roar? What About the Injustice That has Occurred in Josh Black’s Church?“ In addition there was also the qualities for the youth group leader that this blog explored. You can read more in, “First Free Wichita Asks What Makes a Great Youth Leader?” The last article I will feature deals with an EFCA Church in Central City, Nebraska that endured fire by arson. This church as fate would have it is also Neo-Calvinist. Given how John Piper defines sovereignty the question must be asked, did Zeke Pipher sin against God in rebuilding part of a church? If this is God’s will then can it be said that this church is in rebellion to the Lord? You can read more in, “A Neo-Calvinist Church, Heartland Evangelical Free in Central City, Nebraska Endures a Fire by Arson. If God Pre-Ordained this Fire is Heartland Sinning in Rebuilding?”
- Brian Farone’s North Central District of Minnesota also generated a couple of posts that I want to feature. Jay Pound of First Free in Minneapolis wrote a post about faith rooted in fact. I look at the quest by evangelicals to prove facts and ask, where is love? You can read more in, “Jay Pound of First Free Church in Minneapolis on Faith Being Rooted in Fact.” Then there is Redwood Falls Evangelical Free in southwestern Minnesota. This blog raised some concerns about its abuse policy. You can read more in, “The Concerns that Exist with Redwood Falls Evangelical Free Abuse Reporting Policy.”
- The Western District as led by Neal Brower produced a number of posts of 2018. I heard about the Camp Fire and what happened to the congregation of Paradise Evangelical Free and felt pressure to put together an article to help people. You can read about how the Camp Fire affected this EFCA church in, “The Camp Fire in California, Paradise Evangelical Free and a Plea for Assistance.” Next comes a discernment post from North Creek Church in Walnut Creek, California. This looks at the swimming guidelines for junior high students. I asked people to analyze this and ask if this is healthy? You can read more in, “Practicing Discernment: North Creek Junior High Dress and Swimming Guidelines to Prevent Someone from Sexually Stumbling into Sin.“ Clark Crebar leads Community Bible Church in Folsom, California. Clark wrote about when people won’t accept your apology. I write about the problem of when people are forced to forgive and finally my theological belief that evangelical Christians don’t believe in forgiveness. This I learned from experience. You can read more in, “Clark Crebar of Community Bible Church of Folsom, California on If You Were Really Sorry….” The last post I want to feature from this district deals with Hydesville Community Church. They showed God’s Not Dead 2 and I used the occasion to discuss how white evangelical Christian belief that they are being persecuted is warped. Plus it also disrespects those suffering in places like North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. You can read more 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.”
- Lastly studying Eddie Cole’s Eastern District led to a number of articles. Flooding hit Baltimore and Howard counties in Maryland hard in June of 2018. Stillmeadow Community Church rose to the occasion and responded with love, warmth and grace I helping the community. This was one of the most memorable articles I composed as it showed the church doing something correct. You can read about this in, “Stillmeadow Community Church in Baltimore, Maryland is a Staging Area for Flood Relief.” Josh Ott from Grace Free Church in Cressona, Pennsylvania wrote about preaching to millennials. You can read about that in, “Josh Ott from Grace Free Church in Cressona, Pennsylvania on How to Preach to Millennials.” The last article I will feature will deal with Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C. This is a combination of EFCA and Acts 29. Bill’s article at The Gospel Coalition dealt with politics in church planting in Washington, D.C. You can read the article in, “Redemption Hill’s Bill Riedel from Acts 29 on What He Learned About Politics in Planting a Church in Washington, D.C.”
The Standout Posts for 2018 That Deserve Mention
These are some of the many posts that I have done over the 2018 time-frame that deserve mention. They deal with a varying amount of topics. From the culture wars, to evangelical culture, and other issues. These are not in any order of importance.
- Tony Perkins led the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC is deeply involved in the evangelical Christian culture wars, especially when it comes to abortion or gay marriage. Evidence came forward in late 2017 that he was involved in an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse. And that Perkins didn’t notify law enforcement about the situation. You can read more in, “Did Tony Perkins from The Family Research Council Cover Up an Alleged Sexual Assault? Is that What Evangelical Family Values is About?” Another key component to the Christian culture wars is James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. Dobson led Focus for years before leaving the organization in 2010. The following post is about the history, culture wars and the politics of an evangelical giant – Focus on the Family. “An Overview of Focus on the Family and Questions The Wondering Eagle Would Like to Answer in Time.” The last story about the culture wars deals with Liberty University. Liberty opened the largest gun range at any university setting. Some of what I read about it troubled me, plus when you consider Jerry Falwell Jr’s behavior the question has to be asked. Will the next Waco or Ruby Ridge in the United States happen one day in Lynchburg, Virginia? “Liberty University Opens a “State-of-the-Art” Gun Range. Given how some Evangelicals can be Intensely Paranoid Could a Waco or Ruby Ridge Situation Develop One Day in Lynchburg, Virginia?”
- This blog has been writing about David Platt’s McLean Bible. For the last couple of years I have been covering the theological hijacking of McLean which occurred behind the scenes. At the McLean September 2017 town hall meeting elder Larry Cooper stood before the church and stated that McLean Bible did not join the Southern Baptist Convention. Larry Cooper stood before hundreds on the stage and lied. I attended and covered the town hall meeting. In Christianity Today in February of 2018 the magazine announced that McLean Bible had joined the Southern Baptist Convention in 2016. I wrote about that in, “According to Christianity Today McLean Bible Joined the Southern Baptist Convention in 2016; If True Why did Elder Larry Cooper Lie Before the September 21, 2017 Town Hall Meeting?” As McLean Bible falls under Neo-Calvinism the changes are happening slowly. After all this is a church that was theologically flipped. Eric Saunders of McLean Bible Arlington gave a sermon about “Biblical Membership” in May of 2018. I wrote a post pushing back and encouraging people to reject what the pastor taught about membership. You can read that in, “Eric Saunders Recent Message on Biblical Membership to McLean Bible Arlington Must be Rejected. Today’s Wondering Eagle Explains Why.”
- The next post deals with an aspect of Neo-Calvinist culture that keeps playing out over and over. Mark Driscoll is embroiled in scandal in Seattle, Washington and he flees. C.J. Mahaney is caught in scandal in Gaithersburg, Maryland and he flees also. In my case a Care Group Leader who tried to get me involved in Redeemer Arlington also fled. This begs the question, are Neo-Calvinists modern day Jonah’s in that all the do is run when caught? You can read more in, “From Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill, to C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace to Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington and an Air Force Captain I Knew, A Question that Must be Posed. Are Neo-Calvinists Modern Day Jonah’s in that All They Do is Flee?” To counter that it is easy to spend time tearing down and criticizing a belief system. I have a lot of difficult stuff to write but I also want to be objective as well. In March of 2018 I wrote a post that looked at the positives of Neo-Calvinism. What do I respect from the movement? From their intellectualism, to not being as political there are some positives that I feature. You can read more in, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.”
- A former member of Matt Chandler’s The Village Church wrote about how he faced church discipline for being a Christian that was attracted to other men but remained celibate. The story shows the abuse within The Village and occurred before Matt Chandler’s church attempted to practice church discipline on a female in 2015 who annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict. In yet another post this same individual wrote an article about what it is like to be a Christian and be sexually attracted to people of his sex. You can read both articles in, “Guest Post: No Man Can Serve Two Masters – Leaving Matt Chandler’s The Village Church and Finding Hope” and “Guest Post: What I Wish the Church Knew When It Comes to Same Sex Attraction.”
- The Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal with C.J. Mahaney continues to play out in a number of ways. Through T4G and Rachel Denhollander, and how Immanuel Baptist in Louisville dealt with the situation. Rachel Denhollander publicly confronted C.J. Mahaney over the sexual abuse claims that plague his ministry and as a result he pulled out of T4G. The following post is about not only that but the history of Mahaney pulling out of T4G. “The Run Away Pastor: The Embattled C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from T4G a Second Time” Another article I compose looks at two 9 Marks churches in the Washington, D.C. area and asks the question why are they silent on the Rachel Denhollander situation with Sovereign Grace? “From Nick Roark’s Franconia Baptist to Mike McKinley’s Sterling Park Baptist Church; Why is 9 Marks Silent about Rachael Denhollander’s Statements About Allegations of Child Sex Abuse Cover-Up in Sovereign Grace?” Then there was the issue with Rachel Denhollander’s former church Immanuel Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky. The Washington Post wrote about them and the church contacted the newspaper and admitted that they should have listened to Rachel Denhollander. You can read more in, “Ryan Fullerton’s Immanuel Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky Reacts to The Washington Post Story About Rachael Denhollander and Sovereign Grace.“
- When Mars Hill Seattle imploded as a result of Mark Driscoll’s abuse and trauma in time the former director of The Resurgence wrote an apologetic blog post. Mike Anderson talks about how while some people can destroy their life through alcoholism or drug addiction he wrote about how he went into a dark place in his life due to religion. I build upon that theme and ask the question what do you do when religion is as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction? After all many people are getting fried and burned from religion. And I can understand how some people would descend into alcoholism or drinking long term because of the trauma of religion. This is a personal post that reflects my history with dark churches from Wisconsin, and the Washington, D.C. area. You can read more “When Religion is as Destructive as Alcoholism or Drug Addiction.”
- This blog looks for stories of a positive nature. Why? I think that the best affirmation of Christianity comes from outside the church. The evangelical Christian church has some serious issues. It amazes me as to how there can be some incredible stories that show what Jesus taught – but you will seldom find them in the church. One such story happened in 2018 and was talked about in the sports world. It dealt with the reconciliation and forgiveness of Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. When Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV there was talk that Isiah Thomas spread rumors about his sexuality. A book by Magic Johnson blindsided Isiah Thomas and how he was kept off the dream team and the publication of that story hurt him. In time both came together worked through their animosity, sought forgiveness and healing. It begs the question what does it say when outsiders can do this but Christians can not? “The Reconciliation of Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas is Yet Another Example for the Evangelical Church.”
- Atheism is a topic this blog likes to write about. The atheist stories are not the most read but I believe they are important to be processed. Its my contention that many atheists are misunderstood and that much of what evangelicals say about them is indeed false. There were several stories or situations that this blog covered. On the national EFCA blog an article was published by Paul Chamberlin. I do analysis and write a response to an article that I believe has serious flaws. “Why People Stop Believing. A Response to an Article Posted at the National EFCA Blog About Christians Who Lose Faith.” Another topic I looked at is the atheist church movement and how secular communities give people a sense of belonging without God, and help meet people’s basic needs. You can read more in, “Atheist Church Services Are Healthy and Provide the Benefits of Church Minus the Religion.” Bill Maher celebrated the 10th anniversary of his movie “Religilous” and praised Jesus that atheism is booming. You can read more about that in, “Bill Maher: Praise Jesus! Atheism is Booming!” The last atheist post I would like to feature deals with a person who became a rock star in the atheist community. Often times Christians oversell God and state that you need God for a purpose filled life, richness or joy. While it my be well intentioned the reality is that much of that is false. You don’t need God to have a rich or purpose filled life. From time to time there are stories that come out of the atheist community that validate that point. Such is the story of Alex Honnold. Alex is known as the best free solo rock climber in the United States today who rock climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Alex also happens to be atheist and his story is talked about in the secular community. To read more you can do so in, “Alex Honnold’s Free Solo Rock Climbing as well as his Atheism and View of Death.”
- Politics in evangelicalism has been a major issue and has led to conflict and problems. Christian nationalism has emerged in 2016 under Donald Trump and a wing of evangelicals. That controversary was on display at the regular Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas, Texas. Vice-President Mike Pence was the speaker and a number of Baptist pastors walked out. Garrett Kell of Del Rey Baptist tried to get Pence canceled as he was concerned about the talk being too political. You can read the story in, “Mike Pence Speaks to the Southern Baptists in Dallas, While Garrett Kell Expresses His Concern, and For Some Southern Baptists Faith is Not About God, but Instead a Political Party” and “An Open Letter to Garrett Kell (Lead Pastor of Del Ray Baptist)” In June of 2018 the Washington Post had an article that really revealed how toxic many parts of evangelical Christianity is. The article looked at how a a small Southern Baptist Church in Luverne, Alabama looked at Donald Trump and how they rationalized his alleged sexual assault, abuse and corruption. You can read more in, “Recommended Read: God, Donald Trump, Morality and First Baptist Church in Luverne, Alabama.” Then I wrote an open letter to the pastor at First Baptist Luverne. You can read that in, “An Open Letter to Clay Crum (Southern Baptist Pastor at First Baptist Church in Luverne, Alabama).” The final article I am going to do that is related to evangelical Christians and politics is a book review The Wondering Eagle did. John Fea from Messiah College outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is a trained historian. He wrote a book that has been quite popular and discussed in the media. Fea has been on television, radio, and published articles in major newspapers. Fea’s book explores how and why evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump by a 81% majority. Its a detailed look at the history of the evangelical culture wars and what happens when faith is merged into politics. You can read the book review that I did 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”
- Reston Bible Church is in the Washington, D.C. area. It is a mega church led by Mike Minter. I sat through a service and studied the church and realized that Reston Bible is similar to McLean Bible Church. Reston is ripe for a theological coup as its theology is schizophrenic and a mix of a lot of things. If you want stability then I would stay away from Reston Bible Church. You can read more in, “The Theological Conundrum Reston Bible Church Faces. Plus Why Reston Bible is Ripe for a Theological Coup Similar to What McLean Bible Experienced.”
Personal Writing at The Wondering Eagle
There is another aspect to this blog which I did not feature in the above posts but need to mention. This blog is also used as a journal. I have used this blog as a means to get thoughts and pain off my chest. 2018 was a year filled with deep pain. I had to deal with the death of my Mom in 2017 and the grieving and shock process. Then in 2018 there was traveling with my Dad and taking him around to places he wanted to go when he was ill. This was shared by a couple of loved ones. I was involved in taking Dad to Montana in 2017 and New Orleans in 2018 as well as what would be his final trip to Missouri and Kansas in 2018. My Dad died on November 21, 2018 of a brain tumor and I feel deeply lost as I try to find a way forward. I have used this blog to capture my thoughts about death, loss, grief, love, pain, honoring your parents, memorable times and more. I am not going to list those posts as they are too raw and hard for me. However, if you want to scan them you can find them in the table of contents. In addition this blog also wrote personal letters to close friends or people who I love. Whether it be a guy in Missouri who loves the Nickel Plate Road railroad in Ohio or a close friend from Washington, D.C. who lives in Salina, Kansas who has the unique way of getting into my life and who challenges me. This blog is personal in that way.
What is Coming in 2019 and Final Thoughts
This blog has been busy through 2018 and remains very engaging. Words alone can’t tell you the time I pour into it. I have listened to many podcasts, sermons, watched and transcribed parts of talks. I read and scan blogs and try to keep up with the email. This blog has also led to traveling in the United States. For example currently l am in Fresno, California and I attended Clovis Evangelical Free this morning to sit through the service and observe. I listened to Bob Osborne from EFCA West preach and afterward I went up to speak with him about Amanda Farmer’s EFCA story in Minnesota that recently became a book. I don’t hide behind my computer. I have sat through EFCA services in California, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and many other places. In addition I have also sat through Acts 29, Sojourn Network, 9 Marks, and other services. Plus I have attended a couple of atheist or secular humanist events.
Why do this? I will be the first to admit this but I am a broken man. This blog was formed out of deep psychological pain. I have made my mistakes in life and have no desire to be a pastor and remain baffled why so many people want to be one. The honest truth is that I keep running afoul of the system and I will probably process out of church in time. Currently I don’t trust evangelical Christianity. When I get that email from someone from Harvest Bible Chapel or a dark situation in Acts 29 or the EFCA I can talk to them because I know the dark side of religion. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago and featured up above Mike Anderson from Mars Hill Seattle wrote about how religion can be destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction. This blog gets the dark side of religion. Deep down I am hoping that I will have some experiences that encourage me to remain in the faith. Maybe that is why I will journey to sit through different services in Missouri, California or Pennsylvania. In the end all that this blog writer wanted was peace and closure from Redeemer Arlington and Jordan Kauflin. That was denied and that psychological pain is what drives this blog. But from those inside the EFCA to Acts 29 or even the secular humanist community, for those who inquire know that this blog is the fruit of a painful situation from Redeemer Arlington. Since I will never get a sincere apology from Redeemer or the person who caused the pain, what I will settle for is the closure of Redeemer Arlington. And the other aspect is that I do this to try and figure out what happened to me. This blog is personal in that aspect. I want other people to have the peace and closure that I never will, and that is why I do this in the end.
Each year my final post is ended with the classic Frank Sinatra song “My Way.” This blog has indeed been done my way. Its been done with conviction, tears, and resolve. I have laughed and cried in writing these posts over the past year. So that leaves me with the next question. What is coming in 2019? This blog has a lot of goals. The Harvest Bible Chapel scandal continues and I have been asked by many former members to write about it and I have given them my word to write about it from time to time. I am sitting on some stories from Acts 29 and the EFCA that will be told. There are more EFCA churches to study and districts. I am hoping to finish the remainder of the EFCA this year. I want to come up with a permeant church database for the EFCA. The issue of authoritarianism and Neo-Calvinism has my focus; as is to find out some numbers in the denomination in regards to the growth of Neo-Calvinism. If you live in the Washington, D.C. area expect more articles about David Platt and McLean Bible. Expect more to be written about 9 Marks. Finally expect some write ups related to atheism and secular humanism.
For those of you who read this thanks for doing so. If any of you pass through the Washington, D.C. area and want to meet I am happy to do so. The best part of this blog is meeting people. I hope you have a great 2019. Be safe on New Years Eve and spend the time with those you are close to. Please take care of yourself.