After a significant number of members were thrown out of Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown many turned to the EFCA and Eastern District’s Eddie Cole for assistance. The EFCA District Superintendent believed Todd Nathan’s side of the story and allegedly violated their confidentiality by turning over their paperwork to the Blairstown Senior Pastor. However, the EFCA District Superintendent stated that he never agreed to confidentiality with the former members of Blairstown. Over the year of 2018 the church started to flounder as over 150 people left. 2019 began with the elder board practicing elder rule and ceasing to practice congregationalism.
“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
“I don’t care if they respect me, so long as they fear me.”
Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Matthew 5:25-26 ESV
As 2017 was coming to a close at least 22 members of the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey were thrown out of their congregation allegedly by Senior Pastor Todd Nathan. Many former members were in a daze and in shock. Some became physically ill after how their former church treated them. It felt like death for many and it led one person to re-live the death of their husband. If you want to read the first part of this story you can do so in, “The Autocratic Reign of Todd Nathan and the Troubling Story of the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey.”
Reaching out to the Eastern District EFCA Superintendent Eddie Cole and Blairstown Goes Into Decline Under Todd Nathan. Plus a “Divisive Letter Circulated by Members.”
After a large number of active members were thrown out of an EFCA church, one of the former elders at Blairstown decided to contact Eddie Cole the Eastern District Superintendent of the EFCA. This situation needed to be brought to their attention. What the former elder did was ask people to fill out a questionnaire about Blairstown Evangelical Free. You can read that form in, membership letter questionnaire. Other people began to contact Eddie Cole and raise concerns about what was happening in their former EFCA church. In the February 2018 elder meeting at Blairstown people started asking questions and began to speak up. They asked why was giving down so much? Why are people leaving? Todd Nathan said that they were not going to pursue the issue and they were not going to go after the people that left. That explanation didn’t sit well with many in Blairstown. By June of 2018 a number of people learned that an assortment of individuals were thrown out of Blairstown and they wanted to introduce a measure in the congregational meeting. They wanted to close the loophole in the by-laws that Todd Nathan allegedly abused to remove people from the church. They were prevented from doing so at the congregation meeting and were not allowed to do so.
Over the year of 2018 Blairstown entered a steep decline. The church, which peaked at about 250 to 300 people in late 2017 would drop to about 130 people. It should be noted that most of the former elders who were involved in Blairstown left. The process actually began in 2017 with the departure of one elder. He actually gave a quote to this blog on his departure. “One elder, who raised concerns about the leadership direction, was systematically excluded from leadership, until he felt it was necessary to back away from the church so that he could heal. Ultimately he and his wife found a loving church where they could continue to use their gifts to glorify God.” Another elder resigned after the June 2018 congregational meeting. Overall nine former elders have walked away from Blairstown. They did not want to leave, but they could not stay. The former senior pastor who served at Blairstown for 25 years, who today works for the Eastern District of the EFCA and called this church home also left quietly. The church also entered a phase of economic hardship. The church which had a line item budget eventually transitioned into having no budget in the course of time. Many ministries that the church had, as explained in the first post about Blairstown declined under Todd Nathan. In addition the church also dropped most of its missionaries as they could no longer financially support them. At its peak Blairstown had 11, and over the year of 2018 it dropped to three. When I attended Blairstown in March of 2019 it looks like they dropped to one. And that lone missionary is Greg and Brodie Friesen who is on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) at Brown University in Rhode Island.
The controversial divisive letter that members of Blairstown circulated before the February 2019 congregation meeting.
The Eastern District Supervisor Eddie Cole received a package of surveys about Blairstown from a former elder early in 2018. The surveys dealt with the people who were thrown out in November of 2017. In early 2019 Todd Nathan allegedly reached out to Eddie Cole and spoke about how people were scheming against him. He stated as to how they were being divisive. In addition the members at Blairstown who disagreed with what was happening and in line with congregational polity mailed out a resolution to be brought forward at the Blairstown congregational meeting in February of 2019. Todd Nathan determined it be slander and a letter designed to sow dissent in Blairstown. Eddie Cole supported Todd Nathan in this situation. Eddie allegedly believed that there was a group of people who were creating division in the church. The letter that was considered “divisive” was circulated by current members of Blairstown who wanted to see the loophole closed that Todd Nathan allegedly used to inappropriately throw members of the congregation out. Those who were thrown out were not part of the “divisive letter” but they would be dragged back into the dispute. And that brings up the next question, what was so “divisive” about this letter? You can see it above. Its a motion to give at the next congregational meeting in February 4, 2019 congregational meeting. The motion was signed by nine people from Blairstown. This blog blocked them all out. Eddie Cole believed that this “letter” was divisive and should not be circulated.
The EFCA Eastern District Superintendent interacted with a number of former members form Blairstown. This blog has seen much of the correspondence. Many former members felt betrayed by Eddie Cole as they were under the impression that their confidentiality was to be honored. However, Eddie Cole stated that he never agreed to confidentiality with the former members from Blairstown. In another email to another congregation member from Blairstown, Eddie Cole explained that people could not approach him in confidentiality.
“Regarding your thoughts about me protecting everyone’s confidentiality, I never agreed to it. Never would! xxxx put “personal and confidential” on the outside of the packet he sent me, but that doesn’t mean I agreed. I wouldn’t have agreed to that for various reasons. I hated the fact that any of this was ever circulated.
I was approached to try and help, and so I did. You guys may not approve of my approach and that is fine, but I never agreed to confidentiality.”
A Deeply Disturbing Elder Rule Congregational Meeting on February 4, 2019
Blairstown had a very difficult elder meeting that signaled the official transition of the church into elder rule. The meeting started out with one of the longterm members wanting to introduce a motion that would close the loophole that Todd Nathan allegedly was using to throw people out. In response Todd Nathan said that there would not be any discussion of that members congregational motion. Before the church Todd Nathan singled out a “faction of dissenters” and verbally accosted them. He then spoke about how some members reached out to Eddie Cole and discussed how the Eastern District Superintendent turned over all the paperwork to him. He explained that the Eastern District would not get involved in Blairstown because the issue did not involve doctrinal error or the issue of moral failure. Todd described the group as a bunch of “longstanding former members who were engaging in sin, slander, and gossip.” Todd said that he was victimized and that he had “righteous anger” and that he was the one owed an apology. Sins such as “gossip” and “slander” would not be tolerated at Blairstown. The head of the Elder Board then spoke up to say that they would not allow church division and stated that they would move forward. Then one of the members stood up and asked to put forward that congregational motion. This member was told to sit down in a rude way. The member’s father who co-founded Blairstown in 1979 stood up and stated that their moral line was scripture. According to New Jersey law they had a right to speak in the meeting as it was legal. The motion was legal after discussion with an attorney. The head of the elder board asked if the attorney was Christian. Then in a condescending and rude tone the elder board chairman said that the co-founder of Blairstown would submit to his authority and quoted Hebrews 13:17. The co-founder of Blairstown from four decades ago stated, “This is not an elder led church this is a dictatorship.” The leader of the elder board again told him to submit quoting Hebrews 13:17. The threat of church discipline was raised just for practicing congregationalism, which is what the EFCA is all about. The female who tried to introduce the motion broke down and cried over how she was treated in a public forum.
Where is Blairstown Heading?
This blog assesses Blairstown as an elder rule church. It is not elder led and it is now functioning outside the parameters of EFCA congregationalism. In that sense it is similar to the Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson situation. In a fact finding committee with Elverson, the EFCA determined that in addition to a moral failure, the church was elder ruled. For the EFCA that is out of bounds. This blog would like to ask Eddie Cole, and even Greg Strand in Minneapolis why is the EFCA okay with elder rule in the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, when it was opposed to elder rule in Elverson, Pennsylvania?
In addition to that problem there are other issues that remain. This is a church that is economically failing. Todd Nathan, who has been a poor steward, and enabled by the elder board which has forsaken their duties, is running a fine church into the ground. In this sad situation this blog predicts that Blairstown is going to financially implode. Why? The church is running through their money. Those that tithed and gave money to Blairstown were thrown out allegedly by Todd Nathan. Many others also left. Those who attend are much younger and do not give or have the financial resources to give like those that are no longer a part of the congregation. This blog has also heard that Todd Nathan allegedly had issues with one of his prior churches but as of now it has not been able to determine what happened. The other problem is that since Todd Nathan is acting in an autocratic fashion other members of Blairstown are going to run afoul of the system. As the situation at this EFCA church worsens others will start to ask questions. Then, Todd Nathan will falsely perceive them to be a threat due to his own insecurities. And they will be caught up in the spiritual abuse. Many people who left Blairstown are finding refuge from the autocratic leadership at a Bethel Lutheran church across the state line in Pennsylvania.