On June 18, 2019 the Evangelical Free Church of America is meeting in Chicago, Illinois for their biennial conference known as EFCA One. At this event, its this blog’s hope that the EFCA will discuss sexual assault and abuse. That it will be spurred to from events in the Southern Baptist Convention to what is playing out in society. There are warnings about sexual abuse inside the EFCA, and this blog has been approached about problems. This post explains how I view the topic and how plan to cover it.
“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”
Judith Lewis Herman
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
The base of the John Hancock Center in Chicago
The EFCA is holding their biennial conference in Chicago which is starting on June 18, 2019. The event, called EFCA One, is being held at Compass Church in Naperville, Illinois. The post I am doing tomorrow will be a review of the conference. There is one topic that the EFCA should be addressing and focused on because I fear its under the surface. I also want to communicate my intentions on how I would write about sexual abuse inside the EFCA when (note not if..but when) it comes to the surface. This is a powder keg waiting to go off, and at one point it will, though I wish it would not happen.
Some Red Flags that Have Raised Concerns About Sexual Abuse Inside the EFCA
The first email I got about the issue of sexual abuse inside the EFCA came from Steve Highfill’s EFCA West. EFCA West is Central and Southern California. When I got the email a few years back I reached out to the person and inquired and did not receive a response. Going off my memory it had to deal with how a sexual abuse situation was handled in the past. That said, I couldn’t do much of anything as the person did not respond. There was also the sexual assault claims at Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. That situation was worked by the Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole and Greg Strand. Both worked hard at resolving all the issues at Steve Estes church. Then recently I was contacted about another church that allegedly was dealing with sexual abuse in its history in the past few weeks. When you stop and consider it an autonomous church model and how congregationalism is practiced it invites sexual predators who can exploit the autonomous nature. This situation is complicated as well. But all these emails, I fear, represent an issue that is sitting below the surface of the EFCA.
The Southern Baptist Convention is Struggling with Sexual Abuse
The EFCA doesn’t have to look far to see how this is an issue in modern evangelicalism. The EFCA needs to look at the Southern Baptist Convention to see how this issue is exploding. The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio-Express News broke the story of how the Southern Baptists moved around predators inside the organization and created 700 victims. You can read the story in, “The Sex Abuse Crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention and The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News Expose.” This Southern Baptists are dealing with this long term, the EFCA should take note. This issue is beating at the door of the EFCA and it can’t be ignored.
What I Have Been Told About how the EFCA Functioned for Years by Former Pastors
Over the past few years I have had multiple personalities come into my life. That includes people from the EFCA, some of the pastors from inside the organization but also those who were an EFCA pastor who left. I have discovered that former EFCA pastors to be a solid source for information on the denomination. In talks with many former EFCA pastors this is one issue that that has kept popping up. The EFCA and many churches as I was told did not do detailed and criminal background checks on pastoral candidates years ago. Sometimes that was left up to individual EFCA churches in the spirit of congregationalism and the individual churches didn’t do comprehensive background checks. Plus some churches didn’t do background checks at all and were more focused on the seminary experience. This happened during the 1990’s and up into the early 2000’s from what I heard. That was troubling to hear but it points to the potential for issues inside the EFCA.
How I View this Situation and Plan to Write About Sexual Abuse Inside the EFCA
So the question must be asked is how will sexual abuse be covered here at The Wondering Eagle? Let me start out by trying to put this issue into context. Sexual abuse is not just constrained to the evangelical church , or even religion. Its a problem that happens everywhere and is a dark topic inside our society. Stop and read the following links that I am inserting to make my point. The Boy Scouts of America have dealt with sexual abuse which you can read about here. This has also happened in sporting programs. The Orange County Register broke the story of problems of sexual abuse inside USA Swimming. This has happened at the collegiate level as well. From Penn State to Ohio State, and the Los Angeles Times is breaking stories about this issue at the University of Southern California and UCLA. So I look at this issue in that context. Many aspects of society are struggling with it.
So going back to the EFCA how should this be approached? Well my hope is that the EFCA will handle the issue with transparency and do the right thing when its facing the issue. My hope is that for mistakes that were made in the past, for example the 1970’s, 1980’s and more that the EFCA will admitted. If the EFCA can do that it will build trust with society. You can get much farther that way as compared to doubling down and digging in. My hope is that the EFCA will care more about doing the right thing before God , and not listen to what a lawyer or legal team is advising. From my perspective I will write about it when it pops up. I will seek to find a balance in telling what has happened and do so for the benefit of the family or person wronged. However, I also am not focused on tearing down the EFCA. I would like to use the stories to build the EFCA and make it safer. I may be a done when it comes to modern evangelicalism. However I would love for this and other issues to be addressed so that when 2050 rolls around people can go to an EFCA church and feel safe and the right safeguards are in place. This is a complicated issue and I also have no plans of weaponizing the information. Now if stuff comes forward and the EFCA tries to bury it or sweep it under the carpet that will create other problems. But that is my goals in writing about the EFCA and sexual abuse.
As the EFCA gathers in Chicago I hope this topic of sexual abuse will be discussed. I hope as EFCA leadership retreats to the backrooms that this topic is debated and taken a fresh urgency in light of what is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention. Its with that in mind that I hope the EFCA choose the right path as it proceeds forward. This blog does not mean malice, I just want to see an organization for a change act with responsibility, compassion and concern. If that happens then this blog will be grateful.