This is a wide reaching post that explains The Wondering Eagle to all readers who find it. This explains my history and the churches I was involved in. Why this blog writes about the EFCA. This post also explains for readers how I write this blog so they can have knowledge as well. Also stated is my comment policy and how I want this blog to be viewed in the Wild Wild West of the internet.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
“Anytime I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare. I stare until I have reminded myself that life is a giant adventure, so much to do, to see.”
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29 NIV
Lobby of The Bridge Fresno in California.
In October of 2017 the New York Times broke a major story – one that helped propel what would become known as the #metoo movement on the national scene. It was a story of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein. In American culture it was almost like a powder keg had gone off as more people stepped forward and started talking about abuse they had experienced in many different forms. Before the New York Times started a national discussion on the topic of abuse and misconduct there was a small blog that started writing about issues in American evangelicalism in February of 2015. Authored by myself The Wondering Eagle was ahead of the curve on a national discussion in raising and discussing these issues. The very first post I wrote is here.
This sign says volumes for me
What I Have Seen in Church
Over the years I have seen a lot. I have seen Catholic liturgy and the Jesuits in action. Then I also spent a brief time in college looking into Mormonism. After exploring charismatic Catholicism I then spent the next almost 20 years being involved in evangelical Christianity. The backgrounds I had include the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) and then also mega church culture both in Wisconsin and the D.C. area. I was a member of a Third Wave charismatic church that sent a youth group to drive a demon out of a convenience store aisle and a pastor who tried to raise someone from the dead in the hospital. I have seen para-church ministries on a college campus and helped plant and lead Campus Crusade when I was in grad school. The rise of the Neo-Calvinist movement was noted by me and at one point in my life I was influenced by John Piper. I have witnessed the issue of sexual abuse affect places that I once called home. I came to a mega church in Wisconsin that reeled from a sex abuse scandal and I watched the place limp along in the aftermath. Here in he D.C. area in the midst of a faith crisis I had a military officer who tried to get me involved in the deeply corrupt Sovereign Grace Ministries. I had a front row seat to the implosion of that ministry here in the Washington, D.C. area due to scandal. That same Air Force Officer who proselytized me triggered a false accusation that sent me into the darkest season of my life. The abuse which was psychologically terrifying was never resolved and popped up in my Mom’s hospital room in a terminal illness. Thus, I am also personally familiar with abuse and its intense pain. While I was trying to re-build my life in time I became a whistle blower in another mega church here in D.C. area that employed a violent sex offender and concealed it from the congregation. Having come from a church in Wisconsin that dealt with sexual abuse I feared that happening here in the D.C. area. Standing up to a mega church was stressful and hard to comprehend. In addition I also saw politics and Christian nationalism affect churches I once called home or creep into others. Christian nationalism has been very divisive and torn apart relationships in my experience. Christian nationalism popped up in 2016 and has been an issue going forward. After constantly trying church I reached a point where I see evangelicalism as being too painful and I became a part of the dones and stopped trying to go to church. Today I am on the outside. I came to a point where I realized that evangelicalism is very unstable and corrupt. If you want to see how spiritual abuse touched my life you can read the following, “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.” Also in a very personal way I have used this blog to journal my Mom and Dad’s illness and death. You will see those posts here as well.
David Platt’s McLean Bible in the Washington, D.C. area.
The Churches I was Involved With or Have Experience
Below are all the churches or ministries I once was involved in. This blog has written about all of them at one point or another.
- Roman Catholic in California
- Looked into Mormonism in Montana in college
- Fresno Evangelical Free – California (EFCA, put a pastor in the pulpit who covered up a voyeurism and child pornography scandal in an Acts 29 church in Tennessee)
- Redeemer Evangelical Free – Milwaukee (EFCA, this was okay as a church)
- Elmbrook Church – Milwaukee (Mega church came after the Daniel Varga scandal happened where he sexually abused 10 people and then committed suicide. Saw the church live with scars from the incident.)
- Eastbrook Church – Milwaukee (This was okay)
- Wooded Hills Bible Church (today Wooded Hills Church) – Milwaukee (Third wave, very charismatic theologically in line with Kansas City IHOP, Rick Joyner, Elijah List, etc… Very unstable and toxic.)
- Planted, led and discipled guys in Campus Crusade for Christ at Marquette University in Milwaukee. (Have mixed feelings about Crusade today)
- Fairfax Community Church – D.C. area (Church of God in Anderson, Indiana denomination, authoritarianism issues and church employs a violent sex offender and misleads congregation.)
- McLean Bible – D.C. area (It was mainline evangelical, its been theologically flipped after David Platt came on board and is now Neo-Calvinist.)
- Dulles Community Church – D.C. area (Okay, non denominational)
- National Community Church – D.C. area (Assembly of God, ARC mostly okay)
- Redeemer Arlington – D.C. area (unsuccessfully recruited into this former Sovereign Grace Ministries church. Had a lot of conflict with someone who tried to get me involved. After the false accusation I tried to resolve the conflict with Redeemer’s leadership and it didn’t work. Redeemer is Acts 29 today.)
In many of the above places I did Bible studies, age appropriate ministries, men’s breakfasts and activities, men’s conferences, retreats and more. I have given money and participated in gift giving. I was not a casual observer but someone who was deeply involved.
9 Marks Franconia Baptist in the Washington, D.C. area.
Where Am I on Faith?
People ask this regularly so let me tell you where I am at. I am a guy on the edge. One foot in, and one foot out. While I believe in God I no longer believe in the church model that is followed in the United States. For me its just way too corrupt and I am exhausted from the frequent scandal. I reject Calvinist theology because it makes the problem of evil worse. And I see traditional evangelical theology consumed with both the prosperity gospel and politics. I am someone who longs for a platform that is stable and sane. When a person says they are a pastor my stomach is in knots. I am also intellectual as I love philosophy, history and reading and that has been as problem well with evangelicalism especially with the scandal of the evangelical mind concept. I am a firm believer in science and also evolution. But I am an individual frayed and on the edge.
Evangelical Free, Christ Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Evangelical Free Church of America
This blog as you will notice will write about the Southern Baptists but not as much as others. Why? This blog is dedicated to writing about the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). The EFCA is based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota and has over 1,500 churches in the United States. It also runs Trinity outside of Chicago. This blog has background in the EFCA and I wanted to research, write and do analysis of the EFCA. At The Wondering Eagle you will find reviews of theological conferences, district conferences and books by EFCA personalities. You will find research and articles about the 17 EFCA districts and individual churches inside the denomination. This blog is studying and working to create a database of all EFCA churches so as to write about the issue of Neo or New Calvinists in the denomination. Plus this blog has broken stories of domestic abuse, spiritual abuse or issues with Neo or New Calvinist theology inside the EFCA. This writer has traveled and sits through EFCA churches up and down the East Coast. From Virginia, to Maryland, Pennsylvania, to out west to Missouri and California. I don’t hide behind a computer I go to many EFCA churches as I write about the organization. This blog welcomes stories from people who have experience with the EFCA. From attenders to pastors and more. My goal as an outsider is to start conversations that the EFCA might be uncomfortable with, so that difficult topics can be avoided later on. For example I would rather write about loose sex abuse policies now then write about sexual abuse pouring out of the denomination. A good overview of my thoughts about the EFCA can be found in the following post. “How Should the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) be Viewed? Well it’s Complicated.” And while some writing will challenge the EFCA in Minneapolis my goal is not nihilistic. But I do want to see the EFCA improve and develop more.
From the Reason Rally on the National Mall in the summer of 2016 here in the D.C. area.
Atheism and Doubt
From 2009 until 2013 I went through a deep and painful faith crisis. In this time I proclaimed myself agnostic when in reality I was more of a militant atheist. I spent several years reading about atheism going to a few events and watching videos online. I identified with a book I skimmed called “Losing My Religion.” Its about the de-conversion and loss of faith by the religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times – William Lobdell. He writes about how the problem of evil, pain and suffering and evangelical scandal as well as child sex abuse in Catholicism drove him to being an atheist. He concluded that God was not there and did not exist. I started out with William Lobdell and moved onto Christopher Hitchens in this period of life. You can read about this in, “A Personal Reflection on the Late Christopher Hitchens.” This blog has a deep amount of respect for atheists and is concerned about Christian discrimination against atheists. This blog respects their commitment to science and facts and their constant pursuit of the truth. Atheists are very mis-understood and its natural in some cases for Christians to go the atheist route in time. That is why I believe atheism should be written about and discussed.
Remnant Church which is Acts 29 in Richmond, Virginia.
How I Write this Blog
This blog pours a lot of time into reading, researching, and writing about American evangelicalism. I research issues and then write about them, also people approach me about situations. In order to write a blog like this you need to be able to get access to information and to drill into an organization. If you can’t get access to sources and documentation then its hard to write a blog like this one. So who are my sources? Well it varies….if can be a family, a pastor, accountant, music director, former elder, an alleged crime victim, or more. Something has happened that has resulted in people wanting to talk. This blogger spends a lot of time on the phone or emailing people. This blog also has resulted in a lot of travel. I sit through the services of churches to write about them and study organizations. This blog has taken me up and down the East Coast as well as the Midwest and California.
The issue of religion is complicated. I have learned that even in difficult situations there can be good people and those who try and do the right thing. Then there are some who are deeply corrupt. When people approach me about difficult situations regarding abuse, sadly I can understand and relate given what I endured. This blog is a lot of work and effort but its also well worth it. To get that email from someone who told me that they stayed away from that Sovereign Grace church, Acts 29 or more, is deeply refreshing. Knowledge is power and I try and get that information into people’s hands so they can make decisions about these places.
This blog has broken some dark stories and competed against media in certain situations. The darkest EFCA story told was that of Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. In that situation the Senior Pastors’ son allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated and engaged in domestic abuse when he loaded and pointed a gun at his wife. Knowing that she could be dead in the domestic abuse she filed for divorce. In response the church practiced church discipline and excommunicated her. The EFCA, both the Eastern District and national office in Minneapolis failed and I proceeded to write about it. You can find the story in the directory under Brick Lane Church. This blog also dealt with another troubling story in Memphis, Tennessee. In an Acts 29 church the worship pastor who was into voyeurism recorded a large number of females in a church restroom. In the process he also allegedly manufactured child pornography inside a church. When he was caught he was let go but the church pressured the victims not to go to police. The worship pastor went onto another church in time and resumed voyeurism for several years before he was finally caught making an upskirt video in worship. While the story of Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church was written about by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the newspaper left a lot out and this blog dragged out the rest of the scandal. You can find the story of Fellowship Memphis in the directory of the blog.
There is another story that this blog invested a lot of time in. Its the story of James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. When MacDonald fired off a lawsuit against a journalist and the writers of The Elephant’s Debt this blog stepped into the gap and researched and wrote about the issues of Harvest. From the topic of sexual abuse, to shady finances because of a black budget, or publishing the Dean Butters letter this blog aggressively wrote about Harvest Bible Chapel when the Chicago Tribune didn’t cover the story early on. As of September of 2019 this blog has written over 150 posts about Harvest Bible Chapel. The following I consider to be significant posts are, “Walk in the Word, a Black Budget at Harvest Bible Chapel and Finances that Resemble a Criminal Syndicate More Than a Ministry” as well as, “The Wondering Eagle Exclusive: Dean Butters Statement” and “Why Publish the Dean Butters Statement in Its Entirety?” You can find more in the directory.
When appropriate this blog has also engaged in conflict resolution and tried to bring peace into people’s lives. I myself will not have peace as my mess with Redeemer Arlington will not be resolved. The next best thing is to help others find peace so their life can be whole. Also if you find yourself in the Washington, D.C. area I would be happy to meet you. This blog has met a lot of people from around the United States who travel here.
Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows in the Chicago area.
This blog encourages commenting however there are some ground rules now in place. You can’t troll, try and shout at someone or engage in ad hominem attacks. This blog wants people to be respectful and to stay on topic. If I write a post about Christian nationalism and evangelicalism you can make a political comment. If you try and make a political comment on a post about Acts 29 or James MacDonald this blog is going to remove that comment. Posting like that is not going to allowed. The comments need to be relevant to the post. This is important because I have received tips about situations through comments and I want to leave the comments open. Its my hope that this will be understood and accepted.
Evangelical Free Church in Blairstown, New Jersey.
The Changing Internet
And finally I want to close with this train of thought. The internet has changed over the last few years. In 2015 the internet was understood to be a tool of open societies in the west. During the next few years I saw a transition that was dark. I saw webpages and and more that are designed to poison the well and undermine our way of life. In writing posts I saw new webpages that are designed to manufacture false news which are deeply harmful or try to fan the flame of conspiracy theories. This blog is very much a supporter of the establishment and want to make the internet a better place. This blog is not about poisoning the well of religion but having hard discussions about it. When it comes to thinking I am very much committed to classical liberalism as envisioned by Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers. In writing a blog that has grown a lot and has some sway I feel the pressure to get it right. Therefore I have even put together a news page for people to read with recommended news sources. You can see that in, “Recommended News Sites.”
This blog also has the following belief. You can give a person a fish or you can teach them to fish so they can navigate life. This blog wants to teach people how to think not what to think. I want people to think for themselves. If you reject this blog but you walk away committed to asking questions about what you read and thinking it through then this blog will have accomplished its job. I am human and while I try hard I can also be wrong. There is a lot of opinion floating around on the internet, and people need to be able to understand the difference between a fact and an opinion. This, by the way is why I try and get to know people in other camps so I don’t operate in echo chambers. Its why I try and befriend people on all sides and get to know them. Plus its why I try and have a life in person and outside the internet. But if you want to know more about my thoughts on this in greater detail then read, “Being Intellectual, Supporting Science and the Establishment While Empowering People to Think for Themselves.”
Have fun and brace yourself the world of religion is a wild ride.