Analysis of the Northern Mountain District of the Evangelical Free Church of America

Today The Wondering Eagle is rolling out the analysis of the EFCA’s Northern Mountain District. This district includes Eastern Washington, Idaho and most of Montana. Headed up by Lee Kisman this blog is looking forward to writing about this Evangelical Free District. 

“Our mission is to Connect, Strengthen and Multiply Evangelical Free Churches in the Northern Mountain District.”

Northern Mountain District motto

Therefore once more I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

Isaiah 29:15

Butte, Montana 

Entiat Warehouse Church in Entiat, Washington 

Sandpoint Bible Fellowship in Sandpoint, Idaho

In December 2015 I wrote the following post that put out a call for stories of corruption and polity problems in the Evangelical Free Church of America. There have been a number of people who have responded to that post over the course of time. However, in that post I also explore the breakdown of all the districts and the history of the denomination.  I decided to take this issue on because no blog out there has undertaken issues related to the Evangelical Free denomination and there are a number of challenges that exist. In order to be fair I also have to acknowledge there are a number of good stories to tell about the EFCA as well. Those also deserve to be told and I have worked at trying to capture that as well. I used to be involved in the Evangelical Free, I actually was baptized in one in 2000. I wrote about Fresno Evangelical Free (Today as The Bridge Fresno) in this post here. Today due to a host of issues I would deeply avoid it. Recently they put in the pulpit a controversial pastor who was involved in covering up a dark scandal that included a worship pastor who manufactured child pornography in an Acts 29 church in Memphis, Tennessee.  You can read about the story of Fellowship Memphis in the blog’s directory. Why a church would put someone before their congregation who helped cover up a crime just astounds me. While there are some good EFCA churches the reality is that there are a number that have serious challenges as well. Just living in the D.C. area and observing the Evangelical Free denomination from a distance has been heartbreaking.  There are a lot of issues from abuse of authority, to legalism, to the penetration of Reformed theology/Neo-Calvinism that befall the denomination and this blog is going to write and illustrate them in an effort to hopefully bring about change. Change will come with time, but it will come with each painful story that is published. The stories will reveal the problems in the polity. As SGM Survivors was a thorn in the Sovereign Grace denomination, it is my goal to make The Wondering Eagle a blog that allows for discussions about issues in the Evangelical Free Church of America. The goal is not to be difficult for the sake of being difficult but to discuss the EFCA denomination. This blog looks at the issues from the 10,000 foot level and does analysis of the organization.  There are 17 districts to work through and today I am looking at the Northern Mountain District. This is the twelfth district that I have analyzed.

 

The Psychological Pain that Drives this Blog and the Dark Side of Religion. D.A Carson Attacking a Rape Victim, a Brush with Sovereign Grace and Considering Atheism

This blog – The Wondering Eagle –  is going to write about the Evangelical Free denomination. It is going to write, report and reveal problems and issues as they arise. The Evangelical Free has serious challenges, that said there are also pockets that are good which have to be acknowledged. I have learned about this as I write about the organization traveled and interacted with differing personnel. There are three key things I want to communicate to the Evangelical Free Church so they can understand what drives this project and this blog.

1.  In February of 2013 at the blog SGM Survivors which has documented and written about corruption and problems in the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) denomination the following occurred. A person called “Anonymous” wrote about how she was sexually assaulted when she was 13 at a prominent SGM member’s house. She also wrote about how she hoped the denomination would be held accountable.  Shortly thereafter the largest lawsuit in evangelical Christian history at the time against SGM was dismissed on a technicality and statute of limitations reasons. On May 24, 2013 D.A. Carson who is a prominent professor at the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary Trinity Evangelical Divinity School issued a statement in support of the ethically challenged C.J. Mahaney (along with Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung). In that bastardized statement D.A. Carson went after and verbally attacked that rape victim from SGM Survivors. I consider this to be one of the lowest points in modern evangelical Christianity. When this behavior occurred from a prominent professor in the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary the response by the denomination was also telling.  No one challenged Don Carson, no one publicly rebuked him. No one said, “Now wait a minute Don you are out of line…”

No…

No one did a damn thing. The Evangelical Free Church’s silence on this issue screams volumes about its health. I wonder if the denomination is familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. You see the lesson of that story is that you help the broken, the wounded, the person hurt alongside the road. In contrast the Evangelical Free  has been committed to growth, church planting all while one of its prominent professor’s at its main seminary attacks a rape victim.  In the process I would propose that many parts of the Evangelical Free denomination are acting like the high priest consumed with going to the temple who ignore the wounded person along the side of the road in the process.

Gentlemen…D.A. Carson’s behavior is a disgrace to the denomination and it needs to be challenged. But there is another question that needs to be asked…why would Don Carson behave that way? Over at another blog it was revealed that C.J. Mahaney gave at least $200,000 to Al Mohler at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I put a link to that post in the previous sentence. All together now can we say a “Gospel Centered Bribe.” It has also came out over at the blog SGM Survivors that C.J. Mahaney allegedly gave a lot of cash to Wayne Grudem to help finish the ESV translation. You can read about that in this comment below:

That money given to Wayne Grudem was actually certified by Grudem’s own writing which you can read about in this post here. Plus it was revealed that C.J. Mahaney gave money to Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  So having said all that if we follow the money it is well within reason to ask the following question. Did C.J. Mahaney give money to D.A. Carson and is that why Carson felt obligated to attack a rape victim? To read more about the Sovereign Grace scandal the Washingtonian and Time magazine has written about it. Plus there is my analysis of the Washingtonian article as well.

2. There is another aspect I want the Evangelical Free denomination to know. Shortly before D.A Carson attacked a rape victim I was thrust into the darkest season of my life, and it happened when I was coming out of a prolonged faith crisis that consumed half my thirties. An Air Force Captain I knew who was a Care Group Leader at Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington (a former SGM Church plant in the Washington, D.C. area) gave birth to a false accusation that took aim at my name, reputation, and ability to earn income. An attorney who looked over the situation believed I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit against Andrew (pseudonym). When I saw how a military officer can abuse his power the situation taught me as to why rape and sexual assault is a very serious issue in the United States military. This situation was dark and painful to where you had a 38 year old man at the time crying in his bed in the middle of the night in emotional pain. After I was unsuccessfully recruited into Redeemer Arlington and as I slowly picked up the pieces of my life and tried to find a way forward Andrew White focused on recruiting another person. The situation remained unresolved and dragged on for three years. When my Mom was ill and dealing with what would be a terminal illness in 2017 which would take her life this issue popped up in a hospital room.  It leaves me to ask a question…do evangelicals believe that a loved one can deal with an illness in peace? Can a loved one die in peace? Or must that be violated as well? To this day Andrew has not repented, or expressed sorrow for the pain he caused. It actually goes  to another issue in modern evangelicalism today. Christians don’t say they are sorry…they don’t repent when they hurt other people.  They are often indifferent and apathetic to those who they wound. Its what makes many parts of the Christian faith laughable and a joke. It makes Christianity in the United States downright ugly. All I longed for is a deep, sincere apology with Andrew understanding what he did. If he would have taken the initiative and approached me and sought forgiveness I would have released him.   So that situation with an Air Force Captain and the pain I endured drives me and often keeps me up to 2:00 a.m. to make sure that not another soul is harmed by fundamentalism, that no one endures the hell I walked through. There is something deeply wrong when the fruit of your faith is hubris, psychological trauma, false accusations, and pain.

3. Finally this blog also writes about atheism as well. To date I have written 182 articles about atheism, and there are a lot more to write. The reason why I write about atheism in the context of evangelicalism is for the following reason. Corruption in evangelicalism is one of the factors that fuels atheism. I think many evangelicals would be surprised to learn as to how many people have rejected Christianity due to the corruption hemorrhaging out of the Christian faith today. Don Carson’s corruption along with The Gospel Coalition is a prime example. When I was in my faith crisis walking into an Evangelical Free Church in Manassas, Virginia and learning that it was helping to launch an Acts 29 church (in this case Redemption Hill in D.C.) – even with all the garbage pouring out of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill – after all the corruption and issues was stunning for me at the time. Its not every day that one stands in a church lobby and explains when asked “Who is Mark Driscoll?” “He’s that Pastor in Seattle that speaks about the Biblical basis for blow jobs!” You can read about that interaction in the lobby of Crossway Fellowship of Manassas, Virginia right hereIt is my contention that the single greatest threat to the Christian faith today is not gay marriage or the secularization of society. Instead its internal corruption which is corrosive and destroying the church. Like I said the Evangelical Free Church denomination has a lot of issues and this blog will write about,  and monitor. It will do that for the people caught up in this troubled denomination. This blog will be the voice for those in the pews.

 

Making the Northern Mountain District of the Evangelical Free Church Aware

Having explained all that I want the Evangelical Free church denomination to be aware of what I will report and write on.

  • This blog will write about church members who are caught up in membership covenant issues where they can’t resign or walk away. I should also note that I have deep reservations and concerns about membership covenants. My views are summed up in this post right here called.  “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: the New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War.In that post I draw similarities between membership covenants being a modern version of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of oppression throughout the Cold War until it fell in November 1989.
  • In-appropriate church discipline will be hammered here at The Wondering Eagle.   If an Evangelical Free church in the Northern Mountain District practices in-appropriate church discipline (Side-note I am not talking about adultery or something similar) they will be written up about. For example if a church disciplines an alleged rape victim, or someone who ends their marriage because they were domestically abused. This blog will write about those situations. If you want to see an example of this look at Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania headed up by Steve Estes. Steve and his Elder board disciplined and excommunicated an alleged rape victim. The Senior Pastor’s son allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated and allegedly pointed a loaded gun at her. In this story the woman knows she could be dead. At the time the Evangelical Free church ignored the pleas of members and former members to get involved. 
  • Abusive and questionable church authority issues will be written about extensively as well. Church discipline and membership issues are but one factor. You can have pastors who usurp their authority and force their will. They are often surrounded by yes men who lack any objectivity from outside parties. Nepotism is a major problem in evangelicalism and this issue reveals itself in these situations.
  • Theological church hijackings will also be written about. If a Neo-Calvinist pastor comes in under the radar and hijacks an Evangelical Free church and turns it into a hardcore 9 Marks, or The Gospel Coalition church they will be written about. Its in situations like these where members face discipline for things that never were issues previously. Its divisive and forces people away from their congregations. I will have no sympathy for a pastor who hijacks a church and takes it in a direction that was not its prior theology. Hijackings split congregations and drive people from their theological homes for years. I plan to tell the stories of a few church hijackings at this blog.
  • Child sex abuse along with domestic abuse cover up will be written about as well.
  • Following the laws in regards to sex offenders will be researched and emphasized. What I will do is randomly take an Evangelical Free Church and run its staff through the sex offender database in the appropriate state to see if its being compliant, open and transparent with the congregation. If not expect to see a post similar to this one written about Fairfax Community Church (which is actually in the Church of God Anderson, Indiana denomination)  in the Washington, D.C. area.
  • Financial issues are another aspect that will be written about and covered. Lack of financial transparency, building campaigns that are questionable will be covered in great detail. Church growth is an idol that is worshiped in the modern evangelical Christian church.

Now if the denomination does not like that and District Superintendent Lee Kisman or individual pastors are displeased that a blog has popped up that will write about denominational issues there are two things you can do. One is you can express your personal displeasure to D.A Carson and thank him for attacking a rape victim. Some of you guys just saw him at EFCA One.  Second, in honor of D.A Carson The Wondering Eagle celebrates “Festivus” on Don’s birthday on December 21. As part of the annual “airing of grievances” you can read this post I wrote and participate in your own “airing of grievances” at your computer.  Or wait until the next Festivus and complain, and grieve about Don Carson or even the existence of this blog. After all according to the calendar Festivus is now only 157 days away! I have no problem with pushback and allow differing points of view. I am not a dictator. I also want to go on record to state that this post has been emailed to the Northern Mountain District leadership of the Evangelical Free Church of America as well as all the churches and as many Senior Pastors and pastoral teams in the denomination with the Northern Mountain District that can be contacted.  So they are now noted and have been made aware that there is a blog that will write about this denomination and their potential church. This blog will have a bite to it, and that bite exists for a reason. It’s to protect and go to bat for the person standing in the pew. There are too many wolves and far too much corruption that exists in modern evangelicalism. I wish that were not the case but too many people are getting hurt today in church, some of the emails I have received are heartbreaking.

 

An Overview of the Northern Mountain District

The Northern Mountain District is an EFCA District that encompasses Eastern Washington, Idaho and Western Montana. From one of my discussions with an EFCA pastor out west it appears that there were several EFCA Churches from this district that left and joined the Evangelical Fellowship of Free Churches. According to my research there are 32 churches in the Northern Mountain District. Most churches are going to be small and rural. In Idaho and Montana I expect that to be the case. 

When I studied the Northern Mountain District website the challenge that existed is that it has not been updated in at least two years. The EFCA churches likes to use Bear Paw Camp in Post Falls, Idaho. The camp was founded by Doug Weber of His Place in Post Falls, Idaho. The district leadership  it appears is based out of Spokane, Washington. One aspect I found interesting is a church planting program called P.I.E. which means Partners in Extension. Its a program that is designed to help plant churches but also support smaller churches which is one of the challenges that exists with this district. You can read more about it here.  

Now in writing this post I studied all Evangelical Free Church websites in the district. I found a number of items that are interesting. Entiat Warehouse Church in Entiat, Washington has an annual shootout. Having some roots in Montana I can understand this ministry of just a number of people getting together and shooting a shotgun. Shooting sports are big in Montana, Idaho and Washington. In Poulise, Washington the Evangelical Free Church has an interesting seniors program. I find that fascinating because evangelicalism as a movement often kicks seniors to the side. So that is a good development. Grace Evangelical Free Church in Colville, Washington is active in doing church planting in Ethiopia. You can read about it here.

I also went and studied some of the new additions to the library at the Evangelical Free Church of Bozeman. Here were some issues that I found in studying it. I see some Mike Cosper popping up in the new acquisitions. You might want to read about the Sojourn Network in Louisville, Kentucky. This blog writes about them and recently obtained and published internal documents that documented how its leader Daniel Montgomery left. You can read more in, “Why Daniel Montgomery Left the Sojourn Network in Louisville, Kentucky and How the Shadow of Mark Driscoll Hangs Over Neo-Calvinism.” The Sojourn Network’s roots are in Mars Hill Seattle is it any reason why its leadership would duplicate the issues of Mark Driscoll? Then I noticed that they acquired some Tim Challies. Do you know that Tim Challies has taught that women can’t read the scripture out loud in church. Makes you wonder when he joined the Taliban in Afghanistan. As a hardcore Neo-Calvinist many issues have popped up in his church. I did a post to him pushing back on his Neo-Calvinist theology which you can read in, “A Rebuttal to Tim Challies’ “I am an Old Fashioned Christian.” I also noticed Bozeman added David Powlison. David Powlison who recently died is an example of a wasted life to quote from John Piper. This blog wrote about a rogue EFCA Church in Pennsylvania who practiced church discipline on an alleged rape and domestic abuse victim who was almost killed. Christian Counseling and Education Foundation rejected a female in distress and it helped play into a church discipline situation for filing for divorce. David Powlison was also very close to C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and made a lot of money off SGM. That organization which was deeply corrupt is known for covering up child sex abuse, They covered up child sex abuse as casually as a cook would flip a burger at McDonalds. Honestly it begs to ask the question … when you see individuals who boast about their faith who cover up crimes and disturbing allegations why would you want to go to heaven with these people? Honestly I think hell is a better choice in the end. And if God in his wisdom is going to send an unbeliever to hell while saving someone who covered up crimes, then why is that God even worth worshiping? You can read more about David Powlison in, “How Should David Powlison of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation Be Remembered?” Oh and by the way while we are talking about library acquisitions I would make sure that the Evangelical Free Church of Bozeman part with any James MacDonald from Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. That is unless both Jim Keena , Dan Miller or Paul Myers believe its okay for child pornography to allegedly be planted on the computer of the CEO of Christianity Today. If you want to read more I would read, “Mancow Muller Produces an Audiotape of James MacDonald Allegedly Wanting to Plant Child Pornography on a “Critic’s” Computer. Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Board Promptly Fires Him.” 

 

Lee Kisman

The Northern Mountain District Under Lee Kisman

Lee Kisman heads up the Northern Mountain District. According to the EFCA 2015 Report Book he became the District Superintendent in 2013 and has served in that role since then. He was re-elected in 2016. Lee is from Seattle, Washington so the Pacific Northwest is very much home to him. He attended Seattle Pacific University and spent 15 years pastoring in Kennewick, Washington. He then pastored at Three Crosses at Spokane for a long time and then moved into the head role of the EFCA Northern Mountain District Superintendent. Beyond that I have not been able to find much else. What I plan to do is listen to a sermon of Les and write a response. I look forward to writing about the EFCA Northern Mountain District.