The EFCA needs to start to have a discussion about spiritual abuse. From EFCA One, to blog posts and district conferences its time for the national EFCA to begin to discuss spiritual abuse. Inside the denomination there is one individual who should lead the discussion and guide it. John Secrest is an EFCA pastor who went through the dark Harvest Bible Chapel scandal, and yet he’s the perfect candidate to lead the EFCA in a discussion about spiritual abuse.
“If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.”
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV
John Secrest and his family at Naples.
As the Restore Conference completed in Chicago the event gave me some ideas as I blog about the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). Its time that the EFCA pay more attention to the issue of spiritual abuse inside the EFCA and learn how to deal with it. Let’s revisit one situation that happened in Glen Schrieber’s EFCA Southeastern District.
Recalling Matt Boedy’s Situation at Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina and Other Spiritual Abuse Inside the EFCA
Matt Boedy’s marriage ended when his wife decided that she didn’t want to be married. Matt and his wife briefly pursued counseling and was supported in the EFCA/Acts 29 church in Columbia, South Carolina called Riverside Community Church. At one point the EFCA Church violated counseling ethics when it reached out to Matt’s counselor. The church had done a “bait and switch” in offering money and allowing James Walden to counsel Matt again. When Riverside contacted the counselor Matt was surprised by what transpired. In time as he pushed back his situation became a legal one when he filed a lawsuit in an effort to try and find out what Riverside Community Church communicated to the counselor. Matt worked his way up the chain of command both in Acts 29 and the EFCA. Glen Schrieber the EFCA District Superintendent of the Southeast District ruled against Matt and in the process went against the entire counseling profession. At the end of the day the EFCA District Superintendent moved to protect the brand at all costs. When Matt worked his way up the chain of command to Minneapolis, EFCA President William Hamel threatened him with a lawsuit. To read more about Matt Boedy’s story, James Walden, Glen Schrieber and the past EFCA President in greater detail you can do so in the following posts. “Disturbing Allegations of Spiritual Abuse at James Walden’s Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina” , “Matt Boedy on Evangelical Free Church of America Autonomy and the Need for Transparency” , ” Matt Boedy on James Walden’s Alleged Ethical Violations: The Overall Perspective on the Evangelical Free Church of America” , “EFCA Southeast Director’s Response to James Walden’s Alleged Ethical Violations: Is Glen Schrieber a Tool of the Acts 29 Network?” and “Who Would Jesus Sue? Did Former Evangelical Free (EFCA) President William Hamel Allegedly Threaten Legal Action Against a Spiritual Abuse Victim in Glen Schrieber’s District?“
This situation in an EFCA/Acts 29 church is not the only spiritual abuse situations inside the EFCA. There have been others that have been pointed out as well. Outside Minneapolis an EFCA church is flipped by Calvinists causing people to leave their home after 25 years. You can read about that in, “A Neo-Calvinist Hijacking at an EFCA Church in Minnesota That Took Place in the Shadow of John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist.” Then out in Atascadero, California there is the story of Janet Varin and Cornerstone Community Church. When a contractor did shoddy work that violated California law Janet refused to pay him and fired him. In response to a lien the EFCA church went to bat for the contractor and tried to practice church discipline on her. The EFCA West Office gave her poor advice and told her that she didn’t have to submit to church discipline but basically said that she was on her own. You can read more in, “Analysis of EFCA West of the Evangelical Free Church of America.” Then on the East Coast there were two troubling situations. In Elverson, Pennsylvania Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church practiced church discipline on an alleged domestic abuse victim who knows she can be dead. You can read about that in, “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity.” Then in Blairstown, New Jersey you had the story of Todd Nathan. When the EFCA church was planning on a vote of no confidence he reacted by using a loophole in the by-laws to throw out 20 members. One person told me that after losing their spiritual home for several decades they felt like they relived the death of their husband. It was that painful. You can read more in, “The Autocratic Reign of Todd Nathan and the Troubling Story of the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey.”
Why the EFCA Will be Prone to Spiritual Abuse and Why it Needs to be Discussed
Here is a fact that the EFCA is going to have to face. Its autonomous nature is going to make it susceptible to abuse and problems. It assumes the best of people and yet its structure is going to leave it with problems over the course of time. Issues like sexual abuse, domestic abuse and narcissistic and sociopathic pastors and more will happen anywhere. But when you think of it, going to a network of loose churches to sexually abuse a child is easier then going into one that has more structure and vetting. After all its my understanding that District leadership can’t intervene unless they are invited into the picture. The EFCA from floor to ceiling practices congregationalism, and congregationalism can easily be exploited. That autonomous model is going to have problems in the end. And yes I say that knowing that there are some churches that will be fine and not abusive.
The EFCA needs to discuss spiritual abuse because it is going to be a problem that will always exist. And in the days of the internet it will become even more profound. The internet gives people the ability to speak up and make their voice known. But this is an issue that is not going away. The Southern Baptists are dealing with this as are other evangelicals. The EFCA will also deal with this problem as well. Already this blog has discovered stories under the surface that exist that draw attention to these issues. The tone and leadership on this issue needs to come out of Minneapolis and through the district offices. What would happen if Minneapolis regularly communicated issues that are happening to districts? For example in the past month this blog learned of two EFCA churches that use James MacDonald. What if the EFCA sent out a newsletter to districts and thus churches informing people of issues and scandal and let them know that James MacDonald was disqualified from ministry? Silence by the EFCA in the age of the internet is going to communicate both indifference and support to questionable ministries and abuse. One of the issues that can be done by the EFCA is in light of all the scandals and problems with ECFA, the EFCA needs to back away from the organization. But when the EFCA has EFCA One they should have time to speak about abuse and address these issues. Districts conferences are another avenue to promote and have these discussions. Either way the time is now for the EFCA to step up and have these discussions.
How EFCA Pastor John Secrest Can Lead the Way and What the EFCA Can Do
On this topic its this blog’s belief that John Secrest of Compass Church in Naples, Florida can lead the way and start the discussion. John has the unique experience of having gone through the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal with James MacDonald. After all this blog successfully predicted what James MacDonald was going to do to John Secrest. He was unjustly fired, wronged and yet he walked through the pain. If you would like to read more you can do so in, “James MacDonald is Taking a Sabbatical. Translation – He is Getting Ready to Engage in Long Term Spiritual Abuse in Naples, Florida, and John Secrest will be his First Target” , “The Tragic Story Involving John Secrest and the Coup that Occurred in Harvest Naples” and “Julie Roys Through World Magazine Publishes About Harvest Naples and the Termination of John Secrest.”
John Secrest can speak about this issue in a way that many cannot. So this blog would like to propose to the EFCA that in the discussion on spiritual abuse, John Secrest has a lot to contribute and share. When I went to the Restore Conference in Chicago I spoke with John for a few minutes. I discovered someone who is very pastoral, compassionate and realizing how this is an issue. Its this blog’s hope that John will stand out in the EFCA and be able to The EFCA has some well known personalities such as D.A. Carson, Larry Osborne, Bill Kynes and more and its this blogs hope that John Secrest can be the person who gets the EFCA to discuss the topic of spiritual abuse. The reality is that he is well prepared for this mission.