One of the issues inside the EFCA is that of the Neo or New Calvinists. Calvinism had led to a lot of division over the course of time. Recently one person who saw their church affected by Calvinism had an email exchange with Greg Strand on the topic. After I read it I asked for permission to publish it to this blog.
“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.“
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5 NIV
The Neo-Calvinist movement is an issue that needs to be managed inside the EFCA. The stories this blog is hearing of people who lose their church homes and find themselves homeless after encountering authoritarianism is growing. This blog is looking for stories of churches that have been flipped inside the EFCA. Any stories can be told anonymously.
The EFCA’s “Significance of Silence” has Problems
The “Significance of Silence” is a critical component of the EFCA that goes back to their first president. However, as this blog keeps discovering, many of the Neo-Calvinists violate the “Significance of Silence” as they hijack and flip churches. The autonomous nature of the EFCA organization is even more problematic as it often means that you are on your own if spiritual abuse or problems happen in a church. This blog told a story by Amanda Farmer of her EFCA church outside Minneapolis in which she learned that the “Significance of Silence” was largely worthless in the end. As some of the Neo-Calvinists position, plan and then flip a church the “Significance of Silence” is intentionally exploited. You can read more about this in, “Inside the EFCA are Neo-Calvinists Violating the “Significance of Silence” to Hijack Churches?” Recently someone who this blog has interacted with gave me their email exchange with Greg Strand. Greg Strand is the Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing for the EFCA. You can read Greg’s biography in, “Publishing a Comment that was Not Approved on Greg Strand’s EFCA Post on the “Significance of Silence” In the email exchange below you can read one person’s experience with Calvinists inside the EFCA, and their concerns, and also Greg’s response.
An Email to Greg Strand
We belonged to an EFCA church that we loved for 20 years, raising our
kids in that church. But about 6 years ago, we got a dogmatically
Calvinist pastor who teaches that his way is the only way to see
things and who doesn’t seem to allow opposing ideas. From what we
understand, he also takes all the elders and leading men through what
we call “Calvinist indoctrination” studies, ensuring that Calvinism
We read that the EFCA’s official stance is a “middle of the road”
approach, but that you allow churches to lean either way but that they
should be welcoming to the “other side.” Our pastor does not lean; he
falls very heavily on the side of Calvinism, and he does not seem to
tolerate disagreement because he (or at least someone in the office)
deleted a comment I sent to the church blog where I disagreed,
politely and biblically, with his post on predestination. The comment
showed up for a couple hours, but then was deleted.
Eventually, we sent a letter to the elders (who I believe are all
Calvinists anyway) about our concerns and about why we think no one
should be dogmatic about this issue, cautioning them to reel him in a
little because it’s going to repel people who disagree with him. But
he only got more vocal about it. And so, after 20 years there and
being involved in several ministries, we resigned.
The problem – why I am reaching out to you – is that we can longer
trust EFCA churches about this issue, because you do not enforce any
kind of standard on this. Having the official stance that the EFCA is
“middle of the road” is meaningless if it’s not enforced, if you allow
pastors to dogmatically pick one side or the other, being intolerant
towards the other side.
I know that this is a losing battle for us because most of the Big
Name theologians are Calvinists, and they are breeding a batch of
young, new Calvinist pastors. And so I doubt the EFCA would ever
disallow Calvinist pastors. (And who knows? Maybe all those in the
EFCA offices are Calvinists too.) But I would at least ask that you
remove your misleading “official stance.”
Anyway, thank you for the early years that we enjoyed as part of your
church family. But from here on out, I will be very cautious about
trusting EFCA churches. From studies I’ve seen, they are being taken
over by Calvinism all over the place. So please do not mislead people
with your “middle of the road” stance. Take that out and simply say
that you have no official stance on it and that you allow each church
to decide for themselves how dogmatic to be about it. That would be
closer to the truth.
Greg Strand’s Response
Thank you for your email.
At the end of 2018, the EFCA conducted a Doctrinal Survey. This is
done by the Spiritual Heritage Committee on behalf of the Board of
Directors. Here is a brief description of those who received the
survey along with the response. (All this information related to the
Doctrinal Survey is found in the document linked.)
All senior pastors of EFCA churches (not all are
credentialed in the EFCA), and everyone credentialed by the EFCA (not
all are in EFCA ministries) received the survey through email. The
49-question survey was conducted from November 8, 2018 to December 11,
2018. SurveyMonkey was used to conduct the survey and compile the
data. The survey was sent to 3,000 individuals, it was completed by
1,509, which represents 50.3%. This is an excellent response rate,
especially remembering this 49-question survey takes about 20-30
minutes to complete. In addition to completing the survey, 8,341
comments were made by respondents.
The two questions in the Doctrinal Survey related to the issue you
raise regarding Arminianism and Calvinism are listed below. I also
include the options of answers to the question, along with the final
response of respondents, followed by assessments and comments.
Article 6, The Holy Spirit
Q17 As you consider the logical order of a believer’s exercise of
saving faith and the Spirit’s work of regeneration, which best
describes your belief?
• Faith precedes regeneration (I believe and then I am
regenerated). 32.86% 461
• Regeneration precedes faith (I am regenerated and then I
believe). 39.27% 551
• These cannot be put in any logical order. 27.87% 391
Q18 Do you believe that those who have truly put their faith in Christ
and have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit can lose their salvation?
• Yes 3.22% 46
• No 93.70% 1,339
• Don’t know 3.08% 44
• We lean in a Calvinist/Reformed direction on matters of
salvation, with 39.27% affirming the Calvinist/Reformed view of
salvation, and with 32.86% affirming the Arminian/Wesleyan view of
salvation. 27.75% of respondents did not list any logical order.
o Among those in the 65+ age category, 46% identify as
Arminian/Wesleyan. Those aged 50-64, 36% identify as Arminian/Wesleyan
and 35% identify as Calvinist/Reformed. Those aged 35-49, 56% identify
as Calvinist/Reformed. Those aged 18-34, 50% identify as
o There is a slight change in the percentages in the logical order
of salvation from 2013: 37.60% Calvinist/Reformed and 34.65%
Arminian/Wesleyan. The percentage of those not listing any logical
order remains the same as the 2013 survey.
• Respondents strongly affirm “eternal security,”
“perseverance of the saints,” as 94% do not believe one “can lose
o This remains the same as the 2013 survey.
• We reflect well our ethos regarding the belief in the order
of salvation, providing a place for both Arminians/Wesleyans and
Calvinists/Reformed. There are generational differences in
understanding this issue, with the younger identifying as more
Calvinist/Reformed. Interestingly, when approaching the issue of the
possibility of losing one’s salvation, there are virtually none who
affirm that view.
As you read in the Doctrinal Survey – 39% identify as Calvinist, 33%
identify as Arminian, and 28% do not identify as one or the other – it
is accurate to speak as we do about the “significance of silence,” or
that we “major on majors and minor on minors.” That commitment is not
considered a via media, or as you state, a “middle of the road” belief
or perspective. The undergirding principle is stated as follows: “Once
[the early Free Church leaders] began to put in writing what was
commonly believed among them, they were silent on those doctrines
which through the centuries had divided Christians of equal
dedication, Biblical knowledge, spiritual maturity and love for
Christ.’ This ‘significance of silence’ reflected our strong concern
for Evangelical unity in the gospel.” (Evangelical Convictions, 24-25)
We conclude, “This expression [the significance of silence] does not
mean that we will not discuss and debate these issues but simply that
we will not divide over them.” (Evangelical Convictions, 24, n. 18) Of
course, this is not lived out the same in each EFC church. But we do
not speak about the expression in each local church but rather we
speak more broadly about the EFCA.
I am grateful to hear the EFCA has been a wonderful church family for
many years. I am sad to hear about the end of this relationship. I
will say this. Based on what you have written about your desire, which
reflects your aspirations and expectations, I believe you will have a
difficult time finding a church and/or a denomination that fits what
you wish. And if you find you are more comfortable in a church that is
less Calvinist in its belief and practice, or even anti-Calvinist,
then you may well fall prey to the same problem of which you accuse
the leaders of this church, albeit in the opposite theological
Thank you, once again, for writing to me. Thank you for allowing me to
shed some additional light on this.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing
Interim Director of Pastoral Care Ministries
Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology, TEDS
Evangelical Free Church of America