This is an open letter to the new EFCA West District Superintendent Tim Jacobs. In this open letter I explain this blog and the spiritual abuse that I endured. I also explain why I became a part of the dones and how this blog will function. As Tim Jacobs is new to his job The Wondering Eagle wishes him well.
“Sometimes pain can drive a man harder than pleasure.”
The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
Proverbs 11:3 NIV
EFCA West District Superintendent Tim Jacobs
I hope this open letter finds you well. My name is David Bonner and I write a blog called The Wondering Eagle. This blog was born out of spiritual abuse. And writing and researching about abuse has become a large part of this project. In the course of time I have ended up writing about nearly every church that I once called home in my life. And every time I became shocked about what I discovered, lived through and/or witnessed. Writing this blog has taught me quite a bit about sexual abuse, domestic abuse, church coups, narcissism, power plays, nepotism, financial issues and congregationalism being exploited for harmful means. In other words you use church government to dismantle or create an autocratic church government. Today nothing surprises me and I have pushed away from evangelicalism and consider myself part of the dones. The dones if you know your culture are those who are done with the church. Tim my experience is that it is far too corrupt, political and shallow. While pastors talk about reading their Bible and knowing scripture I would tell you that if you want to understand evangelical theology read George Orwell. Reading 1984 or Animal Farm could better help you understand modern evangelicalism than reading scripture.
I understand you are a Air Force Reserve Chaplin. You are no doubt aware of the issue of rape in the military. Well years ago I had a person involved in a church plant from C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries who was trying to get me involved in Redeemer Arlington during a faith crisis. I was horrified at what issues and scandals I was seeing come out of Sovereign Grace. The child sex abuse stories are horrific. Tim, do you have any idea what it is like to be into Christopher Hitchens and process what Hitch says about faith and how religion is corrupt and then be invited into a network or “family of churches” covering up sexual abuse and allegations of criminal activity? For me it justified atheism. What happened is that eventually an Air Force Officer, graduate of the Air Force Academy of Colorado Springs triggered a false accusation that took aim at my name, ability to make a living and livelihood. That was done by someone who was into John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler. When I saw how an Air Force Officer abused his position it taught me why rape and sexual abuse is a problem in the military. This happened over eight years ago. It was the darkest thing I lived through. Words can’t tell you how psychologically traumatic it was. The situation was never resolved. The reason Tim why much of evangelicalism is toxic and cancerous is because Christians never say they are sorry. They never own the pain they caused others. And after writing this blog for 6 years and seeing some of the stories I have written I think its foolish to expect many evangelicals to be serious about their faith. I only know of one situation where an evangelical went back and sought forgiveness and worked out a painful situation. It blew my mind and remains the exception. And I have a deep amount of respect for that individual today. But in my case the false accusation which adversely affected my life also popped up in a hospital room before my Mother’s death. That was troubling to say the least.
In addition to learning why rape is a problem in the military other aspects of evangelicalism have been just as dark. I came from a mega church in Wisconsin that had a youth minister sexually abuse a number of teenagers before committing suicide. I saw hyper charismatic theology in another and the struggles of a church to place boundaries on a sex offender. I saw the Sovereign Grace implosion in the Washington, D.C. area up close. In another mega church I became a whistle blower when I stumbled upon information that a church employed a person on the Virginia sex offender registry and then concealed it from the congregation. That was stressful. My last church before I rejected it all together dealt with Christian nationalism and I saw what happens when evangelicals accept Donald Trump as their personal Lord and Savior. In that situation I realized that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the world. He died for a Supreme Curt seat in Washington, D.C. If you want to read more about all that I will direct you to the following posts that will explain in more detail about me.
- “Why Wade Mullen Found Peace and Why I Never Will”
- “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.”
- “The Stress of Being a Whistle Blower in a Washington, D.C. Mega Church. Plus How Did Fairfax Community Church Bully a TV Station Not to Report a Scandal? Was Loretta Rogers Cooper Responsible for that Action?“
- “When Evangelicals Rejected Bethlehem and How I Walked out of a Christmas Eve Service. Plus is Christian Nationalism Derailing Southern Baptist Missionary Work?”
When it comes to denominations this blog focuses on the EFCA. Why? Well I have a history with it and have noticed that there was not a blog that analyzed and wrote about the organization. There are blogs that write about Greek Orthodox, Calvary Chapel, Southern Baptists, etc… But no one writes about the EFCA so I thought I’d put some of my academic and research skills to work and to the best of my ability create one from scratch. I have a history with the EFCA in your district. I was involved years ago in Fresno Evangelical Free now called The Bridge Fresno. You can read about that in, “A Personal Reflection on Fresno Evangelical Free Church; Known Today as The Bridge Fresno.” The Bridge Fresno did two things that shocked and horrified me. One is that the bungled a prayer request when my Mom was dying in a nearby Fresno, California hospital. I wrote about it and compared and contrasted how The Bridge Fresno reacted as compared to my parents Roman Catholic Church. You can read more in, “The Bridge Fresno vs. Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Who was More Pastoral?” The other thing The Bridge Fresno did which shocked me is when they put Bryan Loritts in the pulpit. Bryan Loritts covered up his brother-in-laws voyeurism and manufacturing of child pornography in Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. The newspaper the Memphis Commercial-Appeal broke the story and dragged out part of it, and I worked with primary sources and sex crime victims to tell the rest. I tried to tell The Bridge Fresno about what they were doing and give them a heads up. Their response was to block me. So I find it laughable to consider them a church. They are a business and not to be thought of as anything else. You can read more in, “Why is Bryan Loritts Speaking at The Bridge Fresno on July 8, 2018? Is Andrew Smith Aware of the Dark and Deviant Scandal that Took Place at Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis?” This blog has kept people away from The Bridge Fresno and I have received some emails from people on why they stayed away.
So I work the EFCA issue and write about it. I write about issues with Neo-Calvinism, church culture, problems with congregationalism, financial issues, EFCA history, try and do book reviews, how the EFCA in Texas responded to Hurricane Harvey, news in the districts and conference reviews and more. I give people inside the EFCA a platform to tell their story. For example this blog told the story of an EFCA church outside Minneapolis that was theologically hijacked and flipped and becoming authoritarian. That became a book by Amanda Farmer, I need to get you a copy about it as a part of your education experience and development. Amanda emailed that book to all the EFCA District Superintendents across the EFCA to read. You can read more in, “A Neo-Calvinist Hijacking at an EFCA Church in Minnesota That Took Place in the Shadow of John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist” and “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Amanda Farmer’s “Once An Insider, Now Without a Church Home”I showed up at Clovis Evangelical Free in December of 2018 and gave a copy of that book to Bob Osborne. In regards to EFCA West I have been writing about how a few different churches reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus I also recently wrote about Brian Hammonds and the First Evangelical Free Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico. I listened to the sermon after the El Paso domestic terrorist attack and offered a critique. I looked at what he said and explained how Neo-Calvinist theology makes the problem of evil worse. You can read that in, “Brian Hammonds of the First Evangelical Free Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico Responds to the Domestic Terrorist Attack in El Paso, Texas. Plus a Disturbing Analysis on Suffering.”
This blog also writes about a number of other items. It has analyzed the prosperity gospel, Southern Baptists, Neo-Calvinist movement, 9 Marks, Christian nationalism, atheism, the COVID-19 pandemic and evangelicals and more. This blog played a role in the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal in Chicago. When the Chicago Tribune failed to report and cover the situation early on I dived in and worked with a number of sources to tell the story of James MacDonald’s abuse, waste and fraud. I obtained sensitive internal church documents and drilled into the organization. If you wan to get an overview of this blog from the 10,000 foot view I would read the following post. “What You Should Know About The Wondering Eagle – An Overview of this Blog So Readers Can Understand it Better.”
So I tell you all this as a way to introduce myself. As a native Californian transplanted on the East Coast I miss my beloved California. Here on the East Coast I travel up and down the coast visiting EFCA churches, studying them and writing about them. Here is a review of John Welborn’s Salem Church on Staten Island, New York you can read in, “A Visit to the EFCA’s Salem Church in Staten Island, New York and Some Feedback.” This blog is also personal in that I have processed and journaled my parents deaths, burial and grief. You can look through the table of contents and see what has been composed. This blog is highly active in that I try and get four to five posts up a week. Behind the scenes I am working email and responding to people. If you ever want to meet or talk that is fine. I don’t hide behind my computer. If I lived in California I would be traveling to either Southern California or The Bay Area to sit in services and to meet former members of EFCA churches as I tell stories of spiritual abuse and more. Its really pointless Tim for the EFCA to engage in evangelism and not address abuse or issues in evangelicalism. Congregationalism has deep flaws. It can draw narcissist pastors and thought who are reactors who want to abuse children. When you consider the pedophile scandal in the Roman Catholic Church my analysis is that it is much more of a problem in evangelical churches. All the EFCA’s talk will amount to nothing if the leadership and pastors can’t say they are sorry and are willing to listen to abuse victims like myself. And yet the reality which is cold and brutal is that while I reach out to people I also know that many evangelical pastors or churches will not reach out to me. Many are insecure or feel threatened. People want to talk about the happy go lucky type of evangelicalism or that new church plant. They want to talk about corporate evangelicalism and the business model that it follows. And yet I am focused on discussing the topics that many churches or denomination want to downplay. So when people in the EFCA give me the silent treatment or ignore these issues I understand evangelical culture well. But you are always free to reach out and talk if you so desire. I am unique in that I am willing to take criticism and feedback. You have to, you can’t write a blog like this and not take difficult comments or more. And if I make a mistake you will get an apology from me. So as I wind this down I want to wish you well in your new role. If you find yourself in the Washington, D.C. area and want to meet I will be happy to buy you a beer and chat. I wish you the best and in this COVID-19 pandemic please stay safe and practice social distancing.