Another Conservative Pastor Disciplined by The Evangelical Free Church of America

Note: This op-ed was written by Pastor Seth Brickley of Eureka Baptist Church in St. Croix Falls, WI.

In the Fall of 2022, Pastor Kliewer, who pastors Cornerstone Church in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, had his ordination censured by the Board of Ministerial Standing of the Free Church. In June at the national conference, he was officially disciplined when the pastors sided with the leadership.

Pastor Kliewer was censured because he wrote a book titled, Woke-Free Church, criticizing the Social Justice push by the Free Church leadership. Remarkably the leadership never dealt with the content of Kliewer’s book where he showed convincingly the Social Justice agenda among the leadership. In other words, he got censured because he revealed their compromise not because he violated anything biblically (see Nine Conclusions Against Jeff Kliewer at efcaandsocialjustice.wordpress.com).

What happened to him was a grave injustice. Now that Pastor Kliewer was censured, they moved on to the next person who has brought the leadership concern. That is Pastor David Whitney of Cornerstone Church in Maryland (near Washington DC). Now these two men have similar stories. Pastor Kliewer got the leadership’s attention because of his writing that called out their compromise, while Pastor Whitney got their attention during a Zoom call at the height of COVID-19.

At this Zoom call pastors belonging to a cluster of the East District were asked how each of them and their churches were handling Covid-19. Pastor Whitney shared that his church did not close. A few of the pastors were troubled by this and a meeting was called that took place a while later. Pastor Whitney met with three pastors, all in leadership (present and past), who expressed concerns about his church being associated with the Free Church. They were troubled by his conservative political views.

One pastor said, “He would never want anyone in his church to listen to Pastor Whitney’s sermons.” Another pastor said, “You do not fit within the ethos of the Free Church” and asked, “Are you going to remove your church?” The pressure was on for Pastor Whitney and his church to leave the Free Church. Now think about how irrational the request for him to leave is. Pastor Whitney has pastored in the Free Church for forty-two years at three different churches. He planted Cornerstone Church as a Free Church and has pastored there for thirty years. If anyone fits within the ethos of the Free Church, it is Pastor Whitney.

He has worked well in the Free church to this point. The one asking the question should be asked, “Do you fit within the ethos of the true historic Free Church?”

Among the concerns of the Free Church leadership is Pastor Whitney’s strong stance against government involvement in churches. During Covid-19 he believed that the government had no place to tell churches what to do. He based this conviction on Scripture’s command to meet regularly (Hebrews 10:24-25) and The First Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects churches from government intrusion.

The views that Pastor Whitney holds are not extreme by any measure but are shared by many other pastors, including well-known pastor John MacArthur. So how is it that Pastor Whitney’s views do not fit within the ethos of the Free Church? Did pastor Whitney commit heresy? Pastor Whitney believes that churches should, “major on the majors and minor on the minors” as the Free Church historically has taught. But the leadership is going to remove his church from the movement unless Whitney meets their demands.

During this process, it appears that the leadership has been attempting to find ways to justify his disciplinary action because his conservatism does not fit with the leadership’s progressive bent. Per Pastor Whitney’s testimony, several questionable measures have been taken by the Free Church leadership.

There was an accuser who pointed out to the leadership that Pastor Whitney has not been following his church constitution, which allows for a plurality of elders. But the key word is “allow.” He is currently the lone elder at his church, but his church constitution does not require a plurality of elders. The accuser also pointed out that Cornerstone Church did not have a business meeting during COVID-19 in early 2021, but everyone should know that the COVID-19 year threw everything out of place.

Why is that looked at with such scrutiny?

But here is the question that everyone should be asking. Why is the leadership of the Free Church, a congregational movement, doing investigative work on one of their local churches? No heresy has been taught and Pastor Whitney has not disqualified himself. Why are they questioning such mundane matters? According to the 1950 Free Church Constitution to which Cornerstone Church subscribes it reads, “We believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head of the Church, and that every local church has the right under Christ to decide, govern, and resolve its own affairs.”

The present-day leadership of the Free Church maintains that they still hold to the autonomy of the local church, but their actions show otherwise (see The National EFCA Taking Action Against Their Pastors & Churches at efcaandsocialjustice.wordpress.com).

The measures the Free Church leadership has taken have been out of step with biblical justice (Proverbs 20:10). To this day the accuser has never been identified, even though Pastor Whitney asked the identity of the one who raised concerns about his church. This violates biblical justice (Exodus 20:16). At his first two meetings with the leadership, he was not given a list of questions ahead of time to prepare his answers. This violates biblical justice (Matthew 7:12).

At the third meeting where he was given a list of questions ahead of time, his request to have the meeting recorded was denied. This goes against biblical justice since outside parties are unable to decide which side is in the right (Proverbs 18:13, 17). There has also been an effort to label him a “Christian Nationalist”, a term used as a pejorative against conservative Christians.

This violates biblical justice (1 Peter 2:1). All Free Church people need to see that the injustice done to Pastor Kliewer has now been done to Pastor Whitney. What he and old-time Free Church people have described is a “hostile takeover” in recent years. Anyone looking on should see that strong biblical conservatives are not welcome under the present leadership of the Free Church. Pastors similar to Kliewer and Whitney will be treated the same. The question is who is next? How long will this continue until Free Church pastors and members rise up and say no more to corruption at the highest levels?

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6 thoughts on “Another Conservative Pastor Disciplined by The Evangelical Free Church of America

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