The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) appears to be heading right into the contemplative camp. Trinity International University, the EFCA’s American university, has partnered with the very contemplative/emerging Spiritual Formation Forum. In the recent EFCA newsletter , they announced the upcoming Spiritual Formation event called the Midwest Regional Spiritual Formation Forum (taking place in June). According to the newsletter, “the theme of the event is ‘Spiritual Formation and the Mission of the Church,’ and addresses two profoundly connected themes: the yearning for a deeper and richer personal inward journey with God, and our calling to address the urgent and dire needs of this world. EFCA Pastors and leaders living in the Midwest are encouraged to take advantage of this regional seminar.”
Unfortunately, EFCA Pastors and leaders are going to get a hearty dose of contemplative spirituality when they attend this conference. Two of the speakers are Scot McKnight and Bruce Demarest while one of the other partners of the event is Richard Foster (Renovare). Demarest was one of the contributors to Foster’s Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible1 and is Professor of Christian Theology and Spiritual Formation at Denver Seminary. He is a major proponent for contemplative spirituality. Scot McKnight (author of The Real Mary) is a catalyst for helping to fold Protestantism into Catholicism and calls for all Protestant churches to set aside a special day to “honor Mary.” 2 McKnight is a professor of Religious Studies at North Park University, Chicago, Illinois and the author of over twenty books. He considers himself a spokesman for the emerging church movement.
The EFCA’s involvement with the Spiritual Formation Forum is not the only sign that the denomination is heading in this direction. While Trinity International University is clearly going down the spiritual formation path (as is indicated in this particular class using Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline) and this class where the instructor is using Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart for required reading), there are signs that the denomination at large is following suit. EFCA articles such as these document this: Prayerful Dependence, Relationship and Conversation (about lectio divina), and Why Spiritual Disciplines.
According to the EFCA website, there are over 300,000 people who attend EFCA churches in 45 countries. Their mission statement says they are “united [with the 1300+ EFCA churchess) by a mutual commitment to serve our Lord Jesus Christ with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word of God.” We hope the leadership of this denomination will reconsider their move towards contemplative spirituality and realize soon it does not fall in line with the Word of God.