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Open Letter to the Pastor of Community Emergent Church

by John Henderson on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 12:40pm

[NOTE:  This is not an actual letter but represents reality as it exists in many modern church environments]

Dear Pastor:

     I am deeply perplexed about the direction you are taking our church in your promotion of the many principles of the emergent church movement.  Maybe I just don’t understand or am not all that willing to go through change.  Perhaps you can enlighten me.

My family and I have been members here for many years we raised our children in this church.  It has been the most important thing in our family’s life for a very long time.  We started coming here after being visited by Pastor Jim.  He was canvassing the neighborhood and came to our door.  It was a simple introduction.  He handed us a small tract with information about the church on one side and a short gospel message on the other.  Pastor Jim invited us to the services and then did something we were not expecting from a typical church visitor.  He asked if he could tell us more about Jesus Christ.  Of course, we agreed.  Before Pastor Jim left, he had given us the story of salvation we deeply had wanted to hear but didn’t realize ourselves how much we needed and wanted the Savior.  That, more than anything else, brought us to this church.

We have had several wonderful pastors since then and seen great revivals over the years.  Our church grew because of it.  Somehow, before you came, I sensed a drift among us.  We became more program-focused than evangelism-committed.  We went through “church growth” programs and had many motivational speakers come our way.  In fact, we stopped scheduling revivals with regular evangelists like we used to do and replaced all of that with conferences of some sort or the other.  It was all very exciting but something important always seemed be missing.  I think our life was draining from us—the life that comes through prayer and obedience to the simple gospel.

By the time you arrived and began to initiate the emergent practices among us, we were ripe for the picking.  There were some among us who were more alert and courageous than I who raised questions.  I watched as you and your staff dealt with them rather indifferently and insensitively until they felt forced to go elsewhere.  Those were people who had been a significant part in the grown of our church but suddenly they were out of place.  Those of us who remained gathered a little closer together to fill in the vacancies and kept going with what remained.

When someone on your staff suggested what we needed was to start fellowshipping with those of other “faiths”, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all that wise, especially when I learned it had nothing to do with winning them to Christ but just hoping to get them to start coming to our church to help fill the empty places.  They were being told they could keep their false ideas about Jesus and be just fine in our non-judgmental fellowship.  I think someone brought up the word postmodern and I had to look it up to see what it meant.

It wasn’t long until you were telling us we needed to walk something called a labyrinth.  It seems it was some sort of adaptation from a Hindu practice whereby we were instructed to walk a prescribed maze of sorts, and pause at pre-determined points and utter some sort of prayer or contemplate on something spiritual.  I went along with it, but felt increasingly uncomfortable because there seemed to be every sort of presence except that of Jesus.

Then you told us we needed to engage in something you called centering prayer.  You told us we should look deeply within until we found ourselves and discovered God.  Well, I looked deeply within but all I found was a wicked, rebellious heart.  I found myself alright but God wasn’t there.

You took a group of us off to a nearby monastery where a group of monks and nuns hosted us and walked us through a method of contemplative prayer.  They were very cordial and nice people and seemed very committed and they were very appealingly aesthetic.  I returned home with a sense of an unusual experience but still felt I had not really met Jesus there.  Maybe I expected too much or had the wrong experience.

Your messages have been filled with a lot of talk about something you frequently call spiritual formation.  Your definitions and descriptions of spiritual formation sound very evangelical but the spiritual (Christ-like) substance is simply not there.  You speak often of the presence of the Holy Spirit—as if we would not notice ourselves that He was present—but, frankly, I just have not noticed.  I know I have not backslidden and have often been aware of the Spirit’s presence in past services at our church.  What you say is His presence resembles nothing like I once knew of His presence among us.

You told us that we needed to enter into some sort of deep silence; something you said was a method of praying whereby we became so silent that we could hear God speaking to us.  About all I ever heard was the ringing in my ears, but God never spoke to me that I could tell.  Maybe I was being too focused on being silent that I never heard Him.  I do remember, however, the other times I would go to Him in earnest prayer and sometimes could not even express myself but I knew He was listening and answering my prayers.  I was never in some sort of silent trance or anything like that and was always keenly aware of communion with Him. I always went away from that very strengthened in my soul.   It worked very well for me but that silence thing was a complete failure except it seemed to me at times there were spirits I could not recognize trying to say things to me that did not resemble what I knew about the God of the Bible.

I have noticed lately that you have been teaching us things we once rejected in this church.  Pastor Jim led my spouse and me to the Lord in our living room that day he visited and he used the Bible an awful lot.  He answered all of our questions and objections by opening up his Bible and showing us the answers right there in its pages.  But you are now saying to us that not all of the Bible is inspired—only those parts that pertain to salvation.  Was Pastor Jim wrong to tell us it was every bit as inspired as any other part?  Also, what parts pertain to salvation and what parts do not?

You mentioned in one of your recent sermons that Adam and Eve were not actually real, that the creation story was actually a fable.  Why is it in the Bible if that is true?  Why does Luke trace the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam if it is a mere fable of some sort?  You added that the idea of creation evolution is more scientifically accurate.  How do you know that?  Is not “science” itself replete with errors and more subjective interpretation than irrefutable “facts”?

Pastor, there are many more questions I would like to ask, and perhaps we could discuss them openly at some point.  I have one very important question, however, that I must ask.  Are you really a born-again Christian?  If you say you are, why would you discredit so many things the Bible teaches—things that your very salvation must hinge on in order to be validated?  Why would you embrace postmodern and new age concepts that offer no proof of anything they promote while the Word of God stands as its own proof?  Why would you embrace any of that over what the Bible teaches?  If you are really so convinced of all of that stuff, why are you here?  Isn’t there somewhere you could be where you would be better received and we could just be left here to go our simple ways by believing the Bible and holding to those old-fashioned “traditions” that have identified us all these years?

I am sure there are many others just as I who long for those old days, as it were, when you heard prayer in the house of God instead of partying; where there were revival meetings once more instead of special topic study groups; where sinners were convicted for their sins, repented, and were converted at our altars instead of being coddled in their sins because they felt misunderstood and mistreated.  I am sure there are many such as I who long to once more walk into any of our churches and know we will hear the gospel sung, preached, and prayed.

Oh, well, none of this may ever change for the better.  It might get even worse until Jesus comes again in judgment.  I just thought I would ask in case you or anyone else cared.

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[blog under construction]

Many in the Spiritual Formation movement are using the “prayer labyrinth” as a contemplative prayer practice. Why is the prayer labyrinth so dangerous?  Because it comes directly from the New Age movement. I should clarify – the modern use of the labyrinth was popularized by Dr. Jean Houston, a New Ager. She introduced the labyrinth directly into churches. She first used this occult-based tool in a mainline/liberal church, but it quickly spread to evangelical denominations.

Note – I have checked out various  “evangelical” Christian websites that endorse the prayer labyrinth. Many of these websites provide links to further info about labyrinths. In many cases, the links they provide lead readers directly to New Age websites teaching how to use labyrinths in occult ways. Amazing! How blind can Christian endorsers of the prayer labyrinth get?

Click here for one of many Christian articles exposing Dr. Jean Houston and the prayer labyrinth.

And here is a series of Christian YouTube videos exposing the prayer labyrinth:

Following are more Christian articles exposing prayer labyrinths:

The Labyrinth

Labyrinth: the occult has truly gone mainstream

Commentary on Dan Kimball’s article “A-Maze-ing Prayer” endorsing prayer labyrinths

The Labyrinth- A Spiritual Walk for the Christian? NO WAY

What is a prayer labyrinth? Are prayer labyrinths biblical?

I would like to find some articles by “Christian prayer labyrinth practitioners”, trying to defend their practice against critiques from discernment ministries. I am still looking…

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[BLOG UNDER CONSTRUCTION]

Dan Kimball is one of the most popular Emerging Church speakers. He is accepted by many evangelical churches, colleges and seminaries. And compared to Emergence Christianity leaders Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, etc. he does appear to be more biblical.

But not so fast. Check out the following blog by Ken Silva – it is an excellent critique of Dan Kimball’s so-called evangelical stance:

http://apprising.org/2008/08/25/is-emergent-church-pastor-dan-kimball-really-a-conservative-evangelical/

And the most revealing article I’ve seen so far showing Kimball’s connections with Emerging, Emergent, and Emergence names:

http://apprising.org/2010/11/20/dan-kimball-on-the-record/

More articles:

http://apprising.org/?s=Dan+Kimball&submit=go

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/dankimball.htm

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/search/search.php?zoom_sort=0&zoom_query=Dan+Kimball&zoom_per_page=100&zoom_and=1

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/04/more-on-dearth-of-conviction-in-ecm.html

http://www.purposedrivel.com/2010/11/is-dan-kimball-really-holding-fast-good.html

http://www.crosstalkamerica.com/shows/2010/11/beware_the_bridgers_part_1_ort.php

http://www.crosstalkblog.com/2010/11/beware-the-bridgers/

An additional link showing close associations between  Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones:

http://www.dankimball.com/vintage_faith/2006/05/late_night_with.html

And note the following blog, which includes responding comments from Dan Kimball himself:

http://www.crosstalkblog.com/2010/11/phil-johnson-on-the-dearth-of-conviction-in-the-emerging-church/

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I have been seeing numerous references to Catholic mysticism when researching Spiritual Formation, the Emergent/Emerging Church, and occult Contemplative Spirituality.

Another quasi-Christian stream of mysticism is Quaker mysticism. Yet Quaker mysticism is not nearly as “popular” as Catholic mysticism.  Even Spiritual Formation pioneer Richard Foster (who has labeled himself a Quaker) – has quoted Catholic mystics much more often than Quaker mystics.

There is also another, more recent quasi-Christian stream of mysticism: evangelical mysticism – A.W. Tozer, etc. This stream also is not nearly as popular as Catholic mysticism.

I Googled the following search strings – here are my results (I’m sure there are overlapping results, as well as results which are not actually relevant):

[“Richard Foster” “Catholic mystics”] – about 10,500 results
[“Richard Foster” “Quaker mystics”] – about 94 results
[“Richard Foster” “evangelical mystics”] – about 483  results

[“Spiritual Formation” “Catholic mystics”] – about 2,590 results
[“Spiritual Formation” “Quaker mystics”] – about 66 results
[“Spiritual Formation” “evangelical mystics”] – about 87 results

[“Emerging Church” “Catholic mystics”] – about 12,000 results
[“Emerging Church” “Quaker mystics”] – about 60 results
[“Emerging Church” “evangelical mystics”] – about 487 results

[“Emergent Church” “Catholic mystics”] – about 3,330 results
[“Emergent Church” “Quaker mystics”] – about 47 results
[“Emergent Church” “evangelical mystics”] – about 204  results

[“Contemplative Spirituality” “Catholic mystics”] – about 10,000 results
[“Contemplative Spirituality” “Quaker mystics”] – about 61 results
[“Contemplative Spirituality” “evangelical mystics”] – about 28 results

[“centering prayer” “Catholic mystics”] – about 10,500 results
[“centering prayer” “Quaker mystics”]  – about 82 results
[“centering prayer” “evangelical mystics”]  – about 26 results

[“labyrinth” “Catholic mystics”] – about 9,630 results
[“labyrinth” “Quaker mystics”] – 8 results
[“labyrinth” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 6 results

[“occult” “Catholic mystics”] – about 11,900 results
[“occult” “Quaker mystics”] – about 6 results
[“occult” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 120 results

[“New Age” “Catholic mystics”] – about  13,800 results
[“New Age” “Quaker mystics”] – about 72 results
[“New Age” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 197 results

[“heretical” “Catholic mystics”] – about 11,300 results
[“heretical” “Quaker mystics”] –  about 37  results
[“heretical” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 280 results

[“false teachings” “Catholic mystics”] – about 1,090 results
[“false teachings” “Quaker mystics”] –  3 results
[“false teachings” “evangelical mystics”] –  about  35  results

[“apostasy” “Catholic mystics”] – about 11,800 results
[“apostasy” “Quaker mystics”] – 10 results
[“apostasy” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 285 results

Other Christian writers have also made the connection between Catholic mystics and Quaker mystics. For example, Ken Silva refers to Spiritual Formation’s “so-called “spiritual disciplines” largely culled from heretical Roman Catholic and Quaker mystics.” His great article on this can be found at:

http://apprising.org/2008/08/28/meditating-on-contemplativecentering-prayer/

All Catholic mystics are dangerous. But undoubtedly the most dangerous Catholic mystic is Thomas Merton. Merton makes no apology for his hybrid Catholic/Buddhist worldview. And Merton introduced Hindu-based “centering prayer” to Catholics and Protestants alike. See the following exposes of Merton and his followers:

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/merton.htm
http://www.apostasyalert.org/Merton.htm

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(revised 08/13/12)

Update: I have made an attempt to “tone down” most of my blogs about Evangelical Friends/Quakers, to not be so hurtful to my many friends in the EFCI (and EFC-ER). Yet when I see what is going on, I still feel compelled to speak out. Read on.
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In a previous blog I discussed how the EFCI (and EFC-ER) is becoming more and more liberal due largely to Richard Foster and company. I am very “protective” of the EFC-ER if you will. The EFC-ER historically has been more biblically sound, more “old fashioned” than the other Regions of the EFCI. It appears the EFC-ER is being drawn into the progressive/ liberal leanings of the other Regions, particularly Northwest Yearly Meeting.

On 11/05/10 I perused the EFC-ER home page (the EFC-ER falls under the denominational umbrella of the EFCI):

There I saw a link to the Friends Youth Summit 2010:

When I clicked on the above link, one of the first items that popped up was a photo of Dan Kimball with a brief bio. The Youth Summit website provided a link to more biographical info.

My question for the EFCI and EFC-ER: “Do you know Dan Kimball promotes not only the Emerging Church, but also New Age-ish prayer labyrinths?”

See the following article for Kimball’s praises of labyrinth walking:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2001/fall/4.38.html

Did the EFCI invite Kimball without knowing he espouses the labyrinth? Even if they were unaware of the Kimball-labyrinth connection, they have no problem endorsing the labyrinth. Check out the following schedule of EFCI Youth Summit activities:

http://www.friendssummit.com/about-summit/summit-schedule

I immediately noticed  Spiritual Formation activities on the schedule. Here are the details, copied verbatim:

Kingdom. Mission. Passion.
Conversations that could change your life!

Keep up with latest schedule updates and info here!

    The Summit 2010 Schedule is designed with the goal of multiple conversation venues and options around the theme: Kingdom. Mission. Passion. You will have conversations that could change your life…your community…the church!

Start “the Summit Conversation” with a Six Week Study of Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus But Not The Church.

Christ-Centered Prayer Walk Labyrinth, directed by Frank Penna

– Under the Prayer Walk Labyrinth link:

Summit Prayer Labyrinth
Sign-up for the Summit Prayer Labyrinth during the conference. Participants will “journey” through the labyrinth guided by a CD that soars with provocative, devotional narration set against a worshipful music backdrop. Eleven stations on their journey will lead them to “let go” of busyness, hurt and distractions that can spoil relationships, “center” their lives on God and spend time with him, and reach out to the world with Christ’s love.

– Under the Frank Penna link:

Frank Penna – Summit Labyrinth Director
Frank Penna loves the Evangelical Friends Church! Frank grew up at First Denver Friends and had some of the greatest spiritual experiences of his life in youth group and at Quaker Ridge Camp, where God called him into ministry in December of 1972. Frank graduated from Barclay College (FBC) in 1978, married Janet Smith that summer, and has since served the Friends church as a minister of music and pastor. He currently lives in Wichita, Kansas and is in Ministry Development for World Renewal International, a church planting mission. He also serves as a Field Representative for EFC-ER, who is actively planting Evangelical Friends churches in northeast Brazil in partnership with WRI and World Renewal Brazil.

Prayer Room including Prayer Stations, directed by Jen Prickett

– Under the Prayer Room link:

Prayer Room
The Summit Prayer Room will be a station-based worship experience where we invite you to use time and space to listen to God’s Spirit. Through reading, reflection, action, worship and prayer you are welcomed to use solitude to engage God’s Kingdom, Mission and Passion while at Summit.

– Under the Jen Prickett link:

Jen Prickett – Summit Prayer Room Director
Jen Prickett grew up in the community of Rose Drive Friends Church, Yorba Linda, CA and served for seven years in their youth department. She says, “my season there helped me intersect my three big passions of theology, missions, and discipleship.” Jen recently finished an MDiv with an emphasis in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. She is also a part of an intentional community of eight college/post-college students in Pomona, California, attempting to learn how to live openly and simply through spiritual practices and relationships with our community. Jen recently accepted a job serving EFC-SW through helping with the F.E.A.T.S. program (Friends Equipping And Training System). Her hope is to use this role to continue to make biblical and theological training more accessible to our Friends Churches.

Jen says, “If you’re ever in Southern California, I would love to tell you more of my story over a warm cup of fair-trade coffee or on a hike through the San Gabriel foothills. Grace and peace to you all as you savor the Summit experience and find insight and encouragement for a life lived in response to God’s great love.”

Private or group sessions with Summit Spiritual Director David Williams

– Under the Private or group sessions link:

Sign up for time with the Summit 2010 Spiritual Director just outside the Cheyenne Room at the resort.

According to Fil Anderson of Journey Resources, spiritual direction is “the gift to be sensitive, present and supportive to the spiritual journey of another … the director not only gives you direction in your spiritual life along each stage of the journey, but also becomes a soul-friend, a companion on the way.”

As a Summit leadership team, we want you to know that you are not alone on your journey with Jesus. We are here to offer our support as fellow travelers on the way. David Williams, Summit 2010 Spiritual Director, has agreed to make himself available each afternoon during the conference for individual or group spiritual direction.

– Under the David Williams link:

David Williams – Summit 2010 Spiritual Director
David Williams serves as Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministries, College Chaplain, and Director of the Center for Spiritual Renewal at Barclay College in Haviland, Kansas. A graduate of Malone University (BA) and Ashland Theological Seminary (MA), Dave completed his doctorate (DMin) in leadership and spiritual formation at George Fox Evangelical Seminary.

Having served as a youth pastor, family pastor, senior pastor and campus pastor, Dave has been blessed with a wealth of experience in preaching, teaching, discipleship and spiritual direction. A frequent speaker at Christian camps, conferences, retreats and seminars, Dave has a deep passion to raise up workers for the harvest field, encouraging and equipping God’s people for the work of ministry in order to build up the body of Christ and fulfill the Great Commission.

Dave and his wife, Carol, have been blessed with six beautiful children and have been partners together in full-time Christian service throughout their 27 years of marriage. In addition to his love for students, Dave enjoys sports, nature, travel and spending lots of time with his family. When away from home, Dave’s favorite destination is a hiking trail or ski run anywhere above timberline in the Rocky Mountains.

Private or group sessions with Summit Life Issues Coach Tony Wheeler

– Under the Tony Wheeler link:

Dr. Tony Wheeler is an expert on family strengths and family dynamics. He is the Co-Founder of the Dr. John Trent Institute for The Blessing based on the campus of Barclay College in Haviland, KS. Dr. Wheeler has been a counselor for 18 years, a speaker for 14 years and has seen many relationships repaired and individuals healed through his counseling and seminars. He has been married to Stacey for 23 years and they have three children, ages 21, 19, and 15.

The rest of the Summit activities listed on this web page:

EFM Track for Future Career Missionaries Directed by Craig Davis hosted by Gregg Prickett

Friends Ministry and Higher Education display booths

Fair Trade Friends Coffee donated and served at Summit 2010 Coffee House

Express Yourself Art and Creativity Space directed by Doreen Dodgen-Magee

Twitter Wall directed by Josiah Williams

Declaration one.one.eleven directed by Jason Morones

Regarding the youth of the “old fashioned” EFC-ER, many of whom have never been exposed to labyrinth prayer: I have not seen such transparent references to labyrinth prayer, spiritual directors, etc. in the local EFC-ER churches themselves. Why is the EFCI presenting these heresies to the youth of the EFC-ER? This comes across to EFC-ER parents as being underhanded. It appears that EFCI youth leaders and EFC-ER youth leaders know youth are more impressionable than their parents. It appears they are purposedly exposing the youth to labyrinth prayer, etc. when they are away from their local church setting.

Question – do the EFCI and EFC-ER youth leaders seriously believe they are HELPING the youth grow in their Christian faith? Whether the youth leaders believe or it not, nothing could be further from the Truth. I believe the EFCI and EFC-ER youth leaders will be held responsible on Judgment Day – these “pied pipers” are leading undiscerning youth down the broad path to Hell!!

To the leaders of the EFC-ER: do you remember the “good old days” of Quaker Canyon children’s camps and Camp Caesar youth camps? Those were the days of passionate evangelists and gospel preachers, with “The Blood and The Cross” salvation messages (not watered down “seeker sensitive” talks) and altar calls. How far you have fallen – I pray the EFCI and EFC-ER will wake up and see the apostasy before it’s too late.

For further research and leads to Spiritual Formation and Emerging Church connections at the Friends Youth Summit, see the following two webpages:

http://www.friendssummit.com/about-summit/resources
http://www.friendssummit.com/about-summit/seminars

For a critique of Dan Kimball, see:

http://apprising.org/2008/08/25/is-emergent-church-pastor-dan-kimball-really-a-conservative-evangelical/

For a detailed expose of the New Age-ish prayer labyrinth (which by the way quotes Dan Kimball), see:

http://www.inplainsite.org/html/the_labyrinth.html

See also this excellent expose, which includes a discussion of the labyrinth:

http://apprising.org/2010/06/04/mysticism%E2%80%94part-4/

And here is Lighthouse Trails’ commentary on Dan Kimball’s article “A-maze-ing Prayer.” Read it very closely – the discernment author points out many occult aspects of labyrinth prayer:

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/whitingsarticle.pdf
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May 12, 2011: More thoughts on youth groups and youth leaders in the EFCI (and EFC-ER)

One of the issues which makes me most angry is this: when dangerous false teachings are presented to church youth groups. Specifically, Spiritual Formation (with its contemplative practices) and Emerging/ Emergent teachings. I am finding more and more articles on the Internet about such materials being presented to youth groups in various denominations –  often without parents’ prior knowledge or approval. When parents have given permission to be exposed to such teachings, they often haven’t learned of the dangers. They don’t understand the “dark side” of  Spiritual Formation and Emerging/ Emergent teachings their youth will be absorbing.

I’m sure I am making many people in the EFCI angry with my criticisms, but these things need to be said. It is that important – the eternal destiny of souls is at stake.

I grew up in the EFCI (specifically the EFC-ER). I attended Junior FY and Senior FY regularly. I graduated before Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline came out in 1978, so I was never exposed as a youth to Spiritual Formation.

My parents have spent a lifetime in the EFC-ER; my father was a pastor there for many years (off and on). What if I were in today’s younger generation? What if I were attending Junior FY and Senior FY currently?

I saw it right there on the Internet: the EFCI invited every EFC-ER church’s youth group to attend the EFCI Friends Youth Summit 2010. And the EFCI Friends Youth Summit 2010 then exposed them to labyrinth prayer and other contemplative prayer/ contemplative spirituality practices. There is no denying this.

If I had attended the EFCI Friends Youth Summit 2010 and been exposed to its contemplative practices, here’s what I believe would have gone down. I believe my parents would have “yanked me outta” that church, “up and left” the EFCI, and never came back. And, as they found out more about Spiritual Formation and Emerging/Emergent teachings, I believe  they would have spoken out and condemned the EFCI for having any involvement in such things.

This is what I am doing as a member of  “the older generation” – speaking out and condemning the EFCI for having any involvement in such things. Yet I am being criticized for speaking out against what to me and many other concerned Evangelical Friends is so obviously wrong.  Where have we come to in the EFCI (and the EFC-ER), when we as born again, godly evangelicals cannot even speak out against ungodly practices in the denomination?

I know for a fact, there are many parents (particularly in the more biblically “old fashioned” EFC-ER) who would be furious if they understood the dangers of the labyrinth, etc. that were presented to their youth at the Friends Youth Summit 2010.

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