Engaging Biblical Diversity

A church must be intentional if it is to fully embrace the idea that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, barbarian or free, as the apostle Paul wrote. Bill Hamel (MDiv ‘72), president of the Evangelical Free Church of America has been intentional.

In the 14 years that he has been president of the Evangelical Free Church, Hamel has sought to continue the work of his predecessor in making the denomination look like the country it is a part of. “I can buy into that,” he says. “That’s been a focus for the EFCA.”

It’s also a passion for Hamel, who grew up among church-goers who had trouble understanding the idea of biblical diversity. “I grew up under the homogenous unit principle,” he says. “We are homogeneous.”

But that is changing. Hamel and the rest of the EFCA leadership have taken specific steps to embrace the role of minorities and other ethnicities within the denomination. Through the church’s reconciliation ministry, urban and intercultural ministries, as well as its missions outreach, the face of the EFCA is changing.

“One of fastest growing groups in the Free Church is Hispanic churches,” Hamel says. “When you have a critical mass at leadership level, it makes it feel like this is a place where different ethnicities will feel at home.” The EFCA intentionally sought to increase minority representation in the leadership so that they were at least 20 percent. “If the leadership buys into it,” he says, “people will trust us.”

Hamel says the most important thing as the EFCA embraces the idea of biblical diversity is that the church is grounded in Scripture. “In the Free Church, you have got to be biblically accurate. If you can show biblically why this is right, the Free Church will go with you.”

To that end, Hamel has worked with professors at Trinity to better understand the issues from a biblical perspective and to learn how to successfully move the denomination forward. As part of that effort, the church is engaged this week in “Almost Heaven: Together Reaching All People.”

“We want to learn from students and faculty,” Hamel says. “We want to expand the kingdom, and we’re open to having students join with us in that, whether they are lay leaders, pastors, or missionaries.”

During the week, students will have the opportunity to hear from a number of EFCA leaders working toward reaching all people. Ministry leaders on campus include:

  • Dante Upshaw, African-America Ministries
  • Dr. Alejandro Mandes, Hispanic Ministries & GATEWAY training for leaders
  • George Klippenes, StartChurches Church Planting Ministries
  • Jackie Redmond, RESOUND Women’s Ministries
  • Chris Holck, EFCA ENCORE, Ministry to 50+ adults
  • Shane Stacey, ReachStudents Ministries
  • David Park, Asian-American Ministries
  • Alvin Sanders, Reconciliation & Holistic Ministries
  • Greg Carlson & Fritz Dale, Family & Children’s Ministries

The schedule for the rest of the week includes:

Wednesday, January 26

  • Sem. Student Interview Day
  • College chapel with Michael Card
  • RN Directors/Seminary class participation
  • 11-1pm Affinity Group Lunches-Melton Hall for college and seminary students

Thursday, January 27

  • RN Director/Seminary class participation
  • 11-11:50am Seminary Chapel with Michael Card
  • 12-1pm Michael Card Speaker Brown Bag Lunch Reception for seminary students in Hinkson Hall
  • Concert of Prayer-college and seminary students – planning with David Whited and Michael Card