Evangelical Free Church of America
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2014)|
|Evangelical Free Church of America|
EFCA – Multiplying Healthy Churches Among All People
|Associations||National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability|
|Merge of||Swedish Evangelical Free Church and Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Free Church Association|
|Members||358,416 (weekly attendance)|
The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) is an evangelical Christian denomination. The EFCA was formed in 1950 from the merger of the Swedish Evangelical Free Church and the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Free Church Association.
The Swedish Evangelical Free Church formed as the Swedish Evangelical Free Mission in Boone, Iowa, in October 1884. Several churches that had been members of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Ansgar Synod and the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Synod, along with some independent congregations, were instrumental in organizing this voluntary fellowship. In the same year, two Norwegian-Danish groups in Boston, Massachusetts, and Tacoma, Washington, began to fellowship together. By 1912, they had formed the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Free Church Association. The Swedish and Norwegian-Danish bodies united in June 1950 at a merger conference held at the Medicine Lake Conference Grounds near Minneapolis, Minnesota. The two bodies represented 275 local congregations at the time of the merger.
The EFCA shares some early ties with those who formed the Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church. It has been a member of the National Association of Evangelicals since 1943, the year after that organization was formed.
In its Statement of Faith, the Evangelical Free Church of America affirms the authority and inerrancy of the Bible; the Trinity; atonement through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; original sin; Christ as head of the church and the local church's right to self government; the personal, premillennial, imminent return of Christ; the bodily resurrection of the dead; and the two ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's Supper. In addition, the church claims six distinctives:
- Inclusive not exclusive: Believers are united in Christ by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; unity on every fine point of doctrine is not required in order to become a member of the denomination
- Evangelical, but not separatistic: Has a strong commitment to the authority and inerrancy of scripture, but does not over-emphasize minor issues of doctrine
- Ecumenical in spirit, but not in structure: The church is united spiritually in Christ, but need not be united structurally
- Affirms Christian liberty with responsibility and accountability
- Believes that both sound Christian doctrine and an active relationship with God are essential to the life of the believer
- Committed to a congregational form of church government
The EFCA passed a substantial revision to its Statement of Faith on June 26, 2008, the first revision since the Statement was first adopted in 1950. This revision was proposed in order “to update archaic language, to clarify some theological ambiguities, to seek greater theological precision, to address new issues, to have a SOF that would be better suited to be used as a teaching tool in our churches.” Specific beliefs based on biblical interpretation can vary somewhat due to the congregational governance system that gives autonomy to individual local EFCA churches.
The word Free in the Evangelical Free Church's name refers to its congregational polity, meaning each member church is autonomous. The governing body of the EFCA is the Leadership Conference held annually. Delegates to the conference are credentialed ministers, chaplains, tenured university faculty, and representatives of each EFCA church. The Leadership Conference elects the board of directors which acts as the governing body between Leadership Conference meetings. As chair of the Directional Team, the President coordinates the work of the various national boards and ministries. The office of the President has responsibility for reviewing the licensing and ordaining of ministers and, in addition, oversees the discipline and restoration process for pastors.
The EFCA is divided into 17 regional districts which, among other responsibilities, examines and approves applicants for ordination. The denomination maintains headquarters in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, and engages in ministries in education, publications, senior housing, children's homes, and camp facilities. The EFCA supports the mission of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois; Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, California; and supports Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
The Evangelical Free Church is a member of the International Federation of Free Evangelical Churches.
The EFCA has experienced tremendous growth since its formation in 1950, at which time there were 20,000 members and under 300 congregations. By the 1980s there were over 800 congregations and over 100,000 members. In 2003, the Association reported 300,000 members in over 1,400 congregations. In 2010, the EFCA reported a weekly attendance of 357,709 in 1,480 congregations. As of 2000, California had the largest number of congregations with 175. However, membership is primarily concentrated in the Midwest.
- Walter Kaiser, Jr., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary President Emeritus and Old Testament professor
- Chuck Swindoll, Dallas Theological Seminary former president
- Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the U.S. Representative for Washington's 5th congressional district since 2005.
- Tina Wesson, winner of Survivor: The Australian Outback, is a member and occasional speaker.
- About the EFCA: Statistics. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- About the EFCA: Our History. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- EFCA Statement of Faith. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- About the EFCA: Distinctives. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- EFCA: Resources for Statement of Faith Transition. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- Strand, Greg. EFCA Statement of Faith: Introduction. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- About the EFCA: Who We Are. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- About the EFCA: Our Structure. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- About the EFCA: Office of the President. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- Steps Toward Credentialing, page 2. January 2000. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- "Historic Archive CD and Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
- "2000 Religious Congregations and Membership Study". Glenmary Research Center. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
- "FIFTH DISTRICT". Official Congressional Directory. 2011.
- Encyclopedia of American Religions, J. Gordon Melton, editor
- Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood
- Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States (2000), Glenmary Research Center
- This Is the Evangelical Free Church. Minneapolis, Minn.: Evangelical Free Church of America, [199-]. Without ISBN