The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) had an historical event yesterday at their bi-annual EFCA One Conference. The churches voted to alter the Statement of Faith. The change comes to article nine, which previously stated:
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
-EFCA Statement of Faith, Article 9
The change is just one word. Instead of saying “we believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ” the Statement of Faith will now say “we believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the process of making this change, the EFCA loses one of its primary theological distinctives: premillennialism.
It’s a move I personally support.
I’m no less premillennial today than I was yesterday. Neither are the people who voted for the change. That’s part of the irony. People who are premillennial took premillennialism out of the Statement of Faith. And many in the EFCA are staunchly premillennial. Yet they also had the wisdom to realize that it didn’t need to be an issue that needed to cause division. It doesn’t need to be an issue that keeps God-honoring, Bible believing pastors from serving in the EFCA and pursuing ordination.
The EFCA was founded in 1950. When the denomination was founded, premillennialism was enshrined in the Statement of Faith. That statement remained unchanged until 2008. There was already support within the denomination to remove premillennialism from the Statement of Faith in 2008, but for various reasons, they didn’t have enough support to make the change.
But momentum grew over the last 11 years. Yesterday, the vote overwhelmingly passed by 79 percent.
Certainly you can still be premillennial in your theology within the EFCA. The difference is that the EFCA is now open to other views (notably amillennialism and postmillennialism). One area of agreement between a, pre, and post millennialism is that they all believe in a literal, bodily return of Christ.
The fact that premillennialism was a distinctive of the EFCA, in my view, was not a good enough reason to keep that part of the Statement of Faith.
I love the EFCA. I’ve attended EFCA churches in four states. I went to the EFCA seminary (America’s best seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). I’ve served in an EFCA church. And as someone who loves the EFCA, I believe that one of the greatest strengths of this denomination is its Statement of Faith. And it is for that reason that I’m happy to see this change.
I think the EFCA has a great Statement of Faith because I feel like it gets at the heart of the most essential doctrinal issues: the Trinity, the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the inerrancy of scripture, to name a few. People in the EFCA pride themselves on saying we “major in the majors.”
But really, it was “major in the majors*”
*and premillennial theology.
With the change, I now feel that the EFCA is a denomination which truly majors int he majors. Theologically, the EFCA has always been a big tent. It’s a denomination that puts out the truly essential aspects of the Christian faith in their Statement of Faith.
I don’t know anyone in the EFCA who believes that a premillennial eschatology was essential to salvation or being obedient to the commands of Christ. For the reason, I don’t believe a millennial theological position belongs in a Statement of Faith. It’s not that the issue is unimportant. It’s just that it’s not all-important. It’s a secondary issue.
EFCA doesn’t take official stances on theological issues such as infant and believers baptism. EFCA doesn’t take a position on Calvinism and Arminianism. Important issues. But not gospel-defining issues. Neither is the millennium. That’s why I’m happy to see this move.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.