Remembering our history

A Significant Gathering

Reflections on the 1983 EFCA national conference.

In one month, the EFCA will gather in Fullerton, California for EFCA One. Over the years, the national conference has changed. In 1983, the conference was held at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, oriented around the theme “Believers Only, All Believers,” reflecting who we are as a church body. 

The 1983 conference was the 99th year of the EFCA and many were anticipating the centennial in 1984. The original pulpit and two of the pulpit chairs from the first Norwegian Free Church in Boston were on display—and remain in the EFCA Archives today.

The pulpit from the first Norwegian Free Church in Boston, at the EFCA Archives
The pulpit from the first Norwegian Free Church in Boston, at the EFCA Archives

In his plenary message, Dr. Arnold T. Olson shared, “He (Jesus) is the rock on which the Church is built…the price Christ paid for the Church was Himself, it is His Church. There are churches to which the lordship of Christ is merely a beautiful slogan.”

He also said, “Here on this earth is where you learn to sing the song of heaven. If you don’t learn it here, you’ll never sing it up there. It will be believers only, but all believers!”

President Tom McDill emphasized the critical importance of prayer as we seek revival and movement forward.

At the 1983 gathering, the conference approved a partnership plan, releasing all the Free Churches in Canada to form their own Evangelical Free Church denomination. This actually occurred in 1984, and to this day, the EFCA and the EFCC remain closely connected sister denominations with a common border.

Additionally, the EFCA decided to reintegrate Trinity College into the denomination because it was evident that the college and the movement needed each other. This decision was also actualized in 1984.

You can check out other highlights of the 1983 conference here.

Tom Cairns

Tom Cairns is the archivist for the EFCA. A physician who worked for 19 years in Congo, Tom later served as director of international ministries for the EFCA mission, now known as ReachGlobal. Since retirement, Tom enjoys sharing stories about the history of the EFCA, answering questions from our churches and helping the churches with their own stories. He also uploads our historical books, photos and documents to our archive website. Tom’s great desire is to bring glory to God as we celebrate the history we have in the EFCA.

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