Monday, August 22, 2011

The Buck Stops Here

A few SGM-related thoughts.

In the NHS the highest paid individuals are the Chief Executive, the Board and the consultants. Why? Because they have to carry the responsibility for the well-being of patients. It's often said that the CEO is the one most likely to lose their job in the NHS.

So I don't have a great amount of pity for C J Mahaney. I suspect he is the highest-paid individual in SGM (and that pay hasn't stopped during his 'leave of absence' - unlike Brent Detweiler who faced bankruptcy when his SGM-Board salary was stopped abruptly). He has massive royalties I am sure from his books - including of course, the tome teaching on "Humility" - irony. He is/was the President and he is responsible for the salary he takes. Don't like the heat C J? Take that youth pastor job you kept saying you wanted so badly.

The pity and heartache I have is for in particular Josh Harris but also for the people in SGM. The pressure that Josh Harris must have been under when this blew - and still is - as the man trained up by C J (and reportedly tipped as C J's successor for head of SGM when he retires at 60 - I wonder if that's still the case). Josh took a very bold stance many people felt - honestly admitting his sermon after this on "The Father's Discipline" - stating that God was "spanking SGM". Huge amounts of people in SGM feel he's right - aside from the SGM Board and C J himself clearly.

So in a transcript I was sent from the last Covenant Life Members Meeting I was staggered - to say the least - to read that the reason that C J is going to his friend Mark Dever's church during this leave, is because of the statements that Josh made apparently putting C J in a difficult position. Poor C J! And even better - C J gets to have an "independent mediator" when this is all over - to patch things up with Josh and the CLC pastors who have so upset him. What?! Did the vast amounts of people (myself included) who got kicked out of our SGM churches get to go to the churches of our friends while we were being excommunicated? Did we get paid-for mediators to patch things up? No! We had to take the first step ourselves and go and meet these pastors to achieve the reconciliation we felt God wanted of us.

I must be honest.

C J seems to me to be angry and upset that he has been confronted by the monster authoritarian system he has created. Even his fans (Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan et al) admit there are "issues" in SGM polity - which Josh Harris is seeking bravely to address. C J admits honestly he is "proud" but yet seems to stop short of the issues that it has caused. The heartache and pain for his church. As I understand it - he is still a member of Covenant Life Church and thus under the elders (including Harris). However the increasing number of members of CLC commenting on the various blogs make it clear - CJ isn't regularly seen at CLC and doesn't participate in church life.

I think we must be honest - and leave aside the discussions of Matthew 18, Brent Detweiler and the documents. Because it is a grey area.

The key issue here for me is the hurting people in SGM looking to their leaders for care. The Board seem ridiculously desperate to protect and validate C J as soon as they can manage without public outrage. The so-called "independent panel" hired and paid seem made up of C J fans. The question has got to be - where is the glory to God in this? What does the world think?More importantly what does God think?

C J - you can't cope with the expectation and pressure? Get out of the firing line. Retire. Resign. Give it to Josh Harris who can admit he's got it wrong and is trying. I think anyone can accept honesty and transparency. What we don't like and don't tolerate is someone who takes a fat salary and should take responsibility whining "like a teenager" (Dave Harvey's term for CJ). It's like my consultant surgeon blaming me for mucking up my treatment and care.

As Harry Truman said - "The buck stops here!". Claim leadership of a denomination? You must take the fall when it goes wrong. You don't get "free passes" in the real world! Bad luck C J - you wanted to be head boss? You got it! And the answer isn't to be found by hiding in the church of your mate.


CLCLongtermmember said...


Thanks for this - I have been going to Covenant Life Church since 1995 so am familiar with all the issues you discuss.

Your assessment is pretty spot on - C J and the Mahaney household are certainly no "ordinary" members. They are rarely seen in the church and when they do - seem to be escorted to the front row by their "fans" and rushed out.

Many of the newer members don't really know C J and certainly feel a deep affinity to Joshua rather than the Mahaney line.

As you say - and many of us at CLC agree - he must take the responsibility for what he has set up.

Anonymous said...

So do you not think Josh was unwise in what he said at the most recent Members meeting backtracking on reading the blogs etc?

Seems to me he was caving!

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks both for comments.

Anonymous - I think Joshua is in a very difficult position trying first and foremost to care for the people under his care at CLC. For that he has my lasting respect. I think he has put keeping C J happy as second - quite rightly. After all, C J is still technically under his care too - seeing as "President" is not a role that the Bible recognises.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your point. But don't you think a clear direction would be better? Josh seemed so honest and open at first.

Anonymous said...

Seen this?

C J doesn't look that sad and reflective to me - rather looks like he's enjoying himself.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Anonymous,

I hadn't seen that link. Interesting. Be good to hear the audio sometime and see what he has to say for himself.

CLCLongtermmember said...

I agree. Josh has always been in a very difficult position where he is overawed by Mahaney - whether Mahaney means to or not (I suspect he does - hence his offence at Josh's honesty). I read this in Brent's documents - Volume 1;

(Brent writing);

"I did not include Josh because he asked to be out of theprocess. He no longer wanted to be in a position where had to correct you or beaffected by the things he heard about you. He simply wanted to be mentored by you".

sgmmember said...

This antagonism towards C J really troubles me - has anyone (including you) thought how it must be to have the Brent documents revealed to the world? To have Brent's anger towards him?

Dan Bowen said...

SGMmember -

Thanks for comment and I appreciate you may feel this, but I must disagree with you. Whatever faults Brent may have - his care for C J is not one of them.

This is an email from Brent himself to C J.

Brent Detwiler
Saturday, December 13, 2003 4:20 PM
C.J. Mahaney
Dave Harvey; Steve Shank
RE: Confidential - Compilation of Job Reviews

My dear friend,

You are the only team leader any of us want. No one has any reservationsabout you leading the [upcoming December] retreat.
The evaluations don‘t
disqualify you in the least from leading us now or in the future. We all treasureyour wisdom, count it a great honor to work with you, have great respect foryou, and prize our friendship with you. Really! Written evaluations arehelpful but have limitations.

Please don‘t interpret them too negatively.
We are all for you!!

With much love and regard.

sgmmember said...

Thanks Dan for interacting with me respectfully - I didn't expect that, particularly with someone who has had such a difficult past with = so I am appreciative.

Keith 'Irv' Rushing said...

sgmmember - Have you ever thought about the numbers of men that have been destroyed at the hands of CJ and his board based on the standards and culture of PDI/SGM, that had no avenue to voice a protest or appeal. I have spoken to Brent a number of times and your judgment of him being angry is misplaced. Your judgment could be construed as slander in the SGM world.

Can you also imagine trying to get someone's attention that you respect and who has great respect of the multitudes and who has placed himself above the standards that caused others to be destroyed.

So I ask you - where does someone like Brent go after 10 plus years corporately trying to get CJ's attention without success. And in the process you are removed and slandered. And then another 18 months privately trying to work things through with CJ and the board only being ignored and now being lambasted?

I am concerned that so many like yourself want to marginalize Brent because of the how, and not because of the why? I was never a Brent fan while part of PDI (14 years) but I am a Brent fan now. We have had it out, I understand his heart and his principles and I cannot disagree.

Perhaps it would be good for people to imagine walking in Brent's shoes over the last 12 years and come out of it without bitterness and anger before judging him for what he as done but what he is trying to accomplish to honor and respect the Lord.

Dan Bowen said...


"and who has placed himself above the standards that caused others to be destroyed".

I think you have summed up the key issue with C J Mahaney in one. He has placed himself ABOVE the very standards he has set.

That's it!

sgmmember said...

Hi Keith,

I do hear your points, and apologise for my tone - I got home from work and wrote rather crankily.

Having a night's sleep has made me review this material again and I do see yours/Dan's points.

Many of us in SGM REALLY are trying to think this through. I guess when we have lived in this leader-focused culture for so long, and indeed one where the apostolic team worked together so unilaterally closely (or seemed to - Brent tells us differently) - it's a shock to the system to read otherwise that one's idols have feet of clay.

I still do protest that I WISH these documents didn't have to go public but I am beginning to see that Brent had very little choice other than to send to a "widening circle".

Thanks again for interacting with me.

Dan Bowen said...

SGM member -

I really appreciate (and I'm sure Keith does too) your honesty and humility. Traditionally I've found that SGM/Mahaney fans react very angrily and strongly to any criticism of their house.

If you don't believe me - just look back over some of my old blogs. There's a VERY angry Anonymous regular back there!

What I would want to impress on you, is that I only discuss this because I care deeply about SGM. Not least because my precious family are still members there. Any regular reader of this blog would know I don't talk about things I couldn't care less about!

So please don't take this criticism as anything but concern and care.

Thanks again,