Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Church Membership: Any Exemptions?

The SGM story continues to evolve in it's bumpy manner.

I think one of the difficulties here is that the Word of God does not lay down specific instructions for every event that the church may meet. Rather it lays down guidelines - but just as importantly the Holy Spirit has fallen upon His church and inspires, guides, empowers and prompts the servant ministries that the risen Christ has given. Word and Spirit are both needed to stave off disaster!

The SGM family (especially those at Covenant Life Church) seem to be incredibly upset by the decision that C J Mahaney made to not continue attending CLC but instead go to his friend Mark Dever's church nearby in Washington. Here's a comment from the SGM blog from an CLC member;


Andrew, CJ is a member of CLC, and part of the membership agreement states that you will regularly attend YOUR church. I can understand if you wanted to go to a Sunday night meeting at another church, but to leave the church you are a member of to attend another church full time is against the membership agreement. CJ is supposedly bound by the same agreement as the other members of the church. If not, please explain why. If the pastors agreed to him leaving CLC and attending another church then they should have asked for him to resign his membership at CLC. No partiality, no "unique circumstances". CJ is as accountable to Josh as I am. If he doesn't like the way Josh is handling the situation then he is free to leave and move his membership elsewhere, just as his sons have. I am really growing weary of the doublespeak coming out of SGM. Let CJ stand or fall on the system he has created over the last 30 plus years.

The "unique situation" that SGM's Director of Comms refers to is the fact that C J has made this decision by himself (although with "support" from the SGM Board). What is clear in the comments is the issue here is one of authority.

Namely - who covers C J? He is not a pastor. He is a member of CLC. Therefore technically (as Brent Detweiler has consistently argued) C J is under the authority of the Covenant Life pastors. However he does not seem to be acting as though he appreciates that authority and is responding to their guidance and advice. Does the "President and Chairman" then have any form of accountability?

Who knows the right answer - and indeed who has the clout to make C J Mahaney do what they feel is best? He doesn't seem to be a chap who responds well to correction and advice if he doesn't want to do it. I do think the issue here is consistency and justice. Namely;

If an ordinary member of an SGM church was in trouble of some sort (we all agree Mahaney is not under disciplinary action) then would they have the freedom to go to another non-SGM church for a bit if they felt like it?

All my SGM friends are very clear (and my experience matches this). If you miss one Sunday you may get away with it but if you start missing regular Sundays then you will be called to account as to your whereabouts. So if SGM members can't get away with this - then should C J?


Keith 'Irv' Rushing said...

Doesn't sound like CJ is doing his part in making his pastor's job a joy?

Dan Bowen said...

I fear C J isn't making anyone's life a joy at the moment!