Friday, August 26, 2011

The Report is out on SGM!

The long-awaited report from "Ambassadors of Reconciliation" is out for the SGM Board of Directors. For those who this saga only concerns C J Mahaney's return to public ministry - they will be disappointed. The AoR have left this decision and delegated back to the SGM Board - Dave Harvey - the acting President - accepted this. As I understand it, a panel of a few SGM pastors and one Board member will be called to deal with Mahaney.

I've read the report carefully and find it actually quite encouraging - for two reasons.

One of the key problems with SGM for me has been their reluctance to "pursue reconciliation" with those many who have left or been kicked out of their ranks. The attitude of SGM seems to be "if you've left us - it's your fault". Here's the examples that come to my mind;

1. Larry Tomczak has spent a good part of a decade seeking reconciliation with C J. It was C J who said; "Let's do it!".

2. Brent himself has been reaching out to C J - as I read it, there was no move on C J's part until the documents began coming.

3. The two families from Fairfax Church who suffered awful child abuse had no course but to resort to posting their stories on "SGM Survivors" - granted the church leaders had their "Family Meeting" expressing regret and reaching out recently.

4. My own story was only closed and reconciliation brought thanks to Steve W (my friend from SGM Survivors) moves via Pat Ennis and Bob Kauflin. I had no contact from the UK SGM leaders until I personally emailed Pete Griesley (a now SGM Board member) on the back of Steve's mails.

That is why I am encouraged that the AoR team advise;

"Before engaging the help of other Christians ... we remind the SGM Board members of their biblical responsibilities to INITIATE action for reconciliation ... It does not matter whether we believe we have been sinned against ... or if the other person has something against us - we are to make EVERY effort to make peace.

Note also our responsibility to go and be reconciled is not excused simply because another indicates he does not want to meet".

Interesting - after I wrote to the SGM Board after my "excommunication" detailing my horror at the way I had been treated, I was sent a short note by Dave Harvey devolving all responsibility to Peter Griesley. Peter himself sent me a terse email noting they felt I was "wrong" but they would meet me "if I wished". At the time I was not willing or able to meet any SGM leaders after I had experienced my first (and only I hope) excommunication and informed him so. In Pat Ennis's opinion - that refusal to meet devolved them of all responsibility in my case.

I must note - Peter Griesley has since very graciously apologised for his email which I deeply appreciated.

But I am glad that AoR have noted this as a recommendation. I really hope SGM act on it - I think gestures of reconciliation from the leaders would have healed many past splits far sooner.
They go on regarding reconciliation - this is a REALLY good statement;

"Scripture does not excuse us because we are fearful our words might be twisted. Scripture does not excuse us if we think the other person may not listen. Scripture does not excuse us if the other party has widely shared his complaints against us. Scripture does not excuse us if the whole world has read about the complaints against us in public media ... thus our first counsel to the Board of Directors is to make every effort to "go and be reconciled".

It's good - not just for SGM - but for any Christian who finds themselves split from other fellow Christians. Now I suspect that the "anti-SGM"-ites will seize on "every effort" and be waiting for pounce for giving up in the case of Brent Detweiler. The AoR report doesn't allow that;

"Although we heard from the Board and observed in the documents (Brent's) that C J has made numerous offers to meet with Brent that were not accepted, we were not convinced that every effort to reconcile has been made by the Board".

Even once "every effort" has been exhausted - then the AoR report allows for calling in "others". So - C J Mahaney ... is he or isn't he?

Essentially AoR won't make the decision for SGM (cop-out maybe - some may feel!). But I can understand why they take this step. SGM by-laws state that only Board members may remove a board member (which C J is both President and Chairman). They do suggest a due process to consider this (which Dave Harvey states SGM will accept) which is;

A blind draw to select some SGM pastors and one Board member to decide on C J's eligibility.

Haven't encountered that technique before! But it seems a fair approach. Brent and C J will both be permitted and invited to come and present their cases and steps taken from there. It does seem a bit "one-sided" in terms of Brent appearing before an "SGM" panel - knowing the weight that C J holds over most of SGM. But there will be an "independent facilitator" present (nominated by AoR) who will bring a degree of neutrality which I think is important.

One final point which is VERY important;

"One disappointment for us was the lack of proclaiming God's grace to one another that seems apparent in this dispute".

I am glad this was stated. I read Brent's documents a couple of times and to be honest was left with a rather sour taste in my mouth. These sort of men - C J, Brent - are my heroes. I sometimes day dream about what it would be like spending time with them - being able to email them and so on. The email after email (with the cursory; "Hope you are enjoying God's grace") between the men involved seemed to me to question why we need the devil as an accuser - with all these accusations and counter-accusations.

"When confessions were made (whether orally or in writing) we observed no evidence of proclaiming God's forgiveness to the one who confessed. The Scriptures teach otherwise".

They cite 2 Samuel 12 where Nathan convicts but proclaims forgiveness, Psalm 32:5, Proverbs 28:13, Luke 7:48 (he who is forgiven much loves much) and 1 John 1:9. There is an important discussion to be had (I think) about the "indwelling sin" emphasis but this surely is an essential element that AoR should bring. If you are going to meet in accountability groups and the sorts of things SGM do - at the very least, proclaim forgiveness!

It is done!

I really hope and pray this report brings healing, reconciliation to these dear people and they can learn, grow and get on with planting churches across this much needed desperately dry world. Especially more in the UK!

1 comment:

CLCLongtermmember said...

Thanks Dan for this positive and thoughtful review of the report.