Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An Important Update from Covenant Life Church

What I love about the Covenant Life Pastors (especially Josh Harris) is that they are TRULY humbly acknowledging a need for God during these times. The SGM Board seem to me to be saying the right words - but it doesn't quite ring true. Backed up of course by C J Mahaney's rather haughty proud words at the recent Leader's Conference (as the CLC pastors state - concerned them too).

November 22nd 2011

A Church Family Update

The following letter was e-mailed to all church members today. We hope everyone is served by us being redundant and posting it here as well.

Dear Covenant Life Church,

Grace to you from your brothers on the pastoral team. We’re writing to give a “family update” on recent events, including the Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference earlier this month. We also want to thank you for your ongoing prayers and expressions of encouragement to us.


First, our team, led by Kenneth Maresco, is working hard on a draft of our new church constitution. This is a top priority. This past week Kenneth, Corby Megorden and Ben Wikner, accompanied by three church members, visited CrossWay Community Church, in Bristol, Wis., where Mike Bullmore is senior pastor, to learn more about their constitution, attend an elders meeting, and discuss how the involvement of lay pastors (or elders) works there. Mike and his team have been good friends for many years, and we’re grateful for their help and counsel.

A Letter to the Churches

Before the Pastors Conference, the Sovereign Grace Board sent a letter to all the pastors of SGM sharing their disagreement and concerns regarding the content of our church’s October 30 Members Meeting. (If you would like to read the letter, let us know, and we’ll be happy to send you a copy.) The Board had informed us several weeks before that they might send out a letter stating their disagreements with our leadership over the past few months, so this wasn’t a surprise for us.

We don’t feel it’s wise to engage in a “back and forth” of letters at this time, and so we are not currently planning to respond to their letter. We stated our areas of disagreement clearly at our last Members Meeting, and we will keep communicating where we differ, with love and respect. We don’t want to make an issue of the Board sending this letter to SGM pastors—in fact, we are in favor of more open communication between the churches in the future. A number of SGM pastors have told us they were grateful to be able to read and better understand our position.

C.J.’s Comments

One of the most significant moments of the Pastors Conference was when C.J. shared with all the pastors and wives about what he’s learned during his Leave of Absence (LoA).

Our pastoral team was disappointed by the tone and posture of C.J.’s remarks, and we feel strongly that it’s appropriate for you to read them, because they reflect apparent changes in his thinking about his LoA and his confession to our congregation at the July 10 Members Meeting.

We understand that a number of you have read the remarks online (they have been published on at least two blogs) and found them troubling as well. We’ve asked the SGM Board to make the audio and/or transcript of this session readily available to our church, but we have not heard back as of this writing. We look forward to sharing our thoughts with C.J. and the SGM Board directly and hearing from the Board on whether they support C.J.’s statements.

SGM Polity

Another important session at the Pastors Conference was when Jeff Purswell presented a preliminary draft of the SGM Partnership Agreement, a document designed to define the relationship of SGM to its member churches. There were encouraging signs of a degree of forward progress, but on certain significant points this draft is nearly identical to the Partnership Agreement currently in effect. Since our future relationship with SGM would be spelled out in this agreement, we were particularly interested to see the section that addresses the accountability of the SGM Board. However, that language had not yet been drafted.

We are hoping to have a meeting with Jeff and John Loftness soon (along with other pastors in our region) to share our questions, clarify statements Jeff made at the conference, and better understand the Board’s thoughts about reform. Jeff made it very clear that he was presenting only a draft and that the SGM Board is inviting input. We are grateful for this invitation and look forward to more dialogue with the Board and other SGM pastors.

Panel Review

We’ve been informed that the three panels, each comprised of two SGM pastors and one SGM board member (for a description, see the “Pastoral review” section of this blog post on the SGM website), have been constituted and will immediately begin to evaluate the documents written by Brent Detwiler. We understand that the panels will not only be evaluating C.J.‘s fitness for the role of President but also concerns for Sovereign Grace as a whole. The panels are scheduled to complete their process and publish their findings sometime in December. We do not know which men are on these panels, since the SGM board has decided to keep their identities confidential until the panels’ work is complete. Please pray for this work. Please pray, too, for Kenneth, Grant and Josh, as they have been asked to appear and be interviewed.

In Summary

Statements made at the Pastors Conference and the letter from the SGM Board have served to heighten our concerns about the direction of SGM, and consequently, our church’s partnership with SGM going forward. However, we feel that more conversation and dialogue are needed to both honor our long history together and love these men as brothers.

We will keep pressing for clear accountability for the board, clarification of the nature of the partnership between SGM and its member churches, and due process for the charges and criticisms SGM has received. We also believe it’s important to allow time for other SGM pastors to share their concerns with the Board, to wait for reports from the three panels (due in December), and to see how the AoR Group Reconciliation report (due in March) will be processed. We don’t feel rushed to make a decision about our long-term partnership right now. We also want to put to rest any rumors that staying in SGM somehow jeopardizes our staff or facility. The SGM board would not desire to remove our pastors or take our building or anything of the kind, even if they had that authority.

For all of these reasons, we’re continuing a course of deliberate, prayerful evaluation.

Evaluating Giving

We have had an initial conversation with our Financial Advisory Board (made up of four members) to discuss the level of our giving to SGM. We plan to have a further meeting and involve additional members in this decision. We will keep you updated on our progress.

Worth Reviewing

A lot of information has been flying around these past few months. If you find yourself confused by what the real issues are, we would encourage to you to re-read and re-listen to the following things:

1. May 22 Members Meeting

This meeting was the first public step in our local church walking a path of repentance. In this meeting we identified some key areas we’ve gotten wrong as pastors. Reviewing this meeting can help remind us that the problems in SGM are also problems in our church that we need to continue to humbly address.

2. July 10 Sunday Sermon

This sermon (from the weekend after Brent Detwiler’s documents were first released) is a call for our church to view this trial as an expression of God’s loving, fatherly discipline.

We still believe this is the posture we should take as a church. Instead of dismissing problems or defending ourselves, let’s ask the Lord to refine us and reform us.

3. October 30 Members Meeting

This meeting laid out a clear vision for where we are going as a local church—greater partnership between pastors and members in advancing the gospel. We want to be “Jesus-ruled, pastor-led and congregationally accountable.” We also laid out specific points of disagreement with the SGM Board and concerns we have regarding our partnership with Sovereign Grace.

In Conclusion

Thank you for your faith in God and your prayers for Covenant Life. Thanks, too, for your frequent words of encouragement. God is at work in our church. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on him. If you find your soul troubled and anxious, remember Philippians 4:6-8:

… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Let’s continue to wait on him and trust in him.


Your pastors (and brothers)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Great News! Terry Virgo to speak at Covenant Life Church

I was really encouraged to hear from a friend of mine at Covenant Life Church - Terry Virgo is to speak there in December! (Josh Harris has also tweeted this). We knew that this was very possible. In that memorable week in July when all this broke out - Terry was hosting the "Together on a Mission" conference in Brighton and mentioned he would be visiting "a church in difficulty" in Washington D.C - so I hoped it would be C.L.C.

The ex-SGM'ers all hold Terry in high regard. As they said quite rightly - Terry hasn't seemed to have much to do with SGM for a number of years now. The last time C J Mahaney attended the Brighton Leaders conference was back in 2005 - six years ago.

Whatever the reason for this - I am sure that Terry will bring a pastoral, prophetic word that will comfort and encourage the dear folk at Covenant Life Church and the leadership. Terry spoke recently about leadership in transition and said;

"The Bible consistently shows God’s chosen leaders having encounters with Him and being commissioned by Him. Leaders live in the tension between the present and the future. Abraham’s heart was gripped by a vision of the city of God which was so powerful that it forced him to leave Ur. As Abraham erected his tent in the desert we can imagine Sarah asking, ‘Where is this city that you claim to have seen?’ They were living in a tent because Abraham had seen a city!".

I think that's the aching need for Sovereign Grace at the moment. They've lost their vision. They are so busy squabbling and in-fighting that there is no question as to "Where are we going?". While Mahaney and Harvey bear responsibility for this - I hope that CLC will get some vision from this visit of Terry's!

Care of our Loving God

One of the problems (self inflicted I know!) that I'm going through at the moment is that due to the hectic nature of my work at the hospital, I foolishly let my prescription for anti-depressants expire. As I'm on an increased dose, there are inevitable side effects to coming off them suddenly for a week and a half. One is exhaustion and fatigue and the other is the return of worry, anxiety etc. Fortunately I went back to my GP and am safely back on them so hoping this period of worry will settle.

I was lying awake last night with insomnia (I think that's the word) trying to control my anxious thoughts and a beautiful chorus came to my mind which I tried to keep singing and focus on. I love Darlene Zschech for this!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SGM Board Members Excommunicating Comments

Many of us, I think, rather hope that the word "excommunication" is just a bit of hyperbole. They may have heard (like me) the word used on some of the anti-SGM blogs and thought it won't really happen. Well it did. Crossway church (home of SGM Board member Mickey Connolly) held a public members meeting and very publicly excommunicated Brent Detweiler.

I'm staggered. And I would be very scared if I was an SGM member.

Here's the comments (with some of Brent's commentary in brackets);

“Now here is the last thing that we want to talk about. What are we going to do? John Murray says “the injunction component of an error of such character, they are to mark the proponents so as to avoid them and they are to turn away from them.” From our biblical study, which we have presented to you tonight, and our prayerful perspective, we believe, sadly, that Brent clearly fits the definition of a man who is causing divisions and because of his refusal to cease has the potential to cause even further division and therefore must be marked as divisive. We are certainly not called to debate and dialogue endlessly with such a person [Endlessly? They won’t even allow one meeting with objective evaluators. Like C.J., they have slammed the door on any kind of adjudication hearing. Under the threat of being divisive, they are preventing anyone from hearing my concerns, all of which they have repeatedly rejected. They are the sole arbitrators of truth.]

So what I am asking you to do as a church is to avoid him as long as he engages in this behavior: gossip, slander, scoffing, mocking and a refusal to meet with those involved to work things out [I have shared concerns for 5½ years. I just talked to Mickey in person on August 24. He was immovable and maintained his sinless perfection. I am very willing to meet with the pastors but others must be present. They won’t allow this arrangement.]. These things are clearly contrary to the sound teaching of Scripture. Having nothing more to do with him, or avoiding him, would include not discussing these things with him personally, reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook. That means you have to defriend him to avoid the temptation, do that, or following the story on anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs. By the way, I recognize that many [How many? I doubt anywhere close to a majority. Hype?] of you are already doing this or haven’t done this at all. So I want to be clear! Not discussing this with him personally. Not reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook or following the story on the anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs. [This sounds like the kind of censorship that occurs in China, Iran and North Korea. Mickey is commanding abject ignorance.]

“If you are exposed to rumors or slander [Of course, there is no chance you might be exposed to the truth in the form of facts, evidence and witnesses.] please come and talk to me or one of the other pastors personally, please. [So they can straighten you out.] We want to talk to you, we want to hear you. If you have a charge that you’d like to bring against me or any of the other elders here then do it in accordance with 1 Timothy 5:19-21 [People have brought charges but they have been dismissed.] Do not spread those charges to others or publish them on public documents. [In other words, if you think Mickey acted in a heavy handed way during this public meeting you may not tell anyone. And take note, if you share anything negative about the pastors with anyone, in any fashion, you too are in danger of being “marked.” For over a decade, I shared my “charges” in private regarding C.J. He responded in abusive ways. I exhausted every possible remedy before I went public. The same thing is happening at CW.]

“So here is the key question, really, of all of this. It is a question that some of you have asked. If I don’t read this stuff how can I be informed? [You can’t because Mickey is not going to be open and honest with you or allow for public questions or criticisms.] How do I know that you aren’t telling me not to read these things because of what the blog says. So Mickey, isn’t this just a ploy to avoid having your sins uncovered. [He doesn’t answer this question. By shutting down all dissent and accountability, Mickey is effectively covering up his sins and those of C.J. and the SGM Board. Mickey’s stated approach does not allow for an organization like Ambassadors of Reconciliation to come and adjudicate my serious concerns for him. Neither does his understanding of eldership allow for the appointment of men from the church to hear and weigh my charges.] Well, let me say something please here. First, you have to answer this. Is what Brent is publishing and saying; gossip, slander, and scoffing? Does it fit that category? [No, it doesn’t fit these categories. Half the time, I am quoting C.J. or others. They indict themselves. I’ve repeatedly addressed this issue at That is one reason why Mickey doesn’t want you to read my writings.] And if it is how do you biblically justify dividing? [You mean exposing serious pride, error, hypocrisy, favoritism, deceit, manipulation, lording, etc.] How do you justify reading gossip, slander and scoffing? [You mean documented accounts and primary sources.] And I would also tell you is being informed a higher value than being biblically right. [Here’s Mickey’s theology: biblically right = total ignorance.]

Secondly, I want you to know that I understand the question and in some ways there is only one answer [get ready] I can give you and it is this. You need to decide whether you trust your pastors. You need to decide, I can’t decide that for you. I can’t tell you what to do here. I can tell you what the Bible says. I can tell what the Bible commands. I can tell you what commentators say. I can’t tell you what to do here. You need to decide whether you are going to trust your pastors. I’ve never asked you to trust me blindly. Never. You have to examine my life and examine the life of these other pastors. The way we’ve lived, the way we’ve served you, the way we’ve taught you, the way we’ve cared for you. You have to examine our lives and have to answer that question. You have to decide do you want to trust us. [Mickey believes he is worthy of unqualified trust because of his exemplary life, service, teaching and pastoral care. No one deserves this kind of trust except Jesus Christ. Mickey’s extremely high opinion of himself translates into a demand for unconditional followership. That’s what happens when you claim perfection. You universally trust yourself and so should everyone else.]

“Do you trust that if charges ever were brought that the other pastors would impartially hear those charges and act according to 1 Timothy 5. [Absolutely not. They’ve defended Mickey’s sinlessness at every point.] Do you trust your pastors! That is really the key question that we are facing here tonight. And I want to let you know something. We can’t function without your trust. If I ever lose the trust of this church I will resign that very day. I can’t function without your trust. I can’t function without your trust [At no point in Mickey’s message does he qualify his request for trust. It is absolute. Complete. Unconditional. This is more than an oversight. Under these circumstances, he should be telling the church he is a sinful man, made mistakes, needs to change and understands why it is hard to trust him. Instead, he demands total trust and obedience which he assumes he warrants. There is no self-suspicion.]

“That is the great horror of gossip and slander and divisiveness. It fosters suspicion. It fosters mistrust. Mistrust and suspicious divide. [The exposing of major problems in SGM is a service to the entire movement. Division comes from its leaders who are unwilling to humble themselves, make public confessions, right wrongs, or identify individual and corporate sins. Instead they call good, evil; and evil, good. The charges against C.J. and SGM are serous and widespread and come from hundreds/thousands of people.] We cannot function without your trust. I am not going to publicly defend myself. I am not going to publish documents to present my case to a wider audience. As I’ve said, if you hear rumors, I want you to come and ask me about those rumors. But I am not going to publish documents, I am not going to present my case to a wider audience. [Honestly, it would be a losing cause if Mickey did and I think he knows it. This may sound humble but it is another way to avoid accountability. Not only will Mickey avoid a “wider audience,” he is going to avoid any audience. Only the pastors will know and decide anything from within the fortress that have erected.] I will not defend myself at Brent’s or anyone else’s expense by revealing private conversations and I will not put anyone else in a bad light and put myself in a good light. [This one makes me laugh since the whole evening was about putting me in a bad light and him in a good light.]

“I’ve appealed to Brent privately [so have I with Mickey] and will continue to do so but I will not tear down Brent to defend myself. [Of course not, let’s not tear Brent down. That would be terrible. Just mark him as divisive, make a bogus case against him in his absence, refuse any kind of adjudication, and tell all his friends at CrossWay to cut off their relationship with him.] I realize this puts me at a disadvantage which is another reason I so need your trust. This isn’t just about me, it is about us. Joe said this week this is a potentially polarizing moment for this church. I think it is also a potentially uniting moment for this church.

“I have a sincere desire that all of you stay [brace yourself for the worse part]. I can’t tell you how much it hurts this old pastor’s heart to have even one person leave this church. I never have been able to take that easily and I hope I never will. I have a sincere desire that you all stay and that this would not divide us. I am not naïve. I am not naïve. If you can’t stay here in good conscience. If you can’t trust your pastors, you need to leave. You need to go. [So if you have questions about your pastors’ character or actions, pack your bags. Mickey doesn’t like problems or conflicts. So just leave.] Please don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying, “Get out!” or “You’re kicked out!” [Really? Thanks for the clarification. Guess, I missed something.] I am not saying that at all. What I am saying very simply is this. If you cannot trust your pastors, if you cannot obey your pastors and what we are asking you to do biblically then you need to find another church because we cannot function without your trust. [In other words, if you don’t cut off your relationship with me, if continue to read my blog, if you don’t defriend me on Facebook and stop reading my comments, you MUST leave CrossWay and find another church. There is absolutely no alternative. So if you stay, you must stick you head in the sand and unconditionally trust, obey and honor the pastors as though they were Jesus.] You can’t follow pastors you don’t trust. [This is not biblical trust. This is mindless submission.] You can’t honor pastors that you are willing to have slandered. [Everything is slander. Defend to the death.] And that you’re willing to go and seek out slander about. [That means, don’t look for objective answers.] You can’t do that. [Yes, you must go out and discover and discern the truth when your pastors are not open and honest, are not accountable, won’t allow for an objective evaluation, claim to be perfect, misapply Scripture, abuse critics, and rule over you like demagogues.]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Slander" and it's Punishment

One of the more chilling statements made in C J Mahaney's "Coming Home" speech at the recent SGM conference was this promise;

I think the days ahead are going to require more discernment as it relates to the identification of slander and the influence of slander in our churches. I think the days ahead are going to require courage on the part of pastors and when necessary publicly identify those who are divisive

Like their enthusiastic use of the word "excommunication", I think we MUST persist in calling such leaders to account for their use of the word "slander". These words are significant because they give power to the leaders to discipline the SGM members and "publicly identify" (name and shame" anyone who may express disagreement with the leaders! This is simply wrong!

What does the word "slander" mean? Here are a few dictionary definitions;

" ... is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published. It is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed".

Key words; "implied to be factual". And "usually a requirement that this claim be false".

"In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false, not specific enough to verify and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images".

Publicly stated. And false. And often; "Not specific enough to verify". The Brent Detweiler documents have been MORE than specific. In the case of Brent Detweiler vs C J Mahaney - he has repeatedly pleaded with the SGM Board to PROVE that his claims are false. They haven't done so. Furthermore if there was ANY suggestion that Brent's claims were false - do the SGM Board not have enough finances behind them to pursue a "cease and desist" claim through the courts - which there is also no hint of them doing so?

Brent posted some email exchanges with the leadership of Crossway. Apparently they are STILL resolute on "excommunicating him" - as per instructions by C J Mahaney. He mailed them and pleaded with them to reconsider. But in true SGM resolve - Mickey Connolly (for more on him - see his interview with C J Mahaney and his fawning over Mahaney's "humble" example) emailed back and said;


We have heard and considered your appeal but continue to believe we stand on firm biblical ground to proceed".

This so reminded me of the absolute no budging attitude of the SGM leaders in my case. It scared me silly how utterly inflexible they are. Where is the attitude that Paul the apostle COMMANDS in Galatians;

"He who is sin - such a one should be restored gently".

Gentle? No attitude can be further from what I see in some of SGM. And what I find even more hypocritical is that Mickey Connolly was the selected SGM Board Member to introduce the Ambassadors of Reconciliation seminar at the conference.

What occurs to me is this - what do non-Christians think of this behaviour? What non-Christians in their right minds are going to what to join a church under leadership like Mickey Connolly or C J Mahaney - knowing that any hint of divisiveness and they could be excommunicated and have their lives ruined at the whim of a pastor? Amusingly enough who describe themselves as a church "enjoying His grace". What grace?!

I find it even more incredible I believed the SGM Board member in the UK who assured me that the "legalistic authoritarian" men had left SGM with Brent Detweiler and I believed the flagship church in the UK was truly one of grace and compassion and openness.

I still believe passionately in His Church - because He said He would build His church and the gates of hell would not stand against it! But I am struggling to keep believing in the future of SGM.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Transcript Of C.J. Mahaney’s Remarks At The Sovereign Grace Ministries 2011 Pastors Conference

Many know that my attention (while not at work) has been taken up with observing SGM and it's leadership challenges since July. Why? Because I endured 2 years in membership there and because my family still do. So this particular Pastors Conference is of special interest.

Here is the transcript of C J Mahaney's remarks to the gathered pastors. Make of it what you will. My friend Kris organised the transcript and included her comments;

(John Loftness speaking:

I am here right now to give some context before CJ comes to give an update from his leave of absence. More than four months ago CJ volunteered to take this leave. The board decided to expand the board of three men by having all of the regional leaders in SG – I am one of those leaders – and so suddenly in a day I was transformed into a board member. I’ve known CJ for 33 years.

Since leaving CLC and moving to Solid Rock four years ago our friendship has only deepened though we don’t see each other as much as we once did. I give you that background because of our history because the board asked me to serve as a liaison with CJ so he could get appropriate updates of our work and developments that might affect him. The board also thought it was wise and helpful if CJ could receive pastoral care from someone who knew him well and was familiar with all that was going on in Sovereign Grace. [Kris says: I realize that this is supposed to be a bit of an introduction to the notion that CJ will explain why he is no longer attending a Sovereign Grace church but has instead made himself part of Mark Dever's Capitol Hill Baptist Church. But the idea that CJ left Covenant Life Church because he needed to receive care from "someone who knew him well ans was familiar with all that was going on in Sovereign Grace" cannot possibly be used as support for CJ's going to CHBC. After all, who would know more about SGM and be more familiar with CJ - Mark Dever, or the men who have been trained by and worked along side of CJ for decades?] I consider it a great privilege to stand with my friend during this most trying time. We’ve met often, we’ve talked extensively about his soul his leadership and how to evaluate Sovereign Grace. So what you are about to hear reflects the content of many many conversations over the last four months.

CJ speaking:

Over the last four months so many of you have communicated your support to Carolyn and I and we are so very grateful.

I have been looking forward to this moment when I could address you. I have spent much time over the last four months studying Second Corinthians. Paul is uniquely personal in Second Corinthians, uniquely heart revealing and heart appealing. He says to the Corinthians, “My heart is wide open to you.” He expresses this care in this unique way it is the only time he does this…soon after this statement Paul says this to them, “make room in your heart for us.” You bear no resemblance to the Corinthians…But I think there is relevance in his communication. [Kris says: Why? If CJ's audience bears no resemblance to the Corinthians, then CJ must want to make the implication that he himself bears resemblance to the Apostle Paul?] I want to …my heart and I want to appeal to you to make room in your heart for me.

Here is the state of my heart. I am sad, I am hopeful, and I am eager to return to the privilege to serve you. Those would be three categories. I am sad. I reflect on what you have experienced during this season, the time you have invested because of all that has taken place, the challenges you have encountered over the past four months, how this has adversely affected your church. I locate myself in the midst of that and find my way to where I bear responsibility for that, I am so sad. My heart aches and breaks because I want to serve you. I don’t want to create work for you. So I pray that my sorrow and sadness is evident to you. I want to open my heart to you. I feel like it has been four months of mourning for the people I love the most.

But I am also hopeful because God is sovereign and He is wise and He is good and He has good purposes for Sovereign Grace and His good purposes cannot and will not be frustrated ultimately.

Deficiencies can be and will be addressed. Never has there been an interim board that we should be more grateful for or appreciative of. These men and their wives have given countless hours of sacrifice. We have been served heroically by these men and their wives. I am so grateful for Dave assuming this leadership role which he did not desire, did not volunteer for, and all the men participating on this interim board because they love the Savior and they love us so let them be the object of our appropriate gratitude for the countless ways they have served us during this season. I have hope because these are humble men, men of integrity, looking to lead us wisely as we walk forward. So I am very sad and I am also very hopeful. That is a little of my heart.

I want to appeal to you to make room in your heart for me. Many of you – this appeal isn’t necessary. From the beginning you have indicated that there has been no adjustment in your heart toward us. The room that was there prior is still there. And some of you seem to have added room in your heart. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding. So many of you, this appeal isn’t necessary. Given the size of Sovereign Grace, given the diversity of questions, it is quite possible, it is understandable that for some there might be less room in your heart today for me. There may be little room , or maybe no room and if so, I understand. My appeal would simply be that I hope and I pray that what I say and in the future will allow you to make some room in your heart for me.

[Kris says: What does it actually mean, to "make room in your heart" for someone? Does it mean "continue to care about" the person? If so, I can't imagine why CJ would honestly believe he needed to ask the men (SGM pastors) in his audience to work at continuing to care about him. Obviously they all still care, or they would not be sitting there listening to his remarks.

It seems to me that CJ is asking these guys for something a lot more complicated than vaguely "making room in their hearts" for him. It seems to me that CJ is actually asking these guys instead to be sympathetic to CJ's own interpretation of the events and revelations of the past several months. He phrases it in the emotionally manipulative lingo of "Make room in your heart for me," and he implies the clear comparison of himself to the Apostle Paul. But he's asking for far more from his audience than merely continuing to care about him...or have him in their hearts. He's asking for them to take on his point of view about SGM's (and his) problems.]

Here is some of what I have learned during this season of reflection. I hope this provides some clarity where there has been confusion. I am not trying to persuade you. I am just providing you with my perspective for your consideration. [Kris says: The two previous sentences are patently untrue. CJ is clearly trying to persuade his audience to think in a certain way. Otherwise there would be utterly no reason for him to be standing up there in front of them, wasting his breath.]

I will address you from two categories: personal reflections and reflections on Sovereign Grace and my leadership of Sovereign Grace.

The leave of absence began in July. It was voluntary, it wasn’t imposed on me, it wasn’t disciplinary. It was a decision I made for a few different reasons. In light of the public distribution of Brent’s docs…here is what I wanted to do. I wanted to protect the office of the president of SGM. I wanted to protect the integrity of SGM, protect you and your church, I wanted to protect the integrity of the adjudication that was about to go forward. [Kris says: Does CJ continue to have a desire to "protect the adjudication"? Because if he does, why is he standing on the stage and speaking before the adjudicators - the Ambassadors of Reconciliation, presumably - have finished adjudicating?] I wanted to take time to evaluate my heart and my ministry in relation to the leadership to Sovereign Grace. After the Leave of Absence was announced I was informed by numerous leaders outside of Sovereign Grace that this decision was decidedly unwise, that it would be perceived as an admission of guilt or some form of discipline, though neither would be true. And in retrospect I do think this was an unwise decision on my part with unintended consequences and the board agrees with me on this. This leave of absence rendered me unable to communicate my perspective or defend me from all manner of false accusations. [Kris says: This is another absolutely untrue statement. CJ continues to have his SGM-financed ghostwriter at his disposal. He continues to have bandwidth on SGM's own website for his blog. He has continued to speak publicly, both at SGM churches and non-SGM venues like Capitol Hill Baptist. One's ability to defend oneself from "all manner of false accusations" has never necessitated being the head of a denomination.] But the leave did provide me with opportunity for reflection and unhurried evaluation and I am grateful. I have had so much interaction with individuals and received so much helpful and wise council inside and outside Sovereign Grace. I have learned much, I know God better, I love Him more, trust Him more, by His grace I am a wiser leader. So I am grateful for this unwise decision.

Next my transition to CHBC. After the public statement about the leave, I decided with the support of the board to attend CHBC during my leave of absence. I am very aware this decision has left you with a number of questions and I understand why.

Prior to the leave we had decided that Mark Dever would pay a strategic role in providing me with care and counsel …so his involvement was decided prior to the decision to attend CHBC. After my public confession and statement, it quickly became evident that for me to remain in CLC in this season would be untenable for a few reasons: there was hostility from a number in the church toward me after the release of Brent’s documents and I had disagreements with the approach that was adopted by the CLC pastors concerning these documents and in relation to my confession an approach that they thought best served the church. [Kris says: So basically what CJ is admitting here is that he was not actually submitted to the authority of any of his pastors at CLC. His primary concern was not actually to obey his pastors and make them happy. He decided he did not need to "be a joy to pastor."]

So I didn’t see how I could remain in the church because I didn’t want to be a distraction, a disruption in the church, and I certainly didn’t want to be divisive to the church, because I love this church, I helped found this church, I gave 27 years of my life to this church. I wouldn’t want to do anything to harm this church. So I thought it would serve the church, serve the pastors that I wouldn’t be drawn in by the church to anything controversial by having to reveal any of my differences or concerns. I was desirous of serving the church. [Kris says: Actually, it sounds a lot more like CJ was desirous of serving himself and his own comfort. It sounds a lot more like CJ wanted to avoid hard questions and potentially uncomfortable conversations with other members. If his real desire was to "serve the church," he could easily have done so by simply saying nothing if people tried to engage him.]

I realize this doesn’t fit the expected practice relative to a church that preceded this decision …I know that, and I understand the questions but this was a situation where I believed and still do believe that the Word agrees that remaining in CLC would not have served this church or have served the pastors of this church. [Kris says: CJ just pulled the Bible card here. He says "...the Word agrees..." I would be very interested in knowing just where the Bible says anything that would have supported CJ's leaving CLC. CJ's decision to quit submitting to his own pastors and his own local church flies in the face of everything he has ever taught about the overarching importance of the local church, and of the need for members to constantly be going around asking themselves if they are obeying and submitting to their pastors and making their pastors' job a joy. Certainly if CJ is going to imply that the Bible supports his decision, he ought, as a responsible "theologian" and elder, to rightly divide the Word and show his audience where he gets this idea.] I did consider becoming part of Solid Rock Church but I didn’t want to be a distraction to that church either, didn’t want to draw that church unnecessarily into this controversy. I am at this time a walking controversy and I did not want to distract another church, to disrupt any church or to be divisive in a local church.

Finally I made this decision as a husband. My wife has an unusually strong constitution but I needed to protect her from the assaults that we were both the objects of. [Kris says: "Assaults"? Isn't that a pretty melodramatic word for CJ to use to describe what he and Carolyn might have theoretically experienced if they'd remained at their SGM local church? Perhaps I am mistaken, but I've always had the impression that people were a bit in awe of Carolyn anyway and have always treated her with the utmost respect. Would she really have been vulnerable to "assaults" if they would have quietly continued to attend CLC?] I am a husband before I am a president. When it was announced that I would be attending CHBC it was suggested that i was fleeing accountability and my response is as follows. I was not under any formal church discipline. Actually I was pursuing accountability. I was taking a leave of absence that I thought was a statement of accountability. I continue to participate in my small group with Bob and Jeff and Gary and continue to receive their care and council, encouragement, correction. I was running into, not away from, two separate panels and I was placing myself under the care and council of Mark Dever for the purpose of adding even more accountability. Mark is a true friend. We have a history of relationship. He is an excellent pastor and the man does not flatter.

One final reason – I needed help, I needed pastoral care I needed the benefits of worship and preaching where I wouldn’t be distracted, where I wasn’t viewed suspiciously, where I didn’t have to be concerned about anyone approaching me before the meeting or after with questions or accusations. I needed to sit and listen to sermons that could speak to my needy soul. Mark is a dear friend to Sovereign Grace and I will never forget their kindness to us.

I don’t consider myself an exception at all. I do think these were exceptional circumstances.

[Kris says: If CJ doesn't consider himself an exception, then he is really out of touch with what has been the reality for pretty much all other SGM pastors who have times of stepping away from the ministry, or being outright de-gifted. When other SGM pastors have been de-gifted (fired), they were then commanded to remain in SGM churches after they were forced to step down. They were not given the luxury of getting to seek the "benefits of worship and preaching." They were forced to stay put and face people who knew all about their situations, Sunday after Sunday.]

Next, reflection on personal sins. At the beginning of the week of absence I have acknowledged – like all of you I have examined my heart – would be a practice for me – self examination in some form has been a practice for me my entire Christian life. Perhaps for some it appears this self examination, particularly as it relates to Brent’s docs, began in July with the leave of absence. But actually this began just after I received Brent’s first docs which would be more than a year prior to July. [Kris says: As someone else pointed out, it's interesting how CJ and other SGM leaders continue to refer to the materials Brent shared as "Brent's Documents." While it is true that Brent did write significant amounts of commentary himself, what has always reflected most poorly upon CJ and the enablers surrounding him were their very own email communications which were quoted in the documents. As far as I know, nobody - not CJ or anyone else - has ever disputed the authorship of the many emails Brent shared. Nor has CJ or anyone else disputed the basic facts revealed in those emails. Calling the damning information "Brent's Documents" is a clever way of distancing himself from the truth, which is that CJ's own words in his own emails paint a very poor picture of him as a manipulative and controlling egomaniac.] When he sent the first docs I immediately sent it to those I serve with. I began to consider the contents of his documents and invited the observations and evaluations of those I serve with and through this process I was able to identify with the help of friends and the eyes of others, my wife at my side providing her insight as well, and I was able to identify more clearly certain incidences of sin, habits of sin, most of which I had previously acknowledged years before but I was engaging them again. By God’s grace I was engaging them in a more perceptive way and I hope more thoroughly.

So over a period of a year I crafted and sent to Brent two written confessions as a means of humbling myself and in hopes of being reconciled with him. I want to make clear that my written confessions to Brent were sincere, I was convicted of those sins. I did grieve and still do over the effects of my sin and I communicated that to Brent as well as to other men that were affected by my sin. I still want to communicate that to anyone and everyone that has been affected by my sin. It is a part of what informs my sadness. [Kris says: I wish that CJ would have taken a couple of minutes here to spell out in a few sentences just what, precisely, he's talking about. What were his sins, if he's so familiar with them now? I think some simple yet specific statements about what he actually considers to be his wrongdoings would go a long way toward helping those who continue to perceive CJ as not really having come to a place of repentance for anything relating to Brent's complaints against him.]

However, it does appear that some assumed or concluded that I agree with Brent’s narrative, his accusations and interpretations and judgments of my motives, and this simply wouldn’t be true and it never has been true. Brent’s docs construct a narrative that I disagree with. That narrative portrays my sins as scandalous, calculated and deceptive, and uncommonly intentionally hypocritical, and pervasively so, and this is false. Yes, sadly I am a sinner and throughout my Christian life I have never viewed myself otherwise, and I think I have acknowledged this however inadequately throughout my Christian life but I don’t believe my sins are uncommon or scandalous or disqualifying. I have never believed that since the day the first doc arrived.

[Kris says: So coercing Larry Tomczak - his co-founder - to remain silent about half of the real reasons Larry was parting ways with PDI was not uncommon or scandalous or disqualifying? In order to secure that silence, threatening Larry Tomczak with exposing Larry's then-teenaged son's sins, which had been confessed to CJ in what was understood to be a private setting, was not uncommon or scandalous or disqualifying?

Setting up and ruling over a system wherein many men have been disqualified from ministry and fired from their pastoral positions for far more "common" sins (such as "pride" and the "fear of man") while spending more than a decade refusing to make oneself even remotely accountable - that wasn't "uncommonly intentionally hypocritical"?

I guess CJ has some singularly unusual ideas about what constitutes "uncommon" sin. Perhaps that would help to explain the pattern within SGM churches of responding so oddly to situations where child sex abuse had occurred. Perhaps that would help to explain why SGM pastors have appeared to take on the part of the perpetrator and further victimize the victims. Perhaps it's because there's an organization-wide faulty understanding of what makes a particular action an "uncommon" sin that demands appropriately harsh consequences?]

So I was grateful for the findings and rulings of the first panel in this regard and their agreement with that assessment. I look forward to the review panel, the second panel’s findings and rulings regarding this matter as well. I wish those panels started today.

I think I made a significant error in how I related to Brent’s docs. I viewed his docs as a means of personal sanctification and I related to him as if this is a matter of personal offense. [Kris says: I'm starting to wonder just how closely CJ read Brent's documents. It was very clear throughout everything Brent shared that Brent was very concerned about ongoing patterns in CJ's life that were not just about offending Brent on a personal level! Off the top of my head, I can't even think of a specific conflict or disagreement recounted by Brent that would have been "personal," with no ramifications for CJ's role in the ministry.] All of one of my friends and counselors urged me to view his docs this way. [Kris says: CJ apparently has friends and counselors who don't give good advice.] So I pursued personal reconciliation, I appealed repeatedly for mediation, I held out hope that Brent and I could be reconciled, and sadly to date that has proved to be a false hope.

I should have realized that Brent was making accusations and making charges, he was calling into question my fitness for ministry. This was First Timothy 5, not Matthew 5. [Kris says: Perhaps this is an error in the transcript, but if not, I think CJ meant to say, "not Matthew 18."] So this whole matter should have been turned over to the SGM board early on for formal adjudication. But this was a new experience for me, and this was a new experience for us and one we weren’t prepared for. [Kris says: If receiving correction is a "new experience" for CJ and the SGM board, that fact is highly telling and actually supports all the charges in Brent's documents.]

I think it might also be helpful to say something about the confession statement to Covenant Life and to you via a letter. Those confessions were sincere. I do, like you, take my sins seriously. I see them in light of the holiness of God. I need a Savior and I am so grateful that the Father has provided a Savior for my innumerable sins. But after making this confession I have received much helpful critique from a number of leaders about my confession and I have concluded that I did not serve you well with this confession. My confession has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and exploited. My confession should have been more precise. It was my desire through my confession to humble myself, to take responsibility for my sin, to set an example, to protect SG. [Kris says: It would have been helpful here for CJ to explain further what it was about his confession that he's not somehow retracting. Also, maybe it's just me, but I think the line, "I did not serve you well with this confession" is utterly bogus. Nobody at CLC or within the larger SGM organization was harmed (or "not served well") by those letters. The only person who might have experienced unpleasant fallout from them was CJ himself. What CJ really meant to say is that those letters did not serve himself well.]

Instead, my communication in some ways create speculation that left me vulnerable to interpretation, that left me vulnerable to exploitation. I left the wrong impression of my sin. In that confession I was trying to convey that I take my sins seriously but I regret that my language conveyed that my sins were unusually serious. I do not think that I have never thought that. I didn’t distinguish my sins from Brent’s accusations, judgments, narrative and I should have.

One member of the first panel said this to me – quote: “I respect, CJ, how seriously you take the respectable sins but you left the impression that you did something scandalous. But nothing you confessed reached the level of public scandal requiring a public confession. Your sins are routine and common.” [Kris says: Again with the "routine and common" thing. I am really concerned if panel members cannot discern that strong-arming a cofounder, through what amounts to blackmail, into falsely portraying himself as leaving the organization because of his personal sins, rather than because of a major disagreement with a dramatic doctrinal shift, is somehow "routine and common."] That is not to minimize my sin. But it did help me to see the wrong impressions I left and I regret that.

Another member of the panel said this: “I think you made a genuine effort to be humble. You overstate the level of offense and you confuse those outside of Sovereign Grace.” I happen to think that is an accurate critique. I didn’t just confuse those outside Sovereign Grace, I confused those inside Sovereign Grace as well. I over-stated. I think I did that as well the year before at this Pastors’ Conference. My apology in relation to the polity process. A number of you came in afterwards and said in effect, you overstated that. I think you were right. I think this panel has an accurate assessment.

[Kris says: Maybe I've missed something, but I've never yet seen or heard anything out of CJ Mahaney that would even come close to taking a shred of true responsibility for the decades of authoritarian leadership, harsh disciplinary practices, faulty teachings, and an overwhelming concern for protecting SGM's image that resulted in bad policies for reporting abuse to law enforcement officials. I'm not sure which statements CJ is talking about here.]

Finally, in relation to my confession, I wish I had defended myself. I think I briefly, at the outset, possibly at the conclusion, referenced my disagreements with Brent’s narratives and accusations. But I wrongly concluded that it wouldn’t be humble of me to defend myself. I am now convinced that this really reveals an ignorance of, a misunderstanding, a wrong application of humility. I had no category for an appropriate defense against criticisms and accusations, especially public ones. I think not having a category didn’t serve me.

So as I have reflected over the last 4 months, I think this has been a 6 year process, in relation to the doctrine of sin I think there are a few areas where we have been affected by a misapplication of the doctrine of sin. [Kris says: So, it's all about "misapplication"? It's not because CJ's teachings and writings were faulty to begin with? Typically, misapplication has to do with mistakes made by the listeners, rather than the teacher. It's interesting how CJ is really only acknowledging the flaws of others (those who "misapplied" his teachings) rather than problems with what he taught.] First area is fellowship. This has been a strength in Sovereign Grace. I pray it remains a strength. At times the doctrine of sin has had too much of a prominent place in our practice of fellowship. Very careful here, so no misunderstanding. The practice and experience of fellowship is much much much broader than the application of the doctrine of sin. And our practice of fellowship must not be reduced to identifying sin or rehearsing sin or endlessly exploring the potential idols of our heart. Our practice of fellowship should primarily be a means of preaching and applying the gospel to each other. It should be a means of identifying evidences of grace in each other. The category of what it should be could be expanded.

[Kris says: Golly...sure sounds like CJ, or more likely, one of his lackeys, has been reading here. ]

But it is all too easy for our practice of fellowship to become a preoccupation with sin, primarily about sin rather than a fresh proclamation and application of the gospel to our lives. I regret these misunderstandings and misapplications where they have occurred. I wish I would have anticipated them. [Kris says: Wow. Just wow. During the one instance in this whole talk where CJ gets relatively specific about a problem, the most he can do is apologize or express regret for the deficiencies and mistakes of those who followed his teachings - because they "misunderstood" and "misapplied" what he said.] I think it was about 6 years ago I began to perceive these deficiencies. I’ve looked back through notes where I was – OK – I was attempting to address it but, OK, it was just a point in a message. I asked David Powlison to come to our Pastors’ Conference and preach a message on introspection. So that was all by design. That was simply the single message, had the privilege to teach the pastor care class at pastors’ college last 3 years and this has certainly been a section, but I should have done more. [Kris says: If anyone was under the impression that CJ was taking responsibility for one of SGM's flaws - that of being too obsessed with pointing out the sins of others and considering that to be "fellowship" - here we have further proof that CJ is actually trying to vindicate himself, to prove just how he is NOT responsible for this particular problem. Not only has he now stated a couple of times that the problems arose through his listeners' "misapplication" and "misunderstandings" of what he taught - he now also makes a case for how he actually did recognize the problem "about 6 years ago" and made attempts to address the problem.

All he really says here is that he's sorry his listeners misunderstood and misapplied what was taught, and he did try to fix their problems by having Powlison come in and talk.]

And the second area in this regard is the area of correction. At times the doctrine of sin has been unhelpfully applied in relation to others instead of towards ourselves. So individuals have been corrected and pressed to acknowledge sins that others perceived, sins of the heart and when there isn’t immediate agreement with that correction and assessment then the category of pride can be introduced. The person appears to be unteachable then that is in sin, particularly if everyone else in the group is in agreement with each other about your sin. There is a wonderful quote, I think over the years it has been misunderstood and misapplied. This is from J.I. Packer’s work on the Puritans, Quest for Godliness, “Our best works are shot through with sin and contain something that needs to be forgiven.” The purpose of this quote is to humble us and to provoke us to guard our hearts. I don’t think this is a mandate for us to suspect the hearts of others or to pursue the sins of others or to correct others. I regret not perceiving this misunderstanding and misapplication. I regret not more effectively guarding misapplication. There is more I wish I would have done.

[Kris says: While all of this is definitely true, and it's great that CJ is actually finally acknowledging what has become an unhealthy pattern of behavior among SGM's leaders, does anyone else join me in feeling a bit cynical that he's finally saying all this stuff only now - now, when it is to his own benefit to point out the pattern and declare it wrong? Where was CJ when hundreds of other SGMers were suffering similar fates?]

The second would be pastoral evaluation. This is another area that I think my leadership has been inadequate. More could have been done, more should have been done, more will be done. Sovereign Grace needs to provide our pastors with guidance, the content of a process where objective evaluation of pastors so that pastoral evaluations are theologically informed, objectively done, uniformly done, not arbitrary, not suddenly announced. A pastor shouldn’t be blindsided by an evaluation. And this is particularly critical when there are concerns about the pastor’s character or gifting. The content of this evaluation should be theologically informed, predetermined as well as the timing of this evaluation. I’m aware I’m aware I’m very aware that there are pastors that feel that they have been inappropriately evaluated, even mistreated by Sovereign Grace. Listen, I don’t believe this is systemic from my experience and I have pursued a number of these situations. Here’s what I have decided. Each situation is very different. Very different. [Kris says: It’s interesting that CJ doesn’t believe the various de-giftings represent systemic problems within SGM…and that he’s saying each situation is very different. When it comes to the de-giftings of various pastors (as well, come to think of it, as the way many members have been shown the door), I think anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge could list multiple similarities that would form a distinct disturbing pattern. I would love to have heard an explanation for just how these situations are all "very different." I would be surprised if the differences outweigh the similarities.

But even so, I can't imagine that focusing on the differences, rather than the clear similarities, would be helpful or productive in terms of SGM's addressing its issues. However, trying to individualize and privatize situations where wrongdoing of leadership took place is a good way to enable denying and minimizing problems. SGM has used this tactic many times over the years, in terms of trying to make organization-wide abusive practices all about "Matthew 18" rather than acknowledging wrongdoing and addressing and fixing it out in the open.] We certainly do want to give attention to it. We are giving attention to it. In some ways I spent almost 2 years trying to give attention to it. And we are thankful for AoR and they are serving us even this morning.

One more thing before I finish. Once we have a pastor in place in Sovereign Grace we want to do all we can to keep that pastor in place. We do not want our pastors fearing that in some way that we are looking for a reason to disqualify them. We want to do all we can if at all possible for our pastors to have lengthy, fruitful service.

[Kris says: OK, I'm going to beat the same dead horse I've beaten in comments over the past couple of weeks. This particular piece of CJ's speech is intriguing to me because I think it contains a tacit admission that SGM-the-national-corporation functions in a governing capacity within local churches, a capacity that is nowhere acknowledged officially.

Basically, right here we have an admission from CJ himself that SGM Corporate is in charge of hiring and firing decisions. That’s a far cry from the self-description that is posted on the SGM website, where SGM’s mission/purpose is described thus:

We are a family of churches passionate about advancing the Great Commission through church planting. In support of that mission we facilitate partnerships among pastors, operate a Pastors College, host events, and publish books, music, and other resources.

I wonder why SGM Corporate isn’t more forthcoming about its role in controlling which pastors work where, and how long these pastors remain in their positions. How is this governing/controlling role for SGM Corporate reconciled with the notion that each SGM church is “independent” and self-contained?

I know I have hammered at this for weeks, repeating myself again and again, but I think this is an important topic that needs clarification, particularly for the poor sap churches that are considering being adopted by SGM. I don’t understand how SGM can claim that local churches are independent – and how, pre-adoption, churches can think that they will retain their independence but just get some vague level of support from SGM Corporate – when the reality is that SGM Corporate is the governing entity for hiring and firing decisions.

For instance, it is quite likely that CJ’s son-in-law Steve Whitacre will be sent to take over and be the senior pastor of New Covenant Church in Arnold, MD. New Covenant Church is in the final stages of being taken over by SGM as a “church re-plant.” NCC put out some notes awhile back about a members’ meeting they held on July 4. Those notes contained a Q&A section, where common questions were answered. One question was, “So, SGM is picking our pastor?” The answer was, “No, they are making suggestions.” But that seems like a half-truth at best, for what would happen if the NCC folks were to object to Steve Whitacre as their new senior pastor? What would happen to the adoption process for their church?

I don’t understand why SGM Corporate isn’t more forthcoming about its governing role…and I don’t understand what a church like NCC would possibly be gaining by deceiving themselves and telling themselves that they have some sort of voice in these decisions…when pretty much, it’s already been decided.

This is especially head-spinning for me. Why do SGM churches continue to assert their independence when hiring and firing decisions are made for them by SGM Corporate? Why do they continue to believe the lie that they are independent, when they cannot even have full freedom to select their own pastor?

And why does SGM Corporate not disclose its governing role but instead portrays itself as some sort of hands-off support group?]

Finally, polity. you are aware of this involved in the process, it will continue. It is not something that should be done quickly , different ways. … 2 years this process. It has been the tireless work of Jeff and Dave, thanks for your patience and participation. I think we are making progress. It is going to take much longer to make the kind of progress we need to make. We should not be surprised about that. I had a leader say to me just the other day “the fact that you guys don’t have all of your polity clarified and formalized is not a sin. You are a very young movement. ” So that is encouraging, gave me hope.

[Kris says: While it's great that SGM is retooling its polity, it is not a very good sign that these changes are apparently being engineered behind the scenes, by the pastors themselves, with little (or no?) input from ordinary SGM members. One of SGM's hugest problems has been its culture of secrecy and control, where the thinking and decision-making are done behind closed doors by pastors and then announced to or foisted on people, sometimes even without even informing them directly. If SGM is serious about change and has a good handle on its problems, any changes to polity would be done out in the open, with plenty of feedback from tithe-paying members.]

One aspect of polity that I do regret not having in place and that would be the appropriate handling of grievances in conflict resolution. We have not had grievance procedures in place for pastors or church members so no doubt there are instances where former pastors or church members would have been greatly served by these procedures. I am sorry that. I am sorry for the effects of that. The board is addressing that. Obviously receiving the value of AoR concerning that become a consistent part of Sovereign Grace church and Sovereign Grace procedures as well. It needs to, we want to, it will become .. so that’s not exhaustive. It won’t surprise you that I have lots more to say. I am not going to say it today. I have lots more to say. I have never been this quiet for this long in my entire life. I was going to say it is killing me, but it is sanctifying.

Finally, it would not be good leadership on my part for me to leave you preoccupied with areas of deficiency. It would not be good godly leadership. Do we have problems. Yes we do. But listen. Problems we are facing., confronting, experiencing. These things do not define us, and they do not define our churches. Sovereign Grace is a gospel preaching movement. And by God’s grace Sovereign Grace will continue to be a gospel preaching movement. One thing I would like to say and stress. We must not let our critics define us, or redefine us. I think the days ahead are going to require all the content of Dave’s excellent message.

I think the days ahead are going to require more discernment as it relates to the identification of slander and the influence of slander in our churches. I think the days ahead are going to require courage on the part of pastors and when necessary publicly identify those who are divisive. I think the days ahead are not only going to require, I think they are going to require courage. I think in some ways in SG we have more humility than courage. And we are going to need more courage. Humble courage. It doesn’t mean we don’t learn from critique, we do. But there is a difference between learning from critique and allowing critics to define you. We are [not?] capitulating to slander in the name of humility.

[Kris says: I think every SGM member ought to be asking their pastors what this section of CJ's talk means. SGM has historically redefined "slander" to mean the sharing of any information or thoughts that might not reflect positively upon leaders or the organization itself. Is that how "slander" is going to continue to be defined?

And what does it mean to be "divisive"? Why would "divisive" people need to be "publicly identified"? What would such public identification entail? Are people now going to be outed for asking questions or expressing disapproval of or disagreement with what SGM Corporate and CJ do at the top? Why would pastors need "courage" in order to deal with "divisive" people, unless this pubic outing of the divisive folks is going to involve some sort of messy and unpleasant confrontation?

More importantly, how would such a witch hunt for the "divisive" jive with CJ's own words in this very message, the words about how people misapplied CJ's teachings about fellowship and have focused too much on confronting others about their sins? Isn't it a total contradiction, to on the one hand condemn the hunt for sin in others while on the other hand end this message with a call to arms for pastors to exhibit "courage" and go and "publicly identify" those they think are being "divisive"? Wouldn't such a process involve a whole lot of the same sin-sniffing CJ claims to now condemn?]

So we are going to continue to evaluate ourselves. But it would not please God if we minimize the evidences of grace in our midst, that have been present and pronounced for so many years. This is not spin. This is not hype. This is not some form of SG self promotion. This is simply and humbly and accurately an acknowledgment of the mercy of God in and to SGM.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Divisive worse than Porn? Foolish Teaching by Jared Mellinger

A follow-up to my previous post on the readiness and eagerness by SGM top-dogs to use "excommunication" as a very real threat to those who don't toe the party line. I was alarmed and distressed to read about a rather strong sermon that Jared Mellinger (senior pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church - Dave Harvey's "base" and SGM's 2nd big flagship) preached yesterday on divisiveness.

I've been keeping my eye on Jared Mellinger ever since my dear friends Julie and Aaron Morris suffered under this guy's leadership. I follow him on Twitter and have observed some tweets from him leading up to the sermon on Sunday - so I guess it was no surprise. The essence of his statement was this (and here's the link just in case you need the source document);

"It was said that it may be more destructive to go to an un-gracious website where half-truth and opinions are put forth, than to go to a porn site".

This seems to me to be an incredibly stupid as well as unwise thing to say - and something that is fired by Mr Mellinger's eagerness to keep Dave Harvey and returning President and Chairman C J Mahaney - sweet, rather than something that is driven and guided by the Word of God.

The aim? Let's not deceive ourselves - Jared Mellinger is clearly keen to keep his church members from looking at SGM Survivors, SGM Refuge and Brent Detweiler dot com. However maybe he would do well to learn from the experience of the past. I remember when our elders at our home church were trying to put us off going to any churches involved in the Toronto Blessing and spoke very strongly against it. The effect? Generally we were all quite interested in what was so bad about Toronto and many members went - or at least watched videos about it.

I think Jared would do well to learn from Josh Harris's godly example. The websites critiquing SGM are out there and are not going away. Rather than putting your church leadership under scare tactics by saying something like this - he should do well to admit they are there. Face up honestly to what is true - and speak honestly about what perhaps is exaggerated. Maybe that will make his members relax and trust in his leadership - rather than feel under MORE condemnation and guilt;

1. Those members who have read the sites now are (by his teaching) worse than those struggling with porn.

2. Those members who genuinely struggle with porn now feel they aren't quite as bad as those who read those sites.

Both of which are ridiculous statements. ALL sin is sin in the eyes of God - and ALL sin was dealt with at the Cross of Christ (that SGM purport to trumpet so much).

Saturday, November 05, 2011

ENOUGH with the Excommunication Card!

It's time for a stern post and cross post.

My patience with the SGM saga has been rapidly waning. Like all the other former members and pastors of SGM - we have all been watching with aching hearts hoping that reconciliation and forgiveness will come and that God will be glorified. But the spin, the financial huge costs of "mediation" and the evil emails to and fro are just plain disgraceful to God and His glory.

The final straw for me this week was to read that Brent Detweiler apparently has been "threatened with excommunication" by the pastors of an SGM church - Crossway - which I believe he was key in founding. I admit up front - I don't know the ins and outs. Brent has not pretended he is faultless. Indeed he has admitted he founded the faulty and abusive system that is causing so much damage and heartache.

My problem is the "excommunication card". I have never even HEARD it mentioned - let alone used - until I encountered SGM. There were disciplinary measures taken at very rare occasions in my home church in Dunstable. But these were rare and shook the whole church to the foundation - and I NEVER heard the word "excommunication" used. And to me - and my understand of Scripture - this is correct! Excommunication is the absolute, last sorrowful act when there is absolutely no other option - in a final desperate plea to reach out to the member. Paul spoke about it only once or twice (which we will get to).

I was absolutely horrified when two SGM pastors sat in a room 5 years ago and told me I was being "cast out to Satan". It felt so unreal - it was almost laughable (had I not been weeping tears). I now learned that they were simply doing what they were told by the now-SGM Board member. And that is forgiven and history.

But clearly the "E" card is still being shown and it is disgraceful. It seems to me that the Crossway pastors are floundering. Brent Detweiler has valid grievances that he has shared. The Ambassadors of Reconciliation wrote in their report that he should be pursued with love to try and mend this. Maybe the SGM Board feel this has been done - frankly rejecting his request to be involved does not really match up to "pursuing".

My thoughts with the "Excommunication" threat with Brent are - and?! He has already been forced out of SGM and his place on the then-"apostolic" team. He has already been forced out of his pastorship of the church and has no guaranteed income apart from voluntary gifts. C J on the other hand still DOES have his rather substantial income, royalties from books etc etc. It's an empty threat and it stinks of playground tactics. I hope Brent carries on speaking up - because there are many thousands behind him. He is not alone. How he keeps going with the snide emails, and open threats from some SGM pastors is beyond me.

There are no winners here. It will be interesting to see and hear how the SGM Pastors conference goes next week - with the lingering presence of C J Mahaney and the maybe/maybe not "special guest" Larry Tomczak. I just pray and hope that this gets all heads to a conclusion because the world is watching and frankly - it isn't impressed. Lost people are going to hell daily and burning - while SGM fiddles on the roof (while paying a hefty sum to mediate).

But ending on a positive note! There is much to be grateful for and excited about. Covenant Life Church had an important members meeting that shows their hearts are still open to seeking God - led by the wonderful Josh Harris. And my former church - Grace Church Bristol - where my family attend are seeing signs of the manifest Presence of God coming. I was tremendously encouraged by a prophetic song that worship leader and former friend Angi Sussex shared and also my parents told me that they were holding a prophecy workshop! So God is at work.