Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Re-Visiting Terry Virgo at 2011 Brighton Conference!

I have just returned from a wonderful holiday break in my "spiritual" home in Brighton on the south coast of the UK.  What a fab city - no better way to end a day than walking along the coast watching the sun set.  One of the greatest things I have missed is the oft-annual conference organised by Newfrontiers.  It's easy to take these things for granted until they are gone!

It was a good encouragement to re-visit Terry's final session last year closing the conference "on a high";

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Recent Personal Publications

I always knew when growing up that getting published was a privilege and never a right.  The Christian book market was rapidly saturated with some good books and some not so.  My ambition was to become a reader and collector of books that interested me - and I was partially successful in this while at university.

Post-qualification, my nursing practice began to centre around critical care nursing for paediatric patients both in intensive care and in accident and emergency departments.  That grew to include Emergency Planning and Resilience looking at how governments could handle a health crisis such as the spread of a pandemic virus that could threaten the well-being of a nation.  I am and remain a firm believer in the importance of vaccines playing a role in this.  So it is of little surprise that my first publication was concerning this.

1.  "Achieving high level HCW immunisation levels without a mandatory campaign".

I am extremely fortunate and forever grateful that my Chief Nursing Officer Michelle Mcloughlin and my Lead Public Health Consultant (who works at our strategic health authority) Dr Helen Carter agreed to help me as expert co-authors.

2.  "Aiming for Flu Immunity in All".

The most recent article has just been published as the result of an interview I held with the editor of the Nursing Times (UK's most famous nursing publication) this year about conducting flu vaccine campaigns.  The interview covers some of what have and will always be the high points of my career - such as meeting and being able to immunise the Chief Executive Officer of the NHS - Sir David Nicholson.  And also being supported and encouraged by the incredibly talented CEO of my home hospital - Sarah-Jane Marsh - an incredible woman and role model.

What's next?  I have no idea - but I remain an avid reader and learner, and am keen that whatever I achieve in life - it is dedicated to improving and benefiting the well-being of patients.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sovereign Grace Ministries, C J Mahaney and Where Are We Now?

I thought it time to post an update on my current thinking on SGM, their problems and the leadership issues that continue to beset them.  Brent Detwiler - exiled former apostle/leader - continues to faithfully (and one must admire his dogged determination to hold them to the facts of history) call SGM to account.  C J Mahaney and his elite close band seem to do all they can to evade honest response and engage in dubious behaviour such as rapidly transferring church membership (breaking previous teaching that church membership was a life-long commitment) and suddenly a Louisville church plant is planned.

I admit first and foremost I have lost a great deal of interest in the back and forth of the politics.  The SGM critics (and they are many) are keeping up their commentary and criticism.  The C J Mahaney stronghold are doing their admirable best to ignore the critique, rebuff it and move forward relentlessly and presumably "hope it blows over".  And for my own sanity - I realised I had to let SGM go to a degree.  By the grace of God I sorted out my personal excommunication with the local leaders and was hugely encouraged by personal promises from the local UK leaders that they did not and would not engage in the authoritarian practices seen in the USA under the Mahaney regime.  My family seem safe - and that is all that matters to me.

But decisions seem to be forcing their way forward and SGM are being forced/moved into outlining their polity.  A number of years back (2005) I predicted/prophesied that C J Mahaney's schmoozing of Reformed Big Dogs he admired/worshipped (such as John MacArthur) would result in a downgrade of the Holy Spirit in SGM.  This has happened.  I am reliably informed that while they claim to be "continuationist" (i.e. pay lip service to believing the Holy Spirit may move and distribute gifts) that there is very little manifestation of His power and presence in many churches.  I AM encouraged however to hear of key SGM churches that are actively seeking to restore this - such as Covenant Life Church and Grace Church, Bristol.

Brent himself seemed to confirm my suspicions from years back with a post concerning the downgrade of the Holy Spirit and their view on apostles.  Now apostles is an interesting subject.  It's not liked or believed in among conservative reformed circles.  They ceased allegedly with the closing of the canon of Scripture (a view I do not believe in).  However this presents a problem for C J Mahaney and SGM.  If they believe and toe this line - then C J Mahaney is nothing more than a leader of a para-church organisation with no authority over the churches belonging to SGM.

So Brent argues rightly - that SGM and Mahaney MUST teach a polity of apostolic authority to maintain that hold over their local churches - and continue to exercise a process of what I hear is called; "Shanking".  Or in UK terms; "Greasley-ing".  Scary.  So we shall see.  And continue to observe from a safe, interested and caring perspective.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Mis-Quoting the Doctor (Again)

I came across this blog (HT: Tim Challies) written by one of the pastors at John Macarthur's church.  Rather unsurprisingly he quotes from some of Dr Lloyd-Jones writing seeking to rebuff the continuationist/charismatic view that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed in the charismatic gifts - especially that of prophecy.

Busenitz uses the sermons of Dr Lloyd-Jones from "Christian Unity".  And on first reading, the quote does seem to be definitive;

"A prophet was a person to whom truth was imparted by the Holy Spirit. . . . A revelation or message or some insight into truth came to them, and, filled with the Spirit, they were able to make utterances which were of benefit and profit to the Church. Surely it is clear that this again was temporary, and for this good reason, that in those early days of the Church there were no New Testament Scriptures, the Truth had not yet been expounded in written words".

And this is true - Dr Lloyd-Jones did indeed argue in several places that he felt the office (or gift) of the prophet (according to Ephesians 4) was a temporary gift that had ceased.  He also argued that the apostle had ceased as per the evangelist (I wonder how Macarthur and his pastors would deal with that fact).

But this writer is either ignorant or is deliberately ignoring Dr Lloyd-Jones other teaching on the gift of prophecy.  I refer to his magnum opus - the series on Romans and in particularly chapter 12; "according to prophecy let us prophesy".  Consider these quotes by Dr Lloyd-Jones;

"What then is the gift of prophecy?  Well I would define it as a direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  What for?  It's purpose is to give a word from God or the word of God to the church ... What is the difference between prophecy on the one hand and preaching and teaching on the other?  Because there is a difference.  And I would say that the difference can be put in one word - immediacy".

That is all well and good, the cessationists may say.  But that still doesn't make Dr Lloyd-Jones a continuationist.  No - and I'm not claiming he was.  My issue is with a cessationist writer claiming the Doctor was cessationist.  Later in the message, in fact, Dr Lloyd-Jones said he actually prophesied;

"A preacher and teacher may also be a prophet.  I have no doubt at all about this.  I say it again to the glory of God, I think I know a little about this.  I think I know something of what it is to be preaching or teaching and suddenly to find myself prophesying".

Now it is important to add he went on to add caveats of safety - for example, he firmly taught he did not believe a Christian could prophesy at will and he absolutely did not believe prophecy should include the "for-telling of events".  His passion was that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was key in the life of the believer and spiritual gifts flowed from that encounter with God.

"I say again, that my position is that I believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a separate, distinct, unique experience.  It may be accompanied by remarkable gifts; it may simply manifest the "regular" gifts to a heightened degree.  It is not for us to say that none of these things can happen.  Anything is possible in the sovereignty of the Spirit".

And that is the point.  Dr Lloyd-Jones was not a "classic charismatic" and I am not claiming as such.  But I am objecting to cessationists such as this man posting a blog and ignoring/being ignorant of the wider and broader scope of Dr Lloyd-Jones teaching.  I think it demonstrates the danger of the "celebrity pastor" question - one man being elevated to a position so that groups have to fight over which position he actually defends. It is a good reminder to honestly approach Scripture and see what it teaches while thanking God for the servants of the Ephesians 4 ministries that He gives.              

Monday, April 30, 2012

Brent Detwiler and Reality in Church

Dear oh dear.

I don't really know what to think anymore with Brent vs C J Mahaney/SGM.  But one of my concerns with the huge fees paid out to Ambassadors of Reconciliation (for what really is quite a shoddy report) and now this - where is the glory to God?  And what does the watching world think I wonder as SGM ups ship and moves to Kentucky?

Here's Brent's latest blog post;

My Appeal to the SGM Pastors for a Church Court in Order to Avoid a Civil Court.

The sum total is that this incredibly focused and driven man is mustering his forces and seems intent on taking C J Mahaney and SGM before a civil magistrate for "damages".  How grieving must this be to God?  I am sure SGM-supporters would place the blame solely at Brent's door - but let us not forget that the closest C J got to an apology was retracted angrily at the SGM Pastors conference.

On another note I was deeply saddened to read about the suicide/allegations of the Voice of the Martyrs CEO.  Having experienced sexual abuse myself in our church private school, I do know how desperation can lead to suicide.  Nothing upsets me more than hearing people claim; "Suicide is the most selfish thing someone can do". The occasional times I have contemplated suicide, it is when desperation and the sickening ache of fear makes it seem as if there is no other way out.  And true - at times, the only thing that does keep me from popping those pills is the guilt of what it would do to my family and loved ones.  So my heart aches for all those involved.

My point is this - I think God is allowing His church to go through a time of transparency when it is impossible to hide the truth from the watching world.  It concerns me when people like a Mahaney or Harvey try and pretend "all's well" - when it isn't.  Let's admit it - we are human and no better than anyone.  But it is the message of the gospel that makes the difference and leads us on.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unchanging Truth in a Time of Change

I think one of the reasons why the SGM drama/crisis affected me among so many others is that it has shaken our faith mainly in church leadership but also has caused us to evaluate what we really believe.  My church history background has been based in based in reformed/charismatic evangelicalism that emphasized most of our problems were sin-related.  We were also taught to respect and honour our leaders.  In both situations - my faith in our leadership was shaken.

In Dunstable, Stanley - our senior pastor - made a major shift in his theology on the Holy Spirit and such a change unfortunately coincided with my baptism in the Holy Spirit.  However God worked this together for good - and I had to dig deep into the Word of God and such teachers as Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Terry Virgo who led me to see the glorious truth.

In SGM, my history and subsequent observation of C J Mahaney and Dave Harvey's behaviour as revealed by Brent Detwiler shook my faith again.  But I am believing that God is working this together for good and is leading me step by step away from this sin-focused obsession and step by step into His glorious grace.

I was running on the treadmill at the gym today and by chance (I run my iPhone on shuffle) a wonderful old chorus of Dave Fellingham's came on (squashed in between Steps and Lady Gaga);

"At Your feet we fall, mighty risen Lord, 
As we come before Your throne to worship You. 
By Your Spirit's power You now draw our hearts, 
And we hear Your voice in triumph ringing clear.

I am He that liveth, that liveth and was dead, 
Behold I am alive forever more. 

There we see You stand, mighty risen Lord, 
Clothed in garments pure and holy, shining bright. 
Eyes of flashing fire, feet like burnished bronze, 
And the sound of many waters is Your voice. 

Like the shining sun in its noonday strength, 
We now see the glory of Your wondrous face. 
Once that face was marred, but now You're glorified, 
And Your words like a two-edged sword have mighty power".

An amazing song!  But it was a tremendous reminder of the unchanging nature of the living God.  I've been spending time tonight re-visiting the past promises, dreams and visions that God has been so favourable to grant me (nothing compared to a man like Rob Rufus - but still - I am BLESSED!).  For example, I was amazed to have completely forgotten these few dreams;

"Terry Virgo and Angels Snipers!!" - a dream I had back in 2009.

"Dreams, dreams, dreams!!" - documenting some of the key dreams I have had in my life - one back in 2001 about a call to "ministry", one involving a tidal wave of glory speeding towards Brighton in 2006 (that I shared with Terry Virgo) and another about walking in a field of corn with my dear friend Pete Day.

A reminder - a glorious one at that - of the power of children prophesying - "your daughters shall prophesy!".

"The tide is turning" - a prophetic promise from Terry Virgo back at the glorious Brighton conference in 2007 - is still true I think.  But tides ... who can predict when they reach fullness?  I found this quote from Jim Goll;

"When God seems silent, there are several things you can do. 1. Stick with what you already know.What was the last thing the Lord said to you or told you to do? Have you done it? Why should He tell you something new until you have completed what He has already revealed?".

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"The Neglected Resurrection" by Matthew Barrett

This is a really good post and needs to be heard now more than ever:

"Too often in our churches the resurrection of Christ is a doctrine of secondary importance. It is neglected and forgotten until Easter comes around each year. The same disregard for the resurrection is seen in how we share the gospel. Christians tend to share the gospel as if Jesus died on the cross and that is the end of the story. We make a zip line from the crucifixion to "repent and believe," contrary to the example Peter sets for us in Acts 2:22-24 and 4:26. The cross is central to our salvation, but what God accomplished there is incomplete unless the tomb is empty on Sunday morning. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ is vital "for us and our salvation" (to borrow from the Nicene Creed). But how exactly?

Our Regeneration Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ 

Have you ever read the resurrection narratives and said, "Praise God! Because Christ has risen I am born again!" I know I haven't. But if we truly understand the implications of Christ's resurrection for our salvation, the new birth would be the first place to turn. Scripture teaches that our new birth---God's supernatural, monergistic act whereby the Spirit makes us a new creature in Christ, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh---is only possible because Jesus is risen. Consider two passages. According to Peter, God has "caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet 1:3). The same God who raised Christ from the grave has also raised us from spiritual death to spiritual life. And the apostle Paul says that while we were dead in our trespasses and sins, God, being rich in mercy, "made us alive together with Christ" and "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:5-6; cf. Col 3:1). Because God has raised Christ from the dead, he can make us alive together with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ's resurrection life is the very basis and means by which we are born again.

Our Justification Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ 

Those who believe in the God who raised Christ from the dead are counted righteous. As Paul says in Romans 4:23-25, like Abraham we are counted righteous, for we believe in him "who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." By raising Jesus from the dead, God approved the work of Christ on the cross for our sins. God declared his Son's work complete! The penalty for our sin has been paid, and no guilt remains. As Wayne Grudem explains: When the Father in essence said to Christ, "All the penalty for sins has been paid and I find you not guilty but righteous in my sight," he was thereby making the declaration that would also apply to us once we trusted in Christ for salvation. In this way Christ's resurrection also gave final proof that he had earned our justification (Systematic Theology). Jonathan Edwards also states the matter precisely: For if Christ were not risen, it would be evidence that God was not yet satisfied for [our] sins. Now the resurrection is God declaring his satisfaction; he thereby declared that it was enough; Christ was thereby released from his work; Christ, as he was Mediator, is thereby justified (Miscellanies, Vol. 13, 227). In other words, if God did not raise Christ from the dead, he would essentially be saying, "I am not satisfied with your atoning work on behalf of sinners." If this were the case, we would still be dead in our sins, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17. And if we are still dead in our sins then we stand guilty before a holy God, unjustified and condemned. It is hard to improve upon the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: If it is not a fact that Christ literally rose from the grave, then you are still guilty before God. Your punishment has not been borne, yours sins have not been dealt with, you are yet in your sins. It matters that much: without the Resurrection you have no standing at all (The Assurance of Our Salvation, 492).

Our Sanctification Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ

In Romans 6, Paul explains that we can "walk in newness of life" because Christ was raised from the dead. We are not to continue in sin, for how, as Paul asked, "can we who died to sin still live in it?" We have been baptized into the death of Christ so that "just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:3-4). But Paul is not finished. He has much more to say about the resurrection and our sanctification. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:5-12). Paul's last two sentences are especially powerful. As Christians, we are united to Christ. Christ died to sin, and so also must we consider ourselves dead to sin. But Christ also came back to life. The life he lives he lives to God. Therefore, as those who are in Christ, we are alive to God. No longer are we to walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Our old, unbelieving, sinful, condemned self has been crucified with Christ. And now that we are new creatures, we are no longer enslaved to sin, but by the power of the Spirit are able to walk in this newness of life. None of this, however, is possible if Christ remains in the tomb. His resurrection is our victory over the reign of sin. Only because he has risen do we have the assurance, the confidence, and the ability to now walk in godliness. In this light, therefore, Paul's admonition is all the more convicting: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:1-4).

The Climax of Redemptive History

Richard Gaffin once wrote that not only is the resurrection of Christ the pivotal factor in Paul's soteriology, the "climax of the redemptive history of Christ," but it is also that "from which the individual believer's experience of redemption derives in its specific and distinguishing character and in all aspects of its inexhaustible fullness" (Resurrection and Redemption, 135). I couldn't agree more. If we miss the importance of Christ's resurrection for our salvation, then we have, as Sinclair Ferguson observes, misunderstood the gospel, severing our salvation from the lordship of Christ (Resurrection and Redemption, 6). How unthinkable this must be for the Christian who, as Calvin explains, believes that "our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ" (Institutes II.16.19). 

Matthew Barrett (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett has contributed book reviews and articles to various academic journals. He is married to Elizabeth and they have two daughters, Cassandra and Georgia. He is a member of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is No Thaw - This is Spring I tell you!

I am enjoying the first day off of my "new attitude" and have been re-visiting the glorious resources that are out there on the internet for free.  Who would have thought that we can listen to sermons preached on the other side of the world so quickly!?

I have been looking around the old websites I used to visit so regularly - starting off by looking at "the state of the nation" - what Christian conferences are still around and boy, are there a few!  I feel ashamed I have not been more aware.  More of that later.  But I was re-encouraged by a quote of Terry Virgo's in his final Firstline at last years final "Together on a Mission";

"From the original formation of Newfrontiers we have believed that God still pours out His Spirit and that the New Testament model of Spirit-filled churches, established on apostolic foundations and committed to world mission, remains plan A. We have never been content with a cessationist perspective that expects the church to try advancing without God’s manifest presence".

This is ALL about His manifest Presence.  Without Him - we are nothing.

And I have been listening to Rob Rufus speak to his leaders in Hong Kong on; "Charisma and Leadership";

Part 1: The Power of Influence - How to Develop Charisma. Rob Rufus from City Church on Vimeo.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time for a NEW Beginning ... !

These past few weeks have been difficult ones for me personally.  I've become aware of some traits in my life that need dealing with.  I've neglected this blog quite a bit and have been throwing myself 100% into my work - which I adore.  I love working for an employer like Birmingham Children's Hospital and are so grateful for heroes like my CEO and Chief Nurse who have given me opportunities I am so fortunate to have!

But I have contemplated that I have almost allowed my identity to become my work.  It has got to the point where my body has actually physically given up and I have had to have some time off work (which I HATE!).  But I am hoping this time off will be a good thing and will help me to make necessary adjustments and be an even better employee and all-round person.

But what I have noticed with this blog is that virtually since July last year it has almost become entirely devoted to SGM and their problems with C J Mahaney.  This has been a negative issue and one that still seems unresolved.  My interest in it is tied up of course with my very unfortunate experience with them and the fact my family still go.  But it isn't a subject that is going to awake my passion!  I think of heroes like Terry Virgo and Rob Rufus and Ern Baxter who point us to keeping our faith on fire for the Church!

So tonight I brought two Kindle edition books which I am very excited to dip into - "Invading the Impossible" (which I helped the Hong Kong church transcribe) a few years ago and Rob and Ryan's NEWEST book; "Living Grace: How Grace Affects your Whole Life".  It is my hope that this enforced time off work will help me to remember Kingdom truths that used to set me on fire!

Disappointment in not seeing a coming to reality of the things I have (and still) believe in may have quenched the fire of hope.  But I still believe it can be re-inflamed by reading glorious things like these two books!  Here's the book being launched at City Church International;

Here's my favourite quote from Rob's chapter on the "Grace-Hating Spirit";

"People are hesitant to preach a radical Gospel of Grace but have you ever thought how radical the law is?  Those who preach a mixture of law and grace are actually just compromisers.  If you are going to preach the law, do it properly!  The full extent of the law requires you cut off your hand if it is causing you to sin!  When religious zealots fly planes into towers in the name of their gods, they are being absolutely faithful to the law!  Under the law, we should kill anyone who doesn't keep it.  In fact if you read the law properly you will see that if your kids don't keep the law, then you must stone your own children.

The reason why people say grace is radical is because they have never heard the law being taught properly".

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ambassadors of Reconciliation Report on SGM Out

So the report we have all been waiting for is out, and available (I've downloaded the file in case it gets "removed" later!);

Here (40 pages worth).

Once again this point stuck out to me;

"We observed that this lack of declaring God’s grace to people is a weakness of people
throughout SGM, including leaders and members. Although the name of the organization is
Sovereign Grace Ministries, and grace and forgiveness are often preached and taught, there
does not seem to be a similar emphasis on the teaching and practice of declaring God’s grace".

The response has been mixed (unsurprisingly). I don't think the AoR team were ever going to make all happy. My hope is that with the changes in SGM - their move to Kentucky and so on, God will work out His purpose and that His kingdom WILL come despite mankind. Even more so I pray that the "Survivors" of SGM will find a measure of peace despite the wrong done them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thy Kingdom Come!!

I am in the middle of composing a blog about some thoughts about my current thinking on church, organised religion, denominations, movements and so on. Many old friends and colleagues of mine have declared themselves agnostics or even atheists through difficulties that they have been through (similar to mine) with the church. Yet I remain agonizingly stuck - still. God will not let go of me (because I cannot and refuse to believe that I am maintaining hold of Him).

At times of uncertainity we need to look at that which is unshakable. And those truths are better expressed by no man - no hero - of mine better than Dr Ern Baxter. I've found a precious video that has merged one of my favourite sermons of Ern into song - "Thy Kingdom Come" - and it brings into light, life and worship THE moment of all time (not Calvary, not the Tomb, but the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Enthronement of Jesus Christ).

Here it is! The Lord strong and mighty! The Lord strong and mighty in battle!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Reflections on the Church in Great Britain

Some may remember Mark Driscoll's (the ex-head of Acts 24 ministries) comments made in an interview on the state of the church in the UK - my home country. The comments were less than complimentary. I was encouraged to read that D A Carson had reflections of his own on Driscoll's comments and they are helpful - brave is the man who takes on Carson's intellect!;

"In light of my friend Mark Driscoll's recent comments about pastoral ministry in Great Britain, I wanted to share a few of my own reflections on the diverse ministries that have prospered, or floundered, there. Between 1972 and 1996, I spent nine full years there, scattered over that range of years; and since then, I have been in the UK between two and six times every year. I am neither boasting nor complaining; I'm merely establishing that my knowledge of the country is not entirely superficial. I have no reason to doubt Mark's sincere concern for the gospel in the UK and for young ministers there. Nevertheless, you might be interested in hearing another perspective.

(1) Mark correctly observes the low state of genuine Christian confessionalism in the UK. Still, it varies considerably (as it does in the United States, though with lower figures over there). There's a ring around London in which close to 10 percent of the people go to church, many of them evangelicals; the percentage in Northern Ireland is higher, though falling. By contrast, in Yorkshire the percentage that goes to church once a month or more is 0.9 percent; evangelicals account for only 0.4 percent. Both figures are still falling. This is comparable to the state of affairs in, say, Japan.

(2) The phenomenon of the state church colors much of what is going on. Whether we like it or not, in England itself (the situation is different in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) the Church of England is the source of most heterodoxy and of much of the orthodoxy, as well as of everything in between. It has produced men like Don Cupitt and men like Dick Lucas. Exactly what courage looks like for the most orthodox evangelicals in that world is a bit different from what courage looks like in the leadership of the independent churches: their temptations are different, their sufferings are different. Although I have found cowardice in both circles, I have found remarkable courage in both circles, and the proportion of each has not been very different from what I've found on this side of the Atlantic.

(3) As for young men with both courage and national reach: I suppose I'd start with Richard Cunningham, currently director of UCCF. He has preached fearlessly in most of the universities and colleges in the UK, and is training others to do so; he has been lampooned in the press, faced court cases over the UCCF stance on homosexuality, and attracted newspaper headlines. Then there's Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe's, Oxford, in constant demand for his Bible teaching around the country. I could name many more. In Scotland one thinks of men like Willie Philip (and he's not the only one). Similar names could be mentioned in Wales and Northern Ireland.

(4) More important yet, the last few years in England have seen the invention and growth of the regional Gospel Partnerships. In my view, these are among the most exciting things going on in England at the moment. They bring together Church of England ministers and Independent ministers who are passionate about the gospel, who see the decline, and who are crossing many kinds of denominational and cultural divides to plant churches (regardless of whether the new churches turn out to be Anglican or Free), and raise up a new generation of preachers. They are broadly Reformed. They are annoying the mere traditionalists on both sides of the denominational divide; they are certainly angering some bishops; but they press on. In the North West Partnership, for example, they've planted about 30 churches in the last eight years, and the pace is accelerating. That may seem a day of small things, but compared with what was there ten years ago, this is pretty significant, especially as their efforts are beginning to multiply. Elsewhere, one church in London has about 17 plants currently underway, all led by young men. The minister at St Helen's-Bishopsgate, William Taylor, was formerly an officer in the British Army: there is not a wimpy bone in his body. The amount of flak he takes on is remarkable.

(5) But there is a bigger issue. We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace. I am grateful beyond words for the multiplication of churches in Acts 29, but I am no less grateful for Baptist ministers like my Dad, men who labored very hard and saw very little fruit for decades in French Canada, many of whom went to prison (their sentences totaled eight years between 1950 and 1952). I find no ground for concluding that the missionaries in Japan in the 20th century were less godly, less courageous, less faithful, than the missionaries in (what became) South Korea, with its congregations of tens of thousands. At the final Great Assize, God will take into account not only all that was and is, but also what might have been under different circumstances (Matt 11:20ff). Just as the widow who gave her mite may be reckoned to have given more than many multi-millionaires, so, I suspect, some ministers in Japan, or Yorkshire, will receive greater praise on that last day than those who served faithfully in a corner of the world where there was more fruit. Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one's tongue (James 3:1-6).

(6) Even where some ministries are wavering, it takes rare discernment to sort out when there should be sharp rebuke and when there should be encouragement. Probably there needs to be more of whichever of these two polarities we are least comfortable with! But I would not want to forget that the Jesus who can denounce hypocritical religious leaders in Matthew 22 is also the one of whom it is said, "He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope" (Matt 12:19-21)---in fulfillment of one of the suffering servant passages. My read is that in some of the most challenging places of the world for gospel advance, godly encouragement is part of the great need of the day.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Times of Shaking?

I've been feeling this personally for a few months but it seems it's happening in the organised religious world as well. Interesting times. I have made no secret of my just-tolerance of Mark Driscoll and some of his mannerisms - but I saw this via some of the SGM blogs I read.

Mark Driscoll:
"Recently, I sensed that not all was well in Acts 29 ... Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff".

But that's not all;

Don Carson and Tim Keller (heads of the Gospel Coalition) announced:

"Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has recently announced he is stepping down from the Council of The Gospel Coalition. Mark let us know in advance of his intentions, part of a major reorganization of his priorities and a changing of the guard in Acts 29. We are saddened by his departure but understand that all busy people must establish priorities".

I think these are good times. I grew up into a "celebrity-pastor" culture that built men onto pedestals that they could not stay on. The loudest shouts on the internet at present divide between the "Mahaney" fans, the "Driscoll" fans etc supporting theirs - and on the other side, those who have been hurt by the effects of the ripples of such ministries.

I still sit as an observer - wondering what's happening to the Gospel (true) message and it's true impact for the lost?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Something is Wrong ... Wrong ... Wrong

When you begin to read blog posts like this;

And then you find a whole net devoted to "Ex Christians" - with 3,155 and growing followers.

What in the world is going on? Are movements of churches like SGM and hyper-Calvinists like C J Mahaney or John Piper to blame for these bruised and hurting people? Or were they never truly Christians in the first place (as many of these dear souls are being accused of)?

I am thinking - thinking and aching - aching. Surely now more than ever we need a revival of grace and glory of proportions that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke of.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

C J back at the helm

Hmmm .....

The new Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors met this Wednesday. We devoted most of our time to getting an update and overview of the state of SGM and established two immediate priorities for the coming year.

First, we decided to create a polity committee to consist of two members of the Board, two members of the Leadership Team (including C.J. Mahaney, who will chair the committee), and at least three Sovereign Grace pastors not on the Board. This committee will pick up the work that has already been done on polity and develop it to give better definition to the ministry, to how SGM as a ministry relates to pastors and their churches, and to policies and procedures for making decisions and selecting leaders. We are tasking this committee to solicit a broad range of views within SGM regarding how we are governed and how we define our connections between churches and the ministry. Once the committee’s work is done, they will submit it to the Board for review, amendment, and approval. The resulting governance and our partnership agreements will then be presented to Sovereign Grace pastors for their review. We decided, at least for the present, not to set a deadline for the committee’s work to be completed but do want this to be a top priority for our development as a ministry.

Second, we expect to receive the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report in the coming two weeks. We plan to begin discussing the report on a retreat in Louisville April 9 & 10 and then to make plans for responding.

This Board will operate differently from the interim Board. We will not involve ourselves in day-to-day ministry decisions and communication. Our priorities are appointment and evaluation of the Leadership Team, broad evaluation and strategy for the ministry, advising the Leadership Team on key concerns, and providing accountability to the Leadership Team regarding doctrine, finances, and governance. Our primary interactions, therefore, will be with Leadership Team members and others who can inform us about the ministry and counsel us regarding decisions.

It is customary to end messages like this asking for prayer, but this request is more than customary. This new Board is aware of the significant responsibilities we carry for the future of SGM. Please pray for us and more importantly, please pray for this family of local churches and your own local church so that we can—individually and connected together—plant and build local churches that proclaim the gospel and bring praise to our Lord.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Letter from SGM Board to SGM Pastors

Brent Detwiler has published a letter from the SGM Board (read Mahaney and Harvey I guess) to the current SGM pastors and it is VERY detailed in significant changes in SGM polity.

I haven't reprinted it here in detail due to length but the link is here.

What is useful is that Brent has annotated the letter with his own comments and insights which are useful (while taken with a pinch of salt due to his obvious and understandable bias). What particularly struck me was his comments on the understanding of Ephesians 4 Ministries. I think that issue has been the one big downfall for SGM. I understand why they changed their use of the term "apostle" due to their desire to become more acceptable to reformed big dogs like Al Mohler and Mark Dever - but the crunch for me is this;

They still treat the "SGM Board" like they are apostles - even though the current Board may not be gifted and anointed from the risen Christ to act in that capacity.

My contact with the SGM Board member in sorting out my problems was pretty much irrelevant because he would not act or acknowledge any involvement or authority in the church I had problems with. Meeting the church pastors was MUCH more useful because they could and did (but confusingly still referred to the excommunication happening on the advice/instruction of the SGM Board member).

So I would insist and argue that SGM need to decide - what place does a secular term like "Board members" have in an allegedly Christian organisation/movement of churches? Are they apostles or aren't they? I for one agree with Brent;

Personal Theology

I believe in apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers (Eph 4:11). This five-fold ministry is the God ordained means for building mature churches and evangelizing the world. I made sure all five were included in the Statement of Faith. The evangelical world believes in pastors and teachings and theoretically in evangelists. I don’t know what SGM believes in. Their theology changes from week to week. It also remains open ended so they can fill in the blanks as they see fit according to the need of the moment.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Martin Luther-style Letter to SGM Board

I'm a bit behind friends at SGM Survivors, Refuge, Wartburt Watch and SGM Nation (a new blog "representing SGM members calling for reform in SGM" - (is it me or is the list of blogs watching SGM growing?) and of course Brent Detwiler himself - at posting this - but it is still of importance and interest.

One of my greatest encouragements is that my former church - Grace Church in Bristol - has signed the letter. My very personal longing was that they would not blindly follow Mahaney/Harvey et al in celebrity pastor worship but would care and love (particularly my family!) but also the precious family there. And every sign so far this year seems to be they are indeed doing just that.

Here's the letter - originating from Sovereign Grace Fairfax Church (founder SGM church);

March 7th Cover Email from SGC Pastoral Team to SGM Interim Board Members (copies went to C.J. Mahaney, the permanent Board nominees, and the SGM Pastoral Team)

Dear Interim Board members,

Attached is the response of the Sovereign Grace Church (SGC) Fairfax Pastoral Team to your February 27th request for our affirmations or expressions of concern about the nine nominees to the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) Board. Thank you for the enormous sacrifices each of you has made over the past months to serve our family of churches. Though we need to express our disagreement with some of what is being proposed, we want to assure you that we do so as friends who deeply desire to lean in and work together with you. We are eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, and to continue our mission together.

As you read our response, please hear the spirit that undergirds all that we say, including the tremendous appreciation we have for our long history together. On page three of the response you will also see the names of a number of SGM churches and pastors who share our concerns and have let us know that they would like to be included in our response. Collectively, we represent 13 churches, including three of the founding churches of SGM. Each one of us shares our goal of providing a reasoned, Biblically sound appeal to you, the Interim Board members, which reflects the love we share for our family of churches and our hope for reform in the movement.

We want you to know that we have no plans to leave SGM and strongly desire constructive dialogue with you. I welcome a chance to speak to you in person and can be reached at 703.691.0600 (office).

Mark, on behalf of the SGC Fairfax Pastoral Team


March 7, 2012

Dear members of the SGM Interim Board,

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6 ESV)

We write to you on behalf of the Pastoral Team of Sovereign Grace Church (SGC) Fairfax in response to “An Update from the Board,” that we received on February 27, 2012. These have been very troubling times for our family of churches, and we thank God for you, as you have labored many hours serving as Interim Board members. We continue to pray that the Lord himself will preserve your souls in peace and that as fellow brothers in Christ, we all will remain focused on glorifying God our Savior.

When we received your update, the SGC Fairfax Pastoral Team discussed the changes in the leadership structure, the functions of the permanent Board, and the nomination and affirmation processes. We also reviewed the list of nominees for Board membership. In the light of our discussions, we are declining to participate in the process of affirming these nominees because we believe the process is premature and unwise.

Our Concerns

The process is unnecessarily rushed.

You ask that the online feedback form with affirmations and concerns be submitted by March 7, just 10 days after we received the update. You do not explain your rationale for the urgent timeline. We suggest that it would be better to wait until after Ambassadors of Reconciliation releases its report of findings. We understand that this report will include key weaknesses and strengths in SGM’s cultural norms, polity, and structure, all of which could inform the way we move forward in seating a Board.

Ongoing lack of or contradictory communications

We see an established pattern of a lack of communications, including the absence of regional meetings, over the last several years. The most recent example is that we received your February 27th update without any meaningful conversation about the process involved or the contents of the update. Within the update itself, there is very little explanation about how and why the new Board nominees were selected.

In addition, we have received contradictory communications that make it difficult to know what to believe about the actions being taken by the Interim Board. For example, you had explained in “Sovereign Grace Board’s Response to the [Panel] Reports that your “mandate as an interim Board was to evaluate Brent’s allegations,” leaving a “thorough examination of SGM’s leadership structure … to the next Board.” With your latest update, however, it is clear that you have made determinations about polity outside of your self-described scope.

Lack of diversity among the nominees

There is no doubt that the nominees are upright and godly men. However, the lack of diversity of opinions is of great concern. Such diversity would come by including broader perspectives on polity from all of our churches, as well as representation from the international churches, and would greatly enhance the pursuit of much-needed reforms in our family of churches.

Ongoing polity problems

SGM’s new Board, like the previous and Interim Board, will have great authority without strengthened accountability. In effect, the Board remains self-appointed and self-perpetuating because we have no commitment that you will act on the concerns that SGM pastors express.

In addition, there is a lack of sufficient clarity about SGM as an entity. There needs to be a theological document that lays out the Biblical explanation of SGM that is published, peer-reviewed by those outside our movement, and discussed as a whole by all SGM pastors.

Proposed Way Forward

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5 ESV)

Our dear brothers, we appeal to you to slow down. Please stop and listen to the churches you are connected to and emerge from; create forums for pastors to speak together and with you; and call a council of pastors from each church together to discuss our future and make decisions together.

We make these appeals as one of the founding churches in our family of churches and as fellow followers of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who can redeem all circumstances and make right all relationships. Also attached is a list of churches and their Pastoral Teams who agree with our concerns and proposed way forward.

Please receive this letter as an expression of the desire we all share for the reform of our family of churches. For over three decades, we all have been walking together for the sake and advancement of the gospel. We hope to continue doing so fruitfully for decades to come.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you,

Lou Gallo, David Hinders, Vince Hinders, Luke Middleton, Mark Mullery, and Seita Sakaguchi

Sovereign Grace Church Fairfax


The Pastoral Teams of the following Sovereign Grace churches have reviewed, and are in general agreement with, the concerns expressed in the March 7, 2012 response letter from the Sovereign Grace Church Fairfax Pastoral Team to the Sovereign Grace Ministries Interim Board:

Christ Church – San Francisco, CA

Toby Kurth, Tim Chao, Jeff Locke, Jon-Paul Momsen

Christ Our Redeemer Church – Vancouver, WA

Daniel Morse

Covenant Life Church – Gaithersburg, MD

Joshua Harris, Robin Boisvert, Dave Brewer, Don DeVries, Braden Greer, Isaac Hydoski, Grant Layman, Jamie Leach, Joe Lee, Matt Maka, Adam Malcolm, Kenneth Maresco, Corby Megorden, Mark Mitchell, Kevin Rogers, Eric Sheffer, Jon Smith, Ben Wikner

Crossway Community Church – Vancouver, BC

Pat Sczebel, Fred Eaton, Marty Jones, David Smith

Grace Christian Fellowship – Spokane, WA

William Farley, David Farley, John Kershinar, Dave Nelson, Jim Spurgetis, Mark Williams

Grace Covenant Church – Jacksonville, FL

Joe Calabello, Craig Eddy Sr., Ed Edwards

Gulf Coast Community Church – St. Petersburg, FL

Jerry Cisar, Steven Brunson, Daryn Kinney

Sovereign Grace Church – Cleveland, OH

Darren Lander, Roman Bibyk, Bob Digney, Eric Grover, Jonathan Putnam, Brian Reebel, Keith Schifano

Sovereign Grace Church – Greenville, SC

Matt Rawlings

Sovereign Grace Church – Indiana, PA

Mark Altrogge, Stephen Altrogge, Joe Ryer

Sovereign Grace Church – Oswego, IL

Josh Fenska, Jamie Maxim, Tab Trainor

Wellspring Church – Pleasanton, CA

Sam Shin, Justin Chang, Chris Feng, Dan Kim, Thomas Ki

Churches Added - March 8, 2011

Grace Church - Bristol, England

Nathan Smith, Peter Bowley

Grace Community Church – Bradenton, FL

Luan Nguyen

Redeemer Church at Lake Nona – Orlando, FL

Benny Phillips

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Big Day of Change in SGM

So new change of surroundings for returned President C J and a new Board too. "Constant change is indeed here to stay" (as C J always liked to say). As I have learned in work emails - it's always good to highlight key points of note for those who don't have time or inclination to read the details.

  • C J and Jeff Purswell have "asked to have their names removed from consideration".

  • Dave Harvey has "become convinced that Board membership is an unwise commitment right now".

It should be noted that "the Board" (a strange business term that I among others have struggled to place in a biblical context of ANY Christian leadership) is distinct from "the Leadership Team" (at present I'm not sure who they are - apart from guessing it involves C J). So I guess we continue to wait and watch and pray.

Here's the details;

An update from the Board

Dear pastors,

Thank you for bearing with us in patience as we have finalized details for the upcoming Board transition. We appreciate your encouragement, input, and prayers that have played such a significant role for us over the last several months.

This letter is to explain to you the significant changes in leadership structure that are represented in the new Board we hope to install in March, and to solicit your involvement in the process. For a quick reference, we’ve also included at the end of this document a table comparing the old and proposed configurations.

This represents the next step in our polity and leadership refinements that have been in process for the past couple of years. Before we get to the specifics of this step, we want to clarify a few preliminary points. As we’ve stated at the conference and in our various polity meetings, we continue to affirm and celebrate our existence together as a family of churches. Although this letter speaks in terms of “the Board,” that is simply a functional term for the governing body of Sovereign Grace Ministries and not an abandonment of biblical principle. Based upon the precedent of the New Testament, SGM is an expression of extra-local ministry that is connected to local churches, emerging out of local churches, endorsed by local churches, and working with local churches, with the goal of planting churches and serving those churches as they grow toward maturity. As such (and as will be noted further below), participants in the new Board will comprise both men serving extra-locally as well as elders of churches partnering with SGM.

Thus, we will maintain our historical commitment to the pervasive biblical pattern of gifted men leading the church in its mission—planting churches, nurturing churches, and uniting churches in a common mission (e.g., Acts 13:1-3; 15:39-40; 18:27-28; 1 Cor. 16:10-12; Phil. 2:19-30; Col 1:7-8, 4:12; Titus 1:5; et al). The inclusion of church elders on the board will also honor the biblical precedent of local elders partnering with extra-local workers in leadership and mission (e.g., Acts 13:1-3; 15:6).

1. Function of the Board

As noted above, the Board is the governing body of SGM. As such, it is not intended to be involved in the day-to-day affairs of the ministry, which are the purview of the Leadership Team (the president and other senior staff selected by the Board). Rather, it provides oversight and accountability for the organization. For example, the Board:
• Determines the vision and values for the ministry
• Sets priorities and conducts annual performance reviews for the president, and holds the authority to hire/fire him
• Provides financial and legal oversight for the ministry, ensuring an appropriate level of transparency, approving annual budgets, and setting policy
• Defines the Statement of Faith—changes to which will also require a vote of ordained SGM pastors when our polity is revised
Although these are not new responsibilities for the Board, our hope is that they receive more concentrated attention now that the Board (as a governing body) will be distinct from the Leadership Team.

Because of the unique season we are in, this new Board also has a number of special responsibilities awaiting it:
• Finalizing SGM’s polity—something that will likely include a subcommittee of pastors from SGM churches who are not Board members (this will include the development of a book of church order, a defined grievance policy, etc)
• Evaluating recommendations from AOR’s Group Reconciliation report
• Evaluating recommendations from the panels that evaluated Brent Detwiler’s allegations
• Installing a replacement for C.J. Mahaney as president
As we have communicated before, the interim Board’s role was not to finalize polity but to evaluate the charges against C.J. With the seating of a new board, these other important priorities can move forward.

2. Nomination process

SGM’s by-laws provide that the Board of Directors shall make subsequent appointments to the Board. Both in the appointment process for and the composition of the new Board, we are changing how this has been done historically. Given the interim status of this Board and pending finalization of our polity, however, we had to be careful not to set precedents that unduly obligated the future Board, which can further modify this process in light of the ongoing polity refinements in the future. One significant change we believed was important to make immediately was to provide a process for ordained SGM pastors to have input about nominees before they are confirmed. We will explain that affirmation process later in this letter.

The first step in seating the new Board was for the interim Board to nominate a list of men for membership. All of these men individually must meet certain criteria we established. Each man:
1. Is an ordained elder in an SGM church with at least five years of pastoral experience, or a member of the SGM leadership team
2. Has been endorsed to us by his local team for his leadership, wisdom, and character, especially his ability to work well in plurality
3. Possesses a proven grasp of biblical, systematic, and practical theology as well as biblical ethics, and a proven ability to reason biblically and to apply scripture to varied circumstances
4. Has a distinctive gift of leadership, especially the capacity to think strategically and solve problems
5. Has a proven commitment to and passion for SGM’s mission to plant and care for local churches
6. Is in agreement with SGM’s statement of faith and membership agreement with local churches
Other significant changes to the Board include group criteria we set: an expanded roster of at least nine men, at least half of whom are SGM church elders rather than primarily SGM staff (to avoid the dynamics of an insider Board). This change provides a broader perspective, a deeper pool of wisdom, a greater connection with and accountability to churches, and clears the primary obstacle SGM has to joining the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. (There are other measures meant to help SGM benefit from accountability to local churches that we expect will be reflected in the new Partnership Agreement. These include providing recourse for elders in the form of a grievance policy, the requirement that changes in the Statement of Faith be voted on by ordained elders, and the requirement that SGM executive staff serve on the staff of a local church.)

The men below have been nominated for Board membership and have been affirmed by their local teams for the role.
1. Al Pino
2. Craig Cabaniss
3. Ian McConnell
4. John Loftness
5. Ken Mellinger
6. Mickey Connolly
7. Paul Buckley
8. Phil Sasser
9. Ron Boomsma
Short bios of these men are included in the feedback form we created for the affirmation process.

Some of you are surely wondering why C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, and Jeff Purswell aren’t on the list. C.J. and Jeff were both unanimously nominated for the Board but asked to have their names removed from consideration. Both thought they would be able to better serve SGM at present if they were able to specialize in particular areas of their calling. Dave Harvey was also unanimously nominated for Board membership, but after considering the demands of the last eight months, the emergence of some family matters, and the care and counsel of his local eldership, Dave became convinced that Board membership was an unwise commitment right now. This does not mean the Board will not include full-time SGM staff in the future. The Board may nominate new Board members at their discretion and in keeping with the needs of leadership. As with the nominees at hand, new nominations will be submitted to SGM elders for affirmation.

We have instituted a three-year term for Board members. The Board may renew the participation of a member when his term expires, but the renewal will be subject to the affirmation process described below. To avoid a situation in which all nine men are up for renewal or replacement at the same time, the initial slate of men will have staggered terms—three men with two-year terms, three men with three-year terms, and three men with four-year terms. Those terms will be assigned to nominees by the Board once the affirmation process is complete.

This new Board process represents a significant change from the way any SGM board has been formed in the past. We believe that these changes—a larger board, the inclusion of more SGM church elders, a majority non-SGM staff, explicit Board qualifications, approval of Board nominees by their local team, and particularly the affirmation of Board nominees by SGM church elders—will provide us a strong group of gifted men to provide wise and biblical leadership for our future together.

3. Affirmation process

We are submitting these nominees to all ordained elders in SGM churches with the request that they communicate to us their affirmation or concerns for each nominee. Feedback should be based upon the stated qualifications for Board membership.

The interim Board will review and discuss the feedback we receive on each man (recusing the nominees where applicable). If the affirmation process makes it clear that a particular nominee does not meet the stated qualifications, we will find an alternate nominee. If any of you men has questions concerning the feedback we receive on a particular nominee, we will be happy to handle that over the phone.

If you are an ordained SGM pastor, please use the online feedback form to submit your affirmation or concerns. We request that this be done by the end of the day on Wednesday, March 7. Before doing so, you may wish to review the summary of changes (PDF) represented in the new Board structure.

We are encouraged about these changes and believe they will strengthen both our governance and our partnership as we pursue our mission together. We appreciate the feedback we have received from many of you, which has helped to inform the shaping of this process. We never tire of thanking you for your partnership in the gospel, which we trust will only strengthen and prosper in the days ahead.

The SGM Board

C J Moves Church Membership ... Again.

I scarcely know how to pass comment on these swiftly moving events anymore. Other than to say my profound respect for Josh Harris and the people of CLC continues to increase. Are you allowed to "transfer" your membership just because you hit difficulties with your current one? Would I have been allowed to "transfer" my membership say to Christchurch Newport just because of my difficulties with the church in Bristol? Or is that a privilege reserved for the President-returned? I don't know. It doesn't help with the confusion in my mind regarding church life at present. But here it is:

Below is a message sent to Covenant Life Church members today:


Dear Members of Covenant Life,

We are writing to update you regarding another important moment in the events of the last eight months.

Last month when his leave of absence as President of Sovereign Grace Ministries ended, C.J. Mahaney wrote the elders of Covenant Life informing us of his decision to transfer his membership to Solid Rock Church. At that time we told C.J. that the elders would like to meet with him and discuss several concerns that we had for him, as well as hear his questions and concerns for us.

This past Friday, Grant, Josh and Robin met with C.J. along with two members of the Sovereign Grace Board and had an honest conversation. We began by asking C.J. to share his concerns and disagreements with our leadership over the past eight months, and then we shared our concerns and questions for some of his actions and statements during that same time. We felt the Lord gave grace for everyone to speak forthrightly and listen to each other. We believe this meeting was an important step, though it confirmed that we have different perspectives on what has unfolded since last July.

Having had the opportunity to meet with C.J., we have agreed, with sadness, to accept and support his membership transfer. C.J. has communicated to us that he no longer thinks the formal mediation he requested last fall is needed (this mediation was going to be led by Ted Kober and was to address differences C.J. had with the pastors’ public leadership in response to the release of Brent Detwiler’s documents). We are grateful that we’ve been able to talk together, and we expect there will be further dialogue. Because we understand there will be questions on these matters, we have scheduled another “Coffee and Questions” night for [Time & Date Edited]. We’ve created a simple form to allow you to submit your questions in advance of the meeting.

C.J. has communicated his love and appreciation for Covenant Life and that he believes God is leading him into a new season of pastoral ministry. C.J. has told us that his time at Solid Rock will be brief as he plans to plant a new church in another state later this year. Details of those plans will be announced by Sovereign Grace in the coming months.

We pray God’s blessing on C.J. and his family. We will always be grateful for his service to this church.

If you want to talk further about this, we hope you can come to the “Coffee and Questions” night on [Date], and as always, feel free to contact your pastor.


The pastors of Covenant Life

Friday, February 24, 2012

Covenant Life Church's Response to C J Mahaney's Return

This was recently emailed to all CLC members. It's an interesting and encouraging take;

We’re writing to share our thoughts concerning the recent panels’ findings released by the Board of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Thank you for your patience and encouragement during this unique season in our church. Many of you have shared your questions and concerns with us for which we are grateful. We value your ongoing partnership in the gospel.

As a pastoral team, we’ve spent significant time considering the difficult issues addressed by the panels. As you will recall, last summer hundreds of pages of documents were released by Brent Detwiler. We sought to care for our members through the initial shock caused by this release. Given the charges he made against our friend and former Senior Pastor, C.J. Mahaney, we asked the church to allow a thorough process of evaluation to unfold.

The hope of having a completely independent, outside organization review and adjudicate Brent’s charges against C.J. never materialized, but based on the counsel of Ambassadors of Reconciliation, the Sovereign Grace Board did establish an internal process to evaluate the charges and have now released findings from three panels. Each was made up of two Sovereign Grace pastors and one SGM Board member along with a facilitator, Bryce Thomas. While we wish the questions assigned the panels had been broader in scope and would have preferred a selection process for the panel members that avoided any appearance of partiality (e.g., a blind draw instead of ones chosen by the Board), we view these panel reports as a good step toward more openly addressing questions raised by the documents.

We believe the men selected for these panels acted with integrity to address the questions assigned them by the SGM Board, and we thank these men for their sacrificial efforts.
In regard to the first panel, those of us who were directly involved with these events (Kenneth, Grant and Joshua) each communicated to the panel when they interviewed us that we felt C.J.’s written confession to Brent in the fall of 2010 (referenced in the first panel report) was a specific, humble acknowledgement of his sins. We also agree with the panel’s recommendations and trust they will be followed. (We’ve appended all the recommendations from the three panels to this letter.)

In regard to the second panel, Covenant Life had no personal involvement with Brent’s dismissal, and we are not in a position to question the panel’s findings. But we hope that improvements in polity and procedures may help prevent future occurrences of the types of problems the report describes. And it is our prayer that reconciliation among offended brothers will be pursued.

The third panel’s findings regarding Larry Tomczak were arguably the most important of the three panels because of the seriousness of the charges leveled against C.J., Steve Shank and Dave Harvey, and because Larry was a founding pastor of Covenant Life. Reading this report left us deeply grieved by the sin committed against the Tomczak family. We regard the panel’s report to be a rebuke of the men involved in this action. We are grateful that the panel did not gloss over the sin but acknowledged the damage created by the coercive threat and lack of pursuing reconciliation. We agree that honoring the Tomczaks would be appropriate. We also agree that this panel’s recommendations for further reconciliation between C.J., Steve, Dave and Larry should be pursued as a good faith effort in assuring member churches that this type of sin will not be tolerated in the future.

While the Board was functioning within its purview to reinstate C.J. as President, we believe that it would have been better for the Board to have carried out the panel’s recommendations prior to reinstating C.J. and forming a new Board.
We share these points of disagreement out of desire to participate in a constructive dialogue about the future of our movement. We love all the men involved and count them as brothers and gospel partners.
It’s important for us to state that the ways that we disagree about the Board’s handling of this process are distinct from issues of personal forgiveness. God’s forgiveness has been purchased for us by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Whether or not we agree on all the details of these matters, may we all remember that our God has shown each of us undeserved mercy and grace in pardoning our sins.

Extending personal forgiveness toward our brothers is vital as followers of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:13). But it does not mean that we can’t respectfully disagree with the decisions of an organization or express concerns about how leaders are appointed and positioned or ask questions about what authority they hold. Right now for example, the SGM Board is working on a new membership agreement for the churches. They are also appointing a new permanent Board. Both of these issues are very important to us as a church. While we strongly desire to maintain our connection and relationship with other Sovereign Grace churches, we won’t feel comfortable signing a new membership agreement with SGM until the Board has clearly defined how it is accountable to member churches and the nature of its authority and relationship to them. The Board has stated its commitment to clarifying these issues, and we are grateful.
Some additional factors are also in play:

We expect the report from Ambassadors of Reconciliation scheduled to be released in March will give further opportunity to clarify how God is calling for reform in our movement.
We have asked the SGM Board to publish benchmarks for follow-through on the panel’s recommendations.

We want to close this letter with a call to pray for your pastors in Covenant Life and all of the leaders of SGM, asking the Lord to continue to bring conviction and reform any sinful patterns of leadership in the past or present, while also praising God for the good fruit in our church and across the movement as we partner together in days ahead. We believe God wants to do a reviving work among us and position us for greater fruitfulness for his glory.
We appreciate you taking the time to read through this and welcome your thoughts. Feel free to contact your pastor if you have any questions.

The Pastors of Covenant Life Church

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Do We Keep Remembering what God Forgets?

This post was recently written by a US pastor called Wade Burleson in response to SGM's emphasis on "indwelling sin". He quotes an example I have heard John Piper and Sam Storms use in relation to this issue - that of Jason and the Argonauts. It's a great post. Many of us ex-SGMers are now resorting to contacting counselors (something C J Mahaney adamantly was against) because many of us are near nervous breakdowns trying to work through this teaching and it's impact.

Why Do We Keep Remembering What God Forgets?

“As we mature personally, as our families mature, and as our churches mature, we need the doctrine of sin more, not less; and we need to keep growing in rightly understanding and applying this doctrine. Be assured that this is no less true if you’re a pastor or teacher or ministry worker. There’s no pastoral privilege in relation to sin. There’s no ministry exemption from the opposition of the flesh. There’s only a heightened responsibility to oppose sin and to weaken the flesh, as an example to the flock.” -C.J. Mahaney, Humility (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2005), page 133.

The movement C.J. Mahaney founded, Sovereign Grace Ministries, is one that is supposedly built on an understanding and application of God's grace. I recently listened to several messages by Mahaney and read a couple of his books, including the one quoted from above. I find myself rather surprised. SGM seems to focus God's people on the subject of 'sin' much more than they do Christ. Rather than an emphasis on growing in grace within the body of Christ, there is a stated goal by SGM's founder of 'growing in the doctrine of sin.' That, to me, is quite shocking.

In Hebrews 10:17-18 the Lord says, “This is the covenant I will make with them (us)… I will remember their sins no more.”

For the life of me I can't understand why pastors would put emphasis on remembering what God forgets.

There’s no denial Christians struggle with ‘indwelling sin.’ There's also no denial that sin is destructive. The question, though, is "How does a believer defeat indwelling sin?" I am absolutely, positively, one-hundred-percent convinced that every Christian leader who places more emphasis in his ministry to Christians on indwelling sin than he does Jesus Christ, will ultimately lead his people down the path of religious bondage, emotional pain and spiritual abuse. Sin's power and influence are only diminished by displaying the beauty of Jesus Christ. Focus on sin and it entices you; focus on Christ and He enraptures you. An easy way to remember this axiom of the faith is: "There's no high like the Most High!" When God's people regular taste of Him "and see that He is good," every false high that sin brings will be recognized as a sorry substitute for the real thing. The ancient people said as much when they asked of Philip, "Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:21).

Focusing on sin may 'sound' spiritual, but it is in essence anti-Christ. Binding God's people to
various religious rituals (church attendance, quiet time, devotionals, 30-minute morning prayers, promises, commitments, accountability, etc...) in order to overcome indwelling sin is completely missing Christ.

Focus on Christ, not your performance or lack thereof. Focus on Christ, not your accountability or lack thereof. Focus on Christ, not your church attendance or lack thereof. When Christ is your focus, you will find growing satisfaction and delight in Him! When that happens, indwelling sin loses its power because it loses its enticement.

Religious bondage may lead you to THINK the power of sin is gone in your life, but in reality, you haven't changed a lick by the bondage. All that's happened to you is you've been tied down by religion's rituals. If somebody were to cut the ropes that tie you to the institution of the church, you'd be sin's dead meat. But as you taste of the sweetness of Christ, sin begins to lose its power.

I've already quoted Hebrews 10:17-18 as the biblical basis for the good practice of NOT remembering (or focusing) on what God forgets, but let me see if I can illustrate this principle from ancient Greek mythology.

Odysseus and his mighty sailors sailed the Aegean Sea. The sorceress Circe had warned Odysseus and his men to be wary of the beautiful but deadly Sirens. These half-woman, half-beast creatures would entice sailors with their beautiful music, compelling the men to sail closer to the island of the Sirens. Without warning, the Sirens would swoop down, kill and canabilize the sailors who had sailed too close to the island of the Sirens. The sorceress told Odysseus that he and his sailors should have their ears filled with wax to block the Sirens' songs from being heard. Odysseus complied with the instructions by ordering his men to fill their ears with wax. He, however, wanted to hear the Sirens' beautiful songs for himself. So he told his sailors to tie him up to the mast with strong ropes so that when the Sirens began to sing, he could focus on the singing, but he could not jump ship and swim toward the enticing but deadly island. The sailors complied and bound their captain to the ship's mast. When the ship sailed near the island of the Sirens, music began to fill the air, and Odysseus focused on the beautiful songs and found himself enraptured. He began to fight the ropes and chains that bound him, longing to draw closer to the Sirens. He struggled with all his might to free himself from the bondage. He wanted to free himself, but he was trapped and held by the ropes and men on his ship. His battle with bondage was bloody and ugly. Odysseus avoided death at the hands of the Sirens, but he was a miserable wretch as his shipmates sought to hold Odysseus "accountable" and keep him safe.

On the other hand, Jason and the Argonauts dealt with the Sirens in a different manner. They too sailed the Aegean, but unlike Odysseus, they refused the ear wax, the strong ropes, and all attempts to "bind" anyone to the mast of the ship. Instead, they brought the greatest musician in the land onto their ship, a Muse named Orpheus, and they ordered him to play his beautiful music. The music from Orpheus' lyre and harp was so much sweeter, so far better, so incredibly more beautiful than the songs of the Sirens that Jason and the Argonauts had no desire to listen to the Sirens' songs when their ship passed by the island of the Sirens. What kept Jason and the Argonauts on the ship was the greater pleasure and beauty of Orpheus' music.

Odysseus and Jason serve as parabolic illustrations for the modern church. The great mistake of many Christian leaders, including many associated with SGM, is that they are attempting the Odysseus approach to indwelling sin in their people. They wish to expose sin (confess it), focus on sin (analyze it), control sin ('by binding people'), as they put more and more emphasis on sin as "God's people 'mature.'"

The only thing that this particular emphasis brings is tired, worn out people who collapse under the weight of 'authoritative leaders' and their edicts on how to be 'more holy.'

Pastors need to be more like Jason and the Argonauts. We need to bring Jesus into the church like Jason brought Orpheus onto the boat. Talk of Christ. Preach of Christ. Tell of Christ. Magnify Christ. Exalt Christ. Honor Christ. Uplift Christ. Sing of Christ. Speak of Christ. Point to Christ. Focus on Christ. The sweet music of Christ as written in the sacred hymn of Scripture is sufficient. The Holy Spirit does a pretty convincing job of guiding His people by the island of sin when the sweet song of the Savior is being played.

Monday, February 20, 2012

E@Church - Yay or Nay?!

There's a fascinating development going on at one of my favourite sites in the USA - Wartburg Watch. They have begun what's called an "E@Church" where anyone on the internet can follow their services and be ministered to by a pastor guy called Wade Burleson.

The premise of this new development is;

"In our three years of writing this blog, we have become aware that a fair number of people have been so hurt and disillusioned by the church that they have dropped out of attending church altogether. After reading story after story about painful experiences, we don’t blame them. We both have been there.

Yet, many of these folks want to be around other Christians as evidenced by the numbers who visit blogs. Most of these have maintained their faith, but some have walked away or are seriously questioning if this faith is real.

So we wanted to provide a place in which a reader could get some of the benefits of church without the requirements that are often inherent in church attendance. We look at this place as a kind of halfway point between no church and church".

Probably even three or more years ago, I would have turned my perfect little Reformed nose up at this and quoted Calvin et al as insisting that a "church" must be a "local body". Hurt or not hurt - I would have insisted - believers MUST go to church whether they like it or not. And let's face it - many don't.

But I think the experiences I have gone through personally since university have softened my heart somewhat to this approach. I think (like the WW girls organisers) that local church which acts like a real family - centered on trust - would surely be ideal. But I have never encountered so many hurting, broken souls in the religious world since my encounters with Sovereign Grace Ministries and their churches. And I think a "half way point" is actually not a bad idea anymore while many of us still continue to search for a new home (or even a place we CAN call home - not a pew we slip into quietly and run before the Welcome Team find us).

One comment that really struck me after E@Church's first "service" was by a dear lady called "Happymom" - who has suffered some horrendous abuse at a large SGM church after her little child was sexually abuse. Happymom wrote that she had never encountered such a "hope-filled message". And the issue of "indwelling sin" came up. Wade Burleson - the pastor - wrote;

"Interesting that you wrote “no mention of indwelling sin.” I just finished preparing a word of encouragement from Hebrews 10:17-18 for a week from Sunday. Those verses say, “This is the covenant … I will remember their sins no more.”

The message is entitled “Divine Amnesia” and it has challenged me to ask the question why so many churches put the emphasis on remembering what God forgets. There’s no denial I struggle with ‘indwelling sin.’ The question is how is it dealt with. I believe the teaching of the New Testament puts the focus on Christ and not the sinner, and until the sinner discovers the greatest ‘high’ is the most High, he will continually fall for the false high sin gives".

I agree with your assessment of Sovereign Grace Ministries. I had never listened to much teaching from SGM until I recently heard testimonies from people who have attended. I went back and listened to some of Mahaney’s messages, and others, who are in leadership at SGM.

You shall know the Truth and He sets you FREE!

I was shocked.

The emphases of their messages are all wrong. It’s as if they use grace to entice sinners into the church and then use ‘law’ and the exposure of sin to keep believers dependent on their church".

While I continue to remain eternally optimistic and hopeful for SGM and their future - I think the AoR report MUST continue to insist on this truth being put right - for the good of the thousands of hurting, needy souls still within SGM.