Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Official SGM Board vindicating C J Mahaney

So here's the link to the full 51 page report vindicating C J and his ministry.

The key point: Mahaney is going to return as President "temporarily" (his words) in order to prepare and transition SGM for a new leader.

There is also a small addendum discussing why SGM pastors were not entitled to vote in this matter.

The reports were leaked on "SGM Wiki-leaks" - who we also had to thank for leaking the Brent Detweiler documents. Originally the SGM Board were going to publish their report on Friday (tomorrow) but I guess the leak forced them to publish officially a day early. C J himself also commented on his "Cheap Seats" blog (his first entry since August 12th - not forgetting Dave Harvey removed C J's "confession" blog).

Read and digest. I've got my suspicions on who his successor will be. I am hoping I am wrong because it will mean my optimism has been seriously misplaced yet again. I am determined to try and be optimistic and remember the precious visit I had to Grace Church Bristol and the grace I had shown to me and the welcome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So he's back? (Allegedly)

Apparently this is going to get published on the SGM website tomorrow (Friday);

Announcement Regarding C.J. Mahaney from the Sovereign Grace Ministries Interim Board of Directors

In July 2011, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) installed an interim Board of Directors. Our primary task was to determine C.J. Mahaney’s fitness to serve SGM as President in light of accusations made against him by a former SGM leader, Brent Detwiler. To accomplish this, we sought to apply the teaching of 1 Timothy 5:19-21 regarding the examination of an elder. As described in our October 28 blog post, we created three panels to review Brent’s allegations and report their findings to us, after which we would determine if C.J. was to continue in his role as President.

After examining the reports of these three review panels, we find nothing in them that would disqualify C.J. from his role as President, nor do they in any way call into question his fitness for gospel ministry. Therefore the Board has decided unanimously to return C.J. to the office of President, effective immediately.

These reports confirm the experience of many people over many years under the ministry of C.J. Mahaney. C.J. is a man and a minister of fundamental integrity who has endeavored to serve SGM with faithfulness and humility since its inception. As with all ministers of the gospel, C.J. is not infallible, and this fact is not lost on him. And so we also affirm that throughout this process of evaluation, C.J. has made genuine confession to the appropriate parties and has demonstrated a desire to grow in areas of weakness. C.J. has demonstrated a commendable trust in the grace and sovereignty of God throughout this entire process.

To put our decision in context, shortly before the interim Board began its work, C.J. took a voluntary leave of absence to avoid even the appearance of influencing his evaluation. To further protect the integrity of the process, the interim Board sought the counsel and affirmation of an outside conciliation ministry, Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AOR).

With C.J. on leave and AOR involved, the review process took the following form: We commissioned three outside ministers to review Brent’s documents in light of C.J.’s confessions and render their judgment on his fitness to serve in ministry. In light of their evaluation, they found him to be completely fit to serve. We then commissioned three panels – each consisting of three SGM pastors – to evaluate C.J.’s involvement in the three central events of Brent’s allegations. The panels had complete autonomy to interview any witness and review any evidence. They conducted their reviews and prepared their reports without any outside influence, save for the oversight of an independent facilitator who was responsible to certify the process. As readers will see in the reports, the panels had broad license to issue any individual or organizational recommendations they deemed appropriate in light of their findings. They did an exceptional job with their unenviable assignment and we’re grateful to them for the many hours they invested in this process.

This has been a trying season for our family of churches and for C.J. and his family in particular. The recommendations made by the panels delineate some of the weaknesses we see in our ministry, and we expect to learn even more when the separate AOR-led Group Reconciliation process is completed this spring. Our hope and prayer is that all of us evaluate these matters humbly, apply the forgiveness that comes through the gospel appropriately, and relate to one another about these matters graciously as we work together to reform what needs reforming, reaffirm the goodness of God in our midst, and continue to plant and build local churches with our chief aim the glory of God through the gospel".

And there's another 51 pages of the report to read and consider.

Whither now - SGM?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Exhausted of "Churchianity"?

I have had a rare and enjoyable day off doing some "DIY" and shopping - and as per usual have spent much of it glued to my iPhone catching up on events from around the globe. For me - this is usually through my Twitter account but also reading some of Brent Detweiler's extensive documents on the current SGM controversy. I really don't know how the man gets his sheer determination and focus to write so extensively on what he believes is right. And I share much of his concerns - SGM needs an overhaul and some honest confession from the top.

But I have to admit I find reading it all quite exhausting. Is this really "the Bride of Christ"? What does our heavenly awesome Bridegroom make of this? Surely there must be "more"?

Lou Fellingham's beautiful song "I will say" is like balm to my tired soul at this time (and I'm sure many others). Sadly there isn't a You-Tube video of this song live - but for those who haven't heard Lou's amazing voice - here is her singing "There is a Day".

I will say

"You give rest to the weary
You bring strength to the weak
As they wait in your presence
There is grace for their need

So I’ll wait, I’ll wait
Yes I’ll wait, I’ll wait for you

I will say of the Lord he is my refuge
I will say of the Lord he is my strength
I will say of the Lord he is my shelter, my hiding place

You can come in the silence
You can come in the noise
Bringing peace in a moment
Bringing comfort and joy

So I’ll wait, I’ll wait
Yes I’ll wait, I’ll wait for you

I will say of the Lord he is my refuge
I will say of the Lord he is my strength
I will say of the Lord he is my shelter, my hiding place
I will come to the source all creation
I will drink from the well that never dries
I will draw from the one who won’t grow tired
The lord of all

And I’ll wait, I’ll wait
Yes I’ll wait, I’ll wait for you
I will wait, I’ll wait
Yes I’ll wait, I’ll wait for you

I will say of the Lord he is my refuge
I will say of the Lord he is my strength
I will say of the Lord he is my shelter, my hiding place
I will come to the source all creation
I will drink from the well that never dries
I will draw from the one who won’t grow tired
The lord of all

You give rest to the weary
You bring strength to the weak

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

C J Loses His Assistant

Many SGM and Mahaney fans are wondering about what C J is up to and what the future may hold for Mahaney and SGM (sadly for many the two are inseparable). Although I am not a C J or SGM fan - I am an interested observer so I was interested to read the following;

"Of course this means I will be leaving the Sovereign Grace Ministries office in Maryland, and Friday is my final day on staff. It has been a delightful four years serving alongside C.J. Mahaney as his editorial and research assistant. I will miss working with him in the office, traveling with him to conference engagements, and of course I will miss the multitasking meetings that may have appeared to some as a simple game of catch in the parking lot. I will greatly miss working with my friends in the Sovereign Grace office, worshipping with our friends at Covenant Life Church, and serving the many incredible pastors in Sovereign Grace who are spread across the country and the world".

Although C J appears to have given his "blessing" to this move for his assistant back to John Piper - one cannot but wonder at the implications for C J's future involvement in SGM.

And secondly - a friend who is a member at Covenant Life Church wrote;

"Greetings from your pastors!

We pray the grace, mercy and peace of Jesus for you today. We’re writing to give you a brief update on current events related to our church, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and our new church constitution.

We’ve all been in a waiting period since the events of last summer and our Members Meeting at the end of October. In the next few months several key events will bring these issues back to the forefront along with what we trust will be a greater sense of clarity and closure.

First, sometime later this month the SGM Board will release reports from the three panels they appointed to evaluate several issues raised by Brent Detwiler’s documents. Each panel, comprised of one board member and two SGM pastors selected by the Board, was tasked to answer a single question. One panel evaluated Larry Tomczak’s departure from SGM (then known as PDI); another, C.J. Mahaney’s role in Brent Detwiler’s dismissal as senior pastor of the SGM church in Mooresville, N.C.; and the third, how C.J.’s participation in fellowship in 2003 and 2004, including the giving and receiving of correction, aligned with Scripture.
The SGM board received the reports in December and will be sharing them publicly along with their decision about C.J.’s role as president. When this information is released in the next few weeks we will be reading and processing it along with the rest of the public. Therefore, we don’t plan to respond immediately, as we will need time to review, reflect, pray and discuss the reports. We don’t want to rush a response.

Second, Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AoR) is preparing a report that is due in March. This peacemaking ministry, at the request of the SGM Board, has conducted numerous interviews with current and former members and pastors of SGM churches (including our church) to help SGM evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. We agree that this kind of objective, outside evaluation is a very good thing, and we commend Dave Harvey and the Board for pursuing it.
Although both sets of reports will be written for SGM, we believe Covenant Life can benefit from them as well. The posture we want to take as your pastors is one of humility as we read the reports and see how they may apply to our church.

Finally, we are making good progress on our new church constitution. We had hoped to publish a rough draft by February 1, but a combination of Christmas break, pastors being on mission trips and some issues being more complicated than we expected, have delayed us a bit. We are aiming to release the rough draft to the church this spring to get your feedback. In the meantime we’re working toward consensus on a few questions as pastors, getting the feedback of some members, and asking key leaders in the broader body of Christ to review the document. When we share it—still in draft form—we’ll take time in public meetings to answer questions and process feedback so that we can move toward ratifying the constitution later in the year.

It is a great honor for us to serve as your pastors. We love and respect you so much. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
In grace,

The pastors of Covenant Life".

I guess that means - we continue to watch and wait.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Leadership Skills According to the Iron Lady

I originally intended to come back from the cinema 2 days ago and write a post reflecting on leadership skills in the church based on the awesome film; "Iron Lady". However my apartment was broken into and we had some very valuable things robbed including my iPad - so that distracted me somewhat! Then I woke up yesterday ready for a long day at work and was in the wrong place to read Mark Driscoll's rather unfortunate assessment of preaching and teaching in the United Kingdom.

I was thinking about his comments at work and wondering if I was overly harsh - but I think not. Many excuse Driscoll on "his age" or "social situation" - but I do think that leadership demands an element of responsibility. Unless Driscoll is extraordinarily naive or foolish - he will be aware of his fan-base across the world, so therefore must be aware (thanks to social networking) of the impact that a throw-away comment such as he allegedly made, would have.

My philosophy is still simple. As the many brilliant consultant surgeons and physicians in healthcare quite rightly take a large salary for their responsibility of the patients under their care - so "mega-church pastors" who take large salaries as well as book royalties (such as Driscoll, C J Mahaney or even John Piper) must also take responsibility for the impact of their words. In a sense - their words can damage even more than the doctors I encounter because the words of church leaders can damage spiritually as well as physically.

But onto "the Iron Lady".

I have always been a fan of Margaret Thatcher since I was young (as the photo taken by my friend Mark Heath demonstrates! Check out the postcard of Thatcher in my office in the bottom right hand corner) - so I was eager to see how this film depicted her. I greatly enjoyed the film but found it sobering too. Whatever one may feel about Thatcher's methods - you cannot deny her commitment and determination to see what she believed right brought about. Two scenes particularly brought me out in goosebumps;

1. The moment when Thatcher had to decide whether or not to take aggressive action against the Argentine battleship that was circling the Falkland Islands at the beginning of the war. Whether or not this was the way it happened - the film has it visually grippingly depicted! Thatcher is surrounded on one side by her military commanders who have told her what can be accomplished if she wishes. On the other - her civil servant advisers who continually advise "caution" and "negotiation". The viewer can see Thatcher's manicured nail tapping on the table and you hear the monumental lines; "Sink it". What is further gripping is that you see her tears and agony at the impact of her action - the British lives lost as a result.

2. The other was the moment when Michael Hestletine's betrayal (in Thatcher's view) became real to her, and she realised she would have to leave power. She said in the film; "But I am Prime Minister!". It made me realise that any leader - whether in church, or in state - are still human beings with real emotions, vulnerabilities and can be hurt. It was this moment that brought tears to my eyes for what I imagine C J Mahaney must be going through at this time. I have made no secret of my dislike of his methods and decisions - but I realised in the cinema, what utter hurt Mahaney must feel in his mind - at the way that certain leaders have "turned on him". Thatcher used to lead the United Kingdom. Mahaney used to lead SGM. Both human.


The one concerning thing I noticed was the very similar tactics used by both Thatcher and her politicians, and much of "celebrity" church leadership I see today. I'm not quite sure of the difference anymore - other than one leader leads a country, another leads a church (or group of churches). Forgive me for sounding dated - but I think what is missing from much of church leadership that is in the public eye is "the anointing". I still remain very committed to Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones' description of the "sacred unction" that is needed (and missing) from so much of preaching.

Don't get me wrong - I love social networking, Twitter, the opportunities that the internet brings to spread the word of the gospel far and wide. But I still am not persuaded that these "modern inventions" (as the Doctor would call them!) are necessary to bring about a revival of spiritual power that we so desperately need. I think it's great the way that Mark Driscoll in Seattle, Nathan Smith and Pete Bowley in Bristol (in my opinion one of the best churches in the UK using social networking - alongside CCK in Brighton) and others particularly have really jumped on board and are using Twitter and the internet to spread the word that church is available and where they are! But I do hope that Mark Driscoll (I know the Bristol leaders wouldn't) become dependent on his flashy back screen while he preaches to think that is essential to bring in the crowds.

This is why Terry Virgo's ministry (alongside others such as Rob Rufus) means so much to me. You can still sense the anointing on him when he preaches - and surely this is the example to seek to emulate. Not investing tithes in mediation fees or new technology for your church.

A quote from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones to close;

“When the Holy Spirit comes in revival there is a great anointing, and it shows itself in many ways. You read of men who had believed the truth, and who were preaching faithfully and regularly, but who were ineffective and lacking in power. Suddenly they are filled with power. They speak with boldness and with power and with great authority. That is the anointing of the Spirit . . .

But this anointing is not confined to revival. I use that simply as an illustration. Thank God it is given at other times. Any man who has ever preached should be able to testify to this. There are times when, entirely outside his own control, he is given a special authority, special power, an unction which is unusual. And there are good reasons for its bestowal. There are circumstances which he himself is not always aware of, which he only discovers afterwards. Somebody may have come to the congregation who needed a particular message or word, and the preacher, without knowledge on his part, is guided to say something which is just appropriate to that particular state and condition. There is, therefore, this special enduement of power which is called ‘the anointing’. It is something that one should seek and covet, it is something for which one should be constantly praying . . .".

(HT: Adrian Warnock - emphases mine - David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10 to 20, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA, 1977, p.115)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Toilet Mouth Driscoll is at it Again

Most know I have made no pretence of my dislike for Mark Driscoll. His efforts to appear "manly" (putting down women, swearing in pulpits, wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt) really do less than impress me. However - I have tried to see the good in his ministry. Terry Virgo - a man I hugely respect - has had some interaction with him and I've tried to appreciate that.

But Driscoll just won't shut up and go away. Not only has he know produced a "soft-core porn" sounding book on marriage and intimacy - which I fully admit I haven't read (and don't intend to - Tim Challies fair review was enough) but apparently he has also written off most of the United Kingdom evangelical preachers!

“Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren't telling the truth.”

It doesn't bother me personally. I'm not "young" or a "Bible teacher". But I wonder how the many fans that Driscoll has over here in the United Kingdom will feel about being assessed as "cowards who aren't telling the truth". I wonder about Joel Virgo at CCK who I think is a fan, or Adrian Warnock or the many other Newfrontiers preachers who got excited about Driscoll's visit to the Newfrontiers Brighton conference recently? I wonder about the SGM young excellent preachers in both Bristol and Newport who would surely fit closely theologically with him as Calvinist and Reformed? Or as Krish Kandiah (who reviewed Driscoll's comments) also notes;

"It doesn’t sound like Driscoll is rejoicing the ministry of Mike Pilavaci, Andy Croft, Jo Saxton and the impact these preachers are having on tens of thousands of young people each summer at Soul Survivor. Doesn’t sound like he’s particularly appreciative of Rico Tice coming from the other end of the theological spectrum whose course is being used by hundreds of churches. We can’t call Nicky Gumbel young anymore but I haven’t heard a lot of love coming from Mars Hill for Alpha either. Apparently he hasn’t got anything good to say about Karl Martin in Edinburgh nor Pete Greig at HTB or Ness Wilson in Loughborough".

Oh Driscoll has begun to try and retract his words already apparently (as he does quite frequently when he mouths off and then realises he has put his big size 10's in it). I was more interested in the fact that he and his wife have a degree in communications rather than his "words of context" - that accuse the Christianity Today reporter of seeking to "inflame" his more controversial aspects to his ministry.

This hasn't really helped my attempts to see the good in Mark Driscoll's ministry. I don't think we even bother wondering whether John Piper and C J Mahaney (who has far too many of his own troubles to be reigning in Driscoll) help "father" and "pastor" him anymore. I am sad to say that all I see is an arrogant chauvinist who is working the media well (through his degree in communications) to stay famous, sell books and create newspaper headlines. Maybe he's a potential candidate for next year's "Celebrity Big Brother".

However I will try not to huff off - offended for my country - but end with a fair review assessment;

"There is lots to commend about Pastor Mark’s ministry – there is an evangelistic fervour, a cultural connectedness to their praise and worship that i have not seen anywhere else and passion for church planting which I can rejoice in. But please Mr Driscoll its time not just to “Man up” but “Grace up” your brothers and sisters in the UK need less judgmentalism and more encouragement".