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.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Glimmers of Life in the UK!!

One of my more negative reflections on the last Brighton Newfrontiers leaders conference of the last summer - was the apparent (to me) lack of conferences/holy convocations (as Ern Baxter used to call them) that strove to held the tension between Word and Spirit (or Reformed doctrine and real charismatic experience - not "continuationism").

That's not to say they don't exist - or to dare claim that Newfrontiers hold the unique claim to Word and Spirit in the UK (although to me they certainly seem one of the few). But it was just that I wasn't aware of them and I found it difficult. Stoneleigh Bible Week was a massive yearly event in my life that I looked forward to greatly with friends, and then Brighton seemed to replace that. So when the Newfrontiers leaders stopped the Brighton conference (and I have nothing but trust in Terry Virgo and the other leaders for doing so!) - it seemed like a double kick in the teeth!

So it was a real joy to quite by accident come across this conference that is being held this weekend in the heart of London. The church is new to me - but the speakers; Terry Virgo and Greg Haslam among others are not! I am GUTTED that it's too soon for me to go to - I have other plans this weekend involving a trip to Bristol, but the thrill is - it's HAPPENING and in the capital of this country I love so much!

Now - a caveat - one of the major concerns I have had with the whole "Sovereign Grace Ministry mess" I have been closely following since July last year, has been the culture of "Celebrity Pastors". Ironically the man - C J Mahaney - at the centre of this "mess" is going to be on a panel at "Together for the Gospel" - addressing this very topic. I wonder how he will address these concerns given the very public celebrity status he holds? So - you may rightly say - am I not guilty of the same, elevating men like Greg Haslam and Terry Virgo (who I have made no secret of hugely respecting)?

I see a difference between "celebrity pastors" and "Ephesians 4 Translocal Ministries".

Celebrity pastors, it seems to me, seem devoted to building and maintaining their own ministries - whether that is based at (usually) a large, wealthy church with books, DVDs and seem to often be stalked by reports that they care little about the members of the churches they purport to serve. Ephesians 4 translocal ministries on the hand are marked by - what Terry Virgo called;

"The gift ... something of a supernatural element ... a gift that opens up the possibility of God breaking through".

While I appreciate many "celebrity pastors" such as John Piper or Joel Osteen - I often am left wondering if they do indeed carry the "gift" that Terry speaks of which opens up the supernatural element and the manifest Presence of God breaking into a meeting? I am sure they would strive to. But I can testify to most meetings I have been in with Terry, Greg Haslam, Rob Rufus and many, many others (such as Dave Holden) who do indeed carry this gift.

I wonder if it is what Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls the "anointing"?

Maybe some are tutting and saying this post is just "another" attempt to "slag off SGM". Not at all! There has been a radical change of thought in my mind these last few months. I see a vast distinction now within SGM where I can accept, love and appreciate many SGM pastors. I think though - the only SGM "apostle/Board member" I have sensed the anointing on has been - ironically - Brent Detweiler - when he spoke at Celebration UK.

So back to this Word and Spirit conference ...

Here's a video talking about the "need for demonstration" from one of the conference organisers;

Word & Spirit : 3 The Necessity for Demonstration from Revelation Church London on Vimeo.


Oh how my weary heart longs for demonstration of the beliefs we have talked about for years. Reformed theology is all well and good. And Lord knows - I generally still believe most of what I have always believed. But I am tired of conference after conference talking about "theology".

It's all very well being "together" for the gospel. But if the gospel doesn't change a needy, lost, hurting world - then really what is the point? I don't want to go to another conference where I do not see a "demonstration of power" there - praying for the sick, appeals to the lost, signs and wonders! I'm tired of a Christianity that has nothing to offer but words!

I can't make this conference - but I hope it spreads the seed for this essential - primary balance of theology and experience. Nothing else will do! To end with Terry Virgo's statement;

"We have never been content with a cessationist perspective that expects the church to try advancing without God’s manifest presence".

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Celebration of C J ...

Words are not enough. Just the videos will do.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Larry Tomczak responds to the SGM Board Report

Many of us (I think) would wonder what Larry Tomczak made of the SGM Board Report completely clearing C J Mahaney. Seeing as it was his dear son that was allegedly blackmailed by Mahaney and his team - it would seem more than appropriate that a father (would hopefully) step up to the plate and want to defend his son. That would be my hope anyway. I still strongly struggle with the concept of a parent standing with a church system against their own flesh and blood (UNLESS perhaps there was a clear case of unrepentant sin).

The one quote in this article that really stood out to me (and there were many) was where Larry quoted an SGM pastor who wrote to him. And the quote went like this;

"SGM has no history of restoring pastors".

As one who has been in and forced out of SGM, the issue of restoration is a vital one to me. The New Testament is FULL of restoration! "Restore him gently". So the fact that a CURRENT SGM pastor acknowledges that SGM have NO history of restoration upsets me greatly. As an eternal optimist, I hope that the reason is that SGM don't quite know HOW to restore. They don't quite know how to go about saying "sorry". I pray that is beginning to change.

Open Letter Upon Release Of SGM Panel Report On Tomczak Departure

7 Concerns

Larry and Doris Tomczak

A week ago my wife and I completed a 21 day fast to seek the Lord for 2012. Near the top of our list were issues related to SGM (Sovereign Grace Ministry). At the end of the fast we received a call from Dave Harvey, interim President of the ministry, wanting to ask forgiveness for his sinful behavior towards us and our family almost 15 years ago. A week later he sent us an advance copy of their panel report dealing with our departure from SGM.

What follows is our public response to this public report. It would serve the reader to first read the statement we made available on our website larrytomczak.com entitled, “The Tomczak Departure from SGM – What Really Happened?”

As Doris and I said in our “Departure” statement, we are not blameless in our journey. We love all those involved and simply present here observations that either amplify or adjust some points expressed in the SGM report. We forgave our brethren years ago but, as a matter of integrity, present here seven significant points that need to be addressed.


The hope of onlookers regarding the panel was for an unbiased 3rd party to assess a few of the critical issues and offer their wisdom. Unfortunately, the examination was basically handled “in house” by sincere men who had a definite stake in the outcome – namely their livelihood and the preservation of the ministry image.

The SGM board member and two SGM senior pastors who wrote the report are to be commended for their hard work. This was an unenviable task because of their longstanding close association with SGM leaders, direct involvement in the ministry, and their families’ ties with many church members. Would they “get in trouble” if they stated things contrary to what other senior leaders desired in the outcome?

When President Clinton was being accused of immoral and unethical behavior, an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, was brought in with his team to investigate matters for Congress and the American people. If something similar happened to our current President, you would not think it wise to have fellow Democrats, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid leading the panel! Yet this was the approach chosen by the SGM board. And while others objected, we felt it was important to participate despite our misgivings and trust God to work through a less than ideal process.


On October 14, 1997 our journal entry records the following: “Larry and our child talked by phone with a lawyer. He advised Larry to tell the Team (the board) to ‘not even think of using our child’s confessed sins to blackmail Larry.’ ‘It’s blackmail and punishable by jail, prosecuted in every state – no exceptions. It’s a breach of penitent/counselor confidentiality.’”

When Ted Kober, the President of Ambassadors of Reconciliation heard the tape recording of what was said to us repeatedly by the Team he dropped his head in dismay while his associate literally wiped away tears.

The panel report says, “CJ allowed for the possibility of making known their child’s sin if Larry communicated that he was leaving SGM over doctrinal disagreement.” This minimizes CJ’s sin and describes it far too mildly. He made a direct, emphatic and unethical threat. He was not allowing for the possibility, he was promising to expose our child. In our conversation, we confronted him three times with the word “blackmail” to describe his threats. His exact words back to us were “I’m stating it!” He threatened us with blackmail!

At the first mention of the threat, Doris called CJ on it: “That’s blackmail!”
In two subsequent taped conversations with other SGM leaders we again labeled it “blackmail.”
An attorney from whom we sought counsel defined it as “blackmail.”
National leaders who heard the tape recordings referred to it as “blackmail.”
I read the following words to CJ in Nashville from Webster’s dictionary:

“Blackmail: extortion (the act of obtaining from a person by force or undue or illegal power or ingenuity) by threats especially of public exposure.”

Webster’s dictionary defines what it is and, as they say, “It is what it is!” Why soft-pedal this coercive threat that was used to obtain our silence? Plus we have the recordings to prove it and have requested on several occasions that the SGM board and others that were involved listen with us to themselves on the tapes before there’s asking of forgiveness. To date they have dismissed our request.

While CJ, and the SGM board and the panel report acknowledge what happened was “coercive, wrong and sinful,” they all stop short of being specific about the most egregious offense which is immoral, illegal and unethical. It was premeditated, repeated and agreed upon by all the leadership team. (The report makes this clear.)

Departed board members Paul Palmer and Brent Detwiler both cited “blackmail” when they asked forgiveness – the former over 8 years ago! Yet when Dave Harvey called us the week before the report’s release, he (like CJ, Steve Shank and Larry Malament) hedged on using the accurate and serious designation.

Isn’t it time to once and for all stop any “spin,” man up, and confess it for what it is? And an addendum…if CJ and Steve have a “vague recollection” (as stated in the report) of CJ supposedly calling us within a few days to “withdraw the threat” so it really didn’t “hang over” us for over a decade, why when CJ and Steve called our child 5 years later to finally ask forgiveness for some of the areas of offense did they still refuse to call and ask forgiveness of Doris and me even when our child asked them to? Why would it take 14 years before CJ and Steve would finally confess the injustice and even then “tone it down” with softer terminology? These are real questions that warrant real answers. By the way, they have a “vague recollection” of some call. WE HAVE NO RECOLLECTION of any such call! We wouldn’t have forgotten it or failed to put it in our journal of those events!!


The vow of confidentiality that CJ made to our child is sacrosanct and inviolable. Tragically, CJ broke this vow by divulging details to a person who is trustworthy and who came forward with the specifics. The report said, “CJ has no recollection of this conversation,” and then moved on. A serious ethics violation of this magnitude cannot be brushed off as seemingly insignificant. A man of sterling character who described in detail what was said to him by CJ in violation of a clergy/penitent vow has to be given weighty consideration. It should be considered alongside of other sinful conduct surfacing in a leader who is under investigation. More is needed here. In addition to this event, Larry Malament also revealed confidential details to other members of the SGM Team and local leaders in a conference call we were a part of on October 8, 1997. Later, a Team member relayed that Larry M. also did this on another occasion and stands ready to testify accordingly.


At Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland (a church that we co-founded in our apartment and in which we invested 15 years of our lives), CJ stood before over 1,000 people (with guests and unbelievers present) and branded me a “liar.” He admits he instructed technicians to “turn off the tape” and did say, “I’d rather be dead than do what Larry Tomczak is doing.” In spite of several witnesses (for example, one teenage boy told us he confronted CJ to his face a few days later) and having been confronted with his exact words in print for over a decade, the report says, “CJ does not recall saying anything along these lines.” We do not believe this is sufficient reason for dismissing the charge.

Last year at Covenant Life Church, CJ acknowledged some of his sinful attitudes in the above episode. Many believe his confession was incomplete; he minimized the severity of public slander in violation of Matthew 18:15-17; and still needs to make amends for debasing in a single moment a leader’s reputation built upon 25 years of Christian ministry.


Over the years one of the most common accusations brought against SGM is one where former members are shunned or banished after disagreement with leaders or simply choosing to leave the church. The report confirmed this to be our experience, with which multitudes identify.

The panel cited CJ’s public criticisms “was the death of Larry’s reputation at CLC…church members stopped interacting with them.” [We would add these included close relatives for many years.]

CJ sent a letter to pastors asking them “not to engage in casual conversation or pursue fellowship with Larry.”

He penned a letter to thousands of folks throughout the movement of churches suggesting I was under “church discipline” when I never was. This manipulated people into shunning us by confusing them. Friendships built for years were shattered overnight. The panel members were courageous in allowing this material to be included. What needs to be underscored is how, under CJ’s leadership, instruction, and personal example, this un-Christlike treatment of us and many others of God’s precious sheep was allowed to flourish. Some SGM board members, local pastors and church members are guilty of blindly following his lead.

Our experience brings this to the surface and should not be ignored. We turned over to the panel the names of over 105 leadership couples who experienced spiritual abuse in SGM. Imagine how many other church members have also been victims.

Families have been devastated, close friendships destroyed and children have turned away from the Lord and church involvement in the wake of this uncharitable practice. Our own extended family was divided and still feels the painful effects of this ungodly treatment until this very day.

Where this has happened, may leaders humbly repent and change their ways to allow a new season of blessing and favor for SGM. The report says this is not “systemic”. The reality is, it has been a pattern that has devastated our immediate and extended families plus scores of God’s people across the country. It must be acknowledged, confessed and renounced. Our situation brings it into the light so changes can be made to avert future hurt and relational devastation.


When I consented to take a leave of absence to deal with family matters, I had every intention of returning to my leadership position in our local church and in SGM. This is very significant to grasp! In the months preceding the blackmail, our entire family experienced “lording over, abuse of authority, manipulation and control” (which CJ confessed and asked forgiveness for in our December, 2010 Nashville reconciliation). This treatment brought us to the point where it was untenable and as a matter of conscience, we had to leave SGM. We literally felt as an entire family we were under “house arrest” with our every action, word and motive scrutinized and questioned. The legalism became unbearable. The report also acknowledges I was “stuck,” left without any process of appeal.

The report cited how I initially “gave agreement” to Reformed doctrinal tenets, but later changed my mind. There is truth to this but two points need to be made: 1) I, like many former SGM leaders who had also left over the doctrinal changes, was wavering and reluctant to comply. I finally mustered the courage to speak up, die to “fear of man” and express my true sentiments regarding differences of doctrine. 2) My major battle was with the fear of man in an atmosphere of intimidation and man-pleasing. I remember sitting in a “Team” meeting where it was said, “Mark Altrogee and Benny Phillips (SGM senior pastors viewed as suspect at the time) may have to be let go if they don’t agree with the Reformed Doctrine.” I thought, “Larry, be careful – will I be next?” I should have spoken up and suffered the potential consequences. I confess my former cowardice.

What wasn’t made clear in the panel’s report are related and significant points revealing the depth of betrayal I encountered.

Criteria established by SGM leaders for returning to my former role as senior pastor made it an impossibility unless I embraced certain Reformed doctrinal tenets which in my conscience I could not do.

People nationwide were deliberately misled. An example would be, “It was always our intention to see Larry restored as senior pastor.” Numerous disingenuous public statements and letters went out to SGM churches and nationwide which misrepresented what actually happened.
My “7 Reasons for Departing PDI” (SGM) were not conveyed to people as I requested.
My “confession” letter was the result of intimidation which forced me to use loaded terms, affirm SGM leaders and insert material with which I was uncomfortable, but required to include.
At a public church meeting, CJ instructed me to nod in agreement with what he would say while I appealed that I couldn’t do it in good conscience.
Three former SGM board members, two former administrators and three of the Atlanta leaders in the church at that time (who have all left SGM) cite “abuse of spiritual authority, over lording, and deceitful conduct” in their experience. This is tragic.
Scripture calls us to “restore” struggling Christians in a “spirit of gentleness” (Gal.6:1). Although most of the leaders have come forward to repent and ask forgiveness for what was done to us (as the report reveals), what needs to be understood are the aspects of betrayal and levels of deceit that forced our departure from a ministry we co-founded and never intended to leave.

“Did you leave without the leaders’ blessing?”

Yes – we believe we had no alternative.

“Did you honor your commitment to not return to public ministry for ‘at least 6 months’?”

Yes – on the exact date the 6 month season expired, I spoke for the first time on a Sunday to an inner city church gathering at the invitation of a dear friend.


This point can be made briefly.

Over the years SGM has experienced “bad fruit” from “bad theology” and, thank God, begun to make changes. The panel stated the obvious, uncharitable treatment we endured, the lack of compassionate care in a difficult family situation, the “over emphasis on indwelling sin,” etc., etc.

A number of the same SGM board members and pastors who attacked us judgmentally have now experienced their own family “issues” which tempered them and drove them to confess their sinful, self-righteousness to us, several of them in genuine tears.

The report highlighted how “misguided” it was to believe the idea that “good pastors = good kids” and admitted “that there was too much of a link made between Larry’s parenting and his child’s sin.”

Other areas could be cited but our point here is that CJ and SGM leaders should be more forthright in their public repentance through public statements addressing where they veered off course theologically. Multitudes believe there still is too much “spin” and “self-vindication” among top-tier leaders.

A nationally known leader and frequent speaker at SGM churches and conferences told me something months ago that I can’t forget. For close to two decades this man has provided counsel and instruction to SGM and has intimate knowledge of the inner workings and problems of the ministry. Here’s his observation:

The number one problem with many of the Sovereign Grace Ministry leaders is their propensity for self-vindication.”

We suggest you pause here and reread this leader’s observation.

May this panel’s report, our two published statements, as well as constructive criticism to SGM from numerous places (see the email at the end of this document from a former long-time SGM pastor) in this “time of discipline” for Sovereign Grace Ministry and its primary leaders, help these men to address unbiblical positions and practices to honor the Lord, heal wounds, and regain favor as an overall ministry.


In order to be faithful to criteria for Biblical leadership, SGM must steer clear of the sin of favoritism and partiality [starting with CJ], and be consistent with what was expected of former SGM leaders. The question still remains: should the SGM senior leaders step down for a season to be retooled for ministry according to I Pet. 5:1-5; Titus 1:5-9; I Tim.3:1-7; and I Tim. 5:17-24? Perhaps the best way to answer this is the following: “If the things in the panel’s report, in our two statements, and in the accompanying email came to light regarding your pastor, would you give him a “pass?” Would you deem him fit for ministry according to the qualifications of Scripture?

“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be blameless...” 1 Tim 3:1-2



First of all, I believe that the panel was inappropriately tasked to ask the Wrong Questions. He who frames the questions controls the debate, and I believe that’s exactly what the SGM Board attempted to do. Given the gravity of the situation, I don’t think three questions were nearly enough. But given the three, here’s my opinion of what they should have been:

1. Not – “Was CJ’s participation in fellowship in keeping with the teachings of scripture?”

Rather – “Did CJ violate the standards of fellowship, confession and repentance that he imposed on other SGM pastors & leaders? Did CJ behave in a manner that would not have been tolerated by any other SGM pastors under his authority? (Broaden the scope of the question to consider any wider patterns of double-standard hypocrisy. For example, did CJ’s own son act out in ways that would have, and did, get other SGM pastors fired from their jobs? Are there any other “high-status” leaders in SGM, whose teenagers experienced behavioral troubles, but they and their jobs were “protected” – unlike other SGM pastors before them?) In other words: Was CJ giving himself the benefit of living by different standards than he espoused and enforced?”

2. Not – “Did CJ wrongly influence the process of Brent’s dismissal from Mooresville?”

Rather – “Did CJ demonstrate a historical pattern of marginalizing and disposing of SGM leaders that did not meet up to his subjective, extra-biblical standards? Did he “shun” them and teach others to do so by his example? Was Brent already a “dead-man-walking” before he even started at Mooresville because CJ had already punished him, for self-serving reasons, with the loss of status & ministry? Did CJ preside over and infuse an entire SGM culture with an extra-biblical pattern of dismissing & casting aside some of its own pastor/leaders in an unloving and unreasonable manner?”

3. Not – “Was Larry Tomczak’s departure from SGM handled properly?”

Rather – “Did CJ attempt to blackmail Larry Tomczak by means of thoroughly unethical threats against his family? Did other members of the SGM board do the same? Was it a “heat-of-the-moment” threat made out of emotion & quickly regretted, or was it a “cold-blooded” & purposeful act, only rejected 11 days later after severe rebuke from a respected lawyer. (In other words, did CJ & others back off by reason of moral repentance or functional impracticality? It seems clear that they did not immediately express any sorrowful repentance to Larry and his family.) Is attempted blackmail an “ordinary” sin or a “scandalous” one?

On a secondary note, if the panels wish to address the legitimate question of whether Larry Tomczak’s departure was handled properly, they needed to dig back a little further. Larry’s departure began much earlier with his systematic marginalization from SGM ministry. After CJ assumed primary leadership of the organization, he acted to steadily limit Larry’s influence and opportunities there. He greatly limited Larry’s involvement in CLC, a church he had co-founded. He greatly limited his role as a speaker at SGM conferences and events. Larry had to move his church membership to Fairfax in an attempt to find meaningful involvement. Similar to Brent’s experience many years later, Larry had to move on to new territory, in Atlanta, to attempt a new church plant in order to satisfy his God-given desires to serve in ministry. The handling of the departure of Larry Tomczak from SGM began years before the blackmail. The whole process of fault-finding, leading to marginalization and more fault-finding, leading to removal and eventually active shunning needs to be examined. Especially in light of the widespread impression that this represents a pattern that was repeated with many other leaders in SGM.

Further questions:

A. Why does the panel lean so heavily on quoting Larry’s letter of resignation & repentance as a defense for CJ, seeming to implicate SGM’s partial justification in light of Larry’s admitted faults? That letter is actually “Exhibit A” in a very serious suggestion of abuse-of-power and manipulative practice by SGM. Many other deposed SGM pastors have been required to write similar self-incriminating letters against themselves. It’s a wonderful CYA tool for SGM, and is being used as such right before our very eyes. The problem is that these letters are frequently coerced and highly influenced by SGM. They are frequently edited to make sure they come out the way SGM wants them to sound. Larry, and other pastors in similar positions, was under enormous pressure to go along with the program and write what would satisfy those who wielded the power over his life and future. Think in terms of communist Chinese re-education camp confessions. That letter of Larry’s represents a shameful exercise in SGM bullying, manipulation, intimidation and abuse. They should be ashamed of using it against him now.

B. The report cites the board’s appeal for Larry to continue with their program of rehabilitation rather than leave prematurely. They so wanted him not to leave for the wrong reasons. They claimed this was a matter of integrity. And they so wanted to be able to commend him after a successful restoration process. The problem with this line of reasoning is that THERE WAS NO PROGRAM OR PROCESS OF RESTORATION!!!!! Just ask the other 100-150 pastors who have been cut loose by SGM. What is the recidivism rate for SGM pastors who have been deposed? Between 1-2%? Stick around for restoration? Really?

SGM has no history of restoring pastors.

SGM has a lot of explaining to do about its pattern of “throw-away” pastors.

C. The “ironic” integrity apparently sought by the SGM leaders, in dictating Larry’s departure terms, seemed to revolve around the proper portrayal of Larry’s disqualification as a poor parent. People who have been around Larry’s family know that is patently unfair! (Again I am reminded of the extra-biblical standards which were used as a cudgel on former pastors with teenage kids but which were no longer applied in later years to CJ and other “high status” SGM leaders.) Bear in mind the situation at the heart of the coercion. It involved a 17-18 year old young man who was not caught in his sin. Rather, he had taken personal initiative to expose his own failings by seeking out and confessing to spiritual leaders in the vain hope of finding help to experience the grace of God. Question: Did these highly-placed SGM leaders represent God well as conduits of His grace? This is the fuller context of the blackmail.

D. In the panel’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of the blackmail, (ie. It did not continue for a decade like Larry intimated… CJ & Dave & Brent & Steve were motivated by their desire to “protect” the movement of churches… They wanted to frame Larry’s departure with “ironic” integrity… They never acted to follow through on their empty threat…), the panel members overlooked an important point. The threat of blackmail actually worked!! By their own admission, Larry did NOT mention doctrinal differences in his departure explanations, even though he clearly wanted to. The coercion was effective!! CJ and the board were saved from the legal liabilities of applying blackmail, but they ended up achieving the desired goal.

E. If CJ had truly repented of his offenses towards Larry, why didn’t he act expeditiously to bring Larry back to CLC to publicly redress his public slander of Larry before the church? He publicly called Larry a liar and said that, “I’d rather be dead than do what Larry’s doing.” CJ actively destroyed much of Larry’s reputation and many of his long-time relationships at CLC and beyond, but was grossly inadequate in taking measures to publicly restore him.

Closing thought: I found it very disturbing that the panel overseeing the Tomczak blackmail repeated claimed to present findings in a way that was slanted against CJ. It seemed absolutely the opposite to me. I thought they took every opportunity to place Larry in a negative light in order to minimize the culpability of CJ & the gang. They repeatedly highlighted mitigating circumstances that took the edge off the crime perpetrated by CJ, Dave, Brent & Steve. And then, the SGM board has the audacity to refer to the panel’s report as “objective”.

Objective?!?!?!? That was never even a remote possibility given the make-up of the panels. Please don’t insult our intelligence by anointing them with “objectivity”. In fact, the SGM Board should make known the criteria by which the panel members were selected. The original process of selecting “jurists” was supposed to have some aspects of randomness. Can the Board unequivocally assure us that they did NOT hand pick the panelists of their choice and rule out the pastors that they didn’t want? Please defend the integrity of the process.

And now we wait for the AoR report. But that has already been re-framed for us as merely a catalogue of local grievances presented without corroborating witnesses or cross-examination. Something to learn from and use for making changes and addressing deficiencies. But apparently having no bearing on any evaluation of the qualifications of senior SGM leadership.