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