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.
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
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
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
Redeemer Church at Lake Nona – Orlando, FL