Part 2 From “The Stenographer”

July 14, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

From “The Stenographer” comes the following, which are notes from this past Sunday night’s meeting at Covenant Life Church.  The attendees of that meeting were promised that an audio recording would be posted on CLC’s website, but to date, that has not happened.  Please note, “The Stenographer” would like any other attendees to correct anything that might be incomplete or inaccurate.

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July 10, 2011 

Covenant Life Family Meeting – Part 2

Josh Harris summarizes 

The CJ and Carolyn left the building. JH took over. Goal was to give people a brief time line and update before answering questions. 

JH: We reached about 150 questions [received by email]that were very good questions, hard questions.  We will not be able to get through all of them tonight, so we have already planed to meet again next Sunday night for those who can attend. It’s so important for you to know we want to get all of this out in the open. We want to keep having more conversations. All the pastors are here in the front row. I will be trying to answer questions on behalf of them, but I will have the pastors jump in at any time they want to or feel they need to adjust something I have said. Our team is experiencing a wonderful unity through all this. I want you to be aware we do not always see eye to eye in all these things. 

We want to try to stay on topic; we will see where it goes. I want to start out by just saying this is the most complicated thing I have ever been a part of. I had a conversation with a friend outside of Sovereign Grace. I think he was trying to encourage me. I said, “I don’t think I could imagine a more difficult leadership challenge than what you are working through.”  There are so many layers to this. There are not simple answers to this. And our eccliastical issues, church government issues, …how does Sovereign Grace speak into churches; how do churches speak into Sovereign Grace. These documents are bringing out many points where there is [no defense? Not sure of wording on this] for it. There were relational breakdowns, eccliastical breakdowns, …Part of the reason I am saying this to you because I think the impulse in our hearts is to simplify all this, to say this person is a good person and that person is a bad person. It is just not that simple.  I think God is after all of our hearts, particularly the relationship of the church’s involvement.  The thought is that your pastors have been a part of it. I have been serving as the SG Board since 2008. There are so many answers that are clashing; there are feelings that I am sure will come out. Part of me wants to defend CJ, and yell at Brent. Part of me is mad at CJ about how this has unfolded. We have a real relationship; he has been a spiritual father to me. But if you have ever wanted to strangle your father [crowd laughter]… this is similar to that in how I can be: angry at Brent for bringing so many people into this issue. At the same time, I can understand he’s done what he has done. And I wish these relationships were restored. 

I would like to start out with trying to share a time-line of my involvement, and Kenneth and Grant. I think it gets to a lot of your questions and I think it will help you to see. How many of you have read the documents. [Many, many hands raised.] I won’t tell you you shouldn’t and I won’t tell you you should. But heads of households, you need to know what is going on to decide if you want to be part of this church and part of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Read the same way you would if you picked up any book. One person reports the same set of facts one way; a different person reports the same details in an entirely different way.  These documents are not this [missing adjective] statement of all that has taken place; they are one person’s interpretation. Brent is a man of integrity. He has not doctored e-mails. But, he does get into interpreting motives, and I encourage we not get into taking that as fact. 

Timeline. 2004 – Apostolic Team (AT) meetings, Brent Detweiler (BD), Dave Harvey (DH), Steve Shank (SS), and CJ (I think that was it) that were working through issues. DH and BD were seeking to  bring observations to CJ. You need to understand we have all been ….?… whether as a movement. At that time the AT was separate from churches and was a sense of authority and encouragement in the way they were caring for the churches, the way it interacted but that did not always bring all the elders into the discussion. The Pastoral Team (PT) did not know that the AT was bringing observations to CJ. CJ did not agree with the observations and was holding the observations at arms-length because he didn’t trust their perspective.  They involved me (JH), Kenneth (KM) and Grant (GL). They reached out to us to see “What are you talking to C.J. about?”  We compared notes about how CJ was being cared for. They assumed we were caring for CJ, and we assumed they were caring for CJ. Because he didn’t agree, he wasn’t telling us. He was just managing this information. He has since realized this was wrong. He confessed a number of things, being unentreatable, resisting correction. 

8/20/04 – month before the transfer when I was put in as Senior Pastor – was really hard for CJ, for everybody. The timing was really off, and were a number of things—health of daughter… they all piled upon. CJ wrote confession of those things to these men. He didn’t follow up on the observations.  

CJ began to bring us into his concerns for these men. He began to express these things to us. What he didn’t want to give was the details. We encouraged him to get back to the men. We weren’t sure how to do this. Then we began to question our judgement honestly. Maybe Brent’s approach was wrong here? How do we work these things out? We weren’t hearing the details how he was working these things out, didn’t realize CJ wasn’t talking to them. We were trying to provide accountability to CJ. We started wondering why did they need all this information. In a sense, we began to protect CJ from the kinds of interactions that would have benefited him. 

Another thing I can feel regret over. CJ asked me to be the point person to care for him and to interact with the AT. As I began to bring and [missing word] it began to affect our relationship. I began to feel it was not healthy for CLC for me to be the person trying to confront CJ…  I communicated to the men, “I want to be mentored by this man; I don’t think I should be the one coming to do this.” So I stepped out of that process. I know part of my intention was to protect my relationship and protect CJ, but I think it was also fear of man involved. I didn’t want CJ to be mad at me. I didn’t want to lose his approval. I know I am not the only person involved in this, but I could have taken more risks; I could have spoken more into this. That is part of what lots of us feel. I know Grant feels this to a certain extent. Kenneth feels this. Kenneth went further in the process. Kenneth didn’t realize all what was going on behind the scenes. When Brent wrote the first document, we were reading what we went through but reading whole other side that we weren’t aware of. It has been a very difficult thing. Part of what took place after that was we didn’t understand how incomplete the process of the AT. We were seeing growth in CJ; he was seeking to pursue accountability.  

These documents make CJ sound like he was arrogant, but he is really a very humble man. Our interactions with him were good. We were getting over that [unclear word] of that 2004 experience. I began to see Brent was on a sin hunt, and truth be told, I think that we have wrongly put people’s sin in their faces over and over again. [Unsure of wording at the beginning of next sentence:] But it isn’t a good time to say that when he was it came being to being challenged, I began to really view all that happened in 2004 in a different way and that is part of the reason I     [  ?  ]  on from that. I know I am making excuses right now. It isn’t like we were keeping a big secret – we didn’t know all the problems taking place on the Apostolic Team. We were moving on, pressing forward, and trying to put the past behind us. There was an unsettled feeling but we were just trying to move forward. That was 2004. 

I am not sure, exactly, [something..something…] but when the blogs began.  I don’t think that we have processed the blogs as effectively as we could have. We have not talked about it like we should have. You feel like you are looking at porn — you are looking at an anti-SGM blog. [twittering laughter] The mindset was, “there are some things being said on here that are untrue, but there are a lot of things being said that are slander. We don’t want to talk about it and increase the traffic.”  

A lot of them are saying the really hard things we need to hear. Not everything. But they raise some really important issues for us to grapple[?] with.  

Beyond the sins CJ and other leaders, we are seeking anyone who would come forward and say “This is how I have been wronged.” To make amends to people One of these guys who runs the blog has been interacting with the [word?]. We said, “Anyone who is willing to send their story, we take seriously people being heard. I want to reach out and make things right as best as possible. That was part of the process. CJ seeing where people had been offended. There are a number of things I don’t like about them, but they have been used by God. Read with discernment, talk to others about it. Talk [?something?] about using communication like that for affecting us. 

2010 – Last year the documents coming. CJ reaches out to Brent and says, “I hear you have an offense.” Brent writes the first document. There was a butting of heads. CJ wanted to handle one way, Brent wanted to handle a different way. CJ said, [notes unclear] Brent stood firm. CJ stood firm for a number of months. Didn’t know how to respond to a number of things being brought. I think we should have immediately brought an independent panel. From Day 1 CJ was wanting to pursue a process of reconciliation with Brent however Brent would choose. Brent had a very different perspective. I understood why, but he ended up writing a second document. CJ was seeing it as a personal issue, but should have realized it was bigger than that, included SGM.  Second document he handed over to the Board.  

We met with CJ in November, 2010: Grant, Kenneth, Josh Harris, [?something?] Robin, [?Bob Kauflin?], Corby McGordon. They read these things and were brought into these issues from 2004 for the first time. I now know we should have included more people from the beginning. We sat down with CJ. Leading up to November I had sat down with CJ [?word?] where we said, ‘this is where we agree with Brent” “Here is where we [?words?]hhe made the decision to write a confession. We sat down in November and shared the concerns, encouraged him to humble himself and encouraged him to do all he could to [?word?] reconciliation. We were all anticipating there would be this time he would say, “I am going to sit down and pursue reconciliation”, and after that CJ would share things with the people. We were not planning to hide things. 

Brent responded with his third document. In the document you see the frustration Brent is feeling because CJ does not agree with all the things he [?word? – opposed ? outlined? ] he sent to use. That document came in the last month. That was a huge moment when we read this .  I got it when we were on vacation. [?word?] made it seem clear Brent was not satisfied and was going to send it to all the pastors of SGM, but we knew that there was some pastor who was sending all these things to the blogs, and we felt that would not be the best way to handle it. We were trying to keep these documents from being [?word?] on everyone.  

1)    It seemed clear Brent was not satisfied; [? On words here ?] …to any 3rd party mediator.

2)    2) It contained all the information about Larry Tomczak that was most [?word?] things in the documents of sins for CJ and the pastors here at CLC were not aware of, the [?word?] that CJ made to Larry in that phone conversation that was recorded. It was deeply grieving; [?such unclear notes – Why can’t CLC just post the audio?] …had been on the team a long time. Kenneth particularly called Larry and said, “I had no idea all of this took place.”  We know that three weeks ago when Brent sent that 3rd document, it was then that [?word?] the Board ( [parenthetical here but wording cannot be made out] ) 

Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell and me are the Board of SGM. It is not healthy to have a board of three people in the mediation of the [?two words?] we have ever faced. We realized we have got to [?word?] over [?word? ?]  to get outside help — we need to appoint an independent panel involved, someone outside of SGM. There are all kinds of ministries out there that deal with church problems. The one we have been pursuing in particular was recommended by Ken Sande is used by the Lutheran Church. That is [?word?] far, far from Sovereign Grace! The process of them taking on is still in process. [Wording wrong—I think that was the gist.] We really need this kind of outside help. We are at a [?word?] place right now. 

The other thing that took place [?word?] was we realized CJ [?words?]  try to write these confessions and try try to meet brent half way, we said “You need to take this even further.” That is when the idea of a leave of absense came up and he [?word?] to make a public confession and bring more into the things Brent said. [?words?] the things here Brent sent all the documents to all the pastors. They read all the documents. We had a meeting with Dave Harvey and Jeff; again with Jeff about the details in the 3rd document. We realized it was important for CJ to make most decisive action. He really wanted to take the decision off the Board, to make that decision. He said, “I will resign.”  [?words?] …[Come on, CLC, I’m really struggling here – PLEASE post the audio!] … …he would take a leave of absence. But [?words?] was that this would convince Brent that we were taking this seriously, having an independent panel and everything… Things we communicated  [?words?] Brent he [?words?] with that sent all the documents  [?word?] night to all the pastors in SGM. 

[I welcome input from other attendees to fill in the blanks…] 

CJ has already shared with the Board. One pastor posted the documents to the blog (…JH: “Okay, it’s ME, but don’t tell anyone!” …laughter) Somebody sent the documents to Jim at the SGM Refuge which was picked up by Survivors, and everyone is reading them right now and that is the narrative and that is what is taking place right now. 

[After this point, Josh began to take questions from individuals present, and answer some questions that had been sent in, so that will be transcribed as part 3.]