Dave Harvey Dons Pajamas And Heads Down To His Mom’s Basement…

July 16, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

[For anyone who is wondering about the title of this post, it’s an allusion to a statement made by SGM pastor Eric Simmons, who a couple of years ago presented a teaching to singles in which he declared that bloggers were losers who hung out in their pajamas all day and still lived in their mothers’ basements.]

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Well, it looks like Dave Harvey has become a real blogger.  After all these years, the SGM website is allowing an unprecedented level of free discussion, publishing readers’ comments, even negative comments.  Mr. Harvey put up this post yesterday:

Friends, critics, and curious onlookers,

Thank you all for engaging with us so much over the last week as we’ve attempted to tell you what’s going on with respect to this very difficult season in Sovereign Grace Ministries. There have been hundreds of comments on this blog and no shortage of emails. We’re learning from your input and I’m grateful that you chose to speak rather than dismiss us, to spend your time writing rather than just closing the window. Even the most critical comments represent an investment of your time and energy, but we see it as an act of service. Fostering constructive criticism in a digital world has not been a strong point in our communication historically.

This week has been very challenging, and heading into the weekend I am aware of some places where we screwed up.  I’ll make no attempt to be exhaustive, but here are some highlights:

Lack of clarity in Wednesday’s board announcement. When we posted our resolutions on Wednesday, people were quick to infer that we were “circling the wagons.” And I think I understand that interpretation. We should have been a lot more clear about our resolve for self-evaluation, growth, integrity, and honest dialogue. So I’m not surprised that folks wrote to tell us of their heartbreak and stomach knots in response to our post, and I do regret that. Believe it or not, at the time we had a lot of people contacting us saying, ”We need to know exactly and without qualification what you think about all of this.”  Communicating our “resolutions” seemed a precise way to convey all that.  More seem to disagree than agree, and we’ve heard you. On top of that, we got more criticism even from our biggest fans on the lack of clarity in a couple of the resolutions.  We amended the post to answer one common question, but I wish we had just nailed it the first time.  All that to say, we messed up our delivery and in the process confused our #1 audience—the people in Sovereign Grace churches. It was a halting start for our new board, but we’re determined to do better. You all have asked a lot of valid questions and we’re grateful that these events mean so much to so many.

Lack of emphasis on self-evaluation. When people are tempted to think that you are (and I’ll pull from our vast supply of quotes here) “gaming the system,” engaging in “cronyism,” “going to war,” behaving with “hubris,” “presumptuous and self-serving,” and, well you get the idea—you’ve got the burden of ensuring they know you get the point.  What’s the point?  God is drawing our gaze inward as an organization.  Not in a hyper-introspective-there’s-no-mission-out-there manner.  But in a way that makes it clear to everyone, we have problems. Some of these were already on the radar, others surfaced more recently.  But we’re going to face them.  All of them.  What I want to get across to people through how we handle this (and not just with what we say) is that we want to be more rigorous in our self-examination than anyone else is with us. We want to be leading the charge in that, not playing catch up.

Process over people. This insight came from a Sovereign Grace pastor, and looking back at our communication I have to say we are guilty as charged. For some reason we had this impulse that if we explained a series of steps of evaluation to everyone, that would somehow address the concerns that some members of our churches have about SGM more broadly. Now I think it would be wrong to paint every pastor, pastoral team, and church member with the same broad brush.  But that doesn’t mean that there are no areas of our hearts and practice that need rigorous attention.  I’m going to discuss some of those in a post next week. But even that isn’t the point here. The regrettable fact is that some dear members of Sovereign Grace churches have been hurt over the years, and no independent panel’s evaluation of us can fix that. We hope to do a better job of listening to those folks, learning from them, and owning where we’ve been wrong. See, if all we do is self-evaluate and improve our systems, failing in the meantime to pastor people through the process, we’ve missed the point. I’m committed, actually the whole board is committed, to not letting that happen.

Well friends, that’s not the whole list, but it’s a start.  We’re on rocky terrain, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.

To our friends and detractors alike, can I make an appeal about C.J.? The guy has voluntarily stepped aside from his role as president to ensure he would not influence any evaluation of him.  He will be placed under the scrutiny of two different panels.  He has written two detailed confessions to Brent and confessed publicly to the pastors and members of Covenant Life Church.  He has spent over a year examining his soul and reaching out to people who are offended with him.  In some cases there has been reconciliation (including with Larry Tomczak, who reached out to C.J.).  In others there has not, but he’s trying and praying.  Despite appearances to the contrary, C.J.’s self examination didn’t begin last week, and no doubt it will continue —as it should for all of us.  But can I appeal that we not rush to judgment but rather think about him the way we would want to be evaluated if someone came forward against us?

Before I close out, let me just say something that I think will resonate with all of us.  God’s not asking us to choose between sides or between people here.  He wants us to choose Him.  We don’t have all the answers, but because of the cross we’re connected to the One who does.  And he will help us show a watching world the unity we have in Christ.  God is at work…for our good and His Glory!

Enjoy your weekend.  I’ll be back in touch soon.

Brent Detwiler has also been writing.  He sent us the following:

Did I follow Matthew 18:15-17? The answer is yes. I have gone to CJ countless times “in private” but he did not listen. Then, I’ve gone with “the testimony of two or three witnesses” countless times but he also refused to listen. These two steps have been repeated time and again over the last decade. More than with any leader we have ever disciplined or removed from ministry. It was due to our cowardice and favoritism that we never took step 3 which says we must “tell it to the church.” That is one reason why (but not the only – that awaits another document) I sent my documents out to the SGM pastors on July 6. C.J.’s longstanding patterns of serious sins have been the best kept secret in SGM for many years. Unfortunately, the new Board under Dave Harvey’s leadership, has condemned my action. On July 13, they posted on the SGM blog “that Brent Detwiler’s distribution of written accusations against C.J. Mahaney to all Sovereign Grace pastors constitutes the public slander of Mahaney’s reputation.” My friends are mistaken.

People have asked why such length and detail in “The Documents”. 1) They were written gradually over 18 mos. 2) Each document built upon the other because I was not getting honest answers. 3) I wanted to be as accurate & fair as possible. 4) I had to anticipate SGM might discredit them as incomplete, inaccurate & revisionist (which they’ve done). 5) I’ve never made headway w/ C.J. unless there’s an overwhelming case.

I say, “Welcome to the blogosphere.”

Mom’s basement isn’t such a bad place to hang out.  And PJs are pretty comfy, aren’t they?