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Your History

Someone wrote me with an interesting idea for a post – that readers tell about their history with Sovereign Grace Ministries.  The suggestion was that whenever possible, specific church locations and dates would be included, but I realize that in the interest of privacy, some of us won’t want to share that info.  Nonetheless, I do think it’d be highly instructive, especially for SGM pastors and others who might be silently lurking, reading the site for the first time, to get a sense of the scope of the SGM history that is represented by those who comment here.

So – let’s share our stories.

394 comments to Your History

  • I know a few folks already shared this info in the previous post. If that’s you, would you mind copying and pasting your comment over here? That’d be great.

  • Mine is already at http://virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-thoughts-on-cj-mahaney-and-sovereign.html

    I should note also that I went to Saturday Night Alive in Ffx from 1979-1980 when I was in high school. Went to Annandale Bible Church at the time.

  • Roadwork

    A Generation’s Worth of History –

    We had been continuous, long standing members within SGM from about 1990 until earlier this year. Within that time we belonged to three SGM churches. We were part of Fairfax until sometime around 2001. When we moved, we moved to stay within SGM. So we’ve attended three Foundations classes, have served in various ministries over the years and received counseling at various points over this time from both pastors and CGLs.

    And we have a perspective of SGM that now spans 20 years across three different SGM churches, in different areas and under different “apostolic” regions. 20 years is a generation. A generation’s worth of history, if you please.

    Background:

    As I mentioned, we’ve been in SGM since the very early 1990’s. We started in Fairfax when they were still meeting at Robinson and later at West Springfield. We were in Fairfax when Bob was still leading worship and when Brent and the Charlotte plant were sent out. We where there when Larry was relocated to Fairfax and then went to Atlanta. We were there for Challenge ’92, when the building was built, during the refreshing, when Denver was sent out, when BP stepped down, when SS came in temporarily before finally moving west, when MM was installed, when Ashburn was sent out, etc., etc., etc. I’m reluctant to give more details about our history past leaving Fairfax as that would probably easily identify us. As a side note, we also attended Saturday Night Alive at Church of the Apostles when Benny Phillips and Renny Scott took turns teaching each week. SNA’s music was very “contemporary” for its time and the experience was quite charismatic.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_pm8X5VqpPf8/R9snNt9bLxI/AAAAAAAAADk/swD6QN2FYgM/s1600-h/Sat+Nite+Alive+Flyer.jpg

    (This is an earlier SNA flyer as the location given is different.)

  • PDI/SGm from 1989-1998- Covenant Life, Covenant Fellowship, and Providence Church of Pittsburgh. You can click on my name for more details on my story.

  • Roadwork, I still have the same SNA flyer somewhere along with Benny and Renny sermon notes. Benny was my pastor for 8 years at MLC until we left last year.

  • Sidney

    Family at CLC since early 80s…I was a teenager…attended for a couple years till I didn’t have to anymore.

    Joined CLC in 1996

    Moved to Gilbert, AZ SG in 2004

    Moved to South Denver SG in 2006

    Left SG 2 months after the Denver Shanking. (for the new folks, this is a term that someone on survivors or refuge coined back in 2008-2009 when Mr Shank was actively helping pastors in his region “step down due to lack of gifting” while giving the church members little to no truth about why.)

    Sidney
    PS. I use a fake name because I don’t want my family/friends to be bothered by people telling them they “figured out” who I comment as on Survivors. Thanks for honoring that. If you’d like to talk, I’d be glad to talk with you. I’ll share my story with you. I’m “doing well.” My walk is very strong. I’m not bitter or sinfully angry…well bitter sometimes…though hopeful that one day, the issues will be dealt with. SurvivorSidney at gmail dot com

  • I’ll share a little about our own story, for those of you who haven’t read here much…

    Guy and I attended an SGM church (not CLC) for a little less than a year. We arrived at the end of 2006 and left in the fall of 2007. (We have never talked specifically about which SGM church, because we have always maintained that we don’t want our SGM pastors to experience any fallout from the fact that we started this site.)

    We did not actually have a bad SGM experience. We liked many aspects of our SGM church and thought the pastors were some of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet.

    We thought our SGM church did a great job of reaching out to newcomers. We very quickly were made to feel welcomed and at home, with a definite sense of “instant intimacy.”

    We were allowed to attend a small group and really enjoyed it. (Our church apparently did not tightly control who was permitted to join. In our case, membership was not required.) At our small group, we did NOT routinely go around and confess our sins. Our group leader did NOT ask us intrusive questions or put us on the “hot seat.” It was mostly a pleasant time…a time to hang out and socialize…and then we’d have some prayer and talk about the previous Sunday’s message. I did find the lack of real Bible study, as I’d always known it in other churches, to be odd and a bit disturbing after awhile. Nothing wrong with discussing the Sunday sermons, but it was just odd.

    We probably would have become members at some point, if we hadn’t started feeling nagged by several little things. We were troubled by the resolute sameness, where everyone seemed to think and read the same things. Far more families homeschooled than not. Many of the young adult girls were living at home with their parents, and most of them had not gone on to college. Some worked at menial jobs, while some were stay-at-home daughters. The general feeling, though, was that they were waiting for Mr. Right to come a-courtin’. As I watched these young women interact, I was bothered by how there was a VERY definite undercurrent of the idea that the only “truly biblical” vocation – the only “truly biblical” thing they were put on this earth to do – was be a wife and a mother. It was as if life were in some sort of holding pattern for them.

    But at the same time, it seemed like they were hampered in breaking out of this holding pattern because of the restrictions of the courtship system. Although there might have been exceptions, the general feeling was that the only worthy potential courters had to be guys who shared the girls’ commitment to the “local church” – which meant the “local” SGM church.

    As I observed the culture at our SGM church (because I do love to watch people), I got the impression that young women were really boxed in, in a way that was unhealthy and not nearly as “biblical” as they were taught it was.

    So, the cultural homogeneity, with such an emphasis on homeschooling as “God’s best choice” (it was largely unspoken, but it was there nonetheless), along with the courtship system and such a heavy sense that everyone read and thought the same things…that if it came down from “on high” (Gaithersburg), everyone did it – all of that weighed on Guy and me and made us wonder if we could ever fit in.

    We were also put off by the music. I know that many of you have been hugely blessed by SGM’s worship music, and I do believe that there are some wonderful SGM songs. I am not criticizing the music, necessarily. But for people who have been part of the larger Evangelical/Reformed world for many years, there’s this vast treasure trove of music that transcends denominational boundaries. We often felt “homesick” for that music during worship time, as we listened to the unfamiliar tunes (many of which did seem rather dark, with a tremendous emphasis on our guilt and sin and what “the Savior” suffered).

    And that contributed to another nagging feeling – that SGM saw itself as set apart from the rest of the Christian world. Even the way our SGM friends gave their “testimonies” was different. Rather than focusing on how they met Jesus, they instead told stories about how they ended up at a Sovereign Grace church. This was disturbing.

    So after a little less than a year of going back and forth in our thoughts, Guy and I decided one day that we needed to move on. We did not immediately meet with anyone to explain why we were leaving, although eventually Guy did have a conversation with one of the pastors that ended with the pastor’s asking us to have a meeting with him. Guy (being the way that he is) just sort of casually blew off this request, as we saw no point in dragging things out further…plus, there was this odd feeling that the pastor was taking our leaving in the wrong way, like there was some sort of personal conflict that had to be resolved…when there absolutely was nothing of the sort.

    And that is our story. Really, it’s a non-story. We had no issues with our SGM church on a personal level, no conflicts with anyone on a personal level. There are no relationships that need mending, no one with whom we ought to “reconcile.” We were mostly outsiders looking in, participating but always evaluating and questioning, and in the end our questions led us out the door.

  • Sidney

    OH! I forgot the MOST important part….

    Jesus saved my soul in 1979ish. Though…upon joining CLC, my pastor told me that there was no way I did “those sins” while I was saved, so the most logical thing was to decide that I was saved just before coming to CLC when I finally turned from “those sins” and joined CLC.

    I pray they change this position. I pray beyond prayers that they change this position. It messed up what I believed about God for 14 years.

    Now, thank God, I live in the wonderfulness that people actually sin…and do “those sins” even while they are saved! Praise God!!!

    And no! I do NOT have to get re-baptized! Thank you, Jesus, for saving me ONCE!

  • Wasabi

    Attended two SGM within the DC-area for 8 years; both recently “planted”. I outlined my story in a previous post. Let me state again that the stories being shared throughout this blog are not unique to CLC – the misuse of authority is widespread in SGM churches.

    There has been much discussion here on the documents we signed to become SGM members. This makes me recall the legal agreement needed to work in children’s ministry. While some of the clauses are absolutely necessary for working with kids, such as criminal background checks, others parts are VERY intrusive. Read it again: if you recently signed this mandatory document, the SGM church can check your finances, make inquiries with your employer, and check other sources as required.

    You can imagine the manipulation when I refused to sign this ‘How-stupid-do-you-think-I-am?’ agreement. After explaining my position to the senior pastor three times, he finally pressured with “Wasabi, I don’t understand your hesitation; ALL of the other CM workers here and ALL of the CM workers at CLC sign it”. Nope, ain’t gonna sign it. Ironically [you’re not going to believe this] after all this fuss about authorization to check member’s backgrounds, the pastoral staff found out they put a registered sex offender on the CM security team! I’m sure he helped out at least a year. This was all kept very quiet.

    :new

  • Ellie

    Wasabi,
    :huh
    WOW”’!!

  • Sidney

    Wasabi (you make me hungry!! Yummm!)

    You said: “Let me state again that the stories being shared throughout this blog are not unique to CLC – the misuse of authority is widespread in SGM churches.”

    For us, the worst misuse of authority was at the Gilbert, AZ SG church and the leadership in the West. It was not at CLC. (and we spent 8 years at CLC and TWO in Gilbert…go figure)

    Sidney

  • Dan

    Hi all, I guess I’m one of the “lurkers”,

    I joined SGM in 2002 after hearing C J Mahaney speak at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 (run by Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers) – it was a small church plant in Bristol, in the United Kingdom and was a member of the growing church for 2 years.

    I started to have personal problems get worse – linked to being abused when I was a child at school and having issues with my sexuality (I don’t believe in using labels). The issues were essentially depression, self-harm and anorexia. I kept it secret for a long time and then my parents suggested going and speaking to my care group leader who I probably had the best relationship with out of the church leaders.

    I did so, and they (CGL and wife) were initially very receptive but said they would go and tell the senior pastor. I then had a follow-up meeting with senior pastor and CGL and again it was initially okay. But the next meeting turned nasty – in between meetings the senior pastor had met with Peter Griesley (UK “apostle” as was then and now on SGM Board) and told me that the issues were related to sin and they suspected I was in an active gay relationship although he admitted he had no proof. They presented me with four ultimatums, which involved moving home to my parents, and being wholly accountable to my homophobic father.

    I had two weeks to decide, and so being rather shell shocked I contacted some close friends including my former senior pastor all of whom were horrified at the authoritarian demands. Being ignorant of SGM and what would happen, I rather naively thought that if I went and said I would not be complying and felt it best to leave and move on, that would be that.

    The meeting was awful – the senior pastor was very shocked and then got progressively nastier and told me that I could not resign, as I was in sin. If I persisted, they would write to all churches in the area and tell them of my sin (he actually admitted he followed this through with one Newfrontiers church in Bristol), they would tell the whole church of my sin and any members would be told not to speak to me if they met me. I was shocked but felt this confirmed I had made the right decision.

    Being shocked I thought again rather naively that I would write to the SGM Board (Mahaney, Detweiler, Shank and Harvey) and explain what happened. I received a very short note from Harvey saying that Peter Griesley was the father of the church and it was not their concern. I then received an extremely terse email from PG saying that I was wrong but they would “speak to me if I wished” – which I declined.

    I have had no contact for five years until January last year when I felt I could not tolerate the splits with my family (who are still in SGM) and being forbidden to attend the SGM church, so with the help of Steve who opened up the process of reconciliation I finally had some meetings – firstly with Peter Griesley and then with the senior pastors of the church. The meeting with the senior pastors was really great, and they apologised for acting as they did and said that I would be welcome back at the SGM church (I have been back once and warmly welcomed by them).

    So all in all – largely a happy story – I hope it gives hope to some that reconciliation IS possible and I must be honest – it’s SO great being rid of bitterness and anger against the SGM leaders, finally I feel free!

    Still very grateful to this site and SGM Refuge for helping me realise I was NOT cast out to Satan and was not alone, and indeed having a voice when the leaders refused to contact me or care for me. And still very concerned for all those hurt and abused by SGM, and of course have a deep love and concern for SGM being as my family are still in it and so many friends here.

  • Yellow is a Happy Color

    I am a silent lurker who has benefited from what I’ve read here. I am a current member of CLC. I actually only started reading this blog because Josh Harris mentioned it in a recent meeting/sermon. I’m glad to be here!

    I cringe at the idea of my tithes and offering going to right a wrong that CJ should have righted himself a long time ago.

    This site has spurred me on to pray for Josh Harris more. This could be his finest hour…

    Keep up the good writing.

    @Janna,I have appreciated your input, along with everyone else.

  • Joe

    I have never been a member of an SGM church. I read Larry Tomczak’s autobiography a long time ago and was quite inspired. Subsequently I read everything PDI I could lay my hands on. They used to have the complete archive of People of Destiny Magazine online.
    I started to find it odd, though, that Larry T had disappeared. Some time around the early 2000s, PDi became SGM and Larry was expunged from the public record. It was – in all SGM publicity – as if he never existed and CLC/PDI/SGM was the vision of one man; CJ.
    The more I read and heard from CJ (who I had previously liked), the more I began to have big doubts about the balance within his theology. It also seemed as though SGM had ceased to be practicing charismatic and merely creedally so.
    I made friends with several SGM people. An old friend of mine also joined the staff of an SGM church after attending Pastor’s College. I also attended our then-local SGM church several times.
    During the same period, I began to meet individuals who felt they had been mistreated by SGM pastors. I wrote them off as just being disgruntled people who would not be happy in any church.
    Soon, three things happened:
    1) One of my closest friends left his SGM church. We talked about this at length and – though he wasn’t angry with the church – it was clear that being part of that church had dried up his spiritual life to the point of almost eliminating it (it was later refreshed when he joined a very different type of church).
    2) I wrote the Wikipedia articles on Larry, CJ and SGM. Despite writing true and unbiased articles in which every single statement was referenced to a reputable author, armies of SGMers seemed determined to suppress the truth. They didn’t want Larry acknowledged, they didn’t want the shepherding movement to be mentioned, they didn’t want the fall-out with Lydia Little to be included. They certainly didn’t want any links to blogs like this. They didn’t want Larry’s and Josh’s publishing success to be written about in such a way as it might overshadow that of CJ. They wanted Carolyn mentioned. They didn’t want any description of their church planting methodology. All in all, I encountered many many SGMers and CJ fans who valued PR over truth. I had no agenda in writing these articles (other than to present the whole story, not just the one recorded in current SGM documentation) but I was shocked at the CJ Youth and their militant desire to push against the simple retelling of the truth.
    3) Two of my closest friends joined SGM. They no longer talk about Jesus or about their relationship with God. They talk about (in this order): their church, their sin, CJ.
    Nowadays, I am not living close to an SGM church, but I swing in and out of the blogs. I feel a strong identification with what is discussed here because of similar experiences I had in a non-SGM church. I also have a passion for the truth, and hate the way SGM seems to distort the simplest of facts about itself. I also hope to be of help to those friends of mine still in SGM.

  • Dan

    Good to see you posting here again. I am really glad that reconciliation happened with you and SGM. It is especially sad when a church’s actions split apart a family including your parents which happened in our situation. Sadly some of the communication I had with various SGM Leaders fell on deaf ears.

    One thing that really grieved me with your situation was that I was in communication with Pat Ennis who at the time was SGM’s Executive Director. I was in communication with Pat Ennis at the suggestion of one local SGM Pastor who suggested I contact Pat Ennis when he saw the criticism I posted about SGM on this local pastor’s blog. In one email to me, Pat Ennis assured me that SGM was looking into various cases of abuse and seeking reconciliation and that with this being the case that maybe I should reconsider posting SGM’s problems all over the internet (or something to that affect).

    When Pat Ennis emailed and shared this with me I thought great maybe SGM really means business about seeking reconciliation. I wrote Pat Ennis and asked him about Dan’s situation in England. Sadly I got a brush off from Pat Ennis that basically contradicted what he told me about seeking reconciliation.

    In Pat Ennis’s brush off letter he said that the regional leader over in the UK had “offered” to meet with Dan. It turned out this “offer” to meet with Dan was the “speak to me if I wished” letter Dan mentioned in his above comment. Pat apparently felt that this “offer” given Dan was sufficient and it didn’t warrant SGM doing any more investigation into the situation including listening to Dan’s side etc.

    Despite follow up appeals to Pat Ennis to reconsider his brush off and how quick he was to dismiss my concerns I never heard back from Pat. I also shared this contradiction with other SGM Leaders in emails but sadly never heard a response back. Well at least they can’t say I didn’t try or didn’t try the “go in private” approach that a lot of SGM Leaders say is what should happen.

    It was as if with this case (and other cases) that I shared, Pat was trying to drop “like a hot potato” if he could. It was as if there was an excuse to get out of looking into the case further then Pat would do that rather than dig into the situation.

    After getting no where with Pat Ennis I decided to try emailing the SGM Leader in the UK. Fortunately this letter didn’t land upon “deaf” ears and generated the group’s reconsidering what was done to Dan and their has been reconciliation. It just really disappointed me (though didn’t surprise me) to have SGM’s Executive Director at the time act the way he did. Sadly it validated a lot of the concerns that people shared on the blogs.

    Well maybe what I shared counts for sharing my story or at least part of it. ;-)

    I do have some direct experience in SGM but that will be another comment.

  • happymom

    Our story is in the archives. Wallace & Happymom – April 8, 2011

    Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax. 1995-2007

  • Stunned

    Dan! It is good to see you here again. I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing.

  • Patti

    I have not been a member of nor attended an SGMchurch. I stumbled across this website through a series of events. I was helping a young person in my area see what I thought were errors in Mark Driscoll’s doctrines. While watching one of Mark’s videos, I noticed he had three mentors listed. One of those was CJ Mahaney…hmmm..that name looked so familiar to me. So in googling it, found the connection to the church my daughter was about to get involved in but had some serious ‘checks’ in her spirit about the teachings through the the way the SGMers were talking. I called her and “co-inicidentally” she was just getting ready to go hear CJ speak on Sunday, first time for her to hear him. I started reading all I could read on the SGM site and CLC site and other SGM church sites. I listened to sermons, I read their blogs. I found out their growing affiliation with the SBC, CBMW, and Gospel Coalition.
    I was able to tell her she was right about the things she was sensing, just by reading and listening to their own material. At some point typing in SGM brought me here. It was the first place that did not censer my posts, my cries for advice and truth and let me say it like it was. I told too much, for SGMers that is.

    In an indirect way SGM influence has made me fearful to blog any more of the story. I want to maintain a good relationship with Daughter (her handle here). If we knew at the time how much SGMers didn’t like to be talked about maybe we would have picked better anonymous names. But then the way the story went and is going it might not have made any difference. I feel bad because I had no idea yet just how seriously SGM took their discipline policy until reading all the testimonies here. I can see how an SGM member could be very fearful of someone blogging something about them that would not be slanderous or gossip to regular people but if their leaders heard about it they could get disciplined. Just want to say to any new readers here that if you happen to read any archives, I am the Patti that has been posting only since spring 2011.

    For now, I am holding my breath, and reading the Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. I was a victim of spiritual, emotional and physical abuse in my IFB school. If I had known about this book while my kids were still at home I would have made it required reading.
    Hopefully they will read it now.

    IMO if you are fearful of reading that book, you might still be under the power of spiritual abuse.

    I hope someday Daughter will be back on this blog with good news.

  • FSGP

    Here’s my story from the prior post, copied and pasted as requested, with this addition. I am anonymous because I know that SG is vindictive to the core and I have family still entrapped there. Until they get out I’ll remain cloaked (along with my Klingon warship off SG’s port bow). Plus it keeps the SG TopSecret Uber Intel Gathering team in a bind. Remember, they can’t acknowledge or parley with anonymous bloggers. Their rules, not ours.
    ————————–
    Kris asked us ” … to share a bit about their history with SGM. How long have they been (or how long were they) part of the organization? …”

    I was part of a church in SGM for ~ 5 years. During that time I was a home group leader and then a pastor. I resigned from all leadership positions because of staff and leadership issues, by my own choice and without any indication from church staff or SGM that I should do such. At the time the church was engulfed in a number of interpersonal conflicts. I had great hopes that these conflicts (especially the ones that I was part of) would be resolved. To this end I remained a member and attended the church for ~ 6 months after I left leadership. I fully expected conflict resolution and reconciliation until my last day attending the church. On that day I had a most painful but most fortunate encounter with the regional apostle. During this encounter I found out (among other things) that men I had served with were accusing me of sin. This is one of the lies that the apostle accepted as fact. He had never once prior to this encounter attempted to contact me in any way. Neither had any of the leadership team.

    I was ready to bag it right then but my best friend and soulmate, MsFSGP urged me to give the apostle a chance. So I did. He was supposed to get back to me but several days went by and I did not hear from him. (I guess accusations of sin are not that important at the local leadership, local sr pastor, and at the apostle level). So I contacted him and suggested that maybe Mt 18 was the way to proceed. He agreed and gave me the names of my accusers and asked me to contact them and arrange meetings. I did this – and every one of my accusers refused to meet with me one on one. One never even responded to my attempt to arrange a meeting. Are you with me so far? It gets better.

    The next communication I received from the apostle said … wait for it … “they” decided that I had not sinned. So face-to-face, one-to-one meetings were not necessary. This produced a precipitous dip on the emotional rollercoaster! So I hadn’t sinned??!??? But whatever I had done was serious enough to talk about among local leadership and the regional apostle (without me). And fuel the church gossip mill??? MsFSGP and I were like the old cartoon Popeye at this point: we stands what we can and we can’t stand no more. The sweetest place on earth, modeled on Scripture, was instead the little house of horrors, modeled on Kafka. We sent an email to the local leadership team, thanking them for opportunities to worship and serve our Triune God together, blessed them … and resigned.

    The response was odd. The senior pastor never directly acknowledged our resignation. There was one member of local leadership who never responded. There was another who responded with argument. The apostle was informed of our departure, and he asked if we would continue to attend the local. Two members of the leadership team asked as well. We responded with absence. Several years have gone by so that maybe they got the message by now.

    But that’s not all! The locals wanted to meet with me to “share observations” and the apostle encouraged this as well (sure he did). This was so important that they wanted to set this meeting up nearly 8 months after I had quit leadership and 2 months after I had resigned from membership. And I, despite advice from 3 people very close to me, agreed. (Yeah, I’m not the sharpest tack in the happy meal). I still thought reconciliation was possible. I suggested an agenda and a time limit for the meeting. The pastor responded that the meeting would be short because they just wanted to bless me and recognize my service (yeah, right – there is not a single true “survivor” or “refuge-e” who believes that one!). Another leader was a little more transparent; he said the meeting would take hours – after all there were a lot of issues to be worked through. I’ve watched enough Westerns in my lifetime to smell an ambush. So I said “see ya”, though not exactly those 2 words.

    Life post-SG has included battles with depression, anger, and resentment. Yep, ol’ FSGP is way human. That is why he has to pray so much “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. But life has emerged into a time of greater joy than I ever had in the SG system. My best days have been in the past few years, after escaping.

    Get out, friends, and get on with life. There is Joy to be had!

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,
    Former SG Pastor

  • I have to say, what Joe shared reflects a bit of my own experience.

    To repeat, we did NOT have a bad time at our SGM church. But after we left and had put up a little blog where I posted a handful of basically noncommittal pieces detailing our ambivalence and sharing some of SGM’s disappearing history, it was shocking to deal with SGMers who were basically rabid about anything that wasn’t glowingly positive.

    I was particularly amazed by the way people accused me of “gossip” and “slander” for stating my opinion. Ironically, my opinion of SGM wasn’t even that bad at that point. But the blind loyalty and the extreme irritation over our discussions of facts (such as Larry T’s role as co-founder) made me believe that SGM did something to people’s thinking that was not normal…and that I’d never experienced in my life out in “normal” Christianity.

    I remember the Wikipedia wars, which was another checkpoint along my journey toward coming to believe that SGM was highly dysfunctional. Contrary to what some people thought, I had absolutely nothing to do with what originally sparked the editing battles, which was posting the link to this site. I wasn’t even aware that that was happening until someone commented about it. But basically, someone would post the link on Wikipedia’s SGM article, and then an SGMbot would come by and delete the link. This happened several times, and SGMers complained rabidly. I seem to recall a lengthy discussion page where people angrily defended SGM and called us (what else?) “gossips.” It was crazy.

    I doubt SGM leadership fully grasps how it was SGMers’ own behavior – especially their unkindness to those who had been truly victimized – that made the organization seem so cultish. As Joe said,

    All in all, I encountered many many SGMers and CJ fans who valued PR over truth.

    I think we’re seeing the fallout of that mindset now, as CJ faces his “time of reflection.” An interesting topic for discussion sometime would be what it is that fuels such an irrational desire to whitewash history and promote SGM as basically perfect, even as it is loudly proclaimed that “no church is perfect.”

  • red crab

    I haven’t posted in awhile. Still trying to process all my thoughts. It has been a year since I left CLC having attended since 1989. Before that I was at Halpine and left that church when everything came out about PK. It was my first church as a new believer. RIght now I’m having that “deja vu” feeling of trading one bad experience with an even worse one. Before I found this site I thought I was crazy. I tried so hard to be the perfect “lifer” and still I never felt like I fit in. I got on as many ministries as I could thinking THAT will quiet that voice telling me something is wrong. It must be my sinful heart I kept thinking. Search my heart for more sins and make sure they are all confessed at CG that week. I just grew more despondent as time went on.

    The worst was watching my kids withering under the condemnation and elitism that was happening at CLC. I wrote about that awhile ago. Now as my family has been torn to shreds by a pastor who doesn’t see his own part in what has taken place, that was the push I finally needed to leave and brush the dirt from my feet. I went back once, to the second Sunday night meeting. It was a sense of closure for me. I realized I could walk in that place and not be afraid anymore. Of what they could say or do. This story is not over though. I have grand kids that I can not see without “supervision” because I no longer attend that church. As I told my husband before all this started happening “God will no be mocked” – and I feel vindicated to a degree by what is finally coming out.
    Lori

  • People expressed shock at Harvey’s latest blog entry indicating the pastors college had their biggest enroallment yet this year. I wonder if this is an indication of being on Stage 4 of the list below.

    STAGE 1: HUBRIS BORN OF SUCCESS
    STAGE 2: UNDISCIPLINED PURSUIT OF MORE
    STAGE 3: DENIAL OF RISK AND PERIL
    STAGE 4: GRASPING FOR SALVATION
    STAGE 5: CAPITULATION TO IRRELEVANCE OR DEATH

    This is what Jim Collins wrote in his book “How the Mighty Fall.”

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_21/b4132026786379.htm

    Just a thought.

  • Stunned

    Or it could be an indication that they were closed down last year so the class that had intended to go last year, instead are going this year. It would only make sense that they had twice as many. Is this the case?

    Stunned
    who still can’t go near her old pastor’s site

  • Stunned

    PS. I am also amazed that the defacto head of SGM, Dave Harvey, considers this newsworthy when so much chaos, sin and confusion is reigning at SGM.

  • 24 Years in SGM

    Covenant Fellowship 1986-2000, GCC-Souderton 2000-2010

    Haven’t written my story yet, but I have one.

    :new

  • Stunned

    24 years in SGM,

    We were in Cov Fel at the same time. I knew many of the people that moved up to the Souderton church, as well. (Loved quite a few of them.)

    No pressure, but I’m looking forward to reading your story when you are ready to share it.

    Hugs from an old sister,
    Stunned

  • Roadwork

    Lacey’s back.

    http://sgmrefuge.com/2011/07/13/message-from-brent/#comment-35724

    He certainly has a history with SGM.

  • I think it would be interesting to explore just how each of the incoming PC candidates got there.

    The PC is unlike normal seminaries, in that admission is mostly by invitation only – and if an SGM member directly and outrightly expresses an interest in going, he will typically find that he will have unwittingly stalled his progress, as leaders do not look kindly upon a member’s openly stated desire to become a leader…unless, of course, the member is a son of a current SGM pastor.

    I have heard from a few guys from non-SGM churches, who have shared that their expression of interest in attending the PC was met more positively…so there are apparently at least 3 separate sets of admission guidelines, as far as I can tell:

    1. The admission guidelines that apply to leaders’ sons

    2. The admission guidelines that apply to SGM outsiders, with two subsets –

    …..A. SGM outsiders who in some way represent groups with whom SGM would like closer alliances:

    ………1. Groups led by CJ’s Reformed Big Dog celebrity “friends”

    ………2. Groups that could make it look like SGM actually does try to do foreign missionary work

    …..B. SGM outsiders who aren’t from any group that would add to SGM’s cache/credibility

    3. The admission guidelines that apply to ordinary SGM members.

    That admission into the PC hinges on such a subjective system and demonstrates clear nepotism and favoritism ought to concern every SGM member – especially because no other formal education is required to become an SGM pastor. And once a guy becomes an SGM pastor, he wields a LOT of authority with ZERO formal accountability to ordinary members.

  • Kris, since you mentioned in one of your early comments here about the lifestyle issues (home schooling, courtship, etc.) I thought you all might like to see a related series I am doing about gender, authority, legalism, and abuse in Christian families

    Manifesto of Liberty and Responsibility in Christian Families http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2011/07/manifesto-of-liberty-and-responsibility.html

    Web links about parenting with grace instead of authoritarian legalism:
    http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2011/07/web-links-about-parenting-with-grace.html

    Review of the book Submission is Not Silence (about marriage) http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2011/07/submission-is-not-silence-by-elisabeth.html

    Review of the book Quivering Daughters (about abuse and control in QF home schooling families): http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2011/07/quivering-daughters-by-hilary-mcfarland.html

    Vida Savta (Virginia Knowles)

  • Tony Reinke, Mahaney’s blog writer, has his own blog. I find it interesting that Reinke hasn’t posted anything about the SGM/Mahaney debacle.

  • BrokenHearted

    hello everybody!

    i posted last night but it looks like it didn’t go through. (kris did it get stuck in moderation or did i not actually submit it? :-p)

    i wanted to thank everyone for their awesome posts. y’all give me hope and make me so excited to be a Christian!

    my timeline is SO close to Roadwork’s except i was 5 when i started at Fairfax in 1988. then moved to another church a year after the ashburn plant and just switched to another one about 2 months ago.

    i post anonymously because i originally posted with my real name and people gave me flack about how i was slandering my parents bc it is impossible to talk about all the bad stuff PDI/SGM did without bringing them into it. i do not haveinternet at home til thur but i hoping to go to the library and typeup my story later. ill include details but not my name so it wont come up on google.

  • BrokenHearted

    hello everybody!

    i posted last night but it looks like it didn’t go through. (kris did it get stuck in moderation or did i not actually submit it? :-p)

    i wanted to thank everyone for their awesome posts. y’all give me hope and make me so excited to be a Christian!

    my timeline is SO close to Roadwork’s except i was 5 when i started at Fairfax in 1988. then moved to another church a year after the ashburn plant and just switched to another one about 2 months ago.

    i post anonymously because i originally posted with my real name and people gave me flack about how i was slandering my parents bc it is impossible to talk about all the bad stuff PDI/SGM did without bringing them into it. i do not haveinternet at home til thur but i hoping to go to the library and typeup my story later. ill include details but not my name so it wont come up on google.

  • A Kindred Spirit

    Due to the need for anonymity, I cannot give my history. The SG church in our neck of the woods is CrossWay, Charlotte, NC – Mickey Connolly, Larry Malament, and Brent Detwiler.

    Canary and Gracie’s families suffered at the hands of these men (their stories are on the Refuge site), as well as many others whose stories I am not at liberty to tell. If current and former CrossWay members were to call around to folks who have left through the years and inquire as to why they left, they would hear some of the stuff that’s on the the blogs. There would also be some interesting conversations with those that visited for a while, like Kris and Guy, but then suddenly disappeared (especially from those that met with pastors with “questions or concerns” and THEN suddenly disappearing).

    However, after saying all that, the sad reality is that if asked, very few would actually tell the “real reason/reasons” they left.

    The problems are systemic, affecting all the “family of churches” within Sovereign Grace Ministries.

  • A Kindred Spirit

    Lori “Red Crab”,

    God is so good and He loves us so much, He will restore what the locusts have eaten within your family. The hardest thing is waiting…it will happen on HIS timeline, not ours. It’s hard for mothers/grandmothers to “wait” when it involves our children and grandchildren.

    It’s impossible to love with a love as deep as that of a mother and not feel all the things you’ve felt and are feeling. God understands, He’s a father.

    Praying for you today, dear sister.

    Kindred

  • Glad I am out

    I was at Cov Fel in Glen Mills for 10 years and had both good and bad experiences. I started to move into leadership positions but backed out when I had disagreements with how some of their ministries were done. Stayed on the periphery the last few years. There is a pastor there that I correspond with from time to time. I left on good terms in 2010 to join a church plant of another denomination. One of my biggest gripes is the unwillingness to plant a church in a middle to lower middle class area which was why I left. I will say I did learn a lot there but I am also now unlearning some of it. Most of the membership really love the SGM way. I would not go back. There are a lot of good people in SGM and I pray that God brings the necessary changes about. They need to realize that this is all for God’s glory and not theirs.

  • Gamaliel

    AKS, great to see you! How have you been? :)

    I won’t say my real name because I don’t trust Big Brother Google, but I have provided identifying information in the past and a lot of folks at Covenant Life know or remember me. I’m the second-born in my family. My dad started the sound crew at CLC and ran it until 1993. I was at CLC from 1987 (when I was born) to 2008. Spent some of 2008 at Providence Church of Pittsburgh.

    I am not a big part of the SGM Survivors story. I wasn’t mistreated or abused at CLC, but left over some doctrinal issues and my growing discomfort with the disturbing caregroup atmosphere. I was a member of a PCA church for a little while after leaving SGM. Most of my family still attends CLC, although my older brother is a confirmed Episcopalian and another brother is between churches.

    My wife and her family attended KingsWay Community Church in Richmond from 2000 to 2009. They left a few months before the infamous “Family Night” in the summer of 2009 that began the exodus from that church.

  • Blues0080

    Gathering of Believers, College Park Fellowship, Covenant Life (1980 – 1990), Abundant Life Community Church (1990 – 1996)…I left PDI/SGM shortly after Che Ahn and Lou Engle left and was a part of their church for a while. I’m currently loving church in a house church. I was a cgl(acme and a few others here were in my cg), worship team member, follow up coordinator, and once appeared on the cover of people of destiny magazine. i’ve seen how much my percetion of others and how church should be have been so colored and damaged by pdi/sgm…and daily god is bringing things up that i need to deal with and repent because of what i allowed to become a part of my thought process especially in relating to and forming opinions of others…

  • A Kindred Spirit

    Hi Gamaliel,

    It’s good to see you, too. I’m doing well. Thank you for asking. :)

    I’ve really enjoyed getting to know your wife through the blogs. She’s an exceptional young woman – very sweet and compassionate, and a gifted writer.

    Hope you guys are doing well, also.

  • Alemap

    Our family’s exodus began on both sides of the continent. My older son left the San Diego church about 1 year before we did here in Maryland. We belonged to the Kingsville, Md church. I also want to say that there are a lot of wonderful people in our former church. We left for several reasons: doctrinal issues, emphasis on indwelling sin, ostracization due to parenting differences,cloning of the pastors and congregants,cliques, emphasis on performance based faith, sin sniffing and fruit sniffing. Medical issues that we actually used medication for and the inability to feel included in the youth caregroup due to learning differences and the processing of lofty concepts. The atmosphere was one of elitism and even though my husband had been a wonderful Alpha leader, he was told later on that he no longer qualified. The ungodly shunning for whatever reason, the suicides and depression related to the teachings and attitudes of superiority. We almost lost our daughter to suicide because of the college caregroup’s mentality. I probably have more but am just now after being gone 2 years, I have moments of flashbacks that I had forgotten about.

  • natalie

    I attended covfel for 5 years. Now I am at a church plant with an SG church. I have been to tons of churches in my lifetime and none have taught me the truth like SG. Is it te best church , no their is none. We r all sinners.
    But what I can say that all this talk about women being confined is ridiculous. Women are respected and cared for. I suffered a great tragedy in my life 4 years ago and the pastors and the church cared for me like no other. Maybe the Lord is tweeking some things. But what you are writing is just wrong. You all sound bitter and you need to keep your gaze on Christ instead of wasting your time warning people about a bible centered church. Its slander …
    I know some of you been hurt and that is sad. But the Lord is there for you not some silly site

  • Stunned

    Natalie, I’m so sorry that you went through a tragedy 4 years ago. I pray God is healing you and bringing you closer and closer to Him.

    Stunned

  • 29 years before the mast

    Started at Gathering of Believers in 1979
    Left Covenant Life Church in 2008.
    Went through all the changes or personnel, theological changes, polity changes, shepherding, permission to date or spend time with someone of the opposite sex (only men asked– the women waited),Schmidt, Tomczak, new buildin, we are now Reformed (except no one in the congregation knew or understood what that meant), being assigned to caregroups and then reassigned every two years, CJ becoming “senior pastor” even though no such designation appears in the NT, the sacremants changes (only the royal priest uh I mean elder could administer baptism and communion)–this last change was the catalyst for us finally leaving. Now happily ensconced in a non-reformation church (try it –you learn that there are other vital, dynamic, functioning communities of faith out there that believe that God’s character is primarily about love and not sovereignty and there are other “truths” out there other than those approved by CLC).

  • Well, our story is at our blog. (Click on my name, if you’d like.) We were only briefly at “our” SGM, but I would say our story highlights a lot of the subtle menace and paranoia creeping under all those smiling surfaces.

    A fair warning: Reading our story to its conclusion is a *commitment*, I ain’t gonna lie. Basically, clicking on that link will feel like courting our blog — before you even know what happened and whether or not you really want to. (Oh, and there are plenty of awkward, cringe-inducing moments, too. Just like a horrible REAL courtship. I’m really selling this well, I see.)

    FSGP — Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve always wanted to hear more of it.

    AKS, High Church, Rose (hope I’m not forgetting anyone) — Thank you for your kind comments on previous threads. Sorry I couldn’t respond sooner. Time gets away from me these days.

  • Bob Gram

    Hi…I’ve posted once before, but didn’t say “Hello!” Great stories…helping me sort through my own SGM experiences…those expriences haven’t been abusive, but I’ve seen lots of SGM weirdness apleanty. I was wondering; has anyone out there been what I call their sgm church’s “flavor of the month?” I was when I was “courted” for the PC…and then dropped like a bad habit when at the end of the process I was found not “gifted.” Hey, thanks and look forward to more reading here!

  • Hi Natalie —

    I’m sorry for your tragedy, too, but I’m happy to hear your church offered you solace and care.

    However, when SGM doesn’t do that to the people they wound, sites like these are necessary. They’re vital. They’re hospitals for the wounded where no hospitals existed before.

    Comfort and care can come in different forms and we can’t discount their value simply because we don’t like the form.

    I wish you continued healing. And I wish that for everyone here as well.

  • old timer

    I can’t use my name or location. We were in PDI for 12-13 yrs. I started reading other books, checking out internet prophecy, looking into other doctrine and realized that what was being taught and force fed to us wasn’t exactly what I wanted our family to hear. Each Sunday at the end of the message I would sit there feeling the weight of condemnation….because the Lord was dealing with me to leave until I finally told HIM, ‘Ok, I’ll go.” There was no joy, no victory in Jesus, no Blood of the Lamb who took away the sins of the world, no love lifted me…..just focus on what a worm you are until you go crazy. We couldn’t even say that someone had a good heart, no, we had to say they had a horrible black sin-infested, disgusting, revolting, deceitfully wicked heart above all things, ad nauseum, etc—on and on and on.

    Now, this was way before the blogs and I thought I was crazy. I felt so alone, isolated and terrified. But I knew that I had heard God and HE said leave so I did. Still it was extremely difficult because of reasons I can’t even share publically…all I can say is that God is faithful and HE will provide for us and be the Father He says He is! The last few years that I was there I only remember the Holy Spirit moving 2 times…….and he used young teens to do it. A visitor from another country said it was dry as dust there on a Sunday morning and it was.

    I wondered why people even went to church if they didn’t even want to know what HE was saying to them or wanted them to do. Why didn’t the leaders show folks how to know God for themselves and then let God tell the people what HE wanted them to do. Another lady who left said that the leaders don’t need to tell me how to spend my time because God can tell me what He wants me to do for the area. I knew how church money was spent and that regular tithers wouldn’t appreciate some of that. I saw much hypocrisy in the leaders and didn’t appreciate it…..they said one thing in public but another thing in private. The same standard they used to measure others was never applied to themselves. They sure loved to hear themselves talk.

    The elitism and superiority was more than I could bear. If you weren’t in our church you were a heathen and going to hell. Other churches weren’t even Christians.

    After I left it was such a relief….no more condemnation, no more double standards, no more hypocrisy.

    We have friends still there and they are stuck. They see and observe what goes on but don’t leave—just attend out of tradition and routine.

  • NLR

    Old Timer–

    Your story sounds somewhat like my story in my non-SGM but SGM-friendly-in cooperation with-church. I, too, still have friends who are there, see these things, but are stuck. They are afraid. They think I had a lot of courage to leave. I was just as afraid, but I guess, God gave me the courage I needed. I followed Him out the door, not really my own leading.

    I am glad you shared as much as you did. For some reason, I am really affected when men, especially older men, share stories about being afraid, terrified, feeling alone. I am usually drawn to them, to hear them and listen, I dont know why. I guess, as a younger woman and having been in a church that has been so authoritarian and paternalistic, it helps me to see men take off the facade of false masculinity and just be themselves. Your weakness and struggle is refreshing because it’s real and you allowed yourself to feel those things. Yet, God has no failed to build you up and esteem you, and affirm you by His own doing, and not some programmed manipulated way–especially with putting women down so that you could look more like a man and be built up. Then you’ve had the courage to tell us. I think you are very much a man all the more because of that. I love it that we can have strength in weakness. I am blessed by your sharing and to see how God has loved you throughout.

  • NLR

    Old Timer–

    I just thought, OMG! Why did I think Old Timer was here before and was a man! Anyways, I hope you are the right Old Timer than I’m thinking about and not a woman. Sorreeeee…. :) :spin

  • Dr.StupidHead

    I am somewhat fearful to go into great detail about my story becuase I am just now years later getting some lines of communications again….My leaving was more of a I had no other option. I attended a westcoast SGM church for nine years when I was involved in a money situation with a pastor & family. Some very bad things went down and eventually it all came out. My heart was definaelty messed up by what some of the people involved had done to me. The rest of pastoral team spend alot of time making sure I told no one and talked to no one. One of them actually blamed me for the whole thing and was infuriated that I would cuase so many God fearing people to sin. I will never forget when he said “you should be praying for ______ instead of publically hateing them!”…..I sucked it all up but then the “shunning” started :o( It really sucks to be in a church for so long then be at a point where your not welcome anymore let alone serve. I tried to deal with my heart issues and asked the pastoral team for help but after being stone walled for eight months I gave up…..
    I have found out now that the pastor and family recieved tons of care,council and accountabilty. It makes me sad to contemplate why I was blamed for everything and recieved little care? I know that church was big on talent and looks so I struggle with bitterness that if I had what they were looking for I may have faired better.

    And to those who want my identity just think about the name I post with LOL :spin