Dave Harvey Makes A Video…

August 30, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

This is already old news, as Dave Harvey’s video has been up on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website for a couple of days.  Some of you have already shared your thoughts about it in the previous thread.

I didn’t get around to viewing the 26-minute presentation until last night.  Once I did, I realized that this video totally deserves its own post.  I’m still trying to process exactly what it was that I heard.  Perhaps we can figure it out together.

Mr. Harvey starts out by explaining who he is and alluding to the challenging times in which Sovereign Grace Ministries finds itself.  Then he explains that although everyone is welcome to watch, he is making the video primarily for pastors and local churches.

After that, in a strange amalgamation of lecture-to-pastors (“Don’t make secondary matters too important – that can lead to legalism”), instructional video for members about what they may have witnessed but that Mr. Harvey wants them to forget (“We don’t actually emphasize pastoral authority incorrectly – the only authority pastors have is scripture!”), vague explanation about how members can indeed disagree with pastors and live to tell about it (“We encourage dissent – really, we do!”), and attempt at minimizing SGM pastors’ crazy responses to child sex abuse, where they gave victims the harsh cold shoulder and bent over backward to coddle perpetrators (“In a very few cases, we may not have given the best pastoral care to victims”), Mr. Harvey proceeds to address many of the issues we’ve been discussing here for nearly four years.

My head is still spinning over this bizarre display.  On the one hand, it was Twilight Zone-ish, to hear Mr. Harvey openly admitting (through the very act of talking openly about any of these things) that problems in these areas do exist.  How many times have SGM defenders come around to this site and railed about how “they’ve never seen” anything like this?  How we’re all just misunderstanding and making stuff up?  Well, now their organization’s “acting president” is putting these things into words and telling the world that they’ve been aware of their jacked-up church governance structure “for years” and have been revising (secretly, I guess) polity for the past two years.

Who knew?

There were so many odd things about this video, from Mr. Harvey’s lighthearted facial expressions, to the tight camera angles that nonetheless managed to capture his hand gestures, to the very clear display of his belief that if he tells people what he wants them to think, they will forget what they’ve experienced or witnessed and will believe his interpretation of things.

At times, I found myself seriously wondering when SGM is going to pay us here for providing them with talking points.  After all, way back in 2008, I suggested that the leaders who were so desperate to know the indentities of the commenters here ought instead to direct their energies toward self-examination, and toward answering the following questions:

DO THEY, as an organization, have a system of church governance in place that is too heavy on the notion of “authority,” with no recourse for the common member should a disagreement arise?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, caused their pastors to view themselves as the final arbiters of God’s truth, even for non-essential matters?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, taught their pastors to turn every confrontation back around onto the questioner, so that the questioner is then left defending himself and his own sinfulness that caused him to have a difference of opinion in the first place?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, fostered a culture of secrecy, where decisions are made from the top down and then imposed upon the people in the pews, often with little clear explanation to these people about the changes imposed upon them?  HAVE THEY, as an organization, come to view themselves as better than all other organizations?  DO THEY, as an organization, hold themselves and the counseling their pastors offer as superior to any sort of professional mental health or law enforcement intervention?

Finally, HAVE THEY EVER minimized a case of sexual abuse by – say – having the admitted abuser merely place a phone call to apologize to his victim, and then permitting the abuser to remain a member in good standing?

I’m still waiting for them to talk about their dangerous biases against the mental health profession, and their sense of superiority to other organizations.  And oh yeah – I’d love to hear what Mr. Harvey would have to say about the culture of secrecy, where decisions and policy are made behind the scenes, without a shred of openness, and then foisted on their completely in-the-dark membership.

But I guess Rome wasn’t built in a day…

Anyway, since the Sovereign Grace Ministries guys obviously follow what people say here, I have some ideas for them, in case they decide to make more videos.  In no particular order, here are my suggestions:

  • Make up your mind who your audience really is.  If it’s truly pastors and members, you should be able to be honest with them.  You can admit fully and freely that certain conditions have indeed existed.  You shouldn’t have to tell them how to reinterpret what they’ve known and seen for decades.  If you find yourself doing that, then that could be a sign that your real audience might actually be that Washington Post reporter.
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  • Ditch the qualifiers.  If you use phrases like “may have been less than sensitive” or “could have provided better pastoral care,” that makes you sound wimpy and like you’re still refusing to acknowledge what everyone with half a brain already knows to be true.  (Or, like SGM’s attorneys have way too much power over the remarks that you make.)  On a spiritual level, it makes you sound like you’re still refusing to admit your organization’s sins.  This isn’t good.
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  • Be more careful about how you talk about C.J. Mahaney.  You don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about how you guys have already made up your minds about what the “independent” adjudicators are going to say about his continued fitness for ministry.  When you talk about his Pastors College courses in the future tense, that’s kind of a slip-up.  It makes you look like you’re wasting a lot of SGM’s money in paying these Ambassadors of Reconciliation guys, when you’ve clearly already decided that C.J. will be teaching again at the Pastors College.  Also, it’s a bad bad idea to utter blatant lies, like the one about how great an example of approachability C.J. has been.  Uh…Mr. Harvey…everyone already knows that C.J. is only approachable to the people over at Capitol Hill Baptist, where he’s hiding out right now.  Again – not good.
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  • When talking about child sex abuse cases, don’t use words like “complex” to describe what a pastor’s response should be.  The only people who think there’s something complex about calling the police to report such hideous crimes are people who are totally out of touch with reality.  That’s why the “9-1-1” system was created way back when.  It’s easy to call the cops when you learn that someone has raped a toddler.  Nothing complex about that.
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  • Finally – and I know I’ve already alluded to this, but really, it bears repeating – you need to understand that your instructions about what to think aren’t as powerful as you apparently think they are.  You can’t, by simply saying it’s never been taught, undo decades of express and explicit teachings on topics like the necessity of obeying one’s pastors.  The sound files are out there.  So are transcripts.  People just aren’t that dumb.