Recent Developments

March 26, 2012 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

A week ago today, Sovereign Grace Ministries announced its new Board of Directors.  Despite the fact that several SGM churches had expressed concern over the selection process of the new board — particularly the tight time constraints placed upon pastors to provide feedback — Dave Harvey nonetheless said, in his announcement about the new board,

Each of these men was nominated by the interim Board, approved for service by their local pastoral teams, and then affirmed through a feedback process open to all ordained pastors of Sovereign Grace churches. 

A day or two later, the pastors of Covenant Life Church announced to members that the church was suspending its contributions to the Sovereign Grace Ministries organization:

Dear Covenant Life members,

Our prayer for you today is one offered many times by the Apostle Paul in his letters: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are writing briefly to let you know that the elders have decided, with the input of our Financial Advisory Committee (FAC), to suspend Covenant Life Church’s financial giving to Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).

The background is that the FAC and its subcommittee have requested more time to ask further questions and to weigh the upcoming Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AOR) report before giving the elders a final recommendation about our church’s financial giving to SGM. The committees have recommended that Covenant Life suspend its giving at this time, while their evaluation continues. We believe this recommendation is wise, and we will continue to work with the FAC to determine the best long-term course of action.

We’ve communicated this decision in person to the leadership of Sovereign Grace who were very gracious in their response. We communicated that we are still committed to funding our shared mission in North Africa and have asked them to make us aware of other projects that we could specifically fund.

We will update you when we receive the FAC’s final recommendation. Moreover, when we present the 2013 Fiscal Year budget to the congregation this summer, we will include a plan for allocating any funds that are uncommitted as a result of the suspension.

Please continue to pray for the pastors and others involved in this decision. We take the stewardship of the resources of our church very seriously and need God’s help. And as always, we invite your perspective and wisdom and encourage you to speak with your pastor about any questions you may have.

In Christ,

Your pastors

Although it seems obvious that CLC’s contributions to the SGM organization would comprise a significant portion of SGM’s budget, the suspension of funds will apparently not have an immediate effect on SGM’s operations, according to this statement from a member of CLC’s Financial Advisory Committee:

I think it is important for our church family to be aware of a critical finding of the subcommittee, namely that CLC’s decision to suspend its monthly contributions should not result in any SGM employee losing their job due to financial considerations in the near term. As a subcommittee, we spent a significant amount of time reviewing the financial position of SGM, including its balance sheet reserves, cash flows, budgeted expense projections and income expectations. According to SGM’s audited financial statements for its fiscal year ended August 31, 2011, the organization had net assets of $5.9 million and only $300,000 in current liabilities. We reviewed more recent financial information and concluded that SGM has sufficient financial resources to continue to pay its current employees. No one should be under the impression that our pastors have cost anyone their job. That simply isn’t the case.

On Friday, Sovereign Grace Ministries shared on the “Plant & Build” blog some additional information about the upcoming activities of the new Board of Directors.  Among other things, there’s this:

First, we decided to create a polity committee to consist of two members of the Board, two members of the Leadership Team (including C.J. Mahaney, who will chair the committee), and at least three Sovereign Grace pastors not on the Board. This committee will pick up the work that has already been done on polity and develop it to give better definition to the ministry, to how SGM as a ministry relates to pastors and their churches, and to policies and procedures for making decisions and selecting leaders.

Then there was this update about how the report from the Ambassadors of Reconciliation will be handled:

Second, we expect to receive the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report in the coming two weeks. We plan to begin discussing the report on a retreat in Louisville April 9 & 10 and then to make plans for responding.

As reader “Ozymandias” points out, in response to this announcement,

And, as T4G begins on 10 April, can we assume that there will be no public release and/or public discussion (including public discussion among non-SGM conservative evangelicals) of the report prior to the start of T4G? And, by “make plans for responding,” one means “public release,” correct? Because, if it doesn’t mean public release on SGM’s website, then #7 on this timeline is now incorrect.

I thought this, from reader “B.R. Clifton,” was a succinct summation of the reality of what can be expected, with respect to the AoR report:

It must be remembered, as I understand it, the report was bought and paid for by SGM. As such it is their sole property to do with as they see fit. Another though is the SGM board now in place is not the same board that purchased or made arrangements for the AOR investigation and report. They may or may not feel any obligation to honor promises or implied promises made by the previous board. The have a number of options they can pursue at their own choosing:

1. Ignore the report altogether.
2. Release their own version of what the report says.
3. Release only their reply or response to the report.
4. Release only certain parts of the report as they see fit.
5. Release the report in its entirety along with their response.

Whichever they choose to do, they will be within their legal right as sole owner of the report. Each of the choices has its own consequences which no doubt they are now or will be weighing before taking any action on the report. All of this may or may not be in consideration of any moral obligation to be forthcoming and release the report unabridged.

Counting on the report triggering any wide sweeping changes could turn out to be just another busted balloon.

Thoughts?