Recent Developments

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.


172 comments to Recent Developments

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  1. Somewhereintime
    March 29th, 2012 at 10:19 am


    CJ and Carolyn “suffering” is like saying Jim and Tammy Faye Baker suffered.

    I listened to about 3-4 CJ messages over the past six months. He does sound “off”. Maybe the Lord is going to have him go through a Nebucheadnezzar trial where he basically goes nuts.

    He won’t be able to grow his hair long but he could grow his fingernails long yes? In the end the result was a man who repented to God. Because the Lord loves CJ I know that He will bring CJ down to his knees … somehow … some way.

  2. Persona
    March 29th, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Somewhereintime 101

    When Carolyn met CJ he had shoulder-length so that would be likely be okay now, if it were possible. But, I don’t think she would countenance foot-long nails. We probably won’t find him eating grass either.

    Still, I do wonder if a tad of medication would help dissipate the delusions.

  3. Former CLC'er
    March 29th, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I can’t comment on how C.J. sounds, since I haven’t heard one of his sermons in years. I can say, though, that with my former pastor (not CLC or SGM), when he and I had our blowout, I felt like an alien had taken over his body. He wasn’t the man I thought I knew. Within a few weeks he had shown his true personality to a lot of other people, and within a few months, his church had fallen apart. The narcissistic person can hide their true self for so long, but it eventually comes out.

  4. Steve240
    March 29th, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    CJ and Carolyn “suffering” is like saying Jim and Tammy Faye Baker suffered.

    So true.

    Also, Mahaney’s past two messages at Solid Rock about the Pharisees and “suffering” would be like Jim Bakker speaking right after his fall on sexual purity and being stewards of the money God gives. We know that Jim Bakker failed in the sexual purity area including conspiring to hide it and both Jim and Tammy lived a lavish lifestyle off of contributions while begging people on the air for contributions for their “ministry.” It would also be like Jim Bakker giving a talk on living within means/budget etc. which is another area he failed in.

    So sad the man just doesn’t see his sin and even sadder that other are enabling Mahaney to continue to live in deception. John Loftness and other leaders of Solid Rock include those allowing Mahaney to continue in deception.

  5. Bridget
    March 29th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    “I hope the AoR people speak plainly and ditch any residual starstruck awe they may have for CJ and the SGM organization.” – Kris

    Yes and amen!

    I hope SGM leaders/staff/board/pastors would do the same! They have an inability to speak plainly and cohesively so that others are clear on their meaning. Along with speaking plainly and not being starstruck with themselves, I would add that they need to be acting in a manner consistent with their communications.

  6. Persona
    March 29th, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    My opinion is, if Loftness ascends one of the thrones at SGM, they all deserve whatever trials and suffering God desires to send.

  7. Argus
    March 29th, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on —

  8. Argus
    March 29th, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Forgot this part:

  9. musicman
    March 29th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    The original date for the release was January, and then it was moved to March, and now it’s being said it will be released once the new board can look at it and respond to it in April. If I had to bet, I’m guessing the release of the AOR report will happen over July 4th weekend, or maybe on November 4th-right after the Presidential election results are in…

    This is starting to sound like Watergate or the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Just keep pushing back on the investigation and hope it goes away…

  10. Persona
    March 29th, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Wow, it’s hard to believe the news about Mark Driscoll. Does anyone else notice a pattern of God cleaning out all the despots in the world?

  11. Local Church Fan
    March 29th, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Persona – #110

    Care to clarify your comment about “God cleaning out all the despots in the world?”

  12. SGM Overcomer
    March 29th, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    This was very helpful in my detox from SGM. It will help you understand who you are in Christ, why you fell into this snare, and the people who continue to perpetuate this bondage.

  13. Persona
    March 29th, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    LCF 111

    I see a global trend of God freeing people from oppression, beginning last year in Egypt. It seems to me to be a work of God, involving both secular and religious organizations. He is giving grace and courage to people to no longer tolerate abuse of any kind.

    The reports coming out of Mars Hill Church so closely resemble those of SGM. But, these abuses simply would not have been tended to, if not for the blog exposure. This is a much more effective way to whistle-blow, to rally support, and to limit abuse, than ever before in history.

    I wonder if God is preparing a way for a huge revival where people turn away from following men and turn to God as their Redeemer? Or perhaps, in the case of the church, maybe he is purifying his bride for Jesus’ imminent return?

    Whatever, he is doing, he seems to have heard the prayers of the saints for relief. And, I am so grateful!

  14. Oswald
    March 29th, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Gospel Coalition blog has a post about forgiveness/reconciliation, timely and worth a look.

  15. Stunned
    March 30th, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Yay, God!!!!!

  16. CLCya
    March 30th, 2012 at 7:37 am

    #112 – Thanks for the recommendation. Just ordered the book. Can’t wait to read it!

  17. 5yearsinPDI
    March 30th, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Oswald 114

    I can’t begin to tell you how excellently put that little essay is, and how helpful it was to me today. I have lately been going through a couple things with “people” ( can’t seem to escape “people”) and it was perfect for the situation and my own struggles. Thanks!

  18. Argus
    March 30th, 2012 at 9:47 am

    This news about Mark Driscoll is somewhat off-topic for SGM and C.J. Mahaney — but not exactly.

    Driscoll is a power-player in the young neo-Calvinist resurgence — a movement with which Mahaney is dearly enamored and within which Mahaney evidently seeks status as an elder statesmen to ambitious young ‘church planters.’

    Mahaney has been identified as personally responsible for mentoring Driscoll.

    Mahaney and Driscoll belong to several of the same para-church organizations and boards, and the two have frequently shared the stage at conferences of these various “entrepreneurial network[s]” (to use Driscoll’s recent term.

    As Driscoll’s pathological behavior and abusive leadership becomes exposed, his enablers explain and cover for him with all the proper phrases and praises while his organization is restructured and his duties redefined; however, he remains a player and a pastor large and in charge. Sound familiar?

    From Driscoll’s Acts 29 network has split off a similar network: Sojourn Church Planting Network. Sojourn is headquartered in — guess where? — Louisville, KY, where Mahaney and the SGM headquarters will soon be located. Leaders of Sojourn were brought in to lead sessions at the most recent SGM church-planting conference.

    Driscoll’s replacement as head of Acts 29 is Matt Chandler of Highland Park, TX, so Acts 29 headquarters is moving to the Dallas area. That’s close to Frisco, TX, where SGM Board member (and possibly chairman — who knows, since SGM is not disclosing yet?) Craig Cabaniss lives and pastors. The men are well-acquainted on friendly terms, and Matt Chandler is highly regarded by the good folks of Grace Church Frisco.

    I know I keep beating this drum, but I believe that the direction of SGM is being decided by a few men who value these other ‘strategic alliances’ (and their own places in these alliances) more than they value the congregation members of SGM churches. The members will be the last to know that they don’t matter

    The members of SGM are fodder to feed the ambitions of these alliances. They supply funds, status, and a sheen of legitimacy. They are a means to an end. The end, ostensibly, is the “mission’ — the mission is everything, and woe to anyone who gets in the way of the ‘movement’ or the ‘mission’ or the ‘resurgence’ or the next catch phrase du jour. After all, some friendly-fire casualties are to be expected as acceptable losses in the completion of the mission.

    These guys as so “Gospel missional” that they have made their own execution of the mission a higher focus than the personal message of the love of God for His own dear children. Their driven ambition to carry out the ‘mission’ has eclipsed the truly good news of the extravagant love of our Father poured out in grace through the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ and imparted to us personally by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    In their minds, since God’s plan depends upon gifted men entrusted with the mission, and since they are obviously the highly-gifted men God has chosen to train the upcoming gifted men for the work of the mission, then they MUST be doing it right. They are the leaders, marching onward, so everyone else better follow or get out of the way — or risk being trodden underfoot.

  19. Oswald
    March 30th, 2012 at 9:51 am

    From the article linked at #114:
    Seven Signs of Genuine Repentance
    There are seven signs that indicate the offender is genuinely repentant:
    Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong . . . ” or “If have done anything to offend you . . .”)
    Welcomes accountability from others.
    Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.
    Does not have a defensive attitude about being in the wrong.
    Does not dismiss or downplay the hurtful behavior.
    Does not resent doubts about their sincerity or the need to demonstrate sincerity—especially in cases involving repeated offenses.
    Makes restitution where necessary.

    5years, I found it helpful also.

  20. Argus
    March 30th, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Ack — typos. Sorry.

    Also, meant to say, ” . . . poured out in grace through the life and death AND RESURRECTION of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”

  21. Irv
    March 30th, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Argus 118 — :word :goodpost

  22. Kris
    March 30th, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Argus said,

    These guys as so “Gospel missional” that they have made their own execution of the mission a higher focus than the personal message of the love of God for His own dear children. Their driven ambition to carry out the ‘mission’ has eclipsed the truly good news of the extravagant love of our Father poured out in grace through the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ and imparted to us personally by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    In their minds, since God’s plan depends upon gifted men entrusted with the mission, and since they are obviously the highly-gifted men God has chosen to train the upcoming gifted men for the work of the mission, then they MUST be doing it right.

    Argus, your entire #118 is really good, but the last part really lays out precisely what I think is driving a lot of the behavior we’re seeing from the guys at the top of these organizations.

    Also, there was this –

    The members of SGM are fodder to feed the ambitions of these alliances. They supply funds, status, and a sheen of legitimacy. They are a means to an end.

    Somehow, the phrase “sheen of legitimacy” is triggering something for me, something I’m going to try to put into words…although I’m not sure I’ll be able to…

    One of my ongoing questions – something I’ve wondered about since before starting this site, something that puzzled me even when we were in the midst of attending our own SGM church – is how it is that the actual experience of going to an SGM church could feel so utterly different than what you’d think it’d be like if you were just going by what you could learn about SGM from non-SGM sources.

    I mean, our own SGM sojourn was brought about in large part because of what we “knew” about SGM based upon SGM’s image on the internet. We were coming off of some years spent at a pastor-owned-and-operated hyper-Charismatic church that had veered away from straight-up biblical truth and propagated a strange amalgam of “Prosperity Gospel” mixed with “Your Pastor Is A Real True Prophet Whom You Need In Order To Obtain Your Destiny.” More than a little dazed and confused at the realization of our own gullibility, Guy and I found ourselves eager to re-embrace cold hard “sound doctrine” and get as far away as we could from weirdness. At the same time, though, we still thought you couldn’t have any sort of meaningful church life without formal affirmation of all things Spirit-filled.

    So when we stumbled upon the notion of SGM, and caught the always-glowing little mentions of the organization, its music, and CJ Mahaney, we figured it was probably about the only game in town that cared about “sound doctrine” while taking a continuationist stance. As I think back to all the places where we’d heard of SGM online, I can’t even remember precisely what it was that the different bloggers had said – but there was this sense that SGM was some sort of as-yet-undiscovered New Thing that was slightly exotic yet kept (in the discerning bloggers’ thinking) checking out as doctrinally OK despite the potential for Spirit-filled exuberance.

    SGM sounded strong yet simple, grounded yet “new,” true yet fun.

    I know this is random, but a metaphor that pops into my head is my experience with the weight loss program Jenny Craig.

    A few years back, I wanted to take off some pounds. I’d just had a baby. My sister was getting married. I had no desire to lumber up the aisle in what turned out to be a rather clingy (for how modest it had initially appeared) bridesmaid dress with my old “baby weight” jiggling for all the world to see. But my personal resolve was weak. I was pretty tired and distracted. I’d heard from a few people that Jenny Craig was a relatively simple plan, with all the food choices made for you.

    So I joined. And the plan did work. I successfully lost the weight I wanted to lose. I even became a true fan of a few of the snacks and entrees.

    BUT, I have to say that my weekly appointments at the Jenny Craig “centre” bore very little resemblance to how the program was portrayed in its literature and on its website.

    Sure, there was “one-on-one counseling.” But the “counselors,” who were actually called consultants, were a shifty and ever-changing lot with very little expertise. It turned out that I knew way more about actual nutrition and even ways to be successful with weight loss than any of them did. Two of the women I saw had never even been on a diet in their lives! They were both rail thin but had never had to think about what they ate. One of them actually shared a story with me, thinking that I’d find it inspirational or something, about how she’d actually found herself engaging in emotional eating after a family get-together than hadn’t gone so well. She was wondering aloud to me about how crazy it was to find herself eating potato chips when she wasn’t even hungry, all because the taste was making her forget her unpleasant relatives! Oh the shock! Oh the horror! It was a whole new experience for her.

    So no, the “one-on-one counseling” was not actually helpful. There were no empathetic, I-once-was-huge-but-now-I’m-thin, put-together counselors at my Jenny Craig location. The accountability of getting weighed, and the significant cost of paying for a week’s worth of food at each appointment, were pretty much all I got out of going to the Centre.

    Like I said, it bore little resemblance to the glowing pictures on the website…the happy success stories you’d see there…the overall positive “This is easy, you can do this” brightness of the literature. The actual Centre that I went to was dim and depressing and kind of run-down. The people working there were there strictly for a paycheck. The plan worked for me only because of how I took what they sold me and put it to work on my own time.

    Honestly, my SGM experience reminds me of Jenny Craig, now that I think about it.

    The image SGM had on the outside was very little like what we experienced on the inside. Yes, as I’ve said before, we did not have a bad time at our SGM church. We did like many things about it. But there was also this feeling that everything was pretty dark and ponderous. We didn’t actually see much at all that seemed Charismatic. Although “grace” was in the name, having success as an SGM Christian seemed to be more about learning a new language – SGM lingo – and getting with all the SGM methods. It was all about what you DID, which of course is all about WORK, which of course in the end has little to do with true GRACE.

    Even the music, which was talked about as so superior and wonderful, seemed completely foreign and often very serious and sad. And the sermons? Well, although we’d heard so much about SGM’s “sound doctrine” and knew that the teachings simply had to be “sound,” I can’t remember anything that was profound or deep coming from the pulpit. The pastors were OK, but I have no recollection of anything they taught.

    Almost the whole time we were at our SGM church, I found myself wondering how it was that SGM’s image in the larger Reformed world online felt so very different from how things actually were when you went to a meeting on a Sunday morning.

    And – and this is where I’m actually going to connect these musings to what Argus said about how SGM members serve to “provide a sheen of legitimacy” – I’m thinking now that SGM’s “local” churches and SGM-the-national-organization are really two parallel universes. They share the same name, and the leaders of the national organization are supposed to represent the local branches. But the reality is that the local branches only matter on the national level because they seem to show that SGM’s leader (CJ) is significant, a widespread force to be reckoned with that has come into communities all around the country.

    How SGM is perceived when someone doesn’t actually have ongoing week-to-week experience is very different from how SGM is for the ordinary member who’s been around for a few years.

    What SGM’s upper management are intent upon showing to the rest of the world is like Jenny Craig’s website photos of skinny people strolling on the beach, thinking about all they’ve learned about good nutrition. It’s image. It’s an advertising spiel. It bears little resemblance to reality.

  23. Persona
    March 30th, 2012 at 11:31 am

    John Piper is also stepping aside. The landscape of evangelical leadership is definitely shifting day by day.

  24. Bridget
    March 30th, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Argus –

    That is a good summary of what can be read throughout the internet over the past week. I only recently became aware of the Sojourn Church Planting group. I know of a Sojourn Church in St. Louis, but they do not appear to be part of the Sojourn Church Planting network; at least not at this time. It seems to me that these men are trying to build a tower to heaven and, as you point out, it doesn’t matter who gets squashed in the process. Local churches and their members have become a means to an end. Cabaniss in Frisco, and on the SGM board, is an enigma now. Actually, SGM is an enigma! Does anyone want to continue to be a part of something that is unable to define itself?

    The Driscoll/Mahaney connection has been sad to watch. They have carried out similar actions within their own organizations and are now producing similar fruit (at the expense of the well being of many men and women). Driscoll even now appears to be taking similar actions as Mahaney. He appears to be pulling back into a “safety net” to regroup with those who are still submissive (in an unhealthy way) to his desires. They are running their organizations as mini empires.

    I continue to pray that men and women will see the evidence before them and look to scripture for the picture of what the body of Christ is to look like.

  25. seeking the city to come
    March 30th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Persona #123–
    It would be inaccurate, I believe, to say that John Piper is stepping aside. For some time, John Piper and the elders at Bethlehem have indicated that they were making plans for a time of transition from his present role as pastor of preaching and vision, to be completed in June 2014. It is all well-documented at the church’s website and the link you provided (and others) at the DG website. It should be noted that John Piper is at the age many folks retire.

  26. B.R. Clifton
    March 30th, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    For the life of me I cannot figure out what is meant by the term “Gifted Minister” as it is used here. In my experience that would mean someone who is filled with the Spirit, has been called of God to the Ministry (Per Eph. 4:8&11), and has been endowed with one or more gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Cor. 12. The trouble is I don’t detect that with any of the SGM professionals I have seen and known. Granted there are some pretty sharp cookies in SGM who have some real street smarts and political savvy. That, however does not equate to Holy Spirit gifting in any way. Then there’s that fact that SGM has backed off anything Charismatic (while at the same time claiming to be charismatic) probably to make themselves more marketable in certain demographic circles.

    I just can’t figure out what they actually mean by “Gifted Minister, Pastor, Preacher, or whatever”. It seems to me like a manufactured term used for marketing and propaganda purposes.
    :beat :scratch

  27. Persona
    March 30th, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Seeking 125

    Piper calls it ‘transitioning’ since he isn’t retiring. But, he is stepping aside to allow a younger man to lead Bethlehem Baptist.

  28. Eagle
    March 31st, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Here’s something I posted over at The Wartburg Watch. I don’t get this apporach by many fundagelicals…


    Here’s something that really bothers me…and I just have to say it. When I was at the Reason Rally last Saturday I heard a number of New Atheist leaders and secular humanists who were angry about faith and religion. When it came to Christianity the anger that several of them expressed was the following:

    1. Angry about Christian pastors advising women to submit in abusive marriages.
    2. Angry about sexual abuse happening in Christian churches.
    3. Angry about the involvement of faith into politics.
    4. Angry that some evangelicals are holding school boards hostage due to YEC.
    5. Angry over how Christianity today is treating women and gays.
    6. Angry over the prosperity gospel and the people who are getting hurt over it.

    Now stop and think about that in the context of CJ Mahaeny, Acts 29, John Piper, Mark Drisocll, SBC, Albert Mohler, etc..

    In many cases the New Atheists and secular humanists are correct. People should be angry over domestic violence, sexual and spiritual abuse. My question is this…why arn’t Christians angry? Why arn’t Christians upset that websites likes “Sovereign Grace Survivors” exist? Why aren’t Christians angry that John Piper teaches that a woman should stay in an abusive marriage for a night?

    Really if you think about it….the wrong people are angry. Christians should be angry over all the spiritual abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, false teachings that exist. I still can’t wrap my mind around that point…. That should bother people… Why arn’t Christians upset?

  29. Moniker
    March 31st, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Eagle (#128), I guess it’s because in their mind, doctrine trumps ethics. It’s false paradigm. I’m reading a very interesting book right now called A People’s History of Christianity, by Diana Butler Bass. She addresses this very issue in her introduction and attributes it to what she would call spiritual amnesia. Mainline or more “progressive” churches, in their quest to right past injustices (like, for instance, segregated churches) have largely forgotten devotion (learning to pray, the meaning of worship, how to reflect on life theologically). At the same time, the more conservative churches retained a rich history of devotion but rejected the history of social justice. “They did this apparently because liberal Protestants believed in social justice, and they wanted to make the point that they were not liberal. So they cut themselves off from history as well and, in the process, lost Christianity’s moral memory. One community had lost its devotional memory, the other its ethical memory. Between them, they had severed Christian history in two, cutting the threads of a cohesive story in which piety and ethics once created a whole cloth. This proved bad for both.” I think she’s on to something. At any rate, it’s a fascinating book that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the history of Christian ethics.

  30. Happymom
    March 31st, 2012 at 7:50 am


    Thanks for posting that list, #119.

    Let’s compare that to what’s come out of Fairfax:
    Sr.Pastor, (M.Mullery) opens up a Family meeting regarding sex abuse with a joke, because sex abuse of small children is just so funny.
    Blame-shifting back onto the victims families.
    Refusing to answer key questions and keeping the pastor in question out of meetings.
    Twisting/distorting facts in front of entire church.
    Manipulating with tears while ignoring emails.

  31. Fried Fish
    March 31st, 2012 at 8:46 am

    @Moniker #129 –

    So in short, for SGM and co., being right excuses doing evil. (Fish interpretation)

    Outside of the level of bloodshed, and the Holy Land moving to Kentucky, how is that different than the Crusades?

    I think I’m gonna read that book.

  32. 5yearsinPDI
    March 31st, 2012 at 9:41 am


    Way too broad a brush. Abusing wives and children is horrendous.

    Political action against abortion is called protecting babies. It is a good thing. Now some political action, yeah, way too far…..but not all.

    Informing people that homosexuality is wrong and Jesus can help you change (yes He can indeed, like with all the other fallen desires we all have) is a good thing.

    Giving time to the creationist side versus Darwin is a good thing. Do you really believe that more than 20 enzymes all magically came together and into the first cell in a reducing environment within 30 minutes or so, to form the ATP molecule that every living cell uses for energy transfer? Ever hear of irreducible complexity? The secular non Christian microbiologists and PhD statistics mathematicians teaching intelligent design deserve a fair hearing. They will tell you that even in a trillion billion years it ain’t gonna happen.

    Try not to lump everything together.

  33. Kris
    March 31st, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I think Christians are angry about most of those issues, in one way or another. Just not the way that atheists think they ought to be.

    It’s debatable, whether or not Piper’s one weird aside about telling a wife to endure abuse “for a night” before seeking help from the church represents his full and complete ideas about the abuse of women. I personally doubt that it does.

    It’s debatable, whether or not it’s across-the-board true that churches are “mistreating” gays. This isn’t the forum to debate gay rights (so if the conversation goes in that direction, comments are going to get deleted), but I will say that holding to certain beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of certain behaviors is an essential part of most religions. The segment of the Christian population that goes for a straightforward reading of the Bible would say that homosexual behavior is NEVER portrayed positively in the Bible and is, in fact, spoken of condemningly as a sin every time it is mentioned in scripture. Believing this does NOT equate with “mistreating” gay people.

    As to the rest of the items on Eagle’s list, well – if there were going to be anger over the intersection of belief and politics, then everyone would need to be angry at everyone. An atheist’s belief system affects his political views just as much as the Christian’s might. And with respect to “Young Earth Creationism” – I am aware of far more school boards being “held hostage” to the notion that when it comes to the discussion of origins, teachers cannot even introduce the idea of the possibility of a designer. Most Christians, even those who go for a straightforward reading of the Bible, wouldn’t argue that schools must be limited to teaching that the earth was created over a span of 5,000 years. All they’ve wanted from public schools is that the parts of evolution that require one to have the faith that order randomly happened from nothing/chaos would be treated as the theoretical, faith-requiring aspects that they are. No real need for “anger” there.

    From what I can tell, most “normal” churches are indeed angry about sex abuse. The lack of anger is one of the reasons I personally think that SGM is not representative of normal Christianity.

    And finally, as to the “Prosperity Gospel” – well, if anyone wants to fault the Reformed/Calvinist segment of Christianity for not objecting to the “Prosperity Gospel,” they are most definitely barking up the wrong tree! I say this with total confidence because what led me back around to holding once again to a more Reformed theology just happened to be all the reading and research I did on the “Prosperity Gospel” when it had begun to dominate our pre-SGM church. Just about everything I read that analyzed the “Prosperity Gospel” movement and spoke against it was written by Reformed folks. You might be able to fault conservative Reformed thinkers for other things, but you cannot fault them for not speaking out against the “Prosperity Gospel.” Their voices are among the loudest in the debate.

  34. Oswald
    March 31st, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Kris #133 — :word :goodpost

  35. Defended
    March 31st, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Kris – #133 – WELL DONE.

    Eagle, your passion is deep, obviously. One question: “fundagelicals” ?? :huh
    Is that some sort of name-calling? Bias? Your own anger?
    Please explain.

  36. Stunned
    March 31st, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Eagle asked why Christians aren’t angry over abuse.

    Eagle, are you freaking kidding me? Go back and read any of my posts. Read the posts of Debra or any of a few dozen others. We are freaking livid over abuse. Sick. Angry. Disgusted. Enraged.

    What the heck made you claim we are NOT angry about abuse. Seems to me that abuse and a very negative reaction to abuse is the very reason this site exists. (Not angry at you for your statement. Just flabbergasted by it.)

  37. exCLCer
    March 31st, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I have a longer post in moderation……….

    but for now….

    I would agree with Eagle that “christians” as a whole are NOT angry about abuse. Stunned – you are referring to a minority number of people who have come forward to dissent what is the systematic turning of the churches head as a whole from abuses by just one of many so called christian denominations, whose leaders have instead swooped in to control the people who have proven to be vulnerable to abuses, only to abuse them emotionally adding insult to injury. Because one individual is angered by abuse and they happen to identify as a christian, does not mean christians as a denomination or a whole are also appropriately angered in the same way. If you lets say hypothetically happened to NOT be a christian do you think you would be any less angered by sexual abuse of children or abuse of women and mothers? I would hope not. The patent on a moral high ground that christians claim is what makes injustices so glaringly obvious within their groups. If they were the MOST moral and the MOST compassionate and the MOST righteous as they assert, they would be MORE angry than secularists, MORE diligent than the law, and MORE caring of victims than the general public. They are not. This is the hypocrisy secularist speak of that angers them.

  38. exCLCer
    March 31st, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Defended – heres the definition used in the secularist arena to describe the evangelicals and fundamentalists who would like to see their theocratic views become legislation for everyone.
    fundagelical: Someone who believes in a totalitarian world rule with an American Christo-theocratic party dictating legislation based on limited interpretation of scripture they consider applicable. Applicable scripture is limited to scripture in which they personally are willing to impose on others regardless of whether they, themselves, personally adhere to it in private.

    Derived from a contraction of the words Fundamentalist and Evangelical.
    example: James Dobson, Pat Robertson & Fred Phelps are leaders in the fundagelical movement.

  39. Kris
    March 31st, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    exCLCer said,

    The patent on a moral high ground that christians claim is what makes injustices so glaringly obvious within their groups.

    This is the very sort of condemning and judgmental sweeping generalization that requires its maker’s own belief in his or her “patent on a moral high ground.”


    As I said before, this is NOT the forum for this sort of debate. This is the place to discuss SGM and its issues, not generalizations condemning Christians or the Christian faith in general. I don’t have the time or the mental energy to give blow-by-blow responses to such assertions, and yet I’m not going to give them space to stand unchallenged. So any further comments of this nature will be deleted (as I said would happen about anything debating homosexuality).

  40. Stunned
    March 31st, 2012 at 3:45 pm


    I would have expected that you would find blanket statements and gross generalizations as offensive as I do. I don’t care who the people group is, Muslim, athiest, Christian, people of color or gender, it is not OK in my book.

    If Eagle wants to say, “Why aren’t MORE Christians angry?”, then I am 100% on

  41. Stunned
    March 31st, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Sorry computer glitch…

    I would be 100% on board if the question were, “Why aren’t MORE Christians angry about abuse?” But as soon as someone says a blanket statement about any group, then I am going to speak up and object. It is just wrong, no matter what group.

    If Eagle wants to amend that, then I can agree. But left as a blanket statement, it isn’t true.

  42. Stunned
    March 31st, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Opps, Kris, I am afraid I posted before reading your post. Sorry about that and feel free to delete my posts.

  43. Glad i am out
    March 31st, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Kris, real briefly concerning your 139:

    Unfortunately the post you deleted, and i do not blame you and do understand, and agree, does very directly concern SGM issues. Here is how:

    SGM have never clearly taught (or taught at all) about the true difference between the old covenant and the new one, between the Law and Grace, Between a just and Holy God, who can not allow sin, and therefore everyone in the old testament must live by every letter of the law, and Jesus, who ushered in the age of Grace…

    The scriptures mentioned in that post, that unfortunately have been upheld and lived by and acted on, by the likes or Westboro Baptist and may others, are irrelevant now, and all who live by them do not understand their own bible or the MAIN MESSAGE of the entire bible, and the very reason JESUS CAME TO DIE FOR US (and to rise again).

    Under the new covenant, which frankly the geniuses at SGM themselves do not understand, we are freely forgiven for all, and should never judge anyone for anything ever! But just LOVE!!!

    I know you know this, but it is ironic that the poster who you deleted, does not seem to know this any more than the people at Westboro baptist…. and is guilty of the same judgement she speaks out against…

    But i give her a pass – SGM should be teaching this to people, but they themselves live under the law, and do not understand their own bibles…. This is why i left SGM…

  44. glad i am out
    March 31st, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    I want to add to my 143, that i am NOT a bible scholar, not smarter than anyone else, and this is probably quite obvious to everyone..

    But i get this! I learned this after i left SGM, but realized when i learned it why i was so unhappy and feeling oppressed there… and learned why i truly had to leave.. even though it wasn’t quite obvious to me at the time… The sad thing is that i should never have had to feel this way, and should have known this all along. – why are so many churches not teaching the GOOD NEWS??!!!!

    The “Good News” of the Gospel, was never GOOD NEWS to me during my 20 years in SGM… Why, because it was mixed with all the legalism that comes with sin-dwelling, rules, dress codes, do this do not do that, homeschooling is best, courtship the only wear, etc etc etc…… and we have all discussed the thousands of ways most of us here have experienced this in our respective SGM churches..

    This is not a commercial for the man i finally learned this from but i want to mention him again if it’s ok… I have mentioned him once or twice in the past.. His name is Rob Ruffus.. maybe only one “f” but look him up on line and listen to his messages – they al most exclusively seem to be about law vs. grace… And they will free you in a way you have never been freed before!!!!

    I am not exalting this man, and he would not want me to.. He just gets it! He knows why so many christians feel oppressed and bummed when they are supposed to be living in the fact that our yoke is easy, our burden light, that there is now no condemnation…. SGM NEVER EVER TOLD ME THIS, and frankly, i feel ripped off!

  45. Muckraker
    March 31st, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I want to add my 2 cents to the “Christians-not-being-angry-about-abuse” conversation, in regards to some SGM members specifically that I know:

    Even after discussing with various SGM members some of the most glaring details from the child sex abuse stories, including the mishandling aspects of SGM pastors, shared on this blog, I have noticed a very real LACK of righteous anger from folks, that I have for many years considered very sincere Christians–and I have been in a quandary about it.

    It appears that many pro-SGM folks just can’t or don’t want to believe, that their leaders could have been so egregious in their pastoral care about something so horrible, involving innocent, little children and their suffering parents–and so these SGM members tend to #1 disbelieve the stories or #2 block it out and NOT allow themselves to be appropriately outraged and #3 they instead ignore any questions or thoughts that they have about their pastors’ handling of abuse and basically just go on with their lives, without demanding any account from these leaders.

    This appears to me to be signs of brainwashing. I know that sounds like a very strong accusation to make, but I can not understand what else could be the answer, for why born-again people with the Spirit of God within them, NOT BE ANGRY, when learning of these pastoral abuses of power toward, of all victims, families suffering through the affects of child sex abuse.

  46. B.R. Clifton
    March 31st, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    It’s called being brain washed. Look at what Jim Jones did with a whole troop of people. He even got them to commit mass suicide. David Coresh is another example. History is full of men (and some women) who somehow have an ability to mesmerise and fool large numbers of people who will refuse to listen or look at the truth. One reason is that people are reluctant to admit they are wrong about something like that. They keep living a lie hoping that it’s actually true. The deeper they get the more reluctant they are to come out of it. Deceat is an unbelievably powerful tool.

    That’s the trouble with those who are willing to place their trust in men rather than the Lord.

  47. Kris
    March 31st, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    I think SGMers’ apparent desire to minimize or outright block out their leaders’ inadequate (or even harmful) responses to abuse victims flows out of the fact that until very recently, SGM propagated a totalistic thought system in which leaders could not have real flaws or make real mistakes while functioning in their leadership capacity.

    A major theme in SGM teachings has been submission to authority. Parenting teachings were all about making certain that children submitted to their parents. Marriage teachings focused primarily on roles – husbands who led, wives who submitted. The emphasis on “rooting out” sin through confrontation and group confession, along with the idea that your pastor knows more about your sinful, deceitful heart than you yourself know, only worked if everyone was submitting to other people’s observations about their sins.

    The pastor-member relationship within SGM was built upon the model of pastor as authority and member as submissive/obedient to that authority.

    These teachings and beliefs about authority and submission to authority all hinged upon the idea that authority structures were designed and ordained by God…and thus are always going to be used by God for the ultimate good of the believer (as well, of course, as God’s own glory).

    SGMers who have years of their lives invested in submitting to this thought system have to believe that their pastors are in essence inerrant, incapable of making real mistakes in their pastoral duties. After all, if the SGMer acknowledges that his pastor really screwed up in how he handled an abuse situation, the SGMer would then have to open his mind to the possibility that his pastor could have messed up similarly with situations involving the member himself. All those years when the member obeyed his pastor and submitted to the pastor’s assessments of his sin…along with all the money he freely tithed to his SGM church without reciprocal specific accountability…along with everything else that he might have found questionable but then carefully squelched his questions – all of that becomes immediately suspect, if the member entertains the possibility that his pastor is not endowed with infallibility through his role as a “God-ordained authority.”

  48. Persona
    March 31st, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Kris 129

    Thanks for making it plain.

  49. exCLCer
    March 31st, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Yes, yes, I know, and I fully expected by post to be deleted or end up in eternal moderation.
    But please know, my intention was never to condemn the christian faith, but only to point out the contradictions and hypocrisies which lead to the popular belief that more christians are not morally outraged by seemingly obvious injustices.
    I think it is fair to say within the paradigm of SGM (as Kris pointed out in her last post) there is a complacency among the masses within the church that coincides with the leaderships inferred infallibility that is unrealistic and misguided. I don’t think there is any debate about whether large christian denominations and their churches claim to represent christianity. They are the public face of christianity. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I would assert that if being christian is “better than” or “more good” than being ________(insert alternative belief system here), then it would lead to the obvious conclusion that the _______ are inferior to that. There can not be an “us” without a “them”.

    When I said “The patent on a moral high ground that christians claim is what makes injustices so glaringly obvious within their groups”, I am directly referring to the assumed understanding that the rules and morality taught within the belief purport to be based on what is considered righteous, presumably leading to a “goodness” of christians (the “us”) in comparison to the inferior goodness of all others (the “them”). This idea of us vs them is reflected in terms like “the saved”, the “moral majority”, “moral authority”, and “maintaining the moral high ground”, and gives the impression that there is a higher calling if you will for christians to display if not believe in a sense of justice an adherence to valued principles, and conversely to speak out against and be duly angered and offended by instances which do not live up to the morality they claim their belief system represents.
    I am not asserting that any one group, including secularist, have a patent on morality…..only that some groups, particularly religiously affiliated ones base their teachings on a premise that as a group they have a higher moral standard than other groups. The unwillingness for so many members of SGM to be outraged by the lack of representation of their own moral beliefs within their group becomes a stark and obvious contrast, making them more obvious in that situation than a group who does not collectively base their cohesion on a particularly defined moral standard.

  50. Eagle
    March 31st, 2012 at 9:08 pm


    I ma not trying to hijack a thread or create diffiuclties. Some of this I learned from my previous Christian days. Let me go and address your points.

    1. I don’t know if what John Piper says is debateable. I wonder why he even had to teach it at all. Why couldn’t he say..? “Romans 13 dicates that Christians live under governing authorities and when it comes to abuse a woman goes immediatly to civil authorities.” He didn’t say that…he says that a woman should endure abuse for a night.

    What if that abuse kills her? What if that abuse criples her? No one should endure abuse…absolutely no one. Some of the people I know in the reformed tradition who I discuss theology with arn’t bothered that John Piper teaches it. It blows my mind…it really does.

    2. I ma not here to discuss gay rights either. But what I have seen over the years has stunned me. What really popped my bubble was having a small group leader who came out and declared he was gay. Everything I thought I knew about the topic was a falsehood and I saw how complex the issue was. I don’t know what causes it… Do I think it’s healthy? No… Do I think it’s a choice? No… I think the issue is very complex and not as clear cut. I don’t know what the answer is. But I wish many Christians wouldn’t live in fear. What drove my small group leader to emabrace it was working with homeless children in Los Angeles. He was angry that many gay youth are homeless because evangelical families rejected their children. So just to re-iterate I don’t know what the answer is. I really don’t. When I was a Christian I lived in a bubble saw things as “black and white”. When my bubbles popped now I see the world as being gray. Given how many Christian faiths approach the Bible there doesn’t seem to be any room for gray areas, or even an “I don’t know…”

    3. As for the other issues…I think we are much closer, however I don’t think many Christians are angry about abuse. Sexual, Elderly, child, etc… My family was Catholic when the Pedophile scandal started to break, and my parents thought it was the church being persecuted and that the problem wasn’t as bad as the media made it out to be. There are some chruches which are quick and responsive but they seem to be few and far between.

    Lastly I agree with what you said about the reformed and the prosperity gospel. I made a mistake, in that I was attempting to describe mainstream evangelical. I saw that in the evangelical churches that fell under that influence. But then I also spent some time in a Christian minsitry that had reform influence and they took a hard line against that. Also for many reformed the prosperity gospel is a litmus test and one of their favorite issues to preach and hammer. If only they treated abuse, and a host of other issues in that same manner.

    BTW…when I describe fundagelical I am not taking a low aim at someone. I am describing those who mix evangelicalism with fundamenmtalism. I was once one and I still am dealing with it having walked away almost 4 years ago now.

    But I think while people here may be angry about soem of this stuff. Places like this and other blogs are a minority of opinion. Where it really counts is in churches, it being preached, etc.. And sadly some fo these issues are not touched.

    Don’t meen to intrude….

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