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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.

Thoughts?

172 comments to Recent Developments

  • SamMcGee

    The timing gives the impression that suspension of funds by CLC was In response to the Board announcement. My understaning is that the timing is a coincidnce. In fact, I heard last Fall that the decision had Ben made to suspend contributions (which raises the question of whether the FAC subcommittee more for show-but that is a different issue)

    With regards to the Polity Committee, it sounds like CJ is part of the leadership team, which is quite brazen but I guess not surprising. Note, there is already a 50+ page paper written by Daniel Baker of Apex that lays ou the justification for Apostles and presents a polity. It will probably be the starting point for the committee.

  • SamMcGee said,

    The timing gives the impression that suspension of funds by CLC was In response to the Board announcement. My understaning is that the timing is a coincidnce.

    I’ve heard this same thing from a number of people. CLC’s decision was probably in the works for quite awhile.

    And yet, given leaders’ penchant for being “intentional,” is anything within SGM ever completely coincidental? :wink:

  • Lost in (cyber) Space

    Sadly, I am thinking the push to get a new board in place before the AOR reports are released is so that the new board will not be obliged to keep Dave H.’s promise to release them in full. I hope I am wrong, but it was so obvious that the rush to approve the new board (ignoring the cry of 16+ churches to slow down) was a political move and most likely a preemptive strike.

    Also, another thing that is so maddening is the appointment of CJ to chair the polity committee… WHAT!?!? Did he not just plead with the SGM pastors at the Pastor’s Conference to make room in their hearts for him even though he made mistakes in leading the organization because it was not his gifting??? Hello!!!!! CJ— listen to your own words! You admitted that you are not gifted to lead SGM and that you should (in your own mind at least) preach and pastor a church. Forget Brent’s documents… your own words condemn you!

    I am just so weary of all this! I am glad it appears my church is on the road to “dismemberment”. :bang :bang

  • B.R. Clifton

    Anyone who still believes that this drama, now plying out at SGM, is not carefully orchestrated, isn’t paying attention.
    :worm

  • SMP

    In view of all the hundreds of people that were interviewed and sacrifced just to meet with AoR, could AoR give any portion of the report to anyone other then SGM? I understand SGM hired them but WE are part of that report. Do we not get to see their conclusion of our lives?

  • SMP,

    That’s an interesting question.

    I was just going back and looking at one of AoR’s earlier memos (from October 13, 2011) to SGM members, and I was reminded again of my initial gut reactions to this whole AoR process, and my suspicions of how it might play out.

    Since then, of course, we have heard encouraging reports about AoR folks who appeared to listen to SGM’s victims with great empathy. I think a lot of people have been hoping against hope that AoR would indeed compile a report that accurately assesses SGM’s issues and makes the appropriate recommendations.

    But I think such hopes need to be tempered with the reality of who has the upper hand in this situation. Unfortunately, what I wrote way back in October is still true, no matter how well things may have seemed to go between AoR and those who shared stories with them:

    I totally get the feeling that the AoR guys aren’t neutral. Not even close.

    As Lydia and others have pointed out, SGM hired them and SGM is footing the bill, which is going to be considerable, at $150/hour. (Also, I think someone mentioned that AoR is based out of Montana. I’m thinking travel costs from Montana to Gaithersburg, and hotel costs and food reimbursements and whatnot are going to add a significant amount to the bill, too.)

    But in addition to the obvious consideration of who hired them and who is going to pay them, AoR’s lack of neutrality peeks through in the tone of the reports they’ve released so far.

    This is purely my opinion – a feeling I’ve gotten – but when I read AoR’s first report, the heavy use of Bible verses made the whole thing read like it was coming from an over-eager student who was trying real hard to prove to a superior teacher that he really really really does have “sound doctrine” and knows the Scriptures! Whoever wrote that thing for AoR did not come across at all like an authority figure or a person in charge of a neutral investigation. Rather, he (the writer) sounded more like he was trying super-hard to please his superiors…who would, of course, be SGM’s leaders.

    So I think it’s pretty obvious, on a lot of levels, that AoR isn’t some neutral party. They have a vested interest in keeping SGM happy. I don’t think there’s any entity forcing SGM or requiring SGM to continue to pay for AoR’s services if they don’t like how things are going. It’s not like the AoR people are some sort of court-ordered arbitrators. SGM hired them willingly…and can (of course) fire them at will, too.

    In terms of fame and importance in the broader Christian world, the AoR guys are much lower on the totem pole than CJ and SGM.

    Neutrality is next to impossible here.

  • MagruderHighDays

    Back to back Sermons: CJ is on a roll. This one is all about “trials and suffering”

    Pretty Sickening

    http://www.solidrockchurch.net/blog/

  • ExClcer'sMom

    I went to see The Hunger Games this past weekend, with a couple of my daughters. The movie was so intriguing to me, I ended up reading the whole series over the weekend! I kept asking myself, as this is a futuristic setting and totally science fiction, “why does this keep ringing a familiar bell in my head”? Finally, it dawned on me! SGM is so like “The Capitol” in the story-a total ‘authority’ who makes ‘the districts’ (the churches in SGM world) feel under their control for ‘their own good’, and puts out all of this propaganda of what ‘they(SGM)do’ for the lower districts(the church plantings)..yet, all of their own sustenance comes from the districts(church plantings) themselves, thus ‘The Capitol’ (SGM) actually depends on the districts (the churches), but no one sees it that way, no one realizes their own independence to stand up for what they want-they simply accept what the Capitol puts out, even when it means sacrificing their children year after year..

  • Greg

    B.R.C #4

    You’ve nailed it. Appointing a board of loyal, second-tier leaders ensures that
    1) the board is no longer obligated to publish the AoR report in it’s original form, and
    2) the Board now has “plausible deniability”. No one the board (with the possbile exception of JL) can be held directly accountable for the findings of the report.

    C.J., the one person who is primarily responsible for the decisions and overll culture of SGM has turned tail at the crucial moment, which shows a fundamental lack of integrity.

    So, in light of recent events, who is responsible for establishing the doctine and practice of SGM, and where are they?

    C.J. – abandoned any official role and the accountability it would bring. Currently in the process of reinventing himself while retaining primary influence over the organzation. Cannot be held accountble
    Larry – forced out early enough to not be responsible for most, if any, of the detailed cases in the report despite being the co-founder. He has issued some appoligies and requests for reconciliation. Since C.J. abdicated, Larry’s call for discipline for C.J. is irrelevant, and Larry is probably is out of the picture from now on. Cannot be held accountable
    Brent – Claims victim status for being forced out, while still pathetically pro-SGM. Cannot be held accountable
    Dave – Stepped down, aside, or back (choose one). His status in SMG is unclear, and he has no official role. Cannot be held accountable
    Regional Leaders, Past Board Members, and Local Pastors – may be called out in individual cases of abuse, but cannot be held accountable for the overall direction of ministry, and will most likely not face any discilinary action. On the basis of obeying a leadership structure which no longer exists, they cannot be held accountable.
    Is any one else left?

  • 5yearsinPDI

    This has come up before, either here or at Refuge or on Brent’s blog, but AoR was hired for group reconciliation, which means mediating between two parties (SGM pastors or board members, and people who claim to have been wronged by them.) While AoR may discuss things in their report such as a lack of facilitating mediation in SGM polity, or doctrines and practices that lead to problems, they were not hired to assess SGMs doctrine and polity and practice directly. They were only hired to try to be the mediator between estranged parties. Any broader commentary on SGM will be the result of mediating disputes and broken relationships.

    Already, according to posts recently, they have gone to more than one SGM pastor to try and mediate and the pastor(s) refused to meet- more than one church situation. They cannot mediate with pastors who refuse to get together.

    I hope that Ted Kober is free to release even a guarded statement that AoR has been unable to mediate many situations due to unwillingness of certain pastors to meet. But with all the signed forms and agreements, they may not be able to say a word.

    I for one will think well of Ted Kober and AoR no matter what the outcome. There are too many people who have testified of AoR’s intelligent probing questions, and their compassion and understanding and integrity in how they respond to victims, for me to think ill of them. If the report stays secret, all the blame in my opinion will lie with SGM.

  • SMP

    QE2 # 280 from previous post said:

    I realize I have come to despise the adjectives “Godly” and “Biblical”. Because in SGM it usually means “do it the way we tell you is Godly or Biblical”. Yes, my pastor’s wife is Godly, but if I have to reflect Jesus by acting exactly like her, then shoot me now. I have no interest in mimicing her expression of Godliness-it’s so NOT me. I want to reflect Christ the way he made me to reflect Him, in the freedom he purchased for me.

    So my advice is to not worry about being “Godly” or “biblical”, or fulfilling your role. Focus on loving Jesus. Out of that will flow loving your husband and children in the unique way the God meant for you to love them. I can’t tell you what that will look like, because it should look completely different for you than it does for me, Mrs. Pastor, or any of the beautiful women of God here on this blog!

    I have read over this several times and just wanted to express my heartfelt love over the encouragement that you have brought me. I pray that you will feel God’s blessing QE2, on yourself, as you so graciously have offered it to others! BTW, I am a foodie, so I really get the spice analogy. Thanks again for advice that feels good in my soul to meditate on.

  • 5years said,

    I for one will think well of Ted Kober and AoR no matter what the outcome. There are too many people who have testified of AoR’s intelligent probing questions, and their compassion and understanding and integrity in how they respond to victims, for me to think ill of them. If the report stays secret, all the blame in my opinion will lie with SGM.

    We don’t yet know, of course, what SGM is going to do with the AoR report once it’s issued to them. But hypothetically speaking, I wonder at what point should “bystanders” – particularly knowledgeable bystanders – be held responsible/accountable for speaking out about what they’ve learned?

    I know there are all sorts of confidentiality and proprietary issues about any knowledge that AoR would have gained about SGM through this process. But don’t the individuals conducting these interviews have some sort of larger responsibility to the rest of the body of Christ, if they have verified SGM’s abuses and then those abuses don’t get addressed?

  • Greg

    Kris,

    Due to the requirements of any reconciliation process, none of the cases of abuse submitted to AoR can be “verified” unless the leaders charged cooperate and agree to at least the basic circumstances of the case. Thus, no matter how many charges there are they are only charges untill SGM leaders acknowledge their responsibility.

  • Sopwith

    Like I said @Refuge,

    Plausible deniability is, at root, credible (plausible) ability to deny a fact or allegation, or to deny previous knowledge of a fact. The term most often refers to the denial of blame in (formal or informal) chains of command, where upper rungs quarantine the blame to the lower rungs, and the lower rungs are often inaccessible, meaning confirming responsibility for the action is nearly impossible. 

    Possibly, in the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable, unethical, or unpopular activities become public, high-ranking SGM board members may deny any awareness of such act or any connection to the agents used to carry out such acts? Doesn’t this typically implies forethought, such as intentionally setting up the conditions to ‘plausibly avoid responsibility’ for SGM’s (past) actions or knowledge?

    Also, in SGM, deniability probably refers to the ability of a “certain powerful player” or actor to avoid “blowback” by secretly arranging for an action to be taken on their behalf by a third party—ostensibly unconnected with the major player?

    In SGM, plausible deniability also appears to enable the new board members to stay “clean” –denouncing the unethical while denying complicity (accomplice liability) or accessorial responsibility?

    More generally, “plausible deniability” can also apply to any act that leaves little or no evidence of wrongdoing or abuse. 

    If the newly elected SGM board members lack incontrovertible proof (evidence) of past allegations put forth they can “plausibly deny” those allegation(s) even though it/they may be true.

    I would venture that to anticipate a re-incorporation of the SGM, non-religious-non-profit, in another state, in the near future, is not too much of a stretch, if it serves their ‘purposes’, thus fortifying their ‘liability’ position.

    Sopy ;~)

    Note: It is important to recognize & understand the victories that have been hard won so far, and build upon them. Rendering thanks to God goes a long way in building the resources for future anticipated victories, such as the enactment of a local SGM church policy of notifying the civil authorities immediately when child predatory practices are observed within SGM churches, continued local church SGM central funding withholding where deemed a necessity, SGM central relocation, necessary reform, etc.
    ___
    http://sgmrefuge.com/2012/03/17/an-update-from-the-sgm-board/#comment-53882

  • 2+2=4 again

    Lost in cyber Space-3, what did you mean by your church being on the road to dismemberment? Is your church struggling to the point where it may dissolve, or is your church one of those represented by a dissenting pastor? If so, are you thinking that he will be “de-gifted” because of speaking his mind, or that he’ll want to break ties with SGM? I see no change in our church since January, other than it has become even more oppressive, almost overnight.

  • SMP

    I am wondering if AoR would send out a “limited” report specifically to those that came forward? If it’s all about reconciliation and that is what they were hired for, then shouldn’t a “report” of some kind be made available to those that PARTICIPATED? Even if SGM was the employer of AoR they were asking to be “brought together” and for imput on that process. How can the people that are directly invoved not get a report of their own?
    It can’t all be about them (SGM) messing up all over the place. It has to be about the people as well, doesn’t it?? Perhaps I do not understand this whole concept of the “report.” I thought it was to help SGM connect, heal and serve people. :scratch

  • Mary

    I get CLC continuing with the mission funding and I think that is honorable. This statement concerned me however; “have asked them to make us aware of other projects that we could specifically fund… that sounded like appeasing them.

    I don’t understand why these churches don’t pull out from SGM all together. CLC is certainly big enough to do mission work and fund good projects on their own. I do not see a biblical basis for SGMs existance. I would have more respect for church leaders in general if they didn’t play leadership games. Paul would have very strong words for CJ. There would be no holding back and he wouldn’t care what any other big dog thought. I am weary of churches putting men on pedestals and then being pansy about telling them they are off track. First, don’t put them up there, they are just mere men. Second, don’t be afraid to say what needs said and take them off that pedestal. These churches out to pull out of SGM period. If there was a biblical basis for it’s existance it would be worth fighting for. But, why give money and honor to something that doesn’t need to exist. Support your local church, local pastors, and use that money sloted for SGM to serve and show love to the communities the local churches are in. Ugh.

  • Mary

    God is very clear that money matters. It matters what we do with our money. I know some don’t believe in the tithe. But, I tithe. I do it with joy. Because I go to a church where the leadership honors God with their lives. They set the bar in servanthood. I could call my pastor right now and say I really need him and in 20 minutes he would be at my door. My leadership gives a huge percentage of our money and time to missions. We work hard in our community. My money is very well spent. I am a being a good steward. Why do these churches continue to give money to an organization that they know is biblically off track? How can they think they are being good stewards of God’s money? How can they be so all fired up about people living holy lives and they just keep writing those checks to the kingdom of CJ. I would not give my tithe to an organization that does not honor my pastor, makes his life difficult, controls my local church with an authority that is not biblical, does not have a biblical basis even for its existance, allows it’s men to stay in leadership that does not fit bibilical requirements, covers up sexual abuse, uses people’s personal confession as a means of control, and just plain ole does whatever it wants. If I was a member of a local church under SGM’s rule – I would tell my pastor that I don’t want my money being spent that way.

  • Persona

    Mary 17

    I agree that it would be good for CLC to entirely withdraw from SGM. All their lame fence-sitting makes me wonder if there is a secret reason why they don’t do it.

    I also wonder about the unspoken reason they gave such hefty separation packages to the x-pastors who quit? Perhaps CJ has the remaining CLC pastors over some sort of barrel? Maybe CLC pastors fear that SGM will not ‘graciously’ release them from membership and then, confiscate their assets? I wonder whether there is a clause in their agreement that we are unaware of?

    At any rate, none of them are being completely transparent with the people and they leave their actions open for interpretation and speculation. Of course, they all could repent of that easily enough.

  • Lost in (cyber) Space

    2+2,

    I meant that my church is a one that has expressed its concerns and disagreement with the rush to set a board in place before the AOR report is released as well as other concerns. I believe that our church will continue to express concerns, withold financial support and eventually cede/not sign the membership agreement or be marked as divisive and therefore dismembered. Unless true repentance and significant changes occur in SGM, I do not see our church staying.

  • Mary

    Hi Persona, I would like to see all the churches pull out of SGM. I wonder how many join thinking it will get them in with the big dogs only to realize later they have become controlled puppets. The whole thing just breaks my heart. And, if they stay for legal reasons how sad is that. Reminds me of bad alliances made in the OT. Stuck with alliances that don’t really honor God.

  • Mary

    ah…in this situation being dismembered sounds lovely :o)

  • Mary

    Lost in Space – I respect your church for their stand.

  • Lost in (cyber) Space

    Mary,

    Thanks! So do I!

  • 5yearsinPDI

    Kris- short answer is “I don’t know”.

    I know with CCEF, the confidentiality rules are so strict that they are not even allowed to say if a person is counseling there. True incident- somebody I know wanted to contact a counselor about a counselee who was threatening suicide or murder or some such thing. CCEF would not even verify that the person was a counselee because of the privacy policy. (you could send a direct letter if you knew a name, but they don’t divulge who talks to whom). If the counselee talks in the office about anything life threatening or there is a crime such as sex abuse, they are required by law to contact the authorities and (I think) tell the parents if a minor, but that is it. Not sure of all the rules, but there are a lot of strict rules.

    I would guess- strictly a guess- that AoR will write to every interviewee if things go badly and say that they were unable to facilitate a reconciliation. They might not even be able to say “because your former pastor won’t talk to us”.

    Here’s the thing. You say “But don’t the individuals conducting these interviews have some sort of larger responsibility to the rest of the body of Christ, if they have verified SGM’s abuses and then those abuses don’t get addressed?”

    Well, I figure AoR runs on the same grease that oils Peacemakers and CCEF. And I KNOW for a fact that CCEF is fully aware of SGM problems, at the very least with legalism, and has been for years and dealt with many victims. But have they spoken out for the sake of the body of Christ? No. Did you read over at Refuge a while back about how Ken Sande told CCEF that CJ would not listen when Ken told CJ the problems were systemic? Has Sande made a public statement? No.

    I am hoping that they all have bent over backwards to allow the AoR process to run its course in hopes that SGM will repent and change. If the worst happens- no report online, no repentance and confession, no reconciliation with any pastors still in SGM- well then, I do hope Sande, Kober, and Tim Lane ( director of CCEF) will issue a joint statement for the sake of the body of Christ. I don’t know how they could sleep at night otherwise. It would be worth losing your job over if you ask me. Paul the apostle had to speak up at times, even to Peter in front of everybody. So I agree with you….but will it happen? I guess we can only wait and see.

  • KMD

    The following passage from Thomas Merton’s “The Seeds of Contemplation” was quoted today on New Life Live:

    “The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an interior voice, but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with anything that makes him feel, within his own heart, a big, warm, sweet interior glow. The sweeter and the warmer the feeling, the more he is convinced of his own infallibility. And if the sheer force of his own self-confidence communicates itself to other people and gives them the impression that he really is a saint, such a man can wreck a whole city or a religious order or even a nation. The world is covered with scars that have been left in its flesh by visionaries like these.”

    How sad, yet how familiar.

  • Oswald

    Kris and 5years — I think the privacy laws keep a lot of things that we might think are common Christian (or human) practices from being a reality. The story from CCEF above is a perfect example. Organizations could be put out of business, even in life-or-death situations. Our governing laws often seem counter-productive.
    We can surely only rely on God’s sovereignty to intervene. We must pray! God wants us to ask Him and try Him.

  • Oswald

    KMD #26 — :goodpost

  • Stunned

    SMP,

    I really loved your post #11. Thank you for sharing your heart with us all.

  • Res Ipsa

    SMP (or anyone else who might know), did those who agreed to or asked for a meeting with AOR sign a release of any sort? It might have been something signed days or weeks before the meeting or, more likely, something you signed when you got to the meeting.

  • intheNICKoftime

    5Years in #10 –

    This has come up before…but AoR was hired for group reconciliation…they were not hired to assess SGMs doctrine and polity and practice directly.

    Thanks, 5Years, for pointing this out, again. It was DAVE HARVEY who said AoR was assessing their polity and looking for the things they do well and the things they can improve. He spun that announcement so that people would think someone is looking at the whole SGM issue. He thought it would calm the building storm. Kind of “dont worry, they will check us out and you will see that everything is ok…mostly”. That AoR is looking at SGM is a bold faced lie.

    They are, as 5Years stated, doing reconciliation work between hundreds of people and a faceless SGM. Near impossible even if SGM was willing, which they are not. The process is paid for by SGM and by law AoR will give them the report. The people that bared their soul were “testifying” and are not owed any report or response from AoR.

    I too have heard lots of great things about AoR but in the end when you have one side that does not want to reconcile there is no reconciliation. Pretty simple math. Sad but true.

    And in #25 – You are again prescient. It is a money issue, free and clear. Money first, then legal (which points back to money or the potential loss of money), then reputation, then customer(SGM) and then, if none of the previous issues object, then the people. So dont expect to hear anything from AoR. If they dont facilitate anything and dont hand out a report, just us blog folk will be hurt/disappointed/ignored. If AoR were to renig on a contract or do something like that, they would likely have to close up show as their reputation would be shot.

    My guess is they thought they could help. Sande probably told them what a mess they were facing. They still thought they could help. Worst case is that no one is any worse off than they were before and a number of people have already been helped by being able to tell someone their story for the first time.

    Don’t hold your breath, friends.

  • intheNICKoftime

    Sopwith in #14 –

    Despots NEVER give up. Tyrants never give in. Dictators never step down. Controlers never lose control. Liars never stop lying. Opressors never lighten up. Slavers never grant freedom.

    Deniability Schimiablity! SGM does what it wants because it can. No one can stop them.

    They don’t need no stinkin’ deniability. They are the great and all powerful Oz. And I am taking bets…no one will have to leave SGM…SGM is going to throw people out. CJ said it in his speech. And now SGM has the vehicle to do it with in their new Membership agreement. None of the 20 churches who signed on to the “Fairfax Letter” would sign away their sovereignty to SGM so they will be OUT! SGM will not have thrown them out, so it wont be news and the Big Dogs wont have to ask questions or be worried about being on stage with CJ.

    The churches who stay will be happy with the arrangement, and that wont be news either. What will be news is we will hear how well SGM is doing in its new headquarters and how wonderful the new CJ Mahaney Taj Mahal is doing, blah blah blah.

    I’ll say it again. Tigers don’t switch to eating grass, SGM won’t worry about plausible deniability. They dont have to…they are in charge!

  • elsie

    This might be a silly question, but if SGM paid AoR for whatever they paid them for, and if SGM makes all of its money by the “contributions” of member churches, and if member churches make all of their money by the tithes and offerings of the partipating members and attendees of each local congregation, then doesn’t that mean that the money paid to AoR was paid by all the members and attendees of the local congregations? And, in that case, are not all of those members and attendees the rightful recipients of that report?

  • Bridget

    Res Ipsa –

    From what I remember the issue of signing a release came up and people were outraged. I believe the requirement was waived. Most of the wounded were aware of SGMs ways and would not do anything that gave SGM the upper hand to further silence people.

  • Persona

    Has anyone heard CJ mention anything recently about planting his new church? I wondered if he had changed his mind as he took his place again at the tippy-top of the SGM pyramid structure. SGM transplants from MD and PA will need a church once they get to KY. Though some employees will be left behind, a few are busy sprucing up their homes for resale. And, there are enough of them to form a small colony.

  • My memory is a little hazy, but when I was reading the AoR memo cited in an old post (from October 2011), I was reminded of how AoR initially had a couple of requirements for the reconciliation process that they eventually waived, after the requirements provoked some negative responses. One was that those who wanted to be part of the process first had to sit through a teaching about “biblical” reconciliation. The second (if memory serves) had to do with confidentiality.

    Ted Kober’s October 2011 memo said this, about confidentiality:

    Speculation on our motives, inaccurate information, and misinterpretation of our standard procedures have been shared broadly regarding what AoR is requiring regarding confidentiality. For example, an inaccurate claim has been made that if people talked to someone from AoR they cannot talk to anyone else about these issues again. This false impression appears to have increased anxiety for some regarding this process.

    What was interesting, though, is that AoR’s standard policy for confidentiality could be viewed by clicking on a link provided on their website, which led to a page where this policy was spelled out. Here is an excerpt from that confidentiality policy:

    16. Confidentiality

    A. Because of its biblical nature, Christian conciliation encourages parties to openly and candidly admit their offenses in a particular dispute. Thus, conciliation requires an environment where parties may speak freely, without fear that their words may be used against them in a subsequent legal proceeding. Moreover, because conciliation is expressly designed to keep parties out of court, conciliators serving on behalf of the Administrator would not do so if they believed that any party might later try to force them to testify in any legal proceeding regarding a conciliation case. Therefore, all communications that take place during the conciliation process shall be treated as settlement negotiations and shall be strictly confidential and inadmissible for any purpose in a court of law, except as provided in this Rule.

    B. This Rule extends to all oral and written communications made by the parties or by the Administrator, and includes all records, reports, letters, notes, and other documents received or produced by the Administrator as part of the conciliation process, except for those documents that existed prior to the conciliation process and were otherwise open to discovery apart from the conciliation process. The parties may not compel the Administrator to divulge any documents or to testify in regard to the conciliation process in any judicial or adversarial proceeding, whether by personal testimony, deposition, written interrogatory, or sworn affidavit.

    C. Mediated settlement agreements reached by the parties and arbitration decisions shall be confidential, except as provided in Rule 17, unless the parties agree otherwise in writing, or unless an agreement or decision must be filed with a civil court for purposes of enforcement. If an arbitration decision is contested or appealed pursuant to statute, the Administrator, upon written request from a party, shall furnish to such party, at the party’s expense, copies of the conciliation agreement and the arbitration decision.

    D. The Administrator may divulge appropriate and necessary information under the following circumstances, and the parties agree to waive confidentiality and hold the Administrator harmless for doing so: (1) when, as part of its normal office operations, the Administrator consults with its staff members or outside experts regarding particular issues or problems related to a case; (2) when compelled by statute or by a court of law; (3) when an arbitration agreement or decision has been contested or appealed; (4) when an action has been brought against the Administrator as a result of its participation in a conciliation case; (5) when the Administrator deems it appropriate to discuss a case with the church leaders of parties who profess to be Christians; and (6) when the Administrator deems it necessary to contact appropriate civil authorities to prevent another person from being harmed.

    E. In spite of these confidentiality protections, some of the information discussed during conciliation may not be confidential as a matter of law or may be discoverable outside the conciliation process and used in other legal proceedings, and the Administrator shall have no liability therefore.

    Eventually, like I said, the requirement for training was waived, as were at least certain elements of the confidentiality requirement. I do not know if confidentiality was addressed in any other capacity. Perhaps someone who actually participated in the AoR/SGM process would know?

  • intheNICKoftime

    Persona in #19 –

    Sometimes I see this like the war between the states.

    SGM is the union and CLC is the confederacy.

    Lee knew he could not beat the North. He just wanted to do enough damage and string things out long enough to make the North give up out of frustration and leave the south alone.

    I think the guys at CLC know that they cant do much to SGM. The way the founding docs and by-laws are written they cant force anything on SGM. All they can do it harass them and string things along and hope that SGM would capitulate eventually out of exasperation. But that just doesn’t seem to be happening.

    There is also nothing to be gained by forcing SGM into doing anything. If they force SGM to do things it doesnt want to do, CLC will be just like SGM. They will have stooped to being meddling and controlling just like CJ and Harvey.

    All they can really do, they have done. They $topped the flow of money, they admitted what SGM pushed for years was wrong, they taught (and are still teaching) 180 degrees from what SGM taught, they led other churches to do the same. They have taken the high road. Anything else would look vindictive, angry and petty. There is nothing to be gained by trashing SGM/CJ/Harvey. (Yes, we all would like to see CJ and Harvey tarred and feathered but again, that would make us look bad.)

    The best outcome would be for AoR to trash SGM and more churches decide to leave. Then SGM funds would dwindle and things would go down even quicker until eventually the name of SGM would be associated with Vineyard and Shepherding and Tammy Faye.

  • Res Ipsa

    Bridget & Kris, thanks. I had forgotten about that whole mess over training and confidentiality.

    From what I can tell, AoR considers their role to be exactly like a mediator in a civil lawsuit. For example, their process and guidelines mirror NC’s exactly – everything said is confidential and can’t be used in court, and you can’t force the mediator to testify later except in extreme circumstances. There’s actually a ton of wisdom in doing it that way.

    Like Kris, though, I’m curious to hear from someone who met with AoR. Was there any discussion about the confidential nature of your meeting or your access to the report?

  • Oswald

    intheNick #37 — I agree with you. The high road must be taken by all who know the truth. Getting even is not a thing to even hope for.
    I was reading just today about King Ahab trying to fool the enemy in war by dressing in plain clothes and not in his kingly robes, but alas, a ‘random arrow’ found it’s target between the scales of the armor and the breast plate and killed Ahab anyway. God sent that ‘random arrow’ then and he is still able to have his way today. Trickery and spin can’t win against Him. “Vengeance is mine” says the Lord. What a mighty God we serve.

  • Yesterday as I was going through the old posts where the AoR process was discussed, I realized something, which 5years (in #10) and Nick (in #31) also mentioned. And that is that the Ambassadors of Reconciliation were hired by SGM to do reconciliation between SGM and those who believed themselves to have been victimized by SGM.

    The process was not promised to be any more than that.

    I believe it has been portrayed to be a lot more than that. A lot of people encouraged SGM’s victims to step forward and share their stories with AoR – even if those victims had moved far beyond any desire for “reconciliation” (which is, of course, the re-establishment of some form of positive relationship between two parties).

    The idea seemed to be that in conducting these interviews, AoR would be engaging in some sort of fact-finding mission on behalf of SGM. At the end of the fact-finding mission, they would issue a report which would summarize their findings and provide SGM with recommendations on what the organization needs to fix and change. Maybe the report would even include a section on what SGM has done wrong in the past.

    I’m thinking that this is the sort of report people are waiting for when they talk about its “release” and when they wonder whether or not the report will have any sort of impact on how SGM is perceived by the rest of the Christian world.

    Yet the bottom line is that from the beginning, the only thing AoR was there to do was function as a liason for anyone who wanted to “reconcile” with SGM.

    I would assume that any confidentiality guidelines that usually apply to AoR’s reconciliation efforts would apply to anything that had been shared in any of these interviews…which, I would assume, will of course affect what will and will not be discussed in any report that AoR might issue…and which would have direct bearing on what SGM will say they believe they can do with any such report.

    All along, the AoR report has been held out as some sort of assessment of SGM. But in the very hiring of an organization like the “Ambassadors of Reconciliation” (rather than some hypothetical entity like “Ambassadors of Church Evaluation“) SGM has limited the scope of anything that might be produced.

  • 5yearsinPDI

    A lot of people encouraged SGM’s victims to step forward and share their stories with AoR – even if those victims had moved far beyond any desire for “reconciliation” (which is, of course, the re-establishment of some form of positive relationship between two parties).

    Kris….just to clarify on the technical jargon in the Reformed peacekeeping/counseling world ( I heard this from one of them)…..

    A reconciliation is not the same as restoration or reestablishment of relationship in their terminology. You can have a reconciliation with an ex spouse or church or pastor or friend or boss, but not go back to the relationship at all. You may have remarried or resettled in a new church, new job, etc. It is more like clearing up offenses and getting apologies all around and that sort of thing. Having something against somebody and feeling wronged, and it is finally made right when the other party admits what they did. There might need to be restitution. It could lead to positive relationship again, but not necessarily.

    So, AoR would have considered it their task to achieve this even with people who have moved on and have no desire to go back to SGM. That is why I think we are hearing of SGM pastors who refuse to meet or talk. Why should they bother? Why make it right when it does not add people and tithes to the church? There is no guarantee of restoration of relationship with another warm tithing body to control, so why reconcile?

  • Fried Fish

    @Kris #40 –

    I guess one thing that really concerns me with respect to AoR’s presumably being hired to provide reconciliation services, is the reported refusal of SGM pastors to engage in such reconciliation efforts when reached out to?

  • I don’t have a handle on the reports we’ve heard about pastors who have refused attempts to meet and talk.

    For that matter, I don’t have a handle on much of anything having to do with what is really going to become of this process.

    A key to understanding anything related to SGM is the definition of terms. Although I could be wrong, I’m getting the feeling that there are at least a few definitions (assumed definitions) of the AoR process floating around out there.

    AoR probably has its definition of the process.

    The people who have responded to the AoR opportunity and shared their stories have their assumptions about what the process is supposed to entail.

    We observers have our ideas (assumptions) about the definition of a “report” and what that report would contain.

    And SGM has its definition of what AoR was hired to accomplish.

    I’m guessing none of those assumed definitions would be identical.

  • Stunned

    How about any good news coming from people who have met with AoR? Can anyone, please, share where their meeting with AoR led to reconcilliation with their SGM pastor?

    That could be really nice to hear.

  • Stunned

    Just thinking about the people who KNOW what is going on in SGM but are not speaking out to warn others… a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln-

    “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men”.

  • sgmnot

    Stunned #45 Love that quote! :D

  • intheNickoftime

    In looking back at what Dave Harvey said on the blog…

    9/19/11 – Harvey referred to the AoR stuff as, “the group reconciliation process that Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AOR) is leading us through.”

    10/7/11 – Harvey quoted the AoR stuff as, “AOR is going to provide us with an assessment of where there are unhelpful patterns, unresolved conflicts, and other issues to address in our family of churches. (We’ll share their written report on this blog.)”

    10/13/11 – Harvey reshapes the AoR stuff as, “AOR will make their assessment of and recommendations for SGM (which we will publish online)”

    It went from a reconciliation process to a complete program and company evaluation in the space of three announcements in less than thirty days. But in two of those three announcements he assured us they would be online, whatever “they” are going to be.

    My guess is they will talk about the lack of appropriate dialog, lack of appropriate feedback, lack of grace, general poor attitude toward those who disagree, and general stuff like that. There will be no smack on the hand for “degifting” pastors, there will be no admonishment for pushing youngsters at senior pastors and skipping over mature leaders, there will be no condemnation for not drafting holistic documentation to run a large organization.

    IF the report gets published, some people will be happy that it addresses that some people were not treated well, thereby confirming the feelings of those who were abused. But those looking for a public spanking of SGM and it’s leaders will likely be disappointed.

    And with the iron grip of the Board on what happens in and to SGM as a whole, don’t expect much of anything to happen. The new board with CJ at the front running interference will do a few mea culpas, and point out the few good things certain to be mentioned in a balanced report. They will promise to give it all manner of deference, consideration and attention and then quietly let is slip into everyone’s memory. It wont matter much amid all the excitement and fanfare of the move to Ky anyway.

  • Remnant

    All that money sitting in the SGM vaults – – – people give money to SGM so that SGM can use it wisely, use it for “ministry” or “missions.”

    Yet MILLIONS are sitting there – while people are hungry, ill and homeless…

  • Persona

    It seems like the AoR report will be handled much like the ‘reorg’ of SGM and the reinstatement of CJ, as titular head. It will be edited and twisted to fit their needs if we are to hear of it at all. It is for this reason that we did not participate in the charade.

    Kris is right to examine SGM definitions and re-definitions. Semantics is the quicksand foundation that the organization is built on. And, CJ continues to build on shifting sand.

    As I listened to his recycled message given at Solid Rock this week, I gasped audibly, as he garnered the congregation’s pity for the suffering he claims to experience at this time.

    How can he blame anyone but himself for his suffering? He should have preached a sermon about repentance. Instead, he proclaimed that suffering is God’s way of helping him grow in godliness. Are we really to believe CJ is now more godly for his lack of repentance?

  • Let My People Go

    Oswald #39 – Amen! Thanks for reminding me today about the mighty God we serve. We can’t forget about all the times in the New Testament where we read the words “But God….” when He rescued, provided for, delivered and defended His people when all the circumstances were stacked against them.

    I searched google and found this site with many of those “But God” verses and it really encouraged me to keep believing God to take care of ALL of the needs of His children.

    Here’s the link if anyone is interested:
    http://www.mwtb.org/site/moments-for-you/back-issues/third-quarter-2000/but-god-verses.html