Revisiting Pastor Training On Counseling

In a radio interview in which she discussed the lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, plaintiffs’ attorney Susan Burke said the following:

Basically, what the church did was elevate its kind of own reputational concerns, its own financial concerns.  So they [SGM pastors] didn’t want anyone to think that – they didn’t want anyone to know about it, because it reflects badly on the church.  And so what they tried to do is they tried to portray secular authorities – you know, police, the prosecutors and the like – as, you know, folks who could not be trusted.  And that, you know, that the parents of families would be, would be SAFER putting their trust in the  church members and the church hierarchy.

For a long while, we’ve been discussing and analyzing the mindset behind some of the Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors’ seemingly mind-boggling responses in situations where they learned of child abuse.  It’s my belief that this deep-seated distrust of non-SGM counseling and non-SGM authorities has long been part of the fabric of SGM culture.

As recently as November 2009, SGM pastors sat through sessions at their pastors’ conference in which pastoral counseling was portrayed as something superior to non-SGM professional Christian counseling.  Those who want to understand the theological and intellectual underpinnings of the pastoral behaviors and responses described in the lawsuit ought to read the transcripts from the November 2009 Pastors’ Conference entitled, “The Pastor and the Counseling Process.”  Yes, the transcripts are lengthy.  And yes, my own commentary is included.  (If you don’t want to pay attention to my commentary, ignore whatever is in blue font.)  But I believe these transcripts provide a great window into the SGM mentality.

I also believe that even if SGM leadership tries to portray this mentality as something from a long time ago – an old relic of its ancient, unenlightened past – these 2009 teachings would prove that that is not the case.  Moreover, as far as I know, there are no sound files out to indicate that there has been any UNteaching of the distrust of the mental health profession and outside authorities.  Even the seeming open-mindedness discussed in the 2009 teaching was actually more about training pastors to give off the appearance of open-mindedness, rather than any true openness to different points of view.

Anyway, here are links to the three parts of the transcript.  I know I have harped on this a lot lately, and I know we have discussed this before.  But if you have not yet read the transcripts, or if it’s been awhile since you took a look at what pastors were taught as recently as just three years ago, it might be enlightening to look at them.

2009 Pastors’ Conference Teaching On Counseling – Part 1

2009 Pastors’ Conference Teaching On Counseling – Part 2 (with Kris’ commentary)

2009 Pastors’ Conference Teaching On Counseling – Part 3 (with Kris’ commentary)


Also, I would encourage anyone with knowledge of the situations mentioned in the lawsuit, or other similar situations relating to Sovereign Grace Ministries churches, to get in touch with Ms. Burke.  She can be reached at or (202) 386-9622.

361 comments to Revisiting Pastor Training On Counseling

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  1. claude
    October 27th, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Well said, Pilgrim.

  2. Remnant
    October 27th, 2012 at 8:28 am

    SGM’s acknowledgement of the lawsuit letter states in part, “Upon initial review it appears the complaint contains a number of untrue or misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.”

    SGM continues to think they can spin whatever tales they want, and use whatever “omission and comission” (as dk stated in #350) they can weave, reinvent their theology (Apostle vs. apostle, charismatic vs. reform, no divorce vs. divorce permissible for Kaufman kids), write good-sounding mission statements (“serve international missions” – really??? note the omissions which are too numerous to name), change the reality of their history to meet this newest challenge (just like they have done in the past, especially in regards to CJ starting this church alone, totally ignoring the fact that CJ used to be “CJ and Larry”), plead ignorance, and come up with a tall tale of lies they call “Truth.” After all, unchallenged by anyone with authority, this worked for them in the past, over a span of 30 years. I imagine they think it will work again. I can’t wait to see with what brush they seek to paint over these “broad allegations.”

    If this is what they are thinking, I think they are in for a very big surprise. They are not taking into account how people out here view them, that people out here don’t have a vested interest in seeing them be lifted up and glorified in any manner whatsoever, and that people out here have a very high sense of justice, especially when it comes to crimes against children. Out here, these SGM leaders are viewed as misguided guys who think a lot about themselves, facing some very serious accusations.

    I doubt the judge and jury will appreciate their demeanor if they come to court with puffed-up humility, thinking they are closer to God, above submission to authority, and sit higher on the pecking order than the average joe-schmo on the street. We out here can spot a fake a mile away. I wonder how they will deal with many pairs of non-starry-eyed worshiper eyes turned their direction for the first time in decades.

  3. Kris
    October 27th, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Remnant said,

    I wonder how they will deal with many pairs of non-starry-eyed worshiper eyes turned their direction for the first time in decades.

    You know, if there’s ever anything that would make SGM look cultish, it would have to be this – this clear evidence of SGM leaders’ long history of being unchallenged, unquestioned, and completely and totally beyond real accountability to anyone. As Remnant points out, they clearly have no sense of how they appear to the outside world – the world that hasn’t been indoctrinated with “believe the best.” They obviously think they can just say whatever they want and it will be believed.

    I guess this is what decades of insular thinking – along with CJ’s careful, crafty years of buying credibility with the likes of Al Mohler – will do to guys who answer to no one but themselves. It causes them to forget that although they try to control everything, truth is truth. They can’t alter or control the truth.

    It’s weird to see how oblivious these guys actually are. Don’t they realize that their arrogant assumptions about the importance of spreading their own teachings via downloadable sound files is going to prove rather easily how centralized and similar so many of their churches have been? And that they can say all they want to about independent congregations and the whole stupid “family of churches” thing, but the clear reality is that SGM churches have always ultimately answered to SGM Corporate? All it is going to take to establish that is a quick look at how the de-giftings and staffing decisions were handled. There were no congregational votes or meetings to decide when a pastor would step down. There were no congregational committees or any voting procedures when certain twentysomething PC grads were installed as “senior” pastors. And if a congregation has no input into who its pastors are, then nobody can say the congregation is independent and not controlled by the denomination’s family-of-churches’ headquarters.

    Again – facts are facts. Truth is truth. These guys’ statements may temporarily soothe their still-loyal, still-unquestioning members, although those numbers are dwindling. But they can’t control what people see when they look at objective reality. They can try. But they just look really culty in their efforts.

  4. Kris
    October 27th, 2012 at 9:24 am

    It occurred to me that CJ’s whole obsession with squelching criticisim – and labeling questioning or dissent as “gossip ‘n’ slander” – has led to SGM leadership’s stunning lack of ability to view themselves objectively.

    It’s a shame they didn’t allow more freedom of speech over the years and make more effort to listen to and learn from their critics. They would have been so much more aware of who and what they really are.

    Instead, now, they just persist in trying to “believe the best” about themselves and promote this view. They have a pathological inability to acknowledge past mistakes and openly address and correct their missteps.

    It’s so bizarre. CJ’s aversion to being confronted with anything even remotely negative has led to this. He surrounded himself with men who were willing to puff up his ego, and he quickly marginalized anyone – like Brent – who might have spoken some truth to him.

    And now all they’ve got are truth-twisting statements that try to minimize (yet again) their wrongs.

    So cultish.

  5. Toni
    October 27th, 2012 at 10:58 am

    It is a grave disservice
    to the heart, soul, body, and spirit of a woman
    when she is given the subtle message
    that the truth of her own pain
    is not as important
    as the reputation of the ones who inflict it.

    quote from “Quivering Daughters – Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy” by Hillary McFarland.

    This is for any victim, who might be on-the-fence about coming forward with his/her story of abuse and/or is considering joining the lawsuit. Your story IS important.

  6. Former CLC'er
    October 27th, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Kris – I do remember the feeling of seeing things that puzzled or concerned me and not being able to say anything for fear of gossiping. Sometimes I didn’t even feel free to tell my good friends, but thankfully I did start speaking up to some folks and saw I wasn’t crazy. I was there through so many of the changes in doctrine and Larry leaving, and a lot of times it was like “huh?” But I was trained to believe in my leaders, even though a lot of doubt was stirring.

    The whole thing of greatly honoring leaders was crazy. There was definitely a pattern of doing it, but honestly I’m so glad to be in a church where people don’t do that. It’s just not normal, C.J.!

  7. Wizer
    October 27th, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Kris said, “There were no congregational committees or any voting procedures when certain twentysomething PC grads were installed as “senior” pastors. And if a congregation has no input into who its pastors are, then nobody can say the congregation is independent and not controlled by the denomination’s family-of-churches’ headquarters.”

    Ain’t it the truth? Suddenly now the “family” is at odds with one another and it’s every pastor (not congregant) for himself. With that kind of family, who needs enemies? Oh, the tangled lies we weave when at once we tried to deceive.

  8. Persona
    October 27th, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Claude 310 Don’t bother to try and visit Redeemer this weekend. They are on their annual retreat at Deep Creek.

  9. claude
    October 27th, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Persona thanks for the info.

  10. CLCya
    October 27th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I’ve got a question off track here. A friend (currently in an SGM church) recommended this book, “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere. The subtitle is “Living Free From the Deadly Trap of Offense.” The chapter I am currently reading is “How Spiritual Vagabonds are Born” with sections titled “How Can God Use Corrupt Leaders?”, “Churches Aren’t Cafeterias,” and “The Planted Flourish.” Here’s the question…has anyone else been asked by current SGMers to read this book? Are the pastors pimpin’ (oh, I mean promoting) this book to CGLs to study it in their groups? Are SGMers suggested to recommend this book to those who have left? Just wondering…

    Brings to mind an old song from the Eagles…”so often times it happens that we live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key. I’m already gone…and I’m feelin’ strong…I will sing this vict’ry song!”

    Also, here’s something for a little comic relief on how people confuse the words “statue” and “statute.” It’s from a Seinfeld episode. Enjoy!

  11. QE2
    October 27th, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Persona in #344 said that divorce was never mentioned around the counseling table.

    A number of years ago, in our neck of the woods, a church staffer in the region who was fairly well known was found to be committing adultery. His wife decided to hang in there with him, and was praised publically for being so Godly. I asked the pastor proclaiming this, given what scripture says about divorce for adultery, if she would be considered just as Godly if she chose to end the marriage. You could tell that that this viewpoint had never been considered-the answer was sort of an ‘I don’t know’ response.

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