The world of Sovereign Grace Ministries has seen some interesting developments over the past few weeks.
- According to several sources, Covenant Life Church held a meeting and announced that the pastors are going to allow members to vote on the question of whether or not to leave the SGM organization – that the pastors have reached the point of wishing to part ways from SGM but are going to permit members to either affirm or reject their decision. At this meeting, members were asked to keep the whole process confidential.
- The much-anticipated Polity Proposal was released in draft form. This 81-page document, put together by a committee comprised of SGM pastors, is entitled Sovereign Grace Book Of Church Order Proposal. You can download a copy here.
- Reading through this Book Of Church Order, it’s interesting to note that there doesn’t appear to be a job description that would fit C.J. Mahaney’s current role – which dovetails with something else that several people have shared with me, which is that there have been whispers and even an informal announcement or two that Mr. Mahaney will be stepping down from his position as president at some point in the near future.
For the most part, SGM continues to minimize the lawsuit brought against the organization and several of its pastors last month. However, it sounds like more parties are going to be signing on as plaintiffs because of inappropriate pastoral counsel in situations of abuse, including spousal and child abuse.
EDITED TO ADD: Shortly after this post was published yesterday, Sovereign Grace Ministries released the following updated statement:
Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) leadership has obtained a copy of the civil lawsuit filed Oct. 17 against SGM and several pastors from its associational churches. This complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent, resulting in errors and omissions in pastoral counseling and spiritual care, which was voluntarily sought and provided years ago to some families of child abuse victims.
The suit does not allege child abuse by any current or former pastor of SGM or any church associated with SGM. The suit does not allege child abuse by any employee or staff of SGM or any church associated with SGM. The suit does not allege any child abuse occurred on any SGM property or any church associated with SGM.
SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance. This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment. We are saddened that lawyers are now, in essence, seeking to violate those rights by asking judges and juries, years after such pastoral assistance was sought, to dictate what sort of biblical counsel they think should have been provided. SGM believes that allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment, that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse.
SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but upon review it appears the complaint contains a number of misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent. Legal counsel is preparing responsive pleadings.
Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. SGM encourages pastors from its associated churches to minister the love, grace, and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act.
SGM is committed to integrity and faithfulness in pastoral care, as are the pastors of local congregations. We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices.
SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering his grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.
Um, yeah. That’s what the plaintiffs are working toward, too – that the truth would prevail.
The topic of child abuse as it relates to SGM’s past parenting teachings is an interesting one. SGM leaders’ standard defense is to maintain that anything they may have taught about the so-called secondary issues (like courtship, dating, and the use of the “rod” as the only truly biblical form of parental discipline) was simply misapplied or misunderstood, and that therefore, they bear no responsibility for the way things may have turned out in situations where their advice resulted in abuse. At the recent Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors Conference, Bob Kauflin spoke about this topic. You can access audio for Mr. Kauflin’s teaching here.
Toward the end of discussions following the previous post here, there were several interesting exchanges about Mr. Kauflin’s talk and about what SGM churches have taught, particularly with respect to parenting. Commenter “QE2″ had this to say, about her recollections on SGM’s parenting teachings:
Fairfax in the late 80′s/90′s had Benny and Sheree Phillips always teaching on parenting and holding parenting seminars. The major part of their “method” was to spank. Only it was called loving correction.
The goal was to spank your child through to repentance. Somehow, you were to discern when they were repentant and then the spanks stopped. If the child did not accept the rod, they got more rod.
They had all sorts of advice-don’t spank near open windows, interior bathrooms were good. If shopping, go back to the van to spank. You really spanked for anything short of perfection, which was everything.
Patsy Jacobs even had Keith carve out a bunch of rods and gave them out to all of the moms in a weekly short term moms group, with some scripture about discipline written on the handle in nice sharpie calligraphy. This was because so many moms were breaking wooden spoons and admired Patsy’s, which was really thick.
They said to start at a early age to flick your baby on the thigh when they squirmed in the changing table to teach them to lie still. I still remember all of the ladies, rods hanging out of their back pockets, with 1 year olds in their reclining strollers being walked back and forth in the lobby during the messages. If the baby lifted their heads, the moms would say “head down”and deliver a swat so the child would learn to nap in the stroller on Sundays. I always felt so guilty because I was not a good devoted mother like they were, because I didn’t do that.
Commenter “Unassimilated” had this to say:
In later years they added that you should teach your child to accept and receive spankings willingly, as an expression of Gods correction. Maybe this was always the case. So basically as a parent your child was to willingly present their hind quarters for spanking on demand, and with a happy heart. This junk came from the pulpit, yet given the laws, they were always savvy enough to not record those sessions for later listening. We were supposed to say something like, “I’m doing this because God loves you, and I love you. Corrections are a form of both our love for you, and our love & obedience for God.” You made sure it hurt, and were to do your best to not seem angry when you did it.
The word ‘correction’ could bring a hush over any roomful of CLC kids. But the pastors had no idea?
There was one parenting teaching, shortly after the new building opened up, where a Pastor mentioned that one needs to be careful ‘not to leave marks as the laws of Maryland, as we have learned, dont always agree with scripture.” There were some in the audience that greeted this comment with chuckles, apparently I had missed the inside joke/situation that this comment was based on.
Bob is a liar, there is no other word for it, and they are all cowards. His recent teaching on this seems like an attempt to create a narrative that could be used in court as a defense tactic. “But your honor, we have gone on record as saying…..” We have never taught that…” SGM is very adept in erasing/rewriting their history as it serves them. I hope any Judge that comes across SGM sees right through it, and sees them for who they really are. I hope their attorney is paying attention too. I have no doubt that many sermons to come will be crafted to create a shiny example of what is acceptable and lawful in today’s world.
I thought this comment from “Stunned” was a logical response to the kind of dissembling we continue to get from SGM leaders whenever someone tries to hold them accountable for what they have taught:
Let me get this straight- these guys never taught brutal parenting, yet somehow tens of thousands of people, across the country, ALL just happened to simultaneously misunderstand SGM. For thirty years straight?
Yeah, that is likely…..
Anyone else seeing a trend among the current leaders at the top of the Sovgramin.org pyramid? “It’s not my fault. It must be yours!”