“Wow’s” Story

Kris says:  If you’re visiting the site because you’re interested in the lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, you can view the original filing here.  The amended filing is here.  For those of you who are new to the site and are interested in understanding some of the assumptions and the mindset that could cause leaders to behave in ways described in the lawsuit’s allegations, this post from 2011 does a good job of connecting the dots.


Here is commenter “Wow’s” story:

I haven’t revealed much of my story, and it doesn’t warrant the horror of the sexual abuse victims involved in the lawsuit.  However, I read and understand exactly how and why parents accepted the church’s stance on these abuses, because I did the same thing in a different way.

When we came to SGM (then PDI, the original), my husband was caught up in living a very ungodly life including multiple counts of adultery.  I was encouraged to win him over with my silent, submissive spirit.  I tried very hard to do this, including much prayer, fasting, and worship.  One day he “felt the Holy Spirit” enter him and gave his life to the Lord.  I was so relieved, as were our children, that our family would finally be healed, as we had suffered numerous separations.  He confessed to me all of his past infidelities.  My heart was ripped to pieces, but through counseling at the church, I was made to see how sin was sin and I needed to forgive him and he needed to forgive me.  God’s best, I was told, was that we be reconciled and forgive one another.  All sin was equal.  There was no room for my feelings, and somehow every time I walked out of there the focus seemed to be on how I needed to change.

Two years later, my husband got into another affair, this time producing a child.  I wasn’t told that I had to reconcile with him, nor was I released to divorce him.  I was instructed to seek God for an answer.  Understand here is where the system speaks for itself.  There is no glory or redemption seen in divorce (or there wasn’t at the time), so the unspoken pressure, if you’re to live up to the SGM family model, is to overcome the sin of the partner through forgiveness.  There’s no mention of forgiving but moving forward in a manner consistent with the destruction a spouse has done.

I forgave my spouse, and we moved away from SGM.  This ultimately was a great thing, because I stopped expecting him to live up to that model and he stopped cheating.  However, I went away believing in a God who neither cared about my feelings or truly loved me, as He sovereignly allowed all of these things to happen to me when he could have prevented them.  I was depressed and suicidal, but remember, it was a sin to seek outside professional help.  I couldn’t get counseling or medical treatment.  The problem had to be rooted in sin–my sin, and I needed my self-confrontational manual to dig it out.

When anger and resentment finally dared to surface, I filed for a divorce.  I walked away from God, committed adultery, and did attempt to end my life, ending up in an ICU with my husband by my side.  From that point on, he endeavored to love me like Jesus, religion aside.  It took quite a while, but he became that husband that SGM men ought to endeavor to be.  For him, it isn’t a role he’s playing in order to live up to the image, rather it’s laying his life down in order to treat me as his own body.  I’m happy about that, and I’m thankful for him.

Why then, do I still resent SGM’s spoken and unspoken pressure to be in faith for my marriage?  Because it was without compassion toward my feelings and experiences.  I was the one constantly having to strive to do what they themselves didn’t know a thing about, but would they would learn through future generations of their own.  I resent that I wasn’t told that God was as faithful and redemptive in divorce as he was in marriage….like I had to make the miracle happen with my unswerving faith.  I resent that I was taught that spanking my children would change their hearts, and that living the formula would produce godly offspring.  I now have godly offspring because God was faithful in my giving up on the formula.  I was on a leave-of-absence from my faith for the three years following my departure from SGM, yet my children began to thrive when I stopped seeing only the sin in them and started enjoying them as the individuals God had created them to be.  I adore them now, whereas before, I saw nothing but the sin I needed to weed out in order to keep them out of hell.

It’s all grace, I know that now.  I’m still healing from the legalism and the formulas I absorbed.  I truly don’t think they understand the hierarchy they create in their polity.  Their own lack of willingness to honestly communicate true and deep failure works to hold themselves up in front of wives whose husbands’ real and deep failures seem so pathetic by comparison.  So many wives have confessed to me their habits of comparing their husbands to the leaders, with the husbands coming up short.

When will they realize they are not serving the members while holding onto their pride?  When will they say, “I stand up here and pretend to be more than I am so that you will revere me, yet I work to lower your view of who you are and who your family members are in Christ”?  That’s what I want to see.  Tear down the pedestals.  Look for God’s redeeming grace in failure as much as you do success.  Understand that we are doing our best to live godly lives in a fallen world, and for Pete’s sake, stop expecting us to be perfect in what we say or do, and how we deal with our concerns with you.  Listen.  Hear us.  And consider, truly consider, coming off your prideful pedestal and repenting for the mistakes of the past.


  1. Stunned says:

    On this MLK holiday, I’d like to remind all of my SGM friends of one of his greatest and wisest quotes:

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

    Praying you all find your voice and that not one of you remain silent any longer.

  2. old timer says:

    Wow, I feel for you. It’s hard enough to be married without a husband who commits adultery and has a child with another woman. Good grief!

    You have my deepest sympathy and regard for sticking it out all of these years. No wonder you wanted to commit suicide…keeping all that anger held within is devastating for anyone’s mental health.

    I’m so glad you finally see your children for the wonderful beings that the Lord has given you for a little while. They are fun and life with them is an adventure… when you stop looking for sin behind every action or word. And that is another reason that we finally left pdi/sgm….we got sick of hearing that our hearts were black, that there was nothing good in us, that etc, etc. They didn’t like positive just negative and condemnation for all.When we knew very well that Jesus never looked at us like that when we came to know Him. The Lord showed me something years ago when I was dealing with acceptance from Him…He reminded me whenever I went to see my grandmother how her face would light up and she became so animated…..just because she loved me so much.(it helped that I was her only grandaughter!) He said it was like that whenever I went to Him but even more so. Now that’s acceptance…and love!

    Stay strong and keep sharing.

  3. old timer says:

    Stunned, # 1,


  4. Concerned for the kids says:

    Open note of advice to SGM/CLC pastors and “leaders” currently embroiled in this mess:

    If/when this moves to criminal investigation, remember that the first one(s) to come clean and help is the one who gets the deal. The rest get the full measure of the law.

    If it gets to that point, and a fall guy is in the cards, how confident are you that SGM/CLC leadership will play it straight versus eating a few of their own to save themselves? And any financial shenanigans ( already seeing questionable stewardship) will also likely come out during discovery. They didn’t get Capone on murder, they got him on tax evasion, so don’t think they won’t explore the $$$$ angle.

    The long history of blame, scapegoating, and pushing people in front of figurative buses doesn’t bode well for the ones who are not at the top of the power pyramid. Brent was thrown out for simply asking cj to play by cj’s own rules. Josh thrown out for having a (temporary) moment of clarity and speaking so, against the party line. Both deeply inner circle before being cast out.

    What will they do to each other ( and you) when real jail time is on the line instead of just power and pride?

    Might want to reconsider the single lawyer strategy if this goes to it’s potential criminal investigation. I know I’d want to be the guy standing around (free) instead of the incarcerated fall guy under the bus.

    I’d certainly want to be at the front of the line when deals are being handed out in exchange for important information vs having them tell me, “thanks for the offer but we got what we need from joe, so we’ll see you in court.”

  5. 5yearsinPDI says:


    Back to your question…..a tare is by definition not wheat. A weed that will be thrown into the fire at the final judgement.

    If you spend your life pulling up tares that is all you will do. Trust me. They never end and there is always another one. You can destroy your life and family feeling compelled to right every wrong. At some point you have to turn to the sunshine and rain and just grow and ignore the weeds.

    I think if you know firsthand of a child being wronged you are responsible to speak up, expose, and go as high up the chain as you can. With adults, well, adults make choices. We can all as adults speak of the SGM errors, but we chose to go there, stay there, submit to it AS ADULTS. Thessalonians speaks of God giving people over to delusion because they did not love the truth. God gives them over. They do not want the truth. For three years I did NOT want the truth myself. I liked being in the very best denomination ever.

    “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, The naive proceed and pay the penalty.”

    There are times God gives you open eyes to see evil, and it is best to just quietly leave. You may feel called to fight, but no everyone is called to fight everything.

    Are you involved in political action about the sex slave trade in Asia? Are you involved with the ministries fighting brotheling in Eastern Europe? Are you speaking up about every sexual evil? No. Are you called to? No.

    Some battles are fought in the prayer closet and that can be a real fight, a real struggle. Intercession can be harder than any action.

    God has paved the way to speak up- the docs, the lawsuit. 10 years ago it would have been a waste of effort- lied, denied, spun. Sometimes you have to wait for the right moment. I’d say now is that moment. But even a few years ago perhaps silence was best.

    I don’t know all the answers, except that there is no one rule for everybody, so don’t make one up about when to rip up tares and say everybody is responsible to expose all evildoers.

    Parents have authority over kids. Their freedom to whack a kid forty times is your freedom to read the bible in your home to your kids. This is not the USSR.

    SGM Elders rule churches, and we all knew that when we joined. We chose to join. If we don’t like how they rule, well, it is their right. Nobody makes you give money, you choose to give, and they can waste it on AoR and airplanes and whatever cr@p they waste it on. That is what we signed on the dotted line to. Nobody tells my hub what to do with his paycheck, and nobody tells them what to do with the offerings.

    There is an occasional victim mentality that rises up here, and I don’t mean to deny all the victims. But I prefer to concentrate on the kids who have no choice, and remind us adults that we went along with it until God opened our blind eyes. We chose it. And ripping up tares is a waste of effort when people want deception.

    Just my opinion.

  6. lmalone says:

    Thanks, PDI. That explains better what you mean. I was concerned as if I remember you are reformed and may subscribe to the determinist God doctrine of controlling every single thought and molecule in the universe and might believe God planted false teachers in the Body of Christ for a reason. Which gets sticky in reformed doctrine when we are discussing evil by those who claim to be born again. Some do subscribe to the idea that we can be born again and continue in overt consistent evil.

    I do have mega tons of compassion for those who come out of bad situations and were love bombed and needed taht in their lives. They were fooled with a bait and switch tactic and I give them a lot of mercy and grace for believing a tare. But when there are so many red flags that they continue to ignore for years, there is not much one can do.

  7. Argo says:

    5 Years,

    Apparently you didn’t get the message. It’s not the doctrine. The doctrine is just fine. You, like me, must just has some sort of bone to pick with the doctrine. My gosh…this isn’t the place to question the fundamental beliefs and interpretive premises of SGM that drive the theology, thoughts and behavior of the leadership. You just need to stick to talking about the bad, bad men, who, really had no choice, because, it’s all God’s grace you see. If they don’t get the grace, then by definition they can’t be held accountable. And who determines if they got the grace? Well…they do, of course. So who are you?

    You must understand no one really CHOSE to join SGM; it’s all God’s grace. It’s all His will. We didn’t go along with anything. We were blinded by our sin; we nodded and praised CJ because God didn’t give us the grace to perceive, just like CJ said. We didn’t choose to believe our HG leaders, or our pastors in the stead; God was working through us; and now that we are out, we realize that God chose for us to get out, and that for some reason, God is choosing for other people to stay in SGM. God is allowing some people to see the sin of the abuse, others He is not allowing to see.

    To suggest that people actually can think for themselves or are culpable for their own actions means that you, again, obviously still obtusely think that doctrine has anything to do with it.

    I’m dreadfully sorry for what happened to you. Please forgive me for nodding along all those years in approval of those men who tormented you. You don’t understand how leveled I am what I allowed myself to believe and be controlled by.

  8. Kris says:

    I thought this piece of what “Wow” wrote was especially good:

    Their [SGM pastors’] own lack of willingness to honestly communicate true and deep failure works to hold themselves up in front of wives whose husbands’ real and deep failures seem so pathetic by comparison. So many wives have confessed to me their habits of comparing their husbands to the leaders, with the husbands coming up short.

    As horrific and hideous as the mishandled situations of abuse were, there’s something almost more insidious – because it affected so many more people – about the way SGM leaders held themselves up as examples.

    Pastors who taught all about how to be better husbands and fathers never acknowledged that their flexible pastor schedules allowed them a lot more time to do all the stuff they were telling their followers to do. Women like Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters blogged for years about the spiritual significance of making the home arts a woman’s top priority. Yet they never talked about the elephant in the room, which was that for a woman to be a full-time homemaker, she needs to be married to someone whose salary and benefits can cover all the family’s living expenses…and that the Mahaney ladies all had husbands who (once again) were employed by SGM.

    There’s something so hypocritical about a teacher or preacher who places burdens on his audience that he himself does not have to carry. And this is especially hypocritical when the teacher or preacher isn’t carrying those burdens because his audience gives money that covers his salary.

    Think of the irony of the way the Mahaney ladies held up their own courtship stories as tales of God’s faithfulness, like if a girl just kept her doctrine pure, she too would (God willing) be sent the perfect husband in God’s perfect timing and then be enabled to pursue the home arts and live out “Biblical womanhood” to the fullest. Yet the truth was that these women’s ability to attract men willing to go through the courtship process was at least in part due to their family’s unique position of power.

    There’s even more irony in the idea that the Mahaney women put such an emphasis on the necessity of a woman’s finding her identity in homemaking – when they themselves were finding more of their identities in blogging, writing books with their mom, and teaching.

    It’s crazy that SGM leaders were able for such a long time to hold themselves up as examples to follow…when the reality was that nobody could really duplicate what they did without the privileges that flowed out of being an SGM leader. Like, most men don’t have the time or inclination to play modesty police over the wives’ and daughters’ wardrobe choices the way CJ Mahaney taught that they ought. So all the women who sat through CJ’s Heart Of Modesty sermon were left thinking of their own husbands as somehow inferior to CJ. But your average guy could not possibly do the things CJ claimed he did because your average guy held a regular job with ordinary cares and was not privileged like CJ was.

    I wonder about the damage that all the marriage and parenting teachings did to the run-of-the-mill SGMer over the years. I know it’s not as horrid as the mishandled abuse situations. But I bet the “Follow me (even though you really can’t because you’re NOT me)!” sermons have wreaked more havoc in more relationships than anyone imagines.

  9. Diane says:

    Kris said~

    “I wonder about the damage that all the marriage and parenting teachings did to the run-of-the-mill SGMer over the years. I know it’s not as horrid as the mishandled abuse situations. But I bet the “Follow me (even though you really can’t because you’re NOT me)!” sermons have wreaked more havoc in more relationships than anyone imagines.”

    The link below is an enlightening critique and speaks to your quote. I’ve read that Tomczak and Mahaney had roots in the Catholic charismatic renewal. This article describes one such well known community (“Word of God” in Ann Arbor) that had many problems. As I read, I started substituting SGM for Word of God and saw so many similarities (from what I have read about SGM, not having been involved with them personally).


  10. Stunned says:

    5 Years,

    When I joined my PDI/SGM church they DID have non-paid elders and supposedly, people NOT on staff who kept both Larry and CJ accountable, too. I would have never joined a church with paid elders. Just a note to be careful about your “we all” when some did and some didn’t while others of us were lied to about the non-paid elders.


  11. Argo says:

    I don’t think that’s the case, Kris. The pastors never made any bones about the fact that they were not paragons of perfection; that, but for the grace of God went them…and all that gobbledygook. I think that’s what attracts so many to SGM. CJ, for example, is the most self-abasing guy on the planet. At least, that’s his facade.

  12. Kris says:

    Argo said,

    I don’t think that’s the case, Kris. The pastors never made any bones about the fact that they were not paragons of perfection; that, but for the grace of God went them…and all that gobbledygook. I think that’s what attracts so many to SGM. CJ, for example, is the most self-abasing guy on the planet. At least, that’s his facade.

    They might say with their words that what they are able to do in terms of their parenting and marriage accomplishments is all by God’s grace. They might not outright say “Do what I do!”

    But they frequently would cite their own lives and their own habits as examples of how they work out whatever principle they were teaching. I don’t know if it’s available anywhere anymore, but if you can find CJ’s Heart Of Modesty sermon, particularly as he delivered it 5 or 6 years ago, you’d hear extensive stories and examples from his own life about what it looks like to be a man who “leads” his wife in terms of her modesty. Why would he even have talked about his own behavior if it wasn’t meant as an example? If memory serves, I think he even said, in the version I listened to some years back, that this is what men should do – that they should inspect their wives’ and daughters’ clothing the way he did with Carolyn and his daughters when they were living at home.

    Likewise the Mahaney ladies and all their stuff about how to do courtship and how to be a homemaker.

    They can sandwich these stories about their own lives between all sorts of chatter about how they’re not perfect and are the worst sinners they know, blah blah blah. But the takeaways are still the same: look, here’s how it’s done, follow what I do!

  13. WalkingWounded says:


    You are spot-on with your comment. They gave lip service to what sinners they were, but the message was clear that they had it all together. It doesn’t take a lot of listening to messages or reading their blogs (CJ, Mahaney women, other SG pastors) to know that everyone should be looking to them as the example.

    ARGO – CJ is not the most self-abasing guy on the planet. He gives that false appearance, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, he just tosses out a lite example, like when he spilled the coffee on his laptop. Wow, I just bet that was awful having to spend the members tithes buying a shiny new top of the line laptop, when in reality he should have been confessing the dark sin that exists in his heart.

  14. Wow says:

    The leaders have a habit of tooting one another’s horns in introductions, how amazing, how humble– outstanding husband to amazing wife and children, and so forth. Then one of them would say something that impressed everyone and they’d all begin saying the same thing. I remember SS talking about how his son was sulking and he “drew him out.” Soon they all had their own stories of “drawing out” so-and-so. Who knows which of them first told the tale. In reality, there were some humble and godly leaders, but they weren’t the ones held up as examples. Nor we’re they the ones claiming to be the worst of all humans. They were quiet examples.

    My experience, however, was very frustrating–always having to strive harder and overlook more. I was presented a God who didn’t care about my emotions or experiences, and I was not allowed to seek help outside the Church, as Robin Boisvert had already established that to be sin. When I finally sought professional and medical help, life began to change for me but everything I’d had to stuff down and deny for twelve years came to the surface. I’ve had to learn about the God who is my dad, who cares, who cradles me in his hands, who gave me emotions and said, “It is good.” I’m serving a God who is unconcerned with my status in the church or to what tier I’ve climbed there (eye roll). I love a God who isn’t holding me up to Carolyn Mahaney and her girls to decide if my womanhood measures up, who instead understands that I’m doing my best daily to not blow it with my kids, my husband, myself, or Him. But I’m not presenting myself to others pretending to have it all together, either. I find freedom in neither pretending to be worse or better than anyone else out there. The SGM shoe no longer fits. I can’t fit that mold. The thought of it sickens me.

  15. Diego says:

    Having flashbacks of counseling sessions with Marty M. In the midst of business struggles, my wife was struggling. She encouraged us to seek counsel from Marty, thinking that he would set me right. Speak truth to me. He didn’t. He looked at where she was and lack of support. She left the counseling more discouraged and feeling that she wasn’t doing her part. Flash forward. God closed my business, brought me to a point of caring for my wife more than what i felt “called” to. Wasn’t our last trial. But sure gave my wife a few years of discouragement and condemnation that she probably didn’t need. Heart and prayers for all those couples stuck in the pits and muck at SG…

  16. Stunned says:

    I agree with Kris.

    CJ self abassing? How about self consumed and self focused. Humble people don’t talk about themselves a tenth of what he does. Note the focus is always C J, whether it’s about what he does wrong, or what he does right. (Supposedly sports, partnering, leadership, manliness, marriage and sex, he is an expert on.)

  17. Bridget says:

    Wow –

    You have been through difficult times. What a journey to get where you are today, which I hope is a continuing good place. It is so discouraging to read the many experiences of women and children who were continually put in the most difficult of situations and circumstances. I know men were mistreated as well, and dismissed when no longer useful, but many women and children simply didn’t seem to receive any consideration at all . . . so many people ending up as the by-product to the “male authority/pastoral authority” dogma.

  18. Bridget says:

    Diego@15 –

    So . . . in the SGM vortex of sin, someone had to be the fall guy and it ended up being your wife, the same one who encouraged you to seek counsel from the pastors. I’m sure she thought she was supporting you and helping you by encouraging you to talk to someone and she gets critiqued. What would have been wrong with listening to you, praying with you, and finding someone (in or out of the the body) who could help you evaluate your business situation? It seems like the pastor did more harm than good. Do SGM pastors ever say, “I don’t know how to help with that particular thing?” Everything is just chalked up to someone’s sin . . . how bizarre.

  19. Argo says:


    I should clarify. I didn’t mean to say that you are wrong in your observation that they, as those who are divinely dispensed to declare how lives should be lived, have the distinct advantage in “doing it better”, as well as material advantages, time advantages, etc. etc.. Of course, you are right in the literal, visceral sense of it. But that’s only because, for all the lip service you and others pay to it not being the doctrine, your observations are only right precisely because you are NOT looking at what they do through the lens of their hypocritical theology.

    What I mean to say is that THEY don’t see it the way you rightly observe reality. IF they do anything right, they are the first to declare that it isn’t them, it’s all of God’s grace. After all, they are just guilty, depraved sinners like you…CJ’s crying and histrionics all the time on stage screams this in every sermon. So the fact that they are the ones who get to write the standards of living and then successfully keep to them is only proof of their divine special-ness; their God-given authority to stand in His stead and tell you what to do and think. This is the gnosticism inherent in the doctrine that I was trying to point out in the last thread before Presbyterian called me a heartless tyrant for submitting that just maybe they call themselves “Sovereign Grace” for a reason. Because “sovereign grace” precisely means they can declare that since they do it better than you (and indeed can define what IT is–child rearing, education, discipline, politics, courtship, dating, interpreting the bible, how to spend money, on and on) God has obviously ordained them on them as the ones given to rule the masses. And if they screw up horribly…well, what did we expect? Did we think that it was THEM doing all the good things and being such a great example for us? Oh…no, no, no. That was just God’s sovereign grace. As soon as they screw up–a little blackmail, a couple of sexually abused kids, some beat up housewives, and other sundry terrors–well, they are just sinners like all of us after all. Surely their failings are merely the result of needing God’s grace like anyone else. Obviously, they are only human…sure, God has given them the keys to the Kingdom, but even Peter denied Christ three times.

    This is why I continue to have a “bone to pick” with the doctrine. It is doctrine that keeps them perpetually at arms length from any responsibility for the fallout of their monstrous leadership. Their supreme goodness and wonderful examples for doing “life right” is simply the proof that they are special, and that God really wants the rest of us to shut up and do what they say. But when the inevitable destruction of human life occurs, they merely declare “Hey…I command you to forgive me. I didn’t get God’s grace for that one. My bad. I’m just a sinner after all. Like you. Only human. Take the log out of your own eye, only then will you be able to see…”

    Kris you are right about what you see. But you are right because you deny their doctrine. You EXPECT them to take responsibility for their sin. But if they do this, then they are NOT being consistent with their doctrine. They know this, which is why they will never, ever concede they are wrong. The blame is either you, God, or someone else. And those that do concede wrongdoing, without changing the roots of their theology, are hypocrites.

    It is a hard truth to hear. I know. I had to go to counseling when I finally came to the realization myself.

  20. lily says:

    Yes, God is sovereign, but in His sovereignty, He made human beings in His image. He has free will, obviously, He’s God, but as creatures made in His image, He gives us free will, as well. Do we completely control what happens in our lives? Do we have all knowledge and wisdom? Of course not. But to say, “the devil made me do it”, or “God just didn’t give me the grace to say no to that one”, is a gnostic cop-out. That’s why we all instinctively know that we can and should look for some accountability regarding the evil behaviors that are exampled in the lawsuit.

  21. Kris says:

    Bridget said,

    It seems like the pastor did more harm than good. Do SGM pastors ever say, “I don’t know how to help with that particular thing?”

    I really think the transcript from the November 2009 Pastors Conference (for a session entitled The Pastor And The Counseling Process) provides us with insight into how SGM pastors have been taught to advise their members. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t looked at this transcript to do so.

    You can access Part 1 here: http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/2009/05/11/what-sovereign-grace-ministries-teaches-pastors-about-the-counseling-process-part-1/

    Part 2 here: http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/2009/05/13/what-sovereign-grace-ministries-teaches-pastors-about-counseling-part-2/

    Part 3 here: http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/2009/05/18/what-sovereign-grace-teaches-pastors-about-counseling-part-3/

    Parts 2 and 3 include my commentary, which is in blue font (which makes it easier to skip over, should you want to).

    A lot can be said about the way SGM pastors counsel people, but the short version is that yes, they do see every need as a sin issue. They also see themselves as specially endowed by God with the wisdom and the authority to weigh in on anything a member might bring up – including the member’s use of psychiatric medications.

    Something to keep in mind is that this teaching didn’t happen that terribly long ago, only a little more than 3 years ago. Also, although the transcript is based on a sound file that was publicly accessible (for awhile, anyway) to anyone who knew where to look, the teaching was something that took place behind closed doors for a “Pastors Only” audience. Therefore, I believe it accurately reflects what pastors really think about counseling. It’s a more honest representation than what pastors might say to members who ask.

  22. Stunned says:

    Argo, now I get what you have been saying. Sadly, spot on.

  23. lily says:

    Awesome observations “in blue”, Kris! And brings back some creepy memories. Glad we didn’t go through counseling or discipline with SGM. We got out before we were totally brainwashed.

  24. Argo says:

    Yes. Nice post.

    Thank you. You’re right. The whole thing is terribly sad. I fell for it for years.

  25. 5yearsinPDI says:

    Argo- given that horrific crimes against humanity, including despicable treatment of women and children, have happened at the hands of Muslims, communists, Mormons, Roman Catholics, cannibal tribes, Hindus, Greeks, and many other groups with various doctrines, I think you are placing blame where it does not belong. If anything, the SGM statistics are far better than say pogroms against Jews in Europe with their rapes. I’ve been in both Arminian and Calvinist churches and so far saw greater acts of darkness among Arminians…..although SGM is starting to balance the scales for me. (Kris said to drop the doctrinal debates so maybe we should.)

    The mystery of sociopathy, and why some people from an early age seem to be without remorse, empathy, or conscience, is something that transcends doctrine.

  26. intheNICKoftime says:

    Kris and Argo stated:

    Argo said,
    I don’t think that’s the case, Kris. The pastors never made any bones about the fact that they were not paragons of perfection; that, but for the grace of God went them…and all that gobbledygook. I think that’s what attracts so many to SGM. CJ, for example, is the most self-abasing guy on the planet. At least, that’s his facade.
    They might say with their words that what they are able to do in terms of their parenting and marriage accomplishments is all by God’s grace. They might not outright say “Do what I do!”

    Remember Josh’s apology to CLC. He apologized, not for what he said, but for the examples they displayed. They didnt say outright, “the only way is courtship”, but they trotted out couple after couple after couple after couple after couple that did it like that. There was no confusing what they wanted, despite the fact that they never put it into words.

    So CJ never had to say what his sins were. He had people bring up examples of how he did this or how he did that. The sheeple never really had to be told CJ was “all that”, they just related their stories. And when those werent enough CJ would tell you about the time he had cream cheese on his upper lip! How humble.

    (But we can all see that when REAL humility is needed CJ is no where to be found.)

  27. MAK says:


    Polity update on SGM Blog.

    Interesting that they are back peddling on quite a few issues. OK, gee thanks but it the prior version shows the true colors of SGM. They’re giving in because of push-back from the churches. I’m sure this will appease a lot of churches. But the culture and leadership remain the same and these are the main issues with SGM, not polity.

  28. Roadwork says:

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this since 466 of the last post. Wow said,

    There was no room for my feelings, and somehow every time I walked out of there the focus seemed to be on how I needed to change.

    That’s the part that drove me nuts. It’s like a Vulcan philosophy of sorts – Reason (scripture) and logic (sin) with no room for emotions (you can’t complain about what happened because it’s better than you deserve.)

    You have to suppress your emotions and forgive those that have caused you pain because it’s the “logical” thing to do.

    Never mind the damage….

    Live long and prosper…. Be warmed and filled.

  29. intheNICKoftime says:

    Well said, Argo.
    Well supported, Kris.

    And THAT is why things will not change in SGM land. That has been the teaching for a decade or more and it is melded in the SGM DNA. Those pastors, even when they leave SGM proper, will not be able to do anything else because their entire belief system is still screwed up. They dont see CJ and SGM as being wrong. They just see it as not being applied properly.

    And what better system than one that would say, “I am the boss except when I make a mistake, then I am not responsible.”

    And if you REALLY believe what you say, then any indictment from people is just gossip and slander because in the end there is no issue that is really your fault. Reminds me of my younger days…I am rubber you are glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!

  30. intheNICKoftime says:


    I respect the relationship that you have with Ricky. And I believe you when you say that Ricky didnt go out for this change of positions. I really do.

    But…Ricky is not stupid. He has a college degree and went through the PC. He has to know that when an organization dumps a family man in his mid forties with twenty plus years of experience and puts in his place a boy who is twenty five years old with no worldly experience and no kids, that he is being put in place for a reason. “Useful Idiot” comes to mind. Patsy is another thought.

    I know we are taught not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this whole musical chairs incident just points out the fact that he has no experience and no great outlook on what is happening.

    Put two more marks on the Shanked blotter.

    I would also say that in all the hub-bub of CJ and Harvey and the lawsuits, people have kind of lost sight of the “shankster”. I thought he was laying low hoping all this would blow over. Obviously, he is still working the same way, just doing so more quietly.

  31. Never Again says:

    Read over the polity revision blog from Sasser. Notice the proposal to change the name?

    These guys are getting too predictable.

  32. Argo says:

    5 Years,

    I know very little about Arminian beliefs. I’ll take your word that they are as destructive as the Calvinism I was immersed in for 20 years or so.

    However, if I’m not mistaken, they are both products of the Reformation. The reformers were almost metaphysically identical to the Catholic Church. So, I’m not surprised to hear Arminians have there own share of doctrinal outrages. My focus is on returning Christianity the philosophy of the Jews. When that’s fine, it’s amazing how the esoteric mysticism of “orthodoxy” vanishes and common sense returns. My appeal is to reason and the senses to guide us in applying God’s truths. Like, when He says, don’t abuse little children or torment women, the implication is that, you know…we actually can and should. And it does t take Phil Sasser and a thousand years of polity discussion to subterfuge the issues.

  33. lmalone says:

    “The mystery of sociopathy, and why some people from an early age seem to be without remorse, empathy, or conscience, is something that transcends doctrine.”

    Sometimes the doctrine “affirms” the sociopathy and that makes it harder to deal with. In your examples, I notice you left out the magisterial state church Reformers who also praticed spiritual tyranny making it a crime to disagree with them about God and scripture. Drownings, banishments, burnings, imprisonment was all affirmed by their determinist God doctrines.

    I recommend Martyrs Mirror for a more complete view as just ONE resource for the bloody tyrannical reformation. There is a reason it died out in Geneva. And I do have many Calvinist friends. We enjoy the banter and they are nice people who do not want to burn me at the stake. I think their determinist God doctrine is very scary, though.

  34. Unassimilated says:

    Roadwork, your #28 – Fascinating, it’s life Jim, but not as we know it.

  35. Moniker says:

    Wow said, “I was on a leave-of-absence from my faith for the three years following my departure from SGM, yet my children began to thrive when I stopped seeing only the sin in them and started enjoying them as the individuals God had created them to be. I adore them now, whereas before, I saw nothing but the sin I needed to weed out in order to keep them out of hell.”

    This is what disturbs me so much about the Mahaney females’ Girl Talk blog. If you take a look at the posts on the topic of motherhood, all they talk about is how motherhood is all hard work, training, discipline, and teaching children to obey. They rarely (if ever – I didn’t see it in all the posts I read) talk about nurturing our children, having affection for them, encouraging them as individuals, and just plain loving and enjoying them. It is just awful. Very sad.

  36. lily says:

    5Years, Argo and Imalone, I think all that’s correct. But we can trust what the God of the Bible actually says, taken in context, with cross references and lots of corroborative verses. Anyone can end up with orthodoxy that way, imo.

    I think Kris and others are right to not want this to be all about doctrine, for more than 1 reason, and I apologize if I’ve gone there too much. IMO, both are related and therefore, important, but at the end of the day, because I believe most adults are accountable, no matter what they have stacked against them in their past, the issues at hand are what can and should be being looked at the most.

  37. Bridget says:

    Brad posted this comment on another blog and I thought it was relevant to the discussion here and the attitude of the leaders in SGM. I believe it was very likely the experience of many men/women/families in SGM. It is copied with his permission.

    Although I have not been part of an SGM church, I have seen similar things to what I described earlier happen in a church plant I was part of in the 1980s. There was a similiar profile of “indicators,” such as … the pastor teaches about people needing to grow up in the faith and act like adults, and (since this was a complementarian church) men needed to take charge and lead their families. At the same time, behind the scenes, the pastor did all kinds of things that undercut men from doing/becoming anything in the church. He would ask for suggestions and ideas – but then veto basically all of them. He would say how men needed to lead – but then he kept all authority to himself. He would hire men as his associates – but none lasted more than a couple of years.
    It all sounded “right” and “spiritual” and “biblical.” But despite anything and everything this pastor said about “getting strong in the Lord,” in everyday realities, he conditioned us as men, as adults, to be weak … and to yield to him and his “wisdom” and authority. And then he would criticize us for being weak. Go figure – you simply could not win and move forward in life. It made no [spiritual] sense – except in a sick-sick system where the commodity is power, and the game is authority-opoly – not growth to become Christlike. And that makes it anti-biblical, even if it occurs in a “religious”/”church” setting. Brad

  38. Bridget says:

    MAK @ 27 –

    What a bunch of hoopla and literal hoops to jump through. And for what? To have the illustrious (not) initials SGM after your church name.

    In case some of you elders and pastors of SGM churches aren’t aware, you are ALREADY the recipients of God’s “sovereign grace” and don’t need to add SGM to what you have already been given by God. Do you seriously believe that you need something beyond that to function WITH your local body of believers?

  39. Persona says:

    Never Again 31

    Adding the word ‘United’ reminds me too much of the USSR.

    Anyone else wonder why Eric Simmons popped into the new advertisement for “Transfer”? Either they handed each of those men a blank sheet of paper and then didn’t apprise them of its future use or, Eric finds it awfully comfy perched up on that fence.

  40. Stunned says:

    5 Years said, “The mystery of sociopathy, and why some people from an early age seem to be without remorse, empathy, or conscience, is something that transcends doctrine.”

    Amen, Sister.

    IntheNICK said, “And what better system than one that would say, “I am the boss except when I make a mistake, then I am not responsible.”

    Uh, huh!

    Bridget quoted Brad as saying, “It all sounded “right” and “spiritual” and “biblical.” But despite anything and everything this pastor said about “getting strong in the Lord,” in everyday realities, he conditioned us as men, as adults, to be weak … and to yield to him and his “wisdom” and authority. And then he would criticize us for being weak. Go figure – you simply could not win and move forward in life.”

    This is classic Adult Child of Alcoholics behavior. “Come here, get away from me”, etc. This describes CJ to a T. Why did no one who knew of his background clue the rest of us in? I guess so few of us had any insight or teaching as to this stuff. Oh, how we thought we knew!

  41. MAK says:

    Persona, I can’t seem to find what you are referring to regarding Eric Simmons. Can you give me some direction? Thanks!!

  42. Diego says:

    Bridget 18
    Sad isn’t it. My wife was more intune to what God was doing but only thing we knew was to seek pastoral counsel. She went through a period of dispair thinking that she had to support something that she wasn’t in agreement with. BUT God delivered. Learned a few hard lessons. This side of the storm is much sweeter.
    I get sad when I hear of still friends are getting counseled by one of the local SG pastors. Now I wonder how they could put themselves through this abuse.
    Shouting out to those in SG now, get out. Save your family misery. Seek God, Listen for God. His sheep hear HIS voice. Don’t be mistaken and think that you need some fab SG counselor. Any advise or counsel you receive, or have received in the past. Keep your eyes on Jesus!!

  43. Oswald says:

    MAK @27 — Thanks for alerting us of the polity update. It seems as if SGM had had a LOT of pushback concerning the polity proposal. Also, Mr Sasser ‘sounds’ stressed in his update. He and (I guess) others have probably ‘had it up to here’ with men who are not happy; trying to make something that will be appealing to them. The good thing is that, if this is the case, some of these guys have finally stepped-up and spoken their minds. Maybe it’s because they have seen that they are not the ‘only one’ with reservations and have had courage to speak. IMO, SGM is trying to keep a ‘SGM Union of Churches’ [my name suggestion] together; try a little of this, a little of that, whatever it takes.

  44. Oswald says:

    To add to #43 — Looks like Buckley’s 3-part message may not have been very effective.

  45. Jenn Grover says:

    MAK #27 – that post was such a joke – no significant actual changes, just mostly promises to delay the inevitable. For those pastors who lack the moral courage and backbone to leave, it will be just another excuse to stay. They may claim they want to give these guys a chance to change, but change does not begin with new polity, it begins with repentance and there has been distinct lack of repentance. Change begins with renouncing patterns of abuse. Change includes coming clean about mistakes, failure, and sin, not blame-shifting(to Brent and the blogs) or going on a re-branding and SEO clean-up mission.

    You need not be a prophet or a rocket scientist to see that God is continuing to discipline SGM. Local pastors who miss the opportunity to repent and lead their congregations in repentance, and to seek submit to God’s discipline could very well find themselves in the same position. You don’t have to be guilty of blackmail to be complicit in the sins of SGM. You don’t have to have hid child abuse to be complicit. If you have been overly-pastor-centric in your leadership model than you are complicit and probably have not begun to see the ramifications of the issues in your own churches.

  46. Oswald says:

    In a SGM blog post for 1/17 on the ‘Transfer’ page, the title is “Yep, He’s Speaking at Transfer”; first 3 words are “He said yes”, referring to Sinclair Ferguson. It makes it seem as if they are surprised and relieved that he accepted the invite, and as if others may have declined before his acceptance. Ferguson seems to me to be a no-nonsense man. I saw him at a ‘Desiring God’ conference where Driscoll was also in attendance and Ferguson seemed to be NOT amused by Driscoll’s antics in the group discussion that I saw. It was awkward and embarrassing to me.
    Why does SGM want to try to ‘Transfer’ the debacle known as SGM, ‘UNION of CHURCHES’.

  47. Uriah says:

    Jenn Grover #45 ………hear, hear!! and amen!
    Repentance is the only viable solution. SGM continues to ignore God’s insistence regarding their need to repent. The fact that SGM consistently disregards this truth is the most compelling evidence they remain DECEIVED.

  48. Critical Mass says:

    I took a look at SG’s 2012 audited financials (or should I say the Union of Sovereign Grace Churches?) and have a few random thoughts/comments on the statements and some blog posts.

    The reality is that one will never really know how SGM allocates their expenses due to a practice they’ve used since they started to publish their financials. I’ve made this point in an earlier post but here it is in black and white. On page 10, there’s a section titled, “Functional allocation of expenses.” It says:

    “The costs of providing the various programs and other activities have been summarized on a functional basis in the Statements of Activities and Changes in Net Assets. Accordingly, certain costs have been allocated among the programs and supporting services benefited. Included in general and administrative expense for 2012 was $64,365 for relocation to Kentucky and $87,515 for review panels.”

    Not only does SG have an abbreviated list of expense categories (line items) it spreads expenses across five “Program Services” and two “Supporting Services” (administration cost) areas. What we will never know, unless SG affixes job positions to each service column in a footnote, how and what is being allocated from year to year. For example, I’m guessing that CJ’s role and time allocation is not only spread out over several of those columns but the percentage of his time in each of those changes from year to year. So though we see decreases in most of the compensation columns, the Pastors College saw an increase despite the big drop in student enrollment. I’m not asserting that that increase is due to more of CJ’s salary being allocated there but it could be. It’s a shell game.

    The same could be said about other expenses. Take for example that there is no professional services line. It’s a common practice for nonprofits to show what they spend for professional services – legal, financial and consulting. Where exactly do you find the expenses noted above? They’re allocated out across all the service departments.

    As for the numbers above, someone asked whether the SG staff had moving allowances. I’d guess…yep. $64K is a lot of money and it’s been reported that they rented their own trucks to move the SG office stuff. Even if they hired a professional mover there’s no way it would cost that much to move their furniture, books and inventory. House hunting trips covered perhaps? Who knows. Question is whether the “lesser” staff had much financial help.

    Regarding the $87K for “review panels,” this sheds light on how much was spent on the Ambassadors of Reconciliation work and the Charlotte panels. I did some quick calculations on the Charlotte piece and I’m estimating that cost to be around $20K. Travel, hotel, meals for 10 panel members, the Leadership Team and all the witnesses for a week plus the follow-up work. I estimate Mr. Thomas’ fee to be around $150/hr. Forty hours there for the week, pre and post work. Etc, etc. That leaves $67K. At the same $150/hr. avg. rate that’s almost 450 hours of work. This seems about right for AoR. I know someone, I think Brent, speculated $400K but I always thought that was a wild long range guess. BUT, we’ll never know for sure because of the allocation game.

    And it was pointed out that SG had to take $1.2M out of reserves. Ouch. Considering their new revenue reality, that amount of money is substantial and unless the remaining churches go beyond their 5% obligation, SG will need to make some serious program cuts. They’ll probably even have to cut to the bone by cutting deeply into their Starbucks allowances. Horror of horrors. They still have their office space in CLC’s building, but it appears we may be witnesses to a game of chicken. The valuation of this property will be tricky and one or both of them are not moving on resolving the sell/purchase of that asset. But assuming they come to terms quickly, we’re probably looking at a figure much less than the valuation SG has placed on it. Rocky financial days ahead.

    I can’t end without going to one of my pet peeves, the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. On page 15, “As of August 31, 2012, $284,297 of the total of $309,429 collected for Haiti Disaster Relief has been distributed. This amount was used for food, medical and other emergency relief supplies, building equipment and repairs, and support of several trusted relief organizations and support of local ministries in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.” SUPPORT of the Dominican Republic? Excuse me but wasn’t the earthquake in Haiti? This beautiful, unaffected, country to the east of Haiti was barely affected by the earthquake. What the heck!

    Okay, this is for any SG pastor, still in and planning to stay in SG. Money matters. Accountability takes involvement. Do you understand the connection between us giving you tithes and offerings and trust? Do you realize that you’re culpable for this nonsense too? You can’t lean on the excuse that you didn’t know. We trusted SG but we trusted you too. Despite all the positive pushback that must be happening regarding the polity proposal, you’re not going far enough on the financial accountability side. Every pastor in SG should be able to review any proposed budget and ask questions and pushback when things like this occur. If you don’t know how to understand what’s happening behind the numbers (numbers don’t lie) don’t feel bad, apparently some SG board members don’t either, but I’m confident there’s someone in your church who can help you.

  49. Beenaround says:

    The “positive” changes in the polity come at a perfect time. They pull back on some minor issues make it seem as if its a lot and then we are right back at the same thing with now UOSGM. Change without repentance. I hope and pray churches don’t bite on polity revisions like this. It’s the men leading not polity.

    @oswald I thought the same thing. Major upgrade for the transform attendes. Ferguson over Harvey… I can imagen that email “Sinclair our ministry is completly falling apart and our #2 leader can’t speak could you fill in?”