[Kris says: I originally wrote the following as a comment, but then it struck me that it might make a better post.]
Reader “tomcov” asked,
Just wondering…there hasn’t been a new post here since early June. Any reason?
Before I start to answer this little question, I must apologize – I’m going to use the word “I” a lot in my response. I’ve often said that this site is not personal and not about Guy and me. And that remains true. We ourselves did not actually have a bad SGM experience. We have never had a personal horse in this race.
And yet – well, sometimes there’s a personal component here, simply because a person (usually me) writes the posts. And lately, on a personal level, I have been extremely fed up with many aspects of the SGM discussion.
I think it started with the much-anticipated Ambassadors of Reconciliation report. I know that many of you thought the AoR people did a great job of walking the fine line. I know that a lot of you felt they addressed the issues in a gracious and thoughtful fashion. But frankly, I thought their report sucked wind. They seemed to spend far more energy on dissing blogs and “unprofessional” moderators than on actually taking abusive SGM leaders to task. (Uh…exactly what would have constituted a satisfactory professional moderator? And more importantly, what sort of open and honest discussion can take place if some “professional” moderator is constantly evaluating and censoring comments in order to – supposedly – keep participants from sinning?)
I know some of you will shake your heads and think I’m demonstrating a whole lot of nerve to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: I think the AoR people exhibited a breathtaking amount of legalism in their report when they spoke so much about SGM’s critics’ perceived sinfulness. If a building is on fire, does it really matter what tone of voice the person shouting “Fire!” uses?
Anyway, the AoR report disgusted me. I was filled with a personal sense of rage on a lot of levels. Ted Kober and his cohorts are blatant hypocrites. Seriously. For all their talk of “Matthew 18″ and the proper way to deal with offenses, and their holier-than-thou judgmentalism about the “sin” they thought they saw in SGM’s critics, they themselves did not even follow their own purported protocol. They felt free to write their report and trash-talk blogs and bloggers but never once initiated any sort of dialogue with me – despite the fact that I actually wrote Ted Kober twice, fairly early in the process, offering to be of help.
So yeah, I’ve been disgusted. On a personal level.
Then there’s the reinstatement of CJ to all his full former glory…the ridiculous lies out of SGM headquarters about the rationale for moving to Louisville, with the totally untruthful statements about how the move had been in the works for a long time…the polity discussions that are (wait for it) still taking place mostly behind closed doors, with little (or no?) formal official input from the average tithe-paying member…the fact that after decades of preaching the importance of allegiance to one’s “local” church, to the point where one can almost never produce a good reason to leave one’s “local” church, CJ has been able to (it would appear) breezily extricate himself from Covenant Life Church and any accountability to the leaders there and move on to start a new church…the amazing fact that CJ would try to describe blackmail as a “common” sin…the fact that CJ would even dare to paint any of his sins as “common” after building an entire reputation upon that ridiculous “worst sinner I know™” schtick…the fact that CJ’s sons-in-law received severance packages for jobs they quit…the fact that even some of the leaders who seem to be responding better to SGM’s critics are nonetheless still refusing to take full ownership of the way they themselves handled certain abuse cases…
That list is random and only very partial. I could probably spend hours writing about multiple jaw-dropping developments that don’t seem to bother too many SGMers. Too many SGMers still sit back and shrug and say, “Oh well, no church is perfect.”
And the fact is, I just do not understand this apathy. I do not understand how it is that people continue to tolerate CJ at the helm of their church organization. I do not understand, either, how it is that other non-SGM church leaders I personally respect (I’m looking at you, Kevin DeYoung) appear to be embracing CJ even more enthusiastically now than ever before.
It used to be that SGM Survivors struck people as scandalous because we talked openly about the cultural wackiness, the unspoken mandates to homeschool and practice courtship and have legalistic date nights. We were scandalous because we dared to suggest that CJ wasn’t actually accountable to anyone and might not be humble. We were scandalous because we sometimes poked fun of SGM’s self-important ways, their belief that their particular church method WAS “the gospel.”
But now, all of that stuff has basically been copped to by leaders. Nobody is coming around here and arguing any more that we’re just gossiping and making stuff up. It’s pretty much acknowledged as documented fact that many people were misled and even harmed by SGM’s “old” ways. It’s definitely documented fact that nobody dares hold CJ accountable or try to criticize him or correct him or sway him from his chosen path.
Yet what has really and truly changed?
CJ’s still the president. Major changes (cough cough POLITY cough cough) are still plotted and discussed mostly behind closed doors. Even the guys who appear to have integrity and are daring to stand for something – Josh Harris is one example - continue to couch their statements in the most affirmingly flowery syntax known to man. (Really guys – the Bible’s command to “let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible” doesn’t mean you have to be ingratiating, where you feel the need to continuously camouflage your honest feedback with gratuitous affirmations, to the point where the much-needed rebuke gets lost in a cloud of nauseating flattery.)
So – for the past few months, I’ve been disgusted with just about everything related to SGM. And the reality is, while I think I can write as well as the next person, and while I can pull off a reasonable facsimile of journalism, I’m not actually a journalist. I’m not even someone who ever wished to become a “blogger” (professional or otherwise). Back in 2007, I thought it was odd that there was no place online that portrayed SGM’s culture in a way that reflected my own experience of SGM’s culture – so Guy created a blog and I tossed up a few posts and thought that would be the end of it. As things have unfolded, I’ve been here, along for the ride. But I have never felt like I’ve been in some sort of driver’s seat. So, if something gets old for me - as the call for reform within SGM has gotten old – then I don’t feel like writing about it.
I know there have been lots of discussion-worthy developments over the past few months, but I just haven’t had the gumption to post much about them. I still read the comments every day and keep an eye on things. Sometimes I will put on my moderator hat (wonder what sort of hat a “professional” moderator wears?) and welcome newcomers or respond.
But for the moment (well, at least until just now, as I started to write this), my heart has not been in discussions about much of anything relating to SGM. I have a very full and happy life to enjoy. Contrary to what some people may think, I’m not naturally a negative or constantly suspicious person. So after awhile, pointing out the obvious gets old.
We’ll still be here to host discussions. And if there are any aspiring journalists out there who are interested in contributing stories, let me know. I’d be happy to post reader submissions relating to anything new within SGM.
Again…sorry for the personal nature of this response. But since you asked (and others have asked via email), there you go.
[And of course, whenever I've talked about my personal disinterest in the topic of SGM, that's usually right when something happens to lure me back into the fray.]