Ch-Ch-Ch-Changing…Without Explanation

March 28, 2010 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

“One of the characteristics of the cults is the way in which their doctrines change over a period of time.  The cults have a marvellous ability to adapt themselves to new situations and arguments. Sometimes they simply change according to the whims of their leaders.”

–Rev. Paul Seiler, in Characteristics of the Cults

“Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.”

–Jesus, circa AD 30

“I the Lord do not change.”

–Malachi 3:6

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

–Hebrews 13:8

“Constant change is here to stay.”

–Josh Harris, circa 2006, echoing decades of previous SGM leadership


Although it affects a very small percentage of those involved in the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries, Covenant Life School’s recently announced change to its admissions policies (as outlined in the previous post) has generated a lot of traffic to this site.  People are apparently quite interested in the fact that CLS has now opened up enrollment to non-SGM students.

Just to be clear, I am not in any way criticizing CLC/CLS for changing its policy and now opening up the school to non-members.  I remember when I first heard that church membership at CLC was required for admittance into CLS, and I was stunned at the demonstration of exclusivity.  To me that policy seemed highly cultic.  Then some SGM defenders came around and educated me as to the theology and reasoning behind the position – how it was about assuring “doctrinal purity” and about being under the same authorities, and about better channels for conflict resolution.  At that point, the barring of non-members actually made a bit more sense to me.

And of course, it is absolutely CLS/CLC’s prerogative to do what they believe best.  It’s their right to be exclusive, if that’s what they think is necessary for “doctrinal purity” (or whatever).

My issue – if I even have one – with the policy change is the same issue I have every time SGM apparently changes course.  And that is, if a position was EVER taught as having theological implications or as being “more biblical,” then SGM has a duty to bring people complete and utter full disclosure for WHY they are changing.  And they need to exhibit some level of repentance for the incorrect original position…and they also need to teach the new position with the same level of intensity and in the same venues as they taught the now-defunct position.

Without all of that, the “changes” merely appear to be cosmetic.  They appear to be little more than attempts at image-grooming and spin control.  Like, in recent times, I’m aware that Josh Harris and other SGM pastors have admonished their congregations from the pulpit about thinking that homeschooling is a better, “more spiritual” choice than public schooling, and they’ve commanded people to NOT demonstrate a sense of spiritual superiority over it or to leave people out of their activities.

That’s all fine and good, but in the face of literally DECADES of SGM teachings on how vital it is to keep kids away from bad influences, and how important it is to be “like-minded,” and how homeschooling is a better choice than public schooling, such an occasional admonition from the pulpit is just not enough.  It does NOTHING to address how the thinking behind the original teaching has changed…it does NOTHING to demonstrate any repentance from that original (now-faulty) thinking.

It’s the same exact thing with opening up CLS to non-CLC members.  As my correspondent said, the original position of exclusivity was indeed promoted as though it existed for theological and philosophical reasons.  So therefore – since SGM/CLC/CLS never does anything that isn’t done intentionally – a change in position on this matter would HAVE to indicate a change in theology/philosophy.   And if theology/philosophy has changed, SGM’s leaders simply owe people a thorough explanation of how and why the thinking has changed.  They need to repent publicly and openly for the faulty thinking that led to the original position of exclusivity.  And they need to repeatedly and publicly teach the new openness (along with explanations FOR said openness) in the same sorts of venues in which they promoted the old position.

It’s not enough to tell people, “Constant change is here to stay.”  It’s not enough to tell people to just deal with whatever the leaders have decided to change.  It’s time for SGM’s leadership to be honest with their people and admit when they’ve gotten a position wrong.  They need to explain just how they originally “missed it,” and what caused their thinking to change.

Anything less just looks like a P.R. move, a slithery attempt to diffuse and deflect legitimate criticism.

© 2010, Kris. All rights reserved.