Remarks From Brent, An Explanation, And A Thought

July 15, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Brent Detwiler isn’t reading here, but he is occasionally sending us (along with Jim over at SGMRefuge) his responses to the events of the past few days.  I thought it would be a good idea to put his remarks into a single post.

Before I do that, though, I probably ought to explain a bit about what is going on here with our seemingly sudden and cozy little relationship with Mr. Detwiler.  It’s no secret that I was never much of a fan of his.  (I used to jokingly refer to him as “Uncle Brent” because of some of the very detailed – and, in my opinion, legalistic and patronizing-to-women – advice that he gave when teaching about topics like courtship.)  So what happened?  Did we suddenly become Brent’s homies?  I posted this in a comment the other day:

Many of you might remember some of my disdain for what I perceived as Brent Detwiler’s legalistic teachings about topics like courtship. His Questions For Courtship document was circulating around many SGM churches around the time Guy and I were having misgivings, and since I’m the kind of girl who can get hung up on what I think of as “small, telling details,” I was really put off by some of the specific advice in that document. I have also heard from plenty of people who have said that Mr. Detwiler over  the years exhibited all the same controlling and spiritually abusive behaviors  that he himself experienced at the hands of CJ.

So, I have historically not been a huge fan  of Brent Detwiler as he seemed to be when he was in the SGM organization.

But recently, after reading through Brent’s  documents, I have come to see that a good deal of what I didn’t like about his  SGM ministry flowed out of his SGM training. Please understand, this isn’t to  excuse Mr. Detwiler’s past abuses. I’m convinced that as he works through the  many layers of his own SGM experience, he’s going to have to come face to face  with how he himself behaved with some of the needy and the broken people beneath  himself. And that is going to be HUGELY painful for him.

Ultimately, though, I think Brent is just as much a victim as his own victims. Maybe even MORE of a victim, because his victimization led him to perpetrate the same things on others…and hurting others because you’ve been trained to see that as OK is ultimately even more hurtful, more soul-searing, than anything.

Brent will at some point have to deal with that.

But for now, I gotta say, my heart goes out to the guy. Here you have someone who – no matter what else you might want to think – had the integrity to play by the rules. And had the integrity to expect that his boss would also play by the rules. And when his boss did NOT play by the rules, Brent had the integrity to put his own career on the line in order to take a stand for what he believed to be right.

I’m sorry, but I have to admire that. Really.

Brent Detwiler has more integrity than the Reformed Big Dogs who are now rallying around CJ.

Jim from SGM Refuge put up a good post that pretty much sums up how Guy and I also view this whole thing.  Here’s an excerpt:

Brent knows that I’m no fan of some of his past actions, and I know (as he reminded me this morning) that he’s no fan of this blog. I take no offense at that statement, and would encourage others to do the same. Brent would admit, as have some current SGM leaders that some of what we address here is true. I would agree with this assessment. Sometimes I get things right, and sometimes I get things wrong. An open dialog with SGM leadership would help in this regard, but there hasn’t been a lot of that.

I think it’s safe to say that Brent and I find things about each other worthy of respect.

I said all of that to say, Brent is getting slaughtered online and in various church pulpits right now. He has no platform to respond. I’ve agreed to share our platform with him. I will be posting what Brent sends me, whether I agree or disagree. So far, I’ve agreed with what I’ve posted, but I have no idea what’s coming.

By the way, I would be happy to do this for current SGM leadership as well.

Please know that Brent does not read here, and I have no time to middleman a conversation. I’ll occasionally pass on a brief summary on the general majority opinion.

So, there’s an explanation for how things are between “the blogs” and Brent Detwiler.  As Jim said, Brent has no platform right now to respond to the many slams that are directed his way, and out of respect for the boldness and integrity he has displayed, we are pleased to be able to offer him space here to share his thoughts.

Along those lines, here are a few remarks from Brent…

First of all, there’s this:

I want to thank everyone for their prayers and concerns including Jim, Kris and Guy.  Survivors and Refuge have been used of God to get the attention of SGM.  People have been hurt by us.  There are problems that need to be fixed and sins that need to be acknowledged.  If you have written me, please pardon me if I am slow to respond.  I’ve been inundated with messages and I am trying to keep my focus on private appeals to SGM.  And as you can imagine, I’ve been attacked from many sides but I’ve also been encouraged by many dear folks – including some I’ve sinned against in the past like Canary.  Please write me if you feel I’ve harmed you in the past.  I may not be able to respond quickly but I’d love to hear from you.

Then there was this request:

Dear Jim, Kris and Guy,

I am not a fan of Survivors or Refuge.  I’ve been blistered by anonymous writers with no ability to share my perspective or correct libelous statements.  I’ve been defenseless.  Some bloggers accuse me of abuse while they abuse me from their secret hideouts.  Hardly a fair fight.  And oh, Jim, I don’t believe I’m the incarnation of Jim Elliot (or Elizabeth for that matter).

But here’s why I’m writing.  Some of the big issues addressed on the blogs are true.  SGM is trying to silence my voice.  I love those guys.  I gave my life to build SGM.  I want to see it emerge stronger and better.  But I am concern the new Board is up to the same old tricks.  I could not have been more disappointed with their post yesterday on the SGM blog.  It contained so many untruths.

So in the days ahead, I will occasionally write you with my perspective.  I’d appreciate if you posted my thoughts.  I’d also like to ask your writers to work hard at reforming their attitudes.  In some cases, they have good things to say.  I don’t want new readers to be put off by how they say it.  We are all learning from this process.

Well, thanks for your kind consideration.

Here is Brent’s response to the charges of “slander” that have been leveled against him:

I worked extremely hard to only include factual information that could be substantiated by primary source material.  I didn’t rely on memory but on notes, minutes, recordings and documents.  In each of my writings, I’ve repeatedly asked C.J. and the SGM Board to correct any factual error (see Concluding Remarks, pp. 193-198).  They have not done so.  I am very glad to correct my documents where they are shown to be in error.  That has been my position from the beginning.  I don’t want to be a false witness in any fashion.  In all my writings, I strove to be a truthful witness.  Proverbs 12:17 – “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.”  But thus far they have made no attempt to prove falsity.   I continue to welcome any and all adjustments from the SGM Board.  I’ve only asked that their criticisms not be based on memory alone.  Their recollections need to be corroborated by supporting documents.  Hearsay evidence (he said/she said) is no evidence.  Moreover, I think you could remove all of my personal correspondence and a strong case remains with regard to the seriousness of C.J.’s sins.  For instance, look at the official notes recorded by Bob Kauflin on August 20, 2004 at that most critical of meetings (see Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, pp. 16-28).   I’d also point to Dave Harvey’s assessment of C.J.’s hypocrisy (see Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, pp. 29-30).  These are just two examples among many others.

Here is Brent’s response to the unfortunate statements from Ligon Duncan:

Here is what Ligon wrote on his July 12 post entitled, “A Word about C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.”

“We have no intention whatsoever of joining in the adjudicating of this case in the realm of the internet – a practice as ugly as it is unbiblical…. It would have been very easy for the leadership of SGM to ignore and dismiss these charges, because so many of them are so evidently self-serving and spurious accusations.”

I have the utmost respect for Ligon.  Like Dr. Mohler, he is defending his friend, C.J. Mahaney.  Nevertheless, I think these statements will come back to haunt him.

First, Ligon states his intention not to adjudicate the case (i.e., make a formal judgment or decision about a problem or disputed matter) in any way, shape or form on the internet.  But five sentences later he does the very thing he condemns.  That’s called hypocrisy.

Second, Ligon characterizes my documents (see sgmwikileaks) as “so evidently self-serving” and comprised of “spurious accusations.”  I am afraid the good doctor has embarrassed himself in his locution.

More importantly, he has judged my heart and unwisely dismissed my writings.  In stark contrast, he commends the leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries for not ignoring and dismissing such ridiculous charges.

Well, I hope Ligon has read my documents.  To the best of my ability, I’ve written out of love and I’ve written accurately.  I’ll allow readers to decide if they agree with the doctor’s diagnosis.

And finally, here is Brent’s “take” on the announcement from yesterday, about how Joshua Harris stepped down from the Sovereign Grace Ministries board:

People have asked what my take is on Joshua Harris’ resignation from the Sovereign Grace Board of Directors. Here it is.  Joshua is the real deal and made a brave decision to protest the direction and stance of the new board. Dave Harvey is the one who should resign and Joshua should be the interim President. Sovereign Grace Ministries has it backwards. Joshua is a true Protestant. That’s what the Romanists called the Reformers who protested Catholic doctrine and corruption in the 1500’s.

Like I said – it seems like a good idea to put this all in one place.

I will leave you with a thought that has been haunting me.  How is it possible that the Sovereign Grace Ministries board is talking out of both sides of its mouth?

On July 7, 2011, Dave Harvey published a statement from SGM’s board regarding C.J. Mahaney’s announcement that he was stepping down.  That statement included the following:

The charges against C.J. are serious, but his response has been one of self-examination and, when possible, specific confession to those sinned against.  However, given the numerous events, people, and perspectives involved, the work of an independent panel will be vital to fully examining these charges and arriving at an objective conclusion, especially on those charges with which the board does not agree. We therefore believe the leave of absence is appropriate in the present circumstances to afford C.J. the time to reflect upon his heart and to allow an independent panel space to conduct its review.  Like C.J., we are committed to facilitate as thorough and objective a process as possible by an independent panel.  [emphasis added]

But less than a week later, on July 13, the board issued a statement with their full support for C.J.  That statement said, in part:

That C.J. Mahaney is a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry in Sovereign Grace and the wider body of Christ.

I don’t understand how it is that the board can believe itself to be “committed to facilitating as thorough and objective a process as possible,” while at the same time coming out with such bold endorsements of C.J.’s current and ongoing fitness for “pastoral and teaching ministry in Sovereign Grace and the wider body of Christ.”

If the board members’ minds are already made up, then how can they also be open to the findings of an independent investigation?

That doesn’t seem very “objective” to me.

© 2011, Kris. All rights reserved.