Dave Harvey Touts Group Reconciliation, Brent Detwiler Responds, C.J. Mahaney Takes The Stage In Knoxville

October 3, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

On the Sovereign Grace Ministries blog, Dave Harvey explained a bit about the “group reconciliation” process.  Here is what he shared:

As I mentioned last week, we have been preparing for a process called Group Reconciliation Assistance, led by Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AOR).

We’re about to start this—and it’s an opportunity for you to get involved. I’ll share more details about that in a few minutes, but first I want to explain what Group Reconciliation Assistance is and why we’ve engaged AOR to lead us through it.

Group Reconciliation Assistance is a type of mediation designed to help organizations address leadership challenges, biblical obligations toward those who have grievances or offenses, long-term cultural norms, and community relations. It also provides group training in peacemaking and individual coaching opportunities. All of this incorporates the ministry of reconciliation given us in Jesus Christ.

The process for Group Reconciliation Assistance incorporates four phases. In phase 1, AOR teaches biblical peacemaking, coaches individuals, and gathers information from documents, interviews, and forms. During phase 2, AOR studies the information received, identifies a few key parties to offer reconciliation assistance (coaching and mediation), conducts mediations, and provides an oral report to SGM. Phase 3 is the preparation and delivery of a written report on what has been learned and recommendations. Phase 4 incorporates a follow-up visit from AOR and continued peacemaking by SGM peacemakers. The entire process will likely take six months or more.

We want to make every effort to be reconciled with others and equip our churches for peacemaking. We also see this process as an opportunity to strengthen relationships and learn ways to improve our structure and methods so that this family of churches can serve our Lord better. If we can glorify God, serve others, and grow to be more like Christ through this process, it will be more than worth it. We believe this is one of the most valuable investments we can make in the future of Sovereign Grace churches.

The board has several specific goals for Group Reconciliation Assistance:

  • We want AOR to educate all SGM leaders, and as many members as possible, on biblical principles for peacemaking.
  • We want AOR to help Sovereign Grace leaders identify where we have sinned against others so that we can pursue personal reconciliation.
  • We want AOR to help us identify key weaknesses and strengths in SGM’s cultural norms, polity, and structure.
  • We want AOR to hear directly from as many Sovereign Grace leaders and members as possible.
  • We want AOR to provide coaching that will help us and others pursue reconciliation where it’s needed.

And for all this to happen, we need you.

How to get involved

If you or your spouse are or have been a leader or member in a Sovereign Grace church, you’re invited to participate.

The first phase of Group Reconciliation Assistance will be held concurrently with our Pastors Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, November 8–10. At the conference two things will happen:

1. Teaching. On Tuesday, November 8, from 12:30 to 5:00pm, AOR will teach a seminar titled “Getting to the Heart of Conflict.” They believe this session will help us grow in how we process and resolve conflicts, in our local churches and beyond. Registration for this seminar is free and open to everyone. This seminar is required for anyone who wants to be considered for a second aspect of Group Reconciliation Assistance: a private interview with AOR staff.

2. Interviews. AOR is offering private interviews with as many people as possible in Gaithersburg, November 8–10.

These interviews are intended to provide a confidential way for people to express their grievances and offenses, and learn how to respond to past and current situations in a God-pleasing manner. They’re also intended to help AOR gather information in order to assess Sovereign Grace Ministries’ strengths and weaknesses. AOR has asked to hear both from those with concerns and grievances, and from those with commendation and encouragement for SGM.

The invitation to request an interview includes pastors’ wives and other women. We recognize that women are an important part of the SGM family, but sometimes they may feel left out. One of the AOR Team members will be a woman whose husband is a pastor. She will be available to meet with women to hear their concerns or joys and provide coaching and encouragement. Women may attend an interview together with their husband, or they may request a separate interview with our woman coach. We are hopeful that this will provide an opportunity for women to be heard and receive care in a special way.

It’s possible that AOR will receive more interview requests than they can accommodate. If that happens, they will give priority scheduling to those they believe will best help them accomplish the goals of reconciliation and assessing SGM.

So as a summary, here’s what this phase of Group Reconciliation Assistance involves:

  • October 1–14: SGM and AOR receive interview requests and notify participants prior to the conference if they are selected for an interview
  • November 8, 12:30–5:00pm: AOR presents “Getting to the Heart of Conflict” in Gaithersburg, Maryland
  • November 8–10: AOR conducts onsite interviews concurrent with the Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference

Who should participate?

Anyone interested in getting training for conflict resolution and reconciliation is welcome to participate in the seminar.

Because this seminar is also part of a process by which AOR will gather information on SGM from members and pastors, we also encourage anyone to participate who feels they have important input about SGM’s strengths and weaknesses, regardless of whether or not reconciliation is needed or desired. After the seminar, attendees will be invited to fill out homework that provides feedback for AOR about SGM. They want to hear both from those with concerns and from those with commendation for SGM, so please come if you any input that will help AOR understand and counsel us.

What to do

Use the sign-up form to register for the “Getting to the Heart of Conflict” seminar and, if desired, request an interview with AOR. If a woman desires to meet with the female coach, she can indicate that in the form. Interview requests must be made by October 14 so that AOR has time to prioritize and schedule the interviews.

If you have questions about any of this, please email Andrew (amahr@sovgracemin.org).

What happens after November 10

This three-day period is only phase 1 of Group Reconciliation Assistance. After the interviews conclude on November 10, here’s how AOR will proceed:

Phase 2 will begin with AOR reviewing the information collected from documents, forms filled out by participants, and individual interviews. They may share some initial observations with SGM at this point but will provide a more detailed report at the end of phase 2.

Based on their review, AOR will identify a few people they believe are key to the reconciliation process and provide mediation assistance for them, if they’re willing and able to participate. While they can’t provide it for everyone, AOR expects that a number of people could benefit from mediation assistance. This would involve further coaching in resolving conflicts and encouraging reconciliation through confession and forgiveness.

Within one or two months of the Pastors Conference, AOR will conduct the additional coaching appointments and provide mediation assistance for those that are willing.

After the additional coaching and mediations have taken place, AOR will present an oral report to the SGM Board providing some of its initial observations. AOR will discuss possible recommendations with the Board as part of its preparations for the written report.

In phase 3, AOR will prepare and deliver a written report to the SGM Board. The written report will incorporate a summary of what the AOR Team learns from the information they receive including documents, forms you fill out, individual interviews, and results from mediation. They’ll evaluate and analyze trends and specific examples, then report the general substance (but not specific details) of this information. The written reports will describe the process employed, identify strengths and weaknesses of SGM, describe some of the major conflicts and contributing factors, and provide short-term and long-term recommendations.

In addition, the report will help SGM identify people who could form a peacemaking team. Part of AOR’s vision is to identify and equip naturally gifted reconcilers within SGM who can continue to purse reconciliation between individuals after AOR’s Reconciliation Team is gone and help SGM develop a culture of peacemaking over time. AOR will try to identify people who could serve on this team and recommend them to SGM for further training.

In phase 4, AOR will make a follow-up visit to SGM approximately 90 days after their written report. Follow-up is important because it creates a sense of accountability and gives SGM a chance to review its progress. This on-site visit from AOR will include two days for evaluation and follow-up assistance.

Ongoing Peacemaking

As AOR has pointed out to us, “it usually takes an organization many months or years to develop cultural norms in response to conflicts and crises, and it usually takes weeks, months, or years for an organization to work through its long-term conflicts.”

We’re keenly aware that what we’re doing now is only one step in a process. But we’re also keenly aware that God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and is reconciling his people to each other as well. If you’d like to participate in Group Reconciliation Assistance, we would love to hear from you. And whether or not you participate personally, please pray with us that God’s grace and peace continue to multiply in Sovereign Grace churches.

Brent Detwiler posted a response on his blog.  He also emailed the response to us, so that we could share it with everyone here:

Group Reconciliation Assistance Made Easy! (Facetiously Speaking)
Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 12:15PM

Yesterday, Dave Harvey posted “Group Reconciliation Assistance and how you can be involved” on the SGM blog.  Under the heading, “How to get involved,” he says, “If you or your spouse are or have been a leader or member in a Sovereign Grace church, you’re invited to participate.”

That’s sounds great!  So let’s get going.  If you have grievance or offenses with Sovereign Grace Ministries here’s what you need to do.  It’s easy.

Act immediately!  You don’t get any “coaching and encouragement” and you don’t have a chance to be interviewed by Ambassadors of Reconciliation unless you attend the “Getting to the Heart of Conflict” seminar on November 8.  You need to register by October 14.  That’s less than two weeks.

So clear your schedule.  Hurry up and get to work because you can’t wait to make other arrangements until you hear back from AOR.  They may not contact you until the night before the Conference begins.  You must proceed in faith not by sight.  The Pastors Conference is only five weeks away.

Tomorrow tell your boss you need a week off from work assuming you have vacation time to spare and don’t much care how you use it.  Or maybe you can plan to be sick the week of the conference.

Then make arrangements for child care.  That’s always simple.  Fly Grandma and Grandpa in from Alaska.

Then if you live west of the Mississippi get plane tickets this week if you hope for a discount which normally must be purchased a month in advance.  Oops, I forgot to mention.  Mid-week travel to D.C. is a killer in terms of cost because of pricey business rates.

So if you and your offended wife come to the Pastors Conference, don’t be offended at how much all of this will cost you.  You still need a rental car and motel.  And don’t forget meals.  All extremely inexpensive in the D.C. area!  So just go into debt and cancel your family vacation for next year.  You can crimp on Christmas too.  Just tell the kids they are giving up their presents so you can share your grievance and offenses with AOR.  Well, maybe.  That is, if you’re selected.

That means you need to start praying and fasting you are selected by AOR for an interview.  But keep in mind, Sovereignty and Suffering.  You might just get a phone call saying you won’t be interviewed at the Pastors Conference.  No big deal.  All things work together for good.  Cancel all your arrangements and thank the Lord you were left out.

Lastly, I’m sure hundreds of disenfranchised leaders and members who left SGM can’t wait to attend a Sovereign Grace Conference and hang out with people they were cut off by or left because it was too painful to stay.

And what are the long terms effects of your labors?  Who knows.  If you’re granted an interview at the conference that doesn’t mean you will be granted mediation assistance after the conference.  Plan more time off, money spent, travel needed, and difficult meetings to attend.  Then hope for some success.

Finally, everything you and others share with AOR about your negative experience in SGM will be strictly confidential.  Only the SGM Board will get an oral and written report from AOR.  So in the end, if any former leaders or members show up at the Pastors Conference to give input, it could be covered over with no public accounting or personal consequences for anyone. Now for a serious thought.  If Sovereign Grace Ministries really wants input then they must come up with a far better strategy than this one.  When few people show up at the Pastors Conference to provide feedback, they can only blame themselves.  And God forbid the SGM Board blames former leaders and members for not taking advantage of “reconciliation assistance” while claiming they made every effort to pursue reconciliation by devising this strategy.

Finally, for the second Sunday in a row during his “quiet season of reflection,” C.J. Mahaney preached, this time at the SGM church in Knoxville, TN.  You can listen to C.J.’s teaching at this link.

© 2011, Kris. All rights reserved.