More to Say?

February 21, 2018 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Well, Guy gave me an ultimatum this morning. Either I put up a new post, or he’s shutting down the site. He’s tired of paying the hosting and domain fees.

I can’t say I blame him. Things have been pretty dead around here. NOT because Sovereign Grace Ministries’ leadership ever fully acknowledged and took responsibility for their institutional dysfunction. To the best of my knowledge, that’s never happened on any organization-wide official scale. Yes, Covenant Life Church and several other SGM congregations around the country parted ways with Sovereign Grace Ministries. Some leaders, including Joshua Harris, did speak out and take some responsibility for SGM’s issues. C.J. Mahaney did step down as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

But after some cursory soul-searching back in 2012-13 or so, C.J. Mahaney and crew dispatched themselves to start a very well-funded InstaChurch in Louisville, Kentucky. New leadership was named at SGM Corporate, which also relocated to Louisville from Gaithersburg, Maryland. In late 2014, Sovereign Grace Ministries quietly rebranded itself yet again for its fourth moniker (Gathering of Believers became People of Destiny International became PDI Ministries, became Sovereign Grace Ministries), becoming Sovereign Grace Churches. Recently, Sovereign Grace Churches even doubled down on their denials of wrongdoing, apparently hoping people will believe that the dismissal of the sex abuse scandal on a technicality (the statute of limitations had run out) means the justice system officially determined that there never was any merit to ANY of the complaints made within that lawsuit.

So no, it’s not that there’s nothing left to talk about here when it comes to Sovereign Grace Churches. There is. I just haven’t had the self-discipline or motivation to crank out posts. I’ve never seen myself as some sort of crusader. I don’t actually have an ax to grind with Sovereign Grace Churches specifically. And certainly, being a more generic “watch-blogger” has never held any appeal for me. Who wants to spend their days self-importantly clucking over every perceived problem in conservative Evangelicalism?

I’m also not comfortable being an unthinking “victims’ advocate.” I’ve just never been the kind of person who can unquestioningly believe every random accusation no matter how ludicrous, even if said allegation is included in a lawsuit filing. More importantly, I’m not particularly interested in hosting a website where people feel free to spew negativity about what is literally our only comfort in life and death. For believers, there’s a vital God-mandated “baby” (the local church) in the filthy “bathwater” of Sovereign Grace Churches’ bad behavior, and recognizing problems with a particular way of doing church is definitely no excuse for ditching church altogether.

But I’m not ready quite yet to let go of this specific space, of what happened here, either. I remain convinced that a lot of the stuff here needs to remain available, particularly things like transcripts of key sermons that formed the foundation for many of SGM’s unofficial yet organization-wide cultural practices. If you read here long enough, with an even slightly open mind, I think you’ll come away with a sense of the scope and breadth of SGM’s/SGC’s issues and why the purported changes of the past few years may not be enough to address things. I mean, given their very recent denials, Sovereign Grace Churches’ leaders apparently STILL struggle mightily to own their obvious historical problems.

I’m also curious to get some sense of where Sovereign Grace Churches are today. I haven’t interacted much over the past couple of years with people currently involved in Sovereign Grace Churches, so I’m wondering about whether things have changed much, and if so, how? For instance, how has C.J. Mahaney’s departure as leader affected the organization these past 5 or so years? How is Sovereign Grace Churches’ polity different? What policies does SGC have in place to prevent the kinds of abuses that occurred prior to when the internet lifted the veil of secrecy? Has anyone ever officially acknowledged the truths of Brent Detwiler’s documents? What has been done to either refute his charges or reconcile with him?

Are changes–and more importantly, the reasons for the changes, the problems that arose and prompted the changes–discussed and explained? Or has change just been implemented with little information?

What do Sovereign Grace Churches stand for these days? How do they characterized themselves? Are they still touting themselves to be “Reformed and Charismatic”? Do they still have the prophecy microphone? Do they still believe the role of apostle exists in some form today? What do they teach about pastoral authority now? What sort of accountability is in place for pastors? Are pastors accountable to their congregations in some sort of formal way, or are they still basically only accountable to other pastors? Does SGC still plant churches? Is C.J. Mahaney’s Louisville plant self-supporting now? Are pastoral salaries disclosed to the congregation? Are church members still primarily seeking counseling from their Sovereign Grace Churches pastors? Are psychiatric drugs still subtly (and not-so-subtly) discouraged? Are members still encouraged to confront one another about perceived sins? Do small groups (called “care groups” at Covenant Life Church) still exist in the same format? Are people free to join any care/small group of their choice, or are they assigned (and then randomly reassigned) to small groups?

How do individual Sovereign Grace Churches feel about the recent statements about sexual abuse from Corporate? Is this the widespread party line, that because the 2012 lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality, Sovereign Grace Ministries was somehow vindicated and found “not guilty” of any of the allegations contained in the lawsuit? Do present-day Sovereign Grace Churches acknowledge the old unspoken social systems that gave rise to so many situations where pastors protected abusers and did not report abuse to law enforcement?

Do people feel free to ask questions of their leaders now? How do leaders respond when questioned? Are the “gossip ‘n’ slander” charges still thrown about as willy-nilly as they used to be?

Most importantly, will there ever be official corporate-wide acknowledgement of Sovereign Grace Ministries’ historical missteps and dysfunction?

What do you think?

© 2018, Kris. All rights reserved.