SGM Board Responds to the Response Letter

Over a week ago, SGC Fairfax wrote a letter, which was affirmed by 16 other churches urging the SGM Board to slow down the process of a new board appointment, collaborate with local churches to construct a new polity and to address some of the current challenges we face as a “family of churches”.    In my judgment, the letter was wise, gracious and gospel-motivated.   In the past week, SGM Board has replied to churches with the following email below.   In it they explain why they did what they did but substantially did NOT address some of the concerns of the Fairfax letter which apparently are evident to all objective readers except them.

Like what, you say?   Well, like the fact that the new proposed Board does not include representation from 2 of the largest churches in SGM, namely CLC, SGC Fairfax.  Neither does it represent the spectrum of views within SGM, including those of international churches.  Interestingly, it appears that all qualified nominees share the “business as usual” view of SGM’s future.  Rhetorical question: could it be that CLC, SGC Fairfax and other churches were excluded by virtue of their humble desire to see reform?    My friends, if true, this is what is called stacking the deck – a game appropriately played by card sharks but not by gospel motivated church leaders.  SGM Board, I mean no ill-will by my comment – just please convince us otherwise by including a broader set of views and in particular, by including one or more of CLC, SGC Fairfax, Grace Church San Diego and other churches who have been calling for reform.

Who cares, you ask?   Well, a lot of us do.  We may be “just members” but we’re stakeholders with a voice – we’ve given money, time, energy to this grand “family of churches” enterprise.   We just want to know that the leaders appointed to the board represent the spectrum of views within our churches, are qualified by virtue of ability (not just character) and are above reproach (btw, this is more than just keeping free of adultery and embezzlement).

What else?  How about the seemingly unwise decision in appointing the board before the AoR report is released.  What’s the hurry if not to preempt what the AoR report might reveal?  Their explanation that they wanted a new board in place before the release of the AoR report is ludicrous for its logic.

Why does this matter?  Well, what if part of the AoR report sheds light on some of the practices of SGM that are actually practiced by some of the board members?   Wouldn’t that influence the election of these members?   What’s the hurry – why not exercise wisdom through restraint.   Furthermore, there are serious questions about at least a couple of the members of the proposed board who are also members of the interim board.    In my mind, nothing is more disappointing than to have these two “old school” board members continue as board members in the new board.

Friends – you need to find out where your pastors stand, where they are leading your church and be prepared to engage them in conversation.   In particular, ask them how much your church is giving.  In view of this non-response and self-perpetuation of seeming incompetency by SGM Board, should that giving continue?  

With that said – here’s the reply from SGM Board.  “Happy” reading!

_______________________________________

Dear Brothers

Thanks so much for getting back to us regarding the proposed board nominees. We appreciate you taking the time to let us know your thoughts. We realize that for some, the time frame we gave for responding may have seemed short given the seeming importance of this, and for others the process we have undertaken in establishing a new board has raised some questions.

We wanted to give some explanations as to why we’ve done it this way in the hope it may bring some clarity.

Is this a new polity?  Our goal in this process is not to create a new polity.  If fact, it’s just the opposite.  We are seeking to avoid creating new polity at this point and instead are transitioning to a board that will work in partnership with our pastors to move the polity process forward.  We believe the appropriate way to accomplish this transition is to honor our current polity while at the same time strengthening accountability for it.

The board has always had the obligation to appoint board members, the freedom to expand the board, and the responsibility to appoint the leadership team.  The interim board is acting under the authority of this current polity.  However, we are advocating a board that will increase the involvement of SGM elders in our governance, broaden our leadership base, increase the accountability of the board to our churches (by subjecting them to an affirmation process for appointment and reappointment), and increase the accountability of the leadership to the board (by separating the two bodies and ensuring most board members are not SGM staff). These modifications don’t reflect a change in polity, but they do inject a level of accountability into our structures that we believe is necessary and helpful, and that is consistent with our communications with pastors and our general polity direction.

We understand that some pastors are advocating more sweeping polity changes, but to lead in such a process is beyond the interim board’s mandate.  We agree with pastors who desire clarity on our polity, but we don’t agree that we will arrive at that clarity without a new board in place that has been explicitly affirmed by our pastors to take responsibility for that process. The board of the next few years will carry an enormous responsibility for our movement and it seems wise that they be installed for that task intentionally, not just as an accidental byproduct of what happened in July.

Why the rush?  We understand this process felt rushed to some.  We could have communicated better about this board, and we apologize for not doing so.  The interim board turned its attention to focusing on seating a new board after we completed the priority assignment of evaluating the charges against C.J.  After determining a process for establishing a new board, we were left with a small window of time before the release of the AoR report. It was important to get a new board in place in order to respond promptly to that report—we know you men are eager to get to work on the changes that lie ahead of us and we didn’t want to delay that process unnecessarily. Regardless of what board is in place when we receive it, decisions concerning the AoR report will fall to the new board. The need to have a board in place to respond to the report placed some limits on the response time afforded our elders to register their affirmations or concerns for the proposed board members. However, since the only changes to the board configuration involved those that increase SGM elder-involvement and accountability, we felt the board could be formed within the necessary time-frame. We could have explained this much better at the outset of this process, and apologize for the confusion created by our failure to do so.

How were the nominees chosen?  We are grateful for the many encouragements passed on about the men nominated to the new board.  Some had questions about how this slate came about that we thought it would be helpful to address.  We listed the most important criteria in the letter we sent, and we believe each man solidly meets these standards.  We also sought a theological diversity—within the bounds of our doctrinal unity, the men represent a range of views on issues such as polity, pneumatology, and mission. We sought men who would bring a depth of pastoral experience, combining the strength of long pastoral experience with some younger men who brought fresh perspectives.  We also wanted a diversity of experience: senior pastors, church planters, urban and suburban pastors, etc.  Finally, we sought men committed to and experienced in our mission. SGM is fundamentally given to gospel expansion through church planting and care. So we sought to establish a new board comprising men with vision, wisdom, and experience in gospel mission as well.

There are a number of questions outstanding that will need to be addressed as soon as practically possible.  For this reason, we have wanted to get a new board in place that can do all that is necessary to serve SGM in working through these issues. Although we are not able to constrain the new board, we will be recommending—and it is the intention of present board members who are nominated for the new board—that they find ways to gather the thoughts and considerations of the pastors of SGM in ways that effectively allow for dialogue and interaction over these vital subjects.  We feel the new slate of nominees has the desire, gifts, and abilities to serve all of us as we move forward together.

Thank you again for your patience, feedback, and support.  We are eager to move ahead together in the mission of the gospel.

The SGM Board

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5 thoughts on “SGM Board Responds to the Response Letter

  1. I think this is just another example of how pride and arrogance are the hallmark of SGM at this point. For ANYONE to move ahead with any plan when there is so much concern and expressed opposition is clearly motivated by sin. Whether or not you believe in the way SGM is structured via the Articles of Incorporation and its constitution, anyone with any semblance of humility would hit the “pause” button if so many of those you yourself put into leadership had questions and concerns about what you were doing. This only further brings validity to Brent’s years of attempted confrontation and hundreds of pages of supporting documentation. The fact that we are completely powerless to force SGM to be accountable is even more deeply concerning. This is a cult no matter how you slice it as it stands now. When the few believe they are superior over the many and that they hear more clearly from God than does anyone else, you have a cult! Every cult in our society began with someone or a few someones thinking they heard from a god more clearly than anyone else, right?! Before you know it we will have a “Watchtower” type publication to help us understand how to interpret scripture and justify the church’s direction! I agree with Brent in that it’s time to play “Hardball” in order to save what was once a truly gospel centered organization. Ok, so it went astray. I don’t believe that’s as offensive to God as the arrogance being displayed as the current SGM leadership literally plows ahead regardless! Or as offensive as the arrogance displayed in determining the “review” process of the charges brought against it’s leader. I have resisted being outspoken about this publicly but at this point, I can resist no longer. I would urge others to not be “dumb sheep” and do the same. Enough is enough! Maybe our church leaders have to take “politically correct” steps and word things carefully, but I don’t. I care far more about the gospel in our body of churches than my reputation.

    • Tom – well, there’s a lot about their response I don’t like but I’m not sure that it makes SGM a cult. I think SGM is confessionally sound (which is why they are so popular in Reformed circles) and they have a desire to practice biblical Christianity. I personally do not see the cult part.

      However, I do agree that there is a lack of humble collaboration in the way they deal with churches in their movement which is very disappointing to me. They also marginalize those who disagree which to some degree is even more troubling. Let’s face it – whatever we thought SGM was, it wasn’t. Now we need to get used to the “new normal” and work from there – that’s what calling for reform from within the movement is all about.

  2. I will concede that my use of the term “cult” may be unwarranted. None the less, I think the issues with control, deception and applying scripture out of context fall dangerously close to that and as the gatekeeper to my home I must consider this when choosing where to take my family for their spiritual lifeblood. The current board is completely ignoring the concerns of appointed leaders, not to mention a large part of the congregation, and that seems to point to a profound sense of superiority by a few in ruling over the many. “Ruling over” . . . Hmmm. . . .now that may be an appropriate phrase here. Regardless of the reasoning they use, if anyone under their care were to do the same thing they would quickly be removed from making any such decisions again.

    Even today they introduce the new board as “…affirmed through a feedback process open to all ordained pastors of Sovereign Grace churches.” This is such a loose statement. It doesn’t say what percentage of SGM pastors actually affirmed anything. It only talks about the “feedback process” that these potential board members were affirmed through and that this “process” was open to all pastors. I do not know how many pastors actually “affirmed” this but we are all aware of the 13+ churches and their pastoral staff that questioned the timing of this entire process. Did they suddenly after sending the letter 2 weeks ago change their minds and uniformly affirm these men, or did SGM move forward despite this and in fact there really wasn’t REAL affirmation as they lead us to believe? Whenever I want to make a decision that essentially feeds my selfish desires, I can easily make it appear that I’m seeking a multitude of counsel yet find a few that agree with me so I can take the route I wanted to in the first place. There’s nothing humble or biblical about that. If a few of my true friends that know me the best say they seriously question my thinking I believe it would honor the Lord for me to rethink things and assess my own heart. It doesn’t appear that that is what happened here at all!

    Here’s my real problem with all of this. Why am I having to question any of this?? Honestly if it wasn’t for the way our individual church is being led and the dear friends I have I would be among the many who have left. It is one thing to understand that even pastors and leaders are sinners in need of the one true Savior. But repentance is necessary to continue to have confidence in said leaders and I haven’t heard any real repentance as of yet from the SGM leadership. It looks to me like more force feeding of the same Kool-aid we’ve taken in for years, just a different flavor. Why would I want to take my family, and subject myself, to something as important as the church family we are a part of when I question the integrity of it’s leaders? You know what really hit me this past July? I was brought to my knees thinking I had been a part of a cult and subjected my family to it the last 12 years and it was gut wrenching! I’ve spent a lot of time studying cults and to think I fell into one shook me to my core. To now see the trail of destruction, which I only found out about on the blogs we were instructed to stay away from, that has been hidden for the sake of making things look perfect from the outside is scary, to say the least.

    So let’s review. Hidden truths, control of information, no accountability, deception, misapplied scripture, ignoring rebuke/concerns, leader worship, etc. Sounds more like a cult than a biblical church organization to me no matter the appearance of biblical truths. Pretty much every popular cult in existence has some semblance of biblical truth. Where exactly is the line when you cross over from an unhealthy gospel church organization to a cult? And for that matter, why hasn’t every other “de-gifted” pastor been afforded the same process that CJ was? I would be amazed to find many that had the level of charges brought against them as he did. In fact a lot I know about lost their leader imposed gifting because of choices of their kids, not even their own sin!

    As I close please keep in mind the Pharisees. They attempted to keep God’s laws perfectly and expected others to submit to their authority and (self) righteousness didn’t they? Yet who was rebuked by Jesus more emphatically and frequently in the new testament? Even prostitutes and tax collectors, murderers and thugs weren’t. All this is my opinion from “the cheap seats” as it were. I am not trained in theology nor even have any degree of any kind. I am always open to correction and rebuke as long as you bring God’s word (appropriately applied) and proof. May God redeem his people for His glory and our sake!~

    • I definitely agree that as spiritual leader and gatekeeper of your home, you have to decide what is right for your family. There is much about how the SGM Board operates that doesn’t reflect humble,servant leadership but that’s where we find ourselves. At the end, each of us has to decide to leave or to stay and seek reform. I’ve chosen the latter.

      • I hope I have too. I also hope others will as well. This is why I’ve chosen to use my name, and not a cybername. Maybe I need correction, or maybe someone will hear and follow suite and God will use our feeble attempts to institute real reform for the sake of His gospel and glory! Thanks for your patience as I rant on your blog.

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