The new SGM Board – appointed hastily and without affirmed support by some of the key local church leaders within SGM – has rolled out an update on their priorities for the upcoming year. The following are major portions of their update with my comments interspersed in italics. I confess that I found the update disappointing. My comments are strongly worded – hopefully not uncharitably – but at this critical moment, I think it is important to speak honestly.
Excerpt: First, we decided to create a polity committee to consist of two members of the Board, two members of the Leadership Team (including C.J. Mahaney, who will chair the committee), and at least three Sovereign Grace pastors not on the Board. This committee will pick up the work that has already been done on polity and develop it to give better definition to the ministry, to how SGM as a ministry relates to pastors and their churches, and to policies and procedures for making decisions and selecting leaders. We are tasking this committee to solicit a broad range of views within SGM regarding how we are governed and how we define our connections between churches and the ministry. Once the committee’s work is done, they will submit it to the Board for review, amendment, and approval. The resulting governance and our partnership agreements will then be presented to Sovereign Grace pastors for their review.
sgmNation: SGM Board – We were told that the interim Board’s role was to adjudicate and to restore CJ as President – a move thought to be temporary. Why are you not actively seeking a replacement for CJ? Please tell us what happened rather than have us wonder.
Frankly, this is clear and undeniable evidence that this new Board does not “get it”. It had a chance to do something honest, bold and courageous but missed the opportunity. Appointing CJ Mahaney to chair the polity committee is like setting sail with the captain of the Titanic at the helm. It is precisely his inability to put polity in place sometime in the past 30 years that has led to this debacle. Unfortunately, when he tried to clarify this in the past few years, he was unskilled in leading the churches through a collaborative process. I’m not trying to be unkind but the results speak for themselves. To be clear – this is not about his qualifications as a pastor but rather his abilities as a corporate leader. Honestly, there is little evidence that CJ is qualified for this task and it is his top down, declarative style leadership that has frustrated many of the member churches. Sadly, this Board has responded to the humble appeal from almost 20 churches for a open process with a move that speaks to SGM’s autonomy – their right to do as they please – rather than the spirit of partnership, emerging from the local churches. This organization’s inability to move beyond the personality of CJ Mahaney is both sad commentary and painful indictment. Fellow members – this approach is more of the “old school” thinking that has so pervaded SGM – “we know better, we will figure it out and then we’ll tell you what we came up with”.
Excerpt: Second, we expect to receive the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report in the coming two weeks. We plan to begin discussing the report on a retreat in Louisville April 9 & 10 and then to make plans for responding.
sgmNation: SGM Board – better than huddling up, discussing and responding is first fulfilling the expectation of churches and church members by releasing the FULL report, without editorial. Fellow members – I have no idea what SGM is planning to do but I would suggest that we MUST hold them accountable to releasing the report publicly. If they choose not to do so or to edit the undesirable parts in the style of Thomas Jefferson, then there is no hope for reform.
Excerpt: This Board will operate differently from the interim Board. We will not involve ourselves in day-to-day ministry decisions and communication. Our priorities are appointment and evaluation of the Leadership Team, broad evaluation and strategy for the ministry, advising the Leadership Team on key concerns, and providing accountability to the Leadership Team regarding doctrine, finances, and governance. Our primary interactions, therefore, will be with Leadership Team members and others who can inform us about the ministry and counsel us regarding decisions.
sgmNation: Actually as a body, you appear to operate very similar to the interim Board. Here’s why – first, it seems from the outside that it”s still all about CJ. Second, you continue to have a “closed approach” – no church council, no open dialogue. I wonder if you’ll also resemble the interim Board in this third regard – marginalizing those who disagree. We truly hope not but we’ll stay tuned.
Excerpt: This new Board is aware of the significant responsibilities we carry for the future of SGM. Please pray for us and more importantly, please pray for this family of local churches and your own local church so that we can—individually and connected together—plant and build local churches that proclaim the gospel and bring praise to our Lord.
sgmNation: Amen. Fellow members – do pray indeed. Pray for this new Board. Also pray for local church pastors to discern how to navigate these times with courageous faith for better things than what has been served.
You may want to ask yourself: Is my church still financially giving to SGM ? Is it wise stewardship to continue feeding an organization that is so incapable of moving beyond the “cult of CJ ” and insist on doing things their way with no regard for the member churches? If the answer is yes, then so by all means, do continue to write those checks. If you decide no, then please urge your pastors to take appropriate action.