Redeemer Church of Charlottesville has officially left Sovereign Grace Ministries. Below is a note sent out to all pastors in SGM yesterday. My comments follow the end of the entire note from SGM.
A Joint Statement: Redeemer Church of Charlottesville and Sovereign Grace Ministries
We want to let you know that Redeemer Church of Charlottesville has decided to end their association with Sovereign Grace Ministries. Though saddened by this news, we are supportive of their decision. We are very grateful for the humble and careful way they have worked through this and the peaceable and respectful way we have been able to discuss our differences. But mostly, we are grateful for the long relationship we have had with Keith Breault. He continues to be a man whom we love and respect. We wish him, his leadership team, and Redeemer Church great blessings and success in the future. Though separating in formal association, we are not separated in mutual affection, mutual respect, and mutual passion to see God glorified through gospel-centered local churches.
Below is a letter from Keith explaining this separation from their perspective.
I’m writing on behalf of Redeemer Church of Charlottesville to inform you that on July 9th we separated from SGM.
As you can imagine, this decision was difficult for every member of our leadership team and for many in our church — who have a long history with SGM. We have enjoyed a rich partnership with SGM and thank God for the ways in which we have been trained, strengthened and fed through this wonderful group of believers. The relationships we’ve forged within SGM over the years are some of the dearest we possess, and we hope changing our affiliation won’t alter the deep fellowship God has wrought and nurtured.
Over the past year, we have been watching events unfold while simultaneously planting this new church in Charlottesville. Naturally, we have been evaluating SGM’s leadership in light of how it corresponds with our own priorities and values. “Consistent divergence” describes the dynamic between SGM’s leadership and our own instincts and convictions. We love the people of SGM and we love the leaders of SGM, but differences in some key areas make peaceful departure our best option.
This decision and its rationale were expressed in detail to SGM by letter on July 9, with our commitment to uphold respect and goodwill. In phone calls the following day with C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, and Mickey Connolly — and a conference call Thursday between Mickey and our leadership team — we exchanged expressions of mutual encouragement and respect for our varied perspectives. We also exchanged commitments to conduct this transition peaceably, with the Gospel in mind, wishing each other maximum joy and fruitfulness as we all continue to follow Jesus.
Thank you for your friendship and support throughout our years of SGM partnership. We invite your prayers as we continue spreading the Gospel in Charlottesville.
With our brotherly love, in Christ
To put some context behind this decision, bear in mind that Redeemer Church Charlottesville (RCC) is a relatively new church plant. It’s headed up by Keith Bereault – formerly with the Chesapeake Church. You can read more about him here.
Also without commenting on the merits of staying versus going, I think it’s fair to say that it’s always hard to be the first in any difficult decision. So for RCC to step out in this direction is courageous. I commend them for following their convictions and making an emotionally difficult decision
I also commend RCC for taking the high road in the letter of separation. I know some have said that Keith’s letter should have explicitly called out CJ and other leaders in SGM. I think while it may have made some of us feel better, I don’t think it’s the right approach. The time to make any significant points is before you leave – when you’re in the mode of seeking change/reform – not when you’re making a separation statement. Call out the lack of communication, the messed up polity, the hubris before you leave, not as you’re leaving. Once you decide to leave, you ought to find a way to do so as peaceably as possible. This doesn’t mean backing down from your convictions – it just means not slinging bombs while heading for the exit.
I think the discerning reader can detect some of RCC’s frustration and disappointment in the way SGM has handled the entire, sad episode. Note the following –
“…we have been watching events unfold…. we have been evaluating SGM’s leadership in light of how it corresponds with our own priorities and values….”Consistent divergence” describes the dynamic between SGM’s leadership and our own instincts and convictions.”
I’ve maintained that the change we need at SGM has two components – polity and cultural. I will perhaps expand on that some more in a future post but suffice to say – we can get polity right but if you don’t trust the leadership culture (and the leaders), you’re not going to follow… much less invest your life into SGM.
Interestingly, in some respects, I’d argue that it’s easier to make the break as a young, small church rather than a church with lots of history in SGM. The larger the church the harder it’ll be. Moving an “oceanliner” with historical SGM ties like CLC or SGC Fairfax isn’t quite as easy and should be done carefully. Long standing churches in SGM have members who feel defrauded and disappointed inter-mingled with those who feel loyalty and sentimental over the SGM association. I wonder how this decision might affect the posture of my friends at CLC, SGC Fairfax and many of the churches in FL. I know they’ve been committed to reforming SGM – will this RCC decision give them pause? I don’t think there’s any clear cut answer regarding the “right path” which only emphasizes the need for us to pray for the pastors of the many churches that are seeking reform.