What’s Wrong with the SGM Polity Paper?

No one will ever mistake the sgmNation blog as being the leader in late breaking SGM news. Weeks after the SGM polity document was released, I have finally read through it with sufficient attention to detail so as to provide conclusive feedback.

It is a paper with many flaws, yet difficult to parse and point out because of its length and structure.  Rather than parse out sections in order to add commentary or draw attention to numerous overstatements/inconsistencies contained therein, I want to state three primary reasons why this proposed polity should not be accepted by any biblically minded local SGM church.

First, let us be clear that this paper outlines the kind of connectional association that impinges on the authority and autonomy of the local church.  Through the proposed structure, it seeks to establish an extra local body that extends its ecclesiastical jurisdiction into the life of the local church.    There is simply no biblical warrant for an ecclesiastical body outside of the local church to exert authority over the local church.  None.

One of the main supporting points for this position rests on Acts 15.  It is claimed in the paper that it evidences “governmental inter-dependency between local churches”.   Please pick up your Bibles for this one.  When you do, you will see the church at Antioch seeking clarity on a doctrinal matter – a convening of elders and apostles to discuss an important doctrinal point together.  What you will not see is any authoritative oversight by the Jerusalem church,  It does not appear that Paul, Barnabas or the Antioch church sensed any obligation to submit to the Jerusalem church,  Rather it demonstrated inter-church collaboration – the kind that could be had in SGM if the right attitude and polity prevailed.  Most importantly, the Jerusalem church did not function as an ecclesiastical body over and above any of the affairs of the Antioch church.  It would take significant imagination and poor handling of scripture to reach that conclusion.  Let me re-assert this point – there is no NT warrant to establish an extra local authority over the local church.

Second notable problem in the paper is the omission of any role of the congregation in the governing affairs of the church.   If your pastor is an SGM company man, he may try to convince you that this form of church government is presbyterian in nature.   I am no expert in presbyterianism but let me say this – every presbyterian denomination I know (and there are actually quite a few) allows for congregational affirmation of elders by vote.   Here is what SGM has done – having made a mess of polity over the past 30 years by creating their own blended version – they are now seeking to create their own brand of presbyterian polity by taking out parts that they don’t prefer – like the fundamental principle within the presbyterian representative model that the congregant has the right to vote to affirm their leaders.   It takes ignorance to make that polity mistake once, it takes arrogance to repeat it again.

Third issue with the paper?  Simply put –“why so convoluted?”   Do you notice how many levels of indirection are at play in getting to vote on the leadership team?   Let’s see – local ordained elders get to select Regional Leaders ….who in turn to affirm by vote the Governing Board…. but only after the Board candidates have been first nominated by the Nominating Committee, which the elders don’t have a say in selecting… the Governing Board will then select the Leadership team…blah, blah, blah”    There are a hundred different ways to make it simpler and more effective – so when you see a team work so hard to make it confusing, it does lead you to ask “why?”  Here’s my very subjective answer based on my observation.  I think in great part, SGM power brokers are struggling with balancing two opposing forces that create a tension.  The first is the need to stop the bleeding – of churches losing confidence in their leadership and possibly splintering off.   The second is the desire to hold onto relevance and power.   You see, opening up the election of elders to general membership or allowing pastors to vote in a Board and Leadership team directly may risk current players losing power or influence. The levels of indirection help diffuse the power of the “popular vote” which allows for more maneuvering and posturing.   I may be wrong but I cannot help thinking that this is part of their internal struggle, especially in view of how closed they have been and how hard they have worked to preserve CJ’s position as President.

Now that Ive covered the three issues that are most problematic, I will note other problems with the paper.  Without going into detail on each, let me list them quickly

– Continued harping on the necessity of “gifted men” overseeing and guiding churches.  In taking that position, the SGM paper make reference to 1st century apostles fulfilling that role, drawing from it parallels to justify the need for “gifted men”.  Yet, apart from a brief mention, this paper fails to fully recognize the unique qualification and role of the NT apostles – there are no modern day parallel.  If apostle Paul were to critique this position, he might say – ” I know apostles…some apostles are even friends of mine… you, SGM have no apostles…no matter what you call them”.

Lack of acceptance of bi-vocational elders – even going so far as asserting that the NT “standard” is for paid elders.  Really, a standard?   Did anyone tell Paul that he was violating the “standard”?   Never mind, he was an apostle – I guess elders got paid but apostles got jibbed!   Friends, the NT didn’t establish a standard that elders are paid – it merely established that it was acceptable to pay elders.

The sympathetic pleas for unity, that are ill founded and self serving.   Don’t be duped – almost every NT admonition for unity pertains to unity within the local body, not for a unity that extends beyond the local congregation.   This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to be united with other believers in other churches but that there is no biblical obligation to maintain a binding unity in a modern day association other than the fact that we serve the same Savior and should exhibit this by loving each other.   If that were not so, SGM itself would be in violation of the spirit of unity because they are disunited from Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, etc…

Finally, the stringent language tied to separating from SGM is disturbing.  It bears testimony to some of the heavy handed ways that underly how SGM operates.  I won’t belabor that point.

I’ll finish my comments with this –  if I were pastor of a local SGM church (which I am not), I could not, in good conscience, lead my church toward affirming this polity document.   It would certainly be pastorally irresponsible to sign onto this document without first gaining formal affirmation (read: vote) from the congregation.   This document binds the church in many ways that are significantly stricter from a contractual basis and no church should be signing this lightly.   As a member, I would not support a pastoral team that would unilaterally adopt this polity without seeking congregational approval.   It would be either ignorance or arrogance and both are not acceptable at this point.

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96 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with the SGM Polity Paper?

  1. Nice, succinct analysis. I agree with you, if I were a Pastor I would not recommend my church affirm this document. Unfortunately many SGM Pastors are hamstrung. If they don’t endorse the polity document they will probably find themselves out of a job. It would be a tough decision for a pastor to have to make.

  2. I think the primary problem an be boiled down to the difference between the SGM polity statement and the CLC one: Jesus ruled vs. elder ruled. There are tons of things to pick apart (and why was it so poorly written?) but when you get down to the problem, the elevation of elders is the primary problem.

    I would also add, the extra-biblical criteria for bringing a charge against a leader is cause enough for every member in SGM to be concerned enough not to sign a membership agreement, and churches who stay should create a new membership agreements as this polity document more clearly defines the lack of rights of individual members (the ruling class will flog me for suggesting members have rights.)

    Sadly, I have heard one pastor explain to his church that nothing will really change for them locally, that SGM has no control over them. I can’t help but wonder if he actually read the document. On one hand, nothing does change that dramatically, it’s just that now SGM’s role in authoritarian abuse has been formalized and added committees. The irony is that CJ, himself, came to the church where the pastors spoke these things about 11 and half years ago and proudly proclaimed that he was ultimately responsible for the decision for the then senior pastor to leave and for the selection of the new pastor.

    • I don’t understand how pastors can read that and assert that “nothing will change” – in fact, nothing changes on a daily basis until something goes bad. Any pastor that fails to read this thoughtfully, yet leads his local congregation to affirm it, is completely negligent of his duties. No member of the church should find that acceptable.

      • I agree. that is why I left last spring – I knew we were headed in this direction. It makes me sad to see long-time friends still stuck there, though.

        I did have to laugh at the part of the polity that threatens to censure a church leaving for insufficient grounds. If they are leaving – who cares? What can SGM do to them?

      • Actually I do not consider the censuring to be a small issue – the clause is meant to intimidate and control by guilt and shame. Nothing speaks louder about the sgm culture than that little clause – exhibit A as to why no sensible church should sign this without gaining congregational approval

      • I see your point. I guess I am so far past caring what they think I assume people leaving SGM are, too, but I can see where that might not be the case, especially if the church wants to still hang with the Gospel coalition crowd. Truthfully, I am done with that crowd, too. Too many of them defended CJ without ever taking the time to learn the facts. These guys all make too much money from paling around with one another.

        You are right, though, it is all about intimidation and control and it is their MO. It all goes back to the lording over of authority. But, then again, it goes back to elder ruled vs. Jesus ruled.

  3. As a former SGMer, now happily in a PCA church, I concur with your observation about the lack of congregational involvement. My church is in the midst of a pastoral search (for the top spot, btw), and the search committee has an equal number of men and women from the congregation in addition to two ruling elders, as they’re known in PCA circles. It’s a great mercy to be part of a congregation where men and women are doing the work of the ministry together under the non-oppressive leadership of congregationally approved elders and pastoral staff.

    It’s funny how the guys in SGM so frequently feel the need to assert their role as leaders. I’ve never experienced anything like that outside SGM. So sad, and so unlike Jesus Christ.

  4. I’ve come to believe (I hope I’m wrong) that there won’t be many churches who leave SGM. The leaders are so entrenched (deceived) into the ways of SGM that it really doesn’t matter what the polity is. I spoke with a church member in an SGM church that I am not a part of and he declared already that their church is staying in SGM. I asked who made the decision, he said “the leadership”. I asked if they discussed the polity statement with the congregation, he said “no”.

    Yes, SGM is very leader/pastor centric. That’s why church discipline is so important in SGM churches. What other denomination talks about and has so much documentation on church discipline for members??

    • MAK – I actually suspect you’re right … It’s also because until there’s something to leave to, smaller churches won’t leave and CLC, Fairfax and others are taking the high road of not canvassing others to join them in a new association. There’s also a dimension of wanting to be w a “big name” entity like SGM rather than to start afresh

      • Yes, I suppose there is “security” in staying rather than being on your own as a smaller church. Most churches were SGM church plants and know nothing else. Maybe some small churches that were “adopted” may leave.

        But doesn’t this tell us something of these churches? Aren’t these churches weak and dependent? What if SGM would go away, would most of the churches fold? What is really scary to me is the lack and mostly unwillingness to think for themselves. To not see hypocrisy. To condemn asking questions. If these weak and dependent churches produce weak and dependent Christians then what will these christians do when trials come How will they stay strong when the foundation is “shifting sand”?

      • I’m sympathetic to smaller churches and their pastors – it’s intimidating if SGM is mostly all you’ve known. And at the end of the day, pastors want to pastor – not really work on this polity stuff. However they need to – it’s an obviously pivotal moment

  5. SGMNationn – They don’t need sympathy, they need godly compassion which will help wake them from their Kool Aid stupor. Enabling their fear of man helps neither them nor their congregation. Proverbs talks about the benefit of one helping another out of the pit he has fallen into. I would like to see CLC and Fairfax pastors engage in that kind of help with the smaller churches they have “partnered with” over the years.

    This going quietly business that CLC is embarking on leads me to believe that even in leaving, they are still allowing themselves to be controlled by this corrupt group of leaders. They are suppressing the truth that could help other leaders see the truth. Most pastors don’t know the things CLC has walked through with SGM and if they did, it could serve as a warning to them. It reminds me of the remorse felt by the character Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice and also Mr. Darcy for not revealing the character of Mr. Whickham, which later led to Lydia Bennett falling under his spell, as she was not as discerning as her sister and did not have a protector like Mr. Darcy. Even Elizabeth’s good-hearted sister, Jane, had difficulty believing the truth about Mr. Whickham until he proved his true character. Will CLC conceal the true character of the SGM leadership team and leave others to fall pray to the abusive leadership?

    • why do you assume their quiet approach is “allowing themselves to be controlled by…” ? Could it not be that they have prayed about this, they have discussed among themselves and formed a biblical conviction that this approach is what God would have them do?

      I believe your conclusions are one possible reason but not the only one. From my observation, I would be inclined to believe that their decision is borne out of thoughtful conviction. Their approach may be eventually be proven wrong or ineffective but to consider them afraid of SGM or that they do not care about other leaders would be incorrect. I have prayed for God to lead these men and I believe He is.

      • But they don’t owe that transparency to any of us – they owe it to their congregations/members – if they are satisfied, then even though I’m not in the know, I’m satisfied.

        I believe the most important thing is that the local congregations recognize their responsibility to make informed decisions. Even though I advocate for churches leaving SGM, if local congregations vote to stay in, then it is their prerogative. That is why I think the most irresponsible position is for pastors to assume that they will either stay or go without allowing congregations to actively decide – that’s not right

  6. Jenn, I totally agree with you. The CLC pastors are providing their reasons for leaving to any church that inquires. I’ve heard that the transcript was sent to all the SGM pastors but I still have to confirm that. The person/church I referred to above did contact CLC for their reasons but it didn’t do a bit of good. Some may see many will not. The maligning of the CLC pastors throughout SGM is widespread so many pastors don’t know who to believe. They see the anchor churches of CLC and FFX leaving but everyone else staying.

    I’d be very surprised if the CLC pastors would ever say ANYTHING derogatory regarding SGM. They don’t think this is their place. I and others disagree and we are having many conversations with the pastors regarding this. I don’t think anything more will happen…we’ll see. The pastors “believe” that if the congregation votes to separate, they will make “some kind” of public statement but they don’t know to what extent yet.

    Yes and I pray that the CLC pastors will not experience what Eliza and Mr. Darcy experienced for knowing the truth and not saying anything.

    • MAK – my friends in Fairfax indicate to me that SGC Fairfax will do the same i.e – provide specific reasons to any church that inquires. It’s very sad to me that CLC has been maligned because in my opinion, they have been walking through this in an exemplary way. All in all, I believe that no more than 20 churches will have left by the end of 2013. If I’m counting right, we already have 4 that have left – we’ll see CLC, Fairfax leave – and eventually another 10 or so…but that may be it.

  7. To MAK and Jenn: I not only agree with sgmnation, but it seems to me you both are doing what I have seen done for a while on the blogs, albeit both of you are much kinder and measured in your tone (something often lacking on the blogs). That is this: you are attributing motives to individual SGM pastors that are just not true across the board. I know this because I know the great lengths our pastors have gone to honor the Lord, pastor their flock, while engaging in serious but gracious confrontation with SGM leaders behind the scenes. The pace of their decision-making has frustrated me, but I know them and have seen them up close seeking to know God, honor Him, and lead us to where we should be. It’s been a very difficult road, but I have nothing but commendation for them. And folks like you seem incapable of graciously allowing for different approaches. Note that I say “seem.” You may not mean to condemn with sweeping generalizations, but it sure sounds like it. Hopefully you can see that by using terms like “Kool Aid stupor” you are opening yourself up to this criticism. As I said, I have seen this kind of attitude displayed much more acidly and repeatedly on the blogs, so I guess I want to partially acknowledge your restraint.
    But let me be very clear: you both are simply wrong if you feel all SGM pastors are weak, indecisive, and controlled. This view is just a joke to those of us who know some of them.
    Since you used a literary allusion, I will, too. In Hamlet it is said of Queen Gertrude: “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” In other words, the louder she voiced her opinion the more likely it was that she was suppressing her fear of the truth. I don’t know what motivates people who repeatedly give vent to their anger on the blogs. I’m sure some of them are genuinely concerned and motivated by compassion. But it appears to me in many of the comments is the acid of those who really bought into the SGM philosophy hook, line and sinker and so were doubly pained not only by the very real sins against them, but that they had so fully “bought into” CJ and his ilk. There also seems to be another element in the loud protesting, and that is that if they agree at all with folks like me who are more modulated in our criticism, this will undercut and give lie to much of what they have already said.
    I don’t know if any of this is true of the two of you, since you both seem pretty reasonable. But I think you would do well to step back and consider that you may be very wrong about the motives of many of the pastors. As I said in a previous comment, this whole mess has the feel of a messy divorce being paraded in public and too many people seem vindictive. We are all still the body of Christ and He, not you or me, will most certainly purify His bride. God will not be mocked.
    Peace and grace to you.

    • Robert, first, I gave pause to your criticism. My words are bold, I will agree. The phrase “Kool Aid Stupor” was specifically in regards to pastors who assured their churches that after the new polity statement was passed it would have no affect on their local church. Sorry if that was not more clear – I think it is easy to lose continuity in these types of threads. There are pastors assuring their congregations that they will still be autonomous and that SGM will not be able to come in and tell them what to do. I think such false assurances call for bold responses. Criticize all you want.

      In terms of the CLC pastors. I think perhaps you misread me. I have been one of the biggest cheerleaders and defenders of the CLC pastors, willing to give them more than the benefit of the doubt. Like it or not, CLC has been the “flagship” SGM church for 3 decades so its actions and example do have an impact on greater SGM. Even though I think CLC demonstrates that they “get it” more than most of the other SGM churches (exception Jesse Jarvis) I don’t think they have it worked out perfectly yet. I would not expect them to have it worked out yet. I don’t expect them to get it perfectly. i do expect them to listen to members who do not feel as though the reasons for keeping departure private have been thoroughly explained. I do not think it is unreasonable for CLC members to expect an explanation for why these matters should be kept private. The pastors might have great reasons, but they remain largely unsaid to the entire congregation. Perhaps one pastor has shared here or there why, but that is not the same as addressing it in the family meeting. We can agree to disagree on this point.

      Re: the point that other pastors can ask CLC or Fairfax their reasons for leaving – first – why do only pastors have the luxury of asking? Why can a pastor know, but not his congregation? Second, if a pastor is totally in the dark about the issues, what would prompt him to go to CLC or Fairfax? There seem to be a few churches in the know with CLC and Fairfax and a far many more completely out of the loop. It became apparent to me by fall 2011 that I knew more of what was happening around SGM in various churches due to my relationships with people in those churches than not only my own SGM pastor, but SGM interim board members as well.

      Re: pastors being controlled – that is not assigning motive, it is my observation of what happens as people begin the leaving process. Some move on quicker than others, but the degree which they are able to speak openly about issues is usually a good barometer of how free of these men they really are. I don’t necessarily see heart motives as much as awareness of control in play here. Many of us have walked through it. I went through it about 5 years ago even though I remained in my SGM church. Some people do not experience it until they leave, or even until after they leave. Truthfully, I am still seeing regularly the bandages that I was in from the SGM mindset. I don’t hate SGM. I don’t want to see it destroyed. I recognize that there was some good from it in my life. But, I also have come face to face that there were areas incorrect thinking, a diminished experienced with the Holy Spirit, and layers of legalism to work through.

      Not all of us have a church body or pastors to walk this out with. I don’t appreciate the “sucks to be you, we are just going to do what is best for CLC” attitude I sometimes experience from CLC members. So, after 20 yrs and a church planting experience I walk away from SGM with a distrust for pastoral authority, and it is an appropriate distrust given my experience. I applaud the efforts made by CLC to reform themselves but I think they have failed their brothers and sisters around SGM. So much for partnership.

      Josh

      • Jenn, Please read my long (sorry!) post of a day or two ago before you read the following comment…
        First, I agree with you about pastors who gave assurances to their congregations that nothing would change under the new polity statement. I don’t know that this has happened, it has only (as far as I know) been alleged by folks who have an axe to grind. But if it is true, then they are deserving of censure. I mention that it has only been alleged because I think it is too easy for these allegations to take on a life of their own in the blogs without first-hand knowledge from those sharing this information. If you, Jenn, know personally the situations where this has happened, or you know the impeccable character of the person so alleging, then I can understand believing it. But in my experience, it is often that the truth of Proverbs 18:17 is proven true: the awful, incredible tale one person tells turns out to not quite have been so awful once you hear the other side. And one thing is for sure: you are generally only getting a very anti-SGM perspective on the blogs. As I think I’ve made clear, I am hopeful that our church will be leaving SGM, so my inclination is to believe the negative reports. But since I know that the sweeping generalizations about SGM churches are false in at least one case (my church), it makes me cautious about spreading what could simply be gossip. Jesus loves His Church, and I think we should be careful to tear it down.
        About CLC: I read the transcript excerpts of the family meeting that Brent posted. I hope that the complete comments from the pastors at that meeting brought more balance to their exhortation, but what I’ve read so far is indeed troubling. Like you, I think Josh and the CLC pastors have generally been exemplary in walking through this mess, so I’m willing to give them a bit of a pass on this. Hopefully they will clarify their comments to the members.
        My biggest disagreement with your comments is about pastors being controlled, where I think you are simply playing with words. You write: “the degree which they are able to speak openly about issues is usually a good barometer of how free of these men they really are. I don’t necessarily see heart motives as much as awareness of control in play here.” To be blunt, Jenn, this is bunk, and seems to indicate the sometime blindness that folks critical of SGM can have. There are MANY reasons why a pastor may not want to speak openly about an issue that have NOTHING to do with being controlled; this is a lousy barometer. It may, for example, be a barometer of their restraint and desire to be peacemakers in the midst of an ugly situation. It may be they are (like our pastors) trying to be good shepherds of their flock, and reserving their harshest criticism for private, face-to-face meetings. This is an area where I think many critics of SGM make sweeping criticisms that seem so reasonable as long as they are just talking to like-minded people. But for those of us trying to walk this through in a way that (for us) honors the Lord, these comments are not only obviously false, but make us skeptical of a lot that is written on the blogs. It would do us all well to think as graciously as we can about “the other guy.” Real wrongs and real sin has indeed been committed, and I have been very critical of SGM leadership, although most of my criticism and commentary along these lines I have made privately to my pastors. For me, this is the best avenue of commentary for my soul. I also realize that for many people it has been a very real help and blessing to read the criticisms of SGM on the blogs. In churches where the quasi leader worship of CJ and other SGM leaders has taken place, I can really understand the help the blogs have been to them. I’ve read enough comments of this sort to see that the blogs have had their place. As I’ve said elsewhere, SGM leaders have brought the blogs upon themselves.
        As far as your distrust of pastoral authority is concerned, please read my last post.

      • By the way, Jenn, one more thought on the CLC members meeting and Josh’s request to keep the comments “in-house”: Brent’s characterization of this that Josh “imposed” this secrecy on the members does not seem warranted by what Josh said in response to this. Again, I’m willing to give Josh the benefit of the doubt, while I think Brent is a little nuts, frankly. Brent’s lack of self-awareness throughout the last couple of years is what has made him a somewhat unsympathetic figure. He was indeed very badly treated by CJ, et al, but he has become (in my opinion) a rather pathetic, shrill figure. I hope the Lord eases his soul and gives him rest soon.

    • RW – You are right, your post was long-winded. 🙂

      For the record, just because you think it is bunk, does not make it so. It is easier to see the control the further removed you are. Too many people see the same thing for it to all be bunk. There is a vast difference between assigning motives and seeing things as they are. A motive would be that the CLC pastors were hoping to gain something from remaining silent. Seeing the control is an observation.

      I do know that it was communicated to the Pittsburgh church that basically nothing would change with the church and that it would be very rare and unique circumstances that would trigger SGM’s intervention. I doubt they are the only church communicating these thoughts because many pastors still “believe the best of these guys.” That is the danger of of the CLC pastors remaining silent. The pastor of the Pittsburgh church is a good guy – well-intentioned, not, himself controlling or selfishly ambitious but he he has been snowed by the SGM leaders and it will take several rounds of these guys getting a glimpse of the SGM leaders’ true colors to see the truth, sadly.

      Lastly. I tire of the sweeping generalizations made by SGM members criticizing the blogs or dissenters’ sweeping allegations…really, it seems a bit hypocritical. I also tire of the ranking of SGM blogs…the SGMNation blog is the most holy, the Refuge blog second most holy, and the Survivors blog the least. Really, these are precious saints who have often been badly hurt by SGM. Weep for the grief they have endured and quit judging them.

      Regarding the damage from the lawsuit – I have already heard several such accounts. God has sovereignly allowed this shame to fall on SGM and its associated churches. If repentance had occurred on any of the many occasions where God provided the opportunity, this shame would not have occurred. CLC is still an SGM church – they have chosen to remain and chosen not to publicly renounce the corruption and sin of its leaders and the mistakes churches have made and we really can’t be surprised that God would use the world to judge us when we have failed to judge ourselves. New polity is not enough for SGM. The pastors and members need to repent of the wrong has done if they want to truly move on.

      • Hey Jenn,
        I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on our perspective on a few of these things. I suspect you and I agree far more than otherwise. I wish you the very best and trust the Lord will fulfill the promise of Rom 8:28 in all of our lives,
        Peace and grace to you!

  8. Robert Wallis: I agree with your thoughts — assuming or attributing motives to SGM pastors, or anyone for that matter, is not helpful. I think our pastors (CLC pastors) have done a tremendous job..a littler slower than I would have liked, but to me their patience speaks to their love of the SGM leaders.

    But now that they have given clear direction, the upcoming vote to leave SGM, etc. I don’t know how much CLC pastors owe other SGM churches, pastors, members a detailed explanation? I understand their reservations about not wanting to slander SGM, but at what point is truth simply truth regardless if it’s negative? And at what point should truth be communicated to those in the dark?

    Yes, I am assuming the CLC pastors’ view of the last 18 months and of SGM leadership is “the truth” — all/most members of CLC who continue attending and supporting CLC must believe this, right? So if we have all of these concerns about SGM; if we believe there are serious issues within SGM; is it right to stay silent out of ‘not wanting to slander’?

    I’m imagining a prophet of God not wanting to share His truth because it was slanderous against those with whom God was disciplining.

    • it’s beginning – you have an interesting point on your last statement – but perhaps in this case, God has led his under shepherds to speak to their flock and to no one else – that is certainly a possibility.

    • I would agree that none of us should hide behind any excuse when it’s our duty before the Lord to speak truth. My problem with some folks is my perception that they think they are discharging this duty to confront and correct others while hiding behind the anonymity of the blogs. Scripture has some pretty clear guidelines on how to resolve differences, confront a sinner, etc. And not much that I read on the blogs seems to indicate that folks are following biblical advice. It MAY be that folks are confronting leaders and other blinded members face-to-face, seeking to restore and forgive. This may be happening behind the scenes, but it is not evident from the writings in the blogs.
      It is not easy to confront face-to-face: to go through the self-analysis required to make sure I am really doing this out of love for the person and not just to vent my anger, or to try very hard to not be mean and unkind when I bring a grievance to an offending brother/sister, etc. But even though it is hard, it’s not impossible. And I’m certain that writing my grievances in an open forum on the blogs should be almost a last resort.
      I get the sense that many folks are too easily taking shots behind the cloak of anonymity instead of doing what they should personally and locally about this mess. I don’t know this, of course, and I give leeway to those who have been lorded over and who don’t have the personality to push back at people. I realize it’s extremely hard. But I still hold out some hope that folks will learn through this, even in their pain, to rejoice in their suffering as they identify with the sufferings of Christ, to forgive, and to move on to productive involvement in a local church.

      • good discussion with in this thread; actually, healthy I believe. However, the other “blogs,” in my opinion, contain a lot of poison. Let me explain. It’s NOT been the open airing of grievances that’s problematic. Open airing of any grievance is troublesome to the soul, but Mathew 18 was tried on many accounts according to the details. It was ignored. In that light, these concerns being aired on the blogs can, and probably has been, a VERY positive thing for SGMs correction. Even if SGM has not yet turned as an organization, but individual churches are getting the message. That is good, taking it to the Church, the Body of Christ in a very literal way.

        However, what has NOT been good, and what makes me say “poison” when referring to the blogs, is like what Robert Wallis has mentioned. Anonymity, here and there, has provided folks a cloak to boldly say whatever they want, however they want, and they’ve taken advantage of it, in what I’ve observed, to the extreme.

        It’s not the anonymity that’s bad necessarily, but the conduct that followed. It’s up to individual Christians to police their own comments, but when folks were confronted with by others with their uncharitable statements, they’ve often violently protested with additional accusations towards the person bringing the concern. I know, its happened to me.

        No matter the issue, Gossip is sin, and 1 Cor 14 does not allow for insults, ruinous insults, and judging peoples hearts and motives, nor wishing people would be ruined. Folks have been open with naming names of pastors, pastors’ wives, and care group leaders, etc. without much contest. Any contest has been rebuffed quickly, typically with hostility. Unfounded accusations that can’t be separated from founded issues are easily tossed with quite a few, I’ve read, being inaccurate. Hyperbole is the name of the game and according to these blog writers, “ALL Christians that remain in SGM churches have their heads buried in the sand, are deceived, blind, and need to wake up (quote used once though these statements are separately utilized).” We are told by the bloggers that the SGM churches must ALL leave and those that don’t are not following God and want to abuse their sheep. We are told that ALL the SGM pastors are yes-men and not doing anything to contest SGM polity and practice (lies). We are also told, more recently, that the churches that ARE leaving, and the ones that have left, waited too long or haven’t left properly (read: didn’t publicize their full list of grievances in detail). The moderators of these “blogs” have permitted, allowed, and participated in this conduct. This is shameful. However, it could have been different.

        One blog, outside of sgmnation, I’ve frequented lately has had reasonable discussion of the issues without the characterization described above. I’ve almost commended it. Had the blogs remained civil, with Godly character, and had the moderators moderated the ungodly and tenacious behavior, had the writers considered every word that came out of their mouth as if to give an account to God (we will), the blogs would have had a MUCH greater acceptance by the Church and impact on the governance. I believe they would have provided a true place of refuge an ministry for those who were hurting and looking for a way to find healing. This would be in contrast to the roots of bitterness that appear to be growing. Its my hope the later description is short lived, the roots, and these brothers and sisters not only find healing, but repent from their sinful discourse, along with the moderators who are, whether they agree or not, are the leaders in those contexts.

        I hope to act according to what I commend and abstain from what I condemn. From what I’ve read thus far at sgmnation, it seems to be good ground. I hope it remains that way, even if I don’t continue to frequent the site. Communion anyone?

      • justme & RW – I appreciate your point of view but let me say a few words on behalf of the “other blogs”.
        I would say that the “other blogs” have done a valuable service to many in SGM and IMHO God has used them to further his purpose w this small pseudo denomination. From my perspective, I think it’s unfair to cast a broad generalization and furthermore, I would say it is unnecessary.

        Unfair – because while there are some conversations that veer into speculation and sinful judging, I’m not sure you can hold the blog host responsible for every word expressed. Some of this is what you get with social nature of blogs/FB/etc. Every blog host draws his/her own line on what is permissible or not – as you may notice, I draw a tight line. Also I do think there are many good conversations that bear fruitful outcomes. Unnecessary – because I do not believe that we are called to publicly judge every blog – what I mean is we ought to exercise personal discernment for ourselves and our families but God hasn’t called each of us to issue public statements about which blog or which posts are “good/bad”. I may be wrong on this so I welcome a biblically based challenge on this. FWIW – I think Jim from Refuge has done a very good job and done it for a long time. He may do things differently from me but I do appreciate how he’s tried to manage conversations fairly.

        What I’m trying to do on this blog is different in that I am speaking to and hopefully stimulating conversation between members or recent members to promote reform or change within SGM. It may be a fool’s errand but I feel led to do so

      • sgmnation,
        my first response will be the post I did, responding to myself, that I put in the wrong place (would you remove the other post that sits out of context). It follows:

        as I step away from my post, I want to provide an opposing view to my comments above. One that is also at work within me when I consider the blogs, but I didn’t express during my comments.

        I’m reminded of Job. He suffered greatly. He had reason to complain and dispute the suffering he was under. With Job, we see the back-story of what was actually going on, we don’t with the SGM issues and God’s correction (God is at work). However, during Jobs discourse with his “friends,” they were very harsh with Job.

        Although we read in Job’s friends’ reasoned rebukes, we can even find agreement in them, Job sternly rebuked his friends. Why? Because they considered the form and specificity of his words, the way he delivered them instead of considering the content. Job refereed to his words as wind (Job 6.26), one’s that are spoken one moment and then are gone, especially while the suffering continues to persist. We must remember that God considered Job blameless (Job 1.8 and Job 2.3); God didn’t say that once, but twice…

        Before we throw out my post above, consider too that Job was considered self-righteous, and repented from his sin. I believe we learn that we must give an account for every word, but that our words are expressive of something deeper, especially when suffering. We must not loose the content of what brothers and sisters are sharing because of how they share it.
        Selah.
        Selah.

      • Sgmnation,
        Your comment is a tad frustrating, since I’ve tried to be fair and nuanced (and as a result unfortunately long-winded). I have repeatedly said that I think the blogs have had an important place in this mess, and that SGM has no one but themselves to blame for the rise of the blogs.
        Also, I have tried to focus my comments on personal application. That is, what should my attitude be as a member of a local church and the larger body of Christ. And in this regard, I’ll have to disagree with you about my overall impression of the blogs. I have criticized bloggers for making broad characterizations about SGM that are filled with anger. I think this is a fair criticism. There have been, as you point out, conversations that have been fruitful and healing, but I don’t think this has been the norm. Regardless of how characteristic you or I think it has been, what is incontrovertible is that MANY bloggers are giving vent to bitterness and anger. And on a very basic, biblical level, this should not be. I personally could care less whether SGM survives as an organization, but I care very much about the body of Christ, and I care about the impact of all this on the spiritual health of individual Christians. And even non-Christians…
        I’ll give you a real life example from our church: earlier this year a member had been reaching out to a co-worker who recently moved into the area. This co-worker visited our church on the invite of our member. This visitor had an unbelieving mom who was very concerned about her daughter’s growing interest in spiritual things and did some research on our church which led to research on SGM. The characterization of SGM as a cult on the blogs had the desired effect of causing her daughter to back away from coming to church any more. Of course, this story is not over, and God is more than able to save this gal. But my point is that our church, and I have to believe 20+ other SGM churches are solid churches that preach the Gospel and love folks. Paul rejoiced that the Gospel was preached even with bad motives of the preachers. Unfortunately, the comments of not a few bloggers indicate they would rejoice at this story. Again, it’s very sad when Christians tear each other up publicly. For all its very real faults, it’s ridiculous to characterize SGM as a cult. Many pastors failed miserably in leading their flocks; many sins were committed, but the good that has resulted in many of the churches (and I can at least vouch for mine) is real and eternal. For bloggers to call something evil that has been and still is a work of the Lord is pretty scary.
        My comments, while generally critical of the blogs and the division they have fostered, have always been primarily directed at the consciences of individual Christians. I have no desire to somehow judge the blogs or their moderators, but I can read individual comments and draw the reasonable conclusion that quite a few folks are stuck in their bitterness. This is a very real tragedy and worth noting, in the hopes some of them will press into the grace of forgiveness and move on to more productive pursuits.

      • sgmnation,
        Thank you for your comments and invitation for discourse. This is a very difficult topic to broach with many hearts and minds grafted into the dialogue. Its with that understanding that I pause while writing. I hope to have done so with meekness, that is, that meekness is reflected through the text. If not, please let me know, and accept my apology (all).

        Up till now, I’ve not said much, publicly, about the blogs content. However, I was thinking it was timely for the public see an alternative view of the expression within the blogs, even as the SGM stuff begins to change, unravel, reform, or what-not. The reason being, I think it’s healthy for all considered on several levels. I’ll try to explain.

        Firstly, we learn in 1 Cor 2.15 that a spiritual person judges all things. In other versions, this passage is also rendered, a righteous man judges all things. 1 Cor 7.40, Paul is giving instruction and proclaiming that he is filled with the Spirit, after giving his opinion. I would hope to make a similar claim, even as fallible as I am. The case here is that we who are filled with the Spirit can make judgements about things and we are not limited by scripture what things to judge. However, I believe that we should let everything be done in love (1Cor14 et al). I hope to have accomplished that, especially as I’ve delayed public statements for a long time, and I’ve been careful with word usage as it’s difficult to convey emotion and heart, kindness and compassion, within blogs (please also see my response to my message above, balance). However, if this doesn’t seem to be the case, please let me know and if possible, please provide additional correction so that I may understand further where I’m off track.

        Secondly, folks writing and reading blog comments are mainly seeing one perspective. Some have become polarized and don’t see anything else. This may not be everyone on the blogs, but from my observation, many. I’ve seen this up close, I’ve spoken to them, friends of mine. They have not been served well by all of the hyperbole, sarcasm, speculation, and condemnations, along with a seeming lack of discretion from many of these authors. Along with those concerns, some seem to be caught up in the offenses of folks on the blogs, or those who have been abused, even though they’ve not been directly impacted (disclaimer: these folks may have been directly impacted, and just never mentioned it, but since it’s more than a couple of friends, I would think otherwise. I also know those who were directly impacted and have not been polarized). As we believe scripture supports speaking the truth and standing up for righteousness, and we are to do this in gentleness and in the bond of peace, at various levels, we can see how the blogs could meet that level of discourse while presenting the issues.

        Another reference on approaching the discussion publicly, it seems apparent that we, who can see danger coming, need to sound the alarm; I think this scripture was even referenced on the blogs. It seems to me that quite a few of these brothers and sisters are in danger of potentially living lives with bitterness as a root, and at the least, experiencing a lack of peace and joy even after finding a new congregation, and worse, being defiled (Hebrews 12.15). From the objective testimony of some on the blogs, the former is precisely what happened. Also for discussion, we find that giving warning when apparent danger is coming is required by the Lord as seen in Ezekiel 33.6; the watchmen is required to sound the alarm when he sees trouble coming. It seems this shouldn’t be done in a private manner of warning, but open and public, and at least in form of a discussion and in love. I would agree that discretion in matters like these blogs ought to be maintained, but don’t understand where discussing these things openly is negative.

        As you mention, the moderators have different lines they draw regarding content. But when they (you, me in the past) approve of certain content, are we not then part of the content that is provided? The world would call that “guilty by association.” I think we could apply a plethora of references here as God calls us to walk in a manner of Godliness throughout scripture, but consider Romans 14. This chapter about eating meat in front of weaker brothers may not be a perfect fit (other references may be taken in a controversial tone that I’m not trying to create, so I won’t use those). The precept is being careful of what you approve. Scripture seems to express that we all need to show this caution; meat is the context for the lesson, but the precept doesn’t seem limited to earthly food. This caution is also supported by Ephesians 5.15 discussing how we need to be wise in how we walk. This too can be foundational in the way we do business, the way we work, the way we live, and the way we write and the content of our discussion. Back to Romans, versus 14.12, we are warned that we’ll give an account of ourselves to God. In lieu of this discussion, it seems all moderators need to be concerned about where they draw the line and how they influence the readers and writers of their blog.

        Lastly, I appreciate that you ARE drawing a line. If this discussion is still pushing against that, please let me know (note: it hasn’t been my intention to make blog discussion a primary topic). With your invitation, I wanted to discuss further, but I don’t want to be argumentative. I appreciate the work you are putting into your effort, and understand the labor behind it; I’ll certainly respect your comments and guidance as hard matters continue to be discussed in the public form.

        Also, to all brothers and sisters reading, its my hope that this dialogue has encouraged you to look to God for all things. God as the redeemer, the reconciler, and the provider of our salvation. He fulfills us. I am thankful that God has help me and my family, as He’s helped you, through this turbulent time as we’ve had to deal with many of similar issues, concerns, sadness, depressing thoughts, and friends who received bad counsel. We are thankful that our personal experience with our local SGM congregation, though not perfect, has been good.

        JustMe

      • Thank you, JustMe, for taking the time and effort to think through our involvement on this blog from a biblical perspective. Your commentary was thoughtful and insightful. Blessings to you.

  9. Mr Wallis, I will take your criticism regarding sweeping comments and applying motives to SGM pastors. My words may have come across that way. My comments are always based on real experiences either those that I’ve experienced in my 25 years in SGM or experiences that other members have had in other SGM churches that have been shared with me first-hand. Contrary to your sweeping judgements of me, I know many SGM pastors personally. I’ve spent the last 18 months dialoging with numerous pastors at CLC regarding these issues. You may also want to consider and I think you have, than Jenn and I are being restrained in our speech. Some of the things that have been relayed to me regarding the guidance that SOME pastors are giving their flock regarding these issues would make Jenn’s comment of “Kool Aid stupor” appear very restrained.
    Your comments above are flawed greatly in one respect that I have applied these motives to ALL sgm churches. This feat is impossible as I don’t know all the churches and all the pastors. From my 25 years of experience, the members do not know the motivations of the pastors as the pastors do not share this information. When one doesn’t know what is motivating someone when making decisions one is left with only speculation and judgement. This is changing at CLC but I can’t speak for the other churches.
    But I would ask you, what is your perspective of a church willing to sign up to the SGM polity hook-line-and -sinker without waiting for the questions to be heard and also talking to their congregation?
    You also refer to yourself as “modulated in your criticism” but yet you refer to “CJ and his ilk”. So if you sign up for the new SGM polity aren’t you signing up for CJ and his ilk?? I’m confused.

    • MAK, hopefully some of my comments on this stream will answer some of your questions. For the record, I have major issues with the SGM polity doc, most of which sgmnation has already laid out. In our church, our pastors are requesting and are getting a lot of input on all of this from the congregation, so I can’t really relate to those for whom this is not the case.

  10. MAK,
    you sound defensive actually. If you accept the criticism, why the defense and offensive posture reciprocating to Mr Wallace? Just saying, it seems like an odd post. Maybe Mr. Wallace should have pointed out that “Kool Aid stupor” comment is nit closely to the the ongoing and continued hyperbole that has not served the writers, nor the readers well. It appears that Mr. Wallace makes some valued points around his commendation of you and Jenn, and prefaced them with what he deemed an, appearance of what he suggested.

    • I think we may be talking past each other. From reading MAK’s comments here and elsewhere, I’ve found them to be reasonable and informed. I think MAK is experiencing what many within CLC, Fairfax and other “dissenting” churches feel. I think it’s understandable – I just don’t think the answer on whether to extend the “airing of dirty laundry” beyond each individual local church is a clear cut answer. It is, if nothing, in the realm of wisdom and not clear cut . It’s not like we can turn to 2 Corinthians and pick out a verse that clearly tells us what to do in this matter.

      It is precisely because of this that I choose to trust that God is leading these men – as far as I can tell, they are listening – we’ll just have to wait and see if they listened well. Until then, they and other reformed minded pastors in SGM have my support.

  11. Robert Wallis, on the one hand I do agree with you in terms of not assigning motives prematurely. But I think your argument, much like your literary allusion, breaks down a bit under closer inspection.

    In Hamlet, the phrase “methinks the lady doth protest too much” is not said ABOUT Gertrude but BY Gertrude as she watches what is essentially her avatar in her son’s play “The Mousetrap,” a Nathan-like story to demonstrate the truth about his uncle’s murder and deceit to obtain the throne of Denmark. The line demonstrates her blindness to her own faults in the matter, not her fear that she’s been fooled and that her deceiver will continue to get away with it.

    Yes, there is a lot of acid thrown around on the blogs, and I will admit that I am among those who have said very nasty things–as you pointed out–because I was sinned against and because I bought completely into the SGM way of doing things before.

    But a huge part of the SGM way of doing things also pinges upon secrecy and keeping a good face on things! I wasn’t hurt as badly as some out there, but I cannot stand the complete DISDAIN for these victims based on something like “privacy”! If democracy doesn’t have a place in doing things biblically, you have no way to claim one of the rights that democracy provides you! And privacy does not protect you from criminal neglect!

    I am not Brent Detwiler, and I hardly agree with everything he says–so I have no problem with the CLC pastors keeping quiet to the general public about their reasons for separation IF and only IF the reasons are not ethical ones. If Josh Harris still believes (erroneously, imo, but I think he’s shown he doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of) CJ is fit for leadership and that the sins SGM committed against CLC are ones that can be “overlooked” or have been repented of–sure, there’s no need to tell everyone publicly what you told the members in confidence.

    However, if the reasons are ethical–if they are concerned about abuses of authority, and that is why they are recommending separation from SGM–they need to speak out. Disclosure of moral and ethical abuses protects future victims. That is what the blogs are ultimately about, and that is where SGM as a whole (including those who still support it wholesale) has failed and remains culpable.

    • Michael,
      First, thank you for your humility in acknowledging your bitterness and culpability; I don’t see this kind of candor much on the blogs.
      I think my response to others on this stream should answer the question about secrecy, truth, and confronting offenders. If not, please let me know. Peace to you.

  12. in more ways than one, I will probably show my ignorance here. Some wonder why CLC and others would keep quiet regarding the reasons of their departure. I personally think keeping the reasons on the down-low a good thing as I consider that our trust should be in God working behind the scenes, not CLC or other pastors, or that of SGM.

    My reference is David’s reaction to Saul throughout his persecution, along with David’s reaction after Saul was killed. David’s trust is recorded as being completely in God working through circumstances. This is not a complete argument for quietness, however, meant to preface what I’m about to consider with you folks. Could it be that their more “noble” approach could be more related to these men’s “ordination” from SGM? What is the impact of licensing and ordination from SGM “IF” they depart in a cloud of contention? Does SGM resend these pastors’ ordinations? What are the impacts and benefits of that ordination anyway? Does ordination really matter?

    Now, before I appear to be questioning the hearts of man, read “motive”, what spurs my consideration is the new polity proposal itself. The proposal addresses maintaining a good standing with SGM and maintaining SGM’s Ordination IF things are done correctly, including separation from SGM.

    This is concerning to me. The implications of CLC and others’ actions (keeping things quiet) would be negative if this IS the purpose/reason for keeping things quiet. Outside my reasoning with the King David example, elders in the departing churches would be putting themselves above the good health and welfare of the sheep and other churches instead of laying their lives down for the sheep. To wit, they would also be placing their trust in man vs. trusting in God.

    Thoughts?

    JustMe

    • From what I know, ordination isn’t an issue. And to close out a point from a previous comment (not from you), I don’t think that the pastors of clc, fairfax or any of the 20 churches that signed onto the original fairfax letter would characterize SGM leadership as abusive. Manipulative, condescending, perhaps even arrogant and paternalistic but abusive? No, I don’t think so – that’s why the moral compulsion to broadcast detailed reasons is not warranted in their minds.

      • You are probably right in thinking these guys don’t see the leadership as abusive. They, also likely do not see how information control is an abusive tactic, either. I wonder what they thought of Mark Prater’s teaching at the Pastors Conference last month, especially the part about correcting people who were “suspicious”?

        Do I think the leadership is abusive – absolutely, but with the cloak of false humility that is more polished and appears more kind and gentle than we are used to seeing from abusive leadership. Abuse is defined as the improper use of something. I think it would be hard to argue that the SGM leaders have not improperly used their position of leadership. They have stopped some of those practices but there has never been a public acknowledgement of where they were wrong. Instead we heard a lot of neutral language about poor communication without culpability. But, in many arenas, the abuse continues. Excluding dissenters is the most obvious example. Relocating instead of working things out CLC is another. Withholding information because they don’t think it would “serve us” is another….it’s a long list and yes, it’s part of the SGM DNA right now.

      • in regards to the current SGM lawsuit, I’ve read here that SGM leaders actions were inferred as “criminal.” Was this a literal concern?

        Every state has their own laws regarding reporting sexual abuse, especially that against a minor, to authorities. If “criminal” action incurred, I would think the district attorney or prosecutor would have taken up charges against such persons who did not report; it appears obvious they were involved at various degrees due to the allegations in the civil lawsuit.

        I’m a certified foster parent and designated, by law, a reporter of any abuse towards children. However, I’m not a pastor and there are different laws that are applied. I’m not a lawyer, and am not sure which state has which laws (e.g. Maryland and Virginia), but defining the “criminality” of the accused actions, without local municipalities ever asserting charges, may be a reach… It may also give us the wrong emotional response to what was and was not done by the pastors involved and SGM.

        JustMe and JustThinkin…

      • Justme -love how you’ve entered into conversation here but I would like to avoid the lawsuit topic for right now.

        Two reasons – first, it’s off topic tom this current discussion. Second, even though some have concluded wrongdoing on part of accused, I am not doing so. I understand there are victims and pray for God’s blessing on them. But I also want the legal process to play out before allowing a conversation here on this blog. There is just too much speculation and emotion on this to have any fruitful conversation.

        That’s my firm position on this. Thanks

  13. So…now what? Most of the churches will stay. How do the members of those churches respond? Even if pastors do ask their churches for feedback, in my experience there are only a handful of folks who are searching the matter out, and the pastors will continue along with SGM because their uninformed congregation is okay with that.

    Polity is a secondary doctrinal matter meaning that whether or not one is a true believer is not contingent upon it. However, polity does affect church life significantly. Do we stay in a mostly Biblical church, and try to do what we can? Or do we seek another imperfect church and find new weaknesses with which to contend? Such weighty matters with which to wrestle…

    • well, it’s hard to watch from the sidelines, isn’t it? that’s in great part why this blog exists – I want to find a “safe harbor” for existing SGM folks to get informed about the issues that matter – both polity (which does matter) as well as the culture and ethics of SGM leadership. But in the end, as someone said earlier on this thread, we need to trust God to work it out… we present the facts and opinion but if others aren’t moved in the same way, we need to trust that God is speaking to them or will speak to them too. All I really ask is that both pastors and congregants alike look honestly and openly about the facts of how SGM operates. I think an objective view would lend most to seek reform or leave.

      I personally believe that the time for reform is coming to an end – so leaving is the only practical option left on the table for churches that believe there is a better way to conduct gospel ministry

      • Yup. Doesn’t look like my church will be among those leaving though…not sure how to deal with that. :/

      • @LilOleMe – I guess you’ll have to decide if staying in SGM is tolerable. I think for me a fundamental trust has been broken and it’s hard to restore that without a humble response from CJ and the SGM leadership at large…if you’re willing to say – which church do you attend?

      • Hi LilOleMe,
        I thought about your question in reference to my congregation. My hope is to ensure I have perspective, both with my local leadership, and, with the extra-local oversight groups (regional elders).

        Considering that the polity proposal, this is not a new device to align doctrine and practice within a group of churches, it will get better in the future (read written better). However, like sgmnation mentioned, the trust of the leaders, local, regional, and overhead, is all important when compared to how that polity will be utilized. There are specific problems IMO with the polity, like the suggestion that independent churches are “ad hoc and cannot fulfill God’s mission (paraphrased).

        So what does this boil down to in mind? I intend to pray and fast and seek God’s direction as I am incapable of seeing what is going to happen tomorrow, much less in the next five years. Also, I don’t think SGM will be an evil empire, despite the trust issues. That said, I would hope that SGM would terminate certain folks from the organization and retrain them for being pastors in their local churches, if they have not abused the flock. Also I don’t believe all SGM pastors have drunk cool aide nor are they leading by authoritarianism those believers within their churches.

        That said, back to praying and fasting, I’m convinced we should always pray. Even if things seem bad. I would guess that most folks who hate SGM would agree God led them there. I would question then, why are they not considering God in their departure? This is not a slam, but tug on all our hearts to present our anxieties to God, because He cares for us. He will lead us and guide us! He loves us! We have a good God! So I want to cast my eyes on him and should my church decide to remain within SGM, I will not immediately consider leaving beyond the praying and fasting. If the Lord leaves me to stay, I’ll remain. If not, I’ll depart. SGM churches will continue and I believe in a reformed manner without many of the abuses in the past. However, I would expect there to be material for complain as pastors are not all going to be perfect and some, in my opinion, will drive on in the same authoritarian nature they did in the past, sadly.

        Every church really is different, merely from what leaders are in place. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or if the next church we “flee” to will have the same issues that would come out in 10 years. We cannot remain mad at SGM, or even if we were the victims of bad counsel , but must look to God for direction and leading. Let Him take us by the hand and if its to a SGM church, then serve with all our might. All our service, practices, actions of service, evangelism, etc should have always been about serving God, not fitting into a certain church genre. Much of this I’m stating to remind myself. I hope others are blessed by it as well.

        Looking to the author and finisher of our faith!
        JustMe

  14. after my exhortation above, I read the “about” and “why this blog exists” links (maybe for the second time, I just don’t remember right now). i was encouraged.

    I would like to introduce myself. firstly, like others, my family and I have benefited from SGM ministry. In recent years, and in the eighties where PDI magazine was one of the christian publications to reach our overseas locations while serving in the military. I’ve been drawn to this blog due to its, you folks’ interest in reform, and, interest in Godly discourse. it may appear that I came in swiftly, maybe like a troll, but I’ve had this link for quite some time and have perused the site quite a bit; I may have even written before (not that that matters). I don’t write much, which may seem contradictory to the last few days, but have had some time off from work and relief from some sickness; that has helped. btw: I believe some here know me personally, if you think you’ve seen past my alias, send me an email 🙂

    My family and I want to look to God in all things no matter where we worship and live. Having been in the military, we’ve experienced many congregations around the Lord’s table; we’ve moved every two to three years. In our various fellowships, we’ve seen good and some not so much. In all cases, we’ve been encouraged from the Word to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. To trust in Him and consider God before man, even as you do. We believe this has helped us through the SGM turmoil. Its our heart that these leaders, from the top down, find repentance from unethical positions and control. Also, we have great local leaders and are very thankful for them. We’ve received much from our local congregation (led by and including the leaders), even amongst the turmoil (this does not mitigate the bad, its just an encouragement against the polarization). God has been ever faithful, His Word is true, His Spirit is continues to lead and empower, and its our hope to continue down the path toward the city whose foundations were created by God.

    May the Lord’s grace be with you all in abundance and in new ways as you seek Him!
    JustMe

  15. Michael, et al, I’ve been out all day and still don’t have time to answer now, but will later. A couple of things, though, quickly: good catch on Hamlet, Michael! I still think my interpretation of the sense of the quote and its application is valid, but sloppy literary allusion. Been a while since I’ve read Hamlet. Jenn and MAK: you’ve made interesting points and asked good questions. I’m thinking about them. I’m afraid my next post will be overly long, since I’m very cautious about the written word, especially so given the emotional nature of this discussion. Peace to all of you! Now I’m off to a Bob Dylan concert…

  16. Back from very full Thanksgiving week and I wanted to give some context for my comments. The anonymity of those who post drives me a bit nuts, even though I do understand the reason for it. It does limit the effectiveness of these discussions, however. It’s very easy for all of us to attribute poor or even evil motives to those who disagree with us. So, in an effort to mitigate this I’d like to give a little (very little!) of my background in the hope it will help you folks interacting with me here:
    I’ve been in a SGM church for 25 years and have always been a bit of a rebel (at best) and an arrogant you-know-what (at worst). We’ve been very involved in many aspects of ministry (care group leaders, Sunday school, single’s group, etc) so have seen a lot from a variety of perspectives. I’ve also been a Christian for over 45 years and prior to involvement with our SGM church I had seen many different expressions of the Church both overseas where I grew up as a MK/PK and here in the States where I’ve been a part of numerous denominational/independent church structures. I say all this to say the following: there are many, many imperfect structures and even more imperfect men and women in this amazing thing called the body of Christ. SGM has no corner on messing people up. Given the falleness we live with and in, it’s pretty amazing we are not all more messed up than we already are.
    Before I go on, let me anticipate and respond to what undoubtedly is going through some minds as they read this: when it comes to both illegal activity and patterns of behavior that were challenged for years, the pastors and leaders responsible should face either the full weight of the law for their sins, or the consequence within the church of stepping down/being dismissed from leadership. Reading Brent’s material and the blogs for the last couple of years has shown me that the heavy-handed “leadership” and damage done to people were not isolated problems but systemic issues within SGM. Having said this, it remains perhaps the thing that frustrates and saddens me the most about this mess: those who give vent to their bitterness and anger publicly about the very real harm done to them and others seem to have very little discernment about what is egregiously sinful behavior that should be punished (counseling that led to continual spousal or child abuse, for example), and merely bad counsel given by well-meaning pastors.
    Which leads me to the main thing I want to say, and I can only say this conclusively for myself. I am NOT projecting this “lesson” to anyone else since I have no way of knowing the particular pain and sin you may have had to deal with. But I suspect the lessons I’ve learned through this apply to a few folks.
    So the main lesson I’ve learned is this: I can not blame pastors for my poor choices and attitudes. I may be a sheep, but I’m a sheep that can read my Bible and I, too, have the Holy Spirit within me. What I mean is this: I personally took on the tough guy Christian persona that I think was cultivated within SGM. In my worst moments I was rude, condescending, and full of the self-assurance that comes from too much knowledge.
    But can I blame my pastors for this? I knew 1 Cor 13, John 13:34-35, 1 John 3:16-18, 1 Thes 5:13, James 3:13 as well as anyone. And I could go on and on with Scripture that specifically commands me to be loving, meek and kind, to say nothing of the example of Jesus himself. It’s no one’s fault, such as it is, but my own, that I chose to do what came more naturally to me and ignored the parts of my faith that would have required more grace, prayer, and effort on my part. I have had to step back and take a hard look in the mirror and seek to change. I am changing, albeit too slowly. But I know in my soul that the change is real, as my thoughts and prayers for others are of an order and amount that never existed before. Real change, in my experience, takes a frustratingly long time. But so it is and will be until my faith becomes sight.
    When I read many of the comments on the blogs I can’t help but thinking that people are simply looking to place blame, which is very easy to do, and not looking at themselves and the ways in which they, like me, simply chose to do what came easily, to not question ourselves biblically, and to give a pass to ourselves and leaders. I can remember, to my shame, numerous times when I heard that someone had left the church, that my response was something like, “Well, I guess they just weren’t up for the Green Beret form of Christianity we have around here.”
    To come full circle on my comment then: I know the kind of arrogance that characterized me led to many people being hurt. But let me say this as gently as I can: this is an unfortunate part of life, and those of you who are bitter must forgive and then throw yourself into the work of the kingdom where God has led you. I’m pretty sure I can say that many who seem to hover around the blogs and comment would do well to walk away from this level of involvement. It doesn’t seem to have been good for the souls of quite a few folks.
    But each must stand and fall on their own before the Lord, so let me reiterate that my comments are primarily spoken to me. I know that it has done me good to look over the history of my years in PDI/SGM and to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal my sin and pride and self-righteousness. If this applies to you as well, please respond to the Lord.
    And I’ll say one more thing that definitely comes from the Lord: your bad experience in SGM is absolutely no excuse for withdrawing yourself from involvement in a local church. It is selfish and disobedient to do so. Period. And one of the reasons I think involvement in a specific church is critical (and the testimony of the NT bears this out), is you will be forced to relate to and love those you otherwise would never associate with. This is the glory of the Church! The fulfillment of John 13:34-35 is an incredible display to a watching world. If you sit back at home, choose from an array of great preachers you can access on the web, and selectively fellowship with like-minded friends, you are missing out. There is a church that needs your talents and gifts as much as you need that annoying brother or sister to refine you.
    The incredible access we have to Christian media is a mixed blessing. I urge you to jump into another church, even though you will undoubtedly be disappointed with it eventually, even as you were with SGM.
    I hope this is helpful to someone. Peace to all.

  17. I must say, I really appreciate this blog in particular. (I also admire Jim at Refuge, who lets people comment while remaining clear that he wants to see reconciliation in the body of Christ, and in SGM in particular – THAT’S a balancing act that is hard to pull off, especially considering his story.)

    I am not a big fan of being anonymous at the moment. However, I feel that’s the best way for me to communicate on these forums for now, usually with thoughts or clarifications that are, admittedly, based on my own readings of the situation. I know my pastoral team has taken a similar approach, trying to meet with both sides in this and trying to understand what is going on. But because things develop, and our church doesn’t have an official recommendation as of yet (polity had to start to be addressed, and we don’t control our meeting facility at this time), I don’t want to say too much yet, as I am aware that I could be completely misreading things. Perhaps, in a few weeks time, when things will be clearer (and I know they will be clearer – I am fairly sure there will be a recommendation coming), I can comment with more authority, and a name and location.

    My parents were saved at an SGM church. They now are members at another SGM church, based on a move my father had to make several years back for work. During the craziest part of this SGM stuff, when CJ was out and the board was being changed, our family was based in several SGM churches, so I had an interesting perspective on things. In addition, I went to CLC for a while, so I still have ties there. It leads to a very interesting perspective on this whole mess, one that leads me to pray that in the end, the gospel will go forth regardless of what happens. I have benefitted immensely from SGM, and it pains me to see this long, drawn out process of correction.

    The other day, when talking with the family about this situation, I realized something I am grateful for: that when CJ turned CLC over to Josh Harris, he turned it over completely. He didn’t try to meddle in church affairs at all, even though he sat in the same building, and could have done so. This allowed them to become independent of SGM in a way they weren’t before (when the head of SGM and CLC were the same man). That didn’t have to happen – one only has to look at the previous President of Russia to realize that a protégé isn’t always allowed independence. One of the reasons CLC is able to contemplate leaving is because they have been dealing with fixing SGM’s systemic issues for a while now, and probably rightly feel that if they stay, they won’t be allowed to continue that. This is a stance that I don’t think they could have taken 5 years ago, and it is a stance that they couldn’t have taken if CJ were in charge by proxy. I was there during the transition, and CJ really did leave the church to Josh, a move I am grateful for.

    • jb – thank you for the encouragement – it is very meaningful. I understand the anonymity thing – both pros and cons… for those who might be critical of it, I would say that there are legit reasons for anonymity and it shouldn’t preclude entrance into the discussion.

      Grace to you

  18. Warning: You are entering a non-intellectual post! Jenn made a statement that is so very true – the further away from SGM, the more one is able to see the control. I would also add along with control; manipulation, deception and wrong theology! Someone who left SGC a few months ago said this very thing to me recently, “The longer I am out, the more I see..” This person was speaking of the deception and how much is hidden and covered up. For that very fact, and make no mistake it is a fact, for those of you writing here who are in SGM churches, be very careful for there is a veil over your eyes which is clouding your perception. We are not dealing with flesh and blood here but with spiritual powers and principalities. This is no small thing.

    There has been much said here about certain pastors being OK – if they have been and currently are under SGM leadership, they are not OK. There is no way that a pastor within SGM would have continued in that role if they had not submitted themselves to the authority of CJ et al. All you have to do is take a stroll down memory lane and oserve how many pastors were “fired” over the years for taking a stand that was different from the senior pastor or who didn’t fit in with the overall agenda. And PS, RW, your church has been wrought with the same abuse, control and manipulation as the others!

    • One of the frustrating things about getting involved in these writings, and the main reason I have sworn off posting anything on “the blogs” is comments like yours, Fred. If you have read my posts here you should have picked up on the fact I’m pretty aware of the history of our church. If you know me and our church, you can always contact me for a face-to-face instead of making an anonymous post. If you have been gone from our church for more than a year you simply are speaking in ignorance. People change by the power of the Holy Spirit. Many of you who left some time ago seem stuck in time. Our church has changed. You haven’t been around to see it and I’m very sorry you have the opinion you do. I trust you are actively involved wherever the Lord has lead you. Happily, there are many good churches in our area. Peace to you.

    • Fred,
      Wow, you should have also warned against illogical post. 🙂 As well, you call something “true” based on the experience of a few (see above). It seems this non-intellectual standard for truth is quite low. I can see it being true for some, or even many, but ALL? Let me explain.

      You appear to say that if someone hasn’t left SGM churches, they are blind (veiled). Really? You know this because of two anecdotes (truth). These experiences may very well be accurate observations, maybe your own experience, but hardly a good sampling of data for calling it “truth” as it relates to everyone. There could indeed be many people faithfully serving God in SGM churches with eyes wide open, discontented with whats wrong, praying for reform, etc. I would contend there are such people. I would be willing to concede with more information that there could be churches that are nearly 100% not seeing what is wrong in SGM, but if there are, that doesn’t mean all churches are the same. You just can’t make that case for all of SGM’dom and be taken seriously by those you are trying help.

      Again, in your broad judgements, you (and Jenn) have made no exception for those who would be in SGM churches with eyes wide open, walking in the light, serving one another, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing exactly what God is leading them to do. You make the assertion that “if these people see the “truth”, they would leave.” Really, are you sure they’d leave? Does staying in a SGM church really mean they are blind? Really? How do you know the way that God is at work, through the Holy Spirit, in these people’s lives? You have made a very broad judgement that I don’t believe is supportable whether or not one uses his intellect.

      You have also alluded (you didn’t say this) that all SGM theology is wrong? Really? How about the doctrine of the Gospel – Jesus Christ died for our sins? Or that he was raised from the dead? Are you a Sadducee; do you believe in the resurrection? Of course your not, and you do; I’m being silly to make my point. I could go on with many examples of “right” doctrine, but I think you, and others, may mean something different and more specific, but have painted the picture with too wide a brush. Maybe what most folks mean relate more to “practice.” At least that’s what I’ve read a lot of on the net.

      Other things I’ve noted from others, when they speak of bad theology in SGM, is that many disagree with “reformed theology” or Calvinism. However, that disagreement has gone on for centuries and is hardly a SGM “issue” alone. Other doctrines I’ve seen disagreed with, but are not specific to SGM, include complementarian leadership (home and church), the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (nuances either way – some believe its too much, many to little), etc. Now these types of things are head-scratcher – no intellect required to understand these differences.

      It seems from how you (and Jenn) presented your concerns, any descent from your observations is unacceptable and can’t possibly come from a Christian full of the Holy Spirit and walking rightly in the light, that these folks can’t possibly have “truth”. Again, your argument is that if they had “truth” they would leave. These assertions are intellectually dishonest and using poor logic. Also, I’ve read from folks who make similar assertions as yours, that folks who remain in SGM churches are being judged by God. Really? Do you believe this? If so, does that mean me, my spouse, and my kids are all being judged by God for following what we believe God has led us to do, both through His Word and prayer? Really? Maybe this is why I get sick a lot? Really? I actually got sick a lot before going to a SGM church, or one that was “reformed,” back then I just didn’t have enough faith to be healed (read: abuse). These are the things your comments imply, or at least some of the folks that share the same opinions that you’ve shared. Brother, this is wrong and just as unloving as much of what you condemn, when folks state that all the bloggers are bitter (I don’t believe that either). I would ask you to reconsider your comments, through prayer, and see if there is something amiss with your point of view. I don’t believe you are all wrong with your consideration, and I don’t believe you are blind, but I do think you are using a brush, way too wide, to paint a poor picture of an organization (with really bad issues), its leaders, and its members. Many of your brothers and sisters are trying to make a difference and work through the issues in righteousness. Also, I would concede that there could be many brothers and sisters who’ve joined SGM churches in the last few years that know little of the issues and are also following God in righteousness, who when they learn of them, esteem to keep doing so before moving on; especially if they are seeing their leadership walking in righteousness.

      Oh, and btw, I caught the ad hominen. If you can’t attack the argument, attack the person. Poorly done IMO. I found it interesting from a philosophical view that it came so quickly, seemingly without consideration for the comments that have been made by those remaining in SGM churches on this blog. That is sad and something I hope you can see. It doesn’t help to do that. If that wasn’t your intent, please let me know, but it’s the way it looks when reading the messages.

      JustMe

      • JustMe – Care to explain this statement, “It seems from how you (and Jenn) presented your concerns, any descent from your observations is unacceptable and can’t possibly come from a Christian full of the Holy Spirit and walking rightly in the light, that these folks can’t possibly have “truth”.”

        I think your statement is completely unfair and you have nothing with which to substantiate it. If you had read my comments, clearly, you would see that I do not believe that remotely.

        I do not agree with Fred and others that indicate that it is impossible to see clearly until you leave. I think it will take any of us who have bought into some of the wrong thinkings that SGM has propagated, some time to see how they have affected the way we view things. I do think you see things differently after you leave, but it does not mean you have to leave to see clearly. I think pastors who have gone through the PC probably have a little more to overcome in this area but I do not agree with Fred.

        Your bullying style will not dissuade me, however, from making observations. This has been a tactic employed by SGM pastors for years and especially poured on thick during the crisis. I can think of a number iof circumstances where folks or pastors and SGM have wanted to stop all public discourse that involved criticism of their church or SGM. I think this is because there is a such a strong personal connection between the pastors and the reputations of the church.

        CLC has made a lot of progress and if you have read my comemnts for any length of time you would have seen me defending them and encoruaged by some of their actions. That doesn’t mean the work is done or that they are perfect. Disagreement with one decision DOES NOT EQUAL DISLOYALTY!!!! If members and churches hope to ever move on, they have to get past this mindset.

        You might disagree with my view on this topic, but your statement is completely out of line.

    • Comment to both Fred and Jenn –

      Jenn – we understand your position related to CLC and Fairfax’s choice to speak primarily to their congregations but some of us simply don’t agree with you. I think these pastors are also trying their best to listen to God and discounting their actions as simply capitulation to SGM is wholly unfair. I’m somewhat tiring of the arguing over this point so let’s just leave it at that.

      Furthermore, no one is claiming this blog to be the “most holy” – this is hyperbole meant to stir emotional response and frankly not a path I want to go down.

      Fred – I do try to be even handed but here’s something I want to make clear in terms of principles I believe in and this blog represents –

      1. yes, I am sorry there are victims… we should care for them, we should pray for them
      2. no, being a victim does not give anyone the right to abuse someone else… verbally, by insinuation of accusation, or by harming them… even if they are pastors that may or may not have committed sins by omission or commission.
      3. yes, i am all for expressing our opinions
      4. no, i do not believe we have the christian right to say anything we want… because as christians we are governed by the rule of love and truth.

      This is why I do not and will not allow unmitigated comments about pastors who have been named in any suit – we will let the trial play out. Your accusations in your reply to RW is unfair – many of the pastors concerned have publicly repented and most importantly to the congregations they serve. That will suffice for me and it is my obligation and joy in Christ to forgive them. Based on feedback from people IN THE CHURCH, they have also shown that they “get it” and are changing. That is a better measure of progress than external opinions

      • SGMNation – I have never seen you attack the other blogs, but JustMe did in one of her/his comments.

        I respect your right to limit discussion to the topics you deem fit. I won’t comment on the merit or lack of merit for the lawsuit, but, overall, I would like to have seen SGM respond more the way Ken Sande recommends, it could have prevented not only the lawsuit but many other issues and brought godly reconciliation. For that matter, I don’t think it’s too late – they still could respond this way. I think I have seen SGM close the door on reconciliation many times and the Bible does not instruct us to close the door. http://www.peacemaker.net/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=aqKFLTOBIpH&b=1043497&ct=1245453

  19. JustMe, one question please – who did I attack? Also, I have no need to attack the argument because there is plenty of evidence proving the corruption of the entire SGM organization. I stand by my previous post.

    • Hi Fred,
      That statement about “attack” is a statement about ad hominem. It seemed your opening comment was like that: “Warning: You are entering a non-intellectual post!.” I can appreciate saying something about one’s own writing, no biggy, but what was the implication intended for the readers? I’m sorry if I took that wrong, but it seemed to me to be ad hominem.

      On another note, I would hope if you disagreed with an “argument,” you would “attack” it, but not the person(s). Also, I really don’t like the word “attack” in these contexts. It’s hyperbole mostly. I used the word in the statement only because that’s how ad hominem can be quickly defined. Discourse is a good thing. Discussion is good. Challenging ideas and thoughts as well. We see that throughout scripture in many different scenarios where both sides of the discussion didn’t agree. If we don’t do that when differences arise, then why even write on a blog.

  20. Hi Jenn,
    Yes, I’d be glad to; I don’t have a msg number, so I’ll post your the quotes below. Please remember I’m trying to read them contextually with RW’s post. Maybe I haven’t read your comments “clearly.” If I haven’t, I’ll apologize. I don’t believe I’m “bullying”, I will try to write better so as not to give that impression.

    One thing of note, your type comment, even passive, has been a “tactic” on the blogs. That is, to criticize folks who expressed desire to discuss SGM issues more objectively, by making direct comparisons to improper SGM leadership and direction. These criticisms are a big jump. Much further than, “well, maybe JustMe didn’t understand what I meant to say”. These things really prevent objective discourse, no matter which “side” is making that mistake. However, I think this behavior has actually improved lately. I’m thankful for that. Btw, I’m not trying to dissuade you from making “observations,” that’s what this medium is for.

    /quote “It is easier to see the control the further removed you are. Too many people see the same thing for it to all be bunk. There is a vast difference between assigning motives and seeing things as they are. A motive would be that the CLC pastors were hoping to gain something from remaining silent. Seeing the control is an observation.”
    -and-
    “Lastly. I tire of the sweeping generalizations made by SGM members criticizing the blogs or dissenters’ sweeping allegations…really, it seems a bit hypocritical. I also tire of the ranking of SGM blogs…the SGMNation blog is the most holy, the Refuge blog second most holy, and the Survivors blog the least. Really, these are precious saints who have often been badly hurt by SGM. Weep for the grief they have endured and quit judging them.”
    -and-
    “God has sovereignly allowed this shame to fall on SGM and its associated churches. If repentance had occurred on any of the many occasions where God provided the opportunity, this shame would not have occurred. CLC is still an SGM church – they have chosen to remain and chosen not to publicly renounce the corruption and sin of its leaders and the mistakes churches have made and we really can’t be surprised that God would use the world to judge us when we have failed to judge ourselves.” /quote

    These comments communicated to me the things I added your name to within my post. Not necessarily my entire posts, but what I wrote. I was hoping to tie the two together. You mention “seeing things as they are” – I think, this is a claim that you see it accurately, but since you are responding to RW, he, and others who have expressed similar comments to his do not. Also, “seeing the control” can be seen the farther you are away from it. I agree with your comment, but I took exception to it in response to RW’s post. The imperative is that RW and others like him are controlled and cannot see, what some have said, “the truth.” He, and others, are controlled an incapable of seeing.

    You said you tire of “sweeping generalizations” and then you make some regarding SGM churches, e.g. “God has sovereignly allowed this shame to fall on SGM and its associated churches.” Really? He did that? My church is associated with SGM, he did that to my church? Or maybe just CLC and the Pittsburgh church? My point is, making these claims is inaccurate when they are broad brush strokes. Also, “we really can’t be surprised that God would use the world to judge us when we have failed to judge ourselves.” You have included “ourselves,” however, I took this to imply you saying God is judging SGM, CLC, and like before, all associated churches, to include their members.

    Maybe I have missed the target; these are just a few of my thoughts. From my reading, it seemed that including you (from your response to JW) in my response to Fred’s was an appropriate thing to do.

    Please let me know if I misunderstood what you were saying above.

    JustMe

    • JustMe –

      I do believe God is bringing discipline to all of SGM. I know of several churches where members have invited people to church since the scandal and the person’s response points to the cloud over SGM’s head due to Internet searches. Josh, himself, has said God was disciplining SGM. I believe that repentance is necessary from SGM corporately, current and past members, current and past pastors, and that it is not enough to put all of the responsibility on pastors for members have shirked their duties by not questioning things in the past. It is hard for me to accept that SGM attributes everything but criticism of SGM to the sovereignty of God. As for the generalizations, guess what? When there are systemic problems in an organization, generalizations can be very useful and actually accurate. Generalizations are the essence of organizational culture.

      As for the comments regarding sweeping allegation, I intentionally brushed with a broad stroke to show RW what it looked like. The inclination to accept criticism from the blogs based on whether the mode of delivery or subjective evaluation of the messenger was deemed worthy is a fairly well-established pattern in SGM and has formally worked its way into the new polity statement in the form of the extra-biblical requirements for bringing a charge against an elder. There have been numerous cases where I have watched SGM accuse Brent of slander, but slandered Brent, seen SGM members accuse the blogs of slander, but slandered the blogs themselves. In other words, the street runs both ways.

      Your professed objectivity probably isn’t as objective as you think it is. Most of us think we are objective.

      I find it interesting that earlier you took issue with people’s behavior under the cloak,of an alias on “the blogs”, yet you chose to attack me, who has never used an alias, under the guise of such an alias.If you have a beef with me, personally, contact me directly, I am not difficult to find. Taking pot shots anonymously at someone who is not using an alias, in my opinion, is cowardly. I have no problem with people using aliases to tell their story or have a discussion, but you did attack me and Fred, that isn’t the same thing.

      Maybe I don’t take the time to explain things as thoroughly as I once did but that is because after 18 months of it I am tired of repeating myself and tired of trying to make a difference.

      • Jenn,
        I didn’t know you weren’t using an alias. 🙂 You asked if I “cared to explain,” that’s what I tried to do. From what you’ve just stated above, it seems I did understand you correctly, I think.

        Yes, I do take issue with people’s behavior behind the guise of an alias, but also shared about my intent. I wasn’t taking “pot shots” or “attacking.” I expect my “behavior” to be sincere and honest, without maligning, and hopefully in the realm of 1 Cor 14. I don’t these things mean to not question comments or express disagreement. You agree with that, yes?

        I will endeavor to continue in my intent.

        JustMe

      • JustMe – ““It seems from how you (and Jenn) presented your concerns, any descent from your observations is unacceptable and can’t possibly come from a Christian full of the Holy Spirit and walking rightly in the light, that these folks can’t possibly have “truth”.””

        This was obviously interpreted by both my and Fred as an attack. If you didn’t mean to attack us, maybe you shouldn’t have misrepresented us. At best, it was exaggeration, not designed to “believe the best” of either of us. 🙂 In this statement you seem to do the very thing you accuse us of doing.

        i don’t want to take up any more of the SGM Nation space with this drivel. If you have a beef with me, like I said, I am not hard to find. 🙂

  21. Jenn, JustMe and RW, I do not wish to argue or debate the evils of SGM as that has been done over and over for several years now. The result has been definitive proof of the corruption within the ranks and honestly, at this point I do not understand how any SGM church stil questions whether or not they should stay or go. With that said, I hope the very best for you and your churches and I pray that the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ abounds! During this time on the earth, it is especially critical that each believer hears God for himself, walks in great wisdom and discernment, knows the Word and stays extremely close to God. There are many deceivers and we are all vulnerable to this deception. It is only by the grace of God when we see the truth, when evil is exposed and we run from wolves in sheep clothing. May we have ears to hear and eyes to see. May we stand strong in the Truth of Jesus Christ, no matter the cost. May we stand alert, be watchful and blow the trumpet when there is danger coming against our brothers and sisters. God bless each of you. Shalom!

    • Fred – I think I better understand your heart on this matter. Forgive me for coming on a little strong – I do think people have to figure out how to apply wisdom and walk accordingly. I do think the pastors of both CLC and Fairfax are trying to do so, no matter how imperfectly.

  22. For what it’s worth, everyone, I think we all have said/written everything that we can profitably say in this stream. Seems to me Fred’s comment is a good closing statement. I’ll maybe catch you guys in another post some day. Peace and joy to all!

  23. sgmnation,
    have you read the book, ‘The Open Church’ by James Rutz? I did quite a few years ago and found it interesting, although I’ve not see it developed. The discussion on SGM polity proposal has rekindled my thinking on church organization structure. Something like, a corporation vs. a congregation.

    Maybe the house church movement is related to the book. The advertisement says its “goal is to enable everyone to be a participant, not just a spectator. The chuch can quickly be restored to everyone because, contray to popular belief, laypersons are eager to share their hearts, take active roles in worship, and resume the work of God.”

    This included teaching etc. One thing I remember was how needs could be shared, the example provided related to someone who needed a car, felt free to share out loud during the meeting, he needed a car. Someone else, had an extra car, problem solved. So it wasn’t just pointing away from the corporate model of church, but towards what the author believes a New Testament type of living as well. I don’t think he was suggesting communal living though.

    Just interested in your thoughts in relation to the topic.

    • JustMe – I have not read the book although it would seem to make for an interesting read given your description. Funny thing is (or maybe not so funny) – not the structure but the impetus to craft a better way to do church – is reminiscent of early SGM days (People of Destiny) where the desire for “restoration of the church” and the Acts 2 model of a shared life was a prominent theme.

      It’s probably unfair to say this but the more things change, the more they stay the same… if you wait long enough, we’ll circle back 🙂 This is probably a cynical old guy talking….

  24. Hello, I wanted to get your thoughts on some thoughts I had about Sovereign Grace Ministries and other things in general. Do you think the problem is not just Sovereign Grace Ministries but charismatic/third wave practices and theology in general? Because I have been to other charismatic churches and they also seem to look upon their leaders or even apostles as people who need to be obeyed and followed and who can’t be questioned.

  25. I may be going out on a limb here but I think the problem is whatever is being “imparted” to people in the charismatic/third wave movement. I’ve been to several charismatic/third wave churches and they all pretty much have the same ‘feel’ or ‘aura’ about them. I know that people try to make a distinction between ‘charismatics’ and ‘charismaniacs’ but I do not think there is a clear line between them because if you listen to the stories of those who identify as charismatics and who try to distance themselves from ‘charismaniacs’ alot of them are friends with and got their ‘gift’ from a ‘charismaniac’ church or person. The problem as I see it is third wave theology, practices and impartations that are being passed around. Maybe this is judgmental but I just get a sneaking suspicion that SGM is trying to spread their charismatic stuff into conservative evangelicalism. One reason for this is they have been known to invite Reformed speakers to their conferences and while they are there they will sing a “prophetic song”. I just found it weird that the Reformed guests didn’t say anything about that.

  26. Brian, is your suggestion that Third Wave theology being passed around is some kind of a coordinated plan? I saw what you saw in SGM meetings with guys like Dever in attendance and I thought it a bit uncomfortable. But I didn’t see it as necessarily a bad thing. For the record, I’m a “second experience” guy, but am happy to see the inroads Third Wave theology has made into some unlikely places (like SB churches). It’s probable that SGM had a strategy in getting charismatic practices and theology accepted by more established evangelicals. But so what? As a charismatic I was glad that more mainline evangelicals were coming to grips with the authenticity of and biblical basis for the activity of gifts like prophecy. I mention all this because you use the term “judgmental,” implying this was a bad thing.

  27. we tend to draw many conclusions from scripture. mostly, we typically think that we are correct, at least this is how I am. after the years have worn on for me, I’m seeing scripture more within its own merit, hopefully without adding my own filler to the gaps that I suppose are there. 3rd wave, 2nd wave, both really appear to be supported by within boundaries of scripture, but not one to the exclusion of the other. there is no need to be polarized on these type maters. me, being a charismatic, little C because I don’t like the label, I prefer “full Gospel,” but some take that negatively as if I think I have more of the Gospel than they (see the polarization), anyway, I’m digressing. I want to see SGM and churches a part, and those that have left, be the same. charismatics tend to emotional success and what I’ve heard in a song once, “gas.” 🙂 Not sure I’d call it that critically, but we see that often times the “charismatic movement” has thrown out the idea of doing everything decently and in order (remember Orlando a few years ago, and lots of folks barking like dogs before that). Oh my.

    so in all this as my little take, seeing SGM do what they do is not suspicious nor concerning, to share ones believe with another. I see it as right. My friends who do not subscribe to a baptism in the Holy Spirit (now or later), the ones whom appear to have not experienced either, seem to fight the good fight of faith from a more limited position. Not that they are bad people, and not that they are lesser believers, but because the power has not come upon them to be witnesses. So I would encourage them to tarry, for that infilling, overfilling, baptism, or immersion, whichever way we may prefer to call it, so they can have more power in their life. Jesus is the one that told us he’d do it, and that we’d receive power once the spirit has come upon us. We are the one’s who tend to limit it by our perfunctory beliefs. Also, we DO see through a glass darkly. so I pray for my brothers and sisters, who seem not to have had this experience, at new-birth, or later, to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I’ve seen lives change. SGM sharing these things with others, if I understood your post right, does not sound clandestine or manipulative, but something that would come from a desire for all believers, even the famous ones, to experience that power in their lives.

    Footnote: these comments are not conveying that either view of scripture is more “superior” than the other, but that they are most probably both correct, except again, not to the exclusion of the other. Also, it’s also not conveying that having one view or the makes a believer more of a believer, or a more mature believer, nor more pleasing to God.

  28. Does anyone know if SGM believes in such things as impartations? Do they ever lay their hands on people and give or impart someone a spiritual gift?

  29. Hello Robert Wallis. My concern with SGM, if they are trying to spread charismatic stuff in conservative evangelicalism, is what exactly are they spreading? From the things I have read about the early days of SGM they were into things like holy laughter and the Toronto Blessing. Before SGM got involved in the Toronto Blessing and it’s manifestations did they practice prophesy? Or did the prophesying and the prophetic songs come after they got involved in the Toronto Blessing? My concern is if SGM picked up or received any kind of “annointing” or “impartation” from TB then they are still operating out of that “annointing” which I think is not a good thing. Does anyone know if any well known prophetic movement/charismatic leaders were involved with SGM in it’s early days when they were PDI? I already know some were but were people like Bob Jones or Rick Joyner ever connected to PDI? Did PDI ever consider them as being apostles or prophets?

    • JustMe, I did hear sermons on the charismata in which issues like importation and laying on of hands was addressed.
      Brian and JustMe: I can’t speak for all of SGM, but my experience in our church was very clear with respect to Toronto Blessing. We never endorsed their leaders as apostles or prophets, but we did, in the beginning, not want to dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit which we had only heard of second hand. Accordingly, we, along with several other local churches, sponsored a series of meetings with one of the TB guys (can’t remember his name). While there was, it seemed, a certain presence and power and faith to the meetings, this marked the beginning of our pastors leading us away from the influence of TB and (later) Brownsville. There was the introduction of things like the “prayer tunnel” and manifestations like barking that pushed us over the edge. Even now I don’t want to dismiss strange manifestations simply because they are strange. The Bible is full of some pretty strange things (how about Ezekiel lying naked on his side for months and cooking with his own dung as an illustration to the people, for example). Nevertheless, there seemed to me to be a searching after manifestations that continued long after the meetings. The net result of the meetings did not seem, to my limited view, to be resulting in more passion for the Word, or holiness, or the Gospel, but rather an emotional experience as validation of faith. As a charismatic, I’m all for emotional experiences-they are clearly a part of who we are and there are plenty of illustrations of such in Scripture. But again, it just seemed to me that the TB wave resulted in an imbalance here. But I’m sure others can reasonably disagree with me.
      To my knowledge guys like Joyner and Jones were never joined in ministry to SGM, but again my perspective is limited to my local experience. There were a couple of men who visited our church who had prophetic ministries. One, whose name I thankfully can’t remember, I thought was very, very iffy. Apparently our guys thought the same since he never returned. Another man, however, came on numerous occasions and had a great impact on many folks with very precise prophetic words over folks that he knew nothing about. I knew of several folks profoundly impacted and changed for the better, and in whose lives these prophecies played out to a startling degree. His name was Lattie McDonough.
      In short, my experience in this PDI/SGM church, for most of the 25 years I’ve been here, with respect to the charismata, was pretty good and solid.
      Unfortunately, the negatives that we now all are more aware of, have overwhelmed the positives. SGM, in my opinion, is a theological shell of its former self. Time will tell if they will survive and prosper, but it doesn’t look too good, at least in my opinion.

  30. Brian, SGM had already turned the reformed corner by the time of Toronto Blessing. There was a wide range of how local SGM churches handled the manifestations. I actually visited the Toronto Vineyard church during that time so I could evaluate it firsthand versus the reports of others. I found that the reports I had heard were somewhat exaggerated. There were what appeared to be fleshly outward manifestations, however, not really knowing people I think it would have been wrong for me to judge what was going on there. However, there seemed to be only a marginal connection between what I saw in Toronto and what happened in most SGM churches. I do not think the word impartation as you describe has occurred within many of not all SGM churches in the last 20 years. I do think that some would still lay hands for the spiritual gifts, though. Many denominational churches practice that as well so I am not sure it is fair to characterize that as Catholic.

    Regarding charismatic associations, SGM has all but eliminated them. the last public association was, I believe, when Charles Simpson spoke at Celebration East in the late 90’s. I do not recall there being anything that was distinctively charismatic about his teachings there, though. Truthfully, Piper was the most controversial speaker we had because he spoke about para-church, traditional missions, which SGM had flatly rejected, embracing only a church-planting model for missions.

    Part of the controversy that came from Brent’s documents was that it revealed that SGM’s departure from Charismatic teachings and turned to reformed theology played a significant role in Larry’s departure.

    When my brother asked CJ, while at the PC, if he could name a current charismatic leader outside of SGM that we (SGM) could look to learn from CJ could not name anyone. In the past, there had been a seemingly tighter relationship with Terry Virgo of New Frontiers. I do not think there was ever any type of close relationship with Rick Joyner.

  31. All, the holidays are over so my time writing is cut way short to mostly nil; I’ve already discontinued on another site. I appreciate the idea of reform, but with all that is going on, the position of SGM and the expanding legal concerns, its not likely. Much like Luther discovered, over time, the church he loved couldn’t not be changed.

    Maybe this site could serve as a bridge for those interested, to bridge their transition from a SGM church to another, but healthy church. One would need to do some research and know where to direct folks as there are other blogs about other churches, with similar issues. Just something to consider along with providing a center for wise and Godly counsel for those desiring it, or just needing their questions answered in a calm balanced way without the hyperbole and speculations – just to get folks grounded on what’s next, vice the continuing saga and what has already happened.

    Lastly, I recently found out my church is leaving SGM; decision has been made. While I’m very excited about this decision (no, the people’s heads weren’t in the sand, the congregation wasn’t blind…etc. etc.. 🙂 ), I’m also sad about the SGM demise and our needed reasons for departure. Not sad for SGM as an organization, but the people who are the real basis for the family. So many negatively impacted by 20 years of growth, but then the bad fruit. While thousands were encouraged in their faith, there have been way to many injured by the ones that are to lay down their lives for the sheep; or by other members putting into practice harsh actions and treatments. This ought no to have been. Friends of mine were part of that, and they too were injured. So it’s the damage to the saints that saddens me most, not damage to SGM bumper stickers. I’m also saddened, not on the same scale and quite personally, that my idea of Camelot (once, a long time ago), was shattered. I call it, “Camelot Lost.” I was positively influenced by PDI in the early eighties, and now in the last 8 years, I’ve been encouraged and have had growth through SGM ministry. But then, sin came over Camelot, but this sin was always there, seemingly, but it became exposed and the kingdom feel. So my Camelot, in my eyes, the church where I felt most home, was revealed as a dark place (I’m not speaking of my own church, primarily of how I felt with SGM mission at large. The point here is, I should rejoice, there is no Camelot this side of heaven and my affections on anything as being better need to be shattered, and I’m grateful for the Lord showing me that.

    At the end of the day, whatever we do, whatever you do, I hope its end is to further the Gospel and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In all truth and ethical (pure) conduct. By servant pastors, by congregations ministering to one another and the world, by all we do, and may we never again seek to make the “brand” our goal, but making disciples.

    Not sure what else to say, but blog owner, you have a direction to go. Do you remain with the concept of reforming SGM, or reforming those who leave? I think the later would be a strong ministry for folks, as long as it was maintained as a site of helping with specific needs, by those who know or have the details for the areas these folks are in. Like a network. Just some pontification here, but this could be a great stepping off point where the traffic would rise, but then as you helped others, go down till all who came received and pressed on leaving the SGM stuff behind.

    If anyone desires to get in touch with me, the blog manager has my email. Please feel free to ask him to forward your email to me and I will be happy to respond. I’m feeling a sense of excitement, the Lord is at Work, here, now, in all our churches, and yes, His Word is true, in SGM. He is purifying his bride, and soon, very soon, we will be sitting around the marriage supper of the Lamb! Yes, amen.

    JustMe

  32. Just wanted to report here that Brent Detwiler has blocked me from his facebook page. I was having a lively conversation with Brent and several other participants, including a relative of mine–who was also subsequently blocked. My main point was simply that we should not assume all of the stories in the amended lawsuit are necessarily true or factual. (I’m pretty sure several of the allegations are false).

    I thought Brent’s page was an open forum. Yet, interestingly, it sort of reminds me of his complaint against CJ: if you don’t agree, you get sidelined. Ironically, I actually agree with much of what Brent has been saying, but not all of it. Disappointing… . .

  33. Hey, SGMNation, where’d you go? Some us really miss hearing from you! Are you still part of an SGM church? What’s happening in your world??

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