12 May 2012

You know what? All right already.

by Frank Turk

OK: enough is enough.  I'm opening this post and the comments below for one reason only: SGM "Survivors".

Here's what I think: I think that SGM has had some problems, and they have called in a third party to assess those problems, and they are working on solutions based on that report.  And I think that there is a vocal and emotional faction of people inside and outside of SGM who are not satisfied with anything but the yet-to-be-determined volume of blood and mass of flesh to be extracted.



And there are a very small number of people who think they have the rational explanation for the whole thing and are also not entirely satisfied with where it is right now.

Me personally?  I think this is what you're going to get with Charismatic theology: when conflict raises its ugly head, people lead with emotions and self-image and forget they have an objective Christ who overcomes my sin and your sin so that the two men can become one under Christ.  That's not fantastically kind, but I think that's what this boils down to.

Anyway, here it is: the TeamPyro SGM thread.

Here are the ground rules:
  1. I will delete any comments which are slanderous toward any people.  "Slander" is defined by the dictionary as "a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report."  I'm qualifying as "false" anything which is not supported by evidence, and I'm qualifying as "evidence" things done publicly or reported by an objective third party.  It's a narrow gate.  See to it.
  2. I will delete any comments which are rehashing things already covered by the AoR Report, or calling the AoR report false or otherwise tainted.  The world is not in a conspiracy against the battalion of people who claim SGM is run by the minions of Satan, in spite of some opinions to the contrary.
  3. I will welcome thoughtful reflections on the events, but not accusations or tantrums.  "What's the difference," you ask?  Then you better not comment.  Seriously.
  4. I reserve the right to be capricious and utterly unfair in my editorial prerogatives.
  5. The other rules for posting here apply.
Have a nice weekend.


147 comments:

Matt said...

Interesting thought regarding Charismatic theology and how emotion tends to play a large role in the life of those who are. I wouldn't consider myself to be Charismatic but I do attend a church that would be and those who tend give weight to emotion is large in our Church. Praying for SGM and that God is honored through this process and that mud slinging stops.

Brian Auten said...

Forgive length, but I figure I'd get the ball rolling. My hat is off to you, Frank. You're the first conservative evangelical blogger who has been willing to do this.

There are about 5-6 different issues going on when you talk about our denomination's woes, which makes it difficult for "outside folks" to keep from either (a) conflating things that need to be separated for purposes of accurate analysis; and/or (b) just deciding the whole thing is too complicated and fraught with peril, and so decide to keep mum.

(1) the ethics of Brent Detwiler's decision to distribute a bunch of internal emails, including third party info, to every SGM pastor;

(2) the ethics of one of those recipients, who decided that it was in the public's benefit to see Brent's compilations (i.e. the "leak")

(3) the ethics/tactics of the "exile blogs" which predated the release of Brent's material by almost 4 years

(4) the fact that many individual SGM churches, including my own and Josh Harris', are in the midst of publicly apologizing for how SGM church has been "done" for years; but there's still much, much hesitancy from SGM denominational leadership about saying anything with the word "systemic" in it;

(5) the fact that the changes in these individual churches, including my own, was precipitated in very large part by information released on the "exile blogs" but -- I think for worse, not better -- weren't being discussed publicly (inside/outside congregations) until Detwiler's compilations were leaked to the public.

Altogether, as I've argued elsewhere, the public outing of the Mahaney/Detwiler conflict is the equivalent of Sarajevo, June 1914. It was the immediate proximate cause, but it isn't the underlying cause of the denomination's problems, which are sub-cultural and polity-related.

Brian Auten said...

And because I'm a grammar and typo Nazi to my own graduate students, the "was" in point 5 should be a "were"

Frank Turk said...

Brian:

So let me ask you pointedly: are you saying that the means -- which were cowardly at best, and spiteful at worst -- are justified by the ends (causing some churches to publicly take some actions which weren;t being taken previously)?

You're saying that unless the e-mails were circulated to the SGM pastors, and then one of those cats had not made them public, there would have been nothing done at all, yes?

DJP said...

Two things:

1. I think this is what you're going to get with Charismatic theology: when conflict raises its ugly head, people lead with emotions and self-image...

Word.

2. Frank Turk is a menace and that's among the many things I love about him.

Tom Chantry said...

Wow. Blogger just ate this comment and I'm having to retype it. If Phil ever decides to take this blog to Wordpress he'll be my hero.

@ Brian,

Frank asks a good question, but may I at least make the observation, it is encouraging even in your summary that at least someone is doing something within SGM. Efforts are being made to correct wrongs. But what I hear you saying is that individual churches are working hard at reform, the denominational leadership is working insufficiently at reform, and the critics have as yet...what? Acknowledged any wrong? Sat smugly by? It's unclear.

@ Brian & All SGM Critics,

Here's my question to all of you: What would qualify any outside person or group to intervene and/or mediate this dispute? The implication of many of the online responses to Trueman et. al., to the Peacemakers overture, and to the AOR report suggest that the necessary condition for anyone to even comment is that they first agree entirely with the conclusions of SGM's critics.

That is problematic for two reasons. First, it suggests that one group was entirely in the wrong and the other was entirely in the right. Anyone with any experience in the church (or in the world, for that matter) knows how unlikely that is. Second, it suggests that there is little interest in mediation or peacemaking at all on the part of the critics, but only in what Frank calls "the yet-to-be-determined volume of blood and mass of flesh to be extracted." Or, as he put it in the other thread, part of the problem is "an unreasonable hunger and thirst for justice."

For those who say, "You can't call it 'unreasonable,' you don't know what they did," let's replace "unreasonalbe" with "ungracious." In light of the gospel, can any Christian desire justice for his fellow professors above mercy? It is impossible to have an unreasonable desire for truth, but it is possible to have an unreasonable desire for justice. Truth is untempered; justice is tempered by mercy. But it is no way to get at truth to say, "You must first agree entirely with my side; then we can have a conversation."

So the critics of SGM ought to come up with an answer to my question, which again is: What would qualify any outside person or group to intervene and/or mediate this dispute?

Tom Chantry said...

Semi-Off-Topic Comment Alert

Frank wrote something beautifully instructive to Christians in this post, even if they never heard of SGM:

...people lead with emotions and self-image and forget they have an objective Christ who overcomes my sin and your sin so that the two men can become one under Christ.

Forget SGM, C.J. Mahaney, Brent Detwiler, and even Frank's (I think accurate) assessment of charismaticism for just a moment, and just consider this sentence fragment. Christian, whatever sins and conflicts have arisen between you and your brothers in the Lord, there are two ways in which you can approach them. One is subjective, and it is the way of the world. The other is objective, and it is the way of the gospel. It isn't ever easy to follow the second, but the peace and unity of the Body depend on it.

allanclare said...

It will be interesting reading the comments here. I genuinely hope it is also useful for the Church.

Already the 'charismatic' dimension is being blamed for people leading with 'emotions and self-image'? I think that's proper Met Tab Crazy. (Sorry a UK phrase. And I hope that isn't slander.)

Some people might argue that SGMs 'problems' certainly didn't get any better as they sought to lose the 'charismatic dimension' in their efforts to wow the Reformed conference crowd. Brent Detwiler's latest post deals with SGMs efforts to stop believing in 'apostles' as it didn't go across very well with most Christians!

As I said on another thread:

'If you want any real discernment of SGMs issues (and you'll need to be alert to some real anger and bitterness) you need to listen to the people who were actually MEMBERS of SGM churches for 5, 10, 15, 20 YEARS. People who were even part of SGMs leadership structures. And they're the ones that have posted their stories and experiences on the blogs sgmrefuge and sgmsurvivors for the past four years or so. Go to the archives from 2008. Read.

ATC, Bristol, UK.

candy said...

I think it is telling that Detweiler is willing to now take these issues to Civil Court. My question for Detweiler is: When is it time to leave results in the hand of God? If his concern is to be biblical in this process, why take all of this to court?

Saying that, I do think it was not right to pack up and move SGM ministries to Louisville in the midst of unresolved conflict, especially where Covenant Life Church with Josh Harris is concerned. I think that is a poor testimony to others and not helpful.

allanclare said...

But Candy - haven't you read what the SGM board have told us concerning the Kentucky move? Being in the DC area was hindering their work, Louiseville is geographically better placed, it's cheaper out there, etc, etc?

I mean, if it's anything to do with what you're suggesting then that would mean the top-tier of leaders at SGM have LIED.

ATC, Bristol, UK.

Brian Auten said...

All --

So no one thinks I've done a disappearing act in the face of a pointed (and important) question, I'm out with the family until later this afternoon. Will address Frank's question (which is similar to one made by Challies in August of last year) when I get back.

rickandviv.net said...

I'm a 10-year SGM church member, I'm in a leadership position, and our church has really been on the periphery of all of this. Most of our members aren't being too affected by all of this. The abuses that are mentioned in the reports just haven't been part of my experience at this church (by God's grace!).

So I feel a bit like an outsider to all of this. It's kind of like I'm reading about a parallel universe version of SGM!

Big Al H said...

Hi everyone! My two cents on the whole SGM situation.
1. Frank hit the nail on the head with the charismatic issue. I would go further and say it was SGM's roots in the apostolic movement of the 70's that led to much of this.
2. Relating to the leak. I left before the troubles, but I told my pastor their polity was an accident waiting to happen. Their is a tendency in SGM to focus on the critics. ex Jared Mellinger saying that going to the SGM anti blogs was worse than looking at porn. Frank you are spot on when you ask if anything would have been done without the leak. I'm not so sure.
3. Allan you are so right. Listen to the folks who spent time in SGM. This isn't one or two isolated and angry malcontents. Real folks suffered real hurt.
4. Candy what you said about the move to Louisville is spot on as well. Cj and the leaders of SGM were quick to discipline and remove pastors, but why when CJ was under "discipline" did he chose to not resolve all of this and instead move to Louisville without dealing with all of this?

Lastly, as one who used to post on survivors, I saw that what I was saying was not edyfing or building up. I no longer talk about it (I was surprised to see a post on SGM), my prayer is for healing and reform. We all need to see the errors, admit the wrong, and encourage one another, but always in love.

Nicholas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicholas said...

Anyone else having problems posting? As soon as I post, it's gone. Maybe Frank moderates at the speed of light, but I don't think so.

Tom Chantry said...

I know, Nicholas. Blogger ate my homework, too.

Nicholas said...

Let's try this again...

Frank points out one of the serious problems with the way this has been handled: anonymously, often with the release of scandalous detail, on the internet. It makes me uncomfortable, even if I count myself on the side of those who want reform.

I would have preferred things to go down another way, but now that the cat's out of the bag, I would say the issue is moot. If my leaders sin, and someone later shares that sin in a sinful way, it doesn't undo the original sin. Both people have sinned, and since pastors are held to a higher standard, it's important to deal with the sin of the leader. Because the integrity of our church leaders is important.

I was at the first CLC members meeting, I witnessed CJ's repentance statement, listened as my pastors publicly indicated that CJ remained unentreatable, and watched as CJ relocated to a nearby church. It was a wake up call, and although I don't like how it happened, I'm glad it did.

In the case of SGM, there may have been no other way than "cowardly" and "spiteful" retributions -- only a few people directly witnessed the problems, and they seem to have been quickly marginalized, shunned, or dismissed. Unlike other denominations, there is less and less accountability as one climbed the pyramid of authority. This doesn't excuse the behavior of the anonymous individuals, but it doesn't release the pastors, either -- especially when the initial allegations are confirmed, as many have been.

Perhaps the best solution would have been to leave quietly. But there are those of us who actually think both Charismatics and Reformed types have something to contribute theologically. We put scripture first, but we appreciate the continuation of certain (not all) spiritual gifts. We want our worship to be informed *and* passionate, with biblical truth guiding our emotions. Ah, but that's a different post. Short story: SGM seems to be the only game in town as far as that goes, so for those who share my view, it's very hard to leave.

Nicholas said...

(@Tom - Fortunately I typed this post into Word, since I figured it would be a long one.)


Personally, I would like to see three changes:

(1) CJ retired. I don't think he has to be fired, and I don't think he's evil. But I think several things prove that he's no longer above reproach. I won't list them specifically here, because of Frank's warning -- but even neglecting the documents (I haven't read all of them), I've seen enough personally in the past year to give me pause. He may be a man worthy of respect, but I simply don't think he qualifies for the office of elder anymore.

(2) Polity changes should be enacted to clarify the position of the SGM board and establish accountability for church leaders. Right now, I have a hard time figuring out if SGM is a parachurch or a denomination. I would prefer something more Presbyterian in nature, but I'm willing to consider anything with a Biblical basis. Obviously, this will take time.

(3) I'd prefer more transparency throughout the whole system, especially with finances and leadership decisions. I understand sometimes this isn't possible, but I was shocked the first time at my (new) PCA church that the budget was released: I saw the salaries of everyone on staff! I asked for this information while I was at CLC, but I never saw anything more than large budget categories. Similarly, in the two SGM churches I attended, I counted no less than 11 instances where direct familial relationships existed between the pastors (i.e. brother-brother in law, father-son, etc.). Maybe they were the best candidates, but no information about a pastoral search was ever released.

Nicholas said...

(Last post, I promise!)

In a perfect world, I think these changes would be helpful, too, but they are more difficult:

(1) Obviously, I would prefer SGM not relocate. Even though their stated reasons are proximity to SBTS and lower cost of living, I think the timing is pretty questionable. I was fairly close to several people involved in the Pastor's College, and in the last 7 years I never once heard any mention of a move to Louisville. Thinking about all the people who are losing their jobs makes me sad, and I wonder whether it's really because of the stated reasons. If Christians can still have a BS meter, mine is going off here.

(2) I wish something could be done about the uniformity in church culture. The earliest meeting at CLC tried to address the problem where Christian principles were reduced to a single practice. For example, there was only *one* right way to raise your kids. Similarly, there was pressure for all the couples to look the same: weekly date nights, etc. The *practice* of date nights was emphasized, rather than *principle* of loving your spouse, and those who didn't conform to the practice were frequently marginalized. I don't think this is specific to SGM: It's much easier to follow a checklist than to establish Biblical convictions, but I think it's prevalent within SGM. I'm not sure how you'd address this.

I've written a lot, but I think a lot needs to be said. I've tried to think about this, and there are a lot of people still in the movement who have thought hard about it as well (even if they haven't reached the same conclusions as me). I am exceedingly grateful for what I learned during my time in SGM, especially with regards to the Gospel and studying the Bible. I know that some of what you wrote about emotionalism was tongue-in-cheek, but I do hope you'll appreciate that we aren't all tear-filled whiners in a therapy session complaining about our unmet needs. :-) My sincere hope is that by studying God's word and discussing these issues with transparency, reform will come to SGM.

Tom Chantry said...

Nicholas,

Thanks for writing in the manner in which you did. I think that you expressed rather strong opposition to SGM and CJ without crossing the line into rhetorical rage or into gossip.

I would guess that you well understand that while it's easy to say, "Personally, I would like to see three changes..." as an individual member - and now ex-member - you are in no position to enact such changes. The leadership of SGM didn't do what you suggest, but here's the real difficulty: neither did AOR.

So my question to you is two-fold: First, is AOR disqualified from mediating this dispute, and if so, why? What would qualify a group to mediate? Second, if none of your suggestions are ever followed, what should be our attitude toward SGM and its leadership, particularly now that they have called in an outside mediator and are working toward reform according to that mediator's decisions?

dac said...

What would qualify any outside person or group to intervene and/or mediate this dispute?

indeed

Nicholas said...

@Tom - Those are tough questions, but I'll try to address how I'm personally handling them. I can't speak for everyone else.

First, I do think that AoR is qualified, because they were asked. I think it's easy to overlook what a huge step that was now that it happened. That's not to say that they're doing much mediating -- to me, mediating means being an active third party in a discussion, and sadly, no one seems to want to meet face to face.

That said, I recognize that no human group is really qualified to mediate. This is, after all, a private group and they are responsible for their own decisions. Change must come from within, as you point out. Aside from that, only God can make the final assessment.

At the same time, SGM claims to represent Christ's church, and I think as Christians we can address individuals within SGM and ask them about what they're doing. If something seems "off" we can and should say so. More than what I write here, I am trying to ask my friends to think about the situation in their church and figure out whether it's Biblical. This isn't unlike what Frank and the rest do here--and I, for one, appreciate it when they make me think about my own potential errors.

If SGM never reforms, I'll be disappointed, but it won't be the end of the world. I've shared my ideas with the leadership, and my conscience is clear. I don't doubt their faith, and I can still appreciate their heart to promote the Gospel. And like I said, God's still in control, and I'm (mostly) okay trusting him. :-)

I will add that I left the CLC because of my job, not because of these issues. If there were an SGM church in my state, I'm not sure whether we'd still be attending or not.

Tom Chantry said...

Since I'm almost sure (on the basis of past experience) that my question is now being mis-read, let me clarify. Wise Christians in unresolvable disputes within their churches and who have already followed their polity to its ultimate extreme will often try to invite other Christians in to mediate the dispute and to restore Christian fellowship. This is why groups like Peacemakers and Ambassadors of Reconciliation exist.

Some critics of SGM have suggested that neither Peacemakers nor AOR nor the ad-hoc committee of outsiders called in to give oversight to Mahaney are qualified to intervene or to mediate.

My question is not a rhetorical one suggesting that no one outside SGM can have an opinion. Rather it is a serious question: assuming that mediation and ultimate restoration of fellowship is a worthy goal, what exactly would qualify a group to do such mediation?

Tom Chantry said...

Note to all.

Frank's words which I already quoted:
...people lead with emotions and self-image and forget they have an objective Christ who overcomes my sin and your sin so that the two men can become one under Christ
indicate two ways to approach conflict - one worldy and subjective and the other Scriptural and objective. The second way is well demonstrated in the following commment:
If SGM never reforms, I'll be disappointed, but it won't be the end of the world. I've shared my ideas with the leadership, and my conscience is clear. I don't doubt their faith, and I can still appreciate their heart to promote the Gospel. And like I said, God's still in control, and I'm (mostly) okay trusting him.

Thank you, Nicholas.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I appreciate the thoughtful comments here. Brian, apropos of nothing, I love Apologetics315---your ministry is much-needed and fills a gap. So thank you.

Back to the topic at hand, I won't say much because I have no connection whatsoever to a SGM church, and I've only read a little here and there about the "scandal." I will offer this much... recently it came out that a highly respected missionary from my state (who is now dead of natural causes) had engaged in sexual assault on some young girls decades ago. They are now grown up and started a website where they were demanding retribution from all people and entities who were implicated from their point of view. Their actions hurt innocent people who had nothing to do with the original incidents. Their attitude was hateful, vengeful, and unbiblical. This EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD SUFFERED REAL ABUSE.

So whether or not the allegations have truth to them is, I think, only a part of the story here.

aaron said...

Frank, and others. . . Why were Detwiler's "means" cowardly at best or spiteful at worst?

All of this info. was shared privately before publicly. Many of the key players were etreated, notified, pleaded with, etc. . by Detwiler before he released the documents. This wasn't even really a "leak". . it was a forewarned info-share that could've been avoided.

I need someone to explain to me what Detwiler did wrong there, how/if it relates to Matthew 18, and what else he could've done? No one was listening? Same thing with Mars hill and the joyfulexiles blog. . who will listen?

Tom Chantry said...

Aaron,

Because Matthew 18:17 doesn't say, "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, then publish it in permanent form before the eyes of the entire world."

That's why.

aaron said...

Thanks Tom, . . I do think there was a lack of awareness of how big it could actually go. But, he was trying to "tell it to the denomination". The docs. were supposed to be just that. Docs. to the pastors of SGM. And, to be fair the powers that be have only responded to SGM, they haven't responded to the entire blogosphere.

So, ok. I'll agree that he could've been more "private" in a public way within SGM. But, let's also let the truth stand that SGM could've made this not happen by responding, answering, giving him his hearing. (I know they claim to have done that. . .I understand there's a difference of opinion there).

rdrift1879 said...

Tom,

Can you tell us what the proper procedure would be when genuine spiritual abuse is taking place in a church, or family of churches, and the leadership never acknowledges it, or even turns to shunning the abused?

Is there no recourse whatsoever, and should it just be allowed to continue?

dac said...

I find this thread tres amusant, for oh so many reasons

Question - what makes SGM different than TGC, biblically speaking? And why should internal disputes be treated differently?

be sure to think through the biblical definition of "church" before weighing in, because indeed, that is the key question

Nonna said...

It is impossible to have an unresonable desire for truth, but it is possible to have an unreasonable desire for justice. Truth is untempered; justice is tempered by mercy.

Tom, this is worth tucking away. Thank you!

Tom Chantry said...

And the difference of opinion leads to a further problem with how this was approached, which in turn leads to yet another.

First, the idea that Matthew 18 is a weapon put in the hand of every Christian which can be exercised outside of church structure and procedures is, I believe, a flawed idea. The Christian ought to endeavor to pursue Matthew 18 principles within the guidelines of his church. If SGM had no such guidelines, then shame on them. If they have them and didn't follow them, then shame on them. But no Christian, pastor or otherwise, really has the right to invent how he's going to impose Matthew 18 on his entire church or denomination. "Tell it to the church" is something which ought to be done in an orderly fashion, which means according to an established order.

But, some will say, that order wasn't there, or wasn't working, and we couldn't resolve it that way. We had to do something. Really?

Here's the thing: biblical conflict resolution, including discipline, is perfect in that it is instituted by an infallible God, but it is imperfect in that it is always and in every single case administered by sinners. Sometimes the biblical procedures will fail. What do we do then? Improvise? Write steps five through seventeen when Matthew 18 stopped at four? Or when we have followed the procedure available to us in God's Word and Christ's church, do we then need to leave the results to God?

I'm unaware of a single verse on conflict resolution or church discipline which puts any Christian on a mission from God to make certain that any issue is resolved.

Tom Chantry said...

@ rdrift,

Please believe that I'm taking your question and concern very seriously, and don't assume otherwise. Let me ask a question in return:

Recourse for what end? A recourse to see justice for those who did wrong, or a recourse to find healing and restoration for the souls of the aggrieved? I don't think these two are necessarily identical.

Tom Chantry said...

Hey, Dac, I love your ability to comment smugly on things you understand so well, particularly when coupled with your complete inability to read with any comprehension at all as far as the second sentence of the original post!

Jody Britton said...

Tom,

I'll agree that there was some "leaving it to God" that needed to happen here. But, it's a bit worse than you say because the "Matthew 18" process here involved some conflicts of interest, it seemed.

The "taking it to the church" is sometimes rigged is all I'm saying. So, let's let the weight of condemnation fall on the scope and open nature of the docs. released. Ok. But, let's also recognize that there wasn't alot of recourse for accountability of the leaders at some point.

allanclare said...

Well done, Tom. First bit of rudeness goes to you for the following comment!


- - - - Hey, Dac, I love your ability to comment smugly on things you understand so well - - -

(PS: I suppose I'm second now....)

(PPS: Do you two have a history? I sort of fasted from pyromaniacs for a year but you seem to be all over the shop! Ironically, given that the Nasty Blogs will be no doubt discussed here, I fasted as I personally found aspects of PYRO a little unedifying......)

Brian Auten said...

First, I'd better clear something up from the beginning based on yankeegospelgirl's post. I'm not that Brian Auten. Even though we both did missions work in Ukraine, have an interest in national security matters, married UK subjects and enjoy talking theology, he can drum and I can't even play an instrument.

Frank: So let me ask you pointedly: are you saying that the means -- which were cowardly at best, and spiteful at worst -- are justified by the ends (causing some churches to publicly take some actions which weren;t being taken previously)? You're saying that unless the e-mails were circulated to the SGM pastors, and then one of those cats had not made them public, there would have been nothing done at all, yes?

1. In short, no, I don't believe ends justify means -- either in warfare or in church conflict. But riffing off of what Aaron said earlier, absent the existence of any type of internal adjudicating body (like most other denominations have), Brent's sharing of information to the wider group of SGM pastors, in my view, wasn't problematic. It was still "within family circles" and should, in my view, have provoked a decision to set up an internal evaluating body made up of pastors outside of the fray + qualified lay people.

2. The public "leak" of Brent's information is, in my view, much less justifiable (though I'm not willing to say that it can *never* be justified Biblically -- there is a place for Biblical 'whistleblowing,' but I'm not sure this reached that point).

3. Every leak has a context, which is why I'm always intrigued to see how conservative evangelical blogosphere reactions tend to focus on the act of the leaking vs. analyzing (a) the content of what was leaked; and (b) the context in which the leak occurred. Given the counterfactual of a healthy, well-functioning, well-governed denomination, would the leaker have been as tempted? Using a very loose -- emphasis on very loose -- analogy, conservative evangelical bloggers have focused their phasers on Daniel Ellsberg's actions (which can't be ignored and were illegal) but, at the same time, can't even bring themselves to consider what the Pentagon Papers had to say about Vietnam. And, continuing the analogy, they also won't consider the context for what tempted Ellsberg to do it in the first place.

4. @Tom -- Honestly, I'm one of those guys who doesn't believe there should have been outside mediation. One of my earliest frustrations with, for instance, the three-person (DeYoung, Trueman and Ortland) panel was that I highly doubt, given a similar situation in their own denominations (at least with DeYoung and Trueman), that they would have countenanced the idea of having some outside party come in to handle a denominational leadership issue. My desire would have been for the three of them to turn around and ask, in a very Pauline way, "You don't have anyone in your movement -- pastors and/or congregrants -- who can evaluate and adjudicate this? You know we're all going to be judging angels, right?"

5. @Tom one more time -- "already followed their polity to its ultimate extreme" is the kicker phrase. SGM polity is, and has been, *the* problem, regardless of Brent's assertion in his latest post that polity problems are secondary to what he asserts is bad character.

aaron said...

Tom, yeah we can agree Detwiler could've done some things differently. Absolutely. But, Frank, I can't agree with "cowardly at best, spiteful at worst" if we're talking about the docs. . . not necessarily all of the blogs.

That sounds a bit prejudicial to start off a blog where we're to refrain from slander and taking personal shots at people (a sentiment I agree with and hope we can keep up)

rdrift1879 said...

Tom,

The recourse I think the mature believer would be seeking is restoration and healing for the aggrieved, but also exposure to protect others from systemic abuse that is not acknowledged and will not be repented of.

It seems to me TeamPyro regularly exposes error and bad practice for the benefit of the church at large. Why can't the actual victims of spiritual abuse warn others of systemic problems in a movement or church which they know all too well?

In the SGM case, I think Detweiler is a bit of an odd duck, but many of the "Survivors" are mature saints, and some former SGM leaders, who are simply trying to be watchmen on the wall. They love their churches, and want the best, and yet also feel the need to protect others from what can reasonably be called a corrupt and unbiblical system of leadership. How should they do this? One could just walk away, but what happens to the innocent and unsuspecting in a spiritually dangerous environment?

What would you do?

aaron said...

Brian,

You know more about the polity issues than any of us. But, is it out of line to bring up character when personal communications and replies have shown that even the "individual brother" mandates weren't followed here. Yes, there seems to be polity and chain of command issues. . . but those needs were only exposed because people did not love and respect each other well, in a sermon on the mount/1 Corinthians 13/ Ephesians 4 way, in my opinion.

Tom Chantry said...

Allanclare,

Dac's questions have been asked and answered ad nauseum, but he doesn't like the answers. And now he refuses to abide by Frank's insistence that "I'm opening this post and the comments below for one reason only: SGM "Survivors"."

Tom Chantry said...

@ Brian,

Fascinating question re. Trueman, Ortland, and DeYoung. I'd love to hear any of them answer it. Of course, there has since been further outside intervention, and that intervention has led to recommendations of change of polity within SGM.

I still come back to my question, which is this: if the polity of SGM, such as it is, failed, and if outside intervention also failed, then what?

Tom Chantry said...

@ rdrift1879,

The recourse I think the mature believer would be seeking is restoration and healing for the aggrieved, but also exposure to protect others from systemic abuse that is not acknowledged and will not be repented of.

I find the first part of that undeniable. I'm not sure I see where the second part of it is required of us in Scripture. I understand the desire for exposure, but I'm not sure that it is in line with how we should pursue these matters biblically. I remain unconvinced.

It seems to me TeamPyro regularly exposes error and bad practice for the benefit of the church at large. Why can't the actual victims of spiritual abuse warn others of systemic problems in a movement or church which they know all too well?

The difference is that TeamPyro has pointed at persistent and public false teaching. It has not sought to expose every sin in every church. Neither are the SGM survivors, obviously. However, there is a difference in the two circumstances. The Pyro guys have been making the argument that the New Testament gives us one way to deal with the teachers of error and yet another to deal with sins which, by their very nature, took place in a more private context. You may disagree with their distinction, but they have attempted to make it biblically and no one has responded in kind.

Incidentally, my interest in this situation began with curiosity as to why some in the anti-SGM crowd (none of whom seem to be posting today, oddly) have been insistent that TeamPyro get involved in this mess. Several have hijacked comment threads and said, essentially, "You must deal with our issue and do so today!"

That, to me, is indicative of a mindset that is unwilling to be patient and wait on the Lord.

aaron said...

Tom, I'm seeing your point here. I just disagree that everything possible was done. I don't know that the AOR were comprehensive enough. I get the same feelings sometimes reading the various reports, like "enough already, can't we just fix this". But, there are things that just haven't been addressed yet, and none of us can do that for them.

Tom Chantry said...

@ rdrift1879,

Oh, I never answered your last question. Yes, honestly I would walk away, and I would also pray. I just can't see where God calls me to expose Christians who are guilty of misconduct. (Not talking about crime, here, by the way - that's another issue.) And no, I'm not speaking hypothetically. I know of situations which have never been resolved, and of pastors who have been guilty of great spiritual abuse. How I handle that, and more importantly, how I not handle that, is guided by Scripture.

aaron said...

I'll say that "protecting others" is in bounds for a biblical motivation here. What about 2 Timothy 3? That's not JUST false teaching there. . those are character things.

Tom Chantry said...

@ Aaron,

...none of us can do that for them.

Bingo

Tom Chantry said...

@ Aaron,

I have no doubt that many have good motivations, and some may even have motivations which are good and uncomplicated. But the question is still one of proper action. I was responding to this statement:

The recourse I think the mature believer would be seeking is restoration and healing for the aggrieved, but also exposure to protect others from systemic abuse that is not acknowledged and will not be repented of.

My issue is with "exposure" rather than "to protect others." I am certain that II Peter 3:10 says that God will expose the works of the unrighteous deeds of the wicked; I'm not certain that any text - including Ephesians 5:11 - requires me to expose the unrighteous deeds of my fellow professors, particularly if that exposure involves going beyond the protocols of church discipline.

Rick said...

Frank - regarding this comment "Me personally? I think this is what you're going to get with Charismatic theology: when conflict raises its ugly head, people lead with emotions and self-image and forget they have an objective Christ who overcomes my sin and your sin so that the two men can become one under Christ. That's not fantastically kind, but I think that's what this boils down to."
I think it is a 'charasmatic' problem. I think what you are describing is possibly a 'charismatic aberration' afterall I think even you cessationists agree that Jesus Himself was 'charasmatic' as well as the early churches? And even when there were 'charasmatic aberrations' within the early church, the apostles didn't exhort them to cease to be 'charasmitic'.

Rick said...

Regarding the above comment from Rick - I should have stated: I DON'T think it is a 'charasmatic' problem'- and Not - I think it is a 'charasmatic' problem.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Okay, sorry Brian. My mistake. I didn't know it was that common of a name. :)

candy said...

Tom, you said: ." I am certain that II Peter 3:10 says that God will expose the works of the unrighteous deeds of the wicked; I'm not certain that any text - including Ephesians 5:11 - requires me to expose the unrighteous deeds of my fellow professors..."

I am confused by that statement. I think people have been exposing unrighteous deeds from Christian leadership all along. Mark Driscoll is a good example of that. What am I missing here? I think we should expose unrighteous deeds since the Bible states that leadership should be above reproach. Where would that reproach come from if not from the Body? Correct me if I am wrong as I could be misunderstanding what you are saying.

Tom Chantry said...

@ Candy,

Mark Driscoll's error, to take one of many men as an example, has not been hidden or private. It has been open in his public teaching. No one is digging into his tax returns, or into his dealings with his kids. No one (except, ironically, himself) has been digging into the personal matters of his marriage. The criticism from these quarters has been of his bad teaching - which the Scriptures very clearly call us to rebuke.

Here's a question: if we are called to expose unrighteous deeds of those in authority (a very modern and revolutionary idea, by the way) is there any line which should not be crossed? What should we and what should we not expose? Keep in mind, all men are sinners.

Brian Auten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Auten said...

@yankeegospelgirl – I was not offended in the least. No apologies are necessary. My internet doppelganger and I often laugh about these mix-ups, but I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t dragged into the SGM matter. He probably catches enough flak for my posts at Boar’s Head Tavern.

@Tom – Regarding conservative evangelical blogosphere attention to SGM and your comments to rdrift1879 and others, is there a point at which “poor church practice” or “misconduct” actually does rise to the level of warranting public analysis and possibly public rebuke? I’m a political science and history guy, so many of my analogies come out of the political realm. The SGM “exile blogs,” blogging ethics, not to mention the whole BoB/ER/JM/SGM/TGC matter reminds me of a debate that’s been raging in international relations theory for about 10 years – responsibility to protect (R2P). In short, in the face of egregious human rights violations occurring inside of a state, what are the obligations and responsibilities of those outside that state to (a) draw attention to the plight of the beleaguered community, and/or (b) come to its rescue? Is there a point at which a state’s sovereignty (by loose analogy – what you refer to as the “church discipline” route) can be overlooked or considered null/void because of what’s going on inside? Naturally, much of this revolves around (a) knowledge -- the credibility, quantity and reliability of the reports one is receiving; and (b) the egregiousness of the reported violations. But if the reports are credible, numerous and egregious, what is an outsider’s obligation?

Tom Chantry said...

@ Brian,

(I, too, have difficulties with your name, but only because every time in my life that I've tried to type "Brian" I've had to go back and correct my mistype: "Brain.")

This is where I think my earlier disclaimer about crimes comes into effect. YGG mentioned an unrelated case of sexual abuse. If we have knowledge of this, we should go to the secular authorities who wield the sword. This just needs to be said.

Beyond this, I would say that we have a biblical obligation to show love and care to the victims who come into our own circle of fellowship, and to pray for the peace and unity of the church. What I cannot find in Scripture is a responsibility to become self-appointed policemen of the church at large, nor to expose such behavior to the eyes of a watching world.

Your analogy with foreign affairs is intriguing, but not biblically compelling. Let me be clear, I believe we would have no warrant for calling out bad teachers or even heretics unless the Scripture commanded us to do so. What gives us the authority?

Nonna said...

I would like to contribute something to this discussion with the hope that an added perspective be given - a perspective from one who was a member of a para-church ministry gone bad, real bad - to the point of becoming a full-fledged cult.

I know what it's like first-hand to suffer from spiritual abuse of a mammoth kind. The para-church ministry (PCM) to which my husband and I belonged perpetrated some of the worst kind of injuries possible upon its members. My husband suffered far worse than I, something that took a number of years from which to heal. The abuses encompassed every aspect of our lives there, and to such a degree that our very persons seemed to be beaten to a pulp. Please know, this is not exaggeration.

In our experience, there were NO BOUNDARIES. It was open season on every aspect of our lives - members were compelled by leadership to reveal even their deepest thoughts and anxieties publicly. Members were openly mocked and ridiculed. Those who were considered non-compliant with the leadership were given actual derrogatory labels. There was a script enacted as to how the rest of the members were to engage with and treat these "rebels." Everything from how we raised our children, the personal and private affairs of married couples, who dated who and if such a relationship was acceptable by the group, how each person spent their money, what each person did with their time, all areas of our lives were under the public scrutiny of the leadership as well as all members. Our manner of living there became unbearable and we had no recourse but to leave - otherwise we very well may have lapsed into a deteriorated mental state from which escape would not have been possible.

Why do I dare furnish such information when I'm not an SGM survivor? I suggest that victims of spiritual abuse have much in common and the effects of that abuse leave similar indelible marks. The issues that victims of spiritual abuse must grapple with, the struggles within the heart, mind, and soul, are ones that are profoundly and grievously concrete. The pain suffered is bona fide, actual, and legitimate.

Thus it is that those who give advise as to how the abused should act - what response is acceptable and unacceptable toward those who abused them - has the effect of seeming sanctimonious or trite or downright out of touch with reality. It takes many folks years to emerge from the devestating effects of spiritual abuse and experiences a sense of normalcy. They will necessarily say things that proceed from hurt emotions and a damaged heart and mind. Healing takes time and those who interact with vicitims of spiritual abuse must be long-suffering, forbearing, compassionate, and merciful. In the interim, these folks need to be given some slack.

I sincerely hope that what I've said is helpful to those of you who have never experienced the plight of being a member of an abusive PCM, church, sect, or cult. It is crucial and prudent to lay aside bias and preconceptions when encountering survivors of abuse.

aaron said...

Tom, in 2 Timothy 3, Paul tells Timothy to "avoid" such men"

He publicly exposed their deeds in vs. 1-8 and then in verse 9 says "their folly will be evident to all".

He made that last comment after delineating exactly what their folly was. And, it was more than just false teaching.

Help me out. The scripture does have NT examples of people being publicly exposed. Many times it was false teaching, but not always.

Taking Nonna's admonition to heart, and Brian's words as well their has to be a place for the sinned against to have a voice. And, it goes beyond just polity.

Tom Chantry said...

@ aaron,

My read on II Timothy 3:1-9, in a nutshell:

v 1 - description of times of difficulty

vv 2-5a - description of evildoers in the last days, clearly indicating that these are not believers

v 5b - warning to avoid evildoers

vv 6-8 - reason to avoid evildoers is that among them will be, well, false teachers

v 9 - statement that their folly will be exposed - most likely referencing the false teachers in vv 6-8, although arguably the same could be said of all the evildoers in vv 2-5a.

OK, that's nothing more than a really quick thumbnail sketch, but I'm not seeing two things here: I'm not seeing any command to expose all the evildoers in the world, nor am I seeing any command to expose all the sins (indiscriminately) of preacher/teachers.

I really don't think I'm saying anything too difficult here. Some sins are public; some are not. God will expose all un-repented sin; He doesn't call me to expose it all. There is a difference between noting open, public sin and pointing out the very obvious, very public disqualifications of some men for public ministry and ferreting out private sins for the same purpose. I can see where the Bible requires one of these of me, but not the other.

aaron said...

Tom,

I'm not sure it's so clear that the men aren't Christians. . but even if they are, they are certainly in the church at this point. This is a church that is in danger.

I'm not saying that Paul admonishes all Christians to expose each other. I'm saying that by example, he WAS exposing these men to public scorn. He did it . .even if it is "reading between the lines", he is giving an example of how to out someone in the church and saying that their "folly will be evident to all".

Tom, those weren't all public sins. "proud, arrogant," etc. . . .Sure, no one was required or called to do anything. But, Paul just did it!! So, in this case, let's not dismiss Detwiler out of hand because somehow Christians don't "expose" one another.

Dan Welch said...

Your statement as to SGM's "Charismatic Theology" is misinformed. What Charismatic Theology are you speaking of?

SGM's Theology is based upon Reformed Doctrine. Yes they do make the mistake of believing the whole Word of God when it comes to the Holy Spirit and scriptural gifts; but why blame the Holy Spirit for SGM leadership mistakes which are not beyond the Lord's forgiveness? I have seen as much emotionalism in a Baptist Church where people are yelling out prayers and blubbering at the altar as I have seen at SGM. Perhaps they have emotion because the Lord Jesus is alive, that he did in fact leave a "Comforter" and he does touch his beloved Christians in real time.

Tom Chantry said...

You keep saying Paul exposed certain men to public scorn: where? Here's your text:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

Now, whom is Paul exposing to public scorn? The undefined "people" of the early part of the paragraph? Or Jannes and Jambres - men who, in order to have opposed Moses, must have been dead at least thirteen centuries as of Paul's writing?

This text simply does not demonstrate to us the practice of calling men out by name. Contrast it with Paul's first letter to Timothy:

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. Hymenaeus and Alexander denied the Word, and Paul put their names in the Bible to remain a byword for apostasy until the return of Christ. It's rather different from the text you're citing.

notclever said...

Thanks for opening up the comments about the SGM situation.

I honestly don't think SGM's problems have much to do with being Charismatic as it does with lack of polity--which I really think was caused by the leaders' pride in thinking they could handle everything the way it was when there were only a few churches.

I attended a SGM church for three years, back when it was called PDI. I was personally invited online by someone who is well known in SGM circles that I had run into in an AOL chat room. I remember joking that "People With Destiny International" sounded like the name of a cult. When I happened to drive by the church when I first moved to the area, I saw that it looked rather normal and decided to visit. I ended up absolutely loving the church. But some things really bothered me. Having come from New England where most churches are congregational, I didn't understand how we didn't know much about how the church was run, where the money was spent, and why pastors were suddenly removed for what seemed like silly reasons (pride) and others put in their place without the congregation's input at all. The child discipline methods being taught were abusive in my opinion. They were very approving if you had a ton of kids and homeschooled them, but if you had just a few kids and said they went to public school they gave you strange looks. I knew of several kids being homeschooled who had no clue how to even read. I knew of kids practically locked up in their houses for fear of letting them mingle with worldly kids. I think a lot of the doctrine being taught was right on, but somehow they got caught up in practicing legalism. There was no balance, and a lot of people got hurt. Another thing...we didn't actually study the Bible in small groups...we studies the sermon from the week before. It seems like women's bible studies and that kind of thing was discouraged.

I ended up moving away, but I can honestly say my experience there has led me to be suspect of pastors and very resistant to joining another group. I am working on that and doing better thanks to the wonderful church I go to now.

SGM's problems, in my opinion, go far beyond the Detwiler debacle. That's only a small portion of it. People in the churches have been damaged by spiritual abuse because of control freaks.

I loved my time at SGM and have a fondness for the group. I've been listening to and watching Joshua Harris very closely, and he's a breath of fresh air. He's going in the right direction in my humble opinion.

I honestly think the AOR report was very strange. They should have stuck to SGM and not the bloggers. I honestly think AOR heaped more hurt on some already hurting people.

I'm not a theologian, or a brainiac, but I am a person with real SGM experience who knows there's a lot of truth to what is being said in the blogs. I'd say it is probably at least 70% true.

rdrift1879 said...

I think any church or movement like SGM that intentionally reaches out beyond it's own walls with books, conferences and music has to be considered an appropriate entity for Matt 18 type correction and exposure. They want to shape Christianity outside their churches. For years, SGM proclaimed itself a better way to do church...the "Gospel" way. CLC was "the happiest place on earth." Their leaders were men who claimed Apostolic authority. Their practices were heavily influenced by heavy shepherding techniques Mahaney brought from his background. All these very public things and pronouncements opens SGM to legitimate examination by Bereans in other churches (as well as their own), who see their influence legitimized by T4G, the Reformed blogosphere, and other leaders who have close connections personally and financially with them. None of this is slander, since it has been acknowledged by current CLC leaders as past abuses.

I am thankful for those who brought these matters to light, and it has helped me examine my own ministerial practices. I don't want to leave behind me hundreds of victims that I have wronged and refused to reconcile with.

Nonna said...

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when He comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, He will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect Him and at an hour he does not know.

Those who abuse (beat) their fellow servants are liable to grave judgment (if they do not repent). Those servants in leadership positions who aggressively mistreat those in their care should be disciplined. One of those disciplines should be to make amends with those they have mistreated. However, if they are unwilling, out of pride, self-deceit, or some other passion, they should be removed from their leadership position.

It is essential that intervention be done on behalf of those abused. Often, in cases like this, the needs of the abused are ignored. Regardless of what the heavy-handed, unrepentant leadership does, there needs to be advocacy for the victims of abuse. Without advocacy, many victims will languish in despair, others will leave in anger, and others who are spiritually weak will give up on the church and/or the faith entirely.

aaron said...

Tom, do you think Paul was trying to be discreet there by not mentioning names? Hardly. . they were well known and needed no introduction. "working their way into houses" I think is where the abstract principles become concrete persons. Paul says "these men" not "these kinds of men". I just don't read it as simply a warning for the last days.

Public scorn? "avoid these men", "their folly will be evident to all." "corrupted in mind" Sure, it's not heated speech in our day, but it's public and it's scorn.

Tom Chantry said...

I'm sorry, Aaron, but I think you're really stretching a passage to make a point that is nowhere made explicit in Scripture. I'm still back on my comment about Matthew 18:17 - it doesn't say to follow up telling the church with telling the entire world. I'm not seeing your point biblically.

Frank Turk said...

DAC's comments are always almost enough to make be give up bacon, but I love bacon, and forgive DAC because of his likeness to it.

Nonna said...

I don't want to leave behind me hundreds of victims that I have wronged and refused to reconcile with.

rdrift,

Your attitude is refreshing. What puzzles me is the fact that the abusive leadership has not had their feet held to the fire. Instead, they are given platforms to speak publicly at Christian events, while all the vicitms left in their wake are of little to no concern. What a shame.

Frank Turk said...

Dan Welch:

That's the funniest comment I think one could make about all this. Are you kidding, or are you seriously advising us that SGM was reformed before it adopted so-called "spirit-filled" perspectives?

aaron said...

Tom, we can agree to disagree on the exegesis, and you may be right there.

But, there's a fallacy in your argument that is "where does it say Christians are to resolve all disputes and expose all enemies?". No one is saying that.

In fact Detwiler showed some restraint in the beginning. Not "everything" was exposed. . not "every sin" was mentioned. Even still, they aren't trying to "resolve all disputes", it's very specific.

So, I don't think you're giving the same leash to those harmed as you are to SGM. Where does it say we are not to resolve disputes? Where does it say we can't take our issues public after appropriate overtures have been made?

Your argument is not an "end the discussion" argument, but you seem to be treating it as such.

I respect where you're coming from, and we actually agree that some of Detwiler's recent posts have been excessive, and he has not always worked for peace.

But, as Brian mentioned, let's not let those trespasses make us blind to the actual content of what was presented.

I'm sorry if I've seemed argumentative today, this was enriching for me, and I hadn't heard some of your perspectives before. Thank you.

Nonna said...

Frank,

I think perhaps Dan, and some others, take issue with pointing to Charismatic theology as the underlying cause of the abusive leadership and the entire SGM saga. After what happened with the pedophile priest cover-up scam in the R.C.C., it should be obvious that charismatic theology is not necessary for leadership to become abusive. Many fundamentalist churches that are anything but charismatic have had abusive leadership. Abusive leadership is not very finicky as to where it will infiltrate. It can be in a pew-jumping Pentecostal Church, a conservative, liturgical Lutheran Church, a Presbyterian Church, a Reformed Baptist Church -just about any place where humans reside.

Elaine Bittencourt said...

Because of words can have different meanings for different people, and because I find extremely important to define the terms/words before any discussion ensues, I would like to ask this:

How "charismatic" SGM are? Please explain it to me.

thanks!

Tom Chantry said...

@Aaron,

Two answers:

First, the biblical warnings against gossip tell me to be very careful talking about other people's sins.

Second, the fact that the Bible outlines a process of church discipline tells me to be very careful talking about people's sins outside that process.

Taken together, those answers do seem to put the burden of proof on those who would go public with private matters.

What the Bible does tell me is that when someone embraces false teaching the rules change - ministers of the gospel have a biblical imperative to respond loudly and forcefully to error. But without biblical warrant, why would I publicize anyone's sins, particularly when they are not yet generally known?

One Salient Oversight said...

Are there examples in the Bible of sin not being dealt with by those who should be dealing with it, and who are told in no uncertain terms that they should deal with it, and have been done so in a way in which a permanent record of their sin is available to the world to look at? (And the sin being spoken of is not theological error)

King David's Adultery.

The man who has his father's wife in 1 Corinthians 5.

Some of the Seven churches in Revelation 2-3.

Tom Chantry said...

See, TeamPyro doesn’t do Saturday posts because no one would show up and comment. Um…

Alright, I expect these will be my last posts of the day. I want to express my appreciation of the SGM critics who posted here today; you have generally kept within the lines of civility which Frank asked of you. You’ve given us much to ponder.

Honestly, I knew little of SGM prior to the current uproar. I have an inborn and often reinforced distrust of all charismaticism, which hardly makes me a likely defender of SGM. On the other hand, I was horrified to hear that Mahaney was stepping down for the stated reasons - none of which, as I recall, were measurable biblical sins. Either the leadership was papering over a deeper problem or it was allowing a leader to be publicly humiliated without cause. That drew my attention; what has kept it is the loud insistence of some that the broader Christian world address their concerns.

As far as Band of Bloggers goes, I could never understand how it made sense for blogging - which is all about the common man having a voice - to countenance an event at which the elite tell everyone else how it’s done. As for T4G, I’ll never go. I’m counting on God to supernaturally remove my agoraphobia before I’m fit for the great assembly in heaven; until then, if a conference draws more than a few hundred people it would be a chore for me to be there. So I have no turf to defend, but I’m fascinated by the insistence that we all - including TeamPyro, acknowledge the issues of the SGM critics and join in their criticism. That’s what motivates my participation here.

Two major issues underlie much of our discussion. The first is, why do conflicts like these arise? The second is, what do we do with them when they not only arise, but when our efforts to deal with them fail?

On the first question, a number of good points have been made today. As a starting point, Nonna was right to say that abuse can occur wherever there are sinners. I’ll be first in line to say that it has happened in my own circles, and that people I know and love have been both perpetrators and victims. Sin is a universal reality, and none of us is exempt. That said, we might still ask what will encourage (and by implication what will discourage) this sort of situation. I would suggest two answers: abusive behavior is aided and abetted both by bad structure and bad doctrine.

Many have noted the lack of good polity in SGM. AOR noted this in its report, and it seems that SGM is listening. Structures exist for a reason, and their absence can give rise to unnecessary excess of abuse. One of the great lessons of this mess can be that we all need accountability, and that if our church structures do not provide that accountability, then they are out of step both with Scripture and with experience. If we can learn that, and if SGM can learn it going forward, then something good has been done.

Bad doctrine will also make room for sinful behavior, and I think Frank is absolutely right about the role that charismaticism plays in this situation. It is a fundamentally subjective theology which enables all sorts of misbehavior - something evident not only in the actions of the SGM leadership over the years but also in the furious and endless response of some critics.

So until I have a reason to see otherwise, it seems we covered the bases: Sinners (like all of us) enabled by poor structure and worse theology are bound to make a mess. What do we do with it?

(cont.)

Tom Chantry said...

(cont. from above)

I believe we can observe a distinction between a desire to deal with things in an orderly and God-honoring fashion and “an unreasonable hunger and thirst for justice.” My contention is that where there is serious sin, you pursue it according to the structures you have at hand. When those fail and when fellowship has been broken, you call in other Christians who are reasonably like-minded and try to seek reconciliation. And when that fails, which sometimes it does, you may just have to part ways and serve God in different arenas, leaving ultimate judgments to Him.

The other approach says, “No, I must see justice done, I must provide for every victim or alleged victim, I must make certain that persons A, B, and C never have the opportunity to commit sins X, Y, and Z again.” To which my answer is, “I understand the feeling, but I’m not God, neither are you, and the God who is God doesn’t put that kind of pressure on you or me or anyone else.”

To that I’ll only add that any attempt to make a one-to-one correspondence between this type of situation and the many situations in which error is taught, heresy is embraced, and formerly reliable teachers open their arms to both is simply wrong-headed, whether that correspondence is being made by those who oppose SGM or those who are silent on the issue. The situations simply do not correspond, nor, in my opinion, are they governed by the same biblical principles.

Clarice said...

I've been lurking here on this thread (and in the "anti-SGM" blogs) and thought I might speak up. I hope it's helpful.

@Tom Chantry you said: "why would I publicize anyone's sins, particularly when they are not yet generally known?"

I think you've answered this question with all the things you've said to this point, so I'm not sure I'm adding much really. :) But...

I have that question as well, and I can only answer that from my perspective. If it were me (if I were Brent and the others who have been hurt) I'd want anyone and everyone possible to see my perspective so that I could get as many people as possible to say, "wow, you've been treated horribly!" That would somehow justify my bitterness, rage, hurt, etc. The reason this would be my motive and not something like "justice" would be because...what could some random person who stumbles across my claims do to solve the problem I have? Even a person who was somewhat knowledgeable, like another church member? A smart/charitable passerby or person not directly related to the problem would read my claims and say "wow, that sounds hard, but I have no knowledge of the offender or the situation, so I can't form an opinion before God. That's not my place. But I will pray God makes himself known and all is restored."

I don't see permission in Scripture to air offenses, great or small, by leaders or otherwise, to people who have little or no knowledge of the details of the situation or the other side(s) of the story.

@nonna, I can appreciate everything you said about being careful with those who have been hurt by poor spiritual leadership. I agree it's important to treat those people gently. I don't think, however, that we are supposed to support them in sinful responses to sin against them. That would be unloving from my perspective because it would not encourage them in the path and character of Christ himself.

I've been a part of a SGM church for 10 years now. Yes, I saw problems at times, yes, I was part of a church that had a pastor removed for less than legit reasons (from my perspective). As for the cries of "spiritual abuse", I don't know...legalism? yes most certainly. abuse? I can't say I personally experienced that, but then my definition of abuse may be different than others.

I keep coming back to Jesus, who endured the worst abuse yet responded quite differently:

1 Peter 2:22-24

English Standard Version (ESV)

22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

One Salient Oversight said...

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

I agree. Jesus also said:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness."

Matthew 23.27

notclever said...

Clarice said "I've been a part of a SGM church for 10 years now. Yes, I saw problems at times, yes, I was part of a church that had a pastor removed for less than legit reasons (from my perspective). As for the cries of "spiritual abuse", I don't know...legalism? yes most certainly. abuse? I can't say I personally experienced that, but then my definition of abuse may be different than others.

I keep coming back to Jesus, who endured the worst abuse yet responded quite differently:"


Clarice,

I've done a lot of thinking about SGM in the last few years, and you are absolutley right about "coming back to Jesus".

How much of this legalism might have been avoided if people were studying the scriptures for themselves and "coming back to Jesus" rather than swallowing everything from the pulpit hook line and sinker? And trying to imitate everything the pastors and "Apostles" did? While I do feel that the teaching is at fault for the legalism,still--people need to be discerning for themselves whether or not the teaching is correct.

One Salient Oversight said...

The point I made above is that Jesus spoke out against the sins committed by those charged with leading and teaching God's people, and did so without being part of the system they were in.

Clarice said...

@OSO

I'm not quite sure I see your point?

When Jesus was being unjustly accused, tortured, brutalized and murdered, he responded without sin. His response to the Pharisees that you quoted was not sin because he's God and he could say what he said free of bitterness, anger, spite, malice, etc.

Our response to Pharisees most of the time looks like the pot calling the kettle black. But that's just my opinion and I'm talking about my own weakness here.

Rick said...

Tom
When you say the following regarding charismatic theology 'It is a fundamentally subjective theology which enables all sorts of misbehavior'. If we are talking about charismatic theology as being that the Holy Spirit has graced believers with gifts as clearly referenced in scripture - then your criticism is with scripture. Whether you believe that those gifts are for today or not, that is a different issue. The issue is not with charismatic theology - it is clearly scriptural and our Lord Himself was 'charismatic'. So how does charismatic theology, as defined by scripture, ‘enable all sorts of misbehavior’ – that’s like saying that the Holy Spirit enables all sorts of misbehavior?

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

I am not in any way involved the SGM situation, but the one thing I see coming up continually in this thread is that the individual is responsible to fix every problem they in a church organization and are entitled to use every means available to do so including reporting private information in the public square to do so. I do not find any Biblical basis for that. The complains of the critics of SGM may have been entirely justified, I do not know. But this leaves an avenue for every disgruntled person to justify washing any organizations dirty laundry of any type in public. This can be used to justify gossip of any and every sort. Let's face it everyone is sure their objections are valid. I am convinced there is a place where things need to to be left in the hand of God.

One Salient Oversight said...

And regarding Matthew 18:

Jesus starts off by saying those who have sinned against you requires a personal one-to-one rebuke. That means the one sinned against, and the one who has sinned against them. No one else. No elders or deacons mentioned here.

If he fails to listen, the next step is to take 2-3 witnesses. This is not a delegation of elders or deacons. This is 2 or 3 other people. They could be elders or deacons or leaders, they may not be.

If he fails to listen there, the next step is to "take it to the church". Again there is nothing here specifically mentioning the role of elders or leaders telling it to the church. This could simply be the complainant informing other church members about what has happened. it *could* involve the elders or leaders, but that is not specific to the verse.

So what happens if the complainant is complaining against one or more of the leaders?

Well, they should rebuke them privately. If that doesn't work, then they should take 2-3 witnesses with them and confront these leaders. If that doesn't work then the complainant is free to tell the church about the sins of the elders and leaders.

Tom Chantry said...

And this is why there comes a time to stop posting.

@ Rick,

If you honestly don't know what "charismaticism" is, I can't help you.

@ One Salient Oversight,

If you honestly don't know what the difference between you and Jesus is, I can't help you.

Goodnight, all.

One Salient Oversight said...

When Jesus was being unjustly accused, tortured, brutalized and murdered, he responded without sin. His response to the Pharisees that you quoted was not sin because he's God and he could say what he said free of bitterness, anger, spite, malice, etc.

What Jesus did was not sin either way.

What he did do was speak out in public against the sins of those charged with leading God's people.

When Jesus was being crucified, he was responding to the persecution of the world, the godless, the evil.

There is one response to those who sin against you who are brothers (confront the sin within God's people as Jesus confronted it) and there is another response to those who sin against you because they are unbelievers (love your enemy, endure suffering as Christ endured it)

One Salient Oversight said...

Tom,

If you honestly don't know what the difference between you and Jesus is, I can't help you.

It was Clarice that used the 1 Peter quote to begin with. She used it as a way to teach us that our attitude towards those who hurt us should be the same as Christ.

My quote of Matthew 23 presupposes the same idea.

ie: If we are to endure suffering as Jesus did, then we should also confront sin as Jesus did.

Clarice said...

@notclever

Agreed. It's really important to be able to think "critically" in a healthy way about what is being preached. It's sad though when we trust our pastors to teach us what's right and they end up leading some astray. I can't say that's exactly what happened in any SGM church I've been a part of, however.

On that note, it's worth pointing out that not every SGM church is the same. I've been to several and they are all QUITE different in many ways--style, emphasis, ministries, etc. Some are still very homeschool centered and "family" focused. Others are more focused on singles and college students, and still others are a mix of both.

My current congregation has in many ways broken out of that whole homeschool only/courtship only/patriarchy/Shepherding thing that perhaps permeated many SGM churches in the beginning, and where lots of the reports of "abuse" seem to be centered on. I'm grateful.

Legalism lurks in the hearts of all, so it'll pop up eventually...everywhere.

One Salient Oversight said...

In the Old Testament, whose responsibility was it to ensure that God's people remained faithful and obedient?

There were two sorts of people who ensured this: The King and the Priest.

It was the King's responsibility to ensure that Israel followed its covenant guidelines at a national level. The King would also use his power to enforce the law.

It was the Priest's responsibility to act as the go-between between Israel and Yahweh. By his role in the temple and in teaching, Israel was informed about the importance of obedience to God.

That was the structure that God set up within God's people. The King and the Priests.

But what happened when the King and the priests became corrupted? What happened when the King no longer obeyed God? What happened when the Priests no longer taught what was right, or took advantage of their role in order to further their own desires?

Did God provide Priests who worked within the system to change it? Maybe. Did God provide Kings who were faithful. Yes he did.

But he also provided someone else. Someone independent of the theocratic system He set up.

These people were the prophets.

God used the prophets to confront the sins of both the King and those who would be priests and religious leaders. These prophets emerged spontaneously via God's calling.

In the same way, could we not also see the same thing happening in the New Covenant, this side of the Cross?

God has set up the church with its elders and leaders. They exist to teach God's word and model Godly behaviour.

But what if the structure is sinful? What if the pastor has sinned or if the elders have sinned and are covering it up?

Surely God would use a prophetic voice - those outside the structure of the church, calling upon the church to repent.

eternallyalive said...

I posted this before on SGMRefuge under my real name, and wrote to CJ when Jim did his "letters to CJ" with an anony Reformed Big Dog mediator (got no reply), and wrote this to AoR.

We started attending CovFel late in 1993 IIRC. For us, the Reformed/charismatic combo was wonderful. (hub got MDiv at Westminster TS.) Hub was head of the book table ministry team. Dave Harvey was a great preacher, Alan Redrup a caring pastor-as were all the leaders.

CJ came up to speak regularly. By 97 or 98 he started talking all about PDI starting a Pastors College and constantly referring to the young future grads and what they would do as Timothys.

One day I wrote to Harvey about how Timothy was probably at least 33 or so and had traveled with Paul for at least a dozen years. He was not a young twenties inexperienced guy when he took on the task that Paul assigned to him.

Harvey went and looked it up in a few commentaries, wrote back, and told me I was completely right, CJ was wrong, and he was going to bring it up at the next Apostle team meeting down in G-burg. Never heard another word. Dave H was no wimp and I am convinced to this day that he did speak up, and that CJ would not listen, but Harvey had no choice but to submit within the authority structure.

The young guys came out of the PC and often got made pastors, sometimes even by pushing aside an older man who had been there awhile. I read enough sad stories on the blogs to know that often, some of the bad things that happened were the product of putting young, inexperienced guys in positions of authority and pastoral care that they were not qualified for..... all under the guise of the College producing Timothys.

Yeah, I know Spurgeon was young, and Whitefield, and God can use a young guy. But being there, listening to it, watching it...well, it was theologically wrongly based, as well as in not so subtle ways being a major move towards a youth oriented culture.

The other major problem thing at PDI was that it was openly said and privately said that PDI was doing it better and more right than anybody else. We had NT polity, Reformed doctrine, charismatic gifts. We were the best. I believed that too for a while so I can't blame anybody else who fell into that trap. But we were more proud of being so exceptional than I think we were devoted to pray for God to move, knowing how desperately we need him. ( at least once the 94 renewal died out.)

Also, in hindsight, we came out of Ft Lauderdale 5 shepherding ( John Poole/Gospel temple) and PDI was just more of the same. 1970s shepherding. At the time it didn't really affect us, but the blog stories of hyper authoritarian shepherding mistreatment in some SGM churches seem reasonable. The doctrinal foundation for such abuse was there, if a man chose to be selfish and controlling.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

I began to follow the blogs critical of SGM about 1 year ago. I will tell you, it's been very frustrating. Commentors frequently throw around the term "spiritual abuse" but it was very hard to nail down exactly what behaviors they were talking about. Yes, somebody's group leader would be controlling. Yes there were at least 2 molestation issues from 7 to 10 year back that were the "chubs" used to beat on CJ and the leadership though neither incident involved SGM staff nor did they happen on SGM premises. YES, it appeared that church leadership did not care for the victim's parents as well as they might but for the life of me, I never saw the connection of these sexual abuse incidents to C.J. Yet he was always implicated. WHY? He wasn't, as far as I know, at those churches where the struggles took place. But the critic forever place the blame on him.
Then the term "spiritual abuse" was used frequently but not specifically; i.e., what kind of behaviors are you actually talking about?

The people who had legitimate beefs appeared to be the 11 pastors who were rather arbitrarily replaced. SGM would accuse them of being unfit for ministry and when they protested SGM found them guilty of not having a receptive spirit showing they were unfit for ministry. Now that was strange.
I also assume that various leaders within SGM had issues with C.J. But it was hard to find specific people or family within an SGM church that could show how C.J. himself had done them wrong.
So the predominant feelings I came away with reading the blogs was the vague use of "spiritual abuse" where "many, many people" were hurt but tracking down these "many, many people" was a little difficult.
I thought pastors who had been arbitrarily replaced had a legitimate beef. But a lot of the other complaints seemed so common to churches bodies everywhere. Personalities, ego, hurt feelings, etc. etc.
You would have thought, reading the blogs, that ONLY SGM leadership ever had issues and that C.J. was a kind of Svengali for spiritual abuse.
There was a lot of smoke; it hard to actually find serious fire.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Thanks Jimmy. You articulated so well exactly how I feel about this whole thing. I found at least one blog that was just pure groundless spitefulness from someone who was obviously bitter and letting off steam. Yet she identified herself as a "survivor" like the rest.

Like you, I feel for the families who suffered from bad leadership when their children were abused, but that's the fault of the specific people involved. What does C. J. personally have to do with it?

Defender said...

Tom,
Do I understand correctly, that you are looking for a biblical example for bringing a leader's sin, a pastors sin, out for public exam?

May I suggest Galatians 2?
Where Paul publicly rebukes Peter for his hypocrisy?

Defender said...

James, Yanke-girl,
I think that the implications to C.J. are from the Pyramid structure C.J. himself has built SGM upon.
All sides point up to C.J.

I mean really, if you want to be the "all seeing" top dog, you are going to be held responsible for the operations of the whole pack.
Right?

I think this is at least one interpretation for how C.J. is in the line of fire all around.

rdrift1879 said...

Jimmy Brown I think underestimates CJ Mahamey's role in SGM's current turmoil. It is not my joy to rag on C. J. Mahaney. I am sure he began with noble intentions. And I think his acceptance among the RBD without correction fed into his demise. But it is fair to lay much of the current mess at his doorstep.

He set up the polity which advanced the notion of Apostolic authority in SGM, an amazingly arrogant notion quite different from healthy Gospel-centered traditional churches. This polity also exalted the position of pastor far beyond what Scripture warrants. He also built a structure excluding lay elders. Elders are paid pastors. Period. This means questioning or disloyalty is a matter of risking one's job.

Also Pastor-elders are seldom seminary trained, but are instead hand picked men paying a small fortune to attend a nine month "Pastor's college." Graduates were fed a belief system that because of their position as pastors, they held great sway over their congregation's lives and had unique insights into complex problems of living. Many mistakes, some very cruel, were made from inadequate training and an exalted, false view of pastoral authority.

The arrogance of building a "movement" led to a church planting passion that almost completely ignored foreign missions. The "movement" drove decisions, and a need to protect the "brand." This led to a fortress mentality that simply could not acknowledge serious errors. That was largely Mahaney's doing and his method, and, most sadly, it still is.

The legalism which has characterized SGM churches is beyond question and very disturbing, from home-schooling, to extreme patriarchy to sin sniffing in Care Groups. No women's ministries, no independent Bible studies, no encouragement to be Bereans. The "Gospel" label was put on everything SGM liked, and while other ideas weren't always called sinful, they clearly weren't "God's best."

Remember, the SGM way is considered superior to traditional churches...more biblical, more Gospel-centered. But there is always this desire to have status among respected churches in the Reformed world, so books and conferences rarely mention these SGM oddities. This means there was a deliberate strategy to conform to Reformed ways outside, while running something quite different inside, and believing all the while that SGM is something new and special and deserving great influence. To leave SGM was unthinkable because it was so unique and superior to other churches. It was "the happiest place on earth."

Then the documents come out. Behind the scenes of the "happiest place on earth" is turmoil and division and perhaps even criminal blackmail. There's the public apology that leaves out the most serious concerns (they are not even addressed), the stepping down to reflect, then the retraction of the apology, the stepping back in. The lecture to pastors to root out dissent. That's Mahaney, who seems to leave a lot of pain and sorrow in his wake among men he had labored with for years.

Then there's what could be labeled hypocrisy. Leaving the authority of his own pastors at CLC without their consent, something members couldn't do. The unwillingness to reconcile.

So, yes, much of SGM's woes can be attributed to C. J. Mahaney. And I believe airing out these things is good for SGM, good for Mahaney, and good for the church at large.

candy said...

YGG, your commment about "pure groundless spitefulness" seems a bit harsh, not helpful or thoughtful.

I do find that some of the people involved seem to want to hang back in the hurt of the past rather than take hold of Christ and trust his hand to work for their good and his glory going forward. It must be hard though in some circumstances, so I hope they can find their way by searching the scriptures and being with Christians who are loving and merciful and helpful to pull them up out of the mire of circumstances.

Sometimes a person can go to counseling for years and not get issues resolved because each time they go to counseling, it all gets stirred up again. I think using the sgm blogs as a place to hang out continues to stir the hurts and the issues, and a person has less room to go to
God to do the healing work needed to move on. Maybe the wronged person doesn't see justice get done, but it is important that he concentrate on what HE needs to do to be right with God and let God take care of the other person. Sometimes that doesn't look fair, but God is surely at work to accomplish his will in the matter.

Jason said...

I want to start my comments by addressing your reference to charismatic theology being the main part of the problem. By way of introduction I grew up in IFB circles and was thoroughly cessationist and even taught cessationism. Yet in my early 20's God brought me to the realization that the gifts had not ceased, and I had been wrong. If you've got a separate thread on cessationism I'd love to read your arguments for it because I sincerely doubt they are different or better than what I've heard and even taught myself at one time.

And just like I was brought to continuationism through a forceful move of God's Spirit through His Word, I was brought to a realization that Reformed Theology was correct in my mid 30's. So here I stand as a former IFB who is now both Continuationist and Reformed.

Having spent time in Charismatic circles I saw a lot of problems and quite a bit of emotionalism. However I can also say that the leadership of many of the churches and ministries behave just like some IFB and Reformed types who engage in heavy-handed controlling of their congregations so it is not so much a problem with theology as it is a problem with "Shepherding."

And this is the real problem that needs to be dealt with. Pastors and leaders across all denominations have fallen into the Shepherding model of trying to control their people and much abuse has followed. Although I'm an outsider to the whole SGM thing it sounds like the main root of their problem is not theology but indeed this concept of Shepherding.

It is my belief that a lot of leaders, Pastors, Ministers, and quite possibly bloggers are hesitant to call out the Shepherding movement for what it is since it would pit them against the current leadership structure in Christianity and no doubt cause them to be on the outside looking in.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Unlike Pyro, the bloggers attacking C.J. and SGM leadership allowed ANY false and wild accusations never NEVER calling on the commentors to show some discrimination. You could say, "My Uncle's 3rd cousin in outer Slobovia said SGM was engaging in the worst spiritual abuse ever and C.J. is obviously a narcissistic sociopath exactly like Genghis Khan." ( And the chorus would yell, "Amen.") Any wild third party or fourth party accusation was considered valid.
So the smoke and the fog of valid accusations became lost among the simply irrelevant and false accusations.

Frank Turk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Turk said...

Nonna wrote:

| I think perhaps Dan, and some
| others, take issue with pointing
| to Charismatic theology as the
| underlying cause of the abusive
| leadership and the entire SGM
| saga.

That’s their prerogative, but saying they aren’t Charismatic is, frankly, not an objection: it’s a defense mechanism which fails on the first pass.

| After what happened with
| the pedophile priest cover-up
| scam in the R.C.C., ...

... which has absolutely not correlation to the issues at hand at all ...

| ... it should be
| obvious that charismatic theology
| is not necessary for leadership to
| become abusive.

Let me say this as clearly as possible: this is exactly the sort of “reasoning” which caused the problems in SGM to blow up they way they have. Throwing out the accusation that rampant pedophilia is exactly the same kind of thing as SGM not making every claim of every person of equal value, and needing and equally-stern action item of repentance, is not reasoning: it’s rash accusation, and an attempt to justify one’s opinion by associating the wrong-doers with all sorts of evil.

The only reason I’m not deleting this coming is so that I can rebuke it sharply and warn off other about it. This statement is characteristic of what is worst in class about the SGM detractors, and I repudiate it.

Let me also say this: if the issues at stake were actually as back as pedophilia, then there’d be no need for trying to explain why whatever it is that happened was wrong – but because what is actually at stake is the victim status of a few people who need to gin up support for their side, this is the kind of thing that gets said.

| Many
| fundamentalist churches that are
| anything but charismatic have had
| abusive leadership.

Ditto. What I just said, word for word.

| Abusive
| leadership is not very finicky as to
| where it will infiltrate. It can be in a
| pew-jumping Pentecostal Church,
| a conservative, liturgical Lutheran
| Church, a Presbyterian Church, a
| Reformed Baptist Church -just
| about any place where humans
| reside.

And finally: while this may actually be true, what is unique to Charismatic theology and the Charismatic clan of churches is the unwillingness of the wronged parties to find reconciliation short of the removal of leaders and the disgracing of those who disagree with them. See: since the Holy Spirit resides in me (the hypothetical church member), then my opinions are his opinions. And if you have offended me, you have offended Him. It doesn’t occur to me that I might be wrong – or that I just might not be in charge of things. God told me “X”, and I am validated by my feeling of divine ownership of “X”. If someone says, “No,” or “Not now,” about “X”, they are opposing God – and denigrating my self-assessment of my own spiritual power.

That’s what leads people to every kind of accusation and the churning up of hurt feelings to the place where one leader telling me that I am wrong is tantamount to pedophilia.

There are other forms of pride which also cause this, but none as theologically self-establishing as Charismatic premises about the role of the Holy Spirit in the authority of the life of the believer.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Response to RDRIFT 1879
RD believes the notion of apostolic authority is outside Scripture. ANSWER: SGM is not unique in believing in apostolic authority; quite common in charismatic churches.
RD says men attending the Pastor’s College were fed a belief system that…they held great sway over their congregations lives and had unique insight. ANSWER: RD, did you attend the Pastor’s College or is this a second-hand statement? TWO, many pastor certainly see themselves as shepherds to lead and feed the flock. This is not unique to SGM
RD accuses C.J. of “arrogance” in building a movement that ignored foreign missions and build a “fortress” mentality. ANSWER: RD, you have assessed C.J. as arrogant. And you know this how?
RD accuses SGM of legalism “beyond question and very disturbing.” ANSWER: What is the specific legalism that you are alleging? While you state there were no women’s ministries I’m under the impression that Carolyn Mahaney spoke to various women’s groups. Am I wrong? Apparently SGM did not encourage or support non-SGM ministries? All the churches I’ve ever attended basically encouraged full participation in their own ministries; not others.
RD says the SGM way was considered superior to other systems. ANSWER: Don’t all denominations or independent churches consider their way and understanding as superior to others. Isn’t that why all the denominations or independent churches exist? “Happiest place on earth” was a phrase I’ve used in advocating for my own church – Non SGM
RD says there was turmoil and division under the surface. ANSWER: That is obviously true.
RD says “criminal blackmail” was possibly in play. ANSWER: C.J.’s threat 15 years ago to expose information about Larry’s son if Larry didn’t get with the program was NEVER criminal. CRIMINAL is not an accurate assessment.
RD alleges hypocrisy on C.J.’s part due to C.J. removing himself from his local church to sit under Mark Dever without his own pastor’s consent. ANSWER: It would appear SGM members were encouraged to reconcile with the body and not simply exit the premises as C.J. did.
RD alleges much of SGM’s woes can be attributed to C.J. ANSWER: since C.J. was the man in charge I’d say that is true. As HST famously said, “The buck stops here.” SGM was built with C.J.’s vision warts and all.

Frank Turk said...

I'm also putting AllanClare on notice: you have yet to present a single comment of substance which advances this topic in any way but down the sewer hole of sideways accusations and emotionalism.

This is your only warning. Any more drive-bys and I;m banning you.

Frank Turk said...

OK: I’m grateful that Brian came back with a thoughtful response.

He said:

| 3. Every leak has a context, which is
| why I'm always intrigued to see how
| conservative evangelical blogosphere
| reactions tend to focus on the act of
| the leaking vs. analyzing (a) the
| content of what was leaked; and (b)
| the context in which the leak
| occurred.

In some sense, I probably have to concede this – but there’s a difference, for example, between rape and the failure to resolve methodological differences (for example, how to spend money – what activities to fund). And sadly, there is a habitual flash-flood of moral equivocation in the dissenting camp: every time they are told they are wrong, they justify escalation by equivocation the perceived wrong against them with something utterly out of moral scale. Nonna equated the problem with pedophilia; watch what Brian does below.

| Given the counterfactual of
| a healthy, well-functioning, well-
| governed denomination, would the
| leaker have been as tempted? Using a
| very loose -- emphasis on very loose -
| - analogy, conservative evangelical
| bloggers have focused their phasers
| on Daniel Ellsberg's actions (which
| can't be ignored and were illegal) but,
| at the same time, can't even bring
| themselves to consider what the
| Pentagon Papers had to say about
| Vietnam. And, continuing the
| analogy, they also won't consider the
| context for what tempted Ellsberg to
| do it in the first place.

See? The ends *usually* do not justify the means – except in this case, which is like sustaining the Vietnam war under false pretenses. That’s utterly out of scale to the kinds of offenses we are talking about, and it’s the habit of the dissenting side of this argument to escalate in this way.

That is utterly the point of the AoR report in this matter, and it is utterly disputed by the dissenters because, in their view, they have done nothing wrong.

| 4. @Tom -- Honestly, I'm one of
| those guys who doesn't believe there
| should have been outside mediation.
| One of my earliest frustrations with,
| for instance, the three-person
| (DeYoung, Trueman and Ortland)
| panel was that I highly doubt, given a
| similar situation in their own
| denominations (at least with
| DeYoung and Trueman), that they
| would have countenanced the idea of
| having some outside party come in to
| handle a denominational leadership
| issue. My desire would have been for
| the three of them to turn around and
| ask, in a very Pauline way, "You don't
| have anyone in your movement --
| pastors and/or congregrants -- who
| can evaluate and adjudicate this? You
| know we're all going to be judging
| angels, right?"

Brian, here’s how we know for a fact that this could never have worked: there are no arbiters which the “survivor” side of this dispute which could in theory rule against the dissenters would accept with any seriousness. In every case, when they were given conciliatory terms short of their demands, and given advice to help them get over themselves and their own problems with pride and self-aggrandizement, they rejected the parties’ findings for any and all resons – ranging from hypocrisy to lack of objectivity (!).

The reason there is a problem with “leadership” in SGM churches (if we take your view of it at face values) is that people will not be lead – except by their own internal compass. That the offended side cannot take anything but total capitulation as a means of reconciliation has to say something about who they are, and it’s a message they are unwilling to receive.

Frank Turk said...

Jimmy Brown brings up an interesting point in his response: what does responsibility look like from a leader?

In my view of it, responsibility looks like owning your share of an issue and making all the personal changes required to right the situation -- but also holding others who need to make changes accountable for their role in the problem.

What is utterly transparent in this war of words on the Survivor side is that they do not want leaders: they want functionaries who will do whatever they are told to do, and then take the blame for it when it goes wrong.

In my view, every leader acting in good faith will, eventually, make a mistake -- some of those gigantic and problematic. I am sure that SGM is not any different: I am willing to say SGM leaders have historically made mistakes which required them to make some repentance and amends.

The problem is that the only solution the dissenters today will accept is an utter revision of all leadership ad all leadership methods to (it seems to me) some undetermined form of polity which will be subject to revision until those offended decide they are not offended anymore. Internal dispute resolution is biased, they say, so we need a third party. It can't be the first choice of arbitration, they say, because those people (who have resolved disputes and gained reconciliation in churches world-wide) are not objective enough.

It's utterly transparent that, no matter what wrongs have been committed by the leadership, the offended parties cannot be reconciled. They don't want reconciliation: they want something else, which in my mind looks more like revenge.

Frank Turk said...

I'll be closing the comments later today. The rules as mentioned in the post are still in play, and I'm adding this: stop the escalation by analogy. It has had its say, and it is dealt with.

I have put up with a lot of insinuation in this thread, which doesn't quite slander anyone (but only barely) and I'm through with that, too. I'll be simply deleting any more poor approaches and sneaky digs without comment.

Frank Turk said...

Just because it needs to be said:

One Salient Oversight is simply another example of people comparing the faults of the SGM leadership to something much worse -- only he has the native cleverness to hook it up to Bible examples of ultimate wrong-doing rather than calling out "Nazi" or "Pedophile",

However, since there has been no adultery and murder in SGM, the comparison falls flat. It's like saying that when I am unfaithful to do the dishes, my wife should divorce me as an unfaithful husband because Jesus says we are justified in divorce when the other person is unfaithful.

Give it a rest. Stop escalating things by analogy. In the very best case, the histrionics only make one look like a baby. In the worst case, they make one look crazy.

candy said...
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Brian Auten said...

Frank: See? The ends *usually* do not justify the means – except in this case, which is like sustaining the Vietnam war under false pretenses. That’s utterly out of scale to the kinds of offenses we are talking about, and it’s the habit of the dissenting side of this argument to escalate in this way.

C'mon Frank. I emphasized "loose analogy" and certainly I'm not making a one-to-one correspondence between the SGM situation and Vietnam. Like I said, I'm a poli sci guy and, given that, Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers is the quintessential example that comes to mind when poli sci geeks think of leaks. It wasn't meant as an rhetorical escalation move; the readers should not take it as such.

More later today, but I'm off to my local SGM church.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I'm sorry candy, but you obviously didn't read the specific blog I was referring to (which has now switched to private-only viewing). It was utterly ridiculous. I stand by my statement.

Was the blackmail really not a criminal act? I wonder about that. Regardless, I do definitely question the ethics of C. J.'s choice.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

CJ's disagreement with Larry Tomzac leading to a threat to let information out about Larry's son certainly appears manipulative and sinful; but not criminal. Telling the truth about somebody is not criminal unless you're an employee of the C.I.A. - dryly

Jules LaPierre said...

If you choose to attend a church in which the leadership refers to itself as apostles, you're setting yourself up for trouble.

JennGrover said...

" I think this is what you're going to get with Charismatic theology: when conflict raises its ugly head, people lead with emotions and self-image and forget they have an objective Christ who overcomes my sin and your sin so that the two men can become one under Christ. That's not fantastically kind, but I think that's what this boils down to"

By your own definition, have you not just slandered your charismatic brethren?

I agree, slander is wrong, it is sin. However, SGM, and many in reformed circles have broadened the scope of the definition of slander and the result has been the squelching of legitimate criticism. REad what Piper said about public figures in terms of slander,

"I don’t mean you can’t criticize President Bush without calling him on the phone first. And I don’t mean you can’t discuss my sermon, both negatively and positively, without coming to me. Public figures put themselves on the line and understand that everyone will have an opinion about what they say. That’s okay. What I mean is when you know a brother or a sister is in the grip of some sinful attitude or behavior, take the log out of your eye, and then go to them and try to help them with humble biblical counsel." (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/talking-to-people-rather-than-about-them)

Bridget said...

I am in an SGM church. I have not seen or heard the repentance and amends as you stated, Frank. A small page at the end of a 45 page report is not an appropriate response for 30 years of problems. This report only covered part of the issues that were of concern to many. AoR refused to be involved in all the areas if concern as they stated themselves.

Another concern - where are all the other men who helped start this Family of Churches? Most are gone or have been marginalized. I have seen what these men have said about their experience with Mahaney. What they all say has a similar flavor. Pastors, and there were many, who were dismissed from their churches have a similar story. Is all this coincidence?

Why has no one asked for the analysis of why it is going to be cheaper and better, all around, for SGM to be in Kentucky? These are the reasons they give on their blog for moving. They say nothing about the the issues between many pastors at the former church of Mahaney and Mahaney. Why did Mahaney leave that church in early July and never go back? Why was he allowed to attend another church and not resolve the problems at his own church? Why did Mark Devers allow this to happen? Both of these men speak against such actions in their own churches.

These are just some of many questions that have gone unanswered to members of SGM churches. There are others regarding other issues that I won't address here. What I have addressed are fairly general questions, yet unanswered.

Questions for Pyro and other bloggers and leaders - Why do you seem more concerned about Mahany than about the people who have been part of SGM and are hurt and confused? Why does it appear that you do not want to reach out to them?

At this point, it seems that the only way that people can be heard by SGM is to leave. If the Christian leaders see that happen, I guess they will then take heed. But it will be of little little use. They will, themselves, have walked by the man laying hurt in the road.

I wish I wasn't writing this on any day, let alone Mother's day.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Bridget said, "Another concern - where are all the other men who helped start this Family of Churches? Most are gone or have been marginalized. I have seen what these men have said about their experience with Mahaney. What they all say has a similar flavor. Pastors, and there were many, who were dismissed from their churches have a similar story. Is all this coincidence?"

Bridget, Again, we seem to have secondary or third party generalized allegations.

Perhaps you could tell us how YOU were hurt instead of how others were hurt.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Jimmy: We are to care and hurt for others. It is our business as people of Christ. Some who are concerned were hurt by their churches in the past and the MO here is the very same. We should stand for the weak and the injured. If not what good is our belief and how in the world can we give the good news of Christ yet ignore those wounded such as the SGM survivors?

Clarice said...

Frank said: "The reason there is a problem with “leadership” in SGM churches (if we take your view of it at face values) is that people will not be lead – except by their own internal compass. That the offended side cannot take anything but total capitulation as a means of reconciliation has to say something about who they are, and it’s a message they are unwilling to receive"


Bingo.

Debbie Kaufman said...

You're saying that unless the e-mails were circulated to the SGM pastors, and then one of those cats had not made them public, there would have been nothing done at all, yes?

The answer in my opinion is that nothing was done at all until the emails and the blogs. So the obvious answer is yes.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Here's what I think: I think that SGM has had some problems

Frank:That's like saying the Titanic was just a boat with plumbing problems due to hitting a little ice.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Debbie Kaufman, surely these adults, particularly the degifted pastors, can speak for themselves? Otherwise we're continuing to get allegations second hand.

Clarice said...

Debbie said: "We are to care and hurt for others. It is our business as people of Christ. Some who are concerned were hurt by their churches in the past and the MO here is the very same. We should stand for the weak and the injured. If not what good is our belief and how in the world can we give the good news of Christ yet ignore those wounded such as the SGM survivors?"

Debbie, there's a difference between caring for a "wounded person" and taking on their offense. What I've seem, mostly, in this whole SGM drama is a lot of people taking on other people's offenses and the coddling and enabling of those who claim to be "spiritually abused."

How is that love and how does that help the hurting?

When I'm hurting, I usually need someone from outside myself to help me snap out of my self pity, my self loathing, my self righteousness, my self entirely. Without that person/people to help me with objective truth from scripture, encouragement, and yes, a shoulder to cry on, I would be staring at my belly button for a very long time, growing very bitter about why I keep running into walls.

I don't need a group of people to surround me and say "yes, you've been so so hurt, those mean mean terrible abusers! You SHOULD hate them, they SHOULD suffer because of what they did to you!"...etc.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Lawyer to the witness on the stand;
"So tell us, what did you see?"
"Sir, I wasn't there but this is what my best friend saw." [ At this point the Judge immediately tosses the witness out of the courtroom.]

Secondary allegations; I don't think they're particularly reliable.

Brian Auten said...

These are going to be my last comments as well for the day, but before I start, I want to commend Frank again for opening up this discussion. He didn't have to do it, but I for one am very appreciative that he did. It also (kind of) makes me yearn for some good, old-fashioned, solid dust-ups between Pyro and Boar's Head Tavern for old times sake...

Also, I noted that a couple of folks have put me into the "SGM critic" label. All I can say to that is (a) I'm a current SGM member; (b) my pastors know that I blog about the denomination, and that I communicate regularly with the moderators of the “exile blogs”; and, as I’ve told my pastors (c) I can't be loyal to anything I never hear negative things about, or anything to which I can't talk about what I see are negatives as well as positives.

Frank: In every case, when they were given conciliatory terms short of their demands, and given advice to help them get over themselves and their own problems with pride and self-aggrandizement, they rejected the parties’ findings for any and all re[a]sons – ranging from hypocrisy to lack of objectivity (!).

There are a lot of different scenarios covered by the "they" in the above paragraph. Detwiler's Ahab-like pursuit is one thing -- and I believe much of the above paragraph is referencing exactly that. But in many non-Detwiler cases -- including many of those heard by AoR -- the way that SGM has done church over the years, has injured folks to the point they've faced more than "problems with pride and self-aggrandizement." Some of the individual SGM churches -- I give props to my own pastoral staff -- have come a long, long way in speaking, from the pulpit, about the shortcomings and sins of how church was done in the past. I think many who have been injured have wanted more of a public acknowledgement of historical and systemic shortcomings from those in leadership over the denomination as a whole.

Brian Auten said...

[Continued...]

My own view of the AoR report is that it was a mixed bag. The sample size of interviewees was unfortunately small (1% of 28,000) which, I'd argue, makes the SGM's board's big take-away -- there's no systemic problem -- a somewhat shaky conclusion. The report had some solid things to say about the denomination's shortcomings, but I didn't think it spent enough time going into underlying causes (compared to, say, the amount of page space it devoted to addressing the problems of the "exile blogs" -- i.e. addressing the fever vs. combating the underlying condition).

Tom: Many have noted the lack of good polity in SGM. AOR noted this in its report, and it seems that SGM is listening. Structures exist for a reason, and their absence can give rise to unnecessary excess of abuse. One of the great lessons of this mess can be that we all need accountability, and that if our church structures do not provide that accountability, then they are out of step both with Scripture and with experience. If we can learn that, and if SGM can learn it going forward, then something good has been done.

@Tom -- I appreciated this summary more than you know. Some of Brent's concerns about top leadership, like (as Mahaney characterized it, "unentreatability”) look simply strange and petty to outsiders, but reading through his material, the examples Brent gives often revolve around accountability. One can go back and forth about the reliability and accuracy of Brent's overall picture re: to whom and how often Mahaney was accountable, but the walk-away is simply this: accountability has been problematic, and the way that polity has been structured has fostered accountability problems.

I’d love to have a follow-on public discussion like this one about SGM in about 6-8 months. At that point, once the polity stuff has been worked out and is being implemented, one will be able to see how (or if) the SGM board and leadership team addresses the concerns of many within the denomination. That way, we can also see if Tom’s important point re: organizational learning has been taken to heart by those in SGM leadership.

tedbeam said...

Tom/Frank:

What constitutes an "unreasonable" desire for righteousness? I get your point when you rephrase this as an "ungracious" desire--and I completely agree with you; but when you say "unreasonable," I think it's fair to say that you're opening up a discussion on what one (subjectively) finds unreasonable.

If someone has suffered abuse at the hands of church leaders, I'm going to hazard a guess that what they deem to be a reasonable desire for righteousness may be different from someone who has not suffered such abuses.

aaron said...

Frank (and Tom). . .

I appreciate your insight into the frame of mind of the "survivor" side of this discussion. I"m sure, in many cases. . you're correct.

But, I don't think you or I could say with any certainty that every SGM complainer, even Detwiler, is out for revenge, hard to work with, unable to agree with anything accept total capitulation,etc. . that's not fair.

The bottom line is there's a certain kind of leadership abuse at play here (and, it seems, in the marshill/joyfulexiles issue as well), which is one of "controlling the terms of the discussion and the exposure of the senior leader".

I've been in leadership environments where leaders hold tight to the reframing the terms of the discussion (read: "spin"). . . From what I read of Brent Detwiler, he was simply unwilling to agree to a process that was not a fair hearing, a process that should have been un-evaluated by those with political interest in preserving the SGM leadership, and a process that was like a "plea bargain" basically. "We'll repent for this smaller stuff if you go away."
I wouldn't agree to that kind of a process either.

Frank, I know you've read at least a good portion of the documents, so maybe we're just reading them differently. But, I don't think the serious people who have complaints are guilty of the things you say they are. Are there shrill voices on the blogs? yes, absolutely. Are there people who won't pursue peace on the blogs? yes.

But, I don't think one can accuse Brent of this. If you look at the terms presented to him, it wasn't a fair fight. And, in the early days, before any of the exposure, Brent was basically wary of being intimidated by meetings with the leadership that wouldn't be recorded/written down for futher evaluation, and would be spun later for their own means. Was that unreasonable? Let the reader decide, but I think he wasn't out of bounds to insist on some "terms" and "talking points" that SGM just wouldn't agree to.

I think the un-responsible nature of some of the blogs are causing a backlash of minimization of what has been done here. SGM is still controlling the process too much. It's so common now, even in churches, that we don't notice. But, that doesn't make it right. This kind of manipulation needs to be out of church/denominational leadership

Jason said...

As I said in my earlier comment I'm a 3rd party observer to the whole CJ/SGM drama, but I still recognize certain patterns. Trying to blame this on polity or Theology is off the mark in my view. You see the same heavy-handed authoritarian patterns across all theologies and across a myriad of different polity systems.

Someday we're going to have more and more who are willing to stand up for the Priesthood of All Believers and get rid of these mindsets which require almost unquestioned loyalty to those in authority positions or risk being labeled "rebellious" or "unsaved."

I do agree though that the best way to deal with a church or ministry that is practicing this kind of behavior is to just leave. I'm all for people who have had similar hurtful experiences to get together for support, but it can quickly go over the line into looking for vengeance. Anyone who thought that AoR or any similar organization was going to come down strong on the side of the victims was kidding themselves. I went through a similar interview process, and these things are rigged from the beginning. They will always side with the ministry because that is who hires them and brings them in. I agree that a 3rd party shouldn't even be brought in to begin with. If a church leadership has that many problems then just leave and pray for those who are still involved. There's not going to be this huge "Lightbulb Moment" where everyone sees the light no matter how much blogging is done.

Another pattern though that although predictable is still frustrating, is how those in ministry rush to the defense of those who are in ministry. It's the same as managers always supporting managers against employees. It's built into our culture, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Jason said...

As for the nature of the anti-SGM Blogs, there are a 100 different criticisms that could be leveled against them and most would have some validity. However that is not grounds to ignore the substantive complaints that are repeated over and over from several different people representing many different churches and locations all under the SGM banner.

I and others have tried to tell the bloggers to stop the anti-Reformed diatribes, and to stop the anti-Complementarian diatribes, and to stop all the gossip about how much someone's house sells for, or what their kids have done or not done, and a host of other things that are either gossip or irrelevant. Yes all of these things hurt their credibility. And yes there are many who post on these blogs who would be trouble-makers in any church and who would be bitter and angry no matter what church they may have went to.

All of this can be true, but it is not an excuse to ignore some very real problems. There are those who post on these blogs who stick with relevant issues and Scriptural analysis to delve into the many problems and talk about solutions. There are many who encourage people to move into healing and restoration rather than staying stuck in bitterness and anger.

If you want to use all the negatives as an excuse to ignore the substantive then almost any complaint in any realm can always be ignored.

aaron said...

Good words, Jason! I agree wholeheartedly. Let me add this, . . . regardless of the merits of the case (which many of us are disagreeing on) If you treat people like this, expect blow back. The new "leaks" environment is, at some level, a response to "rigged" feedback mechanisms where people are not heard.

I've seen it so many times in churches, where the truth is dangerous ( I'm not talking about sexual abuse or financial impropriety, etc. . ) and so the leadership circles the wagons and controls information. Let these methods die a thousand deaths.

Bridget said...

James -

You are very dismissing of people. I did not speak of allegations. I spoke of what people can SEE for themselves. I speak of what is going on with a move to Kentucky. I will tell you what has happened with me personally as well.

I was not told the truth about why Larry Tomczak left the movement. I was not told that the movement was changing their doctrine. I was not told that I do not have a voice as a member of an SGM church. I was witness to a confused lack of leading when there was leadership issues in my church and saw several families leave as a result of this. There has not been clear polity in the churches or any way for people to bring concerns to leadership.

BTW - all the questions that I listed in my other comment, the ones you call allegations, are not allegations. I am a real person, with real questions about an organization I have been part of for 14 years. The questions go unanswered while the current leaders of the organization go about collecting salaries, going to conferences, moving their families to different churches, and moving the organization. Much of this was going on before the AoR report was even begun. None of what I see from the leaders seems to point to carring for a flock. I don't pretend to know their hearts. They have not shared in a way that I would know their heart. The only sermons I have heard recently from leaders have been three from CJ which seemed to be about the difficulties of his life and two sermons by other pastors on gossip and slander.

Last time I checked, this site was not a courtroom. It seems that your courtroom comments are an attempt to intimidate people. If true, that would be sad.

Mother's day weekend seems like an odd time to open the SGM discussion. Many people wouldn't be looking at the blog on this paticular weekend. The title of this blog came across as condescending to me as well.

Are you part of SGM, James? Why are you here?

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Bridget, I appreciate you sharing YOUR story. Larry was forced out 15 years ago or so? I'm not sure members in the pews are particularly informed as to why major leadership changes takes place. It happens in all churches, in all denominations and leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. But SGM is not unique.

Did SGM also change to a reformed approach 15 or 14 years ago or was it more recent? I'm unclear abou this.

I'm hardly in a position to intimidate anybody on PYROMANIACS. I have no status here. But in trying to dig out the truth of SGM and particularly C.J. Mahaney, I've heard many, many allegations but they were secondhand. I don't think secondhand allegations are a trustworthy source of truth.

Bridget, I've been interested in the truth; it's been difficult to come by on the blogs attacking SGM. You can accurately tell me what you felt in your own experience but you really can't speak all that accurately for others.
That's why they don't allow second hand witnesses in the courtroom where they are seeking for the truth.

You have felt hurt by the things that transpired during your stay at an SGM church. May I surmise C.J. Mahaney didn't personally hurt you? If I'm wrong about that I hope you'll correct me.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Jason said: "As for the nature of the anti-SGM Blogs, there are a 100 different criticisms that could be leveled against them and most would have some validity. However that is not grounds to ignore the substantive complaints that are repeated over and over from several different people representing many different churches and locations all under the SGM banner.

I and others have tried to tell the bloggers to stop the anti-Reformed diatribes, and to stop the anti-Complementarian diatribes, and to stop all the gossip about how much someone's house sells for, or what their kids have done or not done, and a host of other things that are either gossip or irrelevant. Yes all of these things hurt their credibility. And yes there are many who post on these blogs who would be trouble-makers in any church and who would be bitter and angry no matter what church they may have went to.

All of this can be true, but it is not an excuse to ignore some very real problems. There are those who post on these blogs who stick with relevant issues and Scriptural analysis to delve into the many problems and talk about solutions. There are many who encourage people to move into healing and restoration rather than staying stuck in bitterness and anger.

If you want to use all the negatives as an excuse to ignore the substantive then almost any complaint in any realm can always be ignored."

[Excellent post Jason, unluckily as you well pointed out, the total liberty given to commentors on these blogs led to allegations that actually diverted from the problems you state. Sadly Jim, Kris, and the the two high school clique leaders at the other blog refused to call on their commentors to be careful in their allegations leading to even more confusion and fog surrounding the issues at SGM. That's the price of letting your commentors say anything they want without attempting to rein them in.]

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

I tried to read Brent's docs TWICE; I got about 100 pages in. I simply couldn't wade threw them. As a good friend of his said, he desperately needed an editor that could differentiate between the wheat and the chaff.

Brent's a unique guy. I think he's chosen martyrdom as his preferred ending.

By the way Alan; did C.J. personally spiritually abuse you?

Jason said...

James,

You are correct that the type of things being shared are not unique to SGM. And you are correct that some of the SGM Survivors make it out to be that SGM is one of the worst cases of abuse ever when in fact they're probably somewhere in the middle. Some of the survivors do play the victim and martyr card, and in particular they seem to want to blame Reformed types as being the worst type of offenders.

All of this is true, but...it doesn't diminish the very real experiences of those who believe they have suffered because of the things that happened at SGM. Their experiences are real, their hurts are real, and they shouldn't be minimized. I know that you and others feel they've made too much of what happened, but that does not excuse turning around and making too little of it either.

I've been through this kind of experience, and it's tough. You are angry, and you don't always express that anger appropriately. You work through it. For some this involves a venting process. That venting is raw and emotional. Yes it is their responsibility to still abide by the guidelines in Scripture, but it's not going to happen overnight. A healing process has to occur.

James "Jimmy" Brown said...

Jason I liked your measured and thoughtful post.

Tom Chantry said...
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Tom Chantry said...
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Clarice said...

@Tom Chantry

I appreciate your comment, Tom, and agree with all of what you said, especially about definitions of spiritual abuse. No "fire" from me!

Tom Chantry said...

This is the thread that never ends,
It just goes on and on my friends…

After reading through what is increasingly a train wreck, let me say, I stand by what I said yesterday, and I also see Frank’s point.

Look, sin is everywhere. It’s in everything we do and say, because we are so wretchedly short of God’s perfection. I’m not trying to minimalize it, but honestly, from a human perspective you can’t treat every failing as though it were equal to the worst failings, and you can’t pursue all sins the same way. No doubt there have been some very serious things going on at SGM over the years, but when I watch the group of you trying to make the case that it has been systemic, you bring up things that leave me utterly astonished.

I said earlier that I’ve seen and known of true spiritual abuse. Let me be clear what I mean. An elder in a church questions the rest of the elders in a case of discipline; they call a special meeting without him, vote him off the board, remove him from membership, and announce his departure to the congregation with the explanation that they think he’s gone senile - all without saying a word to him first. That’s spiritual abuse. A group of elders worry that a family is getting out of line, so they secretly tell the children to listen in on their parent’s conversations and report back to the elders anything said about the church. Then they excommunicate the parents on the basis of private communications relayed back to them by the kids. That’s spiritual abuse. A man gets into a disagreement with his pastor about some peripheral thing; the pastor declares him a spiritual rebel and then tells his wife she ought to divorce him so that she can marry a “real” Christian. That’s spiritual abuse. And some of you have come on this thread with your litany of abuses, and it all amounts to, “I didn’t get as much information about the inner workings of the church as I wanted.” I’m sorry, but to call that spiritual abuse is rather offensive - not only to me but to anyone who has actually suffered spiritual abuse - wither in SGM or elsewhere.

As I said, I know that some serious offenses have been given. I appreciate the way that a few have attempted to express your opposition rationally, but a lot of you are giving credence to the idea that you simply refuse to be led. But again, this is what happens when you can’t distinguish small sins from big sins and big sins from disqualifying sins. An elderly woman in my first congregation once complained to the elders that when she came into church one day, I greeted her with a smile, but it wasn’t as big a smile as she saw me give to another elderly woman. I’m glad I wasn’t in a SGM church - I’d probably be a target of spiritual abuse blogs now!

My last thought is about the word “survivor.” When I was a kid I lived 30 minutes from <a href=" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident> Three Mile Island </a> . We used to joke that we had “survived” TMI. It was a joke because, of course, no one died at TMI. A few years ago I met a survivor of the first wave at D-Day. That was not a joke, for obvious reasons. And now there is a social phenomenon in the church called “SGM Survivors.” Hmm.

I’m going to ignore the firestorm that this comment may generate and go to bed.

Tom Chantry said...

Oh forget it, I can't post html code tonight. You get the idea

Jason said...

Tom,

Do you think it is possible that you are engaging in the Fallacy of the Excluded Middle?

The things you list as spiritual abuse are definitely spiritual abuse, and the things you list as NOT being spiritual abuse are definitely not. Wouldn't you though acknowledge there is a lot of room in-between? If we take your examples of spiritual abuse and rate them a 9 or 10 on the abuse scale, and rate your NOT examples as a 1 or 2 then that leaves a lot of room for some abuses in the 6, 7, or 8 range.

I'm an outsider to this so all I know is what I've read. However my many years in various churches as both a leader and lay person lead me to believe that so many stories of similar happenings most likely have some truth to them. Some of the stories about sexual abuse cover-ups do seem to merit a 9 or 10 on the spiritual abuse scale, while others would seem to at least merit a 7 or 8.

I do think it's dismissive though to try and portray the majority of complaints against SGM as being on par with not smiling enough. You wouldn't have the fallout and corroboration that is going on with the SGM affair with such minor goings on.

Clarice said...
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Frank Turk said...

Ted Beam:

I think that there is a vocal and emotional faction of people inside and outside of SGM who are not satisfied with anything but the yet-to-be-determined volume of blood and mass of flesh to be extracted.

Thanks for asking.

Alex F said...
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Frank Turk said...

One theme that has emerged here in the thread is the idea that the SGM "surviors" may have done a lot of harmful or sinful things, but ya just gotta understand what they went through -- they have valid complaints.

To use all the variants of that argument when discussing this subject when the core complaint of the objectors is that those whom they are offended by should pride and a lack of humility is its own punch-line. Hubris is Hubris, and it will forever be so. Using it to combat hubris is, to say the least, anti New Testament.

Alex F said...

'll not beat a dead horse here, but I've got a couple degrees from Southern Seminary and spent 3 years in SGM so I've been around the Reformed Evangelical block a bit, so maybe I can bring a bit of a different perspective.

Part of the problem between the "accusers" of CJ et al and their "defenders" is that it is impossible to accurately describe life in SGM to someone who has never experienced it firsthand. I've tried. It is a very insular subculture with its own patterns of speech, thought, methods, and, well, culture. You just can't totally "get it" if you haven't lived it for a little while. And that makes forums like this difficult.

We have many friends within SGM and I don't have a terribly sad story to tell. Obviously I left and there were reasons for that. Chief among them, dare I say, was a problematic polity and related issues.

The problem in SGM is polity. Polity matters - a principle that was driven home to me as I reflect on the SGM experience. And any time you see excessive authority centralized in the hands of one or a couple of men, there is a danger for those people and those they lead. That is certainly not unique to SGM.

Frank Turk said...

Wow, was there a lot of house-cleaning to take up today -- sorry to anyone who was offended by any of the comments I deleted. The offending matter, as I said it would be, was dealt with as soon as I was able to come back.

With that, there you go: SGM survivors have had their say, and then some, on a popular Conservative bog.

Let's be clear: brining it up again will get you banned. It has already gotten "allancaire" banned because ther are no rules he'll abide by to speak about this subject -- except to be personally offended that someone thinks his opinions is not good.

The subject, and the thread, is closed.