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Thursday
Jun282012

Ambassadors of Reconciliation's Unwarranted Condemnation of Covenant Life Church

I’ve been working on a critique of “Report to the Board of Directors of Sovereign Grace Ministries” by Ted Kober and Ed Keinath from Ambassadors of Reconciliation.  This report was nine months in the making and cost SGM at least $400,000.  It was delivered to the SGM Board on April 10, 2012.

Tonight Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD is having an important Family Meeting where Joshua Harris and other pastors will be addressing the following subjects.

  • The way forward for CLC
  • Response to Ambassadors of Reconciliation report to SGM
  • Presentation of new CLC constitution
  • 2012-2013 budget

I’ve not been in contact with the pastors at CLC but I would like to weigh in on AoR’s critical remarks about CLC in their report to SGM.  I found their condemnations to be extremely unjust.  I hope Ted and Ed return to CLC to make amends.

Below I quote relevant sections from their report in blue ink and then provide my analysis.

“As noted in our August Consultation Report, when C.J. Mahaney made his public confession at Covenant Life Church [on July 10, 2011], no one took the opportunity to publicly declare to C.J. a message of hope based on Christ’s forgiveness.  For example, someone could have said the following based on the Bible’s teachings: 

“C.J., I have great news for you.  God promises in his Holy Word: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).  The Apostle Paul also declares: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV).  Having heard your confession of sin, and based on the promises of God, I remind you that God loves you and forgives you all your sins because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ.  You are forgiven by God.  Go in his peace, which transcends all understanding.” (Ted Kober & Ed Keinath, Report to the BoD of SGM, p. 27)

Ted and Ed openly reproved Joshua Harris, the CLC pastors and the church – something they failed to do with C.J. or the SGM Board at any point in their 39 page report.  This is one of many examples of bias and favoritism.  The authors have no problem correcting the pastors and church even though they refuse to correct C.J. or the SGM Board of Directors anywhere in this report.  Not once is C.J. criticized by Ted and Ed but he is often commended.  The double standard is blatant as it is appalling. 

Furthermore, the Bible does not require the practice they imposed upon the pastors.  Ted and Ed are Lutherans and therefore take a more sacramental approach to the forgiveness of sins.  In my view, they advocate a form of absolution similar to that practiced by priests in the Roman Catholic Church.  In any case, there is no biblical precedent for such a regulated practice. 

Of course, it is never wrong to assure someone of God’s forgiveness in the gospel and at times it is good and necessary; but it should not be prescribed as a legalistic practice that is required when a person is confessing his sins to another person or group.  The most important thing Covenant Life Church could have done on July 19, 2011 was express their forgiveness to C.J. for his sins against them but that was only possible if his repentance was obvious and his confession clear.  Both those ingredients were missing.      

The pastors could have said “God forgives you for the sins you confessed against Larry, Brent and Dave” but that was not the point of the evening.  C.J. was supposed to be  confessing his sins against Covenant Life Church.  On that evening he used just two sentences when asking forgiveness for his sins and their effect upon the pastors and church.   

“But this evening I want to communicate my sorrow for my sin and leadership failures and their effects on others; in particular you, the church I love the most.  I want to ask for your forgiveness for these sins and their effects on you.” (C.J. Mahaney, CLC Members’ Meeting, July 10, 2011)

If you study C.J.’s entire confession you quickly realize that he does not mentioned a single way in which he sinned against CLC.  He asks forgiveness but he doesn’t identify his sin.  

True, C.J. asked CLC to forgive him for his sins against Larry 14 years ago and against Dave and me 7 years ago but that is very strange and of little relevance.  He also asked CLC to forgive him for the “effect” of those sins upon them but he does not explain how his sins against the three of us adversely impacted the church.  He provides no explanation.  It was one pathetic confession because he never made clear how he sinned against CLC.

Truthfully, C.J. needs to return to CLC and get serious about making a real confession to them for being a proud, deceitful, unteachable, independent, heavy handed and hypocritical for so many years.  A year ago, the CLC pastors told the church they could not continue their partnership with SGM if C.J. came back as President.  I hope they stand by that commitment.  Nothing has changed with C.J. 

Ted and Ed continue.

"In spite of his open confession, C.J. Mahaney was sent out without the comfort of God’s good news for him.  Instead, many discussed the merits and weaknesses of C.J.’s confession and his other wrongs in a large group meeting.” (Ted Kober & Ed Keinath, Report to the BoD of SGM, p. 28)

In Ted and Ed’s world you can’t discuss anything in a group that occurred before the whole church and effected the whole church.  This is a form of control.  There was a tremendous need to evaluate the merits and weaknesses of C.J.’s confession in a pastoral context.  As a result, people at CLC greatly benefitted from the questions and comments of other members and the answers and wisdom provided by their pastors.  It is inconceivable to me that Ted and Ed condemn this kind of vital pastoral care in their public report.    

For example, the pastors did an extraordinary job at the CLC Members Meeting on October 30, 2001.  Here are some comment by Robin and Joshua which are extremely true and relevant.  For example, just today it was announced that C.J. was unilaterally installed two weeks ago as the long term President of SGM without any input from the SGM pastors (see A Divided Board Makes C.J. Mahaney Long Term President).

RECENT MEMBERSHIP TRANSFER [Speaker: Robin Boisvert]

We don’t believe that Scripture restricts involved parties from discussing among themselves the effects of a leader’s confessed sins.

Because our church was affected by those [C.J.’s] confessed sins, we thought it was appropriate for our members to ask their pastors questions about what was taking place.  We believe this was in keeping with Scripture’s call to shepherd the flock entrusted to us with humility toward one another and to be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5).  A month ago, our pastoral team took time to listen again to the first three members meetings.  Our leadership was flawed at points, but we believe we were faithful to care for this congregation, as well as call for a fair process for CJ.

We believe pastoral discernment at times calls for forbearance rather than correction (Colossians 3:12-13Ephesians 4:2).  We will not allow patterns of sin to go unaddressed in our church, but we believe that the priority in those moments [the members meetings] should not have been to correct speech but to listen and urge one another to consider and apply the gospel, which should humble us all and which in time will bear the fruit of gracious speech.  We have repeatedly called you to believe and apply the gospel to your thinking and speech in Sunday sermons, members meetings, blog posts, etc., and we trust that this will bear fruit in due season.  In the meantime, where we see harmful examples of sinful speech, we will address them.

SOVEREIGN GRACE MINISTRIES [Speaker: Joshua Harris] 

Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room—our church’s relationship with Sovereign Grace.   Yes, there has been tension.  Recently, the point of contention has been over the handling of the crisis since CJ took his leave of absence. 

Your pastors don’t think that our leadership in this time of crisis over the past four months [July-October 2011] is the real issue.  We believe what has caused the crisis is deficiencies in the structure of Sovereign Grace, as well as deep-seated problems with the unaccountable and arbitrary ways its authority has operated.

Two Main Issues

We see two main issues that Sovereign Grace needs to address:  First, deficiencies in the leadership structures of our family of churches, and second, the need for fair and objective evaluation of the many charges and criticisms being leveled against Sovereign Grace.

1. Deficiencies in leadership structures…

Presently, the board of Sovereign Grace is a self-appointed authority without constitutional accountability or checks and balances.  And all authority within Sovereign Grace exists within this board.

Member churches and pastors have no constitutional means of voting upon the membership of the board or of redress to the board’s decisions.

While this would be reasonable if Sovereign Grace were only a parachurch ministry that seeks to come alongside of local churches for the purpose of producing music and literature, or for the purpose of furthering mission, but this is unreasonable if Sovereign Grace assumes authority over the leadership and policies of local churches.

Therefore, in order for us to maintain genuine and mutual partnership, our desire is to work with Sovereign Grace to clarify its purpose, to increase its accountability and to establish appropriate, biblical boundaries in its relationship to Covenant Life and other local churches.

2. Due process for the many charges and criticisms being leveled against SGM…

We remain convinced that a comprehensive and impartial review of Sovereign Grace leadership would serve everyone well.  Much has been said about proper due process.   We think it is very important for all sides to have an opportunity to share their thoughts.  We won’t make progress without working through grievances, and we want to see that done with integrity in an orderly manner.  The Sovereign Grace board has set in place plans for a Group Reconciliation Process and the evaluation of Brent’s charges, and we’re looking forward to see how they will act on what they learn.

We are deeply grieved by any way in which CJ and his family have been slandered.   However, to characterize everything that has been said about CJ as unproven or slanderous accusations or allegations is inaccurate.  It is important to note that there have already been significant admissions and confessions from CJ about patterns of behavior and specific leadership decisions and sins that have been brought to light and witnessed by many.  When someone confesses to something, it’s no longer an allegation.  To be fair, CJ has said that he doesn’t agree with all of the charges that have been brought against him, but his public confessions indicate that he is aware of the truthfulness of some of them.

It is wrong for Ted and Ed not to include this perspective in their report as a counterweight to their one sided condemnation even if they don’t agree with Robin and Joshua.  Their report should faithfully represent the pastors’ perspective rather than misrepresent their perspective and actions.   

Furthermore, there was nothing wrong with discussing C.J.’s “other wrongs.”  All of C.J.’s wrongs should have been told to the church by C.J. in the form of a confession or by the CLC pastors in the form of an appeal for his repentance.  Everyone church member had a right to discuss C.J.’s “other wrongs” especially when he and the SGM interim Board immediately began to minimize and cover them up after I sent out the documents.  They also began to attack me. 

To be honest, the CLC pastors should have publicly rebuked C.J. before the church (1 Tim 5:20) for his continuation in sin since our group confrontation of him on August 20, 2004.  That rebuke is still needed today.  C.J. lived a hypocritical life and kept this from the church.  He also deceived the pastors.  For instance, he never told any of his pastors about the blackmail of Larry Tomczak in 1997 even after he supposedly reconciled with Larry in December 2010.  He covered it up.  The CLC pastors did know about his threats against the Tomczak’s until they read my Concluding Remarks six months later.  That demonstrates an amazing degree of deceit.  He didn’t want Joshua or Kenneth or Grant or Robin to know about his scandalous sins.  These are the kinds of sins he needs to confess to CLC. 

After C.J.’s insipid confession on July 10, 2011, the Covenant Life pastors on behalf of the congregation, asked the interim Board to have C.J. return so the church could ask him questions.  The Board refused to do this and C.J. refused to return of his own initiative.  Ted and Ed have gall for condemning the members of CLC when they made every effort to talk with C.J. directly.  He refused because he dreaded the honestly required in an accountable context where tough questions could be asked.  The day after his “open confession” he fled for Capitol Hill Baptist Church with Mark Dever never to return.  Therefore it was absolutely right and necessary for church members to discuss “the merits and weaknesses of C.J.’s confession and his other wrongs” like fleeing CLC since the SGM Board and C.J. refused to do so.  Ted and Ed leave out all this information from this report.  Instead they fault CLC when they should be correcting C.J. and the SGM interim Board for their lack of humility, transparency and accountability.

Now to their second point in this paragraph.  C.J. is a big boy who knows the comforts of the gospel.  The authors quote 1 John 1:9 above.  That passage assures every believer his sins are forgiven and cleansed when confessed to the Almighty through Christ Jesus our Lord.  The text does not call for absolution or a pronouncement of forgiveness by men.  The Holy Spirit conveys that reality to each believer personally at the time of their confession to God. 

One assumes C.J. came into the meeting already comforted by the forgiveness of God.  What he desperately needed was the forgiveness of Covenant Life Church.  He left unforgiven due to no fault of CLC.  Unconfessed sin remains unforgiven sin.  A year later now, C.J. remains separated from the church because he has yet to confess his sins against them.  Immediately after his confession last year, C.J. left the building and did not stay for the remainder of the Family Meeting.  He departed without the comfort of CLC because he never articulated how he sinned against them or the effect of his sins upon them.  

If anything, the CLC pastors could have said to C.J., “The Lord forgives you for your sins against Larry, Dave and Brent and we want to forgive you for your sins against us but we have no idea what sins you have in mind based upon your two sentence confession.  Could we ask you some questions so we can understand?”  

Ted and Ed are totally unconcerned for the comfort of Covenant Life Church by C.J.  Church members are the ones in need of consolation not C.J.  Throughout this report the authors comfort abusers and abuse those needing comfort.  Ted and Ed should be expressing concern in this section of their report for the terribly deficient and hypocritical nature of C.J.’s confession.  Instead they are correcting Joshua Harris, the pastors, and the church.  They demonstrate no discernment but a lot of bias.

Here is a sampling of C.J.’s teaching on how to confess your sin.  He violated his own teaching.  His confession to CLC was not specific in any sense and therefore not sincere.  It was extraordinarily vague.  Nor was it sorrowful as defined by Scripture.  2 Cor 7:11 says, “See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”  Without godly sorrow there can be no repentance because godly sorrow brings about repentance in a person’s soul.  Here are C.J.’s words.

“Now, what about your moment of confession?  Your moment is coming, and so is mine.  And this is what concerns me the most—that I will miss my moment…. And I have my own moment fast approaching when I will need to acknowledge my sin…

“When I have sinned against someone, a sincere confession is required…. A sincere confession of sin should be specific (“I was arrogant and angry when I made that statement; will you please forgive me for sinning against you in this way?”) and brief (this shouldn’t take long).  When I find myself adding an explanation to my confession, I’m not asking forgiveness but instead appealing for understanding…

“Genuine conviction of sin is evidenced by a sincere, specific, and brief confession of sin, without any reference to circumstances or the participation of anyone else.  When I sin, I am responsible for my sin, and the cause of my sin is always within my heart and never lies outside my heart.

“Often after I sin, and even after I confess my sin—most importantly to God to receive the forgiveness I need from him for my sin through the death of his Son for my many sins—I experience a conflict in my soul about the confessing, when necessary, to the appropriate individuals.  And whenever there is this conflict in my soul about specifically confessing my sin, I am aware that pride is actively at work in my soul, opposing the confession and seeking to persuade me that it wouldn’t be wise or even necessary for me to confess.  But I have learned to ignore this noise from my arrogant heart, and instead weaken this noise by specifically confessing my sin to the appropriate individual as quickly as possible…

“And when I confess my sin to others and ask their forgiveness when I have sinned against them, I don’t want my confession to resemble the press conference of a high-profile athlete, characterized by evasive language and the refusal to be specific.  Instead, I hope my confession of sin is the sincere and specific confession of one genuinely convicted of his sin, sorrowful about his sin, and amazed at the grace of God provided for the forgiveness of sin.” (What Andy Pettitte and C.J. Mahaney Share in Common, November 16, 2011)

Ted and Ed also rebuke the pastors and church because “many discussed the merits and weaknesses of C.J.’s confession and his other wrongs in a large group meeting.”  People are called to judge repentance just like they are called to judge prophecy.  If a false prophecy is given it needs to be addressed.  If a woeful confession is given it too must be addressed especially when the person leaves unwilling to be questioned.  The authors should be pointing out all the problems with C.J.’s confession not correcting Covenant Life Church for talking about C.J.’s confession. 

Let me give another example from C.J.’s confession regarding Larry Tomczak.  Here is the totality of his comments.

“Last month Brent sent a third document [Concluding Remarks], this one 200 pages in length.  In this document Brent pointed out my leadership failures in 1997 when Larry Tomczak left SGM after relocating to Atlanta to plant a church.  During this time Larry and I had a conflict over how we would describe his leaving SGM.  It grieves me to report to you that in a particular phone conversation I sought to coerce Larry to present his leaving as I thought was right. (And by the way none of your current pastors would have known this.  It involved SGM not CLC.)  And when Larry did leave, my public announcement of his departure was self-righteous in attitude and critical of Larry at a very vulnerable time in his life.  I highlighted his sin alone, and I was blind to my own.  I’m deeply grieved by this.” (C.J. Mahaney, CLC Family Mtg., July 10, 2011)

C.J. compacts 14 years (1997-2010) of sin against Larry into two statements.  “I sought to coerce Larry” and “my public announcement of his departure was self-righteous.”  This doesn’t begin to describe what happened and it doesn’t address the huge impact C.J.’s sins against Larry had upon Covenant Life Church.  For instance, C.J. told all of CLC that he would rather be “dead than do what Larry Tomczak is doing.”  What a dreadful comment.  He must return to CLC to confess these kinds of sins.  Instead he has taken up a new venture.  Denying his sins and watering down his sins.  Dave Harvey even removed C.J.’s confessions from the SGM website that were found in “Why I am taking a leave of absence” (July 6, 2011) and “C.J. Mahaney’s Comments at Covenant Life Church yesterday” (July 11, 2011).  They are no longer available.  

Here is what I wrote at the time.

“Little in C.J.’s July 10 confession is specific and those comments are confined to Dave and me back in 2003-2004.  Otherwise, C.J.’s comments to CLC are vague, general, and non-descript.  For example, he says, “in a particular phone conversation I sought to coerce Larry...my public announcement of his departure was self-righteous in attitude and critical of Larry.”  He doesn’t go into any detail.  He provides little background.  He doesn’t share particulars (for that kind of information you must read Part 3: Concluding Remarks, pages 131-179 at sgmwikileaks).  At the end of his comments, C.J. says to CLC, “I want to ask for your forgiveness for these sins and their effects on you.”  What does he mean specifically?  What sins against CLC is he talking about?  What adverse effects upon the church does he have in mind?  He makes none of this clear.” (Brent Detwiler, No One Can Question C.J.’s Public Confession of Specific Sin - Really?, August 3, 2011)

Furthermore, C.J. has now repudiated these two confessions.  Here’s what he said at the SGM Pastors Conference on November 9, 2011.

“I think it might also be helpful to say something about the confession statement to Covenant Life and to you via a letter…. I have concluded that I did not serve you well with this confession. My confession has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and exploited…. My communication in some ways created speculation that left me vulnerable to interpretation, that left me vulnerable to exploitation.  I left the wrong impression of my sin.  In that confession, I was trying to convey that I take my sins seriously but I regret that my language conveyed that my sins were unusually serious.  I do not think that, I have never thought that…. One member of the first panel said this to me – quote: “I respect, CJ, how seriously you take the respectable sins but you left the impression that you did something scandalous.  But nothing you confessed reached the level of public scandal requiring a public confession.  Your sins are routine and common.”  That is not to minimize my sin.  But it did help me to see the wrong impressions I left and I regret that.  Another member of the panel said this: “I think you made a genuine effort to be humble.  You overstate the level of offense and you confuse those outside of Sovereign Grace.”  I happen to think that is an accurate critique.  I didn’t just confuse those outside Sovereign Grace, I confused those inside Sovereign Grace as well.  I over-stated [my sin]…. Finally, in relation to my confession, I wish I had defended myself…. I wish I hadn’t  made that confession statement at that time and what I should have done is postpone any confession statement until both panels had ruled…. Not doing that left me vulnerable to critics and I don’t think it served you.  (C.J. Mahaney, SGM Pastors Conference, November 9, 2011)

The pastors wrote Covenant Life Church about C.J.’s downgrading of his confession.

“One of the most significant moments of the Pastors Conference was when C.J. shared with all the pastors and wives about what he’s learned during his Leave of Absence (LoA).  Our pastoral team was disappointed by the tone and posture of C.J.’s remarks, and we feel strongly that it’s appropriate for you to read them, because they reflect apparent changes in his thinking about his LoA and his confession to our congregation at the July 10 Members Meeting.  We understand that a number of you have read the remarks online (they have been published on at least two blogs) and found them troubling as well.  We’ve asked the SGM Board to make the audio and/or transcript of this session readily available to our church, but we have not heard back as of this writing.  We look forward to sharing our thoughts with C.J. and the SGM Board directly and hearing from the Board on whether they support C.J.’s statements.” (A Church Family Update, November 22 2011)

Ted and Ed make no mention of the fact that C.J. now believes his sins were respectable, routine, common, and over-stated.  Furthermore, he regrets giving the impression his sins were serious, wishes he had defended himself to CLC and regrets ever making a confession to them at that time.  These comments reveal the true state of C.J.’s heart.  He doesn’t believe his sins were significant.  He doesn’t believe a confession was needed.  Instead of repentance and confession, he believes he should have been defending himself against “exploitation.”  That explains his lack of contrition and sorrow at the Family Meeting.  He was barely convicted because he has “never thought” his sins were unusually serious even for the President of SGM. 

Here is what C.J. should have been saying about his confession not Andy Pettitte’s confession.

“As I watched the Pettitte press conference, I didn’t question the sincerity of his profession of faith.  What I am questioning is his understanding of Scripture (specifically ethics as taught in Scripture).  I wonder if he has a pastor.  I wonder if he’s a part of a local church.  I wonder if the Yankees have a chaplain who is a true pastor.  Because I think Pettitte needs a pastor or chaplain who can meet with him to walk back through his confession and examine his heart in light of the holiness of God, the doctrine of sin, and (most importantly) the gospel. 

"It was disappointing because Andy Pettitte missed his moment. He had a moment where he could have articulated a clear confession that was theologically informed." (What Andy Pettitte and C.J. Mahaney Share in Common, November 16) 

C.J. missed his moment.  His weak confession, his unwillingness to return so the church could ask him questions, his independent decision to leave CLC without counsel from the pastors, his public reversal of his confession, etc. caused great havoc in the church and required extraordinary amounts of pastoral care.  Ted and Ed should be commending the CLC pastors instead they tear them down.  The Family Meetings and Coffee and Questions meetings were a tremendous means of grace and people greatly appreciated the openness and honesty of their leaders.  Ed and Ted have condemned all of this.

Joshua wrote me the day after C.J.’s confession.  I responded to his humble note and included my assessment of C.J.’s confession.

July 11, 2011

Brent,

Last night at the Member’s Meeting as I shared about my involvement in the process back in 2004 a faithful member asked me in the Q&A if I had specifically asked your forgiveness for dropping out of the process back then.  I’ve talked about this to you in different emails but I said I hadn’t and I wanted to do that now.  Brent, I’m sorry for the position I put you and Dave in back then by pulling out of the process.  There were mixed motives.  I wanted to protect Covenant Life and preserve my relationship with C.J. but I was also afraid.  I lacked courage.  I feared man more than God.  I was not a faithful friend to C.J. nor to you.  I know now that you were seeking to love C.J. by challenging him then.

Please forgive me.

God bless you, Brent.

Joshua

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 2:55 Pm
To: Joshua Harris 
Subject: RE: Back in 2004

We have all lacked courage.  You were 29.  Those older had a greater responsibility at the time but you are freely forgiven.

I thought C.J. did a poor job on Sunday night.  He’s not really seeing the issues.  I hope he returns this Sunday night and makes a clear and specific confession of deceit, hypocrisy, and abuse.  He also needs to reference specific illustrations like his treatment of Larry.  People are reading the documents and they know he is not coming clean.

I’ll be appealing to him again this week.

Brent

Ted and Ed fail to appreciate the fact that people were reading the documents and knew C.J. was not coming clean.  His confession at CLC was a step in the wrong direction because it was so limited and superficial.  That was obvious to everyone.  It was perfectly right for people to ask questions, make comments and generally criticize the confession and the overall response of SGM.  

A month after the Family Meeting I wrote Joshua the following regarding a “exit strategy” in which I include remarks about C.J.’s confession.

From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Firday, August 12, 2011 11:22 AM
To: Joshua Harris
Subject: Exit Strategy

Hello Joshua,

My heart goes out to you.  These times are deeply troubling.  I’ve found 2 Cor 4:7-9 helpful in my trials.

Here are a few thoughts for your consideration. 

  • You should start planning a well thought out exit strategy from SGM in order to avoid a split that grows progressively worse.  That includes how other CLC pastors leave CLC.
  • You must state candidly to CLC (and the movement) why you are pulling out.  Don’t pull any punches.  You need to be perfectly honest.  Use words like pride, heavy handed, authoritarian, unteachable, manipulative, etc. if you believe they fit.  Don’t fear making a case for your departure.  That is not being proud.  People need to hear your reasons.
  • You should prepare to be slandered.
  • You should start an association of churches so other SGM churches can join with you.
  • SGM is a legal component of CLC as an integrated auxiliary.  That should be dissolved.  SGM should reincorporate.
  • Decide what to do with the PC.
  • Decide what to do with the SGM facilities.
  • Decide what to do on giving to SGM.  SGM has at least 3 million in cash savings with many assets they can liquidate like the townhouses.
  • I don’t think C.J. and Dave have or will change their ways.  From my perspective, they are determined to move ahead with little confession of sin or acknowledgment of wrong doing.  Dave is just as bad as C.J.
  • Reconciliation with them will only be possible if you confess you were completely wrong in your public comments about me, the documents, SGM and C.J.  That is totally unwarranted.  In predictable fashion they made you the bad guy because you publicly criticized C.J. and allowed people to ask honest questions.
  • You should stop stating that I am the only witness against C.J.  First, that is not true.  A very long list of people have brought accusations against C.J. for many years including you.  Second, it works against you.
  • You should ask C.J. to respond to my writings.  Let him tell everyone where I’ve judged.  Where I am wrong.  He has not answered a ton of questions or addressed a ton of issues.  Time and time again I’ve begged him to do so.  Instead he and the Board demean the charges as slander but they do not provide any defense against the charges.
  • You have displayed humility.  Dave and C.J. have not.  I hope everyone sees the difference.  It is stark.
  • Rather than a huge mess just leave and start something new.  SGM cannot reform itself because C.J., Dave and others don’t see the sin issues that entangle them, or if they do, they are not willing to deal with them in an open and honest fashion.  Listen again to C.J.’s confession to CLC.  One is hard pressed to call it a confession.  He mentions his sins against Dave and me in 2003-2004 and a little about his sins against Larry in 97.  Otherwise, just general vagaries.  He doesn’t ask CLC to forgive him for anything particular.  I don’t imagine he’ll ever be getting back to CLC regarding Bob Schickler’s questions and comments [about his hypocrisy]. 

##

Ted and Ed are free to criticize CLC in their report but they must represent them fairly.  This they don’t do.  They must also be willing to criticize C.J. and SGM.  This they are unwilling to do. 

"Family meetings in churches also gave credence and opportunity for this type of sinful behavior.  Although church leaders desired to give people a venue to discuss important issues and raise valid concerns, open forum discussions that we reviewed were given no or little direction on what was biblically appropriate to discuss.  When people made slanderous statements or accusations against those not present (and therefore unable to respond), there appeared to be no leadership that gently admonished people against sinning in their talk.  No warnings were given against sinful judging or speculating on others’ motives.  The lack of biblical guidance tended to encourage more people to join in the sinful conversations.  Because these meetings took place in the church, people were taught by example and thus felt even more justified in these sinful means of communications.  At AoR, we discourage all open forums because we have personally witnessed how damaging they can be to people’s faith and witness to Christ.  We rarely see such meetings conducted in ways that produce God-pleasing results.  God is not glorified in meetings where sinful communication is left unrestrained.  (It should be noted that we did not review all open meetings that were held to discuss SGM’s conflicts.  These observations are based only on those where we were given documentation.)" (Ted Kober & Ed Keinath, Report to the BoD of SGM, p. 31)

This is an amazing condemnation of Joshua Harris, the Covenant Life pastors and all  the churches in SGM that had Family Meetings even though Ted and Ed only “reviewed” select meetings based upon “documentation” provided to them by C.J. and Phil Sasser.  The authors of this report did not even listen to the audios.  Based upon a small sampling they come to such generalized conclusions.

This is no way to arrive at such a broad and sweeping condemnation of “meetings where sinful communication is left unrestrained.”  This kind of hype is typical in this report.  Ted and Ed regularly make exaggerated claims without proof and present caricatures as though true.  C.J.’s confession at CLC was pathetic.  There was a righteous uproar over his confession and the events that immediately followed.  People had every reason to be profoundly troubled and aroused by holy anger.  C.J. did not address anything of relevance to CLC.  It was critical for people to discuss C.J.’s confession and wrongs and call him to account.

This second denunciation of Joshua Harris, Covenant Life Church and other churches is unwarranted.  What is worse, Ted and Ed did not talk to the CLC pastors about including this rebuke in their report and it is the only time they use specific names.   They were on a mission.  Denounce the CLC pastors and the people as gossips and slanderers. 

It is frightening that Ted Kober and Ed Keinath are willing to malign leaders for addressing critical issues and answering vital questions but utterly failing to address (or even mention) the continuous lying and deceit of Dave Harvey and the entire interim Board.  Matthew 23:24 applies.  “You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

"There are godly ways to deal with these same concerns.  All such public venues, whether in meetings or on blogs and web sites, should remind people of what God warns against and encourages in our speech.  Even better, people should be given instruction and opportunities to share their concerns privately with trained reconcilers who can coach them to take appropriate steps for reconciliation or compile a report (such as AoR’s Group Reconciliation Assistance)." (Ted Kober & Ed Keinath, Report to the BoD of SGM, p. 31) 

Of course, Ted and Ed have the market on “godly ways to deal with these concerns.”  Like leaving them unaddressed and unexposed.  Nothing AoR has done produced any repentance, yielded any confession, or resulted in any restitution by C.J. or the Boards of Directors.  God’s word warns against slander but it also warns against false prophets that minimize the seriousness of sin and take no decisive action against it.  Their report is a slap on the wrist compared to the enormity of the sin.  In contradistinction, God deals with ongoing and widespread sin by raising up true prophets and people who will take a public stand against evil.  Who expose lies, deceit, manipulation, hypocrisy, lording, partiality, pride, selfish ambition, and the love of reputation.   He calls faithful elders to rebuke sinning elders in public.  He calls faithful churches to appeal for the repentance of unrepentant leaders.  That’s why every member in every church should be calling for C.J.’s repentance and that of those who enable him. 

The “trained reconcilers” of AoR have only produced more division in SGM and their “Group Reconciliation Assistance” has led to no reconciliations between anyone I know.  The exact opposite has occurred.  This report has offended, exasperated and disillusioned thousands of people inside and outside of SGM because it is so biased and does not deal C.J., the Board of Directors or their agents.  It utterly fails to address root sins, introduce any discipline, or call for any restitution.    

"The Bible is full of admonition and teaching against sinful communication because of the natural tendency of human nature and the harmful effects of such talk.  For example, leaders in meetings or those who sponsor blogs could remind people of things such as:

  • “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Proverbs 11:13 ESV).
  • “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:29-30 ESV).
  • “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15 ESV).
  • "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.  The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12 ESV). (Ted Kober & Ed Keinath, Report to the BoD of SGM, pp. 31-32) 

Ted and Ed don’t mention how many times the CLC pastors reminded the church of these passages.  Ted and Ed imply this was not done.  That is wrong and partial reporting.  Moreover, these Family Meetings were not about slander, corrupting talk, biting, devouring, or speaking evil.  They were about pastoral care!  I’m afraid Ted and Ed would have put a muzzle on Martin Luther and the Reformation would never have occurred if Ambassadors of Reconciliation had been in authority.  In many ways their hierarchical approach approximates that of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th Century and yet they are Lutherans.  I imagine Ted and Ed writing a report against Luther rather than the Pope and his Curia.  They certainly would have protested the actions of Luther when he posted the 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg and stood against the use of the Guttenberg Press when distributed in all of Europe.  Moreover, I can help but think they’d warn people about discussing the 95 Theses or the corruption in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.  No open forums or family meetings.  We’d still be in living in the gospel-less dark ages if the faulty theology and practice of the authors prevailed back then.  See A Tough Wedge and a Heavy Pike for Luther’s approach.  

Ted and Ed do not know the difference between covering confessed sin versus exposing on-going sin, between corrupting talk and honest talk, between biting/devouring and “telling it to the church,” between sinful judging and righteous judging.  C.J. and Dave Harvey should have removed from ministry.  We are not talking about a relational conflict between two people that should be resolved in private.  We are talking about long term sin of a serious nature that has effected an entire movement and the subsequent cover-up put into place by the interim Board.  SGM needed to be exposed.  Church members needed to be informed about such duplicity.    

Between September 22 and November 4, 2011, I published my reasons for sending out  Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine, A Final Appeal, Concluding Remarks, and The Untold Story to all the SGM pastors.  Ted and Ed avoid these reasons like the plague in their report but those theological arguments were the basis for going public.  Here’s the introduction I wrote to Eight Reasons Why Sending Out ‘The Documents’ Was Not Slanderous But Necessary.  

“I’ve written six blog posts on this critical subject at BrentDetwiler.com.  I’ve now combined them into this single document for easy access and continuity of thought.  When I sent The Documents to the SGM pastors on July 6, 2011 it was for good reason.  Eight reasons to be exact.  Critics may disagree with my action but I believe it was necessary and in keeping with Scripture.  Here they are.

 

  1. “C.J.’s deceitful explanation for his leave of absence
  2. “The favoritism shown C.J. by the Sovereign Grace Board
  3. “The failure of the Covenant Life Pastors to enforce 1 Timothy 5:19-21
  4. “Being made out to be the only witness against C.J.
  5. “The necessity of telling the Church (Matthew 18:15-17)
  6. “The denial of sin problems in Sovereign Grace Ministries
  7. “The deceit of Dave Harvey and the Sovereign Grace Board
  8. “The need to speak against evil 

“Since sending them out, Sovereign Grace Ministries has done all in their power to prevent people from reading The Documents.  In particular, they’ve attacked their credibility by labeling them “gossip” and “slander.”  Several well-known evangelical leaders have followed their example.  But due to the Providence of God, they have been unsuccessful in keeping my appeal for change from getting out.    

“I have always desired the reform of Sovereign Grace Ministries, never its demise.  That goal is clear in each of my documents.  But for the reasons explicated here it was necessary to inform the pastors of SGM of the issues at hand hoping their collective appeal would bring C.J. and others to repentance.  That continues to be my redemptively hope and earnest prayer.” (Brent Detwiler, “Eight Reasons Why Sending Out ‘The Documents’ Was Not Slanderous But Necessary,” January 4, 2012)

For these same reasons it has been altogether appropriate for any member of a SGM church to discuss the documents or the content of my blog in private or public without fear of retaliation by the likes of Jared Mellinger or Mickey Connolly.  The same is true for the pastoral staff and people of Covenant Life Church who have genuinely been slandered by AoR.  

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