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Tuesday
Apr092013

Brandywine Grace Church Won’t be Signing a “Letter of Intent” – Plans to Leave Sovereign Grace Ministries

Brandywine Grace Church in Downingtown, PA (33 miles west of Philadelphia) was planted out of Dave Harvey’s church in September 2009.  On Sunday, its senior pastor, Kenny Lynch, told the church they won’t be signing a “letter of intent” as required by Sovereign Grace Ministries in order to stay.  The signing is due by May 3.  This is a major development especially in the northeast where Kenny is well liked, known and respected.  

Kenny was on staff for ten years at Covenant Fellowship Church with Dave, Mark Prater, Jared Mellinger, Jim Donohue, Andy Farmer, Marty Machowski, et al..  Men like Kenny or Mark Altrogge or Joshua Harris don’t leave SGM over a trifle.  For them (or me), it is like growing up Catholic and then leaving Romanism.  It is hard not to feel like an apostate and there’s pressure to stay.  

For example, “How can you leave now?  SGM is changing.  Stay and help to make us even better.”  Or, “You need SGM.  What’s motivating you.  to be an independent church?  Pride and self-sufficiency?”  Or, “Why are you still upset with C.J. and SGM?  He has been so humble.  Why haven’t you forgiven C.J. the way Christ has forgiven you?”  Or, “Have you forgotten you are the worse sinner!  Get the log out of your eye first.  Stop finding fault.”   Or “You must be bitter and offended.  Why else would you leave?  Have you been listening to slander instead of believing the best?”  And on and on it goes

There are also enticements to stay.  It is amusing.  For example, you don’t have to give money to SGM and you can leave for any reasons without fear of being “censured” (i.e. sternly rebuked) over the next two years.  What a deal! 

“For the first 2 years, giving financially to SG is encouraged but not required. After that, 5% will be mandated (unless, under financial duress, they are granted a temporary waiver by their Regional Assembly of Elders), but this is subject to the amendment of the Counsel of Elders.” (SGM Revised Polity Proposal, p. 39) 

“There will be a two-year provisional membership window during which any church that is a Sovereign Grace church on the date of the polity’s ratification…will be able to leave Sovereign Grace without being censured [sternly rebuked] under any circumstances.” (SGM Revised Polity Proposal, p. 7) 

There is also the promise of change but change has not occurred and promises have not been kept.  There is more hiddenness than ever.  I am reminded of Dave Harvey’s famous words to everyone in SGM.    

“How is Sovereign Grace’s board handling the allegations that Brent Detwiler has brought against C.J. Mahaney?  We know that you care about this a lot.  We also care about this a lot, and we are taking Brent’s allegations seriously.  We don’t want to ignore the many accusations that now sit in the public mind.  We want to get this right.  Brent’s documents require impartial examination and C.J. deserves a fair hearing.” (Dave Harvey, “We Are Taking Brent Detwiler’s Allegations Seriously,” Nov 11, 2011) 

How did SGM handle the “allegations” they claimed to be taking ever so seriously?  By devising a corrupt plan that totally silenced me!  I was not permitted to share a single charge before anyone for adjudication.  Instead, I was given one cleverly devised question to answer.  That was it.  Today those “many accusations that now sit in the public mind” have quadrupled because the leaders of SGM have refused to deal with anything in a honest, forthright, and transparent fashion.  There is no evidence of ethical reform, only decline.      

I am proud of the people in Brandywine Grace Church.  They have not been silent or passive.  Over the past few months, they have been asking their pastors hard questions and sharing their honest concerns for SGM.  The leaders in turn sought to answer their questions and welcomed their input.  The congregation has made a real difference in aiding the leadership team in their decision.  Their input has been vital.  As a result, the church is united.  

Kenny was one of my theology students.  He graduated from the Pastors College in 1999.  David Sharp, an assistant pastor, graduated from the Pastors College in 2004 and served on the Covenant Fellowship Church staff for 5 years.  Jason Russell, a pastor in training, just graduated from the Pastors College in 2012.  He was asked this question for a post on the SGM website.  "Describe what you hope the effect of the Pastors College will be on your future pastoral ministry."  His answer?  “’Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.’ (1 Tim 4:16)  Hoping that this year gives form and content to follow these words.”  

Jason could not have imagined leaving SGM nine months ago when he graduated from the Pastors College.  But this decision to leave SGM “gives form and content to follow these words” in 1 Timothy 4:16 and not only for Jason, but for all the men and women in the church who appealed to their leaders.  This church is leaving over ethical observations primarily, not over polity concerns.  The pastors will not be signing a “letter of intent” as a matter of conviction and conscience.  In so doing, they will “save” (help to protect and preserve) both themselves and their hearers.     

This is a lesson for all the churches in SGM.  I don’t believe you can keep your integrity and practice your doctrine and remain in SGM because the past has not been dealt with and the present is still characterized by pride, duplicity and hypocrisy.  We have taught 1 Timothy 4:16 well but few have lived it well.  

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