Dave Harvey, the Number 2 Leader in Sovereign Grace Ministries, Steps Down from All Responsibilities
Sovereign Grace Ministries is in total disarray. Last Sunday, the largest and most influential church in the denomination announced its decision to sever ties. Two days later, Dave Harvey abruptly stepped down from all his sizeable leadership responsibilities. This is mind boggling news.
After C.J. Mahaney, no one is a greater luminary in SGM or before the evangelical world than Dave. Here’s his biography as it appears on the SGM website.
Church Planting and Church Care
Sovereign Grace Ministries
Glen Mills, Pennsylvania
Dave Harvey is responsible for church care, church planting, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has served as a member of the Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership team since 1995.
Dave has been in pastoral ministry at Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA) since 1986, was ordained in 1988, and served as senior pastor from 1990 to 2008. He has served on the board of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation since 2006. Dave received a Master of Arts in Missiology from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1989, worked toward a Master of Divinity from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1993 to 1995, and in 2001 became a graduate in Westminster’s D.Min. program. The subject of his doctoral thesis was the identification and equipping of church planters.
Dave is the author of Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry (Crossway, 2012), Rescuing Ambition (Crossway, 2010), and When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (Shepherd, 2007). He contributed a chapter to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, 2008) and wrote a chapter for Why Small Groups?, a book from Sovereign Grace’s Pursuit of Godliness series. He continues to work on other writing projects.
Dave lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Kimm. They have four children and, despite his many protests, one stray cat.
Dave and I have a long history together going back to the early 1980’s when I was his first pastor in Indiana, PA. He joined C.J, Steve Shank, Bo Lotinsky and me on the SGM Board of Directors in 1995.
From 2000-2005, Dave and I worked in earnest to help C.J. see and turn from his long-standing and serious patterns of sin. We were in total agreement regarding our assessment of C.J.’s character and leadership.
By 2005, Dave was deeply discouraged and exasperated with C.J. He had no hope C.J. would change and was exhausted after years of trying. His trust in C.J. was greatly shaken and he was on the verge of despair. I know because I was caring for his soul during this time.
I continued to raise issues with C.J. but Dave made a conscious decision that year to accommodate C.J. and relate to him like a rebellious teenager. Those are Dave’s exact words. This is documented in A Final Appeal (pp. 90-97).
In January 2006, Dave wrote C.J. a lengthy personal letter outlining his concerns and frustrations (AFA, pp. 85-87). This was Dave’s last attempt to help C.J. C.J. never responded to letter. After this Dave went into retirement and stopped bringing concerns and correction to C.J. He could not handle the on-going stress of dealing with C.J. and he did not want to jeopardize his prominent position in SGM.
C.J. was Dave’s bread and butter but this accommodation to C.J. cost Dave his integrity. His desire for national recognition exceeded his commitment to speak the truth without worldly concern for the consequences. By 2007, he fully embraced the culture of accommodation surrounding C.J. That same year I resigned from the SGM Board having lost respect for C.J.
When C.J. took his “leave of absence” in July 2011, Dave became the Interim President of Sovereign Grace Ministries for 9 months. That began an even greater fall from grace that led to unimaginable deceit and heavy-handedness as he manipulated a puppet Board, the SGM pastors and the entire ministry with the help of men like John Loftness and Mickey Connolly.
But by June 2012, a couple members on the new Board began to tell others of a breakdown in Dave’s relationship with C.J. Even though Dave had continuously lied, schemed, and covered up for him, C.J. was not pleased with Dave. I wrote Dave immediately and brought this to the attention of the entire Board who were unaware. See A Divided Board Makes C.J. Mahaney Long Term President (June 29, 2012).
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2012 9:48 AM
To: Dave Harvey
Subject: Falling Out with C.J.
I’ve been told about the break down in your relationship with C.J. because he feels you did not defend him adequately and did not denounce me, Larry T, etc. more harshly. This comes as no surprise. You need to bring this to the immediate attention of the entire Board to whom you and C.J. are now accountable. Be honest with them. Don’t cover up for C.J. Put an end to the enablement. You must tell the Board about this mistreatment of you. Dave, you know full well that nothing has changed with C.J. Your assessment and my assessment from 2004 are as relevant today.
“To correct CJ, or to challenge his own self-perception, was to experience a reaction through e-mails, consistent disagreement (without seeking to sufficiently understand), a lack of sufficient follow-up and occasionally, relational withdrawal. Along with this, CJ was poor in volunteering areas of sin, temptation or weakness in himself.”
1. Can become resentful, distrustful or withdraw when he feels misunderstood, judged, or sinned against by others.
2. Can judge or prematurely come to conclusions about others based on limited or incomplete information.
3. When correcting or disagreeing can communicate his assessment or perspective too strongly or categorically.
4. Can lack gentleness and not perceive the unhelpful effect of his words, actions or decisions upon an individual.
5. Can be difficult to correct and help because he often disagrees with or has a different perspective on illustrations.
6. Infrequently makes us aware of specific sins or the correction others are bringing to him.
I have little hope you and C.J. will be transparent with the Board. I imagine this will be glossed over and made to sound like a trifle when it is serious. Please turn the corner on a new lease in life by doing what is right.
Dave has been out of sight for the last 9 months. The last time he posted or was featured on the SGM website was in March 2012 when he introduced the new Board. Except for speaking at the November 2012 Pastors Conference, Dave has not been heard from in a long time. When leaders go missing in SGM it is always a bad sign. It usually means they have fallen out of favor with C.J.
In the letter to Dave above, I concluded by saying, “Please turn the corner on a new lease in life by doing what is right.” Dave has done a lot wrong in relation to his family, C.J., and SGM. He has finally been asked to step down by the pastors of Covenant Fellowship Church (CFC) outside of Philadelphia.
I addressed these issues and also the unwillingness of the CFC pastors to be honest with the church about the true state of Dave’s family and other disqualifying sins in Dave’s life on my blog in March 2012. For years, the pastors have been covering up for Dave in the same way Dave and others have been covering up for C.J. See Dave Harvey’s Deceitful Leadership Covered Up and Left Uninvestigated – Exposed Tonight at Covenant Fellowship Church (March 4, 2012) and Hardball (March 6, 2012). The house of cards is now collapsing.
Here’s Dave’s statement from Tuesday of this week. My comments are interspersed in blue lettering.
Some News from Dave
December 19, 2012
Merry Christmas my friends,
I have some news that is now sprinkling our holiday season with an unexpected grace and I’m eager to share it with you.
As I’ve been experiencing the care of the elders and reflecting on the way forward, it’s become clear that the connection to my local church, my team, and my family should be prioritized in this next season. However, I don’t see how a more singular focus on these things would be possible with the extra-local responsibilities I’ve been carrying. So, after discussion with the elders and with their support, I believe we’ve found a way to bring that emphasis. I am stepping off the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team, largely eliminating my ministry travel, and resuming my role as a full-time elder at Covenant Fellowship through August 2013. Let me shoot straight with you - this has not been an easy decision. But Kimm and I now have a growing faith for what God intends to do as we take these steps.
Dave makes no mention of discussing this decision with SGM or of their support for his action. Dave and the pastoral team took this radical action without involving with C.J. or the SGM Board of Directors. I’m sure this only adds to the rift between Dave and C.J.
“Experiencing the care of the elders” should be understood as including the discipline and correction of the pastors. “Care” is something of a euphemism. Dave does not divulge what kind of correction he has been receiving but the issues have reached a point where he was asked to step down in order to focus on “the connection to my church, my pastoral team and my family.” The resignation was not “an easy decision” and Dave and Kimm “now have a growing faith for what God intends to do.” There is more to this story than meets the eye.
In predictable fashion, Dave tells us absolutely nothing about why this stepping down was necessary. This is a radical step and one that would not be taken at this time if not for dire reasons. Dave’s departure from his leadership post could not come at a worse time for SGM. It throws them into greater confusion and creates an ever growing cloud of suspicion. What is really going on here? Will anyone in CFC or SGM just be honest? This kind of statement only fuels suspicions and inevitably leads to skepticism because it lacks any kind of meaningful transparency.
Now, just so there is no misunderstanding: this step does not reflect any lack of confidence in Sovereign Grace, our direction, or our leadership. Actually, I’m quite excited over our mission to plant churches and serve pastors. I think our new polity, if ratified, will help us do this even better. It’s really my confidence in God’s grace already working so evidently through this family of churches that emboldens me to step away from the Leadership Team role I have occupied for the last 17 years. Nope, the story on this is not about what Sovereign Grace lacks but what one pastor needs right now.
This is a lot to parse. Statements like this cannot be accepted at face value because these kinds of press releases are inevitably full of spin as we have observed repeatedly over the last year and a half. For example, when Joshua Harris stepped down from the SGM Board in July 2011, Dave told us Joshua was in 98% agreement with SGM. It was a manipulative attempt to minimize the stark differences that led to the recent separation.
Dave takes the opportunity to pump up SGM like an inflatable Santa Clause with a big hole. For instance, “I think our new polity, if ratified, will help us [plant churches and serve pastors] even better.” Great Dave. Let’s hope SGM keeps up the good work as more and more churches leave the denomination. Or, “It’s really my confidence in God’s grace already working so evidently through this family of churches that emboldens me to step away from the Leadership Team role I have occupied for the last 17 years.” This is all hype and I believe Dave knows it. He could be singing a different tune in nine months. I would not be surprised if this begins his transition out of SGM. He expresses no desire to return in this statement.
Dave also has a very short memory. The four thousand people and 20 pastors at Covenant Life Church just severed ties with SGM two days before he released this statement leading into the chaos of Christmas. This kind of positivism is so disingenuous. SGM is being shaken to the core by Almighty God and Dave is emboldened to step away because all is well. Dave would never make this move now if there weren’t very serious problems that needed immediate attending in his life, family and on the pastoral team.
Also, this transition back to Covenant Fellowship is not being initiated by Sovereign Grace; it’s a step I have voluntarily taken with the counsel of the elders – I’m grateful for the way they have walked with us through this decision. It’s one of those times where local and family needs must take priority over extra-local relationships/ministry. I want time in the church that I love and more connection to the men I have served with, some for over two decades. I need to continue to receive their friendship and counsel. And I want to be a part of what God is doing here.
Once again we see the “transition” was requested by the elders and without C.J.’s counsel. C.J. can’t be pleased. Furthermore, take note when Dave says, “It’s one of those times where local and family needs must take priority over extra-local relationships/ministry.” “Local…needs” is a reference to the pastoral staff. Not only are there problems in his family but also among the pastors. I suspect there is division over issues concerning Dave, C.J., SGM, the SG Book of Church Order, etc.
So what does this “one pastor need right now?” He gives only this nebulous answer. “I need to continue to receive their friendship and counsel.” Dave and the pastors in Covenant Fellowship Church do not believe in congregational accountability. They continue to act on their own and behind the veil of secrecy divulging nothing of significance to the church.
Why won’t the pastors at CFC be open and honest with the church about the reasons for this mind boggling development? Will Dave come clean and acknowledge to the church what has been going on for a long time? I really doubt it. This stepping down is at best a half measure. I’d be surprised if Dave’s disqualifying sins were confessed to the church. In all likelihood, he will continue to be treated with partiality and favoritism just like C.J. as things are covered up in his personal, family and ministerial life. I don’t expect any truth telling, only vagaries, but I always hope I am wrong.
So, my friends, this is good news for Kimm and I and I hope it hits you that way as well. As to how I’ll be serving in Covenant Fellowship, I leave that to our elders – I’ll serve wherever they want. As to what I’ll be doing beyond August 2013, I leave that to the Lord, confident that he’ll make it clear to us all. As to our hopes for this season,…well, maybe some refreshment, some reconnection, some additional growth, and maybe lots of good fruit. So please pray - pray for lots of good fruit.
It may be good news for Dave and Kimm but it is bad news for C.J. and SGM. In the sovereignty of God this removal of Dave from SGM leadership is but another expression of his discipline and the on-going dissolution of SGM. In the wisdom of God, no leader of any “prominence” remains in SGM except for C.J., Bob Kauflin and Jeff Purswell.
Dave doesn’t know what he will being doing at CFC over the next nine months. Nor does he know what he will do starting September 2013. He expresses no interest in returning to SGM. I’m not sure Dave wants to come back given his broken relationship with C.J., the greatly diminished stature of SGM, and the deep seated problems that plague the ministry. Dave is no dummy. These are all factors in his thinking despite his denials. There are greener pastures in other fields. But first we must “pray for lots of good fruit.” What kind of fruit? Dave doesn’t want us to know. He gives no standards by which to evaluate his progress which should be evident to all (1 Tim 4:15).
It will be interesting to see how Covenant Fellowship Church responds to this announcement. It was made a week before Christmas so that buys the elders some time. Few members will make much of this immediately. It awaits the New Year. But will the church continue to be passive and indifferent or will substantial number of members finally ask hard questions and require honest answers of Dave and the pastors? Thus far Jared Mellinger, the senior pastor, has managed to corral the church into a mindless submission. His threatening’s to discipline slanderers and divisive members has all but silenced the church. For instance, see What Does My Website Have in Common with Pornography? Ask Jared Mellinger! (February 18, 2012). His lording over the church has only been exceeded by Mickey Connolly in Charlotte, NC. That must change.
Thanks for being the kind of church that makes a place for pastors, whether they’re young or old, green or weathered, fresh or embattled. Because for us, drawing into Covenant Fellowship means coming home.
Dave feels old, weathered and embattled. He wants to get out of the fight and salvage his family and relationships on staff. These are his felt needs but not his greatest needs. I know Dave extremely well. He fully recognizes how serious the problems are in his life, his family, on the pastoral staff and in SGM. He knows what he must do to get right with God and others and he knows the same for C.J. He lacks no knowledge, only obedience to Scripture. Psalm 32 is the remedy for all Dave’s woes. I hope he turns the corner.
See you Sunday!
Here is the accompanying statement by the pastors.
Covenant Fellowship Elders Statement:
Dave’s decision is one we fully support and believe represents the Lord’s direction for him and his family, as well as our church. We are grateful for Dave’s willingness to follow the elders in this process. In making this decision, he embodies the collection of values that guide the elders called the Pastoral Team Affirmations: the values of devotion, humility, honesty, integrity, accountability, faithfulness, and unity. These include receiving the assessment of those who serve with us and trusting God to work through the leadership and care of the elders. How Dave has sought to walk with the team during this past difficult year and the decision he’s come to both reflect his deep commitment to these values. Even more so, they demonstrate a faith in God that deeply affects us.
This statement sheds a little, but just a little, light on what has been transpiring. Dave has been “receiving the assessment of those who serve with [him]” in relation to “the values of devotion, humility, honesty, integrity, accountability, faithfulness, and unity.” He is willing “to follow [obey] the elders in this process.” That is good but truth be told, these men hardly qualify bringing this kind of assessment because they suffer from the same maladies. For example, Mark Prater has acted in the most unscrupulous way over the past 18 months [see Panel Report on Brent Detwiler’s Dismissal from Grace Community Church (January 25, 2012); The Need for Watchmen (October 5, 2012)] and Jared Mellinger has conducted himself like a demagogue [see What Does My Website Have in Common with Pornography? Ask Jared Mellinger! (February 18, 2012)].
That aside, what is their assessment of Dave’s character? Is he above reproach (1 Tim 3:1) and blameless (Tit 1:6)? The obvious answer is no but I think hell will freeze over before the pastors are candid with the church about his true condition. I have no doubt this is a disciplinary action by the elders. Therefore, not only should CFC be told the basis for this action but so should all of Sovereign Grace Ministries. That kind of transparency is expected in Scripture.
Over the last ten years the elders have failed to deal with Dave in a biblical fashion (1 Tim 5:19-21). In 2003, C.J. told me he thought Dave may need to step down as the senior pastor and should make a public confession to the church when major problems began to surface in his family. Since then those problems have only worsened and intensified. This and much more has been concealed from the church though many people in the church are aware of the family issues but afraid to speak out against the deceitful cover up that has transpired. The elders also need to give account to the church for their compromise. See Dave Harvey’s Deceitful Leadership Covered Up and Left Uninvestigated – Exposed Tonight at Covenant Fellowship Church (March 4, 2012) and Hardball (March 6, 2012).
We are eager and expectant for God’s grace and blessing in and through these steps, and we are full of faith for the good fruit that will come from them. We love and respect Dave and Kimm for walking this path with us. Our hope is that this upcoming season will result in a platform of even greater strength, in the home and in ministry, that will afford decades of local and extra-local fruitfulness. To God be the glory!
I may be reading too much into this paragraph but the elders may not return Dave to full orbed service in ministry. Such a restoration appears dependent on “good fruit” in “this upcoming season.” The pastors have not removed Dave from the eldership but this action represents a major demotion. It will interesting to see if Dave is allowed to preach or counsel others regarding marriage and family life.
Moreover, the pastors say nothing about “decades of…extra-local fruitfulness” for Dave with SGM. I believe some of them have serious misgivings about C.J. They have registered their concerns with me regarding C.J. in the past. They have seen his lording and deceit and experienced his harshness and sinful judgments in pastoral situations. Mark Prater, Andy Farmer and Jim Donahue know of what I speak. In their statement, the elders make no effort to express confidence in C.J. or a hope for Dave’s return to any position in SGM. Dave and the pastors are entirely moot regarding their future commitment to C.J. and SGM.
Here is the press release put out by Sovereign Grace Ministries on Thursday.
Leadership Team Update
December 20, 2012
As we work together in our mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to inform you of a change in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Leadership Team. Dave Harvey has made the decision to resign from our Leadership Team so that he can resume his full-time role as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. Dave made a public statement yesterday explaining this change on the Covenant Fellowship Church blog.
“Dave Harvey has made the decision to resign from our Leadership Team.” Hit the pause button!!! Think about what this means for SGM at such a crucial point in its history. Dave Harvey, the most public leader in all of SGM after C.J., is gone. The ministry of SGM has been built around C.J. and Dave Harvey for the past five years. After C.J., Dave has been the biggest draw to SGM.
Consider, Dave has been the center of the wheel for all SGM does in terms of church planting and oversight around the world. He is the primary reasons for its growth and expansion. In my opinion, Dave is the most gifted man in SGM when considering his total skill set. His responsibilities have been massive. He is also extremely well connected in the evangelical world.
People must recognize that Dave is to growth and expansion what Jeff Purswell is to the Pastors College. Without him there is a huge sink hole under the foundation. No one can replace him as an equal. No one has done more to attract and train church planters than Dave. His strategic thinking is the key to SGM’s numerical success in the past.
So how does C.J. explain this to the movement? By simply saying “Dave Harvey has made the decision to resign from our Leadership Team so that he can resume his full-time role as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church.” End of statement. C.J. can’t possibly be honest with the ministry. He can’t tell all the pastors and people who remain in SGM why Dave really resigned. Why? Because C.J. would have to resign for the same reasons as Dave. Here’s what I mean. I have no doubt the pastors of Covenant Fellowship Church required that Dave resign from SGM because the issues in his life, family and ministry are serious. He is barely an elder now.
Though I have little confidence in the CFC pastors given their track record, they have done the right thing in demanding Dave resign from SGM without asking C.J.’s permission. That took some nerve. I commend them.
As Dave communicates in his post, this change does not reflect any lack of support for the direction or leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Dave is, in fact, excited about our future mission and the benefits our new polity will bring to this work. He has expressed hopes of possibly returning to SGM service someday in the future. As Dave states, “…the story on this is not about what SGM lacks but what one pastor needs right now… It is one of those times where local and family needs must take priority over extra-local relationships/ministry.”
Contrary to this press release, Dave expresses no hope of “possibly returning to SGM service someday in the future.” Maybe he said something to C.J. in private but he says nothing of the sort in his public statement. Assuming he or the elders actually conveyed this thought to C.J. it is an extremely weak assurance. The operative words are “possibly” and “someday.” There is no guarantee Dave will ever return and if he does I don’t believe it will be in nine months. He’s life is a mess right now. I think this is a long term reclamation project. He has lost the trust and confidence of his local elders and they have finally acted. No band aids please.
This is precisely what the Covenant Life pastors should have done with C.J. in the past. It is what his current elders should require of C.J. now in Louisville but that is a lost and hopeless cause. If C.J. goes down, they all go down.
This brief update provides insufficient space to adequately thank Dave for his outstanding contributions leading us in church care, church planting, and international expansion since 1995. These past 17 years Dave has played a vital role in keeping Sovereign Grace’s mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ at the forefront of all we do both domestically and internationally. His proactive development of an SGM church planting group served to prepare future church planters for their calling. His model of church care in the Northeast region both strengthened individual churches and SGM as a whole. Covenant Fellowship Church, where Dave served as senior pastor for 18 years, has influenced SGM in countless ways through its example, teaching, and generosity. And Dave’s vision to further equip church planters through his focused writing and preaching on the topic will serve pastors for years to come. Please join us in thanking Dave for the unique role he has played serving us as a family of churches.
This reads like an obituary or eulogy at Dave’s funeral.
We are grateful that his influence and service do not end here. Though transitioning from our Leadership Team, we look forward to Dave’s continued investment in the mission of SGM through his service as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church this year. Please join us in praying for Dave and his family during this transition.
Dave’s “influence and service” do end with Sovereign Grace Ministries and it is uncertain what limited a role he will play at CFC as an elder. There is no guarantee Dave will return to SGM.
Finally, we want to you know that the SGM Board looks forward to communicating the plan to cover Dave’s responsibilities as part of our transition to the new polity, pending ratification.
This development caught C.J. totally by surprise. He was not consulted or involved in the process of making the decision to have Dave step down. He was kept out of the loop by the CFC elders. This bespeaks of a lack of confidence in C.J. and the SGM Board of Directors.
C.J. is now the last man standing. Soon more churches will leave SGM because the leadership culture is corrupt and the polity proposal unbiblical. Yet, C.J. and his shrinking entourage continue to blame everyone else for the demise of SGM. In so doing they further provoke the indignation of God. The only solution. C.J. must follow Dave’s example and step down from all his responsibilities in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Of the two, he is the greater sinner.
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