Philippians 4:2-3 (ESV) I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
In these verses, Paul addresses two prominent and influential women in the Philippian church and commands them to be reconciled. He does this by singling them out by name. The word translated entreat means urge, exhort, appeal, implore, beg, plead. Paul fully expects them to agree which literally means to have the same attitude of mind. This is a reference to the body of teaching Paul just gave in 2:1-18 about unity and how it is maintained and achieved. The harmonious agreement Paul demands comes about in the Lord meaning in submission to the Lord or by obeying the Lord.
To make certain this happens, Paul directs his true companion or loyal yokefellow (an authoritative third party that was well known to the Philippians like Luke, Timothy, Epaphroditus, or Silas) to help or literally take hold of these women in resolving their conflict since the unity of the church was threatened. The word “yes” at the beginning of verse 3 underscores the importance of the assignment. It means “indeed” or “certainly.” In other words, “Help them! You must! It is an order, even though I ask you!” “Paul does not say to Euodia and Syntyche that they should ask the ‘true yokefellow’ for his help. The command is to him to make the first move (uninvited, save by Paul.)”
Of course the Board of Directors is more spiritual than Paul. They would never call out C.J., Dave Harvey, John Loftness, or Mickey Connolly like Paul called out Euodia and Syntyche. God forbid, that is slander according to Sovereign Grace doctrine. No, the Sovereign Grace Board is not going to hold its leaders accountable by calling attention to them and their sin. Paul does just the opposite. He puts these ladies on notice. He identifies them by name. Furthermore, he directs an apostolic associate to get involved without asking permission of Euodia or Syntyche.
Paul addresses this epistle To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons (Philip 1:1b). He alerts the entire church because the conflict was serious and rooted in sinful attitudes, not personal preferences. Paul expected all hands on deck in dealing with the situation. He wanted everyone aware and informed. Not Sovereign Grace Ministries. They want everyone unaware and uninformed even though the ministry is being torn asunder. They refuse to provide Pauline type leadership in keeping with Scripture. Rather than putting C.J. and Joshua on notice, they let everyone off the hook by totally misinterpreting and misapplying this text. I cringe at their exegesis. Why couldn’t one of the twelve men on the Leadership Team or Board of Directors take ten minutes to study the meaning of this text in context? What a terrible twisting of Scripture!
Here is what the Board told all the SGM pastors last week in a letter regarding the historic conflict that has occurred between the Covenant Life pastors and the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team and Interim Board over the last 15 months.
“In view of this, we believe that the operative passage of Scripture in this conflict is Philippians 4:2. We are entreating both sides of this conflict to “agree in the Lord.” In other words, we are asking them to move toward each other on the basis of our common commitments to Jesus and his gospel. All of us need to consider this injunction…. We think it is time to stress our agreement on fundamentals and to move beyond evaluating or criticizing the actions of the CLC pastors or the Leadership Team. And so we invite everyone who is a part of SGM to consider applying the principle behind Philippians 4:2 to this disagreement—let’s agree in the Lord.” (Letter to Pastors from SGM Board, Sept 12, 2012)
The Board of Directors is using Philippians 4:2 as “the operative passage of Scripture in this conflict” but they do not tell us what it means in context. As a result, they butcher its meaning. It is troubling beyond words to see them take the phrase “agree in the Lord” and give it a meaning that is categorically opposed to the meaning Paul intended.
“To agree in the Lord” does not mean “to stress our agreement on fundamentals and to move beyond evaluating or criticizing.” No, no, no! It means just the opposite! Paul is commanding Euodia and Syntyche (and SGM/CLC) to be reconciled by addressing the heart issues that have produced the conflict. The kind of heart issues Paul addresses in his epistle.
The “conclusions” the new Board has reached are in direct disobedience to this passage of Scripture and yet they quote this passage in support of their decisions. This is deeply disturbing. Paul is not telling these women to agree to disagree, suspend all evaluation and move on in the gospel. He is telling them to deal with their hearts and receive the evaluation of others for the sake of the gospel. He commands a fellow apostle to take hold of these women. The division in Philippi was an affront to the gospel. It needed to be resolved, not ignored. So too the division in SGM and yet no one has ever addressed the root problems causing the division.
And of course, Paul also errs when he commands his “true companion” in verse 3 to get involved and help these women whether they want the help or not. Paul, unlike the Board of Directors, did not wait for Euodia and Syntyche to request assistance. He showed no respect for their “privacy.” He didn’t cover up their conflict. Paul is effectively telling their sin to the church (Matt 18:17). It had gone on too long. In so doing, he insisted the division between the two women be addressed by an apostle or perhaps a prominent overseer. It threatened the unity of the Philippian church and was in opposition to all Paul wrote in this epistle. Paul took this disunity seriously. The local overseers had not dealt with the division and so it continued just like Sovereign Grace Ministries. That is one reason Paul specifically references the overseers and deacons in 1:1.
The direction taken by the current Board of Directors is in direct violation of God’s Word. A hands off approach to a conflict of major proportions is utterly unacceptable. God forbid any Board of Director or Leadership Team member ever teach from the book of Philippians again until they are willing to obey its contents. In this matter, the Board is following the example of the Interim Board. No adjudication hearing. No getting to the bottom of things. No addressing issues of the heart.
Ambassadors of Reconciliation got involved with SGM in July 2011. They were tasked to help create a just polity for hearing charges against leaders. Fifteen months later, the current Board of Directors is still waiting for “guidance as to an appropriate process.”
“In the future, we expect that our polity will give guidance as to an appropriate process for bringing a complaint against a pastor, a pastoral team, or a SGM Leadership Team member. As the Interim Board did for C.J. last year, we could, for this conflict, create such a process. But that is not necessary, nor is it appropriate because, to our knowledge, no one in SGM, including the Leadership Team and the CLC pastors, is calling for us to hear “charges” (the term used in 1 Tim. 5:19) against either the CLC pastors or the Leadership Team.” (Letter to Pastors from SGM Board, Sept 9, 2012)
Of course, they could “create such a process” like the Interim Board did in creating the Three Panel Review last December. Like the Interim Board did? This is an outrageous statement. The three review panels were all conducted in a manifestly unjust manner. Its incomprehensible that the new Board is commending the Interim Board for what was the biggest mistrial of justice in the history of Sovereign Grace Ministries given it all encompassing nature (see Panel Report on Brent Detwiler’s Dismissal from Grace Community Church, Try This Twelve Step Program on for Size!, Whitewashed Tombs). Of course, you should expect this kind of statement since John Loftness, Mickey Connolly and Craig Cabaniss serve on the current Board and served on the Interim Board. They have always commended themselves for being just.
Paul the apostle knows nothing of the approach put forward by the insipid Board of Directors. He entreats both of these women by name as though face to face. Paul is providing leadership unlike the Board of Directors. Directors is a misnomer. It should be changed to Enablers. It is the Sovereign Grace Board of Enablers. Once again C.J., Dave and others are given a get out of jail free card (see Get Out of Jail Free – No Adjudication Hearing).
The Board of Directors is unwilling to deal with the “logs” (the Leadership Team and Interim Board) or the “specks” (the CLC pastors). I say “specks” because it is a matter of public record that the Covenant Life pastors have been more humble and specific in their confession of sin (e.g., “Joshua Harris’ Humility and C.J.’s Absence at CLC Members Meeting” in Concluding Remarks (pp. 117-131); Will C.J. Mahaney and Other SGM Leaders Follow the Example of the Covenant Life Pastors?). Their sin is a speck in comparison to the number and seriousness of sins committed by C.J., Dave, and the Interim Board.
Paul exhorts the Philippians to humility and unity in the same way he exhorts Euodia and Syntyche to humility and unity.
Phil 2:3-8 (NIV) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Unity is always destroyed by selfish ambition and vain conceit. Typically, I have used the words “self-preservation” and “love of reputation” in my writings. These two idols have obsessed C.J., Dave, and the Interim Board. Every act of cunning over the past 15 months has been motivated by their craving to remain in power and look good while they are bad (i.e. hypocrites). You always find lying and deceit when men choose to cover up their sins in order to preserve their reputation and position in ministry. That is why C.J., Dave and the Interim Board did not allow for a just hearing of charges or grievances. They can’t allow the truth to be heard. It must be suppressed by all means necessary including the use of deception and heavy handed control.
Paul commands the Philippians to do nothing out of these sinful cravings. If the Board of Directors ever wants unity in Sovereign Grace Ministries they must focus on C.J.’s selfish ambition and vain conceit and then broaden the circle to others. It was Paul’s singular focus with the Philippians and with Euodia and Syntyche. It has been my focus with C.J. the past ten years. When addressed he took over disciplinary processes, acted deceptively and turned against people he perceived were threats to his position and reputation. Selfish ambition is the all about ambition for self (a remarkable insight, huh?). That is, wanting to be recognized, acclaimed and worshipped as someone great. It is about personal advancement for one’s own fame and benefit. Self-exaltation and self-glorification feed selfish ambition.
Vain conceit comes from the Greek word, kenodoxia. Keno means “empty.” Doxia means “glory.” Or as the King James Version translates the word, “vainglory.” It means the coveting of honor, praise, and glory due to a vain or self-exalted view of one’s greatness.
C.J. has always been terribly offended by the slightest word or action that jeopardized his reputation or called into question his fitness for leadership. I’ve documented this in many places (e.g., “Stepping Down as Team Leader” in Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine (pp. 49-53), The Cardinal Sins of Joshua Harris). C.J. will do whatever is necessary to preserve his position and protect his reputation. He will lie, cover up, break promises, use coercive threats, demote or remove adversaries, deny due process to those he punishes, and forbid the hearing of grievances against him.
He also has an extremely high view of himself though he likes to project or tell people he has a low view of himself (e.g. “I am the worse sinner I know”). In reality, he considers himself superior in discernment and better in character than his critics. For all his protests that he was not gifted to be the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries, he could think of no one more suited to lead the ministry than himself. That’s why he gladly came back as the permanent President at the first invitation. Such confidence is the source of his independence and historic inability to function in plurality and receive correction from others.
These realities were obvious in his comments to the SGM pastors last November (see C.J.’s State of His Heart Message – Reflection on Personal Sins). Four months after his July 6, 2011 online confession and July 10, 2011 confession to CLC, he wanted to make sure the pastors knew he overstated his respectable sins, was commended by other nationally known leaders for his humility, never thought his sins were uncommon, and never believed they were disqualifying in the least. Selfish ambition and vain conceit were on full display. Instead of humbling himself, he went on to present himself as the victim of slander and exploitation by others including the CLC pastors whom he had prominently in mind. This is well known and one of his main charges against them though it is false. Both of his “confessions” were removed from the SGM website (see A Few Bible Thoughts about Online Confessions).
“I don’t believe my sins are uncommon or scandalous or disqualifying. I have never believed that since the day the first document arrived…. 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, C.J., 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…. There is a loud voice from critics and the prevalence of slander that tends to intrude upon this evaluation, to distort this evaluation.” (C.J. Mahaney, Nov 9, 2011)
In June 20011, C.J. promised to confess his sins to the pastors at the Conference. Instead, he reversed himself and refused to acknowledge any wrong doing. He took the occasion to downplay his sins and justify himself. That is typical for C.J. He fights off the initial conviction, hardens his heart, begins to focus on the faults of others, and reverses course.
Back to Paul’s instructions regarding divisions. Philippians 4:2 (NIV) I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Paul commands the women to agree with each other. This literally means to be of the same mind or to think the same thing. It “is an appeal to Euodia and Syntyche to be at one in their mental attitude and so in the basic aim, direction, and orientation of their behavior. Undoubtedly this would involve their having right attitudes towards each other and thus an ability to work together in harmony.”
In other words, these women were to reflect the mind or attitude of Christ displayed in the incarnation and crucifixion (2:5-8). That is, one of profound humility void of ambition or conceit. The disunity in Philippi was due to self-serving and self-seeking motivations. Paul commands them to be self-sacrificing and self-giving like Christ who “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” Paul instructs these women to be concerned about unity not who was more gifted, important or recognized.
How often I prayed that C.J. and Dave would simply agree to be open, honest and accountable and be unconcerned for their exalted reputations. That was my repeated appeal. C.J. promised to respond to my documents. C.J. promised to confess his sins in public. C.J. promised there would be a just hearing of all my charges. All these promises were violated because selfish ambition and vain conceit won out. In like fashion, the Interim Board repeatedly lied and schemed in order to make certain C.J. was commended and I was condemned. These evil desire are the source of all division in Sovereign Grace Ministries.
The fact is I was not allowed to present a single charge against C.J. or any other SGM leader. Nor was I allowed to present a single grievance. I’ve never been allowed to talk about C.J.’s harsh rejection, Dave’s threats, Gene’s abuses, Jeff’s lies, or Bob’s kangaroo court with any adjudicator. I’ve not been allowed to expose the cover up put into place by C.J., Dave, Jeff and Joshua after my betrayal by false witnesses. For all this none of these men have ever said as much as “I’m sorry.” The list goes on and on.
It is an indisputable fact, I’ve been denied all access to due process and the relief of any grievances. The same is true of many other men dealt with by C.J., Dave, and Steve Shank. Look no further than Philippians 2:2-3 for the reasons why. Selfish ambition, vain conceit and self-interest have reigned supreme. The Interim Board made sure my interests were assigned to oblivion. By “my interests,” I mean more than a desire for justice by which God is glorified. I primarily mean my interests in helping C.J. and preserving and strengthening SGM by addressing the root problems behind the long standing patterns of sin. My interests have been C.J.’s interests. That’s why I worked in private to address him for over a decade. That was the reason for writing my documents and later sending out my documents to the pastors. Never did I imagine telling people to leave Sovereign Grace Ministries.
“Lastly and most importantly, I write because of my deep love for you and for Sovereign Grace Ministries. My greatest concern is for the increasing presence of deceit and hypocrisy rooted in self-preservation and love of reputation. I’d be overjoyed to see you acknowledge these things to the movement, whether or not you ask my forgiveness for anything specific. Comparatively speaking, the latter is unimportant. Ultimately, this isn’t about us. It is about something much bigger. Therefore, I provide the history that follows for your careful consideration.” (Brent Detwiler, Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine, March 17, 2010, p. 3)
I have always been willing “to agree in the Lord” with C.J., Dave, Jeff, and the Interim Board as defined by Paul in Philippians 4:2-3. That offer stands. I desire reconciliation grounded in truth and governed by justice. I am happy to convene an unbiased Church Court in order to hear my charges and those against me. I don’t fear such a proceeding. I have nothing to hide. But such is not the case for C.J., Dave, Jeff, and the Interim Board. They have shown no willingness to set aside their self-interest for the interests of Christ. Until that changes, Sovereign Grace will continue to experience God’s discipline, opposition and judgment.
Division exists in Sovereign Grace Ministries because the Leadership Team, the Interim Board, and the current Board are unwilling to humble themselves and treat others with justice. It is comparable to the division that existed among the Corinthians. The strong, wealthy, gifted and powerful considered themselves better than the weak and poor. They only cared about themselves. They were not interested in the interests of those they looked down upon. As a result the weak were isolated, mistreated and dishonored. 1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [died]. God will judge.
Following the example of the Interim Board, the new Board is not going to deal with the Leadership Team comprised of C.J., Dave Harvey and Jeff Purswell. They are not going to confront the Interim Board that consisted of Dave Harvey (interim President), Craig Cabaniss, Mickey Connolly, Rick Gamache, Pete Greasley, John Loftness, Jeff Purswell, Aron Osborne, Mark Prater, and Steve Shank. Why? Because C.J., Dave and Jeff continue on the Leadership Team and Craig, Mickey and John continue on the Board of Directors with John as the Chairman. The new Board is so compromised by self-interest it can’t possibly be just and impartial.
Here is the only remedy for Sovereign Grace Ministries in the words of Amos.
Amos 5:14-15 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.
I desire mercy for Sovereign Grace Ministries but that will only happened when the Leadership Team, Interim Board and current Board hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
C.J., Dave, Jeff and Interim Board have always denied that the Sovereign Lord is disciplining Sovereign Grace. They have spurned his word. The writer of Hebrews speaks of God’s disciplines and gives this warning. It has gone unheeded.
Hebrews 12:25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?
God has graciously raised up voices to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin but the leaders in SGM have not listen. They despise justice and distort all that is right. They claim the Lord is pleased with them and no disaster will come upon us. Yet they are being plowed like a field and progressively become a heap of rubble and a mound of overgrown with thickets. That will continue. Listen to the prophet Micah.
Micah 3:8-12 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness. Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
The following letter to the SGM pastors about “agreeing in the Lord” is the perfect cop out for the current Board. They don’t have to aggressively love good, hate evil or pursue justice. Such an approach perfectly suits John, Mickey and Craig. Remember this letter was written by or under John’s oversight as Chairman of the Board with significant input from Mickey and Craig. As a result, John, Mickey and Craig (on the current Board) are saying John, Mickey and Craig (on the Interim Board) won’t be evaluated or investigated! Nor will C.J., Dave, Jeff (on the Leadership Team) or Rick Gamache, Pete Greasley, Aron Osborne, Mark Prater, and Steve Shank (members of the Interim Board). And for that matter, none of the CLC pastors will be examined either.
The current Board of Directors justifies this indifference by quoting Philippians 4:2 (and ignoring 4:3) and assigning it a meaning that totally contradicts the actual meaning of the text. Jesus the Christ and Paul the apostle would never sanction such a perverted approach that refuses to deal with such blatant and obvious sin. The conflict between the Covenant Life pastors and the Leadership Team/Interim Board far exceeds the conflict between the two women in Philippi who may have been deaconess. The same is true of the conflict between me and Sovereign Grace Ministries. The Leadership Team, Interim Board and current Board have stubbornly refused to love good, hate evil and pursue justice because of selfish ambition, vain conceit and self-interest.
Here is the cover letter posted on the SGM website that accommodated the letter to the SGM pastors. I’ve added commentary to both pieces of correspondence.
September 12, 2012
This past June we wrote to the pastors of Sovereign Grace Ministries telling them that we would review the conflict between the Covenant Life Church Pastors and the Sovereign Grace Ministries Interim Board/Leadership Team. In the attached letter you’ll find a report of our activities and our conclusions.
“Review the conflict” did not include addressing the conflict. Their “conclusions” are three-fold. One, do nothing. Two, correct no one. Three, move on in “unity.” In other words, no one will be evaluated. No one will be assigned any fault for the second most destructive division in the history of SGM. No one will be held accountable. No one will confess. Everyone is let off the hook and no root causes will be identified or dealt with in righteousness. It amounts to another cover up. This is egregious – an affront to the Triune God of unity.
Our hope is that you will find this helpful.
No one is helped by their conclusions. Their inaction contributes to the ongoing disintegration of Sovereign Grace Ministries and the enabling of C.J.’s abuses, etc.
As you are reading this letter, you may be wondering what the two parties in this dispute think about it. We recently gave a copy to each of them and this is what they had to say:
From the CLC Pastors: “We’re grateful that our brothers on the SGM board gave us the chance to see this letter before they sent it. While it is not a joint statement in that we did not help to craft it, we appreciate the spirit of the letter and its call for gospel unity. We thank the SGM board for listening to us and for their approach to these matters.”
The Covenant Life pastors are grateful they saw the letter from the current Board ahead of time because in the past the Interim Board sent out a letter about them they were not allowed to see in advance. It caused considerable division and was libelous in nature.
Otherwise, the Covenant Life pastors appear to have given up. They seem to affirm the conclusions of the Board. I imagine they are tired of beating a dead horse. I understand but that is not the right response. It would be totally unacceptable to Paul leave this conflict alone as we have seen above.
“Divisions” are important and play a part in God’s plan. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. The divisions in Sovereign Grace Ministries are designed to show who has the approval of God. Does God approve of C.J., Dave, Jeff and the Interim Board? Of Joshua, Kenneth, Grant and the CLC pastors? Too often people are willing to assign equal blame to both parties. That is not justice. And that is not helpful. Based upon all I know, I believe the CLC pastors have the approval of God in large measure. This needs to be determined.
Regardless of the Board’s do nothing position, the CLC pastors have a clear cut biblical responsibility to take all steps necessary in addressing the serious issues of sin committed by C.J., Dave, Jeff and the Interim Board that have caused the division. We are not talking about minor offenses that could be overlooked. They are not permitted to quit. At this point, they must take a public stand. They must speak out, “tell it to the church” (Matt 18:17), and publicly call for their repentance.
For as long as I can remember the CLC pastors have coddled C.J. If they share responsibility for the current division that is the main reason why. Their unwillingness to address C.J. and hold him accountable in the past, enabled C.J. to continue in his divisive ways. Joshua, Kenneth and Grant were explicitly assigned the responsibility of dealing with C.J. in the aftermath of our August 2004 meeting (see Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine, pp. 27-28; In Need of a Corporate Rebuke – An Appeal to the Covenant Life Elders, The Need for Crisis Intervention by the Covenant Life Pastors). By their own admission, they gave into the fear of C.J. and allowed him to manipulate them. They dropped out of the process and C.J. continued in the same patterns of sin that were so destructive. Their disobedience has come back to haunt them.
Moving on in “Gospel unity” has been used as a major excuse for disobeying Scripture and not dealing with C.J. and others. This has contributed to the present debacle in a major way. I doubt, but I hope, the CLC pastors will finally be faithful friends (Prov 27:5) and fellow elders. It is unacceptable to say they have no responsibility for C.J. because he is not currently a member or employee of CLC. We are our brother’s keeper and members of the same Body and still members of Sovereign Grace Ministry. They have also been best friends and co-workers in some cases for 3 decades.
The Interim Board did not, and the current Board will not, publically rebuke C.J., Dave or any other SGM leader for their unrepentant sin. If fact, neither Board has ever acknowledged to the public any sin by any one in SGM including themselves. That is why they have never asked forgiveness for a single transgression. 1 Timothy 5:20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. This verse has been totally disregarded. No one has ever been rebuked before the church. The members at Covenant Life were ready to rebuke him but C.J. fled to Capitol Hill Baptist Church with Mark Dever in order to avoid their congregational accountability.
It appears the CLC pastors will capitulate once again to C.J. and those around him. After myself, no one is better suited to reprove these men than the CLC pastors. If they renege on this holy obligation they too are more concerned about their own interests than the interests of C.J. and Sovereign Grace Ministries. Unrepentant sins of this magnitude must be exposed. Reproving C.J. in public isn’t about vindication, it is about authentic love. C.J. is like a drunk about to die of liver cirrhosis but none of his friends will intervene, confront his alcoholism, demand he get help, and lay down serious consequences if he does not change. Everyone around C.J. has been a co-dependent enabler! That’s why Sovereign Grace is disease ridden.
From the SGM Leadership Team: “The SGM Leadership Team wants to take the opportunity provided by the board’s statement to express our gratitude to the board, and also to our friends at CLC, for participating in this process. We are aware that understanding the complexities of this situation required countless hours for the board—a sacrifice of time and effort in the service of all. For this we say thanks and express our abiding resolve to entrust these matters to God even as we pursue our mission together.”
C.J., Dave, Jeff and Tommy want to thank their “friends at CLC, for participating in this process.” How can they call the pastors “friends” when they have not treated them like friends? And what “process” are we talking about here? So far as we know the Board of Directors met with the CLC pastors on one occasion back in July. That is not a process. There has been no judicial hearing. No adjudication of charges. No evaluation or repair of relationships or restitution for harm done.
Grace to you,
The SGM Board
September 12, 2012
Dear Friends of Sovereign Grace Ministries,
Thank you for your care for our family of churches and your patience with our leadership. We’re writing to you about a conflict that arose over the past year between the pastors of Covenant Life Church and the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team and Interim Board.
The conflict is primarily with C.J. The Board should be honest about this fact. Correcting or disagreeing with C.J. inevitably leads to conflict. The CLC pastors have experienced what countless others have experienced with C.J. For as long as I can remember the pastors have enabled and appeased C.J. Only in the past year did they raise serious issues with him. That always leads to separation in relationship. C.J. becomes resentful, pulls back, imparts his offenses to others, and punishes the “transgressor.” That is the story of his life with people who attempt to reprove him.
The conflict with the CLC pastors is but another example of what inevitably happens when people correct or disagree with C.J. It is patently predictable. Hundreds of people will attest to this fact on a personal level going back to the beginning. I first had to correct C.J. for bitterness and resentment towards Larry Tomczak in 1982 when we started People of Destiny International. Over the past 15 years, I’ve been addressing the fruits of pride in C.J.’s life with greater intensity and faithfulness. It has produced no fruit.
Here is what C.J. told Covenant Life Church in July 2011. He directed the church to be angry at him not the pastors. Then when the church became “angry” at him (i.e., held him to account for his hypocrisy) he left town angry at church members and the pastors. A few days after this statement, he made the conflict about the pastors and not about himself. That is the story of his ministry life. It is always about others and never about him.
“Because of my history with this church and my love for this church, I am grateful for the opportunity to address you. I want to thank Josh and the pastoral team for giving me this time. I am sure for the vast majority here, what you heard the past week about the charges made against me has come as a complete shock. I understand and I am so very sorry. Let me clarify at the outset that your pastors are not the primary object of these accusations—the accusations are primarily directed at me in the context of Sovereign Grace Ministries. This is about me, not your pastors. It is my hope that your relationship with the pastoral team will be strengthened, not weakened, through this. Please provide them with your support at this time. And if you are angry, I understand. But please direct that anger toward me.” (C.J. Mahaney, July 10, 2011)
When we convened as a new board earlier this year and began to learn of all that has taken place during the previous nine months, one of the things we heard of was a disagreement between the pastors of Covenant Life Church (CLC) and the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) Leadership Team and Interim Board.
The Leadership Team was comprised of C.J., Dave Harvey and Jeff Purswell. The Interim Board was comprised of Dave (Interim President), Jeff, Craig Cabaniss, Mickey Connolly, Rick Gamache, Pete Greasley, John Loftness, Aron Osborne, Mark Prater, and Steve Shank. C.J., Dave, and Jeff are still on the Leadership Team. C.J. is the President. Craig, Mickey and John are still on the Board of Directors. John is the Chairman.
The Interim Board was announced on July 7, 2011. The current Board on March 9, 2012. Remember that John, Mickey and Craig were on the ten man Interim Board; then were reappointed to the nine man new Board. John, Mickey and Craig didn’t need to learn anything about all that had taken place the previous nine months or about the conflicts and disagreements between CLC pastors and the SGM Leadership Team and Interim Board. These three men were at the heart of those conflicts and disagreements. This paragraph is misleading.
Because we are responsible for the oversight of the Leadership Team we drew them out about their perspectives on this conflict in our initial board meetings, and then, on July 6 , the entire Board traveled to Baltimore with the sole purpose of listening to the CLC pastors and deciding how to respond.
Needless to say the new Board spent more time interacting with C.J., Dave and Jeff than with Joshua, Kenneth and Grant. Soon after they were appointed, the Board said, “Our responsibilities are to appoint, evaluate, and advise members of the leadership team” (April 14, 2012). Evaluating includes conduct and character not just job performance. They have utterly failed to provide any evaluation of the Leadership Team or Interim Board.
John, Mickey and Craig were a major part of “deciding how to respond” to the CLC pastors even though they were a big reason for the conflict in the first place. Real impartiality don’t you think? John, Mickey, and Craig (a third of the new Board) get to evaluate the CLC pastors. They also oversee the Leadership Team. That means John, Mickey and Craig oversee C.J., Dave, and Jeff. What a great set up for dealing with C.J., Dave, Jeff, John, Mickey and Craig favorably and the CLC pastors unfavorably! This is like the three review panels all stacked with people in C.J.’s favor.
Of course, none of members of the current Board can be trusted to deal with matters equitably. First, they made C.J. the Chairman of the Polity Committee on March 23, 2012. C.J. has repeatedly violated all norms for due process when dealing with leaders that have fallen out of his favor and has repeatedly shut down the hearing of grievances against him. He is the least qualified person in SGM to chair this committee.
Second, the new Board rubber stamped the move to Louisville on April 19, 2012 that was already decided upon by the Interim Board. The new Board showed no independence.
Third, they put out a false statement regarding the obvious reasons for leaving Gaithersburg – the conflict with Joshua Harris and the CLC pastors. They didn’t even mention this as a factor. Instead, they gave as the primary reasons for moving the high cost of living in D.C. and wanting to be centrally located. This was a deceitful explanation. See Sovereign Grace Ministries Relocation Announcement.
Fourth, they made C.J. the permanent President on June 29, 2012. C.J. repeatedly stated he would not serve in this capacity because he was not gifted to be President and must pursue his highest and most important call as a preacher and pastor in agreement with all the input he received from his counselors. In so doing, the Board committed to continue building SGM around C.J. and his leadership. He was designated the spokesman for all of SGM. See What Happened to the Promise of a New President for Sovereign Grace Ministries?
Fifth, they covered up the fact that all did not agree on making C.J. the permanent President. See A Divided Board Makes C.J. Mahaney Long Term President.
Sixth, they lied on June 29, 2012 when they said C.J. has been “rigorously examined over the past year.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
“After reflecting on the events of the past year and C.J.’s history with us, we think it is important that you know of our gratitude and great respect for the man who founded and has led our family of churches for many years. He has…been rigorously examined over the past year.” (John Loftness, June 29, 2012)
Seventh, they showed no discernment on June 29, 2012 when they said C.J. has been “the object of an enormous amount of gossip and slander” and commended him for his “exceptional character…and fundamental integrity.”
“It is important for you to know of the Board’s strong endorsement of C.J. to continue in this role of President. C.J. was the object of an enormous amount of gossip and slander during this past year…. This comprehensive process has clearly confirmed C.J.’s fitness to lead and his exceptional character as he has graciously endured major trials. Through all of this he has been found to be a man and a minister of fundamental integrity.” (John Loftness, June 29, 2012)
Given these facts (and many others) are we to believe Paul Buckley, Ron Boomsma, Ian McConnell, Ken Mellinger, Al Pino, and Phil Sasser are going to deal with C.J., Dave, Jeff or John, Mickey and Craig in a righteous fashion? Of course not. They made C.J. the President of SGM and John the Chairman of the Board. No one on the Leadership Team, Interim Board or current Board has been cited for any wrongdoing. All these men believe C.J. is the greatest per their public pronouncements. According to the current Board, he is a man of “exceptional character” which means rare and extraordinary righteousness! In this major and enduring conflict with the CLC pastors the current Board is going to let the entire Leadership Team and Interim Board off the hook.
Given these facts, are we also to believe the current Board is capable of dealing with the CLC pastors in a unbiased fashion? Certainly not John, Mickey or Craig! And not the others also. Per all the statements put out by the Leadership Team, the Interim Board, and current Board one is led to believe C.J. has done nothing wrong and everything right over the past 15 months. When have they ever found fault with C.J.? You won’t find it in any of their writings.
This is what we found: while both parties are looking at the same events, they have widely differing interpretations of those events and their effects on Covenant Life Church and SGM churches broadly. We have decided not to report on the specifics of those differences, nor do we think it appropriate to render any opinion about this dispute.
Here are two examples of “widely differing interpretations.” First, C.J. was counseled to leave Covenant Life Church by the Interim Board without having him talk to his pastors. He was so directed behind their backs. That was evil. Yes, “both parties…have widely differing interpretations” but only one is right. C.J.’s departure caused a lot of division for which the Interim Board is responsible. It is incomprehensible that they did not consult with the CLC pastors. See C.J.’s Flight from Covenant Life.
Second, C.J.’s confession to CLC on July 10, 2011 was almost meaningless. The pastors and the church asked the Interim Board to have C.J. return in order to answer questions about his confession and pursue reconciliation with the church. This request was rejected by the Interim Board. C.J. never returned. That decision also produced a lot of division.
Yes, “both parties…have widely differing interpretations” but only one is right in these cases. And so the story goes illustration after illustration. C.J. should be following the example of the Covenant Life pastors. See Will C.J. Mahaney and Other SGM Leaders Follow the Example of the Covenant Life Pastors?
Not only does the Board refuse to report on the details, they “do not think it appropriate to render any opinion about this dispute.” That is ridiculous. Just like the approach taken by Ambassadors of Reconciliation. The current Board should follow the example of Louis Freeh and his group when they investigated Joe Paterno and those around him. Everyone at PSU was trying to cover up the sexual abuse much like the way everyone has tried to cover up the spiritual abuse in SGM. Only a detailed investigation and a public reporting of fact regarding the actions of individuals followed by righteous repercussions will eradicate scandal. Change has occurred at PSU as a result. Growing division and distrust has resulted in SGM. Read Sovereign Grace Leaders Conceal Spiritual Abuse Like Penn State Leaders Concealed Sexual Abuse.
The Board of Directors should render a judgment on who is culpable for the conflict and the reasons why they are culpable. They should require public confessions. This division has effect every church in SGM. Their findings should be carefully documented. Of course, John Loftness, Mickey Connolly, and Craig Cabaniss should recuse themselves since they are at the centered of the conflict. If the Covenant Life pastors don’t trust the remaining six Board members (which is perfectly understandable), they should fight for outside arbitrators. If the Board refuses to pursue a just adjudication hearing conducted objective evaluators, they must go public. Of course, this is painful work but you don’t quit because something is hard. That is called laziness. You endure and persevere for the sake of righteousness, the good of SGM and the glory of God. Compromising with evil is never an option in the Kingdom of God. The Covenant Life pastors have failed on many occasions to deal with C.J. This is their last chance.
Here is why: as the events of 2011 unfolded, the Leadership Team and previous Board came to recognize what the AOR report only confirmed—we have a history of evaluating leaders and disciplining them (formally or informally) based on our evaluations without affording those leaders a previously agreed-upon process for their evaluation. Moreover, we have lacked polity guidance as to how to provide such a process. As the AOR report informed us, this has been true for a number of SGM pastors in the past. And this continued to be a weakness in our ministry as the events of the past year played out.
“The Leadership Team and previous Board came to recognize what the AOR report only confirmed—we have a history of evaluating leaders and disciplining them…based on our evaluations without affording those leaders a previously agreed-upon process for their evaluation.” Really? If they “came to recognize” this sinful pattern why don’t they admit it in specific cases, ask forgiveness of those leaders so badly mistreated, make financial restitution, and restore reputations. This has not been done in scores and scores of cases.
I objected to most everything when I was disciplined at the hands of Bob Kauflin, Phil Sasser, and Wayne Brooks in June/July 2009. For starters, I asked that Bob not head up the assessment team knowing he held many sinful judgments against me that were passed onto him by C.J. going back to August 2004. No matter, Bob was appointed by C.J., Dave and Jeff. What an awful experience. I had no chance with Bob in charge. In addition, I was denied all due process. There was no “agreed-upon process.” Most every request for justice was denied me. Most everything was handled badly and unbiblically.
The same kind of travesty occurred at the hands of Mark Prater, Warren Boettcher, and Ron Boomsma during the Three Panel Review in December 2011 (see Panel Report on Brent Detwiler’s Dismissal from Grace Community Church. These men, along with the Leadership Team and Interim Board, have “recognized” nothing because none of them have offered the slightest apology of any kind.
What is worse, Bob, Phil and Wayne were commended by C.J., Dave and Jeff and Mark, Warren and Ron were commended by the Interim Board. No one criticized them in any fashion including Ted Kober and Ed Keinath from Ambassadors of Reconciliation. You can’t acknowledge wrongdoing unless you are willing to acknowledge wrongdoing! How’s that for Logic 101. This comment about unjustly evaluating and disciplining is a totally worthless admission. The Leadership Team and Interim Board have not recognize a single thing in my case. There has been no follow up since the AoR Report came out in April 2012. Furthermore, if the current Board of Directors, Interim Board and Leadership Team have recognized a history of wrongly evaluating and disciplining leaders then why in the world have they forbidden me from sharing my own experience with them in a just setting? Here’s why.
Gene Emerson counseled a conspiracy against me in order to force my resignation that C.J., Dave, Jeff and Joshua later covered up with the help of Bob, Phil and Wayne. Then Dave, Gene and my two betrayers slandered me to the local leaders behind my back in a secret meeting without my knowledge. Bob, Phil and Wayne did the same in several private meetings by allowing the testimony of perjurers to stand without informing me what was said or giving me any opportunity to defend. I was not permitted in these meetings. And that is only the tip of iceberg. The current Board is content to allow such atrocities go unaddressed. All of these illustrations are provable. Here is the harsh reality. I’ve never been allowed to bring up any of these matters to anyone for adjudication.
We are of the opinion that to criticize anyone involved in this dispute for alleged wrongdoing over the past year without affording due process would only perpetuate our past failings and continue the wrong and harmful practices of some people over the past year in making public and private critique of SGM pastors and leaders. We’ve come to this conclusion constrained by what we have learned—especially regarding the application of 1 Timothy 5:19ff in which “charges” are to be brought against an elder in a fair and impartial manner.
I am grateful to God for a full head of hair but I am in danger of pulling it all out this very moment! Is it really lost upon the current Board that they could afford due process and hear charges in a fair and impartial manner? Or find someone who has enough integrity to try charges justly and independently. You know, simply obey 1 Timothy 5:19-21 and put it into practice! What wimps. Do the hard work of dealing with division and confronting errant elders. Let the CLC pastors bring formal charges in a formal process and vice versa. This remedy is so obvious every person who read this paragraph must have laughed out loud or jumped off a bridge.
Yes, charges are to be adjudicated in “fair and impartial manner” but first charges must be heard! The Board is oblivious. They must deal with the fact that charges were never brought against C.J. and others. They must also deal with the fact that the charges brought were dealt with in a most unfair and partial manner.
We are also of the opinion that any continued evaluation of the CLC pastors’ actions in regards to SGM or of C.J. or the Leaderships Team’s actions in regards to CLC only perpetuates our past failings of judging motive and denying these leaders a fair and even-handed process of review. Let’s pray that the Lord bring this to resolution by working as he sees fit.
This is another absurd statement. It makes no rational sense. “Any continued evaluation…only perpetuates our past failings.” Really? Is this an admission that the current Board of Directors is so corrupt it cannot do any kind of on-going evaluation without “judging motive and denying…a fair and even handed process.” Is this a confession that the current Board of Directors has learned nothing over the past 15 months? Stop the insanity. More seriously, stop making excuses!
John Loftness, Mickey Connolly and Craig Cabaniss should be removed from the process of evaluating the CLC pastors since they were on the Interim Board. But Paul Buckley, Ron Boomsma, Ian McConnell, Ken Mellinger, Al Pino, and Phil Sasser should roll up their shelves and get to work. That’s why they’re on the Board of Directors. 1 Corinthians 6:5, I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? In the case of the current Board, I don’t think there is a lack of wisdom among these men. I think there is a lack of courage and integrity. If these virtues were present, they would feel compelled to deal openly, honestly and objectively with the facts at hand. What the avoidance? Those facts tried openly would put C.J., Dave, Jeff and the Interim Board in a disgraceful light. It is the same reason the Interim Board refused a hearing of my charges against C.J.
So what is all of SGM left to do since the Board is going to do nothing? “Let’s pray that the Lord bring this to resolution by working as he sees fit.” Okay but that means further judgment. God hates this kind of on-going and unresolved division. There is another option, however, “as he sees fit.” Obey what has already been revealed to the Church in the book of Philippians. I guess submitting to the authority of Scripture is not an option.
In the future, we expect that our polity will give guidance as to an appropriate process for bringing a complaint against a pastor, a pastoral team, or a SGM Leadership Team member. As the Interim Board did for C.J. last year, we could, for this conflict, create such a process. But that is not necessary, nor is it appropriate because, to our knowledge, no one in SGM, including the Leadership Team and the CLC pastors, is calling for us to hear “charges” (the term used in 1 Tim. 5:19) against either the CLC pastors or the Leadership Team.
I’ve already address this above. The current Board is commending the Interim Board for the Three Panel Review it devised and imposed upon me without any discussion. This approach was the epitome of control and corruption.
In view of this, we believe that the operative passage of Scripture in this conflict is Philippians 4:2. We are entreating both sides of this conflict to “agree in the Lord.” In other words, we are asking them to move toward each other on the basis of our common commitments to Jesus and his gospel. All of us need to consider this injunction. We have so much in common in our love for our Savior and his gospel with all its entailments that we have richly enjoyed together. We have a long history of fruitful ministry together. And for the sake of that gospel and the unity that it should produce in our family of churches, we think it is time to stress our agreement on fundamentals and to move beyond evaluating or criticizing the actions of the CLC pastors or the Leadership Team. And so we invite everyone who is a part of SGM to consider applying the principle behind Philippians 4:2 to this disagreement—let’s agree in the Lord.
“We think it is time to stress our agreement on fundamentals and to move beyond evaluating or criticizing.” I could not disagree more! It is the lack of evaluating C.J., Dave, Jeff and the Interim Board that has produced all the division! If these men had been dealt with in a righteousness manner, they would have repented or been removed from ministry. Division would have ceased and other elders would have feared following their example.
Ambassadors of Reconciliation were also useless in this regard. They reneged on providing any type of personal evaluation of Sovereign Grace personnel. They turned that responsibility solely over to the Interim Board who came up with the corrupt Three Panel Review. That caused further division.
The division that exists in Sovereign Grace Ministries is due to a lack of evaluation in accordance with Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:19-21 and Titus 1:6-9. I’ll also add in accordance with Philippians 4:2. “Agree in the Lord” means to be reconciled in the Lord by obeying the Lord and dealing with all selfish ambition, vain conceit, and self-interest. It absolutely does not mean what the current Board of Directors is telling you it means. It means the very opposite. The Bible repeatedly commands us to deal with division and its sources.
During this season in our history as a family of churches we deeply desire your prayers and your commitment to maintaining unity based on truth and love—a unity we have enjoyed in nearly 30 years of ministry together.
There has been no commitment to unity by the Leadership Team, Interim Board or current Board. Only a commitment to partiality, favoritism, and compromise. Unity is based on truth and love! That is why there is so much disunity in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing” (1 Cor 13:6a). Wrongdoing means injustice and unethical conduct. Love is provoked by wrongdoing. It arouses holy indignation against unrighteousness. It works to correct injustice. It is not silent, passive or indifferent. The SGM Board is not committed “to maintaining unity based on truth and love.” They are committed to disunity because they refuse to love the truth by insisting upon obedience to God’s Word.
When deceit triumphs, as in the case of SGM, the people of God should grieve, mourn and wail (Jam 4:9). Neither C.J., Dave nor any of the Board of Directors have every said or written anything that expresses godly sorrow for their sin.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11a Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 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.
Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 13:6b. Love rejoices with the truth. When truth triumphs, love rejoices. Truth only flourishes when there is openness, honesty, and accountability. Truth includes justice (i.e., righteous judgments void of partiality and favoritism) and integrity of character and conduct. I’ve observed none of this among SGM leaders over the past 15 months. It has been one lie after another.
The Interim Board and current Board have covered up the truth, misrepresented the truth, and been indifferent to the truth. Not so with the Lord. He has actively been exposing falsehood and condemning it. So should every pastor and every church member in SGM. Confront the Board of Directors for their perverted use of “agree in the Lord” as an excuse for on-going division and compromise.
Much grace to you all,
The SGM Board
This Board is characterized by an unwillingness to judge righteously, think biblically, and live courageously.
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