John Sammis composed the hymn, “Trust and Obey” in 1887. It is about our relationship with Jesus and has been sung throughout the Church for over 100 years. The famous refrain goes like this. "Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
Our trust and obedience to Christ is absolute. Our trust and obedience to men is limited and conditional. I have listened to all of Mickey Connolly’s comments from last night’s “members’ only” meeting at CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, NC. It would take a millennium to correct the errors, misrepresentations, and untruths communicated to this dear church by Mickey.
I’ve appealed three times for a process whereby an objective third party can be involved in hearing and evaluating my charges against Mickey and the CW pastors. They have refused to allow anyone, except themselves, to assess my concerns. They have no accountability to Sovereign Grace Ministries and they have no accountability to the congregation. They are an island unto themselves and control the flow of all information. Increasingly, the other pastors are culpable of, and blinded by, the same sins I have raised with Mickey. They continue to misuse Titus 3:9-11 and Roman 16:17-18. At the meeting, Mickey spent no time carefully examining the texts or their context. Instead he quoted commentaries he thinks support his faulty interpretation.
The final section of Mickey’s message summates the evening. He commands people to cut off outside sources of information, remain ignorant and trust only their pastors who clearly deserve such mindless submission. If any member is unwilling to exclusively trust and obey Mickey and the pastors, they must leave the church. Once again we see a clear abuse of authority and a superiority of attitude that is suffocating. It is blatantly obvious that the pastors don’t trust the dumb sheep; but, they hope the sheep are dumb enough to trust the seemingly infallible pastors. The pastors show no respect of need for the congregation. The pastors will evaluate themselves and they will think for everyone else! Just do what they tell you! End of discussion (if there ever was one).
Mickey's approach during the evening illustrates some of the profound problems in SGM. No objective accountability, partiality among pastors, an unwillingness to be evaluated, a great sense of superiority, self-exaltation over the people, misuse of Scripture, deceit, distortion of the facts, categorical rejection of evidence by labeling it slander and gossip, and lording.
Here are Mickey’s final remarks with comments by me in red ink.
“Now here is the last thing that we want to talk about. What are we going to do? John Murray says “the injunction component of an error of such character, they are to mark the proponents so as to avoid them and they are to turn away from them.” From our biblical study, which we have presented to you tonight, and our prayerful perspective, we believe, sadly, that Brent clearly fits the definition of a man who is causing divisions and because of his refusal to cease has the potential to cause even further division and therefore must be marked as divisive. We are certainly not called to debate and dialogue endlessly with such a person [Endlessly? They won’t even allow one meeting with objective evaluators. Like C.J., they have slammed the door on any kind of adjudication hearing. Under the threat of being divisive, they are preventing anyone from hearing my concerns, all of which they have repeatedly rejected. They are the sole arbitrators of truth.]
“So what I am asking you to do as a church is to avoid him as long as he engages in this behavior: gossip, slander, scoffing, mocking and a refusal to meet with those involved to work things out [I have shared concerns for 5½ years. I just talked to Mickey in person on August 24. He was immovable and maintained his sinless perfection. I am very willing to meet with the pastors but others must be present. They won’t allow this arrangement.]. These things are clearly contrary to the sound teaching of Scripture. Having nothing more to do with him, or avoiding him, would include not discussing these things with him personally, reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook. If that means you have to defriend him to avoid the temptation, do that, or following the story on anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs. By the way, I recognize that many [How many? I doubt anywhere close to a majority. Hype?] of you are already doing this or haven’t done this at all. So I want to be clear! Not discussing this with him personally. Not reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook or following the story on the anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs. [This sounds like the kind of censorship that occurs in China, Iran and North Korea. Mickey is commanding abject ignorance.]
“If you are exposed to rumors or slander [Of course, there is no chance you might be exposed to the truth in the form of facts, evidence and witnesses.] please come and talk to me or one of the other pastors personally, please. [So they can straighten you out.] We want to talk to you, we want to hear you. If you have a charge that you’d like to bring against me or any of the other elders here then do it in accordance with 1 Timothy 5:19-21 [People have brought charges but they have been dismissed.] Do not spread those charges to others or publish them on public documents. [In other words, if you think Mickey acted in a heavy handed way during this public meeting you may not tell anyone. And take note, if you share anything negative about the pastors with anyone, in any fashion, you too are in danger of being “marked.” For over a decade, I shared my “charges” in private regarding C.J. He responded in abusive ways. I exhausted every possible remedy before I went public. The same thing is happening at CW.]
“So here is the key question, really, of all of this. It is a question that some of you have asked. If I don’t read this stuff how can I be informed? [You can’t because Mickey is not going to be open and honest with you or allow for public questions or criticisms.] How do I know that you aren’t telling me not to read these things because of what the blog says. So Mickey, isn’t this just a ploy to avoid having your sins uncovered. [He doesn’t answer this question. By shutting down all dissent and accountability, Mickey is effectively covering up his sins and those of C.J. and the SGM Board. Mickey’s stated approach does not allow for an organization like Ambassadors of Reconciliation to come and adjudicate my serious concerns for him. Neither does his understanding of eldership allow for the appointment of men from the church to hear and weigh my charges.] Well, let me say something please here. First, you have to answer this. Is what Brent is publishing and saying; gossip, slander, and scoffing? Does it fit that category? [No, it doesn’t fit these categories. Half the time, I am quoting C.J. or others. They indict themselves. I’ve repeatedly addressed this issue at BrentDetwiler.com. That is one reason why Mickey doesn’t want you to read my writings.] And if it is how do you biblically justify dividing? [You mean exposing serious pride, error, hypocrisy, favoritism, deceit, manipulation, lording, etc.] How do you justify reading gossip, slander and scoffing? [You mean documented accounts and primary sources.] And I would also tell you is being informed a higher value than being biblically right. [Here’s Mickey’s theology: biblically right = total ignorance.]
“Secondly, I want you to know that I understand the question and in some ways there is only one answer [get ready] I can give you and it is this. You need to decide whether you trust your pastors. You need to decide, I can’t decide that for you. I can’t tell you what to do here. I can tell you what the Bible says. I can tell what the Bible commands. I can tell you what commentators say. I can’t tell you what to do here. You need to decide whether you are going to trust your pastors. I’ve never asked you to trust me blindly. Never. You have to examine my life and examine the life of these other pastors. The way we’ve lived, the way we’ve served you, the way we’ve taught you, the way we’ve cared for you. You have to examine our lives and have to answer that question. You have to decide do you want to trust us. [Mickey believes he is worthy of unqualified trust because of his exemplary life, service, teaching and pastoral care. No one deserves this kind of trust except Jesus Christ. Mickey’s extremely high opinion of himself translates into a demand for unconditional followership. That’s what happens when you claim perfection. You universally trust yourself and so should everyone else.]
“Do you trust that if charges ever were brought that the other pastors would impartially hear those charges and act according to 1 Timothy 5. [Absolutely not. They’ve defended Mickey’s sinlessness at every point.] Do you trust your pastors! That is really the key question that we are facing here tonight. And I want to let you know something. We can’t function without your trust. If I ever lose the trust of this church I will resign that very day. I can’t function without your trust. I can’t function without your trust [At no point in Mickey’s message does he qualify his request for trust. It is absolute. Complete. Unconditional. This is more than an oversight. Under these circumstances, he should be telling the church he is a sinful man, made mistakes, needs to change and understands why it is hard to trust him. Instead, he demands total trust and obedience which he assumes he warrants. There is no self-suspicion.]
“That is the great horror of gossip and slander and divisiveness. It fosters suspicion. It fosters mistrust. Mistrust and suspicious divide. [The exposing of major problems in SGM is a service to the entire movement. Division comes from its leaders who are unwilling to humble themselves, make public confessions, right wrongs, or identify individual and corporate sins. Instead they call good, evil; and evil, good. The charges against C.J. and SGM are serous and widespread and come from hundreds/thousands of people.] We cannot function without your trust. I am not going to publicly defend myself. I am not going to publish documents to present my case to a wider audience. As I’ve said, if you hear rumors, I want you to come and ask me about those rumors. But I am not going to publish documents, I am not going to present my case to a wider audience. [Honestly, it would be a losing cause if Mickey did and I think he knows it. This may sound humble but it is another way to avoid accountability. Not only will Mickey avoid a “wider audience,” he is going to avoid any audience. Only the pastors will know and decide anything from within the fortress that have erected.] I will not defend myself at Brent’s or anyone else’s expense by revealing private conversations and I will not put anyone else in a bad light and put myself in a good light. [This one makes me laugh since the whole evening was about putting me in a bad light and him in a good light.]
“I’ve appealed to Brent privately [so have I with Mickey] and will continue to do so but I will not tear down Brent to defend myself. [Of course not, let’s not tear Brent down. That would be terrible. Just mark him as divisive, make a bogus case against him in his absence, refuse any kind of adjudication, and tell all his friends at CrossWay to cut off their relationship with him.] I realize this puts me at a disadvantage which is another reason I so need your trust. This isn’t just about me, it is about us. Joe said this week this is a potentially polarizing moment for this church. I think it is also a potentially uniting moment for this church.
“I have a sincere desire that all of you stay [brace yourself for the worse part]. I can’t tell you how much it hurts this old pastor’s heart to have even one person leave this church. I never have been able to take that easily and I hope I never will. I have a sincere desire that you all stay and that this would not divide us. I am not naïve. I am not naïve. If you can’t stay here in good conscience. If you can’t trust your pastors, you need to leave. You need to go. [So if you have questions about your pastors’ character or actions, pack your bags. Mickey doesn’t like problems or conflicts. So just leave.] Please don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying, “Get out!” or “You’re kicked out!” [Really? Thanks for the clarification. Guess, I missed something.] I am not saying that at all. What I am saying very simply is this. If you cannot trust your pastors, if you cannot obey your pastors and what we are asking you to do biblically then you need to find another church because we cannot function without your trust. [In other words, if you don’t cut off your relationship with me, if continue to read my blog, if you don’t defriend me on Facebook and stop reading my comments, you MUST leave CrossWay and find another church. There is absolutely no alternative. So if you stay, you must stick you head in the sand and unconditionally trust, obey and honor the pastors as though they were Jesus.] You can’t follow pastors you don’t trust. [This is not biblical trust. This is mindless submission.] You can’t honor pastors that you are willing to have slandered. [Everything is slander. Defend to the death.] And that you’re willing to go and seek out slander about. [That means, don’t look for objective answers.] You can’t do that. [Yes, you must go out and discover and discern the truth when your pastors are not open and honest, are not accountable, won’t allow for an objective evaluation, claim to be perfect, misapply Scripture, abuse critics, and rule over you like demagogues.]
POSTSCRIPT – November 17, 2011 4:50 PM
This morning I made a correction to my transcription when Marge Sweigart pointed out the exact location of the problem. I went back and listened in a focused, high tech manner and could hear the almost inaudible “if” Mickey used in referenced to defriending me on Facebook. Here is the correct statement in context.
“Having nothing more to do with him, or avoiding him, would include not discussing these things with him personally, reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook. If that means you have to defriend him to avoid the temptation, do that, or following the story on anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs.”
This was an honest and unintended mistake. I have never engaged in lying, deceit or the doctoring of any documents. I appreciate the correction and regret the temptation it presented for some people to believe otherwise. For that, please forgive me.