What follows is a transcript of C.J. Mahaney’s talk at the SGM Pastors Conference on November 9, 2011. John Loftness introduced C.J. I’ve added my commentary in brackets [ ] using italic letters in blue ink. I’d strongly encourage everyone to also read the blog post, “Transcript of C.J. Mahaney’s Remarks at Sovereign Grace Ministries’ 2011 Pastors Conference” from November 12, 2011 at BrentDetwiler.com. It includes insightful remarks from Kris at Sovereign Grace Survivors.
This state of his heart message is an open window into C.J.’s soul especially the section regarding his reflection on personal sins. A lot of SGM pastors were discouraged by C.J.’s comments and expressed their concerns to the SGM Board. They were also concerned for the Board and wanted to know if they agreed with C.J.’s comments. I’ve not heard their answer.
In any case, I hope the message is getting through. It is time for an overhaul. Minimally, C.J., Dave, Steve, and Mickey should be removed from the Board and not allowed to return. The rest should resign. Then new directors can be nominated, reviewed, and voted upon by the SGM pastors.
In January the SGM Board has promised to make a final determination regarding C.J.’s fitness for ministry based upon the hearings conducted by the three panels in December. They also need to evaluate themselves and determine their own fitness and futures.
John Loftness speaking:
I am here right now to give some context before CJ comes to give an update from his leave of absence. More than four months ago CJ volunteered to take this leave. The board decided to expand the board of three men by having all of the regional leaders in SG – I am one of those leaders – and so suddenly in a day I was transformed into a board member. I’ve known CJ for 33 years.
Since leaving CLC and moving to Solid Rock four years ago our friendship has only deepened though we don’t see each other as much as we once did. I give you that background because of our history because the board asked me to serve as a liaison with CJ so he could get appropriate updates of our work and developments that might affect him. The board also thought it was wise and helpful if CJ could receive pastoral care from someone who knew him well and was familiar with all that was going on in Sovereign Grace. I consider it a great privilege to stand with my friend during this most trying time. We’ve met often, we’ve talked extensively about his soul his leadership and how to evaluate Sovereign Grace. So what you are about to hear reflects the content of many, many conversations over the last four months. [Does that mean four months of conversations were focused on self-justification rather than self-examination? I doubt it but you would not know based upon C.J.’s comments. Honestly, I wonder if John Loftness had any idea what C.J. was about to communicate. If he did, he should have stopped C.J. in order to avoid the train wreck that ensued.]
Over the last four months so many of you have communicated your support to Carolyn and I and we are so very grateful.
I have been looking forward to this moment when I could address you. I have spent much time over the last four months studying Second Corinthians. [2 Corinthians is Paul’s most autobiographical epistle. He is under attack by false apostles who have sought to turn the church in Corinth against him. That is C.J.’s view of what has happened. He views himself as the victim, not the victimizer.] Paul is uniquely personal in Second Corinthians, uniquely heart revealing and heart appealing. He says to the Corinthians, “My heart is wide open to you.” He expresses this care in this unique way, it is the only time he does this…soon after this statement Paul says this to them, “make room in your heart for us.” [2 Cor 6:11-13 (ESV) We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.  You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.  In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.] You bear no resemblance to the Corinthians…but I think there is relevance in his communication. I want to…my heart and I want to appeal to you to make room in your heart for me. [In the context of 2 Corinthians, Paul is asking the church to trust him and repudiate the false apostles and their slander. That is what C.J. is doing. In other words, C.J. believes some SGM pastors have closed their hearts to him because they have been misled by me and others who have leveled “all manner of false accusations” against him. C.J. wants them to take on his perspective (i.e., not guilty as charged and innocent of wrong doing) which will result in open hearts.]
Here is the state of my heart. I am sad, I am hopeful, and I am eager to return to the privilege to serve you. [Something C.J. assumes will happen.] Those would be three categories. [In C.J.’s “state” of his heart message, there is no category for “I am convicted” or “I have sinned” or “I need to ask your forgiveness” or “I’ve been a poor example.”] I am sad. I reflect on what you have experienced during this season, the time you have invested because of all that has taken place, the challenges you have encountered over the past four months, how this has adversely affected your church. I locate myself in the midst of that and find my way to where I bear responsibility for that. [This is extraordinarily vague. C.J. gives no explanation for how or why he is responsible for the adverse effect upon the churches, the creation of work, and the months of mourning.] I am so sad. My heart aches and breaks because I want to serve you. I don’t want to create work for you. So I pray that my sorrow and sadness is evident to you. I want to open my heart to you. I feel like it has been four months of mourning for the people I love the most.
But I am also hopeful because God is sovereign and He is wise and He is good and He has good purposes for Sovereign Grace and His good purposes cannot and will not be frustrated ultimately.
Deficiencies can be and will be addressed. [What kind of deficiencies? Evidently, not ethical ones.] Never has there been an interim board that we should be more grateful for or appreciative of. These men and their wives have given countless hours of sacrifice. We have been served heroically by these men and their wives. I am so grateful for Dave assuming this leadership role which he did not desire, did not volunteer for, and all the men participating on this interim board because they love the Savior and they love us so let them be the object of our appropriate gratitude for the countless ways they have served us during this season. I have hope because these are humble men, men of integrity, [I don’t know what has happened behind the scenes. It is possible some Board members have confronted C.J. and Dave and asked for resignations and public confessions of wrong doing. But to date, the SGM Board has acknowledged no wrong doing and no deceit which has frequently transpired. Collectively they have not been “humble men” or “men of integrity.” There may be individual exceptions. If so, they should make that known in the days ahead so as to clear their reputations. They should be afforded this opportunity. There is a lot of explaining to do and each member should have that freedom.] looking to lead us wisely as we walk forward. So I am very sad and I am also very hopeful. That is a little of my heart.
I want to appeal to you to make room in your heart for me. [C.J.’s is focused on asking the men for their support, understanding, and backing. He is not focused on what needs to be done to win back their trust.] Many of you – this appeal isn’t necessary. From the beginning you have indicated that there has been no adjustment in your heart toward us. The room that was there prior is still there. And some of you seem to have added room in your heart. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding. So many of you, this appeal isn’t necessary. [Implication – this appeal should not be necessary. C.J. makes clear only a minority of men have closed their hearts to him. The minority must feel a sense of isolation for being the odd men out. They need to join the majority. That is questionable math however.] Given the size of Sovereign Grace, given the diversity of questions, it is quite possible; it is understandable that for some there might be less room in your heart today for me. There may be little room, or maybe no room and if so, I understand. [Does C.J. really understand why there is less, little or no room in their hearts? No. If he did he’d be taking a completely different approach. I’m sure the SGM pastors would love to make room in their hearts for C.J. if only he humbled himself and acknowledged his faults.] My appeal would simply be that I hope and I pray that what I say and in the future will allow you to make some room in your heart for me.
Here is some of what I have learned during this season of reflection. I hope this provides some clarity where there has been confusion. I am not trying to persuade you. I am just providing you with my perspective for your consideration.
I will address you from two categories: personal reflections and reflections on Sovereign Grace and my leadership of Sovereign Grace.
The leave of absence began in July. It was voluntary, it wasn’t imposed on me, it wasn’t disciplinary. It was a decision I made for a few different reasons. In light of the public distribution of Brent’s documents…here is what I wanted to do. I wanted to protect the office of the president of SGM. I wanted to protect the integrity of SGM, protect you and your church, I wanted to protect the integrity of the adjudication that was about to go forward. [The adjudication hearing never took place because C.J. and the SGM Board slammed the door on October 24 saying no to my appeal. If C.J. was genuinely concerned about the integrity of SGM, he and the SGM Board would have followed through with a thorough-going adjudication hearing as promised. C.J. and the SGM Board have done so many things to undermine the integrity of SGM.] I wanted to take time to evaluate my heart and my ministry in relation to the leadership to Sovereign Grace. After the leave of absence was announced I was informed by numerous leaders outside of Sovereign Grace that this decision was decidedly unwise, that it would be perceived as an admission of guilt or some form of discipline, though neither would be true. [It wasn’t unwise for C.J. to take a leave of absence. He needed to recuse himself given his history of taking over any process dealing with him. He also needed to be relieved of responsibilities so he could focus on his heart and the charges against him by pursuing extensive pastoral care, reconciliation with others, and interaction with Ambassadors of Reconciliation.] And in retrospect I do think this was an unwise decision on my part with unintended consequences and the board agrees with me on this. This leave of absence rendered me unable to communicate my perspective or defend me [Stepping down did not impede C.J.’s ability to defend himself. Nothing impedes it now. Furthermore, I’ve begged C.J. to defend himself for the last 21 months both before and after his leave of absence. He did some in his second confession on March 11, 2011. I still want him to defend himself by providing a full written response to my documents. He refuses. He also refused to make a defense at an adjudication hearing. He denied me the opportunity to make my case and he refused to defend himself before me and witnesses. I am concerned he and others are again hiding from accountability.] from all manner of false accusations. [Up until I sent RRF&D, AFA, CR and TUS to the SGM pastors on July 6, 2011; C.J. and the SGM Board repeatedly told me how helpful and beneficial all my documents were to them. They repeatedly thanked me. All that changed overnight! On July 13 the new SGM Board labeled them slander. C.J. now views them as “all manner of false accusations.”] But the leave did provide me with opportunity for reflection and unhurried evaluation [This produced no fruits of repentance. In fact, it produced the kind of bad fruit evidenced in this message. Did the SGM Board approve C.J.’s comments in advance or did C.J. act independently? At least Dave must have known what C.J. was going to say. These questions need answers.] and I am grateful. I have had so much interaction with individuals and received so much helpful and wise counsel inside and outside Sovereign Grace. I have learned much, I know God better, I love Him more, trust Him more, by His grace I am a wiser leader. [Not according to James 3:13-18.] So I am grateful for this unwise decision.
Next my transition to Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC). After the public statement about the leave, I decided with the support of the board to attend CHBC during my leave of absence. [But without the support, counsel or even knowledge of the Covenant Life pastors. The CLC pastors were informed of C.J.’s decision to leave CLC without any discussion. This was an underhanded usurpation of their role in C.J.’s life. The SGM Board must ask forgiveness of the CLC pastors and the movement for circumventing their leadership. The Board violated the clear teaching of Scripture. C.J.’s abrupt leaving from CLC had a terrible impact upon the church and caused major difficulties for the pastors. If C.J. wanted to serve the church he would have stayed. Instead he left without pastoral support and harmed the church.] I am very aware this decision has left you with a number of questions and I understand why.
Prior to the leave we had decided that Mark Dever would pay a strategic role in providing me with care and counsel…so his involvement was decided prior to the decision to attend CHBC. [Who decided? The Board? The CLC pastors?] After my public confession and statement, it quickly became evident that for me to remain in CLC in this season would be untenable for a few reasons: there was hostility from a number in the church toward me after the release of Brent’s documents [You mean life threatening hostility? Physical harm? If so, make it clear. Otherwise, this is a poor characterization of people at CLC. What kind of “hostility” are we talking about? People opposing you? Rejecting you? Being angry at you? Well, these people had righteous reasons to be angry at C.J. But even if you have to face sinful anger that is a small thing compared to the persecution our brothers and sisters endure in many nations. Furthermore, no pastor has ever left a SGM church under like circumstances. I continued to attend Sunday meetings after I was betrayed and conspired against by former friends. Was it hard to do? Absolutely! But I stayed for the good of the church and continued to reach out to people. Many men have done the same. C.J. is the only exception.] and I had disagreements with the approach that was adopted by the CLC pastors concerning these documents and in relation to my confession an approach that they thought best served the church. [So what? That is not a reason to leave the church. For the last thirty years we’ve taught and expected people to stay and work through disagreements not run from them.]
So I didn’t see how I could remain in the church because I didn’t want to be a distraction, a disruption in the church, and I certainly didn’t want to be divisive to the church, [Leaving the way C.J. did was the most divisive thing he could do.] because I love this church, I helped found this church, I gave 27 years of my life to this church. I wouldn’t want to do anything to harm this church. [If true, C.J. would have stayed at CLC and not fled for CHBC.] So I thought it would serve the church, serve the pastors that I wouldn’t be drawn in by the church to anything controversial by having to reveal any of my differences or concerns. I was desirous of serving the church. [This is another excuse. We’ve all been in situations where loyalty required us to be silent about “differences or concerns.” C.J. ran away and never said goodbye. He could not have made a louder statement about his differences and concerns.]
I realize this doesn’t fit the expected practice [You mean the practice everyone else has followed throughout our history. C.J. is unwilling to acknowledge his hypocrisy and the preferential treatment of the SGM Board.] relative to a church that preceded this decision…I know that, and I understand the questions but this was a situation where I believed and still do believe that the Word agrees that remaining in CLC would not have served this church or have served the pastors of this church. [He refers to “the Word” but he doesn’t cite any passages. For starters, how did C.J.’s action help to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” at CLC (Eph 4:3)? How did Mike Bradshaw and Brian Chesemore suddenly leaving serve the church and the pastors? Moreover and this is important, C.J. needed the CLC pastors. Josh, Grant, Kenneth, Robin, et al, are the men who can really help him. But C.J. refuses to let them watch over his soul. Heb 13:17 (NIV) Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.] I did consider becoming part of Solid Rock Church but I didn’t want to be a distraction to that church either, didn’t want to draw that church unnecessarily into this controversy. I am at this time a walking controversy and I did not want to distract another church, to disrupt any church or to be divisive in a local church.
Finally I made this decision as a husband. My wife has an unusually strong constitution but I needed to protect her from the assaults that we were both the objects of. [Is C.J. concerned for physical assaults against his wife at CLC? If so, I’m concerned he’s deranged. Or verbal assaults on a Sunday morning? Really? Who is making such threats? Did C.J. talk to the pastors about these persons? Or is C.J. exaggerating the content of some nasty email? Even if he and Carolyn received some “hate” mail he doesn’t need to leave the church in order to protect Carolyn. Other measures could be taken. Lastly, I hope C.J. is not confusing strongly worded disagreement with hate mail or verbal assaults.] I am a husband before I am a president. When it was announced that I would be attending CHBC it was suggested that I was fleeing accountability [C.J. was unquestionably fleeing the accountability of his duly ordained pastors. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. I can’t believe he is defending his actions. That is the real issue. He did not want any accountability, counsel or correction from his pastors. Only from those who would go easy on him.] and my response is as follows. I was not under any formal church discipline. Actually I was pursuing accountability. I was taking a leave of absence that I thought was a statement of accountability. I continue to participate in my small group with Bob and Jeff and Gary [These men have each enabled C.J. in his sin. They have not held him accountable for his sin.] and continue to receive their care and counsel, encouragement, correction. I was running into, not away from, two separate panels [Panels are no replacement for pastors. He was running to panels when he should have been running to his pastors. Instead he was running from his pastors as fast as he could. He left them in the dust. Furthermore, C.J. knew the first panel would supply little accountability since its assignment was limited to the investigation of things confessed by C.J. The second panel never materialized as promised. C.J. and the Board repeatedly stated it was vital for me to present all (not some) of my concerns to an outside, impartial, objective, third party, and no history with SGM group of evaluators. Both promises have been flagrantly broken. I presented a small portion of my concerns and it was to SGM “insiders.”] and I was placing myself under the care and counsel of Mark Dever [Mark does not know C.J. the way Joshua, Grant, Kenneth, Robin, etc. know C.J. and therefore Mark can’t pastor C.J. nearly as effectively. But here’s the real point, all the “care and counsel” C.J. received from Kevin DeYoung, Carl Trueman, Ray Ortlund, John Loftness, Mark Dever, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, and Gary Riccuci resulted in this feeble statement by C.J. at the Pastors Conference. That’s the tragic reality.] for the purpose of adding even more accountability. Mark is a true friend. We have a history of relationship. He is an excellent pastor and the man does not flatter. [That’s good but Mark doesn’t have a 30 year history with C.J. or a thorough understanding of the long standing issues addressed in C.J.’s life. Mark should have directed C.J. back to CLC as the primary source of pastoral care.]
One final reason – I needed help, I needed pastoral care, I needed the benefits of worship and preaching where I wouldn’t be distracted, where I wasn’t viewed suspiciously, [Is C.J.’s self-image really that fragile? C.J. and Carolyn did not want to experience the “humiliation” or accountability that came from attending CLC.] where I didn’t have to be concerned about anyone approaching me before the meeting or after with questions or accusations. [This is quite pathetic. C.J. is also accountable to the church. Why he is unwilling to interact with people who have “questions or accusations.” That’s exactly what I did by continuing to attend Grace Community Church after my forced resignation. Many men have done the same. This is no reason to leave your home church. It is a good reason to stay. You can hear from people and help people. C.J. plays by a different set of rules.] I needed to sit and listen to sermons that could speak to my needy soul. Mark is a dear friend to Sovereign Grace and I will never forget their kindness to us.
I don’t consider myself an exception at all. [Then explain why you are the only one in the history of SGM allowed to do this without talking to your pastors. All the decisions were made behind their backs. Of course, you see nothing wrong with this deceit. You consider yourself an exception because you consider your circumstances exceptional. This is nothing new. But they are not exceptional. Scores of men have been through the same but did not run to another church or purposely circumvent their pastors. Only you could get away with this – everyone else would be fired for such actions.] I do think these were exceptional circumstances.
Next, reflection on personal sins. At the beginning of the week of absence I have acknowledged – like all of you I have examined my heart – would be a practice for me – self-examination in some form has been a practice for me my entire Christian life. [C.J. has a high view of himself in this regard. He prides himself on his practice of self-examination. But his self-examination has born little fruit. This becomes clear in what follows regarding his “reflection on personal sins.” Furthermore, his own examination typically differs with the examination of others. That is clear throughout The Documents. C.J. normally disagrees with the assessment of others. According to Dave “The board thinks that we are better at accepting personal blame than we are at organizational blame. That we are better at, or more accustomed to, let’s say it that way, acting on personal correction than we are at organizational feedback.” (Dave Harvey, 2011 Pastors Conference). First, that has not been true of C.J. Second, this is a false dichotomy. The most serious “organizational” sins are largely due to “personal” sins. I must disagree with the Board’s rather flattering assessment. So far no one on the new Board has accepted any personal blame. Organizational blame is easy to accept (e.g. insufficient polity, no procedures for conflict, etc.). It is much harder to confess the sin behind the “organizational” problems. The onus for such confessions rests upon C.J., Dave, Steve, Jeff, and Mickey.] Perhaps for some it appears this self-examination, particularly as it relates to Brent’s documents, began in July with the leave of absence. But actually this began just after I received Brent’s first documents which would be more than a year prior to July. When he sent the first documents I immediately sent it to those I serve with. [He had no choice because I was calling him to account. In The Documents I point out how often C.J. intentionally and deceitful withheld information from others.] I began to consider the contents of his documents and invited the observations and evaluations of those I serve with and through this process I was able to identify with the help of friends and the eyes of others, my wife at my side providing her insight as well, and I was able to identify more clearly certain incidences of sin, habits of sin, most of which I had previously acknowledged years before but I was engaging them again. [What C.J. acknowledged in August and October of 2004, he largely repudiated later. There was no distinguishable repentance or lasting change. In fact, C.J.’s character worsened after the August 20, 2004 meeting (e.g., more bitterness, hypocrisy, deceit, harshness, relational withdrawal). I believe a “hardening” took place. I’m afraid it continues. That’s why the same issues keep coming up. The very things highlighted in this message. Blaming and vilifying others while justifying and commending himself.] By God’s grace I was engaging them in a more perceptive way and I hope more thoroughly. [There is so much C.J. has not seen or acknowledged. See Concluding Remarks, pp. 82-99.]
So over a period of a year I crafted and sent to Brent two written confessions as a means of humbling myself and in hopes of being reconciled with him. I want to make clear that my written confessions to Brent were sincere, I was convicted of those sins. [The sins C.J. confessed would not be tolerated for anyone else. Such a person would be removed from ministry for violating 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.] I did grieve and still do over the effects of my sin and I communicated that to Brent as well as to other men that were affected by my sin. [C.J.’s two confessions were limited to his sins against Dave, Steve and me in 2003-2004. While meaningful, the confessions are confined in scope and time. C.J. doesn’t acknowledge them as life-long patterns which have adversely affected many, many people. Moreover, his confessions don’t begin to address all the serious issues and illustrations I raised with him in RRF&D and AFA. That’s why I added over 400 endnotes on June 8, 2011. I wanted to clearly show how selective and evasive he was in his confessions.] I still want to communicate that to anyone and everyone that has been affected by my sin. It is a part of what informs my sadness.
However, it does appear that some assumed or concluded that I agree with Brent’s narrative, his accusations and interpretations and judgments of my motives, and this simply wouldn’t be true [This is an extremely revealing statement. Given this description, C.J. more or less disagrees with everything I’ve written. That includes my narrative, accusations, interpretations and judgments of motives. It’s basically a cart blanches dismissal of 1,000 pages of material. What does he agree with? It appears very little but this is in direct opposition to countless statements he’s made over the past two years. For example, “Let me begin with what seems to me to be the only appropriate place to begin, by thanking you for your friendship and your desire to serve me by providing me with these two documents [RRF&D, AFA] that express your perspective, concerns, correction and care for me. I am deeply grateful for your friendship over the years and this particular expression of your friendship has helped me to perceive my sin more clearly, experience conviction of sin more deeply and comprehend the effects of my sin more specifically… And though there are a few different points where I don’t agree with your perspective at present, there are far more ways I agree with you and realize I have sinned.” (C.J. Mahaney, Dec 16, 2010) Or here’s another example from six months ago. Up until July 2011 he was still making new discoveries on my documents. “I was reluctant to send this but decided to do so. I am not trying to impress you or convince you about what I am perceiving in my heart. But since I began to reengage with your documents a couple of days ago and with the help of others I have already perceived a couple of areas of sin I didn’t clearly perceive previously. It’s discouraging how slow and dull and blind I can be. My pride/self-righteousness are no doubt the root cause. Pathetic really.” (C.J. Mahaney, June 25, 2011)] and it never has been true. [This is in direct opposition to repeated expressions of appreciation for what I wrote in RRF&D, AFA, and CR. For example, “Thanks for your gracious response. I’m not finding the documents to be of some benefit, I’m finding them to be of significant benefit.” (C.J. Mahaney, Nov 13, 2011)]
Brent’s documents construct a narrative that I disagree with. That narrative portrays my sins as scandalous, calculated and deceptive, and uncommonly intentionally hypocritical, and pervasively so, and this is false. [Obviously, C.J. doesn’t think his sins are serious. That is the great divide. People have to read my documents to see how I portray C.J. To the best of my knowledge, nothing I’ve written is unfactual, taken out of context or embellished. The narrative is true, the accusations well documented, the interpretations in keeping with facts, and the judgments based upon evidence. No one on the old or new SGM Boards have corrected anything in any of the documents. I draw conclusions (which are not the same as facts) but when I do they are based upon a weighing of evidence. The reader does not need to agree with my judgments (i.e., assessments) but they are based upon observable and documented patterns of sin. That is why we need an open adjudication hearing. The facts show C.J. has willfully committed sins that are “scandalous, calculated, deceptive, and uncommonly hypocritical” on a wide scale basis.] Yes, sadly I am a sinner and throughout my Christian life I have never viewed myself otherwise, and I think I have acknowledged this however inadequately throughout my Christian life but I don’t believe my sins are uncommon or scandalous or disqualifying. [Using the word “disqualifying” is significant. Notice, C.J. has always considered himself “above reproach” (I Tim 3:1) and “blameless” (Tit 1:6). He believes he has always met the qualifications in these two passages. The thought of not qualifying for ministry has never crossed his mind. That is one of clearest evidences of his fierce pride. There is no self-doubt or questioning.] I have never believed that since the day the first document arrived. [C.J. concluded on the very first day (RRF&D, March 17, 2010) his sins were not uncommon, scandalous or disqualifying even for the President of a large Christian organization. Furthermore, he didn’t wait for any input from anyone else before arriving at this favorable conclusion about himself. In spite of all the evidence from the past 30 years, C.J. has found nothing shameful, disgraceful or shocking about his conduct. All very normal. Nothing disqualifying in the least. No wonder C.J. was never willing to make a public confession of any kind until June 24, 2011 and that was momentary. We now know that was a ploy to keep me from sending out the documents.]
So I was grateful for the findings and rulings of the first panel in this regard and their agreement with that assessment. [C.J. is misrepresenting the findings of the first panel. DeYoung, Trueman, and Ortlund’s assessment was not based upon an evaluation of my documents. It was based upon C.J.’s confessions. Two very different things.] I look forward to the review panel, the second panel’s findings and rulings regarding this matter as well. I wish those panels started today.
I think I made a significant error in how I related to Brent’s documents. I viewed his documents as a means of personal sanctification and I related to him as if this is a matter of personal offense. [My primary concern was not for personal offenses or ways he sinned against me. My concern was for C.J.’s soul and the effect of his sins upon other leaders and the movement. Here is what I told C.J. the first time I wrote him. “I’d love to see our friendship restored. I’d love to see some acknowledgment of wrong-doing. I’d love to see issues from the past resolved. I’d love to be in good standing with Sovereign Grace Ministries. But all of these hopes and desires are very secondary! Primarily, I hope and desire to see a restoration of integrity, truth telling and justice in Sovereign Grace so there is no lying, spin, manipulation, lording, cover-up, or partiality. I am concerned for the movement. Some men have followed sinful aspects of your example and leadership – the kind referenced in this response. These men have acted deceitfully, judgmentally, unbiblically, and hypocritically. Their example in turn, has harmed others and been corrosive in its effect.] All of one of my friends and counselors urged me to view his documents this way. So I pursued personal reconciliation, I appealed repeatedly for mediation, [I wanted to meet with C.J. and the SGM Board but not with mediators knowing I’d be sworn to confidentiality, effectively silencing me and prohibiting me from appealing to a wider circle of leaders (like the CLC pastors) if C.J. remained unrepentant. This was not about personal offenses with C.J. that needed mediation. It was about sanctification in his life and reformation in SGM. It was a about a just hearing of charges.] I held out hope that Brent and I could be reconciled, and sadly to date that has proved to be a false hope. [I repeatedly told C.J., I was eager to meet once he provided a written response to my documents and acknowledged a need for some kind of public confession. He promised the former but broke his word and he never saw the need for the later. Those are the real reasons we never met as a group not the deceptive reason given by the SGM Board that I was unwilling to meet. Reconciliation is still desirable but first there needs to be an open adjudication hearing of my charges.]
I should have realized that Brent was making accusations and making charges, he was calling into question my fitness for ministry. [No, I didn’t call into question C.J.’s fitness for ministry until late in the process. On June 26, 2011, I said, “And if it was true that Bill [Patton] must step down, that Brent must step down, that a host of other men must step down; is it not true that C.J. should step down? Absolutely, if you apply the same standards to him that he has applied to everyone else. This is an obvious conclusion. But I am not recommending that C.J. step down from ministry. I am exhorting him to start over, come clean, and be genuinely accountable.” (Part 6: Tell It to the Church, footnote 3, p. 6) “The next day I changed my mind and wrote Joshua. ‘I’ve changed my thinking regarding C.J. You must be ready to replace him the end of this year. There will also be changes with Dave and Steve.’ I felt this was a prophetic word for Joshua.” (Part 6: Tell It to the Church, footnote 3, p. 6)] This was 1 Timothy 5, not Matthew 5. So this whole matter should have been turned over to the SGM board early on for formal adjudication. But this was a new experience for me, and this was a new experience for us and one we weren’t prepared for. [This was not a new experience because I was not questioning C.J.’s qualifications for ministry. At this point in time, I wasn’t talking about 1 Timothy 5. I was simply trying to help C.J. see areas of sin in his life and their effect upon others. Many people have done this over the years. That is exactly what we did in August 2004. This was simply a continuation of a decade long process. There was nothing new about it.]
I think it might also be helpful to say something about the confession statement to Covenant Life and to you via a letter. [see blog post “My Thoughts on C.J.’s Leave of Absence” on August 5, 2011 at BrentDetwiler.com] Those confessions were sincere. I do, like you, take my sins seriously. [I must differ. The one to CLC was limited and unclear, the one to the pastors/movement was superficial. Moreover, if he did this personal update to all the SGM pastors and wives would be radically different.] I see them in light of the holiness of God. I need a Savior and I am so grateful that the Father has provided a Savior for my innumerable sins. But after making this confession I have received much helpful critique from a number of leaders [These counselors did not serve C.J. They should have encouraged a much broader and deeper confession. He was going to the wrong people. He should have been listening to his pastors at Covenant Life Church.] about my confession and I have concluded that I did not serve you well with this confession. My confession has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and exploited. [Not by me. I’ve made light of C.J.’s confessions, not exploited them by making them sound unusually serious. Just the opposite is true. It is the noticeable absence of confession that is so serious.] My confession should have been more precise. It was my desire through my confession to humble myself, to take responsibility for my sin, to set an example, to protect SG. [C.J.’s two public confessions were extremely limited. He did not humble himself, take responsibility for his sin, set an example or protect SGM. Read and study them if you can find them since Dave Harvey expunge them from the SGM history books. Honestly, they are rather pathetic. In C.J.’s mind, however, they were great.]
Instead, my communication in some ways create 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. [C.J. does NOT convey his sins were “unusually serious” in his two public confessions. Just the opposite when you examine them carefully. He confesses very little and what he confesses is confined to 1997 with Larry Tomczak and 2003-2004 with Dave and me. What he acknowledges to CLC is so non-specific it is impossible to figure out his meaning.] I do not think that, I have never thought that. [C.J. makes it very clear in this message that he has never thought his long-standing patterns of sin were serious for a Christian or a leader in his position.] I didn’t distinguish my sins from Brent’s accusations, judgments, narrative and I should have. [One day I hope he does. I’ve been asking for this delineation for nearly two years.]
One member of the first panel said this to me – quote: “I respect, CJ, how seriously you take the respectable sins [I wonder how Jerry Bridges feels about this description in reference to C.J. See Bridges book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (NavPress, 2007).] but you left the impression that you did something scandalous. [C.J. did not give the impression he did something scandalous. Maybe something serious. Now he laments such a terrible mistake!] But nothing you confessed reached the level of public scandal requiring a public confession. [Not true. For example, C.J.’s blackmail and slander of Larry Tomczak. Or, C.J.’s continuous resistance and rejection of Dave, Steve, and my input. These necessitated a public confession.] Your sins are routine and common.” [Even the sins C.J. confessed are not “routine and common.” Go back and read “Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine.” What a terribly low standard for the serious sins C.J. committed against me, Dave and others in 2003-2004. I am afraid this panelist shows little understanding and demonstrates little discernment.] That is not to minimize my sin. [Yes it is and we don’t even know what sins C.J. is talking about in his message. He doesn’t tell us.] But it did help me to see the wrong impressions [The wrong impressions that C.J.’s sins were serious when they were really respectable, common, and routine.] I left and I regret that. [He regrets the wrong impression of his sin far more than whatever sins he has in mind. He spends all his time on the former. None on the latter.]
Another member of the panel said this: “I think you made a genuine effort to be humble. You overstate the level of offense [This panelist’s doesn’t even use the word “sin.” His uses a euphemism – “level of offense.” In any case, C.J. did not overstate his degree of sin in his confession to CLC or the SGM pastors/movement. He understated his offenses (i.e., sins against people).] and you confuse those outside of Sovereign Grace.” I happen to think that is an accurate critique. [DeYoung, Trueman and Ortlund were not helpful to C.J. and SGM. They should have used the Bible as their standard, not the lowest common denominator of sin. “Now the overseer must be above reproach.” “An elder must be blameless.”] I didn’t just confuse those outside Sovereign Grace, I confused those inside Sovereign Grace as well. I over-stated. [This is C.J.’s explanation for the uproar inside and outside of SGM. He overstated his sin. This shows the extent of his deception after a decade of correction and input.] I think I did that as well the year before at this Pastors’ Conference. My apology in relation to the polity process. A number of you came in afterwards and said in effect, you overstated that. I think you were right. I think this panel has an accurate assessment.
Finally, in relation to my confession, I wish I had defended myself. [It not too late! Let’s set up an adjudication hearing! Truth be told, I’ve begged C.J. to defend himself for the last 21 months. He did this to a degree in his second confession on March 11, 2011. I still want him to defend himself by providing a full written response to my documents. He has steadfastly refused. He also refused to make a defense at an adjudication hearing. Instead on October 24, 2011, he and the Board shut down the possibility and denied me the opportunity to make my case when I changed my mind. I still want an open adjudication hearing. The three panel hearings are inadequate. I want to face C.J. I want to hear from C.J. I want to cross examine C.J. but I think he is afraid to defend himself in the open before objective evaluators. Instead the SGM Board set it up for him to meet with panelists behind closed and confidential doors. From my perspective, he and the Board are avoiding accountability by not providing an open defense. Making these kinds of dismissive statements is not a defense.] I think I briefly, at the outset, possibly at the conclusion, referenced my disagreements with Brent’s narratives and accusations. [Here is what C.J. said, “And though there are a few different points where I don’t agree with your perspective at present, there are far more ways I agree with you and realize I have sinned.” C.J.’s perspective on the content of my documents has radically, dramatically, and almost completely been revised. The Documents have gone from extremely helpful to extremely erroneous.] But I wrongly concluded that it wouldn’t be humble of me to defend myself. [I addressed this very issue with C.J. and made it clear he should defend himself. Even stronger, that he needed to defend himself. That self-defense should not be viewed as synonymous with pride.] I am now convinced that this really reveals an ignorance of, a misunderstanding, a wrong application of humility. [No, it represented an unwillingness to defend himself. I begged and pleaded with C.J. to defend himself. He obstinately refused. He did not want to provide me open, honest, and accountable responses to my charges in print.] I had no category for an appropriate defense against criticisms and accusations, especially public ones. I think not having a category didn’t serve me. [Here is the kind of statement I repeatedly made to C.J. “Far too many former pastors (and people) have been harmed in SGM because free and open participation was denied or forbidden. Attempts to disagree are quickly labeled as pride, bitterness and self-pity. Correcting a pastor is often treated like the unpardonable sin. For my part, I’ve taken the exact opposite approach with you and SGM. I’ve begged you to defend yourself, differ with me, point out my sins, correct my errors, etc. You have refused to do so. That may look like humility but it is really avoidance. It is a lack of honest, humble, and open transparency.” (RRF&D, footnote 15, p. 130)]
I have no category for an appropriate defense against criticisms and accusations, especially public ones and I think not having that category didn’t serve me, didn’t serve Sovereign Grace, didn’t serve this process. [So untrue. I provided C.J. biblical categories. “Vindication, properly understood, is a godly pursuit. It means clearing, exculpation, exoneration, acquittal. All Christians should desire it for the oppressed or innocent. Jesus was vindicated in the resurrection. It is a noble pursuit in the church and in society. That is why we have a justice system comprised of courts and defense lawyers. Justice includes the vindication or acquittal of those falsely charged and found guilty. Condemning the innocent, especially due to prejudice, is a serious transgression in holy Scripture. That’s why I’ve asked C.J. to make a vigorous defense if he feels unjustly charged. The Bible condemns false witnesses. I don’t want to be one. I am glad for him to point out using proofs where my charges are false. I’ll repent.” (CR, footnote 437, p. 196)] Actually as I look back and reflect, though I was new to this process and evaluation, [Not at all true. Does C.J. really forget the five year “process and evaluation” he went through from 2000-2005.] I wish I hadn’t made that confession statement at that time and what I should have done is postpone any confession statement until both panels had ruled. [I hope C.J. makes an extensive confession in the near future based upon the work done by the three SGM panels on Nov 29-Dec 3, 2011. He will also have the opportunity to confess in March 2012 when the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report is complete.] It made my confession statement all the more… [unintelligible]. Not doing that left me vulnerable to critics and I don’t think it served you. Those are just a few personal reflections that I hope are helpful. [C.J. started off this lengthy section with the words, “Next, reflection on personal sins.” This was the big moment. I imagine every pastor in the room leaning forward to hear C.J. articulate the godly fruits resulting from his fourth months of self-examination and extensive pastoral care. Powlison, Dever, Loftness… This was a make or break moment for C.J. For the Board of Directors. For Sovereign Grace Ministries. What did C.J. learn about himself? Where was he convicted? What did he regret? Where did he err? What sins would he confess? I suspect every pastor fully anticipated a heartfelt and insightful confession of sin and sorrow. I assume they expected to learn from C.J.’s example of humility. But there was none of it! I can imagine the exasperation and even despair experienced by some of the pastors. Certainly the confusion and disorientation felt by nearly everyone. C.J. took the entire message to justify himself and minimize the problems in SGM. It was tragic, disgraceful, and frightening display. C.J.’s “reflection on personal sins” was really C.J.’s “deflection of personal sins.” He comments had nothing to do with his sins. They had everything to do with his defense. Not one single acknowledgement of wrong-doing. A decade of input, 1,000 pages of documentation, a four month leave of absence, special arrangements for pastoral care, produced nothing but a defense. C.J. ends this section of his message by saying, “Those are just a few personal reflections that I hope are helpful.” This is the only reason people need for requiring C.J.’s resignation from the Board of Directors. His comments were far from helpful. They were delusional. My friend has lost his way. He needs to go back to Covenant Life Church and get help from the pastoral staff there. They know the real problems that exist in his soul. They can help him if he and Carolyn will listen. That would be a genuinely act of humility.]
Now reflections on Sovereign Grace, reflections on my leadership of Sovereign Grace. Prior to this leave of absence I had become convinced, with the help of others, that I am not gifted to manage a movement. [C.J. doesn’t need the skill set of a Chief Operating Officer. He needs to learn how to work with a team of men by valuing them, listening to them, involving them and being accountable to them.] I lack the necessary organizational skills, I am not good at establishing policy and procedures and processes that set an appropriate expectation for how we serve together. [I don’t think the SGM Board will have C.J. come back as President for these reasons but not for a lack of character. His willingness to step aside due to limitations of gifting will probably be put forward as an example of humility. In theory, C.J. could continue as President if he learned to humbly worked with a leadership team, rather than independently of a leadership team. In reality, I don’t think C.J. wants to be the President anymore under any circumstances. Even if they asked him.]
My gift of leadership is more strategic [That is, knowing what to do. This is true but C.J. has made plenty of bad decisions on the strategic level. Look at SGM today. For instance, the need for polity is a strategic decision. That doesn’t mean C.J. comes up with the specifics or an implementation plan. Our old adage, “Constant change is here to stay” has often been used as a convenient excuse for poor leadership on a strategic level. It may be more accurate to say, “Constants mistakes are here to stay.”] than it is tactical, [That is, knowing how to do things.] it is more theological than it is practical. And given the growth we have experienced even in the last 10 years we need practical leadership here, and appropriate structures and procedures. [C.J. wanted me to pastor the apostolic team and administrate the apostolic team because of his limitations. All that changed immediately after August 2004. See blog post “Brent’s Fall from (Sovereign) Grace” in RRF&D, pp. 69-74. I was “benched” as Dave Harvey put it to Jenny and me in August 2007. Overnight, I was “de-gifted” by C.J. (see blog post “Repositioned Due to a Lack of Gifting,” AFA pp. 61-62)] It is critical for SG, not optional and where change has been required in SG a process is necessary and here I would perceive definite other weaknesses in my leadership. I can introduce change quickly, I can assume when I have introduced quickly everyone understands it.
I can change quickly. I can tell you it is frightening how quickly I can change, it is disconcerting how quickly I can change. I can change quickly, I can make major decisions quickly. [He doesn’t say why this is the case. It is due to his pride and independence. He is supremely confident in his decisions and often makes them unilaterally or contrary to the counsel of those around him. This approach to leadership has harmed the movement on many occasions. Decisions related to strategy, doctrine, practice or personnel were introduced by C.J. with little or no collaboration. C.J. was often intemperate, impulsive, pugnacious and impatient.] This doesn’t always serve a movement where process is necessary. Certain change is required, explanations, and more explanations, discussion, debate, and more explanation and persuasion. [Starting in December 2000, Dave, Steve and I repeatedly appeal to C.J. to function in team ministry not independently and unilaterally. This input continued for the next seven years with no success. This pattern is illustrated throughout my documents. After the events of August 2004, C.J. functioned with even more independence. I resigned in November 2007. It was too much for me and I knew he no longer trusted or valued my input.] At times my leadership has helped create confusion. If you add to this our history of not communicating wisely – another area I want to take responsibility for, not communicating wisely and well, [He doesn’t share any examples and he doesn’t reveal the root issues of his heart that led to this reality. This is another vague and superficial “confession.”] especially when you have made some significant changes. [For example, I asked C.J. to tell all of SGM when he changed his position on apostles, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, singing in the Spirit, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, prophecy, etc. He refused and thought it was unwise to do so. I thought it was deceptive.]
There are additional deficiencies with their consequences. As I reflect I realize that I so often am not even aware of the effect of my statements. I can be musing while interacting with guys, or musing in the context of a message, yet I am unaware that guys are assuming that I am setting direction and it doesn’t serve. [The problem is not with C.J.’s musings. C.J.’s musings quickly become C.J.’s decisions and determined direction with little or no input from others. The problem is not with guys misinterpreting C.J.’s “musings” and equating them with direction setting. The problem is C.J. impetuously and independently sharing his thoughts in an authoritative or directional manner.] Or I am peering in the future and sharing my musings and not considering how to communicate that so that they are introduced wisely, so that there is a process of explanation and consideration, so there is a procedure and plan. Too often I have not done that. [These are really excuses for C.J.’s go it alone leadership and his unwillingness to listen to Dave, Steve, Bo, my, and others counsel. That is the real issue. Not deficiencies in leadership. For example, see “Jeff’s Teaching on the Sacraments” (RRF&D, pp. 100-104) and “Deceit and Independence – Ending New Attitude”(AFA, pp. 46-56.) This independence, which C.J calls “expedience” elsewhere, was a long standing issue. This has been a fundamental concern for a long time. Here is a quote from RRF&D. “During a team meeting on December 4, 2000, Dave, Steve and I began to raise issues of concern for you. For example, we pointed out you were often difficult to correct, became offended when you felt misunderstood or judge by others, quickly and hastily arrived at conclusions about people based on limited information, came to extreme conclusions about people in a presumptive and premature fashion, were stubborn when you thought God had spoken to you or you had a strong opinion about something, made decisions without adequate appreciation for the personal effect on others, and led the apostolic team more by expedience rather than by process. We also noted a lack of discussion and involvement as a team in decision making. These things didn’t happen all the time but tended to be general patterns. For the next three years, I led a process whereby we consistently tried to help you see these and other issues of character. Unfortunately, that lengthy process proved unsuccessful. (“The 3½ Year Process Starting in December 2000” in RRF&D, p. 5)] So at one point I am just musing about transferring the gospel to the next generation of pastors. [C.J. didn’t muse about transferring the gospel (i.e., the leadership of the movement) to the next generation. He led it, directed it, promoted it, asked for it and applauded it. This began in earnest at least a decade ago. He ended Celebrations (I expressed disagreement). Singularly promoted New Attitude. Put the emphasis on recruiting young men for the Pastors College. As a result, some pastoral staffs passed over middle aged or older men as candidates. In 1997, I remember expressing alarm about C.J.’s almost singular focus on recruiting very young and unproven men for the PC. I jokingly referred to it as “C.J.’s Reformatory.” Back then we were already “passing the baton.” Today, too many churches are built around 20-30 year olds. Older saints can feel disenfranchise and set aside. Some have left our churches as a result. Older singles can feel forgotten. Men’s, women’s, marriage, and parenting ministries can be neglected or eclipsed by college aged ministry. Here’s the point. C.J.’s musings were not musings and he must take responsible for the negative fruits that have resulted from the direction he primarily set.]
And I can leave all of my friends my age assuming that their season of effective, fruitful service is quickly coming to an end. I don’t want to leave that impression. [This was more than impression. C.J. was actively advocating that older men be repositioned to provide counsel but not leadership. I challenged C.J. regarding this direction. For example at the Preconference Gathering in 2008, he told all the pastors John Loftness and I were the exceptions for planting churches in the future as older men. That he wanted young men to plant churches and have existing older senior pastor getting ready to be replaced. To look for younger men they could turn their responsibilities over to in the near future. In 2005, C.J. turned CLC over to Joshua Harris who was 29 years old. That was the plan. Jared Mellinger is another example in Philadelphia. Tommy Hill and Pat Ennis were working hard on how to help older men step back from ministry so young men could emerge but the older men still be provided for financially. C.J. is not taking responsibility for his unwise leadership and the ill effect it had on different men. Young was in. Old was out.] But I realize that I can leave that impression and let me just say to all of the older guys here, and not just because of the economy, you have many years of service left and Sovereign Grace needs you more than ever. That is not a criticism of the younger guys. Thank God for our younger guys. You bring us great joy. This movement isn’t ready for you to have a transfer of leadership at this point in time [This is a complete reversal. A major course correction. The exact opposite of what C.J. has said for the last decade or longer. But he doesn’t own the direction he set contrary to counsel which emphasized the importance of wisdom that comes with age and the dangers that come with youth. C.J. forged ahead without taking our cautions seriously. In one discussion, I remember C.J. saying we must look for young men who were charismatic personalities and dynamic speakers and position them as sr. pastors even if they were prima donnas. Their pride could be taken care of later. Dave, Steve and I all disagreed with C.J.’s emphasis, saw it as dangerous and said so to various degrees.] and I am sure you don’t desire that particularly with the number of wise older men in this room who want to serve you till their dying breath and with the grace of God.
As it relates to my leadership over the past four months, as I have reflected in particular over the last eight years of my life, I think I ended up serving in the areas that I am not gifted to serve to the detriment in the areas where I am gifted to serve, and have been the most fruitful over the years. The first among these would be preaching. For the last 3 years there has been a rising course of voices of friends inside SG and outside SG who have spoken to me, met with me personally, and communicated the same concern: Why aren’t you preaching? We are perplexed. Why aren’t you leading a church? What are you doing? [Sovereign Grace Ministries no longer believes in apostolic ministry. It has become a para-church organization but that was not the case for our first 25 years. We use to take overseeing and caring for churches seriously. We were personally involved in the churches. We knew the people. Knew the leaders. Knew strengths and weaknesses. Dave, Steve and I also traveled internationally and helped to plant churches. We gave up our roles as senior pastors in order to advance the gospel, plant churches, and provide meaningful care. Now the Board of Directors are guest speakers and available for advise when asked. As a result, there is no need for a full time Board of Directors. Sovereign Grace is no longer comprised of “team related churches.” The churches are autonomous and independent. There is no need for an apostolic team. The churches are on their own.] I have a friend, a leader outside of SG that took me out to breakfast in the context of a conference, and in complete seriousness said, this breakfast informs a rebuke. I said what is the concern? Took the entirety of breakfast, I took 2 pages of notes and he just said you need to get back in the pulpit and you need to die in the pulpit and you need to lead from the pulpit. And he was quite forceful to impress on me what he felt like would be a form of disobedience if I didn’t because he said God has created a [indiscernible/inaudible] how can you not perceive this? Why are you not doing something about this?
I think he is right. I think I have neglected my call to preach. I think I have accepted a role that is more managerial and quite obviously I am not a manager. And I also think I am a pastor. [This will be interesting. C.J. hasn’t pastored people in a very long time. He also plans to plant a church. That too will be interesting. In 1977 when Gathering of Believers began (the forerunner of CLC), it did so with multiple leaders, abundance resources and a couple hundred people. It is hard to imagine C.J. actually planting a church with a church planting team or core group of 30 to 40 people with limited resources. That is the norm in SGM. It will be a great experience but not an easy one for C.J. Relocating to a new area and starting from scratch as the only staff pastor will be a brand new experience.] That is what I think I am. I’m a pastor. And over the last 8 years I have become detached from serving a particular local church. [That is solely due to C.J.’s choice not the CLC pastors. C.J. had a radical view of non-involvement at CLC once he turned it over to Joshua in 2005. We talked about it and he disagreed with me. I thought he should be substantially involved. Instead he resigned as a pastor and started his own SGM Care Group. He told me he had absolutely no authority in CLC and he wanted it that way. It was now Joshua’s church. I told him that was a bad idea because it was important for him to be involved for numerous reasons including his own care and accountability.] I hope that changes soon. It is my intention to change that soon. [C.J. should not be allowed to plant a church until he understands the nature of his sins and deals with them in a forthright manner.]
So during this season of reflection I have just benefited significantly from objective evaluation of my gifting [We covered all this ground with C.J. for many, many years. For instance, we had Chuck Nam and Nelson Cooney from CLC do an independent and extensive study of C.J.’s leadership and the overall leadership structure of SGM in 2000. It was quite critical of C.J. but in an altogether constructive manner. Rather than benefitting, C.J. expressed disagreement with their conclusions and recommendations. He placed the blame on others. I believe he was offended by the report based upon comments he made regarding its findings. An excellent report bore little if any fruit.] from men inside of SG as well as outside of SG and I think I stand before you with more clarity on where I am called and gifted to serve and where I am decidedly not called and gifted to serve. Hopefully that will make me more gifted to serve.
And as I have looked at SG and myself, evaluated my leadership but SG more [unintelligible] I am aware that there are a number of areas to be addressed. Dave is going to communicate areas that need to be addressed. I just want to give you three.
Before I do, this practice of evaluation is the norm in Sovereign Grace. If you are new to Sovereign Grace, areas of deficiency aren’t unusual. You won’t be growing out of areas of deficiencies in our lifetime. So it is not abnormal for us to evaluate ourselves. I think it is abnormal this time. 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. should be telling all the pastors where the critics have been right and he has been wrong. The critics now include a lot of SGM pastors. Instead, he is preoccupied with the “prevalence of slander” coming from critics of which I am foremost. In this context, slander means those charges C.J. considers unfounded and false. Yet, he has not answered the overwhelming majority of my charges or shown them to be errant (see CR, pp. 90-96). In one fell swoop, C.J. effectively silences the “loud voice from critics.” This has always been the problem. People who correct C.J. or his agents are dismissed as wrong because they are proud, bitter, and resentful slanderers.] The process of evaluation is one we are committed to and have been historically [No, we have done poorly listening to our critics in the past. That includes me. All too often they have been rebuffed, rebuked or rejected. I can’t remember C.J. ever taking a “critic” seriously unless pressed by others. “Critic” and “slanderer” are essentially synonymous in C.J.’s mind as you can see in his comment here.] and will be in the future and actually even bringing these few areas to your attention I have to qualify what I say. I don’t believe these are systemic and I am not attempting to evaluate all of Sovereign Grace. I don’t assume my preferences in [unintelligible] that it applies to all of Sovereign Grace. And I don’t agree with our critics who evaluate Sovereign Grace this way. I show concern for anyone, beginning with myself that make statements about Sovereign Grace that are categorical in nature. [Systemic and categorical are not the same. Categorical means “without exception.” Systematic means “system wide” or widespread. Some problems in SGM are systemic. Others more localized and tied to particular leaders or churches. C.J. continues to express no concerns for anyone in his hire or any of their actions. Everyone is exonerated. No one is accountable. See “No One You Know Has Sinned” (AFA, pp. 123-126).]
But just a couple of areas. First the doctrine of sin. [This misapplication of the doctrine of sin is a good example of a systemic problem. It is not confined to a wrong definition of fellowship.] I am deeply grateful for how the doctrine of sin serves the Christian. I am grateful for how it has served us in many ways. The doctrine of sin must be handled with great care and I don’t think we have always understood it properly and I bear some responsibility for this deficiency. [Not “some responsibility.” Primary responsibility. C.J. is the one who taught our best works are “shot through with sin.” C.J. is the one who emphasized the Cross to the neglect of the Resurrection. C.J. is the one who did not emphasize our union with Christ. What follows is another example of C.J. failing to take responsibility for his mistakes and placing most of the blame on his followers. It sounds the like Discipleship Movement in the 1970-80’s. The teachers didn’t consider themselves the problem, it was the followers who misunderstood the teachers.] Many years ago as I began to teach more about sin and sanctification I did not at that time anticipate all the potential pitfalls in the understanding and applying the doctrine of sin, especially as the amount of churches increased over the years. Oh my, I regret not foreseeing this. I regret not preparing us for this. I think I also assumed that our emphasis on the gospel would sufficiently protect us. Not necessarily so.
So as I have reflected over the last 4 months, I think this has been a 6 year process, in relation to the doctrine of sin I think there are a few areas where we have been affected by a misapplication of the doctrine of sin. [Therefore, the problem is not with C.J.’s teaching but with the pastors who misapplied C.J.’s teaching. C.J.’s error was not with the content of his teaching but in not foreseeing how the pastors would err in their understanding and practice of the doctrine he taught.] First area is fellowship. This has been a strength in Sovereign Grace. I pray it remains a strength. At times the doctrine of sin has had too much of a prominent place in our practice of fellowship. Very careful here, so no misunderstanding. The practice and experience of fellowship is much, much, much broader than the application of the doctrine of sin. And our practice of fellowship must not be reduced to identifying sin or rehearsing sin or endlessly exploring the potential idols of our heart. [C.J. led us in this error. He takes no responsibility.] Our practice of fellowship should primarily be a means of preaching and applying the gospel to each other. It should be a means of identifying evidences of grace in each other. The category of what it should be could be expanded.
But it is all too easy for our practice of fellowship to become a preoccupation with sin, primarily about sin rather than a fresh proclamation and application of the gospel to our lives. I regret these misunderstandings and misapplications where they have occurred. [This is shocking. His only mistake was not anticipating the “misunderstandings” and “misapplications” of his otherwise sound doctrine, counsel and example.] I wish I would have anticipated them. I think it was about 6 years ago I began to perceive these deficiencies. [Now he begins to take credit for addressing the mistakes the pastors were making.] I’ve looked back through notes where I was – OK – I was attempting to address it but, OK, it was just a point in a message. I asked David Powlison to come to our Pastors’ Conference and preach a message on introspection. So that was all by design. [Per C.J., he wasn’t the reason the doctrine of sin was misapplied; he was the reason we were spared from further error. He protected us. He didn’t harm us. Let me add a personal note. There is a great need in the church universal for a recovery of the doctrine of sin and sanctification. I am grateful for this emphasis in SGM. What concerns me the most is C.J.’s refusal to take any personal responsibility for undue “introspection” and other faulty aspects of our teaching and application.] That was simply the single message, had the privilege to teach the pastor care class at Pastors’ College last 3 years and this has certainly been a section, but I should have done more.
And the second area in this regard is the area of correction. At times the doctrine of sin has been unhelpfully applied in relation to others instead of towards ourselves. So individuals have been corrected and pressed to acknowledge sins that others perceived, sins of the heart and when there isn’t immediate agreement with that correction and assessment then the category of pride can be introduced. The person appears to be unteachable then that is in sin, particularly if everyone else in the group is in agreement with each other about your sin. [This happened to me times without number. It is precisely what C.J., Dave Harvey, Steve Shank, Gene Emerson, Bob Kauflin, and Mickey Connolly did on repeated occasions. I couldn’t breathe with being told I was proud. For example see “Brent’s Job Performance Evaluation by C.J.” (RRF&D, pp. 68-69), “No Room for Brent’s Charismatic Theology” (RRF&D, pp. 199-121), “Brent Defiant and Resistant – Saturday, June 6, 2009” (TUS, pp. 41-49), and “Example 1: Telling Dave that Roger and Jim had Observations of Pride” (TUS, p. 50). Though I cite these four examples, I’ve barely begun to document the horrible abuses I suffered in this regard. In any context, when I disagreed I was quickly labeled as proud. This is another systemic problem in SGM and C.J. has led the way. I’m know I’ve misapplied “The Fifty Fruits of Pride” in some cases but nothing like what I experienced at the hands of these men. Once again, C.J. takes no responsible for these abuses.] There is a wonderful quote, I think over the years it has been misunderstood and misapplied. This is from J.I. Packer’s work on the Puritans, Quest for Godliness, “Our best works are shot through with sin and contain something that needs to be forgiven.” [C.J. was the one who introduced this quote. But he did more. He introduce the doctrine of sin in some ways that were unwise and errant. That’s okay, just own it. I remember challenging C.J. (and the apostolic team) that this perspective was imbalanced since the book of Titus talks about “good works.” That is, if our best works are shot through with sin then how can they be considered good in any sense. I also pointed out the emphasis in 1 John regarding our ability in Christ to not practice sin.] The purpose of this quote is to humble us and to provoke us to guard our hearts. I don’t think this is a mandate for us to suspect the hearts of others or to pursue the sins of others or to correct others. I regret not perceiving this misunderstanding and misapplication. I regret not more effectively guarding misapplication. There is more I wish I would have done.
The second would be pastoral evaluation. This is another area that I think my leadership has been inadequate. More could have been done, more should have been done, more will be done. Sovereign Grace needs to provide our pastors with guidance, the content of a process where objective evaluation of pastors so that pastoral evaluations are theologically informed, objectively done, uniformly done, not arbitrary, not suddenly announced. A pastor shouldn’t be blindsided by an evaluation. And this is particularly critical when there are concerns about the pastor’s character or gifting. The content of this evaluation should be theologically informed, predetermined as well as the timing of this evaluation. I’m aware, I’m aware, I’m very aware that there are pastors that feel that they have been inappropriately evaluated, even mistreated by Sovereign Grace. [Does C.J. feel men have been wrongly handled? He doesn’t express any agreement that pastors “have been inappropriately evaluated” or “mistreated.” And he certainly doesn’t claim he has ever done anything of the kind. That is where C.J. must begin. He needs to illustrate from his own failings. There are many in this category. That kind of humility is required if SGM is ever to reform itself. It must start with repentance which leads to restitution.] Listen, I don’t believe this is systemic from my experience and I have pursued a number of these situations. [C.J. minimizes what has been a widespread and serious problem for which he is primarily responsible. It is clearly systemic. For example, the lack of due process. If you did a survey of all the men who have been disciplined, repositioned or removed from ministry, very few would say they were properly evaluated and treated in a way that pleased God or served them or their families. Yes, in some situations men who were removed or repositioned became offended without just cause. But in C.J.’s case, he has often taken action against men based upon sinful judgments in his heart.] Here’s what I have decided. Each situation is very different. Very different. [Each situation has unique characteristics but that is not C.J.’s meaning. He introduces this thought in order to downplay the abuses men claim to have experienced. C.J. is in denial. He doesn’t realize the destruction and havoc too many men have wrongly experienced. I’ve seen C.J. “pursue a number of these situations” and come away with a misdiagnosis. One that claims, he or his agents have done little or nothing wrong. For instance, C.J. found no fault with Dave, Bob, Gene or Mickey pertaining to me. He concluded they did nothing wrong and I sinfully judged them when I raised concerns.]
We certainly do want to give attention to it. We are giving attention to it. In some ways I spent almost 2 years trying to give attention to it. [Once again, C.J. credits himself for being the supposed solution when he is a big part of the problem. Leaders and people throughout SGM are offended at C.J.] And we are thankful for AoR and they are serving us even this morning.
One more thing before I finish. Once we have a pastor in place in Sovereign Grace we want to do all we can to keep that pastor in place. We do not want our pastors fearing that in some way that we are looking for a reason to disqualify them. [Why do men fear this prospect? Why is this an issue? C.J. provides no answer and takes no ownership. The pastors fear disqualification because so many men have been removed from ministry in SGM. They fear the future because they see what happen to me. To Dave Bendinelli, Keith Jacobs, Dan McIntosh, to many others. Dave Harvey, Gene Emerson, Bob Kauflin looked for every conceivable reason to disqualify me. Or consider there were 11 men on the apostolic team at one point in our history. Only three remain, C.J., Steve Shank and John Loftness. The other eight were removed and/or left SGM. If you offend the wrong leader you have every reason to fear removal. That is why some men have been afraid to speak up regarding their senior pastor or SGM Board Member. Keeping the peace is the best way to keep your job. Making those over you a success (and happy) is the key to your success (and happiness). This is not true in every case but it is one of those systemic problems that exists in SGM that C.J. denies but needs to be addressed.] We want to do all we can if at all possible for our pastors to have lengthy, fruitful service.
Finally, polity. [Polity is important but even the best polity can’t protect against a lack of integrity, favoritism, partiality, cover up, manipulation, abusive practices, self-interest, lying, deceit and independence. That’s why Paul the apostle emphasized character not polity. You can adjust polity but until you adjust hearts change will be minimal. Here is what I wrote one person. “Accountability starts with one’s self. In 1 Tim 4:16, Paul told Timothy to “pay close attention to” himself. But it also involves others. Timothy’s progress was to be evident to others (1 Tim 4:15). In particular, elders are responsible to watch over each other. In Acts 20:28, the elders were commanded by Paul to “be on guard for” themselves. All too often, however, these and other verses have not been followed by individuals in Sovereign Grace Ministries. As a result, you can have unaccountable senior pastors like Gene or unaccountable team leaders like C.J. These lead men need other strong men who are willing to hold them accountable even if it means getting fired. Men who fear God more than their boss. Men who love God more than their reputation. Men who trust God more than their paychecks. In the final analysis, when self-examination is lacking due to pride then pride begins to lord it over others by using fear and manipulation. Leaders must be accountable to God, to one another, and to the church.”] You are aware of this involved in the process, it will continue. It is not something that should be done quickly, different ways…2 years this process. It has been the tireless work of Jeff and Dave, thanks for your patience and participation. I think we are making progress. It is going to take much longer to make the kind of progress we need to make. We should not be surprised about that. I had a leader say to me just the other day “the fact that you guys don’t have all of your polity clarified and formalized is not a sin. You are a very young movement.” [SGM should be so much further ahead on polity. For over a decade I tried to develop a polity manual with little success. It became a standing joke on the apostolic team and among SGM managers. Years of appeals to C.J. never resulted in making it a priority in terms of discussion, formulation, and staff support.] So that is encouraging, gave me hope.
One aspect of polity that I do regret not having in place and that would be the appropriate handling of grievances in conflict resolution. We have not had grievance procedures in place for pastors or church members so no doubt there are instances where former pastors or church members would have been greatly served by these procedures. [Again, the problem is not so much a lack of procedure. It is the abusive way situations have been handled due to pride, a superior sense of discernment, dislike for a person, personal offense against a person, sinful judgments, favoritism, no allowance for due process, harshness, threats, silencing mechanisms, and intimidation. On one occasion, Gene Emerson told me I should accept and believe every aspect of his assessment of me without question. That he was in charge over me! He said I didn’t need to agree with his perspective. I just needed to accept it as completely accurate. I challenged him and said SGM has never taught such an extreme view of authority. He disagreed. I told him to tell Dave what he said. Even Dave corrected Gene but it did not alter his behavior. Gene’s wife, Liz and my wife, Jenny were both present to observe this heavy handedness. For 15 years I tried to help Gene see these issues. See “Example 1: Gene Emerson” (AFA, pp. 136-154). Nevertheless, C.J. has staunchly defended Gene and Gene has never asked forgiveness. It is just one on many examples I have not shared regarding Gene and others.] I am sorry that. I am sorry for the effects of that. [C.J. puts the blame on a lack of procedures, not on a lack of character or unjust actions. He doesn’t see any of the problems in Sovereign Grace as ethical problems. They are all polity problems.] The board is addressing that. Obviously receiving the value of AoR concerning that become a consistent part of Sovereign Grace church and Sovereign Grace procedures as well. It needs to, we want to, it will become…so that’s not exhaustive. It won’t surprise you that I have lots more to say. I am not going to say it today. I have lots more to say. I have never been this quiet for this long in my entire life. I was going to say it is killing me, but it is sanctifying.
Finally, it would not be good leadership on my part for me to leave you preoccupied with areas of deficiency. [The SGM Board and pastors should be focused on “deficiencies” like a laser. It should preoccupy their attention during this season of discipline. Yes, remember the good things but honestly acknowledge the bad things. That’s not happening because Dave and C.J. don’t think the problems are numerous or serious. For the most part, everything is great.] It would not be good godly leadership. Do we have problems. Yes we do. But listen. Problems we are facing, confronting, experiencing. These things do not define us, and they do not define our churches. Sovereign Grace is a gospel preaching movement. And by God’s grace Sovereign Grace will continue to be a gospel preaching movement. One thing I would like to say and stress. We must not let our critics define us, or redefine us. [C.J. and the SGM Board have not taken their critics seriously and they have not addressed the issues critics have raised. They have avoided them and refused to provide a response that addresses root issues. This is one of the reasons, I asked C.J. to provide me a written response to my documents that was thorough. I suspected he might not do so because he wouldn’t want to face the issues head on. Instead of being open, honest, and transparent; he and the SGM Board labeled all my writings as gossip and slander and told people not to read them. That is C.J. and Dave’s way of handling critics.] I think the days ahead are going to require all the content of Dave’s excellent message. [Here’s the bottom line for SGM according to Dave. “We have some weaknesses; we have many strengths, and it would not please God, nor would it help pastors to help the people in our churches if we lost sight of the many strengths as we seek to address some of the weaknesses. It would only confuse and hinder if we allow some weaknesses to be portrayed as if there are many weaknesses.” (Dave Harvey, 2011 Pastors Conference). There are many strengths in SGM but there are also many weaknesses and most of those weaknesses are serious and they start with C.J. and Dave. Like C.J., Dave downplays the deep and widespread problems that exist.]
I think the days ahead are going to require more discernment as it relates to the identification of slander and the influence of slander in our churches. [This has been C.J.’s primary focus throughout his state of the heart update. “Slander” would be far less of a problem if C.J. identified in his own life the transgressions he has committed. People simply want an open and honest accounting. The SGM Board doesn’t realize it but when they declared me a slanderer and called my documents slander, they engaged in slander themselves. They have it backwards.] I think the days ahead are going to require courage on the part of pastors and when necessary publicly identify those who are divisive. [I can’t think of a worse way for C.J. to end his message. I don’t know how people can follow him any longer. Bottom line for C.J., there is a need to identify and discipline divisive critics (i.e., those who criticizes C.J. or SGM in public), not learn from the critics. The people needing to be “marked” and “shunned” will be in the hundreds. I guess Joshua Harris will be on the list too according to C.J. This kind of “strategic” leadership is a recipe for disaster and the fruit of pride.] I think the days ahead are not only going to require, I think they are going to require courage. I think in some ways in Sovereign Grace we have more humility than courage. [According to C.J., there is plenty of humility in SGM starting with himself and the SGM Board. What is really needed is courage! Courage to mark people as divisive starting with Covenant Life Church and the folks that are “hostile” and “assault” C.J. and Carolyn. C.J. has no clue how he has sinned against that church. Or if he does, he conceals it. Others need to be disciplined, not him.] And we are going to need more courage. Humble courage. It doesn’t mean we don’t learn from critique, we do. But there is a difference between learning from critique and allowing critics to define you. We are [not?] capitulating to slander in the name of humility. [What C.J. calls “slander” are often true and accurate charges. Let him prove which charges are false. He will not “capitulate” (i.e., cease to resist) to slander. Great! When does an open, honest, accountable, and thorough adjudication hearing finally begin? Please send me the dates! Enough of these vague denouncements. They are a smoke screen to conceal the truth.]
So we are going to continue to evaluate ourselves. [Since I sent out The Documents on July 6, 2011, the self-evaluation has produced no repentance or confession of sin whatsoever by any member of the SGM Board or others like Bob and Gene. Let’s see for instance if C.J. and the SGM Board evaluate fellow Board member, Mickey Connolly. See “Mickey Connolly’s Deceitful Use of Scripture and Commentaries” on Nov 26, 2011 at BrentDetwiler.com. So far they have refused to provide a response of any kind to my emails. “The CrossWay pastors have primarily jurisdiction over Mickey but they have failed to act. The SGM Board employs Mickey. For these two reasons the SGM Board must carefully investigate this matter and if found guilty take appropriate action which should result in Mickey’s termination from my perspective” (Nov 26, 2011). “It has been three weeks since I wrote you concerning Mickey and the CrossWay pastors. Would you please send me a report on how you are proceeding in your investigation. Mickey’s deceitful use of Scripture and commentaries is an extremely serious matter and it warrants your urgent attention” (Dec. 15, 2011).] But it would not please God if we minimize the evidences of grace in our midst, that have been present and pronounced for so many years. This is not spin. This is not hype. This is not some form of Sovereign Grace self-promotion. This is simply and humbly and accurately an acknowledgment of the mercy of God in and to SGM.
[C.J. has far too high an opinion of himself and SGM. The two go hand in hand. This is a time for mourning. He and the organization should be humbled by the magnitude of the problems (and some pastors are). Throughout his “reflection on personal sins,” C.J. makes no mention of any sins and minimizes the problems in SGM. This message is the only reason one needs to require C.J.’s resignation from the Board. C.J. can’t blame his message on slanderers. It came from his own heart and mouth and it reveals the need for C.J. and the SGM Board to be replaced. I told Mark Prater, Warren Boettcher, and Ron Boonsma at my panel hearing on December 2,2011 that C.J.’s comments in this personal update were sufficient reason to remove him from the SGM Board of Directors. After all that had been said and written by so many people, he failed to demonstrate any conviction of sin. He should have gone into great length regarding the dealings of God in his life. Instead, his self-justifying approach revealed the state of his soul.]
[I wrote this summary on my November 12, 2011 blog post. “The Pastors Conference last week afforded C.J. his first opportunity to interact with the SGM pastors. He could have taken the opportunity to humble himself; instead, he took the opportunity to justify himself. After four months of supposed “self-examination” and pastoral care, C.J. retracted his confession, lamented his leave of absence, appealed for sympathy, justified his departure from CLC, minimized his personal sins, used morally neutral language to cover over his leadership sins (e.g., “deficiencies,” “weaknesses,” “not communicating wisely,” “inadequate,” etc.), vindicated himself by quoting others, commended himself for his self-examination and humbly over-stating his sin; rejected my narrative, accusations, interpretations and judgments as false; said he never believed his sins were uncommon, scandalous or disqualifying; didn’t believe there were systemic (widespread) problems in SGM, blamed slanderers for distorting (exaggerating) the problems in SGM, acknowledged no abuse of authority in the sinful handling of former leaders, focused on those that “assault” him, and called for the discipline of “divisive” church members by courageous pastors. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, C.J. did not ask forgiveness of the pastors for any aspect of his character, example, or leadership. He saw no need to ask the pastors forgiveness for anything. He was focused on the sins against him, his overstatement of sin, and the exploitation of his sin by others. He was not focused on his sins against others including the pastors and the movement. My documents, blog posts, letters from others, and input from others resulted in absolutely no acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Not once does C.J. say “I was wrong, please forgive me.” (“Transcript of C.J. Mahaney’s Remarks at Sovereign Grace Ministries’ 2011 Pastors Conference” on BrentDetwiler.com from November 12, 2011)]
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