Pride, bitterness and self-pity are real sins and cause real problems. People often need the help of others to identify and overcome them. All well and good, provided individuals are carefuuly diagnosed. A misdiagnosis can lead to an abusive and harsh treatment plan. People must be given the freedom to disagree and defend against charges they believe are untrue. I’ve gone out of my way to grant C.J. that freedom having been denied it so often.
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 [C.J.] 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)
Telling people they are proud, bitter or self-pitying when they disagree or attempt to share painful experiences from their lives can be destructive. I’ve done this with others. What I’ve personally experienced the last eight years has helped me to grow.
People have asked me about my own sins. Here is an email I sent a friend sharing my attempts at reconciliation, the differences between me and C.J., Dave and Steve, and the kind of things for which I’ve asked forgiveness.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2011 3:34 PM
Subject: Re: Comments
In the past, I posted on Refuge and Survivors asking anyone with offenses to please contact me. I’ve made the same comment on my blog. I heard from 4-5 people. In each case, I had profitable interaction with the person and was able to ask their forgiveness. You are welcome to put the word out again. I’ve also heard from 4-5 people separate from the blogs and in each case but one was able to resolve the issues and ask forgiveness. I assume there are more folks and I am happy to hear from them.
Here is part of the problem. People assume I’ve done all the things C.J., Dave and Steve have done. For example, I’ve only “de-gifted” three people in 30 years. One removed, two repositioned. Or people assume I knew about all the things going on with C.J., Dave and Steve. That is not true. I’ve been shocked to discover a growing list of unethical and abusive actions by them. For example, I haven’t lied, deceived, covered-up sin (though I should have confronted the blackmail), manipulated, lived hypocritically, led independently, forbid due process, sent people to lord it over others on my behalf, played favorites (except on occasions when I was afraid to confront C.J.), etc.
At times, I have been too focused on a person’s perceived sins (like bitterness) and not the person, thought or conveyed concerns for pride that were not present, over emphasized practice in relation to principle, not listened carefully to people bringing concerns about leaders I was responsible for, or given inadequate consideration to counsel or input provided me due to my own pride. These are the things for which I have asked forgiveness of the people above.
You are welcome to post this comment. Thanks Patti.
I also wrote a person, who accused me of “spewing” bitterness, regarding the lack of compassion that exists in Sovereign Grace Ministries when dealing with people who have been sinned against. I’ve been guilty of the same.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 PM
To: [Name removed]
Subject: Re: Appeal
Let me share an analogy. How would you respond if you came upon the man in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and asked him to tell you his story? I am afraid you’d look for bitterness, point out how he must forgive, and warn him not to be vindictive instead of listening with compassion, taking care of his wounds, and pursuing justice on his behalf.
Your “appeal” underscores one of the most serious problems in SGM. People don’t try to understand those who have been abused or sinned against. They are quick to correct them and dismiss them. I’ve done this. That’s one reason thousands of people have raised concerns for SGM and left our churches.
Here’s the idea. After you’ve identified with Jenny and my pain, been horrified by the gravity of sins committed against me, empathized with what we’ve experienced, worked hard at correcting those who have abused us, and sought to secure restitution on my behalf; you are very welcome to raise concerns for any bitterness you perceive. In fact, you can do it during such a process provided the other ingredients are present. But if you only criticize than you are acting like the priest or Levite “who passed by on the other side” and were not willing to really care. Remember, “they will know you are Christians by your love.” It is easy to correct me. It is easy to correct others. But in so doing we often abuse those who are raising vital concerns.
Furthermore, if you engaged in the process and sought to understand the issues, you might discover my “tone” is warranted and not that of a bitter man. You might even conclude I’ve spoken with restraint. Here’s my concern. After reading Matthew 23 would you also conclude that Jesus was spewing bitterness? How about John the Baptist? Or Paul with the Galatians or Corinthians? Or just about anyone in the Bible who ever spoke against serious injustice or entrenched wrongdoing.
I don’t know my heart fully, but I don’t believe I am driven by bitterness and resentment. Love rejoices when the truth wins out. That’s why I am fighting this fight. So much has been covered up and hidden. So many errors have going unacknowledged. C.J. and the SGM Board have been unaccountable. People wrongs have not been righted. I hope you will make that your focus.
My eamil above was forwarded to a former senior pastor in SGM and he sent me some insightful thoughts regarding the nature of the problem as follows.
From: [Sr. Pastor]
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2011 11:57 AM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Bitterness Blog
Happy Sunday to you my friend. These Sunday mornings are quite different than a few years ago.
Hey, Keith sent me your thoughts on how SGM pulls the “bitterness card” in every situation against those who have been abused. I thought it was excellent and wondered if it should be a stand-alone blog.
So many people in Sovereign Grace have been conditioned to adjust, warn, or correct the victim as their default position. It’s really craziness if you think about it and another example of how the culture of Sovereign Grace has led their people away from a normal biblical rationale and just plain common sense.
In making the major emphasis and priority “guarding your heart” and the preoccupation with a victim’s sin or possible sin rather than caring for a heart, they are not even aware of how callous, unkind, and uncaring that is. Most importantly it lacks the compassion of Christ and is just plain unbiblical.
So anyway…thought your analogy was great of the Good Samaritan as was “here’s an idea”... I think many would be challenged and benefited by it. I know I was.
I’ve also erred over the years in overemphasizing certain practices. Here is what I wrote Dave Harvey on April 29, 2009 (see “Doctrine and Practice Now Separate Us” in RRF&D on pages 106-119 for a much fuller treatment). It is a decent summary of where I’ve made mistakes and how I’ve sought to change.
In the past, I’ve sometimes stressed certain practices too strongly or defined them too narrowly. As a result, I suspect some people may have confused personal practice with biblical principal and invested too much authority and faith in the former rather than being sufficiently guided by the latter. Also, some may have tended to put their hope in certain “practices” which guarantee nothing.
This is an area where I’ve needed to grow and have worked hard at it by the grace of God. I’ve labored to emphasize the principles of Scripture from which individuals can develop their own practices and not simply imitate others. I’ve emphasized more than ever the power of the gospel to change hearts and motivate people to honor God. I’ve also exhorted people to put their confidence in God not methods.
At the risk of being misunderstood (no indirect message intended), my own growth parallels the changes I have seen with respect to our teaching on modesty. Originally it was titled “Modesty Check.” In Girl Talk it was changed to “A Modesty Heart Check” without an introduction. In Worldliness a helpful introduction was added. “We don’t intend these questions to be a list of rules or consider them to be definitive guide to modest dress. The Modesty Heart Check is a tool, to be used in the context of biblical teaching on modesty, and never in isolation from God’s Word” (p. 173). So too, I have edited and re-edited my material.
I appreciate the input I’ve received and the forgiveness extended to me for my sins and errors. I also ask forgiveness of those who have been affected but with whom I have not spoken since I don't know your identity. You are welcome to contact me. God’s grace rest upon each of you.
Post Script - January 4, 2012 11:00 AM
C.J.'s blackmail of Larry occured on October 3, 1997. Steve followed suit. More than two years later, I discovered for the first time what C.J. said when Larry sent me a transcript. Fast forward. Two days ago I asked Larry to send me any incrimnating actions on my part. He provided me the following quote from a conference call on October 8, 1997 when Justin asked each of us where we stood. The call was being secretly recorded. It shows my support for revealing details regarding Justin's sins. Though I was unfamiliar with all the details, I should never have supported this threat. It was entirely wrong. I have asked Larry, Doris and Justin's forgiveness.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2012 11:33 AM
To: Justin Tomczak
Your father sent me this yesterday. It is my statement from Oct 8, 1997, “If you revert to this divisive, slanderous, misrepresentative comments or statements, then we leave open, yes, the option of going into whatever details we needed to.”
Would you please forgive me for supporting the possibility of going into more details regarding your sins. That was wrong. That option should not have been left on the table. I sinned against you and should not have expressed any agreement under any circumstances. I should have opposed it. I am sorry for the grief it caused you. I know it had an adverse effect upon you and I am glad to hear you are doing well in the Lord. Thanks for your patience with us Justin. I know it has been hard.
I tried to call you a dozen times but kept getting a busy signal. I am glad to interact over the phone if you so desire.