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Trust – The One Thing that Changes Everything  

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love…. That one thing is trust.”[1] 

The SGM Board and its agents have caused ruination like a F5 tornado.  They’ve destroyed trust every time they withheld information, distorted facts, refused to answer hard questions, broke promises, applied a double standard, showed favoritism, put their own interests first, spun the truth, or acted deceitfully.  That is the story of the last two years.     

Sovereign Grace Ministries enjoyed the trust of many fine people for the longest time.  That is no longer true.  Today there is a crisis of confidence.  Rightly so!  Trust has been lost and it will be hard to regain unless genuine transparency, honesty, consistency, competency and accountability are recovered at all levels of leadership.  This recovery of trust must be made the highest priority throughout the organization and in all the churches.  The deceit, hypocrisy and abuse of Sovereign Grace Ministries has left a swath of destruction in its wake.  There is a ton of debris to be cleaned up before rebuilding can begin.          

As a first step, C.J., Dave, Steve, Bob, Gene, and Mickey must be held accountable for their actions.  Each must be carefully evaluated if they choose to stay in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Their sins can no longer be glossed over.  Public confessions in appropriate venues must be forthcoming.  These men also need to be removed from their present roles.  Each of them is in need of illumination and proven transformation.  Only this kind of action can begin to restore the trust of pastors and people throughout the churches and in the Body of Christ at large.  Trust cannot be restored without this kind of change!  It will require courage and a renewed conviction that truth matters.  Half measures won’t cut the mustard.  

It would be “stunning” if men like these began to take “honest responsibility” for their sins.  The last six months have been about damage control but the more control (i.e., cover up) C.J. and Dave exercised the more damage that was done.  Hear this wise counsel! 

“So in Sovereign Grace there is no such thing as a flawless pastor, no such thing, but in Sovereign Grace we must acknowledge our flaws!  We must acknowledge our flaws and we must learn from our flaws.  We must acknowledge when we have stumbled, where we have stumbled, how we have stumbled and we must learn from each and every stumble… 

“It is stunning when anyone in any modern American institution takes honest responsibility.  I want you to know, it should not be stunning when pastors take responsibility.  It should be the norm.  And in Sovereign Grace we are not about damage control.  It would be a complete contradiction of this passage [James 3:1-2] and what we believe about the doctrine of sin for us to engage in damage control.  We do not engage in damage control.  There will be no damage control in Sovereign Grace.  We will seek to walk humbly before God and when we stumble we will not seek to engage in damage control.  No, instead we will humbly acknowledge with sorrow that we stumbled – we stumbled.  No damage control.  We stumbled because we all stumble in many ways.” (C.J. Mahaney, message at 2009 Pastors Conference, see “Concluding Remarks,” pp. 107-112)  

This “complete contradiction” must end.  For instance, every SGM pastor should carefully examine my blog post, “C.J.’s State of His Heart Message – Reflection on Personal Sins” from December 28, 2011 at  C.J.’s deceit, deception and pride were on full display during his message at the Pastors Conference.  In footnote 17, I made the following comments and asked the following questions.  “This [leave of absence] 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.”  

They sure do and that is one of the ways trust can be recovered a step at a time.  Did Dave approve of C.J.’s message?  Did John Loftness know about its contents?  Did the SGM Board agree with what C.J. said?  Was C.J. acting on his own initiative?  Every pastoral team, who has not already done so, must contact the SGM Board requesting answers to these and other questions arising from the message.  

Furthermore, pastors throughout the movement should provide C.J. an honest critique.  All the leaders must be willing to do this kind of thing if they ever hope to see confidence restored in the Sovereign Grace “brand.”  No one can sit back on their laurels and refuse to get their hands dirty.  This reclamation project is a group effort.  And thank God, many pastors have rolled up their sleeves and are taking action.  It must fearlessly continue.  In the end, everyone must work hard to win back the confidence of people by introducing sincere, authentic, and demonstrative reforms.          

In addition, C.J. should be instructed to return to Covenant Life Church and make amends.  He has much for which he needs to ask forgiveness.  He could start with hypocrisy.  Furthermore, he should submit himself to the pastors and grow in grace under their oversight.  When he is ready he can be sent out to plant a church.  

C.J. also needs to acknowledge his patterns of sin to the SGM pastors, SGM churches, and leaders around the nation with whom he is acquainted.  This can be done through a video confession and/or letter.  These actions are clearly warranted and should be required.  

Dave must also be openly rebuked (1 Tim 5:20) for his on-going and consistent deceit.  After C.J. no one has done more to destroy people’s confidence in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Here is another recent example from his blog post, “What are we doing about the allegations against C.J.?” on  

"Three committees have been formed, each one responsible for answering one key question established by the independent facilitator [Bryce Thomas].  The first committee will answer the question: Was Larry Tomczak’s departure from Sovereign Grace Ministries handled properly?  The second committee will answer the question: Did C.J. Mahaney wrongly influence the dismissal of Brent Detwiler from his church in Mooresville, NC?  The third committee will answer the question: Was C.J. Mahaney’s participation in fellowship in 2003 and 2004, including the giving and receiving of correction, in keeping with the teaching of Scripture?" (Dave Harvey, “What are we doing about the allegations against C.J.,” blog post on Nov 28, 2011). 

These three questions “established by the independent facilitator” did not begin to address my allegations against C.J.  I immediately protested (see “SGM Panels Are of Little Worth in Determining C.J.’s Fitness for Ministry” on November 28, 2011 at  This approach to investigating my charges was a sham.  But the blame for contriving such narrow questions was attributed to the work of the independent facilitator and trial lawyer, Bryce Thomas. 

Dave said each “key question” was “established” by Bryce.  That was pure spin intended to provide cover for the SGM Board.  Bryce had nothing to do with the nature of the questions.  They were assigned to him.  Nevertheless, Dave credited him for the three questions and clearly conveyed they originated with him.  Bryce was made to look like the one responsible for limiting the scope of the investigation.  I figured Dave was up to his old shenanigans.

Here is what Bryce first told me about the issue I would be allowed to address at my panel or subcommittee hearing.  The SGM Board allowed him no leeway.  The question was purposely restrictive!  I was forbidden from raising any other concerns. 

From: Bryce Thomas
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2011 7:36 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Review Procedure

Greetings Brent,

The Board of Directors of Sovereign Grace Ministries is requesting that you, along with others, participate in a review procedure.  A subcommittee of 3 members of the Sovereign Grace Ministries family consisting of one Board Member and 2 Senior Pastors  would like to listen to information (and review if written) that you may have concerning this issue:

“Did CJ Mahaney wrongly influence the process of Brent Detwiler’s dismissal from his church in Mooresville, NC?”

Given this is the issue this subcommittee is addressing, you will be asked for information that pertains to this issue only.  And we ask that you likewise direct the information that you share--to this issue only...     

I talked to Bryce the next day by phone.  I asked him who was responsible for framing the question under review (i.e., “Did CJ Mahaney wrongly influence the process of Brent Detwiler’s dismissal from his church in Mooresville, NC?”).  He told me the SGM Board assigned him the question and he had no say in the matter.  He was under orders.

Ten days later when Dave posted the three questions, I followed up with Bryce via email to confirm what he told me on the phone.  I was double checking my facts. 

From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Monday, November 28, 2011 4:26 PM
To: Bryce Thomas
Subject: Question Established by Independent Facilitator
Importance: High

Bryce, is this true?  You told me the SGM Board assigned you the question regarding C.J.’s influence in my removal from ministry.  I believe you, not Dave Harvey, but I have to ask.  This is what Dave just posted.  “Three committees have been formed, each one responsible for answering one key question established by the independent facilitator.” I know Dave well.  I suspect he is being sly in his use of the word “established.”  He implies you came up with the question when that is not true.  You only put into place (“established”) the question assigned to you.  Am I correct?

Bryce did not follow up with an answer so I asked him in person five days later at my panel hearing with Mark Prater, Warren Boettcher, and Ron Boomsma.  The next day, I wrote the SGM Board and CLC pastors about Dave’s deceit.    

From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 10:24 AM
To: Aron Osborne; C. J. Mahaney; Craig Cabaniss; Dave Harvey; Jeff Purswell; John Loftness; Mark Prater; Mickey Connolly; Pete Greasley; Rick Gamache; Steve Shank; Andrew Mahr; Bob Kauflin; Gary Ricucci; Tommy Hill; Tony Reike
Cc: Ken Sande; Edgar Keinath; Bryce Thomas; Ted Kober; Adam Malcolm; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler; Braden Greer; Corby Megorden; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Eric Sheffer; Eric Simmons; Grant Layman; Greg Somerville; Issac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Jon Smith; Joshua Harris; Kenneth Maresco; Mark Mitchell; Matt Maka; Robin Boisvert
Subject: Question Established by Independent Facilitator

Last night at my panel hearing I took the occasion to ask Bryce about Dave’s comment below in the presence of the panelists.  It was as I suspected.  Bryce confirmed once again that the question was assigned to him by the SGM Board.  It did not originate with him.  It was provided to him by the SGM Board.  This is another example of Dave’s deceit and spin.  Dave must step down.  He must come clean and confess this pattern of sin to the pastors and the movement and get help.

At my panel hearing on December 2, 2011, I asked that this illustration be written up by Mark, Warren and Ron in their report which is supposed to be posted unedited on the SGM website this month.  This kind of corruption (and control) needs to be dealt with openly and honestly if trust is ever to be restored.  The entire SGM Board shares responsibility for this deceit unless Dave acted on his own.

The same is true with Mickey Connolly.  I have written the SGM Board, CLC pastors, and Ambassadors of Reconciliation leaders twice.  I’ve heard nothing back from the Board.  Last week, I wrote Mark Prater who participated on my panel as the representative Board Member.  He is also the Executive Pastor for Covenant Fellowship Church where Dave Harvey is based.  I’ve received no reply from him to date.

From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2011 1:05 PM
To: Aron Osborne; C. J. Mahaney; Craig Cabaniss; Dave Harvey; Jeff Purswell; John Loftness; Mark Prater; Mickey Connolly; Pete Greasley; Rick Gamache; Steve Shank; Andrew Mahr; Bob Kauflin; Gary Ricucci; Tommy Hill; Tony Reinke
Cc: Ken Sande; Ted Kober; Edgar Keinath; Bryce Thomas; Adam Malcolm; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler; Braden Greer; Corby Megorden; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Eric Sheffer; Eric Simmons; Grant Layman; Greg Somerville; Issac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Jon Smith; Joshua Harris; Kenneth Maresco; Mark Mitchell; Matt Maka; Robin Boisvert 
Subject: Mickey's Deceitful Use of Scripture & Commentaries

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.


From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Thursday, December 15, 2011 4:14 PM
To: Aron Osborne; C. J. Mahaney; Craig Cabaniss; Dave Harvey; Jeff Purswell; John Loftness; Mark Prater; Mickey Connolly; Pete Greasley; Rick Gamache; Steve Shank; Andrew Mahr; Bob Kauflin; Gary Ricucci; Tommy Hill; Tony Reinke
Cc: Ken Sande; Ted Kober; Edgar Keinath; Adam Malcolm; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler; Braden Greer; Corby Megorden; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Eric Sheffer; Eric Simmons; Grant Layman; Greg Somerville; Issac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Jon Smith; Joshua Harris; Kenneth Maresco; Mark Mitchell; Matt Maka; Robin Boisvert
Subject: Mickey Connolly

To the SGM Board,

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.   

Thank you,



From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 1:02 PM
To:  Mark Prater
Subject: Mickey Connolly

Hi Mark,

I hope you are well and I am sure you are busy.  Like others, I await the panel reports, the Board’s response, and the determination regarding C.J. this month.  We are praying for all concerned.       

At the panel hearing on December 2, I asked you to please make sure the SGM Board followed through with an investigation of Mickey (see “Mickey Connolly’s Deceitful Use of Scripture and Commentaries” at  I originally asked for a formal review by the Board on November 26.  What had transpired since then?  Are any findings forthcoming?  Would you like me to provide oral testimony? 

As I stressed when we were together in December, this is a very serious matter that needs to be looked at closely.  I believe the evidence shows Mickey clearly acted with malice and duplicity.  He deceived the entire church.  I know the Board is occupied with many issues but this is a vital task.  It must be dealt with openly and honestly.  It is not a private matter. 

Thanks for getting back to me with an update.


SGM will never prosper again unless there is a restoration of trust which is rooted in repentance and the recovery of integrity.  SGM is not credible.  Nothing its leaders tell you can be accepted at face value.  They are not believable and yet C.J. and Dave have taken no responsibility for this sorry state of affairs.  They blame others for the decline, not themselves.  In their minds, it is due to the work of slanderers not their own deceit and obfuscation.  Behind the lying and spin you find the love of reputation and sinful self-preservation.  We love to look good.  We hate to look bad.  But this idol must be dethroned with honesty and transparency.     

That is why all the pastors in SGM must demand an accounting.  Past deceit must be thoroughly dealt with and acknowledged.  Structural changes aiding accountability must be made and announced to the public.  Abuses of authority must be identified and renounced.  Certain people need to be disciplined.  Key leaders like C.J., Dave, Steve and Mickey need to be removed.  Investigations must be done including a close examination of the SGM Board and their actions over the past six months.  A new Board of Directors must be constituted with the consent of SGM pastors.  These aren’t options.  There are no shortcuts to regaining trust. 

For instance, have John, Pete, Mark, Craig, Aron, or Rick stood up to C.J., Dave, Jeff, Steve and Mickey or have they been passive?  Have they addressed lies, deceit and abuses or acted indifferently?  Have they demanded structural change or been enablers of the status quo?  Have they asked for investigations (including themselves) or been content to leave matters alone?  Have they recommended men be removed/repositioned or supported their continuation?  Do they believe C.J. is still fit for ministry six months later or have they changed their minds?  An axe needs to be laid to the root.

Sovereign Grace Ministries needs leaders with the perspective of Joshua Harris.

“Our focus does not need to be on our perceived enemies.  I believe God would have your leaders humbly acknowledge that it is our sin and our failure and our faulty structures that have brought this trouble.  I don’t believe that these events are an accident.  I believe they are the loving discipline of our heavenly Father.  And no matter whose fault this is, this is what we cannot get around.  This is what is unavoidable.  We cannot get around the fact that our church and our entire denomination is being publicly spanked.  We are being humiliated.  We are being brought low.  God is getting our attention.  And the word of God tells us in Hebrews 12 that he is treating us as sons.” (Joshua Harris, Sunday message, July 10, 2011)

Contrast this statement with C.J.’s perspective.  Furthermore, C.J. should defend against slander with proofs and evidence not threats of discipline.  For example, show me where my charges are faulty rather than have Mickey excommunicate me, tell friends to treat me like an unbeliever, and order church members to leave the church if they won’t obey him.  

“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.  I think the days ahead are going to require courage on the part of pastors and when necessary publicly identify those who are divisive…. We are [not] capitulating to slander in the name of humility.” (C.J. Mahaney, message at Pastors Conference, Nov 9, 2011)

Moreover, this work cannot be left to a few brave Board Members or pastors in the movement.  It is a time for a show of righteous anger from everyone.  The Lord Jesus is not pleased.  He is disciplining Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Each leader must demand cleansing action and begin by examining his own heart.  He must ask where is there falsehood, pretense, cowardice, concealment, hypocrisy, self-interest, and deceit in my own life and ministry?       

Though I have some regrets, I’ve sought to live by Proverbs 10:9.  I memorized it at the beginning of my Christian life 40 years ago.  It reads, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.”  Sovereign Grace Ministries has been found out.  Too many of its ways have been crooked.  This has been my primary concern from the beginning.  Here is the summary I provided C.J. in my third major document, “Concluding Remarks.”  Nothing has changed over the course of two years.

"Finally, none of my most serious concerns for Sovereign Grace Ministries were addressed by you or the Board of Directors.  Furthermore, there is no indication that any correction, discipline, or accountability has been introduced by you or the Board to any of the individuals referenced in RRF&D and AFA.  For example, Dave and Bob have taken no initiative to ask forgiveness for the abuses cited in these documents.  This does not require mediation or more information.  In fact, all the people referenced in RRF&D and AFA appear approved by you for their actions except one – me.  I am reproved for falsely implicating all the others.

"Here again is what I said in RRF&D.

'Lastly and most importantly, I write because of my deep love for you and for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  My greatest concern is for the increasing presence of deceit and hypocrisy rooted in self-preservation and love of reputation.  I’d be overjoyed to see you acknowledge these things to the movement, whether or not you ask my forgiveness for anything specific.  Comparatively speaking, the latter is unimportant.  Ultimately, this isn’t about us.  It is about something much bigger.  Therefore, I provide the history that follows for your careful consideration.' (RRF&D, p. 3)          


'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.' (RRF&D, p. 128) 

"It is clear from both responses [i.e., C.J.’s two confessions on Dec 16, 2010 and Mar 11, 2011] to RRF&D and AFA that you still believe none of these things are in issues in your life (except for sinful judging) or the lives of anyone you know in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  You have not moved away from your fixed position as stated on July 2, 2010.  'Brent, I don’t think Sovereign Grace in general or anyone I know in particular is “lying, covering up, manipulating, lording, etc.'”  (CR, June 8, 2011, pp. 2-3)


This month the reports are due from the three panels.  The SGM Board has promised three things.  They will 1) publish them unedited online, 2) write a response to them and publish it online, and 3) make a final determination regarding C.J.’s fitness for ministry in SGM.       

In March the Ambassadors of Reconciliation findings are due.  Here is what the SGM Board has promised in relation to their evaluation.  

“The team from AOR will review all of the documents they receive related to SGM—including Brent’s—and assess those as part of their review of SGM’s practices, teaching, processes, and culture.  SoBrent’s allegations and documentation will factor into the final assessment and recommendations that AOR gives to us, and which we will publish online…. And since it will also take into account the testimonies of everyone else participating in Group Reconciliation, we hope to learn if and where AOR finds common ground in others’ perspectives.” (Dave Harvey, “Evaluating Brent Detwiler’s Allegations,”

I pray for the day when Sovereign Grace Ministries once again “walks in integrity” and therefore “walks securely.”  There are few things more pleasant than the peace that comes from knowing you are not hiding anything.  In the near future, I hope people are given plenty of good reasons to believe SGM leaders are committed to regaining their trust because trust is the one thing that changes everything! 

[1] Covey, Stephen M.R. The Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

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