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Tuesday
Feb072012

An Alarming Letter to a Church from Its Pastors

February 6, 2012

Dear Pastors,

I [Brent] recently read your pastoral letter to the church and I was alarmed by its contents in many important respects.  I realize you have been misled by the erroneous information supplied you by Dave Harvey and Mark Prater.

I’ve copied my response to some old friends who are still members or others who have a heart and history with the church.  This is not an attack on you men.  It is an attack on falsity and duplicity.  I also plan to post this on my blog.  The way you are being deceived is true of many pastors in SGM.  You are not unique.   

You, the church and the town hold a dear place in my heart.  That is why I’ve taken the time to write.  I appreciate your desire to serve the church during this time of shaking.  I hope this response helps you to do so with greater clarity and truth.  

My comments are in blue ink. 

Brent 

##

February 3, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We [the pastors] want you to know how we are trying to process everything that is happening with Sovereign Grace Ministries.  As pastors, we have spent hours discussing it.  We have submitted questions and concerns to the SGM board and had many conversations with Mark Prater, our regional board member.  We have talked with Dave Harvey.  All of us have talked with numerous pastors in other SGM churches to see how they are processing things. 

Simply put, Dave and Mark (and the entire Board) are not trustworthy.  Over the last 7 months, they have lied, broken promises, acted with deceit, distorted the truth, and covered up evidence.  These charges are documented on my blog at http://www.brentdetwiler.com/ and in my manuscripts (i.e., RRF&D, AFA, CR, etc.)  The evidence is overwhelming.  

One thing we want to remember is that our church has benefited immeasurably from our partnership with SGM.  SGM has helped shape our understanding of the gospel and the character of God.  They have provided us with guidance and support.  We have benefited personally from the teaching and counsel of many pastors in SGM.  We’ve enjoyed relationships with other churches in SGM, e.g. we’ve done youth camp with our sister churches.  We’ve been able to participate in church planting across this country and in other countries in a way we could not have by ourselves. 

There have been many evidences of grace in SGM over the past 30 years but the integrity and humility of key SGM leaders has been in decline since the events of 2004. 

We believe the men on the SGM board are godly men.  We believe the men who were on the panels are godly men.  I [the sr. pastor] know they love and fear the Lord and want to do what is right in God’s sight and for those he purchased with his blood.  I have never experienced anything but grace and care from CJ Mahaney, Dave Harvey, Mark Prater, Jeff Purswell and Aron Osborne, as well as the man who cares for our church but is not on the board. 

The men on the SGM Board and panels have acted with partiality and favoritism.  They have not feared the Lord or done what is right in the sight of God.  The three panel approach was a hoax.  A phony substitute for justice.  The panels did not begin to address my allegations as promised.  Furthermore, each report was biased (terribly so in two cases) and failed to deal with the evidence despite claims to the contrary.  I will show this to be the case in the coming weeks. 

We believe they have done their best to approach this whole situation in a godly way.  We don’t believe they are trying to ignore sin, cover up sin, or show favoritism.  Have they done everything perfectly?  No.  Have they made mistakes?  Yes - they’ve acknowledged they have.  They could have communicated much better.  Maybe they could have done the panels differently.   

They have not done their best and their approach has not been godly.  Far from it.  For 12 months they promised an outside evaluation of all charges against C.J. and SGM.  This solemn promise was broken on August 25, 2011. (See “Promises Were Meant to be Broken,” August 26, 2011) 

After this I made the counterproposal below that included Ken Sande but the SGM Board would not even discuss it.  They totally ignored it.  They were not interested in a just, impartial and thorough hearing of the evidence. 

From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2011 8:45 AM
To: SGM Board; Ken Sande; Ted Kober; Edgar Keinath; Bryce Thomas
Cc: CLC Pastors
Subject: 
Suggested Proposal for Just, Impartial and Thorough Evaluation of C.J. and SGM

I formally request the following proposal be adopted by the SGM Board.  If any parts of this proposal are unacceptable, please provide the reasons why and offer alternatives. 

  1. Ken Sande serves as facilitator for the evaluation process.
  2. Ken selects three judges or lawyers and two pastors who are evangelical believers and highly respected with little or no knowledge of SGM to serve as the evaluators.
  3. This five man panel will hear evidence for and against C.J. and SGM.  They will post a summary of the evidence and give their legal/pastoral opinion as to C.J.’s fitness and the fitness of other leaders like Dave [Harvey], Steve [Shank] Bob [Kauflin] and Gene [Emerson].  They are also welcome to post their assessment of me.
  4. C.J. and I will negotiate the terms and conditions with Ken for this thorough going evaluation of SGM and its agents.
  5. If necessary, Ken will serve outside of his official capacity as President of Peacemakers if the terms and conditions of the agreement do not meet, or differ with, the specifications of Peacemakers and thereby prevent his official involvement.  In such case, he will act as a qualified believer.  

##

Then on October 24, 2011, they turned down my appeal to reinstate the adjudication hearing proposed by Ambassadors of Reconciliation whereby all charges against C.J. and SGM would be heard by one Board member and four pastors. (See “Get Out of Jail Free Card for C.J. – No Adjudication Hearing,” October 29, 2011).  They came up with outrageous excuses for this disingenuous decision.

Finally, the Board revealed the three panel approach on November 28, 2011.  It was shot through with sin.  Truth and justice got murdered in a back alley. (See “Why the 3 Panel Approach is a Sham,” October 29, 2011; “Sovereign Grace Panels Are of Little Worth In Determining C.J.’s Fitness for Ministry,” November 28, 2011; “We Are Taking Brent Detwiler’s Allegations Seriously,” November 28, 2011; “Try This Twelve Step Program on for Size,” January 26, 2012; Whitewashed Tombs,” January 28, 2012)

What have they done?  CJ Mahaney confessed and acknowledged sins to Brent in 2 separate emails and appealed to Brent to meet with him about it.  Brent refused.  The SGM board appealed to Brent to meet and he refused.  Jesus said:

This paragraph is completely misleading.  C.J. promised to address the questions, concerns, and illustrations I raised with him in “Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine” and “A Final Appeal.”  He did not do so.  He broke his word for the first time and the Board did not hold him accountable.  Instead he confessed some of his sins but avoided the majority of my most serious charges. 

Then I send him, “Concluding Remarks.”  I pointed out how he failed to live up to his promise.  In response, he pledged to provide a “more detailed confession.”  He did not do so.  He broke his word for the second time.  His second confession contain nothing new.  It was primarily a rebuttal and defense.

Finally C.J. promised “a more thorough response” to my documents on June 24, 2011.  He broke his word for a third time.  I’m still waiting to receive his response.

I eagerly desired to meet with C.J. from the beginning (see “The Five Resolutions – July 13, 2011,” January 13, 2012) but he refused to address the contents of my documents in violation of his word on three different occasions (see “The Confessions of Saint C.J. (Part 1),” February 4, 2012; “The Confessions of Saint C.J. (Part 2),” February 5, 2012) and he acknowledged no need for any kind of public confession.  Those were my two conditions for meeting.  Honesty and humility.  I refused to meet because C.J. refused to fulfill his word.   I wrote the following to the SGM Board.

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 11:19 AM
To: Jeff Purswell; C.J. Mahaney; Dave Harvey; Joshua Harris
Cc: Ken Sande; Larry Tomczak
Subject: Framing the Issues & Me

Stop the manipulation!  Stop trying to frame me!  Your machination to tell the world I have refused to talk to anyone, including Ken Sande, President of Peacemakers, is obvious.  I have said a million times, I will meet with you [C.J.] and the Board but not until you respond in writing to the issues, questions, and illustrations I have raised.  You promised to do this very thing but then broke your word to me.  Time after time, you and the Board have refused to be open and honest.  I am not talking with anyone unless they first communicate with me in writing.  I have been on the receiving end of deceitful scheming far too many times…   

##

Not meeting with C.J. had nothing to do with him not confessing things in writing to my satisfaction.  It was about not responding to my documents.  I asked him to refute me, correct me, defend himself, etc.  I just wanted him to be open, honest and accountable.  He promised but repeatedly broke his word.  I was not going into a meeting without knowing his thoughts which included his disagreements.  I was open, honest and accountable in print.  He refused to be the same. 

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

It seems like CJ tried to do this.  Did he do it right away?  Did he do it perfectly?  Maybe not.  But I haven’t always gone to someone immediately when I knew they had something against me.  CJ also confessed sins in a public meeting at Covenant Life Church.  He also went to Larry Tomczak, his wife and child and confessed sin and asked forgiveness.  Have I always seen my own sin clearly and confessed it as thoroughly as I should have?  I’ve attempted to but I’m sure I could always do a much better job.

I formally began raising issues of sin against me and others with C.J. starting in December 2000 (see RRF&D, pp. 5-6).  It took a decade before he left his altar and asked my forgiveness for anything.  Why?  Because he disagreed with me (and others) on every account.  All those years he insisted I sinned against him but he did not sin against me.  For ten years, I suffered under his sinful reactions and sinful judgments.  Finally, nine months after I wrote RRF&D in March 2010, and two months after I wrote AFA in October 2010, he left his altar and wrote a limited confession in December 2010.

C.J. blackmailed the Tomczak’s and ruined Larry’s reputation before Covenant Life Church in 1997.  It took five years before he asked the child’s forgiveness.  It took 13 years before he asked Larry and Doris’ forgiveness.  Why?  As in my case, he insisted Larry sinned against him and not vice versa.  In C.J.’s mind there was no need to ask forgiveness.  Let’s be clear, C.J. made no effort to leave his gift at the altar.  Reconciliation in both cases was only due to Larry’s persistence.  Otherwise, there is no indication C.J. would ever have asked forgiveness of anyone.  It took five years of pressing by Larry before C.J. admitted he sinned against their child.  It took 13 years of pressing by Larry before C.J. admitted he sinned against Larry and Doris.  Finally, C.J.’s confession to Covenant Life Church was woefully inadequate.  It didn’t begin to address the depth or extent of his sins.

One principle we should try to keep in mind is: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

I’m trying to keep this in mind as I try to sort through all this - How would I want to be treated if I were in CJ’s place?  How would I want to be treated if I were on the board?  

If would be nice if you added, “How would I want to be treated if I were Brent?” or a host of former pastors.  C.J. has been treated with kindness and mercy like no one else in the history of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  In fact, this “kindness and mercy” has often crossed over into “partiality and favoritism.”  Many men wish to God they were treated for one day the way C.J. has been treated these last 7 years.  There has been incredible concern and care for the “victimizer” (and his agents) but not his “victims.“

Should CJ be temporarily restored as president of SGM?  We understand the recommendations of the panels and the thinking of the Board.  We can also see the concerns and questions of those who disagree.  We have questions, but do not want to make a hasty, premature decision.  We have a history here and many relationships across SGM.  For those who are concerned, SGM has no authority over our church.  They exist to help and encourage us but cannot come in and remove leaders or dictate policies.

You can’t straddle the fence forever.  You may await the AOR report but it will not address the matter of C.J.’s qualifications.  It will be of no help in that regard.  Here’s what is obvious.  The SGM Board has rejected the teaching of God’s Word.  C.J. should not be the temporary President of SGM and he should not be making plans to start a church. 

Some have asked about our giving to SGM.  Although this is not related directly to the SGM issues, we are not currently financially giving to SGM for 2012.  The primary reason is because of adjusting to the expenses of the new building and an increased overall operating budget.  We made this decision with the counsel of the Financial Team.

I resigned from the SGM Board in 2007 after 25 years of service.  Throughout my tenure each of us were committed to sharing our salaries and benefits with anyone who asked.  In July 2011, I asked C.J. what his salary was.  He promised to answer but broke his word and the SGM Board quickly changed their policy.  This kind of financial information is now kept from the public.  For this reason, and many others, no one should give to SGM.  (See “The Need for an Independent Board of Directors & Financial Accountability,” August 8, 2011)

As we mentioned last week, Sovereign Grace Church is our number 1 priority.  We want to do what will most honor the Lord and be right and best for you.

That will involve pulling out of SGM and becoming part of something new that is characterized by humility, integrity and godly accountability.

We desire to continue to partner with SGM.  Our partnership doesn’t mean we would blindly follow anyone or not make our own decisions.  We want to see what the outcome of the Ambassadors of Reconciliation Group Reconciliation process is.  SGM has begun to work on changing its structures and putting new policies in place.  Mark Prater told me that the interim board wants to wrap up its work as soon as it can and get a new permanent board in place.  They haven’t figured out exactly how to do that, but that’s their goal.

I don’t think the AOR report with deal with ethics violations by C.J., Dave, the SGM Board or others.  I doubt they will cite specific infractions, call anyone to account or ask for the investigation of particular individuals.  In all probability their recommendations with deal with polity and general guidelines to avoid future scandals.   

We believe that by God’s grace and mercy, SGM will be a lot stronger in the future, with a new board and president, as it irons out its structures and policies that have been deficient.

SGM can’t move forward with God’s blessing without dealing with the past.  Better structures and policies are helpful but not the answer.  A new President and Board must start over in dealing with C.J., Dave, Bob Kauflin, Steve Shank, Mickey Connolly, Gene Emerson, et al.  Otherwise, they are continuing down the same road of compromise and corruption.  They will need to dig up the past, not bury it.  If they are unwilling, they should not be followed into the future.

This may take a few months, so we want to be patient before making any major directional changes for our church, and we appeal to you to be patient as well.  Please continue to give us your thoughts, ask any questions you want to, express any disagreements, and help us see this from every angle.  Also, please continue to pray!  

The AOR report will not address issues of personal sin, character or ethics.  It may not even reference patterns of sin in SGM (e.g., lying, deceit, favoritism, abuse of authority, etc.)  It will be bland in comparison to people’s hopes and expectations.   

...The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.  (James 5:16-18)

We know that God will respond mightily and powerfully to our prayers.  

Here’s a great promise from Scripture:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)

We believe the Lord will counsel us with his eye upon us.  He will teach us in the way we should go.  He cares more about this issue than we do.  James tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)  God promises to give us wisdom when we ask him for it.  So let’s keep asking for wisdom.

James continues, “[6] But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. [7] For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; [8] he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

We may ask for wisdom but that doesn’t guarantee we will receive it.  Or we may receive wisdom but then refuse to act upon it.  I believe Scripture speaks unambiguously to the present crisis in SGM and provides clear guidance.  The problem is not a lack of wisdom, it is a lack of courage.  Too many leaders are double minded when they should be single minded in knowing precisely what to do.  For example, do real hearings that are genuinely impartial and thorough and insist that the SGM Board step down.

This situation is not unclear to God.  He’s not confused or perplexed.  He has ordained it and is controlling, directing and working it for our good.

Thanks again for your patience and perseverance!

The Pastors

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