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The New Sovereign Grace Board Speaks for the First Time

Like a toddler the new Board of Directors spoke for the first time last week on "priorities for the year ahead."  The communique is in blue letters.  My commentary in black letters.


Priorities for the year ahead: an update from the new Board (March 23, 2012 by SGM Staff)

The new Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors met this Wednesday.  We devoted most of our time to getting an update and overview of the state of SGM and established two immediate priorities for the coming year.

You’ll note this blog post was written by SGM staff at the direction of the new Board.  No one on the Board wants to affix their name.  By now they have chosen a Chairman as required by law but they are not revealing who it is to the public.

The old Board met with the new Board on March 21 to provide “an update and overview” but even before this meeting the old Board outlined four priorities for the new Board in a letter to the SGM pastors on February 27.  Here they are.

Because of the unique season we are in, this new Board also has a number of special responsibilities awaiting it: 

1. Finalizing SGM’s polity—something that will likely include a subcommittee of pastors from SGM churches who are not Board members (this will include the development of a book of church order, a defined grievance policy, etc.)

2. Evaluating recommendations from AOR’s Group Reconciliation report

3. Evaluating recommendations from the panels that evaluated Brent Detwiler’s allegations

4. Installing a replacement for C.J. Mahaney as president

In their first public comments, the new Board makes no mention of #3 and #4.  I don’t think we will ever get a response to #3.  For example, here are the “Review Panel Recommendations on C.J. Mahaney’s Fellowship.”

On December 16, 2010, after considering his own heart in light of written accusations brought by Brent Detwiler and with the help of several trusted counselors, C.J. Mahaney issued, what this Panel considers to be, a thorough, thoughtful, and heartfelt written confession.  In this confession he outlined 7 categories of sins that negatively affected relationships and events during the time period we’ve been asked to investigate.  These include: 1) arrogant confidence in his perception of his own heart and discernment in relation to others; 2) not easy to entreat; 3) sinful judging; 4) lack of specificity in confession of sin; 5) sinful withdraw from those bringing correction; 6) particularly provoked when integrity is called into question; 7) lack of follow up on his confessions issued in 2004…

1. This Panel recommends that C.J. reconnect with those whom he has served with (particularly the members of the former SGM Leadership Team and CLC Accountability Group) to discover how they may have been impacted by these sin patterns—what they experienced, how it affected them, and what thoughts they would have for him going forward.  We recommend this because in some cases we think reconciliation may still need to take place, and this is a necessary step to that end.  But also this input would be invaluable to help C.J. as he continues to make progress in sanctification in these areas. Though his sins are common, their effect on others can be magnified because he has been the leader, teacher, and model of the values that these sin patterns violate (e.g. humility, approachability, etc.). We recommend that the comments of those C.J. meets with be shared with the current SGM Board and discussed as to how they should inform his leadership going forward.

2. This Panel recommends that C.J. view his December 16, 2010 confession as a template for pursuing personal growth in these areas.  This confession resonated deeply with those of our participants who have been directly affected by these issues; it confirmed what some of them had seen in the past and they were greatly helped that C.J. had owned these sin patterns with specificity.  We see this as an indication that continuing to pursue growth and accountability in these specific areas (which C.J. is eager to do) would address some of the fundamental issues that have led to the relational struggles some have experienced with C.J.

 3. Finally, this Panel recommends that consideration be given by the SGM Board regarding how to provide accountability, input, and leadership structures that guard against and reduce the potential impact of the inevitable sin patterns that tempt leaders.  For example, if a leader is resistant to correction, believes his own perspective to be superior to others, and withdraws from those who correct him, his leadership can become unchallengeable and unchangeable, unless there are avenues for recourse.  We recognize that the SGM Board is currently reviewing how to restructure the leadership of the ministry, and considering these issues in the reconfiguration will be most helpful.

There is no indication any of these recommendations regarding C.J. have been acted on by the old Board and there is no indication they will be acted on by the new Board.  With this very concern in mind, the Covenant Life pastors wrote a letter to all the church members on February 23 2012.  In that letter they expressed their concern that the recommendations be followed and not ignored.  Here are a few excerpts.

“In regard to the first panel, those of us who were directly involved with these events (Kenneth, Grant and Joshua) each communicated to the panel when they interviewed us that we felt C.J.’s written confession to Brent in the fall of 2010 (referenced in the first panel report) was a specific, humble acknowledgement of his sins.  We also agree with the panel’s recommendations and trust they will be followed…. While the Board was functioning within its purview to reinstate C.J. as President, we believe that it would have been better for the Board to have carried out the panels’ recommendations prior to reinstating C.J. and forming a new Board…. We have asked the SGM Board to publish benchmarks for follow-through on the panels’ recommendations.”

Dave Harvey and the old Board promised to write its own report in response to the three committee (or review panel) reports and specifically address the recommendations.  Guess what?  That never happened.  It is another case of lying.  They make a promise.  They break a promise.  No big deal (see Promises Were Meant to be Broken).  Here’s what Dave said.

Each of the committees will prepare a report that will contain recommendations for the SGM board.  We will publish the unedited reports after the board has reviewed them and written its own response to them.  Since the committees have until December 13 to produce the reports, the board will likely wait until January to release them. (Dave Harvey, “What are we doing about the allegations against C.J.?

No written response has ever been provided.  Not surprising.  Some of the recommendations are indicting and require that action be taken by C.J. and in relation to C.J.  Here is the only statement ever published that mentions the recommendations.  It is half a sentence long.

After examining the reports of these three review panels, we find nothing in them that would disqualify C.J. from his role as President, nor do they in any way call into question his fitness for gospel ministry.  Therefore the Board has decided unanimously to return C.J. to the office of President, effective immediately…. The recommendations made by the panels delineate some of the weaknesses we see in our ministry, and we expect to learn even more when the separate AOR-led Group Reconciliation process is completed this spring. (Dave Harvey, “An announcement regarding C.J. Mahaney,”

There were a total of 14 recommendations.  The new Board makes no mention of them and whether are not they plan to implement any of them.  If they want to distinguish themselves from the old Board, they must give an account for each one and state whether they agree or disagree and whether they plan to implement or discard each recommendation. 

Here is a condensed version of the 6 recommendations regarding Larry Tomczak.  With one exception, writing the “book of church order,” none of the other recommendations have been followed or implemented to the best of my knowledge.  This kind of independence has characterized C.J. and the old Board.  They ignore anything they don’t like and provide no explanation for doing so.  It is part and parcel of covering up their tracks.  They knowingly break promises when convenient and thereby avoid accountability.

Review Panel Recommendations on Larry Tomczak’s Departure from Sovereign Grace Ministries

1. We recommend that everyone involved in the events of this report soberly examine their hearts before the Lord seeking the Holy Spirit’s conviction and responding with repentance before God where appropriate…

2. We recommend that the current SGM board members (C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, Steve Shank) and the key local elder (Larry Malament) who served during the time of Larry Tomczak’s departure pursue a mediation process with him…. We suggest Ted Kober (or his delegate) from Ambassadors of Reconciliation serve in this process and that SGM cover all the expenses for the mediation…

3. Communicating reconciliation should be withheld until it is encouraged by the mediator, in our opinion.  Following mediation, the board should consider if any further public communication is warranted…

4. We recommend that the board prioritize the writing of some form of a “book of church order.”  We know that the board has already announced its intentions to draft such a work.  But our immersion in the details of Larry Tomczak’s departure from SGM leads us to recognize the serious need for this and recommend that the board expedite this project…. We recommend that the SGM Board address the prominent deficiencies highlighted in the Tomczaks’ case…  

5. We recommend that Larry Tomczak be honored for his years of service in Sovereign Grace Ministries…. We specifically recommend that the board give a financial gift to the Tomczaks as an expression of gratitude for their years of sacrificial service in SGM…. If SGM has already given a financial gift to the Tomczaks, then we welcome the board to make that known, as unbecoming as it might seem to publicize such an act…

6. We recommend the SGM Board take steps to improve communication with its pastors.  Specifically, we believe the board can grow in the way it updates pastors concerning changes in our policies and practices…. We recommend the board continue to pursue a leadership approach that readily identifies and explains change where possible.

First, we decided to create a polity committee to consist of two members of the Board, two members of the Leadership Team (including C.J. Mahaney, who will chair the committee), and at least three Sovereign Grace pastors not on the Board. 

C.J. is no longer the Chairman of Sovereign Grace Ministries but he is the Chairman of this powerful select committee on polity.  This committee determines the future of SGM. “Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or Christian denomination.  It also denotes the ministerial structure of the church and the authority relationships between churches.  Polity is closely related to Ecclesiology, the study of doctrine and theology relating to church organization.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia).  This committee determines the future structures and governance of SGM.  They are also responsible for writing the “Book of Church Order” and a “grievance policy.”  No objective Board would ever put C.J. in charge of this committee knowing he is the main culprit when it comes to heavy handed leadership, oppressive structures and grievous offenses against hundreds of people.  The perpetrator of crimes is being asked to reform the criminal justice system.  Nuts.  

But this committee is so heavily weighted in one direction it’s like a hundred sixty pound kid and a sixty pound kid playing on a seesaw.  The hundred sixty pounder is in total control!  He can eject the sixty pounder and send him flying anytime he wants or suspend him midair for an eternity.  The sixty pounder has no say in what happens to him.

This polity committee is rigged just like the three review panels from last December supposedly tasked to deal with my charges against C.J.  There will be no substantial changes in SGM polity as a result.  The Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and Membership Agreement will fundamentally remain the same.  Yes, the new Board and C.J. will allow for the appearance of process but they know full well the outcome of this committee is not in jeopardy.  Even under a worst case scenario the SGM Board wins the polity debate by a 4 to 3 vote.  That is, Chairman Mahaney, two Board Members, and one Leadership Team member will array themselves against three sixty pound Sovereign Grace pastors.  And that only happens if new Board picks three men they know disagree with the polity already set forth by C.J., John Loftness, Mickey Connolly, Craig Cabaniss, et al.  Of course, that is highly unlikely.  

This committee will pick up the work that has already been done on polity and develope it to give better definition to the ministry, to how SGM as a ministry relates to pastors and their churches, and to policies and procedures for making decisions and selecting leaders.  We are tasking this committee to solicit a broad range of views within SGM regarding how we are governed and how we define our connections between churches and the ministry.  Once the committee’s work is done, they will submit it to the Board for review, amendment and approval.  The resulting governance and our partnership agreements will then be presented to Sovereign Grace pastors for their review.  We decided, at least for the present, not to set a deadline for the committee’s work to be completed but do want this to be a top priority for our development as a ministry.

This committee “will pick up the work that has already been done on polity and develop it.”  There you go.  The already established polity by former President C.J. and his old Board will be further developed by Chairman C.J. and his new Polity Committee.  The operative word is “developed” not altered, replaced, or repudiated.  There may be minor refinements but nothing meaningful will change.  A month ago, C.J. acting as the reinstated President, sent this statement from the old Board to all the SGM pastors.

“As we’ve stated at the  [pastors’] conference [in November 2011] and in our various polity meetings, we continue to affirm and celebrate our existence together as a family of churches.  Although this letter speaks in terms of “the Board,” that is simply a functional term for the governing body of Sovereign Grace Ministries and not an abandonment of biblical principle.  Based upon the precedent of the New Testament, SGM is an expression of extra-local ministry that is connected to local churches, emerging out of local churches, endorsed by local churches, and working with local churches, with the goal of planting churches and serving those churches as they grow toward maturity…. Thus, we will maintain our historical commitment to the pervasive biblical pattern of gifted men leading the church in its mission—planting churches, nurturing churches, and uniting churches in a common mission (e.g., Acts 13:1-3; 15:39-40; 18:27-28; 1 Cor. 16:10-12Phil. 2:19-30Col. 1:7-8, 4:12; Titus 1:5; et al).” (Board Letter to SGM Pastors, February 27, 2012)


Of course, C.J.’s committee will “solicit a broad range of views” but they won’t incorporate any views that are incompatible with C.J.’s views.  This action is about appeasement and public relations.  It is about appearances and Cotton Candy.  The final report will be presented by Chairman Mahaney to “the Board for review, amendment and approval.”  That’s where Loftness, Connolly, and Cabaniss come into play.  As old and new Board Members they will make certain there are no serious amendments if that is even necessary since all members on the new Board are ardent devotees of C.J. and agree with his polity.  The report passes unanimously and with ease.    

But don’t forget the report is then “presented to the Sovereign Grace pastors for their review.”  In other words, they get to read it!  This step makes me laugh.  It’s just like the “affirmation process” for nominees to the new Board.  All hype.  Any negative feedback on the polity report from the pastors will be like water off a duck’s back.  Nothing will stick.  No changes will be made to the polity report already approved by the Board and supported by the Leadership (Apostolic) Team, Polity Committee and Chairman Mahaney.  This is another meaningless public relations ploy. 

Second, we expect to receive the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report in the coming two weeks.  We plan to begin discussing the report on a retreat in Louisville April 9 & 10 and then to make plans for responding.   

Instead of coming out in March it appears the report from AoR will be delayed until next week (April 1-7).  The Board will meet in Louisville the following week just before the start of “Together for the Gospel” (  They will “begin discussing the report” and then “make plans for responding.”  How the new Board responds will depend on the nature of the AoR report.  If it is highly critical of the old Board and cites specific ethics violations by C.J., Dave, et al., I doubt it will see the light of day and the new Board will not provide a detailed response to the report.  On the other hand, if the report is generally nice, soft and vague, it will be published and a general statement will be made about its helpfulness with respect to any criticisms.   

This Board will operate differently from the interim [old] Board.  We will not involve ourselves in day-to-day ministry decisions and communication.  Our priorities are appointment and evaluation of the Leadership Team, broad evaluation and strategy for the ministry, advising the Leadership Team on key concerns, and providing accountability to the Leadership Team regarding doctrine, finances, and governance.  Our primary interactions, therefore, will be with Leadership Team members and others who can inform us about the ministry and counsel us regarding decisions. 

We know from this post that C.J. has already been appointed to the Leadership Team.  We don’t know in what capacity (e.g. President Emeritus).  Otherwise, the new Board has not yet announced who is on the Leadership Team or who will serve as it’s Officers.  I anticipate this information will become public via the SGM website during the “Together for the Gospel” conference on April 10-12.  In addition, I suspect C.J.’s church plant in Louisville and plans for moving Sovereign Grace Ministries will be announced at the same time.    

The Board promises to provide “broad evaluation and strategy for the ministry.”  Will they share that with the churches and the pastors?  Moreover they promise to evaluate, advise and provide accountability to the Leadership Team regarding key concerns, doctrine, finances and governance.  I doubt anyone will ever know if and how this actually occurs.  For instance, will they carefully monitor C.J.’s behavior as recommended by the panel review?  Or will steps be spelled out for how evaluations are done and accountability is provided to the Leadership Team?  The Board needs to commit to posting its findings, concerns, evaluations, and advice regarding key concerns on a regularly basis.  The same is true with the SGM pastors.  How will this meaningfully happen?

To be truthful, I don’t think any, or much, of this will come to past.  The new Board will be the silent Board.  The public won’t be hearing much from them.  As they said, “This Board will operate differently from the interim Board.  We will not involve ourselves in day-to-day ministry decisions and communication.”  And “Our primary interactions, therefore, will be with Leadership Team members and others who can inform us about the ministry and counsel us regarding decisions.”  They will do their work semi-submerged and only occasionally come to the surface.  For the most part they will be out of sight and working behind the scenes.  Once again, the Leadership or Apostolic Team will be the face of Sovereign Grace Ministries and C.J., along with the new President, will be its spokesman.

It is customary to end messages like this asking for prayer, but this request is more than customary.  This new Board is aware of the significant responsibilities we carry for the future of SGM.  Please pray for us and more importantly, please pray for this family of local churches and your own local church so that we can—individually and connected together—plant and build local churches that proclaim the gospel and bring praise to our Lord.

Unfortunately, the new Board is a mirror image of the old Board.  There is nothing new about it except for six additional last names (i.e., McConnell, Loftness, Mellinger, Buckley, Sasser, Boomsma).  The same mentality, polity, and approach continues.  And soon we will discover the old Leadership Team is essentially the new Leadership Team.  There will be no radical reforms in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  All press releases to the contrary are spin!  False advertising.

Post Script: March 29

The SGM Board did the easy thing.  They sent Larry a wad of cash.  Nothing else.

On Mar 28, 2012, at 6:54 PM, Larry Tomczak wrote:

Hi.  Brent after being “pushed” out about 15 yrs. ago, I got a few wks. “severance” pay.  Recently they sent me some “moola.”  Go ahead and adjust this point ok.  Love ya.  Waiting for AOR.


From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:46 PM
To: Larry Tomczak
Subject: Re: The New Sovereign Grace Board Talks for the First Time

Does this mean none of the other recommendations have followed?

From: Larry Tomczak
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:56 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Re: The New Sovereign Grace Board Talks for the First Time

Brent, they did do the one I cited.  The others?  I don’t have knowledge of.  Mediation?  No word to set in motion.

Love ya,



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