Search This Site

 

 

Connect

 Subscribe by Email

Saturday
Apr212012

Sovereign Grace Ministries Relocation Announcement


Nothing in this announcement from Thursday comes as a surprise.  It was all so obvious.  See  Who will be the Next Chairman of the Board and President of Sovereign Grace Ministries? (March 20, 2012), Next Up: The New Leadership Team and Partnership Agreement (March 23, 20) and C.J.’s State of His Heart Message – Reflection on Personal Sins (December 28, 2011)

Sovereign Grace Ministries is fleeing Covenant Life Church (CLC) but not being honest about the main reason for its departure.  That is, the breakdown in relationship with the church’s pastors and people.  C.J. left CLC for Mark Dever’s church last August without even discussing the matter with the CLC pastors (see C.J.’s Flight from Covenant Life, August 13, 2011).  Then in January of this year, he transferred his CLC membership to John Loftness’ church who is now the Chairman of the Board and spiritual leader of the movement.  The day C.J. left CLC for Capitol Hill Baptist in such an unbiblical manner, I knew he would not be coming back.  The writing was on the wall. 

The cost of living in Gaithersburg, MD is the fundamental reason given in this announcement for the departure of SGM to Louisville, KY.  That is dishonest.  It may be a factor but it is NOT a major factor.  The main reason, and everyone knows it, is C.J.’s conflict with Joshua, the pastors and the church.  C.J. (and SGM) would never leave “the dearest people on earth” if not for the breakdown in relationships.  No, C.J. is leaving because he is offended and unreconciled with hundreds of people including many close friends.   

Why can’t C.J.and John just be honest!  This is John’s first masterpiece (see The Mona Lisa of Spin by Master Harvey,” October 20, 2011).  He is carrying on the tradition of spin.  John and the new Board are terrified by the prospect of being transparent – just like the old Board.  The same sinful patterns of manipulation and cover-up continue unabated.

Here’s what I’d recommend.  Call the Secret Service (they're popular nowadays) and have them hook up each of the old and new Board Members to a polygraph machine and ask two questions.  First, “Is C.J.’s offense with Covenant Life the main reason for this relocation?  Yes or no.”  Second, “Is C.J. (and SGM) leaving ‘the happiest place on earth’ primarily because the cost of living is too high in Gaithersburg?  Yes or no.”  Oh my, the polygraph machine just burned up.  It spiked out. 

Folks this kind of explanation is lame.  It is just another reason why C.J. and the SGM Board have lost all credibility.  They don’t know how to be honest.  Just tell us the truth.  You are leaving Gaithersburg because of a falling out with Joshua, the pastors and the church.  And oh, secondarily, the cost of living in Louisville is great and guys like C.J. will make a killing on the sale of his house.  The compelling reason for leaving is Covenant Life Church.  Not how much money Pastors College students will save on rent.  Now, that’s the truth.

No one ever seriously thought of relocating SGM until conflicts arose between C.J. and the CLC pastors.  The plan has always been for Joshua Harris to replace C.J. in Gaithersburg.  No one ever thought of turning SGM over to Joshua so he could move the operation to Tim Buck Two and say sayonara to Covenant Life Church. 

##

Here is the announcement from Chairman Loftness.  It is in blue letters.  My commentary is in black letters.

Sovereign Grace Ministries Relocation Announcement (April 19, 2012)

From the Board:

At our recent retreat, the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board decided to relocate the Pastors College and our Gaithersburg office to Louisville, Kentucky.  The move will take place in 2012.  Given the significance of the decision, we wanted to communicate with you directly about how we reached this decision and share some of its implications.

Around 2008, our country’s economic downturn began to place a strain on SGM’s ability to do ministry in several key areas.  Supporters (including Sovereign Grace churches) were broadly affected by the recession, and giving declined for several years as a result.  In response, the Leadership Team made extensive cuts to staffing and other costs, while still trying to preserve the ability to fund church planters, train pastors, and serve our international partners.  But there was a limit to how far cutting could go before church planting and other activity central to our mission had to be scaled back.

I beg to differ.  In 2008 there was over 2.4 million in cash reserves and 1.5 million in liquidable assets (e.g. 4 townhouses).  There was no strain on SGM’s ability to do ministry.  Every year since 2007 there has been an increase in cash reserves, investments and assets.  Total assets on August 31, 2007 were $5,526,129.  Total assets on August 31, 2011 were $6,234.757.  That is an increase of $708,628 over four years or an average increase of $177,157 per year.  Cuts in spending contributed to this increase but these cuts never necessitated the scaling back of ministry. 

Since 2007, SGM also purchased land worth $768,170.  I called Tommy Hill this week to talk about this acquisition.  He was in a meeting.  I left a message with his secretary but he has not returned my call.  This land could be sold off if needed. 

Sovereign Grace is rich and flush in excess cash and liquidable assets.  All this talk about “a strain on SGM’s ability to do ministry in several keys areas” is a bunch on malarkey.  It may have been challenging to balance the budget in 2008-2011 but that is all.  The "extensive cuts to staffing and other costs,” if they actually occurred, were not necessary because SGM was in financial jeopardy.

For instance, SGM did not need to lay off people like Bo Lotinsky, Bill Galbraith, and Trish Barnett.  They had plenty of cash reserves to retain these outstanding employees.  They could easily have been kept in employ.  They were shown no loyalty by SGM.  What is worse, at the same time, C.J. and Dave were increasing their compensation and also that of close buddies like Bob Kauflin and Jeff Purswell.  Sovereign Grace should produce a graph showing the increases for these men from 2007 until 2011.   

The same is true in 2012.  There is no need to down size.  Recently Covenant Life Church suspended its expected 10% or $800,000 a year giving to SGM.  This caused no harm to the ministry.  The following statement comes from a member of CLC’s Financial Advisory Subcommittee who has firsthand knowledge of SGM’s financial position.  This person published the following clarification because SGM was telling employees it may be necessary to lay them off because of CLC’s action.  Dirty politics.    

“I think it is important for our church family to be aware of a critical finding of the subcommittee, namely that CLC’s decision to suspend its monthly contributions should not result in any SGM employee losing their job due to financial considerations in the near term.  As a subcommittee, we spent a significant amount of time reviewing the financial position of SGM, including its balance sheet reserves, cash flows, budgeted expense projections and income expectations.  According to SGM’s audited financial statements for its fiscal year ended August 31, 2011, the organization had net assets of $5.9 million and only $300,000 in current liabilities.  We reviewed more recent financial information and concluded that SGM has sufficient financial resources to continue to pay its current employees.  No one should be under the impression that our pastors have cost anyone their job.  That simply isn’t the case.” (March 26, 2012)

I’d also like to know why there weren’t “extensive cuts” to C.J.’s and Dave’s compensation packages during 2008-2011.  Actually, that’s a rhetorical question.  I know the answer.  While others were laid off they felt deserving of increases.  Every year their income increased.  I’ve asked for a detailed accounting of this information but SGM has refused to provide it.  C.J.’s compensation package is comprised of the following items. 

  • Wage
  • Housing allowance
  • Property allowance
  • Car allowance
  • Royalties      
  • Honoraria
  • Bonuses
  • Gifts
  • Bonuses to Carolyn Mahaney
  • Gifts to Carolyn Mahaney
  • Book allowance
  • Education allowance
  • Office furniture and equipment allowance
  • Retirement account
  • Long term care
  • Heath Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision care
  • Other medical reimbursements
  • Life Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Workman’s compensation 

SGM should provide donors a clear accounting for each line item starting in 2007.  C.J.’s compensation may have been reduced recently but that is because of all the attention he has received.  SGM may end up revealing his 2012 compensation package, but I don’t believe they will for 2007-2011.  And by the way, C.J. is so wealthy he doesn’t need to be paid anything.  He can retire for life.     

Bottom line, SGM has over 2.5 million dollars in cash.  Every year since 1982 it has accumulated more cash.  It’s just sitting there.  SGM has never run a deficit.  For instance, in the most recent fiscal year, SGM had $138,605 in excess of revenue over expense.  Tommy Hill should produce a graph of increases in cash and assets since the  inception of SGM 30 years ago.  In lean years you use surpluses.  In dire years you liquidate assets (like all the townhouses SGM owns free and clear.)  By this definition, there have been NO lean years or dire years.

SGM does not need to leave Gaithersburg because of hard times!  They may want to flee Covenant Life Church like the plague but there is no financial necessity whatsoever to do so.  Just using the cash reserves, SGM could run a 100k deficit every year for 25 years.  This supposed need to relocate to Louisville is misleading. 

I know giving has declined in SGM but not primarily because of the economy.  SGM is no longer a family of churches like it used to be and people aren’t connected to the mission like they use to be.  During our first 20 years we did Celebration Conferences and live Mission Presentations in every geographical region.  It gave us a wonderful opportunity to be with the people and among the people.  There was a tremendous sense of camaraderie.  C.J. ended these conferences over my strong objection.  We never had any problem with fundraising the first 25 years.      

Over the last 5 years, the team related churches (as we used to call them) have increasingly felt less and less connection to the apostolic team (as we used to call it) and the mission.  Ask anyone who has been around for 20-30 years.  The resultant loss in individual contributions exponentially outweighs the cost of living in Gaithersburg. 

There used to be a real sense of family and personal commitment to our collective call.  That is largely gone.  SGM is a corporation.  Now we have a Chairman, President, Board of Directors, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and Ambassadors of Reconciliation.  What happened to apostles, prophets, miracles, the restoration of the church and personal evangelism?   

Most importantly, the long standing patterns of sin I’ve tried to identify in the movement have adversely affected so many people in the churches.  The economic down turn is only one factor and it is not the decisive factor for a decline in giving.  People in the churches have loss the motivation to give because Sovereign Grace Ministries is not the same and its leaders cannot be trusted.  Church members don’t care nearly as much about SGM.  They have lost confidence.  How can they give when C.J. won’t even reveal his salary history after 9 months of persistent asking.   

One program that faced particular challenges was the Pastors College.  Even though the Leadership Team has been proactive about keeping costs as low as possible, the extremely high cost of living for the DC area set the base cost fairly high. This had several effects on our mission:

One of my sons lives in downtown D.C. not far from the White House.  Let’s not compare living in D.C. to living in the northern suburbs.  And we are talking about living in Gaithersburg, MD for 10 months, not ten years.  The actual difference in cost of living for such a short time is minimal in real dollars.  Moreover, SGM owns at least four townhouses that were bought with cash.  They can charge four PC families $700 per month (which is less than what it would costs in Louisville) and still clear 21k per year. 

Furthermore, students have been housed by CLC members.  Occasionally free and normally at a reduced rate compared to the area.  A two bedroom apartment rents for $700 in Louisville.  A two bedroom apartment rents for $1,400 in Gaithersburg.  Do the math.  $700 x 10 months is 7k.  That is the cost differential in a worst case scenario.  And the opportunity to be a part of CLC and learn from CLC is priceless.  It also positions students to easily visit and preach at tons of other SGM churches.  Louisville is way off the beaten path!  We don’t even have a church in Kentucky or its neighbor, Indiana.  SGM has ONE small church close to Louisville in Dayton, OH.  That’s it.  Just look at this map.  http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/churches/united-states.aspx.  

Small churches could only afford to train a pastor every several years, limiting their ability to expand or pursue church planting 

All because of the cost of living.  So renting in Louisville is going to change all of that?  Really? 

Although Jeff Purswell wanted to explore a two-year curriculum, doing so would be prohibitively expensive because the main cost of attending (housing) would more than double (10 months to 22) 

If Jeff does a two year curriculum in Louisville the cost of the PC will far outweigh the cost of a 10 month education in Gaithersburg.

Prospective church-planters from outside SGM, many already carrying debt from seminary, faced an enormous hurdle to attend the Pastors College without a sponsoring church  

The “enormous hurdle” is their personal debt not a 7k increase in housing which is a worst case scenario. Come on.  Put it in perspective.  We are talking about a 10 month curriculum.  Not the normal 3 years required for a Masters of Divinity.  Going to the Pastors College is an incredible deal, any way you look at it. 

Furthermore, if C.J. reduced his compensation package from 300k to 160k he could provide 7k to every student in the Pastors College and compensate for the higher cost of living.  In 2008 C.J. gave 100k to Al Mohler’s seminary.  Has he ever given 100k to the Pastors College in one year?  He also had SGM give 100k to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2008.  Al Mohler doesn’t need the money.  The SBTS has an extraordinary endowment.  So 200k was given to impress Mohler when he didn’t need it while “extensive cuts to staffing” were made to SGM which threatened (if you believe the hype) the ministry. 

See http://www.sbts.edu/media/publications/magazine/2008Spring.pdf.  The public record is on page 43.

And what about Dave Harvey’s compensation?  Bob Kauflin’s compensation?  These guys are rich because of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  C.J., Dave and Bob  could easily make up the differences for cost of living.  And of course, far less that 140k (20 students x 7k) is needed to pay for the difference in housing costs since most of the students are in PC townhouses or housing provided by members of CLC at a reduced rate.

More can be said about this, but we hope that is sufficient background to illustrate why, for several years now, the Leadership Team has been considering relocation for the Pastors College and the rest of SGM.  In short, our mission is to serve Sovereign Grace churches, and being located in the DC area was placing limitations on our ability to do so.  The economic downturn raised the profile of that issue, and the idea of relocating is only further validated by the needs we now see to expand on—not lessen—church care, training pastors, and pursuing mission.

I don’t believe the Leadership Team (C.J., Dave, Joshua, and Jeff) was seriously “considering relocation” “for several years now.”  Joshua, what is the truth?  Did you plan to leave CLC and move the headquarters and Pastors College to a low cost area in the central United States where we hardly have any churches?  Did you plan to take C.J. with you to plant a small church for PC students?  Did you plan to build a brand new facility for Sovereign Grace Ministries and the Pastors College?   Better yet, let’s see the minutes, Tommy Hill, from the past several years where these discussions are recorded.    

I also find this statement absurd.  “In short, our mission is to serve Sovereign Grace churches, and being located in the DC area was placing limitations on our ability to do so.”  From my perspective, the opposite is true.  It has been much easier to serve churches with SGM in Gaithersburg.  It is centrally located to the majority of churches.  Many PC students could drive back to their home churches to visit on weekends.  No longer.  PC students could easily fan out and preach throughout the region.  No longer.  Conferences were held free of charge at CLC.  No longer.  For instance, how much will it cost having the Pastors Conference at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando this November?  How much more will it cost for pastors to go to the conference since it is not centrally located like CLC for many?  How much will the cost of registration increase to cover the cost of meeting rooms, coffee bars provided by the hotel, transportation and accommodation for support staff, etc. 

By the way how much will a new PC cost?  A new headquarters?  A new church building.  Oh that’s right.  C.J. won’t need a church building since he wants to limit the size of the church to 186 people so PC students can have a normal church experience.  That’s the average number of attenders on a Sunday morning in America.  God forbid PC students be at CLC where they can be exposed to every imaginable benefit from which to learn.

When I designed the PC curriculum I required the students to rotate through all the ministries of CLC.  From ushering to outreach, they observed, asked questions, took notes, gathered materials, participated, and wrote up reports.  We sure don’t want that happening anymore.  CLC is a liability don’t you think?      

And what about all the brothers who come to the PC from Spanish speaking nations.  I guess the Board doesn’t want them exposed to Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Gaithersburg which meets in the CLC facility.  Yes, it’s becoming clear.  There are lots of good reasons to pull out of Gaithersburg.  In all honesty, the new Board has been snookered by the pretentious and fallacious counsel of the old Board.   

And come to think of it, building a new PC or headquarters will not be much of a problem after SGM dumps the old PC and headquarters on CLC.  CLC will be forced to buy the SGM facility unless they want a Taco Bell in their basement and a Beauty Salon in the PC.  That should cost CLC around 2 million.  Fork it up church.

Here was the plan (see pages 94-100 in "Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine" for fuller context).  It did not include relocation but it did include Joshua Harris.

From: Brent Detwiler  
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 8:33 PM
To: Pat Ennis, C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, Steve Shank
Subject: 7 Year Plan

If you’re not already planning to do so on the [upcoming] retreat, I’d love to hear your thoughts if possible on the 7 year plan you’ve been working on.  I’m sure I’d learn from what you’re doing.

Brent

From: C.J. Mahaney  
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 8:38 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: 7 Year Plan

Well, I haven’t thought about it for a few months so I am not sure I have much to share at this time.  It primarily involves continuing to cultivate relationships with key leaders while adding a few and possibly writing a book on pastoral ministry before I delegate all of this [SGM] to Josh.

From: Brent Detwiler 
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 8:57 PM
To: C.J. Mahaney
Cc: Steve Shank, Dave Harvey, Pat Ennis
Subject: RE: 7 Year Plan

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how and when you’d delegate to Josh and how and when a team would form around him.

From: C.J. Mahaney  
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 9:03 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: RE: 7 Year Plan

I have no specific thoughts other than do it when I’m 60.

C.J. turns 60 in September 2014, that’s 16 months from now.  Joshua was the plan.  Not John Loftness.  Gaithersburg was the location.  Not Louisville.

This plan began to change in early 2011 when C.J. felt increasingly disenfranchised and marginalized by the CLC pastors.  In reality, Joshua and the pastors weren’t doing everything C.J. wanted them to do and this was causing conflict.  C.J. felt unappreciated and didn’t feel CLC was doing enough to support him and SGM.  This came out in the comments made by Mike Bradshaw and Brian Chesemore’s (C.J.’s sons in law) when they left Covenant Life Church last August.  C.J. was struggling with CLC long before I sent out my documents on July 6-7, 2011.  See C.J.’s Sons-in Law Resign as Pastors at Covenant Life Church (August 10, 2011) and C.J.’s Flight from Covenant Life (August 13, 2011).   

All this was greatly exacerbated when Joshua resigned from the Board of Directors on July 13, 2011 because he thought it best to wait on deciding C.J.’s fitness for ministry until after a thorough, outside, and objective evaluation was done of him and all of SGM.  This further offended C.J.  Within a month he left the church.  Dave Harvey put out his normal spin at the time.

“Josh’s resignation from the board is not a grand statement about our future together.  It’s not even an indication that we disagree on most things.  We don’t.  In fact Josh and the board agree on about 98% of things, especially on our shared mission we have been given to see churches planted and built in this country and around the world.  We share this vision, even if we find disagreements elsewhere.” (Dave Harvey, “Where we differ, and where we agree,” July 14, 2011)

Back to my original point.  Being in the DC area has never put limitations on the Pastors College or SGM.  Being in D.C. area has been a huge advantage.  We’ve been able to easily plant and adopt churches throughout the Middle Atlanta States as a result.  John Loftness also fails to point out that higher cost of living areas also generate higher income for the ministry.   

For instance, Montgomery County is the 13th wealthiest county in the nation.  Fairfax County is the 3rd wealthiest county.  Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax of generated millions of dollars for SGM because of their location.  The median household incomes are $92,213 and, $104,259 respectively. 

The same is true of Dave Harvey’s church in the wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia.  There the median household income is $80,448.  Now catch this.  The median household income for the Louisville is $61,000.  I estimate SGM would have 2 million in assets, instead of 6 million, if SGM was based in KY from the beginning.

Or to put it another way, Gaithersburg, Fairfax, and Philadelphia account for 50% of all revenues from SGM churches.  Housing may be cheaper in Louisville but so are salaries and therefore contributions.     

That’s why this question is silly.  “If we were starting SGM tomorrow, what would be the main factors for determining location and where would those factors lead us?”  Not to Louisville, that’s for sure.  Being in D.C. allowed us to reach the megalopolis that runs from Washington D.C. to Boston.  That’s where you find the most concentrated population centers in the United States.  Being located in D.C. area also made it easy to plant churches in the southeast.  I can’t imagine we’d have 13 churches in Florida if we were based in Louisville all these years.

No, instead of churches in Jacksonville, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Miami, we'd have churches in Lexington, Bowling Green, Owenboro, and Covington which are the largest cities in Kentucky after Louisville.  Come on, the capital of Kentucky if Frankfort.  Ever heard of it?

Bottom line.  Being in Gaithersburg did not place limits on SGM’s ability to fulfill its  mission.  Working with Covenant Life Church enhanced their ability to fulfill their mission.  CLC never charged for the use of their facility for events like the Pastors Conference, Small Group Leaders Conference, etc.  We saved so much money because of their generosity and work. 

We don’t want to give the impression that a move was a done deal even before the events of July 2011—it wasn’t.  However, this conversation long preceded these events and, for the reasons given above, it has been an increasingly strong likelihood for several years.  Over the past few months, our staff has explored various locations for a potential move, including visits, demographic studies, many conversations, and much prayer.  They shared this information with the new Board when it was established, thus confronting us with this question: if we were starting SGM tomorrow, what would be the main factors for determining location and where would those factors lead us?   

Here are the main factors that led us, after much discussion, to approve this relocation generally, and to choose Louisville in particular:

The cost of living index is much lower there, such that we anticipate up to 40% reduction in the cost for a student to attend the Pastors College 

This sounds like Obama promising to reduce the budget deficit when running for office.  The Board  often makes promises or claims in their public relations statements but they don’t supply facts and you don’t get a follow up report when they are wrong.  I’d like to see their estimates.  I’d like to see how they came up with these figures. 

By the way, how will PC students educate their children?  The CLC school use to help with tuition and also provided an excellent home school program.  And how much will housing expenses actually decrease?  CLC members used to  provide housing at reduced rates.  They saw it as a ministry and a privilege.

Opportunities for collaboration means taking courses at Southern Seminary.  The Master of Divinity program requires 88 credits at $438.00 per credit hour which comes to $38,544 in tuition alone.  What they spend for five classes will equal the 7k they supposedly save in housing.  I wonder if C.J.’s church will become a Southern Baptist Church so students can get a reduced tuition rate.  Otherwise it is going to cost a ton of money. The following comes from the SBTS website.

“Financially, Southern Seminary is one of the best opportunities in theological education.  Thanks to thousands of faithful churches who channel support through the SBC Cooperative Program, tuition costs are far lower than at most comparable schools. Even non-Southern Baptist students, who pay a higher rate, find Southern Seminary one of the most affordable schools for ministry training.

Current Tuition Rate (Master-level Courses)

$438.00 per credit hour

$219.00 per credit hour for members of a Southern Baptist church.”  

http://www.sbts.edu/future-students/tuition/membership-verification/

The lower cost of living also allows us to further reduce administrative overhead (although ours is already lower than the standard for non-profits), especially in the areas of office space (including the Pastors College) and staff compensation. 

I served on the finance committee throughout my tenure. “Administrative overhead” is a reference to support staff, not a reference to the leadership team (C.J., Dave, et al.).  The best way to see if SGM’s overhead is lower than the standard for non-profits is to look at the total expense for all employees including their benefit packages.  Send me the figures Tommy.  I think the overhead for SGM is higher.  I’ll post a redaction if I’m wrong.

And since the PC students will be saving 40% in cost of living expenses, does that mean C.J., Jeff, Bob, Tommy and Gary will take 40% decrease in salaries and benefits?  It sounds like the support staff will.

The more central location will make it easier for pastors to audit classes or attend preaching practica (Louisville is within a day’s drive for two-thirds of the U.S. population)  

This one makes me laugh.  Chairman Loftness needs to take a geography course at a community college and then go on the SGM website to see where all the churches are located.  It will be much more difficult for the vast majority of the churches to get to Louisville than it is to Gaithersburg.  What may be true of the U.S. population is not true of SGM pastors.  The Board has increased, not decreased, the financial hardship for SGM pastors.  It is a 10 hour drive to Louisville from Gaithersburg if you don’t stop to pee.  The 18 CLC pastors will be buying plane tickets and staying in motels if they are around. 

Basing Sovereign Grace Music out of Louisville places Bob Kauflin’s team much closer to Nashville, where they can both learn from and help influence other spheres of Christian music development

Nashville is three hours away.  You have to plant a church in Nashville to “influence other spheres of Christian music development.”  Bob should move there if he wants to go country but that will certainly get him fired by C.J. (who hates country music).  But here’s another idea.  How about staying in D.C. so you can influence the whole nation and the most influential people in the world with the gospel!  So what is it?  Country music or the entire Country?

There are three questions that we anticipate you’ll have immediately. 

First, don't we want the Pastors College to be near a Sovereign Grace church?  

The answer is yes.  However, another recent development will remedy this.  The Leadership Team has wanted to plant a church in Louisville near the seminary for several years, and after speaking at a college event there in February 2011 C.J. began to consider leading the plant himself.  He made this desire known to us when we were seated as a Board, and we approved the plant this month.  Although this was by no means determinative for the Pastors College, this does mean that students will have the opportunity to participate in a church plant led by C.J.  This will both facilitate CJ.’s ongoing influence in the college, as well as provide students a smaller church experience that will more resemble their ultimate ministry context.   

Good question John.  “Don’t we want the PC to be near a SG church?  That’ an easy one.  Absolutely not!  We don’t want it near a church, we want it near 28 churches like it is now.  By near, I mean three hours or less.  The only SGM church near Louisville is in Dayton, OH.  It is a tiny church plant.  Someone buy John a subscription to National Geographic.  They have great maps too.   

Seriously John, why don’t you tell us why C.J. began to consider moving to Louisville to plant a church in February, 2011.  It was because of growing difficulties and a deteriorating relationship with Joshua and the CLC pastors.

Having the PC in C.J.’s church will facilitate his influence but hardly anyone else in SGM.  It is dangerous for C.J. to have so much influence.  He needs to be back at CLC being influenced, not surrounding himself with devotees and enablers!

Another reason for moving the PC is in order to “provide students a smaller church experience that will more resemble their ultimate ministry context.”  Does that mean the Board will prevent C.J.’s church from growing since eighty percent of all churches in America are under 200 people.  Is C.J. going to remain the only pastor on staff and only have a single secretary to assist him for the next 20 years? 

Well I guess the Board is going to cap growth like a Louisiana oil rig because it is better for students to be in a normal church.  I guess they’ll have to move the PC if C.J.’s church gets big.  You know, over 200.  This is so short sighted.  It should not be listed as a reason for leaving Covenant Life Church. 

And “students will have the opportunity to participate in a church plant led by C.J.” that we be totally unlike any church plant they ever do.  You know, an authentic church plant when you start with no other staff, a small group of people, and limited grant money from SGM.  When you knock on doors, hand out tracts and invite people to events.  When you begin meeting in your home.  When you oversee every ministry and preach every week.  When you pastor all of the people, not some of the people. When you wash cars and rake leaves to reach the community.  When you have a salary of 50k a year.

It will be very different for C.J.  He is taking Sovereign Grace Ministries and millions of dollars with him.  And having Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, Gary Ricucci and Tommy Hill is not every church planter’s “ultimate ministry context.”  In addition, C.J. will have 20 PC students to help him.  And of course, droves of students will come from Mohler’s seminary.  This is not a church planting.  It is a relocation.  It’s a red carpet.  Its instant numerical success unless God decrees otherwise. 

Second, won't it be difficult to replicate the benefits of having Covenant Life Church as a host church?   

We do not want to give the impression that this decision was a no-brainer—it certainly was not.  SGM’s setup with CLC has provided numerous benefits over the past 15 years.  From host families and adopting care groups to event volunteers and its members’ hospitality, CLC has made a tremendous investment in the Pastors College since its inception.  So, of course, this cannot all be replicated.  And we want to thank the pastoral team of CLC and its members for these many years of faithful service and the fruit they have borne—the Pastors College would not be where it is without them.  However, we believe that in the long run the Pastors College program will be enhanced, and all SGM churches will be better served, by this relocation and the benefits it offers. 

No it won’t be difficult to replicate the benefits of having CLC as the host church.  Easy as pie.  In fact, Chairman Loftness and the new Board believe getting the PC out of CLC and into C.J.’s church will enhance the PC and better serve all the SGM churches in the long run.  Who needs CLC anymore.  A church that doesn't even exit is more than CLC's equal.  What an extremely presumptive statement (cf. James 4:13-17)!  C.J. could die tomorrow!  God could take him for Sovereign Grace’s idolatry of a person.  Where would that put SGM?  And if history is our guide, C.J. will likely have a falling out with Mohler sometime in the future. 

Why is the new Board so committed to build the ministry around one man who goes through friendships and co-workers like people go through toilet paper?  It is stupid.  It is dangerous.  It is idolatrous.  C.J. should not even be in ministry.  Moving to Louisville is not the solution to all of SG problems or the key to its success.  

Third, how will this affect the Pastors College calendar?  

Although this relocation will require a transition period, we want to minimize any disruption to Sovereign Grace churches’ training needs.  Therefore, we plan to host a new Pastors College class beginning in January 2013.  The year will be slightly abbreviated, running January-August, with some parts of the curriculum delivered through other venues (e.g., small group settings).  The following year’s class will commence in September, 2013, putting us back on a normal schedule.

It will be interesting to see who teaches when the new PC begins in 2013.  Will Kenneth Maresco, Mark Mullery, Grant Layman, Robin Boisvert, Corby Megordan and Bruce Chick be invited back to teach.  I don’t think so. 

As noted above, we are excited about opportunities this will afford us to collaborate with Southern Seminary, which will only enhance our program and facilitate further training for our students and pastors.  The Leadership Team will communicate more details in coming weeks.

Al Mohler is working hard to make special arrangements for C.J.  Money speaks.  The SBTS Board might be open to the idea.

Please join us in praying for all those participating in this relocation.  Despite the many adjustments this will entail, we are trusting God and hopeful that this move will position us for greater service to our churches as together we proclaim the gospel and plant churches for the glory of God. 

This move to Louisville should break everyone’s heart.  Joshua should be replacing C.J.  SGM should be in Gaithersburg.  The PC should be in CLC.  The dream is coming apart at the seams now.  We planned to work together for life but that has ended in tragedy.  The vast majority of men who started and built SGM are gone overwhelmingly due to bad experiences with C.J.  That is not harsh.  That is reality.  C.J. has left a wake of destruction in his path.  And all he can say in response to the Ambassadors of Reconciliation Report is “I want to sincerely apologize for the ways in which deficiencies in my leadership [not character] have contributed to the ministry failures catalogued in this report.” 

We could debate the merits of relocating SGM at this point in her history, if people were reconciled.  If there was unity and peace.  If brothers were enjoying fellowship.  If there were no offenses.  But that is far from the case.  The move to Louisville is born out of sin.  

If the six new Board members are concerned about money for SGM, they should confront the old Board including John, Mickey and Craig; for not giving the SGM pastors any voice.  There are at least 30 churches who are wondering what, if anything, they will give to SGM.  Don’t be concerned about the cost of living in Gaithersburg.  That is foolish.  Be concerned about humbling yourselves and requiring C.J. to be reconciled to Josh, the CLC pastors, the church and many others including me.  In my case, the first step is a real hearing of my charges by just and honorable men.  When C.J. and the interim Board repent will you have more money to use then you need.  You’ll be giving much of it away to others who have need.  If you don’t repent, people and churches should stop contributing all monies.

I started my blog on my Facebook page on July 10, 2011.  Here’s why.  It was my first post.

The Documents

by Brent Detwiler on Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

Facebook

On Wednesday, C.J. posted the following.  “Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace.”

This was a terribly misleading statement by my friend.  For many years, men who worked with C.J. tried to help him see his pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgments, and hypocrisy.

The input C.J. has received started in December 2000 and did not come from former pastors and leaders who leveled charges against him because they were offended.

I hate to say it, but this is an example of Sovereign Grace spin and it was one important reason why I sent out “The Documents” on Wednesday night to all the SGM pastors.

I wrote the first post because of C.J.’s deceit.  I’ve continued to write because of C.J.’s deceit and that of the old Board, interim Board, and now the new Board.  John Loftness is not telling you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  That is the main reason the blog continues.  This is post number 94.  I wish it was not necessary. 

Grateful for your partnership in the gospel, 

John Loftness, Chairman

on behalf of the Board

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend