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Thursday
May102012

Sovereign Grace’s Charismatic Decline and Ever Changing View of Apostles

Sovereign Grace Ministries continues to claim there is “a significant charismatic dimension” to the denomination but half the gifts of the Holy Spirit have all but disappeared.  The charismatic “effects” described in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 have been decreasing, not increasing, since 1998.  They are now on the endangered species list. 

On the other hand, it looks like apostles are making a comeback.  The same can’t be said of prophets.  I think they are extinct.  I haven’t spotted one for years.  But hooray for apostles.  When you need them, you believe in them.   At least that’s the way it works in SGM nowadays.  When they are a liability, you hide them.  When they are an asset, you disclose them. 

Two weeks ago the following letter was sent to all the SGM pastors.  This letter is an important read for all members in SGM churches.  I hope my commentary in blue letters is helpful to them and their pastors.

## 

April 27, 2012

Dear Brothers,

First of all, take note this letter is not written by the SGM Board of Directors.  Guess who the authors are?  C.J. and Phil Sasser, the co-chairmen of the Polity Committee.

As you were informed last week, the Board of Directors of Sovereign Grace Ministries has appointed a committee to propose a future governance structure and partnership agreement for our family of church­es.  

Notice, the pastors were “informed.”  This was done via regional conference calls.  There was no dialogue.  All the pastors were told who the Board of Directors appointed to the Polity Committee.  The pastors had no say.  The Board acted unilaterally and without allowing any formal process for input or any participation by the SGM pastors in the selection of committee members.  This despite the appeal of approximately 30 churches.  See The Coming Tsunami.    

The Board realizes that its present role is to lead SGM through significant changes in polity. 

There won’t be any “significant changes” in polity because all Polity Committee members (with one or two possible exceptions) agree with the pre-2004 “governance structure” and the same is true of the Board of Directors.  See Cotton Candy.  There will be a restatement of polity as found in the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and Membership Agreement.  That restatement will be stronger and clearer with some additions but no substantive changes.         

The Board is working from some constraints of the existing polity and bylaws with a view to transitioning SGM to a different governmental structure that involves more participation by the pastors of its member churches. 

There are absolutely no “constraints” due to existing polity or any bylaw.  C.J. and Phil Sasser are misleading the reader.  The Board is all powerful per the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.  It can do anything it wants.  And even if there were “constraints” in the bylaws they could be easily changed. 

I’ve pointed this out before but here again is “Section 12: Amendments.”  

“The Articles of Incorporation and these Bylaws may be amended, altered, or repealed by a majority vote of the members of the Board of Directors in attendance at any regular meeting of the Board.” 

The Board can turn SGM into the Roman Catholic Church on one extreme or the Southern Baptist Convention on the other extreme without interference from anyone.  They are invincible in this regard.  No one can stop them. 

C.J. and Phil are saying the Board is “constrained” in how much they can allow the SGM pastors to participate.  That is absolutely untrue.  This is an incredibly deceptive statement.  Literally, the Board of Directors could change the Articles, Bylaws and Membership Agreement overnight and put the SGM pastors in charge of running Sovereign Grace Ministries in place of the Board.     

“Transitioning SGM to a different governmental structure” won’t happen.  There will be more “participation” by the pastors but that will not result in “a different governmental structure” because the pastors will not be governing in any sense.  It will be easier for them to share their opinions and perspectives; but they’ll have absolutely no authority in directing the ministry.  I doubt they be allowed to vote on critical issues moving forward.

Our history together in Sovereign Grace has been characterized by much grace, but we have been aware for some time now of the pressing need for further ecclesiological definition. 

I think the “changes” in polity will be clarifications in polity.  The new documents will make it clear that the pastors and churches are submitted to the authority of the apostolic team (i.e. leadership team) and Board of Directors.  It will sound more “participatory” but final authority will remain with SGM.   

It is our intent that the changes we make be informed by our common history and involves the robust participation of our pastors, with sound doctrine as our ultimate guide.  

As we’re seen already, “robust participation” didn’t include diverse voices on the new Board of Directors or the Polity Committee.  Going forward, “robust participation” will have no bearing on the final outcome of “the changes we make” because there will be no substantive changes.  There is a lock on polity.  The Board will remain self-appointed.  The Board will have the final say in all matters.  The SGM pastors can give input but they will never be given a vote.  The apostolic team will be in authority over the churches.  The churches will no longer be “independent and autonomously governed entities.” That line in the Membership Agreement will be rewritten or removed.  It also contradicts everything else written in the Articles, Bylaws and Membership Agreement.  That phrase has been a source of great confusion and  comfort.  Some churches in Sovereign Grace have assured their people that the SGM Board of Directors doesn’t have authority over them.  That is a false assurance of security.  

“Our common history” means apostolic ministry as taught and practiced before 2004 when “Polity: Serving and Leading the Local Church” was released as part of the Perspectives Series.  It was written by Dave Harvey and approved by C.J. and Steve Shank.  I objected to key elements and told I was proud for doing so.  It now appears C.J., Dave, and Steve are going to embrace everything they strongly disagreed with me over from 1999-2003 when under discussion.  I’m sure they’ll send me a thank you note, apology and a big fat check.  My next post on BrentDetwiler.com will be devoted to this subject. 

Here’s the deal.  C.J., Dave, and Steve are going to affirm what they repudiated over the last 8 years.  There is a massive reversal in the works.  When Dave’s polity booklet came out in 2004, it threw the entire movement into confusion.  So did C.J.’s comments at the Pastors Conference in 2003.  At the same time, Jeff Purswell began to argue for “semi-technical” apostles.  Then in 2005, Dave gave his famous message on “Exploring the Gap Between the Big and Little ‘A’ – A Fresh Look at Apostolic Ministry” at the Pastors Conference.  In 2006, Dave said he “believes the NT teaches that apostles were involved in the governing of churches” but there is “a lot of discontinuity in authority between Paul and us.”  Dave’s point, NT apostles had authority over the churches but we don’t have authority over the churches in SGM.  C.J. took an even more radical view.  He disagree with Dave and said “Paul considered churches independent and autonomous in relation to himself.”  That is, Paul never thought of himself as one in authority over the churches.  These are exact quotes.

By 2007 the “a” in apostles became so small you needed 20/10 vision to see in on an eye chart.  I challenged this notion but was sorely chastised by C.J., Dave and Steve for being proud because I did not agree with them and Jeff.  The “little a” approach compounded the polity problem.  As a result, the “governmental structure” became a riddle.  No one could figure it out.  Since that time the relationship between the leadership team and the churches has been in a constant state of flux and impossible to understand.  That is changing.  The chaotic mess is coming to an end.  Things will be cleared up and that is actually a good thing.  The “little a” is going to become a BIG “little a.” 

Finally, if C.J. and Phil were committed to “sound doctrine as [their] ultimate guide” there would be no Board of Directors, no SGM super denomination and no dancing around the issue of apostles and prophets.  Instead the Polity Committee would return SGM to the simplicity (and effectiveness) of the New Testament.  A team of godly apostles and prophets based in local churches would lead the movement.  Such a team would develop other teams rather than build an ever expanding religious empire.        

The Board has not yet determined whether the new polity pro­posal will be submitted to a formal vote of the pastors or a less formal process of affirmation. 

The Board will never allow for a formal vote because it violates “our common history” and “sound doctrine.”  SGM pastors have never voted and it goes against everything C.J. has conveniently come to believe with his new understanding of apostles.  It also sets a “bad” precedence.  C.J. is always mindful of allowing something in the present he doesn’t want to allow in the future.  That is, giving the SGM pastors any kind of leadership role in SGM by way of voting. 

On second thought, let me qualify my comments.  There is a chance C.J. and the Board will allow a vote provided they are absolutely certain the proposal from the Polity Committee won’t be voted down.  That would be a big public relations win.  Otherwise the Board would never put forth a proposal of such importance knowing it would be defeated especially when it was formulated by a committee co-chaired by C.J. and Phil.    

We realize that this is a significant question, and so we will be intently pursuing the option that will best serve the resolution of our polity process. 

This is a subtle hint that C.J., Phil and the Polity Committee might recommend a vote on their polity proposal.  They want resolution more than anything.  If they have the votes, they could allow the majority of pastors to silence the minority of pastors.  In so doing, the Committee and Board won’t look like “authoritarian” bad guys.  In other words, they will use a democratic means to accomplish a non-democratic ends.  The majority will duly authorize a stronger, not weaker, role for the SGM Board and apostolic team (i.e. Leadership Team).  All ambiguity about who is in charge will be resolved.  

In any case, the Board earnestly and sincerely solicits the theologically informed perspectives of every eldership in SGM.  The Board has commissioned this Polity Committee to lead us through this process and to make a proposal to the SGM Board of Directors and ultimately to all of the pastors.  Below we have outlined the Polity Committee’s makeup, mandate, and method. 

The Board wants “theologically informed perspectives.”  If they are serious then a team of apostles and prophets will lead SGM as team related churches not a denomination.  That aside, those pastors who want radical reforms regarding governance are in trouble on this point.  The Board of Directors and Polity Committee win the polity debate hands down if you’re using a Bible.  Arguing for a pastor led movement is like arguing for a congregationally lead church.  Neither are found in Scripture.

The essence of SGM polity as found in the Articles, Bylaws and Membership Agreement is correct.  Polity is not the fundamental problem.  It never has been and I’ve been clear on that point.  Corruption is the problem and because it is such a big problem I understand why many pastors are calling for radical reforms.  See Trust – The One Thing that Changes Everything

Nevertheless, the answer is not found in a democratized SGM (which will never happen).  The answer is found in obedience to Scripture.  Because dissenting pastors in SGM made polity their major concern, instead of ethics, they will experience a resounding defeat in the coming year. 

As a result, dissenting pastors will leave SGM over polity differences but they should have left when the required qualifications for ministry in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-4 were not applied to C.J., Dave and others.  They should have left when the interim Board refused to obey and follow 1 Timothy 5:19-25 with C.J.  They should have left SGM as a matter of conscience over ethics violations that number in the hundreds. 

It is not the lack of polity, but the lack of obedience, that is far and away the major cause of problems in SGM.  Sola Scriptura is a grand theological axiom but meaningless unless applied in real life situations.  No one has been submitted to Scripture.  The process that has unfolded over the last 8 months has been corrupt.  That is why you leave a movement and you make that clear.  Several months ago, I sent the following thoughts based upon the Declaration of Independence to the Covenant Life pastors and Mark Mullery.  Rest assured C.J.  They don’t interact with me in any capacity.  I doubt they even read what I send them.

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 8:17 AM
To: 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; Mark Mullery
Subject: Declaration of Independence

I’ve attached the Declaration of Independence.  You can’t but admire the signatories for their courage and their wisdom.  They gave the 13 states compelling reasons for separation.  As a result, people understood the issues and were willing to die for the cause.  It was no act of rebellion.  There were just reasons for throwing off the tyranny of King George III.  I hope you will do the same when it comes time to leave SGM.

Thanks

Brent

C.J., Dave, and the interim Board should all be publicly rebuked in writing but no one is willing to affix their signatures to a declaration of independence from SGM.  I believe in apostles and prophets but I don’t believe these men should be leading anything when they lie, deceive, manipulate, live hypocritically, treat one other with favoritism, promote their own interests, subjugate people with threats and false charges, and won’t even tell you how much they are paid and compensated,

The Polity Committee:

The bylaws of SGM state that any committee appointed by the Board of Directors must have two mem­bers from the Board.  

That is totally untrue.  No Board Members are required to serve on the Polity Committee per the Bylaws. This appears to be another deceptive statement by C.J. and Phil.  Is anyone holding them accountable?  Hello Board.  Under “Section 4: Directors” regarding committees we reading the following:

Section 4.5  Committees.  The Board of Directors may appoint two or more persons from among its own number to serve as special and standing committees, such as the Board may determine are necessary, which shall have such powers and duties as shall from time-to-time be prescribed by the Board.  Individuals who are not on the Board may also be allowed to serve on such committees.”

There is a world of difference between “must” (C.J. and Phil) and “may” (the Bylaws).  The Bylaws do NOT state that all committees appointed by the Board MUST have two Board Members. 

Section 4:5 means the Board can set up a special (short term) or standing (long term) committee comprised solely of Board Members but in such cases there must be at least two Board Members on those committees.  This prevents a committee of one.  This section does not require two Board Members to sit on ALL committees. 

I am afraid this distortion of Section 4:5 by C.J. and Phil is a way to rig the Polity Committee and come off as though it is a legal necessity and not an act of bias or possible deceit.  They should be challenged on this point.  If only an error, it is a big one.  So here’s a diversity challenge for the Board.  Replace Phil Sasser and Paul Buckley with Joshua Harris and Mark Mullery.         

We have added to that three other pastors and two members of the Leadership Team.  

Matthew Wassink and Jared Mellinger are terrible choices if you are looking for any diversity.  But of course, that is the last thing C.J. and Phil want on their super-committee.  These two men are staunch supporters of all things “C.J.” including polity.  See the addendum on Matthew and What Does My Website Have in Common with Pornography?  Ask Jared Mellinger!

I trust Bruce Chick the most and I think he has the courage to speak up if he disagrees with other committee members but I don’t know that he has any significant disagreements on polity.  C.J. and Phil wanted the addition of these “three pastors” to give the appearance of diversity but that is a bunch of hooey.   

The two members of the Leadership Team are C.J. and Jeff Purswell.  That rounds out your well-rounded Polity Committee.  Sarcasm intended.  Jeff may have some differences with C.J. but he will support whatever C.J. wants.  He always has. 

Here is the Polity Committee:

  1. C.J. Mahaney, Co-Chairman (Leadership Team, President of SGM)
  2. Phil Sasser, Co-Chairman (Board Member, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church, Apex, NC)
  3. Paul Buckley (Board Member, Pastor, King of Grace Church, Haverhill, MA)
  4. Matthew Wassink (Pastor, Providence Community Church, Lenexa, KS)
  5. Jared Mellinger (Pastor, Covenant Fellowship Church, Glen Mills, PA)
  6. Bruce Chick (Pastor,-Sovereign Grace Community Church, Roanoke, VA)
  7. Jeff Purswell (Leadership Team, Dean of SGM Pastors College) 

There were 4 men on the old Board, 10 men on the interim Board, and 11 men on the leadership team.  There are 9 men on the new Board and 7 men on the Polity Committee.  That comes to 41 positions of influence held by 25 men.  There has been, and continues to be, a lot of overlap.  Those closest to C.J. frequently hold two positions at the same time or are moved from one powerful position to another.

As a matter of fact, 22 of the 25 men agree with C.J. on all the essential ingredients of polity or church governance.  Only three are unknown to me.  This is based upon an examination of their sermons, writings and public statements.  In the same manner, it is a matter of fact that 21 out of 25 never felt C.J. unfit for ministry.  This is based upon an examination of their sermons, writings, public statements and the testimony of friends or church members.  Three are unknown.  The fourth is Joshua Harris.  The other 21 men have openly advocated for C.J.’s cause and treated him with extraordinary favoritism. 

This inner circle is a tightly controlled by C.J.  You could break into Fort Knox easier than this group.  Except for Joshua Harris, I know of no one among this elite group of 25 who has expressed serious concerns for C.J.’s character or serious disagreements with his polity.  Rather, the vast majority have commended his character, agree with his polity and condemned me and my writings.  This is plurality C.J. style.  No critics.  No dissenters.  There are approximately 275 other pastors in SGM.  Unless you are a C.J. devotee you have no hope of “upward mobility” in SGM.  No, C.J.’s monopoly of power continues and he handsomely rewards those that render subservience.  All others end up on the SGM trash heap.  Those that really stink are incinerated. 

The Purposes of the Polity Committee:

1.  With help and input from Sovereign Grace pastors, to establish a polity structure for Sovereign Grace Ministries and its member churches.  This polity proposal will be presented to the SGM Board of Directors and, with their approval, to all SGM pastors.

I don’t know if the ambiguity in this paragraph is intentional but I do know it needs to be cleared up.  What approval are we talking about?  Approval of the polity proposal or approval to present the polity proposal or both.  I think it means both.  The Board will approve the new “polity structure for SGM and its member churches” and having approved it, present it to the SGM pastors.  What a kind gesture.  The pastors get to see how they will be governed.

2.  With help and input from Sovereign Grace pastors, to write a Book of Church Order detailing how the SGM Board and Leadership Team should order themselves, what polity particulars should characterize local churches as members of SGM, and how SGM and local churches should relate to each other.  This Book of Church Order will be presented to the SGM Board of Directors and, with their approval, to all SGM pastors.

This past March, sixty-two pastors sent a letter to the interim Board of Sovereign Grace Ministries asking for diversity among the nominees put forward to serve on the new Board of Directors.  Their “help and input” did not make any difference then, it has made no difference now in the selection of Polity Committee members, and it will make little difference in the future regarding “much needed reforms.” Here is an excerpt from their March 7 letter. 

“In the light of our discussions, we are declining to participate in the process of affirming these nominees [for the SGM Board] because we believe the process is premature and unwise….  There is no doubt that the nominees are upright and godly men.  However, the lack of diversity of opinions is of great concern.  Such diversity would come by including broader perspectives on polity from all of our churches, as well as representation from the international churches, and would greatly enhance the pursuit of much-needed reforms in our family of churches.” (Letter from 62 Pastors to SGM Interim Board, March 7, 2012)

The Book of Church Order will read the way C.J. and Phil want it to read because they are the ones primarily writing it.

3.  With help and input from Sovereign Grace pastors, to write policies and suggest corresponding judicial structures related to the discipline and/or removal of church officers as well members of the SGM Board of Directors and the SGM Leadership Team, and to establish grievance processes.  These proposals will be presented to the SGM Board of Directors and, with their approval, to all SGM pastors.

First, will these new policies apply to the discipline of C.J. retroactively?  Or is there a Grandfather clause for him?  Second, will these policies apply to Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Mickey Connolly and Gene Emerson retroactively?  Or are they exempted also?  Third, will these policies apply to my removal from pastoral ministry?  Fourth, will they apply to all the grievances I’ve been forbidden from presenting?  Answers?  Yes to #1 and #2.  No to #3 and #4. 

I hope polices and judicial structures are put into place that are just and based upon the rules of evidence.  I’ve made a ton of recommendations in this regard based upon my 8 years of personal and judicial abuse.  I hope someone is reading my material.  Bottom line, just do the opposite of everything I’ve experienced.  I’m serious.  Read The Untold Story.  Review the Three Panel Review process (study All Is Lost, Why the Three Panel Approach Is a Sham, Sovereign Grace Panels Are of Little Worth In Determining C.J.’s Fitness for Ministry, We Are Taking Brent Detwiler’s Allegations Seriously!, Update on My Panel Hearing, Panel Report on Brent Detwiler’s Dismissal from Grace Community Church, Try This Twelve Step Program on for Size!, Whitewashed Tombs, An Appeal for Ted Kober to Expose Dave HarveyIf you do, it will result in helpful changes in policies that will protect and benefit others in the future provided they are followed and enforced without partiality and favoritism.   

4.  With help and input from Sovereign Grace pastors, to write a membership agreement that reflects the agreed upon polity.  This will be presented to the SGM Board of Directors and, with their approval, to all SGM Pastors.

This means the “polity proposal” regarding “governance structure” will be presented and passed before work is done on the Membership Agreement. 

“The agreed upon polity” will not be agreed upon by everyone.  If there is a vote by the SGM pastors the Mahaney/Sasser majority will prevail.  It much more likely, however, the Board will decide for, and impose upon, the pastors “the agreed upon polity.” 

Once the polity proposal is approved, churches will begin to decide whether to stay in SGM.  Some may wait until the Membership Agreement is completed before  finalizing their decision to stay or leave SGM. 

Goals of the Board of Directors in Establishing This Polity Committee:

1.  To strengthen what is presently in place that is biblical.

In February the interim Board wrote the following to all the SGM pastors regarding their biblical understanding of polity.  This centralized form of governing the churches will be strengthened not weakened. 

“As we’ve stated at the conference 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). ” (Letter from Interim Board to Pastors, Feb 27, 2012)

2.  To change what is presently in place but needs revision.

That SGM churches are supposedly, but confusedly, independent and autonomous.  Big revision coming.

3.  To establish what is yet undeveloped or not in place.

The grievance policy for example.

4.  To create unity within SGM by the adoption and clear communication of a more detailed, developed, and defended polity.

C.J. and Phil have been working on a written defense of their polity positions for months.  To this end they’ve enlisted the help others including Phil’s son in law, Daniel Baker.  Daniel wrote a 52 page treatise over the winter entitled, A Defense of and Model for Apostolic Government.  He arrives at his conclusions in chapter 7 on “Acts 15: Apostles, Elders, and A Model for a Movement.”  His treatment of Acts 15 is terribly unsound.  He tries to justify the submission of the Apostolic Team (i.e., Leadership Team) to the Board of Directors.  In so doing, he makes many interpretive errors.  He imposes upon the text, an application of the text, which the text does not support.  This is an example of eisegesis (reading a foreign meaning into a passage) rather than exegesis (letting a passage speak for itself).  I totally disagree with this polity recommendation based upon the teaching of the NT.  You have apostolic teams in the NT.  Not Boards to which such apostolic men are submitted.  This doesn’t mean there is no need for accountability.  It means this is not the answer the NT supplies.       

We have always believed in the accountability that comes with plurality.  The many problems encountered with C.J. we’re not due to bad polity.  They were due to bad character.  When we put our polity to work and began to address C.J. in December 2000 it met with C.J.’s immediate resistance.  Our collective efforts and his resistance continued for five straight years until everyone else capitulated. 

We believed in team ministry but C.J. did not live team ministry.  Hypocrisy, not polity, was the problem.  C.J. was easily offended, dishonest, independent and manipulative. He believed he was superior to everyone around him.  I put measures into place in 2004 to help C.J. but the Covenant Life pastors failed to follow through (see RRF&D, pp. 27-28; CR, pp. 15-19).  Instead they allowed C.J. to manipulate them and turned against me.  They also refused to follow 1 Timothy 5:19-21 in 2011.  See In Need of a Corporate Rebuke – An Appeal to the Covenant Life Elders.  I also appealed for their invention when the interim Board of Directors forced an unjust adjudication hearing upon me contrary to all their promises.  See The Need for Crisis Intervention by the Covenant Life Pastors.

5.  To clarify what it means to be a Sovereign Grace Ministries church. 

Will SGM churches be required to give 10% of their income to SGM?  Currently, the Membership Agreement reads, “To jointly carry out the mission of Sovereign Grace, member churches commit to a goal of giving 10 percent of their tithes and offerings to the Mission Fund of Sovereign Grace, and to prayerfully consider participating in all special offerings initiated among all Sovereign Grace Churches.”

Scope of Inquiry:

1.  To examine our entire present polity structure and basis of authority at the local church level, the SGM regional level, the Leadership Team Level, and the SGM Board of Directors level, including the corporation bylaws.

Senior pastors are too powerful.  The Chairman of the Board (Loftness) is too powerful.  The President (Mahaney) is too powerful.  These powers need to be curtailed in the SGM Bylaws and church bylaws.   

I’d recommend SGM do away with the title, Senior Pastor.  Though I’ve used it, I have never been comfortable with it.  It is an extra-biblical term and one can argue it is an unbiblical term.  The same with Lead Pastor.  All pastors lead.  I’d also get rid of Associate Pastor.  The NT only refers to pastors, elders, and overseers.  Jesus is the only “Sr. Pastor” (1 Pet 5:4, Heb 13:20).  There needs to be a greater sense of collegiality and parity among local elders.  The playing field needs to be leveled.    

Of course, I also lament the fact that SGM moved away from a biblical model to a corporate model.  In 1997, I recommended we change our name from People Destiny International to Sovereign Grace Ministries.  We were told by our lawyers that was not possible due to copyright infringements.  But in 2002 were able to buy rights to the name and made the change.  With that change, I tried to persuade C.J. not to use “President of Sovereign Grace Ministries” on his new business card, etc.  We discussed this as a team.  Accuse me of bibliolatry, but I don’t like it when anyone moves away from the use of biblical terminology.  I’ve always argued for the open, honest, transparent use of the word “apostle.”

When I started the Leadership Training School at Covenant Life Church in 1982, I introduced this quotation by T.C. Hammond

“We need to remember that truth produces its proper result and error always takes its revenge.  Even slight deviations from the facts of revelation may lead eventually to graver aberrations.  The best way to avoid error is to define as clearly as possible the norm of truth.” (T.C. Hammond, In Understanding Be Men, p. 14)

The disuse of the word “apostle” became an issue in 1999.  For example, Dan Walsh, sr. pastor of the church in Daytona Beach, wrote me about the matter.

“About a month ago, Danny [Jones] passed on to the Florida PDI senior pastors that it was the desire of the team for us to back away from referring to Team members as “apostles” or “apostolic.”  As I understood it, the purpose of the request was so that we would not unnecessarily offend outsiders of our movement with such language.  Instead, we should use language such as “the PDI leadership team” or “the extended leadership team” for guys like Danny.  I’ve observed this change has already taken place in Sovereign Grace magazine with the Overview issue.  I’m deeply troubled by this change.  I was then, voiced my concerns, and continue to have them…”  (Dan Walsh, June 6, 1999)

I wrote Dan back.

 “We decided not to use the term “apostle” or “apostolic team” in public settings where people are not familiar with us or the notion of apostolic ministry and are often opposed to the very idea.  Likewise, we have decided to refrain from using “apostle” or “apostolic team” in PDI literature which has wide distribution beyond the TRCs [team related churches] when an explanation cannot be conveniently supplied.” (Brent Detwiler, June 4, 1999)

I used the plural pronoun “we” in my response but C.J., Dave and Steve would tell you I wasn’t on board with this development for two reasons.  I felt it involved biblical compromise.  Second, I felt it was ill motivated.

If you believe in apostles you should say so.  If that costs you acceptance in Reformed and Cessationist’s circles then that is the price you pay for remaining true to Scripture.  You can’t introduce extra-biblical nomenclature in order to save face with men whose favor you are courting.  Playing the “wisdom card” became an excuse for compromise. 

At this time, the Reformed world of R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Jerry Bridges, Ken Sande, et al., was opening up to us.  C.J. first met with R.C. in 1995.  We visited John Piper in 1997.  We were all enamored and wowed by these developments.  The following well-known leaders prominently endorsed us in our annual Ministry Overview issue of the magazine: David Powlison (1996), Jerry Bridges (1997), Wayne Grudem (1998), Ken Sande (1999), Mark Bullmore (2000), Mark Dever (2001), John Piper (2002), John Bettler (2003).  C.J. ended the magazine in 2003.  Together for the Gospel began in 2006 with Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, John MacArthur, and John Piper.  This was heady stuff.

It wasn’t long before our Polity and Pneumatology began to change.  I sounded the alarm on polity in 1999 when I wrote a paper on “The Nature and Extent of Apostolic Authority.”  Apostles were slowly on their way out. 

The same was true with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, prophecy, singing in the Spirit, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, miracles, faith, healings, the casting out of demons, etc.  By 2007, C.J.’s understanding of all this things radically changed though he never communicated those changes to the movement.  Dave and Steve followed C.J.  I asked these men to be open with SGM about the changes in doctrine.  They thought it unwise.  I thought it deceptive.    

The November/December 1994 issue of People of Destiny Magazine was entitled, “Times of Refreshing – Overwhelming Encounters with the Spirit of God.”  The header on the front page read, “Flood Warning: The Holy Spirit Is Being Poured Out! (Special Issue).” 

Greg Somerville was the Executive Editor at the time.  He wrote, “What an exciting time!  Churches around the world, including many of those within People of Destiny, are experiencing supernatural ‘times of refreshing.’  Throughout this special issue you’ll find teaching and testimonies about all that’s taking place.  May these articles deepen your thirst for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.”

Soon after I wrote the following for the Special Ministry Overview (May/June 1995)  entitled “Building Churches for the Glory of God.”  In those days, there was a significant charismatic dimension to our faith.  God’s active presence was felt and seen in dramatic fashion.  What I declared had integrity and matched our experience.

“We hold to an essentially Reformed understanding of Christian doctrine but with a significant charismatic dimension to our faith.

“The supreme majesty and transcendent holiness of the triune God is our starting point.  He is so much greater and purer than we could ever imagine.  In considering this, we see our utter sinfulness and hostile defiance toward God.  We realize our inability to change our condition or status before God.  We stand under his judgment as wretched sinners.

“As such, we are convinced of God’s sovereignty and initiative in salvation.  In ourselves we are dead in sin and unwilling to repent or trust in Christ.  Salvation is entirely the work of God.  Therefore, God’s grace is absolutely amazing to us. 

“In the Cross, the overwhelming love, wisdom and justice of God is revealed.  It is astounding that Jesus, the perfect Son of God, should be crucified for our sin and credit us with his righteousness.  We can only boast in the Cross through which our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God. 

“We believe the church universal is the showcase of God’s grace and Jesus’ finished work.  Therefore, all believers are called to enthusiastic involvement in a local church.  In this context they are to grow in holiness, be equipped for service, and witness to the saving grace of God.  All these things are possible by the presence of the Holy Spirit who is powerfully at work. 

“Lastly, we long for Christ’s return and look forward to an eternity of worship and unending service.” (Brent Detwiler, Statement of Belief, May/June 1995)

Not long after this Statement of Belief was published, the fire of the Holy Spirit began to be quenched by doctrinal changes and out of concern for how men like R.C. Sproul and Mike Bullmore viewed our charismatic theology.  For example, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy became less desirable and almost contemptible over the course of time.  There was a serious downgrade of our charismatic theology.  We increasingly disobeyed passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; [20] do not treat prophecies with contempt” and 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”

I tried to stem the tide by preparing and presenting study outlines for the apostolic team and giving messages at major SGM events like “Elders, the Prayer of Faith and Healing (James 5:13-18)” (2002), “Filled with the Holy Spirit and Power - Acts 10:38” (2004), “Seven Reasons for Advocating Tongues” (2004), “The Pentecostal Reality” (2004), “Promoting and Preserving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Our Churches” (2004), “Does God Still Speak?” (2005).

In 2007, C.J. finally renounced most of his charismatic theology while insisting he was “far more charismatic today than I’ve ever been” (Team Retreat, January 24, 2007) and “I am more charismatic today than ever before” (Pastors Conference, April 13, 2007).  That was a denial of reality.  The nine gifts of the Holy Spirit highlighted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 had all but disappeared.  He adopted the word “continuationist” in place of “charismatic” to describe his new Pneumatology.

That same year, I was removed from teaching Pneumatology (i.e., the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit) in the Pastors College  (see RRF&D, pp. 119-121).  In 2008, I was altogether removed from the Pastors College for deceitful reasons (see RRF&D, pp. 122-124) born out of C.J.’s offenses with me.  I was lied to by Jeff Purswell and permanently tossed aside.       

Jeff also had a big impact on our pneumatological decline.  In 1994, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology came out.  It is a fine work in most respects but it contributed to the demise of our Acts 1:8 experience of power and several supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.  In 1998, Jeff moved to Gaithersburg, MD to be Dean of Student Affairs for the Pastors College.  I was Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs.  The following year, I turned the college over to Jeff.  That was 1999 and the same year Wayne Grudem endorsed People of Destiny International in our Ministry Overview issue of the magazine.  Jeff graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was mentored by Wayne and served as his teaching assistant.  Jeff brought Wayne’s “third wave” understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work and his fundamentalist’s view of apostles.  After joining People of Destiny International, Jeff came to accept a low view of apostles.  That view was passed onto others and especially to C.J.

“Though some may use the word apostle in English today to refer to very effective church planters or evangelists, it seems inappropriate and unhelpful to do so, for it simply confuses people who read the New Testament and see the high authority that is attributed to the office of “apostle” there.  It is noteworthy that no major leader in the history of the church—not Athanasius or Augustine, not Luther or Calvin, not Wesley or Whitefield---has taken to himself the title “apostle” or let himself be called an apostle.  If any in modern times want to take the title “apostle” to themselves, they immediately raise the suspicion that they may be motivated by inappropriate pride and desires for self-exaltation, along with excessive ambition and a desire for much more authority in the church than any one person should rightfully have.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 911)

Wayne doesn’t believe in apostles for today.  They don’t exist in his theology and anyone who references himself as an apostle must be viewed with suspicion.  In Wayne’s cessationist’s understanding the ministry of the apostle has ceased. 

It’s ironic that Wayne’s concern for pride and self-exaltation in people who describe themselves as apostles was unfounded in relation to C.J., Dave and Steve.  They wanted to avoid the use of the term because of pride and self-exaltation.  Using the word apostle meant they could be rejected by Sproul, MacArthur, Grudem and the like.  They coveted their favor and company.

Supernatural experiences have all but ceased in most SGM churches.  A continuationist theology is put forth but there is no continuation of tongues, interpretation, prophecy, healings, faith, revelation (not normative), miracles, powerful fillings of the Holy Spirit (as depicted in the book of Acts), release from demonic agents, divine guidance (dreams, visions).  Sunday mornings are predictable.  Scripted.  Rote.  A well-established liturgy has descended upon the movement.  There is little Spirit inspired spontaneity in meetings.  The Third Person of the Trinity has been tamed and caged.   

When was the last time “the secrets of a [sinners] heart were laid bare” as the result of prophecy causing him to “fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’” (1 Cor 14:24-25).  Or what about this kind of experience in small groups.  “What is the outcome then, brethren?  When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation” (1 Cor 14:26).  Being “charismatic” in the biblical sense should not be equated with a church where people lift their hands in worship and sing contemporary songs to a cool band.  

Paul’s clearest definition of what it means to be the “charismatic” body of Christ is found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.  SGM is no longer charismatic.  Many body parts are missing nowadays.  SGM is just Reformed and deformed.  The Third Wave never came ashore as promised and the tide keeps going out. 

2.  To examine our present governmental practices and processes, especially in light of AoR’s recommendations.

The recommendations did not address the most serious issues in SGM and put many people in a bad light while it put C.J. and the interim Board in an overall good light.  For instance, the CLC pastors were castigated for having Family Meetings and small group meetings with members in order to benefit from their input and engage them in open and honest dialogue.  Ted, it’s called pastoral care.  They were also corrected for not “comforting” C.J. after his feeble confession to the church.    

Instead, Ted and Ed should have included recommendations like these.  “We recommend that C.J., Dave and the interim Board stop lying, manipulating and covering up the truth.”  Or “We recommend that an open and just hearing be provided for Brent Detwiler so his charges can finally be heard.”  Or, “We recommend the interim Board stop their blind devotion to C.J. which results in favoritism and start holding him accountable.”  Or, “We recommend that C.J. and Dave Harvey be put on probation and their salaries cut in half until such time as they re-qualify for Christian ministry.”  Finally, “We recommend AoR give back 75% of all monies paid it by SGM for writing such a biased and relatively worthless report.”

3.  Let it be noted that SGM as a family of churches has enjoyed a rich history together. There are many doctrinal positions upon which there is widespread unity within SGM.  As a result, the Board believes that there are some areas that should be preserved in our future polity.  Here are the three important areas to be preserved.

a.  SGM churches are elder-led.  This has been taught and firmly established for decades.  Of course there are many questions about the specific qualifications of those elders, how they are selected, how they are ordained, and the nature and scope of their authority, which will need to be examined.

As said before senior pastors should have less authority and power.  There needs to be more co-equality among the elders.

b.  Extra-local leadership has also been a part of our history.  This will definitely inform our approach, but the Board of Directors realizes that there are many questions about extra-local ministry which must be answered.  These include the nature of extra-local authority, the basis of that authority, the extent of that authority, and the means and methods by which that authority is exercised in the local church.

Yep.  

c.  SGM as a family of churches has historically been committed to planting and caring for local churches.  This mission is essential to all that we stand for: we are determined to continue in this mission.  The Board also realizes that there is much to be discussed, determined, and defended concerning the mission of the church and the ecclesiological status of SGM.

If the Polity Committee does not come out with a loud and clear apologetic for apostles then Sovereign Grace Ministries has no biblical basis for its existence.  It is nothing but a parachurch ministry therefore has no authority because the relationship and partnership with SGM is strictly voluntary.  Nothing can be required of the churches by the Board if it has no theological (not pragmatic) justification for its existence in the Scriptures.

The Polity Process:

Although the Polity Committee has not yet formally met, the following is the general process it will follow:

1.  All SGM pastors are invited to participate in vigorous conversation about SGM polity.  We encourage local elderships to search the Scriptures, to read pertinent books, and to write position papers.

Great encouragement but a meaningless effort.

2.  Our approach will be to ask what we believe are the most important questions related to our polity, to search the Scriptures for the answers, and to develop a polity that is consistent with Scripture.  Below, you will see many of the questions we will consider.

If they want “polity that is consistent with Scripture” they will have to say “And He gave some as apostles” (Eph 4:11).  Not little “a” apostles.  Not semi-technical apostles.  Not the watered down, insipid, reductionistic kind they have advocated since 2004.  Just apostles.  Men who are sent to preach the gospel, plant churches, and build churches.

3.  The Polity Committee’s work will take place during the next several months.  Once the Polity Committee convenes, they have been instructed to arrange special meetings over the coming months in order to allow the participation of our pastors.  SGM pastors will be invited to meet with the Committee at previously announced sites and times in order to present a polity position paper.  The papers will need to be sent to us in advance so that the Committee has an opportunity to read them prior to the scheduled meeting.  Each pastor or eldership will have an hour, if needed, to make a presentation, and the Committee will take 30 minutes to ask questions and comment.  The Polity Committee will announce these dates and sites within 60 days of this letter.

Sorry for the skepticism.  You can present papers until your blue in the face.  They are worthless if they don’t agree with the already formed presuppositions of the Board of Directors and Polity Committee members.

4.  Individual committee members will be available for conversations by phone in between these meetings.

Remember who is on the committee.  There will be a lot of listening.  Just like AoR or the Three Panels but there will be no changes.  The Polity Committee will express profuse appreciation and compliment every elder on his presentation.  Humility will be on display for all to see.  But when it comes time to write the polity proposal all dissenting input will be like a mist.  It will be vaporized.   I wrote 1,200 pages and all of it was dismissed.  Making a case doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t agree with C.J., Phil Sasser, and John Loftness.

5.  Every SGM church’s eldership is invited to participate.  No SGM pastor will be excluded from the conversation.

Not even the heretic pastors who think SGM is in need of radical reforms.

6.  Experts from other denominations will be consulted if agreed to by a majority of the committee.

These “experts” will be comprised of individuals who exclusively or largely agree with the Polity Committee.  They will be quoted where favorable to the proposal put forward by the committee. 

7.  When decisions are made by the Polity Committee, in the event that unanimity cannot be achieved, a simple majority will carry the question.  Dissenting opinions among the committee members may be submitted to the Board along with their final recommendations.

Are you serious?  The Polity Committee is making the decisions regarding polity and not the Board of Directors.  Get out the puppets. If I’m following, C.J., Phil Sasser, Paul Buckley, Matthew Wassink, Jared Mellinger, Bruce Chick, and Jeff Purswell decide polity.  If I were in SGM, I would not want this group of men making decisions for me.  There may be a couple dissenters but all the rest agree.

8.  The Polity Committee will submit an update of its work to the full SGM Board of Directors at its Fall 2012 retreat.  The Polity Committee will also present a report of its work to the pastors at our Pastors Conference in October 2012.  It is the Board’s goal that we can actually formulate and present the most important aspects of polity at the Pastors Conference this fall, but due to the magnitude of the task and complexity of the process, we cannot guarantee it.

Of course the Board of Directors will agree with the Polity Committee at the Fall Retreat.  Two board members and two leadership team members were put on the Polity Committee.  Do the math.  The outcome is certain. 

9.  The final polity plan will be submitted to the SGM Board of Directors for their consideration.  It is hoped that this work can be completed within the coming year.

The SGM Board will examine, rewrite and revise portions of the proposal in conjunction with the Polity Committee.  That should take about 30 minutes.  Remember, two Board members and two leadership team members serve on the later.  By the way, the Board still hasn’t told us who is on the Leadership Team (i.e., apostolic team) except for C.J. and Jeff. 

10.  After examination, rewriting, and revision, a draft, along with the membership agreement, will be sent to all SGM pastors for their consideration and adoption pursuant to the Board’s polity adoption plan which will be decided at our June 2012 Board meeting.

How will the Polity Proposal and Membership Agreement be officially adopted?  By a decision of the Board?  By a vote of the SGM pastors?  It doesn’t matter.  The outcome is already determined.  The Board and Committee get what they want one way or another.    

Questions to Be Answered:

Below are ten questions we will attempt to answer in our development of a biblical polity. This list of ques­tions is not necessarily exhaustive, and each of those listed entails many others.

1.  In the New Testament, does any ecclesiastical body or officers have authority over local churches and their elderships?  If so, what is the nature and extent of that authority?

With Jeff’s advent in 1998 a reductionistic understanding of apostles took root and began to grow.  C.J. soon locked onto Jeff’s position.  Dave and Steve followed suit.  This embracing of “semi-technical” apostles was important for two strategic reasons.  One, C.J. was on the rise in Reformed circles.  It provided him theological cover or language by which to explain himself and distance himself from the notion of being a NT apostle.  Two, C.J. worried about the amount of money it would cost SGM to support a growing number of apostles if we really believed they should be meaningfully involved in the growing number of local churches.  He announced a reorganization plan for SGM at the Pre-Conference Gathering before Together for the Gospel in 2008.  That was supposed to solve all problems and increase care.  The opposite turned out to be the case.

Finally in July, 2003, C.J., Dave and Steve agreed to a watered-down understanding of apostolic ministry.  The fatherhood metaphor was introduced and apostles were spelled with an “a” so small someone with 20/10 vision could not see it on an eye chart.  For several years, I strenuously tried to persuade these men to retain a high view of apostles in keeping with Scripture.  More on this in my next post. 

Here is what Dave said in his SGM Pastors Conference message in 2005.  It was entitled, “Exploring the Gap between the Big and Little ‘A’ – A Fresh Look at Apostolic Ministry.”

“As indicated already this session is an attempt to clarify our present understanding of apostolic ministry.… This message is an attempt to clarify the distinction that exists between Paul and present-day apostolic ministries – between Big A and the little a…

“The problem is if we don’t recognize that unique grace bestowed upon him [Paul], a unique authority, what it does is it throws the door open for all kind of abuse.  Because present-day apostles begin to inadvertently, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes consciously, elevate their authority to be on par with the apostle Paul…

“They [apostles] exist not to first lead through their authority; they exist to lead through their service to the church.… Also, Paul was called to exercise not simply an authority but Paul was called to exercise a unique authority within the churches.  There was a unique grace upon him.  That unique grace created a distinct role.  That unique grace and distinct role bestowed upon him an uncommon authority.  It granted him this special leadership authority in the churches.  That’s where we will see him act authoritatively and involve himself authoritatively on a level that no minister today or no apostle today should…

“The problem is if we don’t recognize that unique grace bestowed upon him a unique authority, what it does is it throws the door open for all kind of abuse.  Because present-day apostles begin to inadvertently, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes consciously, elevate their authority to be on par with the apostle Paul.… I’m here to say that I believe Eph. 4 apostles are dramatically different than that model.  They exist not to first lead through their authority; they exist to lead through their service to the church.…

“He [Paul] did not regularly equate himself with the 12 [apostles], but it’s important to understand that Paul was more like the 12 than he is like present-day apostolic ministry.… Now, listen.  Here’s the take home point.  Present-day apostles don’t and shouldn’t approach Paul’s apostolic ministry immediately assuming common ground with Paul…

“Because part of the calling of apostolic ministry is first to divest oneself of his rights orientation and to approach churches not with the assumption of where he has authority but of where he can engage that church to serve them.… In fact, we are more convinced than ever that the accent or the weight in the NT for the role of apostolic ministry is that man is pushing out beyond the borders and taking new ground for the gospel and not just circulating through old territory with the gospel.” (Dave Harvey, “Exploring the Gap between the Big and  Little ‘A’ – A Fresh Look at Apostolic Ministry,” SGM Pastors Conference, 2005)

2,  Who has the authority to ordain, install, and remove elders in a local church?  By what process?

Apostles in conjunction with the elders.  Sometimes the apostle is directly involved in carrying out 1 Tim 5:19-22.  Sometimes he provides oversight and counsel to the elders.

 3.  What are the qualifications and disqualifications for pastoral ministry?

The qualifications are clearly taught in places like 1 Tim 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5.  They must be impartially applied.  Some men have been removed unjustly because they fell out of favor with C.J., Dave, Steve, etc.  Other men like C.J. have been retained due to favoritism.

 4. Who appoints the SGM Board of Directors, Leadership Team, and Regional Leaders, and to whom are they accountable? Who can remove them? What are their qualifications and disqualifications?

Apostles and prophets should be working together in team ministry.  Each of these men should be based in a local church that provides care, support and accountability.  These extra-local men should be characterized by the highest degree of character and integrity. 

This group of men choose other apostles and prophets who are commended by local churches.  This team of apostles and prophets are called to hold one another accountable.  When this does not occur they should be confronted by their local churches.  If they don’t change immediately, the churches that associate with them should leave and look for men who fulfill the qualifications of Scripture.  Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Tim 5:19-22 should be applied to these apostolic and prophetic.  They may be gifted but that is not the sole basis for being in ministry.  They must also be above reproach.

 5. By what process do members of a local church bring charges against an elder?  An entire eldership?  An SGM Board member?  A member of the SGM Leadership Team?  An SGM regional representative?  Is there a place of appeal?  Should former members be able to bring an accusation?

I’ve addressed all these issues in other writings.  Someday I hope to put them in book form.  I’ve made many suggestions to the powers that be.  The problem is not primarily about how you bring charges but how you are treated once you arrive.  The presence of partiality and favoritism on the Board of Directors, Leadership Team, and in some elderships is a major problem and should be a huge concern in the polity discussion.

 6. How much ecclesiastical authority, if any, does SGM require in order to execute its church-planting mission?

In other words, can SGM require member churches to participate in its church-planning mission.

7.  Can a visible, organized church consist of more than one congregation (as, for example, in Presbyterianism)? Or are visible, organized churches necessarily identical with single, local congregations (as in Independency)?

This question needs some work.  I think they are asking whether a church in a denomination (e.g. SGM) can function independently of the denomination or whether the denomination has governance over the church.

8.  Is SGM (a) a constituent organ of the Sovereign Grace church(es), (b) a subservient agent under the authority of the Sovereign Grace church(es), (c) an independent parachurch ministry, or (d) something else?

Someone define “constituent organ?” 

9.  To what extent can churches permissibly delegate (contractually or otherwise) ecclesiastical authority and/or mission activity to outside agents and organizations?

Interesting.  I think this means, is it okay for churches to sign the Membership Agreement (or some other binding contract) and thereby give SGM authority over them and their mission activity. 

10.  How and on what basis can member churches be censured by or removed from SGM?  Is this an act of ecclesiastical authority, comparable to the censure of an elder or the excommunication of a church member, or merely an organizational disassociation?

Simplified.  Does Matthew 18 apply to churches.  I’d also add, does Matthew 18 apply to SGM?   

Brothers, we ask for your patient, prayerful participation in this process.  We have much work to do in a relatively short period of time.  May God grant us wisdom from above and love for one another as we ap­proach this most important task.  Please contact us with any questions of clarification that you may have.

Will the debate over polity make any difference? 

Yes it will.  For the first time in a long time, people will know how Sovereign Grace churches are governed and what is required of them in order to be a Sovereign Grace church. 

No it won’t.  Those who want radical reforms will not get them.  The Articles, Bylaws and Membership Agreement will be refined but not fundamentally changed. Sovereign Grace Ministries is returning to its pre-2004 practice of apostolic ministry.  

In Christ,

Phil Sasser

C.J. Mahaney

On behalf of the SGM Board of Directors

Addendum on Matthew Wassink

Matthew is the sr. pastor of the SGM church in Kansas City.  This interchange gives insights into his attitudes and polity.  See A Rare View Inside Sovereign Grace Ministries for the complete context.  Matthew was a perfect pick for the Polity Committee since they didn’t want any diversity.

From: Matthew Wassink
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:03 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: FW: Adjudication Hearing

I vote no.[1]  But that’s just to give you the heads up that having read the docs and all the other info, I’m not down with your adversarial and manipulative proposal[2], not that I think this should come down to a vote of all SGM pastors.[3] 

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:25 PM
To: Matthew Wassink
Subject: FW: Adjudication Hearing

Hi Matthew.  I am happy to accept the terms SGM has set.[4]

From: Matthew Wassink
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:31 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: FW: Adjudication Hearing

No Brent, you declined.[5]  You even declined when the AoR representative followed up a day after the deadline.[6]  You claimed your conscience wouldn’t allow it.[7]  The fact that you are now going back on your word and previous decision[8] simply appears to be another example in a growing list of ways you have tried to hold SGM (the board, its pastors and its churches) hostage[9] during this whole process.  You had an opportunity to participate.  You declined.  You then declined again.[10]  I think it is totally appropriate that the board move on and accept your initial decision.[11]

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:49 PM
To: Matthew Wassink
Subject: FW: Adjudication Hearing

Matthew – you only have the SGM version of events.  It is not truthful!  For example, there was only one proposal and I only declined once.

From:Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 1:09 PM
To: Matthew Wassink
Subject: FW: Adjudication Hearing

Of course you think it is fine for the Board to move on.  You don’t want the truth to interfere with the spin.  Stand up and ask for an open hearing!   You must allow for freedom of conscience on matters like these lest you abuse people.[12]  At the time, I said that I did not feel the liberty to accept a proposal that was unjust and violated many promises made to me.  Given the spin being put out by SGM, I changed my view.  Any hearing is better than no hearing.[13] 


[1] The interim Board would not allow me to present my charges after I reconsidered their adjudication proposal and agreed to its terms.  As a result, I put a counterproposal together involving Ken Sande and asked that it be voted upon by the SGM pastors.  If put to a vote, Matthew would have taken a stand against the counterproposal.    

[2] Here is the “adversarial and manipulative proposal” I sent the Board, AoR, Ken Sande and the SGM pastors.. “I formally request the following proposal (“A Suggested Proposal for an Impartial, Just, and Thorough Evaluation of C.J. and Sovereign Grace Ministries”) 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.” 

[3] This is why Matthew was chosen for the Polity Committee.  If he wouldn’t allow the pastors to vote on this proposal, I don’t think he’d ever allow the pastors to vote on anything including the Polity Proposal. 

[4] Which I did.  Nevertheless, the SGM Board slammed the door on adjudication and would not comment on my counterproposal. 

[5] I did for good reasons at the time. 

[6] This never happened.

[7] Initially that was true because the Adjudication Procedure violated 12 months of promises and commitments.  It was an unjust and prejudicial proposal.  I was lied to and manipulated left and right.

[8] This is sure a kind and compassionate of my situation!  Lol.

[9] What a horrible perspective.  I was looking for simple justice. 

[10] I only declined once.  This shows how vulnerable Matthew is to accepting the SGM version of events investigating or knowing the facts.

[11] Not allowing me to change my mind is a compelling reason in Matthew’s mind for not allowing me to share my grievances and fact based charges against C.J. and others.  It is “totally appropriate” to deny me due process.

[12] That is, my initial refusal to participate in the adjudication hearing.  Matthew should have understood and even commended my conscientious objection.  Instead he ridiculed it.

[13] I never heard any more from Matthew.

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