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Saturday
Aug202011

In My Own Defense

Introduction

"Silverboy" was sent the following response from one of his former pastors.  It serves as a good example for the kind of problems that exist in SGM.  My remarks are in brackets and italics.  I hope you find them helpful.  Brent

 

Hi Brent,

I usually post under another pseudonym, but I changed it for this one out of a desire to remain (even more) anonymous, as this post consists of an e-mail from another.  For the past couple of days I have been dialoging with an SGM pastor at one of my previous churches.  I had been expressing my lack of satisfaction regarding the, in my opinion, less-than-serious nature of SGM's approach to all of the problems in the organization.  The topic of the motive behind your documents arose, and to one of my responses, this pastor sent me this.  I was wondering if you would be comfortable commenting on his perspective/accusations against your documents.  There is information in there that I have not heard and that I think would be good to hear your side on (I've omitted and changed names to preserve anonymity; otherwise, I have not edited any part of this pastor's response).

Silverboy

 

A Pastoral Letter Regarding Brent

I'm in total agreement that Brent and CJ as ecclesiastical figures in SGM have everything to do with us. CJ as a leader of the board and president of the ministry certainly has a role in our lives.

[Then he should understand why it is necessary to go public.  C.J.’s sins and actions have adversely affected many pastors, many people and the entire movement.  They should have been acknowledged a long time ago.  Instead they were covered up.  No one could get away with this except C.J.]

Therefore, if Brent wants to make formal charges against CJ, he is free to do that, and should do that, and you and I will likely be affected by the outcome. What he has done is to bypass any due process and gone straight to email inboxes and now to blogs. This is not due process.

[Your former pastor is gravely mistaken.  For 11 years I went to C.J. in private.  So did others.  He was basically unrepentant and resistant to our input.  In 2004 he took over a process of discipline and turned men against me and Dave.  In addition, he acting abusively and sent men to condemned me for the righteous and truthful actions I took.  In more recent times, the SGM Board failed to act in obedience to 1 Tim 5:19-21 when I appealed to them.   The CLC pastors also took limited action when I approached them.  Instead, SGM acted deceitfully in their actions and labeled my documents slanderous - the very documents they said were extremely helpful.  They also posted inaccurate and libelous statements about me and the supposed actions I would take.  Much more will be said in the future.  If we were not cowards for so many years, due process would have resulted in C.J. making a public confession of sin and experiencing righteous consequences like so many other men in our history under his leadership.]

Further, if Brent wanted to restrict his documents to only situations concerning himself and CJ I would see that as a (distant) second best. Unfortunately, he has dragged about two dozen non-staff people into the mud just so he can "make his case." He brings into the wide open personal confessions of sin (meant only for Brent, not wikileaks), he has discussed the marriage problems of well-meaning volunteer leaders, he has talked about the sins of two teenagers, he has called the salvation of a leader into question. This is not calling a witness to the stand in a due process. This is slandering innocent bystanders by spreading evil reports about their private lives across the web. It is perhaps the grossest act of a shepherd uncovering his sheep I've ever heard of.

[I haven’t dragged people into the mud.  Any non-staff people mentioned in the documents are people who were throwing mud with rocks in the form of betrayal, lying, deceitful actions, sinful judgments and the like.  They have never repented though all appealed to on several occasions.  They destroyed a church.  They mislead many others.  These people should have been rebuked by SGM.  Instead SGM gladly received their accusations against me on repeated occasions with no opportunity for defense.  Much has been made about not receiving accusations against C.J.  More times than I can count, C.J., Harvey, Emerson, Kauflin, Connolly, etc. believed all manner of evil against with no due process.  So it is necessary to “make my case” using these people who made a libelous case against me.  These false witnesses are referenced in the letter send out by C.J. to all the pastors in SGM in 2009 declaring me unfit for ministry.  SGM made it a national issue.  Not me.  SGM covered up the truth and protected false witnesses.  In constrast, I protected C.J. and SGM and so many other people for so long.  Many people would say for too long.] 

It is for this reason that Josh Harris is apologizing to his people and all the people mentioned for recommending that his church read Brent's documents.

[Joshua has now said people don't need to read them because your leaders are reading them.  That approach has often produced disastrous results in SGM churches.]

No one is dismissing any of the accusations or charges, by the blogs or Brent. Leaders throughout our entire movement are spending hours and hours and hours and hours and hours talking to affected individuals, working toward reconciliation, even processing matters legally.

[If that is true, then you see why it is so important for people to read the documents because they have experienced what I describe.  So many people have been afraid to speak up or didn’t know how to speak up until they read the documents.  It has helped them immeasurably.  Over a thousand people have written me to tell me.]

I would caution you about seeing Brent's docs as objective. The first reason is the basic one: he is giving you emails mostly, and before you read an email he is telling you why it represents sin, and then as you read the email he is underlining the offensive element, and then if you missed all of this he is providing footnotes to help you "interpret" things more clearly.

[True, I am highlighting the most important stuff.  What’s wrong with that?  I am helping people to focus on what I think is most important.  Readers can agree or diasgree wiht my emphasis.  This is hardly an argument against their objectivity.  When I make subjective comments they are based upon objective evidence.  For example, read the notes leading into the August 20, 2004 meeting.  See what Joshua, Grant and Kenneth said.  Read the official minutes of the meeting.  There is no interpretation necessary.  As the sr. pastor of CLC and the President of SGM, C.J. was generally unaccountable contrary to all his teaching.  That is a fact.  He was largely on his own.]

The second reason is more troubling. He isn't including all of the facts.

[Really?  More troubling?  Like what?  The "facts" below are not facts at all.  They are erros.  I’d like to know who this "fact check" expert is because I am happy to interact with him and find out what source material he is using in support of his statements.]

As an example, Mooresville.

If all you have is Brent's story, you would assume Brent was removed as a pastor because Dave and Gene hate him (or whatever the proper verb).

[Don’t downplay the hatred Dave and Gene demonstrated.  I have not begun to share what they said and did.  Threats, lies, deceit, intimidation, horrible judgements to name a few.  All easily documented.  This pastor dismisses their sins and fails to take seriously what I have written.  He should be outraged.]

The reality is that Brent was given a church filled with pro-Brent people from Crossway. All of them left Crossway because they wanted a church pastured specifically by Brent. For this reason, it was a virtual church split.

However, almost from the first weeks, the leaders that went with him began to have concerns about his leadership, feeling that he lacked grace and that he was lording over them. This is not the assessment of anyone at Crossway, but the sense of the leaders in his church.

[That is absolutely not the case in any way, shape or form.  This is slander with a capital “S”.  The SGM board should find out who this pastor is and call him to account.  Tragically, they won't.  Why?  Because they have repeatedly done the very same things.  Truth be told, this pastor has no idea what he is talking about.  No leader including Ray and Eric ever accused me of lording or lacking grace.  None of the other leaders had concerns for me.  They all commended me.  That continued until the very end when some of these friends turned against me without grounds because of Eric and Ray’s slander but none of these men had personal concerns for me based upon personal observations.  I know because I asked them.  Read the Untold Story to see what really happened.]

As these concerns escalated, serious blunders occurred. His resignation was forced upon him most unwisely. I'm not ready to call it sinful, but certainly unwisely and too hastily.

[Blunders?  Unwisely?  All morally neutral words.  There was serious abuse, lying, betrayal and cover-up.  Horrors you would not believe.  SGM counseled that all this be kept from the church which it was.]

Yet, all that simply enabled the assessment team to begin their work. Brent says nothing about the Mooresville once the assessment team begins. The reason is that they were unaffected by anything that happened between Brent and SGM in the past. They were not there to decide about SGM and Brent, but simply about Brent and the people within his church.

[Bob was exceedingly biased.  His heart was full of previous judgments about me.  He was not neutral.  This is obvious in the dcouments.  I asked that he not be on the assessment team but SGM appointed him to head the team.  That represented C.J.’s bias.  The cards were stacked against me from the beginning.  I never expected a fair evaluation under Bob and I wasn’t disappointed.  Dave and Gene were also having a terrible impact upon the Assessment Team and the leaders in the church and all this behind my back.  So much for the due process they covet for C.J.]

They talked to Brent for 80 hours to get his side of the story.

[This is a totally inaccurate portrayal.  Not nearly that much time was given to hearing my side of the story.  This pastor is lost when it comes to the facts.  This statement, like many others, is distorted.  It is added motivation to finish “The Untold Story.”  The long and the short of it, I was not told in large measure what others were saying about me.  I couldn’t give my side of the story because I didn’t know the story (lies) that were being told especially by Eric and Gene.] 

They talked to every leader in the church multiple times for another 50 hours.

[The leaders were largely kept in the dark on the matters they really needed to hear about.  For example, they were never told about the contents later contained in RRF&D, AFA, and CR and the bearing it had upon my evaluation.  I was never given any opportunity to talk to them.  Many of them have gotten back to me and said they hardly knew what was truly going on.  They were kept in the dark by SGM.  They were not being informed impartially.  Some of the Care Group leaders have told me that only upon reading “The Untold Story” have they been able to make any sense out of things.]

In the end their assessment was not that "Brent was proud and should resign." Their assessment was that "Brent's pride has prevented him from building a team of leaders that will work with him, and his pride has affected his pastoral care for his flock." Thus, he was not removed for pride. He was removed because he could not build a team of leaders to work with him or a church that would follow him.

[This is absurd.  This is the type of slander I've had to contend with since August 20, 2004.  The church loved me and was following me wonderfully.  There were a few exceptions but those were people who had serious issues in their lives.  Eric thought I was the best thing since sliced bread for the longest time until I had to confront him on a couple things at the very end in May 2009.  He constantly commended me for my humility and team work.  He was extremely pleased with me and told everyone and his brother.  Only at the very end did he turned against me.  As a leadership team, Jonathan my adult son, felt I was overly deferential to him, Ray and Eric.  In any case, Eric, Jonathan and I worked well as a team.  It was good Ray resigned.  He was demanding and impossible to work with as Eric said on several occasions.  But even with Ray, we had many great meetings and I appreciated his input.  And we had a great time working with all the Care Group leaders and their wives.  There was great team work and camaraderie.] 

Thus, in August of 2009 the entire group of home group leaders (not the 1-2 man leadership team) voted for his resignation. They felt that the assessment team represented their feelings and thinking well and their recommendations should be followed.

[I think this is false statement.  Not all of the leaders were in favor of my resignation based upon what I’ve heard.  Most egregiously, over the seven week evaluation, I never had a chance to answer these leaders questions, share my perspective, attend any of their meetings with the Assessment Team, participate in any phone calls, know what was being covered, find out what was being said about me, etc.  It was a horrendous miscarriage of justice.  Accusations by Eric and Ray and even the Assessment Team, that were based upon erroneous information, went unchallenged by me.  I didn’t even know what they were sharing about me. The leaders were badly manipulated by Eric and Ray and SGM.]

This side of the story is simply not present in Brent's documents.

[What side of the story?  That all the leaders were manipulated.  That I didn’t know what was going on.  That I was kept in the dark.  I will get to this “side of the story” but it will not reflect well upon SGM and others.]

The great difference between Brent and CJ, is that Brent received due process before he resigned. He is asking for CJ's resignation without any due process. He simply does not have the right to do that.

[I just pulled out all my hair and screamed bloody murder.  This pastor has got it all wrong.  This is why people must read the documents.  Pastors like this are a terrible disservice to the truth.  What I experienced was a kangaroo court.  There was no due process.  It was a sham trial comprised of false witnesses, a rigged jury, and a biased judge.  In contrast, I asked for C.J.’s resignation as President based upon 11 years of failed attempts in private and in groups to see him repent of serious and long standing sin.  He has been defending himself and fighting off correction for a very long time.  And others have shielded him.  Leaders throughout the history of SGM have been removed from ministry for far less serious sins that C.J.]

It is for these reasons that I think Brent's material is "gossip." Gossip does not mean a lie, un-factual, or biased. Gossip means I'm not part of the group that needs to hear this.

[You are a part of the group that needs to hear this.  All of SGM needs to hear what I am saying because the problems in SGM are widespread.  And it is not just me who says so.  SGM has not revealed the ton of feedback they have been receiving regarding spiritual abuse, hypocrisy, pridel, manipulation, unjust actions, etc.  It is not just C.J. but that would be enough since his example and leadership affects everyone else.  There are problems everywhere like this pastor who is so completely duped.  This letter is an example of extraordinary bias that is not grounded in the truth.  It results in deception.  It is manipulative.]

For me to hear it will likely be cancerous to my soul because I will never get the full other side of the story. I will never hear whether Ray is actually converted or not or whether Eric's marriage is doing well now or not, or whether Justin has repented of the sins he committed as a teenager, or whether Gene has had victory over the areas of pride that he confessed to in 1997. Brent has told one side of these stories. Sadly, these men will never get to tell me whether there is a happier, holier, other side.

[I hope you do get the full side of the story.  It is worse than you know.  That is why no one has tried to present "the other side."  Here is the central fact, Eric and Ray, in conjunction with SGM, destroyed a thriving church.  They worked in concert with Gene Emerson.  The true cancer in this pastor’s soul is the unfounded accusations he’s heard about me.  Like with C.J., I welcome the "other side of the story."  I’m glad to make it public.  The information about Ray was relevant.  Eric was so concerned for him he wondered about his conversion.  Eric was wrong in his assessment and I believe I said so in the documents.  Listen, if this pastor knows them, he can asked them about their lives.  Otherwise, I doubt he’ll remember their names in 6 months.  In a similar way, the information about Eric is relevant. These men were all given many opportunities to repent and make things right in public.  I asked for Eric and Ray to get back to the church.  The Assessment Team never required any public confession.    Their actions were covered up.  Unrepented sin has consequences.  It is told to the church.  Their sin was also a part of SGM's sin.  Hence they are included in the story.  In other words, people who know Eric and Ray should know about their sinful actions. No one at large will remember their names but they should remember their actions and the actions of SGM. What happened at Grace Community Church is a lesson for all of SGM.  So are many other stories that SGM has concealed.  Will they ever be open and honest?  The information about Justin was already made public by his father not me.  Read the docs.  Gene should not be leading a church.  The abuse I suffered at his hands is almost inconceivable.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’ve yet to tell the whole story.  Once again, SGM has been negligent.  More than four hundred people have left his church.  Less than 250 remain.  In my dcouments I appealed to the SGM board to take action.  I provided them detailed information in order to made my pont.  They did absolutely nothing but defend Gene.  People need to be warned.  If Gene ever comes to repentance I’ll be the first to tell the world.  I’ve appealed to him time and time again.  Gene is part of what is wrong with SGM.  He was a regional leader.  It must be part of the public record.  I am happy to let these men make their case and I will be happy to let the world know if they repent and change.]   

The whole situation illustrates great dysfunction in our movement. About that we are in full agreement. As for Brent's material being a "loving" rebuke, I cannot agree. I hope you see where I'm coming from more clearly. I am not at all assuming CJ is innocent or should be president of SGM or didn't commit some level of "blackmail" back in the mid-90s. It's possible his sins are even worse than Brent says. But, it's also possible that his sins are not as great as Brent paints. I will only know this by getting CJ's side of the story. The blogs will certainly not help me think more carefully.

[I repeatedly asked C.J. and the SGM Board to respond to my points, questions and illustrations and feel the total freedom to disagree.  I encouraged them to defend themselves at any point.  I repeatedly asked them to correct anything I wrote that was in error.  I’ve pleaded, begged, and beseeched them to provide me an open, honest, and accountable response.  C.J. promised he would do this but then he broke his word.  They have not been transparent and revealing in many important respects.  If all my documents are so “judgmental” and “slanderous” then prove it.  No one has ever raised one example with me and presented their case!  That should be easy to do.  They may be right and I may be wrong but the must arguments that can be cross examined.  Instead they make sweeping statements but never proivde any examples.  If they ever do I will happily post them for the world to read.  But I don’t’ believe they will answer me because it is hard to defend matters that are indefensible.  SGM posted that I’ve been unwilling to meet over the past 1½ years.  That is utterly untrue.  I’ve been eager to meet.  This is clear in the documents.  I simply asked them to supply answers to what I’ve written in a thorough going fashion.  That refusal is the reason we have not met.  The fault is theirs, not mine’ but you’d never know that little detail given the SGM spin machine.]

It is a painful agony that is like watching (and experiencing) a slow-motion train wreck. I do believe that God's church will prevail--with or without SGM and SGC. I think SGM will be there, but not without a great deal of additional work.

Thank you, for the dialogue. These are hard matters. They are also ones we aren't used to handling well in SGM. We're all learning.

Take care