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Thursday
Sep222011

Why Sending Out “The Documents” Was Not Slanderous But Necessary (Part 1)

On July 13, 2011, Dave Harvey posted Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors announcement regarding C.J. Mahaney.  I will deal with this entire blog post at a later date.  For now, I want to address the specific charge of public slander.  I will write several posts laying out my reasons for sending The Documents to the SGM pastors on July 6, 2011.  I believe my action was required and did not constitute slander.  I will put forward my case and you can decide based upon the information presented and the teaching of Scripture.  Here are the comments regarding slander.    

The board of Sovereign Grace has made the following resolutions…. That Brent Detwiler’s distribution of written accusations against C.J. Mahaney to all Sovereign Grace pastors constitutes the public slander of Mahaney’s reputation…the public defamation of his character.

The SGM Board expressed no concerns for my motives or the accuracy of The Documents.  The charge of slander was leveled because I distributed my documents to the SGM pastors. 

Typically, slander is comprised of three parts:  1) evil motives or malicious intent;  2) false charges known to be bogus or inaccurate;  3) the distribution of damaging information that is unwarranted.

Al Mohler accused me of number one when he told a Louisville newspaper that I had “an obvious vendetta” against C.J. and that was the reason I sent out The Documents.  

Ligon Duncan accused me of number one and two when he said on his blog, “It would have been very easy for the leadership of SGM to ignore and dismiss these charges, because so many of them are so evidently self-serving [motive] and spurious [false] accusations.”

The SGM Board, however, makes no mention of numbers one or two.  They accused me of slandering C.J. for distributing the documents.  They say nothing about my motives or the accuracy of my writings.  Therefore, let me give reasons why I believe sending out The Documents was just, necessary and redemptive.

1.   The Favoritism Shown C.J. by the Sovereign Grace Board (1 Timothy 5:21)

During my 16 months of appeals to C.J. (March 2010-June 2011) and after 600 pages of writing,[1] the old SGM Board[2] took no disciplinary action against C.J., expressed no concern he might not be above reproach, required no public confession of any kind, and failed to hold C.J. accountable to his word to produce a through response to my writings.

A new SGM Board[3] was announced on Thursday, July 7, 2011.  Six days later in the same blog post sighted above they declared, “The board of Sovereign Grace Ministries has reviewed Brent Detwiler’s documents…and finds no reason at this time to deem him [C.J.] unfit for ministry… C.J. Mahaney is a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry in Sovereign Grace and the wider body of Christ.”  The new Board followed the inaction of the old Board but went further.   

In less than a week, they claimed to have reviewed my 600 plus pages of documentation and nothing I wrote gave them any pause regarding C.J.’s qualifications for ministry or whether he was above reproach.  Joshua Harris was the only exception.  This was a new development.  He didn’t sign the July 13 blog post and resigned from the Board of Directors the next day.  Joshua felt a determination regarding C.J.’s fitness should await an outside, third party, objective panel of evaluators with no history with SGM.  He thought it unwise and premature for the SGM Board to declare C.J. fit for ministry.

From the crucial meeting on August 20, 2004[4] until July 6, 2011 when I sent out The Documents, C.J. was consistently treated with partiality and shown favoritism.  The standards applied to other leaders in SGM over the decades were not applied to him.  C.J. was permitted to conceal his sins and suffer no consequences.  This was unprecedented in the history of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  That is one reason I decided to send out The Documents to the SGM pastors.  This preferential treatment needed to be exposed so the truth about C.J. (and others) could be weighed by all the pastors in light of Scripture and SGM practice.

2.   The Failure of the Covenant Life Pastors to Enforce 1 Timothy 5:19-21

On June 8, 2011, I sent C.J. and the SGM Board (Dave, Joshua, Jeff) my third document, “Concluding Remarks.”  I said the following in the final section entitled, “Brent Sharing His Concerns with the Sovereign Grace Pastors.”

Well, we have reached the end of the road.  It is now time for me to share my concerns with the Sovereign Grace pastors.  For the longest time, I never entertained this course of action.  It was inconceivable.  But we are at a different place today.  You [C.J.] have refused to address or acknowledge many sins of a serious nature and the Board of Directors has taken insufficient action in its correction and discipline of you.  Others [e.g., Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Gene Emerson and Steve Shank] have gone unaddressed as well. 

C.J., I rejoice in the “thirty-fold” fruit that has been born in your life as a result of this ten year process.  I am glad that friends have finally spoken the truth to you in love.  But the most serious issues I’ve brought to your attention have been ignored, repudiated or denied.  Things like deceit, lying, covering-up, hypocrisy, lording, and favoritism.  I take no delight in saying this, but you and Sovereign Grace Ministries cannot be trusted until these things are acknowledged.  I do not mean to imply the ministry is corrupt or completely untrustworthy.  It isn’t.  There are many outstanding people of high moral integrity that work for Sovereign Grace Ministries and serve as pastors in Sovereign Grace churches.  But given a certain set of temptations related to the love of reputation and self-preservation, I have no confidence you, or those around you, will walk in the light, be truthful, or handle people properly.  I’ve said this from the beginning. (Concluding Remarks, p. 201)

Because the SGM Board failed to deal openly, honestly, and righteously with C.J., I turned to the Covenant Life pastors.  I sent them RRF&D, AFA, CR, and TUS on June 17.  I asked them to implement 1 Timothy 5:19-21 as C.J.’s God ordained pastors.  In this regard, I wrote and also sent “Part 5: In Need of a Corporate Rebuke – An Appeal to the Covenant Life Elders” (available at BrentDetwiler.com).  Instead of going to all the SGM pastors as indicated in Concluding Remarks on June 8, I held back and decided to appeal to the CLC pastors first.  Here is part of what I said to them.

Scripture requires the action I am taking when a leader continues in sin and I am under its authority.  I wish it were not necessary but I trust in the wisdom of God.  It is for C.J.’s good, the good of the movement, and the good of the gospel.  I have avoided any public admonition of C.J. among all the elders of Sovereign Grace Ministries over the past 10 years.  I have painstakingly sought to protect his reputation and cover his sin.  But further action is required now.  As an intermediate step I am appealing to you, the Covenant Life Church elders.  C.J. and the [SGM] Board are in need of your admonition which may lead them to repentance.  You should also require C.J. to acknowledge his sins publically.  Anything less is pure favoritism. 

A week later on June 24, Joshua Harris wrote me the following.

Because of your concern about the process to date, you have indicated that you plan to send these documents to a broader group of leaders.  Would you be willing to postpone that action until we have time to process this fully with CJ and question him directly regarding the specific charges and allegation you are bringing to him?  Thank you for your demonstrated commitment to resolving this process as shown by your restraint in not sending these documents out already.

Joshua’s response encouraged my heart.  I thought the CLC pastors might deal with C.J. forthrightly, provide him a rebuke, make a determination regarding his fitness for ministry, and require a public confession.  I had already delayed sending out The Documents to the SGM pastors.  I was glad to postpone further action in the hope the CLC pastors would take strong and decisive action.  Tragically, this did not happen.  I asked for the official minutes from their upcoming time with C.J. on June 30 but I was denied assess. 

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 8:41 AM

To: Harris, Joshua

Subject: CONFIDENTIAL - Mtg. with C.J.

What day do you meet with C.J.?  Will you record the meeting and provide a transcript to everyone?  Or will you ask someone to take official minutes?  I’d appreciate a copy of either record.

Thanks

Brent 

From: Joshua Harris

Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:41 AM

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: Re: CONFIDENTIAL - The Future

…The meeting with CJ is tomorrow and we’ll have someone takes minutes from the meeting. At this point I don’t feel it would be appropriate to send the minutes to you, but we will happily submit them to the panel.  And the pastoral team will also send you a follow-up that will summarize our thoughts from the meeting…

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 8:31 AM

To: Joshua Harris

Subject: RE: CONFIDENTIAL - The Future

 [You said,] “I know you understand how damaging to trust it can be when there isn't open communication.”  That is why I need you to be open and honest with me.  I need you to answer my questions, share your perspective and keep me informed. 

You should provide me a copy of the minutes from [tomorrow’s] meeting.  I can uniquely provide you important feedback based upon your interaction with C.J. regarding my documents.  I tire of the word “inappropriate.”  Confessions are inappropriate, providing vital information is inappropriate, involving others is inappropriate.  Everything is inappropriate… 

I wanted to hear a good report, a detailed report, and an honest report from the Covenant Life pastors because I did not want to send out the documents.  I hoped the pastors would come through unlike the SGM Board.  Instead, I was left hanging.  Joshua sent me a general report but refused to provide any details or the official minutes.  As a result, I couldn’t tell if the pastors formally rebuked C.J. or not; and I could not determine how C.J. responded.  From what I could tell, the CLC elders did not reprove C.J. except for the blackmail of Larry Tomczak.  They questioned him about other matters but there is no evidence in my possession that they corrected him on anything else.  If they did they were not willing to share it with me. 

After this meeting with C.J. the CLC pastors ceased communicating with me.  They decided to turn everything over to outside evaluators.  I believe this constituted a clear dereliction of duty.  The CLC pastors, not outsiders, have the responsibly to assess and discipline C.J.  Since they refused to follow 1 Timothy 5:19-21, their abdication of responsibility left me with little choice.  I expressed my disagreement to Joshua.

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 8:31 AM

To: Joshua Harris

Subject: RE: CONFIDENTIAL - The Future

…Whatever role the independent panel plays must be secondary.  They are not elders.  They don’t know us.  They don’t know C.J.  They don’t have a history with us or a future with us.  They have not been anointed by God to lead in CLC.  You must not expect them to do your job for you or make the hard decisions…. Keep the ball in your court and lead.

Joshua wrote me back.  The pastors did not want to deal with C.J.  Any decisions they made regarding C.J.’s future would be based upon the results or findings of an outside panel.  This irresponsible action was disappointing, but far worse, Joshua presented me as the only one with concerns for C.J. 

From: Joshua Harris 

Sent: Friday, July 01, 2011 12:01 PM

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: Re: Update

…You asked me about the issue of [C.J.’s] resignation based on what I see.  I don’t think that would be right at this time.  The results of the panel could change that.  But right now, I think a leave of absence is more appropriate.  The challenge I face is that all of this documentation is coming from just one witness (you)…

I know the independent panel can’t take the place of us leading.  But I feel that as a movement we’re so weak in certain areas, we need outside help to enable us to see things clearly and address all the relevant issues.  So I want to urge you again to participate in this independent panel.  I think it will be significantly weakened if they only have your documents to work with… 

From my perspective, the CLC pastors stopped leading.  They turned over their responsibilities to Ambassadors of Reconciliation.  As a result the Sovereign Grace Board was able to reassert itself, manipulate the process and break their often stated commitment to use an independent panel to evaluate C.J. and SGM. 

Once again it is up to the CLC pastors to lead.  They must stand up to the SGM Board and C.J.  Their lack of leadership in relation to C.J. over the last seven years has been inexcusable.  They were assigned the responsibility of caring for C.J. and holding him accountable to change on August 20, 2004 (see RRF&D, pp. 27-28).  Unfortunately, the Covenant Life pastors have never being willing to deal with C.J.  I hope and think that is changing.

Because of their unwillingness to be open with me and fulfill 1 Timothy 5:19-21, I was forced to consider afresh my original plan.  “Well, we have reached the end of the road.  It is now time for me to share my concerns with the Sovereign Grace pastors.”  It was hard to see how I could refrain from further action or postpone communicating with the SGM pastors.  The intermediate step with the CLC pastors failed.    

 


[1] “Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine” (RRF&D), “A Final Appeal” (AFA), “Concluding Remarks” (CR), and “The Untold Story” (TUS)

[2] Dave Harvey, Joshua Harris, Jeff Purswell, and Pat Ennis (Pat resigned on Feb 28, 2011 but signed the March 11, 2011 board letter (see RRF&D, pp. 50-56)

[3] Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, Craig Cabaniss, Mickey Connelly, Rick Gamache, Pete Greasley, John Loftness, Aron Osborne, Mark Prater, and Steve Shank.

[4] See RRF&D, pp. 16-28.