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Exercising Oversight but Not Lording It Over

Here is what the New Testament teaches on the role and responsibilities of a pastor-teacher.  I’ve underlined some of the operative words.  A Bible believing Christian cannot disregard this teaching.  But let me be quick to add, no one should be a pastor-teacher who does not meet the qualifications of 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.  That is the starting point!  It is the main protection against abuses. 

I also realize these verses can be used to manipulate people and lord it over people.  For instance when the author of Hebrews commands, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.”  This passage can be used, and has been used, to justify horrible abuses.  Nevertheless, it stands as God’s authoritative word.  We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water even if we’ve had terrible experiences with pastors.  We must wrestle with its meaning and follow its teaching.  

This requires proper interpretation and application.  For instance, no victim of sex abuse should ever listen to a pastor who instructs them not to involve law enforcement.  Such a request is in clear violation of Scripture (Rom 13:4).  That’s why universal obedience is owed to Jesus Christ alone.  He is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5:4), the Overseer of our souls (1 Pet 2:25), and the Apostle of our faith (Heb 3:1). 

Rebellion against legitimate leaders is a real problem in Scripture (e.g., Num 16:1-35).  We must guard against it in our souls.  So too is lording over the sheep by leaders (e.g. Matt 20:24-28, Jude, 2 Pet 2).  We must guard against it also.  Both are equally problematic.  Peter’s words strike the balance.  Elders must “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight…with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” 

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The Legal Defense Strategy of Sovereign Grace Ministries

It is not hard to figure out the legal defense strategy being put together by Sovereign Grace Ministries in conjunction with Gammon and Grange, P.C.  The prominent law firm is located in northern Virginia.  It was co-founded in 1977 by Jim Gammon and Chip Grange.  Jim went home to be with the Lord in 2011.  I’ve known Chip for over 30 years and worked with him on numerous occasions during my 25 years on the SGM Board of Directors.  He has always been the legal counsel for SGM and Covenant Life Church of which he is a member. 

Sovereign Grace Ministries has put out four press releases since the original class action lawsuit was filed on October 17, 2012.  With the exception of the first release (Oct 17), I doubt the remaining three (Oct 26, Nov 14, Jan 15) were issued by SGM until they were approved by Gammon and Grange.  I’ve included them at the end of this post.  

From what I understand, Gammon and Grange is representing all 14 Defendants but that doesn’t necessarily mean the four press releases by SGM are endorsed by Covenant Life Church (CLC) or Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax (SGCF).  There could be legal wrangling among the four institutional and ten individual Defendants regarding how Gammon and Grange should represent them and proceed.  Remember, CLC and SGCF just left SGM over its proud and abusive leadership culture.  

I’d love to see CLC and SGCF take a different approach then that outlined by SGM in their press releases.  That is, one of humility.  It is my private hope and prayer the pastoral Defendants will quickly agree with their accusers (i.e., the Plaintiffs) and acknowledge wrong doing where it existed rather than create bogus defenses against legitimate charges.  

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