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It’s About Ethics, Not Polity, Stupid!

When my children were young, it was sometimes necessary to spank them.  On one occasion, one of my boys was particularly resistant to the discipline being administered.  It was time for some ancient wisdom from King Solomon.  I told my son he was being stupid and quoted Proverbs 12:1.  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.  At this he took offense and proceeded to correct dear old dad for calling him stupid.  He missed the point! 

Of course, I had to explain what I meant by using the word, stupid.  He wasn’t dumb.  He was foolish.  Hating reproof is stupid.  C.J., Dave Harvey, and other SGM leaders have also been “stupid.”  They have defied God’s discipline.  The same thing is true of those pastors who choose to stay in Sovereign Grace Ministries or leave over polity differences alone.  Such pastors are not imbecilic.  They don’t lack intelligence but they do lack reason.  No one with any “smarts” can stay in SGM.    

Here’s why.  There has been a documented decline in biblical and personal ethics over the past 15 years.  In particular, the devolution accelerated in the aftermath of our collective confrontation of C.J. in 2004.  He took over that disciplinary process and fought off any on-going evaluation of his sinful patterns of deceit, pride, hypocrisy, independence, love of reputation, and the mistreatment of others.  He turned against Dave and me and he turned others against us.  Men like Bob Kauflin began to defend his sinful ways.  As a result, C.J. was allowed to build a small cloister of friends around him that did not correct him and practically worshipped him.  He was on his own once more to do what he wanted. 

Two and a half years ago, I disturbed the status quo when I sent C.J., Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine.  Fourteen months ago, I threatened the status quo when I sent out my documents to the SGM pastors.  What have we learned about those documents since then?  That’s simple.  We have learned that Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine, A Final Appeal, Concluding Remarks, The Untold Story, In Need of a Corporate Rebuke, Tell It to the Church, and Is C.J. Above Reproach are all true.  

Throughout this process, no one has accused me of lying, deceiving or manipulating.  Everyone has vouched for my integrity and truthfulness.  No one from SGM has ever pointed out an error.  No one from SGM has ever disputed the accuracy of an example or illustration.  With only one exception, no one has ever rebutted what I have written.  Not C.J. or Dave or Steve Shank.  Not the old, interim, or new Boards.  Not Ted Kober, Ed Keinath or Bryce Thomas from Ambassadors of Reconciliation.  All of these people have avoided what I’ve said; but none have provided any evidence to dispute what I have said.  That is why I have never been allowed to present a single charge against C.J. or SGM to anyone authorized to hear them and judge them.  Why again?  Because the charges are true and cannot be defended against.           

Only once was a charge refuted.  That was by the first panel comprised of Rick Gamache, Mark Alderton, and Steve Teter.  They were assigned the question, “Was C.J. Mahaney’s participation in fellowship in 2003-2004, including the giving and receiving of correction, in keeping with the teaching of Scripture?”  The right answer to that question is an unequivocal no based upon the testimony of everyone at the time.  The facts show that C.J. was not in any kind of meaningful fellowship.  He was on his own.  True, he was giving correction to others; but false, he was not receiving correction. These three men were particularly biased and/or inept in dealing with the evidence.  No one believed C.J. was experiencing fellowship or humbly receiving correction in 2003-2004. 

It is no wonder Rick, Mark and Steve didn’t want me to appear before their panel.  I would have pressed upon them the evidence and challenged any bogus attempt to refute the evidence.  Here’s all you need to know in the words of Dave Harvey, Grant Layman, Kenneth Maresco and Joshua Harris. 

From: Dave Harvey 
Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2004 7:46 AM
To: Steve Shank
Cc: Brent Detwiler
Subject: CONFIDENTIAL – Confession 

In response to my experience over the past few years (at least the way I interpret it), I recently sat down to try to summarize, in an overarching way, what I am hearing from everyone involved [emphasis mine].   This is what I came up with: 

I think his responsibilities before God and the people in movement that love him and trust him led all of us to assume that:  

  1. CJ was pursuing correction about self – he was not
  2. CJ was humble towards correction – he was not
  3. CJ was talking to other people about the primary concerns being raised with him – he was not
  4. CJ was truly accountable in certain important areas – he was not
  5. CJ was responding lovingly to misunderstanding & pressing into his friendships for clarity & with affirmation – he was not
  6. CJ was leading the movement through the primary influence and direction of the A. Team (or team was involved in strategic planning for future) or that we were actually talking about where we were weak and needed improvement. [he was not]
  7. CJ was seeing the need to illustrate his sermons with examples of his own weakness and sinfulness (this was weak)
  8. All the while teaching on humility, writing on it & referencing himself in regards to it when we were calling him to account.
  9. Been enormously troubling to us & personally grievous for me 

Because of the portrait that forms above, I don’t think we want to limit the confession to the CLC guys involved (not sure CJ would want this either, but I don’t know).  Also, I’m not sure that the fact that others that don’t relate to CJ as much (rest of CLC team) is a good reason for not having him go broader.  I don’t think we should evaluate the circle of confessions by the aggrieved parties but by the longstanding nature of the pattern, the resistance of the person, the measure of his responsibilities, the norm in Sovereign Grace, etc.,  etc.  For CJ to confess his sin to his [pastoral] team and the upper echelon of leadership in Sovereign Grace (extended [regional] teams) does not appear to me to be excessive.


Dave Harvey:  “To summarize, the following is my best shot at a summation of my original concerns…to correct CJ, or to challenge his own self-perception, was to experience a reaction through e-mails, consistent disagreement (without seeking to sufficiently understand), a lack of sufficient follow-up and occasionally, relational withdrawal.  Along with this, CJ was poor in volunteering areas of sin, temptation or weakness in himself.” (RRF&D, p. 37).

Grant Layman:  “My primary concern for C.J. would be in the area of who is supposed to be caring for him?  Perhaps this is taking place with you men on the apostolic team?  We have tried numerous times to get together here over the past year but have not been able to make it happen.  So care for he and Carolyn is not happening here unless there is something I am unaware of…. I am not aware of any correction C.J. is receiving from the apostolic team or others.  This issue has always been ongoing concern for C.J.  I have  raised his ongoing concern over the years that C.J. receives pastoral care.  Not aware of anyone raising any issues or concerns with C.J. in private.  We have a very limited view of what is going on in his life, a narrow window to look through, and limited opportunity for observation of C.J.  Over past year, correction of C.J. and confession by C.J. has not happened at all – there is no context for this to happen.  I thinks C.J.’s self-assessment may be such that he and Carolyn just don’t require input.” (RRF&D, pp. 8-9)

Kenneth Maresco:  “When correcting C.J. you have to be real precise for him to receive.  This can be hard for men to do who are less gifted than C.J.  It should be easier to bring things to him.  He needs to grow in learning to listen carefully even if he thinks the person’s perspective is wrong.  He needs to listen when a person is conveying a sense of something that is wrong but having a hard time being precise.  C.J. can exhibit a quickness and strength of response.  Josh and I show a sense of deference [to C.J.] in our hearts – we don’t press issues.  Neither Josh or I raise these kinds of issues with C.J.  That is, whether he receives correction humbly and is easy to confront or responds gently and kindly, not abruptly or harshly, when disagreeing with someone.  C.J. is not making us aware of input from others – e.g., CLC pastors, apostolic team, Carolyn.   Don’t know if he is receiving correction.  I assume no one is bringing correction or things to him…. C.J. feels a freedom to disagree in the process of correction more than others.  There can be immediate disagreement and he doesn’t entreat further observations.  Given his position and discernment this can shut down the process.  He is generally more quick to disagree.” (RRF&D, pp. 8, 13)

Joshua Harris:  “C.J. is difficult to correct because of his strength and not shy about his opinion.  People go with what he is saying because of his position and strength of personality.  Guys don’t hear from C.J. re: the apostolic team’s observations and in the past the context for focused observations has not been present.  C.J. provides input for others but not the other way around.  We are not in settings where C.J. confesses specific sin especially related to marriage.  Confessions are more on the level of schedule.  Maybe C.J. doesn’t sin as much as we do.” (RRF&D, p. 13)


Nothing has changed since 2003-2004.  Well, that’s not true.  Things have changed, but only for the worse.  Ask Joshua, Kenneth and Grant – they know and so does every rational person in Sovereign Grace Ministries willing to study the evidence.  The past 14 months have provided overwhelming proof of lying, deceit, manipulation, spin, partiality, cover-up, favoritism, oppression, injustice, and abuse.  Even the most debased sinner has the ability to study the evidence and conclude that C.J. should not be President.

Biblical ethics are “those views of what is right and wrong in God’s sight, as derived from or found in the Bible.”[1]  Personal ethics are “the values, norms, and actions carried out in personal decisions.  These are concerned with relationships in settings such as the home, work, and the church and with personal conduct.”[2]  I recently wrote about the ethical demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries and cited fifty examples with proofs.  Those two posts are the only thing anyone needs to read in reaching a decision about whether they should leave SGM.  Like for Daniel in the Old Testament, the writing is on the wall (Dan 5:5).  SGM is morally bankrupt.  Every pastor should be leading God’s sheep out of SGM over repeated ethical violations of the most serious kind. 

Last week, I received this message from a young man I do not know and with whom I have never interacted.  He and his friends are prepared to leave SGM over its ethical demise.  He asked me “to bring this to light.”  I am honored to do so.     

August 15, 2012

Hi there Mr. Detwiler,

My name is David Cupp and I am a member of a Sovereign Grace Church.  I know you have a lot to do with reading counter arguments and refuting their points and keeping on in this pursuit of bringing change to SGM and removing a corrupted man out of his “throne of power.”  But I would just like to tell you about something I believe is very important that maybe you could bring to light that I can’t. 

I spent a day with some of the younger guys in my church, and the entire day was supposed to be just going out and having fun.  But the topic of SGM and everything came up, and I realized something.  There are a lot of young guys, the next generation of leadership in SGM that are willing to leave.  Literally, all of the guys (including myself) we were with were willing to leave if things at SGM didn’t change (C.J. leaving and good polity was announced). 

I love SGC (my church) and SGM and I love their doctrine.  But I cannot and will not stay, and neither will these friends of mine, with a leader who is so corrupt and power hungry (from what I can see) and who gives a bad name to SGM to the outside world.  So I ask you to try to bring this to light.  These men’s decisions now will affect the next half-century of SGM (if there is another 50 years). 


A young man with a love for God, for others, and reaching the world for His glory.


I am reminded of Elihu’s words.  Job 32:7-9 I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’  But it is the spirit  in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.  It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.

David and his friends realize what too many pastors in SGM do not.  It’s about ethics, not polity!  I hope young people throughout SGM take the same stand David and his friends are taking.  Churches may leave SGM over polity differences but they must leave over ethical violations.  How can any pastor possibly support C.J., Dave, and Mickey in their leadership roles with a clear conscience?  You can’t if you’re submitted to the authority of Scripture – it’s impossible unless you are willing to compromise!      

That’s why every church member should ask their pastors where they stand on the ethical issues surrounding SGM.  Do they believe C.J. should be the President?  Do they believe C.J., Dave and Mickey (to mention a few) are above reproach and blameless?  Do they believe these men have been open, honest and truthful in light of the evidence?   Do they believe the interim Board acted in a just fashion when they implemented the three panel reviews? 

In addition, do they believe it is right that I have never been allowed to share my charges or grievances (i.e. the abuses I’ve suffered over the past 8 years) before any hearing to be judged?  Or do they believe it is just that I have never been allowed to defend against false witnesses and the destruction of my livelihood?  I have been denied at every turn.  Moreover, it is a sad fact that not a single pastor in all of SGM has thus far been willing to speak out in public against these grave injustices.  And as a matter of fact, I don’t know of any pastor who has been willing to speak out in private.  I hope to be surprised one day and find out otherwise. 

It is also true that not a single pastor has thus far been willing to speak out in public against the vice so evident in SGM or been willing to publicly call C.J., Dave, Mickey or any of the Boards to repentance.  All have remained silent.  Such silence is deeply offensive to God.  “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them….‘Wake up O sleeper!’” (Eph 5:12,14)

Every church member needs to find out if their pastors are committed to leave SGM over ethics and not just polity since there has been no repentance or confession regarding all the critical issues.  Any church leader focused on polity changes is majoring on minors.  They have missed the mark.  God is not judging and disciplining SGM for polity that is unclear.  Reforming polity will not repair the breach that exists between the Sovereign Lord and Sovereign Grace.  The gracious reproofs of the Lord Jesus Christ have been hated.  His discipline taken ever so lightly.  Like my beloved son, Sovereign Grace leaders have been stupid. 

If your pastors are unwilling to leave over ethics, and publicly say so, I don’t believe they are worthy of your trust or respect for one or more of the following reasons. 

  1. A lack the discernment.  Any pastor who doesn’t see clearly the issues at hand should not be in ministry.  Over 2,000 pages of hard evidence have been presented.  What has transpired over the last 14 months is easy to decipher.  If your pastor can’t discern the lies, deceit, and manipulation so evident in SGM, he is not gifted to be a pastor.      
  2. A lack of integrity.  Any pastor unwilling to articulate for the church his concerns about SGM lacks integrity.  He shows a willingness to condone sin by remaining silent rather than a commitment to righteousness by correcting sin.  If your pastors have not been open and honest about their view of SGM over the last 14 months, you cannot be certain they will be open and honest about anything in the future.  There must be transparency between the pastors and people.  You should know their thoughts and perspectives on C.J., Dave, the Boards, the three review panels, AoR, etc.  If they have sought to keep you in the dark by avoiding the issues, you have even greater reason to be concerned. 
  3. A lack the courage.  Any pastor unwilling to go on the record is cowardly.  Most likely he doesn’t want to get in trouble with SGM and suffers from the fear of man and a love of reputation.  For example, if he believes C.J. is above reproach; he should say so and defend him against all charges.  If he believes C.J. is disqualified from ministry, he should say so and explain why to the church.  If he doesn’t know what to believe, go back to number one.     

In the coming weeks, most church members in SGM will be hearing from their pastors about their position on polity.  That’s okay.  But if they don’t address the ethical demise of SGM in a forthright manner, they must be called to account.  Many leaders in SGM are in need of being led.  They have lacked the discernment, integrity and courage needed to take action and speak out.  Therefore, I pray the laity (lit. people) of God will provide the leadership of God where necessary in their local church.  That includes the next generation of young people like David and his friends. 

If your pastors won’t leave SGM over what is paramount, then you should leave your church.  It really is about ethics, not polity, and if you don’t get that, sorry, you’re stupid!     

References: The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 1);The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 2) 


[1] Ibid., p. 95.

[2] McKim, Donald K., Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 94.


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