Search

 Subscribe by Email

Brent Detwiler's Tweets
Thursday
Jun062019

Sovereign Grace Leadership Team Says Independent Investigation of Child Abuse Is Impossible – Three Prominent Sovereign Grace Churches Publicly Disagree

The Sovereign Grace Leadership Team is comprised of Mark Prater, Mickey Connolly, Tommy Hill, Bob Kauflin, Ian McConnell, Jeff Purswell and Rich Richardson.  These men have adamantly refused to allow an independent investigation of Sovereign Grace’s handling of child abuse throughout its history claiming it is “impossible” and would “dishonor Christ and harm the cause of the gospel.”

“We made our decision based upon principles that were theological, ethical, and practical in nature.  Practical matters alone make this option impossible. … We remain persuaded that an investigation of the sort we’ve been challenged to authorize—both in good faith and otherwise—is inappropriate, impractical, unjust, and finally would be unsatisfactory to all interested parties.  Most importantly, as far as we’re able to discern, we believe this course, the theological capitulation it would represent, and the precedent it would set, would ultimately dishonor Christ and harm the cause of the gospel.” (The Leadership Team, “Thoughts on the Call for an ‘Independent Investigation’ of Sovereign Grace Churches,” April 12, 2019)

Rachael Denhollander provided a Response to Sovereign Grace Churches on an Independent Investigation.  Here is an excerpt. 

“Sovereign Grace Churches recently released a statement on why the denomination of SGC will not recommend a third party investigation. … Regarding the other objections SGC raises to an independent review, these are simply not valid objections. … Further, I have provided multiple suggestions to SGC leaders directly that laid out a framework for pursuing an independent review.  These suggestions were in light of all these supposed roadblocks and did not violate SGC’s ecclesiology.” (April 16, 2019) 

A host of national leaders like Al Mohler and Mark Galli have called for an investigation but Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. (SGC) refuses.  This has caused great alarm and offense in the Body of Christ at large.  It is also causing prominent pastors in SGC to speak out. 

Paul Buckley is on the SGC Executive Committee (i.e. Board of Directors).  He was the Chairman in 2014 and 2015.  He was also on the Polity Committee that produced the Book of Church Order.  Paul is smart – he has a Ph.D. in material science from Johns Hopkins University.  He is also the lead pastor of King of Grace Church in the greater Boston area.  Here is the letter he and the pastoral staff recently sent to the church stating their strong disagreement with the SGC Leadership Team and the “crisis” they have caused.  

I’ve add underling for focus. 

King of Grace Church Position on a Third-Party Investigation of Sovereign Grace Churches
April 15, 2019 

Dear fellow members of King of Grace Church and friends, 

Last year on Sunday, March 18th, 2018, our church approved a letter of appeal asking our denomination, Sovereign Grace Churches, to invite a qualified third party to consider any and all evidence that Sovereign Grace Churches have failed, in regard to sexual abuse, to do all they can to create churches that protect the safety and flourishing of all people under their care.  We stated that we believed these results must be determined and thoroughly addressed as soon as possible. 

We never published the letter nor sent it to the Leadership Team of Sovereign Grace Churches because they were actively considering the possibility of third-party involvement in examining evidence and addressing allegations of mishandling sex abuse cases within Sovereign Grace Churches.  However, on Friday, April 12th, 2019, the Leadership Team published a FAQ and position paper making it very clear that they opposed engaging a true third-party investigation. (See the Third Party Statement and the FAQ.) 

Given this very clear statement, the elders of King of Grace Church need to inform you that we strongly disagree with the Sovereign Grace Churches Leadership Team and have registered our dissent with them.  Although the Leadership Team has introduced many reforms and proposals to ensure safety and justice regarding sexual abuse, some of which involves third-party consultation and advocacy, they have refrained from employing a third-party investigation.  We believe the formation of a third-party panel of qualified experts with the ability to act relatively independently is essential for the performance of a due-diligence response to this crisis.  This third party should act to gather as much evidence as they can and deliver the most conclusive report possible.  This report should include in-depth analysis with appropriate recommendations for action.  Only this sort of response will reflect a just and thorough answer to the allegations made by reputable leaders in the Christian community (e.g. - Albert Mohler, Rachael Denhollander, Christianity Today).   

We believe an investigation by a qualified third party is not only simply following due diligence and best practices, but that it is an excellent way to honor biblical principles of justice and integrity.  The bible is consistent in its emphasis of doing what is right not only in the sight of God, but in the sight of men.  This means not just men and women in the church but in the broader culture.  The Apostle Paul takes pains to do this as seen in Acts 16:3, Acts 24:16, 1 Corinthians 9:12, 19-23, 10:32-33, 16:3, 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 etc.  

It is interesting to note that his efforts of doing what is right in the sight of men even work against his rights.  Paul chooses to relinquish his rights when to insist on them would harm the cause of the gospel.  Similarly, we might harm the cause of the gospel by insisting that we have the right not to be investigated by a third party.  Would it not be better to be wronged in this than to see the gospel and some or all of Christ’s churches held in disrepute

Additionally, it is very feasible to retain the biblical right and responsibility to practice church-based adjudications (1 Corinthians 6:1-11, 1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Timothy 5:19-21) while employing a third-party investigation.  An investigation is conducted to gather evidence, not to seek a judgment.  Investigations and courts are distinguished this way no matter whether it be a civil, criminal or church court.  The Sovereign Grace Churches Book of Church Order already allows for the presentation of evidence by third parties (see BCO 24.2.2.2 ).  

Sovereign Grace Churches benefitted greatly from a previous investigation by Ambassadors of Reconciliation (see the AoR Report).  Their findings led to the reorganization of our polity and the implementation of various policies that have helped us flourish as a family of churches.  

Furthermore, it is important to recognize that a third-party investigation can be pursued without forcing anybody to testify.  For example, no criminal investigation in the United States can ever force someone to testify.  This right is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.  Nevertheless, every police department is still able to gather sufficient evidence to successfully charge people.  Similarly, a third-party investigation of churches cannot force anyone or any church to testify yet can still accomplish much to uncover relevant evidence.

Additionally, all churches in Sovereign Grace Churches associate voluntarily, therefore it would never be possible to force them to participate in a third-party investigation nor, for that matter, in any aspect of our partnership.  However, this has never kept us from pursuing joint activities that benefit our union of churches.  A thorough investigation can be conducted without the ability to force participation. This has been done in our past.  This would greatly benefit our integrity and mission now.

We hope these reasons make sense to you.  We wanted you to know our dissent and our position.  We ask that you continue to pray for our family of churches and a peaceful and just resolution to this crisis.  We also ask you to continue to express respect for those that disagree with us, thinking the best of their motives and being careful to exercise caution in how we communicate their position.  We find great help in the various biblical injunctions to continue to do good while trusting God (Psalm 37, 1 Peter 2 & 3 etc.).  May we honor Christ not only in the stand we take but also in how we relate to those who disagree with us.

Furthermore, we thought it important to release a copy of the original statement we were prepared to make last year.  We continue to stand by what we wrote more than a year ago.  The statement follows:

Brothers & Sisters,

We, the people of King of Grace Church, greet you in the name of Christ.

We have greatly benefited from our partnership with Sovereign Grace Churches since the beginning of our church.  Our biblical values, generous resources and deep friendships have made all the difference in the life and fruitfulness of our church.  We dearly love our brothers and sisters in fellow Sovereign Grace Churches and regard them with great respect and affection.  We plan to continue this partnership through the ups and downs of even public scandal and failures, trusting in the power and grace of God and his word to guide us.

Recently our churches have been accused of “one of the worst, if not the worst, instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse”.  While we could argue about the accuracy of this statement, it is understandable why a reasonable person might make such a statement.  The evidence seems to be significant.

We believe that the safety and flourishing of the children, women and men under our care is a necessary part of belonging to the body of Christ.  Churches should lead the way in how they conduct themselves in preventing sexual abuse, responding to those abused and partnering with appropriate authorities in dealing with perpetrators.  Churches should ensure a culture of safety and humble, diligent response in matters related to sexual and any abuse.  And churches should be willing to be properly scrutinized when these standards are lacking.  We believe our churches have truly sought to honor these biblical standards.  But we have not been perfect, and many reasonable people are concerned for the safety of our people, our integrity and the name of Christ.

Although we have set up an extensive system to keep churches, pastors and members accountable to biblical standards, this system cannot operate apart from some way to keep us accountable as a whole body of churches.  When our entire denomination is subject to accusations there must be an avenue to investigate and call us to account as needed.  This is important for the sake of the safety of our people and for the reputation of Christ and his church within and beyond Sovereign Grace Churches.

Therefore, King of Grace Church, its members along with its deacons and elders, is appealing to our fellow Sovereign Grace Churches to act immediately to invite a qualified third party to consider any and all evidence that Sovereign Grace Churches have failed in any way to do all they can to create churches that protect the safety and flourishing of all people under their care, in regard to sexual abuse.

We believe these results must be determined and thoroughly addressed as soon as possible.  We believe the need for this inquiry and its results far outweighs any possibility of injustice or undue financial or legal burden to Sovereign Grace Churches.  The life and mission of Jesus’ people are at risk, truly nothing is more important than these, as Christ’s followers.  We urge you to act, there is too much at stake.

Sincerely, Your Brothers and Sisters of King of Grace Church, Haverhill, MA, USA

Approved Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Please continue to pray for a peaceful and just resolution to this crisis.

In Christ, the elders of King of Grace Church, Haverhill, MA, Monday, April 15, 2019

Paul Buckley

Toby Gayner

Jeff Haavisto

Michael Lilley

END 

Bauer Evans is also a prominent pastor and well-loved in SGC.  He too pastor's a church in the greater Boston area by the name of Crossway Church.  I especially like what he and his staff wrote the church a couple weeks ago.   

2019-05-22  

Dear brothers and sisters of Crossway Church,  

For the past year we have been hoping, praying, and requesting that our denomination, Sovereign Grace Churches, would invite a qualified third party to consider all evidence that Sovereign Grace Churches have failed, in regard to sexual abuse, to do all they can to create churches that protect the safety and flourishing of all people under their care.  

While we respect the Leadership of Sovereign Grace Churches, we had hoped they would recommend some third-party involvement in addressing allegations of mishandling sex abuse cases within Sovereign Grace Churches.  However, on Friday, April 12th, 2019, the Leadership Team published a FAQ and position paper making it clear that they were not recommending an independent, third-party investigation but were opposed to it. (See the Third Party Statement and the FAQ on the sovereigngrace.com website under SGC Communications.) 

Given this very clear statement of their conclusions, the pastors of Crossway Church declare that we ​strongly disagree​ with this recommendation and have registered our dissent with them.  While the final decision regarding a third party investigation ultimately resides with the Council of Elders, we recognize the Leadership Team’s recommendation will persuade a majority of our churches to not pursue a third party investigation, something we deem vital to the ongoing trust extended to us by of survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates, as well as our neighbors and communities, too.  We feel compelled to express our disagreement with this recommendation at the risk of being criticized as undermining our unity as churches.  

We have greatly benefited from our partnership with Sovereign Grace Churches since our inception and we continue to cherish the leaders and people in Sovereign Grace Churches.  But in recent years our denomination has been accused of “one of the worst, if not the worst instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse”.  While we would argue about the accuracy of this statement, many reasonable people are influenced by such assertions.  The evidence seems to be significant and our silence until recently has been disturbing. 

We have listened carefully to survivors of sexual abuse, their advocates, and many others who have expressed their concerns, distrust, and fear of any institution which rejects independent reviews and thus avoids the transparency and accountability represented by an independent party.  While we all agree churches should lead the way in how they conduct themselves in preventing sexual abuse, responding to those abused, and partnering with appropriate authorities in dealing with perpetrators, many survivors and their advocates continue to express doubts and concerns about our past, the transparency of our review process, and therefore the honor being given to Christ.   

We remain convinced that the formation of a third-party panel of qualified experts with the ability to act independently is essential for a just and thorough response to this crisis.  Recent studies and history of other cases show that even the best intentioned internal investigations suffer from bias in protecting the accused.  A third party would act to gather as much evidence as they can and deliver the most conclusive report possible.  This report should include in-depth analysis with appropriate recommendations for action.  In its absence, survivors and survivors’ advocates in our churches do not feel safe in a Sovereign Grace church.  Additionally, too many of our members find themselves defending a direction being recommended by our Leadership team that seems uncaring and unjust.  

Finally, we believe a third-party investigation can be pursued without forcing anybody to testify.  No criminal investigation in the United States can ever force someone to testify.  Similarly, a third-party investigation of churches cannot force anyone or any church to testify yet can still accomplish much to uncover relevant evidence.  Additionally, all churches in Sovereign Grace Churches associate voluntarily, therefore it would never be possible to force them to participate in a third-party investigation nor, for that matter, in any aspect of our partnership.  A thorough investigation can be conducted without the ability to force participation.  

We hope these reasons make sense to you.  We wanted you to know our position.  We have continued to pray for our Leadership Team and family of churches that a just resolution would be reached during this crisis.  We continue to express respect for those that disagree with us, thinking the best of their motives and being careful to exercise caution in how we communicate their position, and ours.  May we honor Christ not only in this stance we take but in how we relate to those who disagree with us. 

Therefore, as the pastors of Crossway Church, we are appealing to our fellow Sovereign churches to act immediately and call for a qualified third party to consider all evidence that Sovereign Grace Churches have failed in any way to do what they can to protect the safety of all people under their care and report to local authorities any situations in regard to sexual abuse.  The safety and trust of our survivors, their advocates, our members, as well as our reputation amongst our neighbors and communities is at stake.  We urge you to act now on behalf of those we serve and care for and our mission together in the gospel. 

Sincerely, Bauer Evans, Dave Magoon, and Dan Roca,
The Pastors of Crossway Church of Franklin, MA.

In response to this letter, Jacob Denhollander (Rachael’s husband) tweeted out the following.

Jacob Denhollander‏ @JJ_Denhollander 
Very glad to see this statement from the pastors of a Sovereign Grace Church near Boston, registering their strong disagreement with denominational leader’s decision to refuse to do a credible investigation into serious allegations of mishandling sex abuse.
12:41 PM - 27 May 2019
 
Jacob Denhollander‏ @JJ_Denhollander 
I hope other SG pastors will take a similar public stance.  The victims in these cases are still watching, waiting.  They deserve answers.  And anyone who may have been unfairly accused deserves the opportunity to clear the air.  Clarity benefits everyone.
12:41 PM - 27 May 2019
 
Jacob Denhollander‏ @JJ_Denhollander 
I was just pointed to yet another statement from another SG church [Buckley]. https://kingofgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/King-of-Grace-Postion-on-3rd-Party-Investigation.pdf … This one does a very good pointing out that a third party investigation is indeed possible within SG polity, & recognizes that no investigation harms the association of churches.
2:28 PM - 27 May 2019
 
Joshua Pease‏ @joshuadpease 
[*whispers* maybe don’t be an SGC church anymore?]
There may be legal reasons they can’t just make a clean break but ... how do you not do everything you can to separate at this point, including shutting down and moving to the school across the street w/ a new name?
2:33 PM
 
Jacob Denhollander‏ @JJ_Denhollander 
I agree, but it is hard for people to see and believe that something they love is something much different then they thought.  Hope is a double-edged thing.  Realization sometimes comes swiftly and suddenly, other times it comes slowly.
2:37 PM
 
Jessica Prather‏ @JessPrather1 
Right.  Agreed.  However, at this point, it’s becoming painfully obvious that SGC is vehemently against changing their ways.
3:08 PM 

Jacob Denhollander‏ @JJ_Denhollander 
And I’m afraid these churches will find that out the hard way.  But sometimes you feel like you have to go through the process and see it through, even though you are increasingly aware that it might have a bad ending.
3:12 PM 

My greatest respect is reserved for Chris Daukas at Grace Church in the Phoenix area.  Like Paul and Bauer, he was one of my students in the Pastors College.  As a matter conscience, he ended the “partnership” with SGC over its “response to the ongoing allegations of widespread mishandling of sexual abuse cases” and “growing disagreement with aspects of the SGC Book of Church Order.” 

Our Partnership with Sovereign Grace Churches
March 1, 2019 

In early 2018 the Elders of Grace Church began a process of evaluating our partnership with Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC).  Nearly a year later, on January 17, 2019, we initiated our withdrawal from SGC.  As of March 1, 2019, Grace Church is no longer a member of the denomination. 

Our decision to withdraw from formal partnership with SGC came after many months of prayer and earnest discussions, during which we attempted to work through our differences and express our concerns, first with fellow pastors, then more formally within our Region, and ultimately with SGC leadership. 

Our concerns fall mostly into two categories: 1) SGC’s response to the ongoing allegations of widespread mishandling of sexual abuse cases within SGC churches1, and 2) growing disagreement with aspects of the SGC Book of Church Order (BCO).  We have communicated these reasons in detail to both SGC leadership and the members of our local church.  We do not intend to discuss them in a public forum.  If you are a member of Grace Church and still have questions about the decision to dissolve our partnership with SGC, we are happy to talk through the details.  In that case, please contact us at info@gracechurchaz.org

As we have reflected on our long history as an SGC member church, we are grateful for the many ways in which we have benefited.  We consider many still in SGC to be friends and co-laborers in the Gospel.  We are committed to praying for SGC as we leave. 

By God’s grace we are moving forward into a new chapter for our church, but our mission remains the same: to spread the joy of treasuring Christ in all of life. 

Chris Daukas & Jamie Self
Elders, Grace Church 

1 Nothing in this statement is meant to be interpreted as representing a judgment regarding the ongoing allegations themselves.

I hope Paul Buckley and Bauer Evans follow Chris Daukas’ example and pull out of SGC.  I don’t know how they can stay.  As I’ve said before; no pastor, church or church member should remain in SGC when its Leadership Team puts forth completely bogus reasons for refusing to embrace an independent investigation. As Buckley pointed out, “The Sovereign Grace Churches Book of Church Order already allows for the presentation of evidence by third parties (see BCO 24.2.2.2 ).”

But the Leadership Team is not going to listen to Rachael Denhollander, Al Mohler, Mark Galli, or any of its pastors.  Why?  Because an independent investigation would be the end of Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. so great is the conspiracy to commit and cover up the sexual abuse of children! 

Yes, there is a crisis as pointed out by Buckley, Evans, and Daukas but nothing compared to the CRISIS that would result from a fair, equtiable, and professional investigation by a top tier lawfirm that specilzies in these matters! That is why, Prater, Connolly, Hill, Kauflin, McConnell, Purswell and Richardson have slammed the SGC door.  There are way too many skeltons in the closet. 

It is like Rachael Denhollander told Martha MacCallum on her FOX News Channel show, "You have allegations in almost half of the Sovereign Grace Churches across the country of this pattern and that is without any investigative reporting having even been done" (March 16, 2018).

Related Articles 

C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church & the Conspiracy to Cover-up the Sexual Abuse of Children
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 12:42PM

Debunking the Claim that Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. Is “Unable to Authorize an Independent Third-Party Investigation”
Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 5:16PM

The Sovereign Grace Leadership Team Rejects an Independent Investigation of Sexual Abuse Insisting It Would “Dishonor Christ and Harm the Cause of the Gospel.” Rachael Denhollander Responds. So Do I.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 6:52PM

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend