Subscribe by Email

Brent Detwiler's Tweets

The Cardinal Sins of Joshua Harris

In Roman Catholic theology, there are three gradations of sin: venial, cardinal and mortal.  I’m happy to report Joshua Harris has not committed any mortal or “killer” sins.  Those destroy your acceptance by God and cause eternal separation in hell.  But neither are his sins against C.J. and Sovereign Grace venial or minor.  No, Joshua’s sins are cardinal and that means they are major.  They haven’t destroyed his relationships but they have resulted in separation from each other.  C.J., Mike, and Brian are gone from Covenant Life Church.  That is “cardinal” because Joshua’s errors (and all the CLC pastors) are major!  That is, in the eyes of the Mahaney’s, Bradshaw’s and Chesmore’s.  We are not talking about “venial” disagreements.

What are these cardinal sins according to the evidence?

  1. The handling of “The Documents”
  2. Critical comments about C.J.
  3. Compassionate comments about me
  4. God is disciplining Sovereign Grace
  5. A different vision and direction for Covenant Life Church
  6. A lack of support for Sovereign Grace 

The Handling of “The Documents”

At the Covenant Life Members Meeting on July 10, Joshua said the following. 

“Can I just ask you a question?  How many of you have read the [Brent’s] documents?  I am grateful if you’ve read the documents.  I just want to see how many people know what I am talking about.  That’s great.  If some of you are asking the question, “Should I read the documents?”  This is another complicated thing.  I would say, I think you should, in the sense that, not you have to.  I won’t tell you, you shouldn’t, and I won’t tell you, you should.  But I understand that as, in particular heads of households, you need to know what is going on to decide whether or not you want to be a part of this church and SGM and so I think you need to be informed of these things and grapple with these things [applause].  That being said I would just encourage you to read them with same discernment if you picked up any book…. These documents are not this authoritative statement of all that has taken place.  They are one person’s interpretation of the events.  There are a lot of facts in them.  There are a lot of emails.  Brent is a man of integrity.  I want to state that.  He has not doctored emails.  He is not lying about these things but he is interpreting these things.”  (Joshua Harris, Member’s Meeting, July 10)

Joshua commends the church for reading the documents.  That is cardinal sin number one.  According to SGM practice, people should have been warned not to read them.  Why?  Because C.J., Mike, Brian and the entire Board have determined for you that they are slander.  Trust them!  But here Joshua is telling the church they “need to be informed” and “grapple with these things” (which drew considerable applause).  He actually encourages people to read but with discernment and not view the documents as an “authoritative statement” because it is “one’s person interpretation.”  But these qualifications are not enough to appease Mike and Brian.  The documents must be condemned by the CLC pastors because they are dangerous.  People should remain uninformed and uninvolved in the process.  It is a private matter.  In these kinds of situations, ignorance and indifference are considered virtues in SGM.  People don’t need to know about these critical issues, the leaders will discern truth for you and tell you what to think later.  The less you know the better off you are.    

But Joshua understands the seriousness of the issues at hand.  He can’t dismiss the content of the documents.  In fact, people need to know what has gone on because it may have a bearing on their involvement in CLC and SGM.  That is true.  Joshua is willing to let people know what is in the garbage can.  Sovereign Grace on the other hand, is trying to keep the lid on things.  They don’t want people to see and smell what is inside because it is unsightly and stinks.

Here is what Brian said last Tuesday night. 

“I believe the pastors neglected to biblically define Brents documents as accusations against an elder and as slanderous (1 Tim. 5:19-21).  Instead, Josh expressed sympathy for the documents and encouraged heads of households to read Brent’s accusations to see if they would want to be a part of Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries…. Our team’s failure to demonstrate adequate impartiality and to bring clear and specific biblical guidelines gave credibility to Brent’s accusations and this has resulted in speculation, gossip, and even slander of C.J.’s character…. The pastors of our church failed to lead at a critical time.  I believe this has had a detrimental effect on our local church, and that our example has had a detrimental effect on churches beyond Covenant Life.  I love these men dearly, but for the sake of the gospel, I cannot continue to serve where I have a growing concern about our direction and our adherence to God’s Word when leaders receive accusation.” (Brian Chesemore, Big Meeting, August 9)

I don’t have a problem if someone defines my documents as formal charges or accusations according to 1 Timothy 5:19; though I view my original writings as the pleadings and appeals of a friend who loves Sovereign Grace Ministries and C.J.  

But Brian wants much more.  According to him, there is no room to assign any credibility, or express any appreciation, for my slanderous documents.  To do so is to be impartial.  In other words, Joshua and the pastors sided with me when they should have sided with C.J.  Moreover, the actions of Joshua and the pastors were due to a lack of adherence to God’s Word.  Brian believes they have transgressed Scripture and sinned against the Savior.

Mike feels the same way. 

My primary reasons for resigning are as follows…the encouragement to read Brent’s documents and the blogs void of guidance and evaluation from the Scriptures; Josh’s specific encouragement for heads of households to read Brent’s documents to examine their desire to be a part of Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries – a statement that brought credibility to these slanderous documents.” (Mike Bradshaw, BIG Meeting, August 9)

Of course, Joshua gave some guidance on July 10 but that eludes Mike and Brian.  They may feel it was inadequate but it was not lacking.  For Mike also, the documents have no credibility and are slanderous by definition.  Given his perspective, he expected Joshua to discredited the documents and warn people not to read them.  Instead, Joshua did the opposite.  He encouraged people to read them.  Big trouble for Josh!  For Mike and Brian anything short of labeling my writings as libelous was to miss the mark and disobey Scripture. 

Critical Comments about C.J. 

No one criticizes C.J. in public.  That is a cardinal rule so this was a cardinal sin.  At the Members Meeting on July 10, Joshua said the following about C.J. 

“There are so many emotions that are crashing and conflicting feelings as I talk about these things.  And I am sure that is going to come out because a part of me wants to defend C.J. and to argue with Brent about the way that he presents things or the things other people say about him.  Part of me is mad at C.J.  Part of me is frustrated with how this thing has unfolded.  We have a real relationship just like any other real relationship you have with any other person.  He is a father in the faith but if you ever wanted to strangle your father.  Okay? [laughter] There is a reality behind that and so all of that can be at work.” (Joshua Harris, Member’s Meeting, July 10) 

This came very close to mortal sin.  People have earned a pauper’s grave in the Sovereign Grace graveyard for less serious statements.  Joshua is mad at C.J.?  Joshua wants to strangle C.J.?  And all of this is a reality and not an exaggeration.  I am grateful for Joshua’s transparency wrapped in some humor.  It is very hard to correct or challenge C.J.  “You have to approach him like a teenager” (see Part 2: A Final Appeal, p. 92).  Dave Harvey summarized well the difficulties in working with C.J. 

“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.” (Part 2: A Final Appeal, p. 91)

These kinds of honest statements by Joshua forced Mike to resign.  In his way of thinking, the accusations against C.J. and Sovereign Grace should have been concealed and/or rebutted.  No one should know about this stuff.  That’s why both C.J. and Dave told Joshua it was a mistake to even have the Members Meetings on July 10, 17, and 24.

“My reason is simple: I can no longer, in good conscience, support the leadership of the pastoral team on key issues, in particular how they have led our church in addressing the accusations brought against C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries…. I believed my voice, along with others, would be represented and honored at the member’s meetings.  However, on the evening of July 10th it became clear that the questions I raised and perspective I brought had little impact on the direction Josh was taking in addressing these matters.  When my subsequent appeals were ineffective in altering the course of the following members’ meetings, it became only more evident that I could not support the leadership of the pastoral team on these critical issues and therefore, must resign.” (Mike Bradshaw, BIG Meeting, August 9)

One of Mike’s primary reasons for resigning was “the misrepresentation of C.J. Mahaney’s character and growth in sanctification at the Members’ Meetings.”  I agree with Mike.  Joshua was far too easy on C.J.  Did I miss his point?   

Brian agrees with Mike.

“Our [pastoral] team’s failure to demonstrate adequate impartiality and to bring clear and specific biblical guidelines gave credibility to Brent’s accusations and this has resulted in speculation, gossip, and even slander of C.J.’s character.”

And of course, C.J. agrees with Mike and Brian.  Or maybe that’s backwards.  Mike and Brian agree with C.J.  I think the old adage is true with a twist.  Like father, like son (in-laws).

Joshua wrote on Wednesday, “C.J. has also expressed concerns and points of disagreement with how we have been leading during this season”  I am sure he does.

Compassionate Comments about Me

Sympathy for Brent.  Cardinal sin number three.  Here’s Joshua.

You are going to hear me sometimes answering with one feeling and sometimes answering with another.  And it’s confusing.  I can be angry at Brent for bringing so many people into these issues and just sharing his perspective and yet at the same time I can understand why he’s done what he’s done.  And I can sympathize with him and I feel bad for him and I feel bad for the things he has experienced.  I wish these relationships were restored.  There is a jumbo of emotions and feelings as we talk about these things.” (Joshua Harris, Members Meeting, July 10)

Joshua feels for me and understands my actions.  I appreciate these sentiments but he (and the rest of the world) only knows a small portion of what Jenny and I have been through.  “Part 4: The Untold Story” is far from complete.  What remains is a story of extraordinary pain and abuse that no one would believe if you told them.  Someday I’ll try. 

Well, the last thing on Mike and Brian’s minds is concern for what I’ve gone through at the hands of C.J., Dave, Bob Kauflin, Gene Emerson and Mickey Connolly.  Their sole focus is C.J.  Joshua should be feeling bad for C.J. not me.  He’s the one getting a raw deal.  And expressing understanding for why I sent out the documents to the SGM pastors?  You’ve got to be kidding.  That was an act of supreme treason.  I make Benedict Arnold look like an American loyalist.

God Is Disciplining Sovereign Grace Ministries

Cardinal sin number four.  Joshua carrying on like a prophet.  I mean is Joshua “also among the prophets” (cf. 1 Sam 10:11f.)?  How dare he interpret Providence for Sovereign Grace!  The Board of Directors can do that with any help from Joshua.  Just give them a millennium to figure out the obvious. 

“I believe God would have your leaders humbly acknowledge that it is our sin and our failure and our faulty structures that have brought this trouble.  I don’t believe that these events are an accident.  I believe they are the loving discipline of our heavenly Father.  And no matter whose fault this is, this is what we cannot get around.  This is what is unavoidable.  We cannot get around the fact that our church and our entire denomination is being publicly spanked.  We are being humiliated.  We are being brought low.  God is getting our attention.” (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10)

Tone it down Joshua.  Follow Harvey’s lead and his shiny, brand spanking new, hand-picked Board.

“But we disagree [with Joshua] on some important matters too.  For example, we disagree in our interpretation of this current season of ministry.  Is God disciplining all of Sovereign Grace Ministries right now?  Josh says yes, and we’re open to that conclusion.  But before arriving at that conclusion we would want to walk through a process of evaluating all of SGM, which we have not done yet.  (Dave Harvey, “Where We Differ and Where We Disagree,” July 14)

They express disagreement with Joshua’s interpretation, then slightly change course and express some openness to the possibility God might be disciplining Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Folks, I am afraid a blind guide (Matthew 5:14) is leading the movement.  Look out for the pit ahead.  It doesn’t take a study from Ambassadors of Reconciliation to realize God is dealing with all of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Joshua goes on to describe how God is disciplining Sovereign Grace Ministries.

“And so I just want to ask you a question.  How could God discipline a whole church?  How could God discipline a whole denomination?  What possible set of circumstances could he create that would force entire family of churches to recognize, to acknowledge, to turn away from deeply entrenched and flawed patterns of leadership and practice and church government?  What could God possibly do to get an entire movement to do that?  Well let me just propose a scenario for you.  He could allow a chorus of critics on the internet to point out the most glaring failures and inconsistencies of that movement in an unrelenting way.  He could allow the issues that they didn’t want to deal with, or have the nerve to change, to be aired in public.  He could allow a breakdown in a relationship and the stubbornness of leaders to culminate in a set of circumstances so that all the mistakes and all the relational sins at the top levels of leadership would be written down and posted on the internet for the entire world to read.  Do you think that would work?  God, and God alone, has brought this unthinkable sequence of events about. (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10)

I wish Dave Harvey had half the wisdom (not pragmatism) of Joshua Harris.  God is pointing out the obvious.  Why can’t Sovereign Grace see it?  

“In the midst of a crisis like this one, the temptation for a leader like me is to stand before the people that I’ve been called to lead and say two things.  It is not as bad as it seems.  And it’s not your leaders’ fault.  But I can’t say that because it wouldn’t be true.  It is as bad as it seems.  And it is the fault of your leaders.  And we desperately need the help of God and the wisdom and the accountability of the people who have looked to our leadership to sort through this mess.” (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10)  

Joshua is right.  It is bad!  And it is primarily C.J. and Dave’s fault.  I don’t say that to hopelessly condemn them.  It is simply true.  And until these two men fully acknowledge their pride, hypocrisy, deceit, love of reputation and authoritarianism, there is no hope for true reformation.  It must come from within their hearts.

And notice Joshua’s last comment.  “We desperately need…the accountability of the people.”  Is Joshua crazed?  You mean C.J. and Dave need to be held accountable by the laity in order to do what is right?  C.J. wasn’t accountable to the apostolic team.  C.J. wasn’t accountable to the CLC pastors.  You expect him to be accountable to ordinary people?  He won’t even come back to Covenant Life Church to answer questions by the members at the request of the members.  Only Joshua has the humility to say such a thing. 

Joshua and the Covenant Life pastors understand what is at stake.  It is a big deal and to deny that reality is to resist and take lightly the discipline of the Lord.

“So the first potential way that we can resist or wrongly respond to the discipline of the Lord is to regard it lightly.  To not take it seriously.  To not see it for what it is.  To kind of blow it off and say, “Oh well, you know this is just happening, it’s not that big of deal.  We’ll just get through this and we’ll just kind of go on with business as usual.  We’ll just kind of keep on doing our thing and this will pass.  There is no lesson for us in this.  We just need to tweak a few things.  Everything will be fine.  That is taking the discipline of the Lord lightly.”  (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10)

I am for Sovereign Grace but it needs an internal overhaul and I don’t see that happening.  I have studied every message, blog and announcement.  They are tweaking polity but there is no deep work of the Spirit in their hearts that results in public repentance, profuse confession and the restitution of wrong doing.  On the other hand, this has begun to happen at Covenant Life Church.  Thank God!

A Different Vision and Direction for CLC

Mike and Bryan are also leaving because they cannot support the vision and direction of Covenant Life Church with a clear conscience under Joshua’s leadership.  It is so errant it is a cardinal sin to remain.  That’s a mouth full.  I need help digesting this portion of liver and onions (which I hated as a kid). 

What are the “areas of disagreement” that violate their consciences?  That puts these differences in a moral category.  That makes them a matter of right and wrong.  We’re not talking about how to solve a complicated math problem using different methods but arriving at same answer.  We are talking about not being able to work together because the disagreements are so vast.   What does this entail?  I have some ideas but I suspect Joshua will reveal them on Wednesday night at the CLC Member’s Meeting. 

These “areas of disagreement” have existed for at least a year according to Brian.  He speaks on behalf of Mike also.  So as not to confuse you, the comments included in brackets [ ] below are statements made by Brian at the BIG Meeting that were not in his written notes.  

“Kristin and I have considered a transition [in conversation as we have thought about these different disagreements and differences] for at least a year because we were becoming [more and more] increasingly convinced that [there is a difference in] the vision of the church in certain areas.  [The differences was not one I could enthusiastically support and I tried to process that prayerfully and over time…. But we have these areas of disagreement.  And it became clear [to me and it became clear to Mike] that I [we] cannot adhere to my [our] convictions and continue to pastor people with enthusiastic support for Josh and the team’s vision.  It would hinder my conscience, and this would not honor God, no matter the length of time.  So “why leave?” began to morph into “How can I stay [with a clear conscience]?”  It became foremost an issue of principle.  That’s hard when you have the relationships we have in the church.  But in order to serve this church Mike and I believe we need to move out of the way so that the dear people who attend Covenant Life Church can be pastored by godly men who enthusiastically affirm and support the leadership and direction of Covenant Life

A Lack of Support for Sovereign Grace

In his statement, Brian spends far more time on this reason for leaving than any other reason.  Recent developments with me only solidified his decision to separate from Covenant Life which he contemplated for a year.

“I have made my decision prayerfully and soberly over the last yearMy reasons for resigning are twofold.  First, I have observed over the last two years an undeniably diminishing enthusiasm amongst members of our pastoral team for the partnership we share with Sovereign Grace Ministries.” (Brian Chesemore, BIG Meeting, August 9 )

This charge must really hurt, not only Joshua and the pastors, but the entire church.  No one has served the movement more than the people of Covenant Life Church.  There isn’t a close second.  But Brian maintains his two year assessment is undeniable. 

He continues and broadens his criticism of the pastors.  Not only are the pastors unsupportive, they are unteachable and independent.

“Many discussions have led me to believe that the majority of our pastoral team seems to think there is little to learn from Sovereign Grace.  Under our board’s leadership, we have spent far more time criticizing in matters of polity and mission than building up and partnering with SGM even though SGM has been in the laborious process of leading us in polity refinements for almost two years…. And our trajectory has been a steady move away from Sovereign Grace, which deeply disappoints me.  Im not suggesting that Covenant Life wont remain a SGM church.  I pray and have a strong hope that it will.  But I believe our church has minimized and neglected the privilege of our long-standing partnership with our friends in Sovereign Grace.” (Brian Chesemore, BIG Meeting, August 9)

My friends at Covenant Life tell me they are pleased with the changes Joshua and the pastors have implemented over the last couple of years.  These friends were ready to leave but have remained because of these changes.  They love the new openness and freedom to express their perspective without fear.  They appreciate the pastors’ willingness to confess sin and answer hard questions.  They see the pastors owning the sins of the past and correcting bad practices and refining some doctrine.  The pastors are not covering up. (Well, for the most part – there are still serious things they need to acknowledge but I hope it is only a matter of time.)  They are involving the congregation.

Behind the scenes the Covenant Life pastors are challenging the Sovereign Grace Board.  The Board must act upon, rather than resists, the input they are receiving.  All of this needs to come out in the open.  The CLC pastors are keenly aware of the deep, deep problems in Sovereign Grace.  They are privy to at least some of the accusations being brought against C.J., Dave and Steve Shank from around the country.  These have not been made public by the Board and are just the tip of the iceberg.  Numerous men who were once pastors in the movement remain unwilling to speak up because of fear, exasperation, or the pain of reliving their experiences.

But Brian has a fundamentally different point of view.  Covenant Life needs Sovereign Grace.  Not the other way around.   

“I would disagree with this direction and believe our partnership has been historically beneficial and should still be vital…. We don’t exist in this partnership solely to reform it.  It is meant to be mutually beneficial, and I believe we impoverish ourselves when we neglect or minimize the wisdom, experience, and relationships that reside in Sovereign Grace.  To go further, I believe Covenant Life’s recent history reveals that we need more help from Sovereign Grace, not less…. For twenty years I have had a passion to serve Sovereign Grace, our weaknesses notwithstanding, but I don’t believe I can sufficiently fulfill that desire here at Covenant Life.  My decision to resign is rooted in this reality.

Mike feels similarly.  

“The concern that Josh’s statements regarding Sovereign Grace Ministries were imbalanced, unnecessarily critical, and illegitimately applied to all of Sovereign Grace.  Additionally, there has been the absence of appropriate appreciation for the vast fruitfulness of this ministry and our thirty year partnership in gospel advancing work both here and abroad.” (Mike Bradshaw, BIG Meeting, August 9)

Mike and Brian don’t see how serious the problems are in C.J.’s life or the ministry of Sovereign Grace.  For them the pastors have a far greater need for the Board, not less of a need!  But believe me, if the CLC pastors followed the SGM Board, my documents would have been exclusively condemned, nothing critical would have been whispered about C.J., no agreement with my actions or compassionate comments would have been expressed, Joshua would do what C.J. wants at CLC, and the CLC pastors would not be holding the Board accountable for change.  Those are Joshua’s cardinal sins.

One further point.  When Brian says, “I believe we impoverish ourselves when we neglect or minimize the wisdom, experience, and relationships that reside in Sovereign Grace,” who do you think he has primarily in mind?  That’s right, C.J.!  His role in Covenant Life has been neglected and minimized.  Result.  Poverty.  Translation.  Joshua and the pastors have differed with C.J. and not followed his advice, agreed with his counsel, or benefited from his superior wisdom on too many occasions.  That is a big deal to Brian and one worth leaving CLC over. 

Will Covenant Life Leave Sovereign Grace?

C.J., Mike and Brian have left Covenant Life Church over differences.  Will the Covenant Life pastors leave Sovereign Grace Ministry over differences?   I hope so unless the Sovereign Grace Board of Directors change their ways.  What we have before us is largely a study in contrasts.  Humility versus pride.  Openness versus concealment.  Repentance versus resistance.  Sovereign Grace posts are morally neutral press releases, not statements of contrition and sorrow for sin that have harmed a lot of people.  Instead they use the blog to defend C.J. and protect their self-interests.     

Step one for Joshua was resigning from the Board of Directors.  Remember from the documents, C.J. talked about turning the movement over to him next year at age 60.  C.J. turns 59 on September 21.

Step two for Joshua.  Start a new family of churches characterize by authentic humility.  I’d like to join that movement but I probably don’t qualify and wouldn’t meet admittance requirements.  If it happens, however, go with Joshua and the men that go with him.

Consider these statements.  How refreshing.  One day soon I hope to hear similar comments from C.J. and Dave and the other Directors. 

“I just want to share with you some of the issues that God is beginning to reveal in my own heart.  I am not seeking to speak for any other person but myself.  In this season of shaking, these are the things I believe God wants us to let go of.  I am seeing in my own life a spiritual pride and self-righteousness.  You know for too long I had the attitude that we were the best church and the best family of churches, the best network of churches in the world.  That we had a corner on sound doctrine.  That we were both charismatic and Reformed.  That we were the best at applying truth and living out our faith and I had a condescending attitude toward other churches.  I remember having a condescending attitude toward my own parents and their church.  And that is just pride.  God is shaking that out of my hands.  May God shake that out of all of our hands.  I understand why people in our community have viewed CLC as elitist and exclusive because I think that has been in some of our hearts.  I am not accusing all of you of this, but I think it is there.  I think we need to cry out to God to help us, to reveal it if it is there.” (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10)

“I am seeing overconfidence in leaders.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I believe we need leaders.  God’s word clearly states that leadership and pastors are his idea.  But I also believe in light of the doctrine of sin that we need appropriate checks and balances from the congregation.  Our church government as a movement is broken and it is confused.  And we have not moved quickly enough or decisively enough to fix it.  And for too long we have assumed, as pastors, that we could handle everything on our own.  And we have not recognized enough the gifts and the wisdom and the work of the Holy Spirit in the congregation to help us do the work and the leadership that God has called us to do.  And that must change.  That will change. (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10)


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (29)

Well done Brent!!!

I don't have a scripture but I believe this is a self-evident truth. The degree in which we as pastors and leaders can help, strengthen and encourage God's people; there is a reciprocal degree in which we can hurt, wound and neglect the people of God.

If Josh and the team of pastors at CLC will stay this course the people of God who have been hurt, wounded and neglected will be healed, strengthened and encouraged.

Brent -- thanks for holding the line and your encouragement to CLC and their pastors!!

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRushingK

In other words, Josh has more integrity in his pinky finger than CJ and Dave have in their combined beings.

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebra Baker

Wow and wow again. Brent thank you. I think I am sufficiently old enough and experienced enough as a Christian to recognize prophetic utterance and I think you are doing exactly that. I don't say that in any way to praise you so much as to simply recognize it as a fact. I personally would not want the suffering that those who speak prophetically historically have had to go through. Suffering and speaking prophetically are inseparable. Most prophets are fairly reluctant to be used in this way by God because they seem to intuitively know this. I am pretty confident that you would much rather be hunting and fishing and spending time with you family. One other characteristic of prophets is that their ministries were typically for a specific time, place and circumstances. I think this should bring hope to the prophet in that there will be resolution in some way and the prophet will be released from that function. Even if SGM and CJ do not ever respond in what I would recognize as a godly way, substantial fruit is already being seen in CLC and hopefully other SGM churches. People's lives are already being transformed and while I think it would be virtually impossible for some of the people who have suffered the most from having their pain erased, I believe it would bring a measure of healing to them to find out that what was done to them will not happen to anyone else.

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Zahm

That last 'graph, THAT. That right there gives me hope for CLC and the rest of the churches and people, if, and only if, they follow suit.

And specifically this: "And for too long we have assumed, as pastors, that we could handle everything on our own."
If seeking outside help would include authorities, like police and lawyers and the criminal justice system as well as counselors trained to do the heavy lifting with mental illnesses and such - I will be ready to believe God would preserve a form of SGM for his glory.

Thanks for posting this, Brent. Praying for you and your family.

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVivian Louise

Great article! We are cheering you on over here in FFX. Our prayer is that there is complete reconciliation for all concerned as well as repentance in all areas God is pointing out. It's hard to understand how leaders who have taught the sovereignty of God in everything can turn around and say that your postings were sinful, wrong and shouldn't be read or listened too. What outright hypocrisy! We recently received an email from one of our pastors that contained a message from one of the pastors at CLC. The message was on listening to slander and gossip. One of the points made in that message was that listening to the information, even if it's true, won't be helpful since we, the laity, can't do anything about it anyway. Unbelievable pride and lack of faith in God. What about this - we, the laity, get informed and start praying for that kind of leadership to be brought down. What about we, the laity, asking the right questions, the hard questions and then bringing accountability? What if the people in Europe had all taken that attitude of not being informed when Hitler was doing his thing?

So, our question for you, Brent, is - what happens after this situation is resolved? Do you have any thoughts about different forms of church government for our local churches? Also, a hard question maybe, how do you see yourself involved in reconciliation with pastors who have been removed from their posts under your watch?

Brent, we so appreciate your courage, tenacity and clear headedness through all of this. We are praying and hoping for God's best in yours and Jenny's lives. Thank you for what you are doing.

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkmack

Given the fourth read of the documents, your comments here are sensible. Some may cast as a "Brent Detwiler v. CJ/SGM Board" debate. Close analysts will see it is far larger. Systemic. Historic. Had a wonderful 1-2 hour discussion with one involved in it for years. Very, very informatiive.

I had an inquiry where this scribe works. (Not here, but elsewhere. Why the interest in SGM? A good question too.)

As one looking in from the outside, as a juror, if you might, as an investigator, here are some of this scribe's reasons for inquiry, analysis and a close-reading of all blogs, posts, and messages.

Here it is.

They are my views and may not represent another's viewpoint.

"Inter-disciplinary demands make the story a must-to-follow and must-to-read. American religious history, law (English common law of the 17th-18th centuriess, state statutory issues in VA, MD and elsewhere, coercion and blackmail in the criminal code, sexual assault, child abuse, clergy-pentitent relationship, attorney-client privilege, legal reporting requirements and more), literature (the genre of sermons and books, including royalities and incomes), pastoral education (in genera, nationally and denominationally,l and, more specifically, Pastors' College), Pentecostalist and charismatic history, Baptist history, Neo-Montanism, CJ Mahaney's history as a national voice, the YRR and neo-Calvinist movement as detailed in Christianity Today, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan (including his endorsement and belittlement of the matter), Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Dr. Carl Trueman and Orthodox Presbyterianism, forensic accounting, corporate law, contract law (SGM/CLC and buildings and rentals), tax law, ecclesiology and polity, sociology (cult behaviors, authoritarianism, belittlement of followers), psychology and psychiatry (narcissism and sociopathy and the influence on group behaviours), Together for the Gospel, Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist, theology more largely on every front (e.g. errors and imbalances), technology (role of internet and blogs to expose the hidden...something impossible pre-1995 and the internet period), politics (Elizabethan age, when Anabaptism was illegal and First Amendment, and the real social and moral harms and consequences of SGM. This is the real issue, comprehensively, the "social, intellectual, and emotional harms and injuries." These are the serious challenges and limits facing a rank-and-file reviewer (me or others, without an interdisciplinary background). Yet, on a broad front, these and other interdisciplinary interests and concerns warrant the continued interest in the story."

Brent, following your logic.

Brent, methinks a book is a must by you, an historian with the oral, experiential and documentary history.

Brent, am sympathetic, but also analytical re: too. I'd like to cross-examine you. I want facts. You've begged for the facts, in terms of a response from Mr. Mahaney. You've fought for that. Commendable. I support that industrious presentation of facts and your interpretation of them. Very, very good work.

Regards, as the inquiries continue. (Imagine a pre-internet age when backroom deals ruled and the rank-and-file Churchman or Churchwoman had no access to stories, information, and inquiries. That, itself, is a major subject of discussion.)

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonald Philip Veitch

Followup to the previous comment fwiw - there is a website called that is a place that, like wikipedia, can be edited by anyone. If you set up a wikispaces site, people could post their charges and suspicions on their own, but would be aware that other people (ie, you) could come on the site and adjust wording to make it clearer. There are different settings for allowing people to edit it too.

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterexbritpat

"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged." 2 Cor 7

Much appreciate the principal in this passage. Praying for GODLY sorrow for all. And in that pure, righteous sorrow may grace abound all the more. May our joyous, victorious, loving King be more known and more enjoyed by His precious children. Thank you for your writing, for being brave when many have not. I hope and believe God will reconcile and redeem this situation. Be encouraged!

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKKL

Great post, Brent. Great commentary; very helpful. It was/is so refreshing to see Joshua's heart moving towards a place where I think God is being glorified and the Holy Spirit is truly being responded to in ways that make me confident that this is a godly, humble leader. However, I do have some concerns with Josh, even in spite of the obvious changes for good that are taking place. I, personally, did not think it necessary to elaborate on his recommendation to the church to review your documents in a sermon a couple of weeks later. It smacks of a lack of trust in the congregation, that they are not competent and sober-minded enough to read your documents and think for themselves. I did not agree with him when he said, if you like, sit on the beach and read a novel, instead. No, I think he had it right the first time. His reaction was exactly the one I had when I read the documents: Everyone should read this. Everyone should read it, ask questions, and then see if true change and true answers are forthcoming. Go to the blogs. Listen to what they are saying. Pray about all of it and then you SHOULD decide if this is a movement you can continue to support. I did not think that there was anything else to be said. His mild, it seemed, backpedaling, felt very "old school" SGM to me. Treating the congregation as children, with kid gloves, with the pastors as the benevolent and all-perceiving/all knowing fathers because they are afraid that when you say "decide for yourselves if you want to stay", the congregation might actually decide that they do not, in fact, want to stay. Again, he had it right the first time, and there was no further clarification needed. It would serve him and the pastors of CLC well to be strong and determined in this change, and not to continue to refer back to previous statements in an effort to soften them, or to coddle the opposition. This was not the Martin Luther way, and it should not be CLC's (or any other SGM church's) either. I read the documents, even when my SGM church was saying "Eh, this is not that big a deal for us". I didn't run away, even though I have SERIOUS issues with this attitude. I'm still there, and I won't leave until this is seen through, because I am mature enough not to act rashly. Note to SGM: the same can be said for most of your congregants. Take a stand. Be bold. Make strong statements, and then... Let us think! Let us decide! Let us pray and hear from the Lord. If you are truly trusting in God, and endeavoring to follow Him and glorify Him above all, you should have nothing to fear from this!

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArgo

Brent, this is a great and accurate analysis. I hope you will join us someday at CLC after we break away from SGM. At least we can have an open and honest church that doesn't have their head in the sand and lead by fear and intimidation.

And even before this took place, Josh had a members meeting where he asked forgiveness of the congregation for past errors, all of which took place under CJ's reign. Immediately after the meeting we looked at each other and said..."Where was CJ?"...Josh had to ask forgiveness for the sins CJ was responsible for. It was a very awkward meeting. We heard that Josh did this because CJ did not agree with Josh doing this. He did not feel it was necessary.

We are thankful for Josh, please pray for him.

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterclcsupporter

Thank you Brent. Once again you are clearly laying out the issues.

You said "Joshua is right. It is bad! And it is primarily C.J. and Dave’s fault. ... And until these two men fully acknowledge their pride, hypocrisy, deceit, love of reputation and authoritarianism, there is no hope for true reformation. It must come from within their hearts."

I have completely lost all respect for CJ and Dave. Their actions over the past decade and their CONTINUED actions that literally throw their narcissism in our faces is unbelievable. I thought CJ stepping away for a "season of reflection" was such a load of garbage. I thought that CJ's son-in-laws reasons for leaving were a crock of hooey. Now, when you think the saga can't get any worse, CJ and Dave go down to the Dominican Republic and lead a SGM conference during this "season of reflection". What a joke. They have become clowns in a three ring circus!

CJ ... repent!!!! Dave ... repent!!! It's not about YOU, it's about HIM!

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMikePhila

Hi Brent,
Posted this at SGM Refuge and I really want to add it here. Thanks!
In regards to the post above: Listening to Correction, Speaking the Truth and Avoiding Slander

Okay, er...started nice. Humble. Making sure to seek the truth in the blogs, from the people hurt, from the detailed mistakes that SGM has made which have obviously affected many people in serious ways that none of us, except the victims, will ever truly understand. Listening to the concerns/complaints, though they be couched in anger and sadness, all good stuff. In my opinion, it should have ended after that. Unfortunately, the next 75% of the post was an exposition on avoiding gossip or slander. Now, this sounds very much like run-of-the-mill, good old-fashioned SGM stuff to me. Start out humble for a sec, and then make the vast majority of the rest of your statement about the very real possibility, and, frankly patent likelihood (in their minds), that your opinions are probably wrong, especially if they trend towards agreeing with those in opposition to SGM or the pastors; that you probably are too sinful and undiscerning to read and evaluate for yourselves; to make any kind or reasonable opinion on the matter, especially if it is not in agreement with SGM or pastoral leadership, and that really, it's very likely that opposing opinions, the blogs, and Brent's documents in particular are false, and slanderous, and simply opinion, and come from the perspective of very disturbed and completely ridiculous single-minded, un-properly-churched individuals with a sinful ax to grind. Now, of course they say it all nicey-nice and they use some scripture versus to make it sound all rational and righteous and reasonable and whatnot. But, in the end, it is damage control. Telling us what to think. Telling us not to think. Even better. And if you do think, think about the fact that your thoughts are probably not right thoughts and you shouldn't think that you can really, truly think. So don't. Look, even hinting that Brent's documents are slander is utterly absurd. His motives have been very clear from the beginning. That word shouldn't even come up at all in this situation because it is totally subjective; there is no way to quantify it, or prove it! The only ones who know Brent's true heart and intent in this matter are Brent and God. All we know is what Brent has told us: that his motives are love for CJ, the board, SGM and all of us. As Christians, it is our obligation to believe him unless we have verifiable evidence that he is lying. To even hint that there is anything of slander in his documents is, in fact slanderous, and hypocritical. And to use the blogs and Brent and his documents as a reason to lecture the congregations on avoiding gossip and slander, in my mind, reveals that there is truly not as much change happening in SGM and CLC as we might like to think. No matter how far the apple might want to roll, it doesn't stray far from the tree.

From the perspective of one individual?! There were dozens of perspectives in there! When Dave said "we need to talk to CJ as a teenager", that was DAVE'S perspective. When Joshua said that he was sorry for bowing out of the process due to fear and not wanting to get involved. That was JOSH'S perspective. When CJ asked to use company funds against company policy in an e-mail, how was that Brent's perspective? Was Brent's perspective in the room with CJ, forcing him to coerce Larry in the recorded phone conversation? Did Brent's perspective drive CJ in a taxi to CHBC for his season of reflection; something no other SGM pastor could ever do while undergoing evaluation of this kind. My mind cannot comprehend this opinion. Brent is just the messenger. This idea of "one perspective" is ridiculous. I guess the Declaration of Independence was just one perspective because just one dude wrote it.

Stay away from talking about things that don't affect you directly. Granted. But everything in Brent's documents affects us. It is all about OUR church! I've given THOUSANDS to it. How can you say sit down and shut up to anyone who is in or has been in SGM as if this does not concern the vast majority of them. Gravely disappointed. And, back to square one is CLC and SGM as far as I'm concerned in terms of hope for real, lasting, fundamental change.

August 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArgo

Thank you Brent. As a member of CLC, I agree with you 100%. I am greatly encouraged by your insight and comments.

Any chance you can come to CLC? You would be more than welcome. In fact, I know of a couple of job openings on the pastoral staff. Interested in applying?

I have known you for 30 years. My wife and I greatly appreciate the many ways you have served SGM over the years and for your example as a Christian who loves Jesus.

In His grace, Mark

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Wow, Brent. That was a TKO from a true heavy weight writer, thinker, and researcher. I think that hypocrisy is out for the count.

Sorry the Evangelical world doesn't seem to want you back as a minister but please let the rest of us know your rates for writing/teaching us how to write the way you write.

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanna L. Chan


I began admiring SGM from a distance in the 90's, when I was attending a Pentecostal church. For years I've sung Sovereign Grace songs and enjoyed Sovereign Grace teachings, and attended churches that benefited from SGM in various ways. In 2005, I moved to Daytona Beach and spent a year in the SG church there. Then on to Jacksonville, where I attended for 2 years. I was hoping to someday attend the Pastor's College and go on to eventual ministry in a SG church.

I remember well your excellent teaching on Romans 3 at one of our Florida gatherings (the one in 2007, I think). It was life-changing and theology-shaping stuff! I was shocked and somewhat confused when you suddenly and unexpectedly left SGM without any explanation. Now that I know some of the reasons, I'm even more confused!

With all of that said, I want to note how sad and troubling all of this is. It's hard (nay, impossible) for someone in my position to know who is right and whose perspective is most objective. It may not even be any of my business. I've read large portions of your documents, which are disconcerting to say the least.

As an observer who hasn't taken a side in all of this, and really doesn't have a dog in the fight (other than a shared passion for the glory of God and an ongoing appreciation for the work of SGM), I simply want to plead with you not to allow any self-righteousness to take root in your heart. If half of what you say is accurate, it would be natural and easy for that to happen, yet also destructive to the good that could come from your recent work (and much more importantly, harmful to your own Christian life). I don't know what spiritual care you are receiving these days, but I can't imagine you not seeing the need for deep and wise counsel, accountability, and care as you proceed in this difficult course. Whatever you do, please don't be a lone ranger!

I don't plan on being a big time commenter on your blog, but just wanted to take a moment to encourage you.

If there is ever a restoration in your relationship with CJ and others in SGM, it would be a huge testimony to the power of God's grace in Christ. Obviously, a lot would have to happen before that could be achieved. But our omnipotent God has done much greater things than this.

May God's grace be with you, and CJ, and all of SGM. I pray for a full restoration, and the softening of many hearts that must take place in the meantime.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Derek Ashton

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTHEOparadox

Certainly doesn't look pretty from afar.

Tim Challies had this excellent analysis today:

[Steve. Tim Challies is misguided in many important respects. I wish he had read all of my documents. Fundamentally, he fails to see the widespread problems in SGM under C.J.'s leadership and the longstanding patterns of serious sin in C.J.'s life. This is not a Brent and C.J. thing. The entire movement has been adversely effected as a result. The prophets addressed corporate sin. Matthew 18 talks about telling the church. Some people claim C.J. has repented and confessed but it is a partial repentance at best that doesn't deal with the most important issues of the heart. Nor have his public confessions been specific or revealing. They are vague and fail to address real sins. Brent]

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Well, I'll try again. My last post was deemed unfit for Brent's blog. I was de-gifted of blog post commenting.

Anyways, I would definitely tweak what I said because there was some level of anger when I wrote it, but I wanted to make a few points.

1) Brent's objective is not to just love his friend, CJ by offering him care and sin confrontation, it is also to see him removed from SGM (read the later documents).

[anSGMmember. The later documents call for his resignation as President. I specific state he should not be set aside and passed over like he has done to a long list of men he has deemed unfit for ministry. I proposed something gracious. Brent]

2) Brent has acknowledged little or no responsibility for his own misdoings as he sat on the apostolic team. I'd like to see at least 5-10% the amount of effort and self analysis from Brent on where he has sinned and contributed to the 'flawed system'. Where were you when CJ and then Steve were applying the pressure on Larry and Justin? You quoted a lot of other people's words on the matter, but never your own.

[snSMGmember. It sounds like you haven't read my documents or you'd know the answer. I was the least involved in the situation with Larry but protested the most. But it was woefully inadequate. I've asked C.J. and Larry to forgive me. I commented on Survivor and Refuge asking people to get back to me if they felt I sinned against them. Over the last couple of months four people got in touch with me. Only one was serious (Canary). Two minor by their own addmission. One had bad information. I've also taken the initiative with others. I will say more about my failings later. Brent]

3) You continue to judge motives in sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. For instance from this post:
"They are tweaking polity but there is no deep work of the Spirit in their hearts that results in public repentance, profuse confession and the restitution of wrong doing."

Are you saying that you can categorically deny that the Spirit of God is working Dave et al @ SGM?

[amSGMmember. I didn't say categorically. That is a judgement. I said "deep work" based upon the evidence. You know faith by works (Jam 2) and repentance by fruit (Matt 3). In particular the fruit of confession and restitution (2 Cor 7). Those are solely missing. You know the roots from the fruits (Matt 7) and the heart from the mouth (Matt 12). Brent]

4) I think a lot of your analysis is accurate. You're definitely a gifted PI/lawyer. Maybe that is a profession you could pursue to get back on your feet. I am not saying that you are never called to ministry again, but I think you have some heart issues to work before I would feel comfortable sitting under your pastoral care/teaching.

[anSGMmember. If you think a lot of the analysis is accurate then you've got to see how serious and pervasive the problems are. Brent]

Either way, Brent. I again encourage you to examine your heart as to what your motives are behind the continued commentary, publishing of personal communication, and outright judgement of men you feel betrayed by.

[anSGMmember. Every day I seek to align my heart to work for the good of SGM, C.J. and others. That good can be judged by others as evil. I can't control that. There is a need for clear and bold confrontation. Thank God I am not the only one doing so. Brent]

Please post this one, or it will be cross-posted elsewhere - somewhere with more eyeballs.

[anSGMmember. Hey Mr. Intimidation. Who are you? Let's get honest. Stop hiding you who are so bold. You should know by now I don't care where you post your comments. Brent]

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenteranSGMmember

The statement about SGM being in the midst of a two year review and "refinement" of polity has appeared in several places (SIL's letters, Andrew on SGM blog). I find this curious. I posted this on Refuge recently as well. On 9/6/10 Dave Harvey spoke at KWCC on the subject of polity. This was about three weeks after the infamous family meeting that began the implosion of KWCC. You can find the message in the sermon archive section of the KWCC website. Dave's message was clear as a bell - if you don't like our governance, the doors are at the rear and we wish you well.

In that same time frame Mickey Connolly spoke at KWCC. After the service I was waiting to speak to him as he was talking with a friend. He said "well if folks are waiting for a change in governance, that is not going to happen". I heard that myself, it was not told to me by someone else.

If, and I think it is a big if, there is any serious discussion of polity change within SGM I would suggest that they are of a more recent vintage than the suggested two years. Or maybe they started talking about the shape of the conference table two years ago (that would be a Viet Nam peace talks reference for you younger folks).

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStvMac

With all due respect to Mr. Challies and Mr. Detwiler, I would encourage all readers to read the recent posts of both men regarding SGM issues. And then use their own discernment in determining whether or not there are any differences in scholarship, research, and intellectual integrity reflected by the two written perspectives about how individuals should view and/or react to SGM's current crises.

I found doing so very educational.


I second Brent's suggestion that it's hard to respect someone who's trying to intimidate you behind a fake name. Also, have you noticed that in contrast to some other blogs out there most people here use their real names or some variant of their real names here?

Perhaps that's because Brent hasn't allowed angry paranoid rants to take over his blog and instead lets it be a haven for thoughtful people interested in adding to the discourse rather than posting the same agenda-driven diatribe over and over again.

If so, that's a decision I fully support, Brent.

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanna L. Chan

Steve--Just read Challies blog--in my opinion (which I state on his blog) this is not a excellent analysis at all--it is full of inaccuracies and critical errors. Challies characterizes this whole thing as an interpersonal conflict between Brent and CJ. As I asked him on his blog, if that is so, why are there numerous SGM churches, most notably CLC, who are publicly admitting wrongdoing concerning the very issues Brent brings to light--the issues are systemic to the SGM movement as anybody who takes the time to read the blogs would be able to discern, with the exception of Tim Challies. Amazingly the charges Brent brings against CJ and SGM are at the root of many of the pastoral abuses and missteps. I am being charitable by using that word -- these were major blunders that permanently damaged peoples lives --do you get that --people trusted these guys who were all trained under CJ's leadership and these same precious saints were thrown under the bus, run over, trampled, and yes abused by a a bunch of men who followed the training and example-setting leadership provided by SGM/CJ. Saying this whole thing is about an interpersonal conflict between Brent and CJ is analogous to saying Martin Luther had an interpersonal conflict with the entire church leadership of his day -- in microcosm of course.

Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.