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The Confidentiality Controversy

Jim (SGM Refuge), Kris and Guy (Sovereign Grace Survivors),

Some of your readers have it all wrong regarding my use of “confidential” emails with Joshua Harris in my September 21 blog post.  Would you please post this comment?

I was the one recommending (not asking for) confidentiality, not Joshua, and only with regard to “my private thoughts” about the future.  Even so my request of Joshua was flexible.  Why?  Because I’ve seen “confidential” used to bind people’s consciences (e.g. "Don't share this with anyone!"  "Okay, I promise."), cover up vital information (e.g. like some of the inside information Kris has shared on Survivors) that needs to be corrected (e.g. when someone lies or misrepresents the truth like SGM), exposed (e.g. C.J.’s cover-up and blackmail of Larry T.), or shared with others (e.g. Joshua sharing my private thoughts with the other pastors).  He was glad I did not bind him to confidentiality. 

It is not always necessary or right to keep a matter private.  Circumstances may require the involvement others (e.g., the first step of Matthew 18 is confidential but confidentiality is set aside in the third step).  Confidentiality has its place but I rarely require it of people.  Why?  Because I’ve see it abused by those who are afraid to honest with the people they should talk to or when people use it as an excuse for gossip.

Here are the two relevant emails in this case with Joshua.  All the other emails that follow with “CONFIDENTIAL – The Future” are the result of the reply button.  Joshua was not asking me to hold anything in confidence.

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Monday, June 27, 2011 2:26 PM

To: Joshua Harris

Subject: CONFIDENTIAL - The Future

As things progress I’ll be sharing with you my private thoughts.  I’d recommend you keep them confidential but it is not a requirement.  You may want to talk with a close circle of confidants.

I’ve changed my thinking regarding C.J.  You must be ready to replace him the end of this year.  There will also be changes with Dave and Steve.  I’d think of working with Aron instead of Dave.  With Craig and Tony Walsh instead of Steve.  C.J., Dave and Steve are unqualified to maintain their positions.  Bob likewise needs to be cut back.  He should not be pastoring or doing assessments.

I have more thoughts but I will share them gradually.  I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I think the Lord has rejected C.J. like he did Saul.  By this I don’t mean C.J. should be cast aside or has no role to play but God has a major transition in mind.  Sovereign Grace is His ministry.

From: Joshua Harris

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

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: Re: CONFIDENTIAL - The Future

Dear Brent,

Thanks for your recent emails. I appreciate you not holding me to confidentiality in these emails exchanges.  I am committed to walk openly with all the men involved.  I know you understand how damaging to trust it can be when there isn’t open communication.  I want to let everyone know what I think and who I’m talking to! 

I agree that Sovereign Grace belongs to God.  Right now the story is unwritten for all of us…we need to do what is right before God.  I believe God is giving us all an opportunity to humble ourselves under his mighty hand.  Not just CJ but all of us.  Please don’t be offended when I say whatever changes take place can’t happen because of your opinions but only a process that involves all the appropriate leaders in Sovereign Grace (and I would add outside objective counsel like the panel we’re engaging).  To replace and remove [C.J.] without a godly process of evaluation would be to repeat the very mistakes now that we’re evaluating in the past.  It has to be done in plurality, openly and as the result of a comprehensive review.  That’s why I view this independent panel as such an important step for our movement.  We need a comprehensive evaluation.

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

God bless you, Brent. 


Next time I’ll try to give the larger context so people don’t come to wrong conclusions.  Finally, it’s good to remember SGM considers all 600 pages of The Documents confidential.  In their opinion, none of it should be public.  That’s why they have accused me of slander.   

I don't take confidences lightly...I've protected the reputation of SGM and C.J. for a very long time but occasionally truth trumps confidentiality and demands that private matters be shared in a public forum because people need to be informed and kept from harm's way.  



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