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The Watergate Scandal and SGM

Watergate began in June 1972.  I graduated from high school and was converted to Christ the same month and year.  As a new believer, I closely followed the political scandal that unfolded which forced President Richard Nixon to resign from office in August 1974.  It took two years and two months.        

Throughout the scandal, Nixon protested his innocence and put himself forward as a victim acting in the best interest of the nation.  Meanwhile, he and his inner circle worked to cover up incriminating evidence and protect their vested interests.  Forty three of them went to jail including Nixon’s “hatchet man,” Charles Colson.  

Colson was the first to be incarcerated.  He was also the first to repent.  He came to Christ and was Born Again (the name of his first book) during the summer of 1973.  I vividly remember hearing about his conversion while listening to Christian radio perched on a ladder painting a ceiling at my summer job.  I was mostly joyful, but a little skeptical, about the good news.  It turned out be true!  Last summer, Colson went home to be with the Lord at age 80; a highly respected Christian leader          

President Nixon, in contrast, died in 1994 disgraced for the cover up he orchestrated 20 years earlier.  He never admitted wrong doing.  Never asked forgiveness.  Never reconciled with the American people.  He went into “exile” after his resignation and avoided the public for the remainder of his days.  

Nixon was forced to resign or face impeachment because the evidence and testimony against him was overwhelming.  Slowly but surely, he lost his political support.  In the end, no one trusted him and they were no longer afraid of him.  He could do them no harm and no good.     

Jerry Ford followed Nixon as President and gave him a full pardon for his crimes.  Nixon should have been indicted, tried, convicted and incarcerated.  Instead, Ford let him go free.  There was no adjudication hearing.  He showed Nixon favoritism for personal and political reasons.  It was a horrible example of partiality and a terrible miscarriage of justice.     

Nothing in American political history has had a more disillusioning impact upon the citizenry.  Trust in politicians and the political process is at an all-time low.  The precipitous fall in confidence began with Watergate.  

The parallels between Watergate and Sovereign Grace are obvious.  Here are a few excerpts from two articles at Wikipedia.  Look for the poignant and obvious similarities.

The Watergate Scandal

The Watergate scandal was a political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s as a result of the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and the Nixon administration’s attempted cover-up of its involvement.  The scandal eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, on August 9, 1974, the only resignation of a U.S. President.  The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction and incarceration of 43 people, including dozens of Nixon’s top administration officials. 

The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) connected cash found on the burglars to a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, a fundraising group for the Nixon campaign.  In July 1973, as evidence mounted against the president’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and he had recorded many conversations.  Recordings from these tapes implicated the president, revealing he had attempted to cover up the questionable (and illegal) goings-on that had taken place during his administration, both before and after the break-in.  After a protracted series of bitter court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the president had to hand over the tapes to government investigators; he ultimately complied. 

Facing near certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and a strong possibility of a conviction in the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.  His successor, Gerald Ford, then issued a pardon to Nixon. 

Nixon’s Resignation 

Throughout this time, Nixon denied any involvement in the scandal.  After being told by key Republican Senators that enough votes existed to remove him, he decided to resign.  In a nationally televised address from the Oval Office on the evening of August 8, 1974, the president said, 

In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation.  Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me.  In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort.  As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future…. 

I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so.  But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations.  From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require. 

I have never been a quitter.  To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.  But as President, I must put the interest of America first.  America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.  To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.  Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow.  Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office. --Richard Nixon 

Ford’s Pardon of Nixon 

On September 8, 1974, Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while President.  In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family’s situation “is a tragedy in which we all have played a part.  It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it.  I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”… 

The Nixon pardon was highly controversial. Critics derided the move and claimed a “corrupt bargain” had been struck between the men.  They claimed Ford’s pardon was granted in exchange for Nixon’s resignation that elevated Ford to the Presidency.  Ford’s first press secretary and close friend Jerald Franklin terHorst resigned his post in protest after President Nixon’s full pardon.  According to Bob Woodward, Nixon Chief of Staff Alexander Haig proposed a pardon deal to Ford.  He later decided to pardon Nixon for other reasons, primarily the friendship he and Nixon shared.  Regardless, historians believe the controversy was one of the major reasons Ford lost the election in 1976, an observation with which Ford agreed.  In an editorial at the time, The New York Times stated that the Nixon pardon was “a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act” that in a stroke had destroyed the new president’s “credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence”.  


The SGM Board of Directors will hold on C.J.’s resignation since they can no longer put forward deceitful reasons for him stepping down and get away with it.  Plus, they are too busy dealing with leaks, doing damage control, and stonewalling inquiries.  

Nevertheless, the majority want him off the Leadership Team and out as President.  I imagine the Board is feeling pressure from their liability lawyers to remove C.J.  The longer he remains, the worse it looks at trial.  Jurors will want to know why the Board did not take decisive action to suspend C.J. or put him on administrative leave.  

If I had to guess, the Board will wait 4-6 weeks before announcing C.J.’s removal, I mean voluntary resignation, from SGM leadership.  Ugh.  They may wait until the ratification vote on the new polity proposal by SGM pastors on April 12.  That is a convenient time to say C.J. is stepping down because the Book of Church Order is in place and he “humbly” wants younger men to fill his and other leadership roles while he focuses on the church which needs his full time attention.  

I also expect C.J., the Leadership Team, the interim Board and the current Board will all get full pardons like Nixon by those who fill their shoes.  Scandals in SGM continue one after another.  The lawsuit is moving forward.  A new polity without biblical sanction will be put into place.  Cover ups will continue.  Nothing has changed.  It only gets worse.  There are no Charles Colsons in this scandalous story.     

People with common sense, flee a burning building before they are overwhelmed with fumes and burned to a crisp.  Identifying with SGM is like choosing to be engulfed in smoke and then in flames.   People need to get out before the entire edifice is burned to the ground. 

To be honest, I cannot comprehend how a person or church can identify with a denomination led by dishonest leaders unwilling to address the past.  It took the Southern Baptist Convention 150 years before it renounced its former defense of slavery, segregation and white supremacism.  Will it take SGM 150 years before it acknowledges its abuse, deceit and pride?  That is, if it exists in 2163.   


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