Connecting the Dots . . . SGM, CCEF, and Peacemaker Ministries

Without question the leadership of KingsWay Community Church has created a ROYAL mess!

As we have been preparing this series, God’s PROVIDENCE has been extremely evident. Just this morning “The Protestant Knight” (PT) at SGM Refuge posted an intriguing article entitled:

Organizational Chart for Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Hierarchal Polity

In his first comment on the post, PT makes this candid remark: “And I am here to tell you that as someone who staunchly defended SGM for over two decades (you can ask PD (his wife) on this, and you can ask Kris over at Survivors about how I came in with both barrels onto her blog; I even behaved like a member of SGM’s marketing dept. here on the ‘fuge for awhile…”

To gain an understanding of the SGM hierarchy, we recommend that you check out the organizational chart that PT has constructed. The consistent criticism of Sovereign Grace Ministries is that its polity (church governance) is ALL WRONG. On September 5, 2010, Dave Harvey (who is in charge of church planting and church care) addressed the KingsWay congregation on “church polity”. You can find the link to his message in PT’s post. According to Harvey, SGM has a polity similar to a Presbyterian model, although commenters have strongly disagreed. Those familiar with SGM polity won’t be surprised that Harvey sharply criticized “congregationalism” in his message. It has become clear to us that SGM members have no authority whatsoever. Pastors are “assigned” to congregations, instead of members being allowed to choose their own leaders via a “pastor search committee”.

What has been surprising to us is how mainstream Sovereign Grace Ministries has become, especially over the last decade. As we have explained in previous posts, C.J. Mahaney has gained much recognition and credibility because he has friends in high places, namely Al Mohler, Mark Dever, John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, among other reformed leaders. We have discussed these relationships ad nauseum here at TWW, and we continue to be perplexed by these friendships…

In addition to these connections, C.J. Mahaney and SGM have established relationships with two highly regarded ministries – CCEF and Peacemaker Ministries. Why focus on these organizations, you may ask. Well, the following comment over at SGM Survivors under the KingsWay post explains why. Here it is:

Moving On (August 19, 2010) #18

“I am a former member of KingsWay. Unassimilated, I think that’s a major reason why a “gag” order would be kept in this situation at KW or in other SGM churches…. Also, at KW the congregation was given papers to sign (little contracts) that basically said you would not gossip or listen to gossip, this after Ken Sande’s ministry on “Peacemaking” came to KW. This was many years after the events that happened to SW. I found myself in situations where to be a real friend and truly care for someone I was going to listen. If that was labeled listening to gossip, then I listened to gossip. Everyone needs somebody that they can talk to about anything and feel safe…. Boy, things sure have been made so complicated in SGM churches.”

Before we turn our attention to these “little contracts” that Peacemaker Ministries had the KingsWay members sign preventing “gossip”, let’s connect some dots…


First, let’s take a look at CCEF (aka Restoring Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church). Dave Harvey, SGM’s polity guru, serves on the Board of Trustees for CCEF. The “What Others Are Saying” page includes accolades from C.J. Mahaney and Ken Sande, who heads Peacemaker Ministries.

What does CCEF do? They provide Biblical counseling, train Biblical counselors, hold conferences, and provide various resources. Check out their website for more info.

C.J. Mahaney interviewed David Powlison, a faculty member at CCEF, in March 2009, which resulted in a four part series on his blog, “A View From the Cheap Seats”. You can read the first installment here.

Five months later, Mahaney posted an article entitled “A Narrated Bibliography with David Powlison” on his blog.

Mahaney begins the post as follows: “No one has taught me more about applying the gospel to my heart in the midst of daily life than my friend David Powlison. I have benefited from dozens of outstanding journal articles he has written, from the books he has authored, and from the courses he has taught.” Then Mahaney lists some of his favorite resources, which include a message Powlison gave at the 2004 SGM Leadership Conference and another he gave at the 2007 SGM Leadership Conference.

Speaking of conferences, CCEF has an upcoming conference this November, and SGM’s Dave Harvey will be one of the guest speakers as this link shows.

As we often discuss here at TWW, conferences are expensive. In case you are interested, the rates for the CCEF National Conference are posted on their website.

Finally, let’s take a look at the lifeline of any organization – its bottom line. The CCEF website includes the following vital information: “Without donations, we could not keep our doors open… Contributions are our largest source of revenue.” Even though they charge for their counseling and resources, they still need donors. Interestingly, they provide a list of supporting churches. Although the giving levels are not listed, we were surprised to discover that among the 47 churches that made contribution in 2009, over one-fourth of them (12 out of 47) were SGM churches. There are 70+ SGM churches, compared to the many Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational churches, etc., out there. Why are a disproportionate number of SGM churches giving to CCEF?

Now let’s take a look at the ministry mentioned in Moving On’s comment about KingsWay –Peacemaker Ministries. According to its website, this organization “was founded in 1982 by a group of pastors, lawyers, and business people who wanted to encourage and assist Christians to respond to conflict biblically.” ATTORNEY Ken Sande is the President of Peacemakers. Tim Challies interviewed Sande earlier this year, and you can read his post here.

Challies asked Sande the following question:

How does Peacemaker work with other Christian ministries?

Sande responded as follows: “Our work doesn’t necessitate a great deal of collaboration, but we have close ties with a few ministries, including the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), Christian Legal Society, and as I mentioned above, the Overseas Council.”

In the interview, Sande was asked about Peacemaker’s budget, to which he responded: “Our 2009 budget was $2.9 million. About 50-60% of our revenue comes from the generous donations of our supporters, while the remaining income comes from our resources, training and conciliation services.”

As with David Powlison, C.J. Mahaney interviewed Ken Sande for his blog in January 2010. You can access the two-part interview here.

A few days after posting the Sande interview, Mahaney featured Peacemaker’s Leadership Opportunity resource kit in his blog post, “Resolving Conflicts – A New Resource for Pastors” (Note: This resource is specifically FOR PASTORS – more on that in the next post.)

In this post Mahaney remarked: “I was so impressed by the content that I had copies of the study purchased and mailed to every senior pastor in Sovereign Grace Ministries.Here’s the link to the Peacemaker Ministries resource.

As we continue to connect the dots between SGM, CCEF, and Peacemaker Ministries, you might be interested to learn that Dave Harvey was a keynote speaker at the 2009 Peacemaker Ministries conference that took place in Dallas, Texas. This year’s Peacemaker conference begins in just two days. The Conference title is “Forgiveness”, and SGM’s Josh Harris will be speaking. For more information, go to this link.

On the surface Sovereign Grace Ministries appears to have a cozy relationship with Peacemaker Ministries, and we wonder how much of their almost $3 million budget has been supplemented by the SGM “family of churches”.

Tune in next time when we will connect even more dots…


Connecting the Dots . . . SGM, CCEF, and Peacemaker Ministries — 24 Comments

  1. Hmmm, this is all very interesting information and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story. This is also personally interesting because one of the first church-wide studies we did after Chad Everson came to Trinity was… Peacemakers. We have a Peacemakers Team now, who I think are supposed to be helping conflicts between members (maybe?), but apparently the Team has become an information source for the pastor as to who is complaining about him or policies or staff, etc. It has become a source of consternation for many Trinity members. =(

    Thanks for exposing all this stuff and connecting the dots for us.

  2. TrinityWatcher,

    Very interesting info. May I mention this in the upcoming post which will focus primarily on Peacemaker Ministries?

  3. Never EVER sign any contract, so called “covenants”, etc these churches give you. Let your yes be yes and your no, no.

    The horrible deceit I have personally witnessed from mega’s who have used such tools to silence people who later disagree on any point…is directly from satan.

    If you have signed one, I would suggest writing the church and telling them you are publicly rescinding it. Keep a copy of your letter and send it registered mail. I am deadly serious.

  4. Lydia,

    We will be addressing this topic tomorrow in our post about Peacemaker Ministries. I hope you don’t mind our including your comment. It’s EXTREMELY important!

  5. I am very concerned about this situation. There appears to be a bias in favor of the pastors, assuming the pastors are playing by the rules. As you and I have seen, pastors are as apt to behave in sinful behavior as any other “lesser” Christian(sarcasm intended). What is scary to me is the number of people who are buying the Mahaney “humility” routine. Peacemakers seems to be biased and predetermines the most likely offender (either wittingly or unwittingly) and I can bet it is rarely, if ever, the pastor.Great stuff, Deb!

  6. Dee,
    I have a question that I hope will not be read as an accusation. To what extent do you think that your past experiences in churches color the way that you evaluate what is happening in the situations that you write about? Where Peacemakers may be biased “wittingly or unwittingly” toward the pastor, do you think that this blog is “wittingly or unwittingly” biased toward the person in the pew?
    The reason that I ask this is because I have never been part of a mega church, so I haven’t really experienced many of the things that you write about on here. My experience has been in smaller baptist churches where instead of “hyper-authoritarianism,” I have seen “hyper-congregationalism.” I have seen pastors denied raises for the better part of a decade, refused health insurance coverage by their congregation, and fired by votes that were stacked with people who had not attended in years. In cases where the details are fuzzy, I naturally tend to side with the pastor because of what I have seen. (Notice I didn’t say that is the case where the details are clear.) I’m curious if what you have seen makes you a little more biased in the other direction.

  7. Scott
    I had 4 wonderful church experiences with incredible pastors, elders, etc.-Pete, Randy, Jim, Paul-I love them! I am back in a church with great pastors again, praise God! Now, I had one bad experience, terrible. I also was a member of Ed Young Jr’s church for a very short period of time-nuff said on that one. However, I am so grateful for the bad experience. Without it, I would never had the insight and “feel’ for those who have been in bad churches.I also wouldn’t believe some of the stories I have been told. I was a bit of a Pollyanna when it came to churches until a few years ago.

    So, I figure that 20% of my experience was bad (yet necessary). 78% was awesome and 2% was neutral. It would seem to me that I would be in a good position to look at the good and bad of church life. Considering the fact that I have been both a nurse and also hold in MBA, I have some skills to evaluate complex issues.

    Interestingly, I have spoken up at a church meeting to raise the salary of one pastor, the only one tin the church congregation to do so. I have led a woman’s ministry, taught adult and children Sunday schools, and helped lead small groups for decades.

    As for “siding” I have met personally with participants in some of the incidents that I have written about. I have attempted contacts with pastors and one had the guts to return my call. Recently, I was involved with a potential conflict in a Christian organization and came out on the side of the leadership.

    All in all, I think I am uniquely qualified to look at these situations and actually hope to write a book on these experiences. I do not think that I am particularly biased but all of us have mixed motives and I, as well as my fellow glamorous blogger, do our best to look carefully at the situations that we write about. Does this make sense?

  8. Absolutely makes sense. I promise it was a question birthed out of sheer curiosity and not out of a desire to try to discredit you.

  9. Actually, Scott, I’m glad you asked. It gave me an opportunity to actually think about the actual numbers in my experience with churches. I understand better why I did not lose hope in the church during my one really bad experience. I am so grateful that God gave me such great pastors, leaders and Christian friends to help me weather the storm when it occurred.
    Blessings and I hope your church never goes mega. That is a sincere wish. Closeness and authenticity usually get lost in the crowd of success.

  10. Scott,

    Actually, I’m the one writing this series of articles and Dee is graciously posting them for me. I have never been a member of a megachurch either. Our current focus has nothing to with church size because hyper-authoritarianism is happening in congregations from small to mega.

  11. I’d always assumed these contracts were encouraged because Sande is a lawyer who has seen too many situations like the news story from last year that went public in Florida where a woman was trying to sue her church for acting out Matthew 18 and “bringing it before the church” that she was living in unrepentant adultery. In a situation where no membership affiliation has been created, how can a church follow the biblical command to discipline where discipline genuinely needs to happen as commanded by Scripture? It seems to make sense that some form of legal protection ought to be present if a church is going to have the right to biblically, humbly, lovingly, and correctly follow the commands of Christ. How a church keeps that from enabling absolute power to corrupt absolutely seems a finer line that one might think at first.

    Of course, I belong to a denomination where membership affiliation occurs via five vows not a covenant and at least one miffed member has a blog out there detailing all his grievances with his church, pastor, and denomination and he’s not in any way being blacklisted because of it (that he posts on the blog, at least), so I don’t have first had experience with the downsides of agreeing to “promote..the purity and peace” of my church.

  12. Watcher

    I used to believe that a covenant was the way to go. I also believed, and still do, that a church needs to impose discipline. For example, in one church, a man left his wife and moved in with his girlfriend. he was asked to leave the church by the elders. This was done quietly, no big announcements. The elders continued to keep in touch with the man. He eventually repented, made amends with his wife and came back to the church. This was all done without the need for a specific covenant.

    Many of these incidents occur when the pastor sees the need to do a blow by blow account of the behavior of the person to the entire congregation, even after they have resigned from the church. Then, some pastors just can’t let it go. They call other pastors in the community to stop the person from joining another church. I know, it happened to me even though we were not “under discipline.” Actually we had done something that many should, confront sin. But, this is not allowed in some churches. The only sinners are int the congregation, not in the pulpit.

    Pastors can be biased, egotistical, self centered, hyper-authoritative… just like any member of the congregation. They are not specially anointed to be free from any sort of sin yet some act as if they are.

    I have become increasingly concerned that these covenants are usually enforced in a one sided manner-usually to punish a member of the congregation; rarely is this used to apply to the pastor.

    Also, the covenant is used to stop what is termed “gossip.” How is this defined? It is often defined in such a way that there should be no questions raised about the “leadership.” So, if you are concerned about the income of the pastor and you express concern that he is living in a fancy house in an expensive neighborhood, you are the one who is accused of spreading disunity.This is baloney.

    In the past few years, after having many wonderful pastors, I have discovered that pastors can be just as sinful as their congregation. Said type of pastor wants to conceal his problems and instead lay the blame on the member who brings the complaint.There is an inequality which is unbiblical

    From what I see, Peacemakers appears to be biased towards the pastor. It should be neutral to all parties but I don’t think this organization has done enough to be unbiased. Sande is an attorney and many of the folks signing this covenants have no idea of the potential problems that can arise from signing a document that can limit legal action if a pastor goes out of control. And I have personally seen such things.

    Until this sort of thing is explored in depth, we would tell members of churches to NOT sign such a covenant.

  13. Dee, thanks for your insight. How does this mesh with Matthew 18:17? Somehow the church needs to be told, it seems. In my church in two cases I saw this was handled with an announcement – yes – but one that was without show or blow by blow details. In one case the man was leaving the church of his own accord because of his sin, in the other the man eventually repented and was restored with a much more joyous announcement made of the restoration.

    I realize, though, that I’m talking about a church where I know members go to discuss their differences with the leadership and are heard and respected, where finances are open, and things are often (praise God) very right.

    I looked up the Peacemaker’s covenant on google and found a document served up from their website. I’ll agree with you – it’s not something I’d sign. The places where they take the Proverbs as texts for commands when the Proverbs don’t make commands to justify things that don’t seem to come out of the Bible are a bit unnerving (in the gossip section you referenced).

    This surprised me, as I’ve read some articles from Peacemakers that seemed to defend the congregation from authoritarian pastors and didn’t see any of this in my reading of Sande’s book years ago. Have things changed, or do you think they’ve always been this way?

    Makes me glad to be part of a confessional rather than a covenantal church.

  14. Hey Watcher

    It seems that we are in the same sort of church. Until my little brouhaha with my last church, I had never seen pastors who were not kind and thoughtful. All of those churches welcomed comments, even negative, and the pastors acted like men, not little boys who channel playground bullies when they don’t get their own way.

    Yes, the church needs to be told of someone getting kicked out. However, it can be done quietly, like in the minutes of a meeting. Listen, almost everyone knows the details when a scandal hits the church. The ones who don’t, really do not need a blow by blow. If they have questions, they can go quietly to a pastor or elder and ask for clarification.And they should be told. This sort of process rarely results in lawsuits for a church.

    The one in Florida was fascinating. I think we wrote about it last year.The problem developed when the woman resigned from the church, if I remember correctly. The pastor then felt it necessary to announce her sins in a very public way. Totally, absolutely unnecessary.It could have been handled quietly. Everyone in the church knew what was going on anyway.

    If Sande wants to defend the people from authoritarian pastors, why does he have some of the most current examples of pastors who have been accused of heavy handed tactics speaking at his conferences. That sure encourages onlookers to think about bias!

    As of this writing, one of the guys who spoke at Sande’s conference in the last year is involved in a little excitement in an SGM church. Unbiased? Hard to imagine how Peacemakers could be. Maybe Sande would be willing to tell us.

    I think hyper-authoritarinism is on the rise.Much of this is due to guys like Mahaney being held up as an example. I still remember a pastor with whom we had a few “issues” querulously declare “What about my authority?” Good night! This stuff is coming out of abusive ministries and is being accepted by formerly decent churches.

    I say let’s get back to the priesthood of the believer and bag the “pastor can do no wrong” mindset. We are all in this together-all sinners who are called saints because of Jesus!

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  15. “Dee, thanks for your insight. How does this mesh with Matthew 18:17? Somehow the church needs to be told, it seems. In my church in two cases I saw this was handled with an announcement – yes – but one that was without show or blow by blow details. ”

    Matthew 18 is so very misunderstood! The situation you described in your comment, Watcher, is taught in 1 Corin 5 and the whole church dealt with it. The problem is our churches are too big AND too authoritarian. They are not a real “Body” so these things get handled badly. Paul did not tell the elders to handle it. He told the whole church to deal with the person living in blatent sin who had no shame about it.

    If you go and look at Matthew 18 (Start at least at verse 1 and see what is the focus of the passage) it is talking about a PERSONAL offense against you by another believer. And then outines a process.

    It is NOT talking about obvious, blatent sin by someone in the Body of Christ. The church needs to deal with that corporately.

    Matt 18 is the most wrongly taught passage out there and it causes mass confusion. In Matt 18, NO WHERE does the process say to take it to the elders first before you take it to the whole church. The witnesses can be anybody. I get so weary of the adding to scripture out there! Even Jay Adams, the church discipline guru ADDS a step to the Matt 18 process that is NOT in there. He adds the elder step when it says take it to the WHOLE CHURCH. These guys can only teach authoritarian control. Adams is much like Sande in that he is the go to guy used by Mohler and other big wigs. And he ADDS to scripture what is not there!

  16. Lydia

    You are so good in defining the issues surrounding Matthew 18. This is one of the most misused passages in all of Scripture. It is misused by controlling CEO types masquerading as pastors. I have heard pastors quote this nonsense when they are unhappy that they have been caught in some sort of sin and do not wish to deal with it. This is a passage that I think is being taught to be the “get out of jail free card” by some seminaries. I, for one, will not (and have not) back down when they quote this erroneously.

  17. The most ignorant use of Matthew 18 is on blogs when pastors do not like the conversation.

    Remember the Caner issue? They would ask, have you contacted Caner personally before you commented here as per Matt 18?

    How could it be a Matt 18 situation when he is a public teacher telling lies in public? He is not offending me personally ONLY. And what church am I to take him before? The one that supports his lying? And what if he never calls me back? Does that render Matt 18 moot? (Do these people ever use basic logic?)

    I used to think that most pastors were simply being deceptive and hoping we would not figure out that Matt 18 does not apply to all situations. But now, I truly think they do not know better. When I saw the True Church Conference teaching Matt 18 wrongly by ADDING a step that is not there…to young pastors…who never question the great leaders….I realized there is a huge famine in the land with pastors who really know the Word. They just parrot what they are taught. Like the tithe for a NC!

    And the great church disciplinarian guru, Jay Adams,is the one who ADDED a step in Matt 18 that is NOT in there at the True Church Conference. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. Anyone who adds or subtracts to the bible in any way becomes a false teacher to me.

  18. Lydia, thanks for your insight. The interesting thing is that I’ve only ever heard Matt. 18 taught from the pulpit as you describe, and made my own connection from who knows where that it applies to general issues. I’m definitely going to look into the connections you draw.

    I’d think that the reason elders get involved is the variety of church polities out there. In a congregational polity it makes a lot of sense to say as you say, but what if one holds to an episcopal or presbyterian polity where the view on church authority is different?

    Again, very much appreciate your insights.

  19. I’m personally aware of a few occasions when John Sandy has given legal council to SGM pastors, for a nominal fee of course. The relationship isn’t simply an mutual patting of the backs: it’s socioeconomic.

  20. Hi AWOL

    I know where the comment belongs-under our Peacemakers/Kingsway post. However, I am not surprised by this comment.TWW is watching the Kingsway situation with great interest. I hope that our cynicism is proven wrong.

  21. AWOL
    I find you name hysterical. I understand that you are supposed to get permission to leave SGM. I take it you are a big boy and didn’t do that. If so, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! Freedom is a wonderful thing.

  22. Hi AWOL!

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, we are holding the Peacemakers accountable. IMHO Ken Sande has unwisely gotten too involved with the powers that be in SGM.

    As Dee stated, we are monitoring the KingsWay debacle and will report the outcome, along with our assessment.