"They(those hurt) experience grief, distress, and dissatisfaction with their former church community, and specifically, its leadership. As a result, they encounter a personal dilemma regarding the entire concept of Church." Barbara Orlowski
Today I listened to an old interview with Jimmy Kimmel lambasting the editor of the blog known as Gawker Stalker. Said website publishes up to the minute information on where certain celebrities can be sighted. For example, they might let their readers know that Gwyneth Paltrow is now in a particular theater watching a movie. The issue of privacy came up. The editor of Gawker Stalker made an interesting observation. She said that, in today’s world of blogging, twitter, Facebook, etc., one must assume there is no such thing as privacy. In other words, private citizens along with organizations must assume that what they say and do will increasingly be open to scrutiny. And this strikes fear into the heart of churches who have been carrying on "business as usual" with impunity.
Many groups, that claim the title of “Christian,” have made a habit of concealing their actions that, to the outside observers, might appear abusive, weird, or downright unbiblical. In the past, when a member would confront abuses in such a church, the member was excoriated, told they were sinful or gossiping, and even thrown out of the church. I even read an incident on an SGM Survivors’ blog in which bouncers were deployed to prevent a dissenting member from entering church premises. Her crime appeared to be that she disagreed with the Ezzo theory of discipline, which has now fallen into disrepute. (The discipline inflicted on infants in this book was declared medically dangerous by a number of health care professionals.) For a while, the Ezzos were the darlings of the SGM set. In the past, said member would skulk off into the wilderness, never to be heard from again.
No more. More and more blogs are hitting the Internet, outlining reported abuses inside of churches. Although one cannot assume that all of these accounts are fully accurate, there are enough incidents being reported to know that a revolution is taking place in Christendom. More and more Christian are screaming “I won’t take it anymore” and churches are beginning to stand up and take notice.
The number of reported cases of pedophile abuses in the Roman Catholic Church shocked the world. Some evangelicals smugly pointed fingers at the Catholics and away from their own equally appalling issues. However, the number of abuses — physical, psychological and spiritual– being documented and reported are producing shock waves, which are reverberating around the broader evangelical community. Michael W. Smith just recorded a song Leave which poignantly portrays the issue of abuse in the church. When it hits the contemporary Christian music scene, one may assume that the issue is now out in the open. Here is his presentation of the song.
In a few weeks, I will be reviewing an excellent new book entitled Spiritual Abuse Recovery by Barbara Orlowski, which, in my opinion, is ground breaking. She outlines, not only the effects of spiritual abuse, but also discusses spiritual abuse recovery. Based on my read of the first couple of chapters, I can tell that I will highly recommend it to anyone who has ever been hurt by a church.
She got much of her information by contact with actual people whose stories were highlighted on blogs that focus on spiritual abuse. The numbers of blogs which deal with this issue startled me and I will be providing a full list of them when I review the book. 12/17 correction: Orlowski used accounts from people that heard about her research through these sites. Not all of these people had their stories highlighted on those blog sites.
Early in the book she makes the following observation, which pertains to the today’s post. She quotes Ronald Enroth, a recognized expert on spiritual abuse.
“ Spiritual abuse takes place when leaders to whom people look for guidance and spiritual nurture use their positions of authority to manipulate, control and dominate.” (P.13)
She then goes onto make a significant, and what I consider to be, a key point.
“In the context of the contemporary Christian church, a deficient Old Testament leadership style can easily be developed by the fusion of a Mosaic model with that of the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood. The New Testament model of leadership, which was taught and demonstrated by Christ, demonstrates an egalitarian servant leadership model.” (P. 10)
In fact she claims that there is a misunderstanding of even the Old Testament model, alluding to evidence which indicates that a more servant leadership style was practiced. We will explore this more in future posts.
However, in a previous post I made the contention that the SGM leadership appears to have traded the doctrine of grace in order to live under the Law. I believe that their bylaws could give some strength to my assertion.
TWW has received, from what we believe to be a reputable source, an outline of what is purportedly the bylaws for KingsWay Community Church, along with what appears to be an outline of a membership covenant which is called Relational Commitments. We will hold onto the outline of the membership commitment and will expand on the issues inherent in such documents in posts in the New Year. We hasten to stress that what we have is purportedly the stated pertinent bylaws but we do not have original documents in our possession. The following assessment is based on the premise that, if this outline is correct, then we would assess the situation in this manner. In any event, if you should see such wording in any church in which you are considering membership, you need to proceed with caution.
Here is the pertinent excerpt.
“A. The government of this church is vested in its body of Pastors also referred to as Elders. They shall be the directors of the church and shall have full authority to appoint and remove the directors of the church Corporation for purposes of the Virginia Nonstock Corporation Act.
B. The pastors shall be considered the spiritual overseers and chief executive officers of the church and shall direct all of its activities. They shall have general and active management of the business of the church and shall see that all orders and resolutions of the pastors are carried into effect. They shall provide for all the regular services of the church and shall arrange for all special meetings. No person shall be permitted to teach or preach in the church without their approval.
C. The number of pastors or directors shall be determined and appointed by the pastors in conjunction with apostolic men and ministry recognized by the existing pastors.
D. Pastors shall be selected and appointed by the unanimous decision of the pastors in conjunction with apostolic men and ministry recognized by the existing pastors. If no apostolic men and ministry is recognized by the existing pastors, pastors shall be selected by the unanimous decision of the existing pastors. The names of candidates shall be submitted to the congregation for consideration. If any person knows of any reason why the candidate should not serve as a pastor, he shall contact the pastors with such reason.
E. In the case of plurality, one pastor shall be designated as senior pastor – primus inter-pares – and shall be responsible for conducting pastors meetings. His designation as senior pastor shall be by unanimous consent of existing pastors and in conjunction with apostolic men and ministry recognized by the existing pastors.
F. The pastors shall meet together regularly in order to enjoy fellowship and to properly discharge their duties as shepherds”.
Although there are some statements in this purported document on the beliefs of SGM that are admirable, I believe that the key to some of the current and previous problems within SGM may lie in the beliefs inherent in the above reported bylaws which deal with the roles of pastors.
Here is a list of the salient points.
- Elders are defined to be the pastors.
- Said pastors are the directors. Said pastors have FULL authority to remove and appoint directors of this “corporation.”
- Said pastors are the spiritual overseers and CEOs, and direct ALL of its activities.
- The pastors shall see that ALL orders and resolutions of the pastors are carried into effect.
- The number of pastors shall be determined by the pastors.
- The existing pastors hire all the pastors.
- They can have input into this process from apostolic men (read CJ Mahaney) recognized, once again, by the pastors. No one teaches or preaches without their permission.
- Who appoints the senior pastors? You guessed it: the other pastors and the apostolic dudes.
- The pastors get together regularly to enjoy one another.
Well, we sure know “who be the bosses” in this scenario. Now, indubitably, they must have some roles for the members-you know, the ones who pay their salaries. You be the judge. The following is a partial list. The ones left out basically say you have to be a Christian to join. Sadly, there is nothing said about the pastors getting together regularly with the members to enjoy them. Wonder why?
- Don’t you go getting any ideas that you have anything to add to the discussion. Preacher boys do not have to listen to you. “Church membership as such conveys no standing, responsibility or authority for governance of the Corporation”.
- Do what you are told. “A recognition of need for personal pastoral care and leadership and a willingness to be governed by the pastors in their leadership of the church.”
- Fork over the money. “A willingness to contribute regularly to the financial support of the church according to ability.”
- Get ready to be “instructed”. Do you think they mean disciplined? “A willingness to undergo a course of instruction as the pastors may determine.”
I believe that this structure is a set up for potential spiritual abuse. Everything is in the hands of the pastors who hire, fire and throw people out. If one of the pastors does not march lockstep within this paradigm, he will most likely be fired. (Whoops, I meant degifted.)
Several years ago, I confronted a local newspaper about their liberal bias. They claimed that it just wasn’t so. I contended that they couldn’t see it because they hang around with their own little group of journalists who all agree that they are most neutral and mainstream. I said they were guilty of self-talk. They even wrote an editorial about this contention.
Here is my opinion.
- The pastors are guilty of self-talk.
- Pastors can be terribly sinful just like their flock. The system is setup to protect the pastor from everyone else outside of their little group.
- This system is a setup for pastoral insulation, which can lead to arrogance and isolation. This could morph into abuse of those who do not agree with them;
- It is an “us versus them” scenario, which leads to disunity not unity.
- The priesthood of the believer is left out in the cold with no ability for significant input.
There are some who might contend that this is an “Episcopalian” form of polity. Rubbish. I was a member of an Episcopal church and almost joined an Anglican church. Both of these have a Leadership Council which has the ability to have significant input into the direction of the church. Said council is made up of a broad spectrum of congregational members men AND women who lead or direct various ministries.
Finally, I found this statement on the blog known as Puritan Board insightful. These guys are reformed and they seem none too pleased with some aspects of SGM. It seems as if certain aspects of SGM’s reputation is getting to be well-known. I believe the following comment clearly outlines the potential for arrogance and control inherent in the SGM system. In my opinion, if these comments are true, then it is time to pack up the babies and head for the hills. Egads!
The man, who makes the following statement and who had extensive theological training as outlined in another comment, asked about how he could be considered to become a pastor at SGM.
“I asked how long that would take because I just went through all that and I was told that my pride in my past was probably a good indicator that I was not ready for pastoral ministry and I should question not only my call but those who claim I have one. “
If this is true, the folks at this SGM church appear to question his pride and everyone else who thought this guy could be a pastor. Such arrogance is breathtakingly astonishing.
“IME SGM polity is very hierarchal and very legalistic. CJ is not the pope but his word is pretty close to infallible. The bookstore I thought was great till I started looking for Horton's Amazing Grace. After looking and having the volunteer help the manager came out and said they don't carry Horton…he's not an approved author by CovLife pastors. Not a huge problem but I was warned by a young lady that reading an unapproved author is a sign of pride in me thinking I know more than the men God has appointed to lead us…. I was done and heard all I needed to hear.”
In other words, you, an adult, who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, must kowtow to SGM’s approved list of books. This is demeaning and once again, arrogant. What are these guys afraid of? By the way, it is always guys because women have no say in leadership, effectively eliminating 50% of potential dissension.
To assist our readers who are interested in doing their own research into SGM, here is a partial list of blogs that have addressed the concerns about SGM. I found this list at a blog known as New Leaven in a post entilted C J Mahaney Makes It Difficult for Me to Listen to HIm. There were more blogs listed which were functioning at the time of the post. Pretty impressive list, eh? Obviously, one can go to the websites for SGM for their take on all of this. Nuff said…..for now.
Post addendum 12/16 8:17 PM: Here is a comment from a reader who goes by Unassimilated. I find the link to be useful and felt it should be highlighted for our readers.