The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it's going to be a lot better and a lot bigger. –Elisabeth Elliot
Yesterday we presented the first half of our letter to a megachurch pastor in response to his email assuring us of Greear's positive intents. We could have ended our letter on that note. However, we decided to take risk. As many of our readers are aware, we have become concerned about the number of complaints about spiritual abuse within Sovereign Grace Ministries. These can be found at various survivor type blogs, one of which is called SGM Survivors. In fact, today we had a lovely meeting with a former longtime member of PDI and Sovereign Grace Ministries. So many blanks were filled in. Once again, we heard stories that only serve to raise our concerns.
Before we post on a matter, we spend time visiting a church, talking with members/former members, reading books by the pastors, etc. We go onto church websites and note the books that are recommended. In our 11/09 post, we did the same and since that time have followed JD Greear's blog regularly. We follow his, along with other pastors, speaking engagements and often listen to talks delivered at these conferences.
We saw a couple of recommended books on Greear's site and were a bit concerned. To be fair, we know that many high visibility pastors are very busy, traveling about the country, speaking, writing books, as well as trying to be a pastor of a large congregation. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of their understanding of potentially serious problems with some ministries. Perhaps they do not have enough time to research the backgrounds of their friends and just follow the trends of their compatriots. We would make one recommendation before anyone puts a book on his blog. Make sure you understand the implications and problems with some of these authors.
Our intent was to be sure that a certain pastor was aware of the implications of a couple of books on Greear's site. Here is the second half of our response to Pastor A's email.
In your email, you said that, if we had simply researched Greear's website, we would have found that his intent in this matter is clear. We hasten to assure you that we have read both his website and his blog over the past couple of years. Greear is a visible star in the Reformed Baptist firmament and we make it a priority to follow his thoughts.
While visiting his website, we discovered several books on the recommended reading list that concern us and may have led to our perception of hyper-authoritarian leadership. The first book that disturbs us is On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo. Perhaps he and his wife have used this book successfully, but there is considerable evidence that Ezzo is not a man of integrity and that his methodology is extremely harmful. Yes, this is a serious accusation, and it is highly justified.
We have thoroughly investigated Gary Ezzo, and this is what we found.
Over a decade ago, Christianity Today published an article entitled: “Unprepared to Teach Parenting? Two churches long associated with Babywise author Gary Ezzo denounce his character and fitness for Christian ministry.” Link here.
Here is a startling excerpt:
“Two California churches have issued statements saying that Gary Ezzo, president of Growing Families International (GFI), is unfit for Christian ministry. Both of the churches have interacted closely with Ezzo…Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship of Granada Hills, California, officially "excommunicated" Ezzo on April 30. Ezzo and his wife had already stopped attending the church. The elders of Living Hope issued a statement saying they believe Ezzo is "biblically disqualified from all public ministry" because of a lack of truthfulness, Christian character, and accountability.”
The other church that denounced Gary Ezzo is Grace Community Church, where John MacArthur pastors. The board of elders at MacArthur’s church released a shocking statement to the public at large, which can be accessed at this link.
After parents began implementing Ezzo’s infant feeding methods in the 1990s, The American Academy of Pediatrics became alarmed due to reports of infant malnourishment and even death! 3/9/11-addendum- There was no documented evidence of death, however there was documented concern regarding malnourishment .In response, they issued a statement endorsing demand feedings over scheduled feedings, which you can read here.
Also, the Christian Research Institute has an excellent resource, which we highly recommend. Link here.
Your e-mail appears to be providential because the day before you sent it, I (Deb) had been communicating with a woman on our blog who was excommunicated from her church for rejecting Ezzo’s teachings. At the time this happened, she belonged to a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Pennsylvania where Dave Harvey served as senior pastor. I requested that she submit her testimony for publication on The Wartburg Watch to warn other parents of Ezzo’s dangerous teaching. Here’s the link to my comment in case you would like to read it.
She has agreed to submit a post, which we will be publishing in the coming weeks. We had planned to highlight ministries that continue to promote Gary Ezzo’s materials, including The Summit. Out of concern for the health and well being of the most vulnerable amongst us – infants – we urge him to remove this resource from his “Recommended Readings”.
Speaking of “Sovereign Grace Ministries”, we also take issue with two other books he recommends, specifically C.J. Mahaney’s Humility: True Greatness and Living the Cross-Centered Life. We are aware of his remark that “Mahaney and Driscoll are two of my absolute favorite speakers…”
We have written extensively on Sovereign Grace Ministries, including reviews of the aforementioned books by Mahaney. Here is our review of Living the Cross Centered Life.
We are stymied at how C.J. Mahaney has been embraced by such a wide segment of Reformed leaders. We are deeply concerned that SGM, under the watch of Mahaney, has spawned so many survivor-type blogs, along with widespread accusations of spiritual abuse that are rampant throughout the blogosphere. Here is a link to one of several blogs that deal with this matter.
It has been reported, by former members of SGM, that C.J. Mahaney invited Charles Simpson, an unrepentant member of the Fort Lauderdale Five (Shepherding Movement), to speak at several "Celebration" conferences. Given the high number of reports of abuse in SGM, it would seem to us that Reformed leaders need to take a second look at this ministry and its leadership. In light of these concerns, it would also be wise to take a look at how certain books could be misused in the ministry. Where there is so much smoke, one has to consider that there may be fire.
So, perhaps you can now better understand how Greear's sermon might have hit the wrong note with us. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss your thoughts and our perceptions. We would be glad to post any response to our post, unedited, on the blog. However, please know that we hold our commitment to confidentiality quite seriously and will not release your correspondence to us unless you request that we do so.
Thank you, once again, for caring enough to respond to our thoughts. You have impressed us with your dedication. As we said in the blog, Greear is a “darn fine” preacher.
Because we said we would not release his correspondence to us, we will have to give you a synopsis.
He reiterated that Greear's intent was not to separate himself from the sheep and that he views Greear as both shepherd and sheep. He did not back down on Greear's interpretation of dumb sheep but said that perhaps Greear was being playful. However, he claimed to understand our concerns without telling us what they were because there was absolutely no mention made of those hurt by the church.
However, he claimed that we were exhibiting an uncharitable attitude to Mahaney, Greear and others (guess he reads our blog) and violated 1Corinthians 13. We were admonished to listen to them and watch for the spirit of Christ in these ministries.He also said that we "assaulted the character" of Gary Ezzo and that Ezzo's teaching is "very biblical." Once again, no mention was made of those hurt my any of these ministries.
He did say we challenged him and prayed for God's blessing on our ministry.
Now, for a most interesting interlude. I am friends with a brilliant, deeply devoted, young man who is a student at UNC Chapel Hill. He attended my Sunday school class along with his parents and has been an ardent supporter and occasional commenter on the blog. He attends the same church as me. After we sent our response letter to Pastor A, JD Greear was a speaker on campus. This young man attended. The next Sunday he told me what happened. This young man, who has also read Greear's blog, decided to ask Greear why he had Mahaney's books and Ezzo's book on his blog. The books were the exact ones mentioned in our letter to Pastor A! I started to get a bit dizzy and asked him if he knew about an email we had received at TWW. His answer, "What email?" He told us the Greear asked him if Dee or Deb was his mother. Feeling uncomfortable he said, "No" and later sent him an email saying that he knew us and read our blog.
Both Deb and I are deeply disappointed that our letter appears to have had very little impact on this Pastor. Our major point that people are being hurt in the churches seems to have gone unnoticed while we are told to "make nice" with pastors who appear to have, wittingly or unwittingly, contributed to this issue. No acknowledgment was made of this growing problem. We wish he could have thrown us a bone but it did not occur. So, dear reader, what should we have said differently? Where did we fail? What would you say if you had the chance?
TWW wants to make clear that there have been no documented instances of death utilizing this method, merely several questionable anecdotal reports.However, the AAP has reported the risk of FTT and other issues with this method.When a baby is diagnosed with FTT, one has to be concerned that a baby could become very sick, very, very quickly,especially low birth weight infants. These warnings should be given to all parents who choose this method of feeding.
Lydia's Corner: Numbers 32:1-33:39 Luke 4:31-5:11 Psalm 64:1-10 Proverbs 11:22