"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule".The Lord of the Rings Gandalf, Chapter 'The Last Debate'.
Yesterday, TWW received further documents that pertain to the Sovereign Grace Ministries debacle. Our source is a trusted insider who has sent material to us in the past. We have decided to hold on posting them, in their entirety, due to the massive amount of information already available but may do so in the near future. These documents seem to buttress the information already available.
However, one comment in the mix jumped out at me. I believe this comment is also found in the already released documents. When confronted, once again, by Brent, CJ, in June of this year, wrote the following: (my bold)
"I am not trying to impress you or convince you about what I am perceiving in my heart. But since I began to reengage with your documents a couple of days ago and with the help of others I have already perceived a couple of areas of sin I didn’t clearly perceive previously."
“A couple of areas of sin,” huh?? The released documents are filled with examples of sin after sin after sin. Is this response chutzpah, a serious character flaw or a psychological impairment? Some point to the possibility of narcissistic personality disorder. Did you know that narcissists are drawn to the pulpit because it is a perfect place from which to demand adherence to their mandates? We will touch more on this subject in coming posts and will provide documentation for this claim.
Now, let’s add the people within the organization who believe that Mahaney’s temporary “step down” is just a further example of his deep humility. Throughout the “Assyrian” (what Joshua Harris called bloggers last night) blogosphere, one sees a myriad of attempts by people to protect or compliment Mahaney. Justin Taylor’s blog at The Gospel Coalition, which allows for comments, closed comments on their posting about Mahaney’s departure. LINK
You see, The Gospel Coalition was part of the official cheerleading squad for Mahaney’s antics through the years. I believe that many of these inbred groups purposely turned a blind eye to the reports of abuse through the years. I believe they call it “not listening to gossip.” I call it a breathtaking lack of due diligence which calls into question their judgment on many matters.
TWW, in the past two years, have had contact with influential pastor and seminarians, begging them to look at the issues involving Mahaney and what we perceived to be a spiritually abusive system in the polity of SGM. The response was negative, in the extreme. Deb will share these less than stellar responses in another post.
Here are a few examples of attitudes that surprise us:
- CJ reportedly appeared last night at CLC and said he would be at the Pastor’s Conference, 4 months hence, standing shoulder to shoulder with Larry Tomczak. He also brought his wife with him. Why is he assuming anything about the next four months?
- On another blog, one man wrote that he was glad that his pastor at a new SGM church in Texas did not discuss this situation since it has little to do with them. He doesn’t seem to perceive that his pastor has been trained and put into place by the same boys who were trained by Mahaney. For that matter, what about all the pastors who have been complicit for YEARS in strong-armed SGM tactics? They’ve changed, suddenly?? Also, I call them boys because they seem to like the word “girls” when it comes to women and the women buy it. See Girltalk.
- Some said that Joshua Harris struck the right note at the meeting and is going to turn things around. Harris lived with and was mentored by Mahaney and contributed to a system that has spawned an unbelievable number of complaints of abuse. Can he truly “turn on a dime” and become accountable? This is the same man who is rereleasing his book on Boy Meets Girl, which uses SGM couples as examples on how to date and choose the “right” mate. Two of those couples are in the midst of divorce-one is very high profile. Is this an example of thoughtful judgement or schilling for bank?
- A whole new constitution purportedly will be written and the polity will change by next summer. Dave Harvey, just a few months ago, told people to get lost if they didn’t like the polity. So now he wants everyone to “not get lost” and change the governance?
- The silence of the CJ Mahaney cheerleaders: Al Mohler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and all the” oh so Biblically correct” Gospel Coalition is deafening. Remember, they have the ability to “rehabilitate” him by giving him speaking platforms. If they intervene, they can, and most likely will, “restore” him.
So, let me get this straight. A hyper-authoritarian structure put in place by hyper-authoritarian men who cannot control one another, will suddenly come up with a brand new system, no problems? A reformation is needed but a reformation usually means a deep change in the theological basis for polity. Is such a change likely with authoritarians like Mark Dever coming in to straighten CJ out?
When events appear to negate deeply held assumptions, something has to give. Either the events must be reinterpreted or the theology must be reassessed. In this matter, given the theological convictions of those involved, I might guess that the events will be glossed over and rehabilitation will be quickly on the table. But then again, there was Martin Luther…. Is there a Martin Luther in this situation? Dave Harvey, Josh Harris, Mark Dever??
We believe there is a strong current of cognitive dissonance running throughout the situation. Here is a lengthy excerpt from a post we wrote called I’m Confused… Wait Maybe I’m Not!!!, 9/15/09. LINK
“Recently, we received the following comment: “While I do not disagree with many of your assumptions, I think many of them are just "spiritual whining" by people who are not, and never will be, in a position of leadership”. We believe that this statement is an excellent example of a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance. Wikipedia offers a thoughtful definition of this term. LINK
“Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.
Dissonance normally occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency among his or her cognitions. This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. For example, a belief in animal rights could be interpreted as inconsistent with eating meat or wearing fur. Noticing the contradiction would lead to dissonance, which could be experienced as anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. When people's ideas are consistent with each other, they are in a state of harmony, or consonance.
A powerful cause of dissonance is an idea in conflict with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as "I am a good person" or "I made the right decision." The anxiety that comes with the possibility of having made a bad decision can lead to rationalization, the tendency to create additional reasons or justifications to support one's choices. A person who just spent too much money on a new car might decide that the new vehicle is much less likely to break down than his or her old car. This belief may or may not be true, but it would likely reduce dissonance and make the person feel better. Dissonance can also lead to confirmation bias, the denial of disconfirming evidence, and other ego defense mechanisms”.
That’s a whole lot of words that might seem a bit confusing. However, it will become increasingly clear as we deal with specific examples.
One of my pastors is currently teaching a series on dissonance in our Christian life. He believes that dissonance is built into the Bible and that this tension, when viewed positively, can lead to significant change in how we deal with our Christian walk. For example, the Bible says, “Be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Yet, we know that we are sinners and have no hope of being perfect in and of ourselves.
Some, without thinking this through, will run themselves into the ground trying to be perfect. If left unchecked, this thought process can lead to despair. Others throw their hands up and walk away from the faith or just live a hedonistic lifestyle because they cannot possibly “measure up” so why try? Others close their eyes to their sin and develop what is known as a “holier than thou” lifestyle.
But, as my pastor cleverly pointed out, there is the fourth option. He proceeded to have an imaginary conversation with Satan that went something like this.
Satan: “Do you realize that you sinned when you did this thing and that thing today? What a loser.”
Pastor: “You don’t know the half of it. I did those things along with all of these other things. In fact, I probably sinned in ways that neither you nor I realize. So, get lost.”
He went on to say that we are covered by the grace of Jesus Christ. He made the point that as many of us walk through our lives, we find that the more we deal with various sins, the more of our own sins we uncover. In other words, we take three steps forward, then six steps back. One of his favorite sayings is, “Even on my best days, my motives are mixed.”
In closing, there are a number of hurdles that need to be overcome if Sovereign Grace Ministries intends to become less pastor-centric and more cognizant of the priesthood of the believer. Here are a few suggestions from “Assyria.”
1. There needs to be congregationally appointed overseers. Efforts should be made to find leaders that have differences of perspective in order to prevent a “yes man” panel.
2. This experience goes to prove that men are as “gullible and easily deceived” as women. There needs to be a greater degree of involvement by women. I believe that Carolyn McCulley, an SGM female leader, once implied that because she is a woman, she is in no position to judge the male leadership. Bless her heart, of course she is! It is opinions like these, which are destroying this organization. SGM has effectively sidelined 50% of Holy Spirit input because they marginalize women. (Separate but equal doesn’t play well in race or gender).
3. The congregation must take matters into their own hands. The pastors are just as fallen as everyone else and have been put into positions in which they have clearly exercised their fallen thinking. The pastors are no different than those they lead.
4. It is time to emphasize grace instead of sin. These documents show the almost endless sin sniffing that exist amongst the pastorate and those complicit in the congregation. Clue to the Cross Centered mindset: Jesus rose from the dead and grace is in play. No matter how hard you try, you can’t overcome sin. Stop pretending and be at peace.
5. It is very difficult for many to admit they have been duped. For some, this means that their whole paradigm of trust in certain men has been shattered, and well it should be. It happened to the two of us. We could have stuck our heads in the sand and pretend that injustice wasn’t happening. But, we cut our losses, learned incredible lessons about God and are much better off today than 5 years ago.
6. Stop with the weird, insider lingo. Be straightforward. In my reading of the documents, there is so much doublespeak going on that I feel like I am in a version of Brave New World-SGM style. Terms such as "I wanted to serve him" (with papers?), "I want to make an observation" (Time to tell you what's wrong with you), Perceiving in my heart" (as opposed to the kidney?), and so forth.
More to come….