Harris ‘Resigns’ From SGM Board


Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.              C. S. Lewis







C.J. Mahaney’s mantra – “Change is here to stay” – has been especially true of Sovereign Grace Ministries since he began a leave of absence on June 30, or was that July 6? Change has been occurring at breakneck speed over the last few days, and it has been extremely difficult to keep up!  

The most recent development is that Joshua Harris has ‘resigned’ (to use Peter Smith’s journalistic technique) from the SGM board. Dave Harvey, who ‘took over’ after Mahaney’s departure, made that stunning announcement on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website. Here’s what Harvey wrote:   “This past week we (the Sovereign Grace Board and Joshua Harris) came to the mutual decision that it would be best for Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries for Joshua to step down from his role as a board member.”

The first sign of dissension between Josh Harris and his fellow board members was the absence of Josh’s name at the bottom of a July 13th proclamation that essentially exonerates Mahaney. You can read the board’s “official” position in its entirety here.  

There are FIVE resolves in the SGM Board’s statement; however, these are the three that stood out to us:

“2. That Brent Detwiler’s distribution of written accusations against C.J. Mahaney to all Sovereign Grace pastors constitutes the public slander of Mahaney’s reputation.

4. That C.J. Mahaney is a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry in Sovereign Grace and the wider body of Christ.

5. That Sovereign Grace Ministries will engage a process of evaluation regarding CJ Mahaney's fitness for ministry.”

With regard to item 2, it appears the SGM Board doesn’t know the difference between “slander” and “libel”. Slander involves oral communication; libel involves written statements. Why aren’t SGM’s attorneys catching these mistakes?  

We find items 4 and 5 to be at contradictory. If Mahaney is a “qualified minister of the gospel” who has gained the approval of the board regarding his pastoral and teaching ministry in SGM, why in the world do they need to evaluate his fitness for ministry. Clearly, item 5 invalidates item 4.  

Joshua Harris’ departure from the SGM Board just yesterday is catching the attention of both secular and Christian news outlets. Peter Smith, the religion reporter for the Courier-Journal, chimed in with this headline: “Mahaney protégé parts from board”.  

We are grateful that Smith concludes his update with these “observations”:   “Mahaney is a leader in the revival of Calvinism among some conservative evangelicals, a movement particularly strong at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He and seminary president Albert Mohler, who continues to support Mahaney, often speak at the same conferences and serve on the same boards. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace have each contributed at least $100,000 to the seminary, according to its publications.” Thanks Peter! We believe you are the first journalist to document the money trail that goes from C.J. Mahaney / SGM to Al Mohler / SBTS.  

Christianity Today also reported on Josh Harris’ resignation from the SGM board via its live blog. You can read it here.   In the article, CT reveals:   “Multiple bloggers reported that Harris stated in his Sunday sermon that ‘our denomination is being publicly spanked, we are being humiliated and being brought low.’”   Such an admission is likely one of the primary reasons why Josh Harris ‘resigned’ (we believe “booted out” may be more accurate explanation for what occurred to Josh).  

Commenters are beginning to chime in on the Christianity Today website. Here is what Patti had to say in response to this CT post:  

“These events within SGM/and especially with CJ have been occurring for many years! There are numbers of us who have been substantially harmed by SGM and CJ. When someone steps forward like Joshua is beginning to do, to defend the truth, it somewhat helps with the healing. For many of us, we can see Gods Spirit in this. We pray that God is at work in setting things right. Many of us have prayed for justice! We pray Joshua has continued strength and courage to continue walking in the light.”

Just minutes after announcing Joshua Harris’ resignation from the SGM board, Dave Harvey posted an explanation. You can read his “Where we differ and where we agree” post at this link.   Harvey explains:  

“A few minutes ago, we announced that Joshua Harris is resigning from the SGM board. If you're wondering what that may represent, let me just make a couple of points. First and primarily, as a board we still have a strong desire for Josh’s input, and all parties involved are eager to keep the partnership strong between SGM and CLC. Josh has graciously agreed to keep attending our board meetings as requested to give us counsel, and for that we are very grateful. Second, Josh and the board agree on many things about our current season.” Then Dave Harvey goes on to explain their differences by writing: “But we disagree on some important matters too. For example, we disagree in our interpretation of this current season of ministry. Is God disciplining all of Sovereign Grace Ministries right now? Josh says yes, and we’re open to that conclusion. But before arriving at that conclusion we would want to walk through a process of evaluating all of SGM, which we have not done yet. It also became apparent that Josh and the board think differently on how best to help C.J. engage with an evaluation, and how the board should exercise leadership as that process unfolds. These differences in our thinking are important and it recently became clear that the other 10 board members and Josh are in a different place on these issues.”

Harvey concludes by explaining that Harris and the board agree on about 98% of things. It is statements like this that demonstrate how closed minded the leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries can be. Why even have a board if differing viewpoints are not permitted? The board may as well be comprised of robots.  

As we look back on recent events regarding Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, it appears that Mohler and Duncan tried to control the flow of information by silencing Mahaney’s critics. Unfortunately for CJ's T4G buddies, the spotlight is focused directly on SGM and the coverage of this debacle is increasing by the day. It’s highly unlikely that this story is going away any time soon.

Here is another Christianity Today article that may be of interest to our readers.  

As those outside SGM, including bloggers, continue to dig deeper into the alleged abuses by Mahaney and this “family of churches”, we predict that the exposure will only increase. Buckle you seatbelts folks because we may be in for a long hard ride!  

What absolutely amazes us is that the very medium that has enabled Sovereign Grace Ministries to gain a tremendous amount of positive publicity – the internet – is the very communication tool that is bringing so much negative exposure as these events unfold. Truly, the internet is proving to be a double-edged sword.  

Even more incredible, the blogs that have worked especially hard to expose the shortcomings (to put it nicely) of Sovereign Grace Ministries – SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge – are now ‘serving’ Brent Detweiler as a platform from which he can address the charges the SGM board is leveling at him. While Detweiler has been highly criticized on these two blogs, they now function as his microphone, which we find extremely ironic. Who could have ever imagined that Brent would be submitting comments for publication on these anti-SGM blogs?

Check out the most recent post at SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge to see what we mean. Remarks From Brent, An Explanation And A Thought Brent Responds to “Slander” Accusations   Hats off to Kris and Guy over at Survivors and Jim and Carole at the Refuge for doing a yeoman’s work in keeping everyone informed of the latest changes regarding Sovereign Grace Ministries.  

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who is being affected by this BIG MESS. Although we have been critical of Josh Harris in the past, we want him to know that we are praying for him as he strives to go against the status quo in SGM.

Finally, we have been earnestly praying for those who have been hurt by this hyper-authoritarian organization. May you hear that still small voice and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.  

We leave you with this song from Disney’s Jungle Book movie.


Lydia’s Corner: 2 Samuel 18:1-19:10  John 20:1-31   Psalm 119:153-176   Proverbs 16:14-15


Harris ‘Resigns’ From SGM Board — 43 Comments

  1. “While Detweiler has been highly criticized on these two blogs, they now function as his microphone, which we find extremely ironic.”

    This is not ironic. I am not an ardent follower of those blogs, nor did I know Brent, but it seems that the people who were hurt by the events in his church no longer feel betrayed because he is speaking truth to power now. It is fitting that when he was ready to speak out, he would enlist their help.

  2. Cautiously optimistic that Joshua H. will not cave. I hope other pastors and board members will have the courage to join him.

  3. ‘”Cautiously optimistic that Joshua H. will not cave. I hope other pastors and board members will have the courage to join him.”

    I am very confused. Join him in doing what, exactly? That has never been made clear by Josh. What is he standing up to?

    I could be argued from a strategic view that Josh resigning for the board benefits both SGM and Josh. It sure has kept a lot of people from focusing on CJ. :o) But more than that, Josh can practice a sort of controlled glasnost which the CLC folks find exhilerating for the first time while he is no longer the inside guy.

    I take into consideration a few things:

    Josh grew up on this sort of legalism and also with a family who made their living off the Christian market, speaking, materials, etc.

    Josh is going to stand against the entire New Reformation movement including Mohler, et. al? What will he do for a living? Who will hire him? The Dominionists?

    SGM benefits from controlled glasnost in the mothership. They need the good PR that says we are going there and we are not disciplining Josh. We give him freedom. (In the meantime he is really one of them)

    Did anyone read the docs? I have to wonder how the people who read the docs thinks Josh had some sort of change of heart. He has not made it clear at all. He simply resigned from the board and did not sign the paper.

  4. The most pressing question, is whether or not Joshua Harris will begin to grow his hair back or continue to have the CJ Shaved look?

  5. Jim over at SGM Refuge has posted Brent Detwiler’s remarks regarding Josh Harris’ resignation from the SGM Board of Directors.

    Here they are:



    “People have asked what my take is on Joshua Harris’ resignation from the Sovereign Grace Board of Directors. Here it is. Joshua is the real deal and made a brave decision to protest the direction and stance of the new board. Dave Harvey is the one who should resign and Joshua should be the interim President. Sovereign Grace Ministries has it backwards. Joshua is a true Protestant. That’s what the Romanists called the Reformers who protested Catholic doctrine and corruption in the 1500’s.”

  6. Deb

    Good night!! This thing is a mess. It looks like the ‘board’ will have to tap dance on a regular basis. More missives to come next week. If the big boys outside of SGM don’t understand what we have been saying by now, they never will. They have purposefully stuck their heads in the ground.

  7. I don’t doubt for one minute that Josh is controlled by Mahaney. Power mongers like that do not hand over their empires to people that they cannot control. I’d love to be proven otherwise, however. Maybe Josh can wake up from the cultic sleep in which he was raised and the cultic system in which he finds himself to break free of it and to set an example for the people who trust in him.

    The International Cultic Studies Association has long known PDI as a cultic Bible-based system, and SGM is no different. If PDI and Mahaney had turned from the thought reform they followed in PDI years ago when they changed over to SGM, it would have been different. They just changed forms and retained the same tactics.

    When Josh starts teaching his church about Spiritual Abuse and invites Jeff Van Vonderan in to do conferences and contacts the ICSA for exit counselor volunteers to run groups (which they would be more than happy to assist with), then perhaps we’ll be getting somewhere. Until then, personally, I don’t believe that anything will change. I’d love to see this happen and I’d love to assist with the process.

  8. Harvey’s latest statement sure looks like he is backpedaling as a result of all the outrage their their statement produced. I guess outrage by the members worked. I would like to think that it was the SGM board seeing their error of their ways but speculate it was something to try and appease SGM Members vs. an epiphany.

    I listened to last Sunday nights CLC family meeting. Harris said in that meeting about wanting new board members for SGM. He asked something along the lines how bad did it look to have SGM Board Members that were the same people mentioned in the released documents being who this “independent” investigative panel reported to. Harris called for having different board members that didn’t portray a possible conflict of interest.

    Thanks for pointing out the contradiction between items 4 & 5.

  9. Pingback: The inevitable bad ending | Civil Commotion

  10. To our TWW readers,

    Please keep Kris and Guy over at SGM Survivors in your prayers. Here is some alarming information they just posted:


    “To all Survivors and Lurkers –

    As you regulars know, we (Kris and I) have had this blog as a labor of love for some time now. We have always been more than fair to everyone – from dissenters to supporters. We typically call a spade a spade. We allow for anonymity. We don’t ask questions.

    Well, things have changed. It seems that there are some folks out there that have resorted to threatening behavior – to the point of making us fear for the safety of ourselves and of our children. I realize that the Internet can be a scary place…however, I can navigate it. I’m not concerned with these people looking for me…that’s fine, as I can take care of myself. However, my wife and my children are being threatened.

    To those that choose to make these threats:

    Think long and hard before you pursue what it is you are pursuing. I am not “hiding” behind a moniker – I am simply protecting my family. What strikes me as amazing is the fact that you all profess to be Christians – even pastors. I am truly amazed….and saddened. Instead of working to fix the issues that we have uncovered, you want to shut us up. That, my friends, speaks volumes. It tells us that we are doing the right thing by having this site.”

    And here’s the very first comment from Joe:

    July 15th, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    “I’m really sorry this is happening to you.
    There is a lot of money at stake. And livelihoods.

    If your leader is a man who would readily blackmail his closest associate, cover it up to all around him for a decade, and then buy his way into positions of religious influence with vast amounts of his own and his company’s cash, you are dealing with nasty people.

    That sets the tone of an entire organization.
    If they didn’t call themselves a family of churches, we would call them mafia.”

  11. All SGMers/Deb

    There is a reason that the Mafia is nicknamed “The Family.”

    It is also important to realize that there are some very weak people whose faith is not based on Jesus but on the personality of those involved. How else would a Jim Jones get people to commit suicide en masse? When the truth is exposed, these people , who are mentally imbalanced, cannot cope with the reality. So they blame those who have forced them to see bad things about those they have built their addiction on.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these people are the water carriers for the leaders. And I would be less surprised that the leaders knew about these sick people but enjoyed their fawning attendance. It would behoove these leaders to identify these folks and make sure they are not sending these threats. They may need to actually “bring a real observation” for once in their sorry ministry in order to protect innocent people instead of to abuse innocent people.

  12. Cindy K

    Excellent idea. Get the International Cult group involved. But, they won’t. They do not see the cultic tendencies or they can’t admit such. Also, Mohler, Duncan, Piper, et al cannot do so either. They have all had the wool pulled over heir eyes and would be embarrassed to admit that they supported a cult like ministry.

    I always wondered what the Bible meant that in the last days leaders in the church would follow false teachers. I think we have some examples here. The emperor has no clothes.

  13. Lin/Cindy

    I am very confused by this statement by Harris. He has been in this up to his eyeballs. He lived with Mahaney.One can always hope that a change is possible. It did happen in the Soviet Union. But… even the disciples and followers were concerned about Paul after his conversion. It took time before he was accepted. So, a “wait and see”attitude is advisable, maybe even Biblical.

  14. Steve240

    The contradiction between the two statements-he’s fit, we will investigate- is a perfect example of an abusive and manipulative ministry. They have contradicted themselves for years.This is how to keep your followers off balance. It is so predictable, it is almost boring. Don’t they have someone who is at least clever?

  15. Dee, What I am noticing is that the sexual molestation problems in SGM are being ignored.

    Cindy makes a good point which I take further…exit counseling for everyone involved in SGM while they pay the bill and close down the entire business. Yes, it is a business.

  16. Having lived through the rise and fall of the 70’s & 80’s Shepherding movement, I can sense the turmoil present in many of the SGM devotees minds and hearts. My advice based on my own painful journey, is to get out as quickly as possible.

  17. Hi Dylan!

    Glad to hear from you again. I trust all is well. Yep, you know quite a bit about the shepherding movement.

  18. Hi Deb

    Yes, I’m well.

    As Lady Julian of Norwich says, “All is well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”

    It’s important for all who are confused regarding the nature of their ‘leaders’ to be assured that Divine Life and Love do exist outside the fortress that is their faith group.

    it’s safe to leave – they are not falling away from God or ‘the Truth’ just the umbilical chords that subliminally tie them into their ‘leaders’.

  19. A favorite song of the leaders has to be “Blest be the ties that bind . . ” They are psychological and social and based on false ecclesiology and theology. Everyone needs a “get out of abusive church” card.

  20. One of the things that was said by SGM in the link you posted was:

    “We celebrate the fact that in our family of churches, unity in the gospel doesn’t mean unanimity on secondary matters. ”

    Is this something new? Since when does SGM allow even this amount of diversity? Haven’t they always pushed for “unanimity” and forced out leaders that didn’t toe the “company” line?

    If this statement was true why is Josh Harris now off the board? Wouldn’t the SGM board want different opinions on the board?

    Sadly this is just another case of SGM doublespeak as they call it.

  21. Steve240,

    That’s a great point! So it was 10 against 1 on the SGM board.

    Did Josh really resign or was he kicked off by the entrenched members who have been SG pastors for a long time? Here’s how it usually goes… “We’re going to give you the opportunity to resign.”

    Over at the SGM website, Andrew wrote: “… Josh resigned voluntarily. The board entreated him to stay, and that is why even though he resigned, he will still participate in board meetings (when able) for the sake of giving counsel.”

    Glad we have this SGM spokesman on record with his statement.

  22. Arce

    Love the “bless be the tie that binds” comment. I think we will use it for the name of a blog post.

  23. Steve

    It is definitely doublespeak. That is how they get away with their thinly disguised shepherding methods. Make no mistake about this. Tis incident has hurt SGM and will raise many questions about the “family” methods. As much as Mohler and the rest want to defend this, they will have difficulty. God hears the cry of those who have been hurt and the cry is getting louder. Frankly, the band of merry Calvinista men ought to be ashamed of themselves. They have stressed the leaders and forgotten the people. Jesus did just the opposite. May they look to Jesus for truth.

  24. “They have stressed the leaders and forgotten the people. Jesus did just the opposite. May they look to Jesus for truth.”

    This simple statement sums it up.

  25. Even Brent says “[SGM] has been a wonderful organization committed to planting Gospel-centered churches in the United States and parts abroad,” Detwiler wrote in an e-mail to Christianity Today. “There are many outstanding pastors and people in the denomination. But temptation and sin come with rapid growth and recognition. ”

    The Christianity Today article seems pretty fair about the whole story. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/julyweb-only/sexmoneypride.html#reviews

  26. Shato

    Sin comes from substituting man’s authority for the love of Jesus Christ. Once again, there is no honor amongst thieves.

  27. Shato-

    Yeah-Balnced if you feel that only quoting current and former Apostles of the movement is a real overview. Brent Detweiler is hardly unbiased when giving an evaluation of the abusive system he helped engender.

  28. I think we need to face up to the 800-lb. gorilla in the room:

    With the four remaining members of the Calvinista Fab 5 all having conflicts of interest, who will write the forward to I Kissed SGM Goodbye?

  29. Doubtful

    The leaders in this movement are acting like political hacks putting on their soundbite spins. The truth is underneath and it is ugly. They never show one blasted ounce of empathy for the many, many people hurt by SGM and its permutations. They keep changing the name to escape the pain. Well, the pain caught up. And this blog focuses on those poor people who were let done by a ministry that substituted authority for love.

    No need to worry about the leaders. They have all their friends praying for them. They got their fancy positions of authority and they screwed up. Time to admit it and start again. These leaders need to take jobs at Home Depot and spend some time being really humble. I do not believe that they are gifted for ministry.

  30. John E. Wilkins, a.k.a. Protestant Knight on Mon, Jul 18 2011 at 11:54 am (Edit)
    I seriously debated on whether or not to post this comment as I feared contributing to losing traction with Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) in the past days’ events. And then I began to read and hear more words about SGM trying to fix those saints and sinners in the much reviled blogosphere, and I wonder if any real traction ever got started. At the risk of being labelled a hypocrite, I have to once again point out the what looking-glass so obviously reveals:

    Sovereign Grace Ministries, please start by fixing yourselves.

    Are we defective here on the blogs? Yes. But let’s start with this one, cold and hard fact: SGM, you cannot handle the truth of how many and how deep any of our defects bear your initials. This isn’t wound-licking, brothers. It’s a fact.

    It is my prayer that the pot of SGM stops once and for all calling the kettle of the blogs black. SGM is not on the cleaner end of the morally-high-ground washcloth, and it does not have the corner on trust and reliability. SGM has no more legs to stand on.

    How many more illustrations can be used?

    I completely agree with Luna (comment from sgmrefuge.com blog):

    “You (all of you) can and should and must say sorry and weep with and for those who have wept for so long. But ‘minister’…? I don’t know. Something about that seems ‘off’ to me. Don’t assume you have a right to ‘minister’ to the broken hearts on the blogs, until you have wept with them.”

    If I had the bucks to do so, I would rent every billboard space within the proximity of an SGM church that has placed itself–and still places themselves–in the position of judge, jury, and executioner in regard to the blogosphere, and place Luna’s quote there.

    Brothers and sisters, If I seem frustrated here, it comes from the feeling that every time I see Sovereign Grace Ministries take a step forward in trying to do the right thing with those who’ve been wounded, discarded, and trampled–Harvey’s “tyranny of the aggrieved,” that’s us–it takes two steps back. SGM simply cannot let go of trying to control every last particle of the minutiae that composes the world of Christians interacting with each other. That which SGM cannot control is flatly condemned. SGM wants to sit on the highest horse when feigning reconciliation. It wants to stack the deck in sins revealed. It wants, it wants, it wants…and then it presumes to make a list of all of the evil cravings of the blogs, and all of the “lies” on the blogs, and paint a caricature of those on the blogs as serious defects at best and bloody wolves at worst.

    The caution that must be exercised here is in regard to yourselves, SGM…for three seconds, stop being cosmically absorbed with the hearts of others. For Your Savior’s sake, once and for all, open your chest and look at your own heart in the mirror.

    Remove the redwood pine from your own eye before you attempt to tweeze any splinters out of the eyes from anyone outside of SGM, let alone those who came to the blogosphere because they got tired of bottom lip-puckering pots, dirty washcloths, legless judges, untrustworthy juries, control freak executioners, high horses, stacked decks, and splinter removers with the rustiest of tweezers.

    Brothers-in-Christ at SGM, you have not even begun to weep, and you still raise that dirty finger in this direction and cry, “unclean!”

    –John E. Wilkins, a.k.a. “Protestant Knight” on those disaffected, slanderous, rebellious, uninformed, vendetta-seeking, uncharitably judgmental blogs.

    PS – let’s not have any more accusations of cowardly anonymity thrown my way. Many have known who I am for a long, long time. Here I am, guys, putting my money where my mouth is, stretching my neck out until it breaks.

  31. Sergius Martin-George:

    I think we need to face up to the 800-lb. gorilla in the room:

    With the four remaining members of the Calvinista Fab 5 all having conflicts of interest, who will write the forward to I Kissed SGM Goodbye?

    Gene Edwards can write it, and if he’s still around, I bet he’d be happy to do it.

  32. Hello All:

    Just a quick comment on the difference between slander and libel. One of my attorneys said that those terms used to refer to oral and written false statements, but that legalese has evolved to the point that the word libel is no longer used.

    Slander now denotes the issuing of written or verbal false statements. My attorney may be wrong, but based on the legal documents I’ve seen in the past 20 years, I think he’s right.

  33. It depends on the jurisdiction. 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico all have different state laws defining the same. Some use the common law definition, others have chosen to legislate something different.