Pride meets covetousness, and compliments it as wise, thrifty, and prudent. Charles Spurgeon
Well folks, based on Dave Harvey’s update, it appears to be just “business as usual” in SGM land. While I sit here wondering what it’s going to take for God to get the attention of the powers that be in Sovereign Grace Ministries, Harvey proclaims in his latest post that “God [is] at work!”
Just what does Harvey claim God is doing in SGM? Let’s take a look… (Notice how the items are prioritized.)
“1. Our incoming Pastors College class, the largest ever for us, has begun to arrive…”
Oh joy! Just what SGM needs – more hyper-authoritarian clones. Why does Harvey list the Pastors College first? What about the loyal SGMers who have been lorded over for years and who have sacrificially given of their time, talent, and treasure to their church? Largest ever class? Why is this important? Because SGM’s primary goal is church planting? The shrinking congregations certainly don’t need additional pastors. And remember, there was no Pastors College last year, which has likely had an impact on this year’s attendance numbers.
“2. In just a few weeks we get to host 1,700+ attendees for our WorshipGod conference.”
If there’s one thing SGM has excelled at it’s conferences! Just look how successful they are with their 1,700+ anticipated attendees. I’d be curious to know how many signed up are SGMers. How much will it cost? While the registration fees for what is essentially a three-day conference are offered at reduced rates in the months leading up to the conference, those signing up between June 1 and July 31 will pay as follows: (link)
Students (college and below) – $140
Groups (5 or more) – $170
Individuals – $200
Remember, the registration fee does not include transportation, lodging, and breakfast and dinner meals; however, two lunches and snacks will be provided. The conference is being held at Covenant Life Church, so this is definitely a moneymaker for SGM.
“3. The two review panels we mentioned last week are now established. Three church leaders outside of SGM are generously giving their time to serve as the preliminary panel, and we expect them to publish their evaluations early next month. Ambassadors of Reconciliation, a ministry that primarily serves Lutheran churches, will be our second and more in-depth panel. We are eager to learn from the evaluation they give us, and we will share their findings online too.”
I find it quite interesting that this item is not listed first. Some have called into question how biblical it is that the three church leaders on the preliminary panel are outside of SGM, were probably selected by the SGM Board, and are currently anonymous. That doesn’t sit well with quite a few SGMers.
There has also been some concern about Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AoR) which has some significant ties to Peacemaker Ministries (headed by C.J. Mahaney’s close buddy Ken Sande).
Take a look at the bio of one of AoR’s board members (link):
“David D. Schlachter serves as a Vice President for Peacemaker Ministries, overseeing the delivery of mediation and arbitration services for the resolution of conflicts and disputes, and the delivery of conciliator training provided by Peacemaker Ministries, including foundational training for conciliators and advanced training through the Certification Program. A Certified Christian Conciliator™ and University of Denver Law School graduate, David practiced law for 26 years in Denver, Colorado, specializing in business, real estate, and commercial litigation, before joining the Peacemaker Ministries staff. He has taught biblical peacemaking in his church, for Peacemaker Ministries, and internationally in Cambodia and Tanzania. David has served as a mediator and arbitrator in numerous cases through Peacemaker Ministries, and has served on numerous Boards of Directors for other non-profit organizations and ministries.”
Regarding the AoR staff’s training, here is what the website states:
“All our staff conciliators have earned and maintain status as Certified Christian Conciliators™ through the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Peacemaker® Ministries.”
And one of the AoR conciliators listed on the AoR staff is an adjunct instructor for Peacemaker Ministries. Take a look at:
“Rev. Ed Keinath serves as Director of CrossLife Ministries, the counseling center of Ambassadors of Reconciliation in Seymour, Indiana. With an extensive background in marriage and family counseling, Ed’s work includes counseling, parenting education seminars, and grief support groups. He provides consulting to numerous church professionals, church lay leaders, Lutheran school faculty, and their families. He has served as a reconciler for the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and presently serves on the Commission on Ministerial Health of the Indiana District. Ed's experience includes working with conflicted churches, church schools, and other related groups, and he serves as a mentor and an adjunct instructor for Peacemaker Ministries…”
I don’t know about you, but these ties between Peacemaker Ministries and the Ambassadors of Reconciliation are highly disturbing! Just how objective will AoR be?
“4. Plans for a church plant in Miami, Florida, were recently approved…”
Why is Sovereign Grace Ministries making ANY announcements regarding church planting when this “family of churches” is facing a crisis of monumental proportions? Where is the SGM Board’s true focus? They should be redoubling their efforts to address the serious issues that threaten the future viability of the ministry.
“5. Next week, the expanded SGM board gets to gather in person for the first time. We have a three-day retreat starting on Tuesday that we’re praying God will use in a mighty way for the benefit of Sovereign Grace churches.”
I guess the three-day retreat began yesterday and is now in progress. My prayer for the SGM Board is that Almighty God will convict the hearts of these men to see their organization through the congregants’ eyes. I was absolutely stunned that Dave Harvey delivered a sermon at KingsWay not too long ago informing the members that if they didn’t like the polity they could leave. Such compassion from the guy who is now perched atop the SGM pyramid.
The SGM Board is in a tenuous position, and I believe their actions will determine the fate of this “family of churches”. Now that SGM is finally allowing comments on its website, there have been some outspoken commenters who are challenging the status quo. Yesterday, Diane Kummer left this comment under the “God at work” post:
“The Sunday night meetings at CLC have been helpful to many. People asking hard questions and the pastors listening to our concerns. I would like to suggest that the SGM board make itself available to answer questions at an open forum. Would the SGM board consider doing this? Starting at an open forum at CLC? Many questions from the CLC Sunday night meetings were answered with "that would be for the SGM board to decide." I am sure many people would like the opportunity to pose questions to the SGM board. As a long time member of CLC, I am having trouble right now trusting the SGM board. If the board could make itself available in an open forum to answer questions, it would go a long way. Andrew, thank you for answering these questions to the best of your ability. Would it be possible for SGM board members to take turns answering the blog questions? The board members would probably be in a better position to answer some of these questions since you may not be privy to some of the information needed to answer them.”
As I am finishing up my writing, Diane’s comment is still the “most recent” under Harvey’s current post. That means no one has weighed in on the “God at work!” post in a day. Andrew, the SGM blog spokesman, responded this afternoon with these words:
“Diane, thanks for asking your question. I’ve been trying to think of a way to let readers ask and vote on a few top questions they’d like the board to answer, with the idea being that I’d take those to the board and see if some could get direct answers. I don’t think we’d be able to do the live version because they’re spread out all over the country, but perhaps the electronic version could work. We’ll post about it on the blog if we organize something like that.”
Shayne McAllister, who is a curious onlooker outside the SGM “family of churches” weighed in with these words:
“As someone who has spent a good deal of time listening to sermons, reading concerns and charges, my instinct is that SGM, as a church oversight organization, should cease to exist. Let churches be more independent as congregations. I know that technically SGM doesn't hold authority over churches, in practice it seems to via the board and claims of apostolic authority. I'm a committed congregationalist. I hope Mark Dever, also a committed congregationalist and dear friend of CJ, will persuade leadership of the wisdom of truly congregational polity. Come on in, the water's great.”
Andrew responded to Shayne in this way:
“Shayne, thanks for adding your thoughts to the mix. It’s helpful getting outsiders’ perspectives on all of this. I doubt we’ll be joining you in the waters of congregationalism anytime soon (thanks for the invite), but in the not-so-distant future we should at least be more clear with everyone about how our polity actually works.”
When I read Andrew’ response, obviously on behalf of the SGM “Board”, here’s what came to mind: “When we want your opinion, we’ll give it to you. It certainly appears at this early stage of the process that congregationalism is out of the question.
MikePhila chimed in with this comment:
“I hope the SGM board realizes that myself and a number of others are solely waiting to hear the results of all of the findings to determine whether or not we will be leaving our SGM church. In light of the serious issues that are happening right now in SGM I am somewhat surprised (but not really because the Board does not realize the extent of damage that they've caused) that they are having another Pastor College class start. The same college that has spit out some pretty bad pastors that have caused tremendous hurt in the body of Christ! Why not wait until these SERIOUS issues are RESOLVED before continuing down the same ruinous path that needs MASSIVE change???!!!”
I want to conclude with Nathan’s comment, which highlights the intent of this post – “to bring an observation” that it’s business as usual in Sovereign Grace Ministries. This is what Nathan had to say:
“It's nice to know that business as usual continues at Sovereign Grace Ministries when many, if not most, of the people in your member churches are far more concerned about whether you (Dave) or CJ are even qualified to continue in your positions of leadership than we are in a record number of enrollees at the Pastors College or the upcoming worship conference.
I'm really concerned that you just don't get it. But this too God will make clear, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Rest assured that Our Sovereign God will have His way with Sovereign Grace Ministries….
Lydia’s Corner: 1 Kings 2:1-3:2 Acts 5:1-42 Psalm 125:1-5 Proverbs 16:25