SGM, the Lawsuit and the First Amendment

"And He [Jesus] spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”

Matthew 13:3-9

Cotton – Martin Family Farm

When C.J. Mahaney was reinstated as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, some of us (including myself) were dismayed.  Now it seems only fitting that Mahaney, who has called the shots in SGM for so long, should be at the helm of this "family of churches" as it faces a class action lawsuit. 

Today SGM released an Updated Statement on [the] Reported Lawsuit.  The part that immediately caught my attention (and the attention of others) is as follows:

"SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance. This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment. We are saddened that lawyers are now, in essence, seeking to violate those rights by asking judges and juries, years after such pastoral assistance was sought, to dictate what sort of biblical counsel they think should have been provided. SGM believes that allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment, that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse."

When my family toured Washington, D.C. last summer, we visited the National Archives where our nation's founding documents are preserved and displayed.  One of the documents we viewed was the Bill of Rights, which lists the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Here is the First Amendment:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is interesting that the amendment which empowers journalists and bloggers :-) to exercise their freedom of speech is the very one SGM has cited.  So if the courts second guess the actions of SGM pastors in these alarming situations, it will be a blow to the First Amendment?  Is this going to be part of their defense strategy? 

One of our astute commenters – Brad – had this to say regarding SGM's latest press release:

Another intriguing update in the statement:

“This complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent, resulting in errors and omissions in pastoral counseling and spiritual care, WHICH WAS VOLUNTARILY SOUGHT AND PROVIDED YEARS AGO to some families of child abuse victims.” [Emphasis added.]

Is it just me, or does this sound like they might be “blaming the victims/families of victims”?

As if to say, Look, you chose to ask for help.

That, along with the new emphasis on First Amendment and apparently trying to make this a religious rights issue, seems to me a red herring argument. I suppose it makes sense in a vacuum about choosing to ask for “pastoral care” – but when you consider the actual context of their systems, it is actually kind of outrageous.

The authoritarian nature of the SGM church systems for leaders and congregants, where members are conditioned to “submit/obey” their leaders, does not exactly make these “voluntary” requests merely a choice-based system. Leaders were responsible to give counsel in the SGM system. Members were responsible to obey it.

HOWEVER, in the U.S. legal system, generally all people are responsible to report the crime of child sexual abuse. And that is part of what is at issue, according to the initial lawsuit documents filed, if I remember right. So, what happens if the very leader you are taught biblically that you MUST obey, tells you something like, “Don’t report that to the police.” Or, “You called the authorities? That’s going to make things more difficult …”

Sovereign Grace Ministries' latest statement also includes:

"SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but upon review it appears the complaint contains a number of misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.  Legal counsel is preparing responsive pleadings.

Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. SGM encourages pastors from its associated churches to minister the love, grace, and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act."

This claim by SGM begs the question – so is forcing a three year old to reconcile with her abuser ministering the love, grace and healing of God to the toddler who suffered a horrific act?

SGM's statement further claims:

"We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices."

Robust child protection policies and procedures?  It will be interesting to see whether a jury agrees with SGM's claim.

SGM's latest statement ends on this note:

"SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering his grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail."

I found these two phrases of particular interest in SGM's statement:

separately organized and constituted

voluntarily partner together

Is Sovereign Grace Ministries now trying to pass the buck to the individual congregations?  It certainly appears that pastors carried out the agenda of SGM headquarters when these alleged crimes (which SGM calls 'sins') occurred. 

As far as who is being accused – we get it that the actual crimes were not committed by SGM pastors and that they did not take place on church grounds.  However, some of the crimes allegedly took place in congregants' homes while they were conducting church meetings (care groups, etc).  Belonging to a care group was likely a requirement of membership when these crimes allegedly occurred.  Would they have met if the pastors/SGM leadership hadn't required it?   After all, SGM pastors (now known as elders) had/have the ultimate authority over their congregations.  The proposed polity appears to encourage further entrenchment of these 'elders'.

Are we observing the law of sowing and reaping in Sovereign Grace Ministries?  You reap what you sow, you reap it later than you sow it, and you reap more of it.  SGM appears to have more than its share of thorns so to speak.  Thorns bushes (and weeds) are much easier to eradicate before they have taken root. If they are not dealt with properly and expeditiously, they can overtake an entire crop. Is that what has befallen the family of churches known as Sovereign Grace Ministries?

Lydia's Corner:  Leviticus 27:14-Numbers 1:54   Mark 11:1-26   Psalm 46:1-11   Proverbs 10:23

Comments

SGM, the Lawsuit and the First Amendment — 114 Comments

  1. It really does take multiple readings to “parse” and interpret a statement like this. I’ve read it several times since it was first posted early today, and even just now noticed something new:

    “We TAKE seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also ENCOURAGES the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices.” [Emphasis added.]

    I put on my linguist’s hat and realized that these two verbs ~ TAKE and ENCOURAGES ~ are a form of present tense. So …? Well, just because SGM claims to DO this ongoingly NOW, that merely gives a “freeze-frame snapshot” or “video grab/screenshot” picture of what they claim to do as of November 2012. Admirable as these activities may BE, isn’t what’s at issue in the lawsuit actually about what SGM’s systems and individual pastors WERE DOING THEN around 25 years ago and then coming forward?

    Back up the “documentary video” of all SGM and its associates HAVE DONE, and the jury will see demonstrated how well the protection policies and procedures back then WERE being developed; implemented; and taught to pastors, pastors-in-training, volunteer ministers, and congregants. The same goes for determining how well they DID back then in demonstrating, commanding, and demanding full respect for civil authorities.

    As best I understand, the PAST tense of what the defendants DID is now the present concern for SGM’s future …

  2. “SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering his grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.”

    This is the part that looks like an attempt to distance CJ from the pastors HE TAUGHT and LED who did not call the authorities and made 3 year old girl forgive her molester.

    Sure they are using the 1st Amendment. It is about the government not being allowed to tell a church how to operate. Paige Patterson used it when SWBTS was sued for demoting Klouda because she was a woman. All the attorney had to say was the seminary operated like a church and it was thrown out. Churches can do what they want. Do not ever go to work for one. You have no basic labor law protection at all.

    Child molestation is a different matter, though. And I think the statement shows they are scared. After all, it will involve a jury that Mahaney cannot woo. He has to actually answer questions this time.

  3. Yes, Brad, good point. They seem to be lost in some sort of time warp and memory lapse dilemma. Wouldn’t the sensible and Christian thing be to acknowledge they failed in reporting these crimes? There are so many stories and witnesses of this happening time and again. It’s going to make them look like liars and hypocrites when they try to back peddle, deny, and cover up publicly before the world. Maybe they should read that Humility book that they take such pride in and serve their consciences and their God well by admitting their sins – – that they failed to handle these cases in a truly biblical Romans 13:1 fashion.

  4. Let me get this straight –

    Throwing out the bizarre notion that the First Amendment precludes following mandatory child sexual abuse reporting guidelines/laws and lying about its involvement with the day-to-day business of its churches is the best SGM can do?

    Somehow I don’t think this strategy will go over well with the public at large much less anyone sitting on a jury.

    Susan Burke must be having a ball with these guys.

  5. Brad —

    Trust me, the more you are exposed to SGM writing and blog updates, the more you end up scratching your head, re-reading, and have your mouth drop open — usually in astonishment.

    It is good to keep in mind that the blog is mainly directed to their member churches and members. They definitely want everyone to think the best.

  6. Funny that SGM is desperately emphasizing that none of their pastors are accused of physically abusing anyone without realizing that many people consider the emotional abuse associated with trivializing or outright conspiring to cover up abuse/allowing sex offenders to keep doing what they’re doing with impunity, at least as bad as physical abuse.

    You could argue that some sex offenders are sick and in need if help whereas what the SGM people did/are doing is sheer calculated evil.

  7. Pedophile torture cell SGM has made infamous?

        Hello,

           Again, is this the typical SGM response: victims, what victims? As I said in an earlier TWW post, (Sat Oct 27, 2012): (Re: “tww’s prime directive: care for the victims”) :

    “I can almost hear SGM say:  ‘We provided the proper timely council, hey can we help it if they thought it was not enough? They came to us with their problems, we did not create them. Contrary to belief, we did not help the perps along, we tried to satisfy every request made of us. These are difficult issues, in difficult times. This civil lawsuit has place us in an unfavorable light, our records demonstrate we did, as a church, what we could. We open our doors to everyone without discrimination, now they want to sue us for it?’ ”

    What did I tell you?

    (A little girl hiding under the table (for good reason), not withstanding. SGM: “Your Honor, we were just having a bad day.”)

    “The Chinese Water Torture Cell made famous by The Great Harry Houdini which was performed for the first time in 1912. Since the last escape from Houdini at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan, on October 24, 1926, only a few have attempted to perform this unique escape.” Fast forward, 2012: Reverend Charles Mahaney is no Houdini no matter how many sheep he pulls from his hat, or puts under the bus? Will this amount to the most recognized escape throughout the modern religious world? Tickets?, Tickets?

    Maybe, The Almighty can be mocked after all?

    Consider Carefully?

    You Decide.

    IronClad

  8. Sounds very much like a pattern similar to the “Police Code of Silence.”

    The Blue Code of Silence (also known as the Blue Shield, Blue Wall, Curtain, Veil, or Cocoon is an unwritten rule among police officers in the United States not to report on another colleague’s errors, misconducts, or crimes. If questioned about an incident of misconduct involving another officer (e.g. during the course of an official inquiry), while following the code, the officer being questioned would claim ignorance of another officer’s wrongdoing.[/i>

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Code_of_Silence

  9. So is SGM basically claiming that it is now unconstitutional to sue someone who made you the victim of a crime, as long as the criminal committed the crime as part of their religion?

    They should have no problem with attempted honor killings by fundamentalist Muslims in the U.S., then.

    Also, if the defense actually uses this (lame) First Amendment argument in court, couldn't this go all the way to the Supreme Court?

  10. In regard to SGM’s statement that “SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance. This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment.” – Mary, a commenter over at SGM Survivors makes a good point:

    “some of the women bringing this lawsuit were children at the time. They were not coming to pastors for counsel. They were expecting adults in their lives, in particular pastors, to protect them. They didn’t seek out advice — they were the victims of pastoral advice.”

    http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/?p=3855&cp=2#comment-68689

  11. If these SGM pastors observed a child being molested outside of one of their churches, or inside a non SGM church, I wonder whether they would contact the authorities then? Or, would they help those pastors cover it up as well?

    When abuse was reported to the pastors or care group leaders, whether it was sexual or physical abuse, I was instructed not to call the authorities.

    I would like to know if the authorities were EVER called by the Pastors of SGM or CLC and if so, how many times?

  12. Moniker,

    Mary’s point about the children not coming to the pastors for counsel is excellent!  the more these SGM leaders try to explain and justify what occurred, the worse they sound IMHO.  

  13. Eagle,

    That’s a great point!  By bringing the First Amendment into this legal matter, SGM leaders appear to be grasping for straws.

    How are you, BTW?

  14. I suspected that the First Amendment would be a central part of the defense, so I am not surprised.

    If a congregant, for example, came to a pastor with a problem, and the pastor recommended biblical counseling as the solution and spoke against seeing a psychiatrist based on the teachings of the church, and then later the congregant committed suicide and a lawsuit was brought claiming that the pastor improperly counseled, a primary defense would be the First Amendment right of the church and pastor to hold religious convictions and teach them to the members in their church.

    We have some of that in these cases, so I suspect that the First Amendment will come into play. But that is not the only issue here.

    The First Amendment will not absolve the church for failing to report abuse in accordance with whatever Maryland law provides.

    But the reporting obligation will fall equally on the parents.

    What is not known is whether the parental failure will act as a bar to the collection of damages from the church.

    Also, to recover damages for some of the alleged events (as opposed to simply be punished for failing to comply with the reporting requirements), the damages must have been caused by the failure to report. If reporting can be shown to have stopped the abuse for some children because then the same abuser then turned around and abused again, those children will be in a good position to recover damages.

    The “separately constituted” language is also not expected, but I really don’t know that much about SGM churches. If they were separately incorporated, with a separate Board of Directors, that’s the start of a good defense.

    I just don’t know what Maryland law would say if in addition to being separately incorporated there is also a system of control where Mahaney still controls things. I don’t know how that will work.

    As to issues like the intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress (e.g. requiring a 3 year old to “forgive” her abuser and meeting with him), that is also probably an issue for the First Amendment. How those type of issues work out has always been a mystery to me because in reality while the court has all sorts of legal sounding rules and such, the bottom line is there is an unwritten rule regarding the boundaries of religious conviction in these cases.

    Therefore, Indians cannot smoke Peyote in their services. Prostitution will never be legalized on the grounds that it’s part of a religion, nor will self or child sacrifice.

    There are all sorts of legal sounding explanations for this, but the basic point (which is never static and is hard to predict) is that our culture believes somethings are out of bounds. Making a 3 year old meet with an abuser is probably one of those things, even if it is a sincerely held religious conviction.

    But as you can see from this initial defense, the issues are going to be complex. And then you get into factual disputes (people disagreeing about what happened), and it’s going to get really complex.

    My bet is that if the cases, or big parts of the cases, are not dismissed on First Amendment grounds or organizational defenses (separate corporations and such), and there are issues of fact, there will probably be a mediation and a settlement. SGM and or its insurer (or the insurers of the respective churches) will kick in some cash, and it will all be confidential.

    I could be flat out wrong. But that’s a guess at this point.

    Oh – and the “years ago” statement, while appealing as a defense in some cases, is irrelevant here because the minors’ causes of action were tolled, and they can bring them now.

  15. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    If SGM indeed manage to argue that a religion is above the law in every respect, that might have far-reaching effects; perhaps another amendment to the constitution to the effect that no, it’s not. Interestingly, news has reached these shores over the years of American atheists who have used this very amendment to remove prayers from school assemblies. And the same amendment sets out the right of people to petition the Government for redress of grievances…

    So playing around with this amendment in order to reduce a church’s child-protection responsibilities is a bit like tickling the dragon’s tail.

  16. Re: 1st Amendment. My former pastor sued me to prevent me from talking on the internet about how he spiritually abused his congregants. I believe SGM violated the victim’s families’ First Amendment rights by telling them NOT to call authorities. It seems that SGM’s so-called pastoral “counsel” violated their First Amendment rights.

    So SGM thinks they can pull the 1st Amendment rights card, yet violate it at the same time? Wowowowowow! Aren’t they special?!

  17. I am now feeling tempted to print out several of these posts and distribute them at a local SGM church.

  18. I have a bit of a different take. I don’t think SGM “violated” the parents of the victims 1st Amendment rights because they were attending the church voluntarily. They took the pastor’s advice when they were not forced to. (this is why I am so into warning folks about these cultish churches)

    BUT, and this throws a monkey wrench into it, the victims had no choice. They got NO justice from either their parents or the church. And crimes against them were NOT reported to the police by either party. Since the victims are now adults, it will be interesting to see how that aspect of it plays out.

    From what I understand is taht later some of the victims parents did tell the authorities and THEN SGM tried to help the perverts. (Please correct me if I am wrong on that) That should be a big factor.

    No one can get around the fact that SGM was protecting perverts. IN come cases calling the molestation of a 3 year old girl by a 16 year old boy, “experimentation”. If anything, more of the world is going to see what sort of people CJ and his pastors really are. And we have Mohler’s words in the public arena to show he approves of how CJ operated SGM. Mohler called it “strong leadership” and the bloggers just do not like it.

    I go back to the fact that victims, who were underage at the time, are now seeking justice. That is a bit of a different twist. I am wondering if any SNAP people can tell us how that has played out in the Catholic lawsuits. I realize SGM is claiming autonomous polity of churches, but I am not so sure that will fly when these pastors are under oath in a deposition. One has to wonder how far they will go to fall on a sword to protect CJ, especially considering what they now know about his blackmail of Larry Tomczak, his early partner.

    CJ is the Don Coleone of SGM. The question is, who will remain loyal to him. Because I sincerely believe, based on his past behavior, he will throw those SGM pastors under a bus and not give it a second thought. If you do not believe that, go read sgmwikileaks. CJ is quite the slippery eel.

    What is even more confusing is that about all CJ has right now concerning credibility is what Mohler, Dever and Duncan are propping up. Makes one wonder their motivation to prop up such insidious behavior toward children.

  19. “If SGM indeed manage to argue that a religion is above the law in every respect, that might have far-reaching effects; perhaps another amendment to the constitution to the effect that no, it’s not. Interestingly, news has reached these shores over the years of American atheists who have used this very amendment to remove prayers from school assemblies. And the same amendment sets out the right of people to petition the Government for redress of grievances…

    So playing around with this amendment in order to reduce a church’s child-protection responsibilities is a bit like tickling the dragon’s tail.

    Yes. Like parts of Sharia law. The question becomes how much “religion” trumps the basic human rights of women and children? There is nothing peaceful or fair about Sharia when it comes to women.

  20. “SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance. This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment. . . . SGM believes that allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment, that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse.”

    This is such a bunch of BS. One can’t hide behind skirts of the First Amendment to cover up sexual abuse – just ask the Catholic Church.

  21. The SGM Guys Don’t Seem to Understand That Their Butts Will Be Subpoenaed into Chairs

    I’m not a constitutional law professor but would make the following common-sense point:

    The First Amendment guarantees a person free speech but does not shelter them from the consequences of speaking freely as some sort of “get out of jail free card.” For example, you can yell “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, but your rights under the First Amendment won’t prevent you from being arrested and charged with a crime for doing so.

    If your freely given speech hurts others, you may be in trouble.

    The SGM pastors and corporate reps exercised their right to free speech when they interacted with sexual abuse victims. Now a jury can decide if that speech damaged those victims to the degree that they deserve compensation. That’s probably all there is to it as this is a civil case not a criminal case.

    It’s also interesting that SGM, Inc. seems to think that it can just imperially send emissaries to deal with this lawsuit from afar the way it did with the AOR reconciliation process.

    Sorry, it doesn’t work that way, guys, with the civil legal system. C.J. and Lou Gallo will have their butts subpoenaed into chairs and will then have to decide whether they want to risk perjuring themselves by claiming that members of SGM, Inc., including C.J. Mahaney personally, weren’t aware of/did nothing to stop SGM FX’s alleged practice of condemning victims and protecting perpetrators, given all the evidence that that’s precisely what C.J., in particular, knew/did.

    And at the time he appears to have been an ordained clergy-person subject to mandatory child abuse reporting requirements in MD.

  22. Makes me want to ask…is child molestation protected under the First Amendment as well for this crowd? — Eagle

    Probably. “Laws of GOD vs laws of men” and all that. As long as it justifies what those in power wanted to do anyway.

    “When ‘what is right’ has been thoroughly deconstructed, ‘what I want’ will still remain.” — C.S.Lewis(?)

    It really does take multiple readings to “parse” and interpret a statement like this. — Brad Futurist Guy

    Probably written by their lawyers.

    “Only a lawyer can talk for three hours and say absolutely nothing.” — my father

    “It all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” — William J Clinton

  23. This morning, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the official updated statement from Sovereign Grace Ministries and the big picture of things. Perhaps we need to keep in mind that there actually are two different kinds of “courts” going on in this entire lawsuit. Our reasoned speculations about what could/will happen may not be fully applicable to the first court, but do strongly apply to the second of them …

    The first court is in the legal system. As points about the Constitutional and legal issues emerge, we’re beginning to see the contours of how things might end up. And so, while some point or other seems relevant and important to us as citizen journalists, the law – not the findings of investigative reporting – sets the ground rules.

    The second is the “court of public opinion.” The more information that gets revealed about the individual accounts of plaintiffs and defendants, the more pieces to this puzzle that seem to be getting put into place. And thus, the more likely I believe it is that Sovereign Grace Ministries as a system and specific individuals who are defendants will lose in this court, regardless of findings in the court of law.

    Members of the public who have a basic threshold of common sense and critical thinking skills are seeing the interior gaps and excesses of the SGM system emerge. SGM’s official statements and current actions are being scrutinized, and much of what they say and do just simply doesn’t make sense. Oh, in a closed theological and authoritarian system, it does – yet only through a twisted form of internally consistent logic. But in the real world, this logic doesn’t work … there’s just too much doublethink and groupthink in SGM that people who do think will see through.

    In fact, Sovereign Grace Ministries seems already to be suffering a costly loss in the court of public opinion. The realistic reputation they are earning will change their fortunes, regardless of any costs, fees, and damage award payments incurred in the court of law. And as SGM becomes a public lesson on spiritual bullying and toxic organizational systems, we who are survivors of spiritual abuse may find some sense of relief in the message that “malignant ministry” toward the sheep in one’s flock will not go unnoticed or unchallenged.

    The way for public push-back on control and cover-up has been widened in 2012 by the scandals in the Penn State sexual abuse situation, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation phone hacking cases (where over 100 people have been arrested to date). People in Western cultures seem to be getting fed up with abuses and excuses. So, the repulsion that is already being registered against the actions and tactics of SGM may be an indicator that intolerance for toxicity in the Kingdom is on the rise.

    So, maybe fewer people will be hurt in the future. And surely that is good news, though it comes at the spiritually expensive heartache of this lawsuit’s plaintiffs and their families. To these siblings we owe our gratitude for their fortitude and faith …

  24. @ NotAMohlerFan:

    In other words, freedom of religion doesn’t mean that you can do absolutely anything in the name of your religion and get off scot-free – esp. when the activity in question is actually illegal (like failing to report child molestation when the law requires that you do so). They seem to be approaching it more from the freedom of religion angle than freedom of speech.

  25. It appears that SGM has been playing god in peoples’ lives for years with their “authority doctrine.” Now they want to make it sound as if everything members did was “voluntary.” Isn’t that just peachy. They trained people NOT to follow God and their own consciences, taught them harmful doctrines, and now they want to claim they have no responsibility (it was all voluntary).

    When SGM (and others) put “biblical” and “gospel” in front of everything they say and teach and take away the right of man to think critically (appealing to their own knowledge and conscience) under the guise of “biblicality” this is what you will get; men and women obeying for “biblical” obedience sake but not because they were persuaded by the work of the Holy Spirit. Leaders should be teaching people how to think not what to think, especially pastors. Me thinks that most leaders just want free and easy going and aren’t really caring for their people. When people come out of the doctrinal fog, they may just find out they have been spiritually abused — no kidding.

  26. brad futuristguy,

    Your point about the court of public opinion was well-stated. The modern-day Gutenburg Press is making a tremendous difference in getting the word out.

    I find it interesting that SGM used the blogosphere to self-promote when the Internet age dawned. Now the Mahaney girls issue edicts regarding how the Internet should be used (I.e. don’t gossip!!!).

  27. “They trained people NOT to follow God and their own consciences, taught them harmful doctrines, and now they want to claim they have no responsibility (it was all voluntary).”

    Exactly this.

  28. I find it interesting that SGM used the blogosphere to self-promote when the Internet age dawned. Now the Mahaney girls issue edicts regarding how the Internet should be used — Deb

    i.e. “HEADS WE WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE!”

  29. It appears that SGM has been playing god in peoples’ lives for years with their “authority doctrine.” Now they want to make it sound as if everything members did was “voluntary.” — Bridget

    Two words, Bridget: PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY.

  30. We did not ask these “pastors” for “counsel” regarding the sex abuse, we wanted them to deal with the pedophiles that roamed their church.

    Three assistant coaches from Penn State are now facing criminal charges regarding the cover-up of ONE pedophile. SGM has had multiple pedophiles, spanning 25 years. Do they honestly think that because some of these cases are twenty years old that will matter a hill of beans to a jury?

  31. Where I am, morning drive-time radio often plays outrageous “bumper music” as lead-ins to their actual news/commentary segments. Before being crowded out by political ads, they had this peppy little piano jingle they used to preface any Penn State news. Months later and it’s still worming in my ear — imagine a peppy honky-tonk piano tune of:

    “Jerry Sandusky is a-going to prison
    Where he’ll probably get beaten to death with a lunch tray
    Then he’ll go straight to Hell
    And suffer unspeakable agonies
    FOR ETERNITYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!”

    (Just realized — “Jerry Sandusky” and “Cee Jay Mahaney” have the same scansion and emphasis…)

  32. Sorry for the error, it was “officials” that have been charged, not assistant coaches.
    This was from an article on ESPN.
    “Former Penn State president Graham Spanier became the third school official to be charged with crimes in the alleged cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.”

  33. Here is the link to a PDF of particulars/”Presentment” (indictment statement) on the three officials cited in the Penn State systems cover-up scandal, and “obstruction of justice.” It’s been a few weeks since this was posted, but if I remember right, the criminal charges are the same set for all three: then President Graham Spanier, VP for Business and Finance Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley.

    http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedFiles/Press/spanier-schultz-curley_presentment-11-1-12.pdf

  34. I haven’t commented in a while…and I don’t even know how to comment to this mess. Child abuse is to be reported by whomever discovers or suspects it. I don’t see how the First Amendment covers that. Child abuse is a CRIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What alternate universe are these SGM folks in?

    This makes me angrier than I can even express.

  35. Pingback: SGM, the Lawsuit and the First Amendment | The Wartburg Watch … – What Is Abuse

  36. “Dee is having trouble accessing the internet and sends her apologies for not chiming in.”

    Sure she is. I bet what is really going on is that Dee is busy carousing and making merry, attending luxurious spa sessions, feasting on humongous buffets and waving at the Panama Canal web cams!

  37. Happy Mom –

    In other words, their statements are only responding in part (and maybe drawing the attention to other issues). They have no answer for why they didn’t do more to protect other children from harm while abusers were allowed to roam freely in the church?

  38. Futuristic Brad:

    Perhaps we need to keep in mind that there actually are two different kinds of “courts” going on in this entire lawsuit.

    There’s a third court, which is easy to overlook, especially in today’s church. One might semi-formally term it “the court of Heaven”. There is evidence from both Testaments that God has not postponed all of his activity until The Second Coming, nor does he sit idly by indefinitely while those who carry his name misuse it. (Brad – I know that’s not what you were saying, and I put it thus only to illustrate that this isn’t just a fringe idea cooked up by people who think The DaVinci Code was a documentary.)

    There comes a point where God no longer allows men to be the sole or final arbiters of what scripture does or does not mean.

  39. Nick … dood! Totally get what you’re saying, and agree. It is one of those hidden assumptions that don’t always rise to the surface of discussions.

    But my gut sense of things is that there’s been a marked increase in survivor blog comments referring to God’s justice and judgment falling onto SGM as a system and onto individual leaders responsible for perpetuating its flawed forms of lording their authority over the sheep.

    And if this judgment does happen in very public ways (which it looks like it is), perhaps it will have a broader effect to silence public excusers of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and call out the otherwise silent supporters. Because, at least as far as I’ve been able to observe in 35+ years of encounters with spiritual bullies, their systems are never just them alone. So if they get judged, their henchman don’t always escape …

  40. Brad – Are you keeping an eye on the Jimmy Savile investigation? Because more and more people at the BBC are being implicated…

  41. @ Numo … I was keeping up just at the beginning, and then seeing that more names were being added to the investigation etc etc. (But, of all things, I’m “supposed” to be doing less online media and research right now, as I’m in the middle of a deadline book project. Am finding ways to tie in SGM situation etc with the book, so I can justify commenting on it …)

    If nothing else, the BBC situation seems to show that no individual or group can keep a lid on sin-evil-lawbreaking forever. The Lord is always watching and on the move (even if/when it doesn’t look like it), and public opinion is increasingly turning against such predation, and the law is going after the perpetrators AND the perpetuators who assist through cover-up.

  42. If nothing else, the BBC situation seems to show that no individual or group can keep a lid on sin-evil-lawbreaking forever. The Lord is always watching and on the move (even if/when it doesn’t look like it), and public opinion is increasingly turning against such predation, and the law is going after the perpetrators AND the perpetuators who assist through cover-up.

    Indeed – and I wonder how much the Sandusky investigation has helped people go forward against both Savile and the Beeb?

  43. Maybe You’ll Be Awarded the Rights to Stuff SGM Has Published, HappyMom!

    The bad news regarding your case is obvious, Happymom. Dealing with folks who are dumber than a sack of hammers is never fun. But the good news is that I think you’ll win your case given the silly and bizarre legal defense strategy SGM has articulated so far.

    The AWESOME NEWS is that since SGM Inc. is cash poor, you may end up owning the copyright to their music, books, etc.

    If you get the right to Mahaney’s book on Humility, perhaps you could add a neat little forward to it with details about your case AND make the dedication page out to Dee and Deb!

    And imagine what you could do with Carolyn’s Girl Talk’s female submission business, since it’s probably co-owned by C.J. and Carolyn and therefore possibly up for grabs.

    ;-)

  44. The Beeb (and wider criminal) investigation into Jimmy Savile, and now others, is yielding both encouraging and concerning results. Encouraging, because many people have come forward, and there’s every chance that no-one feels they can’t say anything about what happened to them years ago. Certainly they must know that they are not alone. But concerning in that the paedophile witch-hunters are already out and about. One high-profile false accusation has already come to light. In another deeply unsavoury incident, a prominent daytime TV presenter handed David Cameron – on live TV – a list of alleged offenders he openly admitted he’d trawled out of the internet. As we all know, internet gossip need not necessarily have an ounce of basis in truth, and the names on that list could have been anyone. (ITV say they are taking “appropriate disciplinary action”.)

    I hope you’ll excuse my stating the patronisingly obvious, but my earnest prayer here is that wisdom, power and love are all manifest; and that righteousness and justice prevail together. Innocent lives are destroyed as completely by false allegations as they are by abuse itself. But as a society we have to take that responsibility, and not be immobilised between two fears.

  45. Brad/Futurist Guy:

    The 2 courts thing is exactly right. Keeping that in mind, I believe, is important for all of us outsiders who will be watching the legal proceedings. There are lots of ins and outs in this, for sure.

    But as long as the facts some out in the public, that will be the most important thing because that will help people understand and will help correct others – regardless of what specific remedies may be awarded or employed by the legal system.

  46. All I am going to say on this is that if you use the First Amendment in an attempt to defeat a lawsuit is (a) you’re likely going to lose because what happened was towards children, not towards (allegedly) consenting adults** and (b) you’ve just put yourself in the same place as the church of $cientology and the Catholic bishops. That is an extraordinarily tenuous position. You may win your lawsuit, but you’re going to lose hearts and minds along the way and/or experience really bad publicity as a result. I will be VERY happy to push the meme that SGM is, in its own way, just as destructive as $cientology, because this is an organization that has shown it really DOES NOT care about the “least among us.”

    I’m thinking the SGM culture needs to be bulldozed and replaced with one that isn’t based on authoritarianism and the superiority of adult males over every other group of people in the organization (e.g., women, boys and girls). I do not expect this to happen because there are too many groups and men out there (I’m looking at you, Al Mohler, with a gimlet eye) who have a vested interest in pushing the patriarchal order of things.

    **I have two friends, Marc and Claire Headley, who were members of $cientology’s elite Sea Org, for many years. They tried suing $cientology in federal court but $cientology was able to defeat their attempts to bring the cult to heel, in part by using the argument that Marc and Claire were consenting adults (so of course it wasn’t slave labor, seriously). Marc wrote a book about his and Claire’s escapes from the cult compound near Hemet, California, called “Blown For Good.” While the compendium of $cientological crazy is bound only to interest those who have a fascination with $cientology, the story of their separate escapes will bring tears to your eyes. These two people were tried in the fire and loved each other more than anything and fought to be together, despite attempts by $cientology to separate them forever.

    I’m telling you, SGM, you REALLY don’t want to be lumped together in the same breath as $cientology. You really, really don’t.

  47. @ Deb … thanks for the encouragement. The SGM situation is crucial for the Kingdom, especially (it seems to me) in its timing in the overall flow of a larger social movement against bullying. It is worth investing time in following, as best as possible. I’m using it for a case study in my writing project for describing the kinds of thinking tools that we can use for analyzing systems and figuring out potential “so what?” applications for the future. So that’s one reason it makes sense to try keeping up – and for another, my hunch is we’re about to see through SGM how interconnections of relationships work in the world as it has emerged to create healthy or toxic systems, and to create trends toward constructive transformation.

    @ numo and Nick and Anonymous 5:05 … re: the BBC, I wonder if it’s been sinking in over the past few years that to deal with the predators, you have to deal with the entire system that protects and enables them in continuing to do that damaging things they’ve been doing. So, it seems there’s been increasingly more push-back on the larger entities … this mega-media outliet, that university, this government agency, that diocese or denomination.

    And when personal sins and systems evil are exposed by the light, it doesn’t make me happy. Relieved, yes. Grateful that perhaps it may protect innocent people who would otherwise have been victims, yes. Happy, no.

    Also, although one of the wonders of the digital era is that it’s far harder to “scrub away” incriminating evidence you don’t want hanging around, one danger of the digital era is that it’s near impossible to correct allegations, misquotations, and outright falsehoods. Damage can happen so quickly, and repair and reparations don’t. That’s another form of injustice that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

  48. Patti W – You said

    “When abuse was reported to the pastors or care group leaders, whether it was sexual or physical abuse, I was instructed not to call the authorities.”

    If that was an SGM church, I sincerely hope you contact plaintiff’s attorney Susan Burke with that information.

  49. Nick: Also, visited your new blog and loved it. What a great idea to have an online blog for your local community of believers. True ekklesia!

  50. “But as long as the facts some out in the public, that will be the most important thing because that will help people understand and will help correct others – regardless of what specific remedies may be awarded or employed by the legal system.”

    I am not convinced the “facts” will be made public. I think that might be one of the settlement issues. That was a big issue for Mac Brunson at FBCJax even though that lawsuit was not about child abuse. The depos were kept private, correct?

  51. I am not convinced the “facts” will be made public. I think that might be one of the settlement issues. — Anon1

    Just like with Michael Jackson? Pay a couple million out-of-court in return for total silence?

  52. I’m telling you, SGM, you REALLY don’t want to be lumped together in the same breath as $cientology. You really, really don’t. — Southwestern Discomfort

    Including a dedicated episode of South Park?

    “POOR LITTLE CLAMS — SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!
    POOR LITTLE CLAMS — SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!”

  53. Is it just me or does SGM want their own form of Sharia to trump the law of the land? — Muff Potter

    Isn’t that the whole point of Reconstructionism/Dominionism?

    “No Constitution except the Koran/Bible! No Law except the Law of GOD!”

  54. PEOPLE–PEOPLE HEAR ME

    CJ is going to make these court case go away– Because the women in these case will give up and go away. CJ will buy them new homes– new cars— pay for there college— this is lunch money for SGM and CJ.

  55. It appears Dee went “cold turkey” beyond her intentions. I hope she can recover the money she put out for those 200 minutes that didn’t materialize.

  56. Bridget,

    Dee must be having serious withdrawals. :-)

    I have no doubt that her money will be refunded if she was unable to access the internet.

  57. Toni –

    Nick, in case you didn’t know, the 3 perps of the SGM plaintiffs were all convicted by the secular authorities. This lawsuit is about the systemic pattern of pastoral cover-up of sex abuse, not whether or not there was actual molestation.

    Thanks for pointing that out; I didn’t realise that. And thanks for dropping by!

  58. Anon1:

    You are right that in many cases when a suit is settled there is a clause stating that neither of the parties will talk about it. I suspect if these cases are settled, that will be one of the conditions.

    But as the lawsuit proceeds, there is nothing that prevents the parties from posting copies of depositions etc.

    As for the FBC Jax lawsuit, some of the depositions were filed in connection with pretrial motions. That’s where I read the police officer’s testimony that we went and got the subpoenas because he wanted to find out who the Watchdog was. That was his only reason. In the beginning, I expected that the police would attempt constructing a probable cause connection between the reported stalker, the missing mail and perhaps other things that were not even public. But the police officer made no such attempt to do that. I think he was truthful. I think that he was ticked off that the Watchdog was making fun of his pastor and church, and he wanted to know who it was. So, he used his badge to do that. That was really the end of the case. Law enforcement can’t do that.

    I digressed.

    Back to the topic. Unless an order is entered by the court on its own initiative or upon the motion of one or more of the parties, there is no problem giving copies of depositions to people or posting them.

    There are 2 qualifications – 1)HIPPA. You can’t disclose protected health information, so that would have to be blacked out. 2)The identity of the plaintiffs. Since they are Jane Does, their names would have to be blacked out.

    Otherwise, until the court does someting, the depositions can be made public.

    Again, I am not sure why they weren’t in the Watchdog case. There was no order that I ever saw in that case. Maybe both of the parties thought it was in their best interest not to disclose what was said in the depositions. That would be my guess.

  59. @ Eagle on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 12:34 AM:

    Re: Evil – you’re on to something … I realized that in a few of my recent comments about SGM in various places over the past few days, I’ve been adding in the word *evil* as applied to their coercive system, strategies, and infrastructures; and also to unrepentant sinfulness of leaders that creates a culture of relationships that continues to harm people. It’s not just engaging in sin, it’s enacting evil.

    The heard the most profound definition of *evil* from a spiritually precocious five-year old. When asked what she thought “evil” was, she said, “Evil is when you’re doin’ something that looks good, but you’re thinkin’ something bad.”

    Selah … that’s worth thinking about …

    Organization and structure and processes and procedures can all be good, but when infused with bad motives – power, control, self-indulgence of leaders, perfectionism – they inflict great harm. And if the harm comes indirectly from “the system” instead of directly from those who create and/or maintain the system, that doesn’t let the creators and maintainers off the hook. They are still responsible.

    So, I guess we really need to see things about SGM (and any errant system) on at least three levels: sin, crime, and evil. Full justice would involve all three:

    * exposure of sin and (hopefully) repentance for the individuals involved in directly harming others directly or harming them indirectly through the cultures and systems they create or perpetuate;

    * civil/legal system consequences for those who perpetrate crimes; and

    * exposure of evil systems, and either demolishing them permanently, or dismantling and replacing them with healthy systems.

    It seems to me that different combinations of the three run problems throughout the whole SGM situation, including the lawsuit (the crimes belonging to the perpetrators of sexual abuse). The responses will depend on the specific people and problems involved.

    Anyway, from a completely human perspective, I have only small hope for the larger SGM system to be able to change enough and soon enough to stop inflicting the damages of legalistic theology and authoritarian leaders on others. It seems the larger the system, the more difficult it is to shift course away from destruction: think about a rowboat and an iceberg versus the Titanic and an iceberg.

    And yet, on a spiritual level, I believe there is still hope. The only large-scale organizational transformation I’m aware of, going from a “cult” (both doctrinally and structurally) to a sound system, occurred with the Grace Communion International. (Formerly known as the Worldwide Church of God, run by Herbert W. Armstrong.) I haven’t been able to do a full-scale case study on how this change came about. But from what I’ve absorbed so far, it seems like the spark for organizational change came from several key leaders who had a change of heart and theology, and who saw the damage that their doctrine and system had done. I don’t know exactly the order of what happened, but those do seem to be some of the elements involved. These change-agents led the way for altering the system, and to do that required them to stand against the old doctrine and old order. I’m looking forward to looking into this far more deeply, to reinforce or correct those initial impressions and especially to explore the specifics that sparked change. Very relevant situation for fueling reasoned speculation about the future of SGM …

    In short, change happens when there is *repentance*. REAL repentance – not the kind of quickee “acknowledgement” of wrongdoing in order to satisfy authoritarian leaders and avoid unpleasant legal or social consequences of one’s actions. The word *repentance* in Greek literally means a “change of mind.” I think of it as a sort of “spiritual U-turn.” And I think we’re glimpsing signs of this kind of repentance at Covenant Life Church and some of the other smaller units within the larger SGM system. There seems to be a change of course, standing against some of the old ways, moving in new ways. Certainly, it’s not all that SGM survivors would want, but it does seem to be progress at least. So, there are continued reasons for hope and for praying that those who can effect changes find the conscience, will, and grace to do so.

    Actually, I consider acts of repentance as a sort of cosmic surprise that indicate God’s Spirit has been at work. Repentance doesn’t happen without a shift in conscience. And the Scriptures talk about a dulled or seared conscience and hardened heart as signs of resistance against God. And psychology tells us that lack of conscience is a key feature of sociopaths; they show no true empathy for others, and no remorse about using/abusing others when it gets them what they desire. So, for change to occur for the right reasons, and for evil systems to be dismantled, I’ll watch for signs of U-turns in how people are valued, how conflict is handled and how differences are seen as signs of strength. Those kinds of things.

    As a sidenote, think of a “penitentiary” as designed not just as a place to lock-up people who’d broken the law to do penance, but to provide a space to reflect on one’s life and, hopefully, find repentance. Perhaps the internet has become that sort of penitentiary in the digital era for people who support evil. It offers them a space to be confronted through online documentation about how they and their evil systems harmed people, to consider the destructive effects of their actions and, hopefully, find repentance. I expect that those who do make that U-turn will not attempt to scrub away their past, but will document their trajectory forward to transform toward becoming safe, healthy, and growing in their future.

  60. It's astonishing how deaf SGM is to the public outcry, and now they have the audacity to suggest that it was their 1st Amendment right to subject American citizens to their brand of religion, in which they exercised control over those rights?

    Let the meeting of the state with SGM begin! They're a menace within American society, and it is a shame they have taken it to other countries. May God DRY UP their resources and refuse them ANY new rain! (That's my prayer for you SGM)

  61. “But as the lawsuit proceeds, there is nothing that prevents the parties from posting copies of depositions etc.”

    A lot times that works in the guilty person’s favor, though. And because those who are guilty are pretty good at making sure there is no documentation, have character witnessnes, etc. By way of their position, it favors them in many cases. Pennn state might be changing that, though.

    It is almost impossible for folks to understand how easy it is to be tyrannized and not even realize it because you trust people or institutions. Most folks have much tolerance adn good will reserved for them and only realize when it is too late, it was totally misplaced.

    John Immel wrote a blog post about it that was as close to explaining it as I have ever seen.

    http://spiritualtyranny.com/the-event-of-an-sgm-life/

    So many of the cold hearted will come out against them for being “stupid”.

  62. “Back to the topic. Unless an order is entered by the court on its own initiative or upon the motion of one or more of the parties, there is no problem giving copies of depositions to people or posting them.”

    No telling how many Reformed lawyers would love to back seat drive this one by commenting on them and trying to drive public opinion in their circles! Mohler might even have a few in mind for the task. Some might even be on some SBC entity boards. you never know.

  63. Brad – I loved that you touched on repentance. In so many of the stories we read, that was the overall focus – – – not the protection of the victims, care for the victims and the families, but gospel repentance is probably how they would word it. They are so obsessed on this practice, that they forget what real love is. In true repentance, we see love in action. Love means really “serving” (not the SGM definition of serve) others who are in the trenches by bringing meals to the victims and their families, helping to lighten their load, do yard work, offer to help with practical needs, give them time and space to deal with the trauma that was dealt them, refer to them counseling, report the crime, stick with them through the long healing process, etc. That is what loving people do. The SGM leaders should have made this happen.

    What we saw demonstrated was typical spiritually abusive behavior: quick legalistic reconciliation (forced), image control, damage control, no reporting of crimes, put this behind us so we can move along for the sake of the “SGM gospel” . . . .

  64. Oh the Law of Love verus the First Amendment…is it SO hard to see which one any church should be putting first?

  65. Julie Anne, they have hijacked the terminology and redefined it to fit their heirarchical paradigm and use it against people. We are speaking two different languages. This is something we really need to warn folks about.

    serve does not mean serve. repentance does not mean repentence. Gospel does not mean Gospel, etc, etc.

    It is downright Orwellian.

  66. Anon 1 said: “they have hijacked the terminology and redefined it to fit their heirarchical paradigm and use it against people. We are speaking two different languages. This is something we really need to warn folks about.

    serve does not mean serve. repentance does not mean repentence. Gospel does not mean Gospel, etc, etc.

    It is downright Orwellian”.

    This is ultra-fascinating. I think there should be a post on this.

    PS need an IT lesson – how do I do italics? Not sure what to google.

  67. @ Haitch Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 02:29 PM. “This [SGM hijacking the terminology and redefining it to their hierarchical paradigm and using it against people] is ultra-fascinating. I think there should be a post on this.”

    Totally agree about totalitarian language … fascinating – devastatingly so, because of the damage it does. And in fact, “loading the language” is one of the classic eight characteristics of an authoritarian “cult” as described by Robert Jay Lifton in his 1961 book, *Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China.*

    Two teaser quotes on how cults taser the language (and by “totalist,” Lifton means thought-reform cultures that seek to control the total person in every aspect of their lives):

    “The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis” (page 429).

    “Totalist language, then, is repetitiously centered on all-encompassing jargon, prematurely abstract, highly categorical, relentlessly judging, and to anyone but its most devoted advocate, deadly dull: in Lionel Trilling’s phrase, ‘the language of nonthought’” (page 429).

    Part of what makes this reduced language so destructive over time is that it restricts the richness of what you THINK, so it also eventually constricts what you think ABOUT. It shrivels our thought-life until it fits nicely and neatly into the teeny-tiny preselected and preshaped compartments of The System. A simple faith as dictated in these systems becomes simply fake over time.

    I was in a church like that for five years. It took years afterwards to figure out and “reconstitute” all those freeze-dried words that leaders had sucked all the biblical flavor out of. Like,

    • Grace
    • Doctrine
    • Discipline
    • Love
    • Truth
    • Submit
    • Spiritual
    • Lead
    • Church
    • Fellowship
    • Authority
    • Mature

    For SGM, seems like some of the code words that got messed with (and thus messed members over) were:

    • Pastor
    • Apostle
    • Leader
    • Submit
    • Parent
    • Repent
    • Reconcile
    • Gospel
    • Grace
    • Ministry
    • Disciple
    • Authority

    What other terms do SGM survivors see that “lost their saltiness” in the SGM system?

  68. That didn’t work either :(. Deb posted a link awhile back on how to do italics and bold. Maybe she can out it up again.

  69. @Brad, so basically they’re using framing techniques with the words themselves. Wow. I think Chomsky talked about how the media frames in his book “Manufacturing Consent” – as he’s a linguist too there might be something on the language also. I’ll report back if I find anything.

    @Bridget, your first one worked but I don’t know how you did it !

  70. Haitch –

    They didn’t work in the sense that “you couldn’t see” the symbols and sequence that made it work :(

  71. Hey Bridget,

    I don’t know what others do but this works for me…

    To make text appear bold use this code directly in front of the words or words you want to bolden, minus the spaces:

    After the word or words you want to appear in bold, end using this code (again without spaces):

    Use the same process for italic except replace the ‘b’ with an I

    Hope that works for you.

  72. Hmm despite adding spaces, the code didnt appear. Let’s try this. I’ll put the parts of the code on separate lines.

    Put that in front of what you want to bolden, followed by this after:

    Then replace the b with an I for italics.

  73. Bridget,

    To put words in bold, type these together with no spaces in between: less than sign the letter b greater than sign.

    Put the words to be in bold next.

    After those words type a less than sign a backslash the letter b then a greater than sign.

    Same format for italics except replace the b with an i.

     

  74. @Deb
    Sorry. A backslash is \. This IS NOT what you use. I’ll post a comment on how to do it right.

  75. How to bold and such.
    other text <b>text to be bolded</b> other text
    other text <i>text to be italicised</i> other text
    <blockquote>this is how to quote a bunch of text a special way</blockquote>

    And here’s what you get if you actually type in the above.
    other text text to be bolded other text
    other text text to be italicised other text

    this is how to quote a bunch of text a special way

    OK. I’ve now handed you a loaded pistol. Any bets on who shoots themselves in the foot first?

    My point being if you really don’t understand what’s going on here, just type.

  76. GBTC –

    You must have magical powers back there. I tried everything to get the symbols to show up and couldn’t. But I’m not the Gal Behind The Curtain :)

    JUST TYPE but that is so boring. We like to learn new stuff!

  77. GBTC,

    Yes, I’m a technopeasant.  :-)  Thanks for providing the tutorial.  And here I’ve been calling a forward slash a backslash for so long…

    We need all the help we can get. 

  78. The Orwellian language comment is spot on – I actually feel that quite a lot of Calvinist theology has done the same thing…I often feel I don’t know what most of the words in that first list of Brad’s really mean anymore, with any certainty.

  79. Beakerj —

    I agree about the language. It is not just SGM that has done that. Much of TGC have been writing wnd redefining words for the past 20 years or so. All you have to do is go get some recent books that they are known for and start reading. It is maddening.

  80. Two completely different ones here. Actually, I’ll make them separate posts. The quick one is for the Chap Behind The Curtain…

    Out of interest, how did you disable the html tags in the examples here? I’ve tried using ‘, as in unix (I think – bit rusty there) and Micros**t Excel, but it doesn’t seem to work.

  81. And the other one on Futuristic Brad (et al)’s Orwellian word-redefinitions. I think that actually describes it very well. E.g., “servant leadership”, which in many settings means “I will rule over you, which you should appreciate and be grateful for, because it’s my way of serving you”.

    Tangential to the present thread, perhaps, but for me, another Newspeak’ed word is “worship”. Instead of being a headlong engagement with God involving all of our heart, soul, intellect and strength, it’s become restricted to the arousing of one’s emotions using music.

    Even words like “church” (as distinct from “para-church”, or “the other ‘church’ 50 yards down the street”) has taken on a thoroughly extra-biblical meaning. It’s almost impossible to explain to most traditional churchgoers that no, I don’t “go to church” on a Sunday, but yes, I am still actively engaged with the church in this part of Scotland.

    Brad – have you come across Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

  82. @ Nick and Beakerj, re: Orwellian language … so many words to hijack, so little time … It is distressing that there are so many “buzz words” that get hacked, cooked, re-chopped, processed, extruded, reshaped, and baked into reduced vocabulary. And worse, that it is used as a means of control. A few more decades of “newspeak” and there won’t be any “oldspeak” concepts in those generations’ paradigm. But that’s the way it works when Big Brother takes over.

    @ Nick. Kuhn was sort of the springboard for what I actually consider as my core work, which is paradigm analysis. It just happens to require the use of a zillion different disciplines. Well, half a zill. Here’s a piece I wrote a while back that is the essence of how I’ve adapted the paradigm concept from scientific method over to theological, organizational, and cultural analysis; and social transformation.

    http://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/paradigm-profiling-in-the-missional-zone/

  83. Nick,

    about tangential —

    no, Newspeak “worship” started many years ago when John Kerry showed up at a big, important church on a Sunday morning when he was running for President, at which time he trotted up onto the platform (sleeves rolled down this time, coat & tie), and proclaimed “it’s so good to be here to worship the Lahrd together”.

    It’s self-promotion. Image invention.

    feeling sick again….

  84. Dear Southwestern (5:16 PM Thur)

    You know the Headleys personally!? That’s amazing! I haven’t read Marc’s book yet, but I do know about their story from other sites. And it really is an astonishing story of courage and love in the most horrifying circumstances. They’ve displayed amazing resilience in the years since their escape, most recently refusing to re-sell their souls to That “Church”, even though it hurt them financially. And the outpouring of generosity towards them afterwards was incredibly moving.

    I hope that those involved in the class-action case against SGM have the same kind of courage — I’m sure it will be very, very hard on them. And that all of us will be supportive and encouraging towards them. And mostly, I pray that God will somehow open the eyes of leaders at SGM, and they’ll realize how creepy and slimy they look, and how much harm they’ve done.

    You’re absolutely right. Looking like the “Church” of $cientology is A Very Bad Thing.

  85. OK. I’ve now handed you a loaded pistol.

    Thanks crew !
    Feel I’ve moved up a notch on the IT evolutionary ladder.
    I will now proceed to save these instructions (and to figure out how Nick did that hyperlink).

  86. OK. No more HTML lessons on the blog. While in general I don’t mind, in particular someone can make a post unviewable with a typo. WordPress, the engine for this blog, tries to catch such things,at times things get through and I get to go on a hunt reading comments character by character finding the mistake. And the blog post vanishes untill I find it. And it may be a 1/2 day or so before I can even start.

    So if you want to learn, Google simple HTML, but experiment somewhere else please.

    If you want to post a link in a comment please post the raw link, not a word or phrase with the actual link buried under it. This makes it easier for everyone to see where they will be taken.

    As for how to make a < show up, Google is your friend. Just typing in < will cause it to vanish along with some or all of the rest of the comment and maybe the post as WordPress tries to figure out just how to interpret your command.

  87. Thanks for the info GBTC, and sorry about the repetitious posts. I agree – Google! Now I know how to make the < appear!

    Brad, you asked

    What other terms do SGM survivors see that “lost their saltiness” in the SGM system?

    Great comment, good question!
    I think the repetitious phrases that CJ routinely used and introduced, centering on the ideas that everyone should be humble, question themselves, and trust the leaders, are evidence of the deliberate attempt at creating “nonthought” in the minds of the members.

    CJ is a strange man. About himself he would repeatedly say, “I’ve never had an original thought.” So, did that make him good at mind- control, because he programs his own mind? What would your guess be? He would say it a lot, and it seemed like he was really saying it about himself, and it didn’t come across like he was boasting.

    The other repetitions phrases sounded like they were about himself, but it was clear its what he wanted you to think and say.

    “I’m the worst sinner I know.”
    “Everything I do is shot through with sin.”
    “I’m doing much better than I deserve.”

    CJ didn’t spent time pastoring people. He lacks authenticity. If he had spent time one on one, it would have become obvious much earlier on that he relied heavily on one-liners and quotes. I really don’t think he was in touch with the Lord. He didn’t lead, in my estimation, by the Spirit. He led through his own self-induced program of thought control. “I’ve never had an original thought.” And to convince people to follow along, he built up the idea that he was a great leader, he had “leadership,” and that this alone is what what set him apart and qualified. As though his leadership elevated him naturally, and put him more on par with the higher powers. So he constantly stressed…

    Leading
    Leadership
    Being a leader
    Being an excellent leader
    Leading the family

    Ad nauseam. And of course, everyone understood whenever he used the word “leader” or referred to “leadership” he was referring to only men. So the constant emphasis on leadership conveyed the continuous message to all the women, “When I talk about leadership and the importance of leadership in this church, I am NOT referring to you, because NONE of you are allowed to lead!” So, whenever he used those words, it like the women just all went blank. It had a hypnotic effect. And not only did it cause the women to have nonthoughts, since no one could compare to CJ’s leadership, it caused the men to ALL feel inferior, because NONE of them were as great as he was.

  88. Wow, Evie … upon reading your comment, what immediately came to mind was from my research into and reflection on (1) sociopathology and (2) how people get hooked into following/enabling sociopaths.

    One of the key tools sociopaths use to ensnare certain kinds of people is compassion or empathy. They play up instances of their not fitting in, being misunderstood and thus wounded, being an outsider … those kinds of things. It seems to me that playing the card of “I’m a worm / the worst sinner / unoriginal — but just following the Lord, just learning, just doing the best I can” hooks right in to the sincere Christian’s sense that a real leader is humble, knows his weaknesses, shares vulnerably. They accept the persona as being The Real Deal. But it is not. It is an act, highly polished, effective on some while intuitively creeping out others who somehow read the disingenuous nature of all that pseudo-humility.

    A second mechanism that I’ve seen at work in the Christian community especially is having henchmen carry out orders. The hierarchical leadership model with no forms of internal (congregational) or external (denominational) accountability makes for the supreme set-up for a sociopath (who has no conscience and will do anything necessary to protect and promote self) hiding behind layers of authority – the perfect device for plausible deniability. Those who carry out the kingpin’s orders get something out of the arrangement. If they are sincere Christians who hold to a hierarchical system, it makes sense; they’re just doing their duty and thus being faithful. (And I’ve seen this destroy more than one underling!) If they are power-mongers themselves, well, power is like porn and they get their fix regularly by carrying out the wishes of the man they idolize for making all their “prayers” for personal status come true.

    These are not the only mechanisms involved, but they’re insidious. And they fit with the “leadership” profiles in SGM that we’re getting a clearer picture of, pixel by evidence-based pixel from accounts of leaders’ words and behaviors that emerge over time.

  89. Brad, that is one of the best explanations I have seen on what is going on in so many organizations and how we can unintentionally enable evil.

    The sociopath can adapt to situations so easily and you are right, they feed on compassionate, trusting people.

    Like you, I have seen my share of underlings who were loyally carrying out the orders get ousted because they did not realize they were always an expendable layer. They are a dime a dozen because others are waiting in line.

    Seeing this in so many organizations it always amazed me how many people will survive by simply looking the other way. it really helped me understand history and how people can get caught up in movements that turn out to be the epitome of evil. It takes people of gravitas and influence to stand against it who are willing to lose a lot. Those are rare creatures.

  90. @ Anon 1 [Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 02:47 PM]

    I think the perspective of sociopathology issues help explain why otherwise “intelligent” people can be sucked into the orbit of someone who is actually a contemptuous abuser of anyone within their gravitational pull. There are emotional and spiritual dynamics afoot for those abused, not just mental.

    So, our vulnerability is not because we are stooopid, but, often, because we are compassionate and trusting. I know I got sucked in a few times because I felt sorry for these “leaders.” I got sucked in because I mistakenly believed that because I am sincere about wanting to build the Kingdom and minister well, that all “Christians” naturally do — especially pastors and other ministry staff members.

    My heart and conscience were in the right place; theirs was not. And both I and they have enough “smarts” to know what the score was. But spiritual discernment is not simply about processing “information,” or we else we would never be having these kinds of conversations because there would be no need for spiritual abuse survivor blogs. Spiritual abuse affects us a whole people, because nearly every aspect of our being is being subjected to the corrosive power of unconscionable people …

  91. “So, our vulnerability is not because we are stooopid, but, often, because we are compassionate and trusting”

    Brad, the absolute saddest conversation I had with a YRR 30ish pastor went something like this:

    Me: Did you tell the search committee you were a Calvinist (Reformed)?

    YRR: No, if they are so ignorant they cannot ask the right questions then they do not know enough about the doctrine to understand it so they should not be upset. It is their responsibility to ask the right questions. If they do not know how to interview they should not be on the search committee.

    This was a young man who graduated from an SBTS and interviewed for pastor positions in SBC churches. Then there was trouble after one hired him and things did not sound right….so after quite a time they started questioning. People kept thinking they were misunderstnding him and giving him room. Now, the search committee (and the pew sitters who chose them) was made up of people who funded and trusted the institution that educated him. They had NO idea what was going on. AFter all, it had been 10 years since they had hired a pastor. So, he used their love, compassion and trust to bait and switch them.

    Sadly this is a scenerio that is playing out in many churches.

  92. Brad and Evie —

    “A second mechanism that I’ve seen at work in the Christian community especially is having henchmen carry out orders.”

    This was one of the first things I noticed when I started reading the SGM blog and other blogs. CJ is never the communicator or face to face man when hard information or decisions were communicated. He always had someone else delivering said information and decisions. He was always involved in decisions or what the information actually said, but neither his face nor is name were seen. I found this to be so wrong, and strange, considering the spectacle and attention he draws to himself when he preaches or we see/hear him in interviews.

    Brad —

    Have you watched or listened to any videos and/or sound of CJ speaking or interviewing? I would be interested in what you perceive about him, his mannerisms, and his communication tendancies. It might be fascinating.

  93. “This was one of the first things I noticed when I started reading the SGM blog and other blogs. CJ is never the communicator or face to face man when hard information or decisions were communicated.”

    Bridget, did you read sgmwikileaks? CJ was the master of this as is seen in the vast amount of communication Brent published. Brent thought it made CJ look real bad (he could not see the forest for the trees) but anyone coming to that who had not been following SGM or even paying attention would not see CJ as the problem but the “nice guy” and Brent the one dogging him over silliness.

    But you cannot be the anointed leader and never deal with anything straight forward. Folks miss that. However, I saw it all the time in my celebrity Christian dealings. They are the masters of it.

  94. Bridget on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:22 PM said: “Brad — Have you watched or listened to any videos and/or sound of CJ speaking or interviewing? I would be interested in what you perceive about him, his mannerisms, and his communication tendancies. It might be fascinating.”

    As of yet, I haven’t. I likely will at some point, though I don’t think I really want to. Immersing in this toxic stuff is taxing. I’ll only do so if I sense I’m clearly being led that direction by the Spirit. (In the past, I’ve had to immerse in my own vats of malignant ministry waste experiences to diagnose what happened to me so I could figure out antidotes. Knowing that process, I admire the plaintiffs and survivor supporters who navigate this SGM quagmire in order to regain their lives.)

    But – assuming I do watch preaching or interviews from Mr. Mahaney and others – what would make that exercise of listening to SGM defendants intriguing is that I will not be engaged from an “unbiased” perspective. I am already through that stage and have continued to sharpen the focus of my “contour readings” about Sovereign Grace Ministries as a system looks, and the “interior dynamics readings” about how it functions. (I’ve been reading background material on Sovereign Grace Ministries for months, and that comes after at least three full years of studying the general dynamics of destruction in various kinds of situations with authoritarian abuse over individuals and organizations.)

    So, to hear the voices of key people involved, and/or watch videos of them, comes at a point when they have to convince me of their truthfulness and sincerity, of their conscience and character … I do not start with a blank slate about them. However, neither are their materials going to be “objective.” Much of what I could listen to/watch would probably be considered “SGM-positive” – developed on their own turf, for people already more favorably disposed to them than not, or done in a setting designed to introduce people to SGM and therefore put it in the most positive, motivational light possible.

    What may be even more intriguing is to think about how these SGM witnesses will function in the lawsuit trial. They will be scrutinized from every angle. A jury will go through a similar process that I did a year ago, of starting with relatively little (if any) knowledge of SGM and its history and opinions about it. They will listen to the evidence and individually be working out what they think the external contours of the SGM system are, as well as SGM internal functioning. And then they will process it as a group, with access to a judge for legal direction, and to all the documentation from the trial. It’ll be a legal MRI …

    The questioning of SGM defendants under oath will not be unbiased, but likely include some very rough stuff, designed by experienced lawyers to squeeze out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So, the testimony from SGM defendants will not be on nice and easy “home turf,” but in a relatively hostile environment. [An odd thought … an “objective” legal arena is partially hostile toward all who must give testimony.] And the testimony given by plaintiffs will serve as a foil to which defendants must respond. But, assuming the plaintiffs have credible accounts (and from the reading thus far, I don’t doubt them), this is not an “SGM-positive” environment. Each and every defendant must prove his case by the “preponderance of evidence.” Thus, EVERY negative impression, EVERY attempt to divert around the facts, EVERY “slicky-boy” manipulative maneuver that works on one’s home turf – could well be the very one that docks the defendants in the courtroom and pushes them under the dreaded “preponderance of evidence” line.

    From what I think I understand of the SGM system, the lawsuit, and those who are currently on the defendants list, I don’t expect them to do so well in presenting themselves. My observation from several situations I’ve personally had to deal with is that authoritarian leaders, especially those at the pinnacle of the organizational pyramid, may seem perfectly capable and calm when their underlings carry out all their orders. They can always deflect questions and criticism: “The vice-pastor is in charge of that. You need to go see him.” But they rarely do well when confronted one-to-one or in the presence of witnesses and the full facts are brought out before them. They play poker well when they have what seems to them a good hand. But their “tells” start showing up when the stakes go up and they are holding a bad hand. They may look calm overall, but show characteristic micro-expressions of fear and/or fury. They may sound cool, calm, and collected, but their body language says otherwise.

    And if they all “pass the buck” by saying “the SGM network does that, not the local churches” or “the local pastor is in charge of that,” how is that going to look to a jury panel? When no one ever claims personal responsibility, then clearly the system is IRresponsible. Couldn’t that one little thing put the SGM corporation under the preponderance line …?

    Anyway, good question, Bridget, and we’ll see how this unfolds.

  95. For some reason, to be the author of a book called Humility and seeing all of these videos hailing CJ seems off to me. — Julie Anne

    Hailing him as Comrade Humble Leader in a North Korean Spectacle BECAUSE He is so Humble(TM).

    Look at His Armorbearers before him, blowing long trumpets to announce how Humble(TM) He is!

  96. This is my comment to JW. I admit, I couldn’t wait for it to be deleted to post it here :) I’m so willing to admit I was premature if he actually allows it!

    “Jared, good job, sir, on the specificity of these guidelines. Now will you have the godly character and fortitude to call out CJ Mahaney and SGM, who are well-documented with many first hand accounts AND are the subject of a current lawsuit for bungling in this area? Will you?”

  97. Phoenix –

    I don’t see your comment there. I’m going to try another tactic that worked before by not specifically naming CJ/SGM. I’ll letcha know if it works :)

  98. Ok, here’s my attempt at a comment. I think Jared will probably remove it. I’ve had comments stay before when I was real general, but this might be too close for comfort:

    Jared – I’m glad to see this list. It’s a great start. What about accountability among church leaders, not specifically subordinates. How do you see this taking place? I’m referring to a specific lawsuit among one in your group. I don’t see that there is a solution to that loophole. If you have a president of an organization who has failed to follow appropriate steps, do his close connections within a group such as Gospel Coalition have an obligation to address this situation at a private level and then at a public level if they see no action taking place? This is a real problem and we will continue to see this happen until someone addresses it. Jared, I applaud you for taking the first step, but we as a church must do better.

    Hmm – I’m also wondering if in the future I should create a different name for commenting because (1) I’m a woman and (2) I’m a blogger = not a good recipe for successful commenting on TGC blogs.

  99. Jared actually allowed my comment to remain AND responded to my comment:

    Julie Anne, accountability among networks and affiliations is difficult and subject to the nature of those networks and affiliations.

    I know you’re referring to a specific case, but I have to respond generally and theoretically, b/c it is not true that nothing public has been said/done by brothers in The Gospel Coalition and it is not true that no action is taking place (lawsuit, verdict pending) in relation to the issue you’re referring to. That’s all I’ll say about that, for three reasons: 1) I don’t know the parties involved, neither the accused nor the accusers, so it amounts to gossip for me to host speculation, ignorance for me to pontificate, and libel for me to level charges, 2) I am not a council member of the Gospel Coalition so it is not my place to speak “for” TGC, but only for myself as a guest of TGC’s blog portal, and 3) discussion of specific cases is not what this post is about, opening illustrative link notwithstanding.

    But answering theoretically:

    Friends/associates of an accused person aren’t obligated to speak out about accusations against their associate, but sometimes it would be appropriate, yes.

    I don’t know how such accountability should take place within parachurch networks. Again, it depends on the nature of the association/network, how top-down it is, what is involved to join, etc. At the very least, in egregious cases of unrepentant sin, I suppose it would begin with removing them from the network/organization.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Here is my new response:

    Jared,

    Thank you so much for responding. I’m actually quite surprised that you allowed my comment to remain.

    I do have specific questions regarding that situation (not about the specific cases, but the responses among GC folks). I’m wondering if you’d be willing to e-mail me privately. Of course I understand your hesitancy to address this publicly since you cannot speak publicly for all of GC.

    Addressing your theoretical response:

    When you have such a case where there are ongoing accusations from multiple sources that there is a serious problem in a particular church group, it seems an organization such as GC would want to say publicly, “we are aware of a potential issue and are checking into it”. This is what many people are so upset about. It’s the white elephant that is not being addressed. This is how abusive family systems work, by not addressing the obvious.

    You may be aware that I am a blogger who was sued by my former pastor for defamation for telling my spiritual abuse story. A lot of people (primarily pastors) don’t like me because I spoke out publicly against him after witnessing so much destruction in families. Many are still working through issues some four years later. The problem I encountered with abuse was that my pastor also had no one over him to hold him accountable. When I sought help from others outside of the church, everyone said their hands were tied. This same scenario is going on all over the place because people send me their stories. (This is what is happening in the case we both have referred to in general terms.)

    I’m not anti-pastor. I’m not anti-church. I want people to have a safe place to go to church. But what I am seeing is a growing number of people leaving church entirely because they see the abuse is not handled appropriately. The secular world seems to have a better grip on these issues.

    Jared, I really thank you for allowing my comment to remain. Others would have deleted it (and I think that plays into the problem as well), but you chose to address the difficult topic. Thank you.