SGM Leadership Coming to an SBC Church Near You?

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention. –Oscar Wilde




We have been asked why we follow Sovereign Grace Ministries since neither one of us (and we are rejoicing in this fact) have been members of SGM. According to them, this kerfuffle has nothing to do with us or any other Christian group for that matter. These people couldn’t be more wrong. We thank a regular commenter, Janna, for bringing this to our attention.

None other than Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the mother ship of the SBC, rushed to comment about CJ Mahaney stepping down from SGM for a period of “self-examination.” There is something very intriguing about the emphasis of his response.LINK

“Mohler added: "Any time you’re going to take on the role of leadership, you’re going to have critics."

Mohler also supported Sovereign Grace’s highly centralized leadership structure in its churches, with "very strong pastoral direction" and internal discipline. "It’s something clearly called for in the New Testament," he said.

Mohler said he knew this practice has had online critics for years.

"Basically there are people who are very uncomfortable with the strong kind of spiritual direction that comes through the Sovereign Grace Ministries,"

Mohler said. "It’s very hard to criticize it on biblical terms, as you’ll see on most of those Web sites. It basically comes down to the criticism, ‘I don’t like that.’"


So why is the leading SBC Calvinista commenting on a denomination outside of his corner of the universe? I have a few questions that might lead some readers to wonder if there is something interesting in play here. However, I would also like to respond to one of Mohler’s statements first.

“No, Dr. Mohler, it is not hard for most people, who have a true Christian spirit, to criticize the “strong spiritual direction coming from SGM.” In fact, this sort of spiritual direction seems to be leading straight towards hell because of the poor treatment of families with children who have been molested. "

But, then again, the SBC leadership has been roundly criticized regarding their refusal to set up a pedophile database. They remove churches from the SBC that have women as pastors but glad hand churches which have coddled pedophiles in their midst. Guess this defines Mohler’s view of strong leadership. Now, onto the questions:

  • Could it be that Mohler’s public statement to the newspaper is pay back for the generous contributions given to Mohler’s Presidential Fund by Mahaney?
  • Why is the SGM leadership begging for contributions for it’s Pastor’s College but had no problem shelling out significant bank (over 100K) to Mohler’s fund.
  • So, why is Mahaney handing over a lot of dough to SBTS? 
  • Why was Mahaney a featured speaker at the SBC Pastors Conference 2010? 
  • Why is Mahaney a regular speaker regular at SBTS?
  • Why was Mahaney the featured speaker, along with Mark Driscoll, at the 20/20 conference at SBTS?
  • Why has Mahaney been a featured speaker at Mark Dever’s Capital Hill Baptist Church? 
  • What the strong connection between SGM/Mahaney, T4G and SBTS?

CJ Mahaney counts Al Mohler amongst his closet of friends. He even called Al Mohler the “smartest man in the world.”

Mega Baptist pastors, like JD Greear, recommend CJ Mahaney’s books, including the Cross Centered Life. This book needs to be reassessed to see how this theology has been misapplied in the churches of SGM.

Keeping this unusual Mohler/Mahaney alliance in mind, the members of the SBC should watch carefully the unfolding events at SGM. The SBC has already been criticized for it poor response to the pedophile issue. Is the SBC ready to incorporate another entity with its own subset of problems, which have been well documented at sites such as SGM Survivors?

Once question remains: if this leadership is so Biblical, according to Mohler, then why did CJ need to step down and why is SGM in full blown apologetic mode?

Let’s consider some of the comments from Friday’s post, Confessions of an SGM Pastor, LINK which highlighted comments from Mark Mullery, the pastor of the SGM church in Fairfax. As you read this, remember, do you think that the SBC should incorporate SGM style leadership into the SBC?

Blogging is changing the face of church conflict.

“We are in a time when Sovereign Grace Ministries and Sovereign Grace Church here in Fairfax are being critiqued for the way pastors have led. As I mentioned earlier, there are several blogs that have focused on these issues.”

I think it is relevant that the blogs were mentioned. I believe that the current events at SGM would not have occurred without the pressure of the blogs. Blogging is changing the way that churches do business. Perhaps churches, aware that they are being observed, will begin to be a bit more “thoughtful” in their responses.

Warning people not to look at blogs will only draw attention to the blogs. The only people who will obey that command are those who are already dutiful in their total submission to the pastors. Everyone else will look. So engage the blogs, provide an alternative explanation or turn the other cheek. They are not going away.

The SBC needs to stop making “anti-blogging resolutions.” They are ineffective and will cause more attention to the blogs.

Sexual predators should not be treated differently because they are members of your church.

“Noel, a pen name, recounts the tragic story of the sexual assault of her young daughter, which occurred in 1998. Wallace, also a pen name, tells of having two children molested – the incidents coming to light in 1998 and 2007. In each of these cases the perpetrators were young men whose families were also part of our church.”

These pedophiles have broken the law and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No excuses. The church should not be involved in trying to convince a family not to prosecute the offender. Such an action could be considered coercion and could put the church in the offensive position of “supporting” the rapist.

How can anyone lose sight of a tiny child who has been molested?

Noel and Wallace are justified in critiquing the pastoral care they received through their trials and afflictions. Sadly, and it breaks my heart to tell you this, sadly in seeking to care for them, we became part of their trial.”

What is wrong with this picture? This inability to consider the pain of a small child’s molstation should disqualify someone from being a pastor. They have no business being the head of any organization for that matter.

Some pastors become self-centered and worry about their own sorry selves.

“These are complicated moments in the swirl of all the other things to think about, we lost sight of the simple fact that an innocent victim had been grievously sinned against and was in need of constant care.”

It is this response that I believe is the root of evil in the today’s church. Many pastors pretend they are protecting the church when, in reality, they are protecting themselves. SGM has lawyers and used them in the Larry Tomczak case if the Dettweiler documents are to be believed.

The “cover our tracks” mentality is often present in this circumstance. Deep down inside, I speculate that these guys know that they have not done what was right and good. What other “swirl of activity” would cause a grown man not to care about a small child who has been raped on his watch? Could it be that the patriarchs are really just scared little boys pretending to be something they ain’t?

Stop pretending that concealing a hideous sin in your church was the “instinctive" thing to do.”

“Our instincts were to keep the circle of those who knew about this small.”

Why? Who were they protecting? They certainly weren’t caring about the molested child, as they have confessed. So, they were either protecting themselves or the perpetrator. Neither one of those options is valid. In fact, the instinctive thing to do, for a real man, would be to beat up the guy who molested the child. That one is understandable. So, could these instincts be those those of a wuss who wants to protect himself at all costs? If so, these are bad instincts for a pastor.

What is the deal with Peacemakers? Does this group really train people when to use their stuff and when not to use their stuff?

“These were situations where the family of the victim and the family of the perpetrator were friends. There were pre-existing, close relationships. As they’re trying to sort these things through, when relational conflicts arose between the victim’s family and the perpetrator’s family, we unwisely used a Peacemaker model for conflict resolution. This resulted, put them on an equal plane – get the log out of your eye, get the log out of your eye, go for the speck, go for the speck – this resulted in the victim’s family being corrected when they should have been gently cared for as sufferers.”

Could it be that this is a way to spread the blame to others? Man up, guys. (Peacemakers made us do it)!

Why would a pastor believe he is qualified to counsel a pedophile or victim of molestation?

“Our aversion to therapeutic thinking kept us from language and people and resources that would have helped these families and that would have helped us help these families.”

I saw this one in action myself. I know of some boys who were hideously molested by a pedophile and a pastor was “counseling” them. Nine months of Pastors College or a Masters of Divinity does not train pastors to be expert counselors. It is pure, unadulterated hubris to pretend that it does. Do these guys actually believe that God endows them with supernatural abilities in these circumstances?

Don’t blame me, I was ignorant?

“How in the world is somebody whose child has just been cruelly sexually abused gonna process that flawlessly? Of course, it’s gonna be raw. But instead of giving them the room to work things through, we corrected them, and they expressed themselves in ways that we deemed incorrect. I’m so sorry. We were proud. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were ignorant.”

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. In the same fashion, ignorance of the pain and suffering of a small child is no excuse for not showing compassion. Also, there is a subtle hint that the families were not processing this event "perfectly."  From what I can tell, the only ones not processing the event correctly were the pastors.There is no excuse for ignorance in this circumstance and these pastors should resign.

Not showing compassion for a molested child and family is reduced to not “getting it?

We’ve been accused of not getting it. Guilty as charged. We didn’t get it. I’m so sorry. (Long tearful pause)”

Once again, this understanding is so basic for most people that such a response shows an appalling lack of an emotional quotient, coupled with a profound inability to understand the Holy Spirit. In other words, these guys acted like cold fish. This alone should be grounds for disqualifying anyone from the pastorate..

How does one change a cold heart?

“We can’t agree with everything that’s written about us on the blogs, but we’ve tried to go to school on what we can agree with. We want our children to be safe. We want children who are hurt, victimized, and abused to be well cared for and their families as well. We’ve tried to learn from our mistakes. We’ve tried to learn from these experiences and to make substantive changes in response.”

It is the opinion of this blogger that any pastor, who was involved in making decisions in these situations, needs to resign from the pastorate and seek some other means of employment. Being sorry does not make up for a profound lack of an emotional quotient, which I believe, disqualifies them from the pastorate.


Finally, CJ Mahaney presided over this appalling mess and implemented the hyper-authoritarian style of leadership which appears to have found it's start from his long ago stint in the abusive shepherding movement. So here are my questions for Al Mohler and the SBC.

  • Is this the type of leadership that Mohler is extolling?
  • Why?
  • Is this the sort of pastor that he wants to align with the SBC?
  • Is this the type of excellence in church leadership that Mohler desires for the SBC? 

If this is Mohler’s vision of the leadership in the SBC, the average SBC members should be very, very scared.

On Wednesday, we will talk more about this “SGM ” that is being pushed by Al Mohler. 


On a more inspiring note: Watch this video to see how a young man overcomes growing up on the streets of Korea.



Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 7:1-5 Acts 7:30-50 Psalm 128:1-Proverbs 16:31-33


SGM Leadership Coming to an SBC Church Near You? — 153 Comments

  1. To our readers,

    Dee and I began researching the connections between SGM and the SBC in the fall of 2008. Then in March 2009 we had become so alarmed about what is going on in Christendom that we started The Wartburg Watch.

    Russell Moore’s “AFTER PATRIARCHY, WHAT? WHY EGALITARIANS ARE WINNING THE GENDER DEBATE” paper that he presented at a 2005 Evangelical Theological Society gathering was one of the first RED FLAGS for me.

    Here’s the excerpt from Moore’s paper that established a connection between SGM and the SBC:

    “It is noteworthy that the vitality in evangelical complementarianism right now is among those who are willing to speak directly to the implications and meaning of male headship—and who are not embarrassed to use terms such as “male headship.” This vitality is found in specific ecclesial communities— among sectors within the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, the charismatic Calvinists of C. J. Mahaney’s “sovereign grace” network, and the clusters of dispensationalist Bible churches, as well as within coalition projects that practice an “ecumenism with teeth,” such as Touchstone magazine. These groups are talking about male leadership in strikingly counter-cultural and very specific ways, addressing issues such as childrearing, courtship, contraception, and family planning—not always with uniformity but always with directness.” JETS 49/3 (September 2006) 569–76

    To read Moore’s paper, follow this link to his blog called “Moore to the Point”:

  2. I don’t worry about any supposed connection between SGM and the SBC anymore than I worried about lots of other groups that have friends in the SBC and are admired for various aspects of their ministries.

    I think that there are enough differences between Mahaney’s doctrine and the Baptist Faith and Message that the formal mixing of the two will never happen. Either Mahaney will have to change his mind about some things, or the SBC will have to change.

    My bet is that the SBC is not going to change to adopt Mahaney’s doctrine. Dever, for example, has written very clearly on church polity issues that would be different from Mahaney’s view. So, despite their friendship and commonality, it’s a bridge too far. It would be like Ligon Duncan and the SBC getting together based on the close friendship between Duncan and Dever. They are close and agree on many issues, but not ones that would be central to a merger.

    Still, your warning is a good one. Despite the statements of support, I don’t expect that Mahaney’s star is rising in SBC circles.

    At least not with me and many of the folks I talk to.

  3. Anonymous,

    You may be right, but I must say that the groupies who attend Together for the Gospel LOVE, LOVE, LOVE C.J. Mahaney.

    I still can’t get over how Mohler and Duncan came to his defense without knowing all the facts. Shame on them for being blind to all of the victims the SGM ship has left in its wake.

  4. Dee,

    Where is the rapist now? Is this still a legal matter where the rapist could be charged? Can the church be charged for covering up the rape? Do you know if the parents want to now sue?


  5. Anonymous

    Ah, but do you know Mahaney the chameleon? If you review his history, you will find he changes doctrine and style as quickly as the Duchesse of Cambridge changes outfits.

    Already, the charismatic aspect of SGM is being downplayed and even discouraged in spite of the charismatic bona fides of his past. Already, the ubiquitous prophecy mic at SGM is beginning to disappear or be downplayed.

    And with the rise of the Nouveau Calvinists amongst the young Baptist set which does not have the commitments to denominational loyalties of the old SBCers, I believe that certain alliances may not be off in some far future.

    Being ever the cynic when it comes to religious politics, I say “Follow the money.” Guys don’t throw back over $100,000, probably more like $200,000 for friendship. Usually a nice conference speech with stipend and good accommodations suffice in that category.

    And I am most gratified that his star is not rising within your circles. Sounds like you may be more educated on the matter.

  6. Pingback: SGM Leadership Coming to an SBC Church Near You? | The Wartburg Watch « Agnostic « Theology of Ministry

  7. Eagle

    Welcome to our blog. We have the a regular atheist and a goodly sort of liberal Christians who grace us with their presence. Frankly, they add a good deal of vigor to occasionally dull topics!

    You are most perceptive in your thoughts!

    You said “Is it because the sins at the top are not sexual such as Ted Haggard? Or is it that the sins the CJ Mahaney has committed are acceptable as many Christians today approach the Bible in the same manner you or I would approach food in a cafeteria line.”

    My response is yes to both. So long as it isn’t sexual or they haven’t embezzled money, it seems to be OK. I know of a situation in which a group of pastors ignored a group of kids who were molested. Their defense was interesting. They didn’t do anything illegal.

    Also, each group of people have their own “pet sins.” For the dwindling Young Earthers, the proof one is a heretic is found in one’s belief in an Old Earth or theistic evolution-both of which finds support from your glam blog queens. Those guy show precious little interest in pedophiles. The age of the earth is far more important.

    Funny thing, many seem to overlook the terrible warning that Jesus gave about those who harm children-a millstone around the neck whilst being tossed into the abyss is far preferable that whatever the Lord has in store for him.

    I believe that pedophilia is a scourge of the church today. It is often seen in churches with hyperauthoritarian pastors who have little accountability to a strong congregation. And when groups like the SBC refuse to set up pedophile databases, they send a message out to many other churches that is OK to downplay this issue.

    Hyperauthroitarianism combined with pastor worship and a belief that the pastor is somehow anointed contributes to this problem.

    Have I answered your question?

  8. Deb

    Oh, I think they know the facts. They don’t care. They have more important fish to fry and can’t have a major contributor getting in trouble.

  9. Pingback: SGM Leadership Coming to an SBC Church Near You? | The Wartburg Watch | Church Leadership

  10. Dee,

    I still find it incredible that the SBC had Mahaney come and speak at the 2010 Pastors Conference in Orlando. And just a year later he is being evaluated to determine whether he is fit for ministry…

    What is wrong with this picture?

  11. Bravo, Dee and Deb. Having you two write an article about some of my thoughts is like having Cate Blanchett, my favorite actor, play me in a movie.

    Pardon me if anything I say below seems redundant as it’s been addressed by Dee already fellow readers, but these are my initial thoughts about today’s article. Please also pardon any mechanical errors as my editor is not at hand at this hour.

    Regarding Dr. Mohler – What struck me most about the quote above is that it seems to suggest that he believes only one form of church polity is aligned with a correct interpretation of the New Testament: a top-down authoritarian structure in which pastors are not held accountable to their congregants. Interestingly this form of polity is presently epitomized by the scandal-plagued Sovereign Grace Ministries denomination which Dr. Mohler appeared to be defending in his remarks above.

    I find it strange that a Congregationalist such as Dr. Mohler would hold such a traditionally Episcopal (as in believing in a system of authoritarian bishoprics/leaders rather than having anything to do with the Episcopal Church in America) belief about how churches should be governed. In addition, Dr. Mohler’s remarks appear to conflict with the views of his dear friend and fellow scholar, Dr. Wayne Grudem.

    Dr. Grudem has written many books but I believe Systematic Theology is the one in which he indicates that many forms of church polity, including forms that allow for the democratic election of deacons, elders, and other church leaders, are aligned with New Testament teachings.

    And as I recall from listening to one of his daily broadcasts, Dr. Mohler himself has criticized the system traditionally utilized by the Roman Catholic Church in which a priestly class rules over the laymen under its authority without a system of checks and balances to keep it free from corruption.

    I never thought I would say this but I believe that C.J. Mahaney and I agree about one thing. While I’m not sure that Dr. Mohler is the smartest person in the world I genuinely consider him one of the top 50 public intellectuals in the on the planet. His intellect astounds me and until I read the comments above, I was impressed by what I believed to be his intellectual honesty as well.

    The great tragedy to me is that Dr. Mohler may not really be a Congregationalist at heart. He was simply born into a family that precluded joining the Roman Catholic Church that’s authoritarian structure is his true love.

    Thus instead of being Cardinal Mohler, a top candidate to become the first American Pope in history, he is merely Pastor Mohler, a frustrated man trying to force Protestant denominations to abandon the Reformation’s greatest legacy: You can read and interpret the Bible yourself without a priestly guide by your side telling you what to think.

    And I leave that with you for your consideration, dear readers.

  12. “I don’t worry about any supposed connection between SGM and the SBC anymore than I worried about lots of other groups that have friends in the SBC and are admired for various aspects of their ministries’

    Interesting response. Consider that Mohler, very shortly after the CJ announcment for stepping down, was quoted by a reporter at the Courier Journal. How did the reporter know? It was not national news at the time. SGM did not send out press releases to the media.

    I say Mohler knew it was coming. And this was planted carefully to provide some cover for Mahaney.

    We should be concerned. Mohler is an EMPLOYEE of an SBC entity. In what capacity was he speaking since his main job is his identity. He was speaking as the president of one of our seminaries and covering for someone like Mahaney. I think Mohler was trying to be careful in the venue he used and what he said. But it does not wash.

    The SBC needs to censor him for this. If he thinks what he read in the documents is no big deal, the SBC has a huge problem. Not even mentioning the donations and speaking gigs for Mahaney with the SBC.

    The timing of all it is very curious. Down right perfect, in fact.

    This is not just about doctrine. Nice try, though. This is about the behavior of those Mohler is supporting. If it is none of our business why was Mohler saying anything at all? He made sgm our business, in effect.

  13. Janna,

    Lots of people think of Mohler as this great intellect but after years of reading his stuff and following his talks, I have to disagree. He is a very clever political strategist and culture warrior. but there are inconsistencies and some twisting of concepts that I find curious. I won’t go into them here but they do exist. He has elevated secondary doctrines to a salvic level. This is more cultural and political then theological.

    There is a ton of subtle heresy coming out of SBTS. We can start with ESS which is the worst.

    Bruce Ware teaches that women are made in the indirect image of God, a derivative, he calls us. Ware also said in one of his books, it is a waste of time to pray to Jesus because he cannot do anything.

    Russ Moore calls for more patriarchy because comps are wimps. And Christians should not be cremated.

    Just snippets of some of the stuff coming from there.

    It goes on and on. Everything but the basic Gospel is coming out of SBTS. Some of it down right ridiculous. but the young people believe it.

    I think they are a perfect fit for SGM. And that is a cause of great concern.

    I think the intellectual promotion of Mohler is somewhat marketing propaganda because he has been able to market his writings to WSJ and other venues. He is on Larry King, etc. He tends to take on cultural topics from a Christian world view. (I do not agree with theconcept of a Christian world view. It is man made)

    But the bottomline is that he is more culture warrior and political strategist.

  14. I guess I should rephrase my question. Sorry. In response to the post section regarding their bad response to the raped child, What I am asking is the church still protecting the child molester? Is this still a legal responsibility of the church to report or is it too late? People keep posting comments as if the church should now do something legally or turn this guy in. I’m wondering if that’s what others want done and if it can be done. I might be missing details but I gathered he was still at the church. Am I wrong? If so, are tge families involved the only ones who can do something about it, and who is protecting the current families at te church from this guy?

  15. >

    In Osteen’s sermons, bad times can be reimagined as opportunities. Someone left you? Lost your job? Thank God! You didn’t need that person. A better job awaits. “God wants to double your blessings as he did for Job,” he says.

    This all makes his critics livid. The Rev. Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president and powerhouse traditionalist, whacks him for “platitudes with attitudes.” The Rev. Mark Driscoll, who packs a Seattle megachurch for doctrine-laden sermons, says Osteen reduces the pursuit of God to “lollipops and skipping while singing hymns.”

    Mohler? Driscoll? “I don’t know who those people are,” Osteen says, looking genuinely mystified.|head

  16. @ Dee: I have to wonder if pedophilia is solely a scourge in the contemporary church – my hunch is that it has *always* been a problem (perhaps more so after movements toward monaticism and enforced celibacy began – which is pretty early in the history of the church).

    I’m not meaning to imply that you think differently; only that I believe that since the 1980s, there has been more honest, upfront talk about the sexual abuse of children, and more resources available to help children (and adults) who were/are the victims of sexual abuse.

    But isn’t it “easier” to point a finger at the person who is engaging in adulterous affairs, or having sex outside of marriage, or who is gay, or who’s embezzling church funds, etc. etc. than it is to speak out for those who cannot necessarily speak for themselves? (Speaking of children there… since it’s so easy to discredit something a child says – even the most truthful child in the world.)


    About bishops and episcopal systems: it’s possible to have that plus congregationally-run churches – and elected bishops. Not saying it’s a perfect system, but it does exist in some denominations and if people are conscientious (and if the lay members of the church have the final say), it really *can* work for the good, not as a top-down method of control.

    I feel sad re. recent developments in the Roman Catholic Church, where the trend seems to be to reverse as many of the gains made as a result of Vatican II as possible. But I have hope, because many people (both lay and religious) are resisting – though God knows, there are very real attempts on the part of some to suppress dissent. (From the top down; most recently, a very comprehensive plan to survey all US nuns and more or less test their willingness to toe the “party line” on many things.)

    As someone who benefited greatly from fellowship with charismatic Catholics back in the early-mid 70s – and who found some real role models (women who were nuns and very actively following the Lord Jesus Christ; also some really wonderful lay men and women), I wish that was still happening today… but times have, in this case unfortunately, changed. (fwiw, all of the Catholic clergy and religious that I knew actively encouraged me to *stay in* my own faith tradition – Lutheranism – and work for renewal and change there, as they were working for the same in their parishes and dioceses.)

    All that to say that while the Roman Catholic Church has a very definite “top down” structure, they will never – imo – be able to suppress dissent among both laity and clergy in the way that was common in the past. (Not since Vatican II, and definitely not since the most recent sex abuse scandals.)

    Back to Dee: I got a kick out of your mention of the word “liberal” above – I guess I am one now, based on some of my current beliefs, but that said, I am still very much a “salvation by grace, through faith” kinda gal, which I attribute to the best parts of what I have been taught (and have studied) as a member of a Lutheran synod.

    there is a great, great deal to learn from brothers and sisters who come from different parts of the body of Christ… if that wasn’t so, I wouldn’t be here commenting! 🙂

  17. Who said Mohler followed a congregational polity? Covenant Theology and the Calvinista re-invention of it, morphing it into the modern articulation of their neocalvinism, follows what I was taught was a Presbyterian form of church government. Or is Mohler calling for a more episcopal polity?

    I believe that the Calvinistas have awarded themselves the duty of purifying the Church, starting with the SBC. The SBC (in which men like Mohler willfully chose to participate) is congregational. But they want to bring the “only Biblically true” form of government to all the poor, ignorant souls in the congregational SBC so that they can usher in the Millennial Reign and/or the Second Coming of Christ through focused human effort. A big part of their job involves taking over the SBC from those nasty dispensational, congregational Christians who are to be pitied because they just don’t know any better. It’s all for the good of the people and the good of Jesus.

    In other words, rather than leave the SBC, recognizing that they are at odds with the BF&M (pre 2000), they are working as agents of change within their SBC in order to remake it in what they want it to be. Part of that involves a top-down, authoriarian style of church government and chain of command. First the SBC, then all Christendom, then the world, all so that the lion and lamb can snuggle. And guess who gets to be in control of God’s efforts to accomplish this noble task of the purification of all human institutions on the earth? It’s kinda like becoming the king.

    Is anyone participating here familiar enough with the 1689 London Baptist Confession document to comment on what it has to say on this matter? Or as a Calvinista, are men like Mohler just making it up as they go, choosing what suits them at the time? It’s just been my experience that Reformed Baptists defer to 1689 LBC document as God-breathed. Are they writing their own new Baptist Confession, perhaps called the Louisville Baptist Confession of the New Millienium? Or would Mohler’s name have to go on it?

  18. What is the deal with Peacemakers? Does this group really train people when to use their stuff and when not to use their stuff?

    “These were situations where the family of the victim and the family of the perpetrator were friends. There were pre-existing, close relationships. As they’re trying to sort these things through, when relational conflicts arose between the victim’s family and the perpetrator’s family, we unwisely used a Peacemaker model for conflict resolution. This resulted, put them on an equal plane – get the log out of your eye, get the log out of your eye, go for the speck, go for the speck – this resulted in the victim’s family being corrected when they should have been gently cared for as sufferers.”

    Could it be that this is a way to spread the blame to others? Man up, guys. (Peacemakers made us do it)!

    Did anyone at SGM ever point out what they thought might be wrong with the Peacemaker Ministries (PM) process? They may be shifting blame to PM, but where was the error? Keeping these details vague about this statement only adds to their obfuscation.

    Did someone at SGM misapply PM ideology or process? Is there a problem with PM teachings and process? Can the PM teachings be misapplied? If there is a problem with the system and the “PM stuff,” why haven’t they pointed it out specifically.

    I can tell you that Ken Sande’s book, if that is any indication, improperly exegetes Scripture and considers forgiveness and reconciliation to be one and the same thing. The PM process favors and gives more power to the authority in the process of negotiation, claiming that the Bible calls for Shepherding style “submission” to leadership (preferring the military application of the Greek term as opposed to the non-military application of the word).

    It follows a shepherding model which demands that all who participate surrender to the sacred science: no leader can ever be wrong, and neither can their application of their doctrine which always prefers leadership. A problem with a congregant always prefers the idea that the problem started with the congregant. Within the PM paradigm, the virtuous and lofty end of what a church leader is trying to do via their belief system and structure is always more important than the needs of any one individual, and the group is justified in using whatever means is necessary to achieve the chief ends of the group.

    And if you need more proof that the PM paradigm is just the old ideology of PDI and the Shepherding/Discipleship movement, if your church doesn’t have a covenant for every member to sign when they join your church, PM will be happy to provide you with one. This is right out of shepherding.

    Isn’t there a document that SGM members are supposed to sign which includes some strange statement that you will agree never to sue SGM with the purpose of taking the building away from them? That is part of the sacred science to which you agree when you join there. From PDI/SGM history, this means that brick and mortar trumps the flesh and blood of your molested children.

    The only thing that will correct and properly address the problem with the PM paradigm involves renouncement of shepherding and an abandonment of the principles of shepherding. The CJ worship must stop. The leadership must do what is Biblical and resign because they’ve disqualified themselves. They need to call in an expert in spiritual abuse to address these issues. It’s not PM’s fault, it’s SGM’s fault for employing the system of Shepherding/Discipleship Movement, and PM just also happens to employ the same system.

    They are passing the buck, handing it off to PM, but that buck automatically falls right back into SGM hands. They have to renounce shepherding. The only way that I can see them doing this involves either disbanding SGM or bringing in someone from the International Cultic Studies Association or the National Association for Christian Recovery (with whom VanVonderan is affiliated), or someone like Ron Enroth to review the system and to educate the congregants.

    It’s not PM. It’s Shepherding. They abandoned the name “People of Destiny,” but all they did was change the name. This same thing happened with Christian Growth Ministries International (Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Ern Baxter and Don Basham) when Pat Robertson denounced them and the system. They disbanded their centralized group, but they all went back to the same old same old of manipulating their flock. “Don’t spread discord among the brethren (You’re never allowed to voice legitimate complaints or problems, even if people are greviously sinning and harming one another).” “Touch not mine anointed (ministers), and do my prophets no harm (It is a sin to criticize any minister or voice anything remotely problematic concerning them).” “The gifts and callings of God (of your anointed ministers and apostles) are irrevocable (so it is wrong to do anything to cause a minster or apostle to be removed from their position).” All they did was abandon their formal ties and the formal sessions of reporting to an overseer. But they just shifted their control mechanisms over into a lighter form of the process which they call “mentoring” or some such thing. But the basic flaws in the system and the assumptions about how the system (the Church) should run remained intact. People were still required to submit to those central leaders.

  19. Note: I stated “People were still required to submit to those central leaders.” If you’re unfamiliar with shepherding and what that looks like, it means that you have some cell group leader who is your overseer, and you are encouraged to have a mentor (who is often your cell group or care group leader). They report to someone else who is a step up in the hierarchy (along with the personal details of what’s going on in your life). And then, there are elite rulers at the top. It seems rather innocent until you get to be a part of the process. It is a control mechanism. Ever wonder why some elder comes up to you and “speaks into your life” or “speaks prophetically” to you or happens to have a remarkably poignant thing to say to you? It’s because this info is reported informally up through the ranks, through want appears to be an informal system that makes sure that pastors are looking over their flock. It’s a control mechanism. It’s called accountability, but it’s little more than control.

  20. “We were ignorant…We didn’t “get it”…”

    Oh, they were never ignorant. They just got caught. They got it the whole time. They’re just used to getting away with it.

    They never had to deal with the blogs who give people a safer venue to be able to question and consider those things that don’t add up. One of the first things that you notice about the problems within a group like SGM is that something just feels wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on it. This is because you’re never permitted to talk about anything by thinking about it for yourself. You have to accept what the group tells you.

    Because people can write on a blog, be anonymous, take time to think before they have to respond (which is immediate in a social setting with live contact with others), and can do so without fear of immediate retaliation via the usual control mechanisms in the group, they have freedom to think. And thinking is exactly what SGM does not want anyone to do.

    These guys get it and got it long before the disgruntled and abused members of SGM ever did.

    They are showing attrition because they got caught, but contrition can’t be faked.

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  22. Anyone wonder why Molher says this and what this really means?

    “It’s very hard to criticize it on biblical terms, as you’ll see on most of those Web sites. It basically comes down to the criticism, ‘I don’t like that.’”

    Mohler’s using obfuscation and minimization here, along with some good old fashioned “loaded language.”

    All these blogs do is describe the behavior of the Pharisees in modern language. Without some study of the culture and time of the writing of the NT, we do not understand what “straining gnats” means. Evangelicals do not have temples with gold and are not required to swear on the Temple as was practiced under Judaism and was given to the people as a modern example for them. We must translate what that means over into our culture.

    Manipulation and control can be described in many ways, and this is what Jesus described when he confronted the Pharisees. We saw the same kinds of things in the Church at Galatia. Paul confronted Peter about these kinds of problems. But in our culture, they don’t directly translate.

    So this is a “smoke and mirrors” comment by Mohler. He’s telling people that unless they hear King James Version terminology, they should reject what they hear. (Funny how he’s allowed to use modern terms, however.) We don’t describe manipulation and control in the same way that the Greek language records it or in the way that the culture of that day articulated it. We don’t translate it the same way and in the same language that Tyndale and Wycliffe did. It would be inappropriate for us to use those terms. Maybe I should start talking like the direct Greek translation?

    I say to you the Dee this day, I enjoy the blog of you — the blog of you all — of you and of the Deb.

    Maybe they can offer classes about how to speak Biblically?

    Most of what is discussed on these blogs can be categorized under either David Henke’s model of spiritual abuse or under Robert Lifton’s thought reform model. No one is saying anything as general as, “I don’t like that.” They’re qualifying the details concerning the Pharisaical treatment they’ve received. I go the extra step of classifying it as cultic by evaluating the behaviors in terms of an objective set of behaviors according to these stated criteria.

    Is that not what systematic theology does? I look at behaviors and plug them into the overall pattern of manipulation. (Fallen human nature makes manipulation pretty predictable.) Theologians look at Scripture and plug it into a doctrinal framework. Mohler uses the framework of Covenant Theology and plugs his understanding of Scripture and the doctrine that he derives from that into his version of Covenant Theology. When he takes issue with a doctrinal matter, is he making a nebulous statement of “I don’t like that?” No. And neither are the people on the blogs.

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  24. Thanks for all the great commentary! TWW has the smartest commenters ON THE PLANET!!!

    In case anyone wonders about the context in which C.J. Mahaney made the declaration that Al Mohler is “the smartest man on the planet”, he said it during a panel discussion at the 2010 Resolved Conference.

    Here’s what I find intriguing. Mark Mullery confesses that he and his pastoral team misused the Peacemaker model, yet look how the mothership is attempting to move forward through this quagmire.

    Ken Sande Here This Sunday

    “Guest teacher Ken Sande will be with us at Covenant Life this Sunday, August 7, to preach a message entitled, “The Gospel: Power for Peacemaking.” Ken is well known to many Covenant Life members as author of The Peacemaker and president of Peacemaker Ministries.”

    I’d love to know how much $$$ SGM has forked over to Ken Sande/Peacemaker Ministries for all these years.

  25. The non-apology apology deserves to be walked all over, as do the non-apologizing apologizers! What a crock of strategic cover up and make us look good rhetorical devices!

    In some states, churches are exempt from the requirement that many have to report abuse when they become aware of it. In most states, teachers, nurses, doctors, school administrators, daycare workers, police officers, and other state-licensed professionals are required to report and protected when they do, unless the report is intentionally false. It is a crime for them to not report and they can lose their license for not reporting. BTW, abuse occurs to the elderly and infirm as well as to children, including sexual abuse of the elderly in nursing homes!!! (Almost as disgusting as sexual abuse of a pre-pubescent child.)

    Aside from the possibly permanent psychological, emotional, social and spiritual trauma, with small children, there is also the physical trauma, which can permanently affect them, including the ability to reproduce (vaginal injury) and if by sodomy, to permanently affect their ability to control bowel movements. Such children must be seen by a physician trained in identifying the consequences of sexual abuse for evaluation. On occasion, the child can be examined under anesthesia to prevent further trauma.

    Delaying reporting is a form of coverup, as is inserting oneself between the family and the legal authorities and not aggressively pursuing the interest of the abused child. It should subject the pastors to criminal and civil liability, and to being defrocked.

  26. Cindy K, you’ll find what you want in the LBCF in chapter 26, “Of the Church”. A side-by-side comparison with the Westminster Confession (the confession of most Presbyterian denominations in the US and Great Britain) shows that LBCF significantly altered the wording of Westminster, removing much about the visible-invisible church distinction and adding much about the duties of church membership and the selection of church officers (elders and deacons).

    As I come from a Presbyterian background and hold to presbyterian polity, I’m not sure where what it says might differ from traditional congregational stances. What it says harmonizes perfectly with Presbyterian polity, but completely leaves out the most important part, which is the actual presbytery part where members are held accountable not only at the church level but, if the church fails to hold them accountable, at the presbytery level and then in the church court of the entire denomination.

  27. Response to Cindy K. re: Peacemakers

    I read your post from 5:17 am today and was surprised by your comments about Peacemakers supporting shepherding. I belong to a PCA church that has used Peacemaker resources for years, and I’ve never seen any support for the abusive practices associated with the shepherding movement. I visited their site this morning and browsed around for anything that would seem to support shepherding, but came up empty. What I did find were two on-line articles about how churches can build safeguards against abusive leadership.

    Accountability: The Mark of a Wise and Protected Leader

    Approachability: The Passport to Real Ministry and Leadership

    There was also an article teaching how churches should handle incidents of sexual abuse, A Better Way to Handle Abuse, which I found to be solidly biblical and only wish more churches followed.

    I have no doubt that people can twist and misuse principles Peacemakers teaches—just just as they can twist and abuse Scripture itself—to support abusive leadership practices. But from what I read on their website, it seems to me that PM consistently speaks against and seeks to prevent such practices.

  28. “Is anyone participating here familiar enough with the 1689 London Baptist Confession document to comment on what it has to say on this matter? Or as a Calvinista, are men like Mohler just making it up as they go, choosing what suits them at the time? It’s just been my experience that Reformed Baptists defer to 1689 LBC document as God-breathed. Are they writing their own new Baptist Confession, perhaps called the Louisville Baptist Confession of the New Millienium? Or would Mohler’s name have to go on it?”

    Ex-Reformed Baptist here (formerly a member of a RB cult, er, “church,” that used the 1689 as their statement of faith), so I’ll give it a shot. My old “church” was *hardcore* LBC. While they would have denied that the 1689 was on par with Scripture, in practice the two were one and the same. That “church” was somewhat of a leader among RBers, so I think I can safely assume their interpretation of the 1689 was fairly standard in the RB camp. Dug up my old copy of the 1689 (apparently it managed to survive my cleaning binges), so here goes.

    Elder rule *is* required by the LBC: “the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.” (LBC 26.8)

    My old RB cult was congregational-ish. Periodically (once or twice a year IIRC) members nominated elders, who had to be approved by the current elders, before being voted on by the rest of the church. During my time there, there were no votes on elders. There were quarterly meetings where members voted by show of hand (IIRC *every* motion passed). While there were occasional questions of clarification, there was virtually no discussion or debate on anything. I only remember one vote where there were a few dissenters, but even that passed by a wide margin. At the time I thought that was a sign of great “unity;” in retrospect, it was a sign of a very authoritarian structure. The “elders” (half paid pastors, half lay) were very controlling. Questioning was not permitted, nor was discussing other viewpoints if you happened to disagree with them on anything (when I joined I had to sign a paper stating that I would bring up any disagreements *only* with the “elders”).

    The work of elders, according to the LBC:

    “The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” (LBC 26.10)

    Believe me, I have *zero* love for the PCA (long story), but I’m not sure that I would say their view of polity is the same as RBers.’ There are also RBers who consider Mohler and SBTS “not Reformed enough.” I know my old “church” did. However, I don’t really think he’s that far off of what the 1689 LBC teaches on church government.

    Sorry for the long rambling comment. I hope it makes sense!

  29. Hello, Eagle.

    I understand.

    Don’t be anything. Be Eagle. Take a break from the weighty burden of philosphical, theological matters.

    Go to Yosemite and do some strenuous hiking (like Half Dome) in breathtaking bigger-than-life surroundings. Swim in clear bracing water. It will hit the reset button deeply. Will do a lot toward detoxing. I think I can promise you these things.

  30. Eagle–

    Dude (you’re a guy, right? lol. I hope so. Or I should say gal), but believe it or not, I get you and I understand what you mean by what you said. No offense taken. I think Christianity has been and is many of the things you’ve listed. But that is a broken Christianity. Not a true one. And certainly not indicative of the true God. Thing is, all of that is true, and yet, none of it is true about God. As a Christian, I, too, have had to work through some abuse issues and really bad stuff done in the name of Christianity and even in the name of God.

    It still makes me angry. I’m still piecing life together, although WITH God, and coming out much better on the other end. It is hard. It’s really unfair. Even just last night, I expressed to God, finally, how I was so angry and hurt by so many things he has allowed to happen… How I’ve not felt his care for me. How I feel that I can’t see his hands–that they are tied behind his back. That people have made him so confusing and difficult to understand. That he seems angry. That he has no desire to change my life or make it better. That I just didn’t feel he and I could communicate well with each other and that I need him to do more than what it all appears to be.

    I told him how I feel that it’s unfair that things have happened to me, that I didn’t ask for, and I’m left to deal with the consequences and deal with being put back together. I cried myself to sleep. I told the Lord that I knew in the morning, that I would be able to forgive Him, but I just couldn’t right now becaues I was angry.

    Strangely, I felt the Lord inclining both his ear and heart to me. I hadn’t told him those things. I’ve just had these “Christian” responses to everything–afraid to tell God what I think, how I feel and how I feel he doesn’t have my best interest at heart. How could he let me go through some of these things again?

    Some of the answers, I’ve gotten. Others, I haven’t. And I can’t prove to you that I felt God’s presence, although I feel that I did. But I felt his compassion and that he listened.

    Today, I realize and see that I have a lot of work separating out what and who God is and isn’t. But I feel there is tremendous freedom in that because I don’t have to accept what I’m told–I can challenge anything and I can simply read His Word for myself. I can settle with the fact that I don’t understand it all. But at the end of hte day, I need to know that God is good, that he cares for me and loves me, that he forgives me, and that he has best intentions towards me. That he would do whatever it took to keep me to himself. I can see those things clearly–even as I look back over my entire life and see that God has done just that.

    I think God can handle your questions, even your unbelief, your disappointment, anger and so forth. I believe he has so much compassion for you as I know that he has for me today. It’s a hard struggle, and I pray that as you come through this struggle, which you cannot avoid, that the Lord would prove Himself to you apart from the bad teaching, the misapplied Scripture, the spiritual paralysis and abusive controlling teachings.

    May we all find how pure God is and that his heart and love for us cannot be contained. Please pray that for me as well. Much love to you, Eagle.

  31. NLR, Elastigirl, Eagle

    When I ask about the nature of God, many people tell me what they were taught as children: God is love. And it is true and it is the primary characteristic of God. He came to earth and died a horrible death as God incarnate — in a human body — because of his love for us.

    Some people, called strong Calvinists or Reformed, teach that love is not the primary or defining characteristic of God. Rather that sovereignty is his defining characteristic. And it is a strange form of sovereignty, because, to them, God has no control over his sovereignty, so that what he wants to happen always happens and all that happens does so because he wanted it to happen. Seems a bit like a Midas type God. But every other sovereign restrains their use of their sovereignty, because those who do not are despots who are not loved by their subjects.

    So I believe that God has the power, the sovereignty, to do what he would choose to do, but that God has restrained his own sovereignty to allow humans, beginning with Adam and Eve, to choose to love and obey him or not. And because of our human nature, we tend not to be very obedient, so that sin is in the world. And sin causes problems for people.

    As to nature and natural calamities, God created a universe with physical laws so that it is possible for people to live and thrive. He allows the physical laws he created to work, which results in natural calamities. Some of those natural calamities are worsened by man’s feeble attempts to limit them, showing our inability to improve upon God’s handiwork.

  32. Janna

    I think that you would find that secondary issue theology is often fluid amongst those who want a certain outcome. For example, Grudem is big over at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He also regularly teaches classes at the SGM Pastor’s College which trains men, only, on how to lead churches, SGM style which is so far from congregationalism, it hurts.

    I believe this is all about the pastor as king-specially anointed and gifted to make declarations on theology, governance, etc. And, no matter what one writes in a theology book, it is the practice that truly shows us from whence these guys come.

  33. Lin

    It is all about behavior, authoritarianism, and nothing to do with c=doctrine. And these guys all list in the same direction.

  34. NLR
    In one of the cases, the family reported it to the police over, so they said, the objections of the pastors. And yes, in one of the other situations the molester was still in the church after the report. Read Noel’s story at SGM Survivors.

  35. Still sad
    I may not be a fan of Osteen but how can Mohler defend the stuff that goes on at Mahaney’s church and feel free to critique Osteen? Selective criticism-Osteen didn’t give bucks to SBTS. i wonder, if he did, would there be some nicey nicey going on?

  36. Numo, my self monikered liberal friend,

    We have something in common. I was involved in Catholic charismatic circles in upstate NY back in the 70s-Father John Bertolucci (?sp). I also met some awesome nuns and priests who allowed me, a Protestant to participate in communion with them! And I looove your comments-liberal or no. You have much to add.

    I do not fully understand the evil that surrounds the pedophile situation. So many churches want to conceal it and so many want to disbelieve the reports. I believe that it may be the most important issue in the church today. Protecting the weak and defenseless shows the true character of our faith.I must say, it is also interesting that the more pastors are into their own authority, the worse they are at dealing with pedophiles in the church.

  37. Cindy

    What you wrote is most interesting. Do you think that Mohler falls in to the trap of believing that the works of men can usher us into the New Millennium? In the past few years, I have come to question some of the theology surrounding this issue.

  38. Cindy
    What you just wrote is its own blog post. How do you feel about us using your comment in this regard. I knew nothing of this background of Peacemakers and Shepherding. I believe it is significant because of the roots of SGM in shepherding and now, it appears that Peacemakers may backdoor this stuff as well.

  39. “…CJ Mahaney counts Al Mohler amongst his closet of friends. He even called Al Mohler the “smartest man in the world…”

    What utter and complete nonsense! Everybody knows (especially Bobby & Mr. Klaatu) that professor Barnhardt is the smartest man in the world.

  40. Chuck I don’t think it has anything to do with Peacemakers going shepherding. I think it has to do with making a living and many groups hiring Peacemakers to use as cover. Peacemakers is a vendor. who pays them? Why would they bit the hand that feeds them so well?

    It is no different than Dave Ramsey teaching people to tithe. he makes his nice living off churches holding his seminars and selling his materials. He tells people in debt to pay the church first. Why? There is no set tithe in the NC. Ramsey knows where his bread is buttered. So does Peacemakers.

    Peacemakers says the right things on their website and in their books. That is meaningless when you look at the actions.

  41. dee: “I was involved in Catholic charismatic circles in upstate NY back in the 70s-Father John Bertolucci (?sp).”

    You mean Fr. Guido Sarducci?

  42. Chuck

    There are materials that say what to do. But how is it applied in real life? Perhaps your church is not abusive and judiciously uses the Peacemaker model.

    However, in the case of SGM, you have a seriously flawed, in my opinion, model of hyper authoritarian leadership. Ken Sande is personally friendly with Mahaney. Peacemakers state that they are not in the business of changing church polity. However, what if the polity itself is abusive? Peacemakers definitely markets to the pastors and does seem pastor biased as opposed to congregationally biased. Perhaps this is because their business comes form the pastors?

    I also believe that Peacemakers works when their are two sides to a story and both have merit and some means of compromise is necessary. Also, it works in a churches which are decent churches that do not abuse their members. Perhaps that is your church. If so, good for you. Peacemakers probably works.

    But that is not true in abusive churches. Please read The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. In such circumstances, I believe the Peacemaker model could actually have harmful consequences for those who are being abused. There are far too many churches with deeply flawed polity and leadership and the compromise method does not deal with these real issues.

  43. Amanda

    What an excellent comment! You said “My old “church” was *hardcore* LBC. While they would have denied that the 1689 was on par with Scripture, in practice the two were one and the same.”

    Do you know how much pain is caused by churches which treat secondary issues on par with Scripture? Have you ever tried to criticize any small part of the life of John Calvin with a true Calvinista? I have, and let me say that, if beheading were allowed, my head would be long gone. They defend Calvin like the are defending the Bible. My guess is that some of these guys would be martyred for Calvin is given the chance.

  44. Elastigirl

    We have visited over 40 National Parks and I can tell you that it resets my buttons every time. Personal favorite-The Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

  45. RE numo on Tue, Aug 02 2011 at 01:53 am:

    Don’t worry about being labeled a “liberal”, you are in good company. Muff is about as liberal as they come, and accordin’ to some, he ain’t even “saved”.

    Don’t ever let anybody try and marginalize you by making the word “liberal” into a perjorative or something that can be pinned onto you in order to subtract credibility. You have many intelligent things to say, it’s only the shrill shouters who are threatened.

  46. Arce

    Compelling as usual. i have been mulling a lot on your idea of God being sovereign over His sovereignty. Would you ever like to write down your thoughts so they could be posted? You have such a story-espeially in regards to your daughter who was wounded by some of John Piper’s words.

  47. Ted

    Did you ever doubt the conclusion? Mahaney is “fit for ministry.” Tome to head for the hills, brother.

  48. Muff

    I think the liberals who post on this blog are amongst the finest in the nation! You bring much joy to my life.

  49. @ Eagle: what elastagirl said! Believe me… I feel for you, where you are, as I was in a very similar place not too many years ago. It takes time to detox and regain one’s bearings after being in an abusive situation, whether it’s church, work or a close relationship.

    You don’t have to be anything – except yourself (as elastagirl said).

    I can tell you that for a long time I felt like I was wandering around in a forest, looking for God. I could sense his presence, I knew he was nearby and wouldn’t let any harm come to me. But I couldn’t quite pinpoint where he was… although, with all of the old “safety nets” (that proved to be full of holes) removed, I just didn’t quite know how to connect with him.

    At the same time, I felt like I was OK… that it didn’t matter that I was 100 yards (or 50, or even 5) away from him but couldn’t quite “see” him. He was still there, both with me and *for* me. And it didn’t seem to matter to him that I was at was, seemingly, a distance. It was OK, and so was I. Safe – with no need to rush around, trying to find him. He was/is there, and I’d be able to find him, because he wasn’t going to go away. Ever.

    I don’t know if my “mental picture” will be helpful to you (or anyone else), but I’m willing to bet that others feel similarly. (I also sometimes felt like I was walking through a long abandoned railway tunnel and could not see the light at the end – though I knew it had to be there, and that I would be able to see it eventually… as long as I kept walking. Again, no need for haste, no rush. The outside – and the daylight – was/is there, even though I could not see them in the middle of the tunnel, where all was dark and it felt like that darkness would never dissipate.)

    Ultimately (though maybe I ought to use a different word, as i’m still very much “in process”), things got to a point where, for the very 1st time in my life, I believed that God loved me – that his love has nothing to do with following rules or with trying to measure up in ways that are quite SGM-like. (I had decades of that, due to being in churches that all had discipleship movement roots.)

    but you know… all of this has taken time. (In my case, 8 years and counting.) No doubt that is true for you as well – but that’s OK, too.

    In the meantime, please don’t worry about labels, or trying to figure out what you believe or don’t believe. (I can get caught in that trap if I let myself go there.) It sounds like some distance – and perspective – will help tremendously, but those things are gained step by step – by just living.

    I hope this makes sense – and you know, it’s fine to be good to yourself, to allow yourself some breathing room. (Like others have said, I bet a trip to a national park or some other place you would really like to go would be great… someplace where you can relax.)

    all the best,

  50. Arce–

    I wish I could tell you altogether how teachings on God’s sovereignty has damaged my once hopeful heart. As I even sit now and contemplate what that means, it truly overwhelms me. Not in a way where I am left unglued–but it’s just something I cannot grasp.

    If I could give you a summary, I would say this: Two years ago I went into a Reformed Baptist church looking for commitment to Scripture and to the clarity of the Gospel. I had come from a charismatic background with all sorts of ish portrayed as Christianity and God. My personality tends to be one that desires to get things right. It might come from the fact that I did come from a broken home where I was abused. And so as a youngster, it was sort of my mantra to “get things right” so that I wouldn’t cause further damage to my life or that of my future family in the way that my parents hurt me. With that, it sort of extended to all areas of my life. In a way, I responded by becoming legalistic. Surely, if I got all these things right, then and only then could God love me, right?

    Naturally, then, after coming out of a bad church situation and searching for truth, Reformed Theology seemed like the Mecca of truth. Seriously. I was overwhelmed with joy to find my last church knowing that I had now gotten it right. In the beginning and through much of my experience, I was love-bombed, I was pat on the back when my works were good, and I was sin-sniffed when they were not. Things started to look rather…strange.

    The more I had come to learn to debate about doctrine, theology, the nature of God, the soundness of doctrine, different schools of thought–well, the more God seemed so academic, sterile, and just cold. These past two years, the only way that I can describe experiencing God in all this is that I was getting right, and he was proud that I was getting it right. Those other people–the other churches, my family, they weren’t Christians and certainly they got it wrong. I had the need to tell them that all the time too. I was concerned for their souls because I had learned that you could possibly not really be a Christian. Even though my family and friends were professing believers. Sure…they didn’t get it right. They don’t go to church much. But they have acknowledged that they are sinners in need of a savior and have all accepted Christ into their lives. But I learned from my RBC that it wasn’t enough. And that they were just nominal Christians and not really truly converted.

    Along with struggling severely, and I mean SEVERELY in an predominately white congregation that (1) had a culture that didn’t include mine, and really, honestly believed mine was wrong, (2) made an idol out of marriage and family, and (3) was works centered–I was here, without my family, single and not sure that God even cared.

    Frequent teachings on God’s Sovereignty was preached alongside the fact that as I struggled and confessed my struggles openly to my pastors, elders, “friends” as we were encouraged to do, I knew that people felt bad for me, but their responses sent me into a depression. Mainly, that God was Sovereign. And because of his Sovereignty, he had ordained my life to be as such.

    I questioned them on the fact that apparently, God, in His Sovereignty, obviously didn’t will marriage and family for African-American women. Because not only do the men in the congregation not appear to like black women, but we aren’t finding husbands and starting families anywhere else either. I would ask questions like why does God only seem to want families for young, white women who are very beautiful and look a certain way? Again, their response was that it was just how I was seeing things and that it was more about God’s Sovereignty, and that he hadn’t probably willed marriage and family for me. I’d push back again and say, well, it appears that God must feel that way about most of the African-American women in our congregation, as well as the older caucasian women over 30. What was God’s problem? Seriously! Why was he acting like a bigot and pushing ageism. I thought God was better than that.

    Month after month, week after week, the weddings, engagements, pregnancy announcements and babies flourished around me. The sermon topics: marriage. The weekend events: marriage. The announcements: marriage and family. The excuses of why people acted shady towards their once-best friends: marriage and family. The billboard out in the hallway: marriage and newborns. But yet, I was told to repent and change my attitude because I was making an idol out of marriage. Not them. Me. It was EVERYWHERE all around me. Single women sucking up to the marrieds, scrounging for any little nibble they would leave for time to talk and have “friendship”.

    On top of add that, you add the teachings on the constant protection, leadership and love of men and a husband to honor you, treat you like a woman, display fully your God-given femininity most in this way–and what you have left is a person who feels her life is empty on many levels. Not only am I not displaying my full god-given femininity, but my sexuality cannot be displayed either, or even enjoyed. I also have no man to “wash me in the Word”, to protect me, to honor me, and care for me. I cannot stay home and blog about how perfect and wonderful it is being married because I have to get up and go to work everyday to a job I wasn’t liking that much. I couldn’t take a vacation to exotic places in the world because the church is too busy serving every freaking body that the people you like, your friends, still don’t have time for you, even if they are single. And I don’t fit the special prayers and blessings for parents that were so in abundance because I was/am far from being one.

    It’s been another world. This environment and this culture sent me in a downward spiral and I ended up hating myself and having a hard heart towards God. It’s funny how people talk about the local church and community so much, serving one another, and God’s sovereignty–yet, they are cold and lack warmth in their spirits. I’ve never had a person listen to me, pray for me, that would even put their hand on mine to make me feel comforted when I would be sobbing crying. I never saw Christ in these people. I saw Calvin. I saw Spurgeon. I saw Lloyd-Jones. I saw Mohler. I saw Dever. I just didn’t see Christ. I saw the wrathful God of the Old Testament, not the weeping, bleeding Christ of the New Testament who had overwhelming grace for me. I didn’t experience the God who said that he who dwelled in a High and Lofty place would also dwell with me, who was contrite and lowly in Spirit. That he would come down from his throne and incline his ear to me… that he would bend down and feed me… And all this because God had to be Sovereign rather than loving, compassionate, and joyful…. go figure.

  51. @ Dee: hey, I don’t know that I really am all that “liberal” per se, in terms of my beliefs. (Though I’m sure the IFB – or even Al Mohler – might think I’m destined for hell. ;))

    I was so rigid in my beliefs for so long – fearing that even the slightest deviation from a set way of thinking would result in some catastrophe – that … well. I couldn’t breath. I was afraid.

    Now, not so much. Which is, imo, no small miracle! 🙂

  52. @ NLR: I hear you (as a single, older white woman who was just about drowned by the flood – the idolatry of marriage and family and the constant lack of respect show toward single people – including those who are divorced + widows/widowers).

    I feel so much better about myself and my life now that I have no contact with that kind of “teaching” – and with churches where that is the big emphasis.

    Something is wrong with their picture(s) of how life should be – not with me.

    Or you.

  53. “an,” not “a.”

    I’ll blame my typos on just having got back from the dentist and still having a numb nose due to the novocaine! 😉

  54. This is the God I want to know again: (some excerpts from Isaiah 57)

    Comfort for the Contrite

    “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy:

    “I live in a high and holy place, but also with her who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me— the breath of man that I have created.

    17I was enraged by her sinful greed; I punished her, and hid my face in anger, yet she kept on in her willful ways. 18 I have seen her ways, but I will heal her; I will guide her and restore comfort to her, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.

    Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” Should it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
    to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

    Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

    9Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

    “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

    11The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. For you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

    12Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; today you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

  55. In Chapter 10 of Ken Sande’s book “The Peacemaker,” Sande does present a definition of aphiemi, the NT Greek word for “forgive” (to remit or release). In context and how the word was used, it is a term applied to money. If someone owes you money and does not pay it, you have the right to go to them to demand what they owe you. If you forgive them that debt, you waive your rights to collect on the debt.

    Reconciliation is a different word altogether, katallaga. This is also a term used to describe financial transactions, and it is very different from forgiving a debt. Reconciliation is a reckoning that the parties make, essentially wiping away the history of the debt. You start new books.

    Consider that you go to market and pay $1 for a pound of meal. You get home, and you realize that you’ve only been given half of a pound. It is your right to go back to that vendor and demand that they either give you half a buck back or give you a half pound of meal. When you forgive that debt, you agree to not demand anything of that vendor. You just let it go.

    When you go back to the vendor again, what happens if they repeat this error? You may again decide that you will forgive the vendor, releasing your right to go back to demand justice. Now, think about it. When you need more meal, are you going to go back to this same vendor to do business, or are you going to take your business somewhere else?

    If you were wronged and decided to reconcile with this vendor, that is a decision to forget that any wrong was ever done, and you affirm them as a legitimate party who has done right by you. You agree to go do business with them, behaving as though they’d never cheated you before.

    Paul did not declare the Gospel of Forgiveness to us in 2 Corinthians 5. He declared the Gospel of Reconciliation to us, a far more powerful business. Forgiveness means that we don’t have to pay the debt we owe. Reconciliation means that Jesus pays our debt and declares us righteous before God, and then He goes to prison for us, too. We get His righteousness and He gets our sin, and then by the power of His Blood, He wipes those sins off the books. That is far more than just forgiving a debt but is atonement, expiation, and a complete extinguishing of the wrong.

    God requires us to forgive our enemies, but He does not require us to reconcile if there is no contrition. I would have to reproduce the whole chapter in Sande’s book, but he merges reconciliation and forgiveness and treats them as identical concepts. This is on their website, I’m sure, but I will mention this much. He describes forgiveness as a decision to make four promises:

    1. I will not dwell on this incident.
    2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
    3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
    4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

    I have no problem with points 1 & 2. I do have a problem with points 3 & 4 which are reconciliation and are not required for forgiveness.

    If your child was molested, you can forgive the offender, but is it right to never talk about the incident or to be required to have intimate contact or unhindered contact with the offender? That’s appropriate? It is if you’ve been following shepherding and were raised to believe that this is proper conduct and what the Bible demands of a Christian.

  56. Numo–

    Thank you, and I certainly understand. Many of my “friends” at my old church were also older white women. They too, had a hard time and are still having it because they refuse to leave. Many of them have just given up hope that they will ever be married. But take that and put on top of that hurt and disappointment, and add to the fact that your race also compounded the issue–because not only was I part of the “older” women (I’m 33 BTW), I was also black. So not only didn’t I have a good chance, but considering my race and that it wasn’t on the menu, I definitely had no chance at all. This issue had been acknowledged by pastors and elders, but they didn’t know what to do about it. The ideas and things I knew needed to be done, weren’t going to be done. Because it would involve changing much of how things worked. So I was also dealing with racism on top of that. Along with other African and African-American and Asian friends of mine. Although from my POV, the Asian women didn’t have as tough of a problem as the black women did. One of the guys who was kinda cool with me said yeah, um, conservative, middle class white men don’t generally marry or consider black women. Sorry. But it’s a fact. I stared at him and said I wish you were lying, but look at the situation here.

    I was told that if I chose to stay, I had to consider the fact that I might not ever get married, and that I would have to think about being a missionary, so to speak, in a foreign land. It’s funny, because that’s exactly how I felt and my friends too– like foreigners in the gate that nobody cared to even really get to know on a real personal level. Many superficial relationships. Much of meeting people where they were, but they had no idea that your culture was not like theirs. I couldn’t believe I was dealing with this with Christians. It floored me.

  57. NLR,

    One of my images/sensations of God comes from this. Years ago, I had a friend who was over 6 ft tall and very broad shouldered, though thin. While I was at his home one day, his 2-3 year old child came in crying. My friend knelt on one knee, gathered the child up and wrapped him in his arms and the one knee that was sticking up, to the point where the child almost disappeared in his fathers hug.

    There have been times in my life, like following a car wreck where I had a broken neck and was left for 4 hours in the back of the ER, checked on every hour or so, strapped to a back board with glass between my head and the board. In great pain. And in my mind, I climbed up into God’s lap and was enveloped in his love and I was comforted. I began to sing, and basically sang the Baptist hymnal from memory (I led singing 2 services each Sunday for over four years at a church, and at 45 (my age then) I had years of experience with the greater hymnody). What had been frightening and painful became something entirely different for me.

    So, whenever I get down or feel under attack, I begin to pray and again imagine myself in God’s lap. I know he is not far. In fact, he is in the intra-atomic space between the nucleus and electrons in my body and in the air I breathe, water I drink, and food I eat, and likewise, throughout the universe. But I can sense being enveloped in a loving hug by a powerful God who cared enough to die for me, and rise again.

  58. @ NLR: all of that is just so, so wrong, I don’t even know where to begin.

    I wish I could fix it. I would love to go to these people and say “How dare you treat anyone as ‘less than’?!!!” (etc.).

    But that’s not gonna happen, and equally, I’m in the same boat re. my old church (the one that booted me). I know women like you – black Americans – who are in very, very similar situations.

    It’s so very contrary to everything Jesus said, did – and taught.

    I truly wish i could take away some of the pain. If there *is* something I need to do, or see (even at this distance), please tell me.


  59. Arce–

    Thank you for that. That was so comforting to read and think about. I will really meditate on that. I love it that you were able to meet God in that moment of excruciating pain. I’m one of those who likes to sit under those who are older than me and hear about stories of trial and how the Lord has brought them through. I had that in my grandparents. They are surely with the Lord now and see Him face to face. When you’re younger, I think it helps to have people who have lived life longer than you to look you in the eye and say, you know, in the end, it’s going to be okay. Don’t worry, you will be okay and God will take care of you. Sometimes, I simply just need that. Because there are days where I just dont know that I’m going to be okay.


    You are doing it… you are listening and empathizing. Simple yet profound. No magical Scriptures. No quotes from a dead Puritan. Just love and understanding. I appreciate that so much.

  60. @ NLR again: I do feel like people of color (both immigrants and people who grew up here) are expected to more or less check their culture – a large part of who they are – at the door in churches like the ones you and I have been in.

    So, so wrong on so many levels – instead of seeing the diversity of cultures (and viewpoints that result) as a gift, people are forced to conform to a mold that doesn’t fit the “majority” (white people), let alone those who are not from that part of the demographic.

    i don’t know if Im choosing good words or not-so-good words in my comments. Again, if I am saying/doing something insensitive, please tell me! I want to learn, and to grow.

    And that cannot really happen if I’m segregated, cut off from you and from all the other folks – of all skin colors and shades – who make up the body of Christ.

    (An aside, but not really: this place often feels more like church to me than any actual congregation I’ve been a part of!)

  61. @ NLR and Arce: OK, you made me get teary.

    My profoundest thanks to you both, for sharing the love of Christ with me.

    @ Arce: your comment is so eloquent. It deserves a blog post all to itself. (As do NLR’s comments.)

    @ NLR again: did anyone *ever* ask you how you felt about GWTW’s portrayal of black people, and slavery – and of Scarlett and Rhett, for that matter?! Yikes!!!

  62. Chuck D,

    What I’ve described above concerning the poor differentiation between forgiveness and reconciliation demonstrates quite strongly how shepherding works. People are taught that they have no real personal rights in shepherding and only get what they get because this is what God ordains. If you are beaten by your husband, as a wife, you are to accept this and work to be a better wife.

    In the agreements that a person must sign to participate in the Peacemaker Ministries (PM) process, if the dispute is between a congregant and pastor, the agreement signed requires the congregant to submit to the pastor. This favors the pastor who automatically gets the benefit of the doubt, and the balance of power is inequitable. This puts a greater burden on the congregant.

    PM highly recommends to churches that they have congregants sign a covenant, and they call them covenants. If the church doesn’t have one, they can get one from PM. This was a practice of shepherding.

    I’m sure that there are plenty of people that had pleasant experiences with PM and resolved conflicts well. I happen to know several people who were miserably dissatified with the process.

    Ken Sande also states in his book that if you decide that someone you are negotiating with is not really a Christian by your standards, you can wave 1 Corinthians 6 and sue them anyway. This is a very popular thing to do in Shepherding and in the homeschooling oriented patriarchy churches (Presby and Reformed Baptist). You find some cause to declare your critics to be non-Christians, and then you take them to court if you cannot effectively draw them into some kind of mediation (like PM) or an ecclesial court system.

    Can someone tell me how men can peer into the heart of another and declare them non-Christians and non-Believers? Did Paul say this? Ken Sande says it in his book! How convenient.

    So that’s fine if PM has lots of good articles on their website. They can talk to they are blue in the face and put up well written articles ever hour until the end of time. That’s fine if they have satisfied clients. Such does not negate these basic principles of the PM paradigm. I know very dissatisfied clients, and by using the PM process, they lost all of their rights. Another gentleman I’ve talked with many times said that when he decided to abandon the PM process because it did favor leadership, the statute of limitations concerning his conflict had expired.

    These are the principles of shepherding, and if someone suggested that I go with them to PM for mediation or conflict resolution, I would turn and run. I think that for many of these matters, people are better served to take their chances in Caesar’s court. But then, I know people who were literally ruined by the PM process and PM style mediation.

  63. In Sande’s book, you can find the information concerning how church discipline and legal action in “Appendix D: When Is It Right To Go To Court?” In the edition of the book I have, it starts on page 279.

    Sande presents his argument regarding the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6, and there are many aggressors who use this as manipulation and use church discipline to get what they want from the system. It’s pretty easy for a group like SGM to declare a congregant to be out of fellowship, but how does the underdog get enough support to challenge a corrupt leader or church system if PM prefers and defers to church leadership over the rank and file member?

    The whole benefit from going to a mediator involves achieving a better balance of power that gives a voice to those who are not in leadership. Does it seem like PM’s process gives a congregant an equal voice?

  64. @ Cindy K: I’ve got an old copy of Sande’s 1st book in storage. The last time I opened it was (I think) fall 2001.

    I was shocked by a number of things… and one of them was that he seemed to imply (though never state directly) that pastors are *never* wrong and that if a church member has a disagreement with a pastor, it’s on their head.

    ir seemed to me that he doesn’t allow any questioning of so-called “authority.”

    i found (still find) this all very disturbing, re. what my SGM-member friends were taught – then *and* now.

    i don’t have access to my copy of the book, and am wondering if you – or anyone else – can confirm my impressions? (or, conversely, show me that he *does* admit that “pastors” can be at fault, etc.)

    thanks in advance for your help!

  65. Interesting how it was mentioned the emphasis on the sovereignty of God in Reformed churches. It’s no wonder that after 5+ years in Reformed type churches (RB & PCA) and a church experience previous to that where God’s judgment and wrath were constantly preached, I find it nearly impossible to conceive of a God of love and grace, or even of the existence of God.

    It was constantly preached that if you left the church and didn’t immediately find a “good” church (i.e., identical to theirs, the church I mentioned above) then you would suffer spiritually. I wonder how much of that was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wonder how many others who’ve left that church have suffered spiritually, precisely *because* of the destructive things they were taught in that church! I’m sure to them I am “backslidden,” now that I rarely attend church and have a difficult time praying reading the Bible. Either of the above risks setting off my triggers, triggers that I have as a result of those churches.

    The teaching of women as second class (though they never would have said that outright) has *seriously* screwed me up, too. As an educated, fiercely independent woman who’s always had egalitarian leanings, I never fit in, and my attempts to fit their little box wreaked havoc on my health. I was also the oddball for *gasp* having friends outside the church (a fact that made my departure much, much easier).

  66. @Numo

    The article I cited above on holding leaders accountable for their wrongs ( appears to answer your question. Among other things, Sande writes:

    “The second error that many churches and ministries make is to over-protect their leaders. They develop a self-confidence and blind loyalty that compels them to become defensive and automatically “circle the wagons” when a leader is questioned or accused of wrongdoing. They assume the challenge must be unfounded and immediately look for ways to minimize it or explain it away. They may rely on second-hand information or simply accept the leader’s interpretation of his accuser’s words and motives. And sometimes in an effort to justify or protect the leader, they attempt to silence, find fault with, or otherwise discredit or penalize the person who brought the accusation. As Jesus would put it, rather than humbly seeking to discern the “planks” in their leader’s or their own eyes, these leadership teams jump immediately to pointing out the “specks” in the eyes of others (Matt. 7:3-5).

    This excessively protective pattern can create a “culture of denial,” where differences and problems are automatically minimized or concealed. When there is some truth in a complaint, over-protection prevents a leader from addressing a problem in its early stages, when small changes on his part might easily lay the matter to rest. If a serious complaint is true, circling the wagons can have even worse consequences. It will delay needed changes, aggravate or multiply harm to others, and diminish the credibility of the people who should have been holding the leader accountable in the first place.

    Even if accusations against a leader are largely unfounded, over-protection can still cause significant damage. When sincere concerns and complaints are automatically rejected, members will feel that their voices don’t matter and give up on expressing concerns. When an investigating team fails to address complaints in a clearly objective manner, a cloud of doubt will often be left hanging over both the leader and the ministry itself. These doubts accumulate over time and steadily diminish the leader’s reputation both inside and outside the church or ministry. In addition, if an organization develops a reputation for deflecting questions and making superficial investigations, it may lack credibility when more serious issues must be addressed in the future.”

    The article goes on to talk about how leaders should be held accountable and even dismissed from ministry. So yes, he seems to admit that pastors can be at fault and should face the consequences.

  67. hmm… interesting, and thanks for the link.

    but I don’t think it answers my question as to what is in earlier editions of Sande’s 1st book.

  68. or maybe I should say “In the edition of Sande’s 1st book that was required reading for members of CLC (and SGM as a whole).”

  69. Peacemakers receives significant contributions not only from SGM but from the local churches.

    And why would anyone be impressed with CJ Mahaney’s assessment of anyone else’s intelligence?

    Did CJ even make it through high school?

    Oh, yes, and Molehill might be considered the smartest man in the world (that always reminds me of that beer commercial with the most interesting man in the world.)

    But we must bear in mind that CJ is overlooking half the world’s population where he would most surely discover individuals that could think circles around the aforementioned men.

  70. @Numo
    I don’t know what version you had, but in the version I have he writes this:

    “Going to a Person in Authority
    Your responsibility to go to someone who is caught in sin does not vanish just because that person is in a position of authority over you (e.g., an employer or a church elder). Since these people are as human as you are, they will also sin and need correction (see 1 Tim. 5:19–20).” (p.156)

    He also has some particularly forceful things to say about churches that shield leaders or members from accountability for sexual abuse:

    “Dealing with Abuse
    One of the most difficult offenses to address is one that involves an abuse of power or authority, such as physical or sexual abuse. In rare situations, a victim of abuse may have gained sufficient strength to go and talk directly to his or her abuser. In most situations, however, it is not wise or constructive for a victim to talk privately with the abuser. Many abusers are very adept at manipulation and intimidation, and they will use the conversation as an opportunity for further abuse. Therefore, it is usually best to involve others in the confrontation process.
    If the abuser is a Christian, his church has a responsibility to confront his sin, promote genuine repentance and confession, support counseling, and require him to submit to necessary legal consequences. This involvement can and should be carried out in cooperation with actions that civil authorities must take to deal with the abuse.
    At the same time, the church should be ministering lovingly and diligently to the victim of abuse. This calls for compassion and understanding, acknowledging any role the church may have played in failing to properly protect the victim, providing needed counseling, and changing policies and practices to prevent similar abuse in the future.” (p. 156-7)

    (Footnote” “Although space does not permit me to go into further detail on this topic in this book, I am compelled to add a strong word of warning before leaving this subject. Churches have a definite tendency to deny and cover up incidents of abuse, usually to prevent scandal, protect a pastor’s career, or to avoid the difficult and painful work required to bring healing in these situations. This strategy is blatantly disobedient to God’s Word, which commands us to confess sin, not conceal it (Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:8-9). As national headlines reveal, this approach has also proven to be disastrous for victims, abusers, churches, and entire denominations. God’s Word provides a solid track to run on, no matter how terrible the sin or conflict. For more information on how to apply biblical peacemaking principles to these situations, see “A Better Way to Handle Abuse” at, or contact Peacemaker Ministries directly.”

  71. Chuck D

    Do you know how many pastors have been dismissed from leadership due to the PM process?
    Also, how many congregants were dismissed from the congregation?
    Even more importantly, how many of the congregants left the church on their own accord after the process?
    Can these stats be cross referenced to the church polity in place? Authoritarian versus congregational?
    What kind of church does Sande attend? By that I mean is it strong authoritarian church or a congregational model?
    Do you think that the average congregant would be at a disadvantage by signing a covenant drawn up by a lawyer (Sande).
    Should they be advised to run it through their lawyer?
    Are they advised to seek legal advice before signing away privileges in the PM process since these documents were developed under the direction of a lawyer? (Sande)
    Is there full disclosure of the legal background those involved, like Sande, to the congregation?

    Such stats and answers might help in such a discussion. I would imagine that PM keeps these stats somewhere since they would want to show the results of their processes.

  72. indeed.

    if/when SGM members (and especially CLC members) are asked to abide by Peacemaker rules, guess who wins?

    Hint: not the member(s). (Though aren’t pastors *supposed* to be members like everyone else?!)

  73. Part 1

    @lin – I’m doing this post in two pieces so it’s more readable 🙂

    You have no idea how much flack I have get for thinking that Mohler is a great intellect. 🙂

    Most people assume that I’m not familiar with his work and am just dazzled by his resume. No, I’ve seen many resumes that are just as impressive, and I used to listen regularly to his daily broadcast because I thought he had interesting things to say, he was extraordinarily well read, and his guests were usually interesting to listen to as well. Prior to the SGM thing, I also thought he was intellectually honest and perhaps I was naïve in thinking so. I’ll give everyone who’s been bashing me about thinking Mohler is a smart guy that bone.

    As for the political sneakiness thing…I’m not bashing Roman Catholics but great Roman Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Mazarin and Cardinal Richelieu were so like Dr. Mohler it’s uncanny. They were true politicians at heart who believed that the end justifies the meanies (as Stephen Colbert likes to say)and that the church is just an institution.

    As he’s always talking about how people who become more liberal should be intellectually honest and move into more liberal denominations, I think that Dr. Mohler should acknowledge that Protestantism isn’t really his thing because he either doesn’t believe people can think for themselves or doesn’t like the idea that they should be allowed to think for themselves.

    Pope Benedict the XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, has offered to let Anglican bishops become Catholic bishops AND keep their wives as long as they bring their congregations with them. I’m sure he would be thrilled to make Dr. Mohler the first officially married Cardinal in some time.

  74. Part 2

    @Lin – There was some commentary on the Survivors SGM blog (a blog for people who have been harmed by Sovereign Grace Ministries in some way) indicating that Mohler clearly lied (by omission at least) about when he had access to the Detwiler documents as he claimed to have read them thoroughly when he made the comments above in C.J. Mahaney’s defense.

    As I recall, there was only about a 24 hour-72 hour gap between the time Mohler gave the comments in the article above and the time the Detwiler documents were leaked to the public. That’s not considering that it took a little while for the knowledge that the documents were on Wikileaks to get around.

    Hence unless he sat down and carefully read all 600 pages in less than a couple days, during which he was Twittering about doing many other things, Mohler definitely had access to the Detwiler documents prior to their public release. I imagine that he received them when Mr. Detwiler sent them to all the SGM pastors or perhaps he was given a copy to read prior to that time when C.J. Mahaney, the head of Sovereign Grace Ministries, realized he was really in hot water.

    I have no idea how the SBC disciplines its employees but his decision to support actions that were highly unethical at best (some of the financial shenanigans) and illegal/appalling at worst (what appears to be a clear attempt to back-mail someone while simultaneously violating clergy confidentiality) merits further investigation I would think.

    Some have claimed that Mohler was merely defending a friend but his assertion that he had carefully read the Detwiler documents and felt that Mahaney was still qualified to serve as a pastor negates that defense.

    Challenging Dr. Mohler would be a tough thing for anyone in the SBC to do but perhaps some brave soul will appear!

  75. @Cindy K – Dr. Mohler regularly calls himself a congregationalist as do most Baptists, I believe. That’s why I called him a congregationalist.

    My post centered around the huge disjoint between true congregationalism and the practical church polity that SGM and Dr. Mohler really advocate.

    It sounds like we’re more or less on the same page although your post is so sophisticated I haven’t finished digesting it yet.

  76. @Eagle – so you know some of the moral issues at hand are being deliberately obscured by SGM’s world-class propaganda machine, in my opinion.

    For example, the official statement about C.J. Mahaney’s “paid season of reflection” (I’m not making that up) said that neither financial improprieties nor immorality (this was later vaguely defined as sexual immorality) were involved.

    Neither statement is true, in my opinion. The Detwiler documents (I’m just assuming you know what that means) raise issues about Mahaney’s financial integrity. And while Mahaney has not directly been accused of sexual improprieties, he’s been accused of helping shove sexual molestation incidents under the proverbial carpet.

    I second the “nice to see you here no matter what you believe” remark, on a different note!

  77. “I think that Dr. Mohler should acknowledge that Protestantism isn’t really his thing because he either doesn’t believe people can think for themselves or doesn’t like the idea that they should be allowed to think for themselves”

    Mohler is very subtle on how he gets changes made. And he makes perfect sense until he ‘redefines” it later. Here is an example of working behind the scenes to get one tiny change made that makes a huge difference in traditional Baptist thinking:

  78. “@Cindy K – Dr. Mohler regularly calls himself a congregationalist as do most Baptists, I believe. That’s why I called him a congregationalist”

    This is what you watch for. They call themselves things they aren’t and then redefine the term in practice. Mohler actually “acts” more like a Presbyterian with him and his colleagues being the ecclessiastical court.

  79. Lin, a real presbyterian ecclesiastical court has multiple levels, checks and balances, and lots of careful thought put into it (on the level of what America’s founders put into the checks and balances of the federal government). Nobody would get to appoint him or herself the ecclesiastical court unless they were seriously bucking the existing system. A self-appointed court sounds closer to a warped episcopalian polity than a warped presbyterian one.

  80. @Dee
    I’m sorry, I just don’t have the information or qualifications to answer your questions. They’re good ones!

  81. @Everyone – I love responding to almost any post that directly addresses something I said in my post. So if I don’t answer a question it’s because I didn’t see it, likely. Just post me a shout in that case!

    @Lin – you don’t have to tell me that Mohler is sneaky at this point yet I appreciate the link. I was just plain wrong to ever think otherwise.

    Sometimes he’s also quite brazen with his hypocrisy though. He’s been quiet of late but can’t generally let 12 hours go by without informing the world that the abandonment of strict gender roles is destroying our planet.

    He has a son and a daughter. The daughter appears to be college age, attractive, and highly eligible by virtue of being a Mohler. Given Mohler’s views about gender roles and the importance of marrying young you would think that this lovely young lady was looking for a husband.

    But no. Earlier today, Dr. Mohler twittered that she would be on a major TV network talking about the prestigious staff position/internship thing that she landed in Senator Mitch McConnell’s office.

    So ordinary women have to give up their dreams to wait on men, but if your name is Mohler, you’re exempt from Biblical standards regarding feminity.

    It boggles the mind sometimes.

  82. Thanks watcher! But when you are the protestant pope, you can redefine meanings AND appoint all the levels of the court with your handpicked choices. It is happening more and more in the SBC structure with Mohler’s handpicks for the entities not only at national level but state associations, too. There are a few pockets of holdouts.

  83. “e has a son and a daughter. The daughter appears to be college age, attractive, and highly eligible by virtue of being a Mohler. Given Mohler’s views about gender roles and the importance of marrying young you would think that this lovely young lady was looking for a husband.

    But no. Earlier today, Dr. Mohler twittered that she would be on a major TV network talking about the prestigious staff position/internship thing that she landed in Senator Mitch McConnell’s office.”

    Janna, I cannot tell you the amount of “seminary wives” who had to sit through 2 hours of Mary Mohler orientation going on and on about modest dress and virtue only to see the daughter at events in a mini skirt and spike heels.

    Most followers do not pick up on the fact that the rules their leaders dish out to obtain Holiness do not apply to the leaders.

    Mohler is very politically connected so it does not surprise me his daughter landed a coveted job with McConnell. But isn’t DC a bit wild for a young homeschooled girl from the patriarchy movement on her own?

  84. Lin,
    This doesn’t really affect the point that you were making, but Mohler’s kids weren’t home schooled. They went to a local Christian school.

    Dee and Deb,
    Have you guys seen this yet?
    Interesting to see how this congregation responded to hyper-authoritarianism. I would have been with them on this one.

  85. “This doesn’t really affect the point that you were making, but Mohler’s kids weren’t home schooled. They went to a local Christian school”

    There were homeschooled at some point. I know they were brought in for testing at IWU periodically which many homeschoolers use. Did they graduate from Whitfield which is associated with Highview? It wasn’t CAL. Not much else to choose from in that league.

  86. @ Scott: while i completely disagree with the pastor in that video, I think there might be more of a backstory to this. It does surprise me that a UMC congregation would be such a tough place – and that a UMC minister would come on strong about his “authority.”

    Since I’m originally from central PA (where this church is located), I plan on trying to find out more about what’s going on.

  87. @Lin – you got me. Now I know why people have been looking at me cross-eyed when I said I took Mohler seriously.

    However, the truth is that behind every Mohler is another Mohler as long as people are willing to act like sheep. That’s the real problem and it’s not easy to solve.

    Incidentally I doubt that Princess Mohler will be in the sketchier areas of D.C. She’ll probably be curtsying to Senator’s sons in NW D.C. which is a comparatively safe part of D.C. in that the police actually investigate murders when they happen there.

    But even if she actually ends up in the real D.C. I’m sure she can take care of herself as she beat many of the brightest kids in the country in the race to get that uber-prestigious internship/staff position/whatever.


  88. Wow, what an interesting, enlightening, and moving comment section. So much ground covered, so much to ponder…

    NLR, Numo, Eagles, Amanda — I especially appreciate the openness, honesty, and “real-ness” of your comments. NLR, your comments at 2:54 & 5:31 reflected genuine Chris-likeness. Thanks you for sharing.

  89. Dee,
    I’m not a Mohler (nor have I played one on TV), but I was in SBC churches long enough to give my own answers to your questions:

    So here are my questions for Al Mohler and the SBC:
    •Is this the type of leadership that Mohler is extolling?
    •Is this the sort of pastor that he wants to align with the SBC?
    •Is this the type of excellence in church leadership that Mohler desires for the SBC?

    •Yes, definitely
    •Becasue it is what he and other authoritarians aspire to and envy.
    •Yes, unfortunately
    •Yes, if that’s what passes for excellence these days

    But you knew those answers already, didn’t you? 🙂

  90. @ Lin – regarding the following quote below my note here:

    Frequently we all know what’s going on behind the scenes but we can’t prove it, unfortunately. The other side says we just have a vendetta (the exact word Mohler used to describe Brent Detwiler’s motivations for going after Team Mahaney).

    The beautiful part about the interview excerpt above is that Dr. Mohler directly and repeatedly confirmed how his truly extreme views about church polity contrast with the moderate ideas he tells the public he embraces.

    “@Cindy K – Dr. Mohler regularly calls himself a congregationalist as do most Baptists, I believe. That’s why I called him a congregationalist”

    This is what you watch for. They call themselves things they aren’t and then redefine the term in practice. Mohler actually “acts” more like a Presbyterian with him and his colleagues being the ecclessiastical court.

  91. “Incidentally I doubt that Princess Mohler will be in the sketchier areas of D.C. She’ll probably be curtsying to Senator’s sons in NW D.C. which is a comparatively safe part of D.C. in that the police actually investigate murders when they happen there.”

    I was thinking more along the lines of the environment in those lofty places. I have a friend who went to work for a senator out of college and it was non stop partying among the staffers and lobbyists.

  92. “Frequently we all know what’s going on behind the scenes but we can’t prove it, unfortunately. The other side says we just have a vendetta (the exact word Mohler used to describe Brent Detwiler’s motivations for going after Team Mahaney)”

    And there is the rub and why they must have authoritarian rule. They cannot afford to have the light shined in the closed rooms. it takes an insider to come out and tell. That rarely happens. A lot of people figure out eventually that some things are not adding up but what can they do?

    Years ago, a guy came out on blogs saying tht Mohler was a tyrannical boss who threw fits all the timeThe story got so big that Mohler actually apologized to the staff. I wish I could find the link but it was at least 6 years ago. The irony was all his defenders that had no clue if he was a tyrant or not. They just revered him and would hear nothing negative. That public persona is everything for them. It is their brand.

    Brent provided an inside look even though his reasons for coming out were bizarre. He was thinking CJ must repent. We are thinking…this is what goes on at high levels of ministry day in and day out? These guys have too much time and money. They missed the point.

    Mohler does not care what the docs or blogs say. He is not so much protecting Mahaney as he is protecting himself.

  93. “but I don’t think it answers my question as to what is in earlier editions of Sande’s 1st book”

    Chuck also did not answer Cindy’s points. Chuck, are you affiliated with PM?

  94. @Lin you have an excellent point about the non-stop partying atmosphere common in places where “Hill rats” hang out. At the other extreme many staffers work 24/7 but it doesn’t sound like Ms. Mohler is that type.

    She may be partying but it’s more likely that they’ve already created a short list of prominent young men interested in competing for her hand and she’s staying with a family that will keep a close eye on her stilettos.

    Actually, I think that Mohler does care about the docs and the blogs. I think he’s hypersensitive about his image generally. For another thing, his primary marketing channel is his blog and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that his site has gotten quieter since all this anti-blogging/Mat. 18 rhetoric started flying around big time.

    Mohler gets a lot of frequent flyer points from the secular and Christian media by slamming mainstream Protestant denominations. He can’t do that anymore unless he’s willing to declare that this “blogging about your enemies violates Mat. 18 idea” is nonsense which will alienate his Calvinista friends OR declare publicly that Mat. 18 doesn’t apply because mainstream Protestants aren’t really Christians.

    He’s in a bind because if he goes with option 1 he needs to find another source of content for his inflammatory remarks. And if he goes with option 2 and declares that mainstream Protestants aren’t Christians, he’ll lose respect and $$$ from Newsweek and his secular clientele generally.

    Rumor has it that SGM and Mohler et al had a dog and pony show set up to discredit Brent Detwiler without the public’s full knowledge. Hence when the documents went public they were really mad. That would explain Mohler’s lapse in judgment regarding his revealing comments above. He was grouchy because someone threw a monkey wrench in his plans to create a large denomination ruled by himself and the few minions one needs to administer an empire.

    I truly feel sorry for Dr. Mohler. He needs to be in Spain circa 1495 A.D. rather than the U.S.A. circa 2011 A.D.

  95. Numo,

    I’m glad that you’re sharing real life examples of how this stuff plays out at SGM and churches like them.

    Chuck seems to have redirected his damage control away from me now and over to you. I guess if disclaimers are offered, no one has a right to say otherwise?

    Earlier, you asked whether any one had a copy of Sande’s book, and you asked Chuck how what he posted negated earlier copies of the book. My book was a 2005 printing of it, so my copy is not all that old, but you don’t even need to have the book.

    I went to browse through the “Resources” material on the Peacemaker’s website. This stuff may seem pretty benign to the average person, but when you are in a shepherding church, things take on deeper meanings. I think that this is especially true in SGM because they are so shame conscious. You must consider the degree of manipulation and shaming that goes on when you read this stuff.

    For example, I looked at the shorter document, “A Commitment to Biblical Conflict Resolution.” A person who attends a balanced church will hopefully not get what I’m talking about, but someone who has come out of one of these highly manipulative and closed systems will see it from a mile away.

    You’re supposed to follow four principles when resolving conflict. Here’s the first one:

    Glorify God — Instead of focusing on our own desires or dwelling on what others may do, we will rejoice in the Lord and bring him praise by depending on his forgiveness, wisdom, power, and love, as we seek to faithfully obey his commands and maintain a loving, merciful, and forgiving attitude.

    There’s a huge difference between “desires” and basic needs or basic rights. Did anyone catch that? It minimizes the importance of needs and rights by reclassifying them as “desires” which are optional.

    If your husband just knocked out two of your teeth or you just saw your child’s molester working in the nursery at the church, it’s highly appropriate to focus on your own NEEDS and to dwell on what others have done and may do. That is wisdom. What does it look like to depend on God’s forgiveness , wisdom, power, and love during such a season? I think that a part of it involves the punishment of evil and providing for the safety of those at risk. Forgiveness follows after justice. Issuing a verdict of either guilt or innocence is a separate proceeding from sentencing. Declaring that a wrong has been done and establishing such is entirely different from forgiveness. And it may be entirely inappropriate to never speak of such things. Telling of the conflict may be the most forgiving, wise, powerful and loving thing that can be done in a particular situation.

    The church must encourage forgiveness, but not at the expense of justice. Mercy triumphs over justice, but this is after justice has been established. Forgiveness should never be pitted against justice but should flow from justice. Anything less than establishing justice and safety for everyone is unfair to the person who has been wronged. Safety is not a desire but a need, and even under the Old Covenant, it was a right that was established for individuals.

    I know that I was taught in my shepherding church that my own desires were always wrong (even if they were reasonable), and all personal rights that I had were an illusion. Personal rights should be yielded to God. The church’s needs or the needs of all others must come first. “Let each esteem others better than self” means that I may also be required to have an inappropriately low opinion of myself if the group demands it. It becomes even more complicated if the conflict involves leadership, because everyone is required to render a military style submission to all others (as opposed to a general, Golden Rule principle).

    When followers do not do everything that a leader thinks is appropriate, the person who is lower on the food chain is taught that it is high treason and one of the worst sins imaginable to resist a leader’s authority. You are permitted to make an “appeal” in the appropriate fashion, but you are expected to follow chain of command as though you are in the military, waiting and praying for God to move on the hearts of those in authority over you. But unlike a military officer who is afforded rights, in shepherding, you must willingly relinquish all of your rights immediately and without question, otherwise, you will suffer subtle consequences and will be ostracized.

    Is it possible to retain some basic human rights and still be considered loving, merciful and of a forgiving attitude? It is not in shepherding, especially if you are lower in hierarchy. You’re not permitted to do anything that puts any kind of pressure on another brother or sister, and you have to put all of their needs ahead of yours. If you are a woman and your husband beats you up and goes out to have extramarital affairs, not only is his sin credited to something you failed to do (love him enough, be available sexually even if you were ill, buy the right kind of toilet paper), you have to tolerate what he does because you are under his authority. Authority is always more important than needs and responsibilities. If you’re lower in hierarchy, you’re supposed to “take it patiently” without seeking to free yourself from bondage. Someone else who is worthy through hierarchy must hold your husband accountable. It is your duty to bear the suffering.

    I believe that when you look at Ken Sande’s book and the PM website through the grid and the mindset of shepherding and the heavy demand to be exceptionally sweet and maudlin, this kind of thing results. If you’ve been assaulted or harmed, is it appropriate for you to be forgiving, especially in the early stages? I don’t believe that it is. If you’re being attacked, is it appropriate to defend yourself, or should you drop your defenses to show forgiveness to your attacker? What if there is attrition only because of consequences but you see no contrition in the person who wronged you? What if the conflict created a situation that was physically harmful to you or caused you so much distress that you could not function? Should you ever require your molested child to sit and break bread with their abuser if they hold no animosity towards them but still feel very threatened when they have to be in the same room with them?

    In some cases and in some matters, the PM process is very good, but when you mix in the forced reconciliation factor with the forced requirement of relinquishing all of your personal interests, it can be a living nightmare.

  96. This is not addressed to you Chuck D…your name just triggered a warning bell in my head.

    Regarding a Certain Chuck 2.0

    Just so folks now, I don’t know the identity of the Chuck above and very much doubt it’s the same person I’m referencing although both Chucks hold similar views it appears and have the same tendency to make inflammatory remarks and then decline to follow up on them. Interestingly there’s also no real content in Chuck D’s account above – he’s just copied and pasted material from other sources.

    However I’ve been cyber-annoyed bordering on cyber-stalked by someone using the handle “Chuck 2.0” on two sites now.

    This person jumped out of nowhere, made inflammatory remarks designed to discredit me because I’ve never attended an SGM church yet had the audacity to express to my opinions about what he called the “precious saints” of SGM, and then disappeared.

    There was some controversy on both the SGM Survivors site and SGM refuge site as people thought that this individual may have been bashing SGM survivors in the past and was now claiming otherwise/reinventing his disruption strategies.

    I’m including a link to an exchange (it was pretty one way with him jumping out of shadows and me responding) he had with me at SGM Refuge.

    I’m not normally bothered by what’s said on a blog by trolls but this person’s actions (bordering on stalking and harassing a particular individual) and clear paranoia combined with obsessive hostility is genuinely creepy.

    Just a warning to others that there’s a lurker out there that may follow you from site to site and then pull a “Gotcha.” I’ve done my best to explain his (or her I suppose) M.O.

    Best, Janna

  97. Janna,

    Yes, I am familiar with Chuck 2.0 (formerly just plain ole “Chuck”) over on both Survivors and Refuge and have read most of his comments.

    I sincerely hope he and Chuck D are not one in the same, and I’ll be watching closely.

  98. Thanks for looking out for us, Deb. Chuck 2.0 is now claiming a change of heart and saying that he/she cares for Survivors but the posts in question reflect anything but caring.

    Best, Janna

  99. @ Cindy K: thanks so much for your reply – and you nailed it re. the language!

    We could reduce it to: you are wrong because you did not “believe the best,” and whatever complaint you might have dwindles into nothingness when put side by side with the marvelousness of the anointed leadership.


  100. Chuck D, here. No, I’m not 2.0; I don’t like communicating like that. I certainly didn’t offer my comments to inflame anything. Just thought I’d share my own personal experience and information I found on the web. As I told numo, I can’t speak for PM or provide answers to her questions, relevant as they are. So I’ll bow out and not distract you anymore.

  101. ~Cindy K–

    Thank you for the insight you shared on Peacemakers. That’s very telling in so many ways. It speaks volumes.

    * *


    Many of us have been where you are. Just recently, I have been where you are short of believing God doesn’t exist. I knew he still existed, I just didn’t think he was as loving and compassionate anymore. You can read my earlier comments to see why. But for many of the same reasons you listed. Your experience sounds a lot like mine. When I left, people kept saying the same things to me like have you found a church yet? I’m so worried about your spiritual health. Every time I see them or talk to them, it’s that. I finally told three people a few weeks ago that this was no longer a topic of discussion. That I had special people in my life (you all here, those at Survivors, Lucy over at Soujourn in Sovereign Grace, my two best friends, and my family) that I would only share this with. 😉 That is was a very deeply profound and private spiritual matter and not something for temporal relationships or casual discussion. It usually shuts people down right away. Now, I dont even tell people I’m looking for a church. I tell them that I have no desire to join or attend a church right now, and I’m just focusing on rebuilding my relationship with the Lord. They are usually wide-eyed and confused. They try and ask questions but I shut it down. I always get this look of disdain. But I really don’t give a damn, like…ever. I just want to be left alone, honestly. I took about 100 people off my Facebook, made it private and decline invitations all the time. For the few of them that want to get together and meetup every other month to “catch up”, I have also been declining those because they don’t want to learn anything. I just want to be left alone. For the friends I do have, we don’t discuss it because they say things that sometimes send me into a spiral. I was really angry the other night with a friend who is having issues with the church because she said to me, “well, I just want to tell you to be cautious about what you say, and to be cautious about the counselor you talk to and the people on the blogs.” I said, well, why do I need to be cautious? If I am saying things that are untrue, that would be one thing. But I’m not. And considering how much “research” you’ve done, I dont think you are qualified to tell me that. She said well, it’s just that I care for you and sometimes it seems that you say pretty harsh things. I said, well, no, I say things that are difficult to hear, that are heavy and meaningful, and make us uncomfortable, but it doens’t mean I cannot say them. She said well, I just want to tell you to be cautious. I said, let me tell you somethinjg you need to know about me, and that is it isn’t helpful to tell me to be “cautious” about discussing or making truthful and insgihtful statements about a situation with the church when I have done months and months of work participating in discussions, reading Scripture, studying etc… You are essentially discrediting me and almost implying that I am not being cautious and rather flippant and I dont appreciate that. You have NO IDEA what I’ve been through and the amount of work I’ve done. So dont’ say that to me.

    She apologized. I was still very angry and almost in tears. I almost wrote Dee to get some encouragement. She always has the right words to say in situations like that. So Amanda, it’s even hard for people that are closer to you to even understand–this, I’m sure you know.

    I think many of us should try and go to the CBE conference next year (Christians for Biblical Equality). I think it would be a huge encouragement and I would love to see some of you there. I have every intention on going.

    * *


    You said “They call themselves things they aren’t and then redefine the term in practice.” Bingo! It’s hard when you’ve not been in these circles ever to know what things are originally without going back and reading original documents and schools of thought on protestantism, congregationalism, and so forth. The SBC is changing what many of these things, essentially, and for the noob like me, it’s hard to discern what’s been changed sometimes. I just know that it doesn’t sound right. Funny thing about Mohler, he preached at CHBC (my old church) the second Sunday before I left. And I thought hmmmm… boring. I didn’t get anything from this message. What’s so great about this guy?

    Yep, that’s what I left with. I pretty much zoned out through the entire message and made my grocery list. I asked a few friends after church what they thought. Their responses… “meh” (insert shoulder shrug). I’m not saying that the guy isn’t smart or probably a good teacher in terms of presentation (although content would probably not be good). But I just wasn’t impressed. I mean, it was Al Mohler, you know. All of us Reformed Calvinistas were supposed to be so blessed by his glorious appearance. I remember asking my friend “who is this dude?” She was like “girl, that’s Al Mohler.” I said, “oh. Well he’s boring.” She winked. Mind you, I have listened and sat through my share of high level academic sermons.

    * *


    I can only imagine. I hope also that there is room to change careers if what you are doing makes you miserable. You said earlier that you love the DC metro area, or did you mean to say that you live in the DC metro? Because if you live in the DC Metro, we should have coffee and chat. It would be refreshing. LMK if you’re interested, I can send you my email addy through Dee.

  102. @Chuck D. – Thanks. I really didn’t want to offend you as being called Chuck 2.0 is no compliment yet I had to raise the issue for safety’s sake, unfortunately.

    I also didn’t mean to chase you away in saying that it looked like most of your posts were cut and pasted. There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It just tends to be a red flag that someone is trying to hijack a conversation. Clearly that wasn’t your intention.

    Please stay or at least don’t go because of my comments. I, too, need to research Peace Makers and the other info you provided above more.



    Best, Janna

  103. “Actually, I think that Mohler does care about the docs and the blogs. I think he’s hypersensitive about his image generally. For another thing, his primary marketing channel is his blog and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that his site has gotten quieter since all this anti-blogging/Mat. 18 rhetoric started flying around big time.”

    Janna, the timing could not have been worse. he was already doing a major PR campaign on his ill chosen words for an article in the Christian Science Monitor written by the son of a big SBC celebrity preacher (his son is on his church staff and has some views that manyin the SBC do not like)

    The article was quoted to Mohler during his SBC convention report on SBTS. He did well with his answer because he is Mohler but the stench remained and as more have thought about it, they don’t like it. (I would rather not discuss the issue). In effect, Mohler implied that SBC had lied about homosexuality and been homophobic. But he did not say how.

    So his blog has been dedicated to that issue. Then the Mahaney thing. People forget that while Mohler is a sort of protestant pope he is still an employee of the SBC. He has to be somewhat careful. There are groups within the SBC who are NOT Mahaney fans.

    “Mohler gets a lot of frequent flyer points from the secular and Christian media by slamming mainstream Protestant denominations. He can’t do that anymore unless he’s willing to declare that this “blogging about your enemies violates Mat. 18 idea” is nonsense which will alienate his Calvinista friends OR declare publicly that Mat. 18 doesn’t apply because mainstream Protestants aren’t really Christians.”

    This is an excellent point. And one we must not forget for the future. But if you look closely, you have to realize tht Mohler follows the Matt 18 interpretation of Jay Adams. (Remember, they redefine everything).

    Adams adds a step in the process of Matt 18. The step he adds is you must take it to the leaders of the church before taking it to the whole church. That is how he will provide cover for Mahaney. But it won’t work with other denominations as you say, becasue they are not real christians. Mahaney is. (Mohler speak)

    “Rumor has it that SGM and Mohler et al had a dog and pony show set up to discredit Brent Detwiler without the public’s full knowledge. Hence when the documents went public they were really mad. That would explain Mohler’s lapse in judgment regarding his revealing comments above. He was grouchy because someone threw a monkey wrench in his plans to create a large denomination ruled by himself and the few minions one needs to administer an empire.”

    mohler is never caught flat footed. He provided cover for Mahaney in a non SBC venue with quotes to a reporter of a secular newspaper. I have noticed the SBC pasotrs blogs are totally silent on this one. They got the word.

    “I truly feel sorry for Dr. Mohler. He needs to be in Spain circa 1495 A.D. rather than the U.S.A. circa 2011 A.D.”

    Interesting perspective. But mine is that he is getting his reward here and now.

  104. @Lin – I’ve loved your comments. Would you like to e-mail me directly? If so, perhaps Deb could be an e-mail address exchange intermediary for us. I’d love to hear more about the SBC.

    I have a bottle of champagne handy for when Mohler gets kicked to the curb because I do believe he’ll get his reward in the here and now.

    I just mean that HE’D be happier if he’d been a member of the Spanish Inquisition 600 years ago because fewer and fewer people are interested in buying what he’s selling/they were selling in 2011.



  105. This is so OT!!! But I just had to tell you guys. Why did I get a message inviting me to join a new meet up for Sovereign Grace Singles… Ha-larryus! (it took me two minutes to write that. iPad keeps trying to tell me to write something else. No, iPad!!!! I did not stutter. Stop it, please?!)

    Anyways, I wanna write back and say “oh helllll to THA naw! Are y’all fa-real???!” À la Whitney Houston in her interview with Dianne Sawyer. Now THAT was a hot mess, but I digress… I should point them to all my comments about their stupid little courtship model and my egalitarian beliefs and see if I will still get the invite.!! Ha!

  106. Janna,

    Always remember that you only intimidate the weak. (You’re not the weak.) I’m also amused, because I described the Peacemaker Ministry sycophantic commentary as “creepy” to my husband and another person today. You used the same descriptor.

    If you were not a threat and if your comments didn’t cause some discomfort for these guys, they would say nothing. The same is true of this blog. If we are all insignificant (and if I’m really a silly woman who is gullible and easily led astray), we would not be worth wasting the effort of addressing. But these posts (here on TWW and elsewhere) are clearly damage control which means they felt threatened.

  107. Oh and at the end of my reply I’ll put: This message brought to you by the Obama/Biden administration for the single, sexy and sexually depraved in the evangelical church who think male headship and authority are religious bunk!! YES WE CAN, BABY!!! Oh YES WE CAN!

    I wonder if they’ll invite me??? Hmmm… (pondering)

  108. Why don’t these guys just quit harping on this extra stuff and just start teaching good doctrine about Jesus? Wouldn’t it be cool if Al Mohler did nothing by post blog articles about Scripture for a full year? He’s supposed to be the smartest guy on the planet and the foremost intellectual or whatever. Imagine how great that would be. Jesus and just Jesus.

  109. @Cindy K – Thanks for your comments. I think that Al Mohler’s bank account would suffer if he acted like a minister as opposed to acting like someone who specializes in setting up faux culture wars. God works in mysterious ways. I’m sure Mohler is as smart as he is for a reason.

    Yes, in a way being called onto the carpet because you’re strong is a compliment. However, in SGM’s case it also makes me sad because even many of the individuals who believe they were harmed by SGM resent attempts by non-SGMers to help them because we’re not part of the club. They’re not big on the good Samaritan parable when there’s a denominational war going on.

    I braved the anti-SGM blogs for a couple weeks and found that unfortunately even many anti-SGMers that don’t attend an SGM church still exhibit a cult mentality. They’re just members of anti-SGM instead of regular SGM. Certainly that’s not true of everyone on those blogs, of course, but it’s still sad when large numbers of people have lost touch with themselves for any reason.

    Truth be told, I get creeped out by almost all SGM material unless it’s so off-the-wall my initial reaction is, “are these people impaired?” Weird and creepy are two adjectives that come up a lot when talking about SGM and/or Peace Makers.

    For a real laugh, check out C.J. Mahaney’s video on being a “Pastor/Athlete.”

    When I’m feeling blue I tune in for a couple minutes of it!



  110. Janna, would be happy to converse as my hectic schedule permits! They have my email.

    “I just mean that HE’D be happier if he’d been a member of the Spanish Inquisition 600 years ago because fewer and fewer people are interested in buying what he’s selling/they were selling in 2011”

    I get it now. They were much happier before the blogs. I can assure you of that. They had the misfortune to be at the pinnacle of their careers and power when blogs exploded. :o)

    NLR, You are precious and funny. So glad you are here with us.

  111. “I braved the anti-SGM blogs for a couple weeks and found that unfortunately even many anti-SGMers that don’t attend an SGM church still exhibit a cult mentality”

    Thank you. I am not the only one, then. In a way, my heart breaks because that is all they know and they still try to communicate with that sgm language as if they are so afraid someone will think them mean! Is it mean to drive wolves away from sheep?

    In another way, I want to slap them out of it or send them to exit counseling…pronto. It is as if they are all waiting for CJ to repent before they can move on. But how will they know if it is ever genuine? He has acted out his persona pretty well up to now.

  112. NLR: I got that same invitation for the Sovereign Grace Singles group before. Creeped me out, especially since it was on FB and I have pretty tight privacy settings. Did you read any of their info? They essentially say that non-Calvinists worship another God. Oy vey.

  113. ” Wouldn’t it be cool if Al Mohler did nothing by post blog articles about Scripture for a full year?”

    They would be articles twisting scripture to make it teach ESS. :o)

  114. Well, it would be scripture with a twist and a political bent. Much of it would be infuriating.

    As i see it, “christian” has been redefined to mean “biblian” — in practice. Bow down to the text Worship the text Oh, the text means so much Oh, the text is so wonderful The text is the answer Love the text with all you heart Translate and parse without ceasing Take off the old man and put on the information to be more efficient, here, just put on MY information on the text

    This “Biblian” religion eats, drink, and digests the text, and the regurgitated text from someone else, day in and day out. The products are the most non-intuitive, awkward, confusing and contradictory methods and procedures for seemingly every life situation. The fruit is dysfunction and hurt.

  115. @Lin – if we have both braved posting on those blogs for any length of time then we are blood sisters! Many of those folks have got passive/aggressive behavior down to a T. Apparently I had a following of supporters who interacted with me directly on one board while also having a following of detractors that complained about me behind my back to one of the moderators.

    Forget being in a shark cage or flying in a Russian MIG. If you want to do the wild adventure vacation thing head over to those blogs. Unfortunately, there’s no decompression chamber (that doesn’t involve alcohol) once you’ve fulfilled your mission.

    I’ll ask Dee or Deb for your e-mail address and I understand about the hectic schedule.

    I think there’s a big downside to those blogs in that some of the people who have been on them for years are using blogging as a substitute for therapy. But truth be told I wouldn’t torture any of the first-rate therapists I know with some of the former SGM folks I ran into.


  116. Amanda:

    Mishuganah! Are you serious? Non-Calvanists worship another God? (BRB, gonna go read that.) Well, I guess they are right. Since they aren’t exactly speaking of the God of the Bible in their beliefs, I guess anybody else would believe in another God–most likely the true God who doesn’t create people just to send them to hell without opportunity or ability to accept Christ because he can, because of his good pleasure. Some kishkas they have!


    Thanks! 😉

  117. Janna: Are you in the DC area? BTW, I do appreciate your comments. You have a lot of insight.

  118. Just wanted to add my two cents about the SGMer’s and some ex-SGMer’s and their cult-like mentality:

    There’s a lot of talk about the leadership and their part in manipulating and brainwashing those below them. And certainly the leadership is responsible for creating a culture of fear and dependency.

    However, I can testify to the fact that the system is actually manipulated by below just as much as it is manipulated by above.

    There’s an extensive spy network, and informing on people is part of the culture. People do this voluntarily for all kinds of reasons. Some of them for selfish reasons and some of them – far fewer – for idealistic reasons.

    I’m sure other ex-SGM’ers know what I’m talking about. The fact is anyone could go to leadership with “observations” about other members that was basically gossip. Those in leadership would never follow up on the stories in order to verify someone’s opinion, so you were left with an ongoing impression that you had been misjudged. Those who enjoyed a certain amount of “favor” with those in leadership maintained it by informing on other members.

    So, not only are the leaders in SGM extremely interested in protecting their reputations, but my experience proved that a majority of SGM members are this way as well. Dishonesty, cloaked in faithfulness to SGM, was rampant. In order to protect themselves against the possibility of looking bad, they would willingly throw other people under the bus. And the swiftness at which this was done was stunning. More than anything, members seemed to be on guard, watching out for any hint of reproach, and pouncing on it immediately. This type of thing raised more red flags than anything else, but for the longest time I thought it was due to personal problems or a general lack of maturity. I could never understand why so many so-called Christians were so anxious to defend themselves. There was a like a power they seemed to gain by “getting away” with bad behavior by employing deceptive methods. I’m sure other ex-SGMer’s know what I’m talking about. It’s part of the leaven that leavens the whole lump.

  119. RE Elastigirl on Wed, Aug 03 2011 at 03:18 pm:

    Now yer startin’ to sound like an old reprobate free-thinker named Muff Potter!

  120. @NLR – yes I’m in MD close to the D.C. line and I’d love to e-mail and/or meet in real life. I try not to send Dee and Deb too many e-mails so I’ll ask for the e-mails of those who’d like to interact with me directly as a batch at some point.

    Likewise, I’ve appreciated your posts here and at Survivors.

    @Dee – I think that this site attracts intelligent people across the ideological spectrum because you and Deb have created a first-rate site/publication. When it comes to having a forum for intelligent conversation, if you build it they will come.

    Also, I agree that actions speak louder than words and that drawing lines in sand over secondary theological issues is a great way to divide and conquer, as well as preserve your market share in the crowded celebrity pastor field.

    I actually think that words, such as the apology of the Fairfax pastors, are inherently spin if they’re not followed up by action and can’t imagine why anyone would think otherwise.

    @Evie – thanks for your excellent post regarding SGM culture. I’m going out on a limb here with a broad generalization in saying that all serious cults operate by getting people to reveal their secrets such that they cannot return to their former lives easily. In some ways, SGM’s MO comes is right out of central casting even if not everyone associated with it is a cult member.

    I went into this situation on the victim’s side and while I still feel that many people have been abused horribly, the victim/perpetrator line can be very fine in SGM’s situation, I’ve discovered.

    And I have no doubt that the SGM leadership would love to kick the Mahaneys to the curb but cannot do so because the sociopath-like conduct illustrated in the Detwiler documents is never isolated even if one only clear instance of blackmail is documented.

    They’ve all got something on each other with the possible exception of Joshua Harris, who has defied the board by refusing to let them tell him what to preach and declining to sign that horrible statement they released saying, “C.J.’s not only not going anywhere but we’ll bill you fine folks for a Kangaroo court if that’s what you really demand of us, your sacred pastors.”

    C’est la vie.

    Best to all – Janna

  121. muff,

    I assume that’s a good thing. To get further off topic (well, not entirely), approaching the bible as this guide book and answer book for all aspects of life is like having a micromanaging golf coach.

    As one is preparing to swing the coach is instructing do this, do that, no move here, adjust this, twist a little here, move back an inch, hold you head like this, no more like this, tilt yourself like this, lean a little more… all this minutiae of requirements leaves no opportunity to really learn and experience a good swing. It turns what is supposed to become a very natural function into a very unnatural one. It kills the ability of the body and mind to know what a good swing is. Turns the golfer into a robot, a non-thinking replicant of the coach who is entirely dependent on the coach for every single swing, rather than developing into the unique masterful golfer that he or she can be.

    In the case of SGM, the minutiae of requirements drowns out what is intuitive, healthy, and plain-as-day (such as healthy and normal compassion and empathy).

    More i could say about how this applies to many other aspects of this institution of american christianity, but it’s getting convoluted.

  122. Ok, lots of interesting information to ponder!

    “@Lin – if we have both braved posting on those blogs for any length of time then we are blood sisters! Many of those folks have got passive/aggressive behavior down to a T. Apparently I had a following of supporters who interacted with me directly on one board while also having a following of detractors that complained about me behind my back to one of the moderators.”

    I am not as brave as you are. But I read your comments over there. I came to the conclusion they don’t want to heal. But I think it goes deeper than that after reading both you and Evie here. I got the impression they did not want to hear what you had to say. It was too…well…productive.

    I think Cindy runs into this, too, sometimes. And it is such a shame because true health comes from knowing and recognizing the tactics.

    When I first saw the survivors blog a few years back, I was really confused with it…as in…do they want to leave, stay, see it change, what?. Then I clicked over to John Immels blog and saw he got the bigger picture. The problem was systemic. It is foundational.

    “Forget being in a shark cage or flying in a Russian MIG. If you want to do the wild adventure vacation thing head over to those blogs. Unfortunately, there’s no decompression chamber (that doesn’t involve alcohol) once you’ve fulfilled your mission.”


    “I think there’s a big downside to those blogs in that some of the people who have been on them for years are using blogging as a substitute for therapy. But truth be told I wouldn’t torture any of the first-rate therapists I know with some of the former SGM folks I ran into.”

    I was wondering about this based on reading there. It seems a like a few get it but they are wary of saying too much and tread carefully. I feel sorry for them the most, I think.

  123. “”There’s an extensive spy network, and informing on people is part of the culture. People do this voluntarily for all kinds of reasons. Some of them for selfish reasons and some of them – far fewer – for idealistic reasons”

    This was evident in Brent’s documents for the leadership. But I picked up on it with the membership by reading some sgm stories. It was absolutely chilling because people had no clue but everyone is so nice and paranoid at the same time.

    I have seen this environment in companies and it is the type of culture that makes people sick. Literally. Many times it can spring from narcissism from the top. And then those tactics are acted out down the chain as if they are normal. It a “catch you doing something wrong” culture. With a smile, of course.

    Evie, I am also very glad you are here to offer insights. Because I have seen some spiritual abuse out there but never a whole culture within a denomination (of sorts) dedicated to it.

    “More than anything, members seemed to be on guard, watching out for any hint of reproach, and pouncing on it immediately.”

    I saw this on the blogs, too. It is the sort of thing that makes people feel righteous. Anyone who dares to be direct, is given the treatment. I think they like their club and feel special…even the former ones. This is more of the cult thinking that is hard to shed.

    Someone should write a book on this because I have never seen anything like it. It is a case study on middle class suburban cult across America. Coming to a state near you.

    And Al Mohler endorses it. Actually T$G endorses it.

  124. @Lin – always nice to know that one’s work is not done in vain although truthfully every minute of it was super stressful given the “Wonderland” effect and behind-the-scenes machinations on some of those blogs.

    But I met some neat people and God called me to that blog for a time and then released from needing to post there thankfully. So I was reluctantly brave at best.

    What saddened me the most is that some of my posts generated feedback from people that were excited someone actually wanted to discuss practical issues instead of merely commiserating. As in change SGM instead of wondering why blogging endlessly never changes anything in and of itself.

    I was ultimately accused of being insensitive to what the Survivors were going through – as if we haven’t all been through some tough times even if they didn’t involve an SGM church necessarily. And if you’re in such bad shape that you can’t handle reading a dissenting opinion maybe blogging isn’t good for you after all.

    However I constantly also heard feedback like the following:

    1) “Thank God someone has sent someone who ‘isn’t one of us’ to help.

    2) “I think the legal issues at hand such as whether or not the “covenants” members sign saying they will not sue the church are really binding and/or how to find a good attorney are really important.”

    3) “Thank heavens someone around here has a sense of humor.”

    I just visited one blog and people are now back to sniping at each other over minutiae. Sigh. But that’s life and everyone has their own path.

    If one person was helped by my adventure cruise into those blogs, it was worth undergoing the experience of being there for a while.

    Plus I met happymom, one of the finest people I have ever been privileged to know, and I found TWW!

    Best to all – Janna

  125. Janna,

    I have a bit of a different take on Josh. I get the feeling he is the guy who hates conflict. And dithers. Or maybe waits to see how it will play out. I konw he did not sign the paper but after reading the docs, listening to him and from researching his stuff from way back, I am wondering if he is just one of those who waits. And he can always say sorry later or give some reason he did such and such.

    I am not seeing this resolute leader standing up against the party machine like some others are.

    He reminds of a guy I used to work for who always agreed with the last person who talked to him. NIce guy but you know…..

    EVen in the FRancis Chan video with Driscoll and Harris, Harris was the nice guy. Did he agree with Chan or Driscoll? Who could tell?

  126. Evie,

    After a while, how did anyone know what was sincere or not in sgm. Or who was sincere or not? I am having trouble with discerning that just reading over at survivors. It is like they want to just rebuke but cannot come right out and say it. It is cloaked in a lot of fluffy syrupy words. Some people have the nice thing down pat while they stab in the back. It is very sinister and seems fake to me.

  127. @Lin – I know what you mean about Josh, yet he’s the only SGM pastor who’s ever focused on God’s love rather than God’s authority even prior to this scandal, in my opinion. Sometimes the nice guys really do finish last as the fact that Josh is no great loud-mouthed leader like Cardinal Mohler does make us think less of him in a sense whether we like to admit or not, I think.

    One thing I learned from living abroad in places without a strong rule of law is that you cannot expect moral purity from someone living in a corrupt country/environment. Given the company he keeps and his family background (daddy Gregg Harris is a pretty tough cookie and has some skeletons in his closet too) it’s amazing to me that Josh Harris has any integrity at all.

    I think he’s very sheltered by nature and be design. Plus the poor guy is still in his early thirties I believe. I imagine that C.J. Mahaney knew that Josh would not be able to stomach the dark side of SGM so he made sure that Josh wasn’t handling sex abuse issues or anything of that nature.

    If so, that was the Mahaney’s (plural as Carolyn is the real power behind the movement despite all her trademarked feminine submission materials stating otherwise) fatal error. You should never keep people close to the throne that aren’t 100% dependent on you. Perhaps they didn’t cover Sun Tsu or Machiavelli in the high school C.J. proudly states he barely graduated from or perhaps he and Josh really have a very strong bond that super cedes practical considerations. Who knows?

    Certainly there is no good SGM leadership without Josh Harris so I pray that he does the best he can do under awful circumstances. I’m not confident I’d show as much courage as he’s shown to date were our roles reversed.

    @Evie – I echo the essence of Lin’s comment in really wanting to know what the appeal is regarding a place like SGM? Do you feel safe as long as you play be the rules? I really don’t get it; the SGM-like environments I’ve seen to date are the true picture of hell to me.

    Good night all – Janna

  128. NLR,

    Thanks for your 12:11 comment. When I left my RB cult/church, I did so for the PCA, so I was able to truthfully tell those asked that I had left because of doctrinal differences (even after I had left the PCA, I still stuck to that line). The rest simply acted as if I had never existed, despite having what I had thought were very close friendships. I was basically invisible at my (somewhat small) PCA church, so no one noticed when I left and I didn’t have to deal with nosy questions. 🙂 It’s mainly been other people (family who, believe me, do *not* understand), who do. I typically shrug it off with a noncommittal answer.

    Frankly, I’d consider it rude and intrusive to ask someone – even a good friend – where they go to church, *unless* they had already brought it up. For “friends” from your former church to ask where you go isn’t polite conversation (as that is hardly a topic of polite conversation); it’s intrusiveness and likely an attempt on their part to figure out if you’re having the spiritual problems that the leaders taught would befall those who leave.

    It’s been very comforting to know that it’s incredibly common for former members of abusive/cultic churches to temporarily, if not permanently, stop attending church, reading the Bible, and praying. It really is only those who’ve been through the same thing who understand. That’s not something that’s easy to explain to someone who hasn’t left an abusive/cultic church.

    It’s funny that you mentioned taking people off FB, because just last night I finally got around to blocking a bunch of people from my old church. (Most of them already had only limited access to my profile; now they have none.)

    I’d love to make it to the CBE conference next year (I’ve found the resources on their website very helpful), if time and resources permit.

  129. “If so, that was the Mahaney’s (plural as Carolyn is the real power behind the movement despite all her trademarked feminine submission materials stating otherwise) fatal error. You should never keep people close to the throne that aren’t 100% dependent on you. Perhaps they didn’t cover Sun Tsu or Machiavelli in the high school C.J. proudly states he barely graduated from or perhaps he and Josh really have a very strong bond that super cedes practical considerations. Who knows?”

    You know another aspect that I have seen countless times is that the young protege loses their admiration for their mentor as they grow. Josh came pretty young to CJ and probably really admired him. But seeing how things worked at SGM perhaps that admiration turned to reluctance or something.

    I would like to hear more about Carolyn. In my experiences some of these wives of leaders in male dominated authority movements are the power behind the throne. It always confused me how they pretended to be the doormat in public.

  130. Amanda,

    You wrote:

    It’s been very comforting to know that it’s incredibly common for former members of abusive/cultic churches to temporarily, if not permanently, stop attending church, reading the Bible, and praying. It really is only those who’ve been through the same thing who understand. That’s not something that’s easy to explain to someone who hasn’t left an abusive/cultic church.

    I’ve written this and more on my main blog concerning the effects of spiritual abuse. Most people who really “get it” initially have a great deal of trouble with Bible Study because of the trauma of it all. How do you know what you “know” to be true is really true or was ever really true to begin with? It is a very healthy survival response after a trauma to avoid those things which trigger your feelings and cause you to feel threatened. Fellowship, Bible reading, certain songs and worship styles, etc., all get layered in along with the abuse and the skewed teachings, and it takes courage, work, time, and healing to be able to sort through the rubble of the whole experience, especially if you’re a committed Christian.

    (This blog is just where I consolidate multiple posts and old archived stuff from to make it easier to read):

  131. Hey Lin, sorry I didn’t see this earlier. Let me try to answer your question as best as I can.

    You asked, “After a while, how did anyone know what was sincere or not in sgm. Or who was sincere or not? I am having trouble with discerning that just reading over at survivors. It is like they want to just rebuke but cannot come right out and say it. It is cloaked in a lot of fluffy syrupy words. Some people have the nice thing down pat while they stab in the back. It is very sinister and seems fake to me.”

    Ok, well I can tell you from my experience, the only way to know who or what was sincere in SGM was by the Spirit. It doesn’t take long to discern that many people are attached to the organization by virtue of pride & selfishness.

    I’d be happy to share with you my opinion of whats behind some of the goings on at the anti-sgm blogs. I’d be happy to chat with you about it. Dee has my info so please get in touch. I think it would be interesting to compare notes!

  132. Lin,

    You are right to say that I found a great deal of resistance over at SGM when I started posting over there (after being invited there to participate in the comments many times beforehand, as I recall).

    Again, note that I evaluate the behaviors of a group objectively based on whether or not they meet criteria and patterns, either by the David Henke Spiritual Abuse model, Biderman’s Chart of Coercion, Singer’s model, but I prefer what is more of the gold standard of Robert Lifton’s thought reform criteria.

    PDI has been long known to the International Cultic Studies Association as cultic, and SGM also meets the criteria. I was involved in a related group in Maryland that had a relationship with CLC, and one of my old group’s sister church participated regularly with CLC;s youth program. My first assumption was that SGM was not cultic or problematic, but they fit the criteria quite well.

    * I experienced a great deal of resistance to the idea of spiritual abuse and of thought reform on one of the survivor blogs. It is terribly threatening to consider that you were essentially and to some degree “brainwashed,” and it is a difficult process.

    At the same time, it is also validating to realize that you are not dim witted or foolish but were rather manipulated by a fully orbed process aimed at control of your behavior, thoughts, emotions, and the information that you were given/become willing to accept. We all have our weak moments when we are recruited, and no one can be subjected to these influences without “snapping” to some degree, giving in to the group. So though you learn that something very terrible happened to you, learning about the process gives you tools and the confidence to cope and overcome what was done to you.

    At the survivor blogs (I did not visit them all), this message was unwelcome. Even when using only terms concerning “spiritual abuse,” SGMers believed what I was saying was psychology and therefore evil. One of the other exSGM blogs posted their own articles to counter what I was communicating. They believed that I knew nothing about it and was using “wordly” terms to defame the exSGMers as individuals personally because they were too threatened by the information. It was if they refused to take medicine to cure a condition because they were threatened by the idea that they have any condition to start with.

    * While actively posting on an exSGM site, I received lots of email from former members or even from people who continued to attend SGM irregularly. I believe now, after several of these emails, that people were asking me a litany of questions so that they could disqualify me in their own minds and could then disregard what I had to say. Two individuals who wrote to me had somewhat serious symptoms of clinical psychiatric disorders (and diagnoses, too), and they asked me about my opinion about meds. I’m a nurse, for heaven’s sake. Did they expect me to say that all they needed was CJ’s nouthetic counseling?

    I had another person with a pain disorder ask me about antidepressants, and with this consideration I stated that certain antidepressants can help drastically improve pain tolerance. Anyway, all of these individuals broke contact with me when I stated that meds were not of the devil and were acceptable or could be helpful… In fact, one person even wrote to thank me but stated that her husband had declared that she could no longer be in contact with me.

    In retrospect, I believe that the questions about medications were a litmus test, and per SGM standards, I’d failed. I also did not speak favorably about nouthetic counseling, believing it to be especially ineffective when a person has organic problems with their brain — something physiologic. Sometimes the software of our brain is messed up, but nothing except a rare miracle will help a person if their hardware (their physical brain) does not work properly. Depression and OCD and many other brain problems can be helped by alternative therapies and such, but some of it is also related to a disorder of the brain, and that can often be physical.

    * On the advent of Noel sharing her story, because there was so much distress and people in the NoVa area that could benefit from a support group meeting, I pulled in favors and had others at ICSA pull in favors to arrange for a former member of an evangelical group very similar to SGM who is now a very talented and experienced exit counselor to travel to NoVa to do a weekend retreat. He agreed to travel at his own expense and do it on a voluntary basis, though he does this same work to make a living. I secured funds to pay for a facility in NoVa. I secured funds to pay for the very experienced and qualified counselor’s expenses (lodging, etc.). The support group (meetings for two days) would cost nothing for those who wanted to come. I was also going to travel from Detroit to coordinate the whole thing.

    People said “That’s great!” on the survivor site (big surprise), but not one single individual wanted to come for some productive and healing discussion with their own peers where they could essentially get well on their way to healing themselves. It was not an indoctrination session or anything. These groups are run like a support group, but it is helpful to have a good counselor on site to help keep things focused and productive. Not a single person wanted this help that I worked to arrange for free — not even the people who have come forward to tell their stories online and say that they want healing.

    * I am also troubled by the degree of “loaded language” of SGM-speak that is used on these sites, years and years after people have reportedly left SGM. You are never permitted to come right out and say something negative about anyone directly. You are never permitted to say anything that challenges a leader that SGM held in high esteem. (For instance, I committed a grave sin by stating that Ken Sande’s behavior was very subversive and that he had not properly discerned the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. I was chastised for suggesting that the hosts of the Pyromanics blog were not on part with the same demigod status held by CJ. I was chastised for saying that CJ Mahaney would do nothing but manipulate people who went to him for private meetings to discuss their serious problems with SGM.)

    Many of the people participating there never have broken free of the cultic manipulation demanded at SGM. They continue to use the specialized language which SGM teaches as the only proper communication style for a true and earnest Christian. They continue to use the passive-aggressive, maudlin style demanded of them in the group in order to maintain milieu control. They still abide by the principles of thought reform and spiritual abuse, even though they may have left an SGM church. They don’t want to leave. They want to fix SGM, but there is no fixing it without addressing and renouncing the patterns of spiritual abuse.

    There are also those who believe that it is a grave sin to entertain the idea that CJ Mahaney is not 100% ethical, honorable, compassionate, and concerned for them. I think he’s a very experienced, charismatic leader of a very powerful spiritually abusive group that has been in existence for the better part of 40 years. People choose to deny this and choose to put all their faith in their belief in CJ’s virtue.

    They still follow the milieu control rules, the sacred science demand, the demand for purity, the doctrine over person requirement, the loaded language used in SGM, the confession techniques of manipulation (they just moved from their care groups on to do the same thing on the blogs), they only “dispense existence” to those who are former SGM members and hold to their own group (tribalism).

    Whether they still participate in the mystical manipulation aspects of SGM, I know not, because that’s something difficult to evaluate via conversation back and forth on a blog, unless people start prophesying to one another. Mystical manipulation also accounts for and is supported by the mechanism of grapevine communication of info up through the ranks of the SGM system.

    People automatically start collecting information from fellow members and pass it up through the hierarchy under the guise of spiritual concern. This info is collected by middle management/care group leaders (I was part of middle management for a short time in my own group) and is fed to coordinators, elders, and overseers. This info can then be used to manipulate followers, all with the appearance of spontaneity, making it appear like the leaders have divine insight.


    So I agree that on many of these former SGM blogs, those who participate there are there as a form of (ineffective) therapy, and they don’t really want to get well. That is fairly normal for a time after a person has exited a group. This stuff is hard to hear and to take in all at once. But I see the same names and the same people saying the same things that I saw 3 years ago — people who do not want to grow beyond the system. They are determined to rescue CJ or to believe in him hard enough that God will work some miracle to make SGM the utopian group that they need it to be.

    Some give mental ascent to the idea of spiritual abuse but claim that they were never affected, denying that the obsession with participation on these blogs is part of their symptomatology. “It didn’t happen to me!” (But they know that it did on some level, so they keep coming back to discuss their pain.)

    Some outright refuse to give up their belief that if only A, B, and C can happen, SGM will be the best place in the world. This is also a part of cultic programming. I was told many times at my own poor country cousin group in Maryland that no church would ever remotely be as good as theirs. And when I left “without their blessing and permission,” the leaders prophesied that great harm would come to me. These are control mechanisms, and many at these blogs choose to believe them.

  133. Cindy

    This is very important. Do people really want to change? They keep hoping that someone will be able to convince CJ to change or the system to transform. CJ and the system is broken. CJ has been at this game for 30+ years and has gotten in hot water all along the way. Do they not know their Bible? Some people are just hard hearted. When I saw the light a previous church, after trying on a couple of occasions to exact change, I blew my proverbial stack, started a blog and got the heck out of there. I am back in normalcy.

    I have no great hope that my previous pastor and his bidders will change. I pray for them occasionally but I have moved on. There is a general personality type that SGM attracts. Some, like FSGP and Steve 240, are not and they leave and speak out. Unfortunately, many others exist in limbo, hoping that the next “family meetings” or visit by PM will really straighten things out.

    The only way to change things is to get gone, taking your money and service with you.

  134. @Cindy and @Deb

    I concur with your observations 100%. I haven’t played around much with the official SGM blog but that Survivors blog has some serious issues regarding some of the people who are attracted to it/the way it’s managed, in my opinion.

    It has developed as much of a cult following as SGM itself and in some ways does more harm than good even though there are positive aspects to it. Some of those folks need therapy and their time would be better spent doing practical things such as writing to their local congress-person to overturn an unjust clergy privilege law or consulting with an attorney about the secret file SGM has on them as opposed to blogging endlessly about the SAME ISSUE year after year.

    The terms of use policy on the Survivors blog is vague and in theory it welcomes outsider opinions. Yet I don’t know a single non-SGMer who has posted there frequently who hasn’t been subtly or not-so-subtly encouraged to leave because he/she wasn’t really part of the club by the moderators, not just the posters.

    The litmus test appears to be, “have you ever been part of an SGM church” rather than “do you have a personal connection to SGM or a serious interest in helping people who have been abused by it.”

    I feel for the abuse victims yet when it comes to identifying cults intellectual honesty compels me to call a spade a spade regarding that Survivors blog.

  135. @lin

    I just saw your post now. Yes, I, too, have let mentors go because the relationship had run its course but that didn’t make having a falling out with someone I loved very much any easier.

    So I really feel for Josh in that his relationship with C.J., someone he likely loves and cares for even if the respect between this is gone, is now horribly strained forever no matter how much both individuals might wish the friendship could continue.

    Not only did Josh come to C.J. early, he lived with the Mahaneys till he got married so he’s practically their son. Thus no one will ever convince me that not signing that statement was some kind of Machiavellian ploy on Josh and C.J.’s part. Josh loves that family too much to give even the appearance of embarrassing them and C.J. did not benefit from Josh’s stance as some predicted he would if the two of them were in cahoots.

    As for Mrs. Mahaney, TWW has an excellent post on her but I’ll have to ask Deb or Dee to refer you to it. The Survivors blog has this piece available:

    I wish that I felt confused by the motives of the dominant wives of celebrity pastors but I can’t say much more because my diplomat skills will tater if I do. Let’s just say that it’s one thing when men put us down. By contrast building a business on the backs and misery of your fellow women…ain’t great.

    When I can view someone like Carolyn Mahaney with compassion, I’ll know I’m getting somewhere.

  136. RE Elastigirl on Wed, Aug 03 2011 at 05:58 pm:

    You wrote:

    “…I assume that’s a good thing. To get further off topic (well, not entirely), approaching the bible as this guide book and answer book for all aspects of life is like having a micromanaging golf coach…”

    It IS a good thing Elastigirl! I lived for years under the authoritarian boot of a Bibliocentric (Church) regime that believes this very thing. Looking back on it now, I don’t see how I survived such a regime. It crushes and brutalizes the human spirit in ways that are subtle and cruel. I am glad to be free.

  137. There is an old saying in Ireland. ‘There are many ways to skin a cat!”

    When we leave abusive Bible and Prayer obsessed groups we must give up these programed practices in order to break free from the control they exert over us. It’s not a matter of giving up on God , just the often brainwashing techniques of such hyper expressions of ‘faith’

    In my own experience as a recovering religious junkie I now view the Bible differently and don’t do ‘formal’ prayer anymore.

    I find that the old ‘evangelical’ model known as ‘devotions’ just don’t fit anymore. Meditation and contemplation sit more easily on my post charismatic soul.

    Prayer and Scriptures are guides on the Way not the end game in the spiritual Journey.At least that’s my take on it.

  138. @Dylan – I concur 100%. It’s amazing what happens when you just sit down and listen to God.

  139. HowDee YaAll,

    I can aboutz hears C.J. Mahaney right about now…

    “I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees…
     I went down to the  crossroads, fell down on my knees…
    Ask’ed the Lord for mercies….(save poor C.J)… if you pleazze…”

    “I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a’ride
     I went down to the crossroads, -tried to flag a “Reformed”ride…
    Didn’t nobody seem to know me…, everybody’s  pass’in me by’e…”


    dut duh'  dut, do da' do…
    dut duh'  dut, do da' do…

    den he be a say'in…

    "You can run, you can run, tell my friend, Mark Dever 
     You can run, you can run, tell my friend, Mark Dever :

    …That I'm stand'in at the crossroads, I believe I'm sinkin down…"



  140. Deb,

    as I was say’in…

    You just may have a connection with C.J.’s relationship with the distinguished Washington Baptist minister, in the influence department *and the gradual move of his whole organization (PDI) into the reformed camp some time after the name change. 

    * (If that is so, is the Ceege listening? Ha ha …

    “The congregation has real authority. It is also true that the Bible presents the local congregation as having the final say in matters of dispute, doctrine, discipline, and membership. The congregation exercises this authority for the maintenance of the Body’s health and for the accountability of the elders”. 
    —, Mark Dever )

    Direct knowledge of the sources of C.J.’s influence? Nahhhh. However, I saw no indications of Calvinistic leanings prior to Larry’s departure, nor did anyone else of my acquaintance. 

    (Remember, around that time, the whole * shepherding thing blew up, with mayacopas all around as late as 1989, if my gray matter serves me right?, he, he.  )

    Remember also,  Derek Prince admitted to the practice of witchcraft for twelve years. 


    If they were following the big five when that thing really went south, well, we’re talking large vacuum here–don’t cha hear dat sucking sound?  …C.J. had to go somewhere, right?  Larry had hit a dead-in and his effort/vision, was no longer self-sustaining in it’s (then) current form. Did it became a “vision issue”? Well, as early as 92, Larry was kinda looking stretched … IMHO, while waiting for the next wave, huh?

    Conjecture?  Mmmmmmmm, could beeeeeeeee…

    Da daa,da…fun, fun, fun, till Larry got kicked to the curb?



    (spiritual armchair quarterbacking is sooooo much fun, don’t cha know? >grin<

    Googling (shepherding movement) brings up a ton O' stuff, yours included: