July 29, 2011 by
As you may be aware, this week the entire board had the opportunity to meet for three days and work on some of the pressing issues facing Sovereign Grace Ministries right now. Some of you prayed for our retreat and we thank you for that kindness. (And thank you for your patience as communication here on the blog slowed down, too.) As we walk through this situation together as a family of churches, your partnership and prayers make all the difference for those of us in leadership.
Looking back on our retreat, I’m confident that God answered many of your prayers for us, and the silence on the blog was a stark contrast to some of the ways God seemed to be speaking to us. Let me add how enriched we are by having the regional leaders contributing on the board level. We not only are benefitting from their wisdom and experience, but we feel we are getting a much better sense of your thoughts and perspectives from these men, and for that we are very grateful.
These are some of the other things I’m most grateful for from the past few days:
- Despite a very full agenda, God allowed us to have several extended times of prayer and Scripture study together. Praying for the members of our churches, our pastors, the Mahaneys, and others affected by these events was a great privilege for us as a team.
- We had an exercise of examining just a few of our weaknesses and failures. Not all of this is new, but it was helpful to discuss these things at greater length and begin discussions of how to respond. Here were some of the major takeaways:
- We need to better define the relationship between SGM and local churches. What are all the contours of the partnership? What does it mean to be an SGM church?
- We lack formal processes for evaluating fitness for and disqualification from ministry. While this responsibility falls first to the local church, what is SGM’s role in serving churches in this regard and what should that look like?
- Many of our churches lack sufficient processes for people to engage with leaders about offenses. What can our role be in improving that situation?
- We need to make significant improvements to our communication, both with pastors and members of SGM churches. What are the most important issues to engage people on? What is our role versus a church’s role in communicating to members?
- We spent a morning with the elders of Covenant Life Church seeking to understand the effects of this season on CLC and to benefit from one another’s counsel.
- We spent several sessions (as a team and individually) with our two evaluators from Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Ted Kober and Ed Keinath. They held preliminary interviews with us, explained to us some different possibilities for their evaluation process, and spent time praying and looking at Scripture with us. As we were in Gaithersburg, they also met with C.J. and some of the elders at CLC.
These discussions are still the beginning of what is shaping up to be a defining moment in our history as a family of churches. God is most certainly at work, and there is much for us still to learn, as well as to apply as a result of the things he is showing us. Please keep praying for us and all the Sovereign Grace churches as we pursue what God has for us in this season.
One other thing: I know a few of you are wondering about the blog post on C.J.’s ministry qualification that we planned to post this week. In short, our senior pastors gave some great feedback on how our approach to the article could improve, and it simply wasn’t possible to get it revised amid everything else we had to do last week. Lord willing, we’ll give an update on that topic soon.
July 22, 2011 by
For those of us involved in leading Sovereign Grace Ministries through this difficult season, the challenges can loom pretty large. But whenever I step back and look at who we are as a family of churches I find the promise of Romans 8:28 gives me perspective.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
One of the things that has come through from even our strongest critics is that as we respond to the Lord in a way that pleases him, there can be great good that comes from this present experience. So it’s not hard to see through the eyes of faith how this season is part of the ‘all things for good’ of Romans 8:28. But you know what’s really great? There are also things happening right now that are part of the ‘all things for good’.
So let me just list for you a small sample of the ‘all things for good’ that I see in Sovereign Grace this week. Some are easy to see good in, others we have to look for good to come. But here they are in no particular order:
- Our incoming Pastors College class, the largest ever for us, has begun to arrive in Gaithersburg. These men and their families represent six countries, and eight of the students are here specifically to prepare for church planting. We'll introduce them to you here on the blog next month.
- In just a few weeks we get to host 1,700+ attendees for our WorshipGod conference. This year's theme is "The Gathering: Discovering what it means to build our meetings around the gospel." Thanks to Bob Kauflin's skillful leadership these conferences always bear wonderful results, and by God's grace we trust this year will be no different.
- The two review panels we mentioned last week are now established. Three church leaders outside of SGM are generously giving their time to serve as the preliminary panel, and we expect them to publish their evaluations early next month. Ambassadors of Reconciliation, a ministry that primarily serves Lutheran churches, will be our second and more in-depth panel. We are eager to learn from the evaluation they give us, and we will share their findings online too.
- Plans for a church plant in Miami, Florida, were recently approved. The team is being sent from Palm Vista Community Church in Miami Lakes, Florida. We'll share an interview with Jose Prado, the lead pastor, later this fall here on the blog.
- Next week, the expanded SGM board gets to gather in person for the first time. We have a three-day retreat starting on Tuesday that we're praying God will use in mighty ways for the benefit of Sovereign Grace churches. It is God's kindness that we were able to coordinate a retreat like this so quickly.
That's a start, and doesn't even drop down into the many wonderful things that God is doing on a local level in Sovereign Grace churches. Yes, this is a difficult season, but it is also a season of much grace. Let us keep in mind the comprehensive love of Christ that makes all things work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
Please keep praying for us. God is good, and he’s offering proof of it every day!
P.S. Andrew mentioned in the comments that we were hoping to share some perspective this week on the question of C.J.'s qualification for ministry. We have that written, but we're going to publish it early next week instead so that our senior pastors can give us their feedback first. Thanks for your patience!
July 18, 2011 by
One of the things I've been trying to do recently is to read and ponder the responses we're getting to our blog posts. I've also gotten a number of emails from folks who are telling me their thoughts about why we as a movement are here right now. Brent even sent me a letter from someone who anonymously offered critique of SGM based on their experience at my home church. Beyond the helpful perspective this is bringing, I'm also encountering something just as meaningful for my soul.
When you sit down with someone and talk, there is this amazing engagement of one person to another. It may not go well, but it is real and it stays with us. Emails and documents and details are important but they don't make the same connection as easily. But what the Lord is showing me is that all the emails and documents and blog posts shouldn’t obscure the fact that these are real people—you are real people, feeling and experiencing trials that have come in your experience with us.
What the Lord is helping me do is to see each comment, email, and statement as a real person, a child of God. It’s people whose questions or concerns are coming out of real life experiences, not just doctrinal or practical differences. I know I can speak for myself and the board, in fact I'm confident I speak for all the pastors in Sovereign Grace, that though we are weak and sinful men, we want to love in the way Jesus would have us love. We want to walk in the way Jesus would have us walk. Where we've failed, we want to own. Where we need change, we want to change. That's how I'm trying to view this season in our family of churches.
In recent days we've heard from a number of you. Some have shared ideas about steps for change, others have passed on Scripture passages to guide or convict. We appreciate all of this, and I ask that you keep it coming. The board isn't trying to shirk the responsibility to lead, but good leaders listen. Often. Whether I ever know who you are or not, you are a person and a Christian whom the Savior has died for and who has a stake in how he is represented in His church. Thank you in advance for anything you pass on to us. And thank you for your continued prayers for us.
July 15, 2011 by
Friends, critics, and curious onlookers,
Thank you all for engaging with us so much over the last week as we’ve attempted to tell you what’s going on with respect to this very difficult season in Sovereign Grace Ministries. There have been hundreds of comments on this blog and no shortage of emails. We’re learning from your input and I’m grateful that you chose to speak rather than dismiss us, to spend your time writing rather than just closing the window. Even the most critical comments represent an investment of your time and energy, but we see it as an act of service. Fostering constructive criticism in a digital world has not been a strong point in our communication historically.
This week has been very challenging, and heading into the weekend I am aware of some places where we screwed up. I’ll make no attempt to be exhaustive, but here are some highlights:
Lack of clarity in Wednesday’s board announcement. When we posted our resolutions on Wednesday, people were quick to infer that we were “circling the wagons.” And I think I understand that interpretation. We should have been a lot more clear about our resolve for self-evaluation, growth, integrity, and honest dialogue. So I’m not surprised that folks wrote to tell us of their heartbreak and stomach knots in response to our post, and I do regret that. Believe it or not, at the time we had a lot of people contacting us saying, ”We need to know exactly and without qualification what you think about all of this.” Communicating our “resolutions” seemed a precise way to convey all that. More seem to disagree than agree, and we’ve heard you. On top of that, we got more criticism even from our biggest fans on the lack of clarity in a couple of the resolutions. We amended the post to answer one common question, but I wish we had just nailed it the first time. All that to say, we messed up our delivery and in the process confused our #1 audience—the people in Sovereign Grace churches. It was a halting start for our new board, but we’re determined to do better. You all have asked a lot of valid questions and we’re grateful that these events mean so much to so many.
Lack of emphasis on self-evaluation. When people are tempted to think that you are (and I’ll pull from our vast supply of quotes here) “gaming the system,” engaging in “cronyism,” “going to war,” behaving with “hubris,” “presumptuous and self-serving,” and, well you get the idea—you’ve got the burden of ensuring they know you get the point. What’s the point? God is drawing our gaze inward as an organization. Not in a hyper-introspective-there’s-no-mission-out-there manner. But in a way that makes it clear to everyone, we have problems. Some of these were already on the radar, others surfaced more recently. But we’re going to face them. All of them. What I want to get across to people through how we handle this (and not just with what we say) is that we want to be more rigorous in our self-examination than anyone else is with us. We want to be leading the charge in that, not playing catch up.
Process over people. This insight came from a Sovereign Grace pastor, and looking back at our communication I have to say we are guilty as charged. For some reason we had this impulse that if we explained a series of steps of evaluation to everyone, that would somehow address the concerns that some members of our churches have about SGM more broadly. Now I think it would be wrong to paint every pastor, pastoral team, and church member with the same broad brush. But that doesn’t mean that there are no areas of our hearts and practice that need rigorous attention. I’m going to discuss some of those in a post next week. But even that isn’t the point here. The regrettable fact is that some dear members of Sovereign Grace churches have been hurt over the years, and no independent panel’s evaluation of us can fix that. We hope to do a better job of listening to those folks, learning from them, and owning where we’ve been wrong. See, if all we do is self-evaluate and improve our systems, failing in the meantime to pastor people through the process, we’ve missed the point. I’m committed, actually the whole board is committed, to not letting that happen.
Well friends, that’s not the whole list, but it’s a start. We’re on rocky terrain, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.
To our friends and detractors alike, can I make an appeal about C.J.? The guy has voluntarily stepped aside from his role as president to ensure he would not influence any evaluation of him. He will be placed under the scrutiny of two different panels. He has written two detailed confessions to Brent and confessed publicly to the pastors and members of Covenant Life Church. He has spent over a year examining his soul and reaching out to people who are offended with him. In some cases there has been reconciliation (including with Larry Tomczak, who reached out to C.J.). In others there has not, but he’s trying and praying. Despite appearances to the contrary, C.J.’s self examination didn’t begin last week, and no doubt it will continue —as it should for all of us. But can I appeal that we not rush to judgment but rather think about him the way we would want to be evaluated if someone came forward against us?
Before I close out, let me just say something that I think will resonate with all of us. God’s not asking us to choose between sides or between people here. He wants us to choose Him. We don’t have all the answers, but because of the cross we’re connected to the One who does. And he will help us show a watching world the unity we have in Christ. God is at work…for our good and His Glory!
Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be back in touch soon.
July 14, 2011 by
A few minutes ago, we announced that Joshua Harris is resigning from the SGM board. If you're wondering what that may represent, let me just make a couple of points.
First and primarily, as a board we still have a strong desire for Josh’s input, and all parties involved are eager to keep the partnership strong between SGM and CLC. Josh has graciously agreed to keep attending our board meetings as requested to give us counsel, and for that we are very grateful.
Second, Josh and the board agree on many things about our current season.
- We are grateful for how C.J. has confessed to sins and leadership failures in this process and we agree that other accusations against him require further examination.
- We agree that giving C.J. his requested leave of absence is key to facilitating that examination.
- We agree there are other problems in Sovereign Grace Ministries that need attention.
- We agree there are people hurting over this situation for a number of reasons, and that we need to take that seriously.
But we disagree on some important matters too. For example, we disagree in our interpretation of this current season of ministry. Is God disciplining all of Sovereign Grace Ministries right now? Josh says yes, and we’re open to that conclusion. But before arriving at that conclusion we would want to walk through a process of evaluating all of SGM, which we have not done yet. It also became apparent that Josh and the board think differently on how best to help C.J. engage with an evaluation, and how the board should exercise leadership as that process unfolds. These differences in our thinking are important and it recently became clear that the other 10 board members and Josh are in a different place on these issues.
And that's okay. Individual churches like Covenant Life have the flexibility to do things differently. We don’t force Covenant Life to adjust where they are at, nor does Covenant Life demand that we respond differently.
The disagreements remain, which explains why Josh could not sign the board statement that we released on Wednesday. Josh also wanted to be free to focus on leading Covenant Life Church through this season.
The important thing is that Josh and the board continue to affirm our ministry partnership together. Josh's resignation from the board is not a grand statement about our future together. It's not even an indication that we disagree on most things. We don't. In fact Josh and the board agree on about 98% of things, especially on our shared mission we have been given to see churches planted and built in this country and around the world. We share this vision, even if we find disagreements elsewhere.
So that’s pretty much what is going on. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to talk to your pastor or email Sovereign Grace Ministries. And please continue to pray for us during this time!
On behalf of the board,
July 14, 2011 by
This past week we (the Sovereign Grace Board and Joshua Harris) came to the mutual decision that it would be best for Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries for Joshua to step down from his role as a board member.
While still committed to our shared theological foundation and partnership in Sovereign Grace Ministries, as well as a common desire to walk through this unique season in a God-glorifying way, this change seems wise in light of certain points of disagreement over how best to proceed. Joshua also faces a sizable responsibility of steering Covenant Life through this trial and stepping away from his board role allows him to focus entirely on that task.
What remains unchanged is our affection, respect, friendship and partnership within Sovereign Grace. Joshua’s work on the board for the last three years has been important and we still want him to be a source of counsel for the board. To that end, Joshua has graciously agreed to continue joining board meetings as requested.
We celebrate the fact that in our family of churches, unity in the gospel doesn’t mean unanimity on secondary matters. Ultimately we believe this change will better preserve our essential unity while allowing Joshua to focus his attention on leading Covenant Life and the Board to provide leadership for Sovereign Grace in a time of crisis.
July 13, 2011 by
I'm posting the statement below on behalf of our board of directors.
Last week we announced that C.J. Mahaney would be taking a temporary leave of absence from his position as President of Sovereign Grace Ministries. This leave was intended to create a fair and open process of evaluation for C.J. and the ministry and was not intended to be disciplinary. We assumed that the charges against him would remain private and that following the evaluation period, we would be able to announce publicly an independent evaluation panel's findings.
Since our announcement Brent Detwiler sent his accusations against C.J. and Sovereign Grace to all Sovereign Grace pastors. His material has also been published on the internet. Brent sent his material to the Sovereign Grace pastors despite repeated appeals that he engage C.J. and Sovereign Grace through the agency of an independent mediator, and if he refused to do that, to simply meet with an independent evaluation panel so they could examine his charges without C.J. or Sovereign Grace present to respond.
In light of the fact that C.J. has now been publicly accused with no opportunity to defend himself, the board of Sovereign Grace has made the following resolutions.
1. That Brent Detwiler’s refusal to participate in mediation with C.J. Mahaney—unless Mahaney first agrees (a) to publish an extensive written response to each of Detwiler’s accusations and (b) to make a public confession prior to any mediation or impartial evaluation of his charges—is unjust and constitutes a denial of biblically grounded due process for a qualified minister of the gospel (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Timothy 5:19-20, Proverbs 25:9).
2. That Brent Detwiler’s distribution of written accusations against C.J. Mahaney to all Sovereign Grace pastors constitutes the public slander of Mahaney’s reputation.
3. That the board of Sovereign Grace Ministries has reviewed Brent Detwiler’s documents accusing C.J. Mahaney of sinful practices in the conduct of his ministry and finds no reason at this time to deem him unfit for ministry. However, the board will reevaluate Mahaney’s fitness after receiving formal evaluation of the accusations lodged against him (see below). The board acknowledges that sins have been committed but also recognizes and appreciates Mahaney’s eagerness to confess sins, pursue reconciliation with Detwiler, and pursue personal holiness and growth as a minister.
4. That C.J. Mahaney is a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry in Sovereign Grace and the wider body of Christ.
5. That Sovereign Grace Ministries will engage a process of evaluation regarding CJ Mahaney's fitness for ministry.
A preliminary panel will examine confessions that Mahaney has already made to determine if at present he is qualified to be a pastor and the president of Sovereign Grace. In light of the public defamation of his character, this is to be done with all deliberate speed. The board deems this preliminary panel necessary to show that while it has concluded that Mahaney is fit for ministry, other temporary outside evaluation is necessary either to lend credibility to its assessment or to make changes this panel deems necessary.
A second panel will commence work concurrent with the first. It will consist of members of an independent conciliation ministry with no ties to Sovereign Grace. This panel will create a process for examination of the outstanding charges against Mahaney and create and lead a process for a fair hearing of those charges to determine if they are true or false. The board will then seek review and comment from qualified pastors with a good reputation in the body of Christ who are not directly associated with the ministry. The board will then make a determination of appropriate action in light of the panel's findings and the advice of the above pastors.
Dave, Aron, Craig, Jeff, John, Mark, Mickey, Pete, Rick, and Steve
Addendum from John Loftness:
A lot of you are asking why resolutions #4 and #5 seem different. In #4 the board wanted us to know that from what they know of C.J.'s sins and leadership failures, they don't consider him disqualified from any ministry. They thought they had to make a statement about that so no one misunderstood. In #5, they're saying that they recognize that their conclusion about C.J. at this point may not be credible to some, so they want a preliminary panel to look at what C.J. has already confessed to see if they agree or not. The board believes that if any disciplinary action is to take place, it should come only after the full period of evaluation. Before that they want C.J. to serve.
July 11, 2011 by
Please see "A note about online confessions" for an explanation of why I removed the original content of this blog post.
July 11, 2011 by
As C.J. has described elsewhere, he and Larry Tomczak have recently reconciled with each other. Larry gave us permission to post a letter he sent on July 4, describing their estrangement and reconciliation. I hope this letter encourages you.
Larry Tomczak's Testimony
About His Reconciliation with CJ Mahaney
July 4, 2011
I would like to take a few moments to share with you a testimony of God’s grace in my life, in my family, and in a very dear relationship. About 38 years ago CJ Mahaney and I were brought together in a complementary friendship and teaching ministry in the nation's capital. We started with a handful of people in the home of Mrs. Lydia Little, who called us together and was the initial catalyst for our ministry. We began to study the Word of God, then we began to teach the Word of God in a more public fashion. Our group grew within a four-year period to almost 2,000. It was primarily young people meeting every Tuesday for a ministry meeting called "T.A.G.," or Take and Give. We taught the Scriptures, worshipped the Lord, and saw multitudes of people converted. Even to this day, wherever we travel in this nation and abroad, both CJ and I hear testimonies of people who thank us for our teaching. We've been amazed at how God used that ministry, which was both a personal journey toward God and a revival that touched many lives.
As our ministry grew, we complemented each other—we were very different. In 1977 we realized it was God's will to conclude the teaching and evangelistic gatherings and begin to plant a New Testament church. We tried to do it in a way that was non-divisive and began in my home. Over the course of a year or two, a church was started that is now Covenant Life Church. Thirty-some years later it is a prosperous local church in the Gaithersburg MD area, with about 3,000+ members.
As the church grew, we also caught a vision for church-planting and multiplication according to the pattern in the Book of Acts. Over the course of two decades we were privileged to be involved in planting or "adopting" about 25 churches. This fellowship of churches eventually became known as “Sovereign Grace Ministries.” We were also involved with a nationally published magazine, People of Destiny, which 20-25,000 people received.
But somewhere in the 1990's God put a test before us. I’m sorry to say that we didn't come through with flying colors. We wanted the ministry's core values and beliefs to be more specifically identified. That brought about some friction, because I found myself going on a different doctrinal path than some of the other leaders who were dear friends. As time went by I felt I was experiencing abuses of spiritual authority and methodologies that were harmful and inconsistent with Scripture. Other leaders in SGM shared similar experiences with me. Because of this, as well as some pruning the Lord was doing in my personal life in terms of character, and some family issues with one of our children, CJ and I reached a place where there was not just tension, but an impasse. Eventually there was a sense in my own heart to end my time with the ministry. I felt there were issues of doctrine and direction in the ministry with which I could no longer align. As I attempted to exit, it caused tension and things did not go well for us.
For the past 13 years, CJ and I have been in a state of estrangement. I made several attempts to address these differences and to deal with offenses and perceived injustices. Both of us sought to apply principles of biblical peacemaking, but we made little progress. We struggled unsuccessfully to overcome separation, alienation, and division. We certainly did not give a positive witness for the Lord. The ripples of our separation went through the Body of Christ in many ways, affecting extended family members, churches, and individual church members.
In September 2010, I sent a letter to CJ requesting that we come together again to try to reconcile with each other. CJ gladly agreed and flew to Nashville where we met and talked for over four hours. Early in the meeting, we considered two specific questions:
First, what is God calling us to do that would bring Him the maximum glory, bring healing to the maximum number of people, and stop the ongoing divisive activity of Satan in the maximum number of individuals and churches?
Second, are we willing to do whatever He reveals no matter what the cost?
We both gave a thumbs up and a hearty Amen and said, “Let's dig in.” We put into practice the wisdom of Proverbs 14:9, “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” By God’s grace, we worked hard at repairing our relationship. CJ confessed and repented of sins that had caused separation between us. Where I had also sinned and failed, I did likewise. I was deeply moved by CJ’s humility and transparency, and would give him an “A+” on his role in the conversation.
Realizing that my wife Doris had also been affected by our estrangement, CJ offered to meet with her as well. A few weeks later, he returned and she joined us for another four hour conversation. As a result of prayer and fasting and the grace of God, we saw the Holy Spirit doing a work in our midst that I would have to say was miraculous. I believe that all of us pleased the Lord by not being defensive, by listening to one another, by attempting to understand the past and lay it out on the table, with nothing ignored or neglected.
But God was not done with us yet. Doris's father is 89 and her mother is 87, and CJ knew that they too had been impacted by our struggles. To our great joy and appreciation, he humbled himself and called them on Christmas Eve. In their words, “in a pile of tears” he sought forgiveness and expressed repentance. It was an incredible experience as God brought healing in a situation that my wife had said two months before was irreparable. Ripples went out to our entire extended family. One family member who was involved in the situation subsequently flew to meet with us in Nashville. We were able to discuss things and he repented and asked our forgiveness. We also acknowledged some failures at this time.
CJ also had a private meeting with one of our children and was a model of humility in listening and dealing with issues he wanted to discuss. A breakthrough came when he humbly asked forgiveness for an offense that had deeply hurt my child, Doris, and me. This evidence of God’s reconciling grace was crucial to our eventual reconciliation.
During this six month period, several SGM leadership couples called us or visited us in Nashville, at great financial cost, to likewise repent and seek forgiveness for sins against us and our family. Some called our children to do likewise. Many tears and lots of pain came to the surface, but this brought great glory to God and was essential to the healing process for our family. It also gave us the opportunity to confess and ask forgiveness for our contributions to our estrangement. The efforts by SGM leadership couples to seek reconciliation ushered in the healing for things that had affected all of us for thirteen years and had negatively impacted many of our children.
At this point we are all standing in amazement that after 13 years the Holy Spirit moved into our lives as we humbled ourselves for what we would call a transformational experience. Where sin had once separated us, the grace of Christ now brought us all together in a spirit of love and forgiveness. We were all impacted—not only us, but also our children and extended family members. We believe this is going to reverberate throughout Covenant Life Church, the ministry of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and also individuals who have been aware of this ministry here and abroad. Doris's dad and mom said, “We're ready now to be with the Lord, for we have seen the intervention of God.”
I praise God that CJ and I are now able to communicate the wonderful news of our reconciliation to those who would be encouraged by it. We have agreed that we don't need to go into specifics, but we can tell anybody and everybody that we came together, every major issue was put on the table, we endeavored to humbly repent, ask forgiveness, and honor God by forgiving. We want to move forward now and see healing, not only in our lives and families but in the churches and ministries that in any way, shape or form were impacted by what took place.
Praise be to God, who has graciously overcome and delivered us from our sin and given us the grace to experience the forgiveness and reconciliation that Christ won for us at the Cross!
The following is a message from the board of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
By now you may have read C.J.’s letter about recent developments in his life and in Sovereign Grace Ministries. We want to take a moment to communicate to you as well concerning these events and inform you of the steps the SGM board is taking in response.
We understand that this news may strike some as sudden and surprising. However, a process has been unfolding over a number of months in which the board has sought to evaluate charges against C.J., assist him in examining his heart and pursuing reconciliation, and bring accountability and guidance to him in this process. Because some of the charges move beyond C.J. to SGM, we also wanted to examine ourselves and our practices both past and current. To that end, we are in the process of securing help from an outside organization that can conduct a thorough and objective review of the charges being brought against C.J. and SGM. We are seeking to identify an organization that has no prior history with us and that has wide respect in Christian circles, and we will keep you posted on that search process as we make progress. We have by no means guided this process flawlessly, but we are learning and growing through this long and difficult process. And we are encouraged by how God appears to be leading us.
It is also important for us to be clear that we are supportive of C.J.’s letter and the decisive actions he has taken. The charges against C.J. are serious, but his response has been one of self-examination and, when possible, specific confession to those sinned against. However, given the numerous events, people, and perspectives involved, the work of an independent panel will be vital to fully examining these charges and arriving at an objective conclusion, especially on those charges with which the board does not agree. We therefore believe the leave of absence is appropriate in the present circumstances to afford C.J. the time to reflect upon his heart and to allow an independent panel space to conduct its review. Like C.J., we are committed to facilitate as thorough and objective a process as possible by an independent panel.
In addition to our search for an independent panel, we have taken other steps in response to these circumstances. In order to secure a broader source of accountability and benefit from a deeper pool of wisdom, we have expanded the board to lead SGM in this season. The current regional leadership team members, all pastors in SGM churches, constitute the additional board members: Craig Cabaniss, Mickey Connelly, Rick Gamache, Pete Greasley, John Loftness, Aron Osborne, Mark Prater, and Steve Shank. We are grateful for the wisdom and experience these men bring to this board and for their willingness to serve in this capacity. To facilitate continuity in our day-to-day operations, the new board has appointed Dave Harvey to act as the interim president during C.J.’s leave of absence.
As for C.J., his primary focus during the leave of absence will be to continue to examine his heart and consider the various charges and offenses, as well as to fully cooperate with an independent panel, once chosen by the board. Any pursuit of reconciliation with aggrieved parties will be guided by the counsel of the board and the independent panel. C.J. has also fully submitted himself to the board’s direction regarding his ministry activities and external commitments during this time.
All of us carry concern for the Mahaneys personally, and the board is working to ensure that a clear and helpful plan is in place to provide adequate care for C.J. and his family during this season. This plan will integrate the local care C.J. receives with other lines of counsel he receives from those outside of SGM.
We realize there is much to process here, and much of it is disconcerting. Our theology serves us well in times like this: God is clearly at work in C.J., in our own lives, and in SGM. Our desire is to embrace all that he has for us in this season, knowing he is working for our good, however difficult that may be. To those in the SGM family of churches, our commitment is that we will, by God’s grace, seek to walk as humbly, wisely, and transparently as possible during this season, and to seek to serve and care for Sovereign Grace churches in whatever way we can. We covet your prayers, and we cherish our partnership with you now more than ever.
Dave, on behalf of the Sovereign Grace Ministries board