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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 12:56AM


I know I should be used to this by now, but it still never ceases to amaze me how Sovereign Grace Ministries people continue to demonstrate a peculiar oblivion to the fact that certain sins have particularly life-altering ramifications, whether there’s been forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration or not.

The Sovereign Grace Ministries mindset that we are all supposed to be the “worst sinners we know” is, I believe, behind this weird unwillingness to get real about the pedophile/child abuse issue.

Yes, it’s primarily from “secular” sources, but research has shown that people with sexual inclinations toward children struggle mightily in ways that the rest of us cannot imagine. Also, research (as well as common sense!) would indicate that victims of childhood sex abuse are left with scars for the rest of their lives.

While I would certainly agree that the root cause of pedophilia is the same as the root cause of any other sort of sin -- the fact that our world is fallen and broken and in need of a Savior -- the practical lifelong ramifications of pedophilia are just way way way different and much more far-reaching than Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors’ sins of “pride” and the “fear of man,” for example.

Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors might like to theorize about how their pride is just as sick as Mr. A’s pedophile crime. But we all know that it’s not…except in a convoluted way, Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors’ pride at maintaining their “humble” stance as the worst sinners they know™ has caused them to sympathize with pedophiles and behave more harshly toward victims than toward perpetrators of these sorts of crimes. (So I guess in that way, maybe their pride IS actually as bad as having sexual inclinations toward children…go figure!)

Anyway, while Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors live in some weird theological ivory tower of hyper-Reformed logic and twist their brains into pretzels trying to drum up a continued awareness of their own “worst sinner™” status, the rest of us with our feet planted on the ground KNOW, both academically and instinctively, that certain sins are particularly gross and disgusting and that we should do everything in our power to stand up to them and fight for victims and protect other kids from becoming future victims.

I think the fact that Sovereign Grace Ministries still cannot seem to see this -- as is evidenced by the so much more genuine and heartfelt tears about the potential damage to John L’s and Gary R’s reputations, as opposed to the stilted expressions of regret over how victims were treated -- continues to boggle my mind.

Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors, climb down from your lofty theological perches and come live in the real world for a little while. Forget about trying to drum up gratitude for “the Savior” and “the gospel” by obsessing over your own “pride” and your own innate “worst sinner™” status, and instead allow the Holy Spirit to soften your hearts and be the hands and feet of Jesus by looking out for the little ones in your care.

Create a real -- and completely publicized rather than behind-the-scenes -- policy for notifying parents when you’ve decided to give pedophiles a second chance. (Or for when you’re afraid that underage offenders will grow up and “sue” Sovereign Grace Ministries.) Train all your pastors -- old and new -- on how to wholeheartedly and enthusiastically follow the reporting laws of the land.

And allow your hearts, for once, to be more broken over the notion that because of your twisted “care” for molesters, it’s quite possible that you’ve enabled additional victims, than over the possibility that some of your pastors’ reputations might be less than stellar after their poor choices were exposed.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 01:02AM


What is disturbing to me about all the stories like Taylor’s is that there was something so regimented and formulaic about pastors’ responses to victims. In their treatment of victims, the pastors seemed to lack all normal human sympathy, empathy, and understanding -- let alone Christian love. And this almost HAD to be some sort of policy that had been talked about or taught…or it wouldn’t have been evident in so many situations.

We’ve been doing this site for awhile. (In November 2011, it will be 4 years since we started Here’s something interesting: in all that time, with all the many Sovereign Grace Ministries defenders who have come around to say that Sovereign Grace Ministries doesn’t really have these problems and that at least half these stories aren’t true and that there have got to be extenuating circumstances and mitigating details that the victims left out as they told their stories -- well, in all that time, I have never heard a story from a victim who was treated differently.

Logic would have it that in all the time we’ve been doing the site, with all the email I get (with a considerable amount being “corrective” messages bringing me “observations”), and with all the Sovereign Grace Ministries defenders who swear up and down that Sovereign Grace Ministries is not actually this bad, there would have been someone, somewhere who would have shared a story about being a victim and being treated wonderfully. By now, it’s really shocking that I’ve never heard from a victim whose Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors were more understanding to her/him than they were to the perpetrator.

It’d be logical that I would have by now heard at least ONE story from an Sovereign Grace Ministries victim that painted the pastors in a flattering light.

But I haven’t.

Every single story I’ve ever heard from a victim basically follows the same outline, with very little variation. Victims are brushed off and treated with suspicion, if not hostility, by their Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors. Perpetrators, however, are accommodated.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 01:20AM


I’ve had many conversations with folks about their Sovereign Grace experiences. I’ve never done an official tally, but I know I’ve heard far more Sovereign Grace Ministries stories via email than have been shared on the site itself.

One striking aspect of so many of the stories people have told me is the almost palpable fear that lurks behind their words. Often, their entire reason for sending email rather than posting their stories to the blog is because they are afraid that if they share publicly, even if they do so anonymously, they might be recognized. Apparently, if their fellow Sovereign Grace Ministries members were to find out that they are dissatisfied with aspects of their Sovereign Grace experience, and are sharing about these on a website, terrible things could befall them.

I have to say, for a long time, I never gave these writers’ fear much thought. I understand what it’s like to worry about disappointing people. I have my own reasons for not blogging under my full identity. Because we did not have a bad experience at our Sovereign Grace Ministries church but were instead treated very kindly by our Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors, we’ve always believed that they do not deserve to have this site reflect personally on them or their particular church, especially because we’d still like to believe that their congregation is far more grace-based than some and does not manifest the problems that others have described here. Why should they have to suffer because we were bothered by nagging undercurrents, had questions, and then blogged about them?

So I can understand the desire for secrecy.

But the other day, after receiving email from four different individuals who all, in one way or another, expressed their desire to maintain even more anonymity than the website affords, I got to thinking about just how strange it is that a Christian organization could engender so much fear in its people. What, after all, could befall your average Sovereign Grace person if it were discovered that he or she had expressed dissatisfaction online?

Certainly I could not imagine anything truly sinister. I couldn’t picture C.J. Mahaney or any other pastor sending out his goons to rough up the individual who had, for instance, shared that she’d been castigated and reprimanded by church leadership for daring to pray for a married woman when she herself is still single. I couldn’t see an angry mob of men with shaved heads and oversized shirts all wielding baseball bats and coming after the gentleman who told of being disciplined for not tithing. I certainly couldn’t envision what was so scandalous about the story of the family who had decided to leave because they’d been rebuked for asking hard questions about their church’s ambitious building program.

Why were they so desperate to keep the stories of their dissatisfaction anonymous?

What power does Sovereign Grace Ministries have over all these folks, especially now, as many of them have already left?

I really don’t know.

I am aware, of course, that many Sovereign Grace Ministries families worry about losing their social lives, which, after some years, tend to revolve around the church and its activities. Some writers have told of extended family whose livelihoods depend upon maintaining good relations with Sovereign Grace Ministries. I guess many people feel like they just have too much to lose, and that it’s too risky for them to come out and even semi-publicly express any dissatisfaction.

Like I said, I can understand this, to a point.

But isn’t it a little odd that a Christian organization could exert such control over its people?

The other day, my sister and I were talking about how many emails I receive from frightened people. That’s when it suddenly hit me that this sort of fear is a very obvious sign that Sovereign Grace Ministries is NOT a normal Christian organization.

SGM Survivors

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 12:58PM


One sad fact about Sovereign Grace Ministries is that it has split families.

It may not split all families, or even most, but I hear from many, many people who have been systematically cut out of their relatives’ lives once those relatives joined a Sovereign Grace Ministries church. And it wasn’t because the non-Sovereign Grace Ministries people weren’t Christians, either – most of the folks who have written to me have been careful to share that they are believers in Jesus, fully cognizant of the gospel, and active in their own (non-Sovereign Grace Ministries but nonetheless Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming) churches. When they’ve broached the subject with their Sovereign Grace Ministries relatives, the non-Sovereign Grace Ministries people have typically been told that the Sovereign Grace Ministries member is merely making a priority of relationships with those in their “local” church. “No offense intended,” they’ll say, even as they gradually avoid more and more family get-togethers and quit having Grandma babysit their children.

On the other side of the Sovereign Grace Ministries journey are those who have left the organization. I hear from those people, too. Many of them write to me in dismay, describing lives that have been turned upside-down after leaving their Sovereign Grace Ministries churches. Sadly, they also find themselves cut off from their still-in-Sovereign Grace Ministries relatives. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins no longer are as welcoming or accepting. Frequently, the ex-Sovereign Grace Ministries people will tell of outright rejection of them as fellow believers, where parents will cast doubt on the salvation of their ex-Sovereign Grace Ministries children, even though the ex-Sovereign Grace Ministries people will establish that they’ve been vigilant about quickly finding new church homes and getting connected with other non-Sovereign Grace Ministries Christians. They discover that formerly easy-going relationships with parents and grandparents still in the Sovereign Grace Ministries organization have turned into tense situations, where every conversation is a minefield of topics to carefully avoid.

SGM Survivors

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 01:18PM


You believe that your pastors are “serving” you by granting you the privilege of doing work for them;

Likewise, you believe that your pastors are “serving” you when they permit you to allow them to use your vacation home for free;

You’d swear in a court of law that you regularly attend “Bible study,” when what you actually mean is that you go to your Sovereign Grace Ministries small group and talk about the previous Sunday’s teaching under the tight supervision of your small-group leader;

You’d feel an overwhelming sense of honor if you were to be asked to become a small-group leader;

You use words like “commend” and “humbly” in everyday conversation;

You believe that it’s perfectly acceptable to confront casual church acquaintances about the sins and shortcomings you see in their lives;

When you read SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge forums, all you can think about is how you’re going to point out how sinful the commenters are for discussing Sovereign Grace Ministries’ issues publicly;

You believe that any statement that is not wholeheartedly complimentary to and in complete agreement with your pastors cannot be uttered aloud, or - if you made such a statement - you would believe that you had engaged in gossip;

You believe that if you find yourself questioning your pastor’s behavior or doubting his sincerity, you can go to him, openly ask him about your concerns, and then be completely confident that he will give you an answer that is 100% honest full disclosure;

You find yourself expending mental energy on “believing the best” of your pastors, putting the most positive spin possible on the things they do and say, even when common sense would seem to indicate such interpretations are silly;

You have very few – if any – close friendships with non-Sovereign Grace Ministries people;

You believe that your pastors have been endowed by God with special skills that enable them to “watch over your soul” – which means that they have a better grasp of your spiritual health and your needs than you yourself do;

You believe that your fellow Sovereign Grace Ministries church members should be “closer than family” to you;

You eagerly read whatever books are promoted by your pastor from the pulpit;

You believe it’s hugely unlikely that John Piper could be wrong about anything relating to theology;

You believe that C.J. Mahaney has close friendships with the likes of John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler;

You seriously believe that the men listed above actually sit around shooting the breeze and “correcting one another” as part of their deep friendships;

You believe that these men have fully investigated everything there is to know about C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries and wholeheartedly endorse the “family of churches”;

You see nothing odd about the descriptive phrase “family of churches” and would argue passionately that Sovereign Grace Ministries is not a denomination;

You believe that your Sovereign Grace Ministries church is led by “elders.”

You believe that Sovereign Grace Ministries as an organization has systems in place to hold your pastor accountable…to the average church member;

You believe that the congregation can have input into your church’s major financial decisions;

You believe that starting another Sovereign Grace Ministries church in an already-church-saturated suburb is “missions” work;

You believe that being permitted – after an arduous vetting process – to change your job, sell your home, uproot your family, and move across the country to one of these new Sovereign Grace Ministries churches is “sacrificing for the sake of the gospel”;

You believe that “the gospel” is mostly about your sin;

You find yourself thinking and talking about your sin quite frequently;

You at least occasionally find yourself feeling misunderstood or wrongly assessed by your church leaders, but when this happens, you immediately tell yourself that your discomfort is being caused by your own sin nature and is therefore something you should squelch;

Your family has made lifestyle choices – about things like whether or not you homeschool your children or spank them for certain behaviors or are a one-income family – because of the example and teachings of your church leaders;

Sometimes you have allowed church peer pressure to influence you to make choices that you either regret or wouldn’t ordinarily have made;

You wholeheartedly believe that Sovereign Grace Ministries is both “Reformed” and “Charismatic”;

For that matter, you believe whatever your Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders tell you about Sovereign Grace Ministries…even when your own observations would contradict what your leaders say;

When watching the Super Bowl, you believe that you are being “more Godly” when you switch to C-SPAN during the commercials;

You believe that C.J. Mahaney is humble;

You use your Facebook status to sing your pastor’s and church’s praises;

You believe that inappropriately-clad women are at least 50% responsible for men’s lust issues;

You see nothing odd whatsoever about giving one of the guys from SGM headquarters a standing ovation when he visits your church;

You are willing to spend a considerable amount of money to send your kids to the Harris twins’ “Rebelution” conferences and help them buy all sorts of books and materials while there;

You believe it is ”more honoring to God” to save your first kiss for your wedding day;

If you married while in Sovereign Grace Ministries, you wanted people to believe that you and your spouse did not kiss before you made it to the altar;

You would never dream of questioning whether nepotism played a part in the fact that so many leaders’ offspring (or their spouses) are hired for plum leadership or pastoral positions;

You think it’s perfectly acceptable for a pastor to have no college degree or formal seminary training;

You see nothing ironic or questionable about Sovereign Grace Ministries’ “Pastors College”;

You can’t fathom living your Christian life “to the fullest” without attending a Sovereign Grace Ministries church;

Consequently, you wouldn’t live anywhere where there was not a Sovereign Grace Ministries church, even if that meant giving up a great job promotion or some other move that would be clearly advantageous to your family;

Although you’ve experienced some unpleasant things in your Sovereign Grace Ministries church, you would never think of leaving; in fact, thoughts of leaving your Sovereign Grace Ministries church fill you with fear and a sense of hopelessness;

Whenever you’ve experienced one of those unpleasant things, you immediately tell yourself, “Well, no church is perfect”;

Whenever you state an opinion in front of your church friends, you find yourself qualifying your statements with lengthy disclaimers about how you might just be wrong;

You laugh uproariously at C.J. Mahaney’s jokes, especially when he does his falsetto cackle and claps his hands;

You sincerely believe that if you have a legitimate complaint about your pastor, you can go to him and explain yourself and he will then admit his fault and change accordingly;

In conjunction with the above, you believe that if your pastor does not admit fault or change, then your complaint simply could not have been very legitimate and that the fault is therefore your own;

You put more stock in your pastor’s opinion than the opinions of other significant people in your life, like your parents;

You are convinced that all of life’s problems can ultimately be boiled down to sinful choices;

If you discovered that a church friend held to a theological position that differed significantly from that of your pastor, you would be concerned;

You believe that Sovereign Grace Ministries has helped you grow spiritually, even as you’re also finding yourself feeling increasingly weary and joyless;

You think it’s a step toward spiritual maturity to set aside your natural preferences and make friends with someone you don’t really like, just because he or she is part of your Sovereign Grace Ministries small group;

You believe that “dating” is a risky endeavor that will almost inevitably lead a person into spiritual compromise…unless the person is married, at which point “date night” becomes a biblical mandate;

Any criticism of Sovereign Grace Ministries fills you with an emotion that is akin to anger;

You always make an effort to attend Sovereign Grace Ministries churches while on vacation; in fact, on occasion you’ve even planned your vacations around such visits;

You believe that the people who have left Sovereign Grace Ministries did so primarily because they just couldn’t handle Sovereign Grace Ministries’ spiritual rigor;

You believe that non-Sovereign Grace Ministries Christians are missing out on “the best” church by not being part of Sovereign Grace Ministries;

You almost cannot wait to tell everyone here how wrong this list is and how “your Sovereign Grace Ministries church is different.”

SGM Survivors

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 01:43PM


“Normal” Christians do not view the planting of more of their own denomination’s churches as “missions.”

Consequently, “normal” Christians would think it quite odd to be asked to take a career setback or lose money on real estate or uproot their families in order to participate in such a church plant, particularly if said church plant were in a location that was already saturated with good Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches.

“Normal” Christians are more focused on Jesus than they are on their church organization.

“Normal” Christians refer to Jesus primarily as “Jesus” and not as “The Savior.” Listen to any sound file of any Sovereign Grace Ministries pastor, and you will typically hear very little mention of Jesus by His name. Instead, you will hear Him referred to primarily by one of His roles. (Again – this isn’t necessarily WRONG…but I believe it has a lot of implications.)

“Normal” Christians do not claim to be “Reformed” while at the same time believe that there are modern-day “apostles.”

“Normal” Christians would not accept it if their church leaders decided to change longstanding leaders’ titles to something more politically correct without some sort of explanation to (or better yet, some sort of input from) the people. (And yes, I’m referring to the term “apostle,” which Sovereign Grace Ministries has apparently decided is not Reformed Big Dog-friendly enough. Or something. Maybe C.J. Mahaney realized that God does not actually speak directly to him these days? I don’t know. But those guys at the top aren’t “apostles” any more. Go figure.)

In “normal” Christianity, it would be really odd to be able to travel across the country, attend another church from your denomination, and know that you will be doing everything in basically the exact same way that you would in your home church, even down to the strange little “intermission” between the worship time and the sermon.

Oops. In “normal” Christianity, when the pastor gets up to talk on a Sunday morning, what he says is typically called a “sermon.” In Sovereign Grace Ministries, that word is deliberately avoided, so that what the pastor says is called a “teaching.” Or “message,” if someone is slipping a little in his Sovereign Grace Ministries-ese.

Likewise, in “normal” Christianity, when a congregation shows up at church on Sunday, that is called a “service,” as in “church service.” In Sovereign Grace Ministries, it is called a “meeting.” More to the point – it’s called a “mee-Ting,” with a peculiar accent given to the “t,” so as to sound precisely like the way that C.J. Mahaney pronounces the word. Sometimes this Sunday time is also referred to as a “gathering.” But almost never a “church service.”

Along those same lines, in “normal” Christianity, it is typical for your pastor to speak like all the other pastors that live in the region where he was born and raised. In Sovereign Gace Ministries, however, no matter where you attend your Sovereign Grace Ministries church, you can bet that your pastor will sound exactly like C.J. Mahaney in his accent and enunciation, no matter where he might have been born and raised. Likewise, your pastor will mimic CJ’s presentation style, with strange rushes of words tumbling out, followed by cackling at his own jokes, followed by frequent unpredictable dramatic pauses.

In “normal” Christianity, the phrase “governed by a plurality of elders” typically means that a church makes major decisions through “elders” – men who in some way are representatives of the rest of the congregation. The implication is typically that these men are selected through some sort of voting or nomination process. In Sovereign Grace Ministries Christianity, this phrase actually means “governed by paid staff pastors or other men who were privately selected by the paid staff pastors.”

In “normal” Christianity, commonly accepted Christian are not redefined to mean something else in order to cloud outsiders’ perceptions of what is really going on.

In “normal” Christianity, people are not afraid to express their honest opinions of what their pastors do. Sometimes what they think will be positive. Sometimes it won’t be. But there’s no fear of recrimination for expression of one’s honest thoughts and opinions.

In “normal” Christianity, one will – just like Jesus Himself did – have people who are closer to one, more intimate with one, and then others who are not so close, not so intimate. In “normal” Christianity, the intimate friends are the ones with the freedom to offer one correction or to “make observations” about things that one might need to work on or change. It is NOT normal, in “normal” Christianity, for one to strip oneself emotionally and spiritually naked around any and all other church members, just because they’re members of the same church. It is NOT normal, in “normal Christianity,” to approach someone not in your intimate circle and offer that person “observations” or correction.

In “normal” Christianity, being “Charismatic” is defined as actively teaching and actively and openly pursuing the more “dramatic” gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues. In Sovereign Grace Ministries Christianity, however, “Charismatic” seems to mean whatever Sovereign Grace Ministries has decided won’t offend the Reformed Big Dogs. In Sovereign Grace Ministries, speaking in tongues, for example, is not actively taught against, of course, but it is also no longer taught as something to be pursued or practiced openly.

In “normal” Christianity, people do not automatically read whatever their leaders are reading. In fact, people typically won’t know what their leaders are reading and really won’t care.

And that brings up another thing. In “normal” Christianity, one would not feel odd to openly cart around a “non-approved” book in front of one’s leaders…because in “normal” Christianity, there is no such thing as an UNAPPROVED book!

In “normal” Christianity, church leaders have a basic faith in the Holy Spirit’s working in their members’ lives and therefore don’t feel the need to micro-manage what their members read and think.

In “normal” Christianity, members think for themselves. They do not automatically look to their pastors for the final word on an issue.

In “normal” Christianity, humility is seen and not heard.

In “normal” Christianity, small-group Bible studies are encouraged, rather than tightly controlled or outright discouraged.

In “normal” Christianity, the “serving” part of one’s Christian life may or may not have to do specifically with one’s church. In Sovereign Grace Ministries Christianity, “serving” is nearly ALWAYS about how one helps out in one’s church.

In “normal” Christianity, singing songs like Friend of God would not be considered “theologically incorrect” (and therefore not permitted).

In “normal” Christianity, people are not so automatically defensive about their particular denominational leaders and practices.

In “normal” Christianity, one is not discouraged by one’s church leaders from moving to a town not serviced by a church from one’s denomination family of churches.

In “normal” Christianity, an organization that functions precisely like a denomination wouldn’t be so crazed about avoiding the term “denomination.”

In “normal” Christianity, pastors are not taught to distrust the mental health profession. In “normal” Christianity, church members are not taught that their pastors are supposed to function as their only source of “reliable” counsel no matter what the problem might be. In “normal” Christianity, a pastor wouldn’t dream of trying to help a church member manage his or her psychiatric medications, such as anti-depressants. In “normal” Christianity, there is not an automatic bias against such medications.

In “normal” Christianity, pastors will typically obtain undergraduate degrees and then go on to spend years in seminary. In Sovereign Grace Ministries Christianity, pastors receive 9 months of training at Sovereign Grace Ministries’ so-called Pastors College. No undergraduate degree is required. Theoretically, it’s possible for a man – particularly if he is the son of someone in Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership – to end up a Sovereign Grace Ministries pastor with no education other than a homeschool diploma and those 9 months of Pastors College. Then he could be unleashed to “watch over your soul,” weighing in on your personal problems – large or small – and even perhaps helping you to manage your use of psychiatric prescription drugs like anti-depressants.

In “normal” Christianity, a man would not train men to be the primary watchdogs of their daughters’ modesty. Instead, such detailed and potentially embarrassing teachings would be given to women by a woman, so that mothers could help their daughters in this department. In ”normal” Christianity, men would not so eagerly blame a woman’s female form for his lust issues. “Normal” men do not consider seatbelts or purse straps to be particularly kinky or lust-inducing.

In “normal” Christianity, one is not asked, as a condition for church membership, to sign away one’s right to expect confidentiality in pastoral counseling situations. As stated before, in “normal” Christianity, one’s pastors are not one’s ONLY source of counseling in the first place, as is the case in Sovereign Grace Ministries. But to add insult to injury, in Sovereign Grace Ministries, not only are members taught that non-church-approved counseling is suspect – members are also then made to understand that their pastors are free to share whatever they wish with anyone whom they deem to be “part of the problem or part of the solution.” This is NOT normal in “normal” Christianity.

In “normal” Christianity, a church’s history would not be revised to make it seem like one of the denomination family of churches’ founders [Larry Tomczak] had never existed.

Along those same lines, in “normal” Christianity, the departure of such a key founder would be addressed and explained openly and fully – and not vaguely - so that no mystery would linger for over a decade.

In “normal” Christianity, if one ponders leaving one’s church, one’s first reaction is not FEAR.

Similarly, in “normal” Christianity, if one decides that one needs to leave one’s church, one does NOT need an “exit strategy” in order to avoid being talked about, disciplined, black-listed, or otherwise made to feel bad.

In “normal” Christianity, pastors would never consider attempting to make church discipline extend beyond the doors of their own churches. “Normal” pastors would not expect other churches to abide by their recommendations and refuse communion or membership to their former members. “Normal” pastors would never consider phoning a former member’s new pastor to tattle on the former member. In “normal” Christianity, such a move would be considered gossip.

In “normal” Christianity, one would not be placed under such binding and frightening church discipline for non-provable “sins of the heart” like pride. Rather, in “normal” Christianity, church discipline is reserved for clear and documentable sins such as ongoing adultery.

In “normal” Christianity, one is free to explain why one left one’s church without being accused of gossip or slander.

And in “normal” Christianity, one does not fear losing all one’s lifelong friendships simply because one has chosen to attend another church.

In “normal” Christianity, there is not a set of unspoken rules that govern what is REALLY considered acceptable (and necessary, if one has dreams of someday being in leadership).

In “normal” Christianity, a single verse of scripture read at the beginning of a teaching, followed by 45 minutes of a pastor’s thoughts on that particular verse, is NOT considered “expository” preaching.

In “normal” Christianity, members can hold leaders accountable to the congregations they serve.

In “normal” Christianity, even denominational presidents are held accountable…and by people who don’t work FOR THEM.

In “normal” Christianity, complaints about church structure and church polity are not handled as “Matthew 18″ issues. Objections to a church’s governance decisions and governance structure are not always turned into private personal grievances. The focus in “normal” churches is first and foremost on fixing the structural problem, rather than on silencing those calling attention to the structural problem.

In “normal” Christianity, children of a certain age – usually 8 or older – are welcomed to participate in the sacraments. ”Normal” churches do not deny such children baptism. “Normal” churches do not require extensive (yet nonetheless arbitrary) “proof” of the “genuineness” of a young person’s salvation in order to permit the young person to be baptized. In “normal” churches, kids’ normal childish mistakes and missteps (and yes, even kids’ SINS) are not seen as “proof” that these kids are NOT believers. In “normal” churches, children are allowed to believe they are still saved, even if they may not demonstrate all the “measurable” Christian character and attributes that their elders would like to see from them.

In “normal” Christianity, members do not fuse their continuing participation in a particular church with the perseverance of their Christianity.

SGM Survivors

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 09:24PM

Larry and Doris Tomczak (November 2011)

As you read of our time with Sovereign Grace Ministries, we are sharing some traumatic experiences, yet endeavoring to do so accurately and redemptively. I want to say at the outset that I am not blameless, but I at times yielded to a spirit of fear when told I “lacked discernment” and was at times cowardly when I should have addressed unrighteous behavior. Where we participated in any unredemptive treatment of God’s people, we ask for your forgiveness. Over the years Doris and I have met with numerous people to ask forgiveness and people have been most gracious to us. Feel free to contact us if you feel a need to revisit any past experiences. Thank you in advance for your mercy and love. Let us unite in prayer that what we communicate will help many, bring healing and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ.

“But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones. So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Gen. 50:19-21

“Encountering departures and desertions from our ministries—we must see them as tutors—revealing our real motives and deficiencies in our methodology. These are tests from God. They will reveal our hearts.” -Dave Harvey, SGM Leader

Note: This quote appeared on the cover page of a paper I submitted to Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders one year after our 1997 departure, “An Appeal for Repentance, Reconciliation and Closure.”

Five issues were highlighted at that time:
1) Pride, Sectarianism and Elitism
2) Self-righteousness and Judgmentalism
3) Blackmail and Intimidation
4) Lack of Integrity and Deceitfulness
5) Abuse of Spiritual Authority.

The paper cited the names of 61 former leaders who experienced mistreatment (the list is currently over 100) and included an appeal for a forum where “individuals with outstanding offenses and unresolved issues could be addressed…these issues will not simply fade away but will continue lingering for years until dealt with redemptively and honestly.” I received no response from any team leaders to the paper or appeal for adjudication. Date of submission: December 1998.

“The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.” (I Tim.5:24)

Next year I will celebrate God’s faithfulness in my 40th year of full-time Christian ministry. At this juncture I sensed it would be helpful to tell the story of a painful turning point in my life and ministry.

Recently, I wrote a “Statement of Reconciliation” with CJ Mahaney, attempting to be as gracious and discrete as possible regarding specifics. But as more details surfaced on the Internet it became apparent that God wanted everything in the light. Our experience is not an isolated case. It is probably one of the most egregious and ignominious examples of deceit and abusive behavior surfacing in Sovereign Grace Ministries at this time. But it did not create the crisis. Instead, it revealed how root issues have been ignored and left unaddressed for too long. May we all proceed in humility and mercy, mindful of Prov. 28:13, “He who conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes his sin will obtain mercy.”

After 24 years of service in the DC area with the “Take and Give Ministry” (TAG), cofounding Covenant Life Church in our home and then serving in leadership in Fairfax Covenant Church, I with my family departed disappointedly, yet hopefully, for better things in Atlanta in 1996. We knew for a number of years that I was being marginalized in Sovereign Grace Ministries (formerly People of Destiny International) and when differences with Reformed doctrine began surfacing, the tension only increased.

At a youth rally in Atlanta, one of our teen-age sons responded along with other youth to an appeal for living genuine Christian lives. That night at home he voluntarily shared with me areas of waywardness and his desire to change, but the door was now open to confront me for “failures at home” and “character deficiencies.” “Apostolic Team” leaders forbade me to be present for a later meeting with my son where he was told to “share all your sins” with the vow of their “confidentiality” (which was later broken).

Subsequently, the team said it “lost confidence in my leadership,” and agreed to a “leave of absence,” sending out a “letter of confession” written by me, then undergoing several revisions affirming Sovereign Grace Ministies leadership and inserting material with which I was uncomfortable but required to include. At the church meeting announcing the shift, I was told to nod in agreement for the congregation to observe.

The agreed upon 6-12 month period was short-circuited when we experienced a pattern of spiritual abuse, deceit, harshness and hypocrisy (including premeditated blackmail, communicated and reaffirmed on numerous occasions and subsequently left to silence and hang over us for over a decade). The entire apostolic team and the new senior pastor and his staff participated in this. We also were told to consider uprooting to Virginia Beach or Phoenix, which we said we could not do because we did not sense this to be God’s will for our family. Criteria established for returning to my former role as senior pastor made that outcome an impossibility unless I embraced the Reformed doctrinal tenets (although people nationwide were deliberately misled with information to the contrary).

My wife and I finally left PDI when things finally reached the “untenable” point. It became for us a matter of conscience. Disingenuous public statements and letters sent nationwide misrepresented what actually happened and I was publically slandered at Covenant Life Church, called a “liar” (with guests and non-believers present) as the leader declared, “I’d rather be dead than do what Larry Tomczak is doing!” Local leaders were affirmed leading to an almost unanimous standing ovation. My reputation built upon 25 years in ministry, was debased nationally and abroad. My “Seven Reasons for Departing People of Destiny International” were not conveyed and for 13 years this perception remained in the public domain, separating our family from many relatives, friends and leaders in the Body of Christ. It also resulted in serious financial repercussions for us as a family of six.

For over a decade we tried to bring CJ Mahaney and the apostolic team to account for the injustice, even enlisting nationally known leaders in the effort, but to no avail. Finally, in November of 2010 he consented. Years of confrontation by Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders and Covenant Life Church pastors along with the turmoil and defections of people in the network of churches brought CJ to the realization he needed to repent of longstanding sins, some of which were committed in our unfortunate departure. CJ later made a public confession of some of his transgressions at Covenant Life Church and announced a “leave of absence.” Many believe his confession was a start but was incomplete and minimized the severity of the issues. We were invited to the November Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors Conference and Covenant Life Church to speak on reconciliation, but the invitation was rescinded. At the conference CJ shared he regretted having taken the leave of absence.

CJ’s example, problems surfacing in churches affiliated with SGM, and Internet disclosures from a former apostolic team member were catalytic in some Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders beginning to come forward to repent and rectify matters with our family. One former team member had already done so years previously, after experiencing abusive treatment leading to his departure. An independent advisory panel, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, has been retained to engage in a discovery process to help facilitate reconciliation with former members and leaders who believe they have been spiritually abused. The panel is also collecting information to assist with reforms needed in Sovereign Grace Ministries as well as assist in determining CJ Mahaney’s future status. May the Lord guide us all as we redemptively deal with past transgressions and find His grace manifested in this time of reconciliation, reform and discipline for Sovereign Grace Ministries. The changes are not cosmetic but substantive to effectively eradicate systemic issues and transform a leadership culture that has drifted from Biblical norms. Two of the churches in Revelation faced the practice of the Nicolaitans (“suppress the people”). One hated it; the other held to it (Rev.2:6 & 15). May Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders align with the former.

To be faithful to criteria for Biblical leadership; to steer clear of the sin of favoritism and partiality; and to be consistent with what was expected of former Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders, I believe senior leaders should step down for a season to be retooled for ministry according to I Pet. 5 and I Tim. 3 standards. Public repentance and public statements should be made along with restitution where appropriate. Then and only then, can the favor of Almighty God return in its fullness to this ministry and unity be restored. The warning of God’s “lampstand” (His Presence) being removed (Rev. 2:5) is very real when a church or ministry is being evaluated by Jesus and fails to respond. Many onlookers are hoping and praying that will not happen.

Then we all can pray like Nehemiah did after he instituted reforms to restore the walls of the city of God: “Remember me with favor, O my God.” (Neh. 13:31)

P.S. Because the issues and contents of this statement have already been made public at church meetings and on the Internet for months, I sensed it was appropriate to release my story at this time. CJ and I are almost 40-year friends and our reconciliation statement still stands. In my study I keep a plaque he gave me decades ago. On it are the words: “My Brother, I would not be the man I am without your care and example. I am eternally indebted to you. Your Yokefellow, CJ.” I would add: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Prov. 27:6)

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 09:50PM

7 Concerns by Larry and Doris Tomczak

A week ago my wife and I completed a 21 day fast to seek the Lord for 2012. Near the top of our list were issues related to SGM (Sovereign Grace Ministries). At the end of the fast we received a call from Dave Harvey, interim President of the ministry, wanting to ask forgiveness for his sinful behavior towards us and our family almost 15 years ago. A week later he sent us an advance copy of their panel report dealing with our departure from Sovereign Grace Ministries.

What follows is our public response to this public report. It would serve the reader to first read the statement we made available on our website entitled, “The Tomczak Departure from SGM – What Really Happened?”

As Doris and I said in our “Departure” statement, we are not blameless in our journey. We love all those involved and simply present here observations that either amplify or adjust some points expressed in the Sovereign Grace Ministry report. We forgave our brethren years ago but, as a matter of integrity, present here seven significant points that need to be addressed.

The hope of onlookers regarding the panel was for an unbiased 3rd party to assess a few of the critical issues and offer their wisdom. Unfortunately, the examination was basically handled “in house” by sincere men who had a definite stake in the outcome – namely their livelihood and the preservation of the ministry image.

The Sovereign Grace Ministries board member and two Sovereign Grace Ministries senior pastors who wrote the report are to be commended for their hard work. This was an unenviable task because of their longstanding close association with Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders, direct involvement in the ministry, and their families’ ties with many church members. Would they “get in trouble” if they stated things contrary to what other senior leaders desired in the outcome?

When President Clinton was being accused of immoral and unethical behavior, an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, was brought in with his team to investigate matters for Congress and the American people. If something similar happened to our current President, you would not think it wise to have fellow Democrats, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid leading the panel! Yet this was the approach chosen by the Sovereign Grace Ministries board. And while others objected, we felt it was important to participate despite our misgivings and trust God to work through a less than ideal process.

On October 14, 1997 our journal entry records the following: “Larry and our child talked by phone with a lawyer. He advised Larry to tell the Team (the board) to ‘not even think of using our child’s confessed sins to blackmail Larry.’ ‘It’s blackmail and punishable by jail, prosecuted in every state – no exceptions. It’s a breach of penitent/counselor confidentiality.’”

When Ted Kober, the President of Ambassadors of Reconciliation heard the tape recording of what was said to us repeatedly by the Team he dropped his head in dismay while his associate literally wiped away tears.

The panel report says, “C.J. Mahaney allowed for the possibility of making known their child’s sin if Larry communicated that he was leaving SGM over doctrinal disagreement.” This minimizes CJ’s sin and describes it far too mildly. He made a direct, emphatic and unethical threat. He was not allowing for the possibility, he was promising to expose our child. In our conversation, we confronted him three times with the word “blackmail” to describe his threats. His exact words back to us were “I’m stating it!” He threatened us with blackmail!

At the first mention of the threat, Doris called CJ on it: “That’s blackmail!”•
In two subsequent taped conversations with other Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders we again labeled it “blackmail.”•
An attorney from whom we sought counsel defined it as “blackmail.”•
National leaders who heard the tape recordings referred to it as “blackmail.”•

I read the following words to C.J. in Nashville from Webster’s dictionary:
“Blackmail: extortion (the act of obtaining from a person by force or undue or illegal power or ingenuity) by threats especially of public exposure.”

Webster’s dictionary defines what it is and, as they say, “It is what it is!” Why soft-pedal this coercive threat that was used to obtain our silence? Plus we have the recordings to prove it and have requested on several occasions that the Sovereign Grace Ministries board and others that were involved listen with us to themselves on the tapes before there’s asking of forgiveness. To date they have dismissed our request.

While CJ, and the Sovereign Grace Ministries board and the panel report acknowledge what happened was “coercive, wrong and sinful,” they all stop short of being specific about the most egregious offense which is immoral, illegal and unethical. It was premeditated, repeated and agreed upon by all the leadership team. (The report makes this clear.)

Departed board members Paul Palmer and Brent Detwiler both cited “blackmail” when they asked forgiveness – the former over 8 years ago! Yet when Dave Harvey called us the week before the report’s release, he (like CJ, Steve Shank and Larry Malament) hedged on using the accurate and serious designation.

Isn’t it time to once and for all stop any “spin,” man up, and confess it for what it is? And an addendum…if CJ and Steve have a “vague recollection” (as stated in the report) of CJ supposedly calling us within a few days to “withdraw the threat” so it really didn’t “hang over” us for over a decade, why when CJ and Steve called our child years later to finally ask forgiveness for some of the areas of offense did they still refuse to call and ask forgiveness of Doris and me even when our child asked them to? Why would it take 14 years before CJ and Steve would finally confess the injustice and even then “tone it down” with softer terminology? These are real questions that warrant real answers. By the way, they have a “vague recollection” of some call. WE HAVE NO RECOLLECTION of any such call! We wouldn’t have forgotten it or failed to put it in our journal of those events!!

The vow of confidentiality that CJ made to our child is sacrosanct and inviolable. Tragically, CJ broke this vow by divulging details to a person who is trustworthy and who came forward with the specifics. The report said, “CJ has no recollection of this conversation,” and then moved on. A serious ethics violation of this magnitude cannot be brushed off as seemingly insignificant. A man of sterling character who described in detail what was said to him by CJ in violation of a clergy/penitent vow has to be given weighty consideration. It should be considered alongside of other sinful conduct surfacing in a leader who is under investigation. More is needed here. In addition to this event, Larry Malament also revealed confidential details to other members of the SGM Team and local leaders in a conference call we were a part of on October 8, 1997. Later, a Team member relayed that Larry M. also did this on another occasion and stands ready to testify accordingly.

At Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland (a church that we co-founded in our apartment and in which we invested 15 years of our lives), CJ stood before over 1,000 people (with guests and unbelievers present) and branded me a “liar.” He admits he instructed technicians to “turn off the tape” and did say, “I’d rather be dead than do what Larry Tomczak is doing.” In spite of several witnesses (for example, one teenage boy told us he confronted CJ to his face a few days later) and having been confronted with his exact words in print for over a decade, the report says, “CJ does not recall saying anything along these lines.” We do not believe this is sufficient reason for dismissing the charge.
Last year at Covenant Life Church, CJ acknowledged some of his sinful attitudes in the above episode. Many believe his confession was incomplete; he minimized the severity of public slander in violation of Matthew 18:15-17; and still needs to make amends for debasing in a single moment a leader’s reputation built upon 25 years of Christian ministry.

Over the years one of the most common accusations brought against Sovereign Grace Ministries is one where former members are shunned or banished after disagreement with leaders or simply choosing to leave the church. The report confirmed this to be our experience, with which multitudes identify.

The panel cited CJ’s public criticisms “was the death of Larry’s reputation at Covenant Life Church…church members stopped interacting with them.” We would add these included close relatives for many years. CJ sent a letter to pastors asking them “not to engage in casual conversation or pursue fellowship with Larry.” He penned a letter to thousands of folks throughout the movement of churches suggesting I was under “church discipline” when I never was. This manipulated people into shunning us by confusing them. Friendships built for years were shattered overnight. The panel members were courageous in allowing this material to be included. What needs to be underscored is how, under CJ’s leadership, instruction, and personal example, this un-Christlike treatment of us and many others of God’s precious sheep was allowed to flourish. Some Sovereign Grace Ministries board members, local pastors and church members are guilty of blindly following his lead.

Our experience brings this to the surface and should not be ignored. We turned over to the panel the names of over 105 leadership couples who experienced spiritual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Imagine how many other church members have also been victims.

Families have been devastated, close friendships destroyed and children have turned away from the Lord and church involvement in the wake of this uncharitable practice. Our own extended family was divided and still feels the painful effects of this ungodly treatment until this very day.

Where this has happened, may leaders humbly repent and change their ways to allow a new season of blessing and favor for Sovereign Grace Ministries. The report says this is not “systemic.” The reality is, it has been a pattern that has devastated our immediate and extended families plus scores of God’s people across the country. It must be acknowledged, confessed and renounced. Our situation brings it into the light so changes can be made to avert future hurt and relational devastation.

When I consented to take a leave of absence to deal with family matters, I had every intention of returning to my leadership position in our local church and in SGM. This is very significant to grasp! In the months preceding the blackmail, our entire family experienced “lording over, abuse of authority, manipulation and control” (which CJ confessed and asked forgiveness for in our December, 2010 Nashville reconciliation). This treatment brought us to the point where it was untenable and as a matter of conscience, we had to leave Sovereign Grace Ministries. We literally felt as an entire family we were under “house arrest” with our every action, word and motive scrutinized and questioned. The legalism became unbearable. The report also acknowledges I was “stuck,” left without any process of appeal.

The report cited how I initially “gave agreement” to Reformed doctrinal tenets, but later changed my mind. There is truth to this but two points need to be made: 1) I, like many former Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders who had also left over the doctrinal changes, was wavering and reluctant to comply. I finally mustered the courage to speak up, die to “fear of man” and express my true sentiments regarding differences of doctrine. 2) My major battle was with the fear of man in an atmosphere of intimidation and man-pleasing. I remember sitting in a “Team” meeting where it was said, “Mark Altrogge and Benny Phillips (SGM senior pastors viewed as suspect at the time) may have to be let go if they don’t agree with the Reformed Doctrine.” I thought, “Larry, be careful – will I be next?” I should have spoken up and suffered the potential consequences. I confess my former cowardice.

What wasn’t made clear in the panel’s report are related and significant points revealing the depth of betrayal I encountered.

• Criteria established by Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders for returning to my former role as senior pastor made it an impossibility unless I embraced certain Reformed doctrinal tenets which in my conscience I could not do.
• People nationwide were deliberately misled. An example would be, “It was always our intention to see Larry restored as senior pastor.” Numerous disingenuous public statements and letters went out to Sovereign Grace Ministries churches and nationwide which misrepresented what actually happened.
• My “7 Reasons for Departing People of Destiny International” (Sovereign Grace Ministries) were not conveyed to people as I requested. My “confession” letter was the result of intimidation which forced me to use loaded terms, affirm Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders and insert material with which I was uncomfortable, but required to include.
• At a public church meeting, CJ instructed me to nod in agreement with what he would say while I appealed that I couldn’t do it in good conscience.
• Three former Sovereign Grace Ministries board members, two former administrators and three of the Atlanta leaders in the church at that time (who have all left Sovereign Grace Ministries) cite “abuse of
spiritual authority, over lording, and deceitful conduct” in their experience. This is tragic.

Scripture calls us to “restore” struggling Christians in a “spirit of gentleness” (Gal.6:1). Although most of the leaders have come forward to repent and ask forgiveness for what was done to us (as the report reveals), what needs to be understood are the aspects of betrayal and levels of deceit that forced our departure from a ministry we co-founded and never intended to leave.

“Did you leave without the leaders’ blessing?”
Yes – we believe we had no alternative.
“Did you honor your commitment to not return to public ministry for ‘at least 6
Yes – on the exact date the 6 month season expired, I spoke for the first time on a
Sunday to an inner city church gathering at the invitation of a dear friend.

This point can be made briefly. Over the years Sovereign Grace Ministries has experienced “bad fruit” from “bad theology” and, thank God, begun to make changes. The panel stated the obvious, uncharitable treatment we endured, the lack of compassionate care in a difficult family situation, the “over emphasis on indwelling sin,” etc., etc.

A number of the same Sovereign Grace Ministries board members and pastors who attacked us judgmentally have now experienced their own family “issues” which tempered them and drove them to confess their sinful, self-righteousness to us, several of them in genuine tears.

The report highlighted how “misguided” it was to believe the idea that “good pastors = good kids” and admitted “that there was too much of a link made between Larry’s parenting and his child’s sin.”

Other areas could be cited but our point here is that CJ and Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders should be more forthright in their public repentance through public statements addressing where they veered off course theologically. Multitudes believe there still is too much “spin” and “self vindication” among top-tier leaders.

A nationally known leader and frequent speaker at Sovereign Grace Ministries churches and conferences told me something months ago that I can’t forget. For close to two decades this man has provided counsel and instruction to Sovereign Grace Ministries and has intimate knowledge of the inner workings and problems of the ministry. Here’s his observation: “The number one problem with many of the Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders is their propensity for self-vindication.”

We suggest you pause here and reread this leader’s observation.

May this panel’s report, our two published statements, as well as constructive criticism to Sovereign Grace Ministries from numerous places (see the email at the end of this document from a former long-time Sovereign Grace Ministries pastor) in this “time of discipline” for Sovereign Grace Ministries and its primary leaders, help these men to address unbiblical positions and practices to honor the Lord, heal wounds, and regain favor as an overall ministry.

In order to be faithful to criteria for Biblical leadership, Sovereign Grace Ministries must steer clear of the sin of favoritism and partiality starting with CJ, and be consistent with what was expected of former Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders. The question still remains: should the Sovereign Grace Ministries senior leaders step own for a season to be retooled for ministry according to 1 Pet. 5:1-5; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim.3:1-7; and 1 Tim. 5:17-24? Perhaps the best way to answer this is the following: “If the things in the panel’s report, in our two statements, and in the accompanying email came to light regarding your pastor, would you give him a “pass?” Would you deem him fit for ministry according to the qualifications of Scripture? “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be blameless…” 1 Tim 3:1-2

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 17, 2012 09:53PM


Larry and Doris Tomczak


First of all, I believe that the panel was inappropriately tasked to ask the wrong questions. He who frames the questions controls the debate, and I believe that’s exactly what the Sovereign Grace Ministries board attempted to do. Given the gravity of the situation, I don’t think three questions were nearly enough. But given the three, here’s my opinion of what they should have been:

1. Not – “Was CJ’s participation in fellowship in keeping with the teachings of scripture?”
Rather – “Did CJ violate the standards of fellowship, confession and repentance that he imposed on other Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors & leaders? Did CJ behave in a manner that would not have been tolerated by any other Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors under his authority? (Broaden the scope of the question to consider any wider patterns of double-standard hypocrisy. For example, did CJ’s own son act out in ways that would have, and did, get other Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors fired from their jobs? Are there any other “high-status” leaders in Sovereign Grace Ministries, whose teenagers experienced behavioral troubles, but they and their jobs were “protected” –unlike other Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors before them?) In other words: Was CJ giving himself the benefit of living by different standards than he espoused and enforced?”

2. Not – “Did CJ wrongly influence the process of Brent’s dismissal from Mooresville?”
Rather – “Did CJ demonstrate a historical pattern of marginalizing and disposing of Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders that did not meet up to his subjective, extra-biblical standards? Did he “shun” them and teach others to do so by his example? Was Brent already a “dead-man walking” before he even started at Mooresville because CJ had already punished him, for self-serving reasons, with the loss of status & ministry? Did CJ preside over and infuse an entire Sovereign Grace Ministries culture with an extra-biblical pattern of dismissing & casting aside some of its own pastor/leaders in an unloving and unreasonable manner?”

3. Not – “Was Larry Tomczak’s departure from Sovereign Grace Ministries handled properly?”
Rather – “Did CJ attempt to blackmail Larry Tomczak by means of thoroughly unethical threats against his family? Did other members of the Sovereign Grace Ministries board do the same? Was it a “heat-of-the-moment” threat made out of emotion & quickly regretted, or was it a coldblooded” & purposeful act, only rejected 11 days later after severe rebuke from a respected lawyer. (In other words, did CJ & others back off by reason of moral repentance or functional impracticality? It seems clear that they did not immediately express any sorrowful repentance to Larry and his family.) Is attempted blackmail an “ordinary” sin or a “scandalous” one?

On a secondary note, if the panels wish to address the legitimate question of whether Larry Tomczak’s departure was handled properly, they needed to dig back a little further. Larry’s departure began much earlier with his systematic marginalization from Sovereign Grace Ministries ministry. After CJ assumed primary leadership of the organization, he acted to steadily limit Larry’s influence and opportunities there. He greatly limited Larry’s involvement in Covenant Life Church, a church he had co-founded. He greatly limited his role as a speaker at Sovereign Grace Ministries conferences and events. Larry had to move his church membership to Fairfax in an attempt to find meaningful involvement. Similar to Brent’s experience many years later, Larry had to move on to new territory, in Atlanta, to attempt a new church plant in order to satisfy his God-given desires to serve in ministry. The handling of the departure of Larry Tomczak from Sovereign Grace Ministries began years before the blackmail. The whole process of fault-finding, leading to marginalization and more fault-finding, leading to removal and eventually active shunning needs to be examined. Especially in light of the widespread impression that this represents a pattern that was repeated with many other leaders in Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Further questions:
A. Why does the panel lean so heavily on quoting Larry’s letter of resignation & repentance as a defense for CJ, seeming to implicate Sovereign Grace Ministries’ partial justification in light of Larry’s admitted faults? That letter is actually “Exhibit A” in a very serious suggestion of abuse-of-power and manipulative practice by Sovereign Grace Ministries. Many other deposed Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors have been required to write similar self-incriminating letters against themselves. It’s a wonderful CYA tool for Sovereign Grace Ministries, and is being used as such right before our very eyes. The problem is that these letters are frequently coerced and highly influenced by Sovereign Grace Ministries. They are frequently edited to make sure they come out the way Sovereign Grace Ministries wants them to sound. Larry, and other pastors in similar positions, was under enormous pressure to go along with the program and write what would satisfy those who wielded the power over his life and future. That letter of Larry’s represents a shameful exercise in Sovereign Grace Ministries bullying, manipulation, intimidation and abuse. They should be ashamed of using it against him now.

B. The report cites the board’s appeal for Larry to continue with their program of rehabilitation rather than leave prematurely. They so wanted him not to leave for the wrong reasons. They claimed this was a matter of integrity. And they so wanted to be able to commend him after a successful restoration process. The problem with this line of reasoning is that THERE WAS NO PROGRAM OR PROCESS OF RESTORATION!!!!! Just ask the other 100-150 pastors who have been cut loose by SGM. What is the recidivism rate for Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors who have been deposed? Between 1-2%? Stick around for restoration? Really? Sovereign Grace Ministries has no history of restoring pastors. Sovereign Grace Ministries has a lot of explaining to do about its pattern of “throw-away” pastors.

C. The “ironic” integrity apparently sought by the Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders, in dictating Larry’s departure terms, seemed to revolve around the proper portrayal of Larry’s disqualification as a poor parent. People who have been around Larry’s family know that is patently unfair! (Again I am reminded of the extra-biblical standards which were used as a cudgel on former pastors with teenage kids but which were no longer applied in later years to CJ and other “high status” Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders.) Bear in mind the situation at the heart of the coercion. It involved a 17-18 year old young man who was not caught in his sin. Rather, he had taken personal initiative to expose his own failings by seeking out and confessing to spiritual leaders in the vain hope of finding help to experience the grace of God. Question: Did these highly-placed Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders represent God well as conduits of His grace? This is the fuller context of the blackmail.

D. In the panel’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of the blackmail, (i.e. It did not continue for a decade like Larry intimated… CJ & Dave & Brent & Steve were motivated by their desire to “protect” the movement of churches… They wanted to frame Larry’s departure with “ironic” integrity… They never acted to follow through on their empty threat…), the panel members overlooked an important point. The threat of blackmail actually worked!! By their own admission, Larry did NOT mention doctrinal differences in his departure explanations, even though he clearly wanted to. The coercion was effective!! CJ and the board were saved from the legal liabilities of applying blackmail, but they ended up achieving the desired goal.

E. If CJ had truly repented of his offenses towards Larry, why didn’t he act expeditiously to bring Larry back to Covenant Life Church to publicly redress his public slander of Larry before the church? He publicly called Larry a liar and said that, “I’d rather be dead than do what Larry’s doing.” CJ actively destroyed much of Larry’s reputation and many of his long-time relationships at Covenant Life Church and beyond, but was grossly inadequate in taking measures to publicly restore him.

Closing thought: I found it very disturbing that the panel overseeing the Tomczak blackmail repeatedly claimed to present findings in a way that was slanted against CJ. It seemed absolutely the opposite to me. I thought they took every opportunity to place Larry in a negative light in order to minimize the culpability of CJ & the gang. They repeatedly highlighted mitigating circumstances that took the edge off the crime perpetrated by CJ, Dave, Brent & Steve. And then, the Sovereign Grace Ministries board has the audacity to refer to the panel’s report as “objective.” Objective?!?!?!? That was never even a remote possibility given the make-up of the panels. Please don’t insult our intelligence by anointing them with “objectivity.” In fact, the Sovereign Grace Ministries board should make known the criteria by which the panel members were selected. The original process of selecting “jurists” was supposed to have some aspects of randomness. Can the Board unequivocally assure us that they did NOT hand pick the panelists of their choice and rule out the pastors that they didn’t want? Please defend the integrity of the process.

And now we wait for the AoR report. But that has already been re-framed for us as merely a catalogue of local grievances presented without corroborating witnesses or cross-examination. Something to learn from and use for making changes and addressing deficiencies. But apparently having no bearing on any evaluation of the qualifications of senior Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 18, 2012 07:34PM


That was not very productive. It was at least a little funny how it started because Grizzly asked what part of Noels Story they felt was a lie. Mark said he first wanted to say what the pastors felt they did wrong. Grizzly said that would be fine and we’d get to that but first lets talk about what might be a lie and so it went back and forth. Mark didnt want to talk about what might be a lie because he didn’t see how that could be productive so I shared my first two cents. I explained that it was a credibility issue. He was starting the afternoon with zero credibility based upon our past experience with him. He had the opportunity to gain credibility by communicating honestly about what he felt was wrong with the blog. He decided not to share what parts they are telling others might be lies and shared about how sorry he is that our baby had been raped and so we began with what he wanted. Giving up control must be difficult for these guys.


So Mark continued to say that the pastoral team had spent time evaluating what they had done what did they remember and how could they do it differently in the future. He never gave one specific example of one situation, one meeting,one conversation that they would handle differently he was just sorry. I suggested that one thing they may do differently is allow people to show some emotion without confronting them for sinning. Grizzly suggested that they lift their gag rule and allow people to talk about what happens to them. Mark said they were trying to protect the church, he clearly did not get this point. The counselor who was present tried to explain as well why secrecy was a bad policy but Mark just kept asking if he could explain it again. Mark just doesn’t get how secrecy makes things worse. I suggested they use real counselors which he said they are gathering information for referals now. Mark suggested that the ratio of child molestors to congregants was understandable for such a large church. It is a sinful world you know.


Grizzly made the most suggestions about what they could do differently, having a board of elders, advocates for the members, I cannt remember all the suggestions. Maybe he will post tonight and list some of them. The counselor suggested that the church seek outside help in setting up systems to prevent abuse. Mark assured the counselor that SGM had alread done that. When I asked who the outside counsel was he was not able to recall anyone in particular but said that the process had been set in place in the early 90s. When I referenced the legal cya of signing in children’s ministry workers he became a little defensive and assured us that SGM cares very much about children and not just legalities. There were several times that he bobbled and appologized that we felt this or that we felt that. At one point Griz shared that we had been deeply affected by some aspect of their ineptness and he said he was so sorry for that. The counselor then asked a question and Mark turned to the counselor and said that he didn’t agree with what Griz had just said. So why did he apologize? His apologies, all of them, clearly didn’t carry any real meaning if he was apologizing for our feelings or for things that he didn’t agree even happened. It was a very frustrating waste of time.


I believe he [Mr. Mullery] was trying to express how impossible the situation becomes when you have both the perp and the victim in the same church and you are trying to keep them both there and bring both families to a healthy place. He mentioned protecting the perps siblings etc. Unfortunately in a situation like that, the perp has sinned against God,victim and his own family as well. We asked why, since they have multiple perps with multiple victims does the church still not know who the perps are. He said they have taken measures to protect the families that needed to know. We then mentioned letters that he should have in his file written by moms whose children were put in harms way, we listed about 5 families by name that put their children in harms way and he just said that SGM cares very much about children and wants to protect them.

One other thing I wanted to mention about today’s apt. We told Mark that one of the issues with secrecy and gag orders, controling information may be that the pators do not hold the members in high enough esteem. We reiterated that these are GOOD people who want desperately to honor God. They are trustworthy with that information. They are not likely to persecute a perp only to protect their own family. I don’t understand why they can’t see how wonderful their members are.


And finally,

I forgot to tell you the funniest part. When the meeting started Mark asked each of us if we had a recording device. You should have seen this counselor’s face.

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