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60A Review of The Man in the Middlehttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/03/a-review-of-the-man-in-the-middle
Wed, 21 Mar 2012 10:57:37 -0400
The Political Parties Are Too Democratichttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/12/the-political-parties-are-too-democratic
Mon, 05 Dec 2011 11:00:44 -0500
]]>Clarification on Evangelicals and Public Actionhttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/11/clarification-on-evangelicals-and-public-action
Wed, 30 Nov 2011 11:55:16 -0500
]]>An Insider’s View of the SGM Controversyhttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/08/an-insiders-view-of-the-sgm-controversy
Thu, 18 Aug 2011 01:43:43 -0400[Editor’s note: The following is a guest by Brian Auten, a member of a Sovereign Grace Ministries affliliated church in Fairfax, Virginia.]
Yesterday, Tim Challies
offered some thoughts
about what I would argueand he himself admittedis a narrowly defined aspect of Sovereign Grace Ministries’ (SGM) current difficulties; that is, the question of whether Christians should condone internet whistleblowing. The issue arises because it was an internet leak of a 600+ page document compiled and annotated by Brent Detwiler, a former SGM pastor and a founder of the movement (formerly known as Gathering of Believers and People of Destiny International), which has precipitated the continued, public airing of the denomination’s woes. The document outlined in great detail, reproducing internal emails and communications, Brent’s grievances with SGM’s top leadership, most specifically with the denomination’s president, C.J. Mahaney. In early July, Mahaney took a leave of absence in the wake of Detwiler’s dissemination of his document to SGM pastors nationwide. The document was subsequently leaked to the public, but not by Detwiler.
Challies’ position on Christians and whistleblowing is firm: If the issues-in-question are interpersonal in character and cannot be resolved privately, a Christian is prohibited the whistleblowing route. It is Challies’ contention that the issues in the document are indeed “largely” interpersonal and therefore fitand only fitwithin the Matthew 18 or 1 Timothy 5 parameters for Scripturally mandated conflict resolution. Conceding that it was not Brent himself who leaked the information, Challies nonetheless argues that the sheer number of SGM pastors who received the document “pretty much guaranteed” its public release. Detwiler, therefore, had no Scriptural basis for his expanded distribution of the document.
Challies would undoubtedly agree that his argument rises or falls on (a) his interpretation of the document’s content and the overall conflict as almost wholly interpersonal; and (b) that Detwiler’s wider distribution was intended to result in public release. Neither Challies nor I can have any possible insight into the latter point, save what we might be told by Detwiler himself (and Detwiler has responded to Challies at his own blog). Where I think Challies’ argument falls flat is with respect to the first assertion. The document’s content is indeed chock-full of interpersonal conflict, yet Challies knows well that it’s not merely that, else he would not have pulled his punch (using adjectives like “largely”) or insist that he would not address other “blogs that seek to expose issues in SGM.” The fact is, there is a context that Challies leaves undefined. It’s much more than interpersonal, and the Mahaney/Detwiler conflict (and the leak of Detwiler’s document) is what we would label in history or political science an “immediate proximate cause” rather than an “ultimate” cause of the denomination’s implosion.
Unlike Challies, I’m a six-plus year member of a SGM church in Fairfax, Virginia. Granted, in a family of churches that originated with the Jesus People movement in the early 1970s, six years is admittedly small potatoes. I didn’t personally experience the 1980s, 1990s, or early 2000s in the movement, which means that my understanding of our denomination’s history is almost wholly based on what I’ve read, heard, and inferred from interactions with others. Muchthough by no means allof my information has been derived from the stories and testimonies posted to the blogs Challies obliquely references in yesterday’s postblogs that are made up of flawed, sinful individuals, and blogs that, by analogy, I like to compare to political exile organizations, or groups of folks who, for one reason or another, have had to flee their beloved homeland to live in a “host country.” Political exiles are notoriously rowdy, unwieldy, and volatile, yet when one combines four years of reading consistent stories at the SGM “exile” blogs with personal observations and, now, what has been publicly shared by multiple SGM pastors (including my own) over the last month and a half, it becomes clear that the denomination’s problems are not individual, but systemic. Our separatist and, at times frankly elitist, church subculture and “slippery slope” skepticism of congregational forms of church government have produced, and reinforced, poor church practices that have been detrimental to both the health of SGM congregants and the shepherds who have led them. And, as an important caveat, I would assert that these are “bent versions” of otherwise admirable and good conservative evangelical practice. Some of these systemic issues include:
(a) hesitancy about the infiltration of humanistic, “therapeutic” concepts into church counseling (including skepticism over forms of “integrative” Christian counseling) coupled with an overly strict insistence, movement-wide, on the use of “Biblical” categories for describing one’s struggles led pastors to quickly focus congregants suffering from abuse and trauma on their own sin while in the midst of their own pain;
(b) the desire to apply Biblical conflict resolution models, but with the treatment and assessment of parties in identical ways regardless of individual or family circumstances, thereby leading to the misuse and misapplication of said models in cases involving victims of abuse and trauma;
(c) legitimate concerns about liberalizing doctrinal tendencies in the wider American evangelical world, when tied to SGM’s separatist subculture and non-congregational form of church government, resulted in a squelching of congregational initiative in ministry, a marginalization of laity input in church decision-making and strategizing, a tentativeness about non-pastor-led group Bible or theology study (save those focusing on what the pastors preached on Sunday mornings), apprehension over cooperation with local churches or ministries outside of SGM, and the creation of SGM versions of
(d) a concern for “pure” and “sound” doctrine, coupled with a top-down governmental system led to the establishment and promulgation of single “Biblically based” authoritative practices for secondary and tertiary issues like dating and courtship, schooling choice, parenting style and child discipline, clothing, and media consumption.
Again, it is so important to note that these practices derive from solid conservative evangelical goals; however, I believe that it is the case that, over time, the combination of SGM’s separatist subculture and its authority structure mutated these practices into something much, much less healthy.
]]>Catholic Universities on the Frontlines of Culture of Death https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/03/catholic-universities-on-the-frontlines-of-culture-of-death
Thu, 24 Mar 2011 14:44:48 -0400
]]>Diversity and Toleration Revisited: A Response to Joseph Knippenberghttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/12/diversity-and-toleration-revisited-a-response-to-joseph-knippenberg
Thu, 16 Dec 2010 21:07:03 -0500
]]>Freedom of Choice in Abortion Insurancehttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/12/freedom-of-choice-in-abortion-insurance
Tue, 07 Dec 2010 12:15:22 -0500