As many of you know, seven months ago our family of churches, Sovereign Grace Ministries, became embroiled in no small controversy when a former leader in the ministry charged one the church officers of SGM, C.J. Mahaney, with a litany of sins. The sins he was charged with included pride, deceit, and hypocrisy. In the aftermath of those very public charges, C.J. took a leave of absence as president and board member of SGM and a new interim board of directors was installed in order to oversee the adjudicatory process and to determine if C.J. was fit for ministry or not. The interim board, having examined the documents containing the accusations, determined that there were three fundamental questions that needed to be answered. So, three panels of Sovereign Grace pastors were formed, each one consisting of three pastors: one of whom was a board member and none of whom had any previous involvement in the issue at hand. These panels then conducted a formal review in Concord, NC, from November 28 to December 3, 2011. Evidence was gathered, witnesses testified, and an outside lawyer from Ambassadors of Reconciliation moderated the reviews. Each panel spent a number of weeks considering the issues and evidence and then gave their findings, their opinions, and their recommendations in three separate reports. The pastors of all Sovereign Grace churches received these reports last week. We sent you an email last week with the link to the SGM website. If you would like to read the panels’ reports, they are available to the public. We would add that there are many sharp criticisms and vital recommendations made by the panels with which we heartily concur. There is significant need for change, and we applaud the hard work of the panels in pointing it out.
Having said that, we believe that it was entirely fitting and consistent with Scripture for pastors within our family of churches to sit in judgment of a church officer. This would be in accordance with 1 Timothy 5:19-21. It is church officers who are charged with the responsibility to judge elders under accusation. While no human process is flawless, the one adopted seemed just and appropriate. The ultimate determination of C.J.’s fitness as a gospel minister and his status within SGM is the responsibility of the pastors and regional leaders who comprise the interim board. They are the appropriate people to make that decision. Based upon the findings and recommendations of the panels, the interim board reinstated C.J. Mahaney as president of SGM last week. In their announcement of the decision they said,
After examining the reports of these three review panels, we find nothing in them that would disqualify C.J. from his role as President, nor do they in any way call into question his fitness for gospel ministry. Therefore the Board has decided unanimously to return C.J. to the office of President, effective immediately. As with all ministers of the gospel, C.J. is not infallible, and this fact is not lost on him. And so we also affirm that throughout this process of evaluation, C.J. has made genuine confession to the appropriate parties and has demonstrated a desire to grow in areas of weakness.
This decision marks the end of this process of ecclesiastical adjudication of C.J. Mahaney on the charges made last summer. It has been a difficult process and fraught with controversy. C.J. has indicated that he will not remain as President of SGM for very long, and he is not presently a member of the board of directors.
As many of you know, Phil Sasser has served in some capacity as an advisor to C.J. His decision to serve in this manner was not born out of any personal bias or favoritism. It was solely to serve our churches by insuring that every attempt at a biblical due process was afforded an office of the church when an accusation was brought.
There are other significant decisions that will have to be made in the coming months that will have much more important and lasting consequences for Sovereign Grace Church in Apex. First a new board of directors will have to be installed to lead SGM forward. It will be the responsibility of this new board of directors to rewrite the polity positions of SGM and present those to the elders of all of the churches. Hopefully this will also include structural improvements such as a manual of church order and rules of discipline. Many things need to be examined in the light of Scripture and history in order for all of this to be reformed. The purpose of the interim board made up of pastors and regional leaders or apostolic workers was to temporarily govern SGM and to judge C.J.’s fitness. Now they need to replace themselves with a board that will have to do a different kind of work, and it will take some time to complete its task. It is a dangerous thing to change government in the middle of a crisis. The temptation could be to become rash or reactionary as opposed to principled and careful. Please pray for both the interim board and the new board, when it’s announced.
Please be patient concerning the needed reforms. Let us pray and trust God, for He is at work. If anyone would like to discuss any of these issues, the elders would be very happy to do so. Please let us know.