If you have been following the story of the allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up within Sovereign Grace Ministries, you have probably come across the term “discernment blogs.” I honestly don’t know where the term originated, but it is used frequently by those in support of SGM. (In fact, members of SGM churches were specifically instructed by their leadership not to go online and read about the situations on “the blogs.”)
Although the Bible teaches that spiritual discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit, the term “discernment blogs” is a derogatory one. There are probably many blogs that would qualify as discernment blogs, but I believe this term as it relates to SGM is directed primarily at The Wartburg Watch, SGM Survivors, SGM Refuge (now closed) and Brent Detwiler. The Wartburg Watch and SGM Survivors seem to be especially suspect because they are primarily the efforts of women. (Women being discerning is just an oxymoron in the eyes of many Neo-Reformed or Neo-Calvinists. In fact, I’ve read comments that these aren’t discerning women at all. They are busybodies trafficking in gossip and, as such, should be ignored.)
These particular “discernment blogs” did not exist a decade ago. I don’t think some of them even existed five years ago. So why now? Why do they exist? You see, those who would prefer that the entire SGM scandal would just go away think that the discernment blogs are the big problem. All of this would go away and would never have happened if these busybodies weren’t wasting people’s time with gossip and innuendo. But those people completely miss the point.
The fact that these blogs have to exist at all is the problem.
These blogs would not exist if SGM had handled these alleged situations correctly. The ONLY reason they exist is because a few brave souls spoke up online and a few more brave souls discovered they were not alone in the experiences they had had. And when word got out, even more souls discovered they were not alone.
The fact that these blogs exist is an indictment of the leadership that failed these people.
I suspect that most of the people who support SGM and think that all of this must be false have never experienced spiritual abuse. And, because of this, they really cannot understand the magnitude of this in other people’s lives. But when you’ve been through spiritual abuse, it is easy to understand what these people are saying. It’s like reading parts of your own story. Over and over again. Spiritual abuse has some very distinctive patterns. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a great deal of truth behind what is going on. It will be up to the courts to sort it out legally, but there is very little doubt in my mind that there is far more truth in these allegations than not.
I suspect that there are many who would consider themselves part of the young, restless and reformed (YRR) crowd who are starting to have doubts. The actions of the Neo-Reformed national leadership is not instilling confidence in many. While I do consider myself Reformed (and am a member of a Christian Reformed church), I do not consider myself Neo-Reformed or Neo-Calvinist. (In fact, the Reformed circles I run in in real life are mostly oblivious to SGM and the fiasco. I mentioned it to my pastor the other day and he didn’t know anything about it. So much for TGC speaking for all who are Reformed!)
The statements put out by The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Together for the Gospel (T4G) this weekend frankly read like spin and damage control. Judging from the comments I’ve seen elsewhere, I am not alone in my thinking. I’m not going to pick apart the statements although I do think there were several points they made that simply were not true and accurate. But I do want to point out one thing that really bothered me because, in my mind, it undermined everything else that they wrote.
Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor wrote:
Reports on the lawsuit from Christianity Today and World Magazine (among others) explicitly and repeatedly drew attention to C. J., connecting the suit to recent changes within SGM. He has also been the object of libel and even a Javert-like obsession by some. One of the so-called discernment blogs—often trafficking more in speculation and gossip than edifying discernment—reprinted a comment from a woman who issued this ominous wish, “I hope [this lawsuit] ruins the entire organization [of SGM] and every single perpetrator and co-conspirator financially, mentally and physically.”
They did not link to the source of the quote, nor put it into context. Here is the link and here is the complete context:
I’m just going to share a little story and some minor commentary at the end.
One Superbowl Sunday, I was at a prominent SGM (then PDI) member’s house. There were dozens of others in attendance, lots of teens and younger adults. Remote controlling and commercial censoring were in full effect, snacks were in abundance, and everything was so biblical…as biblical as recently invented sports events centered around electronic devices can be. During a commercial break, I was sexually assaulted against an exterior wall of that house.
I was thirteen.
Not a single one of those appointed to ‘watch over’ anything, much less my soul, noticed a thing when I and the perpetrator went back inside the house. I doubt it would have mattered anyway. My family was in the outer circle, despite decades of $$$ and attendance. I started “rebelling” thereafter and refused to attend any church functions, and my parents surprisingly didn’t seem to mind (despite them not knowing the reasons for my rebellion). They severed ties with PDI/SGM 2 years later.
Why bring this up? I think it’s quite telling that despite the micromanagement of ‘biblical living’, horrible things have not only slipped under the radar of those ‘caring for our souls’ (etc., barf) but have been actively hidden, squashed, silenced. The pending lawsuit is long-deserved. I hope it ruins the entire organization financially and every single perpetrator and co-conspirator financially, mentally and physically.
Puts the quote in rather a different light, doesn’t it? And, honestly, it makes me question every other point they made in their statement.
I get the sense that people are starting to step back and think about what it means to follow a leader. When T4G put out their statement initially on Facebook, the comments were brutal. They were not abusive, but the brutal honestly regarding how they were handling it was really stunning. T4G started deleting comments and then the entire thing was gone. Obviously they did not expect the backlash they experienced, even from many who claimed to be their supporters. The disillusionment was clear.
This in and of itself is telling. Are the Neo-Calvinist leaders that out of touch with the world that the rest of us live in that they didn’t realize how their statement would come across? These men consider themselves shepherds and leaders. Thousands of people hang on their every word. How can they shepherd and lead that which they do not know?
I have no idea how this will play out in the months ahead. I’ve already tipped my hand and said that I do believe at least some of the allegations must be true. Which ones and who is guilty? I have no idea. I’m not privy to all the information. But where there is smoke, there is generally fire. And where there is a lot of smoke, there is most probably fire. Honestly, my gut tells me that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. If it is, I hope more people will come forward so that the courts can work through this matter and justice will be served.
In the end, I do believe that God has worked through these discernment bloggers. Do I agree with everything that happens on their sites? No. But I don’t agree with everything that happens on any site. I’ve walked away miffed myself a few times from some of them as I endured biting comments and sarcasm about Reformed theology. But in the grand scheme of things, I do believe God has used these discernment blogs to free people and point them back to Christ. God is near to the broken-hearted. I think He has chosen to work through his daughters and sons who have endured the scorn of others in order to bind up the wounded and show them the love of Jesus. No person can undo the hurt and pain suffered by many. But the discernment bloggers get it. Do they get it perfectly? No, and none of them would claim to get it perfect every time. But if we are looking for the intersection of truth and compassion in this situation, I think it is far more likely to be found on these discernment blogs than perhaps where we might have normally expected to find it.