BGBC Lawsuit, Sexual Abuse/Assault and Churches, Sovereign Grace Ministries

Sovereign Grace Ministries Updated Statement on Lawsuit – Nov. 14, 2012




Sovereign Grace Ministries released yet another new press release today, November 14, 2012, regarding the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries.  This is their third response.  When we dig below the surface of the words, we can see their heart of their agenda.  What is the purpose of a press release?  It is to give their side of the story.  It’s important that their public image is intact.  Hmm, is that biblical – – to be concerned about one’s image?


The full press release can be found here:   Updated Statement on Reported Lawsuit

I am highlighting a few points that made my blood pressure rise:

SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance. 


That was very kind of them to offer biblical and spiritual direction.  That is only part of their responsibility.  Their first responsibility, however, is to safeguard children from harm.  What about SGM leaders’ responsibility to report sexual abuse CRIMES to civil authorities (Romans 13:1)?  Common sense and ordinary mandatory reporting laws say that once a suspected crime against a child is reported to someone in a position of authority, it must be reported to civil authorities.  

This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment.   We are saddened that lawyers are now, in essence, seeking to violate those rights by asking judges and juries, years after such pastoral assistance was sought, to dictate what sort of biblical counsel they think should have been provided. 

Ok, this screams of victim mentality here.  They are whining that their rights were violated, but failed to report CRIMES of rape/sodomy, etc, against children?  Cry me a river.  Where were the victims’ rights to see that their perpetrator was turned over to our judicial system?   I feel bad for the victims and their families who have to read such nonsense.    The “biblical” counsel that we have seen in so many of these cases is making sure victim/perpetrator has been reconciled, and then church leaders seem to wipe their hands clean and call it done.  And if the victim is having difficulty with anger or depression, nightmares, anxiety – what is that called?  Unrepentant sin?   I’m sure the church leaders have appropriate verses underlined in their Bible to present to those victims who have not appropriately forgiven their perpetrators based on those negative responses.  

In the Sovereign Grace Ministries church environment, the word “CRIME” is diminished to the simple word of “sin”.   I know someone is going to get upset about that sentence, but stick with me.  There are all sorts of sins:  lying, cheating, stealing, coveting, lusting, fornication, but the problem I see here is that these sex abuse “sins” are put in the same category of all other sins.  Lying  is a sin; however, it is not a crime. But rape is both a sin and crime.  These churches want to keep sin solely at a basic “sin” level so they can handle it “biblically”.   Are all sins equal?  Should some sins have legal repercussions?   They absolutely should have legal repercussions if they are crimes.

Because SGM believes they have handled the sin “biblically” once reconciliation has occurred, they think the issue is resolved.  They in essence seem to be deciding that the civil authorities  – the system that God has allowed to rule over us –  is inferior to their biblical counsel and so the civil authorities do not have an opportunity to do its responsibility in trying and convicting alleged criminals for criminal behavior.  

What I find interesting is that we rarely here about real consequences to these types of “sins”.  At SGM, if there is reconciliation, it’s a done deal.   Where is the restitution?  It seems the secular judicial system does a better job in the area of restitution.   If a criminal is found guilty, there is jail time, probation,  perpetrator must be registered as sex offender, many times they must take some sort of sex offender classes, and the perpetrator has criminal record.  At SGM, once a perpetrator has reconciled, they can be found singing in the praise and worship team again, go on camping trips with children, etc, there is no criminal record, no probation, no sex offender classes, no jail time. There is  little consequence to deter any future offense and additionally, the “sin” is hushed so that the offender life is back to order in church with very few knowing about the incident(s).

SGM believes that allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment, that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse.


JA’s response:  SGM needs to quit reducing sex abuse crimes to mere “sins” with very few repercussions.  The courts will not “second guess” pastoral guidance – they don’t care about pastoral guidance.  That is ridiculous.  The courts want to make sure laws are adhered to appropriately.  Read:  it’s against the law to commit rape or sexual offenses against minors.  Once there is suspected crime involved, it must be turned over to authorities.  If SGM wants to deal with sin, go visit the dude behind bars with your Bible.  For real!

Another thing:  whose First Amendments rights were violated if victims/families were prevented from reporting crime to authorities?  In so many of these cases we read that SGM interfered or prevented parents from calling authorities.  I believe SGM interfered with the victims/families’ First Amendment rights.  Hello?????


Brad (brad/futuristguy ) sent me his comment on the SGMRefuge.com forum which I thought was very good:

Skimming the key new paragraph just quoted by Jenn Grover in #101, it seems to be back to two core issues:

* The distinctions between sins and crimes. [In fact, the word *crime* does not appear anywhere in their statement.]

* Ethical/legal responsibility to report a crime before counseling about sin.

Sure, the state should not dictate the kind of “counseling” given, but it does hold the authority over citizens (including pastors) as to crimes and required reporting.Under the guise of their “freedom of speech” and “religious liberty” responses, aren’t SGM leaders actually disguising here that they ultimately refused to obey the law?   [That is, assuming the accuracy of the alleged failures to report and delays in reporting and sending perpetrators on their own to report whatever and whenever, which will be determined by the preponderance of evidence and also decided to what degree the defendants are liable for damages thereby.]

I think we need to have some sort of phrase adopted for this type of predictable behavior when churches get caught taking matters in their own hands “biblically” rather than appropriately reporting serious crimes to authorities.  This behavior is getting so old and predictable.  I’m open to suggestions.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



From brad/futuristguy:   I threw together a side-by-side comparison chart of the three official SGM website responses to the lawsuit. Anything highlighted shows where the two most recent versions differ … sometimes wording changed, sometimes a new section added, sometimes something subtracted.



Comparison Chart ~ SGM Statements on Class Action Lawsuit


October 17, 2012
October 26, 2012
November 14, 2012


Statement on Reported Lawsuit
October 17, 2012 by SGM Staff Categories: General
Please be aware of the following press release.
October 17, 2012
Statement by Sovereign Grace Ministries on Reported Lawsuit
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – Today, Sovereign Grace Ministries Director of Finance and Administration, Tommy Hill, released the statement below regarding a reported lawsuit on October 17, 2012:
It has come to the attention of Sovereign Grace Ministries through media outlets that a lawsuit has been filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries related to allegations of child abuse apparently arising in the 1980s and 90s. To date, Sovereign Grace Ministries has not been served with any such lawsuit nor does it have a copy of the lawsuit. Sovereign Grace Ministries is not in a position to comment on the allegations of the reported lawsuit. Child abuse in any context is reprehensible and criminal. Sovereign Grace Ministries takes seriously the Biblical commands to pursue the protection and well being of all people, especially the most vulnerable in its midst, little children.
Sovereign Grace Ministries is a family of over 80 churches, primarily in the United States with the goal of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ both locally and globally.
For more information, please contact Tommy Hill at thill@sovgracemin.org

Updated Statement on Reported Lawsuit
October 26, 2012 by SGM Staff Categories: General
Please be aware of the following press release.
October 26, 2012
Statement by Tommy Hill
Sovereign Grace Ministries Director of Administration
Re: A Civil Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries Oct. 17 in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court
Though not yet served, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) leadership has obtained a copy of the civil lawsuit filed last week against SGM and several pastors of its associational churches. This recent complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent in providing spiritual counsel and pastoral care in situations involving persons who had previously suffered child sexual abuse.
It is important to note that it does not allege any act of child abuse by a pastor or staff member of SGM or of an associated church.









SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but we are beginning a careful legal review of each allegation. Upon initial review it appears the complaint contains a number of untrue or misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.

Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. We want to minister the love, grace and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act.

SGM is committed to integrity and faithfulness in pastoral care, as are the pastors of local congregations. We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices.
SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering His grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.
Updated Statement on Reported Lawsuit
November 14, 2012 by SGM Staff Categories: General
Please be aware of the following press release.
Updated Statement by Tommy Hill
Sovereign Grace Ministries Director of Administration
Nov. 14, 2012
Re: Civil Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court
Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) leadership has obtained a copy of the civil lawsuit filed Oct. 17 against SGM and several pastors from its associational churches. This complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent, resulting in errors and omissions in pastoral counseling and spiritual care, which was voluntarily sought and provided years ago to some families of child abuse victims.
The suit does not allege child abuse by any current or former pastor of SGM or any church associated with SGM. The suit does not allege child abuse by any employee or staff of SGM or any church associated with SGM. The suit does not allege any child abuse occurred on any SGM property or any church associated with SGM.
SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance. This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment. We are saddened that lawyers are now, in essence, seeking to violate those rights by asking judges and juries, years after such pastoral assistance was sought, to dictate what sort of biblical counsel they think should have been provided. SGM believes that allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment, that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse.

SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but upon review it appears the complaint contains a number of misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.  Legal counsel is preparing responsive pleadings.

Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. SGM encourages pastors from its associated churches to minister the love, grace, and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act. 
SGM is committed to integrity and faithfulness in pastoral care, as are the pastors of local congregations. We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices. 
SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering his grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.







3 thoughts on “Sovereign Grace Ministries Updated Statement on Lawsuit – Nov. 14, 2012”

  1. SGM's press releases (or at least the portion you highlighted) should come with a disclaimer. Something along the lines of: "Warning: Reading this may cause nausea, vomiting, increased blood pressure, and fits of righteous anger. May also cause SGM's leaders to look like heartless, soulless fools in the eyes of anyone who can still think critically. Read at _our_ own risk."

    Like

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