Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Big Day of Change in SGM

So new change of surroundings for returned President C J and a new Board too. "Constant change is indeed here to stay" (as C J always liked to say). As I have learned in work emails - it's always good to highlight key points of note for those who don't have time or inclination to read the details.

  • C J and Jeff Purswell have "asked to have their names removed from consideration".

  • Dave Harvey has "become convinced that Board membership is an unwise commitment right now".

It should be noted that "the Board" (a strange business term that I among others have struggled to place in a biblical context of ANY Christian leadership) is distinct from "the Leadership Team" (at present I'm not sure who they are - apart from guessing it involves C J). So I guess we continue to wait and watch and pray.

Here's the details;

An update from the Board

Dear pastors,

Thank you for bearing with us in patience as we have finalized details for the upcoming Board transition. We appreciate your encouragement, input, and prayers that have played such a significant role for us over the last several months.

This letter is to explain to you the significant changes in leadership structure that are represented in the new Board we hope to install in March, and to solicit your involvement in the process. For a quick reference, we’ve also included at the end of this document a table comparing the old and proposed configurations.

This represents the next step in our polity and leadership refinements that have been in process for the past couple of years. Before we get to the specifics of this step, we want to clarify a few preliminary points. As we’ve stated at the conference and in our various polity meetings, we continue to affirm and celebrate our existence together as a family of churches. Although this letter speaks in terms of “the Board,” that is simply a functional term for the governing body of Sovereign Grace Ministries and not an abandonment of biblical principle. Based upon the precedent of the New Testament, SGM is an expression of extra-local ministry that is connected to local churches, emerging out of local churches, endorsed by local churches, and working with local churches, with the goal of planting churches and serving those churches as they grow toward maturity. As such (and as will be noted further below), participants in the new Board will comprise both men serving extra-locally as well as elders of churches partnering with SGM.

Thus, we will maintain our historical commitment to the pervasive biblical pattern of gifted men leading the church in its mission—planting churches, nurturing churches, and uniting churches in a common mission (e.g., Acts 13:1-3; 15:39-40; 18:27-28; 1 Cor. 16:10-12; Phil. 2:19-30; Col 1:7-8, 4:12; Titus 1:5; et al). The inclusion of church elders on the board will also honor the biblical precedent of local elders partnering with extra-local workers in leadership and mission (e.g., Acts 13:1-3; 15:6).

1. Function of the Board

As noted above, the Board is the governing body of SGM. As such, it is not intended to be involved in the day-to-day affairs of the ministry, which are the purview of the Leadership Team (the president and other senior staff selected by the Board). Rather, it provides oversight and accountability for the organization. For example, the Board:
• Determines the vision and values for the ministry
• Sets priorities and conducts annual performance reviews for the president, and holds the authority to hire/fire him
• Provides financial and legal oversight for the ministry, ensuring an appropriate level of transparency, approving annual budgets, and setting policy
• Defines the Statement of Faith—changes to which will also require a vote of ordained SGM pastors when our polity is revised
Although these are not new responsibilities for the Board, our hope is that they receive more concentrated attention now that the Board (as a governing body) will be distinct from the Leadership Team.

Because of the unique season we are in, this new Board also has a number of special responsibilities awaiting it:
• Finalizing SGM’s polity—something that will likely include a subcommittee of pastors from SGM churches who are not Board members (this will include the development of a book of church order, a defined grievance policy, etc)
• Evaluating recommendations from AOR’s Group Reconciliation report
• Evaluating recommendations from the panels that evaluated Brent Detwiler’s allegations
• Installing a replacement for C.J. Mahaney as president
As we have communicated before, the interim Board’s role was not to finalize polity but to evaluate the charges against C.J. With the seating of a new board, these other important priorities can move forward.

2. Nomination process

SGM’s by-laws provide that the Board of Directors shall make subsequent appointments to the Board. Both in the appointment process for and the composition of the new Board, we are changing how this has been done historically. Given the interim status of this Board and pending finalization of our polity, however, we had to be careful not to set precedents that unduly obligated the future Board, which can further modify this process in light of the ongoing polity refinements in the future. One significant change we believed was important to make immediately was to provide a process for ordained SGM pastors to have input about nominees before they are confirmed. We will explain that affirmation process later in this letter.

The first step in seating the new Board was for the interim Board to nominate a list of men for membership. All of these men individually must meet certain criteria we established. Each man:
1. Is an ordained elder in an SGM church with at least five years of pastoral experience, or a member of the SGM leadership team
2. Has been endorsed to us by his local team for his leadership, wisdom, and character, especially his ability to work well in plurality
3. Possesses a proven grasp of biblical, systematic, and practical theology as well as biblical ethics, and a proven ability to reason biblically and to apply scripture to varied circumstances
4. Has a distinctive gift of leadership, especially the capacity to think strategically and solve problems
5. Has a proven commitment to and passion for SGM’s mission to plant and care for local churches
6. Is in agreement with SGM’s statement of faith and membership agreement with local churches
Other significant changes to the Board include group criteria we set: an expanded roster of at least nine men, at least half of whom are SGM church elders rather than primarily SGM staff (to avoid the dynamics of an insider Board). This change provides a broader perspective, a deeper pool of wisdom, a greater connection with and accountability to churches, and clears the primary obstacle SGM has to joining the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. (There are other measures meant to help SGM benefit from accountability to local churches that we expect will be reflected in the new Partnership Agreement. These include providing recourse for elders in the form of a grievance policy, the requirement that changes in the Statement of Faith be voted on by ordained elders, and the requirement that SGM executive staff serve on the staff of a local church.)

The men below have been nominated for Board membership and have been affirmed by their local teams for the role.
1. Al Pino
2. Craig Cabaniss
3. Ian McConnell
4. John Loftness
5. Ken Mellinger
6. Mickey Connolly
7. Paul Buckley
8. Phil Sasser
9. Ron Boomsma
Short bios of these men are included in the feedback form we created for the affirmation process.

Some of you are surely wondering why C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, and Jeff Purswell aren’t on the list. C.J. and Jeff were both unanimously nominated for the Board but asked to have their names removed from consideration. Both thought they would be able to better serve SGM at present if they were able to specialize in particular areas of their calling. Dave Harvey was also unanimously nominated for Board membership, but after considering the demands of the last eight months, the emergence of some family matters, and the care and counsel of his local eldership, Dave became convinced that Board membership was an unwise commitment right now. This does not mean the Board will not include full-time SGM staff in the future. The Board may nominate new Board members at their discretion and in keeping with the needs of leadership. As with the nominees at hand, new nominations will be submitted to SGM elders for affirmation.

We have instituted a three-year term for Board members. The Board may renew the participation of a member when his term expires, but the renewal will be subject to the affirmation process described below. To avoid a situation in which all nine men are up for renewal or replacement at the same time, the initial slate of men will have staggered terms—three men with two-year terms, three men with three-year terms, and three men with four-year terms. Those terms will be assigned to nominees by the Board once the affirmation process is complete.

This new Board process represents a significant change from the way any SGM board has been formed in the past. We believe that these changes—a larger board, the inclusion of more SGM church elders, a majority non-SGM staff, explicit Board qualifications, approval of Board nominees by their local team, and particularly the affirmation of Board nominees by SGM church elders—will provide us a strong group of gifted men to provide wise and biblical leadership for our future together.

3. Affirmation process

We are submitting these nominees to all ordained elders in SGM churches with the request that they communicate to us their affirmation or concerns for each nominee. Feedback should be based upon the stated qualifications for Board membership.

The interim Board will review and discuss the feedback we receive on each man (recusing the nominees where applicable). If the affirmation process makes it clear that a particular nominee does not meet the stated qualifications, we will find an alternate nominee. If any of you men has questions concerning the feedback we receive on a particular nominee, we will be happy to handle that over the phone.

If you are an ordained SGM pastor, please use the online feedback form to submit your affirmation or concerns. We request that this be done by the end of the day on Wednesday, March 7. Before doing so, you may wish to review the summary of changes (PDF) represented in the new Board structure.

We are encouraged about these changes and believe they will strengthen both our governance and our partnership as we pursue our mission together. We appreciate the feedback we have received from many of you, which has helped to inform the shaping of this process. We never tire of thanking you for your partnership in the gospel, which we trust will only strengthen and prosper in the days ahead.

The SGM Board

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