June 28, 2012 by
Categories: Board updates
The Sovereign Grace Ministries governing Board met this past June 11–14 in Annapolis, Maryland. One priority of the week was to give some direction to our Leadership Team (C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, and Tommy Hill) on how to function during this transitional season of polity development.
Before we could get to this, we had to address a statement that C.J. made in a January blog post in which he said that he intended to resume his duties as President only temporarily while this Board sought to identify his replacement. As we considered this matter in light of C.J.’s stated intention, we concluded that introducing a succession plan or considering a new leader at this time is premature and would only introduce instability to our ministry. Since our future polity is still in formation, we do not know how it will define the office of a senior leader, nor do we know how he will be chosen. What we do know is that in our estimation and at this time in our history, C.J. is best suited to continue to lead our ministry through a process of defining and implementing a new governance. Therefore, we have asked him to remain as President at least until we establish our new polity. We are grateful that he has agreed to do so. After our governance is defined and fully implemented, the Board should take up the question of who can best fill the senior leadership role. We agreed that if this current Board is in place at that time, we would like to have C.J. on our list of candidates to consider.
We think it would be helpful to summarize for you how the Sovereign Grace leadership structure has changed from one year ago. While we are in a transitional phase as we develop our polity, the landscape already has changed significantly. We are positioning C.J. to lead, but the context of his office is quite different.
First, our ministry is now led by an uncompensated board of directors, each of them the senior pastor of a local church and not an employee of SGM (two also serve as regional representatives, but on a part time basis). The Leadership Team no longer has to provide the functions of a governing board as it once did. In the past, the Leadership Team was solely responsible to bring evaluation, make plans, announce plans, and implement those plans as well as to fulfill many fiduciary responsibilities regarding the financial, ethical, and legal integrity of the ministry. Today each Team member leads in his respective area of ministry with the oversight, advice, consent, evaluation, and backing of the Board. Overall governance of the ministry is no longer the Leadership Team’s immediate concern.
Second, we are strengthening Tommy Hill’s role as Administrator by making him a full member of the Leadership Team. Last fall, C.J. acknowledged limitations in his ability to administrate and manage certain aspects of the ministry. We suggested, and he readily agreed, that giving Tommy broader authority to make decisions having to do with the day-to-day management of Sovereign Grace will improve our operations and relieve C.J. of responsibilities for which he is not well suited.
Third, we have confirmed that the Leadership Team will operate as a plurality, analogous to the way a pastoral team functions, with the senior leader overseeing group decision-making and then affording broad authority and responsibility to each team member as he implements those decisions for his respective ministry. This should free C.J. in particular from having to address matters that fall outside his direct job description.
What is that job description? We identified for him three broad areas of responsibility and two primary projects. First, he is to lead the Leadership Team in helping to define each team member’s priorities, in setting strategic goals, in coordinating the evaluation of each team member and the ministry as a whole, and in developing a budget—all this with the Board’s advice and consent. Second, he is to serve as the spokesman for SGM to our local churches. Third, he is to serve as a spokesman to the wider body of Christ and the general public. Regarding projects, we’ve asked him to give his primary attention to his leadership role on our Polity Committee and his leadership role for our conference and music ministries.
As we take these steps, it is important for you to know of the Board’s strong endorsement of C.J. to continue in this role of President. C.J. was the object of an enormous amount of gossip and slander during this past year, and that has damaged his reputation, undermined his ability to lead, and created an atmosphere of suspicion in some quarters of our family of churches. We spent much time with C.J. discussing his role in SGM and his thoughts about the future. After reflecting on the events of the past year and C.J.’s history with us, we think it is important that you know of our gratitude and great respect for the man who founded and has led our family of churches for many years. He has significant leadership gifts, has a history of considerable fruitfulness over 35 years of ministry, and has been rigorously examined over the past year (both through individual examination of accusations brought against him and through a comprehensive evaluation of our entire ministry). This comprehensive process has clearly confirmed C.J.’s fitness to lead and his exceptional character as he has graciously endured major trials. Through all of this he has been found to be a man and a minister of fundamental integrity. We know of no one who is better suited for the office of President at this transitional time in our history—especially in light of the significant changes that are coming to our ministry (changes that C.J. initiated) through the establishment of a comprehensive governance structure.
We’ll provide you with our response to the recommendations made by AoR and the panel reports in an upcoming blog post.
I cannot conclude this update without thanking those of you who prayed for us while we met. Your prayers were heard, and we are grateful for the progress we made as a Board in seeking to serve the Leadership Team and our churches. And I’d ask that you continue to pray for Sovereign Grace Ministries—that we walk in love for one another, that we establish policies and procedures that will help us walk in unity, and that we not only reflect the effects of the gospel on our lives individually and as churches but that the gospel message rings out in ever-expanding ways from the local churches who call Sovereign Grace home.
On behalf of the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board