To: The Associate Pastors and Churches of the IAGM
Subject: The Solicitation of IAGM congregations and misinformation being communicated by GGWO, its leaders and representatives.
We, the Board of Representatives of IAGM, address the subject of this letter with an intention to walk circumspectly before the Lord, and to respond to His injunction to “love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). Our desire to responsibly love extends equally to you who are associated with IAGM and to GGWO and its leaders, representatives, and attendees, as well as to the universal Body of Christ. Given what is discussed below, we believe that loving with a pure heart fervently requires speaking the truth in love as clearly as we can. Together we continue to seek the Lord and to walk in love towards all parties concerned, and it is to this end that we write to inform you of the following.
The Board of Representatives of IAGM has been informed by various churches in Russia, Canada and America of GGWO’s attempt to undermine and divide local churches that have chosen, as autonomous churches and congregations, to become a part of this organization. Regretfully, while there are other well-documented occurrences, we need only to refer you to recent recorded statements at the Helsinki Church Conference, the recent statements on Grace Hour by its host regarding the Westfield Ministry (8/24/05) or the current situation in the St. Petersburg Church to validate this point.
We understand that some of this behavior was bound to occur. In other words, people are free-will agents and have the right to choose the place where they will worship. There are some who will, by virtue of their own decision, choose to fellowship with and participate in a GGWO Church. For these people, if a pastor is needed and can be supported, then we say God’s speed. But this situation is a far cry from the continued solicitation through the use of misinformation and lies of those who are peacefully fellowshipping in an IAGM church. This, we will neither condone nor apathetically allow to continue unchallenged.
With regard to the differences with its former and current leadership that have caused our departure from GGWO we state the following:
At this time there is a program put in place by the leadership of GGWO with the sole purpose of affecting the churches that left its organization. This is a program built upon miscommunication, sentimentality and ultimately false doctrine. It is here that we as a group of godly shepherds must draw the line. This program seeks to minimize the truth by saying “There really isn’t any difference” or “The differences aren't that big.” It has also been said that the issues addressed by the formation of IAGM were “issues that would have been addressed anyway had the current administration been given the time.”
It is these two assertions to which we would like to respond.
While we have identified a number of doctrines that are at variance with the norm of evangelical Christianity, there are two that stand out. It is from these two doctrines that the current administration of GGWO has not repented to date. It is these two belief systems that have produced their onslaught against any and all pastors that have left their affiliation.
These two areas of belief are:
1. The belief that a “spiritual father” is not only above those pastors and church members he has pastored in the past but that this position is one of continued control and involvement in the lives of these people after the “spiritual father” has departed. This is a belief that we see fully functioning in the Finnish, Eastern European and the African theatres. For example, the pastor who began the work in Finland, a work that spawned missionary endeavors all over the world (to its credit), asserts his influence over those churches that he planted. While this may seem somewhat acceptable (i.e. we should have love and respect for those who have labored in our behalf), it can and has been taken to an extreme and dangerous level. What we mean is that the emphasis can easily shift from serving Christ to serving the fallen personality of a man. If the liberty and administrative ability of a pastor over a local assembly is inhibited by the oversight of another, who is neither present nor involved in the day to day workings of the church, or if that person exerts unquestioned authority over the local pastor’s affairs and said given ministry, then the effect is destructive at best! We need to look no further than the recent events in the Churches in Helsinki and Budapest to see examples of this point.
These men were not removed nor did they resign because of their inability to pastor, their lack of love for the lost or their unfaithfulness to the Word of God. Rather, they either left or lost their position because of a strained relationship (i.e. they fell out of favor or could not agree with the original founder of their respective churches).
You can readily see that, as this belief in a “spiritual father” spins out of the bounds of a term of endearment and respect and into the realm of meaning a dominant and perpetual leader, the churches themselves suffer. Gone is the creativity and freedom that the Godgiven pastor should express. Gone is the sense of confidence he should have in his own gift of leadership for that church. Instead, all of this is replaced with an inordinate desire to maintain a good relationship with the “spiritual father” or lose the credibility that he must have to pastor the church.
This also creates an environment where church members and staff have a “back door” to undermine and interfere with any new policy or practice he may hope to introduce. He must always fear the overarching influence of the one “truly supreme leader of his ministry,” the spiritual father rather than Christ!
Also, this belief fuels the current assault on the men and ministries that have disaffiliated from GGWO. The logic goes like this. These men have broken their relationship with the spiritual father God has placed over them and therefore, broken the relationship they have with God (Note: this is where the misapplication of the Old Testament principles regarding Noah and covering sin, the Lord's Anointed, Don't touch the Ark, etc. come in handy.) It becomes the responsibility of those who have remained true to their spiritual father to right this wrong. If they hurt the ministry of a disaffiliated pastor, they are doing the work of God by saving the members of his church from deception. Now remember, the disaffiliated pastor has not changed the gospel he heralds, nor his love for the lost or the Word of God. He merely disagreed with the controlling governmental structure that he was under. You can see some of the many flaws that can arise with this system.
2. The belief that a “chief elder” is truly accountable only to God for his sin. The misapplication of the principle of Noah's sons going in backward to cover him (Gen. 9:20-27) or the teaching regarding the sin of David (Ps. 51:4) and tying these two concepts together with the teaching regarding the Lord's Anointed is the basis of this error (I Sam. 24:10-17; 26:9; II Sam. 1:16). This is a confusing teaching that puts the pastor in the same position as the prophet, priest or king of the Old Testament and has proven to be more than dangerous. It is destructive!
While we will not spend a great amount of space discussing these erroneous teachings, because they are well documented in the IAGM doctrinal belief section under “Other Doctrines,” we will take the liberty to ask a few questions to those who may say that “There is no real difference” or “We would have dealt with the sin and cover up in Baltimore at some point in the future anyway.”
Question 1: Why wait to deal with the sin and cover up? It has been years and there are obvious and ongoing effects to the Body of Christ.
Question 2: If one is preaching and asking the congregational members and pastors to confess and repent of sin, forsake it and not condone it, is that person to be held to the same standard?
Question 3: If one believes that he/she should be accountable to someone else for their behavior, why is the person who questions him/her regarding what they may perceive to be a wrongdoing, “off” or “rebellious” for even entertaining such a thought?
Question 4: If one says he is accountable and yet holds to the “spiritual father” belief (and believe yourself to be a spiritual father) that we have expressed above, who is the living, breathing person that is able to correct him without being perceived as being “off?”
Well, we think you get our point. The New Testament (we should just as readily say the Bible) clearly teaches that we all need to be visibly accountable because of our deceitful natures and that only this form of accountability can safeguard our work. While God is ultimately the one who directs the outcome of our decisions (Pr. 16:4) and chastens us (Heb. 12:4-11), he uses men as one of the primary means of doing this.
NO MAN IS TO BE ABOVE THE NEED FOR ACCOUNTABILITY!
You can see the overwhelming flaw in the system described above. A pastor or congregation member is more inclined to become apathetic toward the sins of the “chief elder” because it is not his place to correct him and because he may unwittingly find himself going against God if he does.
Does this sound strange? Yes, but this is exactly the system from which we have removed ourselves and what the current leadership of GGWO is trying desperately to hold onto. Although we respect these men, if they will not repent of this teaching should we believe that these men will not reproduce the same or even worse chaos than that which we have so recently gone through?
In conclusion, we have been through many things in the last few years. These are hard issues and decisions that we needed to make. We have made them prayerfully and thoughtfully. We have searched the Scriptures to find out what the right biblical approach is to those things that confronted us. It has taken time and a great amount of soul searching to come to the place where we are currently. It is not a decision made only by the young and inexperienced. Rather, it is a decision made by the most seasoned leaders of our former ministry.
The names listed on the Sandy Cove and Chicago documents reveal that this is the decision of some of the most respected men and pastors in our former affiliation. It is no small statement that seven of the nine former elders of the church in Baltimore were participants and supporters of the Sandy Cove reform. They did not take this step casually; rather, it was one of great conviction.
As one of our association’s pastors said to a friend recently, “You don't just casually turn your back on 30 years of service to an organization and its pastor.” While we love and served Jesus Christ in the ministry we believe He put us in, we feel that the most honorable thing we could personally do for any Christian leader, is to live as best we can in good conscience before the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and our Lord Jesus Christ.
As for IAGM and its policy, we will not solicit any person to be a part of this
organization. We will leave that solicitation up to the true head of the Church, Jesus
Christ. We will not demean or belittle those who remain in GGWO; rather, they will be recipients of our love and prayers.
However, we will not quietly sit back and allow the ones who would seek to hurt the faith of those whom God has entrusted to our care to do so through the deceitful tactics described above. We believe that we should objectively make known the beliefs and practices with which we disagree so as to allow individuals to make their own decisions before God.
For further information regarding IAGM please visit us on our website at: www.iagm.org.
For information concerning Sandy Cove go to: www.lgministries.org/documents/Sandy%20Cove%20Files.pdf.
Your servants for Christ’s sake,
The Board of Representatives
International Association of Grace Ministries (IAGM)