LETTER: NETWORK LEADERSHIP TEAM REFUSED ELDERS’ CALL FOR INVESTIGATION
South Grove Church elders resigned in 2022 after their call for investigation was refused
THE NETWORK LEADERSHIP TEAM REFUSED SOUTH GROVE CHURCH ELDERS’ REQUEST TO INVESTIGATE STEVE MORGAN’S QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE ROLE OF OVERSEER
Date Posted: December 11, 2023
After Steve Morgan's 1987 arrest for Aggravated Criminal Sodomy became widely known, the elders of South Grove Church in Athens, Georgia, noted "what appeared to be troubling inconsistencies" between the internal story shared by Network leaders and reports emerging from court documents, former members, and Morgan's former overseers within the Vineyard association.
Bobby Malicoat (lead pastor of South Grove Church), along with South Grove Church's two other board members, sent a letter urging the Network Leadership Team (NLT) to "swiftly commission a prompt independent investigation into the qualifications of Steve Morgan as an overseer in the church." The letter stated that the lead pastor and board members hoped such an investigation would "exonerate Steve" and "alleviate concerns."
READ SOUTH GROVE CHURCH’S ELDERS’ LETTER TO THE NETWORK LEADERSHIP TEAM
According to accounts from Jason R, one of the two non-staff overseers, "We heard back the next day that the Network Leadership team would not be commissioning an investigation" because Morgan and the NLT "could not handle the emotional toll that an investigation would take on them." After this response it seemed likely that South Grove Church was going to leave the Network.
However, after returning from a lead pastor's retreat which was presided over by Steve Morgan, Malicoat reversed his stance and elected to keep South Grove in the Network. All board members except for Malicoat resigned. Malicoat later revealed to Jason that Malicoat had known about Morgan's arrest since September 2020, and that, even after the news became widely known, he had no intention of informing the members of South Grove.
Jason R. then created a website, addressed to current members of The Network, which called for repentance from Network leaders, suggested ways in which the organization could be reformed, and gave Jason's account of these events. After a year with no response from Network leaders, the site hosting expired, and the contents of ReformTheNetwork.com were archived below with Jason's permission, along with the letter that South Grove Church's board sent to the Network Leadership Team.
ARCHIVED CONTENT FROM THE ‘REFORM THE NETWORK’ WEBSITE
- August 2022: Evaluating Steve Morgan's Truthfulness
- August 29, 2022: Letter from South Grove Church's elders' to Network Leadership Team
- September 26, 2022: Letter from South Grove Church board member Jason R. to Network Leadership Team
- November 17, 2022: The Network and its Leadership
- November 17, 2022: Why does the Network need to figure out what it is?
- November 28, 2022: Pastors must sacrifice...
- February 20, 2023: Additional cause to distrust the Network Leadership
- June 27, 2023: Sisters and Brothers at South Grove...
FULL TEXT OF LETTER FROM SOUTH GROVE CHURCH ELDERS TO NETWORK LEADERSHIP TEAM
August 29, 2022
Network Leadership Team,
Together, the board of overseers of South Grove Church writes to urge you to swiftly commission a prompt independent investigation into the qualifications of Steve Morgan as an overseer in the church. We have carefully reviewed the claims that have been levied by former members and leaders of network churches, as well as the statements made by several individuals involved in Steve’s ordination and the authorization and establishment of Vine Church when Steve planted it many years ago. It is our hope to see a thorough independent investigation from a third party exonerate Steve. Nevertheless, there are significant concerns about his qualifications that deserve independent investigation.
We believe and reaffirm that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Steve can be forgiven – and we believe that he has been forgiven – for the sin which has been publicly exposed over the last several months. Even so, an independent investigation would help to alleviate concerns, and would likely serve to gather recommendations on good, affirmative steps to assure visitors and members of our churches of their safety and the safety of children.
We still do not have a clear account of who knew about this matter, what they knew, and when they knew it. We have serious concerns about whether Steve met the level of forthrightness that members and leaders of a church should expect from an overseer. In particular, there are key differences in Steve Morgan’s and Steve Nicholson’s accounts, and we believe it is important to have this disparity investigated and analyzed by someone with independent judgment.
An independent investigation is necessary to evaluate whether Steve Morgan is qualified for the role of overseer in a church and to serve as a leader in the network. The network leadership team has indicated that it has been considering whether an independent investigation should be done, and if so, who should conduct the investigation. With the recent events and what appear to be troubling inconsistencies, the need for an independent investigation is both amplified and made more urgent.
To that end, we are requesting that the network leadership team promptly agree that a swift independent investigation is necessary, and within the next 10 days pledge to commission the investigation by hiring a firm to do so within 45 days. We propose that the scope of the independent investigation be to evaluate and make recommendations about whether Steve Morgan satisfies the qualifications for an overseer, with a particular emphasis on (but not a limit on) whether Steve, in the last approximately two years as this matter has developed, has met the qualification that he not be double-tongued and that he be above reproach.
We respectfully request a response to this matter within 10 days, to indicate whether the network leadership team will commission an independent investigation.