2021 marked the year of decline in prominence for David Platt, whose pews were riled with strife after continued breach of church bylaws on behalf of Platt and the elders, from inducting woke pastors in violation of the church’s bylaws to his disallowed affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention, despite the church bylaws proscribing such associations. The irony cannot be ignored as the congregation of McLean Bible Church ordained Platt, who was previously the head of the International Mission Board, to be the pastor knowing he had affiliations with the SBC. Yet the plot thickens.
Per Capstone Report, there has been a new legal complaint filed against David Platt’s McLean Bible Church, alleging the following [Boldness not added, yet important]:
The lawsuit filed in Virginia claims the elders inappropriately transferred at least $375,000 to the Southern Baptist Convention. The lawsuit also alleges the church disciplined members who raised questions about the financial issues at the church. The church was served with the amended complaint last week.
The lawsuit cites several facts to prove that McLean Bible Church joined the SBC including MBC being given a church ID number by the SBC, annual donations to the SBC, and subsidizing a church-planting network planting exclusively churches doctrinally affiliated with the SBC.
“Upon information and belief, the Church’s total support from 2017-2021 of ‘New City Network,’ which was headed by an SBC employee named Clint Clifton, was in the millions of dollars,” the new lawsuit claims.
Also, the church members claim other mysterious financial transfers.
“Upon information and belief, the Church made additional transfers of large amounts of funds to SBC entities and agencies, in amounts specifically unknown to Plaintiffs at this time,” according to the complaint against McLean Bible Church. “That is one of the reasons for this case.”
For all intensive purposes, MBC was an SBC church with an SBC pastor during this period, even being a financial supporter of the SBC. On a surface level, none of this is new information save for the exact dollar amounts being transferred. And again, it should not be surprising that the church hired an SBC pastor and became an SBC church. Including Platt, McLean’s elder board consist of seven men, most of whom did not attend the church prior to 2010. Ken Tucker, the elder with the longest ties to the church, went to Dallas Theological Seminary. It is clear that the church violated its bylaws prohibiting denominational affiliation, yet these violations go back to 2016 where even Christian Post reported that McLean had a working and financial relationship with the SBC. While there is something to be said of dragging these disputes to pagan courts, and whether it is either a biblical or fruitful practice, the revelations of these filings goes beyond individual church bylaws.
The allegation demanding further examination is the affiliation of Clint Clifton with MCB’s New City Network, and the supposed millions of dollars they distributed to this organization. This is the real conspiracy buried underneath the lawsuit which is overlooked in favor of the unauthorized SBC donations. What if McLean Bible Church was funneling money into a church planting network, creating a miniature North American Mission Board for the DC Metro area that is rife with corruption and liberalism?
Clint Clifton and the Praetorian Project
Clint Clifton has been name dropped in the latest lawsuit, wherein he is described as an SBC employee whom the church financially supported through the New City Network. According to NewChurches, a NAMB outlet which Clifton writes for, “Clint Clifton is the founding pastor of Pillar, a multiplying church in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and the senior director of resource and research strategy at the North American Mission Board.”
Clifton is listed as the founding elder at Pillar Church of Dumfries in Virginia. Pillar Church is a network of soon-to-be fourteen churches that target military installations as part of the Praetorian Project, of which Clifton is listed as a board member. The Praetorian Project is mostly Southern Baptist and aligns itself with the BFM, though it retains its independence of the SBC and NAMB. For example, their Pillar Church Okinawa embraces the Acts29 Distinctives, but the other churches appear more Southern Baptist. Their churches are funded by NAMB, listed in the SEND Network, and even the SBC church directory. Pillar DC was featured in Annie Armstrong campaign videos yet they hold to John Newton’s 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith rather than the BFM, which is Baptist in origins though only moderately Calvinist for its day.
As an aside, the Praetorian Project appears to be indifferent to the military members being purged for refusing Biden’s vaccine mandate. They were weak or inactive in standing up to Covid tyranny.
Though he is not overly active, Clifton’s twitter is also devoid of any mention of Roe v Wade being overturned and is consumed with church planting materials and SEND Network propaganda. Nevertheless, Clint Clifton is a company man for NAMB and is associated with all things within the Church Planting industry, including Ed Stetzer, Kevin Ezell, and Trevin Wax, so he is fairly embedded in Big Eva. It is safe to conclude that the lawsuit is accurate in depicting him as an SBC employee despite the many hats he wears.
New City Church Planting: A Regional NAMB
McLean Bible Church jumpstarted its church planting network in 2016, a year prior to David Platt’s arrival in 2017. It is this organization which Clint Clifton is listed as the director of and Dale Sutherland, a former pastor at MBC, is listed as the president. Clifton is also listed as a secretary on the board. At the time, it was founded under the name New City Network, as their about section states the following:
In response, early in 2022, New City Church Planting matured into an independent autonomous group, with emphasis in training and equipping sending churches to multiply throughout the country. McLean Bible Church has been an amazing place for this network to grow and send planters and we are very thankful for their incredible partnership over the years.
Their history section makes note that they disaffiliated from McLean Bible Church in early 2022 to focus their efforts on going national. Given how tumultuous 2021 was for MBC and David Platt, New City Network distance itself from McLean and rebranded as New City Church Planting, headquartered in DC. This “maturation” could be to satisfy dissent within the pews.
Their website claims they distanced themselves in early 2022, but the seeds were planted in 2021. According to the WaybackMachine, they had relocated their headquarters from McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia to Washington DC by December 18, 2021. It is likely the transition began prior to this date, yet this is the earliest screen capture of their website.
Their website has also been scrubbed of references to NAMB and SEND Network. One of the main grievances that congregants had was the affiliation of New City Network and NAMB being a violation of the church’s bylaws. The 2021 website was very forthright that the organization was a partner of NAMB, but functionally, they were not necessarily planting SBC churches, as only a minority of NAMB plants are banner-waving members of the SBC apart from the adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message as their statement of faith. The BFM could just be adopted on paper to receive benefits from NAMB.
New City Church Planting lists numerous “Partner Churches” which are mostly church plants in the Mid-Atlantic (DC, MD, VA). It is unclear whether they specifically planted these churches or what the nature of affiliation is with these churches. Some of the partner churches are referenced on SEND Network’s map of church plants within the Mid-Atlantic. Their websites even contain reference to the North American Mission Board, with only a handful citing New City Church Planting or its predecessor as a partner.
Most of the church plants function out of schools or without permanent, independent location, because they are church plants and are hardly flushed with resources. Several are listed as Pillar Churches, in reference to Clifton’s Praetorian Project. There is an emphasis on “City Church” that can be found within the list of churches, which indicates a seeker-sensitive mentality within their church plants.
When it comes to these small churches meeting out of public schools, it must be asked how much financial support they are receiving or require from larger entities aside from start-up costs and perhaps salary assistance for the pastor, yet the individual contributions of New City Church Planting versus NAMB are often not as substantial as one might think. Despite NAMB having tens of millions in loans and claiming to spend over $70 million annually on church planting (equating to Annie Armstrong offering), individual church plants are not flushed with resources.
The same could be said of New City Church Planting that is essentially a franchise or regional NAMB. Millions could have flowed into New City Church Planting, with NAMB participation, but the individual plants might not be flushed with cash. Moreover, they might have cash and assets stored away and off the books of McLean Bible Church which could be alluded to in the mysterious transactions cited by Capstone. Remember, MBC is a church situated in the richest counties in America. Just as NAMB stores away hordes of cash, functioning as a financial institution, perhaps the complaint is contending that New City Church Planting was doing the same.
One thing is for certain, it is a replica of the North American Mission Board.
New City Church Planting and Wokeness
This section is in part courtesy of Masked Baptist, who documented the connection between New City Church Planting and Duke Kwon, a liberal PCA Pastor of Grace Meridian in Washington DC. Masked Baptist reported that Kwon’s Grace Meridian Church has a mailing address of 637 Indiana Ave NW, the same location as New City Church Planting. The article conveys that a Suite 400 is an impossibility since it is a three-story building atop a sandwich shop, concluding that the two organizations share office space and perhaps other shared expenses. Duke Kwon is a known woke quantity in the PCA who argued for slave reparations and is pro-homo, even lamenting the departure of Memorial Presbyterian Church (Greg Johnson) from the PCA.
Much to the demise of McLean Bible Church’s attendance, it is known that Platt has led the church in a woke direction, but the question remains whether this coincidence is further evidence that not only is McLean partnering with woke organizations, like race-baiter Duke Kwon, but is NAMB involved too?
While most church plants might not have overt red-flags of Critical Race Theory nor are there any Partner Churches that appear compromised with female pastors, there are a few that have language denoting liberalism, often meshed in the inclusion of diversity in their beliefs and mission. Chuy Rodriguez, who is listed on staff as the Hispanic Director, is the interim pastor at New City Fellowship in Manassas, which boasts of its diversity vision. Hill City Church in College Park, MD lists New City as a partner on its website (along with NAMB), has a “Mercy and Justice” section on its values and beliefs which states:
Every person has inherent dignity because they are made in the image of God. Therefore, we honor and value every individual by being committed to revealing God’s character in the broken areas of racial, social, and cultural injustice. As God calls his people to love the “orphan, widow and foreigner,” we are called to pursue and serve the marginalized and oppressed as a primary means honoring God and loving people.
This is surface level Marxism being used to express their belief of the Imago Dei, as they have no other reference to Man on their website apart from a link to the BFM. Social injustice is the inverse of social justice. The idea of cultural injustice is loaded with ambiguity. Racial injustice unfortunately bears the connotation that disparate impact is racism. This phraseology could easily devolve into Side B as a means of serving/loving the “marginalized” gay community or open borders immigration policy as a means of serving/loving the foreigner.
Most of the churches listed are otherwise generic at a website level, but there is no doubt that the New City Church Planting is partnered with woke churches, even if it is a minority of churches on the list. But the two churches mentioned have explicit relationships to New City Network/New City Church Planting stated on their websites or from their personnel.
Bank of NAMB Funding
In April of 2022, we reported on NAMB’s financials for Fiscal Year 2021, but specifically we identified their loan book amongst other financial improprieties. NAMB reported loans by region and discloses which states account for more than 5% of their book. In FY 2021, Washington DC appeared on the list for the first time. NAMB disclosed that they have a total of 4 loans equaling $4,353,156 for an average of $1,088,289 each. This naturally begged the question of which churches in a confined geographical area they were lending that kind of money to.
This makes New City Church Planting an ideal suspect within the District of Columbia as they had a mailing address in 2021, though whether officially in DC during NAMB’s FY 2021 is unclear. Nevertheless, the presence of a NAMB affiliated church planting “expert” in Clint Clifton makes plausible a financial relationship between NAMB and New City Church Planting, which itself has a relationship to Kwon’s woke church.
Another reasonable suspect would be Pillar Church DC, which purchased a $2.5 million property in DC in a sale that closed in September of 2021, still within the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021. This could either have been through NAMB or through New City. This would be a large loan and could draw suspicion to a conflict of interest between Clifton and his network of churches. Nevertheless, loans of this magnitude should be disclosed. Again, nothing wrong with buying a former church property for use as an SBC church (quasi or otherwise), and why not boast of helping this specific church finance its permanent site.
Whereas the Masked Baptist at Servants and Heralds alleges that this is evidence of NAMB’s relationship with woke pastors like Duke Kwon, I am positing that we might have answers to whom NAMB has lent substantial money to within the nation’s capital.
Lausanne Covenant Commitment
Instead of partnering with churches under the BFM, New City Church Planting has reinvigorated itself with a commitment to “serve gospel-hearted, multiplication-minded churches from a variety of denominational streams, within the clear, orthodox doctrinal framework of the Lausanne Covenant.”
The Lausanne Covenant originated in 1974 at the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland in an effort led by John Stott, an Anglican cleric and theologian. While Stott was correct in standing firm against Zionism, he wavered a bit on the heresy of Annihilationism, wherein the souls of the damned will be extinguished rather than made to suffer eternal torment. John Mark Comer is a prominent American church that holds to this covenant. Acts29 also holds to the Lausanne Covenant. Within North America, the Lausanne Movement is helmed by Ed Stetzer and Andrew Cook and is very much in favor of open, mass immigration and critical of Trump’s border security policies.
Compared to the Baptist Faith and Message, which is a robust statement of faith, the Lausanne Covenant is anything but a “clear, orthodox doctrinal framework” for a newly planted church.
Article 5 is entitled “Christian Social Responsibility” which is using a business term (the same business concept where ESG derives from) in regards to Christian duty [emphasis added]:
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and Man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.
The focus on justice is a major criticism of the Lausanne Covenant, and this language on its own could be use to justify a Christianize movement for just about any ideology. Proponents of CRT would have no problem hiding behind the Lausanne Covenant nor would communist have issues weaponizing “exploited” in favor of a color revolution. Rather than appeal to Christ as King of Kings over all nations, thereby making the nations subordinate to Him and His standards, the Lausanne Covenant presents an earthly lens by which to view Christian social duty and is reliant upon secular understanding of ideas pertaining to “alienation, oppression and discrimination” to render definition to these terms rather than use a biblical standard. Article 13 of the Lausanne Covenant appeals to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is reliant upon secular creeds for an orthodoxy. The elaborated Manilla Manifesto would clarify and consolidate these articles, but the same issues exist pertaining to ambiguous language regarding justice. In 2010, the movement formulated the Cape Town Commitment which adds environmentalism to missions work. Essentially, global warming was declared a gospel issue. Comparatively, the superior Article 15 of the BFM is far more detailed in regards to Christian Social Order with specific reference to the unborn.
For church planting, the Lausanne Covenant is rather unhelpful, especially for those who might look upon a Church website and see that as a statement of beliefs rather than a few articles out of the BFM which better articulate the gospel. Moreover, this suggests further theological drift within New City Church Planting that they would be adopting a more liberal theological framework of which to plant churches. The vagary of the Lausanne Covenant invites doctrinal concerns and lowers the standards to whom might receive assistance. Even further, if NAMB continues funding New City Church Planting, they could be utilizing SBC money to fund (more) doctrinally unsound churches through a subsidiary.
For McLean, it could represent a shift towards New City becoming more like Acts29. This is a major downgrade from being a mini-NAMB and will have a negative effect on their future church planting endeavors.
Flow of Collusion
No conspiracy is complete without a flowchart. It is clear that McLean Bible Church was flagrant in its disregard for its bylaws, funding churches in coordination with NAMB. Yet there is a redundancy in this ministry as the characters like Clifton are involved with other church planting organizations and offer resources through other venues. There does appear to be strong circumstantial evidence that Clifton used NAMB funds to lend money to a church plant within his Praetorian Project for its church site.
New City Church Network appears to be McLean Bible Church’s version of NAMB, yet in distancing themselves from the SBC, the organization is remodeling itself after the more overtly liberal Acts29. This is all without delving into whether there proper stewardship of the money.
There is the issue to the nature of David Platt’s association with New City Church Planting and the SBC drift of McLean Bible Church. Given that the organization was launched before his arrival at McLean, the efforts were spearheaded by others, not Platt. Despite his vindictive management style and retaliation against dissenting church members, David Platt is not the original visionary behind McLean becoming an SBC church, but his onboarding was the product of it. This might be a shortcoming in any legal efforts by former congregants attempting to uphold the church’s bylaws in court. What is a judge to do over a violation that was established in 2016 and only now being challenged in court? Such favorable judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs would reverse years of (albeit improper) church polity, going beyond what a judge might be willing to do as judges are reluctant to engage in ecclesiastical disputes.
The perks of affiliation with the SBC were monetary in nature along with networking and prestige. Perhaps for the mega-church that is McLean, the allure was unavoidable, and in an effort to avoid outright skirting their bylaws, they embarked on a joint venture with NAMB to retain control. Monetary support of the SBC led to NAMB providing the means to expand and grow their network and influence through the New City Network. The real issue is not that MCB became an SBC church against the bylaws, but that it perhaps took on the corruption and liberalism of the North American Mission Board to replicate their ministry on a local level.