C.J. Mahaney to resign as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)

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JVDM's picture

Good.

Greg Linscott's picture

JVDM wrote:

Good.

Why would it be good for him to stop being the President but continue to be a local church pastor?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

JVDM's picture

Good, better, best. Best would be that he join a monastery somewhere and take a vow of silence. Maybe SGM can go in a better direction, such as Mahaney's old church in Maryland. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

Wayne Wilson's picture

I think it's too late to save the movement.  It will always be troubled now, and those with ties to him will have their reputations taken down a notch or two.   But they should have spoken up for the victims a lot sooner.  

It is distressing to see the Big Dogs in the Reformed world stand up for Mahaney, or present a case for everyone to "think the best" about disastrous leadership and say not a word about the victims.  It is impossible to defend this support of a powerful friend to those critical of the Reformed movement as a whole.   It reeks of elitism and favoritism among those at a certain level of fame who support each other theologically, and often financially. 

I think this fellow has it about right:

 

Just silence.

There has been no leader in the Reformed community who has spoke up for the victims of sexual abuse in SGM. Not one. No Reformed leader has nailed their horror or concern to the door. The heirs of Luther who railed against the abuse of indulgences are silent on the abuse of women and children.

http://mattbredmond.com/2013/03/07/the-silence-of-the-reformed/

 

 

Greg Long's picture

I'm still kind of confused on the main issue...what is Mahaney's specific link to the alleged abuse cases, other than being the leader of the denomination of the church(es) in the which the abuse occurred?

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

JVDM's picture

My primary concern with Mahaney and SGM stems from the mess that his "leadership" caused before the abuse allegations were even known. I'm speaking to the lack of accountability and superabundant pride that CJ demonstrated during those years--all the stuff that led Harris' church to separate from CJ and SGM.

James K's picture

And not soon enough.  If you are going to write a book about humility, maybe your actions shouldn't demonstrate extreme pride.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Wayne Wilson's picture

My primary concern with Mahaney and SGM stems from the mess that his "leadership" caused before the abuse allegations were even known. I'm speaking to the lack of accountability and superabundant pride that CJ demonstrated during those years--all the stuff that led Harris' church to separate from CJ and SGM.

Greg, The SGM story is a remarkable one I have followed fairly closely.  It's a story of a "superior Christianity" replete with "Apostles" and heavy handed authority in an insular system which Mahaney created and passed on through his Pastor's College.  Sexual abuse was horribly handled because of the system.  Many SGM churches are just now understanding what they've been propagating all these years, and some, like the flagship church Covenant Life (which Mahaney pastored for decades), are trying to find their way to normal Christianity, not the superior brand.  Much credit goes to Pastor Harris for making the break.

The abuse situations grew out of an exalted view of pastoral ministry and an obsession with revealing everyone's sin.  If victims were traumatized or angry, and their abusers were contrite, guess who the problem was?  Yes, the victim.   Don't call the police. The church knows how to deal with sin.  Often, the victim became the focus of sin-sniffing.  It is alleged that even very young children were required to meet with the pastor and the abuser and offer forgiveness to their molester. 

C. J. Mahaney has never been accountable to anyone. He forged a church out of his own personality and authority.  He appears to be a master at making friends with important people, who still support him.  When you see him with men like Mohler, Duncan, Dever, etc. he seems to be a sort of court jester...the funny guy...and never ceases to praise them all.  This obsequiousness, , being a pal at conferences, book endorsements, and well placed dollars seem to have cemented his support.  Even today, major figures in the Reformed world see no problem at all, even as the church he founded completely pulled away, and many others followed.

Julie Anne's picture

Greg Long wrote:

I'm still kind of confused on the main issue...what is Mahaney's specific link to the alleged abuse cases, other than being the leader of the denomination of the church(es) in the which the abuse occurred?

Greg - good question.  There is a lot of confusion around CJ.  What we hear in the news right now is the lawsuit which involves church leaders' failure to report, interfering with parents wanting to report to civil authorities, children being put in harms way with convicted pedophiles nearby, church members not being told of sex offenders, etc.  That is just part of the bigger picture of a culture of abuse.

This is probably the best article I have read on the topic.   http://goo.gl/Vjy47

The environment at SGM was focused so much on sin, there was little grace.  This distorts the gospel message.  At SGM, people are taught to be preoccupied with "sin-sniffing" in each the lives of others.  Care group leaders reported sins of people from their care group to pastors who kept files on these sins.  CJ created this environment.  He wrote the book:  Why Small Groups?.   He created the environment of an extreme focus on modesty.  Dads were encouraged to have their teen daughters model new clothes in front of them to see if they might be sexually attracting other men with their figures (I listened to this audio where CJ explained this recently).  CJ created the environment where the meaning of gossip was twisted.  Gossip meant talking about a negative situation.  In a case of abuse, people would entertain any negative talk "gossip" (whether it was true or not), so abuse was able to continue unchecked.  If you said something negative, you were questioned, "have you examined the sin in your own heart."  

In this environment, all sin is equal.  A victim must forgive her/his perpetrator and a victim not forgiving a sexual perpetrator is in sin equal to the sin of the sexual crime.  I have personally spoken with a mother who was forced to bring her toddler in to face her sexual perpetrator for reconciliation.  The toddler saw the perpetrator and hid beneath the table, crying.  

I can't remember where I saw the quote - I believe it was from someone in The Gospel Coalition, that they wanted CJ's brand of Christianity to infiltrate churches.  CJ became president of SGM with no formal education, no seminary education.  He has been accountable to no one, yet expects everyone in his organization to be accountable to him.  One of the chief complaints among SGM pastors is that he was accountable to no one.  He has been able to use his influence to schmooze with Reformed heavyweights like Mark Dever (who founded 9Marks), Albert Mohler of SBTS, Randy Stinson, Roger Oaklund, Russell Moore, John MacArthur, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, etc.  He's a member of The Gospel Coalition, Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  These men love the way CJ's churches modeled the role of "biblical manhood and womanhood."  This "biblical submission" is part of their church membership agreement.  They looked to CJ for guidance in this area because they wanted their churches to follow suit.  You can hear this conversation in a recorded panel discussion that is online.  They love CJ.  That is why they won't say anything negative about him.

The so-called "biblical" role of man is so elevated in this environment, it has become a breeding ground of heavy-handedness among men and church leaders.  The word "biblical" is in quotes because it is not biblical to have this kind of domineering authority over women.  Women and daughters can easily become victims of physical/emotional/spiritual/sexual.  In the civil lawsuit, we read the story about 2 siblings who reported the physical abuse by their father to church leaders.  Instead of church leaders reporting the crime to civil authorities, they went back to the father "head of household" and disclosed that their children reported to them.  The children were reportedly beaten again for disclosing to church authorities.  You see, in this environment, the "head of household" is treated like priest of the home.  It doesn't matter whether the priest is abusive or not - they are the head of the home and there is no accountability for them, and no safety for women and children because church leaders defer to heads of households first and view women as suspect.  

 

Julie Anne's picture

I did read Wayne's comment before posting my comment!  :)  

 

Marsilius's picture

I read the article Julie Ann. If RD online Magazine isn't atheistic, it certainly leans that way. Carlton isn't just trying to expose SGM, she is trying to paint evangelical belief as inherently abusive. This is a standard attack used by atheists. And this magazine goes after anyone with a serious belief, particularly anyone who challenges the practice of homosexual behavior. After reading the article, I am surprised to find myself wanting to defend SGM. I didn't feel that way before I read it. I do not at all question that abuses have gone on with SGM, but I would not go to the stated enemies of my faith to find out the truth, even about that. It is like substituting one group of abusers for another. Note Carlton's view of biblical ethos below. She believes evangelicals have an ethos on par with the gang rape murderers in India. This is inflammatory propaganda, plain and simple:

"Critics of evangelical sexual mores have noted the connections between demands for female modesty and chastity and a culture where these same bodies are constantly exposed to sexual violence and abuse. As E.J. Graff put it her analysis of the global implications of the gang rape and murder of Indian medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey, purity culture, whether in India or America, casts “women’s bodies [as]…primarily for procreation or male pleasure… a culture in which women must cover up or be threatened is a rape culture.” [Emphasis mine]

If, as Graff writes, purity culture is rape culture, then the submission culture that exists in many conservative evangelical churches is abuse culture. The level of deference and obedience that children are expected to pay to parents, wives to husbands, and girls and women to an exclusively male leadership is so extreme that it encourages—and sometimes outright demands—submission to men who use their power to abuse."

Don't kid yourself, Carlton would put what Paul and Peter instructed us about modesty right in with the mix.

Greg Long's picture

Child sexual abuse is a serious thing. Having put together a child protection policy at a previous church at which I served, I know the dangers inherent in church ministry and the necessity of putting structures in place that will help to prevent abuse and church cover up. Anyone who knowingly covered up child sexual abuse should be removed from church leadership and prosecuted if applicable.

I also agree that there are serious problems with SGM polity. I waded through all of Deitweilers document dumps and some of it was shocking. However, I had to constantly remind myself that I was only hearing one side of the story. Mahaney confessed and repented of certain behaviors and attitudes but did not agree with all of Deitweilers characterizations. I obviously have no way to judge between them.

Julie, I want to address a couple of things you said in your post. First, you brought up Mahaney's book Why Small Groups? I happen to be the Pastor of Adult Ministries at my current position, and I have read that book through 2-3 times. I have found absolutely nothing wrong in it and have even considered using it for small group training here at our church. Could you point out to me specific things in the book that I should be concerned about?

Second, you said, "Dads were encouraged to have their teen daughters model new clothes in front of them to see if they might be sexually attracting other men with their figures." I must admit that I don't have any daughters so I am open to correction here, but are you suggesting that fathers should not have a say in what their daughters are wearing? To be honest with you, from what I see on Facebook, I wish more fathers DID have a say in what their daughters are wearing.

Many statements you make seem to be designed to paint as negative a picture as possible. For example, "At SGM, people are taught to be preoccupied with "sin-sniffing" in each the lives of others." I do not deny they are taught to confront sin in the lives of others, but can you direct me to specific statements where they are "taught to be preoccupied with 'sin-sniffing'"? Or is that your characterization?

Again, there are major problems with SGM polity. I could never join or serve at an SGM church unless some things were changed. And, as one of the founders and a long-time leader of the denomination, Mahaney certainly bears much responsibility for that. But I simply do not know how much he knew about the sexual abuse situation(s) and cannot pass judgment on him for that.

And as Marsilius pointed out, perhaps much of your perspective stems from your views on certain biblical issues. I believe complementarianism is the biblical perspective, although of course it can be abused just like another other teaching of Scripture. I believe homosexuality is wrong, and any article that calls this "homophobia" obviously has an agenda.

Although these men are certainly not fallible, I will trust the judgment of Dever, MacArthur, Mohler, DeYoung, Moore, Duncan, and Piper, who know far more about the situation than I do. I must say once again that I NOT think Mahaney is blameless in all this, as the actions of CLC and Joshua Harris demonstrate. I just can't go as far as some who seem to want to pin the blame for these abuse situations on him.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Jay's picture

I think we're seeing a series of disconnects in this thread (and others like it) between people who have issues with Mahaney in particular and those who have issues with SGM's polity or structure or whatever.  Yes, Mahaney may have been one of the founders, but the two are not one and the same.

And lest anyone say I'm defending Mahaney - Abuse allegations should be reported to the cops.  If a pastor advises you otherwise, leave that church (although it's easier said than done).  If the pastor IS the problem - entreat him as an elder (1 Tim. 5:1), then leave if you still can't resolve it.

Here's a serious question, though - are we really capable or able to judge a person's ability to pastor based on their perceived pride?  How do we know that our own pride isn't what is driving us to say 'No, that person's not fit to be a pastor'.  1 Timothy 3:6 specifies that a pastor must not be a recent convert, lest he become puffed up, but I don't see anything there about pride.

Just thinking aloud and remembering Jeremiah 17:9.

 

 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

Wayne Wilson's picture

Here's a serious question, though - are we really capable or able to judge a person's ability to pastor based on their perceived pride?  How do we know that our own pride isn't what is driving us to say 'No, that person's not fit to be a pastor'.

I think you make a great point, though I do think "pride" can disqualify a man for ministry. Sometimes it is so obvious to so many people that steps need to be taken. 

What's remarkable about that in the SGM case, is that the Apostles of SGM would routinely come to a local SGM church, accuse the pastor of pride (sometimes the founding pastor) and dismiss him, then put in their chosen man.  Some former SGM churches have publicly apologized to their former pastors for such misconduct.  "Pride" was a tool to control many pastors and churches.  You never knew when the pride accusation might hit, and sine it is so subjective, how do you defend against it when no other misconduct is cited.  What has upset so many in the movement is the double standard.  All the reasons and rules used to crush others has never been applied or received by those at the top.  There is a fundamental injustice there built into the ministry by the founder.   

Wayne Wilson's picture

Brother Marsilius is exactly right about the RD online magazine.  T.F. Charlton says she is writing from a "queer feminist and critical race analysis of religion" perspective. Obviously, that is going to dramatically color her interpretation of things like teaching on modesty.  Yet buried in her criticisms, and what drove her to that belief system she holds is something to ponder.  Maybe if she was raised in a healthy church environment, she would have rebelled and gone that way no matter what.  But she was raised in Covemant Life, and C.J. Mahaney was her pastor.  I'm not saying Sovereign Grace created a T.F. Charlton, but we should think carefully about the fact that it may have done so through heavy-handed practices that went well beyond Scripture.  She saw a distorted Christianity built around a claim of Gospel-centeredness.  We  all have to take responsibility for leadership mistakes.  SGM never has.  Confessions about "run-of-the-mill" sins don't count.  Victims want to see true repentance.

The point is because of Mahaney's acceptance among major "Gospel" organizations, in spite of his extreme methods and truly bizarre polity, Charlton is able to give an accurate history of SGM and point out Mahaney's links to The Gospel Coalition and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  Then, as the sexual abuse case goes forward, and the wretched shepherding practices are revealed, people like Charlton feel vindicated concerning their view of conservative Christianity, and male headship and complementarian views of gender (which I believe in strongly).  The anti-woman, anti-child meme is justified by behavior that is unbiblical, but spouted from leaders claiming biblical justification.  Not only do they claim it, but major leaders from biblical groups embrace these same leaders with their unbiblical practices.   No major figure among Mahaney's Reformed friends has ever said a word for the victims.  Al Mohler said something particularly distasteful when all this came out, about how "Basically there are people who are very uncomfortable with the strong kind of spiritual direction that comes through the Sovereign Grace Ministries,"  Yes, they are uncomfortable.  So am I.  Mohler said this before the sex abuse allegations came out, and before churches started leaving.  But he should have known better.  The polity issues and heavy shepherding were evident for years.  And he has still not said a word for the victims nor the slightest criticism of his SGM friends. 

Despite the silence, it appears the Lord is cleaning house and bringing justice to the sheep.  Isn't that what He promised He would do?  (Ezek 34:10)  But it would be so much better if the shepherds of conservative evangelicalism had been His voice.

 

Julie Anne's picture

I'm going to be brief.  I had a long response typed up and it would do no good to post.  

I must address the dad/modesty thing, however.  I do know what it's like to model my clothes in front of my dad.  He looked me over sexually - there is no other way around it.  That is a sexual violation and no dad should be looking at his daughter with those eyes.  You may feel that you are justified in doing so  - that you are protecting her from the eyes of other men, that you are making sure she is dressed modestly, but I'm telling you as a woman who endured this as a teen, it is destructive.  Please, if you are having your daughter model her clothes, looking her over from top to bottom, checking the fit over every curve, having her turn around as you inspect, please stop.  Your daughter does not want you to be looking at her figure.  If she wants to show you her new dress, that's fine.  If the dress or clothes she is wearing makes her look beautiful, tell her so.  If her dress is immodest, mention it to your wife to talk to your daughter.  She will be very embarrassed to hear it from you because you are a guy who is looking through "male" eyes and girls know that means "sexual".  Please trust me on this.   End of that rant.  

As far as CJ goes.  I have a question for those who continue to say "what's the big deal about CJ."     How many people would it take to tell you a story before you believed it?  Some read Brent Detwiler's 600- page account which includes personal e-mails from both sides and claim that is one-sided.  There are over 20 churches who have left even before the new polity has been decided.  A group of SGM pastors have written a letter discussing these key issues.  There have been pedophiles who have been tried and convicted connected with these cases.  There is a civil lawsuit which represents scores of people who have disclosed their testimonies.  The SGMSurvivor and SGMRefuge (now closed) sites have been around for over 5 years and you can read hundreds, perhaps thousands of first-hand accounts.  What will it take for pastors here to say that there is something very bad going on?   Do you have to see it or hear it with your own eyes in order to believe it?  How many witnesses does God require?

Some are so quick to defend a pastor, yet so quick to diminish and dismiss the cries of hundreds of hurting sheep.  I can't wrap my brain around this, gentlemen.  I simply cannot.  If it were a case of 2 "disgruntled" people - - maybe.  

Julie Anne's picture

T.F. Charlton says she is writing from a "queer feminist and critical race analysis of religion" perspective. Obviously, that is going to dramatically color her interpretation of things like teaching on modesty.  Yet buried in her criticisms, and what drove her to that belief system she holds is something to ponder.  Maybe if she was raised in a healthy church environment, she would have rebelled and gone that way no matter what.  But she was raised in Covemant Life, and C.J. Mahaney was her pastor.  I'm not saying Sovereign Grace created a T.F. Charlton, but we should think carefully about the fact that it may have done so through heavy-handed practices that went well beyond Scripture.

Wayne - I am watching patterns.  Charlton is not alone.  A large number of young adults who are leaving their parents' homes are now coming to grips with the culture in which they were raised and have gone completely 180 degrees the other direction.  I know there will always be a percentage of kids who go astray.  I'm not seeing a small percentage among this culture.  It is disturbing.  This legalism, focus on purity/modesty, hyper-authority/submission, courtship, etc, can be destructive.  We are just now seeing the beginnings of this come out as a whole generation has been raised in it.   

 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

While I think it is very important to give 'the benefit of the doubt' (when doubt exists), I agree that it is strange that in cases involving accusations against church leadership, the default is to give that benefit to the accused instead of the victim. In any other situation, we would naturally lean much more toward protecting the victim. At least that's my perspective. 

There is the sense that church leaders band together to protect other church leaders, as if having one pastor called into question automatically besmirches all pastors. The same thing is seen in other professions, such as police officers and teachers, and even athletes. But because we have such clear guidelines for church leaders, and a system of checks and balances laid out in Scripture for bringing accusations against one another, the church is the last place where there should be any wagons circling or good ol' boys clubs. 

I sympathize that leaders/authority in any profession are vulnerable to accusation though. There have been many cases of manipulation and extortion that resulted in much destruction of the innocent. Our own system of 'innocent until proven guilty' acknowledges this, and requires the burden of proof be on the accuser. 

However, there is too often a preponderance of evidence, and still people are reluctant to discipline those in church leadership. The lack of consideration for the consequences of allowing the wolves continued unrestrained access to the sheep is astonishing.  

There is probably also a sense of personal embarrassment if we have unknowingly supported someone who is now being shown to have been in serious error, doctrinally,  morally, and legally. We can't know everything about every person whose messages we hear or whose books we read. We take quite a bit on faith when we recommend a book or sermon. But when we see men and women we've admired to some degree being called into question, I think we can still stand on principle, and let the chips fall where they may. 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Wilson's picture

Susan, good thoughts all the way around. 

Julie Ann,  yes, the great desire to protect the kids on the part of parents can become tragically mishandled to the point of losing many of them in heavy shepherding environments.  The kids seem able to see through some of the foolishness their parents have embraced.  and when the Gospel is attached to the madness it gets rejected, too.  I'll never forget the documentary All God's Children on the CMA missionary kids who were abused in mission schools for decades.  I almost can't bear to think about it, and what happened to their faith.  But we must think about it.  While I have become completely disillusioned with Sovereign Grace Ministries, I still believe in the sovereign grace of Jesus Christ, so I hope the Lord will have a special care for those children raised in any environment which connects the Gospel to ugly things.