Current Page: 12 of 19
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 29, 2012 10:18PM

Sovereign Grace Ministries, Riven by Conflict, Seeks to Change

Washington Post
September 7, 2011
by Michelle Boorstein

When C.J. Mahaney took a leave of absence this summer from the helm of his 100-church denomination, saying he was guilty of “various expressions of pride,” conservative evangelicals nationwide took notice.

A college dropout who was once a hard-core partier, Mahaney went on to become one of the most-recognized and popular faces of neo-Calvinism, which teaches that man is lowly, sinful and in desperate need of spiritual oversight. Mahaney, with his perma-grin, distinctively casual style (shaved head, no jackets), and successful books and conferences, put a happy, hip face on the idea of discipline.

But inside his Gaithersburg-based Sovereign Grace Ministries movement, there was a growing sense that things had gone too far. Former church members said Mahaney had created something they thought was more like a cult.

His leave came days after a former top Sovereign Grace pastor distributed hundreds of pages of e-mails and internal church documents that portrayed Mahaney as fixated on the sins of everyone below him, particularly critics. The documents, which included discussions among the pastors, showed Mahaney and others threatening the movement’s co-founder, saying they would make private family details public if the man were too openly critical of Sovereign Grace as he left.

Mahaney, who grew up in Takoma Park, is attending the Capitol Hill church of another well-known neo-Calvinist, Mark Dever. He’s written a couple of blog posts thanking God for helping him “perceive a degree of my sin.” He declined to comment for this article.

“Although my experience of conviction has already started — and this is an evidence of God’s mercy — I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge,” he wrote. “I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private. Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.”

As the discussion about the direction of the ministry heated up, the daily clicks on two blogs on which former members vent shot into the tens of thousands. Usually anonymously, people told story after story of Sovereign Grace pastors being abusively controlling, shaming people who criticized clergy and dividing families when someone disagreed with a pastor. Some alleged that sexual abuse counseling had been poor, with victims being told to also scour themselves for sin.

“We as a family experienced a pattern of spiritual abuse, hypocrisy, harshness, deceit and some unfortunate threats that were not righteous for Christians and need to be repented,” said Larry Tomczak, who co-founded the ministry with Mahaney during the hippie-ish Jesus Movement of the 1970s and then bitterly split from him two decades later. “There has been something systematic in the handling of people that has deviated from biblical, pastoral norms and has had serious implications in many people’s lives. Lots of people have been waving flags. Hopefully, things are changing.”

Now facing what its interim leader, Dave Harvey, calls a “time of crisis,” Sovereign Grace has called in a Christian reconciliation firm to help decide Mahaney’s future and whether to create a new structure for dealing with conflicts.

Two other church leaders at Covenant Life, the flagship church in Gaithersburg, have stepped down. Mahaney’s protégé, Josh Harris, who is Covenant Life’s lead pastor, left the denomination’s board because of differing views on what God is trying to say through the shake-up. Although there is no evidence that the leadership upheaval has harmed attendance, pastors clearly know many congregants are asking questions. Covenant Life is holding unprecedented open-mike events. Some pastors have launched blogs.

Some conservative evangelicals worry that an inspiring movement might lose steam because of something akin to a management failure.

Experts have charted a rise of Christian energy in the past decade or so around the ideas of Calvin and Reformed Protestantism, which see a God that loathes prideful humans and predestines who will be Christian and who will be saved. Time magazine in 2009 called Calvinism one of the year’s most influential ideas, and researchers say more and more students at Christian schools seem intrigued by these theologies.

Dennis Horton, a Baylor University professor of religion who studies resurgent Calvinism, said the trend emphasizes the sovereignty of God — thus the name of Mahaney’s group — as opposed to free will and the idea that one can boost one’s chances of salvation through good deeds.

“Of all the groups, they are more susceptible to authority issues because they put so much emphasis on authority and hierarchy,” he said.

Thousands of pastors have come to Together for the Gospel leadership conferences centered on these ideas. They are run by co-founders Dever, Mahaney and Al Mohler, a Southern Baptist leader. Mohler called Sovereign Grace “one of the most vital evangelizing movements of this generation.”

What happens to Mahaney is important because American churches are increasingly unable to take firm stands on anything, he said.

“You have an America today where very strong churches will bring forth strong disagreement and strong kinds of ministry may bring on strong adverse reactions. The alternative is becoming a generic church with a generic message, and that’s not who C.J. is,” Mohler said.

Some close watchers of American evangelicalism say the Sovereign Grace controversy shows the challenge in balancing desire for strong pastoral discipline with a culture swimming in free, unaccountable chatter on social media.

The Web is playing a powerful role in Mahaney’s woes even as his movement owes much of its popularity to it. His wife and three daughters co-write a chatty, hipster-looking blog about “biblical womanhood,” and Harris is something of a rock star in conservative evangelical circles for his book about dating and the importance of traditional courtship.

What happens next is unclear. Sovereign Grace officials emphasize they are deep into a period of spiritual reflection and management nit-picking. They clarified that he remains on staff. He joined with some other Sovereign Grace pastors at a retreat this summer, and some experts say he is too popular a figure in a thriving movement to disappear over the controversy.

In an interview, leaders of Sovereign Grace acknowledged some mistakes but seemed to focus more on how the fire has been fanned by many anonymous online posters. In sermons and blog posts this summer, they have referred to biblical bans on gossip and slander. Debate broke out among members when Harris first suggested that people read the insurgent blogs and then said not to.

“Sometimes pastors in their zeal to help people, they have strongly suggested things they needed to leave it to people to figure out for themselves,” said John Loftness, a member of the church’s board.

But things seem likely to change.

“I think many people nationwide have been watching and waiting and hoping for this day to come,” Tomczak said. “We can’t cover it up. Bring it out, change where change is necessary. Confess where there have been wrongs, repent, go forward, be redemptive.”

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 29, 2012 10:21PM

Sex, Money ... Pride?
Why Pastors Are Stepping Down
What's causing some well-known leaders like C. J. Mahaney (and John Piper before him) to step aside is not what you might think.

Christianity Today
By Bobby Ross Jr.

For the second time in the last year and a half, a prominent evangelical leader has taken a highly publicized leave of absence while confessing to the sin of pride and character flaws.

C. J. Mahaney, president of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), a national network of nearly 100 church plants, cited "various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy" in a July 6 statement explaining his indefinite leave.

In March 2010, Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper embarked on an eight-month leave, saying his soul, marriage, family, and ministry pattern needed "a reality check from the Holy Spirit."

"My sense is that many of the celebrity religious leaders are well aware of and intentionally attempt to guard themselves against sexual and financial temptations," said Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist who studies megachurches. "But they forget that pride comes before a fall."

In the case of a pastor such as Mahaney, a leader in a neo-Reformed movement, such a downfall might be even more probable, Thumma said.

"I could imagine neo-Reformed preachers and theologians emphasizing a theology that stresses election and predestination and implies a 'seriousness' about rigorous theological contemplation, leading to an attitude of religious superiority that would suppress abuse of sex and money but compound a sense of pride and elitism," Thumma said. "However, it is to the credit of C. J., John Piper, and others to recognize this and remove themselves—or be willing to be removed—for a time of reflection and spiritual introspection."

Sovereign Grace has appointed Dave Harvey, a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, as interim president and is seeking outside help to conduct an independent review of the accusations against Mahaney.

Brent Detwiler, a former SGM pastor, has accused Mahaney of resisting correction and accountability at times, dealing unfairly with other leaders who disagreed with him, and being heavy-handed in his leadership, Harvey said.

"[SGM] has been a wonderful organization committed to planting Gospel-centered churches in the United States and parts abroad," Detwiler wrote in an e-mail to Christianity Today. "There are many outstanding pastors and people in the denomination. But temptation and sin come with rapid growth and recognition.

"That was especially true for C. J., and we did not serve him well by allowing him to play by a different set of rules—a double standard. We certainly share the blame for his fall. But C. J. genuinely loves the Lord and people, so I am confident he will respond to God's discipline in his life."

More than 600 pages of e-mails between Detwiler and Mahaney and related documents were posted anonymously online at under the name SGMwikileaks. Detwiler said he shared the documents with SGM pastors but only later found out who made them public.

"Confidential documents being published online, the surprising sway that anonymous bloggers can have over thousands of readers, and just the whole dynamic of public trial for church leaders is, I think, probably the meta-trend for the church being highlighted by all this," Harvey said.

Harvey said the SGM board supports Mahaney and believes he has responded well to its direction. "C. J. is not hiding anything," Harvey said. "He is eagerly pursuing any aggrieved parties and diligently applying himself under the direction of the board."

In the latest development, Joshua Harris, who succeeded Mahaney as Covenant Life Church's senior pastor in 2004, resigned from SGM's board on July 14. A statement from Harvey cited differences over whether God is disciplining all of SGM and how to move forward and evaluate the claims against Mahaney. But Harvey said Harris had agreed to keep attending board meetings when requested and give counsel.

Blogs reported that Harris stated in his previous Sunday sermon that "our denomination is being publicly spanked, we are being humiliated and being brought low."

Before the recent furor, Larry Tomczak, a pastor at Bethel World Outreach Church in Nashville, Tennessee, reconciled with Mahaney after 13 years of estrangement.

For a long time, Tomczak and Mahaney were ministry partners and "yokefellows," as they liked to refer to each other, Tomczak said.

In the late 1970s, they worked together to start Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which grew into a megachurch with more than 3,000 members. They helped plant new churches across the nation through the network that became known as Sovereign Grace Ministries.

But in the 1990s, as Tomczak found himself "going on a different doctrinal path" than some of his dear friends, friction emerged between Tomczak and Mahaney.

"As time went by, I felt I was experiencing abuses of spiritual authority and methodologies that were harmful and inconsistent with Scripture," Tomczak wrote in a testimonial provided to CT. "Other leaders in SGM shared similar experiences with me."

Tomczak's tension with Mahaney turned into an impasse that lasted more than a decade until the two men got together, at Tomczak's request, and worked out their differences last fall.

"In my leaving, I experienced some things that were unfortunate and have led to reconciliation now 13 years later," Tomczak told CT. "My experience, I think, mirrors that of dozens of leaders and hundreds of people in churches that are identified with SGM. My prayer is that they're being corrected. I think this issue with C. J. is bringing everything to the surface."

Like Harvey, Tomczak stressed that no one has leveled charges of sexual misconduct or financial impropriety against Mahaney.

"I think we're focusing on the third area—power—and failures in biblical leadership. Character flaws that have been brought to C. J. that he's admitting," Tomczak said.

As Tomczak sees it, Hebrews 12 makes clear that God demonstrates love of his children through discipline.

In the Nashville pastor's view, Mahaney is experiencing that love—tough love—now.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to note the resignation of Josh Harris from SGM's board.


Mahaney Reinstalled as President of Sovereign Grace Ministries
Christianity Today
January 21st, 2012
by Morgan Feddes

Six months after CT reported that C.J. Mahaney was taking a leave of absence from his role as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), the organization announced Wednesday it has returned Mahaney to his role.

In a July 6 statement, Mahaney said he was taking leave because Brent Detwiler, a former SGM pastor, had raised concerns about “various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy” committed by Mahaney. SGM installed an interim board of directors that same month and established three separate review panels to determine if Mahaney should remain as president.

“After examining the reports of these three review panels, we find nothing in them that would disqualify C.J. from his role as President, nor do they in any way call into question his fitness for gospel ministry,” the Board said in a statement. “Therefore the Board has decided unanimously to return C.J. to the office of President, effective immediately.”

CT’s original report noted that Detwiler accused Mahaney of resisting correction and accountability at times, being heavy-handed in his leadership, and dealing unfairly with other leaders who disagreed with him.

"[SGM] has been a wonderful organization committed to planting Gospel-centered churches in the United States and parts abroad," Detwiler wrote in an e-mail to CT. "There are many outstanding pastors and people in the denomination. But temptation and sin come with rapid growth and recognition.

"That was especially true for C.J., and we did not serve him well by allowing him to play by a different set of rules—a double standard. We certainly share the blame for his fall. But C.J. genuinely loves the Lord and people, so I am confident he will respond to God's discipline in his life."

The Board noted that it has been a “trying season” for SGM and Mahaney, writing, “Our hope and prayer is that all of us evaluate these matters humbly, apply the forgiveness that comes through the gospel appropriately, and relate to one another about these matters graciously as we work together to reform what needs reforming, reaffirm the goodness of God in our midst, and continue to plant and build local churches with our chief aim the glory of God through the gospel.”


Sovereign Grace Ministries Relocating Headquarters to Kentucky
Ministry cites the economy as main factor in the decision
Critic cites conflict over leader C. J. Mahaney.

Christianity Today
May 9th, 2012
Morgan Feddes

Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), which has weathered controversy over its leadership and discipline practices, will relocate its offices and pastor-training program to Louisville, Kentucky.

Currently based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, SGM cited the economy as the main factor in its decision. It also hopes to expand its Pastors College and collaborate with Louisville-based Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

“In short, our mission is to serve Sovereign Grace churches, and being located in the DC area was placing limitations on our ability to do so,” John Loftness, chairman of the SGM board, said in a statement.

SGM currently has no churches in Kentucky or Indiana, but Loftness said SGM president C. J. Mahaney will plant a church in Louisville. Albert Mohler Jr., president of SBTS, told The Courier-Journal he welcomed the church plant and SGM’s move.

“I think the Sovereign Grace churches are a demonstration of the revitalization of Christianity in the early 21st century,” Mohler said.

Last July, Christianity Today reported that Mahaney was taking a leave of absence after former SGM pastor Brent Detwiler raised concerns about “various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy" committed by Mahaney.

That month, SGM installed an interim board of directors and established three separate review panels to determine if Mahaney should remain as president. It reinstated Mahaney in January.

Though Loftness asserted in his statement that SGM had been planning the move to Louisville years before last summer’s conflicts, Detwiler told The Courier-Journal SGM was moving because of its “fractured relationships” with Covenant Life Church, SGM’s flagship congregation where its headquarters is currently located.

During its review of Mahaney, SGM enlisted the services of the Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AOR), a Lutheran conflict mediation group. Early last month, AOR released a report of its findings, citing SGM for, among other issues, overemphasizing sin.

“We recommend that Sovereign Grace Ministries intentionally develop a culture of proclaiming God’s forgiveness to those who express repentance or confess their sins,” AOR said in its report.

In response to the AOR’s recommendations, SGM’s Board of Directors released a statement pledging to “commit by God’s grace to correct the failures identified in this report and to do all in our power to shepherd the precious people of God with grace, patience, humility, and love.”

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 29, 2012 10:37PM


The stories the victims and families have shared on the SGM Survivors blog are only the tip of the ice-burg…… there’s so much more going on than we can see. I know personally and firsthand from several other people and victims who have contacted me privately-- there have been several other cases in the church and the school, of members sexually abusing children, reported to the pastors in this church, with nothing being done about it. I am just not at liberty to tell these peoples stories here. The real “story” is one of a systematic failure of the leadership — not one of individual victims. And I am almost sure that once/if the inevitable number of other victims come forward, whether its through a bog or through litigation or through a media outlet, the focus of the “story” will no longer be each individual story, but will more appropriately be the system that allowed or encouraged these stories to happen. I would not want to see a national article about any individual victim -- as it could cause undue embarrassment to them -- but will cautiously watch and wait (impatiently) to see if there is an appropriate response from the organization first.

SGM Survivors

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 29, 2012 11:00PM


CLC members meeting was tonight…….

Gut impression: Josh is changing course. The whole night was focused on the pastors, how the pastors are dealing with sexual abuse issues on the blog, how the pastors are banding together…..

Josh recapped ‘the blogs’ of ExClcer and SGMnot but omitted some key points:

SGMnot, when Josh (and maybe others) talked about your family’s situation, he defended the pastor who was upset at you for calling the police.
--Said that the pastor wanted you to take your 3 year old daughter to the pediatrician instead of the police.
--Never mentioned a meeting with the perp and your daughter in the same room.
--Never mentioned that you were encouraged to write a letter to the judge for leniancy on the perpetrator.
--Never mentioned that your pastors specifically instructed you not to talk to anyone in the church or even in your care group about your painful ordeal.

ExClcer, when Josh recapped your family’s tragic story, he
--Never mentioned how the pastors legally supported and advocated for the perpetrator and not the victim
--Never mentioned that the perpetrator was encouraged to return to the home by the pastors, minus the victim
--Never mentioned that the wife was told by a pastor that her poverty (from losing her house and kids to foster care) was self-induced
--Never mentioned that the perpetrator’s sin was referred to adultery-like
--Never mentioned that the daughter was becoming woman-like and therefore tempting.
--Never mentioned that the perpetrator (Mr. Adams) has not been notifying parents of kids that he associates with (ie Acme)—-Josh actually stated the opposite, that Mr. Adams is in full compliance of notifying folks….)

The main thrust of Josh discussing these stories was to point out that Gary Riccuici and John Lofthouse are ‘wonderful men of God’ blah blah blah….. There was NO acknowledgement of ANY wrong counsel or pastoral care in EITHER case.

Josh appologized for many things in the meetings, but most of the apologies went something like this:
—”I’m sorry I said things that encouraged people to read the blogs, because I now realize that….blah blah blah….”
—”I’m sorry I didn’t guide folks on how to have discernment against slander before because blah blah blah”

Josh, you left out so much information that it really makes me question your integrity. Whose side are you on?

Yellow is a Happy Color
SGM Survivors

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 30, 2012 07:11AM

‘Serious’ Charges versus Popular Pastor

Courier Journal
April 8, 2011
by Peter Smith

C.J. Mahaney, one of the leaders of the resurgence in Calvinism among some conservative evangelicals, is taking a leave of absence from his ministry due to unspecific but serious charges, he and his board have announced.

Mahaney has been president of the Maryland-based Sovereign Grace Ministries, a church-planting network that says it has 97 churches here and abroad. They are mainly clustered on the East Coast — none in Kentucky or Indiana — with others scattered throughout the country and abroad. But his influence extends beyond that church, as he is a popular author and speaker. He was one of the main speakers at a Together for the Gospel convention that drew thousands of attendees last year to the Kentucky International Convention Center. He appeared on a program that included Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Minnesota pastor John Piper and other A-list speakers from the New Calvinist movement, which promotes beliefs in such things as in male authority in churches and homes, the divine direction of events rather than human free will, and church discipline of its members.

On that last point, Mahaney and Sovereign Grace have long taken heat for what critics say is excessive and abusive church discipline. (See here and here.) The reasons for Mahaney’s leave aren’t spelled out.

A Sovereign Grace board statement said:

“The charges against C.J. are serious, but his response has been one of self-examination and, when possible, specific confession to those sinned against. However, given the numerous events, people, and perspectives involved, the work of an independent panel will be vital to fully examining these charges and arriving at an objective conclusion, especially on those charges with which the board does not agree.”

Mahaney issued his own lengthy statement here.

“These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.”

“I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others. I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin.”


Louisville Seminary President Albert Mohler Backs Mahaney
Dismisses Claims of Abusive Leadership

Courier Journal
July 12, 2011
by Peter Smith

Seminary president Albert Mohler is forcefully defending C.J. Mahaney, a Maryland pastor and popular author who has taken a leave of absence over allegations of spiritually abusive and dictatorial practices in church network he leads.

C.J. Mahaney, longtime president of the Sovereign Grace Ministries, has acknowledged the accuracy of some of the charges against him, including failing to be held to accountable by others in his church network and using coercive tactics in a dispute with an estranged colleague with whom he has since reconciled.

“I always have had only the highest estimation of C.J. Mahaney as a man and a minister,” Mohler said in an interview — his first public comments on the situation involving Mahaney, one of his fellow leaders in the Reformed, neo-Calvinist movement. “That continues absolutely unchanged. There is nothing in this current situation which would leave me to have even the slightest pause of confidence in him.”

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, has worked closely with Mahaney for years as leaders of a revival of teaching on Calvinist theology,male authority and church discipline among some conservative evangelicals.

Mohler said he believes Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace board are being prudent in planning an independent investigation from people outside the denomination to make sure those involved are above reproach.

But Mohler has already drawn his own conclusions.

He based that on hundreds of pages leaked to the Internet last week, detailing correspondence between Mahaney, his main accuser and former colleague, Brent Detwiler, and other Sovereign Grace leaders.

“There is nothing disqualifying in terms of anything that is disclosed in this,” said Mohler, who regularly speaks on programs along with Mahaney. “It’s just evidence we knew all along, that C.J. is human but a deeply committed Christian and a visionary Christian leader.”

Sovereign Grace itself is taking a more cautious approach. A statement from its board called the allegations “serious.”

“These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability (inability to accept correction), deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy,” the board said. (One reader last week wondered how the board was defining “immorality” in light of that catalogue of sins.)

And in a Sunday sermon, Mahaney’s successor as pastor of the denomination’s flagship congregation, Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., refused to downplay them.

“We are walking through what is without any exaggeration the most difficult challenge that we’ve faced as a church,” said the pastor, Joshua Harris.

Harris called his former mentor a “father in the faith to many of us” but that Mahaney had “confessed to some of these sins” while disagreeing with others.

“It is as bad as it seems, and it is the fault of your leaders, and we desperately need the help of God and the wisdom and the accountability of the people who have looked to our leadership to sort through this mess,” he said.

In his own statements, Mahaney said that “God is disciplining me for my sin and leadership failures and I am very grateful for this discipline.”

“I was difficult to entreat,” he told the Covenant Life congregation Sunday night. “I sinfully judged their motives. I was arrogantly confident in my perception.”

Mahaney has been in ministry since the 1970s, when the one-time drug enthusiast was converted to Christianity through the hippie-friendly Jesus Movement, according to the 2008 book, “Young Restless, Reformed,” by Collin Hansen.

The bald-headed Mahaney captures audiences with his earnestly enunciated phrases and a broad circumference of gestures. His popular books include one titled, “Humility: True Greatness.”

The Maryland-based Sovereign Grace network has a network of 97 churches in the United States and abroad, many on the East Coast, known for their unusual combination of Reformed theology and a history of Pentecostal-like spiritual gifts such as divine prophecy. None of its congregations are listed in Kentucky and Indiana, although Mahaney has spoken to enthusiastic crowds in Louisville this February at Southern Seminary and last year at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Mahaney’s leave follows years of once-secret deliberations among its leaders. The dialogue reflects a specialized vocabulary of a culture within Sovereign Grace of relentless scrutiny of one’s own sins and those of other members.

Detwiler, who resigned from his positions in the Sovereign Grace movement in 2009 after years of conflict with Mahaney, had documented the conflict in more than 600 pages of emails between him, Mahaney and other movement leaders. He included hundreds of footnotes, fastidiously parsing others’ words and inaccurate or reflecting incomplete repentance.

Detwiler recently circulated them among all Sovereign Grace pastors, and someone posted them anonymously online last week under the label, “sgmwikileaks.”

Harris confirmed the correspondence was authentic, that much was accurate but that some allegations remain in dispute.

Detwiler charged Mahaney with dishonesty, “spiritual abuse and manipulation,” dismissing critics as embittered and failing to accept the harsh correction he doled out on others. For example, Detwiler said he failed to confess sins publicly and described general vices he was guilty of — without naming specifics or those he may have hurt through them. Detwiler said he did forgive Mahaney for areas in which he felt his repentance was genuine but felt justified in seeking vindication for things Detwiler feels falsely accused of.

For example, Detwiler said Mahaney’s scathing review of his job performance were unfair and had a major role in Detwiler’s ultimate departure from the North Carolina church he led and were harmful to his family. Mahaney disputes this.

Mohler said he saw no reason for Mahaney to take a leave from other leadership positions.

Mohler, Mahaney and two other ministers share leadership of the group Together for the Gospel, which has brought thousands of mostly young pastors and other attendees to conferences such as one held last year at the Kentucky International Convention Center. They are also on the board of a similar group, the Gospel Coalition, according to the group’s Web site.

“I assume he would retain every position in leadership,” Mohler said. “I expect he should be very quickly returned to leadership of Sovereign Grace.”

Mohler contended that Detwiler has “an obvious vendetta” against Mahaney and attributed the document dump on the Internet to him.

UPDATE: Detwiler said in comments via email this morning:

“I have nothing but respect for Dr. Mohler. He is a remarkable man and done incalculable good in Southern Baptist circles and the Body of Christ at large. People everywhere should listen to his radio broadcasts and read his published materials. I am sure his friendship and support is a great source of comfort to C.J. during this challenging time.”

“…Sovereign Grace Ministries has been a wonderful organization committed to planting Gospel-centered churches in the United States and parts abroad. There are many outstanding pastors and people in the denomination. But temptation and sin come with rapid growth and recognition. That was especially true for C.J. and we did not serve him well by allowing him to play by a different set of rules – a double standard. We certainly share the blame for his fall. But C.J. genuinely loves the Lord and people so I am confident he will respond to God’s discipline in his life.

Detwiler also said he did not post the materials on the Internet but has become aware of the person who did. Mohler’s characterization of his motive as a vendetta, he said, “constitutes an uncharitable judgment but one I understand given his close relationship with C.J. He is defending his friend and that is admirable.”

UPDATE: Mahaney rotated off the board of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in December, which is housed at Southern Seminary and promotes male authority in churches and homes. He is listed on the site as vice-chairman, as an earlier version of this post noted, but the council has not updated its Web site, said Randy Stinson, the council president and a seminary dean. Stinson said the rotation was routine and unrelated to the circumstances of Mahaney’s leave from Sovereign Grace.

The Sovereign Grace network is separate from the Southern Baptist Convention, the affiliate of Southern Seminary, but Mohler praised Mahaney’s group as “one of the most vital movements of church planting and evangelism and church development in this generation.”

Mohler added: “Any time you’re going to take on the role of leadership, you’re going to have critics.”

Mohler also supported Sovereign Grace’s highly centralized leadership structure in its churches, with “very strong pastoral direction” and internal discipline.

“It’s something clearly called for in the New Testament,” he said.

Mohler said he knew this practice has had online critics for years.

“Basically there are people who are very uncomfortable with the strong kind of spiritual direction that comes through the Sovereign Grace Ministries,” Mohler said. “It’s very hard to criticize it on biblical terms, as you’ll see on most of those Web sites. It basically comes down to the criticism, ‘I don’t like that.’”

Many of those attending the conferences led by Mohler, Mahaney and others are young pastors and others described by Hansen’s book title as “Young Restless, Reformed.” They often are marked by goatees, shaved heads and/or cargo shorts and by their earnest focus on the doctrines of the 16th century Protestant Reformer John Calvin and those influenced by him, from Puritan devotional poetry to the 19th century sermons of Charles Spurgeon.

The Sovereign Grace Ministries name, in fact, echoes Calvin’s emphasis on God’s power (sovereignty) and favor (grace) rather than human works in achieving salvation. Calvinist thought predominates at Southern Seminary, and a denominational survey found nearly 30 percent of recent graduates from all Southern Baptist seminaries who are now serving as pastors identified with Calvinism.

The movement also emphasizes church discipline and male authority.

The Together for the Gospel conference at the convention center last year drew a mostly young, mostly male crowd of several thousand from around the nation and abroad, eagerly soaking up teachings and free books. They lined up between sessions to have their pictures taken with Mahaney and other prominent speakers, such as Mohler and Minnesota pastor John Piper.



Sovereign Grace Ministries Board or Directors:
Mahaney Fit to Preach, Faced ‘Slander’

Courier Journal
July 13, 2011
by Peter Smith

There are some new turns in the saga involving C.J. Mahaney, the leader of a Maryland-based global church network.

As noted last week, Mahaney took a leave of absence as president of the network, Sovereign Grace Ministries, pending accusations of pride, hypocrisy, deceit and other sins.

The Sovereign Grace board now says it will continue a planned investigation, but it gave a strong vote of confidence to Mahaney, saying he is “a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry.” It plans to convene a temporary panel to give a preliminary evaluation of this assessment while also having a longer-term outside investigation. The board statement is here.

The Sovereign Grace board also said Mahaney’s main accuser, former longtime ministry colleague Brent Detwiler, engaged in “public slander” of Mahaney’s reputation by distributing his accusations broadly to all pastors in the network. It said that move denied Mahaney the chance to defend himself through due process.

Detwiler said in a statement he “worked extremely hard to only include factual information that could be substantiated by primary source material” and has repeatedly asked SGM leaders — with whom he had been corresponding for several months before this went public — to correct any factual discrepancies. “They have not done so,” he said. His full statement is here.

Mahaney has strong ties to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and was among the main speakers at a conference last year that drew 7,000 people to the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler — who works with Mahaney in various organizations — gave a similarly strong vote of confidence in Mahaney earlier this week.

Sovereign Grace has nearly 100 churches, mostly on the East Coast but also in other locations nationally and worldwide.



Mahaney Protégé Josh Harris Parts from Board

Courier Journal
July 14, 2011
by Peter Smith

Things keep churning in the Sovereign Grace Ministries saga.

Joshua Harris — whose book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” — has influenced the courtship practices of many conservative evangelicals beyond that Maryland-based denomination — has now bid farewell to its board.

Harris succeeded the embattled C.J. Mahaney as pastor of the denomination’s flagship church in Maryland. He and the Sovereign Grace board issued a joint statement saying Harris’ departure from the board was a mutual decision.

This comes a day after the board issued a statement declaring Mahaney fit for preaching even while he’s on a leave of absence as president of Sovereign Grace. That statement called Mahaney’s main accuser guilty of “public slander” for widely distributing his charges against Mahaney of “pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.”

Harris’ name was conspicuously absent from that statement. Harris, who was mentored by Mahaney, has taken a far different tone, calling the crisis “as bad as it seems” and a sign of systematic troubles in the denomination.

Mahaney is a leader in the revival of Calvinism among some conservative evangelicals, a movement particularly strong at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He and seminary president Albert Mohler, who continues to support Mahaney, often speak at the same conferences and serve on the same boards. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace have each contributed at least $100,000 to the seminary, according to its publications.


Embattled Pastor C.J. Mahaney Linked to Southern Baptist Seminary

Courier Journal
July 18, 2011
By Peter Smith

The student audience listened with rapt attention at the February chapel service at Louisville's Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as their speaker slowly and emotionally enunciated his words, gesturing broadly as he warned against "the temptation to be puffed up."

Pride "is the harsh reality of remaining sin in our lives," said C.J. Mahaney, the leader of a Maryland-based network of churches called Sovereign Grace Ministries, as well as a financial backer of the seminary and a close ally of its president, Albert Mohler.

But even as Mahaney spoke, a crisis was brewing in his ministry over precisely the vice he spoke so passionately against.

For months a former ministry colleague had been writing to church leaders, accusing Mahaney himself of pride, dictatorial conduct and "spiritual abuse" by doling out harsh criticism he was unwilling to receive himself.

"C.J. you must come to grips with the lack of honesty in your life," wrote the minister, Brent Detwiler, a former North Carolina pastor who resigned from the Sovereign Grace movement in 2009.

The crisis erupted last week, when Mahaney took a leave of absence as president of Sovereign Grace.

The charges "are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn't minimize their serious nature," the Sovereign Grace board said in a July 7 statement. They include allegations of "pride, ... deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy," the board said.

Mahaney himself said in a statement he disagreed with some of the specifics of Detwiler's charges but that "God is disciplining me for my sin and leadership failures."

Sovereign Grace Ministries has nearly 100 churches worldwide, predominantly on the East Coast and none in Kentucky or Indiana.

While Sovereign Grace says it plans an independent investigation, Mohler is dismissing the charges against Mahaney.

"I always have had only the highest estimation of C.J. Mahaney as a man and a minister," he said in an interview, adding that the documents show Mahaney "is human but a deeply committed Christian."



Sovereign Grace Ministries Moves Its Headquarters Amid Controversy and Conflict

Courier Journal
April 20th, 2012
by Peter Smith

A small, growing denomination that has faced internal conflicts in recent months is moving its headquarters from Maryland to Louisville.

Sovereign Grace Ministries announced that it plans to launch its first Kentucky church and tighten its already strong bonds with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Sovereign Grace — based in Gaithersburg, Md. — is a three-decade-old network of more than 90 churches worldwide and about 28,000 members.

Sovereign Grace officials said they are moving to take advantage of Louisville’s lower costs of living and overhead compared with suburban Washington, D.C., and so its pastor-training program could collaborate more closely with Southern Seminary.

The announcement also comes amid increased tensions between Sovereign Grace and its flagship congregation, Covenant Life Church, where its headquarters is located.

That tension has been part of wider conflicts within Sovereign Grace that emerged in public view last summer with the release of internal church documents from a former church official, accusing its president, C.J. Mahaney, of pride, dictatorial conduct and doling out harsh criticism he was unwilling to receive himself.

Mahaney took a leave of several months while the Sovereign Grace board reviewed the case. It declared him fit for ministry and restored him to the presidency earlier this year.

The relocation announcement comes just two days after an independent panel — brought in to review the conflicts — faulted the group for an overemphasis on sin and a lack of emphasis on God’s grace and forgiveness.

The report also cited an often-arbitrary system of discipline that left many pastors and lay people feeling wounded, while those at the top lacked outside accountability.

While it currently has no churches in Kentucky or Indiana, Sovereign Grace and Mahaney have close ties with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace have each donated at least $100,000 to the seminary, according to the school’s publications.


Ambassadors of Reconciliation Report Calls for Reforms Within Sovereign Grace Ministries

Courier Journal
April 20th, 2012
by Peter Smith

As noted in today’s story on the decision of Sovereign Grace Ministries to move its headquarters to Louisville from Maryland, the announcement comes in the same week as the release of a report calling for reforms, among other things, in how the denomination handles the discipline of members and leaders.

The report, following months of public conflict within Sovereign Grace, described a systemic preoccupation with sin to the neglect of a message of grace and forgiveness. It also said internal discipline was carried out in an inconsistent and seemingly arbitrary way, marginalizing some lay people and pastors while those at the top lacked outside accountability.

Church leaders pledged to follow recommendations for reforms in the report, which also credited Sovereign Grace for improvements in recent years in its teachings and practices.

The report on the Sovereign Grace Ministries — which has long had connections to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville — also faulted bloggers who for years have brought to light allegations of abusive leadership in the denomination. It called them forums for backbiters and the embittered while also saying this “in no way exonerates the leaders who failed their people.”

And the report said many people interviewed said they cherished their experience in the denomination, making it difficult to draw sweeping conclusions either positive or negative about Sovereign Grace.

The report came from Ambassadors of Reconciliation, a Lutheran group specializing in conflict mediation that was brought in as outside evaluators of denomination. It said its evaluation of Sovereign Grace over the past several months exposed a “shocking” level of fist-clenched anger among estranged and former members, with some showing deep distrust of both the church leadership and the mediators themselves.

Sovereign Grace is a three-decade-old network of more than 90 churches and about 28,000 members — small by denominational standards but growing when many are declining. Its president, C.J. Mahaney, has been popular as a preacher and author within New Calvinist circles; the church board restored him to the presidency earlier this year after a leave of several months, declaring him fit for ministry after it reviewed accusations from former colleagues of prideful and abusive leadership. Debates continue within and outside the church over its response.

The Ambassadors of Reconciliation report lauded Sovereign Grace for a culture of church planting, a commitment to prayer and thankfulness, strong small-group networks and an emphasis on humility.

However, some members showed they were “proud of their … humility,” and former members felt “hurt, anger and bitterness” when they were disciplined and shunned by the close friends they developed in their small groups, the report said.

Here are some excerpts from the report:

“Many described the extent at which small groups would hold one another accountable by scrutinizing each other’s lives according to the Doctrine of Sin. A number of people noted how this had helped them or others grow deeply in their understanding of Scripture and their personal faith.

“Some who were critical of SGM (including those still in SGM churches) described how small group leaders or pastors or SGM leaders worked to ‘drill down’ (an actual quote) to the root causes of people’s sins. Some described being examined by their leader (in various levels) for several hours. Although seen as a blessing or strength by many, others saw an abusive side of the practice of this teaching when it had the affect of beating people down or unfairly scrutinizing them.

“… This over-emphasis of the teaching about sin without the balance of God’s grace leads people to be judgmental, critical, and at times despondent.”

The Ambassadors of Reconciliation report itself made no recommendations on disciplining any individuals for these problems, saying each denomination has to conduct its own discipline based on its own theology.

The Ambassadors of Reconciliation, which interviewed or took written comments from scores of current and former members, cited at least 28 cases of pastors being ousted or resigning amid disagreements. The report said some ousters were justified but that church discipline was inconsistent and appeared arbitrary.

It said leaders were disciplined because of their children’s misbehavior and that people were afraid of publicly challenging leaders for fear of retribution — while Mahaney and the denomination board members kept affirming each other in a system that lacked outside accountability and had a built-in conflict of interest.

The report said:

“There is no doubt in our minds … that a number of people have experienced deep hurts and disappointments in SGM churches. The passage of time does not invalidate these hurts. We encourage the leaders of SGM to acknowledge these hurts and past offenses, express sorrow for them, and explain how leadership has and is responding to overcome past weaknesses.

“At the same time, we are also aware that many thousands of people have been and continue to be richly blessed by their involvement in a SGM church, and there is much evidence to indicate that there are many leaders and churches that provide loving, caring, and encouraging support and teaching. … Moreover, we … believe that SGM has made improvements over recent years.

“… If you think that the implementation of the above recommendations seems like a huge undertaking, you are right. Living for God in a sinful world, especially when serving him in ministry, is always difficult and challenging and requires sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). But your perseverance will not be in vain, even if you cannot actually see the results you personally want. God does not call us to be responsible for the results of our work for him, but he does call us to be faithful.”

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: September 02, 2012 03:16PM


Florida Pastors Meet with C.J. (May 25, 2012)
Questions for C.J. from Florida Pastors (Friday, May 25, 6pm-10pm)

About Covenant Life Church:

Why did you feel you could leave Covenant Life in these circumstances when for 30 years you’ve championed local church accountability?

Why have other pastors had to stay at churches under super difficult circumstances and you were able to leave?

On a similar theme: as a young guy (I’m 27 years old, in SGM for 7 years), my observation is that you are the exception to lots of “rules.” For example: with your relational difficulties with CLC, you got to announce a church plant! I can’t help but wonder if say, a senior pastor was having serious relational difficulties in their church that SGM would announce his church plant and approve him to go? Do you feel you are the exception in SGM, CJ? Why or why not?

How are things with CJ and Josh?

How has the Gospel brought reconciliation between them?

What would CJ say has been Josh’s struggle with CJ? (We would also be wondering - how has this affected his relationship with guys like Robin Boisvert or Kenneth Maresco? Guys who served together for many years.)

These struggles did not pop up overnight; does CJ see change needed in his leadership and character that he did not see over the past years? If yes, what changes is he seeking to make?

Do all of the CLC pastors fully support you planting a church at this time?

What are we missing when men who we respect like Kenneth, Grant, Robin and Josh decide to take CLC in the direction they are going? The same could be asked about Fairfax.

Do you believe the elders of one’s home church, have the greatest biblical mandate to evaluate a fellow elders’ character and conduct? Why did you choose to not follow the recommendations of the elders of CLC last July/August time frame for how to work through the charges?

Do you believe you have fully reconciled with the CLC elders, and would they feel the same? If not, what do you perceive the offenses between you to be? Specifically, what is your offense with them? And do you perceive their offense with you to be? Are you pursuing (active present) reconciliation still?

Historically, SGM pastors have been required/expected to remain at their home church while their competency/qualifications were being reviewed. What is the biblical support for not following the same approach?

Please update us as to why CLC is not on the new Board.

Can C.J. say he has the full support of the elders and the support of the church? If yes, what does that support look like? If no, why is that ok?

Given the history of broken relationships, what is your relationship like with the elders at CLC? In particular, Robin Boisvert, Kenneth Maresco, and Grant Laymen – your brother in law? These are men who have served with you for years.

About Relocating Headquarter to Louisville:

If you are to resign as President of SGM (according to your statement), why did SGM move to Louisville when you are planting a church there? Is now your church in Louisville the base church for SGM instead of CLC or some other SGM church?

On April 19th 2012, there was a letter posted on the Sovereign Grace Ministries web site explaining the Board’s decision to relocate the Pastor’s College to Louisville. On this letter it was stated that it was the Board’s decision to do so after a vote at the first retreat the board had together. Who set up such a big decision to be made in light of the lack of time that the board had been together and able to prayerfully and wisely consider all the options and implications of such a move?

On February 27th 2012, the interim board sent out a letter outlining four priorities for the new board, none of these priorities called for a decision on a move to Louisville. What would cause the new board to put aside their priorities as stated by this letter and engage on a vote to relocate Sovereign Grace Ministries to another city? Who made that call and when was it made?

The vote to move Sovereign Grace Ministries to Louisville took place on the board’s retreat April 9th-10th yet nothing was communicated to the SGM pastors until a letter was posted on the web site April 19th. Many pastors who don’t regularly check the web site didn’t even find out till days after. Why was this move communicated to pastors and leaders outside SGM prior to the pastors of SGM?

Why were so many details of the move to Louisville discussed and acted upon prior to the board’s inception and most importantly prior to the vote (i.e. talks with Southern Theological Seminar, homes being listed for sale, etc...)?

Do you think that the decision to make a major ministry change – moving to Louisville – was appropriate for the new board’s first official meeting? Was this vote anything but a token procedure? How could it (the vote by the new board) be taken as a serious consideration when several SGM staffers had already placed their houses on the market for sale?

SGM Board and Your Role:

There is this perception that when the “Board votes” or “decides” something that it’s all a sham (meaning: the vote really doesn’t mean anything...things are decided long before the Board gives input or the Pastors give input). For example recently it was public knowledge that your house, along with a few others were on the market for sale weeks before the Board “approved” the move to Louisville. It gives the perception that it was already a “done deal” long before the Board ever approved it. How are decisions made on the Board?

Currently, you are the President and the new “polity” in SGM is that the Leadership team and Board are separate. What direct input are you able to give to the Board? How do you affect their decisions?

Does it give you confidence as President that only 50% of Pastors “approved” the new Board? 30% were not in favor, and 20% didn’t even respond [because they did not agree with the process]. Does that give you reason to pause? Are you considering figuring out why it appears only half of the movement is in support of this current new direction?

Do you believe that pastors should nominate Board members from each region and also have a direct vote on who is on the Board?

CJ, in the letter you wrote that accompanied the panel reports, you said, “In light of all of this, here is how I think I can best serve you in the days ahead: as I step back into the role as president, I will do so only temporarily. I think it would be wise for SGM to have a new president who has gifts better suited to serve Sovereign Grace in this next season. I love SGM and I want the best for SGM. Lord willing, I look forward to serving SGM more effectively in a different role. So my return will be temporary and with a few important intentions.” What time line for and process for transition do you envision for this new president, and what new role do you anticipate for yourself?

In November I believe you stated that a weakness in your past leadership has been speed/lack of process/time for decisions to settle in with others. If I am remembering correctly... then please explain if/how that affected the Louisville relocation decision... this announcement seemed to feel, at least to me, rushed given the magnitude of the decision and the lack of time the Board had been seated.

How do we reconcile the leadership conference [last November]? CJ told us his leadership is why SGM is where it is.... / he has not been positioned in his gifting / etc.... (this is not a quote - but I think it is the gist of what he was saying). Now the shift seems to be plant a church and move SGM next to where he will pastor -- does this seem confusing? Are we building the movement around CJ’s church plant -- I assume that is to be the “flag ship”....

Does it seem we are breaking the very things we have taught and held dear to make this move of SGM and this church plant happen?

How does this precedence guard against leadership style differences in the future?

How does our theology inform this methodology of taking SGM headquarters to a different location?

Affirmation process -- lots of questions on the affirmation process of the new board. I would like to hear a straight up –

This is what we were thinking on the affirmation process.

This is how we set it up and why.

This is how we thought about the pastors that did not participate (Fairfax letter)

This is how we thought about the comments made by the pastors who did participate but voiced concerns on different nominees.

This is how we gathered all the data and determined what we determined. This is why this board was affirmed (I still don’t have any real sense that the board was affirmed and that is not good...)

How do you plan to help improve our communications between local churches/pastors and SGM leadership?

What were the criteria used for the nomination of board members? How can interim board members nominate themselves to the permanent board?

I was one who DID offer a great deal of input on the list of new board members. I made a strong appeal, but my feedback was not even acknowledged as having been received. What assurances do we as pastors in SGM have that our thoughts or input would ever be heeded in any polity discussions?

Three Panel Reports:

In light of the SGM panel reports, especially the one with Larry Tomczak, has there or is there going to be any steps to follow through on that report?

According to the SGM panel reports, there was a recommendation that we not plant churches when the SGM board or the elders of that particular church are not in full faith for the pastor to plant. Given that you changed your membership from CLC to Solid Rock, do you think the elders of CLC would recommend such a move?

Please update us as to the status of the recommendations from the panel reviews.


To some it would appear you don’t personally own or have experience with the type of polity we are trying to pursue. Why then are you the head of the polity committee? How would you explain to us how you personally own or have experience with the type of polity we’re after?

What do you personally believe the polity in SGM should look like going forward?


What will the relationship be (not just polity) between the new leadership team and the new board team? How will they function together? Will the local pastors relate to them differently than they have related to the “apostolic team” previously?

CJ, it appears that there has been a chain of broken relationships that have either remained or gone long periods of time unresolved in your life with those you have served with in ministry. Do you believe this speaks to a character issue in you? Does it have any bearing on your qualification as President of the ministry?

How are things with SGM and CLC?

Besides the economical and financial reasons given for a move, how has the CLC / SGM struggles brought about this move? (It seems disingenuous to say we are only moving because of financial reasons and because we have been thinking this for a long time.... It seems like we want to pretend there is no elephant in the room .)

Much of what has unfolded since last July within SGM could seemingly have been avoided had our leaders – specifically CJ – put into practice our own teachings on practical relationships and the critical need to “get up from our altar” and go to the one with whom we have some sense of offense – and be reconciled. How is it that this did not happen with Larry Tomczak and with Brent?

In a pivotal moment last November (at the Pastor’s Conference), CJ forfeited what could – and I believe would - have been a healing moment had he assumed responsibility for his own actions. He chose instead to “up the ante” in terms of the gap between relationships. What prevented you (CJ) from owning the things that were clearly out of order (including those things that were in Brent’s documents)? Please know – I do not agree with much of what Brent has said and done. But the fact remains that your comments contained therein do reflect both attitudes and decisions that have to be acknowledged.

Church Plant:

The panel reports recommended that a man not plant a church without the recommendation of the sending church elders. Given the long-term nature of the relationship with CLC and the only transitional nature of that with Solid Rock, do all of the CLC pastors fully support you planting a church at this time? If not, why not?

We still do not understand.... we need more data to understand why CJ can leave CLC and all SGC churches -- reasons given at leadership conference did not resolve the question in our minds. This then leads to the obvious question: how can CJ plant a church with how he left CLC and without the support of his local elders?

Why was it necessary to leave CLC and go to CHBC and how was that consistent with the Gospel?

Would any other pastor in SGM receive the green light to lead a church plant when he was in a state of fallout with his own church, and out of relationship with his co-pastors to such a degree as what has happened in this situation?


Communication that is lacking between SGM leaders and local pastors. Will this be the way things are done in the future? That is, SGM’s leadership asks SGM pastors for feedback or participation and no response is given to the individuals who participate by providing feedback. This does not foster confidence in the upcoming discussions about polity and church partnership agreements where our input will once again be solicited.

The pastors of SGM were asked to affirm or register their concerns for the nominees to the new permanent SGM Board. I did not affirm any of the candidates at that time because I had concerns on the speed of the process with little communication in between. I made my concerns known both by a personal email to the Interim Board and by signing on to the Fairfax letter that stated similar concerns for the process and made appeals for slowing it down. Though we were asked for feedback, whether by affirming or raising concerns, the only response that I received to my email and concerns was a public response by the Interim Board that basically stated that “concerns by some pastors had been considered, but they were moving on with the process.” Even if a regional pastor or Interim Board member were given the assignment to contact each pastor who raised concerns (whether that contact and follow-up took place or not) this does not address nor solve what I perceive as a weak and troubling lack of clear, timely and effective communication between the Leaders of SGM and the pastors of SGM.

Acknowledgement of past mistakes and lessons learned. Will there be, and in your opinion, should there be a formal and public acknowledgement of mistakes made. In the past by the SGM leadership team and pastors as well as a statement of lessons learned from past mistakes or shifts in policies, doctrine and practice?

It is my opinion that this issue, if properly treated, will drive a stake in the ground that will be helpful in preserving our historical roots, strengthening our future partnerships, and demonstrate the humility that is commensurate with servant leadership. I suggest convocation of only SGM pastors for this exercise.

How do you believe your leadership specifically has contributed to the current difficulties within SGM?

In the response to the AoR report, I find this statement to be rather surprising – “I (C.J.) want to sincerely apologize for the ways in which deficiencies in my leadership have contributed to the ministry failures catalogued in this report.” This was the extent of the “repentance” statement. Why did you (CJ) use the language of “apology” instead of “repentance.” When we err, are we to “apologize”?


News about changes in pneumatology has been floating around. Are their changes and if so, what are they? I would think there would be a lot of interest in this subject!

Do you really believe that the difficulties you endured as a pastor at Covenant Life Church this past year, were so much more difficult than those endured by pastors like a Dan Stolldorf, Frank Ecelbarger, Chris Lutyk, Benny Phillips, Steve Whitman, or others who when leaving their roles were asked or expected to stay on in the churches and endured much as individuals and families, as to say that you were not expecting different treatment, but rather that yours were exceptional circumstances?

How does CJ feel about Lay Elders -- we are moving in that direction here --any comments about that direction?

What areas of historic concern need to be examined, where there have been shifts of emphasis without clear communication of such shifts?

Do you believe that formal input from pastors and churches would be beneficial? If so, what would that look like if you could decide yourself?

Has there been or is there going to be any further steps to repent of wrongdoing in light of the recent AoR report? Or do you feel that the “apology” given at the end of the report is sufficient?

It is well noted that the many of the mid-Atlantic area churches were not in favor of John Loftness being their regional leader and over 62 pastors and over 30 churches did not affirm these men to lead SGM. Will the pastors of SGM ever have a voice in the nomination of their leaders?

Why was such a sweeping statement as (paraphrased) – “I moved my family to Capitol Hill Baptist to avoid their being assaulted...” – used to typify CLC’s response to you and your family? Did you intend to categorize the whole church in this way?

The AoR report recommends: “Repent and believe the Gospel...Confess your individual and corporate sins” (p. 35). As you look back at our history and all that had been taught and practiced in SGM churches as a whole (or to a large extent), are there sins and/or errors that you would acknowledge? If so, will you make a written, public acknowledgment and repentance of these things? Or, is what is written in CJ’s and the Board’s response under “Pastoral Practice” the extent of it?

More on next page in form of a letter.

Dear CJ and Board Members,

As a fellow pastor I want to thank you for seeking to play a role of leading and caring for our family of churches. I know that your lives are full and your responsibilities apart from this role are many and that embracing this responsibility in this hour is going to come with a personal cost to you, your family, and your local churches. Any suggestions, comments, or concerns that I may express are soaked in awareness of my own limitations and weaknesses that others have had to put up with in walking with me.

I realize you are having to sort through much feedback and input, so I’ll try to bullet and bold the basic essential points and if you are interested further you can read the rest of the info provided under each point.

-- Addressing the past before charting a course for the future. It seems like the last year to 2 years has been a season of dealing with past conflicts, deficiencies, and questionable structures. Before we seek to engineer the future, it seems critical that we analyze what exactly has and has not worked correctly and why. In my limited conversations with other pastors it seems that some have grown to feel it necessary to have a ‘fresh start’ and that view has effected how people are feeling about who should be on the board, and I can imagine that this will also effect how people feel about who is serving on the leadership team. A number of areas of past emphasis need to be openly and specifically addressed so that what we have learned by teaching, modeling, and emphasis can be clarified in our understanding and practice as local pastors.

How should we assess issues of pride in the life of a pastor? What insights have been gained over the past few years in how leaders walk together in this area of evaluation and partnership? It seems that a common area of disqualification has been the evaluation of a man’s pride. Pride in forms like in entreatability, approachability, plurality, disaffection over being corrected, etc. was connected to issues with Larry Tomczak, Brent, CJ, and others in leadership. This area of a man’s heart is not easy to accurately discern and yet it appears that situations like these have involved decisions about a man’s leadership that have drastically altered their roles and ability to serve in the future. What have we learned in this area? Will we continue to address this area as we have or do we think we need to do some things differently?

Realistic adjustment to the expectations and parameters of local leadership teams. What was emphasized through conference introductions, sermon illustrations, and apostolic team input was that exceptional friendships and relationships among leadership teams were a norm. Sharing of life, open exchange of confession/adjustment, care, involvement with families, etc. were presented as common and attainable. While it served to give us something to aim at, it did not seem to contain enough realism and left many teams wondering what we were doing wrong. With issues now being partially published about relationships between CJ, Brent, Larry Tomczak, Pat Ennis, the Covenant Life elders, and others in varying roles of leadership, it seems pretty important to more specifically address what failed and why. In the past couple of years it seems that there’s been a few local teams that have gone through some form of implosion and it appears that part of this may be related to unrealistic expectations that were present on those teams.

The qualifying and disqualifying of pastors on the basis of their children’s faith and behavior. When I first began attending PDI conferences in the mid-late 90’s, it was a somewhat regular event for a pastor to publicly resign. The dominant and usually related issues were about assessing a man’s pride and his parenting. They read statements that included wordings like, ‘this did not have to happen’. There were teachings that a man’s gifting would be confirmed by the behavior of his children. But in the early 2000’s to present there were numerous pastoral situations where children were wayward but there was no resignation or public adjustment made and the pastor continued to serve as he had been serving. With such careful and intentional modeling and teaching in the past, it seems necessary to do as much careful explaining and adjusting in the present if insights and practices have changed in this area. To not do so is to assume that local pastors--often inexperienced and zealous pastors will understand and correctly adjust their opinions and approach in these areas.

The need for clarity on handling the doctrine of sin and our role with one another in participating in one another’s sanctification. This seems to be an issue on the table for evaluation and clarification.

-- Evaluation of past apostolic ministry needs to include more than issues of structure and authority. Having come from a situation where all we had was local leadership and influence, I see a need for some form of healthy extra-local ministry in the local church. It seems much of the discussion in this area is focused on the authority of apostolic ministry and the inference that there were situations where that authority was over played in the past. It would be helpful to get clarity on what that looked like and what exactly needs to be done to correct that. It may be more a matter of how individual apostolic men conduct themselves and how they should see themselves functioning in a plurality rather than creating a future structure without apostolic ministry. Similar problems can easily occur in local teams and the remedy probably is not to do away with the Sr. Pastor role for instance, but rather to adjust how that role functions in plurality with others.

Clarity on the accusations that have piled up against CJ are needed. Over the past months there have been many documents and comments made that have affected the public perception of CJ. That has been further influenced by the fact that some of these statements have been made by people who were respected leaders within SGM and who worked in settings that are not publicly observed by many people within SGM who are now asked to follow CJ. Since it seems clear that CJ is very gifted and has been very fruitful in leading this family of churches, and that every effort should be made to rightly employ those gifting’s in the future, it seems important to bring clarity to areas of accusation that would affect other people’s ability to follow his leadership.

If CJ truly struggles with giving consistent, unbiased leadership to others and with receiving input from other leaders, when he is offended or disagreed with, then that would make it hard for others to feel confident in his leadership and would affect his ability to play the role of President or other leadership team roles. But that has not clearly been stated as true or not.

If CJ simply holds his views with strong convictions and other leaders have historically found it challenging to adjust his input, that’s not necessarily disqualifying. Most people are leaders because they have some ideas that make sense to them, they feel strongly about those ideas, and they seek to implement those ideas. The question is whether or not CJ can both give strong leadership, with strong convictions and still make room for a humble functional plurality.

The future of outside influence for SGM. Without question we have benefited by receiving much preaching and doctrinal help from strong teachers within the reformed community. There is wisdom and influence that we are eager to welcome from others in the body of Christ like those at Southern Seminary. The leadership strengths of the gifted men in T4G have brought extremely helpful influence. What seems to be diminishing is to have significant input and influence from others in the larger body of Christ who can have the same type of influence and effect on our practice of engaging the Holy Spirit on a larger scale and in broader ways (I say broader ways because I believe the ministries of the T4G team and Southern Seminary are important expressions of the Spirit’s ministry as well). Is there no place any longer for men like Terry Virgo who share much in common with us and have insights and experiences in New Testament ministry that we also greatly need?

The call for the leadership team to lead and their receiving of input from SGM pastors. It seems that many are of the opinion that former leadership in SGM was not accustomed to seeking the input of the local pastors in many leadership decisions. I do recall several occasions where we’ve been asked to give input on upcoming planning of conferences and feedback on how things were being done, so I do think there’s been opportunity, but for the most part we have granted the leadership team the role of leading with limited amounts of input. I don’t believe that leadership should be done by polling, but in this important time frame, I do think it is important that greater dialog gets created and more input is received before more forward motion is sought. We are still in the paradigm of shepherd and sheep, and it behooves the shepherds to know the condition of their sheep, lest they move on without them. This season has stirred up issues of trust for some, questions of methods/policies for others, and concerns for the ability for future partnership for others. In that environment it doesn’t seem that haste should be our setting. In a movement that has grown significantly in the past 10 years, there may need to be a season of regrouping and gaining like-mindedness and receiving something of an outpouring from God that will protect us, solidify us, and launch us into the future. It needs to seem good to us and the Holy Spirit--this was the voice of the plural leaders and extended team in Jerusalem and would perhaps serve us well also.

Placing realistic boundaries on local pastors who are involved in extra-local ministry. It seems like some discussion needs to occur concerning what to expect from those who function in an extra-local role. There are many factors that contribute to this limited role (the man’s level of gifting & experience, his responsibilities in his own church, his season of life with his family, his distance from the day to day activity of the church he is supporting, limited awareness of local leadership issues there, etc.). What has been learned over the years in this area that may need to be taught and clarified to the local teams and churches.

Recognizing that Relational Trust has been weakened. I have always greatly appreciated the emphasis on relational ministry within SGM. It was one of the things that attracted me to pursuing extra-local ministry as it was modeled in SGM. There was love, respect, care, and honoring being modeled in these relationships that we observed from a distance. People that I spent time with, like Phil Courson, taught me to love and trust men like Danny Jones, who taught me to love and trust men like Brent, who taught me to love and trust men like CJ and Dave. Conference settings and the like provided opportunities for CJ and Dave to strengthen my abilities to trust and appreciate guys like Josh Harris, Mark Mullery, and Pat Ennis. It is this relational practice and influence that has created the level of trust that has characterized our past. But it is realistic to assume that when Brent does what he did, Josh [Harris] and Mark [Mullery] have been associated with internal conflict and are no longer held out as influential men to the leadership team, and Pat Ennis resigns amidst questions, there will be damage done to the relational fabric that has built trust within the movement. It took a long time to build this fabric and the way things have unfolded has created weakness and the leadership team and board may need to be prepared to repair what has been weakened. This would be influential in how and how quickly the leadership attempts to move us forward in this season.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: September 02, 2012 03:20PM


“So just to recap the polity working group. As Paul [Shirey] explained, we have done a lot of study. How is Christ’s authority expressed in our local church? We believe that local churches like ours are to be autonomous and there is no scripturally mandated or inherent authority above or outside of the local church.

“We also believe its desirable, as Paul said, even essential for us to be associated with other churches; but those associations must never compromise the local governing of each individual church. In looking at our future and considering what God’s call might be upon us, we are seeking a biblically based and principled approach in all that we do, not only what we do within the polity framework, but also in terms of our association. We want to respond not out of sort of a reaction to any particular situation but we want to move forward guided by scripture and principal.

“So how do we objectively lay out all of our current thinking about our own church alongside the developments we’ve watched unfolding within Sovereign Grace Ministries a family of churches with whom we have been in fruitful partnership for nearly 30 years? How do we put those two things together? And what do we find when we look at both of them? Well, let’s just do a little review.

"Sovereign Grace Ministries continues to move forward. The year 2012 started with the release in late January of the Interim Boards’ three review panel reports which were distributed to you. These reports contained numerous recommendations but the Interim Board concluded that they found nothing in the reports that would disqualify CJ Mahaney from serving as President or serving in gospel ministry. With more developments to come as that was received we realized that to get a better sense of Sovereign Grace Ministries direction we needed more information; and so we particularly looked forward to the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report and decided that our strategy, back at the time, would be just to continue to work on our own polity and then to patiently see what developed with Sovereign Grace Ministries and in particular what would emerge from that report.

“One of the decisions we made early in the year with the counsel of our Financial Advisory Team was to suspend our financial giving to Sovereign Grace Ministries until substantive answers were given to our questions.

“So in March, we then sent a letter to the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board in which we declined to participate in the process they had developed for selecting nominees to a new board. We appealed at the time that they slow down, stop and listen, and that they create forums for pastors to be able to speak together, to have a horizontal conversation and dialogue amongst themselves and with the interim board and that they also call together a council of all the pastors from all the churches to discuss our future and make decisions together; and most of you are aware of these things, this is just by way of review since a number of months have gone by.

“We said back at the time that we had no plans to leave Sovereign Grace Ministries and that we strongly desired constructive dialog with them. At the time leaders from seventeen other Sovereign Grace churches were in general agreement with the concerns we were expressing and they co-signed that letter. To date we have not received a formal response from the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board to the letter; although several informal conversations have taken place.

“Later in that month of March, the permanent board was announced; and CJ was reinstated as President of the Leadership Team not a member of the board but President of a separate Leadership Team in what was described as a temporary role. They also announced the formation of their own Polity Committee; a committee that was to be chaired by CJ and subsequently it was announced that Phil Sasser, another pastor, would co-chair that with him.

“Following an SGM Board meeting in Louisville in April, the Board released the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report that we’d been waiting for. Well, this report did not address everything we’d hoped for but it did provide numerous specific recommendations for Sovereign Grace Ministries; more to say on that in a moment.

“A couple days after that report was released the Board announced that Sovereign Grace Ministries was leaving the building it has shared with Covenant Life Church and relocating to Louisville. Among the reasons they cited for the move was the high cost of living in the DC Metro area and the proximity in Louisville to Southern Seminary. I understand the move is expected to begin this month.

“So, moving forward to today; where do we find ourselves today? Well, we still have not received answers to many of the questions that we’ve posed to the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board dating back two years. We have no regional representative nor have we been part a regional phone call or meeting in the year 2011 or 2012. We continue to have very limited communication with Sovereign Grace Board members.

“One of the panel reports recommended that when there are relational difficulties with a church planter and key people within Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership or churches they should not proceed with the plant. Yet there are plans underway for C.J. to plant a church in Louisville despite significant relational difficulties with a number of people. There has been no explanation from Sovereign Grace Ministries about how that decision was made or how that [is a] response to that recommendation. The decision to move to Louisville was not made with input from Sovereign Grace Ministries churches like ours. C.J.’s appointment as co-chair of Sovereign Grace Ministries Polity Committee seems to us to be out of step with his statements from last November about his limited gifting and his desire to focus on pastoral ministry.

“The panel reports that were released in January and the AoR Report that was released later [in April] both listed actions that they recommended to Sovereign Grace Ministries take. To date the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board has not communicated their plan to implement those recommendations. These are significant events.

“In light of what we’ve seen it seems to us that we and Sovereign Grace Ministries are on diverging paths in polity, principles and practices. So, what next? When will we make a decision about our association with Sovereign Grace Ministries? Well, I want to remind you of our strategy – we’re doing what we’ve been doing; we want to continue to work on our own polity and we want to patiently see what develops within Sovereign Grace Ministries.

“I want us to remember as well tonight that Sovereign Grace Ministries is not a logo, or a website or an institution; it’s a group of people, brothers for whom Christ died, people we continue to love and pray for and with whom we will soon enough spend eternity together. So we continue to take this patient approach to this enormously significant and important decision. We know that God can act at any time and can change things quickly if He so desires.

“We won’t know for sure what Sovereign Grace Ministries polity is until we see the final partnership agreement that will outline how they will be associated with member churches and what authority will look like. We’ve heard that this final version will be ready sometime in the fall and as developments occur within Sovereign Grace Ministries we will continue to communicate them to you.”

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: September 05, 2012 12:43AM

C.J. Mahaney Takes Leave of Absence over Charges of Pride and Hypocrisy

Christian Post
July 11, 2011
By Lillian Kwon

Another longtime evangelical minister is stepping back from ministry to examine his soul. C. J. Mahaney announced last week that he is taking a leave of absence.

Mahaney has chosen to step back from his leadership position at Sovereign Grace Ministries after facing charges not of immorality or financial impropriety, but of certain character flaws such as "pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy."

"These charges (from former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace) are serious and they have been very grieving to read," Mahaney said in his announcement last week.

"I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others."

His decision comes just a year after well-known preacher John Piper took a similar leave over "several species of pride" he saw within himself. Piper returned to Bethlehem Baptist Church and Desiring God Ministries in January after eight months of withdrawing from speaking and writing.

Mahaney has been with the Gaithersburg, Md.-based ministry for nearly 30 years now. During that time, he has gained prominence as an evangelical speaker and author. But now confronted with various charges, the long-time minister has left the helm of the organization for the time being to examine his heart and "receive the appropriate help from others."

Follow us

According to Rhoda Dixon, communications assistant at Sovereign Grace, Mahaney's leave of absence began on June 30.

The latest news has come as a shock to many but the board of Sovereign Grace, which is a network of local churches, said it has been evaluating the charges over a number of months now and determining a process to resolve the situation.

The charges are not only against Mahaney, however. According to the board, the Gaithersburg, Md.-based ministry is also in need of examination and a review from an independent panel.

The length of Mahaney's leave will depend on the independent panel's review and a decision from the board, which Mahaney has also stepped down from. When asked if there was a possibility that he won't be returning as president of the ministry, Dixon said they will first hear the assessment from the panel and go from there.

In terms of what his duties are during his leave of absence, the board will also be determining that.

For now, Mahaney has already begun seeking forgiveness from various persons affected by "my sin," he said.

"Although my experience of conviction has already started – and this is an evidence of God’s mercy – I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge," he stated.

He has also enlisted the help of biblical counselor Dr. David Powlison and Pastor Mark Dever to review the charges against him, some of which he disagrees with.

Nevertheless, Mahaney has acknowledged his flaws and believes this is an opportunity not only for examination of himself but also for reconciliation. He took primary responsibility for the issues SGM is facing.

"For the past 5 years or so I have become increasingly aware of certain deficiencies in my leadership that have contributed to deficiencies in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ structure and governance, the lack of a clear and consistent process of conflict resolution and pastoral evaluation, and the number of former Sovereign Grace pastors who are offended with me/SGM," he wrote.

"My friends, though my soul can be easily overwhelmed as I contemplate my sin and its effects on others, I am also resolved to examine my heart, address the past, and play my role in preparing SGM for a future of planting and serving churches," he added.

"Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation."

In response to the news, some have offered prayers while advising others not to spread gossip.

"nformation like this can be difficult to process because you’re not sure what to do with it," said Justin Taylor, elder at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Ill. "I think our natural temptation is to speculate and to gossip, which ultimately accomplishes nothing but destruction."

Joshua Harris, who succeeded Mahaney as senior pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg in 2004, has called churches that are a part of the Sovereign Grace network to pray.

"This is a difficult time for us, but we see God using these events to refine us and prune us (John 15). We want to embrace all God has for us in this time and pray it will lead to greater fruitfulness."

During Mahaney's absence, Dave Harvey will act as interim president at SGM. The organization has also expanded its board to include more than half a dozen additional members in order "to secure a broader source of accountability."

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: September 05, 2012 01:12AM

C.J. Mahaney: How Pastors Can Resist Losing Heart

Christian Post
By Michelle A. Vu
April 12, 2012

Prominent evangelical pastor C.J. Mahaney knows a thing or two about losing heart, having just returned earlier this year after temporarily stepping down from leading Sovereign Grace Ministries over allegations of character flaws by former SGM leaders. Mahaney delivered an emotional message on the opening day of the Together for the Gospel conference during which he immersed the attendees in studying the letter of Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth about not losing heart.

While Mahaney did not speak in detail or directly about his leave of absence and the drama surrounding that decision during his hour-long message on Tuesday, he did repeatedly talk about pastors being discouraged by opposition and at one point made a general statement that pastors can lose heart if the person that helped co-found the church leaves and slanders them, or if a staff member leaves and slanders them.

"Pastors, we can easily get discouraged. I find myself so easily discouraged. It is pathetic how easily I can be discouraged – easily discouraged by resistance, easily discouraged by opposition, easily discouraged by hardness of heart, easily discouraged by blindness," said Mahaney to some 8,000 pastors and church leaders gathered in Louisville, Ky., for the biennial event. "Look, pastoral ministry is a sacrificial call with unique challenges. We are called to take the Gospel to those with hard hearts and blind eyes. And we are called to proclaim and apply this message to those who have been regenerated, given sight, as well, for their hearts are prone to wander."

Because the conference is attended by pastors, Mahoney spoke as if to peers and co-workers, candidly addressing the common struggle of church leaders losing heart and wanting to leave ministry. Mondays, he said, are especially hard for pastors because they spend Sunday evening evaluating their sermon, and sometimes on top of their self-criticism, congregants send emails giving unfavorable assessments of their message.

"I can't help but wonder how many present feel this temptation (losing heart), or feel the effects of this temptation," the long-time pastor said. "You have perhaps in recent months been losing your heart for pastoral ministry, or you have remained faithful and skillful and fruitful, but you are no longer joyful. Gradually and perceptively, over a period of time, you have been losing heart…"

Mahaney's message at TG4 is titled "The Sustaining Power of the Gospel" and is based on 2 Corinthians 4. Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16 that despite all the hardships he faced, which he acknowledges in verses 8-9, that still "we do not lose heart." Mahaney walked the T4G attendees through the chapter to find out what was the secret or understanding that Paul had that allowed him to not lose hope despite the unimaginable persecution he faced.

Follow us

First, Paul had a clear conviction of the ministry in which God called him out of the world to do. In 2 Corinthians 4:1, Mahaney pointed out, Paul writes, "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."

Paul is keenly aware of his call and his purpose, which strengthens and protects him from losing heart, explained Mahaney. The reference to "this ministry" means his call to proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified, which is the same call of every pastor today.

"It is this ministry that made all the difference for Paul when he originally arrived in Corinth and experienced opposition to the proclamation of the Gospel at a time when he was tempted to lose heart," said the Sovereign Grace Ministries president.

"Pastoral ministry is about an ongoing confrontation with the god of this world, with blindness, hardness of heart, remaining sin. We do not lose heart, because we have this ministry. We do not lose heart, because we have this message that gives life and reveals glory; this message that transforms lives.

He added that pastors must not "tamper" with the Bible's message because they are proclaimers, not innovators.

Another understanding that Paul had that kept him from losing heart is the context and condition of ministry. Paul's resolve, Mahaney said, is his understanding and acceptance of the harsh realities of ministry in a fallen world. The apostle famously writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

Pastors should know and accept, Mahaney advised, that afflictions do not come in phases, but they all happen at one time to various degrees.

"Afflicted, bewildered, persecuted, struck down – all in a weekend, and it can be happening simultaneously," he said.

"[But] these harsh realities, they have a divine design. They are not accidental. They are all purposeful. All our weaknesses, sufferings are opportunities for God to display His grace and glory in our lives."

Mahaney, one of the four founders of T4G, stressed that while Paul acknowledges the suffering of ministry in verses 8-9, he celebrates the grace of God that sustains believers by putting the accent on the word "but": "but not crushed… but not in despair…but not abandoned…but not destroyed."

"Every pastor has but not written over his life," said Mahaney. "Endurance in ministry is rooted in the eternal perspective. The absence of an eternal perspective makes you vulnerable to losing heart."

His third and final point in what helped Paul not lose heart is that the apostle focused on the unseen and looked at the future.

In July 2011, Mahaney announced that he was taking a leave of absence from Sovereign Grace Ministries based in Gaithersburg, Md., to examine his soul after former SGM pastors and leaders accused him of character flaws such as "pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy." SGM is a network of local churches.

Mahaney had stated at the time that "These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read.

"I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others."

In late January 2012, the interim Board of Directors at SGM released a statement announcing that after review of whether Mahaney was fit to serve as the network's president, it found that there was nothing in the reports that would disqualify Mahaney from that role or call into question his ability to serve in gospel ministry. The board had unanimously decided to immediately reinstate Mahaney to the office of SGM president.

"Listen, your congregation isn't just listening to your sermons and studying your sermons. They are studying your lives as well," Mahaney had told pastors Tuesday at T4G. "If you never suffer then they wouldn't be able to observe the power of God in your life. They are studying in particular when you are suffering and they want to see if the Gospel makes a discernible difference in your lives. They want to see if you trust God, they want to see if you remain charitable. They want to see if you endure and don't lose heart."

Other speakers at T4G, which concludes Thursday night, include Lingon Duncan, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss.; Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; John Piper, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn.; Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich.; Thabiti Anyabwile, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in Grand Cayman Islands; and Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas.

The Together for the Gospel conference was founded by Dever, Duncan, Mahaney and Mohler, and held its first gathering in 2006.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: September 12, 2012 10:47AM


Several have commented on the “isolation” of SGM leaders and pastors. It is true. I left full-time secular work to become a staff pastor. This was in contrast with my former sr pastor/boss, who boasted “I’ve never had a real job”. I remember taking public transit with him to visit some church members who worked nearby in one of the nation’s largest financial districts. The pastor/boss was uncomprehending about such things as commuting to work, taking public trans, having a limited lunch time, etc. He possessed a similar naivete when it came to simple economics. The fantasy world-bubble that many pastors hide in keeps them out of touch with the work-a-day Janes and Joes who inhabit the pews and finance the pastoral lifestyle.

Working for a living and loving it,
Former SG Pastor
SGM Survivors


As far as I can tell, CJ has never just “worked for the man,” not in all in his adult life. I mean, maybe when he was a teenager he flipped burgers or something. But once he became a Christian, it didn’t take too long for him to get into the ministry…and after that, I think he’s always been on his own, unless you could count Larry T as some sort of boss in the early days.

And since CJ earned his ministry chops in the Charismatic world, where pastors are put on pedestals and often treated like celebrities, and where whole congregations will do cartwheels to serve them, even to the point of doing mundane chores for them, CJ has really never -- not in all his adult life -- lived like normal people.

If you just think about that for awhile, and let that fact sink in, you can see all sorts of implications. I’m thinking a person who has led CJ’s life would probably not even know how to function in the real world without his ministry/celebrity. Those work-a-normal-job-by-someone-else’s-rules muscles would long ago (probably by the 1980s) have atrophied. So would the ability to live life without knowing that one was extraordinary in the eyes of others.

You can hear traces of CJ’s out-of-touchness in his sermons sometimes. Like when he gave his infamous Happiest/Dearest Place On Earth sermon to the Knoxville church in 2009. He rambled on emotionally for quite some time about his family’s wonderful lakefront vacation that “would not have been possible” without the kind generosity of the Knoxville people. Apparently people at that church had for years been in the habit of loaning the Mahaney clan some sort of vacation home, complete with a boat. It was luxurious enough to make CJ choke up as he expressed his gratefulness.

But -- how odd. How odd such a life would be for the rest of us normal folks, that you could draw a nice comfy salary and supply your sons-in-law with nice comfy jobs and then have people in other cities that wanted to suck up to you badly enough that they would “make possible” the sort of group vacation that for most families happens once in a lifetime, if ever. And then all you have to do during that vacation is get up and trot out some old rerun sermon at a church where you’re given a lengthy standing ovation and your wife and daughters are talked up from the stage as super-special, just because they do a good job of spouting the same spiel you spout.

Is it any wonder that CJ would not even know by now how to live like the rest of us? Is it any wonder that CJ has exhibited so much behavior that would indicate he considers himself above the law, way too special to abide by all the restrictions that he has taught others throughout his whole career?

SGM Survivors


I know (from comments and other reader feedback I’ve received over the years) that any discussion of CJ’s and Carolyn’s personal lives together provokes an intriguing variety of responses.

Some folks -- this would include a lot of our male readers -- see these conversations and just sort of glaze over with disinterest. Some feel like we have no business talking about what their relationship might really be like. Some think all SGM pastors’ personal lives have little to do with SGM’s larger issues.

I can see how people might come to those conclusions. But I would disagree that the actual quality of CJ’s and Carolyn’s relationship, or how they really interact with each other and feel about each other, is irrelevant to SGM’s dysfunction. I think it’s all kinds of relevant.

For one thing, the Mahaneys have created something of a brand identity out of their marriage and the way they relate to one another. Carolyn Mahaney has a nice little following solely because of the fact that she’s CJ’s wife and has come to be viewed as the go-to person for “Biblical Womanhood.” CJ himself has repeatedly brought their personal lives into his teachings, frequently citing himself and his wife as examples of what to do and how to be. They obviously see themselves as role models and believe that it is appropriate -- even necessary -- for pastors to put their wives and their successful marriages and families on public display, for people to use as inspiration.

So I think it matters, big time, what they’ve said over the years about their relationship, and how it really might be in real life, behind closed doors.

That being said, it strikes me that Carolyn is likely Enabler-In-Chief when it comes to CJ’s overblown sense of his own importance. The way she and her daughters and their husbands all reacted to CJ’s “season of reflection” last year shows us how unable or unwilling they are to step outside the comfortable lives CJ’s power and fame has provided for them and really see and speak the truth to him.

I can understand why it would be difficult. After so many years of putting in her time, standing by her man, gazing submissively and admiringly at him, and basking in his reflected glory, Carolyn has just as much to lose through any loss of influence as does CJ himself. So do his daughters and sons-in-law.

So I think there’s probably a huge gap between what CJ’s supporters believe about the Mahaney family’s private interactions and what really goes on behind closed doors. I can imagine that they are all, to varying degrees, in major amounts of denial about what CJ is really like, and what his problems really are. Who’d want to get off the Mahaney gravy train, anyway? There are still enough loyal followers out there that will “gift” them reduced-rate (or perhaps even free) beachfront vacation homes and whatnot, and provide them with influential internships and special breaks at seminary, and keep the ministry funds and the book deals flowing their way.

It would take a tremendous amount of objectivity and character and a huge willingness to experience personal discomfort and loss in order to see the truth and speak it. After entire lifetimes of living under CJ’s thumb and deferring to him (because that’s the only way to live out “biblical womanhood,” after all), the women in CJ’s life probably honestly believe what he’s taught them. They all have some degree of Stockholm Syndrome.

But I bet he’s just as autocratic and full of himself in private as he was in the glimpses of his behavior that we got from Brent’s documents.

SGM Survivors

Options: ReplyQuote
Current Page: 12 of 19

Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
This forum powered by Phorum.