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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 13, 2012 05:59AM


From: Sovereign Grace Church of Daytona Beach
To: The Leadership Team and the Board of Sovereign Grace Ministries:

I am writing on behalf of Sovereign Grace Church of Daytona Beach and our elders to communicate our decision to end our partnership with Sovereign Grace Ministries. What follows is my best attempt at a concise and forthright explanation of our primary reasons for leaving and an appeal to reconsider some aspects of your leadership convictions, priorities and decisions over the past 14 months.

Our primary reasons for dissolving our partnership are:

1. A loss of trust created by vague, one-sided and sometimes contradictory* communication, decisions that do not reflect stated priorities and goals, and also the failure to understand and take adequate responsibility for the patterns and problems that developed under the Leadership Team’s (primarily CJ’s) direction and example. (*without immediate explanation)

2. A poorly defined but clearly perceived belief and practice of spiritual authority that has created a leadership culture characterized by excessive authority and insufficient accountability.

I will expand on both categories and make a connection between them:

The Loss of Trust

This has been a slow and difficult process for us that began with Dave Harvey’s email regarding Brent’s then forthcoming Documents. We were indeed surprised by the content of the Documents and the way the Leadership team at the time responded to Brent’s concerns, appeals and charges. Some of the problems he claimed to be systemic we had experienced, both locally and extra-locally, and we were eager to see changes take place within our family of churches. We felt that God was moving to bring repentance, reform and revival to our church and the churches we love and have walked with for nearly three decades. We had significant hope for what might lie ahead. Our disposition toward the Leadership Team, while jolted by the awareness of what had transpired secretly between our chief leaders, was still primarily characterized by trust and a willingness to follow. Over the course of the next 12 months however, that trust was steadily eroded by the responses of the team and the board(s). Our initial eagerness to help build a culture of loyal dissent was reduced to a lack of confidence, and now ultimately to a lack of trust in the current board and leadership team.

In the recent response to the AoR report, John Loftness communicated the following on behalf of the board:

“C.J. was the object of an enormous amount of gossip and slander during this past year, and that has damaged his reputation, undermined his ability to lead, and created an atmosphere of suspicion in some quarters of our family of churches.”

While CJ assuredly was the object of gossip, we disagree that gossip was the primary source of what is deemed “an atmosphere of suspicion.” The decisions made by the board(s) and leadership team over the past 14 months (which I won’t recount here) and accompanying communications are what created a fracture in the trust that the leadership team has enjoyed from us historically.

And more recently, as the frequency and detail of communication has improved (which we were encouraged by and grateful for), the perspective that the board communicated shows us the lack of understanding regarding these most critical issues of trust and authority. The recent six-point letter from the board and follow-up phone conference with John and Ian reiterated this perspective that is foreign to our experience. Additionally, withholding this perspective until now also reveals a lack of trust from the leadership team and board toward the pastors and people of SGM and an unwillingness to be influenced by our perspective and concerns.

The final loss of trust for us comes as a result of a failure to:

Understand and take adequate responsibility for the wrongs that have occurred,
Restore and rebuild trust through listening, seeking to understand and being influenced by other perspectives,
Provide open and clear communication and
Act decisively with responses that reflect a heart of humility and compassion toward those you lead.

On the contrary, the board has made further appeals for trust and patience without sufficient effort to show trustworthiness. This mutual vacuum of trust is a climate we cannot continue to follow in.


Although I have been unable to find a clear definition of the spiritual authority that has existed in our family of churches, it is not hard to perceive. As the AoR report notes:

“Leaders at every level in SGM have significant authority over others in submission to them. While this in itself is not a problem, the misuse of authority…is a temptation common to man.”

We agree with the report that SGM leaders have “significant authority” but we disagree that this is “not a problem.” It is a problem; a very serious problem that slight adjustment and refinement will not address. In the SGM response to the AoR report, the board commented,

“We…will continue to teach and counsel pastors in the appropriate use of the authority God gives them in the conduct of their ministry.”

It is our understanding from God’s Word that God does not give authority to men as we have seen it practiced, but rather that Jesus exercises his own authority through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His followers and pastors are called to administer God’s Word for and to God’s people. Any additional authority or influence we have comes from our congregation’s affirmation, their trust and their willingness to follow our leadership, and it is not binding. The level of authority exercised by SGM leaders (including our own pastors until recently) is unbiblical to us, and the current accountability of checks and balances is not only insufficient, but in our opinion incapable of providing the required balance.

One’s understanding of the nature and limitations of spiritual authority will necessarily shape one’s approach to developing and applying polity. As a result, it is our opinion that polity changes, however drastic, will be ineffective in bringing real change to this dilemma unless there is first a fundamental change in the understanding of spiritual authority. This is a main factor in our decision to end our partnership before the polity committee makes their final recommendation/decision.

A Connection

Brothers, please consider the following remarks as made out of love and a desire for your good and the good of SGM.

An observation: From my limited perspective, the offenses taken and accusations made against current and former leaders of SGM all tend to contain elements of that leader’s personal hypocrisy, lack of integrity and pride and tend to surface as an ethical dilemma. And yet, in my interactions with some of you men who have been the object of such charges and offenses, I have observed a stated disposition toward humility and a clear conscience. Paradoxically, the concerns I have heard from some of you (accused SGM leaders) and others regarding the offended and sometimes angry parties sound eerily similar to your accusers—that they are guilty of personal hypocrisy, ignoring clear Biblical commands and pride.

What could explain such a stark disparity between brothers and sisters?

I believe it goes beyond remaining sin and uncharitable judgments. Could it be perhaps that the theological understanding that pastors and leaders in SGM have held historically (regarding spiritual authority, pastoral gifting and discernment, congregational obedience, etc.) causes them to view themselves often as “right” and their followers/critics as “wrong?” Isn’t it possible that disagreement with a pastor/leader on an extra-biblical issue could be seen as pride, rebellion and disobedience? Isn’t it just as likely that an offended party might interpret their pastor’s stance and directives as abusive, proud and overbearing?

This approach to spiritual authority seems to produce some bad fruit: a division between clergy and laity, a strong fear of man toward gifted leaders, the cultivation of an unhealthy dependence on pastors, disillusionment among people who are let down by their pastors and among pastors who are eventually held to unattainable standards, and so forth. Could this be the direct result of an unbalanced understanding and practice of spiritual authority? While I can’t answer these questions with certainty, I believe the answer is yes. I do not presume to judge your motives for leading the way you have/are. I trust that you love the Lord and desire to serve him faithfully, and I am certain that the Holy Spirit will guide you and SGM into the future. I do know that at this point our paths are divergent, and the primary factors are the loss of trust and the nature and limitation of authority.


Because of my personal perspective and my love for you men, I would like to offer the following observations and appeals:


CJ, we bear your resemblance. We talk like you. Those of us who preach tend to preach like you. Our leaders lead like you. It is the blessing and the curse of impartation and imitation. It can be wonderfully fruitful and incredibly painful. What makes SGM what it is, has largely developed from your life and influence. I am among those blessed by God through you and indebted to you for your care, oversight and leadership, but this same reality is two sided. Please consider the gentle appeals of some and the angry accusations of others to serve as a kind of mirror. Only the Holy Spirit can sort out for you what is truly the result of your influence. But please consider the following questions: How would you define the spiritual authority you exercise? How might those around you answer that? Do the men around you fear your disapproval? Are they strongly motivated by your commendation? Do you trust your own discernment more than the voices of your critics? Could it be that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you through them? There are plenty of men who love you and will affirm you and agree with you, and there are some who will hate you and only criticize you, but please don’t underestimate the value of those who love you and disagree with you. Please listen again.

To the Leadership Team

Yours is the responsibility to identify where God is calling SGM to go and then to decide the best way to get there. Please reconsider the necessity of building and rebuilding trust. The spiritual authority I described above tends to presume upon the trust of one’s followers as godly submission, but the greater distance relationally and geographically you are from those you lead, the more important earning trust becomes. Secondarily, do you trust those you lead? Do you believe the pastors/elders of SGM churches are trustworthy enough to know what you know and affirm your motives and decisions? This is very important to us.

To the Board

At this stage of SGM’s history, the final responsibility is now yours and not CJ’s or the Leadership Team’s. I know you men are working tirelessly and without compensation. Thank you! I know that you all love the churches of SGM deeply and have a vested interest in the success of the movement. I respect you men for your willingness to serve the way you are. Please, please reconsider making polity the priority. Polity changes won’t fix broken trust, and restructuring won’t stop pastors and leaders from operating with authority they are not meant to possess (if that is indeed the case). I urge you to pause and Biblically define and evaluate your convictions regarding the nature and limitations of spiritual authority and re-listen/listen to the bad experiences of others, however unpalatable. They are real. Prayerfully consider making an effort toward the hurt and disillusioned if you haven’t already. I pray you will see a connection between the loss of trust and our divergent convictions regarding the nature and limitation of authority. At the very least we need to understand our differences.


Ending our 27-year partnership with SGM comes at great cost to us, and it does not come without fear of losing relationships we value with men and women we love and respect. We hope and pray that this decision will not prove to be personally offensive to you men or the churches of SGM and that we can retain a level of cooperation fitting between the churches of Jesus Christ. What has made this decision even more difficult for us is the closeness we have with the other SGM churches in our region and our increasingly beneficial experience under the care of Aron Osborne. The relational strength and mutual care that we have seen recently developing in our region is what we have desired for some time, but we cannot in good conscience continue under and affirm the Board and Leadership Team’s oversight simply for the sake of our positive regional experience. We love you men and pray for you in all that lies ahead. There has indeed been a lot of pain, disillusionment, offense and disappointment, but God has been at work to bring healing, truth, forgiveness and faith.

We are eternally grateful to God for our time in SGM. We love the churches of SGM. We are thankful for you men and leave with no ill will. We do not require a dialogue, but are definitely open to discussing the reasons for our departure further.

Jesse Jarvis

Sovereign Grace Church of Daytona Beach

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 23, 2012 05:13AM

Associated Press
by Eric Tucker
October 17, 2012

Three female plaintiffs claim in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that an evangelical church group covered up allegations of sexual abuse against children, failed to report accusations of misconduct to the police and discouraged its members from cooperating with law enforcement.

The lawsuit was filed in Maryland state court against Sovereign Grace Ministries, a 30-year-old family of churches, with about 100 congregations. Most of its churches are in the U.S., but it also has planted churches in about 21 countries.

The plaintiffs allege a conspiracy spanning more than two decades to conceal sexual abuse committed by church members. The alleged abuse happened in Maryland and northern Virginia in the 1980s and 1990s. The lawsuit accuses of church representatives of permitting suspected pedophiles to interact with children, supplying them with free legal advice to avoid prosecution and forcing victims to meet with and “forgive” the person that had molested them.

“The facts show that the Church cared more about protecting its financial and institutional standing than about protecting children, its most vulnerable members,” the lawsuit claims.

The church did not immediately respond to a written message or to a phone message left on its general voicemail box. It wasn’t immediately clear if the church had a lawyer. The suit names as defendants about a half-dozen pastors and church officials who plaintiffs say were alerted to the accusations but either failed to take action or actively covered them up. One official said he had not seen the suit and declined comment. Other defendants either did not immediately respond to phone messages or did not have publicly listed phone numbers.

In accusing church leaders of turning a blind eye to sexual molestation, the lawsuit bears parallels to the allegations of priest sex abuse and the resulting cover-up that have rocked the Roman Catholic church over the last decade. But while that scandal centered on sex abuse by priests, the accusations in this case involve molestation by church members instead of clergy.

Sovereign Grace Ministries grew from its mother church in Gaithersburg, Md., in 1982. It moved its headquarters this year to Louisville, Ky., where it’s also planting a new church. The group has struggled in recent years with fractured leadership and criticism over its discipline methods, especially the church’s emphasis on sins, discipline and repentance.

The suit only covers alleged abuse that occurred in Maryland in northern Virginia, but the church has faced scrutiny on other occasions for its handling of sexual abuse claims, and Susan Burke, a lawyer representing the three plaintiffs, said there are other alleged victims prepared to join a class-action suit.

For instance, an April report by a non-profit Lutheran mediation group that studied the church for nine months found that while church leaders showed “care and concern” about sex abuse allegations, a number of people interviewed felt the claims were handled irresponsibly and were left with “disappointments and hurts.”

The lawsuit faults the church’s “Home Group” structure, in which children are provided with day care so their parents can attend services, as fostering a poorly supervised environment that enabled the abuse to occur.

The lawsuit centers on allegations of three female plaintiffs, each identified by pseudonyms to protect their anonymity.

One of the three plaintiffs, a high school student in Virginia, alleges she was sexually assaulted when she was 3 years old and that the mother of the boy who abused her revealed the molestation to the church. But church officials discouraged her family from reporting the allegations to police and, instead, repeatedly interviewed the alleged abuser and worked with him and his mother to determine how best to prevent any prosecution and publicity regarding the abuse.

A second plaintiff, a college student in Maryland, says she was sexually abused as a toddler by a church member. She says the church pastor scolded her parents after they called the police and then tipped off the accused that he had been reported to the police. She says her parents were instructed to bring her to a meeting with her alleged abuser so they could be “reconciled,” but that she was “visibly scared and crawled under the chair” after being brought into the same room with him.

The third plaintiff says her adoptive father, a member of the church, sexually abused her older sister for three and a half years. She says the church warned her mother not to pursue a prosecution, then kicked the family out of the church and denied the children reduced tuition to the school. The man was ultimately prosecuted and imprisoned, the lawsuit says.

“We view the case as an important step in holding SGM accountable for its misdeeds,” said Burke, the lawyer who represents the three plaintiffs and is also suing the military on behalf of female service members who say they were raped. “No institution can put its own financial concerns above the needs of vulnerable children.”

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 23, 2012 06:26AM

Sovereign Grace Ministries Accused of Covering up Sex Abuse Allegations
October 18th
by Greta Kreuz

Sovereign Grace Ministries, a group that runs about 100 churches, including some in Maryland and Northern Virginia, is alleged to have covered up sexual abuse against children and failed to report accusations to police.

“I remember just him, like, taking me to the bathroom,” says a 17-year-old victim. She remembers how she was molested repeatedly when she was three years old by a 15-year-old babysitter. Both were members at the time of Sovereign Grace in Fairfax, but when her parents confronted the church pastors, they were told not to speak about it.

“We were told that we should not talk to any church member about it. Do not tell anyone,” she says.

Charges that churches within Sovereign Grace Ministries turned a deaf ear to child sex abuse committed by church members are laid out in a class action lawsuit. Three female plaintiffs detail repeated abuse in the 1980s and 90s ,but say the church covered up child molestation, worked with sexual predators to mislead enforcement and even blamed the victims.

“We received a few letters in the mail saying we were required to come back and reconcile and we needed to ask the perpetrator’s mother for forgiveness, for upsetting and embarrassing her,” she says.

Two other plaintiffs belonged to Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, one now a 22-year-old college student allegedly abused at age two. The other woman’s sister was allegedly abused by her stepfather.

Pastor Joshua Harris says the church has never tried to cover up abuse.

“There has never been a policy like that. We are very committed to involving the authorities,” says Harris. “Our biggest concern is not our reputation or what anyone thinks of us, it’s caring for kids well.”

But those suing Sovereign Grace don’t buy it.

“The control, the manipulation, the fear,” says the victim.

Pastor Harris says Sovereign Grace Ministries, whose member churches may operate under different names, absolutely wants to get to the bottom of this and insists all children are safe, but critics say nothing has changed and no telling how many victims are still out there.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 23, 2012 08:47AM

Sovereign Grace Church Group Sued; Alleged Abuse
Courier Journal
October 18, 2012
by Peter Smith

An international church group now based in Louisville allegedly fostered a climate of fear and unquestioning obedience that allowed sexual abuse to persist among members, according to a new lawsuit.

Three plaintiffs filed suit Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Maryland alleging that Sovereign Grace Ministries “created a culture in which sexual predators were protected from accountability and victims were silenced.”

The denomination moved its headquarters to Louisville from Montgomery County earlier this year. Less than a month ago, it launched Sunday services at its new congregation, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, led by longtime President C.J. Mahaney.

The plaintiffs, using pseudonyms, allege that church elders mishandled the sexual abuse of children at congregations in Maryland and Virginia between the late 1980s and 1990s.

The suit describes the plaintiffs as a Virginia teenager and a Maryland college student, both sexually assaulted by church members as young girls, and a young Maryland woman whose family was allegedly shunned by her church for refusing to seek leniency for her sister’s assailant.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status for what it claims is a wider pool of victims and a continued culture of cover-up.

“Over time, the families realized that they weren’t the only ones,” said Washington attorney Susan Burke, who is representing the plaintiffs.

“There’s a real concern about reaching existing members so that the children do not remain vulnerable,” Burke said.

The lawsuit alleges that sexual-abuse victims as young as 3 were forced to meet with and “forgive” perpetrators who had displayed repentance.

The suit alleges that church leaders “taught members to fear and distrust all secular authorities, and expressly directed members not to contact law enforcement to report sexual assaults.”

Claims in a lawsuit give only one side of a case.

Sovereign Grace Ministries said in a statement that it had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment on specifics.

It added: “Child abuse in any context is reprehensible and criminal. Sovereign Grace Ministries takes seriously the Biblical commands to pursue the protection and well being of all people, especially the most vulnerable in its midst, little children.”

The denomination includes more than 90 churches, mainly clustered in Atlantic coast states, with about 28,000 members worldwide.

The lawsuit alleges negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy to obstruct justice, negligent hiring and supervision, and misrepresentation.

In addition to Sovereign Grace, the lawsuit names eight people, including Mahaney, pastor of the new Louisville congregation, which began meeting Sept. 30 at Christian Academy’s English Station campus.

Some of the defendants were elders at the churches involved and were accused in the lawsuit of taking specific actions to cover up sexual abuse.

Others, such as Mahaney, were named because the incidents occurred under their leadership, Burke said.

The lawsuit did not name the congregations involved as defendants — Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., and Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax, Va. — but Burke said the lawsuit holds the denomination responsible for them.

Pastors at both churches said they could not comment on the specifics of the cases. Covenant Life Church Pastor Joshua Harris added in a statement that the church has “labored very hard over the years to protect the safety and well-being of the children we care for, counsel, and instruct.”

Mahaney co-founded Covenant Life out of small groups formed in the 1970s, and it eventually became the base for the denomination. But the move to Louisville came amid growing strains between leaders of Sovereign Grace and Covenant Life since the summer of 2011.

That came as part of a wider upheaval in the denomination.

Mahaney took a leave of absence of several months in 2011 and early 2012 because of accusations of prideful and abusive leadership.

The denomination’s board ultimately found Mahaney fit for ministry and restored him to office.

Earlier this year, a report by the independent conflict-resolution group Ambassadors of Reconciliation said that while many had benefited from involvement in Sovereign Grace churches, others had been hurt by the movement’s focus on correcting members’ sinfulness.

Estranged members saw an “over-emphasis of the teaching about sin without the balance of God’s grace,” leading some to be overly judgmental or despondent, the report said.

The lawsuit takes such complaints to a new level, alleging that an insular and authoritarian church culture prompted members to obey without question pastors’ instructions “in all matters, including methods of parenting, place of residence and employment.”

The suits do not allege abuse by clergy themselves. Rather, it alleges abuse by lay members and in one case a teenager who baby-sat children during small-group meetings.

But the lawsuit alleges church elders consistently interposed themselves into the process, seeking leniency for perpetrators in the courts and ordering victims’ families not to warn others of a perpetrator in their midst.

The lawsuit recounts one case in which a 3-year-old victim, brought into a room to reconcile with her perpetrator, crawled under a chair in terror.

Until this year, Sovereign Grace had no presence in Kentucky or Indiana.

Its move to Louisville has built on growing ties between Sovereign Grace and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with which it shares many theological beliefs despite denominational differences.

Mahaney and seminary President Albert Mohler have regularly shared platforms at conferences associated with the New Calvinism — which emphasizes divine power, sinful humanity’s need for a savior in Jesus, tightly disciplined churches and male authority in churches and homes.

Also named as defendants are Larry Tomczak of Tennessee, a Sovereign Grace Ministries co-founder who split with Mahaney in another controversy in the 1990s; John Loftness, chairman of the Sovereign Grace Ministries board; Gary Ricucci, an elder in the Louisville church and formerly at Covenant Life Church; David Hinders and Louis Gallo, elders at the Fairfax church; and Frank Ecelbarger of Florida and Grant Layman of Maryland, identified in the suit as Sovereign Grace employees.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 23, 2012 09:21AM

Lawsuit Charges C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries with Covering Up Child Sex Abuse
Allegations comes as flagship churches prepare to leave network.

Christianity Today
by Melissa Steffan
October 19, 2012

Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), a network of Reformed church plants in 21 countries still dealing with the aftermath of an internal investigation of founder and president C. J. Mahaney's leadership, now faces allegations that its president and board chairman, among other leaders, covered up child sex abuse by church members.

Three female plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Wednesday "allege a conspiracy spanning more than two decades to conceal sexual abuse committed by church members" throughout the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Associated Press. Mahaney and board president John Loftness, along with six other leaders, are named as defendants for allegedly failing to report incidents of abuse to law enforcement, encouraging parents to not report them, and "mislead[ing] law enforcement into believing the parents had 'forgiven' those who preyed on their children."

The day the lawsuit—which is seeking class-action status—was filed, SGM stated it was "not in a position to comment on the allegations" because it had not yet seen them. "Child abuse in any context is reprehensible and criminal," wrote director of finance and administration Tommy Hill on the SGM website. "[SGM] takes seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well being of all people, especially the most vulnerable in its midst, little children."

The lawsuit "singles out the church's 'Home Group' structure, in which children are provided with day care so that their parents can attend services, as fostering a poorly supervised environment that enabled the abuse to occur," reported the AP.

SGM made headlines last year when Mahaney took a leave of absence in July 2011 for a "season of examination and evaluation" of charges against him by alienated SGM pastors, including "various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy." Six months later, SGM reinstated Mahaney in January after vetting the charges against him. In May, SGM announced plans to relocate its headquarters from Gaithersburg, Maryland, to Louisville, Kentucky—a move that drew criticism.

In late September, Mahaney’s inaugural sermon at his new church "alluded to the tumult, saying he wanted the church to have a quiet launch," reported the Courier-Journal.

But fallout continues.

Two of the three largest churches in the SGM network—Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Sovereign Grace Church in Fairfax, Virginia—are mulling plans to separate from SGM and begin a new association of churches, according to former SGM pastor and board member Brent Detwiler, who led the 2011 charges against Mahaney. In addition, Sovereign Grace Church of Daytona Beach, Florida, has announced that it will end its SGM partnership, citing "loss of trust" and "insufficient accountability."

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 23, 2012 10:01AM

Radio talk show host Janet Mefferd interviews attorney Susan Burke about the SGM sex abuse lawsuit.


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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 23, 2012 10:24AM

And the testimonies just keep coming:

When I was at Cov Fel, there was a man who had molested a teenaged boy who was, also, a member. It was all very hush, hush. I only knew about it right after we left as the mother told me about it. It had happened a bit before I had found out about it. The man who had molested the boy was in the church and we were never told a thing. Last I knew, the man married a woman and I think they have children. Still, Cov Fel never told any of the members about this man who had devestated the teenager. (Of course, the teenager’s family was treated like crap.) I don’t know if the man is there or not, but he was there for years without anyone warning the families or children. Marty Machowski, Dave Harvey, Mark Prater, Andy Farmer and Aron Osborne were all on staff at the time. (Many others, too.)

There was, also, the layman who was in charge of children’s ministry at Cov Fel. One of the reasons we got “invited to find another church” was because we were expressing concern over this man. We simply said we didn’t feel right about him and asked the pastors to look into him more. They refused to and kicked us out. Turns out this man was molesting children for a few years and it was going on at the time we inquired about him. Last I heard, he still attends Cov Fel, too, though possibly not as a member. He spent some time in jail for his crime, but not enough, in my opinion, as he was NOT repentant and accused the children (of both genders) of being bad and their mother of being evil for reporting him to the police. (Yay to the mom!!!!!!!!)

I have MANY connections at Cov Fel and not one has ever told me that to this day, that Covenant Fellowship has ever ONCE notified the parents in the church of these predators in their midst, let alone had on going notifications for new members or visitors.

And SGM is going to continue to say that their highest concern is protecting children.

Baloney. To put it straight, I believe they are more concerned about protecting their own backsides than those of the innocent little ones. Beasts.

SGM Survivors
October 21, 2012

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 24, 2012 09:59PM


Just finished listening to the interview [with Susan Burke]. I have been far removed from PDI/SGM for many years now but hearing about all this is bringing up so many painful memories for me. One thing Susan said was that people who need professional help are often discouraged from going to secular counselors and to mistrust anyone who is a secular authority. Boy do I remember that PDI/SGM rule really well! For almost 10 years in the ’80s and ’90s, I endured domestic abuse from my husband and was continually told by my pastors to just “forgive” and just “continue to submit.” Instead of re-telling my story here, I went back to a blog entry I submitted to SGM Survivors on July 18, 2011, and I hope it’s OK if I re-post part of it here. I believe the message I gave at the end of my post is more relevant than ever and I really want those who are still afraid of coming out into the open to realize that NOW IS THE GOD-APPOINTED TIME FOR JUSTICE!

“I remember calling John Loftness, Gary Ricucci, Larry Tomczak,etc.–men I looked up to and who were my pastors at CLC and bosses when I was a loyal employee at PDI. ‘What do I do if I’m being physically abused by my husband?’ was what I wanted to ask them. Only John Loftness (whom I so respected and loved) bothered to call me back. And even he could not give me a straight answer. For years, even after I left PDI, I carried my shame and guilt in secret for obviously not “cutting it” as the perfect PDI wife and being unceremoniously kicked out (after my divorce). I also carried so much hurt and anger because no leader…not anyone I reached out to anyway…bothered to really help me or give me wise counsel during that crucial period in my life. The best help eventually came from a secular counselling center for battered wives. For years, it was ingrained into me by my leaders, ‘Do not go to secular counselors or professionals…come to us, we have a corner on God’s truth, we will tell you exactly what you need to do.’ For almost 10 years, I followed their instructions to the T and still got abused. The first time I went to a therapist, my sisters had to trick me into seeing him, saying I was going there for the sake of one of my sisters. That man probably saved my life! That my PDI leaders acted like they were the experts on every single area and could tell me how to live my own life (because only they could accurately hear from God for me) was a lie I cannot now believe that I completely bought into. I was a magna cum laude graduate with a degree in Economics from George Washington University (I am now an Economics teacher). But that was before I sold my soul to PDI. By the time I left the system, I was a completely broken woman. Lost all my fire and passion for the Lord. Lost all my trust in church leaders. Lost my self-respect, dignity, sense of worth, etc., etc. I thought I was stupid and I thought I was going crazy."

Now that these latest events are unfolding and the big Humpty Dumpty (C.J.) who sat on his high lofty wall (whom I once thought was simply untouchable) is finally falling…and as I watch all the king’s horses and all the king’s men desperately trying to put Humpty together again…I do have to say, “Thank you God!” Thank you, on behalf of all the faceless, nameless victims of this once “powerful empire” for validating all our voices…finally! Thank you for showing so many of us that we weren’t crazy, wrong or sinful just because we didn’t agree with the system. In fact, in my case and in the case of so many, we were dying a slow death…and leaving was a matter of our survival–and that of our kids! Thank you that there are finally intelligent and caring lawyers, journalists, high-profile Christian leaders, professional counselors–sane, normal, healthy people–who are now peering into the hell hole I was once a part of and are starting to blow the whistle and crying out loudly, “Foul!”for all to hear. For me, of course, it is many, many years too late. I can put my name out there, without hiding behind anonymity, and freely state names of my former leaders–because all this is so so behind me. None of them can ever touch me again. But for all those–the many, many silent victims who are still in so much pain because of sexual abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse, etc. that were allowed to continue within the powerful “no-talk” system of PDI/SGM, silently suffering still behind closed doors–let these latest events be an encouragement to all of you. This is the time of your vindication! Speak up and tell your story! No one can shut you up now! No one can tell you you are crazy and you’re just “exagerrating” or “seeing things.” No one can accuse you of gossiping when all you ever wanted was just for people to know how much you were hurt and damaged by your leaders.

I know more people are reading these blogs than there were back in 2007. Many people here are hearing my story for the first time perhaps. Here is what I want you all to know: the stories here, at least mine and so many others that I personally have heard from, are all true! In fact, if you go back and read them all (which will take you days and days), you will hear horrendous details of all kinds of abuses at the hands of pastors and leaders who, in my opinion, need to finally be held accountable. My last words are reserved for any victim who might still be living in this bizarre, crazy and painful world created by the once mighty PDI/SGM empire: someday, you will no longer be a victim. Someday, you will be completely free. Someday, you will be truly joyful and your passion for the Lord will return. And someday you will embrace the full gospel…that Jesus died on the cross for your sins…AND HE RESURRECTED so that you might live the abundant John 10:10 free and healed life and experience the power of that glorious resurrection within you so that you no longer fear any man but can truly have joy pulsating within every fiber of your being! Yes…you can really be that happy and free! But first, you must speak the truth about your current captivity…ask for help in all the right and safe places (this blog is one of them)…trust the real God (not the man-made one that PDI/SGM has erected)…and follow Him OUT of there! I urge you…I implore you…come out and join the rest of us…it’s going to feel so good to breathe again! ...

... I still remember sitting in the auditorium, hearing my PDI/SGM pastor say so clearly from the pulpit: “There is no such thing as a ‘victim’ in the kingdom of God…we gave up our rights when we gave our lives to Christ.” I still remember wanting to run out of there, screaming. I had had it with so many years of being silenced by my abusive ex-husband and my controlling leaders (one time, a leader pulled my then husband aside and asked him if it was true if I was reading a certain book and he was chided for not “screening” my readings more diligently). And now I was being told that people like me just didn’t exist…NO SUCH THING AS A VICTIM. So what did that make me? Just some failure who couldn’t get with the program? Everyone around me could give up their rights so cheerfully–why couldn’t I? What was wrong with me? How I wish there was a blog like this back when these crazy thoughts were racing through my head. Probably could have saved myself years of endless therapy and bucket loads of money. Yes, PDI/SGM, victims DO exist! And yes, victims DO need to be told what to do at times. How I wish even ONE person had reached out to me back then, seen the pain in my eyes when I went to church with my plastic smile while I was dying inside, and told me there was hope for me. And then told me exactly how to get the heck out of there!

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 27, 2012 07:33AM


"Please keep Symboulos Ministries and me, in particular, in your prayers. Needless to say, because of the recent class action lawsuit against SGM, more and more people find it necessary to leave their SGM church. Consequently, more calls for help are coming in. I know many of us are experiencing profound feelings, perhaps best characterized by the term bitter/sweet; … bitter, because of the tremendous pain and sadness these recent revelations have caused in our hearts and yet sweet, because God has shown Himself to be One who will not be mocked but remains faithful to uphold justice regarding the plight of those who He loves so dearly. I am extremely proud to be associated with those who have fought for so long, appealed so faithfully for truth to prevail, and who have displayed exemplary courage in exposing deeds done in darkness and bringing them into the light." - Bob Dixon

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: October 27, 2012 10:55AM


Though not yet served, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) leadership has obtained a copy of the civil lawsuit filed last week against SGM and several pastors of its associational churches. This recent complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent in providing spiritual counsel and pastoral care in situations involving persons who had previously suffered child sexual abuse. It is important to note that it does not allege any act of child abuse by a pastor or staff member of SGM or of an associated church. SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but we are beginning a careful legal review of each allegation. Upon initial review it appears the complaint contains a number of untrue or misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.

Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. We want to minister the love, grace and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act.

SGM is committed to integrity and faithfulness in pastoral care, as are the pastors of local congregations. We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices.

SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering His grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.


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