Breaking News: CJ Mahaney, the “Trendy” Calvinista, Temporarily Steps Down to Deal With Sin

Three conditions are necessary for Penance: contrition, which is sorrow for sin, together with a purpose of amendment; confession of sins without any omission; and satisfaction by means of good works." Thomas Aquinas 






We are interrupting our Thursday history series to bring you news that we think is extremely important. CJ Mahaney has decided to temporarily step down as the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries due to issues of sin that are longstanding. To avoid putting our spin on this, we have acquired, and reprinted, a copy of his leave of absence letter that can be found at Sovereign Grace Ministries.


In addition, at the end of this post, we have provided a link to SGM's website to read a letter written by Dave Harvey to the SGM churches. Finally, we have provided a link to some very damaging documents which painstakingly, and convincingly, outline Mahaney's obstinence in dealing with sin in his own life. 


Tomorrow, TWW will wax eloquent on this development. There are still concerning issues that need to be discussed. However, to those of our critics who have accused us of assaulting Mahaney's character, we say, "You should have given some consideration to our documentation. As you will see, if you read these letters and documents, we, along with SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge, were right on the money on a number of issues."


Our question to all of the sycophant, Calvinista leaders out there is this. Why in the world did you not investigate the thousands of concerns raised here, and on many blogs, about the apparent abuses within this ministry? Are you too busy endorsing his books and going to conferences to spend anytime doing due diligence? Or does pretending you are a good patriarch mean never having to say you are sorry? Good night, what a mess!



July 2, 2011

My friends,
I need to inform you about some recent developments that I believe are expressions of God’s mercy and intended to serve our future together as a family of churches.


Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. 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. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness. But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed. 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. Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others. And 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.


So here is what I am going to do. I’ve asked to take a leave of absence in order to give time to considering these charges, examine my heart, and receive the appropriate help from others. With the guidance of the SGM board, I would also hope to pursue reconciliation with former pastors of Sovereign Grace during this leave. I have stepped off the board and I will not be the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries during this period of examination and evaluation.


In order for me to receive an objective evaluation in relation to these charges the board is securing the help of a ministry called Ambassadors of Reconciliation ( This ministry was chosen due to its professional credentials, and it has no history of
relationship with SGM. A team from this organization will conduct a thorough investigation and evaluation and submit their objective findings and recommendations to the board at the conclusion of this process.


After processing these findings, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward. This leave of absence will also help remove any impediment to the panel’s exploration that could potentially arise if I remained in my current position, and it will enable me to fully cooperate in the process.


Just so you’ll know, I have also contacted David Powlison and Mark Dever and asked them to review the charges and provide me with their counsel and correction. I have enlisted them to serve me personally during this time and to ensure this process of examining my heart and life is as thorough as possible. And for the past year I have been the recipient of Ken Sande’s correction, counsel and care.


That, I am grateful to say, will continue. And as you would expect I will continue to meet with the appropriate men on the board of Sovereign Grace and benefit from their correction, counsel, and care as well. I amdeeply moved as I reflect on how rich I am relationally and I am humbled by the time these men are willing to spend serving
me and Sovereign Grace.


My friends, I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I continue to walk through this process. Please pray that God would give me the gift of sight where I have been blinded by would give me the gift of sight where I have been blinded by my sin and others have been adversely affected by my sin. Pray that I will be convicted and experience godly sorrow resulting in reconciliation where necessary and adjustments to my heart and leadership. Thank you for praying in this way for me.


One more thing. 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. I have met with some and by God’s grace there has been reconciliation with men like Larry Tomczak (I wish I had recognized and repented of my sin against him years ago). This brings great joy to my soul. In other cases, appeals for mediation have thus far been declined, but I’m hopeful this process will facilitate further reconciliation.


But beyond this, there are still issues that need to be addressed and fixed in our family of churches. And I bear a primary responsibility because it has happened on my watch and under my leadership. I have resolved that I and the Sovereign Grace team can’t effectively lead us into the future without evaluating the past, addressing these deficiencies, improving our structure, and as much as possible pursuing reconciliation with former pastors.


So during this leave of absence I will not only devote all the appropriate and necessary time to the independent panel and the charges but also to doing what I can to identify where I have failed to lead us effectively in relation to pastoral evaluation and conflict resolution.


My friends, though my soul can be easily overwhelmed as I contemplate my sin and its effects I am also resolved to examine my heart, address the past, and play my role in preparing Sovereign Grace for a future of planting and serving churches. And given the mercy of God portrayed in the gospel my heart is filled with hope that his good purpose for us will come to pass and cannot be frustrated. And I can’t thank God enough for you men and your support. Please pray for me.


With deep gratefulness,



Dave Harvey's letter to the faithful:

Here is a link to Dave Harvey's letter to the SGM faithful. Oddly, it seems to end mid sentence.


SGM Wikileaks:

Here is the link to in-depth documentation of the issues involved. They are lengthy but provide much insight in to the nature of the beast.


Lydia's Corner: 2 Samuel 12:1-31 John 16:1-33 Psalm 119:65-80 Proverbs 16:4-5


Breaking News: CJ Mahaney, the “Trendy” Calvinista, Temporarily Steps Down to Deal With Sin — 57 Comments

  1. Dave Harvey’s letter is like another tyrant crowning himself king.

    He is the closest thing to CJ’s clone that could have wormed his way into the big chair.

    What a mess in general.

  2. DB

    I am looking forward to talking about the ins and outs of this tomorrow. I’m finding it hard not to crow “We told ya so.” The only reason I am reigning in the gloat is because so many have been deeply wounded by this heavy handed crowd.

    BTW Harvey doesn’t look too good in the wikileaks documents.

    I am also a bit suspicious that Mahaney is trying a Piper.

  3. Because of the things I have experienced with men who function(often as autocrats) as “leaders” in the church, I take very seriously the reports of spiritual abuse coming out of that camp. Now, there is something about CJ Mahaney, what little I do know of him, but something, nevertheless, that has always made me uneasy. This is true even before I learned of the abuses. One of the gifts of the Spirit is the ability to distinguish between spirits. I hope they right every wrong, as much as possible, even to the point of relinquishing their positions of authority if incompetence is proven to be commonplace. I believe he is a brother in the LORD, and I hope his humility proves to be real.

    The question that needs to be asked by these men, and especially Mahaney is ….am I genuinely gifted by the grace of Christ, and biblically qualified in every character requirement, consistently, per 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1, to be an overseer of the flock of GOD? Christians need to have the spiritual backbone to hold these men accountable, and if a pattern of violating these qualifications is demonstrable, then these men MUST step out the “ministry” voluntarily or be forced out.

    It is unacceptable behaviour for any “pastor” or any leader to mistreat the sheep for whom Christ died. Those who do so, GOD reserved judgement for even back in the days of the prophet Jeremiah….. “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD (23:1). What a contrast, though, in the person of the Good Shepherd who “lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

  4. Can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve heard that same speech from C.J. over the years…wonder how long till SGM changes it’s name?


    Not Impressed, Not shedding any tears.

  5. Skimmed the documents today. Very saddening; disgusting; much worse than I ever thought possible. But, vindicating for those who received the left foot of fellowship, and worse, by SGM leaders over the years.

    After the release of these amazing documents, any organization with a shred of integrity would not allow C.J. near a leadership position for the rest of his life. But this is SGM we’re talking about, with C.J. “enablers” running the show. Praying for Jesus to knock on the door to the hearts of Dave Harvey and the rest of this team.

    Detweiler reminded C.J. in an email that he (Detweiler) has been the unofficial historian of SGM, and has thorough notes, documents and emails going back years. The 4 documents posted online by “sgmwikileaks” detail only Detweiler’s decade-long, largely unsuccessful, attempt to get C.J. to admit to any wrongdoing at all. If Detweiler is the historian he claims to be, imagine what he might be holding that details C.J.’s involvement (or lack of) in some of the horror stories that have been posted on SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge.

    As I said, this is all saddening. But it’s a hopeful sign of God’s refining fire — Mal. 3:2-3 — in action. If only the fire will spread.

  6. Dee,

    Remember when we went to hear Mahaney in person at the Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, NC a couple of years ago? His sermon topic was “Cravings and Conflicts”. CJ’s “craving” for power appears to be much worse that I ever imagined.

  7. Don

    I pray that this is refining. But, I have a few concerns that will be addressed tomorrow. remember, Mahaney loves to imitate his fellow Calvinistas. John Piper did a temporary step down last year and is back in business. I hope that is not the case here. Then again, no one released an sgmwikileaks. Bravo to the bravery of said individual.

  8. Deb

    I don’t know. He freaked me out, even back then. There was something just a little bit off…

  9. As someone who kept getting invited to be a part of TAG/PDI/SGM, but was freaked out by them (starting in 1983), I just… well, I have good friends who are (or were?) still part of the MD and VA churches (Fairfax, to be more specific). I have a feeling that their heads are spinning – and that their stomachs have dropped through the floor. (As in an extremely fast elevator ride.)

    Having been in “churches” that were – imo – as abusive as SGM (though not as large), all of this is painfully familiar to me, to the point that I had to quit reading the docs as some things in them are very triggering.

    And that letter – jargon, jargon, jargon and it’s all about Me is written all over it. Two or three sentences (I wronged many people. I am sorry. I am stepping down permanently) would have been MUCH more honest, and much more to the point.

    (To be honest, I’m waiting for the next Calvinista scandal – Driscoll, perhaps.)

    And at the same time, I am praying for the folks who must feel like their trust has been completely abused (because it has). It’s a lot like hearing that someone you love dearly is in the ICU and not likely to make it.

    Instead of talking about refining fire, I’m more inclined to think of triage for those who have been harmed…

  10. Skimming through some of the “leaks.” Just shameful, all of the drama. The western “church” is weak and carnal……soft and materialistic. We have not suffered for Christ, and with no price to pay for being a disciple, these institutions have……”become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” Rev 18:2

  11. Numo,

    I doubt they are too surprised. C.J. has been “confessing” to these types of things since the early days…seems to come in cycles…similar to a menstrual cycle, just longer between periods.

  12. numo,

    From what I’m reading on the main blogs, reading these docs – though painful – is bringing a sense of vindication and closure for a lot of wounded people. Of course, there’s still a huge amount of contrition and apologies required.

    Characteristically, C.J. mentions only pressure from former SGM pastors in his letter. The many non-pastor people hurt by him and the leaders he trained still, I’m afraid, aren’t on his radar scope. Brent’s documents make clear that SGM leaders are obsessed with themselves and discovering each other’s “sins.”

    I’m praying that the refining fire of God in C.J.’s life will make him abundantly aware of the harm he’s done to the sub-pastoral life forms otherwise known as the Body and Bride of Christ. I hope he feels their pain “real good” before this is all over.

  13. dee,

    I think the release of these docs has knocked C.J.’s plan for a triumphal return into a cocked hat. If the SGM leadership ignores this and tries to rubber-stamp a new-and-improved C.J.’s return in a few months — bad move — I hope they quickly find themselves preaching just to each other at Starbucks on Sunday mornings.

  14. I have been reading the documents posted by sgmwikileaks. I’m sad and sobered by the things revealed, but so very very glad that this is coming to light!

  15. Don,

    “Brent’s documents make clear that SGM leaders are obsessed with themselves and discovering each other’s “sins”

    Man, that was exactly what I was thinking too. Just astounding.

    Especially sad for all of those precious souls, who were not in the aristocracy of the ruling class, that have been trampled upon by egotistical and arrogant men. This has given great occasion for the enemies of GOD to blaspheme.

    This would not happen if the people calling themselves the “Body of Christ” would, collectively, not allow for secrecy, and investigate when other members leave…….. holding those who have sinned accountable, accordingly. The “Body” should hurt when it loses “members,” but most of the time, “churches,” like any good business, just replace them as businesses hire new employees.

    I am sorry, but most “Christians” are unwilling endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ, and will not engage in confrontation with others. You MUST be willng to, even though the “flesh” shrinks back. This unwillingness to be bold has opened the door for unqualified leadership, and has, by negligence, created spiritually dangerous institutions.

  16. @ Karl: check the docs that have been leaked… that’s what I’m referring to in terms of people feeling stunned.

  17. Don

    Stay tuned to some analysis today. I am concerned about how this will be handled and will explain why.I would really like to get your input-especially pointing out how I am wrong in some of my observations. (isn’t that an sgm word-observations?

  18. Dee, Kentucky & Indiana’s Courier-Journal. I found it while looking around to see who was commenting on the leave of absence. SGM Survivors is also linked. A few religion news aggregators have picked the story up as well. I linked to it in my post.

  19. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. It appears Uncle Screwtape is about to be roasted by the younger Wormwood.

    None of this is new information. In my cynical opinion, CJs just been overtaken by a sneakier subordinate who saw these accusations as a way up the ladder of hierarchy at SGM. I don’t believe for a minute that everyone else in leadership is not knee deep in the same attitudes for which CJ is getting the boot.

  20. Maybe Mahaney should make himself a medieval monk’s flagellum and swish that sucker backwards over each shoulder until his back is bloody. Mayhap his followers will see that he has truly done enough penance and can be restored to his position of “authority” over the souls of his flock per St. Paul’s epistles?

  21. The more I read the more stunned I feel. This is DEEP stuff. Also, it is a serious time of testing for the true sheep, and they must continue to look only to CHRIST.

    It does appear that SGM is beyond reform. The entire system and it’s tainted and skewed polity needs to be consigned to the trash heap. These men must really have grandiose visions of themselves, “doing church” the way they have for all these years.

  22. Yes, Jonathan, it’s very difficult going. The Screwtape parallel is spot-on, as people on the blogs have pointed out — Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil,” as smiling men plunge knives in each other’s backs. All in the name of Christ and “serving” one another.

  23. @ Jonathan: I think this “polity” (SGM’s, that is) has been bad from the get-go, in that it comes directly from the shepherding (aka discipleship) movement of the 1970s. I used to know some folks who were part of TAG (Take and Give – the original incarnation of SGM) back in the 70s, and have had my own pretty hellish experiences in churches with a very similar structure 9and basically the same roots).

    I think that normal churches – you know, where the members get to vote on things, etc. – are that way for a very good reason. and I sincerely hope that nobody continues SGM (under that name or another) as is, since abuse will continue unchecked.

    * there’s lots here on TWW re. the discipleship movement; you might want to take a look!

    all the best,

  24. numo,

    * there’s lots here on TWW re. the discipleship movement; you might want to take a look!

    I will do that. Thank you

  25. Jonathan – check Dee’s latest post. Great links (both internal and external) and analysis. 🙂

  26. Lynn,

    If you click on the first “here” hyperlink in the following excerpt, it links to TWW:

    “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.”

  27. numo,

    I was part of TAG in the 70s, but never joined the so-called “core group.” I was away at college when GOB began meeting, but joined the church after returning to the DC area.

    I heard of some questionable leadership things then, but passed them off in my mind as well-meaning but immature young men trying to do the right thing — to take Christianity seriously.

    Even when I heard of some more serious problems people had with leaders, I was like the SGMers who parachute into the survivors blogs. I couldn’t square their horrible experience with my own, and concluded they must have some hidden rebellion or deep-rooted worldliness that made them run afoul of authority.

    And so much of the teaching in the early years was so good, so practical, so encouraging, so focused on scripture — I don’t think people today understand how much God was present and blessing the early congregation that became CLC.

    C.J. was the comedian-teacher with zeal for truth and holiness, and Larry was the big-picture, encouraging evangelist-teacher with his finger on the pulse of God’s worldwide activity.

    (God healed my mother’s heart condition on the spot, during one of the early CLC community-outreach/evangelistic meetings at which Larry taught and had prophetic healing words. He called her out, had her stand up, and said God was healing her. She felt fire go through her body, and later her doctor said the heart malady was gone. That never happened at her Baptist church!)

    Regarding voting, in those early years many of us came from denominational churches, in which voting memberships would toss out pastors on a whim, or indulge in their own corruption. As far as we knew at CLC, our leaders were godly men who were happy with their marriages and content to live in the same middle-class neighborhoods as the people they “served.”

    I say all this to give some background into how difficult it was, in the early days, to discern the growing roots of the abusive patterns we see today in awful full bloom. Unless you had a bad run-in with a pastor, everything was fine — you saw God at work in the church and your own life, and the leaders seemed to be teaching and doing everything admirably well.

  28. @ Don: I hear you, as I had similar experiences in other fellowships/churches from the early 1970s on. (In the early days, I was a teenager, and very uncritical of what was said and done – I had nothing to use as a measuring stick, so to speak.)

    Having had my own difficulties in discipleship movement churches, I have to say that the mess at SGM (over the past many years, not just now) is all too familiar – and painful. I only read sections of the docs, but stopped, as it was too triggering for me.

  29. hmmm read mr. mahaney’s letter, read some of the wikilinks thing, in the recent past read something apology-like by this josh harris person — they all sound the same. flowers dripping with syrup. affection unnaturally turned up to 11.

    not only are they emulating each other, it’s like they’re emulating Paul’s affectionate language, too. And his long wordy sentences. Like many others, I suspect they’ve OD’d on Paul, without knowing it.

    all very creepy.

  30. Trying to keep up with comments over on SGM Survivors and you know… I don’t believe anything will really change there.

    I say that not because I’m a pessimist, but because I have heard it before, more than once, and in more than one place.

    All the words in the world can’t/don’t = real change. And I have a feeling that that’s all that’s happening. (Especially given the fact that Mark Mullery – at the Fairfax, VA church – appears to have entirely sidestepped the many issues now staring them in the face.)

  31. This is a sad story. I am grateful to be able to read Brent Detwiler’s version of events. My caution to all of us is to remember that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, and therefore need to guard against self-righteousness. I know where I would be if God had not intervened in my life, and I shudder to contemplate that.

  32. I am not a member of any SGM church. But as a pastor in the Philippines, I also benefited from the ministry of SGM in terms of teaching and encouragement.

    But I have never considered SGM as a perfect network. I knew that they are also sinners like me. They could make mistakes and could even be stubborn in these mistakes. We all do.

    So why are you guys attacking SGM as if you are not sinners?

  33. Jeff

    Please read the hundreds, maybe even thousands of reports of people who have been harmed by this ministry, Glad you were helped. Many more were hurt.This is about entrenched problems that cause terrible pain. Accusations of child abuse have been made along with terrible reports of people being given the right boot of fellowship. Please refer to SGM Survivors for the answer to your question. Read Noelle’s story.

    May God change the heart of those arrogant leaders who have allowed this stuff to occur.

  34. debtortomercy

    I would also commend to you the many faceless people who have been harmed by a ministry more concerned about pastoral authority than the people they serve.

  35. Numo

    I think it is worse than that. I believe this whole things was orchestrated. Deb will give our reasons today. We’ve been bamboozled.

  36. Elastigirl

    Leave it to you to see through things more clearly than I did. The game is afoot and now I know the rules. Stay tuned.

  37. Don
    Remember, God did the healing, not the leaders. I believe He would have healed her in the absence of SGM. Think about it. Do more people die or suffer from maladies in the SBC than in SGM?

  38. “So why are you guys attacking SGM as if you are not sinners”

    Jeff, I want to thank you for saying this. Because you are highlighting one of the biggest problems with sgm in terms of doctrine that must be discussed over and over because people are not getting it.

    Here is the scenerio you are suggusting: We are sinners so we cannot discuss and bemoan sgm leadership sin. Now think about this…you are suggesting that our being sinners actually cancels out sgm’s sins. If that is not true then what else could it be?

    How else would it work. Because the only conclusion we can come to is that if there is any sin in one’s life we cannot point out any other sin. Which brings us to sin cancelling. Sort of like canceling out each other’s votes at the pols.

    Perhaps you think pastors get a pass on this and can be sinners while they rebuke others, I do not know.

    But your one line above is something I have seen repeated over and over in sgm circles. I don’t think they have thought it through.

  39. Jeff,

    I will not even bother to respond to your idiotic assertion that we cannot criticize others because of our own sin. Ever read your Bible? It’s chock-full of verses that support what we are doing here at TWW.

    DO NOT miss today’s post. The truth will finally be revealed.

  40. Pingback: Sovereign Grace and Pastoral Authority « Questions 4 Christians

  41. Deb & Dee – how can you two keep up with this? It seems like every time I turn around, there’s some new twist to the SGM/C.J. thing.

  42. numo,

    To answer your question, it’s ONLY by the grace of God. All I can say is the Holy Spirit seems to be leading us to God’s truth.

    Looking forward to posting what I’ve discovered just this morning. Hopefully the info will be up in a few hours. Pray for me as I put on the finishing touches to the post.

  43. well… at the rate that Kris & Guy are having to update their own posts, I won’t be the least bit surprised if you have to add some late-breaking elements to your upcoming post.

  44. Ok: We have heard all about SGM and CJ. If you want an ear full on Brent and 15 years of him as a pastor I could easily get into that and Brent knows I could distroy him personally and along with one of his family members. CJ and Brent have alot of the same personality and chartacter. But God will bring all this out in his time and deal with it in his way. Why is this all focused on CJ and nothing posted on Brent.

  45. I guess Brent has made himself the great historian of SRM when all the minutes and preaching is recored by all.

    Don Myers

  46. Don

    I have heard that Brent has plenty of “sins” to atone for. If you have documentation or would like to write a personal testimony of problems with him, please contact us via email and we would be happy to consider a post.

    And yes, Brent had the documents. But, he is no saint. As I have said regarding this situation on several occasions, “There is no honor amongst thieves.”

  47. documentation would be some of brent and myself conversations through the years. Also We have most of his sermons when he was a pator at crossway, talking about his time in highschool and sounding like he was the mohamaed ali of the school, also smoking certain types of tobacco. Tapes and cd’s are a real way of keeping track of someones tongue. The church has it all and SGM.The laws of the church or should I say the cannons of the church are only one way with brent.He will know what I am yalking about. Remember everthing that brent and CJ is on tape or CD. Also brent having someone to put his 400 pages on the net to protect his liability and allow someone else to take a possible lawsuite and loose his pastor statis is quick big of him. He thinks being a third party in a possible lawsuite would protect him , it won’t and he has draged another person into his scheme, brent is very smart but no wisdom.