The Fall of CJ Mahaney: More Documents and Dissonance

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule".The Lord of the Rings Gandalf, Chapter 'The Last Debate'.
 

 

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Yesterday, TWW received further documents that pertain to the Sovereign Grace Ministries debacle. Our source is a trusted insider who has sent material to us in the past. We have decided to hold on posting them, in their entirety, due to the massive amount of information already available but may do so in the near future. These documents seem to buttress the information already available.

 

However, one comment in the mix jumped out at me. I believe this comment is also found in the already released documents. When confronted, once again, by Brent, CJ, in June of this year, wrote the following: (my bold)
 

"I am not trying to impress you or convince you about what I am perceiving in my heart. But since I began to reengage with your documents a couple of days ago and with the help of others I have already perceived a couple of areas of sin I didn’t clearly perceive previously."
 

“A couple of areas of sin,” huh?? The released documents are filled with examples of sin after sin after sin. Is this response chutzpah, a serious character flaw or a psychological impairment? Some point to the possibility of narcissistic personality disorder. Did you know that narcissists are drawn to the pulpit because it is a perfect place from which to demand adherence to their mandates? We will touch more on this subject in coming posts and will provide documentation for this claim.
 

Now, let’s add the people within the organization who believe that Mahaney’s temporary “step down” is just a further example of his deep humility. Throughout the “Assyrian” (what Joshua Harris called bloggers last night) blogosphere, one sees a myriad of attempts by people to protect or compliment Mahaney. Justin Taylor’s blog at The Gospel Coalition, which allows for comments, closed comments on their posting about Mahaney’s departure. LINK 
 

You see, The Gospel Coalition was part of the official cheerleading squad for Mahaney’s antics through the years. I believe that many of these inbred groups purposely turned a blind eye to the reports of abuse through the years. I believe they call it “not listening to gossip.” I call it a breathtaking lack of due diligence which calls into question their judgment on many matters.
 

TWW, in the past two years, have had contact with  influential pastor and seminarians, begging them to look at the issues involving Mahaney and what we perceived to be a spiritually abusive system in the polity of SGM. The response was negative, in the extreme. Deb will share these less than stellar responses in another post.
 

Here are a few examples of attitudes that surprise us:
 

  • CJ reportedly appeared last night at CLC and said he would be at the Pastor’s Conference, 4 months hence, standing shoulder to shoulder with Larry Tomczak. He also brought his wife with him. Why is he assuming anything about the next four months? 
  • On another blog, one man wrote that he was glad that his pastor at a new SGM church in Texas did not discuss this situation since it has little to do with them. He doesn’t seem to perceive that his pastor has been trained and put into place by the same boys who were trained by Mahaney. For that matter, what about all the pastors who have been complicit for YEARS in strong-armed SGM tactics? They’ve changed, suddenly?? Also, I call them boys because they seem to like the word “girls” when it comes to women and the women buy it. See Girltalk.
  • Some said that Joshua Harris struck the right note at the meeting and is going to turn things around. Harris lived with and was mentored by Mahaney and contributed to a system that has spawned an unbelievable number of complaints of abuse. Can he truly “turn on a dime” and become accountable? This is the same man who is rereleasing his book on Boy Meets Girl, which uses SGM couples as examples on how to date and choose the “right” mate. Two of those couples are in the midst of divorce-one is very high profile. Is this an example of thoughtful judgement or schilling for bank?
  • A whole new constitution purportedly will be written and the polity will change by next summer. Dave Harvey, just a few months ago, told people to get lost if they didn’t like the polity. So now he wants everyone to “not get lost” and change the governance?
  • The silence of the CJ Mahaney cheerleaders: Al Mohler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and all the” oh so Biblically correct” Gospel Coalition is deafening. Remember, they have the ability to “rehabilitate” him by giving him speaking platforms. If they intervene, they can, and most likely will, “restore” him.

 

So, let me get this straight. A hyper-authoritarian structure put in place by hyper-authoritarian men who cannot control one another, will suddenly come up with a brand new system, no problems? A reformation is needed but a reformation usually means a deep change in the theological basis for polity. Is such a change likely with authoritarians like Mark Dever coming in to straighten CJ out?

 

When events appear to negate deeply held assumptions, something has to give. Either the events must be reinterpreted or the theology must be reassessed. In this matter, given the theological convictions of those involved, I might guess that the events will be glossed over and rehabilitation will be quickly on the table. But then again, there was Martin Luther…. Is there a Martin Luther in this situation? Dave Harvey, Josh Harris, Mark Dever??
 

We believe there is a strong current of cognitive dissonance running throughout the situation. Here is a lengthy excerpt from a post we wrote called I’m Confused… Wait Maybe I’m Not!!!, 9/15/09. LINK 

 

“Recently, we received the following comment: “While I do not disagree with many of your assumptions, I think many of them are just "spiritual whining" by people who are not, and never will be, in a position of leadership”. We believe that this statement is an excellent example of a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance. Wikipedia offers a thoughtful definition of this term. LINK
 


“Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

 

Dissonance normally occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency among his or her cognitions. This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. For example, a belief in animal rights could be interpreted as inconsistent with eating meat or wearing fur. Noticing the contradiction would lead to dissonance, which could be experienced as anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. When people's ideas are consistent with each other, they are in a state of harmony, or consonance.



A powerful cause of dissonance is an idea in conflict with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as "I am a good person" or "I made the right decision." The anxiety that comes with the possibility of having made a bad decision can lead to rationalization, the tendency to create additional reasons or justifications to support one's choices. A person who just spent too much money on a new car might decide that the new vehicle is much less likely to break down than his or her old car. This belief may or may not be true, but it would likely reduce dissonance and make the person feel better. Dissonance can also lead to confirmation bias, the denial of disconfirming evidence, and other ego defense mechanisms”.
 

That’s a whole lot of words that might seem a bit confusing. However, it will become increasingly clear as we deal with specific examples.


 

One of my pastors is currently teaching a series on dissonance in our Christian life. He believes that dissonance is built into the Bible and that this tension, when viewed positively, can lead to significant change in how we deal with our Christian walk. For example, the Bible says, “Be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Yet, we know that we are sinners and have no hope of being perfect in and of ourselves.


 

Some, without thinking this through, will run themselves into the ground trying to be perfect. If left unchecked, this thought process can lead to despair. Others throw their hands up and walk away from the faith or just live a hedonistic lifestyle because they cannot possibly “measure up” so why try? Others close their eyes to their sin and develop what is known as a “holier than thou” lifestyle.

 

But, as my pastor cleverly pointed out, there is the fourth option. He proceeded to have an imaginary conversation with Satan that went something like this.

Satan: “Do you realize that you sinned when you did this thing and that thing today? What a loser.”
Pastor: “You don’t know the half of it. I did those things along with all of these other things. In fact, I probably sinned in ways that neither you nor I realize. So, get lost.”
 

He went on to say that we are covered by the grace of Jesus Christ. He made the point that as many of us walk through our lives, we find that the more we deal with various sins, the more of our own sins we uncover. In other words, we take three steps forward, then six steps back. One of his favorite sayings is, “Even on my best days, my motives are mixed.”


 

In closing, there are a number of hurdles that need to be overcome if Sovereign Grace Ministries intends to become less pastor-centric and more cognizant of the priesthood of the believer. Here are a few suggestions from “Assyria.”
 

1. There needs to be congregationally appointed overseers. Efforts should be made to find leaders that have differences of perspective in order to prevent a “yes man” panel.
 

2. This experience goes to prove that men are as “gullible and easily deceived” as women. There needs to be a greater degree of involvement by women. I believe that Carolyn McCulley, an SGM female leader, once implied that because she is a woman, she is in no position to judge the male leadership. Bless her heart, of course she is! It is opinions like these, which are destroying this organization. SGM has effectively sidelined 50% of Holy Spirit input because they marginalize women. (Separate but equal doesn’t play well in race or gender).
 

3. The congregation must take matters into their own hands. The pastors are just as fallen as everyone else and have been put into positions in which they have clearly exercised their fallen thinking. The pastors are no different than those they lead.
 

4. It is time to emphasize grace instead of sin. These documents show the almost endless sin sniffing that exist amongst the pastorate and those complicit in the congregation. Clue to the Cross Centered mindset: Jesus rose from the dead and grace is in play. No matter how hard you try, you can’t overcome sin. Stop pretending and be at peace.
 

5. It is very difficult for many to admit they have been duped. For some, this means that their whole paradigm of trust in certain men has been shattered, and well it should be. It happened to the two of us. We could have stuck our heads in the sand and pretend that injustice wasn’t happening. But, we cut our losses, learned incredible lessons about God and are much better off today than 5 years ago.

 

6. Stop with the weird, insider lingo. Be straightforward. In my reading of the documents, there is so much doublespeak going on that I feel like I am in a version of Brave New World-SGM style. Terms such as "I wanted to serve him" (with papers?), "I want to make an observation" (Time to tell you what's wrong with you), Perceiving in my heart" (as opposed to the kidney?), and so forth. 

 

More to come….

 

Lydia's Corner: 2 Samuel 14:1-15:22 John 18:1-24 Psalm 119:97-112 Proverbs 16:8-9

Comments

The Fall of CJ Mahaney: More Documents and Dissonance — 82 Comments

  1. Pingback: Another Sovereign Grace Ministries data dump … | Civil Commotion

  2. So much excellent observations….came so close to connecting with SGM several years ago. So many things (after reading these documents from Detwiler) are clearer. At the time, I could not put my finger on it…so much was good on the surface…the longer I was around (several conferences) fellowship with SGM pastor, preached in his church, etc. The common lingo and protracted introductions laced with “thankful” …”served us”‘ etc….began to sound bizarre….the SGM ers all began to sound alike (w exceptions)”. I was struck at the very COMMON BEHAVIOR between the BOSTON CHURCHOF CHRIST…not doctrinally…practice and structure…incredible…especiallynthe sin sniffing obsession, legalism, arrogance, and almost a “gnostic-like” attitude towards doctrine. THE PROBLEM IS NOT CLAVINISM PER SE. So much goes back to the PDI DNA in earlier genesis with the charismatic shepherding/discipleship movement. interesting if someone wanted to pick up on this and discuss/explore…. Thanks for excellent posting and observations.

  3. Tim, the bottom line is, our theology, and it’s roots, does matter. When you say, “So much goes back to the PDI DNA in earlier genesis with the charismatic shepherding/discipleship movement. interesting if someone wanted to pick up on this and discuss/explore….” I believe you are exactly right! I’m presently working on a document to show the line, and how it has played out in this situation. CJ Mahaney’s theology is a strange stew of the Jesus movement of the 60s-70s, Pentacostalism, The Shepherd Movement, Catholicism, PDI, and now the new reformed movement. In many ways the result is not too different than the hyper-legalism and spiritual control and manipualtion of the extreme right wing of the fundamentalist in by-gone days (Jack Hyles, John R Rice, Bob Jones Sr., etc.). And what I personally find so fastinating, is as Dee points out above, the lack of discernment from what appears to be some pretty intelligent men in T4G, etc., and now, their “deafening silence.” It will be telling to see how they respond.

  4. Great post Dee! I do believe the correct terminology is “I want to bring an observation”. Is that right, SGMers? So much LOADED LANGUAGE, which is one sure sign of a cultish organization.

  5. You know, this playing out in the public square gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of these movements, leaders, and what is important to them.

    There is so much to mine. For example, what exactly are CJ’s sins? I am not for one minute declaring there are no real sins. I think the entire SGM is heretical. What I am sugggesting is that those who are focusing on CJ’s sins of pride, arrogance and I love this one “entreat”, etc, are really only consdered sin in the context of SGM’s sin sniffing culture. In other church cultures, even the SBC or even places like Saddleback, this is business as usual for the leaders. I do not think the larger Christian public will get it and I think this will benefit CJ in the long run.

    Here is what I fear. In the public square, the mega church pastors and other celebrity type Christians are going to finally come out for a backlash of defense because the sin’s that CJ is accused of is every day business for them. And I think it will be played out this way. They cannot allow sin of pride to be considered a deal breaker for their careers.

    The most damning sin to the nonsgm leaders is the blackmail and CJ has that taken care of with Larry’s letter.

    The problem is the sin at sgm is inbred in the very doctrine they teach. With the other celebrities, these sins do not really apply to them in the context of their position. As an example, can you imagine anyone sin sniffing Mohler? Not even his trustees would dare. These guys know how to make themselves untouchable. CJ is a victim of his own system within his group of the elite in SGM.

    And there is some serious cognative dissonance going on with Brent. In the last 2 docs, he outlines to the board their responsibility as CJ’s elders to discipline CJ. He is quite adament about the fact that CJ must submit to them and they are not to fear CJ. But then, a few lines later he claims he must follow the bible and submit to the Word. In other words, Brent did not have to submit to them as elders over him.

    This part really brought it home for me. All of Christianity is so wrapped up in who is in charge, submission, authority, etc. It is debilitating and Brent, who does not realize this, shows us how silly it all really is and how the translations have been used to prop up a false system of human hierarchy.

    Brent was under their authority while he was a pastor/worker at SGM yet, one could argue he defied them for a while with his behavior.

    Bottomline, If Brent had not appointed himself the unofficial historian of SGM, we would not be having this conversation. But because he kept meticulous documentation for so many years, SGM could not swat him away like an annoying gnat.

  6. As to T4G, there is an elephant in the room they are ignoring. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that they are waiting to see where it blows. But no matter what, blogging has changed everything.

    They are learning this the hard way. They cannot control it but I submit to you all that when CJ gets back, information will be severely curtailed. They almost always react with more secrecy and care in how they communicate.

    I think the T4G guys are amazed that a blog could do this and are taking that into consideration before they respond. I did notice their website has added a bunch of new faces on the masthead instead of just the 4 who were on there yesterday. I am sure the pic was taken with that in mind at some point nearing the conference time I just wonder if they decided to speed it up.

  7. Lin,

    Excellent points! Let’s not forget that we know for a FACT that Mahaney gave at least $100,000 to Southern Seminary and that SGM also gave at least $100,000. I am still questioning why? Was Mahaney buying his position on CBMW?

  8. Lynn,

    T4G stands for Together for the Gospel. It is a bi-annual conference held in Louisville by four buddies, namely Al Mohler, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and Ligon Duncan (who hails from PCA). It began in 2006, and three conferences have been held thus far. This coming April the T4G conference will be held in the newly constructed Louisville arena. I guess they are hoping for the largest crowd ever because of this new venue.

    T4G is based out of Capitol Hill Baptist Church because it shares the same address as Dever’s church.

    Here are some links that may be helpful:

    http://t4g.org/

    http://t4g.org/media/2011/04/the-game/

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2010/04/12/together-for-the-gospel-%E2%80%93-really/

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2010/04/08/t4g-bookstore-%E2%80%93-check-it-out/

  9. In Brent Detwiler’s documents #5 and #6 released today, there’s more evidence of what I think is the core problem to be faced in reforming SGM (if it can, indeed, be reformed).

    In one place, Brent quotes Doris Tomczak from Larry’s 2002 book, in which she admits that she and Larry put up with things they didn’t like in PDI leadership because they were afraid they’d be kicked out if they spoke up — and lose their livelihood.

    In another place, Brent reveals that in order to produce these 6 documents that attempt to get CJ and SGM leaders to admit to CJ’s sin, Brent is now penniless: no job, no savings, no home-equity funds available.

    (And now on the blogs, there’s considerable discussion of C.J.’s 2004 salary, what he might be earning in 2011, and how right/wrong it is for him to continue to be paid this salary while he is in this period of reflection, meetings to discuss his sin, and replying to people writing to tell him how he’s hurt them.)

    The problem with reforming SGM is that its leaders all want to be paid for what they do. They want salaries, housing allowances, reimbursement accounts, health insurance, all the trappings of corporate Christianity and tax deductions. They want staff meetings, annual fitness reports, nice offices and administrative staff, computers and carpet. (“There are two gods in America,” Woody Allen used to say, according to CLC pastor John Loftness in 1991, “God — and carpet.”)

    This vision of corporate Christianity, based on a secure job and career path, retirement plans and C.J.’s hoped-for 7-year plan, is totally at odds with Jesus’ vision of His Body as described in the gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

    If reforming SGM is only about changing polity and accountability, ensuring that leaders who broke corporate policy (which is what all this sin-sniffing is — codified legalism worthy of the Pharisees’ tithing of mint and cumin), get kicked out or demoted after apologizing to those they transgressed, then there will still be no place for Jesus’ Holy Spirit in this organization. He will still be knocking at the door, trying to get in to take charge by ruling in the hearts of redeemed but truly humble people.

    For all his years of preaching emotionally on “the cross,” C.J. kept Jesus out of his life, out of SGM’s life. Did this start in 1996, when C.J. and the other leaders unilaterally ended the move of God they called the “time of refreshing?” Or was that Time actually God’s last attempt (till now) to reveal himself in love and holiness to a ministry that was practicing serious, institutional idolatry in its focus on money, rules, career paths and carpet?

    Josh Harris has called for some fasting here and there at CLC in the past few months. Why not get radically biblical? Why not call a 21-day fast, with 24/7 prayer during that period, and a hotline for members to report their dreams, visions and prophetic words received during this time?

    Why not invite a group from Mike Bickle’s IHOP (oh, the horror!) to come in and humbly teach on what it’s like to worship Jesus at all hours of the day and night, and tell of the prophetic words that have come true, and the miraculous provision that has come to the IHOP ministry to establish 24/7 prayer and worship, along with serious fasting, and the dreams and visions that accompany serious fasting and prayer?

    I know — just the mention of Mike Bickle will cause some of you to shut down, right now. Some of you will click another browser tab, run a search and look up all Bickle’s past problems, hidden sins, etc., and distract every other reader with their findings.

    Please don’t do that, or you’ll miss everything I’m trying to say here. I use Bickle as an example of an imperfect leader who’s somehow “succeeding” by trying to do what the Bible talks about, and what he thinks the Holy Spirit is saying at this time in history.

    The man’s not perfect, but he’s building a spiritual movement on prayer, fasting, worship and openness to God speaking direction through dreams, visions and prophetic statements.

    Which looks more like Acts: Bickle’s IHOP ministry with its various outreaches and focus on scripture plus intimate relationship with God\; or, the one that has produced Brent Detwiler’s documented call for a church Court to judge C.J. Mahaney’s meticulously documented, persistently avoided, sins?

    Are any of you still with me? Let me be more plain — forget Mike Bickle. Please. Now, think of the underground Chinese Church. It has no corporate structure, no paid leadership (to my knowledge), and – surprise – no overseas missions strategy. Its goal is to introduce every Chinese person to Jesus Christ, to expand the Kingdom of God in China. It’s doing really, really well at accomplishing those goals.

    The Chinese church is, in a word, charismatic. Its growth — 30,000 new converts a day — is directly related to its resemblance to the New Testament Church: underground, relationally evangelistic, horizontally organized, led by nobodies who don’t get paid, zealously committed to hours of prayer, hours of teaching, openness to the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. God has filled these people with the joy of salvation. They nurture that joy through relationship with him and others, then spread that joy to others through quiet evangelism. No carpet is involved.

    It’s estimated by Dr. David Shibley, president of Global Advance, that the Chinese Church could, all by itself, complete the Great Commission. (http://www.christianpost.com/news/mission-expert-china-holds-potential-to-complete-great-commission-41925/)

    So — is it possible to reform SGM into a New Testament-congruent organization, while assuming its corporate-Christian methodology MUST remain intact?

    If Brent Detwiler gets his way, and C.J. is examined and found guilty of sins of pride, hypocrisy, etc. (i.e., violating SGM corporate policy) — but Jesus is not re-enthroned in the heart of SGM’s leaders and members, the Holy Spirit is not welcomed to do whatever he wants to do with HIS church, the saints are not empowered and blessed for the Spirit-led work of ministry, the New Testament’s example of church growth (seen now in China) is ignored, and SGM pastors/leaders continue driving to work in their corporate offices every day — then exactly what has been reformed?

    Exactly how is the Kingdom of God — rather than corporate-Christianity — being advanced?

    Exactly how does SGM become a prophetic witness to the unsaved world?

  10. I commented several times over at Survivors late last night and early this a.m. – and some of what I said was received very well.

    But… what makes me sad is this: people coming and commenting about Josh (or someone) “reforming” SGM instead of the congregation doing it. The thing about “leaders” writing a new church constitution really alarms me.

    I was pretty much in the mental place where (no doubt) a lot of SGMers are now, or maybe I should say “places,” since one goes through so many, many stages in processing all of this stuff. So I sympathize with them, but at the same time, I almost want to verbally shake some of the CLC commenters and say “You are the church.”

    Period.

    Waiting passively for someone to step in and “fix” this = nobody’s going to fix anything (except in terms of perpetuating the racket).

    (Am beginning to feel a bit like what used to be called “outside agitators.” ;))

  11. (It may seem as though my comment above is attacking any pastor who draws a salary from his congregation. I don’t mean to do that, but rather to highlight the SGM idolatry that I call “corporate Christianity.” It can infect churches of any size, but is a principal idol at SGM.)

  12. Excellent blog post.

    I have posted this on other blogs but here is my thought. Hopefully it isn’t too long.

    One thought came to me this evening when I was out.

    I previously commented (on another blog) on how sad it was for Mahaney to assume he would be at the Pastors’ conference coming up later this year and stand there with Larry Tomczak etc. That shouldn’t be something for him to decide after all he has done.

    My thought was why is Mahaney even smugly so sure that there will be a pastors’ conference later this and for that matter that Sovereign Grace won’t implode before the scheduled date of the pastors’ conference? Does Mahaney not realize what affect his sin and the sin of the other SGM Leaders that didn’t do anything about his sin might have on SGM?

    Harris did good a job on Sunday night of shoring up at least his church from implosion but that isn’t a guarantee that it still won’t happen. It is still quite possible that CLC and/or SGM may implode or have a big split. This is especially probable when you hear how smugly SGM Fairfax and SGM Richmond (Kingsway) Leaders took this revelation about Mahaney.

    It is appalling to read where Mahaney to be making all these assumptions. It is like he is saying I confessed my sin of deception that went on for 14 years, said there are problems we need to address, reconciled with Tomczak so things will just continue. Mahaney may find things might not work this way.

    It might serve Mahaney well (play on SGM terms) to do some reading on David and the consequences that happened as a result of David’s sin with Bathsheba. The effect of David’s sin both on himself and Israel was quite severe. Nathan prophesied that what David did in private others were going to do to his concubine in broad daylight and it happened. David found himself having to flee etc. As I recall it also caused a civil war in Israel.

    Does Mahaney not even think that some similar type of judgement might happen to him and SGM as a result of his sin? It sounds like he doesn’t even think there is a possibility. How sad.

    It is encouraging to hear Josh call for fasting and prayer. It is a shame you don’t hear about this from pastors of other SGM Churches, especially Kingsway and Fairfax. Plead to God for mercy. Kingsway has already seen some judgment with loss of members. The reports about Fairfax Leaders is pretty sad.

    Maybe Mahaney ought to read Psalm 51 and take that approach not to mention a “sackcloth and ashes” attitude.

  13. Don,

    To what extent is SGM charismatic?

    You are correct in your asessment of American, visible, institutional, “Christianity” being guilty of devolving into a type of corporatism.

    If the LORD blesses with suffering, like our brethren in China, then we will see genuine reformation.

  14. I have followed your observations about Maheney over the last year or two. I, and my church, disagree with the leadership style, the claim of “Apostleship”, and the apparent way in which elders at the church get involved in personal matters involving families and legal issues (trying to hide child abuse).

    Your writing about Joshua Harris put me on the alert so that I was able to nip in the bud the efforts of some home school parents in the youth group to have his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” become an official youth group read.

    My pastor enjoys T4G and The Gospel Coalition meetings. I suspect that he will continue to enjoy those conferences. He really doesn’t keep up with Maheney’s views of church polity, and I am not sure Maheney’s views in that area are prevalent at those conferences.

    I have no idea if Maheney should be rehabilitated or whether he will be. I am not really that concerned about it. I do know that Dever is really big on congregational rule, not elder rule, and especially note weird elder rule.

    I guess we’ll see what happens, but I am not really anxious about it or waiting with baited breath. Maheney’s ministry has never touched my life. I feel badly for churches that have elder leadership such as you have chronicled coming out of Maheney’s ministries. I hope, more than anything, that this will give Maheney an opportunity to rethink what he believes and teaches in that area, but if it doesn’t or does, I may not notice (unless you guys write about it).

    Take care and good luck.

  15. SGM overall is, at this point, not very charismatic at all. Certain congregations are more open to open displays of the Spirit, but it’s not at all as it was in the 1980s.

    In his #3 or #4 doc, Brent tells how his more-charismatic interpretation of doctrine was one of the factors that led to his ouster. Seems everyone else’s position continued to evolve, as they were influenced more and more by cessationist books, teachers and conferences.

    So much I could say, but I already have tonight. :-P

  16. I am repeatedly baffled by all these people who think Mahaney stepping down under these circumstances just go to show how “humble” Mahaney is.

    Isn’t the only reason that Mahaney stepped down was the release of Brent’s documents? Had these documents not been released Mahaney wouldn’t have stepped down. Mahaney stepped down only when his sin was publicly or about to be exposed.

    Had Manhaney been truly humble he would have stepped down before these documents were made public such as when Brent was privately trying to confront Mahaney. Better yet maybe he should have done this soon after he blackmailed Larry Tomczak.

  17. CJ’s self-serving letter of side-stepping should have been a letter of permanent resignation showing true sorrow for his actions. The crazy thing about his list of “sins” is that they’re all pretty nebulous, basically unmeasureable. Brent’s documents, however, show some pretty specific acts that demonstrate these sins. But these are all what run-of-the-mill SGMers would be accused of anytime they questioned or deviated from the carefully prescribed norm of acceptable behavior. It’s hogwash. Whoever heard of the sin of “unentreatability”? CJ’s letter and Brent’s documents are filled with enough SGMese to keep us gagging till Kingdom Come. Sentences like “I have enlisted so-and-so to SERVE ME…” demonstrate exactly how humble the writer of the humilty book really is. And the documents show that the A-Team wasn’t thrilled about the humility book anyway. I’m still incredulous that a publisher was duped into buying that load of horse hockey. And doubly incredulous that the A-Team who’ll cut anybody else off at the knees (and did so on many occasions) had no guts at all when it came to standing up to CJ. But they knew if they did, he’d have them fired.

    And the pastor-formerly-known-as-apostle at the Richmond church STILL continues in his position, though somewhere around 400 members “voted him out” when they left the building.

    It’s going to take a lot more than Josh Harris’ Sunday sermon to make a difference. Sadly, the first battle Harris may have to fight is with the other ‘former apostles’ who took entirely different views of the situation from their own bully pulpits on Sunday morning. The guy who’s been dancing on the point of the pyramid for years fell sideways, but is still hanging on — and the others are going to vie for the top spot — wait and see. And none of them are qualified — because every single person involved in this organization has been poisoned and damaged. I believe they started out as sincere believers, hoping to change the world — but they forgot that Jesus is the One who changes the world. We just get to help.

    I have a feeling that there are more bombshells yet to drop. Lord, help us.

  18. Steve/Nickname

    Al Mohler has come out swinging in defense of Mahaney. I am afraid that Mahaney’s star will continue to shine brightly in these horrible Calvinista circles which exist to impose, like Pharisees, a brand of the faith based in shame and rules.

    I believe we are entering dark days for the joyous faith of our fathers. We now will need to don sackcloth and ashes and join CJ forever at the foot of a cross from which Jesus has never left.

  19. Don

    Keep speaking!!!! The evolution of the charismatic issues within SGM points directly at the chameleon-like theology of Mahaney. It changes to suit his aspirations. Here is a question to ask those who were charismatic who are now considering cessationism. If they now believe that, what was happening to them before-a psychological aberration?

  20. Anonymous 11:45

    I would urge you to seriously rethink that Mahaney will not influence your church and your life. Al Mohler, a principle in T4G, Gospel Coalition, et al. has just come out swinging on behalf of Mahaney. Why? Mahaney represents the thinking of those who run those organizations. Here is a link to the media report.

    http://blogs.courier-journal.com/faith/2011/07/12/mohler-backs-mahaney-dismisses-accusations-of-abusive-leadership/

    Note the observation that this movement is marked by strong church discipline. Warning: that is not what you think. I got sucked into this one myself. This is not throwing some guy who is living with his girlfriend out of the church. It is all about throwing out those who would raise a question about certain secondary theological issues. Already, Piper raised the excommunication word when he said, “Now, I am not saying we should excommunicate those who do not adhere to Reformed (meaning our version of Reformed thinking)… but they can’t be leaders in the church.”

    Why did he even bring up the excommunication word? Have you ever considered excommunicating someone who was not a five point calvinist? I think this sort of thing is being discussed more and more. Piper seems to think he was being “nice”. I frankly believe that this is a harbinger of things to come.

    Blessings

  21. Anonymous 11:44

    The question is not “to what extent is SGM charismatic” but how has it changed. It started out very charismatic. But, as CJ began to suck up to the SBC Reformed crowd, the charismatic thing was a hindrance. So, it was de-emphasized. I am not charismatic. However, this is a secondary issue. I find it interesting that Mahaney, charismatic could turn on a dime about his beliefs and emphasis. So, what does he say about his charismatic beliefs in the past. Was it psychological? Is cessationism actually occurring now instead of the immediate post apostle era? Fascinating question for me.

  22. Steve

    It is all over regarding Mahaney. Here is the proof. Al Mohler is already saying Mahaney didn’t do anything worthy of being removed from his position.

    http://blogs.courier-journal.com/faith/2011/07/12/mohler-backs-mahaney-dismisses-accusations-of-abusive-leadership/

    This is the beginning of the end for any movement to remove Mahaney. CJ, the theological gypsy that he is, ran into the arms of strong, patriarchal authoritarians, threw money at them and is now forever entrenched. Yep, i am most pessimistic.

  23. Don

    I never once thought of you as attacking any pastor who gets a salary. It is an interesting debate that has been ongoing since Viola wrote his fascinating book, Pagan Christianity.

  24. Numo

    Bad news. Al Mohler is saying Mahaney did nothing worthy of being removed. Mahaney will be back, stronger than ever. The people who stay in SGM will deserve what comes next.

  25. Dee,

    I find the charismatic portion of this interesting. Speaking in tongues, prophetic utterances, and other “gifts of the Holy Spirit”.

    Had you asked any of them, how they knew that those gifts were real…you would have gotten, a flood of responses along the lines of “I know because I can feel the Holy Spirit moving through me”!

    In short, the same responses that I get from Christians when I question the existence of God. Until you’re a Christian, you’re unable to know like I do that God exists or to “understand” the Bible. For the charismatic followers of C.J., change it to read “Until you’re baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can’t understand the gifts of the Spirit…we’ll pray for you.

    I find it fascinating that Christians can look at the C.J. fiasco, see the cognitive dissonance in action and still not see any similarities.

    As I said before…”What do Christians and vampires have in common?…Neither can look into a mirror and see their own reflection”.

    :)

  26. Deb

    New word: We are getting “Calvinized.” A whole theology could be built on this word. More to come.

  27. Ligon Duncan: “It would have been very easy for the leadership of SGM to ignore and dismiss these charges, because so many of them are so evidently self-serving and spurious accusations.”

    Classic.

  28. Anonymous

    We were played, big time. We will discuss this tomorrow. I have been soooooo naive.

    Signed

    Just another “wounded blogger” ;0

  29. They were using the playbook all along. Does anyone think CJ would put his career plans into the hands of bloggers?

  30. Mohler – Duncan, et al — have forgotten that GOD is the one doing the moving and shaking.

    The fat lady hasn’t finished her aria. I believe Mohler and Duncan will soon choke on their words. CJ may take them down with him.

  31. Ligon says, in part…

    “I would then encourage you to ignore the assaults of wounded people on attack websites and blogs, and that you discount the opinings of those who have no real knowledge of these matters or relation to SGM or authority to comment upon them”

    “wounded people”, “Attack websites”…well, let’s make sure we paint them in all the right colors, lest anyone actually form an opinion from the facts.

    This, more than anything smacks of authoritarianism. There isn’t any sign that these leaders trust in the ability of their flocks to come to a reasonable conclusion based solely on the facts.

    If they want to “clear the air”, then maybe they should spend more time communicating exactly what the problem is and how they plan on dealing with it, rather than cloistering their follows in a well controlled bubble of pseudo-information.

    Next thing you know they’ll be dropping leaflets from airplanes and we’ll be listening to broadcasts of “Sovereign Rose”.

  32. “The fat lady hasn’t finished her aria. I believe Mohler and Duncan will soon choke on their words. CJ may take them down with him.”

    You are dreaming. Mahaney will get a standing O at T4G, you just wait.

  33. Lin

    Amen, sister. They have played us and I am kicking myself. At least it only took us about 6 days to figure it out. This thing is OVER. I believe Harris was primed to play the role. We will outline our discovery of our own stupidity tomorrow.

    Once again they do not speak of those in pain from this ministry. They don’t care. The only ones who matter are THEM and their dang conferences and books.

    Still kicking myself so I really look the part of an Assyrian, wounded, hateful blogger.

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  35. As I said on my blog, it is possible to time humility. CJ just proved it.

    They have been playing us for years. Now, they just have to be more clever because of blogs. If you notice, they have defined the issue for us. They hvae made it strictly about problems within leadership. This is crucial. It feeds into the authoritarism paradigm and spanks the sheep for butting in. It also keeps the issue of molestation and spiriutal abuse off the burner to actually acknowledge.

    So, it goes like this: Leadership sinned against each other and we are helping them deal with it. Now, go mind your business and send in your check, like a good sheeple.

  36. Dee,

    Keep up the good work. TWW is the WikiLeaks of the evangelical world. Just as the world has the right to know and see on video cam when an Apache gunship lights up a van full of unarmed Iraqui non-combatants, including little kids, so they have the right to know when religious despots abuse their flocks.

  37. “This thing is OVER”

    “Once again they do not speak of those in pain from this ministry. They don’t care. The only ones who matter are THEM and their dang conferences and books”

    Sadly, and I mean truly sadly, I believe you will be proven correct in your asessment. The voices of Mohler/Duncan, and others in the Gospel Coalition (men I have respected, but if the present pattern continues my opinion will of necessity be impacted) set the tone, and it does look as though this scandalous revelation, and all of the years of hurt perpetrated against the sheep, will be summarily dismissed and forgotten by most of professing Christendom.

    The thing that bothers me is not the drama and accusations between the SGM leadership (and I mean reading such namby pamby trash makes me wanna vomit) but the multitudes of precious souls that have been roughshodded and abandoned. This lack of love……clear lack of Christian love…..I mean this idea of “strong” leadership as stated by Mohler…..New Testament/New Covenant church leadership is not tyrannical…….. where are these guys coming from in this? I am of the Calvinistic persuasion and I would never go along with this type of dictatorial harshness. I have personally resisted and withstood such men. The word of GOD will not allow for it, and is clear that those in the eldership are not to assert themselves as “lords,” but rather, servants of all, exhibiting patience, maturity, and wisdom as godly examples–convincing by persuasion not coercion. Autocrats, are by definition, biblically disqualified.

    What can we do besides entrust ourselves to the ONE who promised to never forsake us, and realize that all of this is about something much larger than any one person or group of people–in scope? I mean the ultimate purposes of the LORD can’t be thwarted. As far as we are concerned, as we live our lives, never knowing from minute to minute all of the possibilities and variables………..we do know that the fear and sting of death is removed for all that have faith in CHRIST……..and the ending of all our individual stories, at least from our vantage point, has not been written, existing only, as of yet, in the infinite mind of GOD.

  38. That(apparently apocryphal)quote from Gandhi comes to mind: “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians.”

    How very sad that “See how they love one another” has become “See how they hate and attack and blackmail and abuse and lie and cheat and steal and…”

    There oughta be a law.

  39. Jonathan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I concur with what you have written. We will have much more to say tomorrow. We’re just getting started…

  40. Bene D,

    I haven’t see the article you mention. Do you have a link because I’d love to read it.

  41. “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.”

    Seriously? Ack!

    “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.’”

    This demonstrates what we’ve suspected all along — Mohler and others in their circles wish they had Mahaney’s level of unquestioned authority in their own churches.

  42. Johnathan
    Dead on. They don’t care about the congregation. They only care about themselves and their dadblasted “authority.” One day they will stand before the ultimate authority.

  43. Junkster

    We have all been played for fools. I now believe this is a carefully orchestrated situation. I am kicking myself for being suckered in.

  44. Lin

    Great rejoicing in certain circles, I’m sure. But, the SBC continues to lose members. It hasn’t helped much.Pretty picture, btw.

  45. Muff
    Thanks for the shout out. I am putting on my battle armor. This Calvinista thing is about to get ugly.

  46. Lin

    You and I are not the sort to toodle off into that fair night. I have had it with this group. I was mad before. Now, I am furious.

  47. Karl
    Awesome sense of humor. It is about to get nauseating. I fell for it for a few days. No more. We come out swinging tomorrow.

  48. BeneD

    He is sucking them into his well orchestrated delusions. It happened for me for a couple of days. I’ve seen the light.

  49. Dee:

    Thanks for the link to the Courier Journal article and Mohler’s statements.

    Mohler is responsible for his own statements and judgments here. I think that Detweiler’s (sp?) summary was pretty accurate. He is not critical of Mohler for what Mohler said.

    It’s pretty clear that Mohler was looking for a smoking gun type sin – sex, finances etc. And finding none of that, but also seeing the criticism of Maheny is wrapped up in ministry leadership, polity, personal relationships, basically backed his friend.

    If I were on the Board of the Gospel Coalition, I would not kick Maheny off from what little I have read about this either. (Of course, Maheny would not be my pick to be on the board in the first place, for theological reasons). But without some bright line type of offense, all of these problems seem to relate to 1) theological problems relating to church polity, that causes Maheny and his followers to have a very weird view of eldership etc. Again, that would be enough for me not to have him on the board. But if you have already swallowed that pill and it’s not the purpose or focus of the Gospel Coalition (polity and other matters are not disqualifiers), then problems that relate to that polity are not going to be disqualifiers, either, and 2) personality issues. It’s not an excuse, but it’s common for type A people who lead organizations to have disputes with people and to have issues with their own personalities and the way they treat people. To get into disputes in another organization to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong is such a dautning task, and one often feels that unless you lived it, you don’t know the whole story, is a difficult thing. I know every few associate pastors in churches who would not say that the senior pastor can be a real jerk at times.

    I guess time will tell what tumbles out. It could get so bad that Maheny’s reputation would tar any other organizations he is associated with. But if the allegations are not sex, finances or some other issue that is objectively obvious to others, it may blow over (at least outside of SGM).

    Inside, SGM, however, it could be over for him. He’ll need to start a new movement or something or a new group of churches.

  50. Dee, you said..

    “Dead on. They don’t care about the congregation. They only care about themselves and their dadblasted “authority.” One day they will stand before the ultimate authority.”

    Not sure what you’re referring to, I wasn’t planning on inviting ANY of them over for dinner?
    :)

  51. I have spent some time these past weeks and days reading from the SGM survivors blog and other survivor blogs.I have also read past posts on this blog. I am simply disgusted. I did not put Josh Harris with his book on courtship until now, but do remember when the book came out and was the topic on programs such as Focus on the Family several years ago. I dismissed it as fanatical and somewhat crazy. I would label SGM in this same category. I see now why so many were concerned that CJ Mahaney was speaking at SBC events.

    This type of teaching is dangerous, controlling people, and leaving liberty in Christ as well as the control of the Holy Spirit completely behind.

    I am Calvinist as I have said. This doctrine to me is freeing not bundled up in a cult like state. This has all the earmarks of a cult. God help us if we were to welcome such a church into our lives or denomination. Listening to CJ Mahaney’s sermons one would think as I did that Christ was the center, period. In fact Christ was not the center, legalism,manipulation, and terrible spiritual abuse was the center.

  52. Dee: As I look at the timeline in the docs, the history you’ve provided in other posts, the length of time people were kept in the dark – I think the public is being played.

    There are going to be some in the pews and in leadership who are convicted. God will hear them and walk with them.

    But what I’m seeing looks to me like the same old same old, well planned out series of moves. Call it politics, pr, saving the organization…

    Everyone knows their steps. Mohler, Duncan, Mahaney (and more to come) will hit their mark, sound their note. Harris is such a product of the system that if God is convicting him he needs prayer because if he doesn’t serve the agenda, he’ll be squished like a bug. He is currently meeting emotional and seeking needs.

    Anyone inside such a manipulative system needs to get out to heal.
    While I know God works miracles, all we have to do is look at prior sheparding organizations where conviction occurred. Did anyone breeze through and fix their system? No. God will go to any lengths to conform us into his image and likeness, ask the walkaways and the wounded.
    While I do believe some are called to stay and work from the inside out, (and they to need our prayers) that window of opportunity may only be open so long.

    It’s early, but here’s the thing – the public framing is quite skillful. The same old same old emotional manipulation is at play.
    The good ‘ol boys, we can fix this belief is not yielding and will not yield easily.

    Leadership had a head start, as much as they spin this, they had time to make choices. The plan has been made public for the most part.
    Mahaney stated it.
    He gets his man hug from Larry onstage in front of fanboys after an arbitrary acceptable time (and loss of SGM potential income) and all is well.
    Mohler stated it.
    There will be business as usual on the circuit.
    Celebrity friends keep Mahaney’s disclosures and Mahaney’s restoration all in the family. They have things to protect also.
    We’ll hear the celeb friend/pastors state it.

    Villianize whistleblowers. That’s a time honoured tradition. It works.
    Create scapegoats. Assyrians anyone?
    Refuse adaptation recommended by outsider, and keep most recommendations under wrapss. That is what SGM has done in the past, why would it be any different now? We all know what that will sound like.

    Make this about Mahaney (and keep leaders in the public eye as victims). He continues to be the lynchpin (for now).
    Hammer it into the public conscience that he is being maligned.
    Let’s not kid ourselves, the anger at having been forced to go public may bubble out a bit, but these guys are masters of performance.
    Keep the same people pulling the strings until the public simmers down. Keep issuing statements were the framing is done by loyalists.

    What stands to be lost for SGM and the other organizations?
    Money.
    Earning potential.
    Followers. (And like it or not that pool is limited)
    Reputation.
    Expansion.

    As with any good pr plan, there are unknowns.
    The knowns are right under our nose.

    Any organization is difficult to turn around. Resisting change is a given, and it’s more of a given when people used to power are convinced they have had their backs put against a wall.

    The public doesn’t really matter here, SGM leaders can dance for us the same way they dance for their followers.

    I think over the next while there are going to be members who are going to have to make the same decision walkaways have for slightly different reasons, shake the dust off and leave the leadership to play out their sheparding dysfunction.

  53. Debbie,

    Thanks for your comment, and I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written. I am busily writing today’s post, and after you read it you will be even more alarmed.

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  55. Dee,

    not sure how that link got there…I was going to ask you to put one there, when I got here..there it was .. guess it’s a WordPress thing maybe.

    Well, in any case trying to keep a list of links and put up a poll for those who have an idea how to fix this problem.

    Enjoy!

  56. Debbie:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this matter. I wish I had time to read through all the documents. I just don’t.

    Dee:

    Look forward to tomorrow’s post.

  57. Karlton:

    Pardon me, but I have to ask.

    Have your read through all the stuff relating to Maheney? I understand from previous comments from you that you are atheistic or agnostic.

    I am glad that you follow this blog because it is enjoyable to dialogue with you.

    But I am wondering what fascination a guy like Maheny has for you? Is it a personal connection?

    I know several atheists, and they are not into Christian blogs to begin with. If they venture in, it’s because some broad topic is being covered.

    Maheny and his “family” of churches seems obscure.

    What’s the attraction for you? Just another car wreck on the Christian Highway?

  58. Anon,

    When I was a Christian, I attended TAG, The Gathering of Believers and for a short time Covenant Life. I know both Larry, Che Ahn and C.J. (at least I knew them years ago).

    So, if not for religious reasons, but maybe more personal ones, I find what’s happening, interesting.

  59. Oh. That explains it perfectly. Of course it would be interesting with that background. Not only is it interesting, but you probably can interpret the documents better than most. I have not read them, but I suspect that like most communication there references and concepts that insiders or former insiders can appreciate and understand better than the outsiders, such as I.

    I don’t know any of these guys. I have seen C.J., but wouldn’t know Larry or Che Ahn if they walked in my office.

    Take care and good luck with everything.

  60. I suspect that one of the reasons Mohler et al are supportive of Mahaney is that charges against Mahaney (“various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy”) are the very same things that the Calvinista leaders and many mega church pastors and large ministry honchos are accused of regularly. That is, to them, no big deal — just the usual complaints of dissatisfied and bitter troublemakers.

  61. Interesting that I get some different from what Mohler is saying.

    “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.”

    I do not think Mohler is saying Mahaney didn’t do anything wrong. I think he is saying that there is nothing (in Mohler’s opinion) that can’t be worked with, worked out, and forgiven.

    “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.”

    Mohler is basically saying here that a thorough investigation needs to be done to make sure there isn’t anything wrong going on. I don’t see how you can view this as Mohler totally dismissing the idea that there is a problem.

  62. Shato

    Old warrior of Tang-are you involved in psychological warfare or did you just take a happy pill this AM? Mohler is defending Mahaney and has glossed over everything that has been problematic about this ministry for years.

  63. Dee,

    Doing some more digging, but concerning Peter Smith…doesn’t this from his bio raise a few eyebrows?

    “He has a bachelor’s from Oral Roberts University and a master’s of arts in religion from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.”

  64. Dee,

    Bene D said something to the effect of: “…Villianize whistleblowers. That’s a time honoured tradition. It works…”

    Aren’t you glad the big guns of militant calvinism cannot do to you what the U.S. Government has done to Bradley Manning?

  65. To be honest I don’t know a thing about Mohler. I’ve never read anything he has written (except for this statement) and I’ve never listened to a sermon. I don’t have any preconceived notions. I was just taking his statement at face value. Is he sticking up for his friend? Yes. Is he saying Mahaney did nothing wrong and there’s nothing to investigage? No. And he thinks pride, etc are not reasons for stepping down like sexual immorality and embezzlement are.

  66. Shato

    I suggest you get to know who Mohler is. He isn’t just some dude who is sticking up for his best buddy.


  67. Spiritual Tyranny

    Excellent dissection of the Mahaney letter as compared to SGM’s own “sin, confession, and reconciliation mantra”. I now picture CJ navel-gazing in his period of reflection and reconciliation. HA!

  68. Trinity Watcher

    Don’t count ol CJ out. He is a chameleon who knows how to outrun trouble. This oughtta be interesting.

  69. HowDee YaAll,

    C.J. Mahaney absolved of all failings?

    No sexual indiscretion, no pilfering  of the offering plate.

    OK.

    C.J. Mahaney’s alleged actions included blackmail, character assignation, and  of defrauding this man of the very ministry, he, Larry Tomsczak, –was primarily instrumental in creating.

    No Problemo!

    These actions are seen as minor failings by certain big names in the reformed movement.

    All forgiven?

    Sure.

    Who are we, to doubt the validity of their claims?

    hahahahahahahaha

    Sopy