Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. C. S. Lewis
C.J. Mahaney’s mantra – “Change is here to stay” – has been especially true of Sovereign Grace Ministries since he began a leave of absence on June 30, or was that July 6? Change has been occurring at breakneck speed over the last few days, and it has been extremely difficult to keep up!
The most recent development is that Joshua Harris has ‘resigned’ (to use Peter Smith’s journalistic technique) from the SGM board. Dave Harvey, who ‘took over’ after Mahaney’s departure, made that stunning announcement on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website. Here’s what Harvey wrote: “This past week we (the Sovereign Grace Board and Joshua Harris) came to the mutual decision that it would be best for Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries for Joshua to step down from his role as a board member.”
The first sign of dissension between Josh Harris and his fellow board members was the absence of Josh’s name at the bottom of a July 13th proclamation that essentially exonerates Mahaney. You can read the board’s “official” position in its entirety here.
There are FIVE resolves in the SGM Board’s statement; however, these are the three that stood out to us:
“2. That Brent Detwiler’s distribution of written accusations against C.J. Mahaney to all Sovereign Grace pastors constitutes the public slander of Mahaney’s reputation.
4. That C.J. Mahaney is a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry in Sovereign Grace and the wider body of Christ.
5. That Sovereign Grace Ministries will engage a process of evaluation regarding CJ Mahaney's fitness for ministry.”
With regard to item 2, it appears the SGM Board doesn’t know the difference between “slander” and “libel”. Slander involves oral communication; libel involves written statements. Why aren’t SGM’s attorneys catching these mistakes?
We find items 4 and 5 to be at contradictory. If Mahaney is a “qualified minister of the gospel” who has gained the approval of the board regarding his pastoral and teaching ministry in SGM, why in the world do they need to evaluate his fitness for ministry. Clearly, item 5 invalidates item 4.
Joshua Harris’ departure from the SGM Board just yesterday is catching the attention of both secular and Christian news outlets. Peter Smith, the religion reporter for the Courier-Journal, chimed in with this headline: “Mahaney protégé parts from board”.
We are grateful that Smith concludes his update with these “observations”: “Mahaney is a leader in the revival of Calvinism among some conservative evangelicals, a movement particularly strong at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He and seminary president Albert Mohler, who continues to support Mahaney, often speak at the same conferences and serve on the same boards. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace have each contributed at least $100,000 to the seminary, according to its publications.” Thanks Peter! We believe you are the first journalist to document the money trail that goes from C.J. Mahaney / SGM to Al Mohler / SBTS.
Christianity Today also reported on Josh Harris’ resignation from the SGM board via its live blog. You can read it here. In the article, CT reveals: “Multiple bloggers reported that Harris stated in his Sunday sermon that ‘our denomination is being publicly spanked, we are being humiliated and being brought low.’” Such an admission is likely one of the primary reasons why Josh Harris ‘resigned’ (we believe “booted out” may be more accurate explanation for what occurred to Josh).
Commenters are beginning to chime in on the Christianity Today website. Here is what Patti had to say in response to this CT post:
“These events within SGM/and especially with CJ have been occurring for many years! There are numbers of us who have been substantially harmed by SGM and CJ. When someone steps forward like Joshua is beginning to do, to defend the truth, it somewhat helps with the healing. For many of us, we can see Gods Spirit in this. We pray that God is at work in setting things right. Many of us have prayed for justice! We pray Joshua has continued strength and courage to continue walking in the light.”
Just minutes after announcing Joshua Harris’ resignation from the SGM board, Dave Harvey posted an explanation. You can read his “Where we differ and where we agree” post at this link. Harvey explains:
“A few minutes ago, we announced that Joshua Harris is resigning from the SGM board. If you're wondering what that may represent, let me just make a couple of points. First and primarily, as a board we still have a strong desire for Josh’s input, and all parties involved are eager to keep the partnership strong between SGM and CLC. Josh has graciously agreed to keep attending our board meetings as requested to give us counsel, and for that we are very grateful. Second, Josh and the board agree on many things about our current season.” Then Dave Harvey goes on to explain their differences by writing: “But we disagree on some important matters too. For example, we disagree in our interpretation of this current season of ministry. Is God disciplining all of Sovereign Grace Ministries right now? Josh says yes, and we’re open to that conclusion. But before arriving at that conclusion we would want to walk through a process of evaluating all of SGM, which we have not done yet. It also became apparent that Josh and the board think differently on how best to help C.J. engage with an evaluation, and how the board should exercise leadership as that process unfolds. These differences in our thinking are important and it recently became clear that the other 10 board members and Josh are in a different place on these issues.”
Harvey concludes by explaining that Harris and the board agree on about 98% of things. It is statements like this that demonstrate how closed minded the leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries can be. Why even have a board if differing viewpoints are not permitted? The board may as well be comprised of robots.
As we look back on recent events regarding Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, it appears that Mohler and Duncan tried to control the flow of information by silencing Mahaney’s critics. Unfortunately for CJ's T4G buddies, the spotlight is focused directly on SGM and the coverage of this debacle is increasing by the day. It’s highly unlikely that this story is going away any time soon.
Here is another Christianity Today article that may be of interest to our readers.
As those outside SGM, including bloggers, continue to dig deeper into the alleged abuses by Mahaney and this “family of churches”, we predict that the exposure will only increase. Buckle you seatbelts folks because we may be in for a long hard ride!
What absolutely amazes us is that the very medium that has enabled Sovereign Grace Ministries to gain a tremendous amount of positive publicity – the internet – is the very communication tool that is bringing so much negative exposure as these events unfold. Truly, the internet is proving to be a double-edged sword.
Even more incredible, the blogs that have worked especially hard to expose the shortcomings (to put it nicely) of Sovereign Grace Ministries – SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge – are now ‘serving’ Brent Detweiler as a platform from which he can address the charges the SGM board is leveling at him. While Detweiler has been highly criticized on these two blogs, they now function as his microphone, which we find extremely ironic. Who could have ever imagined that Brent would be submitting comments for publication on these anti-SGM blogs?
Check out the most recent post at SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge to see what we mean. Remarks From Brent, An Explanation And A Thought Brent Responds to “Slander” Accusations Hats off to Kris and Guy over at Survivors and Jim and Carole at the Refuge for doing a yeoman’s work in keeping everyone informed of the latest changes regarding Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who is being affected by this BIG MESS. Although we have been critical of Josh Harris in the past, we want him to know that we are praying for him as he strives to go against the status quo in SGM.
Finally, we have been earnestly praying for those who have been hurt by this hyper-authoritarian organization. May you hear that still small voice and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.
We leave you with this song from Disney’s Jungle Book movie.
Lydia’s Corner: 2 Samuel 18:1-19:10 John 20:1-31 Psalm 119:153-176 Proverbs 16:14-15