“But what is the use of preaching the Gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive?” William Booth
Carina Nebula-Hubble Telescope
A well-known, former member of SGM contacted TWW to convey some thoughts regarding the role of women in SGM. Although we know her identity, we will give her the pseudonym of Evie. As an aside, what is it about the culture of SGM that drives people underground?
With her characteristic sense of humor, she asked us to convey that she was compelled by other women to serve us by sharing her observations about this issue. However, she had to do so hurriedly because she had a cake in the oven. Sound familiar to anyone?
Evie intrigued us right off the bat when she said that the word ’Gospel’ is not used in a normal sense within SGM. I hastened to add that I, too, have been noticing various speakers and writers who use terms such as “Gospel marriage”, “Gospel parenting”, “Gospel lifestyle”, etc. I have noted that this seems to be the case for many involved in the Reformed movement. Recently, I asked some friends, deeply committed Christians, what they thought was meant by this use of the word ”Gospel.” Stupid me, I thought the word referred to the Good News of John 3:16. I quoted some of the hot new writers who use this term as an adjective to describe just about anything.
According to the online Merriam Webster dictionary, LINK, this word means
“a often capitalized : the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation
b capitalized : one of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ”
Both of these I understood. However, notice what “c” means.
c : an interpretation of the Christian message <the social gospel>"
The more I dwelt on this subject, the more I became concerned that “Gospel” may be a loaded word when used by certain individuals who are committed to a hard-line, Calvinistic world view.
In fact, I have seen this sort of thing before with the word ”Biblical.” Note the name “The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” This group has co-opted the word Biblical to mean extreme complementarianism, leaving no room for the possibility that other perspectives on gender roles might be “Biblical.” Nope, they are the only “Biblical” perspective in the gender debate, highlighting the utter arrogance of their theological exegesis.
Could it be that the word “Gospel” is also infused with a hidden, nonnegotiable code that goes far beyond John 3:16? Evie says yes!
According to her, SGM mandates that men and women are designed to be completely different. The leadership defines the roles according to their specific understanding of the Gospel. If a person rejects their narrow definition of gender roles, then that person is said to be “outside of the Gospel.”
In fact, this Gospel is defined as a set of roles, which are bounded by two truths:
At Theopedia LINK we learn:
"Complementarianism is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. It is rooted in more literal interpretations of the Creation account and the roles of men and women presented in Scripture. It is also known as the Traditionalist or Hierarchical view."
2. The Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS).
At SBC Voices we read LINK
"Eternal Subordination is encapsulated by this phrase, “ontological equality but economic subordination,” or “equal in being but subordinate in role.”
TWW has railed against the doctrine of ESS, primarily because the patriarchs over at Southern Seminary use this to define both their patriarchal role today as well as their patriarchal role for all eternity with women who will be eternally subordinate to them.
However, we had never closely looked at what was underlying this doctrine and why it is vital to those who embrace rigid complementarianism. For the first time, I saw this at Biblical Answers LINK and realized the implications of such beliefs.
"2) Complementarian – Although the Son has the exact nature of the Father he has always had a role that is functionally subordinate to the Father (the Father role and Son's role complement each other). This view is is sometimes called "functional subordination" (the Son's subordination is with respect to his function only, rather than his true nature). Some who hold this position question whether the subordination applies to Jesus pre-human life.
3) Egalitarian – Jesus was never subordinate to his Father with the possible exception during the time he was on earth (Luke 2:51) in his mortal body when he voluntarily gave up his functional prerogatives as God."
Why does SGM, along with similar Reformed groups (Calvinistas), such as Al Mohler’s SBTS, refer to Jesus as “Savior?”
Jesus is called the Savior because that is His role within the Godhead. From this, these patriarchal leaders develop a finely honed hierarchy.
Gender roles define God blessings.
According to Evie, SGM teaches that God’s blessings come to us only when we fulfill our gender roles. In other words, a positive relationship with Jesus is predicated on a correct observance of gender distinctions.
The word "Gospel" is defined by the fulfillment of one's role within the family.
Within the family, the "living out" of the Gospel is defined by correctly fulfilling one's gender role. The husband is the head. So, the woman, who is subordinate, must be obedient to her head.
So, if the husband is the head, to whom does he report?
This is where the insistence of referring to Jesus only as “Savior” gets interesting. If Christ is relegated to the role of Savior, then all the male leaders at SGM are the Head to which the husbands are to be subordinate.
So, what is the role of our patriarchal leaders?
Within SGM, and similar organizations, leaders are particularly blessed because they are part of a special group. You see, the pastors are subordinate to the SGM central leaders and those leaders report to CJ Mahaney who then reports directly to God!
I hail from the Boston area. In the last century, there were two families, the Cabots and the Lodges, who unofficially ran the upper echelons of society due to the long-term influence of their enormous, old wealth. I learned a saying growing up. “In Boston, the home of baked beans and scrod, the Cabots talk to the Lodges and the Lodges talk only to God.” Darned if it doesn’t fit this situation.
What about single adults?
Evie states that one’s status is defined by roles within the family. So, if you are single and aren’t living under daddy’s auspices, then you have a very low status in the organization. You must report to, or be under, the pastor of a particular church. In fact, Evie claims they brought in Carolyn McCulley to model this for the “ladies.” I believe McCulley was the one who said that she could not make any judgments on the teaching of a male pastor because she was a woman. I guess the brain ceases to function when a male pontificates. I know I experience befuddlement when I hear Mahaney speak.
Is the system working?
Evie claims it is not. She believes that women function out of strict obedience to a set of man dictated rules and are not necessarily acting by the direction of the Holy Spirit. She says that if a woman in SGM stays home, it is usually due to obedience to a role defined by SGM, not unlike the rules dictated by the Pharisees back in Jesus’ day. In other words, she does what is expected of her instead of doing it out of conviction of the Spirit.
So, what happens if a man wishes to stay home and care for the children while the wife pursues further education?
This is not permissible according to the dictates of the misapplied doctrine of ESS. According to the leadership, this would be going “against the Gospel.”
Did you know that a woman, Lydia Little, started the group that led to the present day Sovereign Grace Ministries?
CJ Mahaney saw an opportunity when he started attending this group. He essentially fomented a rebellion and took over the group because she was woman and needed male authority.
He then “ramped up” the male authority culture, according to Evie.
How did this play out?
According to Evie, Carolyn Mahaney used to sit down front in church to support her husband. But, as the male thing ratcheted up, she reportedly moved her seat to the back of the church because it was more “appropriate.”
Evie said that, in Israel, Orthodox women must “Move to the back” of the bus when men are present. Don’t believe her? There have been protests over this in Israel in the past decade. Here is a LINK to one story called Israel’s Modest Buses Draw Fire.
Does this not remind our readership of Rosa Park’s legendary protest when she refused to move to the back of the bus for a white guy to sit in her seat? Hmmm, separate but equal….
There was an interesting comment today on SGM Survivors that reflects this thinking. LINK
“ I’m more conservative/traditional in the role of women in church and even I think they’re extreme here. While they keep emphasizing “equal but different” it’s seems they believe women do not have the same ability to read, understand and apply scripture to their lives. Sure they can understand it as it applies to their calling (homemaking, child rearing, loving our husbands) but not where it applies to other matters of life.”
The Mahaney Girls
I call them “girls” because they call themselves by this term in their blog called Girl Talk. This blog is dedicated to extolling the virtues of home life. Now, don’t get me wrong; I have been a homemaker for the past two decades. However, once again, they define the role of homemaker as a role which changes the world via the "gospel." Before Evie’s thoughts, I would have thought this meant to lead your children to follow Jesus. But, I now believe that this means to follow a role defined by the leaders who report to God.
Here is a LINK to an excellent article over at SGM Survivors on the Mahaney Girls
Could Carolyn Mahaney be a part of the problem with CJ Mahaney?
According to Evie, CJ has extolled Carolyn as his greatest support and weapon, bar none. When Carolyn speaks, the women hop to it. For example, Carolyn said Christmas shopping must be done by October, so the women take it upon themselves to follow this mandate. One of the funniest Carolyn mandates was that that kitchen counters must be free of all clutter-including coffeepots, and toasters. Soon, many SGM women were measuring their "gospel" housekeeping by spartan countertops.
If she is so influential, what happened in the latest scandal with her husband? She wrote an article about a wife’s role when her husband is being criticized. LINK
“Wives should carefully listen to what’s being said. If there is something legitimate, bring that lovingly and carefully to your husband. I don’t think it serves a husband for a wife to just take the side of the person bringing criticism. But if there is a degree of truth, bring that in a way that serves him. And just helping to mirror back to him what you are hearing him say. If he is sinning in response to the criticism, where appropriate, lovingly mirror that back to him: “It seems like this is how you are responding. Is this true? Are you offended at this person? Are you bitter?”
CJ responds in this article
“I would argue that correction is not just part of marriage but an aspect of what it means to be fellow heirs of the grace of life.
Carolyn’s encouragement has been of immeasurable benefit to me, but equally so or more, on balance, has been her correction. She has protected me when sin was deceiving me. What a gift this has been to me!”
Evie says “ I don’t think anyone who knows the Mahaneys could deny the influence
Carolyn has in CJ's life. There are plenty of quotes available online which point to the responsibility she believes she has as his wife, and if they were compiled it would serve as evidence of her abject failure as a wife (according to her own teachings).
Within SGM, Carolyn Mahaney was lauded as the woman, the wife, and the mother, bar none. Because the SGM gospel was based on a divine order of role assignments patterned after their belief in a hierarchical godhead, with God's authority being given to those in leadership, it was imperative for both CJ & Carolyn to be viewed as the role models.
Carolyn was well aware of her role within the system and she played the part well. She was just as much of a leader as CJ was and was just as instrumental as he was in sustaining and maintaining their definition of the gospel, which was personified in and through their lives.
In short, in SGM Carolyn Mahaney was elevated above all other women and was promoted as the personification of "biblical" womanhood. She was the one who designed and taught the Titus 2 Women series, wrote book and spoke in conferences in which she taught her view on the role of women."
Evie goes on to say, “I would suggest that Carolyn had just as much to do with who was hired and who was fired. When I read reading Brent Detwiler's documents, I found it obvious that Carolyn's displeasure was an important factor. CJ implicates her in a plan (in my view) to entrap Brent by agreeing together to offer for him and his wife Jenny a more prominent position of caring for the couples of the A-team.”
So, the question remains. Did the wives of the leaders, particularly Carolyn Mahaney, fall down on the job and not fulfill their “gospel” role in confronting their husbands? Evie leaves us with further question about Carolyn Mahaney.
- Does she draw a salary?
- Do she and her daughters draw a salary for writing the Girl Talk blog?
- Do they use paid employees to help them on the blog?
- Does it seem consistent that Carolyn built a career on a message of telling women to stay at home?
- Is she a functional Mennonite?
- Has she ever distinguished herself from her upbringing in any ways other than the way she dresses? Does she vote, for example?
- Do her main emphases on modesty and homemaking stem from the conditioning she received growing up? This would include the way she discouraged her daughters from pursuing a higher education beyond high school.
- Did people in CLC know she had other siblings besides her brother Grant Layman (who is an executive pastor in CLC) and Janice Dillon (who used to be involved in SGM)? (Granted, it's not like she needs to make all the details of her life public, but for that kind of basic information to be unknown seems odd in an environment that encourages members and staff to be transparent. The blurb on the Girl Talk blog about Carolyn's father death was extremely brief and virtually nothing was shared about his life. Again, this seems rather odd considering the huge emphasis on family relationships and the importance of children honoring their parents.)
- Why hasn't anything been mentioned of Ezra Layman's relocation to Gaithersburg along with Carolyn's mother, Margaret? Wouldn’t that make for meaningful blog posts about how to care for an aging parent and the effects that has on the dynamic of family life? They write about everything else from the births of children and the effects of postpartum depression. Why not that? Why the sense of secrecy?
- Why was her page removed from Wikipedia?
In closing, this post is meant to stimulate discussion on the theological underpinnings that define gender roles in SGM as well as other hyper-authoritarian ministries. I believe the discussion regarding the role of Carolyn Mahaney only serves to illuminate the schizophrenic definition of the role of women espoused by a bunch of men who are immersed in their roles as paranoid, Pharisaical patriarchs. Unfortunately, it also illuminates the failure of some of the women, like Mahaney, who preached that they would bring truth into the lives of their husbands. Why might that be? Perhaps some readers can weigh in.
Also, here is a quote from Michael Spencer, the sorely missed Internet Monk. LINK
Lydia's Corner: 2 Samuel 23:24-24:25 Acts 3:1-26 Psalm 123:1-4 Proverbs 16:21-23