“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.” Unknown
Dave Harvey, Acting President of Sovereign Grace Ministries, announced two weeks ago that the SGM Board established a preliminary panel to help them “evaluate C.J. Mahaney’s fitness for ministry”, as stated in this post. At the beginning of this update, Harvey wrote:
“We invited several men to participate who had basic doctrinal agreement with Sovereign Grace Ministries, biblical/theological expertise, pastoral experience, and perspectives from a variety of evangelical traditions. Kevin DeYoung, Carl Trueman, and Ray Ortlund accepted.”
The identities of these men were not disclosed until after they rendered their finding on whether Mahaney was fit for ministry. And here is the preliminary panel's conclusion (drum roll please)…
“We do not believe C.J. Mahaney’s confessed sins have disqualified him from Christian ministry. Or to put it positively, from all that we have seen, heard, and read, we believe C.J. Mahaney is, at this moment in time and based on those sins which he has acknowledged, still fit to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a pastor to others.”
Is anyone surprised? Now that we know the identities of these men, I decided to do a little investigating. Let’s look at them one by one.
Here is what Kevin DeYoung shared about himself at the conclusion of the preliminary panel’s findings (linked above).
“I am the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church, an RCA congregation in East Lansing, Michigan. The public controversy surrounding C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace has been difficult for many, including myself. I have great affection for Sovereign Grace. I have spoken at various Sovereign Grace events and meet regularly with a local Sovereign Grace pastor in my area. In addition, over the past couple years I have gotten to know various leaders in Sovereign Grace. Joshua Harris is a very good friend. So is C.J. Mahaney. We have had Curtis Allen speak and rap at our church. I have also met with men like Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, Dave Harvey, Grant Layman, and some of the pastors at Covenant Life when I preached there at Joshua Harris’ invitation in the fall of 2010. Honestly, I have experienced nothing but warm, gospel-centered relationships with everyone I have met from Sovereign Grace.”
The word entrenched certainly comes to mind. As I have been following SGM for almost three years, I have taken notice of DeYoung’s close ties with Mahaney and this “family of churches”. And the feeling is obviously mutual. Here is CJ’s interview with Kevin DeYoung on his View From the Cheap Seats blog.
DeYoung has become an increasingly popular speaker at various SGM conferences. For example, he spoke at this year’s Next conference in Orlando, and he was slated to speak at WorshipGod11 conference according to this February announcement:
“Speakers confirmed at the moment are Ray Ortlund, Jr., Bryan Chapell, and Kevin DeYoung. [Ed: see update at the end of this post.] Waiting to hear back from one more…”
Some time later Andrew amended the post, indicating that DeYoung would not be speaking at the upcoming Worship conference.
But don’t worry, he’ll be rubbing elbows with Mahaney and Co. at the Together for the Gospel conference next April. (link)
DeYoung’s books were offered for sale at the Plant conference sponsored by SGM, and they are likely available in the bookstores of all the churches belonging to SGM. It’s not just a ministry; it’s a business…
C.J. Mahaney has been invited to speak at University Reformed Church where DeYoung pastors, and Mahaney addressed that congregation twice in 2010. (link)
Ray Ortlund, Jr.
This is what Ray Ortlund, Jr. shared at the conclusion of the preliminary committee’s findings.
“I am Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church, an Acts 29 church in Nashville. I have had two brief conversations with C.J. Mahaney in the past, as I recall, with a few short emails along the way. I preached once at Covenant Life Church at Josh Harris’s invitation, and I will preach there in August, God willing, at the worship conference at Bob Kauflin’s request.”
Oh yes! Ortlund is speaking at the upcoming Worship God conference. Not a conflict of interest there… Who do these guys think they’re kidding?
I sometimes check out Ray Ortlund’s blog that is tied to The Gospel Coalition website. He has some fascinating posts about topics such as “gossip”. (link)
Ortlund allows comments on his blog, and recently I recognized the moniker of one of the commenters on this “gossip” post.
Here is the dialogue I read in the comments section:
Steve240 – July 7, 2011 at 8:32 am
“I have seen groups where leaders used their definitions of what “gossip” and “slander” to silence any questioning etc. It was “gossip” or “slander” to question what a leader taught. One wasn’t able to discus their concerns with members.
I have also leaders use these terms to keep regular members in the dark about their questionable actions. Very few people knew of questionable actions that leaders did since they were suppressed under the guise of it being “gossip” or “slander” to do this.
One group that used these tactics recently had their leader C.J. Mahaney step down. He admitted that he had various problems for 5 years. This is one illustration of how teaching on gossip can go overborad and used used wrongly.
Thus people need to be careful of taking the teaching too far”.
Ray Ortlund – July 7, 2011 at 8:39 am
“I wonder, Steve, if your comment might be out of order. It appears you have already arrived at conclusions, when C.J. and his brothers are still exploring the matter before the Lord. Why not hold back from assertions until the facts have been established? Even after agreed-upon facts have been established, insofar as that is possible, it is still brotherly and beautiful, unless you are directly and personally involved, to stay out of it, stay low, stay quiet, and keep ourselves from sin, insofar as we can. God bless you."
Steve240 – July 7, 2011 at 9:33 am
Have you read what Mahaney wrote? In that letter Mahaney confessed to problems with himself and SGM. This included the wrong he did to Larry Tomczak in ousting him from the group. The letter though was certainly vague.
You can read these letters at either:
Have read the various allegations that have been brought up on these same blogs? With so many people from different groups bringing up similar concerns seems to indicate that real problems exist vs. possibly exist.”
Ray Ortlund – July 7, 2011 at 9:43 am
“Steve, I prefer not to get involved in an important conversation here in a comment thread. All I am saying is that C.J. is creating a space to seek the Lord, and we should respect that.
In addition, when you say, “With so many people from different groups bringing up similar concerns . . .” I ask you to reconsider that more cautiously. I have seen in the past how accusations can gain momentum not because they have facts behind them but because they are repeated and repeated and repeated. And the people doing this do not realize that they themselves are committing an injustice against a man who may or may not be guilty. Restraint is always wise.”
Ray Ortlund – July 7, 2011 at 10:26 am
“Steve, I have removed the links from your comment. I do not see Jesus in those websites.
Please do not post those links again on my blog. Thank you for understanding. God bless you."
Steve240 – July 7, 2011 at 10:38 am
It is your blog and thus your decision.
Do you “see Jesus” in the actions of the SGM Leaders that lead to people writing on these blogs?”
As far as I can tell, this exchange of comments took place between Ray Ortlund and Steve 240 BEFORE the preliminary panel was formed (two weeks ago according to Dave Harvey). Is there any doubt how Ortlund would come down on the issue of whether Mahaney was fit for ministry?
Here is what Carl Trueman shared at the end of the findings of the preliminary panel.
“I am an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Westminster Theological Seminary, PA. Neither body has a formal relationship with Sovereign Grace Ministries. While I sit with C.J. Mahaney on the Board of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, I have never attended a Council meeting, nor interacted with him on Alliance business. I have met him three times, once briefly at a group breakfast at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting in 2005, once for a brief lunch in 2006 and then when teaching a course for the Pastor’s College in 2007. I have also been interviewed by him for his blog. I will be giving a seminar at T4G next year, but that was at the request of Mark Dever. Beyond that, and the fact that I have appreciated the writings of C.J. Mahaney and others in SGM, I have no personal connection with him and no vested interest in, or extensive knowledge of, the work of SGM.”
If you would like to “Meet Carl Trueman”, just read C.J. Mahaney’s post introducing him. (link)
Even though Trueman tries to insinuate that he and Mahaney have “no personal connection”, here is what Carl wrote about CJ four years ago.
“CJ Mahaney is a pal, but I've always had two problems with his ministry: First, he thinks basketball players are the greatest athletes. As I told him this morning, I won't reply to that, for, as the Bible says, never answer a fool according to his folly.”
It is also very interesting that Carl Trueman includes the interview with Mahaney cited above at the end of his faculty profile at Westminster Theological Seminary.
In February 2008 Trueman focused on his pal in this post about the Super Bowl.
Here is what he wrote:
“I see C J Mahaney is blogging. He has some good thoughts on the `Superbowl' — you know, that ridiculous event where all those overweight people stand around doing nothing for four hours and looking silly in spandex (hasn't anyone ever told them it takes a certain physique to get away with wearing cycling shorts?). But to claim that knowledge of this and basketball constitutes extensive knowledge of `sports' seems somewhat misguided. CJ — God opposes the proud, brother.”
Well, Trueman certainly lived up to his last name in his concluding statement about CJ.
Then in 2009 Mahaney posts an article on The Gospel and Personal Criticism, in which he discusses Martin Luther and his “friend” Carl Trueman. (link)
Check out this excerpt from Mahaney’s post:
“Luther’s reminder of the depth of personal sin has served me on numerous occasions over the years. And recently Luther’s words have served my friend Carl Trueman, too.
Carl is the Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. And he has taught a course on John Owen in the Pastors College. Carl is a gifted, insightful, and witty writer (despite writing with just two fingers). I am a friend and a fan of Carl Trueman.”
Oh, so CJ is a member of the Carl Trueman fan club… He even knows he types with “just two fingers”. No personal connection? Hmmm…..
Josh Harris is noticeably missing from the T4G lineup of Breakout Session speakers, but guess who is included in the list… Carl Trueman!!! (link)
Dave Harvey will be joining Trueman as a breakout speaker. Let's spell it out: E-N-T-R-E-N-C-H-E-D!!!
I wrote an article some time ago about the ‘cult of personality’ in what we call the Calvinista movement, and in that post I quoted Carl Trueman. At the time, I truly believed he was one of the few with discernment about the downside of the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” movement. Now he’s been sucked into the conference circuit. I am so greatly disappointed…
Here are a few excerpts from Carl Trueman’s 2008 post over at Reformation 21, the blog of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals where he regularly posts (remember, Ligon Duncan used this same blog to defend his buddy CJ). (link)
“In the fall of 2006, Christianity Today's Collin Hansen wrote an article which pointed to the fact that, for all of the hoo-hah about the Emerging/ent Church, there was a growing interest among young Christian people in America in traditional Reformed theology. If Hansen was right, then it was not Brian McLaren who was the man of the moment: more likely contenders included John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Al Mohler and C J Mahaney.”
“There are causes for concern even amidst all the good news. At the heart of this revival – and this is both the strength and the weakness of the movements described – are a set of powerful personalities linked to powerful movements or conferences. The name of John Piper looms large in the narrative, but there are others: R C Sproul, the T4G guys, Joshua Harris, Mark Driscoll etc. Without such dynamic figureheads and the organizations around them, it is doubtful that the movement would have made the impact on young people which it has done. Nevertheless, the dangers here are several. First, there is the absence of the church at key points. Now, this criticism needs to be nuanced. All of those mentioned above are churchmen, and none would wish to see their conferences or their personalities becoming in some way substitutes for the institutional church. Yet the danger is always there whereby people become attached to the man rather than to the message or to the church.”
“This leads to my second concern: how much of this is about personality/movement cults?”
“These, point to the dilemmas which the new Reformed movement must face: how much is this movement about genuine belief and how much is social belonging? And for its leadership: how much is about genuine mission, and how much is about self-promotion and self-perpetuation?”
“When does a leader cross the line between promoting the kingdom and promoting himself? When does a ministry cease to exist for any other reason than providing its leader with a good salary, a flashy car, and a platform for pontification? Hansen's book makes it clear that powerful personalities have shaped this movement, even at the level of the language used, where the followers have started to use the very turns of phrases which are the hallmarks of their leaders. Again, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this; but the temptations of leadership are as manifold as the temptations of those looking for a guru to do their thinking for them; and the need for leaders to distinguish between making followers of themselves and forming disciples of Christ…”
Well, there is the evidence I have assembled from the internet in a relatively short amount of time. I’m sure there is a lot more out there.
So just how objective can these three men be regarding CJ Mahaney?
You be the judge…
Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 8:1-66 Acts 7:51-8:13 Psalm 129:1-8 Proverbs 17:1