"I think preaching and pastoral ministry are where grace is most evident in my life and where my leadership is most effectively expressed. Others seem to agree."
We believe history is being made as high profile leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention MEDDLE in the affairs of another denomination, which self-identifies as a "family of churches".
Yes, I'm talking about Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). In case you haven't heard, C.J. Mahaney, who was recently reinstated as President of SGM, is assisting with the appointment of his successor and laying the foundation to PLANT a new church in another state.
As the saying goes, "bloom where you're planted", and the word on the street is that Mahaney is planning to relocate to Kentucky and set down roots there. There is also speculation that the offices of Sovereign Grace Ministries will be moved from Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland to Kentucky — most likely Louisville.
We have written extensively on C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, so if you are new to TWW, you might want to browse through our archives. Why is Mahaney leaving the state where he grew up and the church he pastored for 27 years? It appears the accusations of hyper-authoritarianism and spiritual abuse (among other things) by hundreds and hundreds of current and former SGMers (including many pastors) have reached a fevered pitch, and Mahaney believes his best option is to get out of Gaithersburg! The Ambassadors of Reconciliation have been called in to investigate the accusations, and they will be issuing their findings very soon. We will be sure to pass along any information that is made public.
What was the straw that broke the camel's back in SGM? From our vantage point, it appears the 600+ pages of documentation that Brent Detwiler compiled (which an anonymous individual posted on the internet) put all of this in motion. As soon as Mahaney suspected Detwiler was going public in some way with his incriminating information, Mahaney voluntarily stepped down. That was in early July 2011. Seven months later Mahaney was reinstated as president of SGM.
Perhaps the most damning information that was revealed in Detwiler's documentation was Mahaney's attempt to blackmail his mentor Larry Tomczak if he did not leave the organization quietly back in 1998. Tomczak had a big problem with the shift toward Calvinistic theology, and Mahaney threatened to go public with the confidentially confessed sins of Tomczak's son if Larry did not go away quietly into the night… Fifteen years passed, and Mahaney finally made an attempt to patch things up with Tomczak, who had been urging a reconciliation for years.
Why would Mahaney relocate to another state — Kentucky — as some are speculating? If the Bluegrass State is the Mahaneys' destination, there is a very good reason… Dee and I first began investigating C.J. Mahaney and SGM in the fall of 2008 — seven months before we began blogging. Exactly two months after we launched The Wartburg Watch, we wrote about CJ's significant monetary contributions to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a post called The Mahaney Money Machine. We were so new to blogging that not many people read the following "observation" included in that post:
"How did C.J. Mahaney become so popular among reformed Christians? As far as we can determine, C.J.’s secret to success is that he has friends in high places. We believe his recognition among the “Reformed Big Dogs” began when he befriended Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, in Washington, D.C. (a church not far from Gaithersburg where CLC is located)."
As Ligon Duncan (a PCA pastor) confirmed in a blog post several years ago on the Together for the Gospel website (which has since been removed), Dever introduced Mahaney to his good friends Ligon and Al Mohler. Now you know how the T4G friendships (Dever, Duncan, Mahaney and Mohler) came to be…
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, took such a liking to C.J. Mahaney that he endorsed his book Humility: True Greatness and wrote the Foreward for Living the Cross Centered Life, which I unwittingly purchased at LifeWay in 2006 when I didn't know anything about Mahaney. I look back to that time and just shake my head. You see, I was such an enthusiastic Southern Baptist that I often attended chapel services at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to hear the inspirational speakers who preach during chapel. I remember going to hear Mohler at SEBTS during this time frame and shaking his hand in the narthex on the way out. My eyes have definitely been opened!
Mohler is so enamored with his buddy that he relishes opportunities to have Mahaney come and address the students at Southern Seminary and Boyce College. What follows is an excerpt from a previous blog post Sovereign Grace Ministsries and the SBC — Is There A Merger in the Works? that illustrates just how close they are:
"Mohler’s Favorite Homie – C.J. Mahaney
Yes, the SBC/SGM connection is getting stronger by the day. Need proof? Guess who delivered the chapel message at Southern Seminary just last Thursday (2/10/11). Here’s a hint… It was the person who believes Al Mohler is “the smartest man on the planet” and said so at Resolved 2010. Yes, the chapel speaker was none other than C.J. Mahaney. That morning Mohler sent out the following Tweet: “Come hear CJ Mahaney in chapel this morning at 10:00. Don’t miss it. Don’t even think of missing it. Can’t wait to hear his message.”
Mohler’s next Tweet gave the link to streaming video of Mahaney’s talk, which yours truly watched. It was the first time I had ever seen Mahaney in a coat and tie. He began by explaining to the students that he only has a high school education. Perhaps if he had revealed to them that he and Sovereign Grace Ministries combined have made contributions in excess of $200,000 to Southern Seminary, they would have understood why Mohler believes this high school grad is qualified to address them on the topic of “Deflating the Puffed Up Church” .
Then Mohler provided the link to Mahaney’s message on Twitter, along with a Tweet that he was eating dinner with C.J. and that the waiter is a SBTS student. Mahaney continued to be a popular topic in Mohler’s Twitter account the next day. He provided the link to streaming video of Mahaney’s talk at the Recalibrate Conference (for college students), and then tweeted “C.J. Mahaney knocked it out of the park. What a great message. If you missed it, download it. RECALIBRATE.”
The most surprising comment on Mohler’s Twitter feed was as follows:
“RT @drmoore. C.J. Mahaney just asked our server what she would guess he, @almohler, and I (Moore) do for a living. She guessed ‘exotic dancers.’
It boggles the mind… It really is amazing what you can learn through Twitter…"
Here is the promo piece for the RECALIBRATE conference held at Southern Seminary last year.
Did the $200,000 in the excerpt above jump out at you? It should have! Does anyone besides Dee and me find it unusual that Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries have collectively given this amount of moolah to a Southern Baptist seminary? How do we know they did?
Back in May 2009 I started wondering why Mahaney and Mohler were so close. For some reason I decided to investigate whether there was a money trail leading from Mahaney and SGM to Mohler's seminary, and sure enough, there was! I found the evidence in Southern Seminary publications that were easily accessible via the internet. I was shocked that Mahaney and his ministry were contributing money to a Southern Baptist seminary when SGM was operating its own training program – the Pastors College. Our TWW post $$$ The Mahaney Money Machine $$$ (an updated version of the original post) reveals my findings. Once the exorbitant sums Mahaney and SGM had given to Southern Seminary became public, quite a few SGMers became highly disturbed that a portion of their contributions were being funneled under their noses to an SBC seminary!
We are alarmed by the growing connections between Sovereign Grace Ministries and the Southern Baptist Convention, and we have expressed our concerns in these posts:
You may recall that Sovereign Grace Minitries held a Plant Conference last March that featured church planting experts from SGM, Acts 29, the PCA, and the SBC. Mark Dever represented his denomination – the Southern Baptist Convention. His presentation was called The Great Commission and Church Planting, and these were Dever's introductory remarks:
"Thank you for that brief introduction CJ, and uh thank you for the privilege of speaking here. Uh, I love being able to spend any time I can with the Sovereign Grace part of the family. Uh, you guys are more exciting than the other parts of the family I'm usually with, so uh, thank you for uh letting me come in and uh be with you and enjoy the Lord with you."
So Mark, what do you REALLY think about those in YOUR denomination?
Now let's talk about recent indicators that may validate the theory that the Mahaneys are headed west to Louisville.
* The Mahaney's daughter Nicole and her husband Steve Whitacre recently relocated to Louisville so that Brian can pursue his M.Div. degree
* The Mahaney's son is attending Cedarville College, which is just three hours from Louisville in Ohio. He'll be the first in his family to earn a college degree!
* The Mahaney's other sons-in-law are affiliated (probably temporarily) with Dever's church – Capitol Hill Baptist (Note: Dever is a trustee at Southern Seminary)
What else could be drawing the Mahaneys to Louisville? Oh yes, the Together for the Gospel conference is fast approaching! This event, which is being held for the first time at the KFC Yum! Center, will be bigger and better than ever! They may be expecting as many as 10,000 conference attendees who will bring a boost to the local economy, not to mention the wallets of the speakers – especially the Fab Four!
In case you are wondering about the conference fee, beginning tomorrow ticket prices jump to $329 per person (of course, pastors who attend don't have to worry about the expenses involved – travel, lodging, food, conference fee, and books purchased – because their congregations will most likely be picking up the tab, so don't sweat it!) Students get in at the bargain price of $99 and can earn academic credit by participating. And all of those attending will shop at the gynormous T4G bookstore.
Here is the bottom line (pun intended) . . . I believe T$G (OOPS! Why do I hit that blasted dollar sign right above the 4 on the keyboard every time) is all about the GREAT COMI$$ION. In case you haven't heard, Southern Baptists can now identify themselves as "Great Commission Baptists". Thanks, to Tom Rich whose name is obviously a misnomer! 🙂
There is one little clue on the T4G website that may shed some light… If you click on Shop our books and audio, you are taken directly to the Sovereign Grace Ministries website to place your order. It appears that Mahaney and SGM play an important role in this T$G "business enterprise".
Getting back to the premise of the post, Sovereign Grace Ministries has been plagued by what appears to be hundreds and hundreds of accusations of abuse, ranging from physical to emotional to spiritual abuse. A good number of current and former SGMers hold C.J. Mahaney responsible because he sits atop the SGM pyramid and has not been subject to any legitimate accountability. Why is Mark Driscoll suddenly coming to mind? Perhaps because CJ was his mentor!
When Mahaney began to feel the wrath of SGMers (both current and former members) as well as SGM pastors whom he hurt through his hyper-authoritarian leadership tactics, did he take it like a man? NO! He displayed his cowardice by running away and hiding behind Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in nearby Washington, D.C. Dever provided a safe haven for Mahaney when he came under fire. Capitol Hill Baptist for C.J. Mahaney was much like Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther was forced into hiding because the Pope wanted him killed. However, Mahaney is no Luther! He behaved more like Pope Leo and excommunicated any SGM leader that did not meet his rigid standards. That is just one of the reasons why Mahaney needs to face his accusers.
Not only that, Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan wasted no time defending Mahaney publicly. Other Calvinista leaders have come to Mahaney's defense in various high-profile ways. Some have rendered a judgment that he is fit for ministry, some have defended him on their websites, and others have deleted or not allowed negative comments regarding Mahaney and SGM. Censorship is the name of the game with this good ole boy club. To the best of my knowledge, NO ONE has acknowledged SGM's abuse victims, many of whom are "degifted" pastors.
We are absolutely astounded that high profile leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention are disrupting the disciplinary process of a totally separate denomination (err…family of churches). What is occurring is both historic and unprecedented.
For those of you who are sports enthusiasts, here is what Mohler and Dever have done on behalf of pastor-athlete Mahaney. They have RUN INTERFERENCE, meaning they have protected Mahaney from the criticism and correction he is rightly due from those whom he has hurt in Sovereign Grace Ministries. To put it another way, Mohler and Dever have done an end run around SGMers and prevented that from occurring. Now Mahaney is hiding out at Solid Rock Church until he makes the BIG MOVE.
In the meantime, we are all just watching it happen, including the Ambassadors of Reconciliation.
From our vantage point, it certainly appears that the investment Mahaney made in Southern Seminary is paying off handsomely. Mohler and Dever are self-appointed interventionists who are propping up their colleague and doing the exact opposite of what is needed. Can you imagine if the Methodists involved themselves in the affairs of the Lutherans or if the Presbyterians did to the Catholics what Southern Baptists have done to those in the SGM denomination?
United We Stand, which is prominently displayed on the Kentucky flag, is a fitting description for this crowd. IMHO, they are united in their selfish ambitions no matter how many people they crush in the process. Mark Dever, who hails from Madisonville, Kentucky, grew up hearing this state motto, and it definitely shows. (Source: 1979-80 Duke University Directory)
Ironically, first thing this morning I saw a news flash on my laptop that I believe applies to these circumstances. The results of a Gallup survey on the well-being of Americans have just been released, and here is the startling finding about Kentucky residents:
"Emotional health, which included how likely a resident was to say they smiled or laughed a lot yesterday, or whether they had a daily stress or worry. Hawaii ranked the highest in this category, while Kentucky ranked the lowest.” Source: States With the Highest and Lowest Well-Being Sub-Index Scores (emotional health category)
History has demonstrated that Christians living in Maryland (and any other state where SGM churches are located) have suffered great emotional distress because of Mahaney and his cohorts. For those of you living in Kentucky – or wherever Mahaney may decide to plant his church(es), I have just two words. . .
We leave you with a tune the Mahaneys may be singing. . .
Lydia's Corner: Jeremiah 8:8-9:26 Colossians 3:1-17 Psalm 78:32-55 Proverbs 24:27