"How I wish I could capture in words the endearing site [sic] before me as C.J. interviews our friend Ligon Duncan. And I don’t use this title lightly. Ligon is a faithful friend of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and this is evidenced so clearly in the interview this evening."
Ligon Duncan, a Presbyterian pastor from Mississippi, is a loyal friend of C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, as has become apparent in recent years. Duncan once blogged on the Together for the Gospel (T4G) website that he and his long-time friend Al Mohler were first introduced to C.J. Mahaney by Mark Dever. We're not sure when it occurred. Obviously, that's how they came together (for the gospel, of course).
Last November Ligon Duncan spoke at the SGM Pastors Conference that was held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando (the same venue for The Gospel Coalition's National Conference to be held in April). Duncan made some significant contributions at that pastors' conference, as indicated on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website. Here is an excerpt from the November 1, 2012 post:
"One of the most poignant moments was when he personally addressed Sovereign Grace pastors regarding polity. After sharing some specific encouragements, he went on to remind us:
“ …polity is a vehicle for the work of the Spirit, not a replacement for the work of the Spirit…These structures are only there so God-called, gospel men can do things with more clarity. They are not a replacement for the hard work and dependence on the Holy Spirit that must go into living life together. I hope it provides for you a wonderful basis for transparency, cultivating unity and being decisive in Gospel ministry. But it is a tool.”
We couldn’t be more grateful for Ligon Duncan and his friendship!"
On July 13, 2011, we featured a post called Hoodwinked by Mohler and Mahaney. Here is the pertinent portion of that post:
One week ago C.J. Mahaney, President of Sovereign Grace Ministries, stepped down from his ‘bully’ pulpit to take a leave of absence amid turmoil in his “family of churches”. There have been quite a few developments in that short time frame, and they have distracted us from keeping the main thing the main thing, which we define as discovering God’s truth.
It is rare that your humble blog queens can be described as ‘gullible’ and ‘easily deceived’, but we are willing to admit our own human frailties to you, our dear readers. To put it bluntly, we have been hoodwinked! (Feel free to substitute any of the synonyms listed at the end of this post.)
Please accept our sincerest apologizes for falling down on the job and playing into the hands of some scheming ‘master’ minds. FYI — the single quotation marks are significant. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
What tipped us off that we have all been played? Did anyone find it odd that Mahaney announced at CLC last Sunday evening that he would be at the SGM Pastors Conference in November? Here’s what inquiring minds want to know – how did he know that he would be there after stepping down for an indefinite period of time?
We also knew we had been duped after the one-two punch delivered by Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan. The scheme was confirmed when Duncan made his pronouncement on the Reformation 21 website. Obviously, the ‘Fab Four’ of ‘T4G’ (Together for the Gospel) are going to stick together no matter what, and The Gospel Coalition has its own agenda. However, we were ‘surprised’ to discover that the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals appears to be in on it, too. After all, Duncan used the blog linked to their website to issue his statement from on “high”.
Let’s begin unraveling this carefully crafted scheme by Mohler, Mahaney and Company. First, Mahaney sends out correspondence to the SGM pastors on July 2, informing them that he plans to step down for a time. Then he posts the same information on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website on July 6 for all to read.
Pope Mohler Issues An Edict
Just two days later (on July 8) the Louisville Courier picks up the story and reports on the controversy with this headline – ‘Serious’ charges vs popular pastor, author Mahaney. Does anyone else find it rather ‘odd’ that a Louisville newspaper was reporting on a ministry based in far away Maryland? Why was the Mahaney debacle newsworthy in Kentucky of all places? And calling Mahaney a ‘popular’ pastor is highly questionable. Popular with whom? We sincerely doubt Christians outside Calvinista circles have ever heard of him. Here is the article for those who may have missed it.
Did you notice that the first word in the headline is in single quotation marks? Why would this journalist find it necessary to put the word ‘serious’ in quotes? Even stranger was the fact that the article contained a hyperlink to an ‘obscure’ blog called The Wartburg Watch. Hmmm….
(Peter) Smith (of the Louisville Courier-Journal) quotes Mohler as follows:
"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."
But Mohler has already drawn his own conclusions.
He based that on hundreds of pages leaked to the Internet last week, detailing correspondence between Mahaney, his main accuser and former colleague, Brent Detwiler, and other Sovereign Grace leaders.
"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."
Again, why is the Louisville rag the only newspaper in the country (as far as we can tell) reporting on this story?
After revealing details of the conflict within SGM, Smith writes:
"Mohler said he saw no reason for Mahaney to take a leave from other leadership positions…
"I assume he would retain every position in leadership," Mohler said. "I expect he should be very quickly returned to leadership of Sovereign Grace."
Mohler contended that Detwiler has "an obvious vendetta" against Mahaney and attributed the document dump on the Internet to him.”
If Mohler can so callously judge Brent Detwiler, we seriously doubt he has read through the 600 pages of documentation posted on the internet that bring serious charges against Mahaney. Notice that we do not put the word serious in single quotation marks as Smith did.
Smith goes on to explain:
“The Sovereign Grace network is separate from the Southern Baptist Convention, the affiliate of Southern Seminary, but Mohler praised Mahaney’s group as "one of the most vital movements of church planting and evangelism and church development in this generation…"
Mohler said he knew this practice has had online critics for years.
"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.’"
So ‘Pope Mohler’ doesn’t like criticism… And with this pronouncement, Mohler has just marginalized any blogger who would dare criticize Sovereign Grace Ministries. Funny thing, Mohler sure knows how to dish it out himself.
Cardinal Duncan Mimics the Pope
As soon as Ligon Duncan, who hails from the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), weighed in with a statement that mimicked Pope Mohler’s, our suspicions were confirmed. It was no coincidence that these two T4G leaders came out swinging for their pal CJ on the very same day.
Here are some of Duncan’s choice words, which you can find here.
“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, and that you refrain from assuming that you (or they) are in a position to render judgment on these things.”
We believe the propaganda put out by Mohler and Duncan was a coordinated effort to: (1) define the issue as merely a theological dispute between Mahaney and a former colleague (2) dilute the testimonies of the hundreds if not thousands of SGM victims and (3) chastise and marginalize anyone who would dare criticize Mahaney’s ministry (i.e. bloggers).
Ligon Duncan, president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, is a contributor to the blog on the Reformation 21 website, along with Carl Trueman (who served on that infamous three-member panel which found C.J. Mahaney 'fit' for ministry). Not only that, C.J. Mahaney is a Council Member for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. According to the website, here are the members of the Alliance Council:
Eric Alexander, Alistair Begg, Gerald Bray, Jerry Bridges, Donald Carson, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, John Hannah, Paul Jones, John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, Albert Mohler, Richard Phillips, John Piper, Philip Ryken, R. C. Sproul, Derek Thomas, Carl Trueman, Gene Veith, David Wells
As indicated in the excerpt above, Duncan used his position as president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals to speak out on Mahaney's behalf back in July 2011. Just click on the hyperlink above to read Ligon Duncan's choice words. Oh wait! The blog post is MISSING!!! Here is the message you see when you click on the above hyperlink:
The requested document was not found on this server.
If you pull up a listing of Ligon Duncan's posts, the following appears on the Reformation 21 blog in July 2011 (the same month Mahaney stepped down).
A Word about C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries
Article by Ligon Duncan July 2011
If you have been confused or discouraged by things you have read on the internet concerning my friend C.J. Mahaney and his leave of absence from the board and presidency of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), I would encourage you to (continue)
Clicking on 'continue' causes the 'Not Found' message to appear. Surely this is just a glitch on the Reformation 21 website… C.J. Mahaney will need character witnesses to defend him in the class-action lawsuit, and Ligon Duncan is a great one to defend Mr. 'Humility'. We would imagine the defense attorneys will be contacting Duncan if they have not done so already… As an aside, because Mohler's remarks appeared in a newspaper article, his words stand for time and eternity. Perhaps he'll be called as a character witness as well, along with Mark Dever who made the introduction years ago.
Just in case, the defense attorneys would like to read Ligon Duncan's online commentary which has suddenly gone missing, here it is…
“ A Word about C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries
POSTED BY LIGON DUNCAN
If you have been confused or discouraged by things you have read on the internet concerning my friend C.J. Mahaney and his leave of absence from the board and presidency of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), I would encourage you to read this and this and this and this, if you want to understand what is really going on.
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, and that you refrain from assuming that you (or they) are in a position to render judgment on these things.
It is clear that far from a scandalous cover up, our brothers at Sovereign Grace are taking these matters with utter seriousness and are endeavoring to walk in Gospel repentance and humility and fidelity. C.J. knows of my complete love and respect for him. And my brethren at Sovereign Grace know of my support and prayers for them. Al Mohler has spoken about this here. And, of course, C.J. has reached out to Mark Dever for counsel and accountability, but I want to emphasize that we fully respect the process that SGM is taking to review the entire situation and that we have no intention whatsoever of joining in the adjudicating of this case in the realm of the internet — a practice as ugly as it is unbiblical.
Our response ought, positively, to be to pray for SGM. Indeed, they have asked us to: “Please pray for the people involved and for our network of local churches. This is a difficult time for us, but we see God using these events to refine us and prune us (June 15). We want to embrace all God has for us in this time and pray it will lead to greater fruitfulness. Psalm 37:3 & 5 carry a precious promise: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness … Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”
If you read this, you will get a taste of the fruit of Gospel repentance that is already being borne in SGM. 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. But instead, the leadership of SGM has taken the high road, or rather they have chosen to go the way of self-examination, submission to outside review and correction, self-abasement and repentance. It just makes me love and respect them all the more.
POSTED JULY 12, 2011 @ 11:56 AM by LIGON DUNCAN
TOPICS: C.J. Mahaney; Sovereign Grace Ministries "
We are concerned that Duncan doesn't know this important post has somehow been deleted. Just doing our part to help out a fellow blogger…
As we wrap up, our readers might like to know that Ligon Duncan is a man of many talents. He's a preacher, theologian, writer, conference speaker, blogger, and even a rapper!
We end with a short clip of Ligon and his brother John, who is/was working with Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul). We're surprised 'Ligon' hasn't joined forces with 'Ligonier' since the ministry includes his name.
We believe John Duncan was responsible for the Renewing Your Mind broadcasts. We have done a little research on him, and he was occasionally mentioned on Jen's Gems back in 2006. Prior to and early in our blogging, we remember reading about Boerne Christian Assembly and the conflict between Doug Phillips and the Epsteins. It was quite eye-opening!
Here is Ligon Duncan rapping with brother John.
Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20 Luke 9:28-50 Psalm 73:1-28 Proverbs 12:10