"As I transition from my role as President on April 12, I am looking forward to a fruitful future for Sovereign Grace Ministries. With our recent church plants and those that are forthcoming, churches requesting to be adopted, the current Pastors College class, and ongoing music projects to serve the church, there is much to be encouraged about."
As you have no doubt heard, C.J. Mahaney will be stepping down for a second time as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries on April 12, 2013. So much has happened since he took his 'leave of absence' in July 2011. Perhaps the three most important changes have been:
– SGM has relocated its headquarters to Louisville, Kentucky
– Approximately 20 congregations have left this 'family of churches'
– A class action lawsuit has been filed against SGM and certain individuals
For a comprehensive review of what has taken place in SGM prior to Mahaney's recently announced resignation, please read Dee's guest post over at Internet Monk.
Christianity Today reported on this development on its Gleanings website in a post called C.J. Mahaney Leaves Leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
In his recently published article, Sovereign Grace Denominiation President Resigns, Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote:
"Pastor C.J. Mahaney is ending his three-decade tenure as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a Louisville-based denomination that has faced recent leadership controversies, defections of congregations and an expanding sexual-abuse lawsuit.
Mahaney said he would remain as pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, which launched in 2012 when the denomination shifted its headquarters here from Maryland."
As some of you may remember, Smith's July 12, 2011 Courier-Journal article – Mohler Backs Mahaney, dismisses claims of abusive leadership – included some interesting remarks by the president of Southern Seminary. As we journey back in time, here is what Al Mohler had to say about his buddy Mahaney and SGM:
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 added: “Any time you’re going to take on the role of leadership, you’re going to have critics.”
Mohler also supported Sovereign Grace’s highly centralized leadership structure in its churches, with “very strong pastoral direction” and internal discipline.
“It’s something clearly called for in the New Testament,” he said.
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.’”
Apparently, Mohler's "I don't like that" comment failed to deter a recent exodus of churches from SGM including Covenant Life, the church Mahaney co-founded and where he 'served' for over 27 years. That speaks volumes…
As Charles Joseph Mahaney nears his 60th birthday, he plans to focus on 'serving' the Louisville church he planted last year. No doubt living in Louisville – Calvinista headquarters – will provide him with opportunities to speak and write books. His sycophants will likely continue to flock to hear him speak and salivate over his books, which have purportedly been written by ghost writers.
Speaking of Mahaney's books, they were the straw that broke the camel's back for a member of a 9Marks friendly church located outside the United States. As we discovered from some overseas correspondence, the church has a strong affinity for C.J. Mahaney. The country where the church is located has an international flavor and a large population of Americans. Here is the e-mail we received (detailed information identifying the church and the pastors has been omitted):
You may remember me from a brief exchange we have had in the past. I am a member of __________. The senior pastor is _________, a disciple of Mark Dever and a former colleague at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I am a Care Group Leader at our church. My church loves all things put out by 9 Marks, T4G, TGC, etc. When all this stuff on SGM started breaking, I started advising my pastors via email of what was going down. I should add that I attended a Sovereign Grace church in the United States before moving overseas. I had a run in with ___________, an assistant pastor there who headed up CLG's. I now refer to him as the Care Group Nazi, but that is another long story. Suffice it to say I was told (screamed at) that I should find another church to attend because I was not attending Care Group regularly. My care group leader's heart was revealed to me, and I shortly thereafter took his advice to find another church. Imagine my shock when I found out this domineering man was made the senior pastor of another SGM church!
Anyway, when CJ fled to Dever's church I advised my pastor (in the foreign country where I now live) that he may want to advise his close friend Dever to think twice about providing cover for CJ because it could involve him in a messy situation. I believe my message was looked at skeptically. I continued to share information with my pastors via email, and I think I was pretty much ignored. I send stuff to three pastors and only one of them responds, and that rarely. I think this is by design. Well, about a month ago a pastor in my church wanted to meet me for lunch. At that lunch he proposed making me a deacon. He wanted me to take charge of the book ministry. He knows reading is my passion. I said that sounded like something I would be interested in. As we discussed the job he asked if I would have any problem with selling/promoting Mahaney's books. It hadn't crossed my mind until that point, but I told him I absolutely would have problems. There was no way I could, in good conscience, have anything to do with selling/promoting anything authored by Mahaney.
At that point he was somewhat put out and said that would be a problem as they consider a couple of Mahaney's books "go to books" for newer Christians. He said he would have to talk to the elder board and see whether they wanted me to have the job and stop selling books by Mahaney or find someone else for the job. I pretty much knew what the answer would be. I told him whatever they decided was fine with me, but there was no way I would compromise on this.
I never heard back from him until after meeting with another pastor for lunch who said he heard I had turned down the offer to become a deacon. I was a bit aghast. I told him what the pastor had said about discussing it with the elders and asked if that had ever taken place. It had not. Shortly after our lunch, he called me and stated that he had discussed my situation with two or three elders, and they decided not to offer the job to me. I didn't confront him with his dishonesty, but just said I was fine with that.
As they continue to pump Mahaney's books, the pastor recently held up the Humility: True Greatness book from the pulpit and highly recommended it. As the RBDs and my local church leaders refuse to stand in opposition to Mahaney, I have grown more frustrated. The leaders have chosen to remain quiet, while I made the conscious decision to speak out.
Our church has a private Facebook page, so I decided to utilize that forum speak out against CJ. I simply linked to many blog articles that spoke to the facts of the scandal. I included a few from The Wartburg Watch. I figured this would attract the attention of my pastors, and I was correct. Here is an email I received after having posted links:
As you may have noticed, I have removed several of your past posts from our church's Facebook page. The posts removed deal with the crisis at Sovereign Grace. I sympathize with your concern for these important issues, however, I feel that the posts deal with the issues at play in ways that are unhelpful for our congregation and the members of the Facebook group.
Thank you for your understanding, please feel free to speak with me about any concerns you have!
Your brother in Christ,
I am highly disappointed in your action, but not surprised.
As Providence would have it, I had scheduled a lunch with the pastor in charge of CLGs. I informed him that I would be resigning as leader of a CLG effective at the end of this school year. After my information was removed from their FB page, I decided I had enough and informed him I would be quitting effective immediately and also withdrawing from membership of the church.
It is a sad day for me, but I choose to take a stand on this matter. To not do so is deplorable. As you can imagine, there is not an overabundance of churches in our city. I am not sure where I will go now. I suppose for a season I will not go anywhere, but then I feel I must eventually find somewhere I can go. So you see Mahaney's actions have implications half way around the world! (emphasis mine)
God bless you,
"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
Finally, here is the RESIGNATION LETTER submitted by this couple to their church elders in protest against their insistence to push Mahaney's materials.
"The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures for ever." Psalm 119:160
Dear Church Elders,
It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that my wife and I request that you withdraw our names from the membership roll. I have strong issues with the church endorsing and promoting any book authored by C.J. Mahaney. I have shared much information concerning Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries with some of the pastors. These issues include overwhelming evidence of C.J. Mahaney blackmailing the co-founder of his ministry, covering up evidence of sexual predators in his church, and obstructing church members from reporting these incidents to law enforcement.
There is now a class action suit going forward against SGM and Mahaney, As a member of a Sovereign Grace church for a number of years, I have followed this ongoing scandal quite closely. While I am obviously not in a position to dictate church policy, I would think it prudent that, at a minimum for the congregation, you would refrain from endorsing Mahaney's books. That this has not happened has left me disenchanted.
I received an email today from ____________, stating that he had removed some of my recent posts on the church's FB page concerning SGM. I had already determined I would no longer serve as a CLG leader because of issues of conscience on this matter. His email was instrumental in my decision to withdraw our membership. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
May the Lord continue to bless your church as you seek to honor Christ in all you do.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)
We are in awe of our brother and sister in Christ, who willingly gave up their comfort, their fellowship with believers, and their church (in a country where evangelical churches are few and far between) for their principles. It is truly astounding and we applaud their efforts. This couple has taken a brave and heroic stand, and we only wish there were more Christians in the world who have their integrity.
We can only imagine how their sacrificial stand might encourage those involved in the class action lawsuit against SGM. We hope the plaintiffs will stumble upon this post and discover that in a distant land there is a Christian couple who resigned from their church in protest because they saw a far greater cause in standing with those who have been hurt in Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Let's take a step back and reflect on what has been revealed… So 9Marks pastors outside of the United States are pushing Mahaney's books on new believers? What is wrong with this picture?
Isn't it enough that Mark Dever provided a safe haven for C.J. Mahaney for months after he stepped down the first time? Mark Dever has remained silent in the face of the unprecedented turmoil in SGM. To top it off, we find it deeply disturbing that some 9Marks affiliated churches appear to be functioning as the marketing arm for all things C.J. and SGM. It is truly astounding! Wonder if they're getting a cut???
Gee, all of this really looks good right now with the impending class action lawsuit against Mahaney, SGM, etc. To our knowledge, Mark Dever has never addressed the hundreds of reports of pain that resulted in the SGM 'family', but he manages to make plans to travel across the world with Mahaney (more on that Wednesday when we discuss our Revolution against the Rezolution).
I decided to do a little checking on 9Marks affiliated churches here in the United States. Can you believe that there are 14 churches within a 10-mile radius of my home listed on the 9Marks directory? I checked the website of the 9Marks church closest to me, and the very first book on the recommended reading list is Mahaney's The Cross Centered Life. It seems there's no getting away from Mahaney in the conservative circles of Christendom. How long can this continue?
Getting back to the couple in a far away land who stood boldly against C.J. Mahaney – we are so grateful for you! Thank you for alerting us about Mahaney's books being pushed. We are doing our best to alert the worldwide Christian community that these unhealthy alliances are being formed in congregations that claim to practice the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.
God bless you, brother, and remember . . . there's always eChurch. 😉
Lydia's Corner: Joshua 21:1-22:20 Luke 20:1-26 Psalm 89:1-13 Proverbs 13:15-16