“Given the prominence of Sovereign Grace, especially in Reformed evangelical circles, this puts the gospel we preach under a cloud.”
Twelve years ago four friends launched a conference called Together for the Gospel. Dee and I first learned about it from a Christianity Today article that appeared a few months later entitled Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback–and shaking up the church.
At the time of its publication, we had never heard of C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, or Sovereign Grace Ministries, all of which figure prominently in this CT article. The piece went on to state:
Perhaps an attraction to serious doctrine brought about 3,000 ministry leaders to Louisville in April for a Together for the Gospel conference. The conference’s sponsors included Mohler and Mahaney, and Piper also spoke. Most of the audience were in their 20s and 30s. Each of the seven speakers holds to the five points of TULIP.
So much has changed since that first gathering in Louisville. While attendance will probably quadruple at T4G2018, the controversy surrounding Mahaney and the ‘family of churches’ he founded [now called Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC)] continues to percolate. It began when a lawsuit was filed back in 2012, followed by an amended complaint.
And what was the prevailing attitude of the Neo-Cal community toward these accusations against Mahaney, et al? Perhaps Tim Challies summed it up best in his 2013 post entitled: Thinking Biblically About C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries. Challies wrote:
For this reason I have deliberately avoided learning too much.
As many of you know, the second amended complaint against Mahaney, et al was dismissed primarily due to the statute of limitations running out for most of the plaintiffs. Since then a cloud has been hanging over C.J. and SGC, as well as the churches accused that have disassociated from SGC, namely Covenant Life Church and SGC Fairfax.
We are grateful that Mark Galli, Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, has just published an online article entitled We Need an Independent Investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries. The subtitle further explains Galli’s position:
Allegations of child sexual abuse and staff cover-up continue to swirl. Let’s set an example for all churches to follow, bringing healing to victims and churches alike.
How interesting that the Christian publication which gave the Young, Restless, and Reformed Movement such a HUGE public platform is now calling for an investigation of Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries). The CT article begins as follows:
For nearly six years now, an open wound has been festering in the evangelical community. It’s time for healing to begin.
But that healing cannot begin until we all know the exact nature and extent of the wound; until all the facts are out in the open; until the truth that liberates can be known; and most importantly, if and when it is pertinent, there is repentance.
To put it simply: Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC; formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries) and its individual churches and leaders, present and former, who have been accused of failing to adequately respond to past incidents of child and sexual abuse should submit to a thorough, truly independent investigation.
Mark Galli went on to affirm that “SGC, churches current and former—and pastor C. J. Mahaney (founder and former president) in particular—are under a cloud of suspicion.”
More to the point, Galli made this extremely important statement:
Given the prominence of Sovereign Grace, especially in Reformed evangelical circles, this puts the gospel we preach under a cloud.
We appreciated CT’s reference to two of our posts regarding Sovereign Grace Ministries (see below):
Since the lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds, and not on the merits of the case, there was never a legal investigation of the charges. As The Wartburg Watch (a watchdog website critical of SGM) put it at the time:
“Even one of the defense attorneys allegedly acknowledged the seriousness of the complaints.
Defense Attorney #1 affirms the seriousness of the allegations and notes that they were “tough to read.” He states that we have not yet gotten to the merits of these allegations, some going as far back as 1982, but if the case were to proceed and we did get to the merits, they would, however, be vigorously contested.”
“If I were a defendant, absolutely convinced of my innocence, I would be frustrated by this outcome,” wrote TWW. “I would want the trial to proceed so that the world could see the proof of my innocence. Now, both sides, must live in limbo … for now.”
The CT article acknowledged the extensive work of Brent Detwiler as well as the advocacy for victims by Rachael Denhollander.
Mark Galli ends his article with these wise words: (see screen shot below)
As one would expect, Sovereign Grace Churches was quick to respond to this CT article. Here are excerpts of their statement: (see screen shots below)
Finally, Warren Throckmorton has called attention to this challenge by Christianity Today to conduct a private investigation.
We will keep you apprised of any developments, although we don’t expect SGC to listen to Mark Galli.