“Compliance is another characteristic of abusive discipleship. Submission is equated with compliance with leaders; disagreement and dissent are rarely tolerated. Disciples who speak critically about leaders are frequently labeled as rebellious, divisive, factious, or slanderous. For you to be counted as a slanderer in an abusive discipleship, your words don’t have to mean anything false or malicious. In these groups, slander can mean anything negative that is said about the leadership. In a discipleship employing this kind of coercion, “factious” and “divisive” actually mean that your opinion differs from that of the leaders.”
-Chrnalogar, Mary Alice. Twisted Scriptures (p. 45). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
John Folmar’s text to me:
I arrived in Dubai in January 2009. Within a few weeks of my arrival I started looking for a church to attend. The first church I visited was the United Christian Church of Dubai (UCCD), now called the Evangelical Christian Church of Dubai (ECCD). John Folmar is the pastor of the church. I was impressed with his preaching and decided I would look no further for a church home.
In 2009 I had not heard of Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, or the para-church organization 9Marks (led by Mark Dever). If I only knew then what I know now!
Folmar was very close to Mark Dever. Dever was instrumental in the conversion to Christianity of Folmar. Dever suggested to Folmar that he attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Upon graduation from the seminary Folmar joined the staff of Capitol Hill Baptist Church as an assistant pastor. After moving to Dubai Folmar talked regularly with Dever.
Mack Stiles was an elder at UCCD when I arrived. He had been attending UCCD for several years prior to Folmar’s arrival. Stiles was good friends with Mark Dever. Stiles was instrumental in getting Folmar to Dubai. Stiles spoke to Dever to see if there was anyone he could recommend for the UCCD vacant pastor position. Dever recommended Folmar. Prior to Folmar’s arrival, UCCD was not a 9Marks church.
When I was in Dubai the weekend throughout the United Arab Emirates was Friday and Saturday. (It has since been changed to Saturday and Sunday.) Church services were on Friday. I started attending a Friday Foundations (In the USA this would be called Sunday School) class taught by Mack Stiles. Those of us in the class indirectly received an acknowledgment from Stiles for helping him with his book. What we did was minimal. Stiles would read through a chapter he had just finished and ask us for constructive criticism. There was good participation by the class and a few good suggestions were made. Stiles would incorporate some suggestions into his book.
In 2010 UCCD sent out a church plant. Mack Stiles was one of the individuals that left UCCD to start Redeemer Church of Dubai. I was sad to see Mack go. He was a kind-hearted man and a gifted teacher.
In 2011, back stateside, the sexual abuse scandal within the Sovereign Grace denomination was made public. Instrumental in this was Brent Detwiler, the number 2 man in the organization prior to his resigning in 2009. He sent out 600 pages of documentation to all Sovereign Grace Pastors and one of the recipients leaked the documents to the public.
After the documents became public, there was bedlam within the denomination. In 2012 a class action lawsuit was filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, listing C.J. Mahaney as one of the defendants. Ultimately, the lawsuit was dismissed due to statute of limitations. Mahaney resigned from his position as President of Sovereign Grace Ministries in 2013 took his bat and ball and headed to Louisville to start what I call “his runaway church plant.”
In an attempt to legitimatize his run-away church plant, Mahaney called upon many of his well-known friends to preach at his church in 2013-14. (You can see an article I wrote years ago on this parade of Christian celebrities here. ) Sadly, I found out that Mack Stiles was one of the guest preachers. I guess being a member of the Christian Celebrity Club means you always have the back of your fellow celebrities. And Mack was in debt to C.J. Mahaney for writing an endorsement for his book:
I wrote several emails to Mack letting him know what was happening with C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries as it related to the sexual abuse and coverups within the denomination. I met Mack for breakfast one morning to plead my case. Mack remained a rock-solid backer of C.J. Mahaney, refusing to believe me, in fact, he went to speak a second time at Mahaney’s run-away church plant on June 18, 2017.
Mack sent me an email 4 days after having spoken at Mahaney’s church for the second time. Out of respect for Mack I will not include most of what he wrote me, but I did want to include a paragraph that was very hurtful to me.
On Jun 22, 2017, at 5:52 PM, Mack Stiles <i.com> wrote:
Todd, may I be so bold as to say I honestly think the best thing for you, spiritually, is cease and desist. There is no way you can know all the truth from a faraway land, and if you are wrong you are in a very grievous place before the Lord; at best it seems creepy, at worst you would be making false accusations against a brother, and hurting the work of Christ. Paul essentially makes the same argument in Phil 1:8 about those who were out to sully his reputation – “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,”
I agree with Mack when he wrote, “There is no way you can know all the truth.” Nobody can know all the truth, no matter where they reside. I responded to Mack to challenge some of his assertions.
I have told very few people about where I got my facts from, but I submit my source was better than any source that Mack believed, including C.J. Mahaney or Mark Dever.
My source? Brent Detwiler. I communicated with him often starting in 2011. He was always open and honest with me and backed up his claims with solid documentation.
Below is an email I sent to every 9Marks pastor in the UAE.
Saturday, February 16th, 2019 at 11:59 AM
STATEMENT FROM R. ALBERT MOHLER JR. ON SOVEREIGN GRACE CHURCHES
As many are aware, I have recently apologized and asked forgiveness for serious errors I made in how I responded to concerns that were raised about Sovereign Grace Churches and CJ Mahaney.
In 2013 I was part of a statement supportive of CJ and dismissive of the allegations and concerns raised regarding SGC’s handling of sexual and domestic abuse claims. This was motivated by several factors. At the time the allegations surfaced, I did request that CJ and the ministry participate in an independent investigation, and I was pointed to the investigation that Covenant Life Church had commissioned. I did not realize until this past year that SGC and its leaders had not participated in that investigation, nor was I equipped to know the shortcomings of how that investigation was conducted. I wrongly believed that an investigation had been done, and relied on that assurance and the court dismissal of the civil suit, along with my personal knowledge of CJ, when I issued my statement of support in 2013. I deeply regret this. I frankly was not equipped to sift through the allegations and did not grasp the situation, and I am responsible for that and for not seeking the counsel of those who were.
I also deeply regret my introduction of CJ at Together for the Gospel the following year. My words were intended to reference the general fog of information on the Internet, and I am grieved to acknowledge that I did not even grasp the context I was speaking into. This was wrong, a serious error, and caused hurt to the victims and survivors who felt that their suffering had been trivialized and dismissed. And I grieve that, I apologize for that, I am deeply sorry, it was wrong and I must say so without excuse or minimization. I would never make such a comment again.
When this issue resurfaced a year ago, I was made painfully aware of my serious mistakes. I immediately urged that an independent investigation be conducted and agreed that CJ needed to step down from public ministry until that took place. This resulted in a severing of all personal and ministry ties, and I have had no relationship with CJ or SGC since that time.
I was deeply affected by the documentation offered by Rachael Denhollander. I met with Jacob and Rachael soon after she released the documentation and I have deeply appreciated her counsel. That first conversation fundamentally changed my understanding of this issue.
I issued a statement in May making it clear that any ministry or organization facing these allegations must submit to an independent investigation. I did not specify SCG by name because I was concerned it would appear self-serving and a political effort to save face. In hindsight, I believe speaking more specifically, earlier, would have been wiser. I sought to be clear by my actions in severing public ties and calling all ministries to a higher standard, but as I am learning more I have realized that this did not communicate to the extent I had intended it to.
I wish I had spoken more forcefully. I should have been very clear about insisting on an independent, credible, third-party investigation right from the time these allegations arose. I should have said nothing until I had heard from the survivors who were making those allegations. I should have sought advice and counsel of agencies and authorities and experts who were even then on the front lines of dealing with these kinds of allegations.
It is my own mistakes that, in large part, are driving my sense of urgency to respond clearly and forcefully to the problems in the SBC which the Houston Chronicle has detailed.
A word to our students, particularly survivors on this campus: I want you to know that I am grieved at these errors, I am seeking input from those who know more. We have stringent policies in place but are working on a public document outlining our policies for handling allegations of abuse and where to go for help, which we will post to ensure the greatest accountability possible. We also have a liaison available to you if you have suffered abuse or harassment who can offer support, advocacy, and help.
To the survivors who were hurt by my errors, please know how grieved I am. Some will question whether the force of public pressure explains the timing of my statement and its public nature. In all candor, this pressure is no doubt part of that explanation. That fact should serve to encourage survivors and their advocates to maintain such pressure.
And for survivors who may not yet have spoken up, especially regarding allegations of abuse that have not yet been investigated by law enforcement, I urge anyone with information to report to the proper legal authorities so justice and the truth can be pursued.
I can only speak for myself, but I wish to do so clearly, acknowledging these errors, grieving at the harm that was done, and committing to do everything I can to lead well and to serve Christ faithfully.
Albert Mohler, Jr.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” -Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT