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Thursday
Oct132011

C.J.'s Foxhole Conversion

This past June, I wrote C.J. the following in “Concluding Remarks” about how extraordinarily difficult it was for anyone to lead him to repentance.

I have labored with the hope that this document, in addition to the previous two, will serve your soul, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and most of all the gospel.  I remain grateful for the many years I was blessed by God to serve in your company and the company of so many people I love and respect.  What follows is an expression of my love for you, my former friends, and the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’ve found no joy in writing a “Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine” (RRF&D), “A Final Appeal” (AFA), and now “Concluding Remarks” (CR).  I believe the Lord led me, and enabled me to write, but it has not been a pleasant task.  In particular, I have not enjoyed making my case in such detail.  I wish it were unnecessary but general appeals to you for repentance have never been effectual.

In fact, it is only in the face of overwhelming evidence, godly pressure from peers, and impending consequences; that one gains your attention and then with difficulty.  RRF&D and AFA followed 10 years of correction.

C.J., I am genuinely grateful to the Triune God for the fruits of pride you’ve acknowledged, the changes you’ve made and the input you’re received from others.  But I also remain deeply concerned because you and the Board of Directors are unaffected on so many important fronts.  That is alarming.  So here is my last attempt to focus your attention.  I hope you find it redemptive. (CR, June 8, 2011, p. 1)

Later in Concluding Remarks, I wrote the following about my plans to share with the SGM pastors because C.J. was not walking in the light or addressing my most serious concerns.

Well, we have reached the end of the road.  It is now time for me to share my concerns with the Sovereign Grace pastors.  For the longest time, I never entertained this course of action.  It was inconceivable.  But we are at a different place today.  You have refused to address or acknowledge many sins of a serious nature and the Board of Directors has taken insufficient action in its correction and discipline of you.  Others have gone unaddressed as well. 

C.J., I rejoice in the “thirty-fold” fruit that has been born in your life as a result of this ten year process.  I am glad that friends have finally spoken the truth to you in love.  But the most serious issues I’ve brought to your attention have been ignored, repudiated or denied.  Things like deceit, lying, covering-up, hypocrisy, lording, and favoritism.  I take no delight in saying this, but you and Sovereign Grace Ministries cannot be trusted until these things are acknowledged.  I do not mean to imply the ministry is corrupt or completely untrustworthy.  It isn’t.  There are many outstanding people of high moral integrity that work for Sovereign Grace Ministries and serve as pastors in Sovereign Grace churches.  But given a certain set of temptations related to the love of reputation and self-preservation, I have no confidence you, or those around you, will walk in the light, be truthful, or handle people properly.  I’ve said this from the beginning. (CR, June 8, 2011, p. 201)

Two weeks after I sent Concluding Remarks, I appealed to C.J. again.

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2011 9:15 AM

To: C. J. Mahaney 

Subject: Change of Heart?

Dear C.J.,

I ask the following questions with grace and tenderness of heart.  Have you had a change of heart and mind?  If so, are you willing to provide me a complete and thorough response to RRF&D, AFA, and CR in preparation for a meeting between us?  And are you willing to walk in the light by publicly confessing the sins I’ve addressed?

I mean you no harm.  These are redemptive requests designed to serve you and the movement you lead.  Please provide me a response in the next day or two.

With sincere affection,

Brent

 

From: C.J. Mahaney

Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2011 3:40 PM

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: Re: Change of Heart?

Brent,

Thanks for your care!

I am composing a response and hope to get it to you either today or tomorrow.

Your grateful friend,

C.J.

 

I also wrote this note to the SGM Board of Directors at the time.

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Friday, June 24, 2011

To: C.J. Mahaney; Dave Harvey; Joshua Harris, Jeff Purswell

Subject: RE Getting back to you

C.J., Dave, Joshua and Jeff,

Grace, mercy and peace be multiplied to you in name of our Lord Jesus Christ!... As I’ve repeatedly said from the beginning, this isn’t about C.J. and Brent.  This is about deceit, hypocrisy, self-preservation, and the love of reputation in Sovereign Grace Ministries as exemplified by C.J., Dave, Bob, Gene, et al.  Here’s the way I’ve put it.    

"Lastly and most importantly, I write because of my deep love for you and for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  My greatest concern is for the increasing presence of deceit and hypocrisy rooted in self-preservation and love of reputation.  I’d be overjoyed to see you acknowledge these things to the movement, whether or not you ask my forgiveness for anything specific.  Comparatively speaking, the latter is unimportant.  Ultimately, this isn’t about us.  It is about something much bigger.  Therefore, I provide the history that follows for your careful consideration.” (Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, p. 3)          

I’ve provided 521 pages of historic testimony, all carefully documented, but it has produced no contrition, repentance, confession or restitution.  Deceit, hypocrisy, self-preservation and the love of reputation remain unconfessed alongside a host of other serious sins. 

“Primarily, I hope and desire to see a restoration of integrity, truth telling and justice in Sovereign Grace so there is no lying, spin, manipulation, lording, cover-up, or partiality.  I am concerned for the movement.  Some men have followed sinful aspects of your example and leadership – the kind referenced in this response.  These men have acted deceitfully, judgmentally, unbiblically, and hypocritically.  Their example in turn, has harmed others and been corrosive in its effect.” (Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, p. 128) 

I inquired of C.J. on Thursday to see if he’s had a change of heart.  I have not heard back from him.  I also asked the elders of Covenant Life Church to take immediately action on June 17.  I’ve not heard from them either.  Therefore, it is time to tell the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries about C.J.’s sins for their protection and his good.  I hope brothers and sisters, Care Group leaders and deacons, administrators and pastors, will courageously appeal to C.J. and he will listen to their voices.  To date, he has not listened to my voice, or the voice of others, on many critical matters. 

I am confident; however, that the grace and mercy of God will prevail!  I look forward to the day when I can once again commend C.J., the Board of Directors, and Sovereign Grace Ministries without reservation.  As it stands, they cannot be trusted and anyone who does is acting foolishly or in ignorance.   

After all of these appeals, I heard from C.J.  He made many promises but broke most of them.  First, rather than pursuing on-going correction from the CLC pastors he left for Capitol Hill Baptist Church and began correcting Joshua Harris.  Second, C.J. declared himself above reproach before the Group Reconciliation Process even began.  Third, C.J. never provided a written response to my 15 areas of sin/concern.  They were a lack of integrity, deceit, hypocrisy, concealment, cover-up, damage control, spin,  manipulation, partiality, favoritism, abuse of authority, lording, need for public confession to the movement and leaders, wrong doing done by others, realization of how sinful judgments negatively influenced many others.  Fourth, it is yet to be seen whether C.J. will make a substantial confession to the SGM pastors or movement.  Here are his promises. 

From: C.J. Mahaney 

Sent: Friday, June 24, 2011 12:44 PM

To: Brent Detwiler

Cc: Dave Harvey; Jeff Purswell; Joshua Harris; Tommy Hill; Tony Reinke; Ken Sande; John Loftness; Bob Kauflin; Gary Ricucci; Carolyn Mahaney; Chad Mahaney

Subject: FW: Change of Heart?

Brent,

Thank you for your affection and care.  I trust you know I feel the same toward you. 

In answer to your question, yes, I am changing my mind in regard to your request to give a more thorough response to your documents.  At the same time, I am committed to making a public confession, as detailed below.

The men around have challenged me to go back again and seek to dig deeper into the issues you’ve brought.  I can’t guarantee that I will meet all of your expectations, but I promise to make my very best effort to address your concerns.  I won’t pretend this is easy, but I assume there is more of my sin I can perceive and I want to perceive it all.  Brent, I know my sin has deeply hurt you and others and I want to more clearly acknowledge this wherever I can.  I want to benefit from all God has for me in your documents.  Most important I want to examine my heart more thoroughly and invite the help of others as I need their help in order to see my sin.  Please pray that God would give me the gift of sight as I continue to examine your documents and my heart.

So here is how I plan to proceed.    

  1. I will be meeting with the broader CLC pastoral team next week to hear their perspective and receive their correction.
  2. I am very eager to meet with the independent panel and hear their perspective and receive their correction as they study your documents and interview all the people involved. Since I haven’t any history with these folks I hope their objective evaluation will help them to perceive my sin more accurately and serve me as I hear their perspective and receive their correction.  In order to gain the time to focus properly on this process, I am even considering taking a leave of absence.
  3. I am going to contact David Powlison to ask him to review your documents, and to set up a series of meetings with David so I can benefit from his correction and counsel.
  4. In attempting to give a more thorough response to the three documents, my plan was to give particular attention to the 15 areas of concern/sin you think I have yet to perceive or acknowledge.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on this approach.
  5. I will also revisit your 15 areas of concern/sin with the board and make sure I have heard any and all concerns they might have related to these areas.  
  6. As a result of these steps, my plan is to provide you with my response to your documents that specifically addresses your primary areas of concern.

I also plan to make a public confession to the Sovereign Grace pastors.  My hope is to do this at our November conference although it’s possible this could take place at an earlier date.  I want my confession to be as fully informed as possible, so I’d like to get the benefit of the independent review process before making it.  It’s also my preference to make this confession in person with the pastors rather than by e-mail.  I want these men to hear my confession and hopefully perceive my conviction/sorrow as well as ask their forgiveness.  I also intend to continue confessing personally to any other people who have been directly impacted by my sin, including former pastors or members within SGM.  And once God has given me a clear understanding of my sin and its impact on others, I anticipate that it will be beneficial for me to make a wider confession to the general public about God’s correction and refinement in my life.

So it is my determined intention to continue to pursue a rigorous evaluation of my heart, involving those inside Sovereign Grace as well as those outside Sovereign Grace who do not have history with me.  I take your charges seriously and I want to do all I can to convince you of this.  Most importantly I want to please and glorify God by walking humbly before him by his grace.  Thanks for helping me to do this.

In His grace,   

C.J.

The next day, C.J. sent a follow up email claiming he was seeing a couple additional areas of sin.  I don’t know what they were.  He never told me.

From: C.J. Mahaney

Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2011 1:58 PM

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: Confidential

Brent,

I was reluctant to send this but decided to do so.  I am not trying to impress you or convince you about what I am perceiving in my heart.  But since I began to reengage with your documents a couple of days ago and with the help of others I have already perceived a couple of areas of sin I didn’t clearly perceive previously.  It’s discouraging how slow and dull and blind I can be.  My pride/self-righteousness are no doubt the root cause.  Pathetic really.

Just wanted to inform you of the small incremental stuff that seems to be happening.  My hope is that it continues.

Thanks for your patience and care my friend.  Please keep praying for me.

With my gratefulness,

C.J.

C.J. was under an incredible amount of pressure.  I was about to share my documents with the SGM pastors and possibly the SGM churches.  C.J. and the SGM Board were desperate to keep this from happening.  Joshua made this clear at the CLC Members’ Meetings. 

Like previous occasions, C.J.’s “illumination and contrition” came at the last minute when he had no other alternatives.  I expressed my concerns to Joshua.

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Monday, June 27, 2011 4:00 PM

To: Joshua Harris

Subject: True Repentance

Dear Josh,

C.J. sent me the email below on Saturday.  Of course, I hope it is a sign of true illumination (or honesty) and growing repentance.  Time will tell.  In the past, we have been easily satisfied with any response from C.J.  But this time we must make certain it is the real deal.  For instance, he must see issues like spiritual abuse.  He will need your help.  For example, when someone brings correction and we say you are proud or bitter without giving them the freedom to speak and listen sincerely and humbly, we are abusing them.  When people say they been adversely affected by our sins against them and we correct them for self-pity or tell them they are acting like victims, we abuse them.  Or when we withdrawal our affection, project guilt, rally others against a person, distance ourselves, play the trust card, we abuse them.  C.J. tends to react to labels like “lording” or “spiritual abuse” but they fit him.  He just doesn’t connect the dots to see how they apply in his dealing with people.  

Similarly, lording it over others.  That is using other people to accomplish your own selfish agenda be it self-preservation or retaliation in many forms (mild to flagrant) towards people you don’t like.  

I hope this is not a “fox hole conversion” for C.J.  Sovereign Grace was about to come apart...that’s a ton of pressure to fess up.  If he fights, it’s basically over.

C.J., Dave and Steve know the right thing to say in these kinds of situations.  We all do.  We can feign confession.  We know what sounds good.  We can say the right words.  We can act.  We’re articulate.  We can fool a panel of mediators.  We can admit enough wrong to get through and appease our critics or so we think.  We can con our way out of messes.  I am not saying C.J. is consciously doing all these things.  I hope you get my point. 

I am reminded of Bill Clinton.  He would deny, deny, deny (and his denials were crafty lies – “I did not have sexual relations (i.e., intercourse) with that woman.”) until the evidence was so overwhelming and the consequences so severe, it was expedient to admit to wrong doing. But even then he would acknowledge as little as possible and only in the most general terms.  Later he’d be forced to say a little more when additional evidence built up.  There was nothing proactive about his comments.  He always got caught or pressed to the wall with evidence. 

In a similar, not identical way, C.J. has exhibited no proactive repentance or confession.  It is always reactive.  If this time is different, he will acknowledge lording, abuse, lying, deceit, hypocrisy, favoritism, etc. and resign of his own volition.  He will also see clearly into Dave, Steve, Bob and Gene’s lives and speak to them about their sins and the necessary consequences.

Thanks for listening.  I hope you and the other brothers are used by God to bring about true repentance.

Grace to you my friend,

Brent

A few days later I wrote C.J. to follow up on his commitment to provide a detail response to the 15 areas of sin/concern I raised with him.

From: Brent Detwiler 

Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2011 5:09 PM

To: C. J. Mahaney

Subject: Resignation as President of SGM

Dear C.J.

I am sure these have been difficult days for you.  My heart goes out to you.  Coming face to face with your sin and its consequences is a painful, frightful, and discouraging experience.  In the midst of it all, I hope you are also experiencing God’s love revealed in the cross of Christ and poured out in your heart by the Holy Spirit.

Recently you wrote me about your progress in grace.

From: C. J. Mahaney

Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2011 1:58 PM

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: Confidential

Brent,

I was reluctant to send this but decided to do so.  I am not trying to impress you or convince you about what I am perceiving in my heart.  But since I began to reengage with your documents a couple of days ago and with the help of others I have already perceived a couple of areas of sin I didn’t clearly perceive previously.  It’s discouraging how slow and dull and blind I can be.  My pride/self-righteousness are no doubt the root cause.  Pathetic really.

Just wanted to inform you of the small incremental stuff that seems to be happening.  My hope is that it continues.

Thanks for your patience and care my friend.  Please keep praying for me.

With my gratefulness,

C.J.

I sincerely rejoice in any additional illumination you are experiencing.  I look forward to hearing about it…

I didn’t hear back from C.J. so I wrote him again.

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Friday, July 01, 2011 8:29 PM

To: C.J. Mahaney

Subject: Answers

When will I receive your detailed response to me?  I look forward to hearing about your additional illumination.

Thanks

Brent

C.J. pushed off his response to me until after Ambassadors of Reconciliation completes its work.  That means I’ll get a response sometime around March 2012.  Right?

From: C.J. Mahaney

Sent: Saturday, July 02, 2011 4:26 PM

To: Brent Detwiler

Subject: FW: Answers - Deadline 12 Noon

…Am I qualified to lead SGM?  That is for others to determine, not me.  And as for the updated confession I think I’ve made clear in a previous e mail that you will get that after my evaluation by the independent panel.  And I have also asked Mark Dever and David Powlison to personally counsel me after reading your documents.  So I am enlisting as much help as possible in order to discern my sin and its effects on others.

Hope that helps. 

In His grace,

C.J.

 

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Saturday, July 02, 2011 5:47 PM

To: C.J. Mahaney

Subject: Re: Answers - Deadline 12 Noon

You have never mentioned waiting until after the evaluation panel finishes its work.  I don’t even know who the mystery mediators are, when or if they have begun to work, when they hope to finish, whether conversations have already occurred, whether documents have been exchanged, what parameters have been set, what guidelines are being set, who recommended them, who decided on them...

If C.J. saw the seriousness of his sin, a public confession and resignation would have been forthcoming.  That being absent he has done neither.  Instead he’s begun to focus his attention of others.  This will only continue and the SGM Board will quickly lead the charge. 

From: Brent Detwiler

Sent: Saturday, July 02, 2011 5:58 PM

To: C.J. Mahaney

Subject: Re: Answers - Deadline 12 Noon

Like your confession, so too with your resignation.  If the board asks for it.  If you felt disqualified you would have resigned already.  It is your decision.  They can “fire you” but only you can resign.  Obviously you see no need for it at this time.

Now that C.J. has made it clear he is above reproach and fit to be President of SGM, I don’t expect he’ll ever follow through on his promises to me.  No, C.J.’s came under intense fire.  Ordinance was falling all around him.  He was shell shocked.  He was about to be blown up.  Under duress and in a moment of fright he experienced a foxhole conversion.  He claimed illumination.  A commitment to the CLC pastors.  The desire for an independent evaluation. A willingness to write me.  The need for public confession  But once the danger passed and special forces came to his rescue, he went back to his normal ways. 

It is sad but true, C.J.’s sorrow was largely worldly and not godly (2 Cor 7:8-13).  This is not a sinful judgment.  Repentance is known by its fruits.    Foxhole conversions are typically self-centered and pragmatic.  They focus on saving your neck not the transformation of your soul.  They don’t produce the fruits of public repentance, confession and restitution which are needed around the nation and parts of the world.    

C.J. and Dave, you need to resign from SGM Board immediately.  Come clean.  Confess.  Turn it over to men with a good reputation who are known for their courage, honesty, integrity, and accountability.  Stop fighting for your salaries, position and reputation.  Sovereign Grace is going under before your eyes.  It is only going to get worse.  Stop blaming Joshua and the CLC pastors.  Stop blaming me.  Stop propping yourself up with outside endorsements.  For the sake of God's glory, the advance of the gospel, and good of the movement, step down and have men like Steve Shank and Mickey Connolly follow your example.  

And to the rest of the Board.  You must speak up.  Don't compromise your souls and live with guilt for the rest of your lives.  As least a couple of you realize how bad things really are and you've begun to see it firsthand.  A couple of you have gotten into trouble for challenging C.J. and Dave. Don't stop.  Don't cower.  Don't protect your self interest.  Being willing to be fired.  Being willing to be ruined.  Being willing to obey God.  Press for openness.

God is resisting SGM on many fronts.  People should not give their money to you as an organization until you repent.  Churches should not tithe to you.   Everyone can give to people and churches and outreaches directly.  Finally, adopt my counter proposal for "adjudication" and make the evaluation of C.J. and SGM open, honest, transparent, independent and accountable. Stop the cover up, lies, and propaganda.

 

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