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C.J. Mahaney Returning to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

A preacher tainted by unproven allegations of covering up sexual abuse is returning to a Southern Baptist seminary campus after a convention resolution urged “discernment” about identifying with individuals perceived as being soft on pedophiles.

By Bob Allen

A Calvinist preacher named in a lawsuit alleging what has been termed the largest evangelical sex-abuse scandal to date is scheduled to speak at an upcoming collegiate conference on the campus of South eastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

C.J. Mahaney, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Ky., is listed on the seminary website among plenary speakers for the 20/20 Collegiate Conference themed "Ekklesia: God's Perspective on the Church," scheduled Feb. 7-8, 2014. 

Other projected speakers include Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin and Russell Moore, new president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. 

Akin and Moore were among 77 evangelical leaders addressed in an open letter in February from a former Mahaney associate asking that they cease inviting him to speak at religious events pending outcome of a class-action lawsuit. 

The former associate-turned-critic, Brent Detwiler, later accused Southern Baptist leaders of enabling sin by continuing to promote the embattled preacher while serious questions about his fitness for ministry remain unanswered. 

A second amended complaint filed in May alleges horrific physical and sexual abuse of children at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., where Mahaney served as senior pastor for 27 years before relocating to Kentucky in part to strengthen ties with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Two high-profile Southern Baptist leaders, Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler and Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, joined a colleague in voicing support for Mahaney in a statement posted on the website of Together for the Gospel, a biennial preaching conference they started with Mahaney in 2006. 

“We have stood beside our friend, C. J. Mahaney, and we can speak to his personal integrity,” said the statement, which was subsequently removed. The ministry, popular among the New Calvinism movement gaining influence in SBC life, has also removed Mahaney’s name from an “Our History” page that formerly listed the four founders by name. 

After stepping down in April as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a church-planting network he helped launch 30 years ago, Mahaney announced July 2 he would withdraw from next year’s Together for the Gospel conference, saying publicity over the lawsuit “could subject my friends to unfair and unwarranted criticism” for including him. 

A Southeastern Seminary spokesman did not respond immediately to an e-mail asking whether they have similar concerns. An ERLC assistant said Moore was traveling and unavailable for comment. 

In June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution on sexual abuse that was amended on the floor to urge denominational leaders to “utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse.” 

Peter Lumpkins, a Georgia pastor who suggested the original resolution and made the motion to amend it during debate, said Oct. 9 that inviting Mahaney to speak would “absolutely not” appear to be in keeping with the spirit of his amendment. 

In May, a Maryland judge dismissed the lawsuit naming Mahaney among numerous defendants, ruling that most of the plaintiffs failed to file their lawsuit within three years of turning 18, as required by Maryland’s statute of limitations. Montgomery County Judge Sharon Burrell denied a motion to reconsider Aug. 12. Lawyers for the alleged victims say they will appeal. 

A criminal trial gets underway Nov. 18 for Nate Morales, charged with 14 counts of sex crimes between 1985 and 1990 at Covenant Life Church. The civil lawsuit claims Morales was just one of several pedophiles protected by church leaders who did not report alleged abuse to the police, opting instead to handle it internally as a matter of church discipline. 

Previous story: 

Embattled C.J. Mahaney visits SEBTS


Questions for the Law Firm Thaler Liebeler LLP Regarding Investigation of Covenant Life Church

Joshua Harris sent out the following letter yesterday to the members of Covenant Life Church regarding an investigation to be done by the law firm of Thaler Liebeler LLP.  

From: Joshua Harris - Covenant Life Church <>
Sent: Wed, Aug 28, 2013 5:44 pm
Subject: Independent Investigation Update 

Dear friends, 

At the June 23 Members Meeting, I shared that we had decided to commission an investigation into the issues raised in the civil lawsuit against our church. This update is to let you know that the investigation is in progress. Basically, this means opening up our actions, policies and procedures, especially those that relate to child protection, to scrutiny. We see the investigation as a way to learn everything we can and grow from walking through the lawsuit. 

After sharing our intention with the congregation on June 23, we proceeded to retain the nationally recognized, independent law firm of Thaler Liebeler LLP to do this work. This Washington, D.C. firm is an impartial third party with no prior connection to our church or the matters the lawsuit references. As we prayed and sought counsel from the Financial Advisory Committee and the church’s attorneys, we concluded that an investigation could help provide an added measure of clarity and closure over and above what the legal process provides, and serve to reassure both our church and the wider community. 

Thaler Liebeler’s investigators will be gathering information from a variety of different sources. If you or someone you know within our church community has information that may be relevant to the investigation, you are invited to share that information with Thaler Liebeler LLP. You may provide information via e-mail to or by mail to the following address: 

CLC Investigation
Thaler Liebeler LLP
1825 Eye Street, N.W.
Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20006 

You may provide contact information to the investigators for follow up, or you may choose to provide information anonymously. 

Our goal is to be a church that looks to God in the midst of a public and highly sensitive lawsuit and reflects his holiness, compassion and mercy—to “aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21). This means going the extra mile to see the situation resolved in a way that promotes justice, brings forth the truth, identifies false or distorted accusations, and most of all, that brings glory to God and draws people to know the love of Jesus Christ. 

Even though the investigation will probably be accomplished in a matter of months, the lawsuit has been appealed and could be active for another year or more. The way the appeal process unfolds will be key in determining the best time to share the results of the investigation. But we’re committed to learning and applying all we can from the investigation and communicating its results at the earliest appropriate date. Please pray with us for the date to be sooner rather than later and for God’s guiding hand on every step in this process. 

One final development of note: On August 8 the Circuit Court for Montgomery County issued an order denying the Plaintiffs' Motion to Reconsider, and also noted that since a Third Amended Complaint was not filed, the case is closed. However, as I mentioned above, the Plaintiffs' Notice of Appeal, filed with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on June 14, 2013, is still pending. 

As always, we welcome your input and questions. We’ve posted a brief chronology of the lawsuit in the member area of the church website to give you perspective. Also, if you missed the June 23 Members Meeting, you are still welcome to pick up an audio CD at the church office. 

Thank you for continuing to pray for the glory of God and the gospel to be made known through our church. 

In Christ,
Joshua Harris 

I’ve asked the law firm some clarifying questions. 

From: Brent Detwiler []
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 9:50 AM
Subject: Information and Evidence 

Please access my blog at  It contains hundreds of pages of information and evidence. 


From: Brent Detwiler []
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:25 AM
Subject: RE: Information and Evidence

I will gladly help in your investigation.  Please contact me in this regard.   

From: Brent Detwiler []
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:09 AM
Subject: RE: Information and Evidence

At the conclusion of your investigation will you be sharing all your findings with Covenant Life Church?  In other words, do you intend to share incriminating evidence with the public that could result in fines or jail time for CLC employees (e.g. Grant Layman), former employees (e.g. C.J. Mahaney, John Loftness, Gary Ricucci, Stephen Griney), or current members (e.g. Mark Hoffman, Dave Mayo, Charlie Llewellyn)?


From: Brent Detwiler []
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 12:29 PM
Cc:; Susan Burke; William O’Neil; Adam Malcolm; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler; Braden Greer; Corby Megorden; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Don Nalle; Eric Sheffer; Eric Simmons; Grant Layman; Issac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Jon Smith; Joshua Harris; Keith Welton; Kenneth Maresco; Mark Mitchell; Matt Maka; Robin Boisvert
Subject: RE: Information and Evidence 

To Whom It Concerns at Thaler Liebeler LLP, 

Would you please answer an additional question for me?  It is one many people at Covenant Life Church are asking.  Will you be sharing all the evidence you discover as you discover it with the Montgomery County Police Department (e.g. Detective Sally Magee)?  Or do plan to withhold that information from law enforcement under attorney-client privilege? 

I’d appreciate a candid response.  



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