On Wednesday, The Wartburg Watch rightly reported that C.J. Mahaney became a Southern Baptist Minister and Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville became a Southern Baptist Church earlier in the year. This has been a well-kept secret and for good reason. It is a sham!
At the same time, Mahaney and his church continue to be a part of the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination. This can’t be. Why, because Mahaney’s ecclesiology prevents it. You can’t be a Southern Baptist Church and a Sovereign Grace Church simultaneously but that is their claim. Theological integrity precludes such an arrangement.
Southern Baptist Churches are autonomous (see quotes below). They are free to do whatever they want. Sovereign Grace Churches are not. They are governed by The Book of Church Order of the Sovereign Grace Churches which is an intricate 109 page document. Mahaney played a major role in writing it and even served as Chairman and then co-Chairman of the Polity (i.e., Drafting) Committee with Phil Sasser. They and five other men including Jeff Purswell wrote this book on polity from March 2012 until February 2013.
Southern Baptist Churches are democratic and congregational in their practice of local church government. They are not led by elders or pastors. They are ultimately led by the congregation. Sovereign Grace Churches are diametrically opposed to this form of church government. They are elder led and overseen by Regional Leaders with supposed apostolic gifting. The congregation has no leadership role and there are no democratic processes in the local church.
On March 8, 2013 Mahaney wrote the following on the Sovereign Grace blog.
“The next chapter of SGM’s history begins April 12 when we will, Lord willing, transition to a new policy pending a vote of ratification. This marks the culmination of over three years of prayer, study, and dialogue to arrive at this new form of polity, which I believe will serve our family of churches for decades to come.”
The “new form of polity” [i.e. The Book of Church Order (BCO)] was ratified on April 12 as expected.
Southern Baptist Ministers are only accountable to their local church. Sovereign Grace Ministers are accountable to a national Council of Elders, a national Leadership Team, a national Executive Committee, a Regional Presbytery and all kinds of Courts and Committees. Mahaney played a major role in designing this massive denominational bureaucracy. Then he highly touted the accomplishment. Sovereign Grace Churches are the exact opposite of Southern Baptist Churches in how they are led and governed.
Furthermore, Mahaney made a commitment “to vigorously maintain and promote all of the unique values of Sovereign Grace including elder governed/led polity” when he signed The Partnership Agreement (cf. BCO, 19.2.2, pp. 71-72). One could argue he renounced this commitment when he joined the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and became a Southern Baptist minister. I would argue he compromised his integrity and became a Baptist in name only so students in the Sovereign Grace Pastors College could receive favored treatment by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville. More in a minute.
Southern Baptists are well-known for their commitment to only immerse regenerate believers who make a clear confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are also well-known for their congregational form of church government and view of the local church as independent and autonomous.
I love much that the Southern Baptist Convention stands for but I could never become a Southern Baptist minister because I don’t believe the Bible teaches congregationalism or local church autonomy. It is not complicated. I could not join the SBC as a matter of personal and theological integrity.
In this regard, I have several questions for you, C.J. First, how are you going to “vigorously promote elder governed/led polity” in the Southern Baptist Convention? Second, how could you possibly join the SBC when you completely disagree with them on such an important matter as church government? Third, did you allow Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville to vote on whether or not to become a Southern Baptist Church? Fourth, since you are a Southern Baptist church will you embrace congregationalism?
Fifth, now that you are a confessed Southern Baptist minister, will you repent and begin to follow the resolutions “On the Sexual Abuse of Children” that were passed at the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2013 with you in mind!
On the Sexual Abuse of Children
June 11-12, 2013
RESOLVED, That we remind all Southern Baptists of their legal and moral responsibility to report any accusations of child abuse to authorities in addition to implementing any appropriate church discipline or internal restoration processes; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we likewise call upon all Southern Baptists to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in exposing and bringing to justice all perpetrators, sexual or otherwise, who criminally harm children placed in our trust; and be it further
To my knowledge, Mahaney has never done this; and to my knowledge, he has done just the opposite. Convicted sex abuser, Nathaniel Morales is a case in point. Mahaney and his staff never reported him to law enforcement. As a result, he went on to sexually abuse boys over the next 20 years. That is a matter of fact.
There was also a third resolution that specifically had C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries in mind.
RESOLVED, That we encourage all denominational leaders and employees of the Southern Baptist Convention 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; and be it finally
For a fuller treatment of these resolutions read Southern Baptist Convention Passes Resolutions on Sex Abuse and Affiliations with Groups Like Sovereign Grace Ministries (June 13, 2013)
As a result of this resolution, President R. Albert Mohler and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY had to end their special agreement with Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. This termination was a major blow to the Pastors College (PC). In fact, the PC was shut down in 2014-2015 for a lack of students. For a much fuller treatment read SGM Pastors College on Life Support – Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Terminates Special Agreement (July 18, 2014)
Jeff Purswell, Dean of the Pastors College, wrote this sorrowful letter to the students who just graduated in June 2014. He said in part.
I’m writing with some disappointing news. Southern Seminary has informed me that it is discontinuing the formal relationship between Southern and Sovereign Grace. This is a rather complex situation, and I’m unable to share all of the internal factors influencing their decision. Suspicions cast upon Sovereign Grace by the ongoing civil suit, and again by the recent Morales case, have unfortunately produced pressures upon various friends and partners of Sovereign Grace. Such factors appear to have played a role in this suspension.
We continue to appreciate SBTS and are grateful for the relationship we have enjoyed over the past couple of years, and it is possible that that relationship could be reestablished in the future.
Yours in Christ,
I wrote about the “Cadillac package” that was lost after the termination. I said in part.
“This special arrangement came about because of C.J. Mahaney’s special relationship with Al Mohler. Mohler brought about these extraordinary benefits for students in the Pastors College!
“The Masters of Divinity is the most distinguished graduate degree for pastors. It requires three years of study including courses in Hebrew and Greek. Under this arrangement a PC graduate could transfer 35 credits, earn 18 more credits as a pastoral intern in his SGM church, and complete the remaining 41 credits without moving to Louisville. He was also eligible for scholarships. That’s a Cadillac package.
“Under the special agreement, PC students were charged the SBC tuition rate rather than the non-SBC tuition rate. In other words, students who were part of Mahaney’s church were treated like they were Southern Baptists. They automatically received the reduced rate. No longer. The total cost of tuition for the Masters of Divinity program just went from $24,000 to $48,000.
“The unaccredited Pastors College has nine students. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has over 4,600 students with more than 1,700 in the Master of Divinity program. It is considered by many to be the finest theological institution in the nation. That’s why cutting off the Pastors College is so painful. Purswell calls it a mere “disappointment” but it is much more. It is devastating.”
And now I have a sixth question for you C.J. A serious question! Did you become a Southern Baptist minister and church by contributing money to the SBC in order to “reestablish” all these lost benefits? Or put another way, did you and Purswell work out a new “agreement” with “various friends and partners” at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS)? Most notably with Al Mohler?
Todd Wilhelm of Thou Art the Man wrote the SBC and received this response from them.
Subject: SBC.NET Contact Us Form Inquiry
Name: Todd Wilhelm
Address: 664 E Rancho Viejo Loop
City: Casa Grande
Zip Code: 85122
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Question/Comments: While searching your list of SBC churches I noticed that Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville is listed. Could you please verify for me if Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville is indeed now a SBC church? Thanks, Todd Wilhelm
From: Office of Convention Relations
Subject: RE: Wilhelm - Sovereign Grace Church
Date: September 17, 2015 at 1:44:37 AM GMT+4
Thank you for contacting us. Our records show that Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville has at some level indicated its desire to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. According to our records, it has contributed to Convention causes in the current budget year, which would make it eligible to seat messengers at the 2016 SBC annual meeting, though it has not in previous years. However, you would need to check with the church directly to verify that this is indeed the case. We recommend that you contact the church if you have any questions about its support of or involvement with SBC ministries.
We hope this helps.
Office of Convention Communications and Relations
Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
901 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37203
C.J., let’s be honest for a change. You “contributed to Convention causes” in order to become a Southern Baptist church so the Pastors College (PC) students can get reduced tuition and financial aid at the SBTS, be concurrently enrolled at SBTS, receive Master degree credit at SBTS, complete SBTS degrees via distant learning and church internships after they graduate from the PC. You know, all the things you lost when the seminary terminated its special relationship with you. Has that “relationship” been “reestablished” now that you are a paying Southern Baptist church?
A typical Southern Baptist church declares itself a “missionary Baptist church” and gives money to the state convention. That is precisely what you have done. You bought yourself into the SBC.
Southern Baptist Convention
A Closer Look
A church typically aligns with the Southern Baptist Convention by formally declaring that it is a “missionary Baptist church” in “friendly cooperation” with the Convention and contributing to the mission causes of the Convention through one of our cooperating state conventions.
By the way, where will did this money come from since you are first obligated to give 10% of your general income to Sovereign Grace Churches as stated in The Book of Church Order? Did you rob Peter (SGC) to pay Paul (SBC)? By 2008, you had personally given $100,000 or more to SBTS and became a member of the prestigious “President’s Council” (p. 43). You also had Sovereign Grace contribute $100,000 or more by then. How much are you giving now?
“To fund this partnership in church planting, church development, and global mission efforts, each Church Partner commits to a goal of giving 10% of their annual general (non-designated) fund giving.” (BCO, 188.8.131.52, p. 73)
And finally, will you be as fully committed to the Southern Baptist Convention as you are to Sovereign Grace Churches lest you be a superficial Baptist with nominal ties for the sake of pragmatic gains? You must know from fellow Baptist friends like Al Mohler, Mark Dever, David Platt and Russell Moore, that the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches cooperate and participate on the local, state and national level. Will Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville do the same? Will you be a three level church like the vast majority?
Southern Baptist Convention
A Closer Look
The vast majority of Southern Baptist churches maintain what many call “three levels of cooperation.” On the local level, churches participate in a local association of Baptist churches -- the “Jerusalem” component of cooperative ministry (Acts 1:8). On the state level, churches participate in common ministries, missions, and fellowship in an attempt to evangelize and serve the spiritual needs of those in the “Judea and Samaria” components of their Great Commission mandate. At the national level, churches participate in the “uttermost parts of the earth” component of missions and ministries.
C.J., you are free to give money to the Southern Baptist Convention and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with no strings attached. You are not free to buy a membership and pretend to be a Southern Baptist church and minister so the Pastors College receives special treatment.
It also lacks all integrity to be listed on the SBC website as a Baptist church and a Baptist minister. Imagine the poor Baptist family that visits your church fully expecting you are accountable to the congregation and subservient to the direction of the congregation. They will be stunned by your hypocrisy.
C.J., you can’t be a committed member of two different denominations with diametrically opposed understandings of church government and church autonomy. That’s like Mark Dever joining the Presbyterian Church of America while remaining a Southern Baptist. It can’t be done. He is not a Presbyterian. You are not a Baptist. Stop claiming to be one unless you are willing to leave Sovereign Grace Churches and embrace congregationalism like a true Baptist!
And there is no denying you are an official Southern Baptist. Fellow pastors, Brian Chesemore and Gary Ricucci, are also listed as Baptist ministers and even one your church members, James Kevin Forbis, has been appointed to the Teller Committee by Dr. Ronnie Floyd, current President of the SBC. Here is a picture of Forbis and Floyd together.
You are also eligible to seat representatives or “messengers” at the 2016 SBC annual meeting that determine the programs, policies, and budget of the Convention.
Your friend and supporter, Russel Moore, is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. I hope he takes the time to point out how unethical it is for you to become a nominal Baptist church and minister by means of money in order to secure special treatment for the Pastors College, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, and yourself while completely opposed to historic Baptist polity.
C.J., I’d not be surprised if you left Sovereign Grace Churches in the future because there is greater fame and fortune for you in the Southern Baptist Convention. Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries) is a disgrace. There is also doctrinal division. Nathan Sasser told The Westminster Theological Seminary and Banner of Truth the following on April 22, 2105 while lecturing on “Why Read Bannerman? Polity, Presbytery, and a Cautionary Tale.” Of course, Nathan was Jeff’s assistant and fellow teacher in the Pastors College. He must be stunned that you are now a Soutern Baptist minister.
“Sovereign Grace’s confessional document, its Statement of Faith, is still in great need of revision and expansion, it not wholesale replacement, and this is the most important issue in the immediate future of the denomination. If Sovereign Grace survives that process then some day we will need a Directory of Worship.” (April 22, 2015)
It is a small thing for you to leave Sovereign Grace Churches at this point in time and you will have many excuses to do so. I'd not be surprised if the denominational headquarters was moved from Louisville to Covenant Fellowship Church in Glendale, PA with Executive Director, Mark Prater. And I rather imagine your powerful Baptists friends are positioning you for far greater influence and leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. That has been a part of their plans in the past. You told me so on several occasions.
In the SBC, you’d also be completely independent and autonomous. You’d be perfectly free to believe and practice whatever you wanted. There are no standardized requirements for ordination or procedures for disqualification. This is no discipline, accountability or “quality control” beyond the local church. This prominent disclaimer appears on the SBC Minister Search.
“DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A LISTING OF “CONVENTION-CERTIFIED” OR “CONVENTION-APPROVED” MINISTERS. THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION DOES NOT QUALIFY, APPROVE, CERTIFY, ENDORSE, OR IN ANY WAY REVIEW OR SPEAK TO THE QUALIFICATION OF ANY MINISTER. (Under Baptist congregational polity, local churches determine for themselves the acceptability of their own chosen ministers and leaders.)
“THIS SERVICE SHOULD ALSO NOT BE USED BY CHURCHES ATTEMPTING TO FILL AN OPEN MINISTERIAL POSITION. This is only a service to find where any minister is reported (by each reporting church) to be currently serving.
“This is not an official or comprehensive listing of Southern Baptist vocational workers. Southern Baptist polity regards each local church as possessing exclusive authority to approve and select its own pastor and ministers. Therefore this database of ministers should not be taken as an endorsement of any individual by the Southern Baptist Convention or as an indication of accountability to the Southern Baptist Convention with respect to any person named.”
You’d only be accountable to your congregation (in theory) but even that is not enforceable according to SBC polity. God knows your fellow pastors at SGCL (Chesemore, Ricucci, Purswell, & Kauflin) have not held you accountable. They have endlessly enabled you and covered up for you. And as you well know, Ricucci is accused of aiding and abetting sex crimes. See Gary Ricucci & the Conspiracy Surrounding Convicted Felon, David Adams.
C.J., you are making a well-planned comeback with the help of many powerful men (e.g., your return to T4G 2016) but it may be short lived because Jesus Christ is Lord and he is not duped by your many pretentions. Time after time over the last 15 years, you have exalted yourself only to be humbled and disciplined by the Lord. Now you are pretending to be a Southern Baptist, when you are not a Southern Baptist, for personal gain. That only invites more opposition from the Lord.
Here are some quotes from various SBC sources regarding their view of church government and involvement with them.
Southern Baptist Convention
Every denomination is experiencing tension, and Southern Baptists are no exception. Of course, tension can be healthy. It serves to clarify beliefs. But tension also has a down side. It can generate misleading statements and create confusion in the local church. We know that some may be struggling to sort out truth from fiction.
Because this is so, we offer you these simple position statements which reflect the actions of the Convention and its entities. We hope that they will prove helpful to you.
Creeds and Confessions
In some groups, statements of belief have the same authority as Scripture. We call this creedalism. Baptists also make statements of belief, but all of them are revisable in light of Scripture. The Bible is the final word.
Because of this distinction, we are generally more comfortable with the word “confession.” Still, we are “creedal” in the sense that we believe certain things, express those beliefs and order our institutions accordingly. There have always been Baptist limits. And within these limits, there have always been Baptist preferences.
We affirm the autonomy of the local church. Each church is free to determine its own membership and to set its own course under the headship of Jesus. It may enter into alliance with other churches as it chooses, so long as those other churches are willing.
The same is true for other Baptist bodies – local associations; state conventions; national conventions. They, too, may determine their membership and set their own course.
If, in its autonomy, a Baptist body expels a church from its fellowship, it does not negate that church’s autonomy. The church is perfectly free to go on with its business – but not as a member of that larger Baptist body.
Southern Baptist Convention
The Baptist Faith and Message
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
Southern Baptist Convention
A Closer Look
The principal means by which Southern Baptist churches fund their respective state convention ministries and the missions and ministries of the SBC is through the Cooperative Program. In 1925, recognizing the need to consolidate financial appeals to the churches from a host of ministries within the states and at the national level, the Convention created the Cooperative Program and invited the state conventions to partner with it, which they gladly did and do. The vast majority of Southern Baptist churches maintain what many call “three levels of cooperation.” On the local level, churches participate in a local association of Baptist churches -- the “Jerusalem” component of cooperative ministry (Acts 1:8). On the state level, churches participate in common ministries, missions, and fellowship in an attempt to evangelize and serve the spiritual needs of those in the “Judea and Samaria” components of their Great Commission mandate. At the national level, churches participate in the “uttermost parts of the earth” component of missions and ministries.
Southern Baptists as a “Denomination”
Southern Baptists are a “Denomination” only in the word’s most general meaning -- a general name for a category of similar things. Churches that practice believer’s baptism by immersion have been “denominated” by others and by themselves as Baptists for many centuries. When the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, it used the term in this general way (see the preamble to the SBC Constitution). By doctrine and polity, the SBC cannot and does not unite local congregations into a single legal denominational body. Each cooperating Baptist body -- local church, association, state convention, and auxiliary -- retains its sovereignty and is fully autonomous.
These autonomous Baptist bodies work together in friendly cooperation to achieve common Kingdom ministries and purposes. Each autonomous Baptist church, association, and state convention (see SBC Constitution, Article IV) participates in Convention causes voluntarily.
A church typically aligns with the Southern Baptist Convention by formally declaring that it is a “missionary Baptist church” in “friendly cooperation” with the Convention and contributing to the mission causes of the Convention through one of our cooperating state conventions. The number of messengers a church may seat at the annual meeting depends on a combination of church size and the amount a church contributed to the Convention work in the previous fiscal year. While most messengers pre-register online at www.sbc.net, messenger cards can be requested from cooperating Baptist state conventions. We encourage churches that wish to identify with the SBC to notify their state convention office. Even if they have not yet qualified to send messengers to the annual meeting, their report of current giving to Convention work will signal their cooperative intention and prompt their addition to Convention mailing lists.
Within the Southern Baptist Convention, the licensing and ordination of ministers is a local church matter. There is no denominational ordination service. The list of Southern Baptist ministers on www.sbc.net/ministersearch is simply a compilation from the reports of the churches and is the responsibility of the churches to update. Since the SBC is not a church, it cannot ordain or defrock ministers; nor does it maintain a list of “certified” ministers. Ministerial certification is the role and responsibility of each local church.
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