The Council of Elders is the national governing body for Sovereign Grace Ministries. It is comprised of one representative elder from each church unless a church has more than 500 adult members. In such a case, the church is granted two voting elders. 50 of the 62 representative elders passed the following statement while 12 abstained or voted against it. Two years ago, there were 107 churches in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Many have left the denomination.
Following is the Council of Elders Statement Posted on the SGM Website.
It can also be read directly here.
"August 5, 2013
The Sovereign Grace Council of Elders held their inaugural meeting May 23-25, 2013, in Orlando, Florida. In addition to approving a motion to form a Strategy Committee for International Missions and confirming Mark Prater as the first Executive Director, the Council of Elders also approved, by a supermajority, the following statement to be sent to every Sovereign Grace church and posted on the Sovereign Grace Ministries website.
As the Sovereign Grace Council of Elders, representing the elderships that govern local churches, we believe that Brent Detwiler has repeatedly and grievously slandered our churches and our leaders. We denounce as sinful and unbiblical his determined effort to accuse our brethren. Consequently, we urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to avoid giving audience to Brent Detwiler’s unbiblical speech until such a time that he repents of this ungodly pattern. Such harmful speech is ruinous to the church of God.
Furthermore, in contradiction to Brent Detwiler’s ongoing statements, we vigorously reiterate our support of C.J. Mahaney as a qualified minister of the gospel. While we wholeheartedly support our reformation in polity, we also publicly declare our gratefulness for C.J.’s many years of service and commend his ongoing ministry of the gospel.
 This belief is based on the numerous public statements Brent has made accusing leaders of Sovereign Grace churches of lying, deception, hypocrisy, conspiracy, abuse, etc. without due process nor sufficient information and at times blatantly contrary to the facts.
 See Exodus 23:1, Proverbs 11:9,13, 20:19, 26:20, 1 Corinthians 13:7, Ephesians 4:29-32, 1 Timothy 5:19, Titus 3:1-3, James 4:11-12, and 1 Peter 2:1.
 Per Interim Board announcement on the review panels dated January 25, 2012 and Preliminary Panel Report dated July 27, 2011.
 C.J. serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville but does not hold a staff position with Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc."
This statement comes as no surprise. Though posted on Monday, I’ve know about it for the past three months. Mike Pierson, senior pastor of Providence Church of Pittsburgh, recently explained to his church why the lengthy delay.
“I told you a while back that I was at the Council Elders meeting [as an observer], which is the national gathering…and this is all brand new as far as motions being made and things being voted on. And I told you…that a motion was brought by somebody and the motion had to do with making proclamations about the documents that Brent Detwiler had put out and also making affirmations about C.J. Mahaney and his continued call and gifting for ministry. And I told you that I would not have voted for that. I would have liked to been able to speak up and would not have voted for that but the motion did carry. There was some discussion. The motion carried. It happened. And so I kind of left there scratching my head, thinking…it just didn’t work the way I thought it should work. It just was quick. It didn’t seem to take dissenting opinion into consideration. It just happened fast. Well, I just recently found out there’s been a lot has happened since then…. So some pastors who had dissenting opinions about that looked at the Book of Church Order, saw there was recourse in the Book of Church Order, to ask for a Special Session of the Council of Elders…to reconsider that decision [so] a special session can be called where that is re-opened for discussion and a new decision can potentially be made. That has happened…. Soon a special session will be reconvened.”
C.J. Mahaney, Mark Prater who is the Executive Director for SGM, and others were behind the effort to rush through the approval at the inaugural meeting on May 23-25 in order to coincide with the release of supportive statements by Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever from Together for the Gospel on May 23 and by Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor from The Gospel Coalition on May 24. It was all part of a carefully planned and orchestrated public relations push. It backfired.
For a critique of their statements see Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor Defend C.J. Mahaney Against Charges in SGM Sex Abuse Scandal and C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from Together for the Gospel & Founders Remove Statement of Support.
A Little History for New Readers
Before I proceed, let me provide a little history for those less acquainted with me and the scandals surrounding Sovereign Grace Ministries.
I was converted to Christ under the preaching of Bill Bright and Billy Graham just after I graduated from high school in 1972. During my college years, I led a campus ministry. Later, I graduated from seminary in 1979 and entered into full time ministry. I was one of the four men that started Sovereign Grace Ministries in 1982. I served on the Board of Directors for 25 years until I resigned in 2007. For the majority of those years, I was the number 2 leader after C.J. Mahaney. He was a dear and close friend.
In 2000, the other Board Members and I began to formally address serious and long standing patterns of sin in C.J.’s life. For the next ten years, I attempted to help C.J. in private. Those efforts failed.
In July 2011, it became necessary to send out four lengthy documents to all the pastors in Sovereign Grace Ministries because of C.J.’s continuing pride, deceit, lording, and hypocrisy. I never imagined having to take such a drastic step. It was out of love for him and the good of Sovereign Grace Ministries. I’ve always sought its reform, not its demise.
At the time, Joshua Harris wrote me the following note.
July 1, 2011
Your documents have helped me to face issues that I have not wanted to face. I told CJ and Dave [Harvey] and Jeff [Purswell] that I have played a part in failing to challenge CJ. If I had been more courageous 7 years ago he might not be at this same place. I feel that I have failed many people. And so I feel a great weight of regret and I know the Lord is disciplining me in this process too.
In August 2004, eight of C.J.’s closest friends met with him for five hours during which time we sought to address his heart on critical issues of character (see Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, pp. 16-30). I led the meeting. Immediately following the meeting, C.J. shut down the disciplinary process and silenced most of the men who initially spoke out. That included Joshua and that is why he says “If I had been more courageous 7 years ago he [C.J.] might not be at this same place [today].”
Ten days after Joshua sent me the note above, he preached a message to Covenant Life Church entitled “The Father’s Discipline.” What follows are excerpts from this extremely powerful message. He spoke like a prophet and without fear or hesitation. He shared openly and honestly. He put the blame for problems in SGM on himself and other leaders. It was a prophetic word to the whole movement. C.J. despised it. He immediately left the church without counsel from the pastors and never returned. He remains profoundly offended.
The entire message can be heard at Covenant Life Church's website. Here are some excerpts.
“We are walking through what is without any exaggeration the most difficult challenge that we have faced as a church. Last week C.J. Mahaney, a man who help to found this church and led it for 27 years, a man who is a father in the faith to many of us, a dear friend, a beloved teacher of the gospel, who has served as the President of our network of churches called Sovereign Grace. Last week C.J. stepped down from his role as President because of accusations that were being brought to him from several different men, one in particular, accusations of hypocrisy, coercion, deceit, sinful judgment and unentreatability.
“The primary person bringing these accusations is a man named Brent Detwiler who helped to found Sovereign Grace and served closely with C.J. for many years on the leadership team. In years past, Brent has preached here at CLC and is a friend to many. Brent has compiled three documents, totaling over 600 pages of emails and meeting notes and his own reflections in bringing these accusations to C.J. of his sin. And he sent these to C.J., one at a time over the past 16 months and when efforts at a process of mediation could not be agreed upon the three documents were sent to all the pastors of Sovereign Grace, and subsequently someone posted them on the internet this past week. In just a few days they have been down loaded and read by thousands of people and many, many, more people will be reading them in the coming days.
“The accusations and the details that are shared in these documents not only accused C.J. but they also, understandably so, call into question the judgment and the integrity of the leaders around C.J. including myself. People are asking, ‘What did people know and when did they know it? What did C.J. actually do? Is Brent’s interpretation of all these events true and why didn’t the men around C.J. do more to challenge him and help him?
“In the midst of a crisis like this one, the temptation for a leader like me is to stand before the people that I’ve been called to lead and say two things. It is not as bad as it seems. And it’s not your leaders’ fault. But I can’t say that because it wouldn’t be true. It is as bad as it seems. And it is the fault of your leaders. And we desperately need the help of God and the wisdom and the accountability of the people who have looked to our leadership to sort through this mess.
“Our focus does not need to be on our perceived enemies. I believe God would have your leaders humbly acknowledge that it is our sin and our failure and our faulty structures that have brought this trouble. I don’t believe that these events are an accident. I believe they are the loving discipline of our heavenly Father. And no matter whose fault this is, this is what we cannot get around. This is what is unavoidable. We cannot get around the fact that our church and our entire denomination is being publicly spanked. We are being humiliated. We are being brought low. God is getting our attention. And the word of God tells us in Hebrews 12 that he is treating us as sons.
“And so I just want to ask you a question. How could God discipline a whole church? How could God discipline a whole denomination? What possible set of circumstances could he create that would force entire family of churches to recognize, to acknowledge, to turn away from deeply entrenched and flawed patterns of leadership and practice and church government? What could God possibly do to get an entire movement to do that?
“Well let me just propose a scenario for you. He could allow a chorus of critics on the internet to point out the most glaring failures and inconsistencies of that movement in an unrelenting way. He could allow the issues that they didn’t want to deal with, or have the nerve to change, to be aired in public. He could allow a breakdown in a relationship and the stubbornness of leaders to culminate in a set of circumstances so that all the mistakes and all the relational sins at the top levels of leadership would be written down and posted on the internet for the entire world to read. Do you think that would work?
“God, and God alone, has brought this unthinkable sequence of events about. There are no accidents in his universe. He disciplines those he loves and it hurts and that’s the point. And that leads us to point number four. And that is, that we must be trained by it. God disciplines because he loves, it hurts, and we must be trained by it. We must be trained by it.
“There is so much joy in becoming more like our Lord and more pleasing to him. When we let go of those weights and those sins that we are carrying we are not going to be sad, we are going to be joyful. It is going to be better. Do you see that promise that God is holding out for us? But we have to allow the discipline to train us. You see there is a response involved on our part. There is a response involved on our part. It is to those who are trained by it. We can either choose to be trained by the discipline or we can resist it.
“Please pray for me. Please pray for all the people that are involved that we would be trained by this discipline. Not that we would just get through it. Not that any one person would be preserved, or not preserved in a position, but that the Lord would train us through this discipline. That we would receive and benefit from everything that he wants to teach us no matter how painful it is for anyone through the process. That we would not short circuit or try to run away from this process.” (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10, 2011)
In response to my sending out The Documents in July 2011, C.J. had Dave Harvey, his number 2 man, post the following five resolutions on the SGM website. It created a firestorm of protest from members throughout Sovereign Grace churches.
1. That Brent Detwiler’s refusal to participate in mediation with C.J. Mahaney—unless Mahaney first agrees (a) to publish an extensive written response to each of Detwiler’s accusations and (b) to make a public confession prior to any mediation or impartial evaluation of his charges—is unjust and constitutes a denial of biblically grounded due process for a qualified minister of the gospel (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Timothy 5:19-20, Proverbs 25:9).
2. That Brent Detwiler’s distribution of written accusations against C.J. Mahaney to all Sovereign Grace pastors constitutes the public slander of Mahaney’s reputation.
3. That the board of Sovereign Grace Ministries has reviewed Brent Detwiler’s documents accusing C.J. Mahaney of sinful practices in the conduct of his ministry and finds no reason at this time to deem him unfit for ministry. However, the board will reevaluate Mahaney’s fitness after receiving formal evaluation of the accusations lodged against him (see below). The board acknowledges that sins have been committed but also recognizes and appreciates Mahaney’s eagerness to confess sins, pursue reconciliation with Detwiler, and pursue personal holiness and growth as a minister.
4. That C.J. Mahaney is a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry in Sovereign Grace and the wider body of Christ.
5. That Sovereign Grace Ministries will engage a process of evaluation regarding C.J. Mahaney’s fitness for ministry.
These resolutions contained numerous lies and misrepresentations. For example, SGM never engaged the process of evaluation they promised. Furthermore, C.J. had every opportunity to defend himself but he refused to do so because of his guilt, not his humility. These resolutions also gave evidence to the heavy handed way in which C.J. and his agents deal with people who bring correction. I wrote a 20 page response in which I addressed all of the issues in these five resolutions. Here is a short excerpt.
The Five Resolutions – July 13, 2011
Friday, January 13, 2012 at 8:36 AM
Six months ago today, Dave Harvey and the Sovereign Grace Board of Directors reacted to my sending out of The Documents to the SGM pastors with five resolutions. Those resolutions drew immediate fire from many quarters for being arrogant and heavy-handed.
Two days later, Dave was forced to write, ”When people are tempted to think that you are (and I’ll pull from our vast supply of quotes here) ‘gaming the system,’ engaging in ‘cronyism,’ ‘going to war,’ behaving with ‘hubris,’ ‘presumptuous and self-serving,’ and, well you get the idea—you’ve got the burden of ensuring they know you get the point.”
The critics were right. The descriptions were true. In the days to follow, Dave tried to spin his way out of trouble (see An Honest Take on a Difficult Week, July 15, 2011; Listening, July 18, 2011). A firestorm began.
The initial reaction of the SGM Board embodied and revealed the most serious issues I’ve raised with C.J., Dave, et al. over the past seven years. Their response was a near perfect illustration of what is wrong and needs to change in SGM. That change is not possible without new leadership.
No Reformation of Leadership Culture
Sovereign Grace Ministries has reformed some of its polity but it has not reformed its abusive leadership culture. Those who could have provided “new leadership” have left the denomination. If fact, the vast majority of C.J.’s close friends from the past 30 years have been forced to separate from him. That includes Joshua Harris and the 17 other pastors at Covenant Life Church. It also includes every SGM Board Member from 1982-2011 except two.
Moreover, there has been a massive exodus of godly people out of Sovereign Grace churches over the past five years and it only continues. SGM has tried to blame me, others, and blogs critical of SGM for all of their problems; but people by the tens of thousands have seen and experienced the systemic problems that exist in the ministry, which now includes the largest sex abuse conspiracy in the history of American Evangelicalism.
In spite of this, the newly convened Council of Elders remains unfazed and dogged. They press on with the same pride, deceit, lording and hypocrisy that characterized the SGM Board of Directors under C.J.’s control the past two years. SGM leadership has not changed. The Council of Elders have now played the slander card just like the Board of Directors did in July 2011 after I sent out The Documents.
“As the Sovereign Grace Council of Elders, representing the elderships that govern local churches, we believe that Brent Detwiler has repeatedly and grievously slandered our churches and our leaders. We denounce as sinful and unbiblical his determined effort to accuse our brethren. Consequently, we urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to avoid giving audience to Brent Detwiler’s unbiblical speech until such a time that he repents of this ungodly pattern. Such harmful speech is ruinous to the church of God.”
The charge of slander is the only weapon in SGM’s arsenal. They have never allowed me to present charges and they have never been willing to defend themselves. Their only defense has been to label me a slanderer, tell people I am motivated by vengeance, and threatened people with church discipline if they read my material. (see for example, Ten Common Cult-Like Characteristics Evident in Mickey Connolly’s Leadership)
The same kind of accusations were made by distinguished leaders like Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Ligon Duncan on C.J.’s behalf after I sent out The Documents.
“I always have had only the highest estimation of C.J. Mahaney as a man and a minister. That continues absolutely unchanged. There is nothing in this current situation which would leave me to have even the slightest pause of confidence in him. There is nothing disqualifying in terms of anything that is disclosed in [the documents]. It’s just evidence we knew all along, that C.J. is human but a deeply committed Christian and a visionary Christian leader. Detwiler has an obvious vendetta against C.J.” (Albert Mohler, The Courier-Journal, July 12, 2011)
“If you have been confused or discouraged by things you have read on the internet concerning my friend C.J. Mahaney and his leave of absence from the board and presidency of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), I would encourage you to…ignore the assaults of wounded people on attack websites and blogs… C.J. knows of my complete love and respect for him… It would have been very easy for the leadership of SGM to ignore and dismiss these charges, because so many of them are so evidently self-serving and spurious accusations.” (Ligon Duncan, “A Word About C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries,” July 12, 2011)
Such accusations are not true. I’ve worked for the reform of SGM, not its demise. So have many others and their plight has been the same as mine. 1 Corinthians 13:7 has been my guide. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. I’ve needed to expose wrongdoing because there has been no repentance and pursue the truth (i.e., justice) for those harmed including the victims of physical and sexual abuse. Love motivates such pursuits and rejoices when they are achieved.
Dr. Mohler can say “Detwiler has an obvious vendetta against C.J.” Dr. Duncan can say “I would encourage you to…ignore the assaults of wounded people on attack websites and blogs…because so many of them are so evidently self-serving and spurious accusations.” But here is what C.J. said about the same documents before they were sent to the SGM pastors.
From: C.J. Mahaney
Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:35 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
I think you are accurate in pointing out that I have overlooked statements you have made where you invited correction and disagreement. Please forgive me for doing so…. Thank you for this correction and thank you for inviting my correction and your openness to discuss all sides of our past interactions. I appreciate this evidence of humility in your life.
Brent, let me conclude by thanking you for sending me these documents. I am deriving much benefit from reading them and reviewing them with others.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 8:09 AM
To: C. J. Mahaney
Subject: Overlooking Statements
Thanks for your note C.J. and willingness to review my documents with others. I’m not sure forgiveness is necessary for overlooking my statements but it is certainly granted. I’m glad to hear you’re finding the documents of some benefit. Grace to you as you continue to seek the Lord.
From: C.J. Mahaney
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2010 12:18 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: FW: Overlooking Statements
Thanks for your gracious response. I’m not finding the documents to be of some benefit, I’m finding them to be of significant benefit.
This assessment changed when I sent out The Documents. Overnight they went from “documents…of significant benefit” to “spurious accusations” condemned as “slander.” Dave Harvey even referred to them as a “sad tale” in a secret letter to the SGM pastors (see The Mona Lisa of Spin by Master Harvey). This represents an accurate portrayal of how C.J. and SGM operate when protecting their image.
Here is an actual example of how I wrote and what I wrote from the third document.
June 8, 2011
He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
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…
An Appeal for Justice
SGM has never faced the facts. They have never dealt with the evidence against them. They have never given an accounting for their actions. Furthermore, they have never allowed me to present my charges. And most importantly, they have never defended themselves against my charges before a Court of Appeals.
The Council of Elders says,
“We believe that Brent Detwiler has repeatedly and grievously slandered our churches and our leaders…. This belief is based on the numerous public statements Brent has made accusing leaders of Sovereign Grace churches of lying, deception, hypocrisy, conspiracy, abuse, etc. without due process nor sufficient information and at times blatantly contrary to the facts.”
They are welcome to accuse me of slander but they must prove it. In over 3,000 pages of hard evidence, I have documented my charges of “lying, deception, hypocrisy, conspiracy, abuse, etc.” I say to the Council of Elders, “Set up an open hearing! I am glad for you to show me where I have presented insufficient information or information contrary the facts.” That has always been my position and posture of heart.
Yet, time after time, C.J. Mahaney and his inner circle have been unwilling to do so. They have cowered from such an arrangement and this is well known to everyone who has followed the events of the past two years. Here are but two examples of my repeated efforts to be heard and tried.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2011 8:45 AM
To: SGM Board
Cc: Ken Sande; Ted Kober; Edgar Keinath; Bryce Thomas; CLC Pastors
Subject: Suggested Proposal for Just, Impartial and Thorough Evaluation of C.J. and SGM
I formally request the following proposal be adopted by the SGM Board. If any parts of this proposal are unacceptable, please provide the reasons why and offer alternatives.
1. Ken Sande serves as facilitator for the evaluation process.
2. Ken selects three judges or lawyers and two pastors who are evangelical believers and highly respected with little or no knowledge of SGM to serve as the evaluators.
3. This five man panel will hear evidence for and against C.J. and SGM. They will post a summary of the evidence and give their legal/pastoral opinion as to C.J.’s fitness and the fitness of other leaders like Dave [Harvey], Steve [Shank] Bob [Kauflin] and Gene [Emerson]. They are also welcome to post their assessment of me.
4. C.J. and I will negotiate the terms and conditions with Ken for this thorough going evaluation of SGM and its agents.
5. If necessary, Ken will serve outside of his official capacity as President of Peacemakers if the terms and conditions of the agreement do not meet, or differ with, the specifications of Peacemakers and thereby prevent his official involvement. In such case, he will act as a qualified believer.
When I received no response from the SGM Board to this “Proposal for a Just, Impartial and Thorough Evaluation of C.J. and SGM,” I asked them to put it up for a vote by the all the SGM pastors.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, October 13, 2011 12:49 PM
To: SGM Board
Cc: Ted Kober; Edgar Keinath; Ken Sande; CLC Pastors
Subject: FW: Personal Appeal to C.J.
To the SGM Board,
At no time have you commented on my proposal. I see absolutely no reason to reject it if you are genuinely interested in reconciliation and an impartial evaluation of SGM. I have a serious request to make of you. Put this proposal before all the pastors of SGM (not just sr. pastors) for a vote. Let the majority decide. I am confident the leaders in SGM would welcome such a proposal if presented fairly.
I am also very willing to stand before all the SGM pastors and answer any questions they have for me. Furthermore, I’d like to invite all the SGM pastors to the hearing described so they can hear the evidence and evaluate for themselves.
Two weeks later, I wrote the Board of Directors again and copied all the pastors in SGM. My request for a vote and a hearing were flatly denied by the Board.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 9:42 AM
To: Aron Osborne; C. J. Mahaney; Craig Cabaniss; Dave Harvey; Jeff Purswell; John Loftness; Mark Prater; Mickey Connolly; Pete Greasley; Rick Gamache; Steve Shank
Cc: Ted Kober; Edgar Keinath; Bryce Thomas; Ken Sande; Tommy Hill; Andrew Mahr; Bob Kauflin; Tony Reinke; Adam Malcolm; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler; Braden Greer; Corby Megorden; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Eric Sheffer; Eric Simmons; Grant Layman; Greg Somerville; Issac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Jon Smith; Joshua Harris; Kenneth Maresco; Mark Mitchell; Matt Maka; Robin Boisvert; SGM Pastors
Subject: A Second Appeal
I’ve not heard back from you. Have you reconsidered? Have you changed your mind? Will you allow for a hearing? Will you permit me to make my case? Or will you reject this pleading? Will you deny this appeal?
I’d also like to ask again that you put my request to a vote of all SGM pastors as an expression of humility and accountability. Let them vote anonymously. Let their perspective count. Let them provide you counsel.
Six months later I tried again. This request was also denied. These efforts at justice are thoroughly recorded in My Appeal to the SGM Pastors for a Church Court in Order to Avoid a Civil Court. Here are two piece of correspondence found in that treatment.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2012 6:05 PM
To: Aron Osborne; C. J. Mahaney; Craig Cabaniss; Dave Harvey; Jeff Purswell; Mark Prater; Mickey Connolly; Pete Greasley; Rick Gamache; Steve Shank; Andrew Mahr; Bob Kauflin; Gary Ricucci; Tommy Hill; Al Pino; Ian McConnell; John Loftness; Ken Mellinger; Paul Buckley; Phil Sasser; Brian Brookins; Mark Alderton; Ron Boomsma; Steve Teter; Warren Boettcher
Cc: Adam Malcolm; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler; Braden Greer; Corby Megorden; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Eric Sheffer; Eric Simmons; Grant Layman; Issac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Jon Smith; Joshua Harris; Kenneth Maresco; Mark Mitchell; Matt Maka; Robin Boisvert; Bryce Thomas; Edgar Keinath; Ken Sande; Ted Kober; Chip Grange
Subject: RE: Sovereign Grace Relocation Announcement
I have sent the SGM Board and the CLC [Covenant Life Church] pastors everything I’ve ever written over the last two years. That’s because I don’t hide my words and I’ve welcomed their feedback. I’ve repeatedly asked C.J., Dave and the Board to correct any inaccuracies. I’ve written them for specific clarifications. I’ve asked them countless questions. I’ve confronted their lies and deceit. In short, I’ve done my best to walk in the light and interact with them. The offer stands. I want any factual errors I am guilty of corrected with evidence. If those factual errors prove I have judged anyone; I will repent, ask your forgiveness and write a public retraction. I’ve done this before. I’ll do it as many times as necessary. I’ve only wanted the truth. That is why I have pursued input from the Board and CLC.
Someday soon, I hope the Board will fulfill its promise and allow me to share my charges against C.J. and others in a just setting with honorable men. Someday soon I also hope they will grant my request to defend against my wrongful termination in July 2009. To date, they have forbid me from expressing my grievances in both cases even though I was promised the opportunity to do so. I also want to defend against the libelous report written by Mark Prater, Warren Boettcher and Ron Boomsma in December 2011.
April 23, 2012
To All SGM Pastors
Urgent. Please read immediately.
1. C.J.’s deceitful explanation for his leave of absence.
2. The favoritism shown C.J. by the Sovereign Grace Board.
3. The failure of the Covenant Life Pastors to enforce 1 Timothy 5:19-21.
4. Making me out to be the only witness against C.J.
5. The necessity of telling the Church (Matthew 18:15-17).
6. The denial of sin problems in Sovereign Grace Ministries.
7. The deceit of Dave Harvey and the Sovereign Grace Board.
8. The need to speak against evil.
See Eight Reasons Why Sending Out the Documents Was Not Slander but Necessary for a much fuller explanation.
I am appealing to you again. The interim Board comprised of Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, John Loftness, Mickey Connolly, Craig Cabaniss, Steve Shank, Mark Prater, Pete Greasley, Aron Osborne, and Rick Gamache, have denied me justice since they took office on July 13, 2011. My charges against C.J. and other agents of SGM have not been given a hearing. I’ve been given no remedy for my grievances.
Therefore, I ask each one of you to intercede on my behalf and petition the new Board to agree this week to the use an outside church court as outlined below. I beg your immediate assistance! This request does not differ from what was originally and repeatedly promised to me by C.J., Dave, Jeff and Joshua from July 2010 to July 2011. In reality, I am simply asking you to hold them accountable to their word so additional action need not be taken…
The Most Troubling Phrase of All
The Council of Elders claims I’ve accused their leaders without due process. This is the most deceitful and disturbing comment of all. It is pure spin and contrary to all the facts. These leaders know I’ve repeatedly asked C.J. Mahaney and those accused to defend themselves.
SGM has not been denied due process. The truth be told, they have fled, loathed, and despised due process. Due process means they have to provide answers to hard questions. Due process means they have to be open and honest. Due process means they have to refute evidence. Due process means objective judges are present to adjudicate. SGM fears due process more than anything in this world!
In this act of great hypocrisy, the Council of Elders condemns me for slander without presenting evidence or allowing any defense. This is a brazen denial of due process and an egregious violation of the polity they proudly espouse, but don’t follow, in their Book of Church Order. See Rules of Discipline, pp. 55-74.
This can be corrected. I’ll fly to Louisville, Kentucky tomorrow and meet with C.J. so we can begin to arrange for a Church Court. I am not being pompous. I am serious. Ken Sande can preside. John Piper and Wayne Grudem can assist. It barely matters. The evidence will convince the most ardent supporter of C.J. that there are very serious problems in his life and SGM. Let me state again in no uncertain terms. Put me on trial but let it be an open trial! I will gladly appear and I won’t bring any lawyers.
Council of Elders put forth your evidence to show where I have slandered, failed to put forward sufficient information, and blatantly put forward charges contrary to the facts. This is not a dare. I have invited such examinations for over three years. I am serious about this offer.
And then allow for reciprocity! Let the facts speak and let me demonstrate that I am the one who has been denied due process and by malicious means. You have never allowed me to make my case by presenting evidence, calling witnesses, or cross examining false witnesses though all this was promised me. Instead, you have shielded the accused and them off the hook when they have grievously transgressed God’s holy law (see for example, Get Out of Jail Free Card for C.J. – No Adjudication Hearing).
At this open Church Court let’s review what I have written in The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 1) and The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 2). That is only right and fair. You may accuse me but you must back up your accusation.
The Sex Abuse Conspiracy
It is one thing when SGM leaders cover up their sins. It is another thing when they cover up their crimes. The Council of Elders points out that I have accused SGM leaders like C.J. Mahaney, John Loftness and Gary Ricucci of a conspiracy to commit and cover up sex crimes. That is correct and so have 11 victims of physical and sexual abuse. I am in good company.
A 46 page civil lawsuit called the Second Amended Class Action Complaint and Jury Demand was filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries and others on May 14, 2013. Most of the counts in the lawsuit were dismissed due to a statute of limitations in Maryland. None of it substantive merits were addressed or ruled upon by the Judge.
The case is being appealed and with good reason. More states are removing the statute of limitations applied to civil courts because they now realize it can take victims traumatized by sex offenders a long time before they come forward and take action. Thankfully, there is no statute of limitations for sex crimes in criminal courts. Criminal investigations are underway.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the charge of a massive cover up that was carried out while C.J. was senior pastor of Covenant Life Church and President of Sovereign Grace Ministries. For example.
“This lawsuit seeks damages for all persons who were harmed and continue to be harmed by an ongoing conspiracy formed in Maryland and implemented across the nation in the SGM “family” of churches. This conspiracy has existed for decades, and resulted in numerous children being sexually assaulted on church and school property and by church and school employees and volunteers. Participants in the conspiracy include Defendants Mahaney, Loftness, Tomczak, Layman, Ricucci, Gallo, Ecelbarger, Mullery, D. Hinders, and V. Hinders. These men conspired, and continue to conspire, to permit sexual deviants to have unfettered access to children for purposes of predation, and to obstruct justice by covering up ongoing and past predation.” (Complaint 1, p. 1)
“From 1982 to the present, the individual Defendants participated in a conspiracy to permit sexual deviants to have unfettered access to children for purposes of predation, and to obstruct justice from occurring with respect to past and ongoing predation. Defendants covered up ongoing sexual and physical abuse of minors and repeatedly and routinely violated the mandatory reporting laws designed to keep children safe from sexual predation.” (Complaint 29, p. 8)
The word “conspiracy” appears 48 times and the word “cover up” appears 17 times in The Second Amended Complaint. The allegation of an extensive conspiracy appears throughout the document.
Nevertheless, the SGM Board of Directors (now called the Executive Committee), has categorically denied there is any evidence whatsoever of a conspiracy! They have dismissed every allegation of fact by 11 Plaintiffs. Here are their denials which were posted on the SGM website.
Statement on the Amended Civil Lawsuit Filed
May 14, 2013
Our careful review of the allegations to date has not produced any evidence of any cover-up or conspiracy.
SGM Board: Update on the Amended Civil Lawsuit
May 20, 2013
Let us reiterate that our review of the allegations has not produced any evidence of any cover-up or conspiracy by SGM.
I have written about the conspiracy at some length though more work needs to be done. There is no question of a massive cover up. These reckless statements by the SGM Board of Directors fly in the face of all the evidence. Wittingly or unwittingly, they are part of the conspiracy too. Such pronouncements are absurd. Read the following posts in evidence thereof.
The Conspiracy Surrounding Plaintiff Grace Goe at Covenant Life Church
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
John Loftness in Focus – Former Chairman of the SGM Board & Alleged Sexual Sadist
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Grant Layman and the Conspiracy Surrounding Nathaniel Morales
Friday, July 26, 2013 at 5:10 PM
Gary Ricucci and the Conspiracy Surrounding Convicted Felon, David Adams
Friday, August 2, 2013 at 8:11 PM
Let me present but one example of the conspiracy as alleged in the lawsuit. “Loftness” is John Loftness, the former Chairman of the SGM Board. “Griney” is Stephen Griney, a former teacher at Covenant Life School. “Ricucci” is Gary Ricucci, the current Director of Students at the SGM Pastors College and brother in law of C.J. Mahaney. All of these men worked for C.J. and were close friends of C.J.
“During the 1985/1986 school year, Defendant Loftness, Griney and Defendant Ricucci brought Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas into an empty room with two other girls. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas recognized the girls, one of whom was Plaintiff Thompson. (The other is not being named here to protect her privacy.) Defendants directed the girls to strip off their underwear, and lay across desks. Defendant Loftness beat Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas on her bare buttocks. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas heard the unnamed girl crying, and saw Griney hitting her on her bare buttocks. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas turned over her shoulder to look for Plaintiff Thompson, and realized Defendant Ricucci had taken her out of the room. Defendant Loftness continued to beat Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas’ bare buttocks, and then he inserted his fingers into her vagina.” (Complaint 90, pp. 20-21)
None of this means anything to the SGM Board of Directors/Executive Committee. It is dismissed by them as pure fiction.
No Self-Examination by the Council of Elders
When the Council of Elders met for the first time in May, they had no idea it might be a good time to humble themselves in light of God’s opposition! There was no willingness to examine the past or present. There was no self-suspicion or self-examination.
Instead they took the occasion to exalt themselves by putting forth a statement that denies lying, deception, hypocrisy, conspiracy, and abuse by it leaders and especially by C.J. Mahaney. In my opinion, and let me quote them, “Such harmful speech is ruinous to the church of God.”
Tragically the 50 representative elders have failed to be trained by discipline over the last two years. They continue to lead SGM down the path of pride that has brought about its demise. They have taking lightly the discipline of God and “run away from this process.”
“Please pray for all the people that are involved that we would be trained by this discipline. Not that we would just get through it. Not that any one person would be preserved, or not preserved in a position, but that the Lord would train us through this discipline. That we would receive and benefit from everything that he wants to teach us no matter how painful it is for anyone through the process. That we would not short circuit or try to run away from this process.” (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10, 2011)
What Will It Profit a Man
C.J. Mahaney has pronounced spiritual gifts and a magnanimous personality but he has craved the praise of men and pretended humility. We addressed this issues with him in August, 2004 and on many other occasions. These root issues led to lying, deceit and abuse in order to preserve his reputation and position.
Dave Harvey replaced me as the number 2 leader in SGM in November 2007 when I resigned because I no longer trusted C.J. Dave was made interim President of SGM in July 2011 when C.J. took a “leave of absence” after I sent out The Documents. Dave just left SGM in June. Here’s one of the reasons for his departure – a falling out with C.J. because he was not willing to categorically commend C.J. and condemn me.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2012 9:48 AM
To: Dave Harvey
Subject: Falling Out with C.J.
I’ve been told about the break down in your relationship with C.J. because he feels you did not defend him adequately and did not denounce me, Larry Tomczak, etc. more harshly. This comes as no surprise. You need to bring this to the immediate attention of the entire Board to whom you and C.J. are now accountable. Be honest with them. Don’t cover up for C.J. Put an end to the enablement. You must tell the Board about this mistreatment of you. Dave, you know full well that nothing has changed with C.J. Your assessment and my assessment from 2004 are as relevant today.
“To correct CJ, or to challenge his own self-perception, was to experience a reaction through e-mails, consistent disagreement (without seeking to sufficiently understand), a lack of sufficient follow-up and occasionally, relational withdrawal. Along with this, CJ was poor in volunteering areas of sin, temptation or weakness in himself.” (Dave Harvey, Nov 11, 2004)
“[C.J.] can become resentful, distrustful or withdraw when he feels misunderstood, judged, or sinned against by others. Can judge or prematurely come to conclusions about others based on limited or incomplete information. When correcting or disagreeing can communicate his assessment or perspective too strongly or categorically. Can lack gentleness and not perceive the unhelpful effect of his words, actions or decisions upon an individual. Can be difficult to correct and help because he often disagrees with or has a different perspective on illustrations. Infrequently makes us aware of specific sins or the correction others are bringing to him.” (Brent Detwiler, April, 2004)
I have little hope you and C.J. will be transparent with the Board. I imagine this will be glossed over and made to sound like a trifle when it is serious. Please turn the corner on a new lease in life by doing what is right.
In April of this year, C.J. “transitioned” from his role as President but not before he positioned Mark Prater to become the Executive Director for Sovereign Grace Ministries. C.J. knew Mark would get him the universal commendation and condemnation he has craved for a long time. It is all so sad!
“Furthermore, in contradiction to Brent Detwiler’s ongoing statements, we vigorously reiterate our support of C.J. Mahaney as a qualified minister of the gospel. While we wholeheartedly support our reformation in polity, we also publicly declare our gratefulness for C.J.’s many years of service and commend his ongoing ministry of the gospel."
A Modern Day Object Lesson for the Evangelical Church
It doesn’t matter what the Council of Elders says about me. I will continue to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s people by presenting the truth about Sovereign Grace Ministry as fairly and accurately as I can. I have no choice in the matter. My life is not my own.
In his providence, God has ordained every circumstance surrounding SGM for the good of his Church at large. Once greatly exalted, Sovereign Grace Ministries has been brought low. This is not due to slander or owing to the devil. It is an expression of God’s opposition in the face of unrepentant pride.
Jesus was not slandering the religious leaders of his day when he exposed their hypocrisy. He was simply speaking the truth.
Matt 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Sovereign Grace Ministries is in grave trouble. This edict is a desperate attempt to salvage the vestiges of what little remains. Please pray for C.J. that he will sincerely repent (see C.J.’s Foxhole Conversion). Pray for the Council of Elders that they will pursue truth and justice. Pray for national leaders who enable C.J. and refuse to examine the evidence.
Pray also for law enforcement. Widespread crimes have been committed and a great effort is being made to conceal them. Last of all, pray for the victims of physical and sexual abuse in SGM. There are 11 Plaintiffs in the lawsuit but many more victims. The massive conspiracy to commit and cover up these horrors must be exposed by the power of God.
What is happening in SGM is a modern day example of God’s discipline on a national level. SGM was a rising star and C.J. was its chief luminary. Both are disgraced and necessarily so. Pride always goes before the fall.
The evangelical Church of Jesus Christ must take note. God is dealing with Christian celebrities motivated by the love of reputation. These men have too much power and too little accountability. There is a great need for courageous Boards of Directors and Pastoral Associates willing to honestly confront the pride, deceit, lording and hypocrisy they observe in such men. Such an expression of love may be costly.
To our shame, C.J. was permitted to play above the rules. He was enabled in his sin because friends feared his wrath and coveted his approval. Staying on C.J.’s good side was the key to advancement in SGM. Crossing C.J. cost you everything. Too often the same personal ambition motivating C.J., motivated us. We wanted to stay in his good graces and ride his coattails to greatness.
We cannot treat well known Christian leaders with favoritism. They must be judged impartiality and held to the Word of God they so effectively preach. Spiritual gifting is vital for the ministry. Right doctrine is crucial. But Christian character ultimately qualifies a man for ministry. We must remember the truth of 1 Timothy 5:24. The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.
The sins of SGM were not obvious to the Reformed world but they have now appeared and God’s judgment has followed. Let it be a lesson to all.