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Wednesday
Jul032013

C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from Together for the Gospel & Founders Remove Statement of Support

The now famous May 23, 2013 statement of support for C.J. Mahaney by Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler is gone from the Together for the Gospel website.  In its place is a statement by C.J. stating he has decided to withdraw from participation in the 2014 conference. Here it is.

C.J. Mahaney
July 1, 2013

After much prayer, reflection and counsel I have decided to withdraw from participation in the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference.  My reason for doing so is simple: I love these men and this conference and I desire to do all I possibly can to serve the ongoing fruitfulness of T4G. 

Unfortunately, the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, two former SGM churches and pastors (including myself), continues to generate the type of attention that could subject my friends to unfair and unwarranted criticism.  Though dismissed in May (and now on appeal), the lawsuit could prove a distraction from the purpose of this important conference.  My withdrawal is not intended to communicate anything about the merits of the suit.  My decision simply reflects the reality that my participation could create a hindrance to this conference and its distinct purpose of serving so many pastors.  My strong desire is to make sure this doesn’t happen.  I believe the most effective way I can serve my friends who have supported me, and continue to support me, is by not participating in the 2014 conference. 

My enthusiasm for this conference is undiminished and I believe it will continue to be a powerful context for encouraging and equipping pastors in their efforts to serve their churches and proclaim the gospel.  I am immensely grateful for the undeserved privilege to have been involved in previous conferences, and, most importantly, my ongoing friendship with these men I love and respect.

C.J. Mahaney
Sovereign Grace Church | Louisville, KY 

Thoughts on C.J.’s Letter 

I quote C.J. and then provide a response.  

C.J.’s Letter:  “After much prayer, reflection and counsel I have decided to withdraw from participation in the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference.  My reason for doing so is simple: I love these men and this conference and I desire to do all I possibly can to serve the ongoing fruitfulness of T4G.” 

Response:  

This is vintage C.J. putting himself forward as the consummate servant when in reality he has no choice but to pull out of Together for the Gospel.  There has been a strong reaction against his participation in the conference.  People are deciding whether to attend and they want to know if C.J. will be a leader/speaker - especially Southern Baptists pastors. 

Last month, the Southern Baptist Convention passed seven resolutions on the sexual abuse of children.  Resolution six has C.J. and Sovereign Grace Ministries specifically 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” 

Given this resolution, Mark Dever and Albert Mohler, both Southern Baptist leaders, had to “counsel” C.J.’s not to participate in the conference.  Or, if they allowed C.J. to participate, they would have to withdraw from participating themselves.  C.J. goes or Mark and Al go.  You can’t be a good Baptist with any discernment (let alone highest discernment) and affiliate with SGM or C.J. 

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C.J.’s Letter:  “Unfortunately, the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, two former SGM churches and pastors (including myself), continues to generate the type of attention that could subject my friends to unfair and unwarranted criticism.” 

Response:  

Of course, C.J. does not state that he was the senior pastor of the main church cited in the Second Amended Complaint (i.e. Covenant Life Church) for the 25 years during which the majority of sex abuse and cover up occurred.  Nor does he state that he was extensively involved in providing direction to the pastors of the second church cited in the lawsuit (i.e., Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax) as the President/Chairman of the SGM Board.  C.J. is at the center of everything.  Not on the periphery. 

C.J. says, “Unfortunately, the civil lawsuit…continues to generate the type of attention that could subject my friends to unfair and unwarranted criticism." 

The attention the civil lawsuit is getting is not unfortunate.  It is necessary because heinous crimes and cover ups are alleged in one complaint after another totally 216.  That’s why law enforcement is busy and that is why the Body Christ must follow the story closely.  The attention is only going to increase as people are arrested and further information becomes public. 

C.J. goes on to say that Mark, Lig and Al will come under “unfair and unwarranted criticism” if he participates in the conference.  In other words, C.J. acknowledges no legitimate reason why he should not to participate in T4G.  He’s pretending to be innocent.  But more.  He’s a hero.  C.J. will take a bullet for his friends.  He will fall on his sword for Mark, Lig and Al.  What a man! 

Bottom line.  C.J. presents himself as guiltless.  A servant.  A hero.  A man to be admired for his spirituality and humility.  If he participates his friends will come under unfair and unwarranted criticism.  C.J. to the rescue.  

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C.J.’s Letter:  “Though dismissed in May (and now on appeal), the lawsuit could prove a distraction from the purpose of this important conference.”   

Response:  

C.J. does not say why the lawsuit was dismissed.  A little background.  The Second Amended Complaint was filed on May 14, 2013.  It was dismissed on May 17 but NOT because it lacked merit.  Sovereign Grace Ministries put out a statement acknowledging the same on May 20. 

SGM Board: Update on the [Second] Amended Civil Lawsuit
May 20, 2013

SGM’s motion to dismiss the suit was heard by Judge Sharon V. Burrell in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court on Friday, May 17, 2013.  The following summarizes the results of the hearing we received from our attorneys:  Judge Burrell dismissed 9 of the 11 plaintiffs on the grounds that their claims fell outside of the statute of limitations…. Please note that this ruling does not specifically address the substance of the plaintiffs’ allegations.

Susan Burke, one of the Plaintiff’s attorneys, also put out a statement on May 18 regarding the statute issue. 

"We (the victims and the lawyers) all knew about the statute issue at the outset.  But fighting for justice means doing so even against known obstacles.  We had a conspiracy theory to overcome the statute but the Court rejected it.  The victims are all brave and courageous people whose willingness to fight against evil has already made a difference in the world.  Also, please realize going forward with a civil lawsuit does not in any way prevent criminal actions – perhaps may even make it more likely.  And please keep praying, as we think the Court erred, and will be appealing her ruling."

C.J. goes on to say, “the lawsuit could prove a distraction from the purpose of this important conference.”   

It is now July 2013.  Together for the Gospel is in April 2014.  Over the next 9 months, all hell could break loose but not because of the civil lawsuit.  It will break loose because of the criminal investigations.  C.J. knows that!  He’s getting out of T4G before that happens.  

This is just like his “transitioning” from President of SGM in March before the startling revelations in the Second Amended Complaint (SAC) came out in May.  C.J. was forced to resign as President in light of the additional information contained in the SAC regarding Loftness, Ricucci, Griney, Hoffman, Mayo, Morales, Adams, et al. that pointed back to his leadership. 

In March, I wrote about C.J.’s and John Loftness’ removal in the following post.  Here’s an excerpt. 

C.J. Mahaney’s “Transition” Out of Sovereign Grace Ministries
Friday, March 15, 2013 at 7:09 PM
Brent Detwiler 

C.J. cannot bear to be truthful.  His transition is his resignation which is his removal.  This decision was incumbent upon the Board…. The class action lawsuit continues to move forward.  In the coming weeks, I suspect new information of an incriminating nature will be forthcoming.  It will be injurious to C.J. and John [Loftness].  The Board had to remove them now before that information becomes public.  

The civil lawsuit will be a distraction in the future if the appeal is successful.  That could take two years.  Here’s the more imminent  distraction.  People are going to be charged and arrested.  American Evangelicalism’s biggest sex abuse scandal to date is going to be in the news for the next 2-3 years and it’s only going to get worse.  

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C.J.’s Letter:  “My withdrawal is not intended to communicate anything about the merits of the suit.  My decision simply reflects the reality that my participation could create a hindrance to this conference and its distinct purpose of serving so many pastors.  My strong desire is to make sure this doesn’t happen.” 

Response:  

C.J. has repeatedly lied over the past 10 years regarding why he did or did not do things.  That is not a harsh or exaggerated comment.  It is clearly documented and a matter of fact.  For instance, see “The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 1) and “The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 2).” 

I believe he is lying again.  He is not “simply” (i.e., only) pulling out of T4G for the ostentatious reasons he provides – that “my participation could create a hindrance…my strong desire is to make sure this doesn’t happen.”  C.J. is always one to put himself forward in a positive light except for vague and humble sounding references like “I am the worse sinner I know.”  C.J. pretends humility like no one I’ve ever known.  That is one reason he’s effectively duped so many leaders. 

C.J.’s says, “My withdrawal is not intended to communicate anything about the merits of the suit.”  He wants people to believe the merits are bogus and therefore his stepping down has nothing to do with the lawsuit.  That is pure spin.  C.J. is in in deep legal trouble and he knows it.  If not for the merits of the case, he would not be stepping down.  C.J. has never stepped down from any position unless he was forced to by overwhelming circumstances. 

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C.J.’s Letter:  “I believe the most effective way I can serve my friends who have supported me, and continue to support me, is by not participating in the 2014 conference.” 

Response:

Mark, Lig and Al may be supporting C.J. in private but they are no longer supporting him in public.  Their May 23 letter of support has been removed from the T4G website.  It is only a matter of time before Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor are forced to remove their May 24 letter of support from The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website. 

By the way, the SGM Council of Elders comprised of 62 men passed a resolution that commended C.J. and condemned me at their inaugural meeting in Orlando on May 23-25.  This commendation/rebuke was to coincide with the statements by Dever, Duncan, Mohler, and Carson, DeYoung and Taylor.  There were also 36 non-voting observers at the annual meeting.  

The Council of Elders pulled the plug on releasing the commendation/rebuke for several reasons.  One, numerous pastors said they would leave SGM if the statement was published.  Two, the Council saw the immediate and strong opposition to the letters of support from T4G and TGC.  They knew the same reaction awaited them.  Three, they feared a lawsuit by me in which I could present all my evidence against C.J. and others in a court of law.  They announced their plans to have a lawyer review the rebuke before publishing it.      

The SGM Council of Elders may still proceed with the commendation/rebuke but I doubt it.  Every day the evidence collected against C.J. and his co-conspirators increases and no one wants me testifying in a court of law where there is due process.  Due process is SGM’s worst nightmare!     

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The statement of support from Dever, Duncan and Mohler was horrendous in many respects.  I didn’t respond to it at the time, however, because the statement of support from Carson, DeYoung and Taylor was even worse.  I posted about the latter instead.  See “Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor Defend C.J. Mahaney Against Charges in SGM Sex Abuse Scandal.”  

Nevertheless, there are things about the T4G letter that were terrible.  I’m sure Mark, Lig, and Al are glad they had an excuse to remove it as a result of C.J.’s withdrawal from participation in the conference.  Let me address just a few issues in the letter.  I’ve included the entire Original Edition at the end of this post.  Here is an excerpt. 

T4G Statement:  “We have stood beside our friend, C. J. Mahaney, and we can speak to his personal integrity.” 

Response:  

C.J. has totally deceived these men about his role in the conspiracy.  They must be slowly catching on if they are following the story.  It is only a matter of time before they discover how great a web of deception C.J. has spun.  They can’t “speak to his personal integrity” because they don’t know the real C.J. 

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T4G Statement:  “We can make no judgment as to the truthfulness of the horrifying charges of sexual abuse made against some individuals who have been connected, in some way, to Sovereign Grace Ministries and its churches.” 

Response:  

The wording here is deceitful.  The “horrifying charges” are all “connected, in some way” to C.J.  Here are the relationships C.J. had/has with the alleged perpetrators and co-conspirators.  

  • John Loftness – close friend; school principal, executive editor, and pastor under C.J. at Covenant Life Church (CLC); recent Chairman of the SGM Board
  • Gary Ricucci – close friend, brother-in-law, pastor over the SGM Pastors College, elder in C.J.’s Louisville church
  • Grant Laymen – brother in law, pastor under C.J. at CLC
  • Steve Griney – friend; school teacher and children’s ministry director under C.J. at CLC
  • Mark Hoffman – friend, children’s ministry worker under C.J. at CLC
  • David Adams – pastor in training at one time under C.J. at CLC
  • Nathaniel Morales – bible study leader and lay youth worker under C.J. at CLC
  • Larry Tomczak – co-founder of SGM with C.J.
  • Dave Mayo – friend, church member under C.J.
  • Charlie Llewellyn – friend, church member/attender under C.J.
  • Mark Mullery – friend, pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax, recipient of C.J.’s counsel regarding sexual abuse in the church there
  • Frank Ecelbarger - ditto
  • David Hinders - ditto
  • Vince Hinders - ditto
  • Lou Gallo - ditto 

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T4G Statement:  “A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry.  No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney.  Instead, he was charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.  For this reason, we, along with many others, refused to step away from C. J. in any way.  We do not regret that decision.  We are profoundly thankful for C. J. as friend, and we are equally thankful for the vast influence for good he has been among so many Gospel-minded people.” 

Response:  

Mark, Lig, and Al explicitly state that C.J. has not been accused “with any credible, serious and direct wrongdoing.”  You’ve got to be kidding.  This is one of the most irresponsible and embarrassing comments I have ever read!  It is absurd.  Did they even read the Second Amended Complaint?  

They go on to claim that C.J. is “charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.”  Wow.  They pulled that one out of thin air.  No such charge is contained in the lawsuit.  Furthermore, it would be absolutely stupid for anyone to sue C.J. for  “founding a ministry and teaching doctrines and principles.”  The lawsuit is about alleged crimes, not the Bible. 

The word “Defendants” appears 198 times in the lawsuit.  It almost always includes C.J.   For example: 

Complaint 109.  Defendants Ecelbarger, Gallo, Mullery and V. Hinders, conspiring together and with Defendants Mahaney and Loftness, violated their mandatory reporting obligations and conspired together to cover up [name withheld pending court ruling on defense motion]’s molestation of children. 

Complaint 112.  Defendants Ecelbarger, Mullery, V. Hinders and D. Hinders conspired with Defendant Loftness, Mahaney, and upon information and belief the other individual Defendants to cover up [name withheld pending court ruling on defense motion]’s ongoing molestation of young children and to violate the laws on mandatory reporting. Defendant Mahaney and Loftness imposed “church discipline” on [name withheld pending court ruling on defense motion] for failing to control his [name withheld pending court ruling on defense motion].  This conspiracy remains ongoing. 

Complaint 138.  Discovery will show that Defendants Mullery, David Hinder and Vince Hinders spoke with Maryland-based Defendants Mahaney and Loftness, and together conspired to prevent any reporting to the secular authorities. 

Complaint 157.  Rather than report the ongoing abuse to the secular authorities or take any steps to stop the abuse, Defendants informed the father that his children had reported the abuse.  This led to further abuse by the father.  In exchange for the conspiracy of silence, the abusive father paid to send Defendants Mahaney, Ricucci and Layman and their families on vacation to the Kiawah Islands, South Carolina. 

After receiving extensive and often furious feedback, Mark, Lig, and Al removed these two sentences.  

“No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney.  Instead, he was charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.”  

They did so without notification or explanation.  That’s a play taken right out of C.J.’s playbook.  It’s called, “Don’t be honest, transparent or accountable when you sin or err.  Instead, cover up and protect your self-interests.”  

In place of these two sentences, they substituted the single sentence, “We believe this lawsuit failed that test.”  Therefore, the Second Edition reads as follows in context. 

“A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry.  We believe this lawsuit failed that test.  For this reason, we, along with many others, refused to step away from C. J. in any way.” 

This change is an tacit admission that the Second Amended Complaint did in fact accuse C.J. of “direct wrongdoing.”  But no matter!  According to these men not a single charge of “direct wrongdoing” against C.J. was “credible” or “serious.”  Here we go again.  Another statement that defies all reason.  

Who are Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Albert Mohler to pompously pronounce the lawsuit contains absolutely no credible or serious charges of wrong doing against C.J.   Have they interviewed the Plaintiffs?  Talked to their lawyers?  Interacted with the victims and witnesses?  Sat down with detectives and investigators?  This is the kind of blatant partially in judgment that the Bible condemns.  These men cannot be trusted to act justly in this matter.  

These men believe C.J. is innocent and the lawsuit against him is a sham.  “For this reason, we, along with many others, refused to step away from C. J. in any way.”  That will change.  God’s Providence will see to it.  Moreover, I pity all the men C.J. has lured to preach at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville with his deceitful talking points, false humility, prolific praise and big honorariums.  He has taken advantage of their good reputations in order to shore up his bogus reputation.  They not only come to preach, they come to promote C.J.  They are being used. 

Mark, Lig, and Al had two stark choices before them.  Dismiss as bogus the charges against C.J. in the lawsuit or entertain as legitimate the charges against him in the lawsuit.  They chose the former.  C.J. remains in ministry. 

Had they chose the latter, C.J. would likely be out of ministry.  In their words, “A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry.”  That’s exactly right!  Anyone who believes C.J. has been “charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing” should advise him to step down from public ministry.  

Notice the words, “charged” and “any.”  If charged, not if found guilty, he should step down until resolved.  And for any, not an abundance of wrong doing, he should step down until resolved.  

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C.J.’s Letter:  “My enthusiasm for this conference is undiminished and I believe it will continue to be a powerful context for encouraging and equipping pastors in their efforts to serve their churches and proclaim the gospel.  I am immensely grateful for the undeserved privilege to have been involved in previous conferences, and, most importantly, my ongoing friendship with these men I love and respect.” 

Response:  

C.J.’s wit, wisdom, preaching gift, false humility, and charismatic background made him the biggest draw for Together for the Gospel.  He is by far the most entertaining personality.  Now he is the biggest liability.  C.J. thinks he “decided to withdraw from participation.”  In reality, God removed him just like He removed him as President of SGM.  I suspect the Lord will remove him from pastoral ministry in the future. 

Prayerfully Consider Financial Support 

My efforts are designed to help Christians judge righteously, think biblically, and live courageously.  Your financial support makes that possible.  Please consider a gift today.  Click here.  Thank you!    

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Statement from Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Albert Mohler
Original Edition
Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 10:40 PM

We are friends who have been brought together for the gospel.  Over the last several months, we have wanted to speak publicly to the issues that have related to our friend C. J. Mahaney.  A Maryland judge’s recent action to dismiss a lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries offers us the first opportunity, and responsibility, to speak to this issue.  We could not speak to the issues involved so long as they were raised only in the context of an action in the civil courts.  We have never made a public comment with regard to claims and counter-claims in a civil lawsuit, and we will not violate that principle now. 

Claims presented in a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation are beyond the ability of the public to render judgment.  Often, such claims are even beyond the ability of a court to deliberate.  To comment on such claims is irresponsible, since no one apart from the court and the parties directly involved has any ability to evaluate the claims presented.  If the filing of civil litigation against a Christian ministry or leader is in itself reason for separation and a rush to judgment, no ministry or minister is safe from destruction at any time.  Furthermore, the effort to try such a case in the court of public opinion prior to any decision rendered by an authorized court is likewise irresponsible.

We have stood beside our friend, C. J. Mahaney, and we can speak to his personal integrity. We can make no judgment as to the truthfulness of the horrifying charges of sexual abuse made against some individuals who have been connected, in some way, to Sovereign Grace Ministries and its churches. Our hearts must go out to anyone, and especially to any child, who suffers abuse at the hand of anyone.  In such a case the legal authorities must use the full power of the law to investigate and to prosecute any perpetrator of such crimes. We must take any responsible action to protect the vulnerable, and we must act immediately to inform legal authorities of any charge or claim of sexual abuse, and do so without delay.  Our first response must be to call the police, to act to protect the child or young person, and then to proceed to biblical church discipline when the facts demand such a response.

If a Christian leader is accused of any wrongdoing, those to whom he is accountable must investigate the charges and then deal responsibly with the evidence.  If a criminal accusation is made, Christians have a fundamental duty to inform law enforcement officials. This does not, however, preclude or mitigate the church’s responsibility for biblical church discipline.

A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry.  No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney.  Instead, he was charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.  For this reason, we, along with many others, refused to step away from C. J. in any way.  We do not regret that decision.  We are profoundly thankful for C. J. as friend, and we are equally thankful for the vast influence for good he has been among so many Gospel-minded people. 

Our heart goes out to anyone who has ever suffered abuse of any kind.  Our emphatic encouragement would be for anyone who has ever suffered such abuse or knows of anyone made vulnerable to such abuse to contact law enforcement officials without delay. We must then allow the law enforcement agencies and the courts to do their proper work.  When criminal charges are filed, the public is then presented with evidence upon which it can draw a responsible judgment.  On matters of protecting the vulnerable, Christians know what judgment must be made.  We side with the victims.

Our hope and prayer is that Christ’s healing and health will come to all parties involved in this matter and that justice and righteousness will prevail for all.  May every true victim of any injustice be vindicated.  May every doer of wrong be exposed.  And may all of us speak no further than we can responsibly speak.

Those who minister in the name of the Lord Christ bear an inescapable duty to live and to minister in a way that is above reproach.  Those who teach, reminds James, will face a stricter judgment. [James 3:1]  May everything we do, everything we teach, and all that we are be measured against that standard.

Together for the Gospel,

Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler 

T4G Statement About C.J. Mahaney's Decision Not to Participate in the 2014 Conference

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