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Brent Detwiler's Tweets

C.J.’s Flight from Covenant Life

For the last 15 years many people on many occasions have brought serious charges against C.J. with little or no success.  I am far from the only witness against him.  The SGM Board and the CLC pastors should have formally rebuked and disciplined C.J. a long time ago in obedience to 1 Timothy 5:19-21.  Fear and favoritism won out instead.  

But in recent months the CLC pastors have begun to take C.J.’s sins more seriously (unlike Harvey and the SGM Board).  That is with the exception of Mike Bradshaw and Brian Chesemore, two of C.J.’s sons-in-law.  Well, things have gotten a little too hot in the Covenant Life kitchen.  So it’s time for a new church and a new pastor.  That’s right, instead of the many pastors who know the real C.J. far better than Mark Dever, he will have one pastor who adores him and a church that won’t ask him hard questions.  So instead of getting his goose cooked, it’s time to fly to the Covenant Life coup and take off for Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

On Wednesday, Joshua wrote the CLC members and said that “C.J. and the Sovereign Grace Board have let us know that they think it is best for C.J. and Carolyn to attend Capitol Hill Baptist Church during his leave of absence.”  Let them know?  Are you serious?  Do you mean C.J. and the SGM Board simply informed the CLC pastors of this decision? 

This needs to be looked into.  Did C.J. make a decision to leave CLC without getting any counsel from his pastors?  If so, this is another example of his independence and the double standard he so often operates by.  You don’t just go to people for “counsel” (i.e. the SGM Board) you know will support your decision. 

What bothers me the most is C.J. statement on his blog today that says, “During my leave of absence I will be attending Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever is the senior pastor.  After seeking counsel about this decision, I’ve concluded that this is the best place for Carolyn and me to receive care and counsel, to examine my life and leadership, and to consider my future during this season of reflection.”

What does “after seeking counsel about this decision” mean?  Whose counsel did he seek?  It doesn’t appear to include any of his duly appointed pastors!  If that is true, he should be reproved and so should the SGM Board.  If they operated without involving the CLC pastors they have violated everything they have taught about the autonomy of the local church and the primacy of pastoral care. 

So why is C.J. leaving?  For the same reasons as Mike and Brian?  Seems like it.  Joshua wrote on Wednesday, “C.J. has also expressed concerns and points of disagreement with how we have been leading during this season.  He’s communicated a desire to work through these issues with us in the coming months with the help of mediators from Ambassadors of Reconciliation.  We are all eager to do this and have told C.J. we’re ready to meet as soon as he’s ready.”  Sure sounds like C.J. is in lock step with Mike and Brian.  You got it, the Mahaney clan is out of here!  Goodbye Covenant Life Church and I think that means for good.  Do you think C.J. can support the vision and direction of CLC under Joshua when Mike and Brian cannot in their consciences?  Hate to say it but the answer is no unless Joshua conforms to C.J.  That is the real issue! 

So is C.J. leaving because he disagrees with the pastors?  Is he leaving because he feels shamed or mistreated by them?  Is he leaving because he finds them inept or unable to pastor him?  Is he leaving because he doesn’t trust them?  All of these sinful reactions are familiar patterns in C.J.’s life.  Or, from the Lord’s perspective, is he leaving because he doesn’t want their pastoral input, he is offended, and Joshua and the pastors are building a church contrary to his wishes?

So, C.J. and Carolyn have packed their bags and taken off to greener pastures where C.J. can “receive care and counsel,” “examine [his] life and leadership,” and “consider [his] future.”  Wow, who needs the CLC pastors to do any of that!  And who could get away with this but C.J.?  Men throughout the history of the movement have sat tight during similar circumstances.  

C.J. wrote today, “Some of you have asked where I will be attending church during my leave.  That’s a good question, as it’s not uncommon for pastors to take a leave in a church that is away from their home congregations, and this seems wise.”  This is a case of SGM spin.  It is partly true but mostly false.  It is true that pastors outside of SGM may attend another church while undergoing evaluation but that has never been true for us.  It has never been the case in the history of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  No pastor has been granted “asylum” or refuge in other church or been transferred to someone’s pastoral care outside of SGM.  Of course, the SGM Board thinks this is best.  But do the CLC pastors think this is best?  

Here is what Joshua said on Wednesday.  “We’re torn over this decision.  We understand C.J. wanting to attend where he feels he can best be cared for and best serve his family, but we also have reasons why we think it would be good for him to stay at Covenant Life.”  Did the SGM Board and C.J. pursue input from the CLC pastors before making the decision to have C.J. and Carolyn pull out of CLC?  It doesn’t sound like it.  

Talk about contrary to SGM polity.  Since when can the Board pull rank over the local church and C.J.’s pastors and determine church membership and pastoral care without  their input?  Never!  The support of the SGM Board in C.J.’s decision is secondary.  They are not C.J.’s pastors!  C.J. is a not a member of Dave Harvey’s Covenant Fellowship Church!  He’s a member of Covenant Life Church.  That’s doctrinal hypocrisy.  I’m afraid the happiest place on earth is now the last place on earth you’ll find C.J. and Carolyn.

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Reader Comments (34)

Thanks for telling it like it is, Brent! I'm sure most people who have been keeping up with this situation agree with you. It's a shame, but it's looking more and more like a split is likely to happen between SGM and CLC at the very least. SGM may lose even more of the churches that are part of their franchise. How could we all have been following this hypocrite?

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkmack

What about the fact that CJ is currently preaching in the Caribbean? (with harvey and purswell). Would any other pastor facing a "season of reflection" be allowed to represent SGM in such a way?

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGuy

Hmm, looks like the Mahaney's have stopped dating the church. I guess all the flattery was for the purpose of having their way with her. When the affectionate mistress started to make a fuss and threatened to expose the whole affair, then the true nature of their attachment was revealed. Actions speak louder than words.

Hope the new girlfriend whispers the kind of sweet nothings they're only willing to hear.

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Rice

I'm sure they'd love to go, but I suppose it would be awkward for C.J. Mahaney to be drawing a full salary from SGM while not even being a nominal member of an SGM church. Even more awkward, I should say.

The Mahaney's certainly don't seem interested in setting a gracious example about how a pastor and his family should act if a pastor, who has disciplined many other pastors, finds himself in the hot seat for a change.

Thus, I think that CLC would be justified in asking the Mahaney's to stop playing passive/aggressive games. They should be asked to either attend CLC on a weekly basis while subjecting themselves to the counsel of the pastors there or withdraw their membership from the church completely.

That's what anyone else would have to do, right?

As for the big picture I think a collapse is more likely than a split. How many SGM churches are likely to follow the Mahaneys into the great unknown and how likely is CLC to want to support an SGM so fraught with strife in its own building longer than it is contractually obligated to do so?

I predict that within two years SGM will have disbanded and all the affiliate churches under its umbrella will be classifying themselves as something other than SGM churches.

What is now classified as CLC, SGM's flagship church, will be headed by Joshua Harris under a different designation.

C.J. Mahaney will still be in ministry but he will no longer be a part of the A-list celebrity preacher crowd as he will no longer have the large following he once had.

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanna L. Chan

I have to wonder how Carolyn is holding up during this time. As a ministry wife, we make ourselves put on the united front, but once the front door to our home closes and we get to take the smile off, reality sets in. I am praying that she will draw close to the Lord and find sustaining peace through these difficult days. (I don't know anything about the Mahaneys or their relationship, so I guess I'm speaking more in reflection of my own past experiences.)

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanie

C.J.'s shift to Mark Dever's church is an excellent thing to obsess over Brother Brent. If anybody can obsess over it I believe you can.

Go to it my friend.

[Seneca. Thanks for the compliment. Brent]

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSeneca Griggs

CJ going to CHBC raises a whole lot of questions that are theologically and doctrinally fundamental. On the surface CJ's actions do seem to go against SGM's position on ecclesiology, local church authority, and the role of the elder/pastor. His actions are not in line with any of the past practices of SGM or SGM churches. Brent is right, this is "doctrinal" hypocrisy and I cannot even begin to fathom how the members of the SGM board are going along with this. Those of us watching these events unfold end up hoping against hope that the SGM board will start acting with honesty and integrity AND ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN PUBLISHED POLITY.

The one ray of hope I see (as an CLC outsider) is that the leadership at CLC apparently is unified in the perspective that these actions by the board and CJ are at the very least incompatible with CJ's years and years of teaching on these very subjects. We need to continue to pray for them for wisdom in making appropriate decisions.

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Zahm

Janie, that's a kind thought for Carolyn. It must be very hard for her right now. Kind of like a politician's wife who knows she better show a smiling face for her husband to get the votes.

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkmack

So, is this the new standard now? Supposing Joe and Janie Member are having a dispute with their Pastor over some doctrinal issue, and they believe it would be in THEIR best interest to attend another church for a "season of reflection". That's okay now, right? After all, C.J. did it, so it MUST be okay. Am I missing something here?

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteriwasdeleted


Upon a close review of your first document (with 22469 hits as of tonight), it is clear that SGM board concerns existed in stated and significant ways in Dec 2003 over CJ himself, CJ's accountability, CJ's "independent ops" (as we called it in the Marines) and by double-standards, namely, "not living by what he taught others." That is, no accountability. I think my read on your review of that period is correct. If I read this and it is an accurate report by you, there is hypocrisy here.

I am extremely slow and ponderous on this charge. It is pending, but it's getting clearer. Care groups with accountability yet none for CJ.

What emerges also is the complicity of many men now serving at CLC and SGM.

This much, by 12 Dec 2003, one could expect "bombs" to explode in the future if the questions continued re: CJ. I'm looking at 2004. I'm suprised you held out till 2009.

This is pretty serious stuff.

The church must police its own. The children and grandchildren must see this: "The old folks had a problem. They were honourable, decent, fair, kind, forgiving, but also truthful and did the right thing. They instituted changes such that Christ would be honoured." The children and grandchildren must see that legacy.

As an historian, I hope you will consider a book, including surveys and further interviews with others.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonald Philip Veitch

Brent, thanks for keeping it real here. I'm thinking CJ's season of reflection is really more a sesason of deflection. One good and profitable thing I see about CJ's absence from CLC presently is for the good of the congregation. For them, I'll bet the air is a little less heavy and perhaps it's easier to breathe over there now. Come, Holy Spirit!

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterProtestant Dame

You sir are still holding bitterness against this C.J. dude. Love COVERS a mutitude of sin. Love doesnt hold records of wrongs. WAKE UP BRENT. FORGIVE n FORGET. Let GOD deal with CLC,C.J. and SGM. You yourself can`t, CANNOT change anything by writing bitter things about C.J. And if you think you have "real friends" at SGM survivors, let me tell u, they will turn on you in a minute, I know. Them survivors are a bunch of Bitter angry, people who THINK they are the only ones who are correct on any situation. So, Brent, DON`T be a bully. This is just childish what you and the Survivors are doing. Sure people have been hurt, ummm I think its called being Human, and dealing with Humans .Dah! Oh well, you will not change either unless GOD causes u to change.

[HAM - what you are recommending is a recipe for disaster. Forgive and forget as you present it results in tyrants taking over the world. Love holds people accoutable when serious sins have been committed that have harmed many others. Love doesn't ignore injustice. Love rejoices in the truth and works for truth - no cover up, deceit and oppression. My labors are with C.J. and SGM's good in mind. Brent]

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHAM

In lieu of evidence of genuine faith, sympathy for her Carolyn Mahaney is misplaced. I believe she is complicit. There is no heroism in following someone who misleads. Let's sympathize with the true victims instead of those who play the victim while victimizing others.

[Paula - Carolyn is complicit but she loves the Lord. Brent]

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Rice

Hey there, Donald. I followed your lead, you former Marine, and now I post with my full name. I don't spell out my middle name but then I'm the only Janna L. Chan on the web, to my knowledge :-)

I, too, think that Brent should write a book. He's certainly living proof of the phrase, "be careful or you'll end up in my novel," and his name should be in the dictionary under the word "perseverance."

Janie, you're so kind and thoughtful that I wish I could visit your husband's church. As for Carolyn Mahaney, she has a reputation for being a formidable woman and many people, including her husband, have intimated that she's the real power behind the throne.

Thus I feel sorry for all the women who looked up to her and are now seeing her contradict, through her actions, all she taught them in theory.

Truthfully, I feel sorry and pray for everyone in this situation. There are seldom any true winners in a scandal when the truth is revealed.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanna L. Chan


You have experienced the same problems and issues with SGM leadership that many of us have experienced for well over a decade.

Welcome to The Club!

Some commenters have expressed their bad experiences with leadership on the blogs. Some, like me, never did that - but I must say that I read many blog comments ad nauseum and was tempted to add my two cents on more than one occasion.

All that to say that the number of bloggers who have shown up over the past decade may actually represent a small minority of the people who have had similar issues and/or problems with SGM over the years.

How's that for a scary thought...

In 2005, I had no other recourse (since leadership admittedly made a ton of mistakes that crippled my church for years) - much as I hated it - but to leave SGM after spending 15 years in two church plants.

No flags waving, no strife or discord on my part. I simply left with the pain of a failed vision for the local church.

Afterward, I spent five years away from SGM, attending a local PCA church. But, over a year ago, I believe God providentially orchestrated events and provided a way for me to return to a small SGM church in Florida where the preaching is solid and the friends are real.

These curent events have dismayed me again because they are so sickingly familiar. Yet, I remain focused on my local church and glorious effect of the gospel on all of our lives, but I am also curious to see the direction these events will take our church in the future, and I am even more curious to see if SGM will survive at all.

I have included my name because I believe if you got something to say, then people should know who you are.

Billy Proffitt

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBilly Proffitt

Safety and Some of the Anti-SGM Blogs

Hey there Billy and others - just a word of caution. I think that using your real name is okay on this blog and in most spots on the internet/real world.

However, some of the people on those anti-SGM blogs seem to have been writing daily for years about the exact same issue without doing anything else to fix the problem they're complaining about or seeking treatment for it.

That's not mentally healthy in my view, and some of the regulars also have a habit of starting gossip campaigns about certain people they don't like behind their backs, it appears. That's just plain unpleasant. I'm basing that assertion on my experience and the experience of the few others I've interacted with who've ventured onto those blogs.

Sometimes the weirdness is more dramatic, too. For example, I had one paranoid and obsessively hostile person, who was a known pest, follow me to at least 2-3 sites waiting for the perfect time to jump out and say...

I won't get into what he/she said.

In summation, I like signing my name to what I write, too, but if you venture into the anti-SGM blogs, I recommend using a pseudonym for safety's and sanity's sake.

Those blogs serve a purpose but that doesn't mean one has to interact with directly, thankfully.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanna L. Chan

Thank you for what you are doing. Again, thank you. I have always loved my SGM church, but felt something...hmm, a little off. I had many pastors and friends that I care deeply for leave seemingly overnight, on their own out of frustration or forced out. I never thought to question this, but it still hurt. Now, not only do I feel free to question, but thanks to you, I have some answers. I may not stay at my current SGM church....but now, instead of it being a certainty, thanks to you and your tenacity, it is only a possibility. If the churches make a move towards fearing the Lord and putting way the duplicitous ways of SGM, which it looks like they are starting to, at least remotely, I may be glorifying God in my church, not finding another.

BTW Benny Phillips and Chris Lutek (sp?) where a huge part of why I came to SGM in the first place, and changed my walk with the Lord in such a wonderful, positive way, that I cannot even begin to describe. I was devastated with they left and I never even knew what was going on until it was all over. That should have been a warning sign to me. And I can also tell you that Chris struggled for months and months, like you have, with figuring out how to provide for his family. I have a good friend (who left soon after Chris was removed out of disillusionment with SGM; that, too, should have been a warning sign to me) who taught him computer skills for free just so he could get a job and make some money. Chris had five children, and overnight he was out. I thank you for finally making amends for Chris and others who have suffered like he has. In addition, my wife and I have good friends that received terrible counseling from the church (not my current one, my former...I've been to three) after their son was killed in freak car accident. Their marriage is in shambles and their remaining children suffer with the separation. I am tormented for what happened to these people. The accident, of course, is not SMG's fault, but I cannot help but believe if they had been counseled properly by the pastors, much of their suffering could have been avoided. I mention this situation because it was and is so serious, and, unfortunately has not shown up on the blogs. It may not be as poignant as the sexual abuse cases, but it is certainly egregious. I also mention it to say thank you again so much for being a voice here, and for helping all of those who have suffered have a voice, too.


August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArgo

1. Thank you for the balanced, mature, and, above all things, the scholarly tone with the written record.
2. I agree with Jana that there are some unhealthy posts on the blogs. Not all, but some. To that degree, there is some discreditation by some. Not all, however. To that degree, there are some good posts also. I'd rather have scholarly inquiry, deliberative engagement, good questions, thoughtful answers and careful writeups. In such a way that understands the narrative and history. In such a way, one respects an adult's ability to receive and process information without flaming, gratuitous assumptions, non sequiturs, name-calling, or other churlish behaviours. In such a way, that welcomes "newbies" to the discussion. Or, encourages thinkers in those churches who "get a wrong sense, but can't put the fingers on it." Thanks, Brent, for being above that and presented documentation for your assertions.
3. On the fourth read of the documents. Yes, the opinion of "double-standards," or, "hypocrisy" is firming up. While I'm in first grade on the history of SGM (although hold several grade degrees), am getting up to speed fast by heavy reading and thinking.
4. CJ's sovereign edict of leaving CLC isn't the least bit surprising, given what you document, as cited below. CJ was on "independent ops" as needed. I cite one quote from pp. 56-57 below. He wanted control of SGM and a culture of accomodation to CJ appears to have become entrenched about 2008 or so.

By Mr. Brent Detwiler

New Policy: C.J. Must Present at All Evaluations

This is an example of controlling a process and hypocrisy.

A year before our meeting at the Covenant Life Church bldg. on August 20, 2004 you staked out a new and unprecedented position for yourself. You forbid us from having any interaction with Josh or the other pastors at Covenant Life Church to discuss issues related to your character or ministry unless you were present. You made this decision without consulting with us. You established this policy for yourself and for all others in thefuture. This approach prevented us from freely interacting with CLC pastors. When I repeatedly tried to set up meetings with the CLC pastors, you and the apostolic team,the meetings were in every instance turned down by you or the pastors. I tried extremely hard on several occasions to get us all together. After August 20, 2004, we never met again. We were effectively cut off from the pastors and you would not respond to our attempts at team retreats to engage you in conversation."

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonald Philip Veitch

Am I missing something? (1) Mr. Dave Harvey's several blog posts at SGM have disappeared? (2) This is clear from the documents. Mr. Harvey fully--as an intimate and insiders--understands Mr. Detwiler. (3) Mr. Detwiler is not alone. The two of them, Mr. Detwiler and Mr. Harvey, engaged Mr. Mahaney on Mahaney's own terms for quite some time. (4) This is an odd disappearance of blogposts, including the reception of comments. They've gone poof! This is not an electronic oversight. But, what does it mean?

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonald Philip Veitch

Hello Donald:

They're there - that site just isn't organized well.

Go to the bottom of the post and press the "previous entry" link. The posts are all there.

I'm not an SGM fan yet I'll give credit where credit is merited. They've posted some pretty frank comments under their blog posts and haven't done anything like try to erase or change incriminating information, to my knowledge.

That being said, I save info I'm interested in on the web by taking screenshots of it or saving the html page.
Stuff does disappear all the time on the net.

Also, regarding my comments above about the anti-SGM blogs, I was trying to issue a word of warning about safety issues pertaining to stalking and other less-than-nice web activities more than I was commenting on the quality or nature of the posts in question.

In particular, I recommend using a pseudonym on them as some of the individuals who frequent those blogs may have few qualms about trying to track you down and bother you in the real world. This is true generally about internet activity but especially true for the blogs in question as tensions are running high about some pretty important and disturbing topics such as sexual abuse.

All the best - Janna

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanna L. Chan
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