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Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Conference with Top Speakers Plans to Confront the Abuse Crisis. My Suggestions for J.D. Greear & Russell Moore and Appeal to Remove C.J. Mahaney from Southern Baptist Convention. 

Phillip Bethancourt is the vice president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) under the leadership of Russell Moore and assistant professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) under the leadership of Al Mohler.  He wrote me to tell me about a change in plans for the ERLC Conference this October.  Those revised plans have now been announced. 

I took the occasion to write him back with some suggestions for J.D. Greear (President of the Southern Baptist Convention) and Russell Moore including the need to follow-through on the removal of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville (C.J. Mahaney) from the Southern Baptist Convention. 

From: Phillip Bethancourt  
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 7:27 AM
To: Abrentdetwiler
Subject: Confidential: Major announcement on abuse from the ERLC 


I wanted you to be among the first to know that the ERLC is doing something we have never done before: we had already fully planned our upcoming national conference on the topic of gospel courage in the public square, but we decided to scrap the existing conference plans and shift the theme to focus on the crisis of abuse in the church, given the defining moment we are facing in the SBC. 

Before we announce it publicly later today, I want you to know that the ERLC and SBC Sexual Abuse Advisory Group are partnering together on a new conference theme, “Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis,” at the Gaylord Texan on October 3-5, 2019.  This event will feature survivors, experts, pastors, and advocates who will seek to equip Christians on the subject of abuse and related issues to empower their churches in the process of becoming safe for survivors and safe from abuse. 

Through a mix of speakers, panels, and breakout sessions, leaders will gain clarity on how to share about abuse, care for the abused, and prepare for abuse prevention. Confirmed speakers for the conference already include: 

- Russell Moore
- Beth Moore
- JD Greear
- Rachael Denhollander
- Gary Haugen
- Diane Langberg
- Jennifer Michelle Greenberg
- Jackie Hill Perry
- And many more

As you can imagine, it is not easy to scrap one fully-planned conference in order to change to a new theme when the event is less than six months away.  But we want to do whatever it takes to serve survivors and help churches.  Please keep this new topic theme confidential while we finalize our public announcement. 

Please pray for us in the days ahead as we take this unprecedented step to shift the conference and tackle one of the most pressing issues of our day. 



Here is my letter in reply.

From: Brent Detwiler <>
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 10:44 AM
To: Phillip Bethancourt
Subject: RE: Confidential: Major announcement on abuse from the ERLC 

That is wonderful news.  Thanks for letting me know, Phillip.  

I will be praying for you in all the preparations involved in putting it together.  I am confident the Lord will use the conference to equip his church and send a clear message that victims must be helped, abusers prosecuted, and conspirators exposed that cover up.  

I continue to learn of cover ups by high ranking men in ministries.  Most recently by John MacArthur and the leaders that surround him.  It is most unfortunate Al [Mohler] had John write the forward to his book on the Apostle’s Creed.  John’s practice has mirrored C.J. Mahaney’s practice. 

I hope some of the speakers will address the sinful cravings of the heart that are at work when pastors or ministries cover up the abuse of children via internal “investigations” and the like.  Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. is a prime example.  My old friends have been willing to lie and deceive at great length in an attempt to preserve their reputation, numerical growth and financial well-being.  It is shocking. 

In this regard, I hope Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville is soon removed from the SBC.  That action would send a loud message to entire Body of Christ that the SBC, Executive Committee, ERLC, etc. will not tolerate association by churches who lie, deceive, and refuse to acknowledge a long history of not reporting abuse to law enforcement.   

I am sure the “Caring Well” conference will be excellent.  In that context, I’d encourage J.D. and Russell to state clearly what is necessary for a church to be associated with the SBC as it pertains to hiring abusers, reporting abuse, protecting against abuse, etc.  Similarly, they should clearly state the SBC is committed to removing churches who are not in compliance.  Otherwise, it like teaching on the qualifications of overseers (1 Tim. 3) without teaching on the discipline of overseers (1 Tim. 5).  

That is why disassociation with SGCL is so important.  The case cannot be left open-ended or unresolved.  They need to be removed based upon an investigation by the SBC.  I am willing to help in any way.  Teaching and resolutions are important but without enforcement no one will “fearing sinning.” (cf. 1 Tim 5:20).  

Lastly, caring well for victims includes standing against those who covered up the crimes against them.  I’ve counseled many victims of sexual abuse.  They often tell me the betrayal of pastors is equal to, or greater than, the pain of abuse.  That is certainly true in Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc.  One cannot imagine the trauma of being abused, and then have C.J. and the SGC Leadership Team, tell the world you a liar who made up the story for money.  No one should be associated with them. 

Give my greeting to J.D. and Russell.  I am praying all will stand strong against any temptation to forgo righteous judgement or be silent in public about C.J., SGCL, and SGC, Inc.  Please continue to press the case.  

Thank you for the notice about the conference.  I will be praying God’s grace is multiplied to you as you finalize plans.  



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