C.J. Mahaney, Leaves of Absence, and a Merciful Confrontation

I first heard about this from Justin Taylor.  C.J. Mahaney is taking a leave of absence as head of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Nothing unusual about leaves of absence.  Yet the transparency of C.J. is striking as to the reason for this leave:

Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.

“These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety.”  I’m thankful he clarified this, because the pattern of ministers leaving the ministry usually falls into these two categories.  What the nature of the offenses are is not our concern and would be conjecture and sheer speculation should we attempt to dissect his note.  The fact is that C.J. was confronted regarding “pride, unentreatability (or being unapproachable), decit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.”  The world considers this par for the course among leaders.  Yet, C.J. will have none of this.

He goes on:

I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others.  I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness.  But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed.  Although my experience of conviction has already started—and this is an evidence of God’s mercy—I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge.  Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others.  And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private.  Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.

So here is what I am going to do. I’ve asked to take a leave of absence in order to give time to considering these charges, examine my heart, and receive the appropriate help from others.  With the guidance of the SGM board, I would also hope to pursue reconciliation with former pastors of Sovereign Grace during this leave. I have stepped off the board and I will not be the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries during this period of examination and evaluation. In order for me to receive an objective evaluation in relation to these charges the board is securing the help of a third-party ministry that has no history of relationship with SGM. With counsel from that ministry, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward.   After processing these findings, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward.  This leave of absence will also help remove any impediment to the panel’s exploration that could potentially arise if I remained in my current position, and it will enable me to fully cooperate in the process.

To be clear: my aim for this is not to air Mahaney’s dirty laundry, but to show how God’s mercy is prevalent even in times of needed confrontation of sin.  At this point in the process, Mahaney is more concerned about his relationship with Christ and reconciling with his brothers in Christ more than keeping up appearances and holding on to his position.  He sees the need for personal holiness and personal examination.  He also sees the need for accountability with godly men who will deal with him in a gospel-gripped manner.

I encourage you to read the rest of Mahaney’s letter, along with Justin Taylor’s comments as well.  And pray for Mahaney and the rest of the Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership.  May they come through this stronger in Christ than before!

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Categories: leadership | Tags: , , , , | 42 Comments

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42 thoughts on “C.J. Mahaney, Leaves of Absence, and a Merciful Confrontation

  1. This site has a number of documents that reveal a number of sad actions on the part of Mahaney:

    http://www.scribd.com/sgmwikileaks

    These documents give a lot of the reasons for Mahaney stepping down.

    You can also read comments about them at:

    SGMSurvivors.Com
    SGMRefuge.Com

  2. Concerned for SGM

    http://www.scribd.com/sgmwikileaks has documents that provide detailed emails, phone calls, etc. that will be presented by one of the former leaders of SGM. CJ has been ducking accountability for at least 13 yrs. He is only pursuing now after he risks losing it all. Read the emails in the documents. The truth is there. Not conjecture.

    • Thank you for the link. To be clear, I meant I personally did not want to speculate. I am finding this fuel for making sure I do not make these same mistakes, and many leaders are prone to do.

  3. anonforchristianfreedom

    So is blackmail of a friend based on the near-forced and supposedly confidential confession of his son considered par for the course among leaders?

  4. Phoenix

    Please take a moment to visit SGMSurvivors.com and/or look at the documents posted here http://www.scribd.com/sgmwikileaks (although that would take more than a moment as there are over 500 well-documented pages) for another point of view on this story. The truth can bear close scrutiny. And shouting from the housetops discreditable truths that have been wilfully hidden for personal gain is NOT gossip.

    • I haven’t been wronged by CJ or by SGM. But I’m tempted to dig deeper into the exact complaints against him when it’s really none of my concern. Gossip is casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people. The sgmwikileaks, the sgmrefuge and sgmsurvivors blogs are quite unconstrained. And the authors of those blogs *ought* to be ashamed of themselves for shouting from the rooftops the sins of others against them.

      It’s like if my brother sins against me, and instead of going to him personally, I boldly proclaim for all the world “My brother sinned against me! Everyone beware of him! he’s up to no good!”. Perhaps he wasn’t receptive to you when you tried to approach him personally, but the Christian response should be to forgive him anyway and not drag him through the mud.

      Those blogs and those documents tempt me to sin by reading them. They don’t build me up, they don’t build up SGM or CJ Mahaney, they only seek to tear down. I would ask you to refrain from publicizing the matter any further.

      • facedown2000

        The problem seems to be that there’s often no other recourse. If there’s no legitimate accountability for those at the top, then those who are wronged can and should speak out as a warning. What you’re saying is true for individual interactions with believers, but if someone is hypocritically leading an organization with many members, those members have a right to know so they can get out if they need to. Or shame the leadership into doing the right thing.

      • On the spectrum of communication across Slander (Telling a lie about someone in order to defame the person), Gossip (Exposing someone’s flaws or misdeeds in order to disgrace the person), and Warning (Exposing someone’s misdeeds because it is necessary to protect others) this clearly falls in the later category.
        If you or anyone you know is part of SGM/CLC then this serves as a warning that the leaders at the top do not take accountability seriously. It would seem that for 13 years CJ was allowed to operate autonomously because in Dave Harvey’s words: “there is a hugh category of grace for CJ.”
        These documents and the blogs should stand as a big warning sign for anybody who contemplates these men who don’t practice what they preach.

  5. Don

    Uh Dave, those blogs exist simply because the people who tell their stories there, and discuss those stories, DID do everything possible “within channels” to confront leaders with problems and get quiet reconciliation. Some persisted for years without success, met with lies, stonewalling or being accused themselves of the very same offenses.

    The leaders’ response, in almost cookie-cutter fashion, was to mock, belittle and otherwise abuse them in ways you may find hard to believe. The sgmwikileaks documents show the SGM leaders doing this to one another, and especially to Larry Tomczak and Brent Detwiler.

    The blogs’ existence is the only real recourse people, who have been shamefully abused and rejected by their supposed shepherds, have to seek healing and to tell the Church of ungodly and unrepentant leaders.

    Brent Detwiler describes in great detail, in the sgmwikileaks documents, how the leaders eventually turned these same tactics on him. In the fourth document he describes the grinding process of their forcing him out of his pastor’s position. In describing his incredibly patient and respectful attempts to appeal to them for fair oversight and judgement, he remarks,

    >I tried to be humble and gracious but also present my viewpoint. I realized every little thing
    I did was being interpreted through the “lens” of being “proud,” “unteachable,” “independent” and “refusing to submit.”Attempts to address lies or injustices [by other leaders as they railroaded him out of his position] were quickly labeled as evidences of pride, bitterness and self-pity.<

    The blogs, and the sgmwikileaks documents, are a great thing for the Body of Christ. They are finally bringing to some kind of accountability men who have been accountable to no one — did you know that in most, if not all SGM churches, the members have no legal say in anything that goes on, cannot fire pastors, and must sign confidentiality agreements? — and have run roughshod over their members for decades. Every one of the SGM leaders should be considering stepping down, and resigning, for practicing and modeling the very same sinful behaviors that C.J. Mahaney has admitted and shown to have practiced in the documents.

    Please stop looking to SGM as a model of humility or grace, until the entire leadership team — and pastors of SGM churches — begin repenting and apologizing to hundreds, if not thousands of people that they have abused and cast out without love or remorse.

  6. Doesn’t scripture teach that for an elder like Mahaney who continues in sin (like he did for a NUMBER of years) should be rebuked in the presence of all so that the rest (of the elders) be fearful of sinning?

  7. Paul

    There is a call for concern to “not print these documents” for concern for the church. That is almost like asking the Roman Catholic Church be quiet about molestation. Many people, over the years, through blackmail, intimidation, and other cult like practices. Would the same request be made about The Boston Church or would you ask Martin Luther to remove his paper form the Wittenburg Door? If there is true repentance on the part of CJ Mahaney it must also be for what he has done as seen in these 600+ pages that are far out of the scope of his calling as a pastor “to equip the saints for works of service.”

  8. Good comparison with the Catholic Church and their problem with molestation. It was because the Catholic Church wouldn’t do anything about the problem that it had to become broadcast and it is now because SGM didn’t do anything about their problem that these problems need to be publicized.

  9. Peter J

    This is a comment I posted on another blog which is worth repeating here:

    I keep an eye on developments at SGM so would like to provide some information that’s relevant to the first item on Tim’s post.

    There are actually two websites (SGM Refuge and SGM Survivors) dedicated to providing forums for people who have been seriously hurt by SGM. A third website (The Wartburg Watch) also regularly features similar horror stories. I know of no other group of churches that has produced such a large internet presence from former members who have left in tears. That alone should suggest that something is seriously wrong with SGM.

    I need to emphasise that we are not talking about a few disgruntled individuals, maybe with personal issues, who have not fitted into a particular church or fallen out with a pastor. The numbers involved are considerable and spread across many SGM churches, going back many years (far more than the 5 years that CJ mentioned).

    All these people will say that SGM is an organisation that is institutionally and systemically abusive, and this has resulted directly from the structure and approach that CJ Mahaney himself created, presided over, and has refused to change even when confronted with the damage that it has caused. A major problem is SGM’s elevated view of pastors and their “top-down” format whereby leaders are totally unaccountable to their congregations.

    CJ’s letter only refers to “charges from pastors”. It must be pointed out that there are vastly more rank-and-file members of SGM churches who have been left utterly devastated by their treatment from pastors and other leaders. In fact, one of their primary concerns is that members are frequently mistreated in order to protect the reputation of the pastors. SGM’s polity means that members have no authority in their churches, which has directly allowed abuses by pastors to happen and continue unchecked. It is a fundamentally flawed system. Additionally, some words towards the end of CJ’s letter could be taken to imply that he will be returning to his position. That would suggest that the result of the disciplinary process has already been decided, which is clearly inappropriate.

    I find it very hard to shed any tears for CJ or many other SGM leaders, as they have shown no concern towards the trail of victims that SGM has produced. Reading the paperwork that Jim linked to confirms what we have all known for years – that many other SGM leaders (including Dave Harvey) are also to blame for the abuses within SGM. Their conduct as shepherds and overseers brings immense shame onto Jesus.

    I hope and pray that this is the start of a transformation within SGM which will bring about an end to the destructive authoritarianism and deceit that have been found at all levels within this organisation. But I have to say that these problems result from deep-rooted character weaknesses (quite possibly a narcissistic personality) in CJ which produce long-term patterns of sinful behaviour that mean he is unfit him from leadership based on what the Bible says. I cannot see how these issues can be corrected in the short or medium term, so I have no hesitation in saying that CJ needs to step down permanently. The same is probably true for a number of other SGM leaders as well.

    A final thing that has deeply concerned me in recent years is the acceptance of CJ and other SGM leaders within the wider evangelical world (such as The Gospel Coalition). It worries me that the people that they have been mingling with, the great and good of evangelicalism, have been unable to discern the problems with CJ and SGM or else chose to ignore them in favour of empire-building
    .
    Please be assured that I have not written the above lightly or based on hearsay and speculation.

  10. Dee

    Steve, Don, Paul, Kerrin, facedown

    Well stated. The term “gossip” is often used to hide systemic sin and, from what I can see, this is very, very serious sin. Finally, all the abused people who have been hurt by SGM and others, get to see that their pain was not in vain. They were called liars, troublemakers and worse. Finally, the truth is revealed. Continue to speak, and even shout, the truth.

  11. Jake

    Matthew, thank you for your post. I 100 percent agree with what you said. I think it speaks volumes to CJ’s humility passion for the gospel, that he would step down and welcome correction and an evaluation process. You said, “Mahaney is more concerned about his relationship with Christ and reconciling with his brothers in Christ more than keeping up appearances and holding on to his position. He sees the need for personal holiness and personal examination. He also sees the need for accountability with godly men who will deal with him in a gospel-gripped manner.” I totally agree with you. It seems many on here are angry at CJ or have a personal problem with CJ or SGM. You would think if these are valid issues they would take them to them and not just rant, rave and talk about them on blogs. After reading some post on SGM survivors, it seems that site is dedicated to try to bring SGM to and end. HOW sad! I know SGM has had such a huge impact of good for the gospel of Christ! For me personally growing up in a Baptist Church, CJ and SGM has had a HUGE positive impact on me and others by providing Gospel centered resources and material to me and many others in my church. Thank you CJ and SGM for the positive impact of the Gospel you have had on many, despite these people who try to accuse SGM of being a cult. We had someone in my church who was in clear sin against his wife and kids, and the elders pursued biblical church discipline. He began to call our church a cult and spread gossip and slander on the internet. Just makes me wonder how many of these people that comment on SGM survivors and who are commenting on here were church disciplined???? Despite what these haters say on these blogs and on here….. We need to pray for CJ and SGM. I know that God has used them in huge ways to impact the world for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  12. Jake

    Did you read the same statement that I read that Mahaney wrote? Do you read any remorse or confession? I sure don’t see any. If anything it was quite passionless and written by someone who assumes that he will be coming back and leading SGM.

    With that type of statemen how can one call Mahaney “humble.”

  13. presby

    Jake, what is humble about being forced to step down after being confronted with these sins for over 12 years by your fellow apostole team, especially the sin of pride, and refusing to repent and instead writing a book on humility. I think this is long over due, but no sign of humility.

  14. Jake

    steve240,

    Here is a quote from CJ’s letter(the one that I read)…….
    “I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others. I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness. But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed. Although my experience of conviction has already started—and this is an evidence of God’s mercy—I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge. Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others. And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private. Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.” he goes on ……

    “One more thing. For the past 5 years or so I have become increasingly aware of certain deficiencies in my leadership that have contributed to deficiencies in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ structure and governance, the lack of a clear and consistent process of conflict resolution and pastoral evaluation, and the number of former Sovereign Grace pastors who are offended with me/SGM. I have met with some and by God’s grace there has been reconciliation with men like Larry Tomczak (I wish I had recognized and repented of my sin against him years ago). This brings great joy to my soul. In other cases, appeals for mediation have thus far been declined, but I’m hopeful this process will facilitate further reconciliation. But beyond this, there are still issues that need to be addressed and fixed in our family of churches. And I bear a primary responsibility because it has happened on my watch and under my leadership. I have resolved that I and the Sovereign Grace team can’t effectively lead us into the future without evaluating the past, addressing these deficiencies, improving our structure, and as much as possible pursuing reconciliation with former pastors. So during this leave of absence I will not only devote all the appropriate and necessary time to the independent panel and the charges but also to doing what I can to identify where I have failed to lead us effectively in relation to pastoral evaluation and conflict resolution.”

    There seems to be much remorse (“I have been grieved by my sin”) and confession (“I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge”)in this letter. Maybe you read a different letter….. Thought I would post some of it for you since you seem to think that we read a different letter……….. Just thought I would show you. That is how one can call CJ humble……..

    • Jake

      Just the general tone lacks humility and contriteness.

      Does taking 5 years show humility?

      Why is he assuming that he will be coming back to SGM. Is that even for him to decide? Is he assuming his sin and problems are so small that he can come back quickly? Is that another show of humility? 😉 Maybe it will be best for the group if he never returns or that is way down the road and not at the top leader position.

      I sure hope there is more of a confession and an asking of forgiveness of the regular members (currrent and former) that his sin has affected.

      Any leader of a group of churches that goes to one of their local churches that has just lost 1/2 of his members due to a local leader’s sin of lying and gives one of his canned speeches is certainly lacking in leadership for the group. Maybe he will realize that.

  15. Peter J

    Matthew, I appreciate your openness in publishing my long comment – your willingness to allow free discussion is most commendable. It was originally written on Tim Challies’ blog, hence the second paragraph. My apologies for any confusion that caused.

    I’d now like to address two points from your original post:

    Firstly, you mention CJ’s transparency. This is the first we’ve seen from CJ in living memory, and as such it is a bit suspicious. It appears that his confession and step-down is an attempt to pre-empt any consequences from the recent circulation of the “sgmwikileaks” documents. If this evidence had stayed secret, CJ wouldn’t have done anything, as he hasn’t responded to repeated concerns about his sinful behavior that have been expressed over many years. I’m sorry that this is rather strong, but CJ has a history of using false humility to manipulate people and so there is considerable doubt as to his current motives.

    Secondly, you conclude by asking us to pray for CJ and the SGM leadership. This is the very same flawed approach that has done so much harm within SGM – focussing on the leaders whilst ignoring their victims. (In reality the victims are often blamed). Matthew, you need to be aware that CJ is directly responsible for long-term abusive behavior within SGM churches that has left many people utterly devastated. I would respectfully ask you (and anyone who reads this) to spend a lot more time – some would say that a factor of 100 would not be enough – praying for all these battered sheep.

    I want to respond to Jake’s defensive comments next.

    Jake, the issue is that attempts to raise serious problems with CJ and the SGM leadership have repeatedly failed and in many cases have been twisted round to suggest that the victim is at fault. If people seem angry and want to destroy SGM, it is because SGM has virtually destroyed them, and no, it’s not that they’ve been under discipline for any valid reason. I’m sorry, but the approach of CJ and SGM is completely contradictory to gospel principles.

    Your posts read like many others I have seen from people in SGM churches who’ve come to almost idolise their leaders based on a public image that is only part of the picture. The emails from many SGM leaders contained in the “sgmwikileaks” documents give a somewhat different impression, and remember these were compiled by Brent Detwiler, a very senior SGM leader who was part of CJ’s inner circle before being forced out. And did you not notice that CJ’s confession only mentions pastors and doesn’t even acknowledge the regular church members who he has sinned against? The little people are largely irrelevant to him. Please also review my initial comment to Matthew about transparency and CJ’s motives.

    I’d like to finish by supporting the other people who responded to Dave Joyce’s comment.

    I agree completely that the content of the websites and the documents is not edifying material. The truth is that there has been no other option. The SGM leadership is autocratic and unaccountable, and they have continually refused to take action as they are part of the problem. In such a situation, where private attempts at correction have failed, I believe it is appropriate and in the spirit of Matthew 18 for the wider church to be made aware of the problems.

    No, it’s not the best way to do things, but the alternative of suffering in silence and allowing the abuse to continue is far worse. The Christian response is not just to forgive CJ for his sins, but also to remove CJ from a leadership position that he is scripturally disqualified from holding, in order to stop more people from being hurt. My last sentence has to stress that we must never lose sight of the fact that many people have been greatly harmed by SGM, and to be honest the public image of CJ and SGM are quite low down my priority list – my heart is with those people for whom SGM has been the most painful experience of their lives.

    • To Peter J:

      Keep in mind the date in which I posted the original article. This was pre-sgmwikileaks and, as I mentioned in a previous comment, was merely taking CJ at face value based upon what I thought I knew of him. So taking what he spoke (and what I quoted) in a vacuum, it seemed as if he was taking the right approach. Of course, I have changed course on that and have allowed the comments to flow freely. This development has been stunning, and I’m working on processing everything I’ve learned in the last 8 hours or so.

      • Peter J

        Matthew, I’m sorry if my comments came over as personally critical, as I accept that you were ignorant of the real situation. But, even so, it would still have been appropriate to encourage people to pray for those that CJ has sinned against.

        The context of the current events is that the concerns of those who have been left broken by CJ and SGM have been completely ignored over many years. These concerns were dismissed as lies or distortions from sinful and evil people who were opposed to the Lord’s work and seeking to destroy a great man of God and the group of churches he founded. At the same time, SGM grew in size and prominence and became accepted as an important part of the resurgence in reformed Christianity that has happened over the last decade or so. You can imagine how painful this must be for the victims when not only were they ignored and demonized, but their abusers were elevated and praised within the wider evangelical community.

        We are now in the situation that CJ has admitted to serious sin in his own life, and to structural deficiencies within SGM (created by CJ himself). The errors that he has confessed to are the very same things that numerous people have raised over many years. CJ and SGM had been unwilling or unable to acknowledge and address them until now, and it seems that this about turn has been prompted not by any crisis of conscience or conviction of sin, but by the publication of documents that provide incontrovertible proof of the what has largely been kept hidden. Please forgive my inability to receive the letters from CJ and SGM in good faith, but they have such a long-term history of hypocrisy, manipulation, and false humility that my reaction to their unexpected change of heart is disbelief and cynicism.

        It is also worth noting that there has been absolutely no attempt by SGM to discredit any of the documents as fabrications. Whilst they undoubtedly reflect the perspective of their compiler, Brent Detwiler (and he was once a willing participant in the abusive system before it turned against him), they contain plenty of objective facts and actual emails such that their authenticity cannot be disputed.

        The wording of the letters from both CJ and Dave Harvey is that of a public relations or damage control exercise, praising CJ for his actions whilst distorting the extent and duration of the problems. We see in these letters the same pattern of deceit and information control that has been characteristic of CJ and SGM from the start. One concrete example of this is that CJ’s letter includes phrases such as “over the last few years” and “for the past five years or so”. So why didn’t he do something years ago? But CJ’s sinful behavior goes back far longer, and he has been challenged about it all along. The documents contain (part 3, page 139) a horrific example of CJ attempting to blackmail Larry Tomczak in October 1997, almost 14 years ago. Read that story and ask yourself if CJ is fit for leadership.

        I hope this all helps you to understand why people have strong feelings about CJ and SGM, and why his permanent removal from public ministry is felt to be the only option that can stop the abuse. It may seem a drastic step, but the Bible makes it clear that leaders must be above reproach in their character and behavior, and the enforcement of these standards will bring glory to God and honor to Jesus.

        I want to again commend your willingness to allow open discussion – if you look at SGM’s blog you’ll find a marked absence of critical comments and the usual pieces exalting CJ. One of the latter reminded me of the way people in cults or totalitarian regimes heap lavish praise on their leaders, which again rings an alarm bell.

        I regard it as a privilege to be able to comment here, and I’ve tried to keep my language objective and gracious, in the hope that it will help people take this very serious matter seriously. Those directly affected may find it harder to moderate their words, and I hope you’ll be able to forgive this if it spills over into any of the comments here.

  16. Don

    Peter J, thank you for your articulate and well-reasoned statements. Matthew, thank you for being being willing to accept new information and let people speak freely here.

  17. Pingback: C J Mahaney’s Temporary Resignation and Sovereign Grace Ministries: Shades of John Piper | The Wartburg Watch

  18. Peter excellent comment you made July 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm.

    It is sad that that SGM Leaders didn’t deal with sin their camp and especially that Mahaney didn’t have the humility to repent on his own. He should have listened to some of his own teaching he gave back in the early 80’s on the life of Solomon. Mahaney even then said he didn’t want to end his ministry like Solomon’s. Solomon had a good start but made mistakes that Mahaney taught including the need to have a Nathan. Sad that Mahaney refused to listen to Nathans.

    I agree with you that Mahaney wouldn’t have stepped down unless these documents came out. This forced his hand though sadly he is assuming he will be back. If Mahaney is allowed back that will show just how corrupt and lacking integrity SGM is.

  19. Peter J

    @ Don and steve240

    Thank you for your kind remarks.

  20. One of the reason it’s hard for me to process the complaints against CJ is that the content of what CJ and Sovereign Grace preach as a whole is very very doctrinally sound. And more than doctrinally sound, it’s played a key factor in helping me mature in my walk with the Lord by helpi me to stay focused on the Gospel.

    Regardless of anything I’ve heard here, The Cross Centered Life, and other messages from CJ and SGM are wonderfully full of truth and are glorifying to God. Does anyone deny that?

    The problem i see is that people describe SGM as a cult, but cult leaders are usually pretty messed up doctrinally. This is not the case with CJ, I’ve weighed what he preaches against scripture and found it to be sound.

    • Peter J

      Dave Joyce, I have to be quick, but four points:

      Firstly CJ himself has admitted sin.

      Secondly, don’t confuse gifting with character. CJ may be able to preach a cracking sermon, but his conduct as a leader has been reprehensible.

      Thirdly, CJ’s and SGM’s doctrines regarding pastors, authority and church government are definitely well-off the mark. There may be more – parenting, discipline, and relationships are other areas where there are probably concerns. On a more contentious subject, some people take a different view to SGM on gender roles and women in leadership. But yes, on central doctrines of the faith I think they hold orthodox reformed beliefs.

      Fourthly, it’s actually quite hard to specify exactly what a cult is. The following are considered cultic and found in SGM: members are expected to obey leaders unquestioningly; leaders are authoritarian and unaccountable; different standards are applied to members and leaders; leaders use manipulation to control members; leaders control the flow of information to protect their positions; members are forced to make public confessions; different gender roles are specified. Again, there may be more. I’m not prepared to say that SGM is definitely a cult, but it certainly shares many of the characteristics of one.

  21. Dave Joyce

    Think about it this way. Mahaney may have written a book on humility but his actions of not admitting his sin etc. has shown that he isn’t humble.

    Mahaney appears to be one of these guys where you are better off doing what he says vs. what he does. Put another way hypocrisy. Some think his conscience has been seared.

    As you seem to point out more of the danger with SGM is involvement with the group though Mahaney certainly has challenges doctrinally.

  22. Cyndi

    Pastor Matthew Perry, you give hope to those who may be leaving SGM in the hope that God will lead them to a healthier church. Sometimes Christians become disillusioned after an experience such as this. It helps knowing there are pastors of other churches who are open to listening to people’s hearts.

  23. Matthew,

    I linked over from TWW and I just want to encourage you in your quest for understanding the truth.

    I am sincerely praying for my brothers and sisters whose hearts are heavy over these revelations.

    May you feel embraced by God’s love as you walk through these next few days.

  24. TW

    Brent D posted this on his facebook page in reference to CJ’s announcement:

    “On Wednesday, C.J. posted the following. “Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace.”

    This was a terribly misleading statement by my friend. For many years, men who worked with C.J. tried to help him see his pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgments, and hypocrisy.

    The input C.J. received started in December 2000 and did not come from former pastors and leaders who leveled charges against him because they were offended.

    I hate to say it, but this is an example of Sovereign Grace spin and it was one important reason why I sent out “The Documents” on Wednesday night to all the SGM pastors.

    C.J.’s Blog: http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/cj-mahaney/post/Why-Im-taking-a-leave-of-absence.aspx

    ://www.scribd.com/sgmwikileaks”

  25. In regards to CJ’s and SGM’s doctrines, I’m referring to the core doctrines on the faith that they have right. The doctrines outlined in Josh Harris wonderful book Dug Down Deep. I think it’s quite possible that their thinking is flawed about elevating pastors to a sort of untouchable level. My understanding is that the pastors at CovLife even have their own care group. Why not rather join in with all the other care groups. It’s ok for a pastor to be accountable to laypeople I think. I see no example in scripture that says otherwise.

    I’m not excusing CJ from any guilt, but I’m pointing out that he has a lot right, and I think his heart is right. And it’s important for us to pray for him that the spirit would reveal his heart to him and reveal any deceitfulness or pride.

    There’s a level of sour grapes present on those blogs that I think distracts from any sort of truth that they’re trying to share. The blog authors need to do a fair bit of self evaluation as well and coat their warning message with grace and love and a desire to build CJ up and restore him to proper standing before God, not just tear him down and say “good riddance”, which is the attitude that I see a lot on the blogs.

    And don’t publicize a bitter divorce for all to see, that is none of anyone’s business.

    And don’t nit pick every little thing that SGM does. Boy Meets Girl is a fine book that I have found very very valuable. Josh Harris has said time and again, it’s not prescriptive, it’s just giving us examples to inspire us.

    I think the blog authors would do well to create a single paper outlining the flaws of SGM leadership backed by scriptural support, filled with humility and grace and a desire to see restoration brought to SGM. That I could get behind, I can’t get behind the blogs as they exist currently. They’re spiteful and vindictive and are more focused on the wrongs done to them and the attitude that SGM owes them an apology. Christ died for their sins and forgave them for their sins if they accept Christ. If they were forgiven, they should be willing to forgive CJ and SGM. And have they forgiven them? I haven’t been able to see any sign of forgiveness on their part. That by no means excuses CJ or SGM leadership, but it’s not helping the situation at all.

  26. Not Again

    Blaming the victim. That’s classic. Add that to the list of warning signs of cultic indoctrination.
    Wasn’t that one of the charges that Brent Detwiler specifically mentions of C. J. — that C.J. would dismiss and discount any attempt at correction that didn’t come to him carefully worded, packaged, cushioned, and wrapped in just the right way? As if the aggrieved party owes the abuser courtly manners and deference before the abuser might deign to listen?
    As Brent said in Part 3, page 201, “Primarily, I hope and desire to see a restoration of integrity, truth telling and justice in Sovereign Grace so there is no lying, spin, manipulation, lording, cover-up, or partiality. I am concerned for the movement. Some men have
    followed sinful aspects of your example and leadership – the kind referenced in
    this response. These men have acted deceitfully, judgmentally, unbiblically,
    and hypocritically. Their example in turn, has harmed others and been
    corrosive in its effect.”

    • I didn’t blame the victim. I’m simply pointing out that the victim has an attitude that makes a peaceful reconciliation next to impossible. CJ is the only one to blame for his sin, and victims have no unique right to deny culpability for their own wrongdoing. This is why third party arbitration is needed.

  27. Not Again

    Dave, I understand your response to being suddenly confronted with the unraveling of what you held dear. It is human nature to find excuses and loopholes for the the side we already support, and seize upon every fault and flaw in that side we perceive as “the other.” Paradigm shift is difficult; cognitive dissonance takes time to process. You’re not there yet.

    I also believe that you unwittingly prove the very point I quoted from Brent Detwiler above — you have been conditioned by the culture which is “corrosive in its effect” so that you really, truly cannot see the blatant offensiveness of what you are saying. It actually makes sense to you.

    You say, “They’re spiteful and vindictive and are more focused on the wrongs done to them and the attitude that SGM owes them an apology. Christ died for their sins and forgave them for their sins if they accept Christ. If they were forgiven, they should be willing to forgive . . .”

    Guess what? SGM DOES owe them an apology! An apology barely begins to address what many of them have suffered.

    You also owe them an apology for sinfully judging their motives and adding insult to their injury.

    Are you aware that there are more than a few verified stories of families whose children suffered sexual abuse within the SGM churches, who were either stopped from reporting it to civil authorities or condemned if they did by ‘shepherds’ using the EXACT tactic that you just employed? Do you realize that wives were counseled/ordered to stay with physically abusive husbands on those very grounds, that very wording?

    You state that it is the posture of the victims that precludes peaceful resolution. You place the burden on the victims, thousands of individuals each with his or her own story, to somehow centrally distill that to a single catalog of complaints so that it is easier to read (seriously, dude?) and, in spite of being abused, neglected, marginalized, shunned, and silenced, to get their heart attitudes and their wording 100% right before they have even a right to present their case. I do not see that in Matthew 18 as any sort of condition.

    Matthew 18:15-17
    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
    But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
    If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.
    And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

    The industry of third party arbitration for hire is not ‘needed’ where repentance is genuine. Bringing in other witnesses is required only when the one who sinned refuses to listen.

    You are self-righteously judging the attitudes of the victims and determining how they must present their case to be worthy of a hearing. You are placing the conflict back on them, functioning as ‘accuser of the brethren.’ For the victIms, such treatment is the religious equivalent of being raped twice — first by the perpetrator, and then again on the witness stand by the defense team.

    Yes, as believers, we are to forgive one another, and by God’s grace, we do and will. If we approach a brother to pursue the process of restoration, where needed, we are instructed by the Lord to do so with meekness, considering our own hearts. That is how we all ought to posture our own heart individually before the Lord — but it is NOT a pre-condition we may lay upon the one who brings correction to us.

    I posit that the fault lies with the abuser, not the abused. The simple reason they have pressed and continued to press their case is that they were sinned against, and guilty parties were not listening.

    Besides, I think you will find there is more willingness to forgive when presented with true repentance than you seem to seeing. These are, by and large, God’s people, too. The Spirit with them is resisting pride, but will give grace in the face of genuine humility.

    • I’ve only attended one SGM service when I was visiting Knoxville, TN. I’m not “conditioned by the culture”. I am becoming more and more aware that there may be structural problems with the way SGM churches are setup and am conscious that abuses of power may have occurred (I can’t confirm or deny events I didn’t witness). I would like to see a restructuring of SGM management so that abuses of power cannot happen in the future.

      Here’s some of my perspective in reading some of the correspondence in Brent’s documents. In the third document CJ wrote Brent two responses to some papers where he admitted pride and wrong doing in a very gracious way. That wasn’t good enough for Brent, he called CJ’s response “deficient”. He wouldn’t be content until CJ admitted every single sin that Brent had *exhaustively* took hours upon hours outlining. Brent was holding CJ’s feet to the coals and insisting that he admit ALL guilt that he see or exhaustively outline why he was innocent. Brent wanted a 100 page response, not just the 19 that CJ provided.

      In CJ’s second response he explained why he disagreed with Brent and that he wasn’t purposefully attempting to deceive the “CovLife guys”. That answer wasn’t good enough for Brent because he didn’t agree with it. He demanded that CJ admit he was willfully trying to deceive, even though CJ insists he wasn’t. So Brent is essentially saying that he won’t agree to third party arbitration until CJ subscribes to his interpretation of events.

      My assertions of spitefulness and vindictiveness are largely directed at Brent based on what I’ve read on the wikileaks.

  28. Not Again

    I meant to type “within”: The Spirit within them is resisting pride, but will give grace in the face of genuine humility.

  29. Not Again

    Ah, I see.

    When I wrote “victim”, you read “Brent Detwiler”. That is understandable. The sgmwikileaks chronicle that relationship and Brent’s attempt to confront CJ and restore that relationship. That is what CJ referred to in his letter about stepping down.

    I agree that if this were only a personal dispute between CJ and Brent, I would stay completely away from it and leave it to the involved parties and whatever other witnesses they chose to include.

    However, the sgm wikileaks exposed the dysfunctional and unaccountable inner workings of the SGM leadership, as well as the appalling lack of true humility and godliness of CJ, the defacto ‘pope’ of SGM, as well as some others at the top,

    This squares completely with and serves to confirm the stories of the many who have been wounded and mistreated by the corporate structure and culture of SGM, whose tales are told at http://sgmrefuge.com/, http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/, and elsewhere, as well as in the experiences of many I know personally.

    When I wrote “victim”, I meant them.

  30. Not Again

    *entered too soon*
    So, I apologize to you, sir, for not making myself clear,and I am sorry for reacting based upon my misunderstanding of your statement and intent. I ask you to forgive me for accusing and misjudging you.

    • Thanks not again =) No apology needed.

      I was largely referring to Brent, but I’ve seen similar attitudes on occasion on the blogs as well. I haven’t read every single account and I can’t speak specifically to every single sin that’s been committed. There’s a LOT of info in Brent’s docs, and a LOT on the blogs too. It’s just too much to get my head around. I can only speak to general impressions. Which is why I think a concise explanation might be helpful. But, I by no means want to deny that abuses have happened. But we need some clarity and all parties involved need to be willing to forgive as Christ forgave. That’s my desire for any conflict that takes place.

      The single most thing I’d like to see changed is that SGM restructure to be accountable to the church body where members choose their pastors and hold them accountable. The top down approach doesn’t work, and I’ve never heard of that before outside of SGM. I wonder what Mark Dever’s position is on this. Perhaps he’ll be helpful in convincing CJ to make the structure more democratic while being submitted to the Word.

  31. bystander

    I am a fairly neutral party who has listened to one sermon by CJ online in my entire lifetime and I don’t know anything about SGM prior to today. I have only read one article beside this one and these comments on this subject and I am bothered by this whole thing as I compare what I’m reading to what scripture has to say. First, I do not see where the “offended” have trusted God to convict and change hearts. They say they have taken Biblical steps to reconciliation but that has not resulted in the other’s repentance so instead of trusting God with the outcome, they have publicly outed the sins of the “offenders,” directly disobeying Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” They have taken matters into their own hands, demanding accountability that clearly belongs to God. This is not over doctrinal differences so Titus 3:10 “reject a factious man after two warnings” doesn’t really apply, but they did have the option of quietly placing themselves under a different church leadership in order to not disobey scripture. Second, their attitude of deserving apology and reparation goes against two points of scripture. The Bible is very clear on what we deserve and it isn’t personal satisfaction in relationships. The two portions that spring to mind concerning that attitude are: Titus 3:3 “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” and Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.” Also, if the SGM leadership was truly sinning against them (C.J. seems to admit to it to at least some degree), the “offended” seem to be disregarding Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” Matthew 18:21 “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” and 2 Timothy 2:25 “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” They are neither recognizing that the offense against them is much less than the offense against God and leaving it up to Him, nor praying with loving hope for the “offender(s)” to be restored to God while quietly enduring suffering for God’s sake.

    I am not making any claim that there was no sin on the part of SGM or C.J. Mahaney or that it was confessed upon initial confrontation, but it IS being confessed in repentance while the sin of the “offended” is propagating against the universal church along with C.J. and SGM. Ultimately, they too are sinning primarily against God. I think there is room for much repentance and confession on all sides here, and now that the one side has made everything public, they also need to publicly repent. However, even if they don’t do that, I hope that they repent and confess their sin to God and have their own relationship with Him restored.

    May God be glorified in the outcome of this situation with all parties being restored to Him and to each other in Him.

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