Thabiti Anyabwile’s Membership in the “Celebrity Club” Trumps Any Concern For Victims of Sexual Abuse

By | January 21, 2014

Screenshot 2014-01-26 01.22.30

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” -Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT


Thabiti  Anyabwile is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, a 9Marks church modeled after Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  Anyabwile served on staff of Dever’s church prior to accepting the senior pastor’s job at FBC of Grand Cayman.  Thabiti Anyabwile’s stock has been on the rise the last few years in what I refer to as the “Celebrity Conference Circuit.” As I see it membership in this celebrity club consists of pastors who are good public speakers, have written a book or two, unreservedly support the “Big Three” para-church organizations (9Marks, The Gospel Coalition and Together For the Gospel) and have the blessing of Al Mohler and Mark Dever.

Anybody following American Evangelicalism is aware of the demise of C.J. Mahaney, formerly one of the elite top dogs in the Celebrity Conference Circuit.  It seems Mahaney has been unable to shake well documented charges of blackmail and covering up sexual abuse in his church.  As a result of these “issues” Mahaney has lost his job as director of Sovereign Grace Ministries, had to step aside from his position as one of the four main leaders and speakers at the Together For The Gospel Conference this year and watch church after church in his denomination withdraw from SGM.  (Including the flagship church of the denomination, Covenant Life Church.)  Mahaney was senior pastor at Covenant Life Church for years.  When  the church leadership refused to give Mahaney a blanket pardon for his serious misdeeds he became quite irate, fled to Mark Dever’s church for a time, and then, in what can only be described as a spoiled child picking up his bat and ball and going home when he didn’t get his way,  moved the whole SGM office, headquarters, and Pastors College to Louisville.

Here is a good place to insert some insightful comments by Boz Tchividjian regarding this situation.  This article can be read in its entirety here.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 14.51.42

Sunday, January 19, 2014 Thabiti Anyabwile chose to speak at C.J. Mahaney’s church.  He is not the first.  He adds his name to a rather lengthy list of Christian celebrities who have chosen to honor C.J. Mahaney while saying nothing about the numerous victims of sexual abuse undoubtedly still suffering from the terrible crimes perpetrated upon them while in attendance at C.J. Mahaney’s church.  For the complete list of these men who apparently have no conscience see an earlier post here.

It should be noted that in his opening remarks Thabiti Anyabawile also heaped praise on Gary Ricucci, brother-in-law of C.J. Mahaney.  Ricucci and Mahaney were  named as defendants in a sexual abuse lawsuit.  A few of the descriptive charges leveled against Ricucci can be read here. Pay special attention to paragraphs 43-54.  Not exactly the type of guy I would care to be praising from the pulpit!

Below you can listen to Thabiti’s praise of C.J. Mahaney from his opening remarks of January 19th. Below that are screen shots from Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville’s Twitter account, just in case you need further evidence that Thabiti Anyabwile actually did speak at Mahaney’s church.

Screenshot 2014-01-19 21.18.32
Screenshot 2014-01-19 21.20.04
In all of this there are two things I wonder about.  First, what would possess a Christian leader, generally a clear thinker, such as Thabiti Anyabwile to publicly endorse a man such as C.J. Mahaney, while showing no concern whatsoever for those victimized under Mahaney’s care?  Is either Al Mohler or Mark Dever, both close friends of C.J. Mahaney, demanding this as a show of loyalty of those who wish to remain part of the Celebrity Conference Circuit? This is just a thought, but both Mohler and Dever remain close friends with Mahaney. That C.J. Mahaney has purchased his way into the good graces of both Mohler and Dever has been well documented by the ladies of The Wartburg Watch blog. You can read their article here. Al Mohler has recently attempted to help revive Mahaney’s conference career by giving him a bit role in his latest leadership conference.

The second thing I wonder about is why C.J. Mahaney, as senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, would have so many guest speakers.  According to my count Thabiti Anyabwile is the 8th celebrity to preach at Mahaney’s church in about the last year.  As you can see from the photo below Mahaney is part of a staff of 5 men who comprise the pastoral team at the Louisville church.  This for a church that numbers from 50-80 people. (Maybe a few more when you count those in attendance who are in the Pastor’s College.)  I would guess there are many churches with five times the members who would love to have a staff of five, or even three pastors.  I can’t imagine the workload is overwhelming for the fab five of Louisville.  Therefore I conclude that Mahaney is attempting to re-establish some semblance of credibility to the outside world by having these celebrities preach at his church; after all, if the super-saint celebrities have no problem preaching at Mahaney’s church and lavishing praise on Mahaney in their opening remarks (with the exception of Jerry Bridges, who uttered no praise of Mahaney in his opening remarks), then Mahaney must be O.K.; his sins, in the words of one friend and re-quoted often by Mahaney,  “are routine and common.”

SGM louisville pastors

Jeff Purswell; Gary Ricucci – married to C.J. Mahaney’s sister Betsy; C.J. Mahaney; Brian Chesemore – Mahaney’s son-in-law;  Bob Kauflin. 

Below is a screenshot taken from a recent blog post by Thabiti Anyabwile.  The complete article can be found here.  Thabiti is making the case that Dr. King most likely would not have supported abortion. I also doubt he would have supported those who cover up the sexual abuse of children Mr. Anyabwile.  Something to consider.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 15.53.52

In a post Thabiti Anyabwile wrote back in June of 2013 entitled “Patrick Stewart Gets It When It Comes to Violence Against Women” he ended by saying: “Let’s pray and work for an end to violence against women and children. It’s ours to end, brothers.” The post can be viewed here.  I agree with the sentiment expressed above Mr. Anyabwile; would you care to tell me how preaching at C.J. Mahaney’s church and lavishing praise on him in your opening remarks would work for an end to violence against women and children?  In case you are ignorant of the facts involving Mahaney’s covering up of sexual abuse you can read a good summary written by Brent Detwiler here.

In part, here is what Brent Detwiler had to say:

“C.J. is at fault in all of this.  He has directed his pastoral staff not to report sex abusers going back to the 1980’s.  When have the pastors of Covenant Life Church ever reported a pedophile or sex abuser operating in their midst to law enforcement or gotten help for victims by contacting DHHS?  Not with David Adams.  Not with Nate Morales.  Not with the teenager that sexually assaulted Renee Palmer (cf. 95-96).  Not with Grace Goe.  Not with others.  Not ever as far as I know.

Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor from The Gospel Coalition are acting like ignoramuses when they assert the evidence for a conspiracy by C.J. does not exist.

“As to the specific matter of C. J. participating in some massive cover-up, the legal evidence was so paltry (more like non-existent) that the judge did not think a trial was even warranted.” (Caron, DeYoung, Taylor, May 24, 2013)

In so doing, they are aiding and abetting someone whose unwillingness to report abusers to law enforcement has allowed abusers to continue their evil craft and devastate the lives of many victims.  There has been a “massive cover-up.”  When has C.J. or any of his employees ever reported physical and sexual abuse to the police and DHHS.  Don, Kevin, Justin, produce the evidence.  Now we are talking “so paltry (more like non-existent).”

The factual allegations against C.J. should not only be pressed in a Civil Court for damages, they should be prosecuted in a Criminal Court for jail time.  Gary, Grant and Joshua should have defied C.J. when he instructed them not to involve law enforcement.”

Way to pray and work for and end to violence against women and children Mr. Anyabwile. It appears your prayers and work having nothing to do with your stated cause in the blog you wrote in June but, rather,  are more to the end of attempting to restore credibility to Mr. Mahaney, a man who, if he had a shred of decency would remove himself from the pastorate.

“Let us be warned by those horrible punishments suffered by the priest Eli (1 Sam. 2:27-36; 4:12-18), King Saul (1 Sam., ch. 15), and the whole people of Israel because of an impious indulgence and unwise mercy toward those against whom, by the command of God, who alone is truly merciful and clement, they ought to have exercised severity lest we think that any indulgent concessions are to be made to anyone against God’s precept and against the well-being of the churches. Christian mildness and mercy must be exhibited to the sheep of Christ in order to protect them from the wolves, and not to the wolves that they may scatter and destroy the sheep.”  -Martin Bucer, De Regno Christi in Wilhelm Pauck, ed., Melanchthon and Bucer (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press, 1969), 276, 277.
“In the name of prudence the terrified imposter would have us betray our identity and our mission, whatever it might be – standing with a friend in the harsh weather of life, solidarity with the oppressed at the cost of ridicule, refusal to be silent in the face of injustice, unswerving loyalty to a spouse, or any lonely call to duty on a wintry night. Other voices clamor, “Don’t make waves, say what everyone else is saying and do what they’re doing, tailor your conscience to fit this year’s fashion. When in Rome do as the Romans do. You don’t want to raise eyebrows and be dismissed as a kook. Settle in and settle down, You’d be overruled anyway.”
The measure of our depth-awareness of Christ’s present risenness is our capacity to stand up for the truth and sustain the disapproval of significant others. An increasing passion for the truth evokes a growing indifference to public opinion and to what people say or think. We can no longer drift with the crowd or echo the opinion of others. The inner voice, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid,” assures that our security rests in having no security. When we stand on our own two feet and claim responsibility for our unique self, we are growing in personal autonomy, fortitude, and freedom from the bondage of human approval.”  -Brennan Manning, “Abba’s Child”, page 118 
“Thus while men in general are pressing after the highest stations in life, and sacrificing every thing to obtain them, we see a man (Joseph) who had for nine years occupied one of these posts, and felt both its advantages and disadvantages, carefully directing his dearest friends and relations into another track; acting up to Agur’s prayer, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; but give me food convenient.” The cool and sequestered path of life is the safest, happiest, and most friendly to true religion. If we wish to destroy our souls, or the souls of our children, let us seek for ourselves and them great things: but if not, it becomes us, having food and raiment, therewith to be content. A rage for amassing wealth, or rising to eminence, is a whirlpool in which millions have perished.”  -Expository Discourses on the Book of Genesis by Andrew Fuller, book II, page 220
“The American church reflects the culture: ministries built around individuals, around big shots, churches that focus on god-like guru figures, all of them pointing to one door.  I have lost count of the conversations I have had with church people anxious to tell of who they heard at this conference, of which person they corresponded with, of how this opinion or that opinion would not sit well with this demi-god and is therefore of little value; and, of course, of how anyone who disagrees with, or criticizes, this chosen hero must, of necessity be morally depraved and wicked.  People want the gods to do their thinking for them.  All of the Pelagian, Manichean celebrity malarkey of the American political process is alive and well in the church as well.  The question is: when it comes to churches and ministries built around messiahs who are supposed to point not to themselves but to the true door, who is going to have the guts to leave the temple?” -Carl Trueman, “Messiahs Pointing to the Door” Reformation 21 Blog
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments