“Men may miss the opportunity to do what is right, but God never will. In His judgment, everything true and right will be established. No evil will go unpunished. Righteousness will prevail.” – Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile is once again an assistant pastor for Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; his official title is assistant pastor for church planting. According to sources Anyabwile is planting a church in Anacosta, a neighborhood in Washington, D.C.. (You can also read Mr. Anyabwile’s thoughts on his move here.) He was formerly Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands. Prior to serving there he was an assistant pastor at Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church. As a council member with The Gospel Coalition, Anyabwile has a blog on their website and is a speaker of national renown at their conferences. Anyabwile has also been a featured speaker at both IX Marks and Together For the Gospel conferences. I would consider him a member of the “Young, Restlesss and Reformed” celebrity preachers club. I have mentioned before that members of this club are all successful pastors and gifted speakers and writers. They all endorse each others books, speak at each others churches and are featured speakers at each others large conferences. Membership in the club has its benefits and is highly desired by many young preachers, but not easily obtained. Once a member it seems you will remain a member for life so long as you never speak negatively about a fellow member.
Carl Trueman, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, on a panel discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile, had this to say about celebrity preachers:
C.J. Mahaney is also a member of this celebrity preacher’s club. Any Evangelical Christian has probably heard of the sexual abuse scandal currently beleaguering Sovereign Grace Ministries and C.J. Mahaney. If not you can obtain a quick overview by listening to this interview of Boz Tchividjian by Janet Mefferd:
In an effort to prop-up Mahaney’s flailing ministry, fellow members of the celebrity preacher’s club have dutifully taken their turn speaking at Mahaney’s church in Louisville, KY. You can see the distinguished list here.
Thabiti Anyabwile made his way to Mahaney’s church in January of 2014. You can listen to his brief introduction where he lavishes praise on Mahaney and his assistants here:
Or, if you have an hour to kill you can view the whole sermon below.
Around the 14 minute mark of this sermon Anyabwile commented beautifully on the love we are to have towards God and our fellow man. Listen to the short comment below.
Amazing truth, yet what is more amazing is the fact that these words were preached in Mahaney’s church. Anyabwile, to my knowledge, has never once spoken publicly in support of the many victims of sexual abuse suffered in Sovereign Grace Churches. This abuse was inflicted while attending Covenant Life Church, where Mahaney was senior pastor, or one of the other SGM churches Mahaney presided over as head of Sovereign Grace Ministries. While Anyabwile’s expressions of love for Mahaney and his co-pastors is public and unabashed, to my knowledge he has never met privately with any of the hurting victims. Like his fellow Gospel Coalition members, his fellow friends in Together For the Gospel, his fellow friends in IX Marks, he remains a solid supporter of C.J. Mahaney. It appears Anyabwile subscribes to the statements of support for Mahaney published by TGC and T4G, that is, under the guise of not wishing to prematurely rush to judgment he refuses to confront Mahaney and refuses to comfort the victims of abuse. This in spite of a conviction and sentencing to 40 years in prison of Nate Morales, one of the abusers. This in spite of sworn testimony by Grant Layman, brother in-law of C.J. Mahaney and assistant pastor of Covenant Life Church (where Mahaney was senior pastor) that the pastors knew of the abuse, knew they should have reported it to authorities, yet did not.
Thabiti Anyabwile has written several articles on race relations and Christianity. He speaks eloquently on the subject and as a black man is uniquely qualified to do so in the world of American Evangelicalism, a world dominated by conservative white men. The subject is obviously dear to his heart, one to which he speaks with passion. His most recent article deals with the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black man, by a white policeman in Ferguson, MO. The article can be viewed in its entirety here, and I would encourage you to read it.
Puzzling to me, in light of Anyabwile’s silence on Mahaney’s complicity in the SGM sexual abuse scandal, is his passion on the need to speak out in support of the slain Michael Brown.
“They say that speaking out is “foolish,” rash, inconsiderate of Officer Wilson, even contributory to racial animosity and strife. We would be wise to be silent, they tell us. They’ve always told us that. “Just wait. Time will tell. Justice will be done.” And they tell us this as if they don’t have any assumptions of their own, as if they’re the objective bystanders, as if being “dispassionate” is a virtuous response when someone in any circumstance is killed, as if their rational powers are untainted by what they’ve seen or heard or untarnished by their own experiences, as if there is some moral neutral ground on which to stand, and as if their silence isn’t itself a statement.”
This sounds exactly like the line trumpeted by Anyabwile’s TGC and T4G friends regarding Mahaney!
“Third, even though we don’t know “all the facts,” we do know enough facts to speak.”
This is the same thing supporters of the victims of sexual abuse at SGM were saying to the celebrity Christian preachers, men such as Anyabwile, in an attempt to get them to speak out against Mahaney.
“When silence is only broken to tell the broken that their speaking is wrong, then you have multiplied the injustice by not listening to the grieving. You’re Job’s friends darkening counsel.”
Truer words were never spoken Mr. Anyabwile. Have you anything to say to the victims of abuse suffered at the hands of SGM? Or will you just continue speaking your words of praise to C.J. Mahaney as a guest preacher at his church?
“The call to “wait for all the facts” is not in keeping with reality as we live it. We rightly speak against the killing of Christians in Syria—and we don’t wait for all the facts to do so. We rightly speak against killing unborn children in the womb—and we don’t wait for all the facts of a particular pregnancy to do so. We take our stand and have our say because we understand that all human life has dignity because it’s made in the image and likeness of God. We understand that all human life ought to be valued and protected, so we speak out in defense of life without “all the facts” and particulars. And we’re right to do so with Syria and abortion, and we’re right to do so when teenagers are killed in the street without clear apology or explanation. It’s hypocrisy to silence the mourning neighbor while we speak so passionately for the unknown sufferer. We ought to speak for both—the basic facts which we do know require it.”
Did you mention hypocrisy Mr. Anyabwile? Hello!!!!
“I refuse to allow people to make this story solely about the facts involving Wilson because in doing so they conveniently erase the bigger pattern of facts about injustice. And this, beloved, is why Evangelicalism is teetering on the fence of irrelevance to the lives of the marginalized.”
True Mr. Anyabwile. Also true for those marginalized by the celebrity preachers in defense of their buddy Mahaney.
“My brother pastor thinks that by speaking before we “have all the facts” we’re putting the gospel on the line. I think by not speaking about the facts we do have and the patterns of injustice affecting the marginalized we’ve already abandoned the gospel and what it demands of us.
I have decided Mr. Anyabwile. In that you side with the celebrity preachers and maintain your silence concerning C.J. Mahaney you have abandoned the gospel.
You speak eloquently on issues of race. I pray that God would open your eyes to the reality of the same issues regarding those victimized under the knowing eyes of Mahaney.
“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
“Over the past several months we have remained publicly silent about the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), which alleged a conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse. …Many have asked why we have not spoken publicly. Is this a conspiracy of silence, a way to whitewash accusations against a friend? Is it a way to stand with the powerful and to make a mockery of the weak? Is it simple cowardice? Why hasn’t more been said? …We recognize that to some, our not speaking up feels like a betrayal, especially to those who have personally experienced abuse. …Over the past several months we often weighed the idea of writing a statement like this. Every time we concluded that caution was the better course.”
– Kevin DeYoung, D.A. Carson and Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition, “Why We Have Been Silent About the SGM Lawsuit, May 24, 2013
“We have stood beside our friend, C. J. Mahaney, and we can speak to his personal integrity. We can make no judgment as to the truthfulness of the horrifying charges of sexual abuse made against some individuals who have been connected, in some way, to Sovereign Grace Ministries and its churches… In such a case the legal authorities must use the full power of the law to investigate and to prosecute any perpetrator of such crimes.”
– Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler, “Together For The Gospel Statement, May 23, 2013”
“To the writers of the Gospel Coalition’s message: look. I recognize how hard it is to navigate the waters when someone you consider a friend has been accused of something like this. But the fact remains that by coming out strongly on the side of the one with pastoral power at this point in the proceedings, you are contributing (whatever your protests to the contrary) to the re-victimization of the victims and the upholding of the power structures that made SGM ripe for these sorts of criminal abuses in the first place.
There are simply too many allegations by too many disparate people, for this to be merely a vindictive false attack. And C. J. Mahaney, as the founder and leader of SGM, simply cannot hold himself aloof and claim ignorance. The authoritarian structures that were set up and/or maintained by him directly caused an environment where abuse was aided and abetted– and he had the power to prevent it, or at the very least stop it in its tracks. He is the one who created the environment where leaders were given blanket endorsement and protection, while the people at the bottom were silenced. Whether he likes it or not, by setting authority up as unassailable and himself up as the top authority, he made himself responsible for the behavior of his sub-leaders and well-being of his lowliest followers. And you, as his friends, ought to have told him so.”
– Kristen Rosser, “Sovereign Grace Ministries and Abuse: Time To Speak Out, May 26, 2013”
“The credibility of the church will rise and fall on how it treats the weak and wounded.”
– Matt Redmond, “Mark Driscoll, High-Profile Pastors, and Credibility”
“Many have argued (correctly) that all brands of religion and even life in general are sullied by child abuse. There are lots of sin bombs in life we could address, but it’s the one in your own backyard that has the greatest likelihood of wounding you or those to whom you are most obligated to advocate for. This is a bomb, planted firmly in the backyard of the house that is the young, restless, and reformed movement of which I am a part. It has already torn apart much of the reputation that was built over the last few years. There are precious doctrines attached to the groups under accusation right now. We have lost much when we chose silence over transparency in addressing these things. And we stand to lose much more if things don’t change in how our community addresses these things.”
– Wendy Alsup, “The Elephant in our Own Backyard”
“If we had applied biblical discernment a long time ago we could have avoided this mess. There is no way we can know how many unbelievers rejected the gospel because they saw the church supporting quacks who swaggered, bragged, lied, flattered, bribed, stole and tearfully begged their way into our lives—while we applauded them and sent them money.”
– J. Lee Grady, “Fire in My Bones”
“This past week, I have fluctuated between anger and tears as I read about Christian leaders who proclaim the Gospel with their voice, but remain silent and/or defensive about the horrors of child sexual abuse within the Church. These leaders have once again, and perhaps unwittingly, demonstrated the art of marginalizing individual souls for the sake of reputation and friendships.”
– Boz Tchividjian, “Where Are the Voices? The Continued Culture of Silence and Protection in American Evangelicalism”
“What kind of hard heart sides easily with a wealthy pastor against those who suffered at the hands of sexual abusers under his watch and then does so in the name of the One Who had no place to lay his head?”
– Matt Redmond, “What Kind of Hard Heart?”
Readers may be interested in viewing a counterpoint to Anyabwile’s regarding race and justice published by D.G. Hart. The article can be found here.