Longing for what used to be
Still it’s hard
Hard to see
Fragile lives, shattered dreams”
Lyrics from “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by Offspring
Yesterday I received an email from the Westminster Bookstore in which they were promoting a new book titled “On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church.” The promotion included this short letter from Benjamin Dahlvang, Associate Director of the Westminster bookstore:
A Note from the Westminster Bookstore
As a father of two young children and an elder at a local church, it makes sense that this book would grab my attention and pique my interest. I want to protect the children at my church and the children in my home, so I ought to have delved right in to this book with eagerness. What I found, however, was that I consistently put off both reading the manuscript or even thinking about the book’s release. Why? Why did I let this book, which is so highly commended and so clearly demands broad readership, sit in my inbox for months without ever looking at it?
First, I convinced myself I didn’t need it. We haven’t had to deal with this in my church. It isn’t something my family has been confronted with. It’s an issue that is out there somewhere––someone else’s burden to bear.
Second, the topic was simply too sickening for me to think about. The fact that children are being sexually abused in houses of God is absolutely horrifying.
I think my response to this topic is all too typical. No one wants to read this book. It shouldn’t have had to be written. The subject matter, and the torn apart lives of children that lie behind this book, make this the most difficult ‘promotion’ I’ve been part of in my years at the bookstore––and maybe the most necessary one. Indeed, I truly wish we could just give this book away to every church leader.
In light of the seriousness of this book, and the gravity of the problem it addresses, can I encourage you to pray? Pray that this book would be a wake-up call to the leaders of God’s people. Pray the suffering would be comforted, and the enemy stopped. Pray that God’s house would be a safe place for the little ones to come to Jesus.
Initially I was thrilled to see that a book like this was being published. The topic is one that needs to be taken to heart by all church leaders, and I agree with the sentiment expressed by Dahlvang, that the book will be “a wake-up call to the leaders of God’s people.”
My initial joy that a book on this subject had been published soon turned to dismay when I discovered that the author, Deepak Reju, is an assistant pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC).
CHBC’s senior pastor is Mark Dever. Mark Dever is the President of the 9Marks organization. Mark Dever provided cover for C.J. Mahaney when Mahaney fled his home church due to the burgeoning sexual abuse scandal in Sovereign Grace churches. Mark Dever, along with Al Mohler, have probably been the two biggest supporters of C.J. Mahaney throughout this scandal. Both men signed a statement of support for Mahaney on behalf of the T4G organization and have also endorsed him publicly on numerous occasions.
Additionally the book contains endorsements by several individuals who have been influential in propping up C.J. Mahaney.
One of the sexual abusers in Sovereign Grace, Nate Morales, was found guilty on several counts of abuse and sentenced to 40 years in prison. During the trial Grant Layman, brother in-law of C.J. Mahaney, and an assistant pastor of Covenant Life Church, the church Mahaney was senior pastor of during the time period the abuse occurred, testified under oath to the following:
Public defender Alan Drew: “Did you have an obligation to report the alleged abuse?”
Layman: “I believe so.”
Drew: “And you didn’t?”
In light of the abuse and conspiracy to cover it up by Sovereign Grace leaders, one would hope for some apologies and retractions coming from the christian celebrity leaders who have strongly supported Mahaney. To date none have been forthcoming.
So while this book needed to be published, it was my feeling that an assistant pastor from Mark Dever’s church was not the best man to author such a book.
Boz Tchividjian, a man I highly respect, has been one of the few leaders in evangelical Christianity to take a strong stand for the victims of sexual abuse. He wrote a great article which criticized the celebrity leaders who had either remained silent on the issue or spoke out in defense of Mahaney. In part Tchividjian said:
“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 wrote an endorsement for the book “On Guard” which I must admit left me somewhat confused. The endorsement is below:
Knowing Boz Tchividjian to be a man of principle I decided to write him a letter asking him to explain his reasoning for endorsing the book by Deepak Reju. I have never had any prior communication with Tchividjian; aware that he is an extremely busy man and doesn’t know me from Adam I was doubtful he would reply to me. I was pleasantly surprised that not only did Boz reply, he replied within thirty minutes of my writing.
Here, in part, is what he had to say to me:
“As you know, I have written publicly about the SGM issue and the tragic statements that were posted by members of the Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. (See: http://netgrace.org/where-are-the-voices-the-continued-culture-of-silence-and-protection-in-american-evangelicalism/)
I have known Deepak for a number of years and believe the burden he carries on this issue is very genuine. I believe that Deepak is in a unique position to be able to make a significant difference in the life of CHBC and its leadership as it relates to this incredibly important issue – protecting the lives of children and serving those who have survived abuse.
My endorsement of this book is based upon my conviction that it will ultimately protect children – this includes children from faith communities whose leaders we may strongly disagree with regarding their decisions and associations. In my opinion, little ones deserve nothing less from all of us.Boz
I was very impressed with the wisdom of Boz Tchividjian’s response to me and it really altered my thinking on Deepak Reju’s book. I believe we can all agree that our ultimate goal should be protecting children and to that end I will endorse the book.
The chapters of the book listed below look outstanding. Let’s hope they are read and heeded by our church leaders so that we have no repeats of what has happened at Sovereign Grace churches.
What appears below are endorsements for the book “On Guard” from three men. Two of the men have made direct statements of support for Mahaney. The other endorsement I question is from Ryan Townsend, Executive Director of 9Marks. I know nothing about Ryan Townsend, but given that Mark Dever is President of the 9Marks organization and Dever has been one of the most aggressive supporters of Mahaney, one can safely assume that 9Marks leadership would share Dever’s view. Surely there must be some cognitive dissonance occurring with these men, I cannot explain their actions any other way.
Prior to each man’s endorsement of Reju’s book I have placed evidence of support for Mahaney.
Mark Dever’s (President of 9Marks) opening comments at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. (C.J. Mahaney’s church) on 6-2-2013:
“And in fact your own pastor was the object of gossip yesterday at this event that I was at, the wedding of Al Mohler’s daughter. There were three Christian leaders standing there, I overheard them talking about C.J. and I stepped up and listened; and all three of them know him and all of them were bragging on him and his integrity in a number of ways, one of which is the way he’s begun in leading this church plant. So you all who are here in this church, and particularly if you’re visiting or you’re sort of new to Sovereign Grace, you have the privilege of having this man as your pastor that you don’t fully grasp; and that’s absolutely fine. Just thank God for him and enjoy the Word of God as he brings it from a life and a heart full of the gospel. Know that I am delighted to be here. It is a privilege to address you brothers and sisters.”
“Having said all that, here is our conclusion: We do not believe C.J. Mahaney’s confessed sins have disqualified him from Christian ministry. Or to put it positively, from all that we have seen, heard, and read, we believe C.J. Mahaney is, at this moment in time and based on those sins which he has acknowledged, still fit to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a pastor to others….
While we affirm that C.J. Mahaney has not disqualified himself from ministry, we also encourage Sovereign Grace Ministries to address the broader issues to which we alluded at the start as a means of avoiding the current kind of situation in the future.”