“But they knew about the beatings, the rages, the railing, the humiliation. Yet none of them acted to stop that behavior. They just seemed to turn off their consciences. What they would not do themselves, they permitted their pastor to do. Indeed, after charges were brought against Shifflett, he resigned from the church and took about a third of the members with him and formed a new church. Some of these die hards insisted that he was still their pastor, and whether he was found guilty or not, they were still going to support him. How is it, I had to ask myself , that people who would never rape or sodomize anybody, would follow a man who pled guilty to such charges? How is it that people who would never beat a child will knowingly swear total allegiance to a man who has been accused by half a dozen alleged victims? Indeed, there were more people who would have come forward about Shifflett, but anonymous threats and warnings stopped them. Were these threats coming from church members? How do people who profess to follow the Prince of Peace justify such behavior before God?”
Schizophrenic Christianity: How Christian Fundamentalism Attracts and Protects Sociopaths, Abusive Pastors, and Child Molesters
by Jeri Massi (Kindle Locations 1546-1554).
While the whole video below is of interest to my article, pay special attention to the section beginning at the 2:50 mark.
“This comprehensive process has clearly confirmed C.J.’s fitness to lead and his exceptional character as he has graciously endured major trials. Through all of this he has been found to be a man and a minister of fundamental integrity. We know of no one who is better suited for the office of President.” (June 28, 2012)
-John Loftness, Chairman of the SGM Board
“One key item we discussed was John Loftness’ request to resign from the Board. John has worked hard to serve the Board and our churches since July, 2011. He has logged countless hours as a Board member and since March, 2012, as the Chairman of the Board. He has done all this while serving as the Senior Pastor of Solid Rock Church. The time required in chairing the Sovereign Grace Board added to John’s already full schedule in both serving his church as well as caring for members of his extended family who are in poor health. Now that the edited Polity Proposal is ready for presentation, John felt it was time to step back from his Board duties and give more time to these other very important priorities. So effective immediately, John will no longer serve as Chairman of the Board nor as a member of the Board. We thought it wise to not fill his slot as a Board member until the new Polity is implemented, should it be ratified.
We are grateful for John’s hard work and leadership amidst a very challenging season. He has selflessly given himself to working with and leading the Board as we seek God’s wisdom and grace for our family of churches. He has shown himself as a man committed to the authority of God’s word and eager for the health and fruitfulness of God’s people. We as a Board love and respect our brother, we will miss serving with him, and we are grateful for his on-going support of the Board. We count it a deep privilege to have co-labored with John, our friend and brother. Please pray with us for a season of rest and refreshment as John gives himself anew to serving those in his extended family and in his church.”
-SGM Board update regarding John Loftness, February 18, 2013
John Loftness, formerly the Senior Pastor of Solid Rock Church, recently resigned from that church and has started a new church called Living Hope Church in Bowie, MD. Seventy or eighty former members of Solid Rock Church joined Loftness in starting the new church.
Solid Rock Church has reportedly recently left the Sovereign Grace Denomination. Read into that what you will.
Loftness remains ever loyal to C.J. Mahaney, the embattled former leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries who fled from the Washington D.C. area to “plant” a church in Louisville, KY, because we all know how devoid Louisville is of any good evangelical churches!
Mahaney rewarded Loftness’ loyalty by inviting him to speak at his church on January 25, 2015.
In the sermon Loftness delivered he wonders aloud whether, in light of those gossipy pests in social media, is Christian community still possible? Clearly, to Loftness, the evil blogs are the source of all the problems affecting himself and Sovereign Grace churches.
Listen to the following excerpt, culled from the sermon. It begins around the six minute mark in case you want to go to the source and listen.
Just in case you have forgotten the sordid details plaguing John Loftness, here is a brief rundown of alleged charges. I happen to believe they are true. I also believe it is a travesty that Loftness is still a pastor.
The following information is from Brent Detwiler’s Blog. It contains complaints filed against pastor John Loftness in a class action lawsuit. Be warned that some descriptions are graphic.
Victim: Jessica Roberts-Thomas
Location: Covenant Life School – Separate Room with a Window
Alleged Abuser: John Loftness, Unknown Man
86. Another victim of the Individual Defendants’ ongoing conspiracy and Institutional Defendants’ gross negligence is Plaintiff Jessica Roberts-Thomas.
87. During the 1983/1984 school year, Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas was five years old and in kindergarten. At that time, Defendant Loftness was serving as the School principal as well as serving as a pastor in CLC. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas was in kindergarten at the school, with [Stephen] Griney as her teacher. Defendant Loftness entered the class, and took Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas out of class and to a separate room that had a window. There was a man unknown to Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas standing outside the window watching her and Defendant Loftness. Defendant Loftness directed Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas to bend over the desk and pull down her underwear. Defendant Loftness stood silently behind Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas for quite some time. Then Defendant Loftness began to beat Plaintiff with a white cord for a lengthy period of time. Defendant Loftness stopped beating Plaintiff [Roberts-Thomas] and she tried to pull up her underwear. Defendant Loftness directed her not to do so, and walked away, leaving Plaintiff there for quite some time. Defendant Loftness returned, and began hitting Plaintiff again with the white cord. Defendant Loftness then inserted the white cord into her vagina.
The addition of Jessica Roberts-Thomas and James Thomas as Plaintiffs in the SAC must have terrified certain Defendants and perpetrators. I suspect the information they supply investigators will lead to further indictments and arrests. There is no statute of limitations for felonious crimes and no pastor can hide behind the First Amendment or claim clergy-penitent privilege in order to cover up the sexual and physical abuse of children. None of these evasive arguments that have been forth by Sovereign Grace Ministries will hold up in a criminal court.
In 1983/1984, John Loftness was managing editor of People of Destiny Magazine (a.k.a., Sovereign Grace Magazine), an elder in Covenant Life Christian Community, and the principal of Covenant Life elementary school.
The factual allegations in the SAC often describe a conspiracy of persons working together in order to abuse children, not just cover up the abuse of children by individual offenders unknown to each other. For example in this Complaint, Loftness is allegedly working with “a man unknown” and he also appears to be working in tandem with Stephen Griney, the kindergartener teacher. Griney allows Roberts-Thompson to leave his classroom and go with Loftness for a lengthy period of time. The “man unknown” also appears to be waiting for Loftness at the separate room according to a predetermined plan. The efforts of these three men appear coordinated according to the factual allegations.
In the account, Loftness enters the classroom and removes Roberts-Thomas. There is no indication this was because Roberts-Thomas was unruly and in need of discipline by Principal Loftness. Roberts-Thomas is then taken to “a separate room that had a window.”
As reported, this room must have been out of the way. It is not called a classroom. It could have been any kind of a room located in a remote, semi-concealed, or unused part of the school building. As described, Loftness and the unknown man outside the room looking through the widow, appear to have no fear of detection. There are two references in the account to “quite some time.” If factually true, Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas was disrobed for a long period of time in front of a window. That raised no apparent concerns.
The Complaint says the man watching was unknown to Roberts-Thomas when the initial abuse allegedly occurred. That does not mean she did not recognize the man thereafter. In a lawsuit, Plaintiffs’ lawyers leave out a lot of evidence they plan to present later in civil court or to law enforcement officials in private. I doubt Roberts-Thomas forgot the face of the man observing her. If she did, law enforcement has provided her photos of all the Covenant Life pastors, male teachers and employees at the time.
The alleged abuse and voyeurism occurred during the day at Covenant Life elementary school when classes were in session. Therefore, I doubt the “man unknown” was a teacher since they could not be away from their students for that long. Furthermore, I don’t remember any male school officials or teachers besides Loftness and Griney in 1983-1984.
That probably means the man was a Covenant Life pastor unknown to Roberts-Thomas when she started kindergarten. There is a small chance the alleged individual snuck in and out of the school undetected but that is high risk and unlikely. Therefore, I assume the “man unknown” was comfortable being seen at the school with Loftness and the children. His presence would not have stood out. If this allegation is true, the unknown man must have been a close friend/associate of Loftness.
Roberts-Thomas has a “lawyer’s mind.” She claims to remember numerous details. There appears to be no lack of clarity in her recollections. From my perspective, the details she recounts as a mature adult embarking on a career in the field of law sound believable.
On the other hand, if such allegations are lies than Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas is worthy of a gigantic lawsuit. Defendant Loftness should immediately counter sue for the most vicious libel imaginable – accusing someone of physically and sexually abusing children. Moreover, if the factual allegations are made up, Roberts-Thomas is deranged and can forget ever being a lawyer! Prospective employers in the future will be reviewing the outcome of her case. She must have taken all this into consideration when deciding to join the lawsuit and not go by a pseudonymous name.
Loftness allegedly directs Roberts-Loftness “to bend over the desk and pull down her underwear…for quite some time” and “then began to beat [her] with a white cord for a lengthy period of time.” This was no spanking. It was a sustained beating with a chord on exposed flesh according to the description.
After the initial beating as alleged, “she tried to pull up her underwear” but Loftness “directed her not to do so, and walked away, leaving [her] there for quite some time.” We are not told where Loftness goes but one assumes he joins the unknown man who is outside the room watching all of this supposedly happen through the window.
Later “Loftness returned, and began hitting [her] again with the white cord” according to the lawsuit. This is a second alleged beating. Then “Defendant Loftness…inserted the white cord into her vagina.”
Victim: Jessica Roberts-Thomas
Location: Covenant Life School – Empty Class Room
Alleged Abuser: John Loftness
89. During the 1983/1984 school year, Defendant Loftness pulled Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas out of class as the class was learning to read. Defendant Loftness brought her into an empty class room, and directed her to pull her underwear down and lie across a desk. Defendant Loftness beat Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas repeatedly with a plastic cord. Defendant Loftness stopped beating, and Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas heard him unzip his zipper. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas cannot presently recall what happened after that point.
It is still 1983/1984. This is the third account provided by Roberts-Thompson when she was a five year old in kindergarten. Two deal with Loftness. One with Griney. The same method is alleged. Loftness pulls her out of Griney’s class while in session. She remembers details they were “learning to read.”
Loftness supposedly takes Roberts-Thomas to “an empty class room.” It appears to be a third room. He has her strip and then repeatedly beats her on exposed flesh with a plastic cord according to the account. This plastic cord may or may not be the “white chord” described earlier. After the beating, Loftness unzips his zipper. This implies masturbation. Roberts-Thomas “cannot presently recall what happened after that point.” This implies trauma after the alleged beating.
Victims: Jessica Roberts-Thomas, Heather Thompson Bryant, Third Unnamed Girl
Location: Covenant Life School (Aspen Hill) – Empty Room
Ages: Jessica – age 7, Heather – age 5
Alleged Abusers: John Loftness, Stephen Griney, Gary Ricucci
90. During the 1985/1986 school year, Defendant Loftness, Griney and Defendant Ricucci brought Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas into an empty room with two other girls. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas recognized the girls, one of whom was Plaintiff Thompson. (The other is not being named here to protect her privacy.) Defendants directed the girls to strip off their underwear, and lay across desks. Defendant Loftness beat Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas on her bare buttocks. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas heard the unnamed girl crying, and saw Griney hitting her on her bare buttocks. Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas turned over her shoulder to look for Plaintiff Thompson, and realized Defendant Ricucci had taken her out of the room. Defendant Loftness continued to beat Plaintiff Thomas-Roberts’ bare buttocks, and then he inserted his fingers into her vagina.
This account occurs two years later in 1985/1986 when Roberts-Thomas was seven years old and in second grade. It alleges a conspiracy between John Loftness (Covenant Life principal), Stephen Griney (Covenant Life school teacher) and Gary Ricucci (Covenant Life pastor). All three of these men worked for C.J. Mahaney, who was the senior pastor. They were also close friends with C.J. Especially Loftness and Ricucci. I will say more about Defendant Ricucci and Complaint 90 in a future post.
Once again, the SAC alleges sexual and physical abuse. Loftness “beat Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas on her bare buttocks.” He “continued to beat [her] bare buttocks, and then he inserted his fingers into her vagina.” This allegedly occurred in an “empty room.”
Victim: Jessica Roberts-Thomas
Location: Covenant Life Sunday School (Magruder High School)
Timeframe: Likely 1985/1986
Age: Likely age 7
Alleged Abuser: John Loftness
91. On one Sunday, Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas was attending Sunday School (then held at Magruder High School) when Defendant Loftness arrived and told the Sunday School teacher that he needed to take Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas. Defendant Loftness took Plaintiff down a hallway, and began to hit her, and then fondle her vagina. Defendant Loftness told Plaintiff that she needed to “learn to be good” and that he “loves” her. Defendant Loftness told her it is “her fault” but that he is going to help her “learn to be good.” Defendant Loftness hit Plaintiff again, and then walked her back to Sunday School. Just before permitting her to enter the class, Defendant Loftness told her that she is being “very good” and cannot tell anyone what occurred or she would “get in trouble.”
The timeframe likely remains 1985/1986 but the location changed from Covenant Life School on Aspen Hill to the Covenant Life “Sunday School (then held at Magruder High School).” Sunday School is a reference to Children’s Ministry.
Defendant Loftness was also considered a pastor in the church. I assume he left the regular worship service for adults and went over to the Children’s Ministry area. It says, “Loftness arrived and told the Sunday School teacher that he needed to take Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas.”
Roberts-Thomas certainty remembers the identity of her Sunday School teacher. This teacher may also be part of the alleged conspiracy with the “man unknown,” Griney, and Ricucci. I’m confident law enforcement has interviewed this person.
The account says “Defendant Loftness took Plaintiff down a hallway, and began to hit her, and then fondle her vagina” and later “hit Plaintiff again.” Physical abuse preceded and followed the sexual abuse as described in this allegation. Both supposedly happen “down a hallway” but not necessarily in a hallway.
In this Complaint something new appears. If true, it is as destructive to the human soul as physical and sexual abuse. That is the alleged sinister psychological manipulation of the Plaintiff Roberts-Thomas as a seven year old child. She remembers it well according to the SAC.
Here’s how her lawyers describe it. After the first alleged hitting, “Defendant Loftness told Plaintiff that she needed to ‘learn to be good’ and that he ‘loves’ her. Defendant Loftness told her it is ‘her fault’ but that he is going to help her ‘learn to be good.’”
After the second alleged hitting, “Just before permitting her to enter the class, Defendant Loftness told her that she is being ‘very good’ and cannot tell anyone what occurred or she would ‘get in trouble.’”
If true, here’s what I infer. First, Loftness is telling her she has been beaten because she is bad. Second, Pastor/Principal Loftness will teach her how to be good. Third, Loftness “loves” her implying sexual abuse is a legitimate expression of that love. Fourth, Pastor/Principal Loftness tells her she is good because she submitted to the physical and sexual abuse. Fifth, Loftness coerces silence by threatening to punish her.
This account describes the characteristic way a sex offender takes control of his victim. It is a textbook example. In my opinion, Jessica Roberts-Thomas studied the stereotypical behaviors of sex abusers so she could paint Loftness in that evil light or else the allegations are true.
There are only three options for explaining motive from my perspective. One, Roberts-Thomas hates Defendant Loftness for some mysterious reason and wants to destroy him. Two, Roberts-Thomas is money hungry and willing to commit fraud in order to get rich. Three, Roberts-Thomas is telling the truth.
The following is taken from an article in the Courthouse News Service, dated October 25, 2012:
“Noe says she was molested when she was 2, and when her parents reported it to the church, a church official, defendant John Loftness, told them not to call police.
When the parents told Loftness they already had contacted police, he said, “that is going to be a problem,” and that such matters were handled internally, not by secular authorities, according to the complaint.
Noe says Loftness tipped off her molester that her parents had reported the abuse, and “took steps to ensure that other church members in the neighborhood were not alerted to the crime.”
Then the church forced her to be “reconciled” with her predator at a meeting, traumatizing her and her parents, Noe says. She says the family was told not to tell other members about the abuse or the identity of her attacker, and that church officials let him continue working with children.
The third plaintiff says she reported the abuse of her sister by her stepfather, a Sovereign Grace member, to a church leader, who reported it to defendant church leaders Gary Ricucci and Loftness, who went to the aid of the predator, not the victim.
“Rather than assisting the victims, the church retained a lawyer for the sexual predator,” plaintiff Roe says.
“The church even suggested to Robin Roe’s mother that she send Robin Roe’s sister, the victim, out of the house in order to ‘bring’ the predator home as ‘head of the household.'”
Roe says the church booted her out after she told another member about the assault. She claims the church’s conduct and misrepresentations landed her in a juvenile halfway house.
Roe says the church kicked her mother out, too, for refusing “to acquiesce in the church’s attempt to obstruct justice.”
The complaint contains numerous other allegations of sexual abuse and the church’s alleged coverups, including the mother of a 10-year-old girl who had been abused by her father for years being reprimanded “for the sin of ‘gossiping,'” after she turned to her friends for support.
“The church also told the 10-year-old victim that she was a ‘sinner’ for having been victimized.
“The church blamed the mother for the father’s pedophilia and instructed her to engage in sex with her husband more frequently to prevent him from ‘being tempted,'” the complaint states.
Also named as defendants are Sovereign Grace officials Charles Mahaney, David Hinders, Louis Gallo, Frank Ecelbarger, Grant Layman and Lawrence Tomczak.”