Update: as of 15 February 2016 The Washingtonian article is available on-line. You can find it here.
“As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’”
-I Samuel 24:13 NLT
“Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side—leaders whose decrees permit injustice?
They gang up against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
God will turn the sins of evil people back on them. He will destroy them for their sins. The Lord our God will destroy them.”
-Psalm 94:20-21, 23 NLT
It has taken 5 years, but the sexual abuse of children and the conspiracy to cover up the abuse, which occurred at numerous Sovereign Grace churches, has finally drawn enough publicity to warrant a mainstream media publication to run a lengthy story on the subject. Tiffany Stanley, a writer for The Washingtonian, has penned an informative, well balanced article which highlights many of the sordid details in what some have called “the largest sexual abuse scandal to hit the Evangelical church. The article is included in the February issue of The Washingtonian, which hit the streets yesterday.
Covenant Life Church, or CLC, formerly pastored by C.J. Mahaney and then Joshua Harris, was, previous to the sexual abuse scandal, the flagship church of the Sovereign Grace denomination. The church building also was home to the denominational headquarters. Mahaney at one time was the senior pastor of CLC. He groomed Harris to take over that position as he stepped into the job of Chairman of the denomination. Once the sexual abuse scandal broke Mahaney resigned from his position as head of the denomination, CLC withdrew from the denomination and Joshua Harris resigned as senior pastor.
CLC has, due to a serious lack of integrity amongst the leadership, sustained a huge loss of members and therefore, income. They have hired a new pastor, P.J. Smyth. He has preached at CLC several times in January, but as a citizen of South Africa, he is looking at a rather lengthy delay in obtaining a visa. The visa will allow Smyth to actually transition into the full-time role of senior pastor.
CLC received advance notice that The Washingtonian article would be hitting the streets this week, therefore, on Sunday, January 17th, they held a membership meeting to implement damage control. The SGM Survivors blog contained the following recap from a member of CLC:
I find this information troubling on several fronts. First, Mark Mitchell reverts to the tried and true technique, utilized repeatedly by Sovereign Grace leaders (in this case a former Sovereign Grace leader) of blaming their self inflicted problems on Satan.
Here is exhibit “A” in the Sovereign Grace technique of blaming Satan. This is Marty Marchowski, pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church.
I recently came across an interesting article on Pathos written by an individual named Captain Cassidy. Cassidy examines the reasons fundamentalist Christian organizations routinely blame Satan for problems they created themselves. He states:
“This blame game prevents Christians from engaging with the real reasons for why things happen to them–or for assuming responsibility for their own actions.
Blaming stuff on demons is a thought stopper, pure and simple, just like “God did it” is. The second a supernatural agent gets used as an excuse for anything, the discussion is over and there’s no reason to look further for why that thing happened or is happening. The mechanism for how that event happened is impossible to guess; there’s not even a way to reliably tell exactly what entity is behind the event. The only response a Christian can make to this kind of assertion is “Oh. Okay.”
And that’s exactly why this excuse gets trotted out as often as it does.
It’s meant to shut people up.
When a religious zealot uses demons as an excuse for why sex abuse keeps happening in their churches, though, this form of thought-stopping becomes sinister. There really isn’t any need to invent supernatural boogeymen to explain why uber-right-wing Christianist groups keep exploding into scandals and drama. Their dynamics aren’t hard to guess or perceive.
Indeed, we don’t need to stray beyond the visible world to explain anything Josh Duggar or his parents did. He was a kid raised in a hyper-misogynistic environment that suppressed all healthy sexual expression, and which treated women’s bodies as chattel to be owned and exchanged between male masters; his teachers taught him very well about thought crimes, sure, but never seemed to cover stuff like bodily ownership and consent. We don’t need to invoke demons to explain why he might have opportunistically preyed upon the only female bodies he thought he could get away with assaulting, or even why he kept escalating his abuse until his parents finally took more slightly more decisive action to stop him. His parents’ image and livelihood was at stake thanks to their idiotic son; there’s no need to invoke demons to explain their behavior when simple self-interest explains why they protected him and covered up his foul abuse.”
Getting back to the damage control statement by CLC pastors, it is not surprising that they are ready to put their past behind them. They have been ready to do that since the day Brent Detwiler’s damaging documents hit the blog world. Sexual abuse and cover-up? Nothing to see here people. Move along, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Don’t engage in ungodly speech about the subject. Our good gospel work is being opposed!
What spin; what bovine defecation!
Listen to Mark Prater, Chairman of Sovereign Grace Churches, blaming the internet and ungodly speech for the mass exodus of churches from his denomination. This is from November, 2014. It is simply amazing that these leaders refuse to acknowledge that their sinful actions (or inactions) are the reason they have bled so many churches and members.
P.J. Smyth mentioned “the problems related to child abuse as either having been dealt with or in the process of being dealt with.” Really? Please explain. One pedophile is behind bars but many more, including pastors, were implicated in the civil lawsuit. Have they been dealt with? How have you “dealt with” the victims of abuse? Totally ignoring them doesn’t count as dealing with them. Have there been any attempts at monetary restitution? Has there even been any personal contact initiated to apologize and ask forgiveness? I think we should let the victims decide when the problems related to child abuse have been dealt with. I realize Smyth has inherited this sordid mess, but his initial statements don’t instill much confidence that he knows how to handle the sexual abuse that occurred in CLC.
Listen to the three short segments below. They will give you a small idea of the suffering endured by the victims and their families. I must say that I think it is pretty cold-hearted to state that their problems have been dealt with. The first is Brent Detwiler being interviewed by Janet Mefferd. Following that is Pam Palmer and then Dominic Palmer testifying before the Maryland Congress in an attempt to get the legislators to increase the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases.
Now let’s once again look at C.J. Mahaney’s statement of professed innocence.
Was C.J. Mahaney being truthful in his statement? No he was not. The lawsuit charged Mahaney knew of the sexual abuse taking place on his watch and he did nothing to stop it. He continually said he had no knowledge. Read the statement below by Wallace and Happymom. They had 3 children sexually abused at the Fairfax Sovereign Grace church.
Mahaney further states that, “I look forward to the day I can speak freely.” He said that due to the constraints of the ongoing lawsuit he could not speak further. The lawsuit was dismissed nearly two years ago. Mahaney maintains his silence. Here is what Tiffany Stanley, author of The Washingtonian article said:
“Now known as Sovereign Grace Churches, the ministry’s new headquarters are in a business park just outside of Louisville. One Friday this past October, I stopped by and was swiftly turned away. Mahaney didn’t respond to my follow-up e-mail, but that Saturday night, his brother-in-law Ricucci did. There would be no interview with either of them, he wrote.”
Rather strange actions for a man so eager to tell his story, don’t you think?
Anybody with a lick of common sense knows Mahaney covered-up sexual abuse in his denomination. To quote Stanley once again:
“Former church official Brent Detwiler, however, believes Mahaney knew more than he’ll ever let on. “Nobody worked longer or closer with C.J. in all the history of Sovereign Grace Ministries than I did,” Detwiler says. He believes it’s impossible for all these pastors to have known about abuse and not to have told Mahaney how they were handling it. “It just didn’t work that way.””
The men pictured above are all intelligent men. They know the facts in the Sovereign Grace sexual abuse scandal. They know Mahaney is neck-deep in the conspiracy to cover-up sexual abuse. These supposedly godly leaders should be examples to the rest of us. They should do the right thing. As a minimum they should not be sharing the stage with Mahaney at the next Together for the Gospel conference. (One might rightly wonder just what kind of Gospel are they selling?) If they were men of honor they would urge Mahaney to step down from the ministry. We are waiting for them to do the right thing.