General Thoughts and Updates on Recent Posts at Thou Art The Man: Part 1

By | February 11, 2016

Hello Everyone:

I’m Janna L. Chan, Todd’s assistant on this blog. Like Todd, I’ve been advocating against sexual abuse and the cover-up of sexual abuse at Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries (recently re-named Sovereign Grace Churches) for several years. I also share his interest in addressing general abuse issues in many of the denominations and Churches that directly or indirectly support Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries.

As such, Todd has been kind enough to let me experiment with updating folks about some of the issues that have come up in the comments sections of recent posts. Among other things. So here goes. Please note, this is Part 1 of this week’s update efforts because a lot has happened since The Washingtonian magazine published at article investigating sexual abuse allegations at Covenant Life Church.

Where is Steve Shanks?

where's waldoThe “Where’s Stevo” post, pertaining to former long-time SGM/SGC leader Steve Shanks disappearance from his Church in Gilbert, Arizona has received  many hits. Please note that Todd added a paragraph to this post referencing credible allegations that Steve Shanks was involved in counseling members and Pastors at Sovereign Grace Churches respecting their unethical and likely illegal decisions to cover-up allegations of child sexual abuse instead of reporting them to the police. At the very least, leaders in SGM/SGC failed to prevent the alleged perpetrators from having further contact with children in the relevant Churches.

 

Is P.J Smyth Really Interested in Running Covenant Life Church Or Is He Just Using It To Gain Entry To The United States

P.J. SmythThe “CLC – Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire!” post, which references new Covenant Life Church (CLC) Pastor P.J. Smyth’s background has also generated a lot of interest. In particular, Todd has demonstrated that running CLC may not be P.J. Smyth’s primary concern given the amount of traveling to Churches in his “Advance” para-Church Ministry he has done over the past few months.

In addition, Smyth does not appear to have attended Seminary. Specifically, his biography distributed by Covenant Life Church does not reference any educational credentials he may have. This is noteworthy because CLC’s search committee publicly expressed a clear interest in finding an educated lead Pastor given that former Pastor Joshua Harris claimed that his poor leadership of the Church was due to his lack of formal education.

Todd also noted that Smyth appears to be recycling sermons (i.e. giving the same ones at different Churches). Lastly, one of Smyth’s comments indicates that former Covenant Life Church Pastor Joshua Harris decided to leave the Church’s employ at least a year prior to his official announcement to that effect. In addition, many people noted that Pastor Harris appeared to have turned over his job functions to Mark Mitchell, Covenant Life Church’s current executive Pastor.

If this is the case, then Pastor Joshua Harris appears to have been fully compensated for a job he was no longer really doing for at least a year prior to his official departure. This is relevant due to question and concerns about whether or not Harris was given severance pay for a job he quit voluntarily. Even if he was not given an official bonus, being allowed to “call it in” regarding his job as a lead Pastor counts as a perk, in my opinion.

Thanks for Reading

I hope this mini-update was helpful. In particular, please re-read the Where’s Stevo article as it contains important new information about Steve Shanks likely role in handling sexual abuse allegations in Sovereign Grace Churches.

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You said “The leaders tend to become arrogant, self righteous, and begin to believe they have the authority of God. I am not saying all of them and I am just speaking about my experience and what I have noticed. I will continue to investigate these organizations”

I think you hit the head on the nail with that statement. Some of these leaders may have started legitimate and God blessed but sadly their success goes to their head etc. They forget God and the dependency they should have on God. As they go on they claim to following Christ and Christ’s interest but really are seeking their own interests.

Pokwiz

Who are these guys Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries? I have just heard about this. How about some history about these organizations, where they came from, what they believe. Is the whole organization corrupt and of the devil or is it just a few Adam and Eves? Does the whole organization and the all the congregation need to go to jail or just the leadership? What do they need to do to fix it? Is there anything that can be done? I mean this sincerely. My experience is that most mega-churches, and I don’t know if this is one, practice a totally different theology than mine. The leaders tend to become arrogant, self righteous, and begin to believe they have the authority of God. I am not saying all of them and I am just speaking about my experience and what I have noticed. I will continue to investigate these organizations.I hope that I will find that some people made bad decisions in handling a terrible act and that they have taken action to correct it, and repented. As to the criminal accusations the, so called pastor should stripped of his authority, and investigated by the church and the legal authorities. If there are grounds for he should punished civilly as well as by the church, on the other hand if this is proven to be a false accusation, he should reinstated with full honors. Again, I do not know anything about this, but I can speak from the point of view of one who has felt the sting of abuse by supposed Christians.

Hi Pokwiz,
Sovereign Grace Ministries is an evangelical denomination of about 70 churches in the USA, along with 3 or 4 churches in foreign countries. They used to call themselves a “family of churches,” but since the sexual abuse scandal broke they formalized their church polity and resemble more of a mainline denomination now. Their polity is a mixed bag, but I would say it most closely resembles the Presbyterians. (Although they still appear somewhat confused as to their identity as C.J. Mahaney’s church in Louisville, KY has joined the Southern Baptist Convention.)

When the sexual abuse scandal and the conspiracy to cover it up gained national attention, about 40 churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries withdrew their affiliation from the denomination, including the flagship church of the denomination, Covenant Life Church. Many of the churches that remained in the denomination lost many members. Sovereign Grace Ministries then renamed their denomination to Sovereign Grace Churches. I believe this was their fourth name change. They started out as TAG (I do not recall what that stands for); then PDI (People of Destiney International); then SGM (Sovereign Grace Ministries); and most recently SGC (Sovereign Grace Churches). I am not sure why they change their name so often, but I think it should be a caution flag to anyone thinking of attending one of their churches.

Sovereign Grace Churches, in the early days of their organization, were very much a part of the charismatic movement. Spiritual gifts were emphasized, along with all the usual trappings you would expect in a charismatic church, including the labeling of their leaders as “apostles.” Over time, the church has moved away from their charismatic roots. I visited my old Sovereign Grace church in the summer of 2015 and there is now little that would distinguish it from a Baptist church. They claim to be Reformed and charismatic but I doubt either group would have them. They have done away with apostles, attempting to gain credibility with their Baptist friends. When I attended the Gilbert, AZ church they had a “prophecy mic” that was “guarded” by one of the pastors. Before you were allowed to issue a prophecy the pastor guarding the mic would have to approve of what you were going to say. They still had the mic when I last visitied, but it went unused. Really, the only remaining semblance of their charismatic roots was about half of the congregants raised their hands and/or clapped while they sang songs.

Many of the top leaders of the denomination have now left. Included in this list is Grant Layman, brother-in-law of C.J. Mahaney; Dave Harvey, who served a short stint as leader of the denomination when Mahaney was forced to step down; Gene Emerson, who was forced to resign after he was arrested for solicitting a prostitute; Steve Shank, who has quietly been removed from his Regional leader position for unpublished reasons; Joshua Harris, who resigned from CLC allegedly to pursue an education; and I suppose I could also list C.J. Mahaney. He used to be the head of the denomination and reportedly nothing happened in the organization without his knowledge and approval. He moved to Louisville in the heat of the abuse scandal to plant a church and has now been pretty much cut out of all leadership decisions.

I am of the opinion that many of these national leaders of Sovereign Grace, past and present, should face criminal charges for the non-reporting to law enforcement of the sexual abuse of children as well as participating in a conspiracy to cover-up the abuse. Some of the leaders have allegedly even participated in the sexual abuse of children.

The vast majority of members in the church had nothing to do with the abuse, and many of them were not even aware of what was happening. Once the information became public knowledge there was a mass exodus from the denomination.

The best place to find information on the scandal is at Brent Detwiler’s blog. ( brentdetwiler.com ) Detwiler was one of the top leaders in the denomination. Eventually he ran afoul of C.J. Mahaney for confronting Mahaney about sin in his life and Mahaney, through his henchmen, forced Detwiler out. You can also find good information on thewartburgwatch.com and sgmsurvivors.com as well as this website.

If you have any specific questions feel free to ask them and Janna and I should be able to help you, or at least point you to a place to find the answers.

Kind Regards,
Todd Wilhelm