“O my people, your leaders mislead you; they send you down the wrong road.”
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
“Intelligent people tend to talk about the facts. They don’t sit around and call each other names. That’s what you can find on a third grade playground.”
Covenant Life Church, former flagship church of the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination, has been at the center of what some have called “the largest sexual abuse scandal to hit the Evangelical church.” Over the last several weeks two respected secular magazines have published articles about the scandal.
The first story, titled, “The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch: Inside the Rise and Fall of Sovereign Grace Ministries,” was published by the Washingtonian. I was able to obtain a copy of the story on January 22nd. The story was released free of charge on February 14th.
The second story, titled, “Inside the Investigation Into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries,” was published by TIME magazine. The story came out on February 16th.
Tiffany Stanley, the journalist who wrote the article for the Washingtonian, had kept Covenant Life Church apprised of her work and they were alerted at least a week ahead of time to the fact that the story would hit the streets on January 22nd. This allowed Covenant Life Church to brace themselves for the public reaction, a reaction that they undoubtedly underestimated. Covenant Life Church held a members meeting on January 17th, and this is what was said:
Church leaders characterized the story as a Satanic attack, coming at a most unfortunate time, a time when CLC was ready to move forward with a new senior pastor who had no history with the controversies; and at a time when the problems related to child abuse had already been dealt with, or were being dealt with; a time when most in the church were ready to put the past behind them.
As noted at the bottom of the CLC statement, Mark Mitchell signed the document on February 7, 2016, but it was not published until February 19, 2016, three days after the TIME story was published. What that means to me is CLC attorneys had crafted the response after the first article was available for purchase, but prior to it gaining wide dissemination due to it being free to the public. CLC attorneys are aware that another lawsuit will be filed against them in Virginia by Susan Burke. The new lawsuit will not have any questions of being within the statute of limitations. Sworn testimony will be taken. Therefore CLC attorneys had to be very careful in what they said in this statement. They were most likely hoping they would not have to publish the statement, but after the TIME article was published on February 16th the public outcry became so great that they were left with no good alternative other than to publish their document.
You will notice the document contains a brief history of the church, is full of general platitudes, admits to no errors or sins, have implemented policies where staff will report abuse immediately to civil authorities, and characterizes all charges as having omitted crucial information, perpetuated distortions and false allegations and mischaracterized Covenant Life Church.
Basically it is a cleverly crafted PR piece, one that non-thinking church members and community members will hopefully read and then come to the conclusion that all is well in CLC.
We refuse to let CLC off so easy. As Ben Carson said, “intelligent people tend to talk about the facts.”
What follows is a statement published on the Covenant Life Church website. Read through it and then we will refresh your memory with some inconvenient facts.
Covenant Life Church has been a part of the Montgomery County community for nearly 40 years. Since our earliest gatherings in 1977, our aim has been to nurture the spiritual life of our members and work for the good of our neighbors.
Like our city and county, we’ve gone through many changes, but the foundation of our faith and message has remained the same: In Jesus Christ there is forgiveness, freedom and hope. At Covenant Life, we endeavor to help one another and the community around us find life in Him.
You may be reading this because you’ve seen or heard media reports that paint a different picture, one that suggests our church is insensitive to victims of child abuse. Such coverage has omitted crucial information, perpetuated distortions and false allegations, and mischaracterized Covenant Life Church.
Our society instinctively knows child abuse is abhorrent and our laws rightly reflect its grievous nature and devastating effects. Covenant Life shares this abhorrence and condemns child abuse in all its forms. Our hearts ache for those who have experienced abuse, and we strive to be a community where victims of child abuse and all injustice find healing and hope.
Like the educational community and our broader society, we have learned much over the past four decades about how to respond to reports of abuse and provide the best possible care and counsel to victims and their families.
In this regard, Covenant Life has benefited from working with local law enforcement and social services on matters of safety, security and sexual abuse awareness. Our interaction with civil authorities has been instrumental in shaping our policies and procedures for the protection and care of children.
Simply put, when a pastor, staff member or volunteer has reason to believe a child is the victim of abuse or neglect, our policy requires those individuals to report it immediately to civil authorities.
Every Sunday, hundreds of families participate in our church services and entrust their children to the care of our staff and volunteers. We will continue to work hard to ensure our church is a place of safety for children and a place of healing for victims.
We believe anyone who visits our church will find a welcoming environment to explore faith in Jesus Christ. We look forward to continuing to serve Montgomery County and the greater Washington, D.C., region for decades to come.
Executive Pastor, Covenant Life Church
February 7, 2016
“Above all, I think many of the families want Sovereign Grace to acknowledge publicly that mistakes were made. A little more transparency might go a long way. They want that accountability. It’s galling to them that Sovereign Grace leaders like C.J. Mahaney are still revered, still headlining conferences, and still running churches, with powerful evangelical allies on their side.”
“Rather than denying that we are unfaithful and inconsistent, we have another option: the good news is that when we are honest before God regarding our faithlessness, our merciful Savior forgives and restores us. We no longer need to make promises we cannot keep. And we no longer need to live under half-truths and dishonestly earnest desires. We can live instead in the rest of our faithful Lord.”
-Alex Large, The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News For Today (and Every Day), page 84
The above is a quote I found on the SGM Survivors blog.