Covenant Life Church – Time to Move On

By | April 1, 2016

Recently, flying back from one of my widely acclaimed corporate speeches, I sat next to an avuncular Methodist minister. I told him about my book. He smiled warmly and responded with an interesting nugget from the New Testament. “Do you know what God’s punishment is for liars?” he asked me. 

Guessing wildly, I tried, “They’re turned into donkeys?” 

“No,” he said. “God’s punishment for liars is that they believe their own lies.” 

I thought that would be a great ending for this book. They believe their own lies. How fitting. That’s just the kind of thing God would think of.

So I asked God where exactly in the Bible he said that. God told me that the Methodist minister had had his head up his ass. It doesn’t say that in the Bible.

And, in a way, that’s an even better ending. Because I don’t think they do believe their own lies. Anybody, even a Methodist minister, can make an innocent mistake and say something that isn’t true. But lying is when you intentionally deceive.

While it might not seem like I’m changing the tone when I accuse my friends on the right of being liars, my hope is that, if we keep calling them on their calculated dishonesty, their dishonesty will lose its effectiveness.
-Al Franken, “Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” (Kindle Locations 5020-5030). 

 

2016-02-19 Just heads of T4G speakers

 

Mark Mitchell is saddened by another person that has been the victim of a pedophile from his  church.

 

Huh, it was just a few months ago that new CLC pastor PJ Smyth said the problems of child abuse had been dealt with, members agreed.  They were all ready to put the satanic attacks behind them and move on!

 

P.J. Smyth's comments on sexual abuse

2016-04-01 Kojo Nnamdi show on CLC

Yesterday, the ongoing child sexual abuse scandal at Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax was the subject of the Kojo Nnamdi radio program.  Slated to run for 30 minutes, there was actually only twenty-three minutes of air time; not nearly enough time  for the parties to discuss the case at the depth required to cover the subject thoroughly enough for the uninitiated to grasp the facts of the many-faceted case.

I have numerous audio clips taken from the program, if you would like to listen to the full twenty-three minutes you can click on this link and you will find it at Nnamdi’s website.

As a prelude to this story, I ask you listen to Janet Mefferd, a Christian talk show host. Her advice to CLC leaders was “tell the truth and let justice be served.” Unfortunately, her advice was rejected then, and it appears to be rejected today.

 

Kojo Nnamdi interviewed Tiffany Stanley, the Washingtonian journalist who researched and wrote the story on the numerous cases of sexual abuse and cover-up within the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination. Additionally, Mark Mitchell, the Senior Executive Pastor of Covenant Life Church was in the studio.  Pam Palmer, a former CLC member whose daughter was sexually abused when she was three-years-old, was a scheduled guest who joined the show via telephone.  Also making a “random” appearance was Terry Mayo.  We last saw her testifying with her gal-pal Charlotte Ennis, at the hearing for Maryland SB69.  The cat must have the tongues of their husbands, because it seems rather strange that in the highly patriarchal culture of CLC, the manly men would send their womenfolk to do the talking!  Terry seems to be the chosen mouthpiece of CLC leaders to play the “woe is me, my husband was falsely accused of sexual abuse and he and everyone else charged with abuse is innocent.”  But more on that in a future post.

Here is the opening segment of the show.

 

Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax was invited to be a part of the program, but apparently they didn’t have any women who could speak on their behalf, so they sent in a statement declaring their innocence and deep care and concern for victims of sexual abuse.

 

 

Can the leaders of Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax be taken at their word?

I do not believe they can be.

Below is one single paragraph describing lies and cover-up of sexual abuse by pastors at SGC Fairfax.  This is taken from the Second Amended Complaint of the lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of sexual abuse at Sovereign Grace Churches.  Paragraph 175 is a sanitary description, suitable reading for all ages.  The Second Amended Complaint contains numerous graphic accounts of what happened at SGC Fairfax and the resulting attempts by church pastors to “keep a lid” on the abuse stories.  If you want to read all the charges you can find the complaint here.

Remember what pastors of SGC Fairfax just said in the comment they sent to Kojo Nnamdi – “We want you to know that we never covered up, or tried to cover up child abuse of any kind at our church.” I wonder if these men will stand by their statement when they are testifying under oath?

 

2016-04-03 SGC Fairfax lied 2nd ammended complaint 175

 

Let me relate a recent example where, in my opinion, SGC Fairfax pastors were less than forthright with their membership. It would seem that speaking with a “forked tongue” is standard operating practice amongst the elders of the church.

SGC Fairfax, after they withdrew from the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination, chose to change their church polity.  They changed from a church where the elders make all the decisions to a quasi-congregational church, where the members are allowed to vote on important issues, such as selecting a pastor.

On Governing of Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax

6. How are decisions made?

Will all decisions be made in the same way? No. The NT reveals a certain tension in decision-making by local churches13, with the elders generally leading, but with the congregation having final say in some matters. Therefore we think it appropriate for the congregation to participate in key decisions either informally or through a vote. Key decisions include the selection of elders, the discipline of elders, the acceptance and discipline of church members, significant financial decisions, substantive changes to our statement of faith, and decisions regarding our affiliation with other churches.

Below is a letter sent from CLC Senior Executive Pastor Mark Mitchell to the members of CLC.  The occasion of the letter is the resignation of Kenneth Maresco to accept a job as a pastor at SGC Fairfax. Please notice the date.

 

July 24, 2015

Greetings Church,

This Sunday we’re planning to conclude our service at about 11 a.m. and go directly into a Members Meeting, wrapping up at around 11:45. I look forward to sharing important news on several fronts.

The Lead Pastor Search Committee has been doing great work, and I want you to hear what’s transpired since our last update.  I am encouraged by the way the Lord is leading us!  Then I will share briefly about the final budget and the affirmation vote coming up August 9.  Right now, though, I want to fill you in on two staff changes coming up.

Pastor Kenneth Maresco (who recently marked 24 years as a pastor in our church) will be leaving the staff in mid-September and relocating to serve as a Community Life Pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Fairfax. (The church is not a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries.)  Worship Leader Eric McAllister plans to leave the staff at the end of the year to serve with a new church plant in Philadelphia.  You will hear from both men at the Members Meeting on Sunday, but for now, this word from Kenneth. He writes:

On September 1 of this year I will have been a part of Covenant Life Church for 30 years. Valori and I were married while in this church, and our five sons were born and raised here.  We love the people of Covenant Life.  Most of our closest friends in life are members of this church.

But earlier in this year while seated in the auditorium, I felt like God spoke to me that my assignment at Covenant Life Church had been completed.  At the time I was surprised.  But as I spoke to Valori and our family there seemed to be a sense that God might be giving us new direction.

I want you to know that we did not make this decision lightly.  Valori and I took extended time to pray and get counsel from close friends.  I am so grateful for the people and leaders of Covenant Life Church.  I believe God has a good future for Covenant Life, and I am praying for the identification and deployment of a new lead pastor and for the grace of God to be poured out here upon you all.

The years that I have had the privilege of serving as a pastor in Covenant Life Church have been filled with some of our sweetest memories, and even in the midst of the challenges of the past few years God has been with us each step of the way.  And I have learned much about grace as I have walked alongside you the past 30 years.

The days ahead will be bittersweet as we say goodbye to you and experience a growing excitement about the work God is calling us to in Virginia.  I will share more on Sunday.

Being a close-knit church family, changes like these can bring about a range of emotions—sadness, a sense of loss, weariness, or perhaps even confusion.  Sometimes we need help interpreting what the Lord is doing and trusting Him, don’t we?  I believe God is up to something very good.  He has Covenant Life Church in a period of reshaping and rebuilding for His mighty purposes, and we can trust Him fully.  I’ll share more on this at the Members Meeting.

I invite you to pray for our time together this Sunday as Eric leads us in singing, Kenneth preaches from Exodus 12, and we move right into our Members Meeting.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” —Ephesians 3:20-21

In Christ,
Mark

 

Now please listen to this audio taken from an SGC Fairfax Members Meeting on 9-20-2015.  This meeting took place two months after Kenneth Maresco was told he had the job, yet the members had not voted, nor would they have a vote for many months.  What a ruse!  The elders hire a guy with no input or vote from the members, but that is OK because he is not yet an elder, he is just carrying out pastoral duties under the oversight of current elders.  Then, after 6 months or a year, the members will get to vote whether they want to retain the services of Maresco.  Barring a major scandal, what are the odds of the members telling Maresco to hit the road?  Slim to none.  It would appear nothing has really changed at SGC Fairfax.  Of course, the elders have anticipated there may be a few free-thinking individuals willing to question their slick maneuver, so they head that objection off at the pass.

 

Yeah, I would trust these guys!  Judging by the rousing applause Maresco received when they announced he would be starting work the next day, there is not much evidence of intelligent life in the congregation.  I would guess most of the free thinkers left the building long ago.

 

2016-02-19 Just heads of T4G speakers

 

Below is a clip I patched together in which Mitchell wants us to believe that since CLC leaders denied all charges leveled against them, and also hired an “independent investigator” who confirmed their innocence (sorta, kinda), we should believe the charges are bogus.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that is how the justice system works in the USA.  Upon receiving credible charges against you, you simply deny the charges and then pay a lawyer $100,000 (with no expertise in the field) to state the charges have no basis in fact.

Shazam – you can now announce at your members meeting that this attack from Satan has been thwarted and the church is ready to get on with the business of glorying God.

 

Was Mitchell being honest in the above audio? The Washington Post news clips below would seem to indicate no, he was not.

2016-04-04 Josh Harris admits they did not go to police Wash Post 1-30-2015 -Source: The Washington Post, 11-30-2015

 

2016-04-04 CLC Pastors new of Morales abuse but did nothing

-Source: The Washington Post, 8-14-2014

2016-02-19 Just heads of T4G speakers

 

Next, we have Nnamdi questioning Mitchell about Larry Caffery’s recent arrest for sexual abuse of a minor.  Mitchell attempts to justify CLC’s lame initial communication, in which they asked their members to report any suspicions they may have about an unnamed pedophile to police, by saying that they didn’t want the victims name to be discovered. Fair enough, but is this wise?  You have a pedophile who was working in Children’s Ministry; there is a high probability that he has molested some children in the church, therefore, I would suggest that the greater good would demand that parents be notified of the pedophiles name.  Mitchell says he will be returning to his office right after the show to put out another communication to his members wherein he will name the pedophile, in my opinion this is admitting to the foolishness of his first communication.  What has changed in the matter of five days which now makes it OK to name the pedophile?

Nnamdi then quotes Caffery’s statement that he is glad he did not have any daughters because he may abuse them.  He asks Mitchell if church leaders were aware of this?  Mitchell gives a tortured explanation which amounts to one pastor gave the book a cursory reading.

We now know the pastor assigned to read the book and see whether it was worthy of being sold in the church bookstore was Robin Boisvert. Boisvert has a knack for keeping himself out of the spotlight.  Brent Detwiler revealed the following information about him:

Grant Layman made misleading and false statements to detectives during their three year investigation.  On January 7, 2010, he told detectives that Robin Boisvert was the “lead” pastor in the Morales matter and he (i.e., Layman) only had “vague recollections” regarding Samuel Bates. 

Two weeks later, detectives followed up  with Robin Boisvert.  He provided conflicting testimony and “denied being the ‘lead’ pastor in the matter and advised [said] Grant Layman was lead pastor.”  Boisvert also said he “accompanied Grant Layman” in the early 1990’s “to confront Nate Morales, who neither denied nor confessed.  He was accused of abusing teenage boys.  The meeting took place in a park in the Flower Valley subdivision.”  Boisvert’s recollections were not the least bit vague.   

Layman also told Detectives he “had no direct recollection” of a meeting he had with Samuel Bates’ father in 2010.  This meeting was also attended by Robin Boisvert.  Boisvert again provided conflicting testimony.  He told detectives he “recalled the meeting and the fact that Mr. Layman was present.”  Much more could be said. 

While Boisvert claims now that he only gave Caffery’s book a cursory reading, I find that hard to believe.  He seemed to read all of chapter 8 and advised Caffery that in the future, were he to edit the book, he would recommend he eliminate chapter 8.

I read Caffery’s book from front to back. It is not like War and Peace.  I would guess it took me two to three hours to trudge through.  Even a cursory reading should have raised red flags with Boisvert.  The book is comprised of one red flag incident after another.  Boisvert really dropped the ball on this assignment.

 

 

So, please allow me to summarize what has become of all these claims of innocence and bogus charges of sexual abuse:

 

That’s all for now.  I am ready to put this behind me and move on.

For Further Reading:

2016-04-03 Lies and the Lying Liars

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It appears some of the mainstream “reform” guys are starting to take a stand against the SGM abuses and Mahaney in particular. This blog (http://bit.ly/1Xpgca5) was published today by Todd Pruitt of Mortification of Spin calling for T4G to take a stand.

Thanks for commenting fiveonly! I don’t think we’ve seen you here before. Welcome. Thanks also for the link to Todd Pruitt’s statement. I rejoice with anyone who calls on on T4G to remove C.J. Mahaney from its conference but was generally disappointed by Mr. Pruitt’s statement.

Specifically, it was quite vague, poorly argued, and very insensitive to the feelings and needs of the victims of C.J. Mahaney’s ongoing decision to cover-up sexual abuse at Covenant Life Church. Mr. Pruitt doesn’t seem to realize that many of the allegations against C.J. Mahaney regarding the cover-up of abuse have been strongly supported by evidence given in criminal trials that have resulted in convictions.

There really is no question that C.J. Mahaney is a dishonorable, rather than an honorable, man. Mr. Pruitt could have determined that by simply Googling Mr. Mahaney’s name.

Perhaps I’m being uncharitable toward someone whose work and writing style I am not familiar with, yet I came away with the impression that Mr. Pruitt’s real message was as follows:

“We’d all like to keep propping up a fellow celebrity Pastor being attacked by peons, but C.J. Mahaney is bad for business and you guys running the Together for the Gospel Event need to do something about that now that the main-stream media will be after C.J. Mahaney.”

Thanks again for coming by fiveonly. Best, Janna

Melody

A coverup in a diocese in PA has been described as organized crime. I agree this is what these men have participated in, in all their zeal to protect their ministry. The fact they can’t admit fault or make any attempt at restitution when cornered by truth reveals how far they will go to protect themselves at the expense of the gospel.

I agree, Melody. I think that Covenant Church’s long history of criminal behavior resembles that of a crime syndicate. As you might suspect, child sexual abuse is not the only thing they cover up.

Thanks. Janna

Melody

Like I said on TWW, guys like these really needed to decide whether they wanted to be politicians or pastors. “It shall not be so among you…”

I think that most of them belong in prison for obstructing justice by conspiring to cover-up child sexual abuse, Melody. Thanks. Janna

Those of us who spent a considerable amount of time attending CLC/SGM, know of the high value those in leadership placed upon themselves. We were routinely exposed to long introductions and effusive praise, designed to support the culture of leadership Mahaney created which, on Sundays, featured CJ apart from the others on stage, appearing transcended, performing his odd, attention-getting-rocking-worship-thing.

Josh Harris is quoted above as saying Covenant Life’s isolation “may have fed leadership mistakes.” I’d have to agree with that, but only in part. The “isolation” was self-imposed. Mahaney set himself, and CLC, apart. The praise the congregation was prompted to give to those in leadership, and guest speakers, was designed as an exhibit of Mahaney’s skill. Covenant Life belonged to Mahaney; it was his brand. He used CLC as a model to plant other churches, and to support his other endeavors like book-writing and speaking engagements. The real reason the abuse cases were handled internally is that they didn’t want anyone on the outside to know. If Morales, who was found to be corrupt, had been given leadership responsibilities, how corrupt, then, were the others? It certainly threaten to call into question (heaven forbid!) the judgment of the others in involved in the church’s leadership. How could something like this happen in a place so celebrated for its gospel-centeredness, where the leaders were all so godly and beyond reproach, where no one need ever turn elsewhere for all their help and advice? No, a problem like Morales was beyond their abilities. And when you sign up to serve the Lord, you just may end up experiencing the limit of His “Sovereign Grace” (2 Tim 3:9).

The congregation should have been informed, and warned of the dangers, but that didn’t happen in SGM. Today, it only occurs because of the initiative others have taken to expose the systemic corruption. I wholeheartedly agree with Janna Chan that Covenant Life, and SG churches, are unsafe environments. As I read on a sign last week, “It’s people that succeed, not businesses.” It’s also people, and not Satan, that caused Sovereign Grace Ministries to fail.

Thank you for your considered analysis, Paula. I agree with everything you’ve said.

Best, Janna 😉

I appreciate your work, Janna! Your voice resonates as a undeniable clarion call. I appreciate your support! And you’re telling it like it is, Todd. Nathan was one man, one prophet, but his words carried God’s truth, the impact of which reverberates throughout eternity. I stand with the two of you! If ever you wish to pray over these matters, I’d be happy to join you (Matt. 18:19).

Thanks, Paula, for your support. I’d be honored to pray with you. Please ask Todd for my contact information. Thanks!

“Judging by the rousing applause Maresco received when they announced he would be starting work the next day, there is not much evidence of intelligent life in the congregation.”

Haha Todd! How out of character for a Sovereign Grace congregation to erupt in applause, mindlessly approving of everything they’re told like a troop of trained chimpanzees. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that, during the announcement, glitter was tossed and a marching band paraded the aisles.

Lydia

Wow. good work! It is a land of smoke and mirrors and the only way to bring it out is to track the long term pattern of how words and actions over time, don’t match. But it is so much!

It so reminds me of the Clinton years. There was so much white noise with deflections, well heeled defenders screaming right wing conspiracy and scandal after scandal and patterns of horrible past behavior, even rape…….. that people gave up. Celebrity means getting by with it for years. We know this in politics but in the Name of Christ?