Sovereign Grace Pastor Matthew Wassink Removed; Why Not C.J. Mahaney?

By | January 14, 2017

The Sovereign Grace Churches denominational leaders should be getting proficient at scrubbing websites of any traces of their latest fallen pastor, Lord knows they get enough practice!  I’m guessing that right about now they’re wishing they wouldn’t have fired their social media expert, Brian DeWire, a few years ago. His scrubbing skills were so finely honed that he made Hillary Clinton’s expert email scrubbers look like rank amateurs.

Human Frailty or Judgment of God?

The Sovereign Grace denomination used to consist of approximately 120 churches, but because of a major child sex abuse scandal and attempted cover-up by then denominational leader C.J. Mahaney and his cronies, nearly one-half of the churches left the denomination.  Nate Morales is serving a prison sentence for abusing boys while he attended Covenant Life Church, the former flagship church of the denomination. Grant Layman, a brother-in-law of C.J. Mahaney and an assistant pastor at CLC, testified at the Morales trial that church officials knew of the Morales sexual abuse but chose not to inform law enforcement. Layman has since quit the ministry and opened a paint store. Joshua Harris, who had taken over the senior pastor’s job at CLC so Mahaney could spend more time as chairman of the Sovereign Grace denomination, also quit the church, deciding it would be a good time to get an education. On his way out Harris, in an interview with the Washington Post,  also admitted that church leaders knew of the sexual abuse and chose not to report it to law enforcement.

Here is what Brent Detwiler, formerly one of the top men in the Sovereign Grace organization had to say:

“Joshua Harris already knows the truth about many of the sex abuse crimes committed in Covenant Life Church and also about the massive criminal conspiracy that followed in their wake.  He knows about C.J. Mahaney, John Loftness, Gary Ricucci, Grant Layman, Larry Tomczak, Nate Morales, David Adams, Steve Griney, Mark Hoffman, Dave Mayo, Charlie Llewellyn and others.  The “pedophilic ring” is big and so is the cover up.  Joshua is well aware of these facts.  Joshua also knows he has contributed to the conspiracy.  But guess what?  He isn’t talking at least not for two years.”
-Brent Detwiler, June 25, 2013

Dave Harvey, also a former top man in the organization, left the denomination under a cloud in 2013.  Gene Emerson, loyal lieutenant to C.J. Mahaney and senior pastor of Kingsway Community Church in Midlothian, VA was busted in a police sting for solicitting a prostitute in August, 2015, and now Matthew Wassink, formerly the senior pastor of  Providence Community Church in Lenexa, Kansas has been removed from his position, for what is reportedly “repeated sexual lapses over the last few years.”

This is just a partial list and, while all church denominations undoubtedly have men who leave the ministry due to moral failures, it seems to me that the Sovereign Grace denomination has an unusually high number of men who leave the pulpit in disgrace. I am hesitant to interpret what God is doing, but it seems safe to say that His hand has been heavy on a denomination that officially sticks to their story of innocence while numerous victims and their families claim otherwise.

Yesterday I was alerted to the fact that Matthew Wassink had been removed from his position of senior pastor by a friend who sent me a link to these comments on the sgmsurvivors.com blog.

I immediately went over to the Providence Community Church website and found the scrubbing had already begun. Wassink was no longer listed as a pastor.

It appears that the scandal must have become public knowledge during the week of December 4th as that seems to be the last time Wassink preached.  The last month of sermons has not been added to the website.

Ironically, Wassink preached his next-to-last sermon from Luke 17. He spoke about temptation. Below is a short two minute clip from the sermon.

Also of interest is that Jason Hansen preached at Providence Community Church on October 30, 2016. Hansen is the Regional Director for the West Region of Sovereign Grace and is also an assistant pastor at Sovereign Grace Gilbert, the church I used to be a member of. It is speculation on my part, but it sure seems as if Hansen knew there were problems in Wassink’s life. Hansen preached from Psalm 51 and spoke of five signs of true repentance. Hansen and Wassink attended the nine-month “Pastor’s College” together, “graduating” in 2009. Their families are good friends.

Wassink was reportedly one of the “fair-haired” boys, well liked by Mahaney. Brent Detwiler stated that: “Matthew and C.J. were close.  C.J. often commended him and promoted him.  They worked on the polity committee together from April 2012-Feb 2013.”

Wassink also wrote a piece, featured on the Sovereign Grace national website, promoting the benefits of attending the “Pastor’s College.” The page may have already been scrubbed from the website, but here is a partial screenshot.

The last activity on Wassink’s Twitter account was on December 2nd.

 

Brent Detwiler has informed me that paragraph 179 of the Second Amended Complaint (Link ) against Sovereign Grace took place at Providence Community Church.  The “son of a pastor” refers to another pastor on staff at the time who left, not to Matthew Wassink.  The family of the abused girl contacted Susan Burke but decided not to join the lawsuit.”

Apparently C.J. Mahaney, Craig Cabaniss (regional leader at the time) and Matthew Wassink conspired together and advised the family of the abused girl not to contact law enforcement.

Detwiler stated: “I have little doubt “defendant” C.J. counseled him not to report.” 

As you can see below, Sovereign Grace leaders have been busy attempting to scrub any evidence of their latest casualty from their websites. Dave Quilla, a longtime assistant pastor, is now listed as the Lead Pastor.

You can see below that Regional leader Rick Gamache is responsible for Providence Community Church. I believe he has already spoken to the church membership about the Matthew Wassink situation. I have sent Rick two emails, not surprisingly he has not responded to either. Rick may be too busy scrubbing his church’s website to respond to me.

I found a video on Vimeo of Matthew Wassink preaching at Rick Gamache’s church. I doubt the video will be available for long, but here is a screen shot. (Editor’s note: as of 1-16-2016 the video has now been removed from Rick Gamache’s Sovereign Grace Church Vimeo account.)

While the date Wassink spoke is not listed on the video, it can easily be determined that the date was August 7th. Wassink had a guest speaker at his church on that date, and Gamache has removed that week from his sermon list.

 

Below is the complete list of speakers at Gamache’s church. You will notice once again that Gamache has, in Stalinesque manner, purged Wassink from the list. One might rightly wonder if Gamache has something to hide.

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
James 2:1,8-9 NLT

 

You will notice below that Gamache has not bothered to remove C.J. Mahaney from his list of speakers. This got me thinking, and I sent an email to Rick Gamache which said, in part:

Dear Pastor Gamache,

I am conducting research for an upcoming blog article and I have a serious question for you. I noticed you have removed any mention of, or link to, Matthew Wassink having preached at your church. Specifically, he preached at your church on August 7, 2016. That week is now blank on your website and when I ran a search for all guest speakers on your church website his name is not listed. Meanwhile I see that C.J. Mahaney is listed as a guest speaker on your website.  Therefore I am left to wonder if you consider blackmail, the covering up sexual abuse of children,  participating in a “hush fund” and being schismatic to be less serious sins in the eyes of Sovereign Grace leadership than infidelity to one’s wife? If not, why have you not removed any trace of C.J. Mahaney from your website? Do you think that your actions make you guilty of showing favoritism to C.J. Mahaney, the very thing James warns against in chapter 2 of his epistle?

I have noticed the same actions were taken by Sovereign Grace leaders in regards to Gene Emerson’s being caught with a prostitute. His name is nowhere to be found on Sovereign Grace websites. While both Emerson and Wassink have committed  serious sins which should rightly disqualify them from the ministry, your leadership fails miserably by continuing to allow Mahaney to be a pastor in your denomination, even awarding him a vaunted status and sending Pastor’s College students to his church for their training. For all your churches teach membership about transparency, confessing of sin and accountability, precious little of it is demonstrated among leadership.

Kind Regards,

Todd Wilhelm

Of course, I have not received a reply from Gamache, but I believe I have raised a serious issue.  How does Sovereign Grace leadership justify leaving C.J. Mahaney in the pulpit? I believe as long as they allow him to remain in his position, and church leadership remains unrepentant, their future is grim.

 

“The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that the one has sins and the other has none;  but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.”
– William Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth

Update

Matthew Wassink has apparently closed his Twitter account. I have a screenshot of his former account above. In searching @matthewwassink and also Matthew Wassink nothing was found!

Wassink does have an additional Twitter account under the name “W” @sinker8209 which has not seen any activity in a long time.

Observant readers of this blog informed me that Wassink’s old account on Facebook has undergone a name change. The account can now be found under the name of “Wade Wass.”  Much of the old information, including family updates, has been purged.

I then searched Twitter to see if Wassink had changed his account to Wade Wass there. I found Wade Wass is a baseball player for the Angels, but Wassink had not started an account on Twitter with that name.

I would guess that Matthew Wassink/Wade Wass is searching for a new employer and does not want his potential employer to find out about his scandalous past, therefore he is scrubbing all his past social media accounts.  I wonder if he lists C.J. Mahaney as a character reference on his resume?

Also, as noted above, Rick Gamache has now scrubbed Matthew Wassink’s August 7, 2016, video from the Sovereign Grace Church’s Vimeo page. I am guessing this blog alerted Gamache to his oversight.  Social media has made it so much tougher to rewrite history than in Stalin’s days! (Link )

 

 

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Survivor

The allegations that one (or more) of these incidents of abuse occurred at Providence Community Church are deeply troubling. My family and I are former members there and had young children there at the time we attended. Understanding that we must respect the victim(s) privacy in the matter, does anyone have solid proof (emails, etc.) that link Providence to a sexual abuse cover up?

An Observer

“Social media has made it so much tougher to rewrite history than in Stalin’s days!”

Heh… Google is also able to find something the scrubbing effort missed. When I Google “Matthew Wassink” one of the results on the first page is to a 2008 sermon still on Gamache’s church’s site:

Matthew Wassink – Sovereign Grace Church: Bloomington, MN
http://sovgracemn.org/sermons/preacher/u/4/matthew-wassink
Feb 16, 2008 – Faithfully preached sermons that are gospel focused, expository, reformed, and biblical based.

In their database they clearly changed his name to all blanks, but the audio is still there. I don’t know the guy so I can’t say whether the voice is his.

Thanks!Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

[…] support for ne’er-do-wells does tend to disappear (just like some jailed or fallen pastors’ sermons off of church websites) once the ne’er-do-wells are arrested.  As a result, we are indebted to watch blogs who […]

Disgusted in Texas

Thank you for writing this story. I don’t know a lot about how SGM works but I know that ARC wasted little time trying to recruit Dustin Boles, the disgraced head pastor of Mosaic Church in Ocean Springs, MS. His horrible actions didn’t make ARC blink. All they cared about was his ability to grow a church from 0 to 3k in under 8 years.

The fact that Wassink had multiple sexual lapses indicates he had no intention of voluntarily removing himself from ministry despite his sexual misconduct. It wouldn’t surprise me if Wassink seeks to re-enter ministry as soon as he feels people are ready to hire/follow him.

Since many churches are loathe to put disqualifications into writing, this singular post may be the only warning the public has that indicates Wassink is disqualified from being a minister. Thank you for that.

At least his church had the decency to announce to the congregation what had happened. Gateway Church of Southlake, TX (the 4th largest church in the U.S.) had yet another Senior Pastor dismissed this year due to ongoing serious sexual misconduct. Gateway buried this fact. They quietly removed his picture and bio from the website and never said a word to staff or members. People who have invested 16 years of their life into this church were not even given a courtesy call. Gateway is pretending this man never worked there, just like they did with the last Senior Pastor who was fired in 2015 for similar behavior.

That Senior Pastor is already out seeking a new job in church leadership. When he gets that job, how are any of his new sheep supposed to realize they are entrusting their family’s spiritual future to a disqualified man? This is really becoming a big problem in America.

Correct I meant Gene Emerson and not Brooks.

The reason I characterized Mahaney’s actions as only being blackmail and pride is those are the only actions that Mahaney and others in SGM are admitting occurred. As I recall, C.J. Mahaney has even issued a statement here:

http://www.sgclouisville.org/blog/post/a-statement-from-c-j–mahaney

“Even with those constraints, however, let me be clear about this: I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit.”

Mahaney is claiming he didn’t “conspire” though I really have my doubts. Though this statement isn’t specific there are people in SGM that claim Mahaney didn’t know what Grant Layman knew though I find that really hard to believe. These people claim that Mahaney didn’t know that when Mahaney was the top leader and such an egregious act was occurring.

Thus what I was doing was differentiating between what the group admits Mahaney did vs. the other items that at least SGM claims Mahaney didn’t do. Hopefully this clarifies what I was saying. Even the actions that SGM admits Mahaney has done should require he step down at least for some time.

Hi Steve:

One of the victims’ families has e-mail exchanges proving that C.J. knew about the cover-up of child sexual abuse in the church formerly known as Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax, VA (the Church has since changed its name and disassociated itself from Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches) where his son-in-law was employed as a Pastor. They’ve chosen not to publish the e-mails publicly at this time, but there’s definitely written proof that C.J. Mahaney conspired “to protect a child predator.”

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Also, Steve, C.J. Mahaney never made the following statement within the context of the lawsuit in which he was sued or any other formal legal context:

“Even with those constraints, however, let me be clear about this: I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit.”

It was just slapped up on his new (he fled the Church where the crimes took place) Church’s website many months after the lawsuit was filed. Instead of just saying he was completely innocent, Mahaney tried, and succeeded, in getting the lawsuit dismissed on technicalities, one of which was arguing that the First Amendment gave him, as a Pastor, the religious right to advise people not to report child sexual abuse to the police.

I’m not making that up. It can be read here:

Defendant’s Claim That The First Amendment Gave Mahaney and other Pastors the Right to Cover Up Child Sexual Abuse

Plaintiffs Rebuttal To That Outrageous Defense

Plaintiffs Rebuttal

If Mahaney really thought he was innocent, he would not have needed to base his whole defense on invoking technicalities to get out of being held accountable for the illegal behavior he was accused of. Instead he or his lawyers could simply have stated the following clearly, “C.J. Mahaney is innocent and the plaintiffs are all liars.”

In my view, Mahaney did not make that formal legal argument because it’s a lie that he could later be held accountable for telling in a court of law.

By contrast, he can just deny that he authorized posting the following statement on his Church’s website:

““Even with those constraints, however, let me be clear about this: I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit.”

It’s not as though he signed it or has backed it up by orally stating that he’s innocent.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

JLC

So the email the one couple have from the Fairfax Church show that C.J. is lying in the statement he made that you quoted?

If so, this is really a shame that they have chosen to not release it. It would do the body of Christ a whole lot of good if it could be proven that C.J. Mahaney was basically lying. Who knows, maybe charges could even be brought up against him using Sovereign Grace’s book of church order or whatever they call it.

If Mahaney lied about this and even was public in his lie here what else has C.J. Mahaney lied about. Maybe proving that C,J. was a liar just might start to open more people’s eyes.

Hi Steve240:

I hear what you’re saying, yet also respect the right of victims’ families to make decisions that are best for them right now regarding the privacy of victims. As for C.J. Mahaney’s guilt: anyone who thinks he’s completely innocent of covering up child sexual abuse is naive or disingenuous, at this point.

If nothing else, C.J. Mahaney is now ignoring proof, acquired during a criminal trial, that the Church he was responsible for had an unwritten policy about discouraging child sexual abuse victims from contacting the police and other relevant civil authorities.

Specifically, the Nathaniel Morales trial (about a long-time former Church member who molested many children at the Church) proved that Covenant Life Church, where Mahaney served as a Sr. Pastor for many years, was in the habit/probably still is in the habit of harboring a very active pedophile ring.

To my knowledge, C.J. Mahaney has never contested the sworn testimony of Grant Layman, who is his brother-in-law and was a fellow CLC Pastor for many years, saying that Layman and other prominent Church leaders, which almost certainly included Mahaney, collectively conspired to protect child predators in 2007 by not reporting allegations of child sexual abuse involving Nathaniel Morales to the police.

Again, if Mahaney really thought he was innocent he would issue a statement saying the following: “My brother-in-law is a liar, and neither I nor any other Pastor who reported to me covered up the crimes of pedophiles, to my knowledge.”

But I don’t see a statement to that effect.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Janna

Just to be clear I am not trying to defend C.J. Mahaney. I am sure he is just as guilty as his brother in law Grant Layman was.

In my opinion I am sure Mahaney was fully aware of what Nathan Morales did and other incidents that occurred at CLC and other SGM Churches. It just that Mahaney claims innocence and two leaders I know of (one within SGM and another outside of SGM) seem to be going with this claim despite how unbelievable it is that Mahaney had no knowledge. I am not sure if they really believe Mahaney had no knowledge or just don’t want to open that Pandora’s door.

Thanks for the additional information.

I do wish the truth

Another sad incident occurring within Sovereign Grace Churches. I wonder how many more will surface? Time will tell.

I wonder how SGM can justify not removing C.J. Mahaney while removing Wassink and Gene Brooks? Maybe with Wassink and Brooks they really had no choice since their sins were of a sexual nature (at least that is what is rumored with Wassink). With Mahaney’s only being blackmail and pride other SGM Leaders figured they could overlook what C.J. Mahaney did especially when C.J. claims he never knew what Morales did?

I doubt they will do any discipline with Wassink since they didn’t do anything to Gene Emerson other then making him step down.

It will be interesting to see what additional details come out about what Wassink did.