Brent Detwiler’s Factual Rebuttal of Covenant Life Church Apologist

By | February 14, 2017

In a previous post titled “Covenant Life Church Sure Knows How To Pick’em” we had several comments from a Covenant Life Church apologist named “Crumbled” in which he/she attempted to rewrite the history of CLC. While this blatant disregard of factual information may work when one attempts to skew history in favor of your fairy tale version of history on Wikipedia, we at “Thou Art The Man” make a serious attempt to be truthful in the articles we publish.

Towards that end we reached out to the premier expert on the history of Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries, Brent Detwiler, and asked him if he would be so kind as to set the record straight. We thank him for willingly  taking the time to write a detailed response and, we believe, once again correct the mythical view of events so often repeated by CLC pastors and members.

Detwiler’s website is the most complete and accurate source of information regarding anything having to do with Sovereign Grace Ministries that I know of.  Those of you in search of truthful information regarding the sexual abuse of children and the conspiracy to cover-up that abuse would do well to pay a visit to Detwiler’s website.

What follows is Crumbled’s claims, readily distinguished by the blue bar and italicized font, followed by Detwiler’s rebuttal in normal font.


I can’t even figure out why CLC is even mentioned in regards to the sexual abuse lawsuits. 


Really?  That’s an easy one.  Covenant Life Church and Covenant Life School were both named as institutional defendants and C.J. Mahaney, Gary Ricucci, John Loftness and Grant Layman (all top CLC pastors) were named as individual defendants in the 46-page lawsuit.


Furthermore, Loftness and Ricucci were accused of committing crimes against children, not just covering them up.  Tragically and inexplicably, the “independent investigation” done by CLC lawyer, Lars Liebeler, which cost 100k, did not include an investigation of these men or their alleged crimes.  The investigation should have started with these men because they were pastors and the allegations of fact regarding sexual sadism against Loftness could not have been more serious.  This amounts to a cover-up in my opinion.  How can you not thoroughly investigate them?


Moreover, the investigation was anything but independent.  Genuine independence and a full reporting to the church was promised by Joshua Harris before the investigation began.  Neither occurred.  He broke his promises.  Liebeler did not even interview the victims in the lawsuit.  Only the perpetrators.  Could anything be more biased?  He also left out vital and incriminating evidence like the court testimony of Rachael Bates-Paci that she told Grant Layman and Chris Glass (another CLC pastor) about the sexual abuse of boys in CLC by Nate Morales in June 1991.  Liebeler knew about this but left it out of his report.


The current leaders (Robin excluded) were not there and had nothing to do with events in the 1980’s or any of the events of that time.  I think you are mixing CLC ups with Sovereign Grace Ministries.  The leaders from the 1980’s formed SGM and fled discipline when confronted by Josh Harris and the other pastors at CLC.   The pastors and congregation of CLC voted to leave SGM when the leaders refused to repent or reconcile with the congregation. 


C.J. Mahaney, Gary Ricucci, Grant Layman, Robin Boisvert, Kenneth Maresco and Chris Glass were all there in the 1980’s and 1990’s and had knowledge of sexual abuse but did not report it.  All were employed by CLC as pastors.  Layman clearly testified at the Morales trial in August 2014 that he knew it was illegal not to report Morales to law enforcement in 1993.  He could have been arrested in the courtroom according to the Assistant State’s Attorney prosecuting the case.  Layman also testified that none of the CLC pastors who knew about Morales reported him either.  Layman was youngest or next to youngest on staff.  If he knew it was illegal not to report, so did the rest of the pastors.  And it is no small thing that Boisvert was on the staff then and now.  He’s known about sexual abuse in CLC since at least 1992 but has never reported it.


The same conspiracy was at work in August 2007, when the entire governing board of CLC (i.e., Joshua Harris, Corby Megorden, Grant Layman, Robin Boisvert, and Kenneth Maresco) were told about Morales’ sexual abuse of children in The New Testament Church before coming to CLC in 1982.  They knew he was excommunicated in 1981 for the serial molestation of boys in that ministry.  They also learned more about Morales’ abuse of boys during his years in CLC (1982-1991).  Additionally, Layman talked to Morales in August 2007.  During the phone call, Morales confessed to the sexual abuse of two boys in CLC (Liebeler also left this criminal element out of his report).  Layman told the other board members.  He also told them Morales was now a pastor.  These five men knew Morales was a confessed, excommunicated, serial child predator going back to the 1970’s that abused many boys in CLC.  Despite this, they intentionally decided not to obey mandatory reporting laws and inform law enforcement.  No clergy confidentiality applied.  As a result, Morales continued to sexually abuse boys after 2007 until arrested in 2012.


The division between SGM and CLC would never have happened if Joshua Harris and other pastors like Kenneth Maresco and Grant Layman had stood with me in August 2004 when I/we confronted Mahaney on life-long patterns of sin.  Read Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, pp. 7-34.  They failed to follow through on commitments they made to hold C.J. accountable out of cowardice.  Harris said so in public.  C.J. also sinfully turned these men against me.  Harris said so in public.  And as a matter of fact, Harris, Layman, Maresco, and Bob Kauflin covered up for C.J. and protected C.J. after 2004.


Furthermore, the CLC pastors did NOT discipline C.J. in 2010-2011.  They did the opposite.  They enabled him and failed to publicly rebuke him for his ongoing and egregious sins despite countless appeals from me and many church members.  Harris and the pastors refused to speak out against Mahaney and remove him from ministry despite the clear teaching of Scripture.  Yes, CLC left SGM in Dec 2012 but thereafter Harris publicly commended C.J. as a man worthy of planting the SGM church in Louisville and expressed his full support.


Josh Harris told the pastors he would resign if they were not completely honest with the congregation.  He’s not the bad guy and was a child when the abuse occurred. 


Harris and the pastors were “not completely honest” when they apologized to CLC (they did not acknowledge or ask forgiveness for any sin) in October 2014 for how they handled the sexual abuse of children.  Nor was Mark Mitchell or Lars Liebeler.    Furthermore, Harris lied on multiple other occasions.  Like when he told news reporter, Greta Kruez in October 2012, “We are very committed to involving the authorities.”  That was blatantly false.  There was no history of reporting suspected sexual abuse or involving law enforcement.  Only a 40-year history of not reporting and involving!


In fact, Corby Megorden, who worked for Harris as the church administrator, told CLC members in August 2011, they had a policy of not reporting the suspected sexual abuse of children.  Instead, they did internal investigations to determine guilt and then consulted their lawyer (Chip Grange) to see if there was any possibility of being sued.  According to Lars Liebeler in his oral report to CLC in Oct 2014, Grange gave them bad counsel about potential lawsuits which deterred them from reporting suspected or known child abuse.


In one case, Harris, Layman and Ricucci were told about the alleged physical and sexual abuse of the Llewellyn children by their father from his three oldest daughters at various times.  None of these men reported it to law enforcement.  Bottom line, CLC has never claimed to have reported anyone to law enforcement they suspected of sexually abusing children.  They supposedly ended this heinous policy of conspiring not to report in Oct 2014.


Harris did some good things but plenty of bad things.  He could have made the difference in dealing with Mahaney and coming clean regarding the conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of children.  Harris was abused; that is all the more reason he should have been reporting abuse to police instead of covering it up by not reporting.  To my knowledge, Harris never said whether he reported his own abuse or sought to prosecute his offender(s).  Inevitably, whoever abused him, abused others.


Nate Morales was not a youth worker at CLC.  He was an administrator for a Christian school not affiliated with CLC and his victims were primarily students in the school.   He briefly attended CLC but held no official leadership position.  Some of his student victims attended CLC as well.  But, it was a school-related crime rather than a church-related crime.  Pastors who counseled victims let the parents decide whether to press charges or not, as was the custom everywhere in the 1980’s. 


Almost everything in this paragraph is false.  Lifeline was the name of the youth ministry.  It included junior high, senior high, and college-aged youth.  As a part of it, Morales oversaw the International Student Ministry at Montgomery College in Rockville for Layman.  He was also on the CLC payroll per Liebeler.  Layman perjured himself on the stand during the Morale’s trial, when he told ASA Michalski, “He was just a member.”  I sent Michalski the evidence but she decided not to prosecute.  You are completely wrong when you say, Morales “held no official leadership position.”


You are also badly mistaken when you say, “His victims were primarily in the school” and “it was a school-related crime rather than a church-related crime.”  Eight boys were listed in the police reports as victims.  They were all members of CLC though Jeremy Cook and his family left CLC early on.  I knew the parents of six victims.  None of the reported crimes occurred at the “Christian school not affiliated with CLC.”  One occurred at Magruder High School where CLC was meeting on Sunday mornings.  Most all of the crimes happened in the homes of CLC members.


You claim Morales “briefly attended CLC.”  No, he attended for 10 years from 1982-1991 and became a well-known and highly respected member that was prominently featured by Mahaney, Layman, etc.  Everyone knew and liked Nate Morales.


You refer to “the custom everywhere in the 1980’s.”  That’s why laws were being introduced in the 1980’s that required mandatory reporting.  That’s why that state of Maryland introduced mandatory reporting laws in 1987.  Layman and the pastors knew about these laws.  So did Chip Grange, their lawyer.  Under the law, everyone was required to report including parents.


The CLC pastors did not learn about Morales abuse in the 1980’s.  That is inaccurate and misleading.  They learned about it in the 1990’s and knew he was a serial predator with many victims.  Still, they did not stop him.  They had an obligation to report.  So did the parents.  At that point in time, it was not “the custom everywhere” to violate the law.


The trial of Nate Morales for criminal charges was not related to the lawsuit, although he was mentioned by a victim.   


Once again you are misleading or just plain ignorant.  There was a third trial scheduled for Morales because he had been indicted for “sex offense third degree” against James Roberts.  Roberts was a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Covenant Life Church where he and his family were members.  Contrary to your assertion, the criminal charges were related to the lawsuit.  What Robert’s alleged in the Second Amended Complaint (paragraph 36) would have been presented in court.  The only reason this did not happen was because the State Attorney’s Office canceled the trial because it was unnecessary.  The first two trials resulted in convictions on seven counts.  They didn’t need the third one.  They knew Morales would be sentenced for the remainder of his natural life.  It was a matter of “judicial prudence” as they called it.


In the two CLC sex abuse situations, one involved a teenage babysitter and one involved a stepfather, both in contexts outside of church.  Given the thousands of people who have attended CLC over forty years, it would appear CLC was significantly safer for children than the general public as well as other organizations. 


Why are you not honest with your readers?  You make it sound like there have only been “two sex abuse situations” over the past 40 years.  You don’t even include Nate Morales and his conviction for abusing multiple boys in CLC in your equation!  That is so wrong.  Pure spin.


Moreover, you don’t make clear you are only referring to two criminal convictions but excluding the many real and alleged “CLC sex abuse situations” like with Charlie Llewellyn, or those individuals in the lawsuit you write off as liars or other victims in CLC who don’t want to press charges for various reasons.  I’ve interacted with these people.


The policies of not reporting suspected abusers and not warning members in harms’ way of suspected or convicted abusers in their midst made CLC extremely unsafe!  Convicted sex abuse felons were in the church and members did not know.  Not reporting is why Morales was allowed to go on and abuse boys, including two stepsons, around the United States for 20 years after leaving CLC.  It is so sickening.  The CLC pastors should have been arrested and jailed.  They haven’t even asked forgiveness of the stepsons or Morales’ ex-wife, Marcia.


Furthermore, these same dreadful policies were carried out by C.J. Mahaney, John Loftness and Kenneth Maresco (all CLC pastors) in Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax (aka Redeeming Grace Church) in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  In one case, a pastor’s son confessed to sexual abusing a younger boy but was not reported.  His family was moved to another SGM church.  That is still happening in SGM.  Read “Hush Fund Set Up by Top SGM Leaders to Meet the Demands of a SGM Pastor Whose Son Was Sexually Abused.”


Not only was CLC unsafe, these men made much of Sovereign Grace Ministries unsafe.  The policies of CLC were exported.  They were also passed on to men like Joshua Harris.  How can you call CLC safe, when your five leading pastors did not report Morales in 2007, even though they knew he was a self-confessed, serial sexual predator of 40 years responsible for abusing at least 8 boys in CLC?  If you don’t report Morales, you don’t report anyone!  That is the long and horribly unsafe history of pastors in CLC.


The babysitter case was certainly an injustice as the parents were scolded for notifying authorities before notifying pastors and significant care was given to the teenage perpetrator. 


No, no, no.  You are watering down and mispresenting what happened.  John Loftness told Dominic and Pam Palmer, “Do not call the police” before he found out they already had.  That is not simply a personal injustice, it is a violation of the law.  That same practice was followed by all the pastors.  That is why Loftness “explained [to them] that such matters were handled internally by the church leadership, not by secular authorities.”  That is exactly what Corby Megorden told CLC in 2011 and Joshua Harris told Michelle Boorstein from the Washington Post in 2015.


The stepfather case was a tragic lose-lose situation in which the mother lost custody of her 9 children to foster care and the church attempted to restore the children to the father in the hope of getting them out of foster care. 


This is too complicated to address here but the mother, Peggy Adams, has written at length about the abusive ways she was treated by the CLC pastors.  So has her daughter, Dara Sutherland, who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.  Further, Child Protective Services would never have allowed the Adam’s children out of foster care so they could return to their father, David Adams.  He was a convicted felon for sexually abusing one of his adopted daughters for four years before getting caught.  CLC pastors pressured Peggy to do this but she refused.


The other accusations in the lawsuit occurred in Sovereign Grace at large and not at CLC. 


That is a blatant lie.  For example, all the accusations brought by Jessica Roberts Thomas and Heather Thompson Bryant had to do with Covenant Life members, leaders, or pastors.


Any remaining cases at CLC are largely regarded as fiction. 


That is because CLC has been duped by the kind of false reporting found in your comments.  For example, Bo Lotinsky, a CLC pastor, told me Olivia Llewellyn lied about being sexually abused by her father.  That is absurd!  I counseled Olivia for seven months.  I also confronted her parents, Charlie and Greer, in person with evidence which they did not deny or refute.  Like an incriminating letter from Greer to Olivia on June 6, 2013, that states, “Even if daddy & I deserved the shame [in the lawsuit], your siblings do not.”  Throughout the letter, Greer pressures Olivia to drop the lawsuit not because they are innocent but because “there is little hope that we will have anything – income at all or ever, we will have to sell everything (farm, land, can’t even sell the company) if you continue to pursue the lawsuit.”


So, you should address your concerns with SGM, not CLC.  And Josh Harris was a hero for putting his job on the line to tell the truth. 


The policy of not reporting suspected sex abusers began with CLC and was sustained by CLC.  Mahaney’s commitment not to report sex abusers was most prominently featured in CLC as the sr. pastor for 25 years.  It spread to SGM with the help of CLC pastors.


Josh put his job on the line but not for telling the truth.  He put his job on the line because he was an enabler, appeaser and law breaker and this resulted in the further exploitation of children and increasing corruption in CLC and SGM.  Josh is not a hero.  A hero is characterized by courage and integrity.  As a matter of fact, Josh often lied.  For example, he promised an “independent investigation” with full disclosure.  Nothing of the sort happened.  In large measure, the investigation was a crafty cover-up that left out lots of incriminating evidence.  Your rewriting of history is more of the same.


Crumbled, I’d sure like to know who you are.  That is the problem with an alias.  You could be a sex abuser.  You could be a CLC pastor.  You could be anything in between.  This much I know, you are not honest!  Stop the propaganda!

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Seriously Janna?

Here is Brent’s post about how hard he tried to confront CJs sin from 2000- 2003.

And here he is in 2004, essentially worshipping CJ before CLC, deceiving the entire congregation:

He knew the truth but he played the sordid game.

It would be fine if he would just apologize….but he won’t. The minute this gets put before him he disappears.

A major problem lately in general is that people seem to think the SGM problem is all about sex abuse cover up. Even if those terrible stories had never happened, there would still be the larger, huge, context in which the cover ups happened. That context was decades of shepherding movement heavy handed top down controlling authority, with leaders on high pedestals and a great deal of legalism pervading the movement. One of the founding apostles was Brent Detwiler, and he was a significant dark influence with his own trail of wreckage behind him.

Has he ever apologized for his own gigantic contribution to the structure and teachings and practices of SGM ? No. He seems focused on the men who did not walk in the same paths they forced on everybody else. He is correct about their hypocrisy……but he does not yet have the light to see that the top heavy pastoral control path itself was not biblical or godly in many ways. And he was a founding apostle of the entire mess.

What I see- until he publicly repents- is a member of the wolf pack who tried to change the alpha wolf, and lost. Or maybe a member of the mob who tried to take on the Godfather and lost. Now he is telling the world where the bodies are buried. God in his sovereignty is using this to expose a great deal of evil, but it doesn’t mean that the mob guy turned expert witness sees his own evil deeds of the past. It does not make him a good guy. I hope he ends up there, but he has yet to truly, deeply, apologize for his part in SGM.

Maybe he will end up that way, but it’ll take a real humbling to face the fact that neither CJ nor he nor the others were ever true apostles. They were not, not ever, period. I know what it will look like when he repents because my husband and I have had to say so many apologies to our children for the legalism we brought into our home during the PDI years, and when he starts saying what we had to say, then we will know he has seen the light.

That video above must be apologized for, plain and simple. You can’t in all honestly write about Smyth deceiving CLC and let Detwiler slide on that one and how he deceived CLC. It wasn’t just that, it was tons more during his apostleship, but for now let’s start with that video of Brent worshipping CJ, and require a humble admission of wrongdoing in front of all those sheep he was supposed to be watching out for. How many of them just got sucked deeper into the wolf claws with that speech?

You know I am not a troll Janna. I appreciate what you do here, and I think you are a godly nice girl, but your post protecting Brent from his own lack of accountability is over the top.


Hello 5Years in PDI:

Thank you for the kind things you have said about me. As for the substance of your comment, I agree with Todd in thinking that this blog is not a forum in which people should be publicly airing their personal grievances with Brent Detwiler or anyone else. I suggest that you review its Comment Policies. I think we can agree that your comment violates both the spirit and letter of those guidelines, especially as they pertain to relying on personal attacks to make points. Nothing you have said pertains to Brent Detwiler’s rebuttal of the lies that a CLC apologist told about sexual abuse victims and their cases, which is the subject of this post.

I, too, used to read the comments on SGMSurvivors, although I no longer do so because I believe that blog has become little more than a space in which people post vicious personal attacks and mis-information. As I recall, in addition to spending lots of time addressing your concerns on that blog, Brent Detwiler has repeatedly asked you to contact him directly and you have refused to do so.

That leads me to believe that you’re not genuinely interested in resolving your complaints regarding his integrity. Instead, you have a personal vendetta against him and simply wish to publicly defame Brent Detwiler no matter what he does. In addition, you have repeatedly posted demonstrably false statements, which I consider to be slander, against Brent Detwiler.

I believe that posting factually incorrect statements about Brent Detwiler is morally wrong, 5yearsinPDI. Therefore you are not in any position to accuse me or anyone else of lacking integrity regarding how we treat Brent Detwiler.

This comment will be my final interaction with you. Have a nice day.

Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Bill M

“Nothing you have said pertains to Brent Detwiler’s rebuttal of the lies that a CLC apologist told about sexual abuse victims and their cases, which is the subject of this post.”
5years critique highlights one of the big problems encountered with corrupt systems, no one directly involved has clean hands. If no one steps forward to condemn the system from the inside then the excuse to look away as there is no direct evidence. When someone from the inside such as Detwiler steps forward and produces voluminous information it is then discounted because he is personally tainted. Heads they win, tails we lose.

Yes, that can be a real pickle in life, Bill.

However, in this case, I believe that the facts Brent Detwiler presents speak for themselves.

Brent also took time out of his life to attend the Morales trial, which is one reason he has a lot of credibility regarding the subject of this post.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

In other words, ignoring facts just because you don’t like the messenger who made you aware of them makes little logical sense. Therefore, it is not a good excuse for looking away.

In my humble opinion, of course. 🙂

Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Bill M

I agree Brent Detwiler’s presentation is sound and think it little more than an attempt at distraction to attack his character, especially when it is not relevant.

Thanks, Bill. I agree. The comment guidelines are not arbitrary – they designed with the best interests of the blog’s readers in mind. Many people have said that they like Thou Art The Man because of Todd’s expectation that commentary from readers be relevant to the subject of the post to which they are attached, as well as reasonably respectful toward others.

There are many places on the internet in which people can hash out personal grievances. This blog just isn’t one of them.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)


I don’t know if the person is repeating the falsehoods they were told or if they are the inventor of them, but, either way, it is tremendously comforting to see propaganda destroyed by truth.

I wasn’t a CLC attender but in all of the many years I’ve attended church, I have found most in leadership sweep these kinds of issues under the rug. Most of the congregation won’t even know about it when a pedophile turns out to have been molesting kids and is quietly sent packing, to repeat his offending at the next church. No one seems to feel any responsibility for protecting the next child. No one seems to think these children are of any importance in their grand scheme of things. All that matters is maintaining the illusion and keeping the offerings coming in. If the leadership in churches were like Brent Detwiler, I would still be attending church. As it is, I got to the point where it all made me so sick I couldn’t take part in it anymore.

Karen Colbert

Thank you, Todd, Janna, and Team for posting this. And thanks to Brett for also working so hard to present truth.

I pray that every Christian will forward this post to their pastors, elders, and members and start asking questions in order to make sure the same thing is not happening in their congregation.

Please don’t assume that the staff at your church is protecting the children and teens. Statistically, abusers are likely already in your congregations. They are hoping no one will speak up about this issue.

Thanks for your kind comment, Karen.

“Please don’t assume that the staff at your church is protecting the children and teens. Statistically, abusers are likely already in your congregations. They are hoping no one will speak up about this issue.”

I agree. In fact, I think that Churches should assume that they will eventually need to handle a reported instance of child sexual abuse and develop a proactive plan for doing so. Making off-the-cuff decisions after an instance of child sexual abuse becomes widely known does not seem to work very well.

In Covenant Life Church’s case, as proven during the Morales trial, the Church has actually developed a sophisticated, methodical strategy for covering up child sexual abuse.

Best, Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Karen Colbert

Great idea, let’s be proactive and have all congregations develop their plan for reporting abusers and protecting victims and then include it on their websites.

A standard template similar to the Truth in Lending Statement on home loans would be helpful but instead of clearly stating the interest rate and total interest to be paid on a loan, it will clearly state the actions that will be taken to publicly report abuse, stop abusers, and protect and assist victims.

In addition, maintain a public website where every church’s response plan is posted and can be compared, including No Response when churches refuse to participate.

Thanks, Karen. Those are some good ideas. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Hi Trolls, just a reminder that no personal attacks against Brent Detwiler or anyone else will be published.

There are lots of other blogs that will let you bravely troll anonymously.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)