Sovereign Grace Churches Releases Another Sketchy Statement

By | February 18, 2018

“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.” — C.J. Mahaney


On February 13, 2018 Sovereign Grace Churches, undoubtedly reacting to intense heat from the comments Rachael Denhollander made about them, issued its second statement in 11 days. Published on its national website, it was no doubt an attempt to reassure their friends that all is well in Sovereign Grace.  Indeed, the usual cast of Mahaney supporters quickly tweeted out their postive responses. Birds of a feather flock together.


(Realizing that many read this blog on their phones, below you will find the text from the photo of Kevin DeYoung (above) to make it accessible to those of you using mobile devices.)

So the entire legal strategy was dependent on a theory of conspiracy that was more hearsay than anything like reasonable demonstration of culpability. As to the specific matter of C. J. participating in some massive cover-up, the legal evidence was so paltry (more like non-existent) that the judge did not think a trial was even warranted.

False statement made in support of C.J. Mahaney by Kevin Deyoung, Don Carson & Justin Taylor
The Gospel Coalition, “Why We Have Been Silent about the SGM Lawsuit”
May 24, 2013



In what follows I have quoted some statements in the Sovereign Grace document which I believe to be less than honest. You will find those statements with a blue bar on their left side. I follow by evidence which I believe demonstrates the Sovereign Grace comments to be disengenuous.


Some accuse Sovereign Grace of conspiring to cover up child abuse. This, too, is completely false.

Below is an audio file of Kojo Nnamdi interviewing Tiffany Stanley.(The interview can be heard here.) Tiffany Stanley is a journalist who conducted a thorough research of Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches prior to writing an excellent piece for the Washingtonian titled “The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch: Inside the rise and fall of Sovereign Grace Ministries. You cand find the article here.


While I feel Stanley did a good job of maintaining neutrality in her article, she has recently made it quite clear on her Twitter account that she believes the stories of those who were sexually abused.


Sovereign Grace has been accused of protecting abusers through a policy of not reporting abuse. This is not true.



Below are audio files of Dominic and Pam Palmer testifying before a Maryland House Subcommittee hearing on whether to extend the Statute of Limitations on sexual abuse of children. Dominic and Pam Palmer’s daughter was abused when she was three years old. It should be added that two women from Covenant Life Church, along with representatives from the Roman Catholic Church also addressed the Maryland Subcommittee.  They opposed extending the Statute of Limitations!



Below is an audio file of an interview Janet Mefferd conducted of Susan Burke, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that was filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries; Covenant Life Church; Covenant Life School; Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax; Charles Joseph Mahaney; Gary Ricucci; David Hinders; Louis Gallo; Frank Ecelbarger; John Loftness; Grant Layman; Larry Tomczak; Mark Mullery and Vince Hinders.



Some have accused C.J. Mahaney of both being involved in protecting abusers and in creating a “culture” that perpetuated abuse. This is false on both counts.
…C.J. has no recollection of hearing of Morales’s crimes in the 1990s.


This from Brent Detwiler:

“C.J. Mahaney’s lawyer told CLC’s lawyer, Lar Liebeler, that Mahaney knew absolutely nothing about the sexual abuse of boys by Nathaniel Morales even though at least seven of his CLC pastors (i.e., Grant Layman and Chris Glass in 1991; Robin Boisvert in 1992; Gary Ricucci in 1993; Joshua Harris, Kenneth Maresco, and Corby Megorden in 2007) were apprised of Morales’ sexual abuse as a matter of fact.

These facts were established under oath in two separate trials and Morales was subsequently sentenced to 40 years in prison in August 2014. Mahaney oversaw these men as their senior pastor from 1980-2004 and as President/Chairman of SGM from 2005-2011.

I believe he is lying when claiming complete ignorance about Morales’ crimes.  Such extraordinary information would most certainly have been reported to him by his pastors.  It is inconceivable he had no knowledge.  No pastor employed by him would have dared withhold it from him.  I know – I worked for Mahaney for 25 years.  He micromanaged crises in the church and the larger ministry.  Withholding that kind of information from him could get you fired – and in this case, understandably.  Of course, you tell the senior pastor about children in the church who are being sexually abused!”


Below is a comment I found on the  SGM Survivors blog. “Persona” frequently leaves comments on this blog and appears to be well versed in the operating practices of Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches.


(Realizing that many read this blog on their phones, below you will find the text from the comment made by Persona (above) to make it accessible to those of you using mobile devices.)

RP, something you need to keep in mind about CLC and SGM is CJ was ‘the man behind the curtain’ from their inception. He controlled everything that was said and done in those organizations, directly or indirectly.

He knew about cases we were involved in even though they were miniscule compared to the Morales case. Our pastor received correction and direction directly from CJ. In fact, I think part of the reason CJ fled when he did was he knew the Morales tsunami was heading his way and he no longer felt safe at CLC.

We saw over and over, that the pastors at CLC would never think of going rogue in their counsel or behavior. They mimicked their boss in almost every way and he encouraged that. He held a sustained grip on their actions, private and public and he heavily influenced even their thought lives. Those guys hid nothing from him and he was not shy in stating his judgments and opinions.

Over the decades, as we knew Mahaney and the other face cards at CLC and SGM more intimately we found out (way late) that instead of being our ‘heroes of the faith’, they were untrustworthy and deceitful micro-managers, greatly overstepping their ‘call’ as pastors.

We left CLC, not because of the release of Brent’s docs. But, one by one, we lost all respect for those leaders, including CJ and could no longer stomach their ungodly behavior.



During the time period covered in the suit, SGC as an organization did not have an officially stated policy with respect to these issues. We certainly had no policy of “not reporting.”

I believe one would be hard pressed to find any church with an official policy of “not reporting” sexual abuse to Law Enforcement, but to refresh your memory, here again is what Joshua Harris, fomer Senior Pastor of Covenant Life Church, said about “not reporting.”

“Harris said  the thinking of the church was that such allegations should be handled as an internal, spiritual issue.” (See the Washington Post screen capture from January 2015 above.)


Accusations that C.J. and the pastors at that time created a culture that engendered abuse or enabled abusers is not merely false, it is absurd.


“The Covenant Life pastoral staff in 1993 included C.J. Mahaney, Gary Ricucci, Robin Boisvert, John Loftness, Kenneth Maresco, Grant Layman, and Chris Glass.  At this time, Mahaney, Boisvert, Layman, Glass and Ricucci knew about Morales’ long history of sexually abusing boys. In all likelihood, so did Loftness and Maresco.

There is every reason to believe these pastors followed Mahaney’s counsel and agreed not to report Morales to law enforcement.  This resulted in the sexual abuse of boys in Puerto Rico, Mexico and across the United States.   That being the case, I agree with Jeff and Joshua Cole.  Those guilty should go to jail, suffer public shame, and their wealth used to restitute victims.  That is especially true of Mahaney.”

-Brent Detwiler,“Mahaney, Covenant Life Church & the Conspiracy to Cover-up the Sexual Abuse of Children”


Below is an audio of Janet Mefferd interviewing Bill O’Neil. He is an attorney who was assisting Susan Burke with the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace.



Many have the impression that abuse was widespread throughout Sovereign Grace churches. This is not true. The lawsuit brought against Sovereign Grace in 2012 included accusations of abuse in two churches that had occurred many years earlier. No other Sovereign Grace churches were named in the lawsuit. While a single incident of abuse is grievous, it is simply false to characterize this as widespread within Sovereign Grace churches,


While true that only two Sovereign Grace churches were named in the lawsuit, this does not mean that sexual abuse was restricted to these two churches only. Both Pam Palmer and attorney Bill O’Neil said there were many abuse victims who chose not to come forward. We have documentation that some of them were from other churches besides the two named in the 2nd Amended Complaint.

For example, Brent Detwiler wrote an article titled “Hush Fund Set Up by Top SGM Leaders to Meet the Demands of a SGM Pastor Whose Son Was Sexually Abused. (See here.) I happen to know at which Sovereign Grace Church this abuse occurred. Brent Detwiler did not mention it in his article and I will not name the church either, but it was not one of the two mentioned in the lawsuit.

We also have evidence that Covenant Fellowship Church has covered-up sexual abuse in a recent post on Detwiler’s blog titled “Sarah Kacala Speaks Out Against Covenant Fellowship Church for Trying to Stop Her from Exposing & Prosecuting Sex Abusers.” (See here.)


Having said that, the decisions of Rachael and others to publicly pronounce SGC and its pastors guilty of sexual abuse and conspiracy, on the basis of false allegations and with no direct knowledge of SGC’s history or the facts, have profoundly damaged the reputations and gospel ministries of innocent pastors and churches. The comparisons drawn between SGC and horrific, widespread episodes of abuse—about which the facts are already publicly established – are irresponsible.

I think I will wait and see what Rachael Denhollander has to say in response to this attempted beat down of her. She is a courageous, intelligent woman and a sharp attorney, so I expect she will shred this lame attempt to silence her.

Let me only add that individuals speaking publicly about Sovereign Grace does not damage churches and gospel ministries. The damage was done when your “gospel ministers”  conspired to cover-up abuse.

No investigation can be conducted or evaluated with integrity and good faith by an organization whose leader has already publicly drawn his conclusions and has used his platform to attempt to sway public opinion about the case.

…In addition to various investigations by authorities, one of the two churches that were accused of wrongdoing commissioned an independent investigation of its involvement in these matters.

In the above quoted text the first paragraph is in reference to the reason Sovereign Grace Churches leadership opposes an investigation of their churches by Boz Tchividjian. The second paragraph referring to and “independent investigation” is blown apart by Brent Detwiler in the quote below.

This from Brent Detwiler:

“The Lars Liebeler “independent” investigation of CLC in 2013-2014 was not independent.  How could it be?  Liebeler was hired by the pastors to investigate the pastors while retained as their lawyer.  Because of this arrangement, Liebeler could not put the CLC pastors or church members in legal jeopardy.  He could not report criminal findings.  Such is forbidden under the law governing attorney-client privilege and confidentiality.  Any incriminating evidence had to be withheld from his oral report to CLC in October 2014.

[January 25 update:  I am now told that “The results of the contract [investigation] were to be reported to the CLC leadership…with any public reporting being at CLC leadership’s discretion.”  In other words, the CLC pastors and their lawyers had the final say on what was reported to the church.  That is one reason why the public comments made by Liebeler, Mitchell, Harris, Layman, Boisvert, Maresco, and Megorden were so scripted.] I contacted Mr. Liebeler to discuss this and other matters but he refused to engage me.

So too the CLC pastors on several occasions.  They would not meet with me.

[January 25 update I now know why they would not answer my questions, meet with me or make the contract available.  I would have discovered that what was reported to the church in October 2014 was under the control of the pastors.  That was completely contrary to all their promises that the “independent investigator” would report independently.]”

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