Is SGM/CLC singer Erin Hill Defending PJ Smyth for Money or Principle?

By | May 21, 2018


Erin Hill, are you defending a likely criminal, Pastor PJ Smyth, for money or principle?

Is SGM/CLC singer Erin Hill idolizing and defending Covenant Life Church Pastor PJ Smyth, who is arguably a credibly alleged criminal, for money or principle? Erin Hill is a prominent CLC member who also seems to derive significant income and/or status from both Covenant Life Church and the entity it founded Sovereign Grace Ministries music. The Sovereign Grace YouTube videos in which she is a featured or prominent singer have garnered more than 2 million hits. Here’s one, which has received almost two million hits on its own.

Erin also appears to have had a business relationships with Sovereign Grace Music, the owner of the song above, when it was an integrated auxiliary of Covenant Life Church.

In other words, Erin probably still makes a lot of money singing for Sovereign Grace Music. The last time I checked, Covenant Life Church utilized Sovereign Grace Music, despite having had a fall-out with the leadership of that organization. Covenant Life Church almost certainly gives Erin a high -profile platform for her profitable singing career that she is unlikely to find at a new Church.

If Covenant Life Church Collapses, Erin Hill’s Singing Career May Disappear

Covenant Life Church is on the brink of financial collapse. Pastor PJ Smyth was recently fired and quickly re-hired on the grounds that the church would shut down in a year if he left. Therefore, Erin Hill has a vested interest in defending Pastor PJ Smyth even if he is guilty of covering up child sexual abuse and a homicide.

Erin Hill’s Defense of Disgraced Pastor PJ Smyth: It’s Wrong to Criticize Any Pastor

Pastor PJ Smyth’s Work and Ministry History

(please note, the following section has been edited, for clarity, at 1:00-1:20 PM MST, 05/21/2018)

Please read the following blog post to see details regarding Erin Hill’s defense of  Pastor PJ Smyth, a citizen of Great Britain. Among other things, Ms. Hill appears to suggest that critics of Covenant Life Church should spend their free time doing good works such as healing the sick and raising the dead. PJ Smyth appears to have performed much of his ministry work in Zimbabwe and South Africa, not the United Kingdom, although his background is challenging to verify.  He was recently fired from Covenant Life Church by its church elders and then re-hired within a few days.

To my knowledge, CLC has not released public information about Mr. Smyth’s formal, present employment status with the church. Informal sources say that he is reputedly deciding whether or not to re-engage as its lead pastor. Mr. Smyth has not preached at CLC’s main Sunday service since Mar. 4, 2018, eleven weeks ago. Mr. Smyth’s status in the U.S. appears to be that of a religious leader who has been granted a temporary, religious non-immigrant work visa, which does necessitate working.

Pastor Smyth should probably make a pretense of being employed, in some discernible capacity, even if he is just being paid a large salary to wage a behind the scenes battle with the Americans who fired him. To my knowledge, only American citizens are guaranteed the right to loaf around in the U.S.A. indefinitely.

PJ Smyth’s Likely, Alleged History of Committing Criminal Cover-Ups of Violent Atrocities

In my opinion, he has been very credibly accused of covering up , on behalf of his father, child sexual abuse and a homicide. PJ Smyth’s father was formally charged with committing a homicide in Zimbabwe.

However, Erin Hill doesn’t seem to care about that. I argue that the elocutionary force of her argument is as follows: PJ Smyth may cover up child sexual abuse, and that’s not great. However, publicly criticizing a Christian Pastor is a far greater sin. Nor is Erin Hill merely casually defending her pastor and the church that is enabling her to have a successful music career.

According to a testimony sponsored by Sovereign Grace Ministries (see below), an organization that was founded by Covenant Life Church (CLC), Erin joined CLC in 2008. She is not a new member. A reliable source told me that is a presently a prominent individual at CLC. A blog post comment posted on CLC’s blog, indicates that Erin Hill and her husband led the singing portion at an event which appears to have been supportive of PJ Smyth.

“Erin and Caleb Hill led this song, ‘Surrounded (Fight My Battles)’ last Wednesday night at the prayer meeting. I have been listening to it nonstop for the last 24 hours. We have been in miracle territory and that can be exhausting and refreshing all at the same time. For the spirit of heaviness, put on the garment of praise. This is how we fight our battles.”

Source: Covenant Life Church blog


Erin Hill Testimony from Sovereign Grace Churches on Vimeo.

If Erin Hill is a thoughtful, responsible person, she should start fighting battles for child sexual abuse victims, not pastors who enable pedophilia. She is aware of the evidence proving that Pastor PJ Smyth has lied to the members of Covenant Life Church regarding his role in covering up the violent crimes his father has committed against children for decades.

This story has received international attention. I do not say “alleged crimes” because according to The Telegraph, John Smyth, PJ Smyth’s father, appears to be claiming that sleeping pills caused him to beat and abuse young boys for decades. PJ Smyth has been aware of the allegations against his father for more than 20 years, because he requested a meeting in which he could discuss them with several pastors and a lawyer.

In Summary:

I don’t believe that Erin Hill is a person of integrity, who is indirectly enabling child sexual abuse because she feels that’s the right thing to do. I think her defense of Covenant Life Church and PJ Smyth, who has directly enabled child sexual abuse, is based on money. End of story, as far as I’m concerned.

What follows is background information about Covenant Life Church’s history of covering up child sexual abuse without Pastor PJ Smyth’s help, for those who are unfamiliar with this church’s appalling history of covering up violent crimes.

Background Information About Covenant Life Church

Covenant Life Church’s History of Covering Up Child Sexual Abuse

It’s hard to know how to start cataloging the atrocities that Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has committed against women, children, and other marginalized members of society over the past 30+ years.

I believe that this religious entity, which has been enabling violent crimes including child sexual abuse for decades, will be recorded as being one of the most reprehensible Protestant churches in history. A Google search yields dozens if not hundreds of credible sources, including lawsuit material and criminal convictions, to this effect.

Nor are all the allegations of criminal misconduct and generally awful behavior against CLC decades old, as its members and pastors would lead you to believe.

As late as 2016, I witnessed both a high-employee, Don Nalle, and lay leader, Bo Lotinsky, offer financial help, behind the scenes at a court hearing, to a Covenant Life Church member whom they knew had written a Kindle book about how he was afraid he would molest a female child.

Bo Lotinsky, former CLC Chairman of the Board and Lay Leader

Bo Lotinsky, former CLC Chairman of the Board and Lay Leader


Don Nalle, former communications director of Covenant Life Church

Don Nalle, former communications director of Covenant Life Church

During business hours (it was 10 A.M. on a Friday morning) Mr. Nalle (who was paid by the church for his time) and Mr. Lotinsky met with , and offered to help, charged and indicted CLC member Larry Caffery. This was after Executive Pastor Mark Mitchell (the highest ranking pastor at that time) had published a video, which has now been taken down, in which he condemned Mr. Caffery and claimed that Mr. Caffery was not a danger to children because he was incarcerated. I have a copy of that video, yet am choosing not to publish it at this time. At the time, Mr. Nalle and Mr. Lotinsky met with Mr. Caffery, he was no longer incarcerated.

CLC Pastors have a long history of lying to their members about the cover-up of child sexual abuse and many other things.

In general, a Google search pulls up other stories, some of which are arguably backed up by criminal convictions, indicating that CLC has been using tax-exempt Church funds to harbor a pedophile ring, while slandering child sexual abuse victims.

The End

There is much more that I would like to say, yet I leave readers with the following quote from Erin Hill’s e-mail exchange with Brent Detwiler. I believe that it speakers for itself and that many CLC members share Ms. Hill’s sentiments.

“It is not my job or yours to bring about any consequences. We will give an account to the Lord in the use of our time and talents. I believe you have much to offer that doesn’t involved any more time devoted to these exposés.

Take a break brother, and go do awesome things for the kingdom of God in the name of the Lord. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons. Encourage and build up your own local body. Entrust CLC to the Lord that he is fervently in love with his people and the Shepherd of the shepherds and will bring about perfect judgement and mercy.

And don’t stop praying!



Source: Erin Hill’s Disturbing “Hate” Mail & Bad Theology Illustrates Indifference to Extraordinary Deceit of Lead Pastor P.J. Smyth by Most Covenant Life Members

(edit) Portion of article erased, as it was not relevant to its content.

Final Thoughts:

  1. Please read the comment policy before commenting. 😉 In general, this blog does not publish comments that are merely personal attacks.
  2. Please don’t use a lazy attack line indicating that all critics of Erin Hill, PJ Smyth, and (fill in the blank) are the spawn of Satan. I hear that from many people every day. There are plenty of other blogs on which you can express that sentiment.
  3. Please understand that publishing e-mails is always controversial. However, I have been told that Erin Hill is not bothered by the fact that Brent Detwiler shared her e-mails publicly. If she’s not offended by his decision to do so, I don’t see why anyone else needs to be.
  4. Please know that I do not believe that Matthew 18 necessitated talking to Erin Hill prior to writing this article.  Please see the following explanation regarding what I and many others think is abuse of the Matthew 18 principle.

Thank you. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

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Thanks for the thoughtful replies. Sorry for the delay in responding, and for a lack of clarity. And no problem on the deletion.

The section I was referencing with the link issue was entitled:
Erin Hill’s Defense of Disgraced Pastor PJ Smyth: It’s Wrong to Criticize Any Pastor
The link that follows says “following blog post to see details regarding Erin Hill’s defense of Pastor PJ Smyth” but I don’t see Erin’s name there at all. I think you may have meant to link to Erin’s letters?

Assuming that is the case, I really don’t see how you conclude that Erin thinks it is wrong to criticize any pastor. In her reply to Brent, she challenges Brent to either work for change from inside the local church or at least stop sending “grenades” into another congregation in the form of unsolicited emails linking to his blog. She welcomes his prayers, assures him that she is “all about biblical exposing deeds of darkness as the Lord prompts me,” and that she has “had (her) own personal issues with church authority and have faithfully brought in to the light what I felt called to.”

I do not see anything here about not criticizing any pastor. I see her admitting handling issues with people in authority, and responding according to her conscience.

From these quotes, I also question whether it is fair to set up a Christian litmus test for Erin or anyone else. “If you are a real Christian, you would be giving to stop human trafficking.” “If you were a true believer, you would stand up for x, y or z political issue.” Or even, handle injustice the way I do. Pacifists were beaten in the streets during World War II. We don’t all handle things the same way, even in the face of great evil. But we do not have to turn on each other.

I probably didn’t reply to everything, but I hope I clarified some things. Thanks for this blog and difference it has made. “Thou Art the Man” has made an impact, and been part of bringing honest Christian dialog into the light.


Hi All, I’m embarrassed to admit that I seem to have over-written a comment by submitted by someone named kdeb, while in the process of responding to it. I deeply apologize for this problem, kdeb. At this point, all I can do is re-print its content below:

Please stay with me, kdeb. This article about Erin Hill has been very popular, and you are the only who has raised good questions about it, from a dissenting perspective, in a comment that doesn’t contain any inappropriate language for children. 😉 Thanks. Again, I apologize and here is your comment.

From a factual point of view, I’d like to comment that Erin has an extensive set of local connections in regards to worship ministry, involving many local churches, ministries, small groups and events. There is no issue of “going out of business” without SGM or CLC.
Second, after your section about not criticizing any pastor, I followed the link and I couldn’t even find Erin Hill’s name. I have never heard Erin say anything like this.
I was wondering if you checked up on any of this.
It seems to me that coming to the conclusion that she is a person of no integrity is largely based on the majority of the content of the post, which has to do with other folks, which is followed by your conclusion that she must be awful to attend/participate at CLC. If that is your position it would be honest to make the statement about the entire congregation, don’t you think?
Finally, I’d encourage you to re-read the emails between Erin and Brent, but try this: replace the name “Brent” with “CJ.” I think you will recognize the kind of language we saw for years from SGM coming through loud and clear.



Isn’t the entire CLC enterprise a business? Why else did CLC go halfway around the globe for a pastor? I think the explanation can be gleaned from mere observation. CLC has a large, expensive to operate facility with high overhead, and a hero worship pastor complex which drives high compensation for the A team pastors. For years paying for all of this was possible because sufficient numbers of people were controlled and ensconced in a cult over which Mahaney – a poorly educated manipulative salesman – could keep those members captive and tithing. And the sense of isolation Mahaney inculcated helped things along, because very few had real world reference points to assess the very negative externalities thrown off by the cult. Once CLC lost its sources of cult control (Mahaney and acolytes), the place had to compete in the marketplace of ideas, and well, the evangelical world is as competitive as any private industry. Smyth was sold as the seat and membership filler, no doubt aided by the exotic African background and his moneyed connections in the religion business. But my guess is that he is merely competent (casting aside issues over his father), and competence doesn’t cut it given the CLC overhead, the taint of scandal, and frankly, being located in an area with slightly declining socio-economic factors. Given this, as a non-religious person and outsider, I merely see this recent Smyth imbroglio as just another lackluster CEO hire. And getting rid of him is too expensive, and Smyth knows it. He will likely work to take greater control over the place, because the people who wanted him out will not be able to stay. Hardly unusual in the business world, and not surprised at the turn of events here. No harm meant to those who gain spiritual sustenance from the church (people should be happy), but CLC is a business.


Love the “final thoughts”!

I am just blown away that any CLC music video received 2 million hits after all that has taken place there from the old regime to the new one. What a dark place that covers over evil with the typical platitude Erin told Brent. It seems they believe that if they are wrong, God will burn the place down or something?

God is not in the business of hurling fireballs from heaven at corrupt churches. Were that the case I think there would be a rush to hire more firemen across the country! Instead, He seems to work via ordinary means – what comes to mind is exposing sin, dwindling membership, and financial ruin.

Which reminds me, Covenant Life Church’s monthly budget is $285,000. Last month their giving was $216,393. This is a shortfall in excess of $68,000 for the month. For the year giving is $416,556 below what is budgeted. I’m no accountant, but it seems obvious a church can’t keep it’s doors open for long with a deficit like this.


Todd, I bet the projection models are more sophisticated now but mega churches had formulas for number of people attending (not just members) and projected giving on any given weekend allowing for seasonal changes. It was surprisingly accurate. The result was new programming/marketing strategies to attract more people. A constant cycle.

You are right that they won’t last long at that rate. But I have learned the hard way to never underestimate the Elmer Gantry’s out there. :). I was the brilliant person who predicted, in the late 90’s, megachurches would be gone by 2020. Sigh.