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)

20 thoughts on “Is SGM/CLC singer Erin Hill Defending PJ Smyth for Money or Principle?

  1. kdeb

    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.

    1. JLC Post author

      Thanks, kdeb. I will check on the link in question, per your comments. I’m sorry, in advance, if I did link to the wrong source.

      I appreciate your feedback. At this point, we may just have different perspectives about some of the issues I brought up in this article.

      That’s part of a healthy dialogue, and I really do appreciate your feedback.

      I will just reiterate one more time that Erin Hill has every right to ignore this article. However, should she engage, I will post her thoughts in the article itself, not just the comments section.

      Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

    2. JLC Post author

      Yep, I fixed the link I screwed up, kdeb. That is embarrassing. My apologies to Erin Hill, as well. I know that this article probably seems convoluted to many people despite my efforts to make it less so. I also agree that it addresses a lot of themes that don’t primarily pertain to Erin Hill, even though I believe she should be held publicly accountable for her decision to promote PJ Smyth despite the fact that she should know about his long, documented history of covering up his father’s abuse of children.

      Further, I was emotional when I wrote it. I do interact a lot with sexual abuse victims that CLC has helped create. Therefore, its decision to enable pedophilia is not an abstract issue to me. However, I regret forming conclusions about Erin Hill’s integrity, regarding PJ Smyth, without giving her a chance to respond to the factual information I presented. My apologies again, Mrs. Hill.

      Rather than try to addresses all the questions and criticisms I’ve received regarding this post in the comments section, I’ll write a follow-up article that is less focused on Erin Hill and more focused on Covenant Life Church’s/P.J.’s Smyth’s history of covering up the abuse the children.

      Thanks again, kdeb. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

  2. kdeb

    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.


    1. JLC Post author

      Hi All,

      This is my original comment, which I put in kdeb’s comment by accident.

      For 7 years, I’ve been informally advocating for child sexual abuse victims that Covenant Life Church has and almost certainly is still creating because it’s been harboring a pedophile ring for decades. Evidence given in criminal trials and in a lawsuit that CLC asked be dismissed, in part, because it argued that the fist amendment gives clergy the right to cover up child sexual abuse, has proven this.That’s right, CLC says that the constitution gives pastors the right to cover up child sexual abuse.

      My efforts have included, among other things, going to court houses to attend hearings and finding primary source documents, at the relevant court houses. I also know several of the victims very well personally.

      Also, Erin Hill is welcome to contact me if she feels that I’ve written inaccurate things about her integrity and business. If she wishes to post a rebuttal, I will print it in the article itself, not just the comments section.

      Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

    2. JLC Post author

      Hi kdeb:

      Please bear with me today. It looks like I’ll need to answer your excellent questions a little bit at a time.

      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.

      Thanks, Kdeb. Can you tell me which link you’re referring to? I linked to many documents in this article, because it’s just an opinion piece in which I have referenced what I consider to be facts. By contrast, the material I’ve linked to, extensively, contains excellent primary and secondary sources, that indisputably contain evidence proving that P.J. Smyth has been covering up child physical and sexual abuse, on behalf of this father, for more than 20 years, in my opinion. P.J. also lied to members of Covenant Life Church about his role in covering up crimes on behalf of his father. I don’t use the word “alleged” because John Smyth, P.J. Smyth’s father, has publicly blamed his abuse of children on sleeping pills.

      Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

    3. JLC Post author

      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?

      I don’t understand the first part of your statement, kdeb, regarding the post being about other folks. With respect, did you read my article very carefully? Did you follow any of the links I cited regarding evidence that P.J. Smyth has covered up child sexual abuse for decades? Erin Hill isn’t a pedophile, to my knowledge. However, there’s no question to me, based on facts, that she’s enabling pedophilia at Covenant Life Church because she has no integrity or she’s propping up her business interests. The entirety of my article explains that perspective.

      If that is your position it would be honest to make the statement about the entire congregation, don’t you think?

      I do think so, which is why I have been saying, for many years, that people at Covenant Life Church are monsters for propping up an entity that not only harbors a pedophile ring, but covers up other crimes such as wife-beating and financial improprieties.

      The next logical question would be, “why did I single out Erin Hill in this post.” I was told that Erin Hill is a very influential member of Covenant Life Church, whose pro-PJ sing-along inspired many people to support P.J. Smyth. She’s not just a quiet, naive woman singing in the back of the choir, in other words. When I did research about her business endeavors, what came up was Erin Hill’s extensive ties to Sovereign Grace Music and Bob Kauflin, the music director of Sovereign Grace Ministries, now called Sovereign Grace Churches. I didn’t see any mention of her work with smaller groups, which doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It just indicates that those business ties are less significant than Mrs. Hill’s affiliations with CLC and SGM/SGC.

      Are Mrs. Hill’s ties to smaller, local churches enabling her to be the lead singer in a YouTube video that has garnered almost 2 million hits?

      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.

      That’s not a fact, it’s a completely unsubstantiated opinion. Because you are commenting anonymously kdeb, I don’t know much about about you, and that’s fine. I will note, since you seem to be supportive of Covenant Life Church, that, in my experience, most people loyal to CLC seem to have much trouble differentiating between opinions and facts. In particular, members of CLC seem to consider anything their pastors or prominent lay leaders, like Erin Hill, say, to be facts. I think that’s an integrity issue.

      Also, the question isn’t whether or not Erin Hill will starve if Covenant Life Church dissolves, in my view. Rather, it’s “does Erin Hill make enough money through her CLC and SGM connections to give her a motive to prop up a PJ Smyth, a pastor who has covered up child sexual abuse for more than 20 years, based on the factual information I have linked to in my article?”

      That being said, I encourage others to do their own research regarding Erin Hill’s business ties to Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries. I found much other public information about Erin Hill’s business ties to these organizations that I did not include in the article, because it was already quite long. 😉

      No need to listen to me or kdeb, folks. Please do your own research. Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

      Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

  3. JLC Post author

    Hi All,

    I just trashed a comment from someone, likely from CLC, (it’s hard to know when you get anonymous hate mail) reading me the riot act for publishing “bu—t) about Erin because I don’t know her personally.

    At least this person didn’t call me the spawn of Satan for critizing anything pertaining to Covenant Life Church..

    I can’t argue with garbage thinking, and this blog doesn’t print comments that are not backed up by intelligent reasoning or credible sources.

    However, unlike the pastors of Covenant Life Church, the person (Todd Wilhelm) who owns this blog isn’t afraid to print critical comments.

    By all means, if there really are factual errors in this article, please let know.

    BTW, I’m sure that Erin Hill is a lovely person and a great business woman. I just can’t condone her decision to indirectly enable child sexual abuse at Covenant Life Church. I believe that people have a right to know that Ms. Hill may have an ulterior motive for defending PJ Smyth.

    Also, I have not spent time at Covenant Life Church. I have spent a great deal of time with the sexual abuse victims that Covenant Life Church has created and likely is still creating, because it almost certainly still harbors a pedophile ring.

    Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

  4. Rogermortimer

    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.

    1. JLC Post author

      Thanks, I agree with everything you’ve said. CLC has been a for-profit entity pretending to be non-profit church for decades, in my view.

      My point regarding Erin Hill is that even people claiming to gain spiritual sustenance from this Church/business may have hidden ulterior motives for defending it.

      Precisely because the entity is primarily a business.

      I would only add that Covenant Life had to scrape the bottom of the international pastor bucket, because no reputable U.S. pastor wanted anything to do with a church famous for having multiple child sexual abuse scandals.

      Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

      1. rogermortimer

        Yes, CLC, Erin Hill is likely akin to a large shareholder and corporate officer with limited prospects outside the “company”. I am not sure that is so bothersome because it is common but rationalizing it all as a spiritual exercise is both hypocritical and delusional.

        One area where CLC has not acted like a business is in the realm of protecting sex abusers. Public companies don’t often do that, (although they commit a multitude of other sins). It is fascinating to wonder why immediate parallels are not drawn between CLC and the Weinstein movie enterprise (not a private company for the most part). The behavior is remarkably the same, even to the point of cult-like behavior driving the negative outcomes.

        1. JLC Post author

          Thanks, Roger. For 7 years I’ve had nightmares, because I know that a major pedophile ring is operating at CLC, and there’s nothing I can directly do to protect children in my community from this menace.

          I have interacted extensively with several child sexual abuse victims of CLC, some of whose stories are backed up by criminal convictions.

          In that sense, this topic is more than a business case analysis to me. I understand why you may not feel the same way.

          Once Covenant Life Church runs out of funds and closes its doors, other frightened victims will come forward.

          This awful entity, that I believe Erin Hill and others support for business purposes, won’t be around to slander and intimidate them.

          Also, there’s much to the CLC sexual abuse story. You may not be aware that at least two major former CLC Pastors have been credibly accused of engaging in child sexual abuse. Not enabling abuse, as they all do. I mean actually molesting one or more children themselves.

          These pedophile pastors were just protecting their pedophile buddies, in my view. Some social groups play golf. Others read books. A few help their friends groom and molest children.

          I’m a little confused about your belief that public companies don’t protect serial sexual predators.

          I feel like I can’t pass a news stand without seeing an expose about how a Fortune 500 company has been covering up sexual harassment,committed by its executives, for a long time.

          The #MeToo movement is great, but may be creating a false sense of rapid progress.

          As a woman who has worked in corporate America, I will say the following:

          The circumstances don’t matter. If you file a sexual harassment suit against a major public company, you will forever be labeled as a trouble maker.

          If you say nothing, the company will probably pay you off in some way.

          I don’t see this trade-off changing any time soon.


          Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

          1. JLC Post author

            Btw, Roger, I appreciate your thoughtful comments and hope you’ll keep promoting intelligent dialogue on this blog. That applies to everyone; I’m just saying it to you, in particular, because you appear to be new to this site. The perspective of someone who is not emotionally invested in Covenant Life Church can be very helpful. I just had to mention why I am so passionate about the subject.

            On this post, Todd and I haven’t had the opportunity to show that we really will approve reasonable, critical comments. Often I approve an initial comment that does not meet the standards of this blog’s comment policy, because it isn’t based on intelligent reasoning or good sources. I merely issue a “one-strike” warning to the new commenter by saying something like, “claiming that everyone who reads this blog is being manipulated by Satan,” is a logical fallacy unless you can back that statement up with intelligent reasoning or a credible source. Rumor has it that the devil maintains offices in Hell and Los Angeles. 😉

            I’m aware that most people, including me, often don’t read comment policies before they submit comments. Policies are boring. 😉 Todd often gives new commenters a one-time pass, too, for this reason.

            The one truly dissenting comment this article has garnered was raw hate mail directed at me personally. It also contained a little inappropriate language, which I would have had to edit out, as this is a family friendly blog to the degree that it can be so while advocating against child sexual abuse. Editing comments becomes an integrity issue, very quickly, in my opinion. Thus, unfortunately, I didn’t feel I could print the one indisputably critical comment this article has received to date.

            Anyone can also e-mail me. I can’t guarantee that e-mails will remain confidential. In the U.S., e-mails can only be legally confidential under narrow circumstances such as formal “attorney-client” or “doctor-patient” relationships. Otherwise, they can be subpoenaed by lawyers for almost any reason.

            However, if friends of Erin Hill just want to let me have it for criticizing her strongly, I almost certainly won’t print that type of correspondence unless there’s a safety issue, as in someone is threatening to harm me physically. I wish I didn’t have to be hard on Erin Hill. However, I have to speak out as a Christian and an adult human being, as I believe that she is an influential member of Covenant Life Church who’s actions in saying that what goes on at CLC is none of the public’s business (please see her correspondence with Brent Detwiler regarding this manner), are keeping a pedophile ring alive.

            I can dish it out, but I can take it too, folks.

            Thanks all. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

          2. Rogermortimer

            Thanks for your kind words. I am not religious, but am very aware of CLC and Sovereign Grace through a close friend of 25 years who I think has suffered through this totalitarian cult. All the more disappointing to me is that he is brilliant and educated – considerably more than any of the pastors who have led the two intertwined institutions. He acquiesces to authority unwittingly. Now, this problem is a mere trifle compared to permitting, aiding or abetting, or in some cases, actually committing child abuse, but it reflects the destructive impact that this cult can bring about.

            By the way, although not religious (I actually envy a bit those who can be spiritual as it is not in me), I respect people of faith, and am happy if their faith makes them happy. But we can’t let attestations of faith get in the way of discussing horrible or bad ideas, one of which is of course even thinking for a moment that any kind of abuse should be handled by anyone other than law enforcement and other pertinent administrative agencies. Waging intellectual war on bad ideas should valued highly, as bad ideas have terrible consequences, as any reasonable student of history knows. And the notion that vigorously discussing bad ideas is somehow Satan’s work is laughable. My guess is guys like Mickey Connolly isolate themselves so they don’t have to encounter people who would vigorously call him out on bad ideas.

            A point of clarity – sexual harassment occurs all too frequently – I agree with that – although the #metoo movement has and will bring about change. However, as terrible and unjust as sexual harassment of adults in the workplace is, I know of no public companies, save perhaps for a few Hollywood businesses, that countenance or aid and abet sexual abuse of children. In this sense your point about CLC being particularly toxic is indeed apposite. Or put another way, as difficult as it is to be a plaintiff in a workplace sexual harassment suit (finding an effective plaintiff’s lawyer is very difficult, above and beyond the turmoil involved), the affected children are far more powerless than adult plaintiffs. That was my point. As I say, bad ideas need to be called out, and fostering child abuse is the mother lode of bad ideas.

            We all have biases. My biases against Mahaney are immense. He was raised in a decent home. I was raised in a single mother home where there was substance abuse. He barely finished high school. I went to one of the top 10 universities in the country (despite being on of the poorest kids on campus.). He calls himself a pastor athlete. He played sandlot baseball. I went to college on a NCAA Division 1 scholarship, and competed at a top national level, and heck, I don’t even think to call myself an athlete any more. He used drugs. I couldn’t even think of it because of athletics and the scholarship. It is perverse and phony that he thinks of his drug use as a source of pride. He has no real formal education, and reflects a narrow grasp of theology. His fixation on the cross is convenient because he doesn’t have the depth to explicate on other theological or doctrinal matters. He is a unsophisticated salesman. I went to one of the best graduate schools in the country, and did so because I wanted the analytic framework to grow and develop. And he is a misogynist. I have two Ivy League educated daughters who would eat his lunch, every which way. And he conflates berating people about sin with true mental toughness – a concept in which the truly mentally tough don’t talk about – they just do it. And I could go on. None of this makes me in any way superior to Mahaney – I certainly have my faults, too, but for the life of me I can’t imagine why anyone would end up following Mahaney or SGM for anything other than a transitory period.

            PS – I like your work

          3. JLC Post author

            Thanks for the great comment, Roger. I’m usually just a tech person who likes to comment on articles. Todd Wilhelm deserves all the credit regarding the general quality of this blog. I will respond at length later.

            Your point about there being a difference between aiding and abetting child sexual abuse vs. adult sexual abuse is well made. I will quickly say one thing that I can’t follow-up about very much. I know someone who was molested, as a child, at a hotel affiliated with Disneyland. Disney’s immediate response was getting its legal department to offer her/his parents a lot of money to keep quiet about the incident. I doubt that was the first time Disney prioritized profits over protecting children.

            I’m sure you’ll understand why I can’t go into further detail about the situation I just described. However, I will say the following: CLC and all SGM Churches marketed themselves as being family friendly. CJ Mahaney even referred to Covenant Life Church as “the happiest place on earth” in at least one of his sermons. Like Disney executives, CLC and SGM leaders knew that they would be in trouble if the public thought that child molesters were looking for victims on their turfs.

            Self-preservation is the instinct of all public companies, in my experience. Perhaps the only reason that so few of them cover up child sexual abuse is that their business models do not necessitate convincing the public that children are safe on their premises.

            SGM and CLC leaders don’t know how manage or forestall public relations crises. How many child molesters are running around Disneyland with impunity, because Disney is able and willing to buy people off?

            Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

  5. Lydia

    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?

    1. 2samuel127

      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.

      1. Lydia

        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.

        1. JLC Post author

          You are a brilliant, Lydia. Mega-churches aren’t gone and may never completely disappear. The sad fact is that many people seek easy answers from the Elmer Gantry’s of the world. However, mega-churches seem more scandal-ridden than ever before. The internet has not been kind to their business model, and they are money pits. Churches must operate like businesses when it costs $600,000/month to maintain them. A reliable source told me that’s what Covenant Life Church’s bill was when the church was in its heyday.

          They might not have so egregiously covered up many crimes if there hadn’t been so much at stake financially. Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

    2. JLC Post author

      Thanks, Lydia. Sovereign Grace Ministries’ (SGM) music business has declined over the years, but is still a substantive form of revenue for the organization according to its recent financial statements. Erin Hill seems to be in much current SGM videos on YouTube. Several of the songs in which she appears to be a featured singer have garnered more than 20,000 hits.

      I could be wrong, yet do believe that CLC provides a platform through which Erin Hill can make popular songs for which she likely receives some revenue. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      I’m merely making the point that some of PJ Smyth’s biggest fans may have a financial interest in keeping Covenant Life Church from collapsing no matter awful its pastors are. Former members have told me that many people use CLC for business networking purposes. That makes sense.

      At this point, I’m not sure what PJ Smyth and the other CLC pastors would have to do to prove that they’re not fit for ministry. Start practicing human sacrifice on the front lawn of the church perhaps?

      Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)


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