Sovereign Grace is a Pariah-Churches Fleeing Denomination or Changing Their Name

By | November 1, 2019

Happy All Hallows Eve my friends!

Seven years ago news of corruption within the Sovereign Grace denomination began leaking out to the public. In what some have called “American evangelicalism’s biggest sex scandal to date” the public shock and outrage over the sexual abuse of children within the denomination and the attempted coverup by church officials have slowly grown into a crescendo of voices calling for a truly independent investigation.

C.J. Mahaney, the de facto leader of the denomination, along with his band of sycophants, has steadfastly refused to allow a truly independent investigation. The public pressure has become so great that we are now witnessing a large-scale exodus of formerly blindly loyal churches withdrawing from the denomination.

It is my opinion that the denomination is on life support. I cannot see them remaining financially viable for very much longer.

Here is news I saw a few weeks ago attesting to the fact that the beginning of a mass exodus of churches was underway.

A few days ago an individual sent me this information. (I have redacted any identifying information and added the Sovereign Grace logos!) The Texas church that is withdrawing is Grace Church of Frisco, pastored by Craig Cabaniss.

I wouldn’t be “FRICKING PROUD OF MY CHURCH FOR STANDING UP FOR VICTIMS” seven years after the truth was revealed.  While I am glad they are leaving, these churches have been loyal to Mahaney and his sycophants for SEVEN LONG YEARS! These churches have supported statements published by Sovereign Grace which have called victims of sexual abuse liars. They have not spoken out when Brent Detwiler was repeatedly slandered and excommunicated and, in the case of Grace Church of Frisco, they continue to act in a deplorable manner. (More on that below.)


So, yes, I am thankful they are at long-last withdrawing from Sovereign Grace Churches, but in my opinion, they are not worthy of receiving any laudatory exclamations. Craig Cabaniss and his ilk are weak, spineless leaders. They are not men who boldly stand for the truth, rather, they are men who seek the path of financial comfort. They realize that aligning themselves with Sovereign Grace Churches is no longer profitable, and is in fact detrimental in recruiting new donors to their church; so they are now jettisoning Mahaney and crew and will attempt to erase any record of affiliation with the disgusting Sovereign Grace denomination.

Members of Grace Church of Frisco, as well as any other church that is now jumping off the Sovereign Grace “ship of lies”  need to demand their leaders offer a sincere apology to the victims of abuse and to individuals who have boldly proclaimed the truth about Sovereign Grace.

But I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to occur. In a vivid demonstration of “You can take the boy out of Sovereign Grace, but you can’t take Sovereign Grace out of the boy,” let me relate my experience of dealing with Grace Church of Frisco the past two days.

Two days ago I received news that Grace Church of Frisco, TX was withdrawing from the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination. My sources are reliable, but I always attempt to verify my facts. I checked the Sovereign Grace Churches national website and saw the Frisco church was still listed as a member church:


I then went to the Grace Church of Frisco website and under the “About Us” section saw a lengthy description of their connection to the Sovereign Grace denomination. Below is just a partial screenshot.

I then decided my best course of action would be to call the church and directly ask them to simply verify if they had left Sovereign Grace Churches. I placed my first call yesterday. (See my call logs below.)

Receptionist Cheryl Webster answered my call. I identified myself and asked my simple question. She put me on hold and then came back on the line a short time later. She told me my question would have to be answered by a pastor, and the pastor was in a meeting. She said he should be out of the meeting in about an hour and asked for my phone number so the pastor could call me back after his meeting was over.

I was not surprised by Cheryl’s inability/unwillingness to answer my simple question. I have experienced the same treatment when I have spoken with secretaries from  ARBCA churches. The authoritarian pastors in charge generally don’t allow women to answer even the simplest of queries.

So I sat back and waited for a phone call from a clergy member of the Frisco church.

None came.

O.K., fine. The Clergy-class was probably too busy to make a two-minute call to me. And really, what right did I, an individual who had never donated a dime to their fiefdom, have to expect to talk to them?

Never one to give up my search for truth so easily, I called Cheryl, the Deacon of Hospitality, again today. (See phone logs above) She talked kindly to me, as one would expect a Deacon of Hospitality would, and remembered me when I advised her that I had called yesterday and never received that promised return call. She once again put me on hold.

Upon returning to my call Cheryl advised me that she was going to put my call through to Lead Pastor, Craig Cabaniss.  I thought this would be great, I would undoubtedly have my simple question answered by the top clergyman in the Frisco church.

His phone rang.

And rang.

And rang.

My call went to Lead Pastor Craig Cabaniss’ voicemail where I was then advised to leave my name and phone number! What? Surely Deacon Cheryl had just spoken with Clergyman Craig and he was expecting my call to be put through. Why would he not answer me? I hung up, determined to “believe the best” about my friends at Frisco, I figured something must have gone wrong with their phone transfer.

So I called right back, at 10:34 to be precise. (See the logs above.) I was expecting Deacon Cheryl to answer and patch me right through to Clergyman Craig. Deacon Cheryl’s phone rang five or six times and then went to voicemail! I couldn’t believe it! These people were attempting to avoid my simple question by gaming me! I left a short, curt message stating I was just looking for a simple answer on whether or not their church was withdrawing from Sovereign Grace. I left my number once again and asked them to call me back.

If you once again examine the logs above you will see that I waited 34 minutes and, receiving no return call, I once again called Deacon of Hospitality, Cheryl. The phone rang five or six times and again went to voicemail. This time I was upset and said that the way I was being treated was despicable, much more the way I would expect to be treated from a Sovereign Grace Church than a church that was leaving the denomination. I stated that judging by the fact that they did not answer my simple question by stating no, they had not left the denomination I surmised that they in fact were leaving.  I said I hoped they would learn how to treat people better and then bid Cheryl goodbye.

Then it really got interesting.

Thirty-five minutes after my last phone call Cheryl called me back. I answered.



Helloooo Grace Church!

Nothing. Silence. Then she hung up.

One-minute later Cheryl called me again. I answered.



Hello, Deacon of Hospitality Cheryl!

Nothing. Silence once again. I set the phone down and about 10 seconds later Cheryl hung up.

This was unbelievable treatment. I can only guess as to what Deacon Cheryl and Clergyman Craig were thinking by calling me and refusing to speak. My guess? They realized how ridiculous their little game of not answering my call would look to the world when I blogged about it, so they attempted to create a paper trail which would allow them to say that they returned my call but I didn’t answer, or they returned my call but obviously were encountering technical difficulties with their phones.

The bottom line is there is really no excuse for the treatment I received from these classless individuals. It speaks volumes about what type of church they are running. And speaking of running, if I were a member I would run from that place as fast as I could. It is clear to me that merely withdrawing from Sovereign Grace Churches is not going to solve their problems.

Why did they refuse to answer my simple question? If they did not want to answer they could have stated that “at this time they did not care to answer.” Fair enough. Or they could have admitted that they were withdrawing, but would I please hold off publishing that until they had time to formally withdraw and advise their church members? I have honored requests like that from churches in ARBCA.  Instead, they played some immature and inexplicable game with me.

Wow. The more I find out about Sovereign Grace Churches the more I wonder how they have stayed in business this long. And yes, it is a business, which is one of their problems.

Moving on…

I was also told today that Covenant Community Church of Philadelphia, pastored by Ian McConnell is withdrawing from the Sovereign Grace denomination. I called their church during business hours and was funneled to a recording, which appears the way they handle all their calls. The voice told me they monitor all their voicemail calls during business hours and asked me to leave my name, number and reason for the call and they would return my call.

I really do not expect a return call, but to be fair, I am in the Pacific time zone and they are in the Eastern time zone, so they may have already clocked out for the day when I called. I am not going to expend any more energy attempting to get in contact with them. I trust my source.

McConnell quitting the Sovereign Grace denomination would be quite a powerful statement. He is highly respected in the denomination. I would say he is more influential than Cabaniss. As you can see below, he participated with denominational vice-president Mark Prater (I call him that because he really is the number two man, behind de-facto leader C.J. Mahaney.) in breakouts at the T4G conference in years past. I imagine they had people flocking to their breakout – I mean, who wouldn’t want to join a denomination infamous for covering up the abuse of children?

Additionally, I have heard that Rick Gamache’s church in Minneapolis is bleeding members so badly that they may soon be financially unable to continue. No surprise there. Detwiler has written about the poor treatment one family received at the hands of Gamache in an article titled, “Sovereign Grace Pastors Crack Down on Godly Dissent of Members Asking for an Investigation & Expressing Concern Over Response to Rachael Denhollander.”

I was also told that Emmaus Road Church in Sioux Falls, SD will be withdrawing from Sovereign Grace Churches.

Sovereign Grace Churches will be having their annual Pastor’s Conference next week. I would guess it could be quite contentious, with many more churches withdrawing after the conference ends.

Now for some Sovereign Grace news close to me.

Rich Richardson, Senior Pastor of the Sovereign Grace Gilbert church announced that they will soon be changing the name of their church. Seems that seekers today just don’t know what “sovereign” means. Plus, it is so darned hard to spell. So Rich will be changing the name to “Center Church.”

Makes sense to me. Center is a simple word to spell and it’s easy to understand, plus it’s only two syllables long rather than three, so it will flow off your tongue. I am sure that for these reasons, once the name changed is affected, seeker-types will flock to the church.

Rich stated in the video that one could email their church if they desired a longer explanation of the name change, so I have done that. If I am deemed worthy of receiving a response I will post it on my blog.

Unstated, but undoubtedly closer to the truth, is the reason for the name change is to keep seekers who research a potential church home by Googling “Sovereign Grace Church” from finding out about the sexual abuse scandal plaguing the denomination.

In my opinion, if Rich were to place ethics above monetary comfort, he would have pulled his church out of the Sovereign Grace denomination in 2013 when denominational leaders cobbled together their illegal hush fund.

This plan was established in order to keep a pastor whose son had been repeatedly sodomized by another pastor’s son from joining the class action lawsuit against Sovereign Grace. You can read about it here.  Or ask Rich about it. Oh yeah, he knows all the sordid details, but he may not want to tell you about the case. It’s not good to “sinfully crave answers,” don’t you know! Pastor Rich just has your best interests at heart.

Yes, Sovereign Grace is getting too well known in the Phoenix valley, making it increasingly more difficult to attract giving-units to your church.  Grace Church, a church plant from Rich’s Sovereign Grace church grew tired of the questions from visitors, the refusal of denominational leaders to call for an independent investigation and their ridiculous Book of Church Order, so they withdrew from the denomination in January. You can read their letter to the public here.

Three pastors from Rich’s church recently left to start Anchor Church of Gilbert. The new church is unaffiliated with Sovereign Grace and is meeting only ten miles from the Sovereign Grace of Gilbert church. Of course, they parted saying nice things about each other, but there are very few pastors in either Sovereign Grace or ARBCA who, in my experience, have the backbone to speak truthfully about their reasons for leaving.

Another church that is changing their name is Sovereign Grace Church of Marlton, NJ. Senior Pastor Warren Boettcher was a big dog in the denomination, but he has recently resigned his national position. The reason given is he wants to spend more time at his church. Word on the street is his church has lost a lot of members and is in dire straits financially.


Boettcher, like Sovereign Grace loyalist Rich Richardson, is also changing his church name. Perhaps he has the same reasons for the change as Rich – you know, “Sovereign” is hard to spell and people don’t know what it means! So Boettcher is changing the name to SGC. Now even a three-year-old should be able to spell the church name!

Since giving is way down, it looks like Boettcher couldn’t afford to change the stone encased Sovereign Grace sign, so he slapped up a couple of cloth banners. Nice touch. It looks like you could pull the signs up, place them on some sawhorses and you would have two trampolines to use at youth group. Now that is effective utilization of your resources!

SGC members should ask Pastor Boettcher about the illegal hush fund from 2013. Just like Rich Richardson, Boettcher also knows all about it!


So there you have it. You now know what I know about the continuing demise of Sovereign Grace Churches. I can only conclude that the denomination is listing heavily to port and if they manage to stay afloat they will be so small as to be totally insignificant.

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Humbled Daily

This is confirmation re: Ian McConnell

Humbled Daily

Been waiting to hear if the Council of Elders voted on the investigation issue. Any news on that would be welcome.

@markkprater has been posting on Twitter. Here is his latest about Rick Gamache’s message.

And here’s another tween about the panel discussion led by Mickey Connolly (including Mahaney, Purswell, Mellinger, Payne)

Headless Unicorn Guy

Any news or reaction from His Humbleness the Head Apostle?

Headless Unicorn Guy

Another church that is changing their name is Sovereign Grace Church of Marlton, NJ.

The pic of that church…
One look and I thought “First Church of McMansion Hell”.

Humbled Daily

Sovereign Grace Church of Burnsville, MN (Pastors Rick Gamache, Jon Hansel, Ben Maurer) just changed its name to Cornerstone Community Church. Rick is the Regional Leader for the Northwest area (USA) of Sovereign Grace Churches, and is speaking at the SGC Pastor’s Conference this week.

Thanks for the information.

Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

[…] ■ …and while a number of HBC churches have jettisoned the name, the same is happening with former Sovereign Grace Ministires churches. […]

[…] Wilhelm posted Sovereign Grace is a Pariah-Churches Fleeing Denomination or Changing Their Name Todd found the following comment at SGM […]

Mr. Jesperson

No surprise that men who have chosen, of their own free will, to join the biblical Brood of Vipers club, would play games and dodge the simplest questions. Narcissists will kiss up to each other if they think they can get some selfish benefit out of it. If not, they are likely to go on the warpath with each other. Their actions betray them as they do not line up with their words. They can turn on old friends on a second, if doing it is to their clear advantage and not doing so would cost them money and cost them in their fake public image campaigns. Some of these sons of the Devil who claim to be pastors when they are not will publicly split ways with an institution that being a part of is no longer to their self-advantage and claim to now possess the higher morale ground.

You are correct that men of true character would do the right thing from the beginning and not wait until the ships image is listing so heavily for them to jump ship. Jesus Church has never been a human institution and never will be. If only the people attending these institutions would wise up and see this. We do not go to a church, ever. We either are The Church or we are just pretenders joining a social club. Jesus will not ask us what church institution we joined but will ask us if we personally know Him on that final judgment day. We had better know Him here so we are not stuck with our hands in our pockets on that day…


I certainly hope that the churches that are finally leaving are doing so because they have actually examined the evidence. However, the facts seem to point to any leaving now are just jumping off of a sinking ship. I suspect they know what is coming.

The irony is that pastors often (always?) accuse bloggers of being ungodly by not attempting to reach them directly to ascertain facts.

We almost always do. I generaly only refrain from contacting people directly if I suspect they will accuse me of harrassment for doing so, because they have already said disparaging things about me personally or this blog.

I haven’t had an experience this bad, yet have never heard back from the pastors or other interested parties that I wrote to directly in trying to ascertain basic information such as whether the church is still part of Sovereign Grace. In some cases, I even went to the trouble and cost of mailing correspondence by certified mail with a return receipt. Someone at the church (a woman usually) always signed for it, yet I never got a response despite using this indisputedly serious and polite way of contacting pastors.

Todd and I also cannot write off that kind of cost for doing informal advocacy work. From a tax perspective, this blog is a labor of love for both of us.

By contrast, the idea of talking to Todd on the phone was likely so stressful that the pastor in question may have to ask his church for a paid sabbatical to recover. If so, that questionable use of tax exempt funds will likely be granted without question by the elders in his pocket.

I’m just glad that no one, male or female, was on the Titanic with any of these supposedly Godly, complementarian Sovereign Grace pastors.

“Pastors first, that’s the rule of the sea!”

In my many years of interacting with Sovereign Grace pastors, they’ve seldom failed to make women do their dirty work.

And this was no exception.

“Let me hide under my desk and make a women answer a call from the dreaded Todd Wilhelm.”

Who just wanted to know if the church was still part of Sovereign Grace.

Why does anyone want to pay the salary of a pastor behaving this way?

Janna L. Chan (blog team member)


Good points Jana Chan. Todd did seek to get confirmation and the leadership evaded him.

Maybe they are wanting to keep their departure secret until they announce it on Sunday? I am sure when they issue a statement it will be evasive on why they are leaving.

Thanks, Steve. I think that the relevant parties could have politely stated that they would not or did not want to answer Todd’s simple question.

Instead they played Mickey Mouse games with voicemail.

In my view, Sovereign Grace pastors have a long history of falsely claiming that their perceived critics cravenly refuse to contact them directly.

I think we all know who the real cowards are.

Good luck to this pastor tomorrow. This article is getting a lot of hits, so he may have some explaining to do.

Did Pastor Complementarian need to use a woman as a metaphorical shield against the “evil blogger” Todd Wilhelm, who was just politely asking a basic question about a fact?

Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Headless Unicorn Guy

The old “all the rats leaving the sinking ship”?

(Which if you’ve actually known someone with pet rats, is kinda insulting to the ratties…)


Much like rats I would surmise


The pastors in the churches that are leaving must be panicked. Negative PR, declining enrollments, and a sinking feeling that the 9 month Pastors College certificate is worthless outside of the cult. Query what will happen to the pastor athlete’s operations in Louisville. That entity must enjoy generous subsidies from the Sovereign Grace network, and those subsidies will likely precipitously shrink. Although long, long overdue, it strikes me the beginning of the end was Mohler’s disassociation with Sovereign Grace. This church will never recover, name changes or not.