Earlier today I was asked if I was aware of the legal issues surrounding CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries and Al Mohler, Mark Dever and Danny Aiken and other’s continued support of Mahaney. I said I was familiar with what was going on. I began an article and then decided to delete it until I came across the following tweet from Al Mohler, late this afternoon: “@albertmohler 34m Here is the statement from @LigonDuncan and @MarkDever and me for Together for the Gospel. @T4GOnline Click Here. “ I had of course already seen this statement earlier today.
The first article I found was interesting. Titled: “Mohler, Dever, Duncan, Carson, Taylor, DeYoung, Aiken Support of C.J. Mahaney” written by Joel Taylor. Taylor compared the stand that these men have taken to Tammy Wynette’s hit song, “Stand By Your Man.” His comments can be seen by clicking here.
What was initially very interesting was the fact that the reference Taylor made to Mohler and Dever’s statement was removed from the facebook page of Together For the Gospel. It was apparently moved from their facebook page to their web site.
I want to speak to a couple comments in the joint statement. First of all, the statement recognizes a Maryland courts dismissal of a civil suit against Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries. Note the following statement,
“Often, such claims are even beyond the ability of a court to deliberate. To comment on such claims is irresponsible, since no one apart from the court and the parties directly involved has any ability to evaluate the claims presented. If the filing of civil litigation against a Christian ministry or leader is in itself reason for separation and a rush to judgment, no ministry or minister is safe from destruction at any time. Furthermore, the effort to try such a case in the court of public opinion prior to any decision rendered by an authorized court is likewise irresponsible.”
It is true that no one is exempt from civil filings and is no reason for anyone to rush to judgment. For that matter, no one is exempt from legal filings either, for the most part. So perhaps Mohler and company are justified. The joint statement acknowledges the men’s ongoing appreciate for and support of Mahaney. Fine. The joint statement goes on to say, “Our hearts must go out to anyone, and especially to any child, who suffers abuse at the hand of anyone. In such a case the legal authorities must use the full power of the law to investigate and to prosecute any perpetrator of such crimes.”
Here is a statement I have a serious problem with.
“If a Christian leader is accused of any wrongdoing, those to whom he is accountable must investigate the charges and then deal responsibly with the evidence. If a criminal accusation is made, Christians have a fundamental duty to inform law enforcement officials. This does not, however, preclude or mitigate the church’s responsibility for biblical church discipline.
A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry. No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney. Instead, he was charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.”
In a letter sent to 77 national religious leaders, many of whom are Southern Baptist, Brent Detwiler one of four original founders of Sovereign Grace Ministries sent an appeal detailing specifics asking these leaders to refrain using Mahaney until the mess he was embroiled in could be resolved.
Listen to the words of Detwiler,
“Gentlemen, I’ve worked with C.J. since I graduated from seminary in 1979. I wrote the Statement of Faith, founded the Pastors College, oversaw 23 churches in the southeastern United States, directed our outreaches in Asia and the Caribbean, served on the Board of Directors for 25 years, and was one of four men who started Sovereign Grace Ministries in 1982. I say none of this to impress you, only to establish some credibility with you.
In 2007, I stepped down from the Board of Directors largely due to my loss of trust in C.J. In 2009, I left SGM because of the pride, deceit, hypocrisy, and heavy handedness that characterized the leadership culture. It became unconscionable. I could not stay.
I am not a lone wolf in my assessment. Over the last seven months, the majority of C.J.’s closest friends and colleagues have severed ties with Sovereign Grace Ministries for the same reasons. The entire ministry is convulsing and the problems are only worsening. More and more pastors and churches will be leaving in the coming months.
None of this pleases me. It breaks my heart. I was C.J.’s closest friend and co-worker in Sovereign Grace Ministries for over two decades. No one loved, served, honored or encouraged him more. There were many ways in which I benefitted from C.J.’s friendship and ministry. I remain grateful for him. I was also the individual most responsible for the care of his soul.
I conclude with these thoughts for your consideration. It is understandable that C.J. has become a celebrity in the Reformed world given his wit and wisdom. But these are not the things that qualify a man for ministry. Sovereign Grace Ministries now faces a situation where its President (C.J.), Chairman of Board (John Loftness) and Pastor over the Pastors College (Gary Ricucci) are at the center of a class action lawsuit that alleges atrocities of the worse kind were covered up for reputational and financial concerns. Furthermore, Dave Harvey, who was Director of Church Planting and Church Care, was recently asked to step down from all his SGM responsibilities by his local pastors.
Given all these developments, C.J. should not be a Council Member on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or The Gospel Coalition. Nor should he be speaking in seminaries or at conferences around the nation and world. Those that know him best, know he is in need of private repentance and public confession.”
Of the 77 national leaders who received this letter, note the following names: Danny Aiken, Al Mohler, Paige Patterson , Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Matt Chandler, Russell Moore, David Platt, Thomas R. Schreiner, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung and Ed Stetzer. Detwiler’s article can be read in its entirety by clicking here. You can read his follow-up letter in April by
Here is the statement that I am wondering about. “A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry. No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney. Instead, he was charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.”
A couple of things are crystal clear. Drs. Mohler, Dever and Ligon admit that they were aware of the civil charges that were dismissed not because of a lack of evidence but because of a technicality dealing with a statute of limitations. They received or should have received Brent Detwiler’s detailed statements that were by the way followed up on in April and they are unquestionably aware of the continued criminal investigations that are currently ongoing. What do these men consider a credible “accusation of direct wrongdoing” against Mahaney? Mahaney spoke as recently as February at Southeastern Seminary and then at the Gospel Coalition’s Pastors Conference in Orlando in April. This is simply inexcusable.
Is it possible that Joel Taylor’s charge that these men are indeed determined to “Stand By Our Man”?
Consider this in light of recent trustee decisions of Louisiana College and Campbellsville University to not renew contracts for professors because of what has come to be their association with Calvinism. The barrage of criticism was certainly brutal and in the case of Louisiana College and the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, Dr. David Hankins, may still be. While little was said officially from SBC Calvinist leaders in the Louisiana College situation, much more was said about the Campbellsville University situation, primarily because it was in the backyard of the Calvinist mecca, Louisville. Patrick Schreiner, a PhD student at Southern chimed in on the conversation, stating something the university itself had not released, that Williams’ contract was not being renewed because of his theology, which is Calvinism. His article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
Denny Burk, an Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary chimed in noting Paul Chitwood’s intention to check into the matter of Campbellsville’s decision related to Dr. Jarvis Williams’ contract renewal. While he did not comment, the title to his blog post spoke volumes: “Kentucky Baptists to discuss theological integrity of Campbellsville University”. Burk’s brief article can be seen by clicking here as well as Dr. Chitwood’s article by
Enter into the fray Dr. Jason Allen, the newly elected president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. Allen stated clearly that it would not be the representatives of Campbellsville University that need to explain where they stand; it would be the Kentucky Baptist Convention that needed to explain where they stand and CU that needed to listen and take note. His article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
In conclusion, here is what I believe is a horrible precedent possibly unfolding before our eyes. This statement, Joel Taylor has alluded to, “Stand By My Man” appears to be the model Southern Baptists can expect more of as the influence of Calvinism gains more control in the SBC. Do not renew a Calvinist’s contract and be ready for an onslaught of criticism. If you are part of the club, we will stand by you, no matter what. Joel Taylor is the only person in the Reformed camp to take a stand against Mahaney’s club card. Mahaney spoke at Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville on Mother’s Day. (Interesting side note.) See the church’s web site by clicking here.
Denny Burk tweeted a link to the Mohler, Dever and Duncan article. SBC Voices, a popular Calvinist blog moderated by Dave Miller, 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted a note saying, “Mahaney supported by Carson, DeYoung and Taylor pointing to another blog post by Chris Roberts a strong Calvinist pastor on the west coast of Florida. Then I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge Joshua Breland’s tweet to Roberts’ article as well. Breland is one of the outspoken students at Louisiana College who was highly critical of everyone and everything that took place with respect to the horrible handling of events there. He has since left the institution.
Perhaps this is part of the reason no one wants to stand up against the Mohler machine and the Calvinist revival and its increasing influence in the entities of the SBC, which is already being felt in the churches.
Is “Stand By My Man” the new motto of the SBC Calvinists?
UPDATE: Read Boz Tchividjian’s comments on both of today’s comments.
Boz is a former prosecutor and one deeply committed to fighting injustices against children, on this one. There is blatant failure here to recognize the complicity of a leader in what transpired under his watch. God have mercy. His comments are well worth noting. To read them click here.