Tim Challies Calls It a Personal Matter Between Mahaney and Detwiler…Detwiler Calls Him On the Carpet (Updated)

Update: An Insider’s View of the SGM Controversy

Earlier today Tim Challies wrote about what is going on in Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was at first glad to see this but then absolutely astounded. He believes this is a “personal” matter between C.J. Mahaney and Brent Detwiler, which the later has elevated to tabloid journalism and he should have just left it to the Lord to handle.

Incredible.

Detwiler has already responded briefly and states he will do so more thoroughly later but I wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts.

1. I cannot for the life of me understand how Challies could call this a personal matter after reading the documents. Indeed, I have trouble believing he did read them. The concerns which Detwiler and others (making it by definition not personal) have been going to Mahaney about for years involve many other people and the way Mahaney has lead them and the denomination. Add to this, much of Detwiler’s concerns are in regards to the SGM board – how can this be called merely personal? Sure it’s personal but not only merely personal.

2. Challies, with a wave of the hand, dismissed the blogs and refused to discuss the concerns. That’s rich. I can only assume he would not want to discuss the handling of sexual abuse cases and the hundreds if not thousands of lives represented on the blogs. By ignoring the blogs Challies is able to give the impression that this is only a personal disagreement between Mahaney and Detwiler.

3. For Challies (on his own blog by the way) to decry the public nature of it all is ridiculous. Detwiler sent his documents to other pastors in SGM, no one outside SGM. Someone else leaked them. Why would someone do this? Because Mahaney and SGM have worldwide influence and their books, songs and sermons swim into the ears of thousands upon thousands. Again, how could such problems be called merely personal.

I am incredulous. There is no way to read these documents and think this is merely a personal matter

Updated: Why We Should Care About What Is Happening In Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)

(Update: The father of one of the victims of sexual abuse responds to the pastors of CLC.)

(Update 2: A Powerful Note To C.J. Mahaney…And A Request From A Reporter. Note: If the rest of the Christian news world does not get on this…)

I’ve been asked why I care about the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) controversy. It’s not a bad question but the better question is probably, “Why aren’t more people talking about?” Why don’t they care enough to discuss it?

My guess is there is too much to lose. Followers have have read the books, sang the sings and been to the conferences and walked away too happy to question that there could be huge systemic problems within such an influential group of pastors/churches. The pastors who have very public ministries and are colleaugues and friends of CJ see this as too huge a loss for T4G and TGC and so say nothing. Are they hoping it will all go away? Would they be so silent if it were someone outside of their circle?

Someone needs to write a post comparing the furor over Rob Bell and the silence over the pastors of SGM.

Regardless, here are some thoughts as an outsider:

1. For years I have been pointed to CJ Mahaney and SGM to learn from them. I have pointed others to them also. This is an opportunity to continue learning, most likely we can learn how not to lead and what kinds of authority structures to be wary of.

2. As of now, some SGM pastors have publicly apologized and reached out to those on the blogs (and this does not include Josh Harris’ public statements.) But this was only after the leak of Brent Detwiler’s documents (approaching 71,000 total reads) detailing the struggles to keep CJ accountable by the same standards he expects of others. It took such a thing as the leaking of these (emails, etc.) to get SGM pastors to acknowledge their callous handling of the victims of sexual abuse, using other people’s sins as blackmail, etc. That is terribly instructive. It is good it is happening, it is sickening it took the release of the documents.

3. We are no longer in a situation “if this is true then…” Too much has already been admitted by pastors of SGM churches. We are way past the ability to call this gossip. When we call this all mere gossip, we seek to silence those who have been crying out for years for justice and we do so from the safe side of those in power. But we as believers, should be longing to hear from those who have suffered, this is who we should be fighting for.

4. If we as a church ignore those who have been hurt in these kinds of situations because we do not want to push against a celebrity pastor, it proves we do not really care about justice. We toy with justice only. For four years a handful of blogs (start here and here) have been detailing abuses and injustice and only now are the SGM pastors acknowledging them. You may ask, “Are blogs the best way for victims to air their complaints?” They tried other means and were often further victimized.

5. Pastors under discipline at SGM churches have been expected to stay in their SGM churches after being removed from the pulpit, being “degifted” and otherwise. CJ Mahaney has refused to do this even though he was asked to do so by the other pastors of Covenant Life Church (the church he started and the flagship of SGM) and is now attending Capital Hill Baptist Church, a non-SGM church. The rules seem to have changed.

Before you dismiss all of this with a wave of the hand read this story aaaaand this one. Just two of the stories that are not being dismissed by the pastors of Covenant Life Church.