July 25, 2014

Sex and Power: What’s Up With Sovereign Grace Ministries?

SGM Mahaney

I asked our friend Dee Parsons from The Wartburg Watch for an update on the scandals and troubles besetting the prominent neo-reformed organization Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), a network of churches in North America and several countries around the world. TWW does an excellent job advocating on behalf of justice and compassion for victims of churches and ministries that perpetuate spiritual abuse. We’re grateful for her contribution today.

NOTE: You might also want to check out what Rachel Held Evans has to say on her current post, “How [Not to] Respond to Abuse Allegations: Christians and Sovereign Grace Ministries.”

* * *

What’s Up with Sovereign Grace Ministries?
by Dee Parsons

Thank you for inviting us to do a guest post for the Internet Monk. We have followed this site for years and, in our opinion, it represents the best of the Christian blogs.

Deb and I have never attended a Sovereign Grace church. So why are we so interested in the story of serious conflict within this group of churches? About five years ago, prior to starting The Wartburg Watch, we were involved in a rather disturbing pedophile situation at a former church. We were distressed about the response of the church and decided to do some searching to see if other churches had responded in a similar fashion. It was then we stumbled over SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge (which has since closed).

Sovereign Grace Ministries arose out of the shepherding movements in the 1970s under the leadership of CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak.  This Wikipedia article does a good job of  outlining the history of today’s SGM. CJ Mahaney describes himself as a former pothead who did not pursue education beyond high school. The movement underwent several name changes until it became known as SGM. It was part of the  Charismatic renewal movement and adopted Calvinism in the late 1990s. Its charismatic roots are now somewhat downplayed. This was the alleged reason that Larry Tomczak left the movement. However, as we would learn, there was a darker reason.

This group of churches prefers to be called a “family of churches” rather than a denomination. Until a few years ago, CJ Mahaney and the leaders of this “family” referred to themselves as apostles and have since ceased referring to this belief. However, there seems to be some movement to bring back the idea of apostolic ministry. They also formed a Pastors College, a nine-month training course, which would then make it possible for a man to become an SGM pastor. There was no pre-qualifying degree necessary to attend this college and even those who had advanced degrees, like a Masters of Divinity, were required to attend this “college.”

SGM was successful in planting about 100 churches, usually in upper middle income areas. This attracted the attention and support of Calvinists within the SBC along with individuals such as John Piper, Al Mohler and Mark Dever who were looking for successful models of church planting.

Several years ago, TWW uncovered large donations to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary being made by CJ Mahaney and SGM.  We predicted that SGM headquarters would somehow link to Louisville, although many would disagree with us. In fact, today SGM headquarters has relocated to Louisville and CJ Mahaney has started a new SGM church in the area.

However, there was a dark side to this group of churches which Mahaney referred to the “happiest place on earth.”

Ashamed, Sarker

Ashamed, Sarker

The hundreds of stories that we read at the SGM blogs were, quite simply, shocking. There was example after example of what we considered strange and abusive practices. Here are a few of the allegations:

  • People who asked questions about church polity were accused of “sinfully craving answers.”
  • Pastors of churches who had joined in the network were suddenly “degifted” and replaced by graduates of the Pastors College. One former pastor was accused of pride and made to work as a janitor in the church that he had built.
  • Everyone was required to be a member of a care group. The care group leaders were asked to secretly keep notes on who said what and these notes were given to the pastors. People were confronted about their comments and questions.
  • Women are discouraged from having any input into church polity unless it is through their husbands.

However, the major issue that disturbed us was story after story regarding child sex abuse. This is what has led to the current lawsuit.  When we read the following story on SGM Survivors and also read others that mirrored these experiences, we became alarmed.

In one story, a tiny child was dragged into a room and asked to forgive her pedophile. The description of this child being pulled out from under a chair is deeply disturbing.

Deb and I became so concerned that we quietly approached a well known Reformed mega church pastor in our area and begged him to say something to his friend, CJ Mahaney. We were hoping that some input from pastor friends might lead to some sort of change in business as usual. We were accused of “character assassination” so we gave up on that idea!

The following is a chronology of events since that time.

  • Brent Detweiler, a former SGM pastor and member of the inner circle, posted emails and correspondence that he had kept for years. These were disturbing. Besides showing CJ Mahaney in an unflattering light, it was apparent from the documents that CJ Mahaney had forced Larry Tomczak out of the ministry by implying he would make public a private confession by Larry Tomczak’s son.
  • CJ Mahaney temporarily stepped down, left his church in SGM and attended Mark Dever’s church. This enraged members of SGM who were not allowed to the leave the church during times of personal discipline.
  • A historic tribunal was formed consisting of Ray Ortlund, Carl Trueman and Kevin De Young ,along with internal SGM pastor committees , who promptly pronounced CJ fit for his position. See also this link.
  • Ambassadors of Reconciliation are asked by SGM leaders to intervene and review the issues. The final report stated that there were a few problems but nothing out of the ordinary.

We believe that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although there seemed to be some effort to reach out to the families who had children who were abused, very little happened.  It is our opinion that, had AOR convinced SGM  to reach out specifically to these families and apologize in a humble manner, this problem would have gone away. However, the families felt that their stories had essentially been ignored.

  • There was further conflict in the leadership of SGM. CJ Mahaney decided to move the headquarters of SGM to Louisville without any input from the churches. His sons-in-law, all pastors in SGM left with him along with some of the board members.
  • Approximately 20 churches have left the umbrella of SGM, including its founding church, Covenant Life Church, with Joshua Harris at the helm. There are rumors that others may follow. This has led to some concerns about finances for the organization.

The basic allegations against SGM involve: (1) Failure to report child sexual molestation to the police, (2) Encouraging affected families not to report child sex abuse, (3) Counseling accused pedophiles on how to avoid arrest.

  • There is a high likelihood of other names being added.
  • There has not been any acknowledgement of these lawsuit by members of The Gospel Coalition or Al Mohler. TWW has kept track of the days of silence which is now over 110 days. This same group excoriated Joe Paterno long before his court appearance. In the meantime, CJ Mahaney is speaking at major conferences, churches and seminaries.
  • Last week, John Piper spoke at CJ Mahaney’s church in Louisville in seeming support of SGM.

Sometimes a simple “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” can go a long way in averting a disaster. I believe that had a sincere apology been issued, a long time ago and other pastors on the outsides such as the megachurch pastor we approached, had intervened, there would have not been a lawsuit. Unfortunately, it appears the stubbornness of CJ Mahaney , who wrote a book on how to be humble, prevented this from occurring.

Now, we are reminded of that popular song, “It’s Too Late to Apologize.” It is in the hands of the courts.

Comments

  1. My wife and I left the SGM church that we were a part of in 2007. I had been heavily involved for a little over 5 years, and she for a bit longer. When we left, we had some major concerns, and our departure resulted in some of the most trying times of our lives as friends and family members shunned us for questioning the leadership… But I have to say, as more has come to light in recent years, that I had no idea just how far down the rabbit hole goes… I’m deeply sickened by the thought that I financially supported this organization, and was a loyal member/leader in such an abusive church. I pray that more Christians will have the courage to speak out against this horrendous abuse, and am thankful for people like Dee and Deb at Wartburg for all that they’re doing.

    Kyrie, eleison.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But I have to say, as more has come to light in recent years, that I had no idea just how far down the rabbit hole goes…

      And the SGM heirarchy has to keep passing out more and more blue pills.

  2. I could go on & on but there is no need. What I want to say is: Bravo to Deb & Dee at TWW.
    It was only a few years ago that I discovered IM & due to a regular commenter here at I.M. ( Eagle) I wandered over to their blog. It has been eye-opening and liberating to say the least and I am delighted to see I.M. chime in on the ongoing discussion at TWW. My hope is that many will comprehend & have their eyes opened to abuse in the church & speak & reach out.

    • Gail…HUG from Washington, D.C. (Today known as Suquestartionville :-P ) Your card to me when I was in the hospital meant so much. I hope I can return the favor one day.

      • Eagle,

        No need to return the favor, because you have impacted me so deeply, with your questions, confusion, and hurt. Or in other words, your story. I sit behind the scenes, and wish I could articulate the way you have: rather a rant, or a plea, or exposure on b.s. that is going on in some places of so called worship.

        You have spoken the words that I wish I could form. And thanks to you I found TWW, and lights are going on inside of me.

        On a lighter note you crack me up! I have wondered if your calling was to be a comedian or pastor.

        Peace to you!

  3. This has been a disturbing story to follow for me. And it came quite close to me in a very un-expected way. For some strange reason I have this knack to keep running into people involved in cults….even when I try and leave some behind. As you know I’m haunted by looking into Mormonism when I was in college, and out here I bumped into a guy who is deeply involved with his wife in a Sovereign Grace church. When he started to invite me I was still burned out with my prior fundagelcial experience and considered myself agnostic. However, I started to research and look into this organization to learn more about it. I was horrified by what I discovered – child sex abuse, domestic abuse, being called a cult, etc… I refused and actually tried to sever ties with my friend out of concern. I was almost sucked into one cult years ago and was determined not to be sucked into another cult. In the end we still talk, and are friends but its been the strangest friendship I have ever had. We fight a lot over SGM, doctrine, reformed theology, etc..Honestly I think we are up to World War 54 over SGM. He keeps inviting me and we’ll have a huge disagreement, reconcile and then in some cases just minutes later he pleads with me again to come to Sovereign Grace. Watching an adult beg for someone to come to their church is outright pathetic and both frightening.

    My friend has been an “infomercial” for Sovereign Grace. He touted AOR, Pastors College, his pastor, elders, and the ESV Bible. In response I have asked him if its “The Gospel” to force a 3 year old to forgive their molester. I’ve told him that he’s involved in a cult, and when I told him in an email that CJ Mahaney was a white collar criminal, my SGM friend went through the roof and couldn’t get any work done that day. The way he treats his Pastor and Elders reminds me of how Mormons treat Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

    Due to the history of SGM, its culture, etc… I will bet my 401K that his church will be dragged into the lawsuit this year. Here’s why…his leadership was involved in Covenant Life Church for 20 years, and its all he has known. And his Elders have links to the other main church involved in the lawsuit.

    To please my friend I’ve gone to two SGM services and was deeply concerned by what I saw. It felt contrived, oppressive, and I got a feeling in my stomach that this was not right. I had that same feeling in my gut which I last felt when I went to Mormon services in 1995, 1996. So we’re talking 16, 17 years? And it bothered me so much. The night after I attended one SGM service I actually tried praying for my friend. I think it may have been the first or second time I actually tried to pray in years. I was that upset, and it was a deja vu experience to Mormonism.

    As for my friend I love him. But I think he’s lost and has cognitive dissonance to be involved in such an organization. This was another thing for me, but as I looked around the world and saw so much evil, suffering and pain it bothered me that there was nothing I could do. And regardless of the situation it led me wanting to be involved. All of you guys heard me rant, rave, and be difficult over the problem of evil. It tore me apart and still bothers me. One thing that someone pointed out to me at Wartburg Watch was the courage that 3 woman had in filing a lawsuit against SGM. It hit me that there were Christians who took a stand against something that was evil. And that was one of the things that gave me a lot to think about in how some Christians take a stand against evil. And that was something that attracted me, especially as I longed to do something with the problem of evil.

    But getting back to my friend I want him to know that he is loved. He needs to realize that he should know better. He can come home also, and come into a healthy faith system. I’m learning a way home, out of the darkness, and finding hope along the way. But he of all people need to realize that he is loved, and that we all have made mistake. My life is full of them.

    • Eagle, I hear one word over and over in your comment: Love. You are displaying Jesus’ love for your friend. Amazing, my friend. Keep it up.

      And you are well-loved here.

    • Danielle says:

      Based on what you have written, this friend will either stay inside or come down hard. As Jeff said, it’s great that he has such a patient friend.

      Abuse allegations aside, the fact the group has been promoting that kind of insider devotion is frightening, all by itself. (Assuming this isn’t a particular behavior rooted in his personality, but is shared by others.) It’s not unusual to find this in evangelical/non-denom churches, where–for lack of anything “bigger” than a particular leader–single individuals and their movements can take on far too much import. But still … something smells wrong.

    • Eagle, while I appreciate the spirit behind what you’re doing, that kind of approach probably won’t work, as it just creates a further persecution complex in these types of people. I know. I grew up as one of them in the Mormon church, which you investigated. In fact, my family on both sides served in high-ranking positions under Joseph Smith at the foundation of the church. I was so devout that I would preach to my best friends about how their clothes were immodest. We were taught that Satan would send people just like you to tell us these things, and that this would make us stronger in our faith if we resisted. We bragged about situations like this, saying how much we learned about our own faith from them. I left when I was a teenager after learning about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and other historical atrocities that my ancestors committed in the name of their religion.

      I do not mean to be rude, but I think that your condemnation of your friend’s judgment in the sentence where you say he “is lost and has cognitive dissonance to be involved in such an organization” is a little harsh. I was in a family of very successful biologists, one of whom was a well-respected researcher and college professor. My family was the most well-respected Mormon family in our church, and my father (the professor) was slated to be the next bishop when we left. We are all flawed human beings, and we all need grace. We also need to stand up to evil. However, please understand that just belonging to such an organization says nothing about who one is as a person, especially not about one’s mental stability.

      After I left Mormonism knowing that I had been lied to about many things, I still felt like I had sinned in some way. I still have trust problems when it comes to large institutions, and I can’t commit to a church, even though I crave that kind of community. To make matters worse, at the time of leaving, I was a teenager facing bullying from my peers in the church. The church decided the best way to deal with the situation was to not allow me to attend regular Sunday School. So I sat alone in an empty Sunday School classroom for two hours every Sunday while my family went to their meetings, feeling ashamed of myself. I cannot imagine what the survivors of abuse feel in situations like that.

  4. And if you’re interested here’s my write up of the first SGM service I attended.

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/04/07/echurchwartburg-4-8-12/

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I assume the bald guy up top is the Humble(TM) Head Apostle(TM) Himself?

    Pastors of churches who had joined in the network were suddenly “degifted” and replaced by graduates of the Pastors College. One former pastor was accused of pride and made to work as a janitor in the church that he had built.

    Now that sounds like something Chairman Mao’s Red Guard would do. Did he have to sing “I am a Cow Headed Monster” before the Proletariat at his Enlightened Self-Criticism session?

    • Well Sovereign Gracers deso have their Little Red Book for Chairman Mahaney! Its called “The ESV”. Every other Bible is flawed for the reformed crowd! :-P

      • Well, I think Michael Spencer also liked the ESV. I know I do. But I still use NASB and NKJV, and the first NIV. So please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not the ESV’s fault the SGM folks use it.

      • I use the ESV a lot and I generally trust its translation choices, but for the life of me I can’t warm up to it or begin to enjoy it. I’ve found the NASB and old KJV to be more endearing and enjoyable. Heck, these days I spend most of my time in the “liberal” NRSV, which is great except for the occasional 32 dollar word they somehow thought was common English. Personally, I’m a little frustrated by the sectarianism of Protestant Bible translation: ESV for Reformed, HCSB for Baptists, NKJV for Fundies, and NRSV for mainlines libs. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Lutherans don’t have their own yet! :P I think I’m going to try out some of the Catholic ones for a change.

        • I like the REB (Revised English Bible) (with Apocrypha, of course!). I haven’t used it a lot, but Carl Conrad, the premiere Greekmaster at B-Greek, says it’s one of his favorites for the New Testament.

          • I found a Cambridge hard-cover REB at Savers for 6 bucks. I’ve heard very good things about it and intend to look into it. But as a matter of principle, I do prefer more a more formal equivalence translation for my main study.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          ” For the life of me I can’t figure out why Lutherans don’t have their own yet!”

          see http://www.cph.org/t-tlsb.aspx for The Lutheran Study Bible. It is an LCMS product based on the ESV. I don’t know how much it has stuck. It likely is too soon to tell. The ELCA has no equivalent, so far as I know.

          • Of course I have that :P But we’re borrowing the “Calvinist” translation for lack of a better option. I can’t help but wonder if the Catholic RSV would actually be more Lutheran. The notes, however, are excellent!

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Not that it means anything to anyone, but I like the NASB the best. It seems more poetic and lyrical at times than some of the other translations, which resonates more with my poetic and creative side.

        • dumb ox says:

          1966 Jerusalem Bible.

        • Miguel,

          Lutherans do have their own translation. How’s your German?

          T

        • Hi Miguel,

          Just an interesting note: The evangelical seminary I attended required the NRSV for all papers.

          My Grandfather a Bible Translator 2 generations ago was in a KJV denomination, but own bible of choice was the RSV.

    • dumb ox says:

      Agreed. Sounds like something directly from the good book, I mean the little red book.

      • dumb ox says:

        Why am I even more confused about who is a “liberal” and who is a “conservative”?

        • A question for an upcoming post here: Would Jesus today be considered a conservative or a liberal?

          • No

          • +1 to CM

          • :-) Much wisdom you have, Chaplain Mike

          • flatrocker says:

            He would be considered dangerous.

          • Jesus would be a lot like John Paul II. One moment he’s swing left, the next he’s swinging right, and you just can’t pin him down.

          • If you expect Jesus to come back proposing a flat tax, against all government healthcare, mocking environmentalism, opposing the UN, reading Ayn Rand, and obsessed with holding back gay marriage while setting evolutionists on fire and using words like inerrancy — you’re going to be disappointed.

            If you expect Jesus to come back and contradict what Paul said, get upset at the Catholics for having only men as leaders, downplay his physical resurrection, pat us on the back for our attempts to nationalize healthcare, suggest that naturalistic Western philosophy has proven miracles and his claims to be the only way false, and set all rich people on fire while using words like Occupy — you’re going to be disappointed.

          • The thing that scares me most about that question is that we ALL might find cause to hate Him . . .

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The thing that scares me most about that question is that we ALL might find cause to hate Him . . .

            Remember who yells “CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY!” as one during the Good Friday liturgy.

          • @Justin, in other words:
            “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”

          • dumb ox says:

            I hope Miguel is right. Truth is not left or right, but heresy is. Truth is that center point which we seem to keep over-shooting left-to-right, north-to-south, east-to-west.

          • I feel like there’s this expectation in our culture that Jesus would remain completely objective and neutral in all disputes, but I don’t think that’s fair to the Gospel accounts. Yes, he often dodges an issue, to get to a deeper issue at the root of the problem, but he also had no problem taking sides in a theological debate or calling out falsehood. The problem is that he didn’t fall respectably within anybody’s party lines; he’s a real wild card, a rogue. Or so it would seem to our sinful selves who like to draw up lines, take sides, and dress for war so easily.

          • @Justin, oh, he’d be upset by the Catholic church polity. He never meant for a few men to grab and hold power, nor be a model for the rest of Chrstiandom to follow. We are, and always have been, a body of believers. We are all the priesthood. None of us are lower than another, and all can lead as the Spirit allows. Men and women. It is a blind leadership that refutes this. But, then, it was a blind leadership that missed the Messiah, so what else is new?

        • dumb ox says:

          I’ll submit this in honor of Johnny Cash’s birthday, and may be appropriate as well as needed comedy relief:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76CpZgOKHOQ

    • Danielle says:

      “One former pastor was accused of pride and made to work as a janitor in the church that he had built.”

      If true, that is just weird.

      Interestingly, I’ve heard other church stories where the “sin of pride” is used a sledgehammer to break people down for non-compliance or to force a cow-tow so that the leadership’s perogatives are established. What a sinister way to slam someone for even modest self-assertion/self-confidence/self-worth.

  6. I once tried to defend SGM here a few months back (long before the lawsuit).

    Having followed the ‘survivor’ blogs since that time, I had no idea how wrong I was, and it sickens me that The Gospel Coalition, which I respect, has not said or done anything about this.

    As someone who is (somewhat) reformed and charismatic, I would say that SGM ‘looks good’ on paper, but that’s the only good thing I can say about them now.

    • A somewhat unrelated but helpful story to me was reading about how Woody Hayes defended Richard Nixon to the day he resigned from office. They were friends (Nixon delivered the eulogy at Coach Hayes’ funeral) and remained so. The story goes that “[w]hen Hayes came in the next morning he said, ‘Gentlemen, I’ve made a horrible mistake. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my friend Richard Nixon. I can’t believe what he did. I’m very hurt, and when I talk to him, I’m going to tell him how I feel. But you can never leave a friend when he’s down and I’m still going to be his friend, and be supportive, and coach him to do the right things.’” (See more at: http://www.thepostgame.com/features/201302/woody-hayes-100-years-coach-ohio-state-buckeyes-college-football-columbus#sthash.4PkCxADJ.dpuf)

      I suspect that many of the people at TGC are and were friends with Mahaney, and they are working out the issues themselves. They may be waiting for an official ruling before commenting, and they may hold their silence even thereafter. The issues at SGM are now a matter of public record, and they may not feel it necessary to issue a statement. I had written a comment to Eagle recently regarding Ray Ortlund in particular, prior to knowing anything about the SGM issues. What seems to be missing is that the sexual abuse allegations came out well after Ortlund and others at TGC did their own inquiry—nearly a year after Ortlund wrote his article defending Mahaney, in fact. I’m wary of guilt-by-association here. I would still hope that they would respond.

      One of the things I remember reading when the RC abuse allegations were steadily increasing (I live in an area that’s gotten a goodly bit of news coverage) was that the SBC had roughly the same incidence of child abuse charges as the RCC. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but there is sometimes a tendency we have to look hard at a denominational tendency to problematic behavior without looking at the human problem.

      • I thought I gave you an answer? Do you still want one? I’m open to discussion…

      • “suspect that many of the people at TGC are and were friends with Mahaney, and they are working out the issues themselves”

        mem, You have not read the wikileaks docs, have you? CJ did not have any friends in SGM. Sychophants?. Yes.

      • Dee Parsons says:

        mem

        You said

        “What seems to be missing is that the sexual abuse allegations came out well after Ortlund and others at TGC did their own inquiry—nearly a year after Ortlund wrote his article defending Mahaney, in fact. I’m wary of guilt-by-association here. I would still hope that they would respond.”

        You might find this post that we recently wrote about Ortlund of interest. It addresses, in part, your comment.

        http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/02/15/ray-ducky-ortlund-church-conflict-can-lead-to-death/

        • “What seems to be missing is that the sexual abuse allegations came out well after Ortlund and others at TGC did their own inquiry—nearly a year after Ortlund wrote his article defending Mahaney, in fact. I’m wary of guilt-by-association here. I would still hope that they would respond.”

          Not true. They had been posted on blogs for a few years as they kept coming out. The bloggers were deemed bitter, hateful and angry so ignored. Ortlund and the others were being willfully ignorant. They did not want to know. It was out there for anyone to see…and since they were called in to deem him fit, they did not do any homework?

          • Dee, and Martin. Thanks for your notes.

            I’m sure we all hope that justice is done, both by those in authority and by ourselves. And we can be comforted in God’s justice.

            There is not much to be done or said here; I disagree with you about Ortlund’s character, but you’re free, of course, to your own opinions. Coming from the outside, your post, Dee, and what I have read from the lawsuits (amended and otherwise) does not persuade me that Ortlund is as depraved as you say. Deceived, perhaps, but not an accomplice.

            Very best.

    • Derek,

      About 8 years ago I had some healthy interaction with a few ministerial types associated with SGM. The congregation I was a part of was looking for “apostolic covering” and SG was one of the possibilities considered. SG told us that they just didn’t have the resources at the time. Ultimately, the congregation sought input from New Frontiers. This proved disastrous and resulted in the dissolution of the congregation.

      This experience certainly put me on a steep learning curve. Very few mistakes are fatal, but some just aren’t worth the trouble.

      Tom

      • Tom

        Unlike SGM, I do like ‘New Frontiers’. What went wrong?

        I am aware that they seem to share the same ‘Shepherding’ roots (New Frontiers once had imput from the infamous ‘Fort Lauderdale 5′).

  7. To stick up for AoR, they are an excellent group, but they are not arbitrators or investigators. Their purpose is to bring reconciliation not root out sin. If you read the report, it comes out pretty clear the organization lacks even basic controls and procedures.

    • Yeah, I was a little confused about SGM’s choice of AoR. See, that signals that they already chose to accept CJ back and were looking for a way of reconciling with him and reconciling him to the group (think LMX theory dyads here). As soon as I read about that way back when, I thought to myself, “Why would they use this group unless they already planned to bring him back?”

    • When I say the organization lacks basic controls and procedures, I mean SGM, not AoR. The report is full of AoR recommendations to add and strengthen basic institutional controls.

  8. Michael says:

    Call me crazy, but I think a lot of pastors (and people in general) could benefit from working as a janitor.

  9. I’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ for about 25 years now and an Anglican for the last three.

    All my prior church experience was in non-denominational churches that were started by someone who felt called to start a church. I don’t doubt their callings and the churches are all “successful” from a numbers\growth standpoint, but all those men were dictators. Some were benevolent dictators and some where not.

    • Yup. Quite often non-denominationalism and congregational polity are merely fancy ways of saying, “Nobody tells ME what to do, I call the shots around here!”

      • ichabod says:

        How close does an evangelical church need to come before it is clear to everyone – except themselves – that it should be named a cult?

        • Ichabod….Sovereign Grace IS a cult. Reading about it and observing the two services I saw helped form my thinking on it being a cult. My Sovereign Grace friend acts more like a Mormon than a Christian. AND he worships his Pastor and Elder in the same way that Mormons worship Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I saw that when I was looking into Mormonism, and Mormons will deny it. Fast forward 17 years and I’m seeing it again..in a highly trained, capable professional. So yes Sovereign Grace is a cult.

          • There’s really just no other word for it… SGM is a cult. We must remember that what differentiates a “cult” from a “religion” or “denomination” isn’t belief, it’s behavior. What SGM teaches may pass the smell test to be considered orthodox Christianity, but the way they behave does not.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Unfortunately, inside the Christianese Bubble, “Cult(TM)” is often still defined by Theology, not behavior. I saw this way too often in the Christianese Cult-Sniffer groups of the Seventies and early Eighties. While they were parsing Theology letter-by-letter, a LOT of abusive groups (Cults in behavior) slipped right under their radar. And a lot of these Cults-by-behavior used their Clean Bill of Theological Health as a further weapon against their people.

            Incidentally, the Perfectly-Parsed One True Theology of these Cult-Sniffers? I couldn’t tell it from Calvary Chapel’s — YEC, Magic Words Salvation, Darbyite Pre-Trib Pre-Mil, anti-Catholic, anti-Mainstreams, anti-outside culture, anti-everything except Church with Perfectly-Parsed Theology.

  10. boaz
    I did not mention that one of the aspects of the final AoR report was to excoriate the bloggers for drawing attention to the situation. If SGM Survivors had not blogged, this stuff would have gone unnoticed. I fear AoR is not an effective organization in serious conflicts which involve things like child sex abuse. They may be helpful in churches which are having food fights over church polity, etc.

    • I don’t remember anything excoriating bloggers for drawing attention to the situation. What are you referring to in the report? I remember reading they were shocked by the level of discourse and suggesting greater charity in tone in internet discussions.

      AoR is used to more doctrinal disputes that often devolve into petty name calling and so on. They don’t resolve allegations of child sex abuse. At the time AoR did its report, had there been any criminal prosecutions for sex abuse? My understanding is the first criminal charges were initiated this month, but this isn’t something I’ve paid much attention to.

      • “At the time AoR did its report, had there been any criminal prosecutions for sex abuse? My understanding is the first criminal charges were initiated this month, but this isn’t something I’ve paid much attention to.”

        The lawsuit is civil. are you talking about Morales?

        BTW: AoR squandered any credibility they might have had. They spoke out about the victims being angry, bitter, having clenched fists, etc. They really painted them as wackos. Yep, they were brought in to RESTORE CJ. To help cover up the real problems. I mean just how independent can they be when the creep is paying their bill?

        • griefofwisdom says:

          “They spoke out about the victims being angry, bitter, having clenched fists, etc. They really painted them as wackos. Yep, they were brought in to RESTORE CJ.”

          I think you are right about why SGM brought them in. I didn’t feel that victims were painted as wackos. I felt that AoR worked very hard to focus on what they preach: that people need to focus on their own sin and not on the sins of others. Therefore, a bitter person needs to deal with their bitterness before they can address the sins of others.

          That said, I think that is ridiculous. The people were bitter because they were victimized/abused, and their voices were not heard. They were not receiving apologies for what they had been through, and AoR was not addressing their receives, only addressing “reconciliation” and thus the bitterness. It is a problem with AoR’s counseling focus being fixed on a one-size-fits-all method which they appear to believe is the only “scriptural” way to approach matters.

          • Dee Parsons says:

            griefofwisdom

            Deb and i believe that there is a fatal flaw in the AOR model. They charge a not insignificant fee for their services, which is fine. However, they must be brought in by the church leadership who then pay the bills. They are often invited to speak at pastor/leadership conferences. We have discussed this in depth on our blog.

            So, there is an intrinsic bias towards the leadership and pastors despite protestations to the opposite. It is human nature. The AOR report in my opinion was heavily biased in favor of leadership. This hurt the people who poured out their hurts and grief to the AOR representatives. AOR’s callous assessment of bitterness and rage comes from a place of not understanding the depths of the pain in these people. We believe this whole venture was a “fail” that led directly to the lawsuit.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Deb and i believe that there is a fatal flaw in the AOR model. They charge a not insignificant fee for their services, which is fine. However, they must be brought in by the church leadership who then pay the bills.

            Three additional words, Dee: AND MONEY TALKS.

      • Dee Parsons says:

        Boaz
        I wanted to deal with this in the post but it was already too long. These statements by AoR re: blogs contributed to the frustration by those who would eventually look to the courts for a fair airing of their concerns. For many of them, the blogs were the only place that they got a fair hearing. As a blogger, you can be sure that this was quite interesting for me.

        Please visit the posted AOR report at SGM. Here is the link

        http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/sgm/file.axd?file=2012/4/Group+Reconciliation+Report.pdf

        Go to pages 11 and 31. I will quote a part from page 11. However, this is only a small part of their statements so I recommend you read them all.

        “Nevertheless, the sinful effects of the blogging and judgmental emails cannot be minimized or ignored. While there were real issues to address regarding SGM and its churches, the way in which some people treated us as outsiders demonstrated to us that many in this system were prejudiced, bitter, angry, and judgmental in their approaches. It appeared to us that many were vulnerable to easily believe anything written on a blog and then add their own condemning thoughts, whether or not the blogger’s identity was known. Furthermore, those being condemned in this way had no just way to respond to the accusations.”

  11. dumb ox says:

    Al Mohler can flame Tim Tebow for bowing out of his appearance with Jeffress, but has not a word of criticism for Mahaney? Ever more proof that it’s cultural war ubber alles. This, along with the David Jang debacle, seems like a pattern on the part of Mohler.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Al Mohler can flame Tim Tebow for bowing out of his appearance with Jeffress, but has not a word of criticism for Mahaney?

      1) A god (or God’s Predestined Elect) Can Do No Wrong. (Humbly, of course.)

      2) “One hand washes the other…”

      • Rick Ro. says:

        3) “It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.” (Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, “Tombstone”)

    • I think its very much like Reagan’s “11th commandement”: “thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” In this case, Mohler isn’t going to criticize any fellow Calvinista, because for him the party’s well-being is far more important than truth and justice for the victims…

    • Mohler flamed Penn State, too, in a culture war article. Not a word about the same type cover up at SGM. Just more promoting Mahaney. I thought judgement began with us. Evidently Mohler missed that day at seminary.

  12. Clay Crouch says:

    If you really want to get a look behind the curtain, visit the SGM site and take a gander at their proposed BCP (book of church polity).

    • Clay Crouch says:
      March 1, 2013 at 9:39 am

      If you really want to get a look behind the curtain, visit the SGM site and take a gander at their proposed BCP (book of church polity).

      Do you mean this document? http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/sgm/file.axd?file=2012/10/Sovereign%20Grace%20Polity%20Proposal.pdf

      • Oh. My. God. (…uttered entirely as a prayer for mercy and sanity)

        What sort of person SIGNS UP to be watched and judged, and in the (false) name of Christ? The earlier references to Mao and Stalin are suddenly not so amusing after reading this.

        And yet , with what I presume is a straight face, this is written under the qualifications for an elder….regarding the obeidience and order of “his” wife and children…

        “A household held in order by coercion and threat is clearly inconsistent [with Christian life] ”

        Followed by pages and pages of threats and coercions and how to hold a trial and punish members….

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Yes, that is interesting.

          You know, I found the “Introduction” lead-in to be pretty well-worded and “humble.” But everything said in the Intro is pretty much destroyed by the details contained within the document. On one hand (in the intro), they go to great lengths to say they aren’t the only ones with correct theology, that no document of church polity is perfect and shouldn’t be open criticism and amending, etc. etc.; then on the other hand (all the other 78 pages), they lay out polity like an iron fist.

        • Pattie – SGM has its roots in the shepherding movement of the 70s-80s, which was (still is) all about control and top-down rule of every aspect of life.

          That’s how both Larry Tomczak and Mahaney were able to climb to the top and stay there.

          signed,
          a survivor of several shepherding groups (if you want to know the reason behind “several,” well… they all claimed that they’d dumped it. NOT. Just like SGM.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            A survivor of one shepherding group. (Actually didn’t get too far into it, but once was enough.)

          • Dana Ames says:

            Like Headless, I was a not-too-far-into-it survivor of a shepherding church in the late ’70s.

            The movement as a whole didn’t start out wanting to be in control and have top-down rule. It started out with very high, pious ideals.

            It started out with people wanting to be “biblical”: have “biblical” accountability, serve “biblically,” live a “biblical” life in a “biblical” community.

            Dana

          • Dana – Well… lots of pious language was used to mask the top-down control (etc.), but that was the overriding goal, always.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            In my day the buzzword was “Scriptural(TM)” instead of “Biblical(TM)”. It fit right in with the “Bible as Party Line” theology.

        • Pattie…

          Policies like this is why I joke that Sovereign Grace should hold their next retreat in North Korea, Cuba, or China. The Re-education camps of the Soviet state would also be helpful if they were still around. This polity clearly states the problems Sovereign Grace has with trust. And this polity also has un-intended consequences. For example, up above Dee Parsons wrote about how Care Group Leaders wrote reports and turned them into their SGM leaders. Its was a way to hold the line and suppress questioning and “dissension” (however that is defined.) The key point….when you think of this theology, “Big Brother is Watching” think of a theological CIA minus the polygraphs. This theology from the Shepherding Movement is all about control.

          But getting back to the un-intended consequences let me tell you how this has affected me. My Sovereign Grace friend is a Care Group Leader. He comes from a cult where Care Group Leaders write up reports, submit them to church staff, etc… Now our freindship is strained. I keep in contact with him because I love him as a friend. And as I move forward in my faith journey I know he wants to be involved. However, since Sovereign Grace has such a policy of Care Group Leaders writing reports and turning them in there is a frayed issue of trust between us. I don’t know if I can trust my friend, and as I explained, I don’t know where Bob (pseudo friends name) ends and Sovereign Grace begins. Upon learning about Care Group Leaders writing and submitting reports I’ve confronted him and asked him if he has done that with me. If our conversations are being written up and turned over to Sovereing Grace. He denies it and says he wouldn’t do such a thing and wants me to trust him; however since this is Sovereign Grace – a cult – I don’t think that trust will be there. Now this is the part of the consequences of bad theology; even if my freind as a Care Group Leader was not writing reports and truning them in, I still wouldn’t know if he’s being honest and truthful. He could be sincere and not doing this action at all, however since he loves Sovereign Grace so much, and defends it I have to assume that the truth has been compromised and that he’s tainted. That’s part of the risk of planting your flag in a cult like SGM and expecting people to trust you. Why should they? he organization overshadows your motives, life, friendship, etc….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “A household held in order by coercion and threat is clearly inconsistent [with Christian life] ”

          Followed by pages and pages of threats and coercions and how to hold a trial and punish members….

          Kind of reminds you of the “People’s Republic of Tyranny” page of TV Tropes, doesn’t it?

          Where the more adjectives about Democracy there are in a country’s official name, the nastier a dictatorship it is.

          • You just gave me an idea.

            How about….”the People’s Republic of Sovereign Grace”?

      • I can’t get the link to work. Did they yank the file, I wonder?

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Actually meant this one: http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/sgm/file.axd?file=2013/2/SGM%20Polity%20Proposal%20Final%2025Feb2013.pdf

        It’s the revised version just released last month.

        I know, crazy isn’t it?

    • I think I like the other BCP title better – Book of Common Prayer. Shudder.

  13. If you want an even better look behind the curtain read the SGMwikileaks docs. Grown men sounding like cheesy b rated actors groveling over the leading man. It became obvious very quickly in reading that they have had way too much time and money on their hands for way too long.

    The only thing that amazed me is after they became public the pews in all SGM churches did not empty. But then it was a sin to read them. The other thing that should become obvious to everyone is that guys like Dever, Mohler and Piper think it normal.

    All of this has really given us plenty of proof that most of what we are seeing in that movement is about celebrity. Mohler can write about the horrors of Penn State in his culture war while he embraces and promotes Mahaney. The hypocrisy is astounding in these men. I think they are so full of themselves they are unable to see it. I will be glad when people stop throwing money at them. That includes buying their books and attending their conferences.

  14. What exactly is meant by “apostolic ministry”? (I did some searches but felt like I was missing some subtlety..)

    • srs, for a very long time, the leaders in SGM considered themselves apostles. No seriously, they did. They claimed that men like Mahaney, Detwiler, Harvey, and Shank were filling that part of the ol’ “five-fold ministry” from Ephesians. They called them the apostolic team.

      Then they started cozying up to Reformed (and cessationist) heavyweights in the early ’00s, and the name was changed to “leadership team”…

      • Apostles eh? This sounds more like Mormonism… :-P

        • I mean, Mahaney running away to Louisville is an awful lot like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young heading out West… I’m sure there’ s a lot more comparisons that could be drawn :)

          • What scares me is that he thinks SGM will be accepted by the SBC because of Mohler embracing him and protecting him. Please tell me it ain’t so!.

          • I’ve actually said that CJ Mahaney is a modern Brigham Young. I actually wrote and posted a list stating the similarities between SGM and Mormonism at SGM Survivors.

          • Martin, it seems to me, as an outside observer, that the SBC is being torn apart by the likes of Mohler and other calvinistas… I don’t think Mahaney cares about being accepted by the SBC at large, just the faction that intends to take over…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Getting on the Winning Side early (and Humbly), huh?
            Bucking for that Alter Kampfer chevron on the right upper sleeve?

      • griefofwisdom says:

        They also preached that it was essential for the church to operate that way, and that churches that did not do so were missing what God wanted them to do. It was very much a regular part of their teaching that belief in these living apostles was essential doctine.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          You’re right, Eagle.

          “Living Apostles” sounds so Mormonese.

          As does the attitude of the One True Church doing what God wanted them to do.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Don’t forget Cee Jay’s original title was “Head Apostle”.
        (Humbly, of course…)

      • You mean they used “apostle” in a way that wasn’t simply synonymous w/”disciple”?

  15. Doctor Jon says:

    I am Dee Parson’s husband (I go by “Doctor Jon” over at TWW). This is my first comment at IM.
    Over 35 years ago, before meeting Dee, I recall hearing CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak speak at Jesus 76. Both were gifted speakers. Both of them had a lot more hair. As a young pre-medical student at Dartmouth and recent convert to Christ, I was impressed by the clarity and purity of their message. Keith Green and 2nd Chapter of Acts provided refreshing music to compliment the experience.
    That said, it is regrettable that as they grew older, Mahaney and Tomczak appear to have lost the humility to apologize for apparently mishandling the pedophile matter. My impressions of them from 1976 are shot.
    I suspect that any efforts to cover up on their parts will soon be revealed by the court system. While power and success may have obscured things for a while, knees will bow to the Truth.
    But how disappointing to our Lord that it has required the secular court system to shed light on the matter and prevent further abusive behaviors.
    How pagan of Mahaney and Tomczak. If even a fraction of the allegations are proven true, they should both be deeply ashamed. As Dee said, they should have apologized to the Church long ago. Now it’s too late.

  16. If all of these men were at one point truly humble and penitent before God and their celebrity, power, etc got to them, how easy it must be for anyone to fall into such a snare. While I in no way condone these kinda of actions and cover ups, let us not forget that our own hearts are just as dark and can become just as twisted and corrupt. Lord have mercy on us all.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Amen. There but for the grace go I…

    • “While I in no way condone these kinda of actions and cover ups, let us not forget that our own hearts are just as dark and can become just as twisted and corrupt. Lord have mercy on us all.”

      Poppycock! I know quite a few folks whose hearts are not dark and live sacrificial lives for Christ not trying to get things from people but GIVE to people. Perhaps they have dark thoughts but their lives and actions are PURE. Jesus redeemed us. We don’t have to remain evil.

      All you have done is use the same exact teaching Mahaney teaches and his pastors used on the victims. They were told they were sinners too. So all sin is equal. the victim is a sinner and the molester is a sinner. So where do we go from here? Can you say, moral chaos?

      All of us are somehow like Mahaney so no right to say anything?

      • Not at all! Of course this kind of injustice should be spoken against and I’m so thankful for sites like this, wartburg, sgmsurvivors, mars hill refuge, etc! The darkness needs to be exposed no matter what the “cost” to those involved.

        I’m furious about this and I’ve already began telling some of my friends who grew up in or currently attend SGM to be aware of this stuff.

        My point was that we all need to be aware of where our hearts can lead us. Let us pray and avoid the mistakes of others.

      • If you think I’m defending anyone culpable in this, you’re misunderstanding me. What has happened is vile and disgusting and those guys should go to jail when found guilty. They’ve enabled the ruining of lives and there is no excuse for that, especially in the church. Though, like others have said, SGM is more cult like than church like.

        A friend of mine and his wife were brought under church discipline at the SGM church they went to when their son was born and they were starting new jobs and didn’t have time to regularly attend small group often enough. Soon after that, they left. Thank God. Prior to that experience, they kept telling me that I needed to go to a SGM church in Pittsburgh, where I lived at the time. I had no interest after attending only a few services during college and the suburban Philly SGM.

        The bizzarre church discipline practices, they way they handle young women – as if they are nothing other than future wives, and all sorts of uneasiness I had when i went was enough to have me running for cover, as naive as I was at age 22. SGM is a scary place and I would never suggest anyone go, nor would I condone anything that has happened.

        My apologies if i said anything to lead you to think otherwise. This crap is disgusting and should in no way be tolerated.

        • You want to read something really interesting…go to Exchristian.net. Its an atheist website for skeptics where they talk about their past church experiences, problems with faith and science, etc… Now if you poke around on the website you will discover a number of stories of former Sovereign Gracers who after being burned became atheist. In all honesty I can totally relate to that based upon my journey these past 5 years. But how’s this for a spiritual legacy for CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace. The corruption in SGM is fueling atheism. It’s playing into atheist “theology” in showing why Christianity is corrupt. Who in their right mind would want to be associated with a church that has become a stumbling block for faith or fuels skepticism?

          When my Sovereign Grace freind kept inviitng me to his SGM church my action was a routine and regular “No.” As a “skeptic” I also had fun baiting him and asking him about some of this stuff that I’ve read and heard about Sovereign Grace. Meanwhile I’ve also told my SGM friend this…IF he were involved in any other church (with an exception of Capitol Hill Baptist, McLean Bible, Sojounrers, Acts 29, Harvest Bible Chapel, etc..) and HE invited me to to church. I’d actually go and explore faith there. Since this was Sovereign Grace I had to tell him (to his frustration) that “No” I won’t explore faith there.

          • I also think something that frustrates me is that, five years ago, I uprooted my life to go be a part of an A29 church. I was so obsessed with being an A29 “dude” that I wanted to hit the ground running in one of their new plants. I shudder to think of my reasons for doing so — “this is a good opportunity” was the one that I frequently used. I can’t believe how idolatrous Driscoll, Piper, Chander and on a small level, CJ became to me. Thank God my life fell apart in that city (thereby forcing me to leave) before I got sucked too deep into the A29 culture.

          • Mr s, Have you ever written about your experience wiht the Acts 29 church plant? I know a guy who went with them 2 years ago and saw him a few months back on a visit. He was a different person. His joy is gone and he has aged 10 years. He won’t talk, though. He has kids to feed.

          • We now have the President in the neighborhood. Matt Chandler of The Village Church is the President of Acts 29 Network, taking over from Driscoll a year or so ago. I can almost see the church from our house.

          • Ditto. Many regrets.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Now if you poke around on the website you will discover a number of stories of former Sovereign Gracers who after being burned became atheist. In all honesty I can totally relate to that based upon my journey these past 5 years. But how’s this for a spiritual legacy for CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace. The corruption in SGM is fueling atheism. It’s playing into atheist “theology” in showing why Christianity is corrupt.

            Communism begets Objectivism.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Yes…My “there but for the grace of God go I” statement is one that hopefully serves to remind myself to keep my heart in the right place, and ask GOD to help me in that. Certainly NOT to condone any of their behaviour.

          • Martin,

            No I have not, but it was not a negative experience for me in the way this discussion has shown how those neo reformed networks can be. Personally, I never had any run ins or issues with anyone at the plant I was at. Now, a good friend of mine who now lives in the same city as me has — despite the fact that he no longer lives in that city nor is a part of that congregation we were a part of, he regularly receives lengthy text message rebukes from one of our old pastors — typically regarding age of the earth/evolution stuff or women’s ordination stuff. Additionally, when he first moved here, he was at a different A29 church and was consistently questioned about his understanding of the canonization of the OT; he was told often he was undermining scripture. Ironically, when some mess happened at that church, those guys who gave him a hard time ran off to an SGM church in the area. He is now part of a Dutch Reformed church that technically falls under A29, but somehow is not responsible to them. I’m not sure how that works, but they are in the process of ordinating women, so whatever affiliation they have with A29 I’m sure is in name only.

          • Martin,

            Also, that is really sad about your friend. I really wasn’t on the inside as I was only part of the core team for about five months before I had to leave the area because of health and financial troubles. There was definitely a grooming process going on with some of us younger guys though (of the young guys, I was the oldest at 27). I recently went to that church’s website and they had bios on all the pastors/elders. Not one of those guys reads anything but current neo-reformed writers or Calvin, Luther, & the Puritans — at least not on their list of most influential books/favorite reads. I was seriously stunned. The friend I mentioned above went to an A29 planter conference with the pastors of our old church maybe 4 years ago and he said the culture of the whole thing scared him away.

  17. Rick Ro. says:

    I’ve recently been reading about all the horrific things done to believers BY CHURCH AUTHORITIES back in the Middle Ages…you know, all the Christians burned at the stake by Christian/Catholic leaders…and when I read that this stuff still goes on (just without the stake-burning), I want to cry. So true: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    We are so broken.

    • power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely

      This is most certainly true. EVERYONE needs accountability, and it needs to run in all directions. This is generally why I am a fan of federal church polity, because despite all the red tape, it provides a venue for many grievances and nobody is above critique. Congregationalism and hierarchical systems are just prime for exploitation. Just out of curiosity, do we see any of these scandals coming out of Presbyterian churches? I don’t know of any. Their pastors are not dictators, but merely equals with the lay elders.

  18. And here I thought as did many others of my evangelical Protestant ilk, that only the RC Church had this kind of evil practice going on.

    How arrogant. How utterly stupid.

    Mahaney and Tomczak didn’t mishandle anything. Saying that makes it sound like they were just a couple of dudes making stupid, uninformed decisions. They knew what they were doing. They tried to bury it just like the RCC tried to bury their stuff.

    “Leaders” like Mahaney and Tomczak (and there are too many more of them) shouldn’t get a pass. They don’t give their victims a pass and I hope their true mess is shouted from the rooftops. I am tired of this. They would also be the first ones to climb all over and defame and guilt up a normal everyday congregant for lesser sins.

    These guys are dysfunctional in the worst way imaginable. Gosh, I am tired of this and my hearts hurts. We deserve what we get.

  19. “If all of these men were at one point truly humble and penitent before God and their celebrity, power, etc got to them, how easy it must be for anyone to fall into such a snare. ”

    Dear Mr. S,

    You mean like covering up pedophilia?

    • “If all of these men were at one point truly humble and penitent before God and their celebrity, power, etc got to them, how easy it must be for anyone to fall into such a snare. ”

      And some of this goes back 20 years before they were celebs. People do not seem to understand what they were teaching. It has been a shepherding cult. Still is.

    • i didn’t mean that specifically. I meant the pride and arrogance that lead to that.

      A bunch of my campus crusade friends attended the SGM near Philly during college. I went a few times, but once after a service, during a moment of “prophecy” a man named “Steve wearing a dark suit” was told from the pulpit he was in grave error and needed to repent. Non one seemed to think that was abnormal. I think that was my last week there. CJ came and spoke there once as well. He was heralded as a god.

      • I’ve noticed on SGM wesbites that they have close links with Campus Crusade. I also consider Campus Crusade as a cult and have ot live with being involved in one. But yeah there are ties back and forth. I iwsh I knew that as a Cru leader at the time…but I was brainwashed. Funny…because Cru has a past in the shepherding movement as well.

        • Eagle,

          That’s really interesting. Until today, I’d never heard of the Shepherding Movement. When I was at Drexel – in West Philly, I found it odd that all the CRU guys and girls would drive 45 minutes into the burbs several times a week for church, small groups, picnics and still have time for CRU meetings on campus. I commuted a lot so in the end, I just went to my church in the town I was from as I was usually there on weekends working or working on my assignments. During my Jr or Sr year, me and my roommates missed a few CRU meetings and had stopped going to the SGM church in the burbs. When we walked in one night, everyone seemed to look at us like we had tattoos on our faces or something. It was so cold. That was the last time I went, so yeah, that woulda been my Sr year. To be fair, I’ve stayed very loosely in touch with a lot of those people since graduation in 04 and they’ve always been super kind, but even in those interactions, I felt odd, like they looked at me like a project or something.

        • The Campus Crusade/CRU connection is interesting to me. The SGM churches in Florida (where we were) had an extremely low opinion of para-church organizations, including CRU. I know that members in at least 2 churches were discouraged from financially supporting CRU and/or its ministers, and my pastors used to talk all sorts of trash about them and any other para-church. And I got the impression that this was more or less nation-wide in SGM…

          • Josh in FW says:

            In my very limited experience, I’ve observed that the relationships with local congregations of many parachurch student groups (YL, CRU, FCA, etc.) depend on the locality. It seems that the parachurch group usually has close ties to a handful of large congregations and those relationships affect how the other congregations in the area feel about the parachurch groups.

          • Josh in FW, yeah, but the CRU staffers and students in the Tampa Bay area (where we were) had fantastic relationships with a lot of churches in the area. This is an SGM thing: they are passionately opposed to para-church organizations.

      • Dr John says:

        Mr S

        re: “i didn’t mean that specifically. I meant the pride and arrogance that lead to that.”

        Thanks for your clarification. Now I think I understand your position.

        I think it gets down to the matter of human responsibility. That is, even though we are inherently sinful (as reflected in pride in arrogance), we are also given the capacity and responsibility to choose to avoid overtly sinful behaviors (nobody gets a pass for covering up pedophilia, not even neo-calvinists).

        • and no one should. It’s revolting. I remember when I was an avid Driscoll listener, he used to talk about how if there was domestic abuse, molestation, sexual abuse, etc… that the church needed to take it immediately to the authorities — that there was no confidentiality clause when it came to abuse situations. His silence (as far as I’m aware) on this is deafening.

          Part of me wonders how to tell the people I know who still have connections to SGM about their safety possibly being in peril. I have a feeling that it won’t be received well.

          The comments about how we should be careful not to fall into such a snare was also in reference toward Piper (though I wasn’t clear about that), and his endorsement of SGM last week or two weeks ago. So so disappointing.

          • “The comments about how we should be careful not to fall into such a snare was also in reference toward Piper (though I wasn’t clear about that), and his endorsement of SGM last week or two weeks ago. So so disappointing.”

            Mr s, I am dealing with this now in my church. Piper seems to get a pass by many even outside the Reformed tradition. He got a pass with the Driscoll stuff as well. He gets a pass with his teaching on women which is medieval. I really worry about all this Piper focus I see in so many churches.

        • “I think it gets down to the matter of human responsibility. That is, even though we are inherently sinful (as reflected in pride in arrogance), we are also given the capacity and responsibility to choose to avoid overtly sinful behaviors (nobody gets a pass for covering up pedophilia, not even neo-calvinists).”

          That is where I was coming from, too. I think I have listened to too many reformed pastors say we are totally unable to follow Jesus’ commands. Or they leave out what the new birth means to us. So I might have over reacted,

  20. One small correction. While Brent has since posted his documents on his blog, his first “tell it to the church” action was emailing them to SGM pastors. They were sent to me, and I created the SGM Wikilieaks site on scribed, which was how they were first made available to the public.

    I’m not looking for any credit (or death threats), but want to affirm the truthfulness of Brent’s statement that he did not originally make the documents public.

    • Jim
      I sure miss SGM Refuge! You were my educator in all things SGM and a kind person to boot!

      I am glad that you made this comment. It is important for folks to know that Brent did not initially post these documents but has since done so.

      You are one of the main reasons that the stories of SGM have been told. You did a good thing under much stress and you did it with dignity and grace.

  21. I would like to clarify one point on Rachel Held Evan’s marvelous post on the SGM situation. It has to do with “alleged” victims. One does not need to use the word “alleged” because 4 of the pedophiles were arrested and convicted. (I confirmed that number today with those involved). Therefore, there are confirmed victims of molestation.

    What is alleged: coverup of the abuse by pastors, not reporting the abuse to authorities by pastors, and counseling the pedophiles on how to avoid arrest. It is alleged that some of the parents ignored the advice and counsel of the pastors and sought help from the authorities.

    There are children who were harmed and we must remember them, and their families, in our prayers. There are some who still suffer tremendously and will need much support. This breaks my heart. Someone once asked me what my “game” was at TWW. I told them it was love for those who are hurting.

    So, we can acknowledge freely the actual victims of molestation while using the word alleged to deal with the issues surrounding the churches and pastors.

  22. Greg Dill says:

    This is very disturbing news to me. Especially since I have a few friends who REALLY like C.J. Mahaney’s stuff. I personally don’t care too much for the Young Restless, & Reformed tribe primarily due to their arrogance and non-inclusive fundamentalism. But, hearing this news is just devastating to me.

    • Isn’t it disturbing? And this is popular in fundagelical Christianity, and its bled into other denominations. I refer to Sovereign Grace as Mormonism 2.0. BUT its not just limited to CJ Mahaney..it also incluces John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, etc.. My spiritual background included the Evangelical Free Church (EFCA)…can you imagine my rage in realizing that one of the local EFCA in my hometown in California was pushing Mahaney’s stuff> AFTER everything came out? Caklling CJ Mahaney humble is like saying Jefrey Dahmer wasn’t a serial killer.

      It begs to something I harp on a lot..but where is the discernment in Christians? WHERE? Christians often read material, go to chruch, check their brain on a shelf and let someone else do their thinking. THEY do not do their homework. They don’t challenge or examine the theology. They don’t see how CJ Mahaney is proped up by the John Pipers, Mark Driscolls, etc… and how when you purchase John Piper or Mark Driscoll’s material you are contributing to the pain and suffering of others trapped in the SGM cult. This is why I went to SGM Survivors and apologized for loving John Piper years ago. If I knew in 2002 – 2008 what I know now…i never would have purchased John Piper’s material. Let me close with 2 quotes which I believe are very appropriate on why Christians should confront SGM and not tolerate evil.

      Albert Einstein – “The world is a dangerous place to live; not becuase of the people who are evil, but becuase of the people who don’t do anything about the evil.”

      Martin Luther King – “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting it is really cooperating with it.”

      • Excellent comments here, Eagle.

        When I saw that Piper spoke at SGM Louisville the other week, I about threw out my Piper books. He and Driscoll’s work were so formative for me in my post college days (06-08), but now I can’t stand the thought of picking them up or listening to their podcasts. I think at some point, when I get my books out of storage, I’m going to burn all my neo-reformed stuff.

        • I also agree that so many Christians check their brains at the door, especially, as mentioned above, when the speaker is “dynamic”. I think this is what is drawing me into older traditions. Me and my GF attended an Orthodox church last summer and there’s nothing dynamic (in the “dynamic speaker sort of way) about the homily there because the homily isn’t the point of why people are there. They are there to worship, not get practical advice. The homily is one of many parts of the Divine Liturgy, all which point to Christ. The dynamic speaker seems to rely more on pointing to himself than anything else. When he dies, so dies that church. When the Orthodox priest dies, the church continues on.

          • Great point Mr S! Like many of the people commenting here, I too was raised in Evangelical/Fundamental circles. While I am still very conservative in my Christian beliefs, I have grown tired of the three ring circus that has come to define Evangelicalism. I’m also frustrated that for the most part, Christians have lost the ability to think (Mark Noll warned of this about 15 years ago in his great book, the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind).

            I’m excited to hear of your experiences with the Orthodox Church as I too have had nothing but positive experiences there. Say what you will about them, but as you said, this much cannot be denied: The Divine Liturgy is SO not about the Priest. In fact, for the first half of the service, he has his back to the people. Small, short homily, with a service that is intensely focused on Christ.

            Anyway, all that to say, I totally agree with your observations about the O Church.

        • Early on I gave my John Piper books to my SGM friend. Then it haunted me when I was in bed at night. So I demanded he give them back, and he did. I am going to take those and burn them in a fire place. Make a Youtube video out of it and dedicate it to Desiring God ministries! :-P

      • Alan,

        I loved the EO experience. There may come a day when I decide to enter into it. But that time is not now. Me and my GF were introduced to it via a friend of mine from HS who recently converted with his wife. We ended up in some really unpleasant conversations with him and his wife about how anyone who is not EO is not truly Christian. They told us to stop hanging out with our friends from our Protestant church, stop reading any books who were not written by non-Orthodox, etc etc. The general gist we got from them was “how could anyone be so stupid to not be Eastern Orthodox?”. That was a really bitter pill. The problem, as I understand it, is that this is not typical of Orthodoxy as a whole; it’s the Protestant to Orthodox converts. They carry this Protestant need-to-fight-over-everything into the Orthodox tradition and muddle it all up. So while we loved the Priests and the Divine Liturgy, we had a hard time with that couple specifically and two other converts. It just wasn’t the time for me or my GF to enter. It’s sad to me because I really miss it.

        For the time being (once I recover from a recent surgery), I’ll be attending a local Anglican parish. They are a real presence of Christ in the city I’m from (Lancaster, PA.)

        • Josh in FW says:

          I really like the Anglican stance of the “middle way” and am hopeful that the ACNA will provide a home for a lot of those wandering the wilderness.

          • So far (since last easter), it’s wrked out that way for my wife and I, God,s help in your search.

        • “We ended up in some really unpleasant conversations with him and his wife about how anyone who is not EO is not truly Christian. They told us to stop hanging out with our friends from our Protestant church, stop reading any books who were not written by non-Orthodox, etc etc. The general gist we got from them was “how could anyone be so stupid to not be Eastern Orthodox?”. ”

          Ironically, I think this is where Frank Schaeffer ended up. After watching some in depth interviews with him on youtube it started to look as if he traded on set of dogmatic thinking for another. I was disappointed in his dogmatic view of EO.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Me and my GF were introduced to it via a friend of mine from HS who recently converted with his wife. We ended up in some really unpleasant conversations with him and his wife about how anyone who is not EO is not truly Christian. They told us to stop hanging out with our friends from our Protestant church, stop reading any books who were not written by non-Orthodox, etc etc. The general gist we got from them was “how could anyone be so stupid to not be Eastern Orthodox?”

          Orthodoxy Fanboys. In full cage-phase mode, where every conversation or social interaction becomes “Orthodoxy! Orthodoxy! Orthodoxy!” If the husband starts growing an Alexander Solzhenitzin beard and wearing a black Eastern-Rite monk’s cassock, you’ll know they have flaked completely. (According to Fr Orthocuban, “Monk-a-Bee” is the traditional way for EOs to flake out. Like “Mary Channeling” for Catholics or “Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist” for Evangelicals.)

  23. Josh in FW says:

    Whoa, there’s a lot of disgusting stuff described about SGM. The bullet point about Ezzo parenting methods caught my attention. So, I googled Ezzo and discovered he is one of the co-authors of the Baby Wise books which my wife and I have used to help us with both our children. I was shocked to discover that this book was somehow connected to an abusive situation. I then read the linked story on that bullet point and it made more sense. I now understand why the pastors at my church are so very cautious about not giving any specific advise on parenting and schooling, but simply lay out big picture principles. I had no idea that a pastor would have the gall to tell a mother to not share the parenting techniques that worked for her with other mothers whether those techniques are attachment or Baby Wise that’s ridiculous.

    The biggest surprise to me when I became a parent is how much controversy is involved in those early years. I was very shocked when my wife and I were accused of being abusive and unloving because of sleep training. I was equally surprised at how many intelligent and educated parents were choosing to NOT vaccinate their children. The parenting wars go both ways and the attachment crowd can also be vicious in their attacks on parents who choose methods different from their own.

    • Josh
      I am glad that Ezzo’s materials worked for you. However, you do need to be aware of the serious controversy on the method described in Babywise. The AAP has issued an advisory on this method for a reason and it has nothing to do with sleep.

      We wrote about the issues on our blog in a post called Babywise, Use at Your Own Risk.
      http://thewartburgwatch.com/2011/03/08/babywise-use-at-your-own-risk/

      We have written a number of posts about the Ezzos and as my blogging buddy, Deb, is wont to say “Caveat Emptor.”

      • Josh in FW says:

        Thanks for sharing. I read your linked post and was surprised that you perceived these words of the authors as scare tactics, intimidating, and as manipulative. I don’t know enough about the authors to know what they intended, but I doubt that they are anymore motivated by profit than the hundreds of other authors who write about babies. When my wife told me about the book that her friends (fellow Moms) had recommended and asked me to also read it, I had no idea that it was controversial. By the time I finished reading it, I did know that it was something that I wasn’t going to bring up in small talk as the authors are very direct (maybe too direct) in their critiques of other methods. My experience with most in the fervent anti Baby Wise group is that they skip over the parts where the authors say to adapt the schedule to your family and your baby as needed. I do rememeber having to remind my wife of that part of their advice when she got frustrated about getting off the schedule.

        Until reading this blog today I had no idea that Evagelical sub groups had used this book as justification for abusive behavior. I’m glad that you and the Deb have informed me about how some have missused the ideas in Baby Wise. I think the post you’ve linked above is unfairly harsh to the book and it’s ideas. But, I would probably have a similar harsh view of the book if I had experienced the same groups of people that you blog about.

        Do you have issues with Dr. Buckman also, or is it mainly Ezzo that you are warning about?

    • Elizabeth says:

      http://www.ezzo.info Ezzo wrote a book called Preparation for Parenting way before Babywise. Babywise removed all the theological references and somehow got Buckman to sign on as a co-author. Ezzo ha stated that mothers such my myself who reject his schedule and ‘not completely Christian’. He said that when Christ cried out on the cross, His Father did not come for him, so it’s fine to let your child cry-it-out. The miraculous suvival of infants in the Mexico earthquake is used to support ‘see, they won’t starve if you make them wait’. He has been removed from two (maybe three) churches for disiplinary reason and has no relationship with his grown children or grandchildren.

      While the authors say to adapt the schudule to the baby’s needs, they also critize parents for doing just that in other parts of the book. They additionally say ‘tell your doctor everything’ on one page and then ‘if you docotor disagree’s with the schedule, find a new doctor’.

      Ezzo in his secular form is bad medical advice. Ezzo is in his religious form is spiritually abusive and manipulative and I can totally see how he fits with advocerial, power ladden relationships such as are being described in this article.

      • Josh in FW says:

        So, is the Baby Wise mostly Ezzo (someone I’m just learning about today) or mostly Dr. Buckman?
        This new information definitely has grabbed my attention. I’m just now learning about this Ezzo character, but the Baby Wise system worked wonders for our first 2 kids (third is on the way). Is there a another sleep training system that you’d recommend?

        • Josh
          There are many books out there such as “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” but even those have their pros and cons. I think it is important to read a variety of ideas and come up with something that fits you family.
          One cannot expect a child with serious colic, or low weight children, etc. to sleep through the night for quite awhile. A couple of things to think about when reading any book is
          1. The author’s perspective on parenting
          2. Have there been any warnings by groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
          3. Is there some sort of theological agenda. There are groups out there who actually advocate spanking babies because they are sinners. (Pearls) You can be sure that any advice book coming out of such a group would most likely have suspect guidelines.
          4. Read the reviews of the book. See what parents who have used the method have to say.
          5. Be careful when families claim that this is the one way or the biblical way or whatever.
          6. Have the authors been kicked out of churches (Ezzo)? Why?
          7. Do the authors have medical/psychological training by reputable groups?

          In the end, the kids grow up and the parents start having sleep problems worrying about them. What goes around comes around. :)

          • “In the end, the kids grow up and the parents start having sleep problems worrying about them. What goes around comes around. ”

            Dee, Positively brill.

            We had one child who only needed about 12-14 hours per day from day one! I was ready to break out the brandy….and not for me. That is just the way she was and still is. She wanted evereyone up and interacting. She is still stimulated by being around people and lots of interaction.

        • Elizabeth says:

          From my understanding, Babywise is mostly, if not all, Ezzo.

          I would caution about sleep training on whole, personally. Babies are wired to wake up because they can’t consume enough calories or liquids to sustain them but for a certain period, which obviously changes as they grow.

          Dee’s list is a great place to start if you are considering one. Ask yourself a couple of questions when you look at what they write: Does this benefit ME or does it benefit my child? Are the stated benefits to my child for ‘in the long run’ (Ezzo pushes ‘independence’ as opposed to healthy ‘interdependence’ or ‘nurturing’) which they use to justify something that puts the burnden of adjustment on the smallest of the family? Ezzo and those like him are all about ‘convenience parenting’ – sleep through the night; obey the first time, every time: any acts of normal exploration or development that are not convenient get labeled as ‘rebellion’ and therefore justify harsh reaction from parents, all covered with a ‘Biblically correct’ coating..

          • David L says:

            There are also other issues. Apparently Ezzo or his followers are really down on carrying or “slinging” your baby. Apparently this creates too much dependence on the mom. And there are other issues.

            He is a one size fits all solution to raising kids. And on top of that claims to be biblical with an incredibly thin foundation.

  24. I noticed Mark Dever’s name as an instructor in SGM’s Pastor’s College. My diaconate has been going through Dever’s book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Although I’m underwhelmed by the caliber of it, I don’t see anything alarming there.

    Should I keep my eye on Mark Dever? I don’t want to paint him with the same brush if he’s innocent of this. But should Dever take steps to distance himself from Pastor’s College?

    • Ted, I would be very wary of Dever… part of the recent history of SGM is Mahaney’s falling out with Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD–the original and largest SGM church, which Mahaney founded and led for decades, but which has since cut ties with the movement.

      When the proverbial poop hit the fan at “the happiest place on earth”, it was to none other than Mark Dever that Mahaney ran for cover: he and his family took shelter at Capitol Hill Baptist…

    • Ted
      TWW has followed the 9 Marks blog and Dever for quite awhile.The book you are reading is actually decent on the surface. However, it behooves everybody who reads any book by any pastor to see how the principles
      are lived out in the actual congregation. CHBC has an authoritarian view of the faith. There are rigid membership guidelines (in our opinion). Here is one post that we wrote with the specific links.

      http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/02/02/mark-dever-9-marks-edict-you-cannot-resign-wo-permission/

      You may also want to go to their 9 marks blog and read the following post regarding the keys to the kingdom.

      http://www.9marks.org/blog/what-are-keys-kingdom

      This is a statement from that post. “The local church has heaven’s authority for declaring who on earth is a kingdom citizen and therefore represents heaven.”

      Hopefully this gets you started.

      • Thanks, Dee, and thanks also to Ryan. I’ll keep my eye on Dever.

        I’m more concerned about Mark Driscoll however, and I see that his name keeps coming up in your postings about SGM and Dever. Besides 9 Marks, my church has also begun a men’s & boys’ Sunday school class, a video series entitled “Stepping Up: a call to courageous manhood”. This is published by Family Life, a ministry of Campus Crusade.

        Driscoll’s head pops up once in a while in Stepping Up and I don’t trust Driscoll one bit. In a discussion with another man after the class, a few red flags appeared in my head, and coincidentally an article over at Blog on the Way entitled “The Manhood Cult” started to make sense. As I mentioned before the author, Jeri, writes a bit like Michael Spencer and has a few things to say about abuses in fundamentalism.

        I’ll keep my eye on the 9 Marks study, but even more so on Stepping Up.

        • Family Life is Dennis Rainey. He was advocated when I was in Crusade. Dennis Rainey is close to SGM, John Piper and Mark Driscoll. Dennis Rainey actually had Mahaney speak to their marriage conference if I remember correctly. My Crusade director encouraged us guys to do Dennis Rainey’s “Pledge”. He, I believe is the reason why Crusade became complementrain. That happened in the late 1990s. As I learned a lot of this stuff is linked together. Its like syphilis….it’s the gift that keep son giving! :-D

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Complementarian” in this context usually means “Male Supremacist”.

            Welcome to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale. God Wills It!

        • Ted,

          that manhood talk is intoxicating for young guys. I don’t know if you remember Driscoll’s video in 07 or 08 where he was in a graveyard aggressively recruiting men to plant 1000 churches. Man, I got sucked in by that. There was another night I was listening to a Driscoll sermon in my bedroom and started frantically doing sit ups and pushups so I could be a “real man”. Nothing wrong with physical exertion, but that’s the wrong motivation! It’s so easy to buy into that stuff.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            that manhood talk is intoxicating for young guys. I don’t know if you remember Driscoll’s video in 07 or 08 where he was in a graveyard aggressively recruiting men to plant 1000 churches.

            If that’s the video I’m thinking of, it wasn’t just “a graveyard”, it was a National Cemetery filled with war veterans.

            I was at Gettysburg National Cemetery (yes, the one dedicated by President Lincoln with The Gettysburg Address) several years ago. After passing the semicircle of the original grave markers from the Civil War/Battle of Gettysburg, I went to the outer rings of grave markers carved with names, dates, religious affiliation icons, and “World War I”, “World War II”, “Korea”, “Vietnam”…

            THAT was where the “I Can Beat You Up!” buttery doughy preacher with the kewpie-doll fauxhawk was making his on-camera sales pitch.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        This is a statement from that post. “The local church has heaven’s authority for declaring who on earth is a kingdom citizen and therefore represents heaven.”

        “Local Church” meaning 9 Marks, 9 Marks Approved, or 9 Marks Controlled?

    • Ted-

      9 Marks is a ministry of Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist (CHBC). The 9 Marks of a “healthy” church (note I have healthy in quotes for a reason…) are Preaching, Biblical Theology, The Gospel, Conversion, Evangelism, Membership, Discipline, Leadership and Discipleship. Now here’s the problem with the CJ Mahaney fiasco at CHBC.

      Mark Dever for all the talk about “The Local Church”, church membership, discipline, etc…has shown all that to be “meaningless” (To quote in the spirit of Ecclesiastes). All that 9 Marks has stood for, advocated, beaten its drum, stood on a chair in the Christian town square and proclaimed – is all meaningless.

      Why?

      Because when Mark Dever let CJ Mahaney take refuge at Capital Hill Baptist he VIOLATED most – IF NOT ALL (depending on interpretation) – what the 9 Marks ministry stands for. Like a fairy in Disneyland with a wave of his wand Mark Dever did the following:
      1. He showed that you don’t have to be a member of “The Local Church” when he let Mahaney flee Covenant Life Church. Mahaney’s membership at CLC is fluid and ultimately null and void. Church membership means nothing.
      2. Mark Dever showed that his preaching is fluid and not truth. How can you teach all the claims about church membership in the NT AND ADVOCATE THAT AS TRUTH FROM GOD’S WORD ITSELF, and then wave all that truth for a person fleeing another church? Mark Dever threw the Bible under the bus and shows why he has no respect for the Word of God. Quite the Pastor eh?
      3. Mark Dever violated “The Gospel” in showing that it is in flux and fluid depending on who it applies to. I, and everyone here would be subject to the decrees of “The Gospel” but Mark Dever waves his wand as to how its applicable, just because you are in the inside circle or he has a financial interest in seeing it succeed.
      4. Mark Dever violated Leadership and showed why he is an EPIC FAIL as a church member, pastor, a man, and as someone who calls himself a man of God. His action showed why he is a fraud. His leadership when it comes to crisis shows why he is as strong as a piece of linguini fresh out of hot water. Yes he has that kind of spine. Giving someone refuge on suspicious circumstances shows that he doesn’t know how to lead. He can’t make hard decisions when its crucial. Basically as a man Mark Dever has no balls.
      5. Discipline as Mark Dever has taught is null and void. He let CJ Mahaney flee discipline and gave him refuge. Through his subjective action Mark Dever has shown why church discipline is subjective, and not universally applicable.
      6. Mark Dever also showed why discipleship is not universally practiced either. Mahaney could have been coached, taught to stay at CLC and discipled in place. Just the opposite has happened. Discipleship doesn’t universally apply either.
      In closing, I also offer my analysis. Mark Dever showed that the 9 Marks Ministry is a fraud, and subjective and that there is no such thing as universal truth. Even “The Gospel” that Mark Dever proclaims has no truth as shown by his actions.

      • “In closing, I also offer my analysis. Mark Dever showed that the 9 Marks Ministry is a fraud, and subjective and that there is no such thing as universal truth. Even “The Gospel” that Mark Dever proclaims has no truth as shown by his actions.”

        The Mahaney debacle is showing us that most of them are frauds and are not practicing what they preach with one of their own they have a ministry partnership with such as T4G and their partnering as GC.

        . The ONLY way this can work is if they can convince folks that pastors get a pass from their own teaching. Discipline has been a huge issue with T4G and GC. (I have heard every excuse including: It is none of their business what goes on in Mahaney’s local church as if that gives them a pass)

        As long as they can distract folks from connecting the dots or looking too deep, they will be fine.

      • Thanks, Eagle. Your opinion is always appreciated.

  25. “I can’t believe how idolatrous Driscoll, Piper, Chander and on a small level, CJ became to me. ”

    Mr s,

    Thanks so much for the information you have shared here. I am real interested because I am coming across more and more folks who were attending an Acts 29 church plant. (Some of the churches have left and started their own church planting group, such as Sojourn in Louisville, after the Petry’s put up Joyful Exiles but the Driscoll thinking is still there)

    I am also interested in how they put their funding together for plants. I know the SBC was helping out with some of them but not sure the extent because they do not really report out specifically on goes to Acts 29. I think they thought it would be more acceptable now that Chandler has taken it over.

    One is hearing snippets here and there about the training at the boot camp and what Driscoll taught. It is insidious and I am afraid it is becoming the normal.

    • It’s true about the idolatry thing. Those guys are revered in a strange way. And despite my uneasiness with SGM in college, some of my friends at the A29 plant loved CJ so we went to see him preach one Sunday in suburban VA. It was an “event”. There was a lot of pastor/planter worship going on amongst us young guys. We’d all clamor for the attention of the planters and hang out with them at every opportunity. Of course, that is our own hearts going in the wrong direction and perhaps they weren’t even aware of it, but at the same time, it was being modeled from the top down. Piper was on par with the evangelical Pope.

      • For me when I was into Piper I kind of looked at him almost like a father figure. i don’t know why…. It’s funny and quite the contradiction that you have Piper being at his age and then so many “Senior Pastors” at so many Calvinista churches being so young. For me that’s quite a dichotomy.

    • I do wanna be clear that my personal experience at that specific A29 church was not negative, but there was a structure surrounding it that, over the long term, i think would have become poisonous for me. Another friend of mine recently moved away to Philadelphia for grad school and now that he’s left that specific church, he has described it as a breath of fresh air.

    • The pastors at some of these places are interesting. One of the Sojourners pastors in the NOVA suburbs was a small group pastor at McLean Bible Church. When I was a faithful devotee I raised some concerns about how the small group ministry was letting people fall through the cracks and other problems. I was largely yelled and and treated in an authoritarian way in the lobby. My reaction was like, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrott?!?” 8-O And I really pushed back.

      I did know another guy involved in an Acts 29 church. Since John Piper teaches of a determinist God who ordains and is the source of evil, think of the consequences of that teaching. When a 767 flew into a building it’s because God willed it. When a person is murdered its because God decided that person’s life should end. When a child is molested its because God orchestrated it. Its’ really sick when you think about it. And basically what it does is make the act of murder or molestation as a means of worship since God ordained it and decided it would happen. But some of the people that I know or have known who are in this theology don’t connect the dots. Evil affects someone else, they talk about it in the third person context (do I have that right?) The problem is when it hits home…and its THEIR child that was was molested; THEIR sister killed by a drunk driver, etc…

      I was struggling with my Acts 29 friend and we had an intense discussion. I told him that when his daughter is molested (since God ordains evil of course) that he should take his molester out, buy him a beer and praise God that he was obedient. My friend went through the roof. But as I see it its the logical conclusion to a theology that teaches that God ordains evil and hates people.

      There are two things Mark Driscoll has been successful with…one is redefining legalism. The other is to teach something and advocate pornographic thinking. Look at what Mark Driscoll teaches about anal and oral sex, the reason why guys like Driscoll is because they can excuse their actions. They can tell their wife, “Hey Mark Driscoll teaches this, its Biblical, just do this, etc…” The guy gets his way especially in a culture that teaches that the man leads and is superior.

      • “I was struggling with my Acts 29 friend and we had an intense discussion. I told him that when his daughter is molested (since God ordains evil of course) that he should take his molester out, buy him a beer and praise God that he was obedient. My friend went through the roof. But as I see it its the logical conclusion to a theology that teaches that God ordains evil and hates people. ”

        Eagle, You have to add that the child’s molestation is not that big of a deal because that child is a sinner, too, just like the molester. That is what SGM taught and used as leverage when the victims families went to the SGM pastors. It would be one thing if only one pastor taught this but it was system wide.

        This is why so many of us are so concerned about the influence of Mahaney in many churches. I have seen his book on Humilty really promoted in the SBC.

        • Martin,

          I grew up in a strict KJV only church (about one step removed from Westboro Baptist), where i went to elementary school in the basement. My parents had enough, and when I was 10 and we ended up in a more normal baptist church. Then post-college, I learnt of Driscoll, Piper, etc… and their wrathful god images scared the crap out of me. Only until recently was I able to come to terms with the fact that God loves, not hates, me. But that dysfunctional view of God lead me to butt heads a little bit with the leadership at my church because “i wasn’t feeling convicted enough” on Sundays. Clearly, they understood God better than I and it wasn’t until I left and visited an EO church that the warmth of God began to dawn on me. I eventually reconciled with one leader in specific and re-entered the church I so angrily, and wrongly, left.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Eagle, You have to add that the child’s molestation is not that big of a deal because that child is a sinner, too, just like the molester.

          “Man sees a cute little baby; GOD SEES AN UTTERLY DEPRAVED *SINNER*!!!!!”
          – some radio preacher I heard back in the Seventies

          • Robert F says:

            It’s even worse than the idea of karma, which implies that all suffering is caused by the sufferer, because karma at least is an impersonal metaphysical law; with the supposedly deserved suffering that of total depravity, it’s a personal God who is not just indifferent to suffering but wills it as part of his wrath, which he arbitrarily arranged from eternity to glorify himself. Talk about narcissistic ego trips, but on a cosmic scale.

      • Eagle,

        Insightful comments here about Piper and determinism. My GF went thru a horrible marriage and divorce in 2008-11. At one point, I bought her Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, edited by Piper. In 2007 and 08, while dealing with the onset of chronic pain that I still suffer with, that book was highly encouraging to me. She began to read it maybe a year ago and couldn’t get through the first chapter. I told her that if it wasn’t helpful to put it down. She’s not been much interested in Piper ever since. The book literally made her pain worse; it was not helpful AT ALL.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I did know another guy involved in an Acts 29 church. Since John Piper teaches of a determinist God who ordains and is the source of evil, think of the consequences of that teaching. When a 767 flew into a building it’s because God willed it. When a person is murdered its because God decided that person’s life should end. When a child is molested its because God orchestrated it. Its’ really sick when you think about it.

        Utter Predestination means never having to take any action. Whatever Will Be, Will Be. God Hath Predestined It. Just sit back and accept whatever happens. Not my fault, God Willed It to Happen, In’shal’lah, eh, Kismet.

      • Eagle, great comments. I couldn’t agree any more than i do, with your last paragraph in particular. I had the misfortune to be involved with an A29 “church” a few years back. I think your comments resonated with me because of what I saw firsthand.

        For the people in that “church” their only frame of reference to anything is…whatever MD says or whatever the local pastor of that church said. These people had lost, or given up, the ability to think through anything for themselves. All they knew to do was to simply parrot whatever MD or their local A29 pastor said.

    • I went to an A29 boot camp, and insidious couldn’t be farther from the atmosphere. I was only attending to get an inside look (I was not a planter, and access to the camp was an extra $20). Driscoll’s name got mentioned maybe once. It was a refreshingly good event that had quite a bit of good preaching. Insidious? no. Btw, I don’t attend an A29 church.

      • Good for you Brian. I am glad there was not teaching on bodies piling up behind the mars hill bus or that you brought your wife when Driscoll taught the pastors wives to go along with sodomy when they did not feel like it in order not to deprive their husbands. You dodged that one! I just am concerned many young guys hear his teaching and implement in their churches.

        I have heard some horror stories from people who have left that world.

  26. Mr, s,

    It is very hard to see it clearly until you leave that culture. I can relate to that on other fronts. And things are always pretty good in the beginning when there is nothing to lose……and until there is some success. I am so glad you got out early. I have some young friends that are really struggling with their faith because of the time they put in there….not as leaders but as members. What I found particularly frustrating is how hard it was for them to leave even when they knew something was very wrong but could not quite put their finger on it.

    I really am very concerned with the mass influence of Piper. Did you see the video he did announcing his future plans?

  27. Josh in FW says:

    Today my Sunday school class had a founder of a group called MinistrySafe (http://abusepreventionsystems.com/) come speak to us parents about sex abuse prevention. She is an attorney whose practice is dedicated to the prosecution of sex offenders. It was a very sobering presentation. One of things mentioned in the presentation is that background checks are not enough because only 10% of offenders come into contact with the criminal justice system. Another very important part of her presentation was teaching your children that they have the right to say stop to unwelcome behavior/touch. If your church doesn’t have an abuse prevention system in place for children and youth, I highly recommend looking into this organization.