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A More In-Depth Look at “The Sex Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch” by Washingtonian Magazine and TIME Magazine

Washingtonian magazine in Washington, D.C. is read by over 400,000 people every month.  In the February issue, Tiffany Stanley wrote a featured article titled, “The Fall of a Mega Church.”  That article is now available online under a new title, “The Sex Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch - Inside the rise and fall of Sovereign Grace Ministries.”  It can be read here.   

The Washingtonian article hit the newsstands on January 21.  It was published online on February 14.  Soon after Stanley was interviewed by Elizabeth Dias from TIME magazine.  Dias wrote an article titled, “Inside the Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries.”  It was published online on February 16.  You can read it here

In her article, Stanley features five victims of sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).  There are many more.  These five have told their stories before on the blog SGMSurvivors and in their allegations of fact found in the former lawsuit against Covenant Life Church and SGM.  I’ve provided that information below so readers can comprehend their stories more fully.  In four of the five cases, the abuser was prosecuted and found guilty.  In the other case, the victim did not press charges.  

I’ve also tried to help readers sort through the various pseudonyms or middle names used by family members or victims in the Washingtonian article, the stories on SGMSurvivors and in the lawsuit.  It is confusing. 

Lastly, I’ve included information regarding other victims and commented on the upcoming lawsuit in VA, the need to prosecute perjurers and conspirators, C.J. Mahaney’s evangelical allies, the upcoming Together for the Gospel conference, and Mahaney’s refusal to talk with Stanley.

Dominic & Pam Palmer, Renee Palmer-Gamby 

Renee is the married daughter of Dominic and Pam Palmer.  She was sexually assaulted by a teenager at Covenant Life Church in 1993.  He was prosecuted and found guilty (cf. 104).

Pam wrote about this on SGMSurvivors in “SGMnot’s Story” on August 3, 2011.  

Renee’s allegations of fact are found in paragraphs 85 and 94-106 in the former lawsuit called the Second Amended Complaint (SAC) which was filed on May 14, 2013 in the Montgomery County Circuit Court, Maryland. 

Edward, Katie & Ann 

Edward (his middle name) was a Care Group leader in Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax.  Katie (the pseudonym used in the Stanley article) is his wife.  She was the first person to speak up about the sexual abuse of children in Sovereign Grace Ministries on SGMSurvivors in “Noel’s Story” on December 31, 2008.  Noel is another pseudonym.  

Their daughter Ann (her middle name) was repeatedly raped and molested by a teenager at the church in 1999.  He was prosecuted and found guilty (cf. 131).

Her allegations of fact are found in paragraphs 119-133 in the SAC.  She goes by the pseudonym, Jane Doe, in the lawsuit. 

Sarah & Richard, Taylor & Rose 

Sarah and Richard (the pseudonyms used in the article) are the parents of Taylor (middle name) and Rose (middle name).  

Taylor was sexually abused by an older boy who was the son of a pastor in Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax according to the SAC and public statements made by pastors Mark Mullery, Vince Hinders and Lou Gallo at a church meeting on July 24, 2011.  

Taylor’s allegations of fact are found in paragraphs 107-112 in the SAC.  He goes by the pseudonym, Karl Koe, in the lawsuit. 

His sister, Rose, was molested by a different teenager in the same church when she was 8 years old.  Her allegations of fact are found in paragraphs 162-165 in the SAC.  She goes by the pseudonym, Karen Koe, in the lawsuit.  Her abuser was prosecuted and found guilty (cf. 164).  

Sarah and Richard told their stories on SGMSurvivors inWallace’s Story” on April 8, 2011 and in Wallace and Happymom’s Response to Fairfax’s July 24 Family Meeting” on August 23, 2011.  Wallace and Happymom are also pseudonyms.   

Peggy Welsh, David Adams, Dara Adams-Sutherland, and Unnamed Daughter/Sister 

Peggy Welsh was formerly married to David Adams.  For over three years, Adams sexually abused one of his adopted daughters whose name is not included in the article.  He was tried and sentenced (cf. 51).  His other adopted daughter, Dara Adams Sutherland, was a plaintiff in the SAC on behalf of her sister who was “psychologically disabled from the assaults.” 

Dara wrote about their ordeal on SGMSurvivors in “’exCLCer’s’ Story” on July 29, 2001.  Her allegations of fact on behalf of her sister are found in paragraphs 40-43 and 45-55 in the lawsuit.  

I wrote about the allegations of fact in “Gary Ricucci and the Conspiracy Surrounding Convicted Felon, David Adams” (August 2, 2013).   

Heather Thompson Bryant, Carla Coe, & Donna Doe 

Three other alleged victims are referred to in Stanley’s story. 

“There were three plaintiffs initially, but it wasn’t long before others came forward.  One [Heather Thompson Bryant] alleged that there was a pedophile ring at Covenant Life and that men, including a pastor [Stephen Griney], had molested her.  Another [Carla Coe – pseudonym) alleged that cofounder Larry Tomczak had her strip and beat her for more than 20 years, allegations he calls “baseless” and “absolutely false.”  A woman [Donna Doe – pseudonym] who stated she’d been molested by her father alleged in 2000, the pastors at the Fairfax church encouraged her mother to stay with him.  They blamed the mother, according to the suit, for being “a bad wife who had failed to satisfy her husband sexually.”  Eventually, 11 plaintiffs in all signed on.” 

Heather Thompson Bryant – for her allegations of fact see paragraphs 56-84 and 90 in Second Amended Complaint or lawsuit.   

Carla Coe (pseudonym) – see paragraphs 166-172. 

Donna Doe (pseudonym) – see paragraphs 134-151.  Her mother also shared their experience on SGMSurvivors in “Taylor’s Story” on August 31, 2011.  Taylor is also a pseudonym.   

Jessica Roberts Thomas, James Roberts, & Grace Goe 

Stanley provides no coverage for the three remaining victims mentioned in the lawsuit. 

Jessica Roberts Thomas – for her allegations of fact see paragraphs 21, 59, and 86-93.  I wrote about Roberts Thomas in “John Loftness in Focus – Former Chairman of the SGM Board & Alleged Sexual Sadist” (July 14, 2013).  

James Roberts – see paragraphs 32-39, 44, and 46.  I covered these allegations of fact in “Gary Ricucci and the Conspiracy Surrounding Convicted Felon, David Adams” (August 2, 2013). 

Grace Goe (pseudonym) – see paragraphs 152-161.  Grace Goe decided to go public after the lawsuit came out.  Her name is Olivia Llewellyn Graham.  I wrote about her and her father in “The Conspiracy Surrounding Plaintiff Grace Goe at Covenant Life Church” (June 4, 2013) and in “Charlie Llewellyn, Alleged Child Abuser, Sells Llewellyn Realtors to Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.” (June 19, 2013).  

Marcia Griffeth & Two of Her Sons 

Marcia Griffeth was the wife of Nathaniel (Nate) Morales. She was interviewed by Stanley for the article.  Marcia divorced Morales after his arrest in October 2012.  They were married in June 1994.  Soon after Morales abused two of her boys – his stepsons.  I’ve written at least 18 articles about Morales’ predatory abuse and the conspiracy to cover it up by at least seven pastors at Covenant Life Church.  You can read these articles at  Do a word search for Morales and Layman.  Marcia and I became friends through my coverage.  The pastors at CLC have never contacted her or her sons to ask forgiveness or make restitution.  

A New Lawsuit Forthcoming in VA 

A new lawsuit will be filed in Virginia by the plaintiff’s lead lawyer, Susan Burke.  I’ve known about this for a long time.  No doubt it will involve C.J. Mahaney and other top leaders in SGM.  I have reason to believe a number of victims, conspirators and perpetrators will be deposed by Burke in order to show a long standing history of not reporting to law enforcement.  If so, a lot of supporting evidence will be gathered not strictly related to the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit.  

Here’s what Stanley says about it in her article.       

“As of now, the families are in limbo.  A Montgomery County judge dismissed their suit based on technicalities, including the state’s restrictive civil stature of limitations for child-sex abuse cases.  The proceedings never delved into whether the allegations were true.  [Susan] Burke describes the saga as ‘heartbreaking and grueling.’  She plans to file a new suit in Virginia against the Fairfax church on behalf of at least two plaintiffs.  ‘Out of all the cases I have worked on,” she says, ‘this one is the toughest.’”   

Notice the reference to “at least two plaintiffs.”  More victims have come forward.  I hope they join the lawsuit. 

Stanley also made the following comment in her TIME interview.  

“And as I found out in my reporting, civil lawsuits aren’t just about the money.  They are a tool to see if there was a cover-up.  It’s difficult and rare to criminally prosecute religious leaders who covered up abuse, so lawsuits are an avenue to get transparency and justice from the institution, not just the abuser.” 

This is a true statement and one of the reasons I have written so extensively about the cover-up in Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  It is also one of the reasons I have provided law enforcement with hundreds of pages of confidential evidence.  Thus far they have refused to prosecute perjurers and conspirators but it is not due to any lack of evidence in my opinion.  That’s also one of the reasons C.J. Mahaney continues to lie about his involvement in the conspiracy to protect child predators.  He is guessing he can get away with it because the cops won’t come after him.     

In the interview by TIME, Stanley was asked, “What happens next for the victims?  For the church?  Is justice possible?”  Here’s her answer.

“Susan Burke, the lawyer for the victims, has said she wants to file another lawsuit in Virginia.  That suit wouldn’t involve all the original plaintiffs because some are too old to file suits.  So it would likely involve only two of the survivors from my story.  Above all, I think many of the families want Sovereign Grace to acknowledge publicly that mistakes were made.  A little more transparency might go a long way.  They want that accountability.  It’s galling to them that Sovereign Grace leaders like C.J. Mahaney are still revered, still headlining conferences, and still running churches, with powerful evangelical allies on their side.  Some of the parents, like Pam Palmer and Sarah and Richard, have become activists around these issues.  They know it may be too late to get justice for all of the Sovereign Grace plaintiffs, but they want the laws to change for future victims.  And they want churches to better handle abuse in the future.” 

The statute of limitations may be an issue “because some are too old to file suits.”  The two youngest survivors are Rose (pseudonym Karen Koe) and Ann (pseudonym Jane Doe).  Rose was born in September 1994 (cf. paragraph 10) and abused in 2002 (cf. paragraph 162).  Ann was born in February 1995 (cf. paragraph 9) and abused in 1998-1999.  They are going forward with the new lawsuit. 

“Kate’s daughter, Ann, now a junior in college, has grown into a bright all-American girl, tall with long brown hair.  She’s been through counseling and, thankfully, doesn’t remember the abuse.  She says she has agreed to be part of a future lawsuit, to encourage others to ‘stand up and tell their stores.’ 

“At 21, Richard and Sarah’s daughter Rose also feels strong enough to be part of another lawsuit.”  

Praise God for these young ladies.  They are telling their stories in order “to encourage others to ‘stand up and tell their stories.’”  That is so important!  There are many other victims of abuse that were once a part of Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax.  Most have chosen to remain silent.  Pray for Ann and Rose and pray that other victims testify.  In some cases, the victims went on to abuse others.  That is why they are silent.   

The same is true in Sovereign Grace Ministries at large.  There are so many more victims.  I’ve written about some of them, interacted with others of them, and have evidence for many of them.  Please speak out against your abusers and those that covered up their crimes.  Once again, the Lord has highlighted the abuse and cover-up that has occurred in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Join with Him and add your light!

Powerful Evangelical Allies

Stanley also notes.  

“It’s galling to them that Sovereign Grace leaders like C.J. Mahaney are still revered, still headlining conferences, and still running churches, with powerful evangelical allies on their side.”   

The support Mahaney has received from “powerful evangelical allies” is reprehensible.  I have written about this at length and will continue to do so.  These articles in Washingtonian magazine and TIME magazine are a rebuke from the Lord to Mahaney and the national celebrities who have covered up for him.  I expect Mahaney will be forced out of the upcoming “Together for the Gospel” conference on April 12-14 in Louisville, KY like he was forced out in 2014. 

See “C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from Together for the Gospel & Founders Remove Statement of Support” and “The Photo Promotion of C.J. Mahaney at Together for the Gospel.” 

C.J. Mahaney, John Loftness, & Gary Ricucci Refuse to Comment 

Stanley did everything possible to hear C.J. Mahaney’s side of the story and that of 15 other pastors.  Some of those pastors talked to her but none on the record.  I suspect some of them shared incriminating evidence about the conspiracy and their colleagues that they didn’t want printed.    

“Of 16 former and current SGM pastors contacted for this story, none would answer questions on the record about the suit’s allegations and some did not return messages.  A lawyer for Mahaney, Loftness and Ricucci declined to comment. … Now known as Sovereign Grace Churches, the ministry’s new headquarters are in a business park just outside Louisville.  On a Friday this past October, I stopped by and was swiftly turned away.  Mahaney didn’t respond to my follow-up e-mail but that Saturday night, his brother-in-law Ricucci did.  There would be no interview with either of them, he wrote.” 

For their part, Mahaney, Ricucci and their lawyer refused to answer any questions.  That doesn’t prove guilt but it implies guilt.  Mahaney has remained silent and hidden behind his lawyers for the last 4 years.  Here is his only statement from May 22, 2014.   

“For nearly two years now, I have remained silent about a civil lawsuit brought against various parties including myself.  During that time, many have urged me to respond publicly and address the accusations against me.  These pleas have only intensified over the last week in light of reports of testimony in a recent trial.  I look forward to the day when I can speak freely.  For now, the simple and extraordinarily unsatisfying reality—for myself and others—is that in the face of an ongoing civil lawsuit, I simply cannot speak publicly to the specifics of these events.  Even with those constraints, however, let me be clear about this: I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit.”  

The long-form story in the Washingtonian provided an ideal opportunity for Mahaney to speak freely.  The lawsuit was dismissed 20 months ago by one judge due to legal technicalities.  He had the “extraordinarily unsatisfying reality” of speaking publicly to hundreds of thousands of people about the specifics of these events.  Yet, he and his lawyer refused to make any comment including one declaring his innocence.   

I fear for my friend.  The next time Mahaney speaks it may be at a deposition and then at a civil trial.  He may perjure himself but if he tries I am confident the Lord will expose him.  Then he may face jail time because the plaintiff’s lead lawyer, Susan Burke, will file charges.  Burke is no light weight.  She is one of the top 75 female lawyers in the nation according to the National Law Journal.    


Please Help Financially 

I continue to hold SGM accountable, write about lessons to be learned, work for criminal justice, seek reform in the Body of Christ, inform the national press of newsworthy stories, and care for those who have been harmed including victims of child abuse. These endeavors have been my full time work.  You can assist these efforts by financially supporting me via PayPal or by a check made out to me and sent to my home address.    

Brent Detwiler
117 Tilton Drive
Mooresville, NC   28115 

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I am also developing Aletheia Ministries – a 501(c)3 non-profit organization constituted for “freely preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and establishing and training believers in the grace of God.” I'm available for preaching, seminars or retreats on a wide array of topics including how to recognize, prevent and respond to child abuse in your church community.  Please contact me regarding speaking engagements at

You can support this ministry by making a tax-deductible donation via PayPal or by check made out to Aletheia Ministries and sent to my home address.

Aletheia Ministries
117 Tilton Drive
Mooresville, NC   28115  

Your support is deeply appreciated.  All gifts and contributions are kept strictly confidential.

Brent Detwiler

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