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An Appeal to 77 National Leaders Regarding C.J. Mahaney

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 4:56 PM
To: National Leaders
Subject: An Appeal to National Leaders Regarding C.J. Mahaney


This letter is sent to you in the form of an appeal since you are familiar with C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  I’ve held off on contacting national leaders in the past.  Recent events, however, warrant your due consideration.  I’ve attempted to be brief knowing the demands on your time.  [Note to administrative assistants.  Please forward to intended person on the list below.]    

On Monday of this week, I sent the following email to Don Carson. 

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2013 1:44 PM
To: Don Carson
Subject: C.J. Mahaney 

Hello Don, 

Would you please take the time to read the attached class action lawsuit against C.J. and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  It is ever so serious.  I hope you will reconsider having C.J. participate in The Gospel Coalition Conference as a speaker in April.  All 143 Complaints [in the lawsuit] occurred while he was sr. pastor of Covenant Life Church or the President of SGM.  It seems to me such action is prudent on your part.  

This may be a moot point if the SGM Board of Directors takes action against C.J.  I hope they cancel his upcoming speaking engagements.  I’ve also asked the Board to put C.J. on administrative leave while they do an investigation of him and the Chairman, John Loftness.  Federal authorities are also aware of the criminal elements found in the alleged Complaints.  The Civil Court proceedings could easily be followed by Criminal Court proceedings. 

The lawsuit aside, C.J. does not meet the qualifications of Scripture for Christian ministry.  For example, 16 churches have left SGM over the past 7 months because C.J. is not above reproach.  That includes the first, third and sixth largest churches in the denomination.   There has been a massive exodus of leaders and members out of SGM and it continues.  This is not due to the work of slanderers.  It is due to mountains of evidence and testimony from hundreds of witnesses against him and SGM.  

Don, I don’t assume you are following the story but the ethical demise of SGM has shocked even the most ardent supporters.  Tens of thousands of people are heartbroken over the abuse and corruption that has been exposed over the past 1 ½ years.  C.J. and I were the best of friends and the closest of colleagues.  I continue to hope and pray for his good.  



Later that day, The Associated Press and The Washington Post carried an article about the arrest of a pedophilic child molester that operated in C.J.’s church.  I wrote Don that evening a second time. 

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2013 7:40 PM
To: Don Carson
Subject: FW: C.J. Mahaney

This article entitled, “Man accused of molesting boys in 1980s from Md. church; church is identified in sex abuse suit” has been picked up by the Associated Press and run in The Washington Post.  It will be carried throughout the United States tomorrow.  This is the first of criminal charges against a pedophile whose criminal activity was concealed and protected while C.J. was the senior pastor at Covenant Life Church.  

Things are only going to worsen for C.J. and SGM.  Here’s a quote in the article from one of the lawyers: “Susan Burke, the lawyer who brought the case, said in a written statement that the ‘indictment supports our lawsuit’s allegations of extensive wrongdoing by Sovereign Grace Ministries and its pastors.  We look forward to our day in court.’” 

Here is what C.J., John Loftness, Tommy Hill and the SGM Board of Directors said about Ms. Burke and her associates on November 14, 2012. 

“SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance.  This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment.  We are saddened that lawyers are now, in essence, seeking to violate those rights by asking judges and juries, years after such pastoral assistance was sought, to dictate what sort of biblical counsel they think should have been provided.  SGM believes that allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment, that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse.”

[End of letter]

Gentlemen, I’ve worked with C.J. since I graduated from seminary in 1979.  I wrote the Statement of Faith, founded the Pastors College, oversaw 23 churches in the southeastern United States, directed our outreaches in Asia and the Caribbean, served on the Board of Directors for 25 years, and was one of four men who started Sovereign Grace Ministries in 1982.  I say none of this to impress you, only to establish some credibility with you.  

In 2007, I stepped down from the Board of Directors largely due to my loss of trust in C.J.  In 2009, I left SGM because of the pride, deceit, hypocrisy, and heavy handedness that characterized the leadership culture.  It became unconscionable.  I could not stay.     

I am not a lone wolf in my assessment.  Over the last seven months, the majority of C.J.’s closest friends and colleagues have severed ties with Sovereign Grace Ministries for the same reasons.  The entire ministry is convulsing and the problems are only worsening.  More and more pastors and churches will be leaving in the coming months.  

Nathaniel Morales is the alleged criminal pedophile cited in the article above, but he is not the only one whose activities were concealed.  I’ve attached the [first] amended lawsuit.  It is a must read.  Evangelical leaders who protect sex abusers out of self-interest, fail to involve law enforcement, and obstruct justice must learn from the consequences SGM is about to experience.  It could likely bankrupt the ministry and key leaders.  

Here are the “Facts Regarding Paula Poe,” one of the Plaintiffs cited in Complaints 37-41 out of 143 Complaints found in the amended class action lawsuit.  Morales is the “children’s ministry worker.”  

[Note: It turns out Morales is likely not the “children’s ministry worker” referred to in Complaint 37 regarding Paula Poe.  Morales is charged with sexually abusing teenage boys at Montgomery County Christian School (MCCS) and in his residence while at member at Covenant Life Church (CLC) but not at Covenant Life School (CLS).  MCCS is a separate entity from CLC and CLS.   I’ve been trying to get further clarification by asking the following questions. 1) Q. Did Morales ever abuse at CLC or CLC events?  A. I can’t tell.  2) Q. Were any of the boys he allegedly molested from CLC?  A. It appears so.  3)  Q. If not Morales, who is the CLC “children’s ministry worker” in C37?  A. I cannot determine.  4) Q. Did Morales allegedly molest or assault any of the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit or is he irrelevant to the current lawsuit in that regard?  A. I can’t determine for certain.  Keep in mind, more Plaintiffs could be added to the lawsuit.  Understandably, those who know the answers to these questions are not free to answer them. (Added Feb 20, 2013)]  

The pastor/teacher has not yet been revealed in public [Later, he was revelaed in the Second Amended Complaint as Steve Griney] but he is a good friend of C.J.’s.  CLC is Covenant Life Church where C.J. was the senior pastor for 25 years until he turned it over to Joshua Harris in 2004. 

C37. Paula Poe attended the School and services at CLC beginning in kindergarten until her family moved away from Gaithersburg, Maryland.  Paula Poe was repeatedly sexually assaulted by two men.  The primary perpetrator was a pastor and teacher.  The secondary perpetrator was children’s ministry worker. 

C38. On multiple occasions, the two perpetrators, acting in concert, had Poe strip, and sexually molested her.  There sexual molestations occurred on the School and Church premises, and at Church events, such as picnics. 

C39. On multiple other occasions, the primary perpetrator sexually molested Paula Poe at the School and Church events. 

C40. On one occasion, the secondary perpetrator sexually molested Paula Poe outdoors during a Church picnic. 

C41. Upon information and belief, Paula Poe was not the only victim of this pedophilia ring operating with the School and Church. 

Complaint #1 in the lawsuit sums up the case against C.J., Sovereign Grace Ministries and other Defendants. 

C1. Plaintiffs and the Class were seriously harmed by Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc., Covenant Life Church, Inc., Covenant Life School, Inc. and the individual Defendants.  The facts show that certain individual Defendants and other predators not named repeatedly physically and sexually abused children.  Although these facts were known to Defendants, they cared more about protecting its financial and institutional standing than about protecting children, its most vulnerable members.  Defendants failed to stop repeated and ongoing sexual predation occurring at SGM churches and organization, including Covent Life Church and Covenant Life School.   Defendants failed to report known incidences of sexual predation to law enforcement, encouraged parents to refrain from reporting the assaults to law enforcement, and interposed themselves between the parents of the victims and law enforcement in order to mislead law enforcement into believing the parents had “forgiven” those who preyed on their children.  Defendants’ acts and omissions were not isolated events.  Defendants’ repeated acts and omissions created a culture in which sexual predators were protected from accountability, and victims were silenced. 

This lawsuit will continue to be amended as more victims of sexual and physical abuse come forward.  I don’t see how Sovereign Grace Ministries can survive and I fear good friends of mine will not only lose their wealth but could end up in jail.  The highest law enforcement agencies in the Land are following and investigating.  

None of this pleases me.  It breaks my heart.  I was C.J.’s closest friend and co-worker in Sovereign Grace Ministries for over two decades.  No one loved, served, honored or encouraged him more.  There were many ways in which I benefitted from C.J.’s friendship and ministry.  I remain grateful for him.  I was also the individual most responsible for the care of his soul. 

In August 2004, I led a meeting where all the senior leaders in Sovereign Grace Ministries and Covenant Life Church sought to help C.J. see the serious and longstanding patterns of sin in his life that had adversely affected us and many other people.  Tragically, he took control of that process and managed to silence most everyone in the aftermath.  It bore no lasting fruit in his life.  I’ve documented that crisis intervention in Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine (pp. 16-30). 

The issues we addressed have only worsened in C.J.’s life over the past eight years.  That is why Sovereign Grace Ministries is on the brink of disaster.  For instance, the organization had to use 1 million dollars in savings and liquidate 250k in assets in order to make budget for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2012.  The financial picture has gotten far worse in the past six months because thousands of people and scores of churches have stopped giving to SGM.  Simply put, they do not trust C.J. or his inner circle any longer.  This assessment is based upon an examination of evidence and not due to the effect of false witnesses or the result of sinful judgments. 

After leaving SGM, I wrote C.J. about my concerns for him and the movement in Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine.  It was the first of several lengthy documents that followed over the next 15 months.  These two quotes provide a good summary.      

Lastly and most importantly, I write because of my deep love for you [C.J.] and for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  My greatest concern is for the increasing presence of deceit and hypocrisy rooted in self-preservation and love of reputation.  I’d be overjoyed to see you acknowledge these things to the movement, whether or not you ask my forgiveness for anything specific.  Comparatively speaking, the latter is unimportant.  Ultimately, this isn’t about us.  It is about something much bigger.  Therefore, I provide the history that follows for your careful consideration. (RRF&D, Mar 17, 2010, p. 3)           

Primarily, I hope and desire to see a restoration of integrity, truth telling and justice in Sovereign Grace so there is no lying, spin, manipulation, lording, cover-up, or partiality.  I am concerned for the movement.  Some men have followed sinful aspects of your example and leadership – the kind referenced in this response.  These men have acted deceitfully, judgmentally, unbiblically, and hypocritically.  Their example in turn, has harmed others and been corrosive in its effect. (RRF&D, Mar 17, 2010, p. 128) 

Deceit, hypocrisy, self-preservation, love of reputation, lack of integrity, injustice, lying, spin, manipulation, lording, cover up and partiality have only increased over the past three years.  None have been acknowledged by C.J.  Yet these sins are the source of the problems that exist in SGM and the reason for God’s providential discipline.  The class action lawsuit is but the latest expression of God’s opposition.  I believe 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 is relevant.  Now these things happened to them as an example, but  they were written down for our instruction,  on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  The Body of Christ can learn so much from examining what is happening to Sovereign Grace Ministries.   

I conclude with these thoughts for your consideration.  It is understandable that C.J. has become a celebrity in the Reformed world given his wit and wisdom.  But these are not the things that qualify a man for ministry.  Sovereign Grace Ministries now faces a situation where its President (C.J.), Chairman of Board (John Loftness) and Pastor over the Pastors College (Gary Ricucci) are at the center of a class action lawsuit that alleges atrocities of the worse kind were covered up for reputational and financial concerns.  Furthermore, Dave Harvey, who was Director of Church Planting and Church Care, was recently asked to step down from all his SGM responsibilities by his local pastors.     

Given all these developments, C.J. should not be a Council Member on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or The Gospel Coalition.  Nor should he be speaking in seminaries or at conferences around the nation and world.  Those that know him best, know he is in need of private repentance and public confession.    

If you care to read more see

Please pray for your friends and brothers in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  

James 4:5-10 (ESV) Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


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