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Friday
Mar152013

C.J. Mahaney’s “Transition” Out of Sovereign Grace Ministries

Dave Harvey resigned.[1]  John Loftness resigned.[2]  Craig Cabaniss resigned.[3]  C.J. transitioned.[4]  Sovereign Grace Ministries should become a yarn factory.  They love to spin. 

C.J. was asked to resign as President by a majority of SGM Board Members.  He was not pleased with their decision but decided not to fight it.  John Loftness was also asked to resign as Chairman of the Board.  Dave Harvey was asked to resign as Director of Church Planting and Church Care by his local elders.  C.J., John and Dave were the three most powerful men in SGM.  They were removed from their lofty positions of leadership contrary to the press releases put out by SGM.  They resigned because they were asked to resign.  

C.J. cannot bear to be truthful.  His transition is his resignation which is his removal.  This decision was incumbent upon the Board for at least two reasons.  First, few SGM pastors want C.J. to continue as President/Executive Director because he is no longer a role model to imitate.  C.J. has lost the trust, respect and confidence of almost everyone in SGM.  Second, the class action lawsuit continues to move forward.  In the coming weeks, I suspect new information of an incriminating nature will be forthcoming.  It will be injurious to C.J. and John.  The Board had to remove them now before that information becomes public.  

I want to examine major aspects of C.J.’s letter in this post.  Here we go.  The word “resign” does not appear in the letter entitled, “A Word of Thanks from C.J. Mahaney” or the Board’s letter entitled, “A Note of Thanks to C.J. Mahaney” from last Friday, March 8.  The word “transition” is used.  It appears twice in each letter.  C.J. is terribly concerned about his legacy.  He was asked to resign but he will promulgate the lie that he transitioned out of Sovereign Grace Ministries of his own volition.  

I pleaded with the SGM Board to be honest and transparent about why C.J. and John were asked to resign now.  Instead, they chose to be deceptive yet again in their communiques.  See “SGM Board Covers Up Request for Resignation of C.J. Mahaney and John Loftness” from March 3, 2013.  

http://abrentdetwiler.squarespace.com/brentdetwilercom/2013/3/3/sgm-board-covers-up-request-for-resignation-of-cj-mahaney-an.html 

C.J.’s Gifts and Sense of Call 

C.J.’s “transition” letter is also grievous in many other respects.  He misleads his readers by making it sound like his “gifts and sense of call” are the reasons for his resignation at this time.  They are not.  If C.J. was still held in high regard, and no class action lawsuit was pending, none of this would be happening now.   Here is what he said a week ago. 

“In October [2012], I informed the Board of Sovereign Grace that I was withdrawing my name from consideration for Executive Director as I don’t think my gifts and sense of call are the best fit for certain aspects of this new role.  I then announced this to our pastors on November 1 [2012] at our annual Pastors Conference.” 

C.J.’s transition out of SGM would probably have waited until the beginning of 2014 “in an effort to maintain continuity and stability.”  That’s when five of the current Board Members (now called Executive Committee Members) are replaced. 

“In an effort to maintain continuity and stability while working toward a more thoroughgoing representational Executive Committee, the plan will be implemented gradually according to the following schedule:  Prior to the fall 2013 Council of Elders meeting, five of the original members of the Executive Committee will resign to make room for newly elected members. If none voluntarily resigns, then the selection will be made by drawing lots. The resignations will not become effective until January 1, 2014.” (SGM Revised Polity Proposal, p. 84)  

Furthermore, C.J. embarrasses himself by assuming he needed to withdraw his name from consideration last October/November as Executive Director.  Seven churches had already left SGM by November and Covenant Life Church would follow in December.  C.J. was less and less of a “consideration” in the minds of many pastors and churches.  

This statement also gives the false impression that he continued to be a consideration for Executive Director.  That could not be further from the truth.  Even if his “gifts and sense of call” perfectly matched the role of the Executive Director, he would not be under consideration because he is not trusted.  The vast majority of pastors in SGM agree that C.J. has disqualified himself from any such consideration.   

God’s Kindness and Mercy 

This is no doubt that God’s grace, mercy and kindness are the ultimate explanation for our salvation and any good works we do. 

Eph 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

We are saved by grace through faith for good works.  Salvation is the sovereign work of God whereby we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Our good works don’t save us but they are the evidence we have been saved.  Therefore, we must distinguish between salvation and sanctification.  The prepositions “by,” “through” and “for” are critical is this regard.  

C.J. understands the doctrine of salvation and I too am grateful for the cross-centered emphasis he brought to SGM (others brought a gospel centered emphasis: the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ).  That is his greatest legacy.  I am concerned, however, for his presumptuous understanding of God’s kindness and mercy in this letter at it pertains to fruitfulness in the future (i.e., Christ likeness and good works).  Fruitfulness is not based upon mercy alone.  It is also contingent upon obedience.  God has prepared good works “that we should walk in them.”  C.J.’s confident hope of an “even more fruitful” future is unsound and unwarranted according to Scripture.   He says,

“God’s kindness to Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) has been pronounced in our brief 30-year history together.  And I have every reason to believe our future together will be even more fruitful than our past solely because of the mercy of God that has been most clearly revealed at the cross.”

God has foreordained good works for us.  That is an expression of his grace.  He also enables us to do the good works he ordains.  That too is an expression of his grace.  But good works require effort.  You don’t work for salvation but you do work for sanctification.  Greater fruitfulness is not solely dependent on God’s mercy or kindness.  Let’s look at several Scriptures. 

1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

Notice, God’s grace in sanctification can be nullified.  It did not prove vain in the case of Paul because he “worked harder than any of them.”  SGM has been working hard but not to become holy or produce Christ like works.  They have been working hard to resist the Holy Spirit and cover up their sin.  The grace of God has been “without effect” (NIV). 

Phil 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

Notice, we are called to “work out” as God “works in.”  God works.  We work.  Our workout requires obedience, fear and trembling.  I have seen no evidence of these three virtues since I sent my initial documents to the SGM pastors in July 2011. 

Rom 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 

If you properly understand this verse you realize God’s kindness has been pronounced in SGM and no more so than over the last three years during which the Holy Spirit has been seeking to bring C.J. and others to repentance.  Time and time and time again the Lord has appealed to them in kindness through a myriad of agents.     

God has been extremely patient and long suffering with C.J., the Leadership Team, the interim Board, the three Review Panels, and the current Board.  And yet, there has been no repentance.  Just hardness and obfuscation.  The kindness of God has been repeatedly spurned.  If you’ve been unrepentant in the past, you should not presume upon “the riches of his kindness” in the future.  That is the meaning of this passage. 

Stephen was the first Christian martyr in the Early Church.  His words before the Sanhedrin apply to the leaders of SGM.  You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (Acts 7:51)  That has been the story of the last three years. 

C.J. presumes upon the mercy and kindness of God when he says, “I have every reason to believe our future together will be even more fruitful than our past.”  That sounds spiritual but it is not.  C.J. should be saying, “I have every reason to be concerned about our future together because I and many other leaders have stubbornly resisted the conviction of the Holy Spirit and put the future of Sovereign Grace Ministries at great risk.” 

Finally, let’s review the most important passage in the New Testament on the subject of fruitfulness. 

John 15:1-11 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. [2] Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. [3] Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. [4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. [6] If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. [7] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,  ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. [8] By this my Father is glorified, that you  bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. [9] As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. [10] If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. [11] These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 

C.J. can “have every reason to believe our future together will be even more fruitful than our past” when this passage is obeyed.  Until then he has no basis for his optimism.  Of course, we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ.  That’s why we have been united to him as a gift of grace.  But if we don’t abide in Christ we are “thrown away” (vv.15:2a, 6) and “pruned” (v.2b).  Abiding in Christ means obeying the words (v.7) and commandments (v.10) of Christ.  Only then will SGM “bear much fruit” (vv.5, 8). 

SGM has not been abiding in Christ.  C.J., Dave Harvey, and John Loftness don’t realize it but they have been taken away by the vinedresser.       

Inadequacies and Weaknesses 

C.J. cannot bear to acknowledge any fault or express any regret in his resignation letter.  He hides behind the plural possessive pronoun “our” and speaks in morally neutral terms (which he has always corrected when done by others).     

“Despite our inadequacies and weaknesses, the Lord has been abundantly merciful to Sovereign Grace Ministries.  This is the theological explanation, and really the only explanation, for any fruitfulness in Sovereign Grace.  And that mercy and grace is the foundation of my confidence for our future.” 

The Lord has been merciful to SGM but not “despite our inadequacies and weaknesses.”  God has been merciful to SGM despite its sins and iniquities.  That’s because God is merciful to sinners.  He doesn’t punish any of us the way our sins deserve.  If he did we’d all be dead and awaiting final judgment in hell.

Psalm 103:10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 

God is also good to sinners.  He doesn’t withhold his blessings of common grace. 

Luke 6:33, 35 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?... He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 

So while I agree God has been merciful to SGM, this should not be presumed upon in the future.  Impenitence invites God’s displeasure and opposition.  C.J. and SGM have not heeded the warning of Hebrews.  They have taken the discipline of the Lord ever so lightly. 

Heb 12:5-6 My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, [6] because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.  

Over the past three years, the Lord in his love has been rebuking, disciplining and punishing C.J. and SGM for their sins; not for their inadequacies and weaknesses.  When Joshua Harris pointed this out to Covenant Life Church on July 10, 2011, he was rebutted and condemned as a slanderer.  

“Our focus does not need to be on our perceived enemies.  I believe God would have your leaders humbly acknowledge that it is our sin and our failure and our faulty structures that have brought this trouble.  I don’t believe that these events are an accident.  I believe they are the loving discipline of our heavenly Father.  And no matter whose fault this is, this is what we cannot get around.  This is what is unavoidable.  We cannot get around the fact that our church and our entire denomination is being publicly spanked.  We are being humiliated.  We are being brought low.  God is getting our attention.  And the word of God tells us in Hebrews 12 that he is treating us as sons.” (Joshua Harris, The Father’s Discipline, July 10, 2011) 

This perspective should have characterized C.J.’s resignation letter but it is altogether absent.  According to C.J. everything is great in SGM and the best is yet to come.  C.J. also fails to understand the primary means by which he and SGM can find mercy.  

Prov 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. 

Acknowledging “inadequacies and weaknesses” results in no increase of God’s mercy.  Mercy is obtained when transgressions are confessed and forsaken.  That is what C.J. should be doing in his letter and that is what his replacement must do in the future.  C.J. and SGM have actively and aggressively concealed their sin over the past three years.  That is why SGM has been opposed by God instead of prospered by God.  God will not prosper SGM until men like C.J. come to repentance.   

Much To Be Encouraged About 

A statement like the following only serves to further destroy C.J.’s credibility.  It is pure hype.  The kind he and SGM have continuously put out since July 2011.  SGM has been in a massive train wreck.  Cars have derailed and bodies are strewn everywhere but you’d never know reading its blog or C.J.’s letter.  

“I am looking forward to a fruitful future for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  With our recent church plants and those that are forthcoming, churches requesting to be adopted, the current Pastors College class, and ongoing music projects to serve the church, there is much to be encouraged about.”  

Let’s examine this statement.  If I’ve missed anything, someone let me know.  I’ll correct myself.  

Recent Church Plants 

There has only been one recent church plant.  C.J.’s six months ago.  Otherwise you have to go back to January 2012.  Over the last 15 months, there have been three church plants in the United States.  None elsewhere.      

  1. Jose Prado, Sovereign Grace Church of Miami, January 2012
  2. Benny Phillips, Redeemer Church (Lake Nona, FL), January 2012
  3. C.J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, September 2012

It should also be noted that the Miami church plant severed ties with SGM in January 2013.  That reduces the number to two. 

Furthermore, two other church plants elected not to join SGM.  Tab Trainor, former senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church (Oswego, IL) planted Grace Church (San Diego, CA) in October 2012.  It was supposed to be a SGM church but the leaders decided to sever ties with SGM before it officially began.   

Jeff Ehrhardt, former pastor at Lakeview Christian Center (New Orleans, LA) started Christ Community Church last month in Mandeville, LA on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  The leaders decided not to accept any church planting funds from SGM and are undecided about joining SGM.  The church plant has received no attention on the SGM website and is not listed as a SGM church.

“Our recent church plants” amounts to one church plant by C.J. that was born out of division.  What a duplicitous piece of misinformation.

##

Upcoming Church Plants

There are three church plants planned for the coming year in the United States.  None elsewhere that I know of.  Time will tell if they come to fruition.     

  1. John Payne, Redemption Hill Church (Austin, TX), May 2013
  2. Dan Birkholz, Grace Bible Church (Wissinoming, PA), September, 2013
  3. Dave Odom, Redeeming Grace (Franklin, TN), October 2013  

##

Churches Requesting Adoption

C.J. doesn’t tell us how many are currently requesting adoption.  Two or three?  When I turned over my SGM responsibilities in February 2008, there were at least 40-50 churches or groups of people interested in being adopted.   I can’t remember the last time a church was adopted by SGM in the United States.  You have to go back a couple years.  One international church in Cebu, Philippines was adopted in 2012. 

We will see if any churches are adopted this year.  I think the Book of Church Order, once ratified, will scare off churches from pursuing adoption.  So will the class action lawsuit and the consequences that follow. 

##

Pastors College

C.J. says “there is much to be encouraged about” including the current Pastors College class.  There are nine students in the Pastors College.  That is the lowest enrollment ever it is 15 year history.  That is discouraging news, not encouraging news.

##

Sovereign Grace Music

I don’t know what “ongoing music projects” C.J. has in mind.  I do know “sales” in SGM dropped 120k from 688k to 468k for fiscal year ending August 30, 2012.  I can’t imagine how dismal sales are now, six months later. 

##

If C.J. were truthful he’d say, “There is little to be encouraged about and MUCH to be concerned about in SGM.  We’ve never been less fruitful in our history as a movement.  God has been opposing us because of our pride.  Seventy pastors and twenty churches have departed.  That doesn’t include the thousands of people who left churches that have remained with us.  We’ve lost millions of dollars in contributions.  No one trusts us.  And now we have a class actions lawsuit that grows more serious by the month.  We’re in deep weeds.  It’s time to come clean and humble ourselves.” 

Instead C.J. writes, “And I have every reason to believe our future together will be even more fruitful than our past…. I am looking forward to a fruitful future for Sovereign Grace Ministries.” 

I recently posted “The Watergate Scandal and SGM.”  C.J.’s letter reminds me of Richard Nixon’s famous V for victory hand gesture when boarding Marine One as he vacated the White House the day he resigned as President.  Nixon was angry and disgraced but he pretended to be joyful and triumphant. 

Photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnypinnock/3840194725/ 

Ripped to Shreds by One Man’s Pride

The following email comes from a long time member of Covenant Life Church.  An “average Joe” who loved, served and appreciated C.J. for many years but now has seen and experienced the devastation due to one man’s pride.  C.J.’s treatment of Covenant Life Church and its leaders was horribly abusive.  He forsook and excoriated with great self-righteousness those who knew him the best and loved him the most.    

From: [CLC Member]
Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2013 1:58 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: [One Man’s Pride]

Yes, so here we sit, Brent.  A movement so fired up for the Lord with so much potential ripped to shreds by one man’s pride.  Families, pastors and leaders devastated.

Sometimes it can just be overwhelming as you know.  But spiritual abuse is no respecter of persons, it goes from high to low.  It affects former leaders and average Joe’s like me.  Sometimes though I think it’s harder for the average Joe.  The leaders were supposed to protect the sheep instead they led us astray and then to be dumped in the end...accused of gossip and slander...accused of being divisive...treated like we’re dumb sheep.

We have a constitution meeting at CLC Sunday night and I don’t even feel like going.  I’m worn out.

Take care,
[CLC Member]

C.J. was supposed to be protecting the sheep instead he led them astray.  That is exactly right. 

I am reminded of C.J.’s words to all the pastors and wives of SGM when he justified his forsaking of the church.  C.J. and Carolyn were not victims of “hostility” and “assaults” at CLC.  That was a manipulative caricature, a piece of slander, used to avoid inquiry and flee accountability. 

“After my public confession and statement it quickly became evident that for me to remain in Covenant Life Church in this season would be untenable for a few reasons: there was hostility from a number in the church toward me after the release of Brent’s documents…. Finally I made this decision as a husband.  My wife has an unusually strong constitution but I needed to protect her from the assaults that we were both the objects of.” (C.J. Mahaney, Pastors’ Conference Family Meeting, Nov 9, 2011)

At the same meeting, C.J. said this about his sins.

“I don’t believe my sins are uncommon or scandalous or disqualifying.  I have never believed that since the day the first document arrived.”

The “first document” C.J. received was Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine on March 17, 2010.  That was three years ago Sunday.  C.J. has never thought his sins were serious or of a disqualifying nature.   

In a similar manner, C.J. offered a one sentence apology regarding his contribution to the problems in SGM as outlined in the 39 page report by Ambassadors of Reconciliation.

“As the leader of SGM since 1991, I (C.J.) want to sincerely apologize for the ways in which deficiencies in my leadership have contributed to the ministry failures catalogued in this report.”  (April 10, 2010)

He does not ask forgiveness.  He does not acknowledge any wrongdoing.  All he can reference are vague “deficiencies in my leadership.”

The Next Chapter Begins

The new governance structure might build a growing religious institution but it will not foster New Testament Christianity.  The Book of Acts is not going to be replicated as a result of the Book of Church Order.  C.J. is proud of this polity accomplishment.

“The next chapter of SGM’s history begins April 12 when we will, Lord willing, transition to a new polity pending a vote of ratification.  This marks the culmination of over three years of prayer, study, and dialogue to arrive at this new form of polity, which I believe will serve our family of churches for decades to come.” 

First of all, Sovereign Grace Ministries is no longer a “family of churches.”  That is a thing of the past.  Second, Sovereign Grace Ministries will officially become another denomination governed by a polity that obliterates the beauty, simplicity and effectiveness of the New Testament on April 12.  A once vibrant organism built upon apostolic teaching will be jettisoned for an “ecclesiastical body” built upon the formulations of men.  The dynamic and interrelated ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher will be lost as Scripture is forsaken. 

In its place, SGM will install a massive religious bureaucracy run by a National Council of Elders, an Executive Committee, an Executive Director, a Leadership Team with various Directors, a National Nominating Committee, a National Polity Committee, a National Theology Committee, a Director of Theology, a National Court of Appeal, Regional Assemblies of Elders, Regional Leaders, Regional Nominating Committees, Regional Ordination Committees, Regional Church Planting Committees, and Regional Judicial Review Committees. 

What we vowed we’d never become, SGM will become in a few weeks.  Phil Sasser makes light of this lamentable development.    

“As a movement Sovereign Grace Ministries (formerly People of Destiny, International, and then just PDI) was formed during the latter stages of the modern Charismatic movement.  In those days, any talk of formal structure and denominations was eschewed and viewed, at best, as a concession to a lack of spiritual vitality and health.” (Phil Sasser, SGM Revised Polity Proposal, p. 1) 

A formal denominational structure was eschewed because there is no such thing in the New Testament.  For nearly two decade we were simply an apostolic team and team related churches.  We were never more fruitful and things were never more fun!  We loved Jesus and we celebrated together as a genuine family of churches.  Today SGM is holding on for dear life and characterized by misery.  The Book of Church Order is a step backward not forward.  It has no biblical warrant. 

The Next Executive Director

Now that C.J. is out of the way, the Board of Directors can pick a replacement without following the procedures outlined in the Book of Church Order which is another reason for his removal at this time.  This person will be readily confirmed by a simple majority (51%) of the “provisional” Council of Elders.   

“As that new polity takes effect, I will be transitioning from the role of President, and the Executive Committee will recommend an individual for confirmation by the Council of Elders to serve in the newly formed role of Executive Director.” 

In so doing, the Board of Directors will install their own man (most likely Mark Prater) without genuine consent.  The SGM pastors will have no say in who is picked to lead SGM over the next four years.  C.J.’s replacement will not emerge from the representational process outline in the Book of Church Order.  That is a travesty especially given all the hype surrounding the new polity.  I’ll have more to say about this in the future. 

Most Grateful and Encouraging Folks on Planet 

Any church or ministry should be characterized by godly gratitude and encouragement but there are dangers when these virtues are overemphasized and other virtues are neglected.  Gratitude can become veneration and encouragement can become flattery.   

“It has been an immense privilege to serve Sovereign Grace Ministries, our pastors, and churches for the past 30 years.  I will never be able to sufficiently thank the pastors and church members for their commitment to our mission of advancing the gospel through church planting.  Never.  The pastors and church members that make up Sovereign Grace are among the most grateful, most encouraging folks on the planet.” 

People in SGM are grateful and encouraging.  It is an evidence of grace that has characterized the movement.  But the constant emphasis on commending your fellow man became a perverted means to an ungodly end – the adulation of men.  That is one of the main reasons for C.J.’s downfall.  C.J. was on a pedestal of his own making but Lord toppled him.  He crashed to the floor and shattered into pieces. 

This has always been C.J.’s Achilles heel.  It is the source of his constant discouragement and the reason he gathers men that affirm him and removes men who criticize him.  It is also the source of his deceit.  It has been the root of many evils including this bogus letter.  It was a major issue at the August 2004 crisis intervention meeting. 

In his resignation letter, C.J. indirectly draws attention to all the praise and affirmation he has received over the past 30 years.  That is the way he wants to be remembered.  He also gives the impression that this praise and affirmation continues unabated.  That he is currently the recipient of overwhelming gratitude and encouragement.  That is not true but C.J. wants you to believe it is true.   

C.J.’s resignation letter could have honestly dealt with real issues and brought about some meaningful healing.  Instead, it is nothing but a promotional piece that further alienates people.  C.J. remains clueless.  People are not looking for approbation from C.J. in his resignation letter.  They are looking for contrition.  It is absent.

Furthermore, C.J. told all of us we were “the most grateful and most encouraging folks on the planet” until we had to correct him or disagree with him.  We were loved and accepted so long as we worshipped him.  When we were honest and truthful, we were rejected and despised.  No longer to be trusted, cut off as friends.  That is the testimony of so many people. 

I wish C.J. could also say, “The pastors and church members that make up Sovereign Grace are among the most courageous, most forthright folks on the planet.  They can’t be bought, silenced or manipulated.  They refuse to worship me and for that I am most grateful!” 

But that has not been true of the Interim Board, the Three Review Panels, or the current Board.  Sovereign Grace Ministries is full of cowardice and man pleasing.  No one will stand up and speak out.  No one will call leaders to public account and demand they be honest.    

Men know the quickest way to advance in SGM is by praising and affirming fellow leaders.  You are not rewarded for being honest, prophetic or uncompromising.  At this point in its history, SGM needs a John the Baptist, not a John Mark, for its Executive Director.  To its on-going demise that will not happen.    

The Next Chapter Begins for C.J.

C.J. is 59 years old.  He is going to try and rebuild his world but that will be inside his church and outside of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  I don’t expect C.J. will assume any leadership responsibilities in SGM under the new polity arrangement. 

“I am eager to once again devote my attention to pastoral ministry.  Returning to the pulpit of a local church last September has only confirmed for me what I believe God has called and gifted me to do: pastor, preach, and fulfill a role in building the local church for the glory of God.”

C.J.’s return to “pastoral ministry” is really a return to leading and preaching.  The church website is more accurate when it says, “C.J. serves Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville primarily through leadership and preaching.” Brian Chesemore, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell and Gary Ricucci will do the pastoring.  C.J. will work with leaders and get involved in crises.  It has always been that way. 

C.J. loves to lead and he loves to preach.  That is part of the problem.  It would do C.J. well not to lead and preach for a lengthy season.  C.J. should have been removed from ministry.  When re-qualified, he could have returned as an associate pastor who cared for ordinary “run of the mill” sheep (no slight intended) behind the scenes.  Later he could have returned to public ministry slowly.  C.J. doesn’t know how to function out of the limelight.  These steps would have helped to work humility in his soul.  The opportunity was missed.

Going forward C.J. will seek to build a large and successful church (i.e., fan club) in Louisville.  He will also seek to build a large and successful ministry outside of SGM in evangelical and Reformed circles.  Both could be hindered by the class action lawsuit  or other unforeseen developments. 

In the meantime, C.J. will direct Brian, Bob, Jeff and Gary, preach locally and speak at Conferences extra-locally.  The Board puts it this way.  “We look forward to benefitting from C.J.’s continued investment in the mission of SGM through his service there [the church] and in the larger body of Christ.”  C.J. is still being put forward as Sovereign Grace’s claim to fame.

Barring a “Damascus Road” experience, C.J. will never return to SGM to make things right from over the last 30 years.  He will die unreconciled with hundreds of leaders and thousands of people who have been devastated by his words and actions over three decades and especially over the last three years.

In all of this, C.J. views himself as the victim and not the victimizer.  In his mind, he has harmed no one but been harmed by everyone.  His misfortune is the result of gossipers, slanderers and evil doers.  That has been the constant refrain of SGM.  C.J. bears no moral responsibility for all the woes that have befallen him and SGM.  All he can eke out is an apology for inadequacies and deficiencies.   

Summary

C.J. is being removed as President at this time.  He is not transitioning of his own volition.  C.J. has not been a consideration for Executive Director.  Not because his gifts and sense of call aren’t the best fit but because he isn’t trusted. 

God’s kindness was intended to lead C.J. to repentance.  Instead it was resisted and resulted in hardness of heart.  The problems in SGM are not due to “inadequacies and deficiencies.”  They are due to transgressions and iniquities that remain unconfessed.  

There is much to be concerned about, not much to be encouraged about in SGM.  C.J. is deceptive and presumptive in his positivism.  He distorts the teaching of Scripture.  The ministry has been ripped to shreds by one man’s pride.

The Book of Church Order will replace the Book of Acts as the polity manual for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  That is a bad thing, not a good thing as C.J. would have you believe. 

I fear the Executive Director will be a puppet not a prophet.  He will enable sin rather than deal with sin.  Nothing will be reviewed.  No one will be examined.  The past will be quickly buried in the SGM graveyard and the history books rewritten.  The latter has already begun.   

Cowardice and man pleasing will continue to characterize the denomination.  So will a growing religiosity.  The most popular will advance in leadership.  Niceness will be the most exalted virtue. 

A corporate and professional model of ministry will further take root.  Everything will be managed.  The charisma will increasingly be quenched and forgotten.  The spontaneity of the Holy Spirit suffocated by written and unwritten liturgies.     

Conclusion

This short letter tells a long story with a tragic ending.  Not C.J.’s transitioning from the role of President (that is a good thing) but his refusal to transition from vain glory to God’s glory.  That has been the central issue in his life.  This letter encapsulates a long history.         

Tragically, it shows C.J. and SGM remain unchanged.  The past three years produced a polity manual but no turning away from selfish ambition and self-preservation.  These men continue to use every trick of the trade to dupe people inside and outside of SGM.  They refuse to be open, honest and accountable.  To believe them is to believe C.J. has done nothing wrong and everything is wonderful in SGM.  No ploy or artifice is beyond their employment in misleading the Body of Christ. 

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A Word of Thanks from C.J. Mahaney
March 8, 2013 

God’s kindness to Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) has been pronounced in our brief 30-year history together.  And I have every reason to believe our future together will be even more fruitful than our past solely because of the mercy of God that has been most clearly revealed at the cross.  The next chapter of SGM’s history begins April 12 when we will, Lord willing, transition to a new polity pending a vote of ratification.  This marks the culmination of over three years of prayer, study, and dialogue to arrive at this new form of polity, which I believe will serve our family of churches for decades to come. 

As that new polity takes effect, I will be transitioning from the role of President, and the Executive Committee will recommend an individual for confirmation by the Council of Elders to serve in the newly formed role of Executive Director.  In October, I informed the Board of Sovereign Grace that I was withdrawing my name from consideration for Executive Director as I don’t think my gifts and sense of call are the best fit for certain aspects of this new role.  I then announced this to our pastors on November 1 at our annual Pastors Conference.  I am eager to once again devote my attention to pastoral ministry.  Returning to the pulpit of a local church last September has only confirmed for me what I believe God has called and gifted me to do: pastor, preach, and fulfill a role in building the local church for the glory of God.

It has been an immense privilege to serve Sovereign Grace Ministries, our pastors, and churches for the past 30 years.  I will never be able to sufficiently thank the pastors and church members for their commitment to our mission of advancing the gospel through church planting.  Never.  The pastors and church members that make up Sovereign Grace are among the most grateful, most encouraging folks on the planet.  And your heart to serve is a pronounced evidence of grace that characterizes each church.  Serving you has been a humbling privilege.  Thank you for that privilege and for your support and encouragement over the years.

As I transition from my role as President on April 12, I am looking forward to a fruitful future for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  With our recent church plants and those that are forthcoming, churches requesting to be adopted, the current Pastors College class, and ongoing music projects to serve the church, there is much to be encouraged about.  And observing the next generation of pastors emerging in SGM who are passionate about the gospel, the local church, and church planting brings a unique joy to my soul.  Despite our inadequacies and weaknesses, the Lord has been abundantly merciful to Sovereign Grace Ministries.  This is the theological explanation, and really the only explanation, for any fruitfulness in Sovereign Grace.  And that mercy and grace is the foundation of my confidence for our future. 

*The SGM Board has provided a response, “A Note of Thanks to C.J. Mahaney” 

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SGM Board: A Note of Thanks to C.J. Mahaney
March 8, 2013

Our family of churches owes a debt of gratitude to C.J. Mahaney for co-founding and leading Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) to establish and build gospel-centered churches for the past three decades.  C.J.’s leadership and example have helped to instill so many of the values that have shaped our family of churches, and none more so than our gospel-centrality.  We are grateful for the central role his preaching and personal passion have played in making the gospel more clear and more precious to all of us in SGM.  His desire to transfer the gospel to the next generation has helped keep our mission central, leading directly to the founding of our Pastors College where 252 men have been trained since 1997.  C.J.’s vision to see theologically rich songs written and produced for congregational singing resulted in the formation of Sovereign Grace Music which recently released its 61st album.  And his influence and leadership in the larger body of Christ have enriched SGM by introducing a breadth of relationships and teaching to our churches. 

As previous announced, C.J. will transition from his role as President on April 12 at the time of the polity ratification vote.  Though no longer serving in this leadership capacity, we are grateful that C.J.’s influence and partnership do not end here.  We share his joy in seeing him back regularly preaching and pastoring in Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, and we look forward to benefitting from C.J.’s continued investment in the mission of SGM through his service there and in the larger body of Christ.  Please join us in praying for C.J. and his family during this transition.

* Read, “A Word of Thanks from C.J. Mahaney


[1]Dave Harvey has made the decision to resign from our Leadership Team so that he can resume his full-time role as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church.” (SGM Board, Dec 20, 2012)

[2] “One key item we discussed was John Loftness’ request to resign from the Board.” (SGM Board, Feb 18, 2013)

[3] “After serving the past 20 months on both the Interim Board and the current SG Board, Craig Cabaniss submitted his resignation from the Board at our recent retreat.” (SGM Board, Feb 19, 2013)

[4] “As that new polity takes effect, I will be transitioning from the role of President…. As I transition from my role as President on April 12, I am looking forward to a fruitful future for Sovereign Grace Ministries.” (C.J. Mahaney, Mar 8, 2013)  “C.J. will transition from his role as President on April 12 at the time of the polity ratification vote…. Please join us in praying for C.J. and his family during this transition.” (SGM Board, Mar 8, 2013)  

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