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Denhollander Speaks Out Again in Response to Condemnation by Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. – I’ve Added Background Commentary

Rachael Denhollander did an interview with Christianity Today which was published a week ago on January 31.  She said the following in part (the comments in brackets were added by the interviewer, not me, for clarification).  

“The ultimate reality that I live with is that if my abuser had been Nathaniel Morales instead of Larry Nassar, if my enabler had been [an SGM pastor] instead of [MSU gymnastics coach] Kathie Klages, if the organization I was speaking out against was Sovereign Grace under the leadership of [Mahaney] instead of MSU under the leadership of Lou Anna Simon, I would not only not have evangelical support, I would be actively vilified and lied about by every single evangelical leader out there.  The only reason I am able to have the support of these leaders now is because I am speaking out against an organization not within their community.  Had I been so unfortunate so as to have been victimized by someone in their community, someone in the Sovereign Grace network, I would not only have their support, I would be massively shunned.  That’s the reality.  The only reason I am able to have the support of these leaders now is because I am speaking out against an organization not within their community.  Had I been so unfortunate so as to have been victimized by someone in their community, someone in the Sovereign Grace network, I would not only have their support, I would be massively shunned.  That’s the reality.” 

Predictably, Executive Director Mark Prater on behalf of Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. condemned her “false allegations.”   

“It needs to be said that she [Rachael Denhollander] is mistaken in her accusations made against Sovereign Grace Churches and C.J. Mahaney. The Christianity Today article publicly mischaracterizes Sovereign Grace and C.J. based on accusations of which Rachael had no involvement and which are not true and have never been true.  It’s extremely difficult to respond to false accusations without appearing unsympathetic to victims of abuse.” 

The next day I wrote, "Rachael Denhollander Speaks Out Against C.J. Mahaney in Interview with Christianity Today – Predictably, Sovereign Grace Condemns Her for 'False Accusations.'”   

I said the following regarding “the evangelical leaders out there” (i.e., Thabiti Anyabwile, Jon Bloom, Denny Burke, Don Carson, Joe Carter, Tim Challies, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Wayne Grudem, Dave Harvey, Phil Johnson, Tim Keller, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Ray Ortlund, John Piper, David Platt, Justin Taylor, Carl Trueman). 

“No one has done more harm to the Body of Christ in our day than C.J. Mahaney and the men who have covered up for him.  They have protected him, in part, because they are protecting themselves.  If Mahaney goes down, they go down with him to varying degrees.  How do you confess to the Christian public, “I was totally deceived by C.J. Mahaney.”  Or in the case of SGM leaders, “I totally lied for C.J. Mahaney.”  Therefore, which of them, if any, are going to humble themselves, and acknowledge their foolishness and deceitfulness?  Which of them will call for his removal from Together for the Gospel in April?  Which of them will work for his removal from all ministry?”  

Most recently on February 5, Rachael posted a Public Response to Sovereign Grace Churches on her Facebook page. 

What follows is my interaction with her response. I fill it out with some links, proofs and elucidating comments (well, I hope so), section by section.  Some comments are in brackets [ ].  The underlining is mine. 


Rachael: In a recent article with Christianity Today I referenced deep concerns with the intentional failure to report sexual assault perpetrated in multiple churches, by multiple elders, at Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), now “Sovereign Grace Churches” (SGC).  Three days ago, SGC responded to this article and stated I was “mistaken” in my statements and that these concerns “are not true and have never been true”.  They further stated that they would not respond to my “false accusations” with evidence as to why they are false, because they would appear “unsympathetic” to victims of abuse.  They linked, as proof, to the dismissal of the civil suit against them.  The lawsuit was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.  This is a dismissal on technical grounds only, it had nothing to do with the substantive claims made against SGM.  It simply means that the time for which legal proceedings can be initiated has expired and therefore the court no longer has the authority to examine the merits of the plaintiff’s claims.  Ultimately, this dismissal means that the evidence against SGM was never examined by the courts.  This is not evidence, in any way, shape, or form, that SGM has not done what is alleged. 

Comment: Amen!  All she says it true.  I have documented the “the intentional failure to report sexual assault” in Rachael Denhollander Speaks Out Against C.J. Mahaney in Interview with Christianity Today – Predictably, Sovereign Grace Condemns Her “False Accusations”  and many other articles on my blog. 

Even the lawyers for SGM acknowledged “the grounds” for dismissing the lawsuit were based on technicalities, not merits.  So did the SGM Board of Directors.  Unsurprisingly, SGM removed this acknowledgement from their website long ago.  It was a tactical blunder they put it up in the first place.  God be praised!

SGM Board: Update on the Amended Civil Lawsuit
May 20, 2013

The following is an update from the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) Board on the civil lawsuit filed against SGM. 

SGM’s motion to dismiss the suit was heard by Judge Sharon V. Burrell in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court on Friday, May 17, 2013.  The following summarizes the results of the hearing we received from our attorneys:

Judge Burrell dismissed 9 of the 11 plaintiffs on the grounds that their claims fell outside of the statute of limitations.  She also dismissed the claims of all 11 plaintiffs as to the Virginia-based defendants (for lack of jurisdiction) and as to Covenant Life School, Inc. (for being the incorrect corporate entity associated with the timeframe of the claims).  With respect to the claims of the two remaining plaintiffs against the remaining defendants (including SGM), Judge Burrell dismissed the Second Amended Complaint.  She allowed plaintiffs’ counsel 10 days to file a third amended complaint to attempt to clarify with specificity any allegations by the two remaining plaintiffs against each remaining defendant.  The court indicated that plaintiff’s counsel may not add new claims or new parties to the third amended complaint. 

Please note that this ruling does not specifically address the substance of the plaintiffs’ allegations.  This was a civil lawsuit requesting financial damages relating to an alleged cover up of abuse.  It was not a criminal case trying the innocence or guilt of any of these individuals.  


Rachael: I am glad to know that SGC is concerned about victims of sexual assault, but I assure them the most unsympathetic thing they can continue to do is refuse to respond to the concerns of sexual assault victims, myself included.  I have no need to be protected from any evidence or response they have.  On the contrary, I have sought out this evidence and a response, for more than seven years.

Comment: Exactly!  SGM is pretending to be humble and sympathetic.  In reality, they are covering up.  They often use this ruse when they are guilty and can’t put “any evidence…they have” forward.  Why?  Because it is non-existent.  There are so many examples of this kind of deception

A Statement from C.J. Mahaney
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 “reports of testimony in a recent trial” is a reference to Grant Layman’s testimony in the Nathaniel Morales trial that incriminated Mahaney for conspiring to cover up Morales’ crimes.  See my most recent post for the court transcript of Layman’s testimony.

The “nearly two years now, I have remained silent” is October 2012 to May 2014.  Four months after this statement of denial by Mahaney the lawsuit was dismissed on September 22, 2014.  The “simple and extraordinarily unsatisfying reality” of not being able to “speak publicly to the specifics of these events” ended.  The day he passionately looked forward to, had finally come.  The “ongoing civil lawsuit” was over.  He could finally “speak freely” about his innocence.  He could “respond publicly and address the accusations” against him.  This was all hype!  Mahaney had no intention of “speak[ing] publicly to the specifics.”  Any attempt to do so would have condemn him in light of the evidence.  He would have proved himself a liar and hypocrite.

This kind of feigned integrity and innocence is a common ploy used by Mahaney and SGM.  I am reminded of the longform story written by Tiffany Stanley for Washingtonian magazine titled The Sex Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch - Inside the rise and fall of Sovereign Grace Ministries.”   

In endeavoring to write a just piece that represented both sides Stanley traveled to Louisville to interview Mahaney.  That was in October 2016 – two years after the lawsuit was dismissed and the case closed.  What an incredible opportunity for Mahaney to tell his story and defend himself against all the supposedly false accusations!  Washingtonian has a readership of 400,000.

Here is how Stanley describes her unsuccessfully attempt in the article.      

“Now known as Sovereign Grace Churches, the ministry’s new headquarters are in a business park just outside Louisville.  One 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 [Gary] Ricucci did.  There would be no interview with either of them, he wrote.

“The following morning, the church celebrated its third anniversary.  Mahaney’s congregation filled the ballroom of a suburban Marriott with nearly 300 people, most of them good-looking adults under 35, singing along with the worship band.  Elementary-school-age children squirmed in their seats until they were released to go to Sovereign Grace Kids.  It was as if Mahaney, now 62, had recreated an earlier time in his ministry—once again assembling a new, makeshift church, an audience full of idealistic young families.”

“Swiftly turned away…there would be no interview with either of them.”  Why?  Because Mahaney and Ricucci were guilty.  Instead, they ran for cover.  This is unbelievable.  They had an extraordinary opportunity to “speak freely” to a major publication based in Washington D.C.  Innocent people don’t mind interviews!  Ask away.  Whether it is the police or the press.  Mahaney has never defended himself in public since his unsubstantiated and categorical denial of all wrong.  That is not a sign of humility.  It is a sign of guilt.

Remember, this statement by Mahaney was in response to the “reports of testimony in a recent trial.”  Again, that is a reference to his brother-in-law, Grant Layman.  Layman told the court there was conspiracy involving Mahaney and the Covenant Life pastors to cover up heinous crimes committed by Nathaniel Morales.  If he addressed anything, this is the accusation Mahaney would defend against!  But obviously, any attempt to do so would only incriminate him further. 


Rachael: I chose to pursue expertise in the area of sexual assault and institutional dynamics years ago, including my own legal training as an attorney.  Having reviewed the allegations and evidence against SGM and their own responses to it, my concerns have only solidified and grown.  I have summarized these concerns at the end of this post.

Comment:  SGM has always disparaged the integrity, charges, and motives of the victims and their lawyers, Susan Burke and William O’Neil.  I interacted at length with both of them.  I also filed a lengthy affidavit with 14 Exhibits on behalf of the SGM victims.  Before I decided to help Burke and O’Neil, I drove to D.C. to meet with them in November 2012.  Unfortunately, Burke had to fly out of town and cancelled at the last minute; but my time with O’Neil was excellent.  I asked a lot of questions and found him to be a man of integrity and properly motivated in pursuing the case.  I doubt I would have helped otherwise. 


Rachael: I am asking SGC to support their recent claim that I am making “false accusation”, “mischaracterizing” and communicating things that “are not true and have never been true”, and instead show true care for the victims by finally dealing transparently with these concerns, through taking one specific step:

Allowing GRACE, an Christian organization whose expertise is sexual assault and institutional dynamics, to do a thorough independent investigation of the organization’s historical and current handling of abuse complaints, which will be released to the public.  GRACE has no affiliation with SGM or any survivors and therefore is in a unique position of approaching such an investigation with objectivity and independence.  GRACE is founded and organized by Boz Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham and is comprised of a team of mental health experts, former prosecutors, and pastors who have a combined experience of over 100 years of addressing sexual abuse related issues.  Their legal knowledge, investigative abilities and character is of the highest caliber.  I will personally spearhead fundraising efforts for such an investigation and donate myself, to ensure that this can be done with no extra burden to SGM, if the organization will pursue transparency and accountability through GRACE.  I will also readily accept any conclusions GRACE arrives at, and personally and publicly apologize if I am found to be in error.

Comment: SGM will never “support their recent claim that I am making ‘false accusation’, ‘mischaracterizing’ and communicating things that ‘are not true and have never been true.’”  Nor will they allow GRACE (i.e., Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to do an independent investigation.  Why?  Two reasons.  SGM has no defense and Mahaney and SGM have a strong dislike for Boz Tchividjian.    


Rachael: As SGM is not facing a civil lawsuit, there is no reason they cannot, at this time, pursue and provide answers to the many concerns, questions, and evidence about their handling of sexual assault allegations.  I am confident that the best way to care for past victims, and the best way to prevent assault in the future, is to take these steps.  I hope to see them finally do so.

Comment: From August 2013 to December 2013, I worked non-stop on a 1,500-page report for law enforcement.  The majority of evidence it contains remains confidential.  I have not released it.  SGM will never agree to an investigation by G.R.A.C.E.  but if they do I will help Rachael and Boz Tchividjian in making the case.  Here is part of the preface to that report.

Report for [Former FBI Agent] on the Conspiracy to Commit and Conceal the Sexual Abuse of Children in Sovereign Grace Ministries
December 2013


This report is written for glory of God, the good of the Gospel, the reform of the Church, the just cause of sex abuse victims, and the criminal prosecution of sex abusers and their enablers. 

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.  Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

It is given to [Former FBI Agent] with the hope and prayer that his noble efforts will result in involvement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal prosecutors.  His gracious willingness to take up this cause is a gift from God and appreciated beyond measure.  The report may be used at his discretion and under his supervision. 

It is dedicated to [a SGM victim] who has suffered unimaginable harms, preserved in the faith and is now an outstanding example of Christian virtue.

Like anyone who has lived long enough, I can relate to these words by John Newton in Amazing Grace.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The “dangers, toils and snares” in exposing SGM have been many and they have been severe.  But the Lord “hath brought me safe thus far.”  I am still alive.   And if he wills, I will remain alive long enough to finish a book that incorporates evidence in this report for law enforcement, and additional evidence I have gathered over the past five years.    

Rachael now proceeds to a six point Summary of Concerns.


Rachael: During a time when CJ Mahaney was senior pastor of Covenant Life Church and in leadership in the parent organization he founded (SGM),

Comment: Mahaney was the senior pastor from 1980 to 2004 when he turned it over Joshua Harris.  Four of us began SGM in 1982.  Mahaney was the President from 1991-2013 except for a six month “leave of absence” in 2011 after he was exposed for long standing patterns of serious sin.  The puppet board soon restored him to the presidency.


Rachael: 1. SGM had an internal policy of not reporting sexual assault allegations to law enforcement, and instead handling them internally.  This is evidenced by statements made by multiple SGM pastors, including in official police reports, and in internal SGM documents.

Comment: One internal document is “When Child Abuse Occurs: Considerations for Pastors” by John Loftness.  Loftness was a defendant in the lawsuit and is an alleged sexual sadist.  He wrote this paper at the behest of Mahaney for the 2009 Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference where it was presented.  I was in attendance.  It was right before I left SGM.  Here is one quote. 

“The pastor must sort through confusing and often conflicting reports [of child sex abuse].  He must determine who needs to know the report he’s received within his [church] community. … If the report is true [as determined by the pastor, not the police], the ramifications of the abuse can be enormous.” 

The document goes into great detail about how suspected crimes are to be investigated by pastors before, or if, they ever report to law enforcement.  That is a recipe for disaster!  Law enforcement experts are ordained by God to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse.  Pastors are not equipped or appointed to do so. 

This comes from paragraph 93 in the lawsuit (not the Loftness paper).

“On or about March 18, 1993, Dominic and Pamela Palmer, Renee’s parents, learned of the assault and immediately called the police and reported the assault. They then called Defendant Loftness, who immediately advised them “do not call the police.”  When the Palmers told Defendant Loftness that they had already called the police, he expressed his displeasure (stating “that is going to be a problem”) and explained that such matters were handled internally by the church leadership, not by secular authorities.”

Here is a second quote from “When Child Abuse Occurs” by Loftness.

“Finally, there is the pastor’s own soul.  There can be an inner resistance to delving into the details of such a sordid sin, though understanding the nature, depth and seriousness of child sex abuse often requires seeking detail.  If the crime [as determined by the pastor] was between two church members, there can be a fear that the church will be held responsibility.  There can be the fear that if the church becomes known as a place where child abuse has taken place, parents will avoid the church.”

Those two “fears” are the why Covenant Life pastors never reported suspected or known sex abusers to law enforcement even though Loftness acknowledges in his paper, “Since child abuse is a crime, the pastor has specific legal obligations which require careful compliance.”  CLC and SGM have never put forth one example of reporting a suspected or known child sex abuser.  


Rachael: 2. Elders in SGM churches did, in fact, follow this internal policy and did not report sexual assault allegations, did not warn congregants of known sexual predators, and did not place limitations on known predators to prevent additional access to children. Under-oath testimony and police reports in criminal investigations demonstrate this.

Comment: This is true.  People in harm’s way were not told about convicted sex abusers or suspected sex abusers in their church.  I know a lot about this and it is one of the most frightening aspects of the CLC and SGM policy.  In one case, Mahaney moved a senior pastor from a SGM church in Ohio to one in New Jersey when the senior pastor’s adolescent son repeatedly sodomized the younger son of the associate pastor on staff.  No one in either church was ever told.  I corresponded with the victim’s mother.  Unfortunately, they refused to press charges.


Rachael: 3. Additional statements by numerous members of multiple SGM churches independently allege further conduct that is in-line with known church policy and proven church practices, including failure to report abuse, failure to warn congregants of known predators, and failure to place limitations on known predators in the congregation.  These allegations are numerous, arose independent of each other, and are internally and externally consistent, all factors which carry substantial evidentiary weight.

Comment:  All true.  This summary is written in legal language.  I suspect other lawyers are assisting Rachael.  If Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. does not allow G.R.A.C.E to do an independent investigation, I think she will go public with names and proofs which she has withheld for the time being.  Based on sources, this story is only going to grow.


Rachael: 4. Numerous independent victims and victim families allege that SGM pastors discouraged reporting, were uncooperative with investigators, interfered with investigations, or supported the perpetrator.  Some of these allegations have documentary evidence, including a letter on church letterhead, in the official court file, in support of early release of a known pedophile [Dave Adams in Covenant Life Church].  Other allegations should be given consideration because the allegations are numerous, independent, and internally and externally consistent.

Comment:  The letter was written by Gary Ricucci.  It concerned David Adams.  Read Gary Ricucci & the Conspiracy Surrounding Convicted Felon, David Adams


Rachael: 5. SGM has never publicly acknowledged or repented of these known failures to report.  They have never responded with specificity to any additional allegations that fit the known patterns, outside of blanket statements that there was “no conspiracy” to coverup abuse, and that the civil lawsuit was a threat to their First Amendment freedom.

Comment: When the lawsuit first came out SGM sought to hide behind the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

This ridiculous legal argument was made by their lawyer, Chip Grange and put forward by Tommy Hill, Director of Administration and Finance.  They were desperate.  I worked with both men on legal and financial issues pertaining to SGM for many years.  I could not believe they used the First Amendment to conceal “what sort of biblical counsel they think should have been provided” under the guise of prohibiting free speech.  Read these posts.

The First Amendment or the Welfare of Children?
Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 2:55PM

Christianity Today Article on Lawsuit and the First Amendment
Friday, January 25, 2013 at 1:08PM


Rachael: 6. Additionally, three of the elders directly involved in known instances of failure to report were close relatives of CJ Mahaney, two brothers-in-law [Grant Layman, Gary Ricucci] and a son-in-law [Steve Whitacre].  Internal church documents also state that every elder is to be notified of any claims of sexual assault.  During many of the known and alleged failures, CJ was an elder in the church in question.  Specifically, he was the head elder.

Comment: A lot of nepotism surrounds Mahaney.  It is one of the reasons he remains a pastor in Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.  Brian Chesemore (son-in-law) and Gary Ricucci (brother-in-law) are pastors.  Steve Whitacre (son-in-law) and Mike Bradshaw (son-in-law) are deacons. He is also been enabled by Bob Kauflin and Jeff Purswell who have been rewarded with top positions and lucrative salaries and benefits for many years.  

Mahaney was the head elder or senior pastor at Covenant Life Church from 1980-2004.  He was based in CLC and oversaw CLC as an “apostle” from 2005 until December 2013 when he angrily and abruptly decided to leave over offenses without ever talking to the pastors.  He fled to Capitol Hills Baptist Church with Mark Dever where he was welcomed, revered and even preached. 


Rachael: These known failures and additional concerns and allegations merit close attention and an independent, transparent investigation by a trusted organization with expertise, if SGM wishes to show care for victims, or prevent these failures in the future.  I hope to finally see them take this step.

Comment: They can’t take this step” for the six reasons enumerated in Rachael’s summary.  SGM only allows for “assessments” or “panel reviews” or “adjudications” they can rig, control and carry out in secret with no due process.  Kangaroo courts are the only courts Mahaney and SGM have ever used when it comes to internal “investigations.”  See for example, Panel Report on Brent Detwiler’s Dismissal from Grace Community Church.  The corruption exposed in the article is unimaginable but true.  It was an exceedingly painful experience.  I almost despaired.

Isaiah’s words apply to the leaders and pastors of Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc.

Isaiah 30:9-14

[9] For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. [10] They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right!  Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. [11] Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” [12] Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, [13] this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. [14] It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.”

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