A few weeks ago Dave Harvey wrote Larry Tomczak and uninvited him to the SGM Pastors Conference in Gaithersburg MD in November. This represented a complete turnaround by C.J. and the SGM Board who were swinging from the rafters in July over the reconciliation that occurred between Larry and C.J.
C.J. invited Larry and Doris as his special guests and extoled the “unique joy” it will be to “welcome them back at this conference.” Well, the homecoming has been cancelled. No red carpet will be rolled out for Larry. I’m afraid, Larry is back in C.J.’s dog house. Here’s the email and blog post history.
From: C.J. Mahaney
Sent: Saturday, January 08, 2011 9:13 AM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: FW: Justin
It is my joy to give you a brief update on what has taken place between Larry, Doris, Justin and me. After a series of meetings where every issue was discussed and addressed, specific and appropriate confession was made and forgiveness graciously extended, we have all been reconciled to each other. It has been a humbling, redemptive and wonderful experience for us all and I am deeply grateful for and indebted to Larry, Doris and Justin for their humility, kindness, graciousness and forgiveness.
At the conclusion of the process we all agreed that it’s neither wise nor appropriate for us to reveal all the specifics of our interactions with each other. We simply want to inform folks that we have addressed all pertinent issues, forgiven each other and been reconciled by the grace of God. And we hope everyone will rejoice with us in our reconciliation. I have asked Larry and Doris to be my guest at the November Pastor’s Conference and they have gladly accepted my invitation. It will be a unique joy for us to welcome them back at this conference.
In my last conversation with Larry he wanted me to convey to you his desire to meet with you and there is a possibility he will be in Charlotte sometime soon. Larry wanted me to tell you that he would love to get together. I hope you do. Please let him know if this would be your desire.
Because of the Cross,
As C.J. has described elsewhere, he and Larry Tomczak have recently reconciled with each other. Larry gave us permission to post a letter he sent on July 4, describing their estrangement and reconciliation. I hope this letter encourages you.
Larry Tomczak’s Testimony About His Reconciliation with CJ Mahaney
July 4, 2011
I would like to take a few moments to share with you a testimony of God’s grace in my life, in my family, and in a very dear relationship. About 38 years ago CJ Mahaney and I were brought together in a complementary friendship and teaching ministry in the nation’s capital. We started with a handful of people in the home of Mrs. Lydia Little, who called us together and was the initial catalyst for our ministry. We began to study the Word of God, then we began to teach the Word of God in a more public fashion. Our group grew within a four-year period to almost 2,000. It was primarily young people meeting every Tuesday for a ministry meeting called “T.A.G.,” or Take and Give. We taught the Scriptures, worshipped the Lord, and saw multitudes of people converted. Even to this day, wherever we travel in this nation and abroad, both CJ and I hear testimonies of people who thank us for our teaching. We’ve been amazed at how God used that ministry, which was both a personal journey toward God and a revival that touched many lives.
As our ministry grew, we complemented each other—we were very different. In 1977 we realized it was God's will to conclude the teaching and evangelistic gatherings and begin to plant a New Testament church. We tried to do it in a way that was non-divisive and began in my home. Over the course of a year or two, a church was started that is now Covenant Life Church. Thirty-some years later it is a prosperous local church in the Gaithersburg MD area, with about 3,000+ members.
As the church grew, we also caught a vision for church-planting and multiplication according to the pattern in the Book of Acts. Over the course of two decades we were privileged to be involved in planting or “adopting” about 25 churches. This fellowship of churches eventually became known as “Sovereign Grace Ministries.” We were also involved with a nationally published magazine, People of Destiny, which 20-25,000 people received.
But somewhere in the 1990’s God put a test before us. I’m sorry to say that we didn't come through with flying colors. We wanted the ministry’s core values and beliefs to be more specifically identified. That brought about some friction, because I found myself going on a different doctrinal path than some of the other leaders who were dear friends. As time went by I felt I was experiencing abuses of spiritual authority and methodologies that were harmful and inconsistent with Scripture. Other leaders in SGM shared similar experiences with me. Because of this, as well as some pruning the Lord was doing in my personal life in terms of character, and some family issues with one of our children, CJ and I reached a place where there was not just tension, but an impasse. Eventually there was a sense in my own heart to end my time with the ministry. I felt there were issues of doctrine and direction in the ministry with which I could no longer align. As I attempted to exit, it caused tension and things did not go well for us.
For the past 13 years, CJ and I have been in a state of estrangement. I made several attempts to address these differences and to deal with offenses and perceived injustices. Both of us sought to apply principles of biblical peacemaking, but we made little progress. We struggled unsuccessfully to overcome separation, alienation, and division. We certainly did not give a positive witness for the Lord. The ripples of our separation went through the Body of Christ in many ways, affecting extended family members, churches, and individual church members.
In September 2010, I sent a letter to CJ requesting that we come together again to try to reconcile with each other. CJ gladly agreed and flew to Nashville where we met and talked for over four hours. Early in the meeting, we considered two specific questions:
First, what is God calling us to do that would bring Him the maximum glory, bring healing to the maximum number of people, and stop the ongoing divisive activity of Satan in the maximum number of individuals and churches?
Second, are we willing to do whatever He reveals no matter what the cost?
We both gave a thumbs up and a hearty Amen and said, “Let’s dig in.” We put into practice the wisdom of Proverbs 14:9, “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” By God’s grace, we worked hard at repairing our relationship. CJ confessed and repented of sins that had caused separation between us. Where I had also sinned and failed, I did likewise. I was deeply moved by CJ’s humility and transparency, and would give him an “A+” on his role in the conversation.
Realizing that my wife Doris had also been affected by our estrangement, CJ offered to meet with her as well. A few weeks later, he returned and she joined us for another four hour conversation. As a result of prayer and fasting and the grace of God, we saw the Holy Spirit doing a work in our midst that I would have to say was miraculous. I believe that all of us pleased the Lord by not being defensive, by listening to one another, by attempting to understand the past and lay it out on the table, with nothing ignored or neglected.
But God was not done with us yet. Doris’s father is 89 and her mother is 87, and CJ knew that they too had been impacted by our struggles. To our great joy and appreciation, he humbled himself and called them on Christmas Eve. In their words, “in a pile of tears” he sought forgiveness and expressed repentance. It was an incredible experience as God brought healing in a situation that my wife had said two months before was irreparable. Ripples went out to our entire extended family. One family member who was involved in the situation subsequently flew to meet with us in Nashville. We were able to discuss things and he repented and asked our forgiveness. We also acknowledged some failures at this time.
CJ also had a private meeting with one of our children and was a model of humility in listening and dealing with issues he wanted to discuss. A breakthrough came when he humbly asked forgiveness for an offense that had deeply hurt my child, Doris, and me. This evidence of God’s reconciling grace was crucial to our eventual reconciliation.
During this six month period, several SGM leadership couples called us or visited us in Nashville, at great financial cost, to likewise repent and seek forgiveness for sins against us and our family. Some called our children to do likewise. Many tears and lots of pain came to the surface, but this brought great glory to God and was essential to the healing process for our family. It also gave us the opportunity to confess and ask forgiveness for our contributions to our estrangement. The efforts by SGM leadership couples to seek reconciliation ushered in the healing for things that had affected all of us for thirteen years and had negatively impacted many of our children.
At this point we are all standing in amazement that after 13 years the Holy Spirit moved into our lives as we humbled ourselves for what we would call a transformational experience. Where sin had once separated us, the grace of Christ now brought us all together in a spirit of love and forgiveness. We were all impacted—not only us, but also our children and extended family members. We believe this is going to reverberate throughout Covenant Life Church, the ministry of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and also individuals who have been aware of this ministry here and abroad. Doris’s dad and mom said, “We’re ready now to be with the Lord, for we have seen the intervention of God.”
I praise God that CJ and I are now able to communicate the wonderful news of our reconciliation to those who would be encouraged by it. We have agreed that we don’t need to go into specifics, but we can tell anybody and everybody that we came together, every major issue was put on the table, we endeavored to humbly repent, ask forgiveness, and honor God by forgiving. We want to move forward now and see healing, not only in our lives and families but in the churches and ministries that in any way, shape or form were impacted by what took place.
Praise be to God, who has graciously overcome and delivered us from our sin and given us the grace to experience the forgiveness and reconciliation that Christ won for us at the Cross!
Here are C.J.’s public remarks regarding Larry to CLC on July 10 and posted on the SGM blog the next day.
Last month Brent sent a third document [Concluding Remarks], this one 200 pages in length. In this document Brent pointed out my leadership failures in 1997 when Larry Tomczak left SGM after relocating to Atlanta to plant a church. During this time Larry and I had a conflict over how we would describe his leaving SGM. It grieves me to report to you that in a particular phone conversation I sought to coerce Larry to present his leaving as I thought was right. (And by the way none of your current pastors would have known this. It involved SGM not CLC.) And when Larry did leave, my public announcement of his departure was self-righteous in attitude and critical of Larry at a very vulnerable time in his life. I highlighted his sin alone, and I was blind to my own. I’m deeply grieved by this.
But I am happy to report that seven months before Brent’s third document arrived, a letter arrived on my desk from Larry Tomczak asking if we could be reconciled. By the grace of God I agreed and this led to a series of meetings we had in Nashville. I am humbled and delighted to report to you that when I confessed my sins to Larry and Doris they freely, immediately, and graciously forgave me. If memory serves me that was in December last year.
Larry and I stood side by side and cofounded CLC. We stood side by side and cofounded SGM. Sin separated us, but I will have the sweet joy to stand side by side with him again in November when he joins us as a special guest at our Pastors Conference. I hope to do the same at CLC to welcome him back. Actually when we do this I think it would be appropriate if I stand off to the side. Larry has been a wonderful example of extending forgiveness.
C.J.’s “sweet joy” of standing “side by side” or humbly “off to the side” at the Pastors Conference is now a bitter taste in his mouth. Instead of side by side, Larry will be in Nashville and C.J. in Gaithersburg. And C.J.’s dream of welcoming Larry back to Covenant Life Church – well let’s just say the dream has turned into a nightmare. Larry and Doris are no longer welcome. The invitations from C.J. have been rescinded. The SGM Board told Larry to unpack his bags and stay home.
I heard this from a secondary source so I wrote Larry to confirm my information.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2011 3:36 AM
To: Larry Tomczak
Subject: November Conference
I’ve been told you were uninvited to the Pastor’s Conference. Any truth to it?
From: Larry Tomczak
Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2011 9:20 AM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Re: November Conference
Thanks for writing. I hope you and Jenny are doing well, my friend.
Yes, the invited has been put on hold because Dave wrote me saying that with all the things going on right now they felt it would be best to wait til more is resolved in the matters at hand.
Doris and I pray and do await our time to talk with this panel. We believe that their discovery process necessitates our input. I was co-founder of the movement. CLC was birthed in our home. We reached a point where it was untenable to stay in the movement due to basically the same issues continuing to be raised by scores till this very day. A pattern of disqualifying and dismissing leaders in an unredemptive way must be addressed as multitudes watch, wait and wonder what is going on. I wrote the leader [Ted Kober] of AOR and patiently await the call. Please pray with us, okay? Thanks! Love ya, Brent.
P.S. Don’t forget the reconciliation with C.J. was basically a personal one. What does need to follow is the public dimension to right the wrongs that were done to me, my reputation, my wife and my family. Multitudes are also watching for this. Keep praying. Keep fighting the good fight of faith for His glory and the good of all involved. Things said at Covenant Life Church and in letters to thousands in churches should be confessed specifically and the record set straight for integrity’s sake. “The circle of the sin is the circle of the confession.”
I responded to Larry’s note.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2011 10:23 AM
To: Larry Tomczak
Subject: RE: November Conference
I totally agree with you! Thanks for the explanation.
Yes, you should appear before the panel. Yes, there should be an extensive public confession by C.J. That’s one of the reasons I fought so hard to undo the agreement to remain silent. I knew it would be used to cover up sins that should be confessed in public.
Regarding Dave’s letter. Did he give you any specific reasons for withdrawing the invitation? Or did he keep it vague and general? I assume C.J. and Dave are not too happy with you given your “honest and gracious” comments in CT [Christianity Today], the [Washington] Post, and interpersonal correspondence. Are they trying to remove you from the process so your voice is silenced from here on out?
It seems they were glad to use the reconciliation for good public relations but now see you as a liability because you continue to raise additional issues that must be address. Agree?
Thanks for speaking up and out.
Larry wrote back.
From: Larry Tomczak
Sent: Sunday, September 18, 2011 8:35 AM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Re: November Conference
Hello and greetings from ORU [Oral Roberts University]! Doris and I are here as we are launching Icecap on the campus. Pray as I meet with Mark Rutland on Monday afternoon, okay? He is doing a remarkable job with the 3,500 students here.
Brent, Dave sent me an email a few weeks ago and basically said that since so much was in process right now they felt it best to wait til more resolved before having me present at the Conference. He was cordial and so I took him at his word and said, okay.
I do know SGM Board and CLC leaders had a meeting last week. Seems like C.J. and Josh are now on hold til they get some assistance in their current struggles.
I would love to see the panel receive input not only from me but from 10 to 20 key leaders who were once a part of SGM and share, I believe, very similar stories concerning the way in which they were treated. God wants to cleanse the movement and rectify the past. So many, especially young people and former SGM members are praying and watching. Doris and I are part of that group.
Love ya, buddy,
Dave was unclear about his reasons for cancelling Larry’s invitation so I wrote him.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Monday, September 19, 2011 3:49 AM
To: Dave Harvey
Subject: Larry Tomczak
Would you please tell me by the end of today why Larry T. was uninvited to the Nov. Pastor’s Conference?
Unsurprisingly, Dave refused to answer my question. But let me suggest the invitation was withdrawn due to comments made by Larry in Christianity Today and The Washington Post. Here are the relevant excerpts.
Sex, Money ... Pride? Why Pastors Are Stepping Down
What’s causing some well-known leaders like C. J. Mahaney (and John Piper before him) to step aside is not what you might think.
By Bobby Ross Jr. | posted 7/14/2011 11:28AM
Before the recent furor, Larry Tomczak, a pastor at Bethel World Outreach Church in Nashville, Tennessee, reconciled with Mahaney after 13 years of estrangement.
For a long time, Tomczak and Mahaney were ministry partners and “yokefellows,” as they liked to refer to each other, Tomczak said.
In the late 1970s, they worked together to start Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which grew into a megachurch with more than 3,000 members. They helped plant new churches across the nation through the network that became known as Sovereign Grace Ministries.
But in the 1990s, as Tomczak found himself “going on a different doctrinal path” than some of his dear friends, friction emerged between Tomczak and Mahaney.
“As time went by, I felt I was experiencing abuses of spiritual authority and methodologies that were harmful and inconsistent with Scripture,” Tomczak wrote in a testimonial provided to CT. “Other leaders in SGM shared similar experiences with me.”
Tomczak’s tension with Mahaney turned into an impasse that lasted more than a decade until the two men got together, at Tomczak’s request, and worked out their differences last fall.
“In my leaving, I experienced some things that were unfortunate and have led to reconciliation now 13 years later,” Tomczak told CT. “My experience, I think, mirrors that of dozens of leaders and hundreds of people in churches that are identified with SGM. My prayer is that they’re being corrected. I think this issue with C. J. is bringing everything to the surface.”
The Washington Post
Sovereign Grace Ministries, riven by conflict, seeks to change
By Michelle Boorstein, Published: September 6
“We as a family experienced a pattern of spiritual abuse, hypocrisy, harshness, deceit and some unfortunate threats that were not righteous for Christians and need to be repented,” said Larry Tomczak, who co-founded the ministry with Mahaney during the hippie-ish Jesus Movement of the 1970s and then bitterly split from him two decades later. “There has been something systematic in the handling of people that has deviated from biblical, pastoral norms and has had serious implications in many people’s lives. Lots of people have been waving flags. Hopefully, things are changing…”
In an interview, leaders of Sovereign Grace acknowledged some mistakes but seemed to focus more on how the fire has been fanned by many anonymous online posters. In sermons and blog posts this summer, they have referred to biblical bans on gossip and slander. Debate broke out among members when Harris first suggested that people read the insurgent blogs and then said not to.
“Sometimes pastors in their zeal to help people, they have strongly suggested things they needed to leave it to people to figure out for themselves,” said John Loftness, a member of the church’s board.
But things seem likely to change.
“I think many people nationwide have been watching and waiting and hoping for this day to come,” Tomczak said. “We can’t cover it up. Bring it out, change where change is necessary. Confess where there have been wrongs, repent, go forward, be redemptive.”
If you’ve read my documents [e.g., A Final Appeal, pp. 123-126) you know C.J. has categorically denied the presence of spiritual abuse, hypocrisy (with one exception), harshness and deceit in his life or the life of anyone he knows in SGM or of SGM in general. So Larry’s greatest concerns are of no concern to C.J. Sound familiar?
And do you think those vast differences might have something to do with being uninvited to the Pastors Conference by Dave Harvey? Like C.J., the SGM Board has never expressed concern for any of these subject matters either.
News Alert! This just in. Larry and Doris may be headed to the Pastors Conference so they can participate in the “Group Reconciliation” and share their concerns with Ambassadors of Reconciliation. If so, I wonder if there will be a “side by side” moment, or better yet, an “off to the side” moment with C.J. during a main session?
If not, I certainly hope C.J. provides a humble and detailed confession of his sins against Larry to the SGM pastors and wives that includes lying, pre-mediated coercion, deceit, harsh public condemnations, libelous innuendo, and the concealment of his sins from the CLC pastors for 13 years (see “Concluding Remarks,” pp. 131-172). Remember there is no damage control in Sovereign Grace Ministries (see CR, pp. 107-112). According to C.J, “We will seek to walk humbly before God and when we stumble we will not seek to engage in damage control. No, instead we will humbly acknowledge with sorrow that we stumbled – we stumbled. No damage control (CR, p.111)!
That said, I look forward to hearing what C.J. confesses at the Pastors Conference after four months of personal reflection, self examination, pastoral care from Mark Dever, professional counseling from David Powlison, and input from the SGM Board.
Post Script (Oct 5, 2001 at 12:07PM)
This is an excerpt from a letter C.J. sent to all the SGM pastors. I forgot to include it. Notice C.J.'s comment, "At the conclusion of the process we agreed that it’s neither wise nor necessary for us to publicly communicate the details of our interactions with others." Here is his letter.
January 19, 2011
I do hope this e-mail finds you aware of God’s grace revealed in and through the gospel of “Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).”
I’ve got much to inform you about so let’s get right to it and let’s start with some wonderful news.
It is my joy to inform you that over the past few months Larry Tomczak and I have walked through a process of reconciliation together. After a series of meetings where all the important issues were discussed and addressed, and where appropriate, specific confession was made and forgiveness graciously extended, we have been reconciled to each other by the grace of God. It has been a humbling, redemptive and wonderful experience for me and I am deeply grateful for and indebted to Larry for his graciousness and forgiveness. At the conclusion of the process we agreed that it’s neither wise nor necessary for us to publicly communicate the details of our interactions with others. We simply want to inform folks that we have addressed all the pertinent issues, forgiven each other and been reconciled by the grace of God. And we hope everyone will rejoice with us in our reconciliation.
I have been eager to inform you of this great news. I have invited Larry and Doris to be my/our guests and attend our Pastors Conference in November. They have agreed to come and are looking forward to attending the conference. I can’t wait for this conference and I look forward to publicly welcoming and privately spending time with Larry and Doris. I know you do as well.
This decision to not "communicate the details" included not telling SGM Board Members and the CLC pastors. For instance, C.J. did not even tell Joshua Harris about his blackmail and related sins. Joshua found out from me on June 9, 2011 when I sent him "Concluding Remarks." Joshua told CLC on July 10 that he had been kept in the dark by C.J. Here are his comments.
"The other thing that was significant about the third document, is that it contained all the information about Larry Tomczak and that was, if you’ve read the documents, that is the most scandalous thing in the documents of issues and sins for CJ and the pastors here at CLC, we were not aware of that, we were not aware of the threat that C.J. made to Larry in that phone conversation that was recorded. We did not know about that. It was deeply grieving, it really knocked all of us for a loop especially men who had been on the team for a long time." (Joshua Harris, Members Meeting, July 10, 2011)
The Washington Post article was published on September 6. Immediately after this Larry was univited to the Pastors Conference. I've talked to Larry since. He said the SGM Board was not happy with his comments.