My last blog post was entitled, “Paul Buckley, Chairman of SGM & Other Top Level Leaders, Secretly Plotted C.J. Mahaney’s Removal as President.” This post is a follow up based upon two emails from Jim Britt to Al Pino and Aron Osborne after the October 2012 Board of Directors retreat when Mahaney’s resignation as President was debated and discussed.
I first reported that Mahaney was asked to resign in March 2013. I was immediately condemned by the SGM Board of Directors for making such an outrageous claim. SGM has always denied there was any debate, division, or disagreement about Mahaney’s role as President; let alone an earnest request for his resignation. It is one more lie that has been exposed. The truth has now come out.
I’ve italicized in bold print Jim Britt’s emails and interspersed my comments using regular print.
From: Jim Britt
Sent: Saturday, October 27, 2012 6:59 AM
To: Al Pino
Cc: Aron Osborne
Good morning my friend. I pray you don’t get a migraine today due to lack of sleep last night. It is early, I got to bed late, and as I am writing to just you I am rambling a bit. Sorry.
This was written to Al Pino. He was on the Board of Directors at the time. It was copied to Aron Osborne. He was a Regional Leader and former member of the Interim Board. It was written by Jim Britt. He was a well-known church planter. All three of the men are friends. Pino and Britt are close friends. They are on staff together at Palm Vista Community Church. I’ve had no contact with any of them for a long time.
If you choose to answer the emails sent to everyone (and I might), here are some suggestions.
This a reference to two emails that were sent after the Board of Directors retreat in October 2012 when they agreed Mahaney would “transition” as President. I don’t have these emails in my possession or know their precise content at this point in time.
1. I would answer them both without referring to either specifically. And I would not include CJ in the string nor the body of the answer. He is not a member of the Board. The Board governs. CJ is an employee of the Corporation and as such has no authority. He may have strength of conviction; but he has no more authority than any other employee of the Corporation, pastor, or member of our family of churches. Anyway, you are answering convictions, opinions, and appeals…not personalities or individual people.
The Board of Directors (a.k.a. Executive Committee) and Leadership Team are now separate entities in SGM. They were once combined. Loftness was Chairman and Buckley was Vice Chairman of the Board. Mahaney was President (a.k.a. Executive Director) of the Leadership Team. On paper, the Board governed Mahaney and the Leadership Team. In reality, Mahaney’s “strength of conviction” governed everyone. Britt advises Pino to cut Mahaney out of the follow up discussion.
2. Change the rules of engagement; or rather, change them back. You have been told that you are being pragmatic more than you are being principled. And you have been told that it is also about a lack of protecting CJ and SGM during a pending lawsuit. John, Mick, and CJ have changed the focus to CJ as person and the potential inaccurate reporting of you and Pete. The focus is now about reports and lawsuits. What began last week as a discussion ended with an ad hoc decision about CJ’s suitability (with reports from churches only added to suggest that more member churches agreed with the members of the Board more than was originally thought). Remind the men that this began with and still is only about CJ’s ability to lead the organization in the future:
I don’t claim to fully understand Britt’s thoughts but it appears Pino is being corrected for “a lack of protecting C.J. and SGM during a pending lawsuit” which is the “principled” (i.e., right) thing to do according to John Loftness, Mickey Connolly and C.J. Mahaney. Of course, protecting means promulgating Mahaney’s innocence in the sex abuse scandal. This email is dated October 27. The original lawsuit was filed on October 17. The retreat occurred on October 9-11 between the filing and this email.
On this October 2012 retreat, the Board of Directors should have had but one main agenda item. How they were going to independently investigate Mahaney’s and Loftness’ alleged role in a criminal conspiracy to protect child abuse predators and obstruct justice. Even though Loftness was Chairman of the Board, he should not have been in the room when this matter was discussed except when it was time to be questioned. Furthermore, the Board of Directors should have required an immediate leave of absence for Chairman Loftness and President Mahaney until a thorough going investigation was completed in conjunction with the police that completely exonerated them.
Instead Mahaney, Loftness, Paul Buckley, Ron Boomsma, Craig Cabaniss, Mickey Connolly, Ian McConnell, Ken Mellinger, Al Pino and Phil Sasser put out a statement about the lawsuit that said in part:
“It is important to note that it does not allege any act of child abuse by a pastor or staff member of SGM or of an associated church. SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but we are beginning a careful legal review of each allegation. Upon initial review it appears the complaint contains a number of untrue or misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.” (October 26, 2012)
Of course, Chairman Loftness thought it “important to note” that no “pastor or staff member is accused of child abuse. That would change when he was accused of child abuse several months later.
Every one of the men on this Board foolishly believed Loftness and Mahaney. “Upon initial review” means after talking to Loftness and Mahaney. They never talked to the victims and they did not cooperate with the police. Instead they hired lawyers, hid behind the First Amendment and cast evil suspicions upon the victims.
The Board was happy to disparage these victims by saying their accounts “appeared” to contain “a number of untrue or misleading allegations” and “considerable mischaracterizations of intent.” Of course, that is exactly what Mahaney and Loftness wanted the Board to say.
When victims of abuse finally come forward they should be treated with great respect and sensitively. The Board of Directors should have worked out a plan to meet, reconcile and make restitution with the Plaintiffs. Instead, they believed the lies of Mahaney/Loftness and followed the advice of lawyers. The Board continued to disparage a growing list of victims that came out in the First Amended Complaint and the Second Amended Complaint.
The Board promised, “SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but we are beginning a careful legal review of each allegation.” What ever happen to this careful legal review of each allegation? It was covered up. “Legal review” means SGM lawyers reviewed the allegations. SGM has never reported on their findings.
Britt says the focus is now on “the potential inaccurate reporting” of Pino and Pete Greasley and “about reports and lawsuits.” It appears Pino and Greasley have brought “reports” from churches that don’t think Mahaney is suitable as President. Mahaney, Loftness and Connolly disagree and present their own “reports” that Mahaney is suitable. That is standard operating procedure for these three men. Correct Pino for not protecting Mahaney and correct Pino/Greasley for potential inaccuracies. That is, shut them down. The one bringing correction ends up being corrected. That’s why it is so hard to correct Mahaney especially with men like Loftness and Connolly shielding him and defending him.
Pino and Greasley seem to be on the same page regarding Mahaney’s lack of suitability. That is, they don’t think he should continue as President. Add Pino to the list of those who wanted Mahaney removed.
Britt says, “What began last week as a discussion ended with an ad hoc decision about CJ’s suitability. … Remind the men that this began with and still is only about CJ’s ability to lead the organization in the future.” The discussion about Mahaney ended at the October 2012 retreat “with an ad hoc [impromptu] decision” by the majority that he was qualified to remain as President. Britt defines what he means by “CJs’ ability to lead the organization in the future” below.
a. It is not about numbers nor is it about a lawsuit. It is about a difference of opinion concerning principled leadership during crisis, courageously (and wisely) admitting past mistakes, and leading with humility.
This is the most important statement in the email. It goes to the issue of character. Mahaney, Loftness and Connolly have “changed the rules of engagement” and they have changed the subject. They’ve made it into the number of reports they got from churches supporting Mahaney versus how my reports Greasley got from churches not supporting Mahaney. They’ve also made it about the lawsuit. That is, “protecting” Mahaney from implied guilt in the criminal conspiracy if he was removed as President for other reasons.
o The Board must govern for the glory of God and the good of the organization. If the Board deems that responsibility and (appropriate) transparency equals humility and courage, then the majority of the Board must overrule the minority (as has been done on other items in the past) and press its employees to comply with their governance. The Board has a mandate to govern and an obligation to expect their governance to be acted upon by the employees of the Corporation.
This Board, like the other Boards, have not governed for the good of SGM because they have not governed for the glory of God. Britt is correct. You govern for God’s glory when ”transparency equals humility and courage.” The SGM Boards have governed with deceit which equal pride and cowardice. SGM has been consumed with its own glory. That’s why these men failed to exercise “principled leadership during crisis, courageously (and wisely) admitting past mistakes, and leading with humility.”
The four Boards over the past three years have utterly failed to deal with C.J. Mahaney. Britt is encouraging Pino to make Mahaney’s disqualifying sins the basis for his removal as President. The Board should expect Mahaney “to comply with their governance” as an employee of the Corporation. True but Mahaney would never comply with being fired.
o Prior discussion of who might leave or stay was in response to the convictions and opinions within the Board about how SGM has been governed in the past and in crisis. Its focus was on the advice to CJ by specific members of the Board. The perspectives and numbers of member churches have always been a part of the narrative. And they have always been based on the differing perceptions of various Board members. If these discussion were not pragmatic then, why are they now?
“Who might leave or stay” is a reference to SGM churches. Seven churches had just left SGM. Pastors were watching to see if Mahaney and Board members like Loftness and Connolly changed the way they governed. Mahaney was receiving “advice” from “specific members of the Board” like Pino who were representing pastors and their “differing perceptions of various Board members.” There was no change. Things worsened and 30 more churches left. Pino finally left three months ago.
o Perhaps this is really about the two different models of leadership that are behind this discussion.
That’s precisely what Joshua Harris and the Covenant Life pastors said about Mahaney and the Interim Board of Directors when they left SGM in December 2012.
It is not about whether or not CJ will have a voice. Nor is it about not protecting CJ in the lawsuit. Those are givens. [Britt is wrong about the lawsuit. He believes Mahaney is innocent and therefore should be protected.] Will the Board govern in a specific manner at a specific time? [Meaning with principled or ethical leadership – no.] Is clear and transparent communication about our past the right thing to do at present? [Yes] What is to be communicated and why? [Everything of consequence because it has dishonored God, brought reproach upon the Gospel, and harmed God’s people. That includes the conspiracy to protect sexual predators.] How does the Board define courage? [It doesn’t matter. They don’t live by it.] Does the Board think that CJ should continue in his present role? [I’d like to know who was for and who was against C.J. and why those against allowed themselves to be silenced.] Does the Board still want CJ to assume some degree of responsibility for things that happened while he was President? [Even if they did they never required it of C.J. No public confession was ever forthcoming.] Does the Board still desire CJ to our pastors SGM’s past mistakes? [C.J. doesn’t need to talk about “past mistakes,” he needs to talk about past pride, deceit, abuse, lying, hypocrisy and independence.] What does the Board think that Scripture mandates in this current crisis? [It doesn’t matter. The Board is not submitted to the authority of Scripture even though they know what it teaches. They don’t do what the Bible clearly commands.]
b. If the Board still thinks the way it did last week then it is responsible to make sure that CJ’s opening night comments both reflect the advice of the attorney about topics relating to the lawsuit and the Board’s majority vote concerning items happening on his watch.
Britt believes Mahaney is innocent of wrong doing in the lawsuit so I assume following “the advice of the attorney” means Mahaney denying wrong doing and disparaging the victims as in the October 26, 2012 press release.
Britt also refers to “the Board’s majority vote concerning items happening on his watch.” Mahaney is supposed to make a confession during his “opening night comments” at the upcoming Pastors Conference that starts in three days on October 30. Mahaney refers to his main session message in this press release from the previous month.
Main Sessions – Our own Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, Mickey Connolly, and Ian McConnell will join me in speaking at the main sessions to help us explore, admire, and apply God’s varied grace to the present circumstances in our lives, families, and ministry.
Guess what? The audio of Mahaney’s main session was never made public. He was instructed by the Board to confess but that confession was covered up if it ever happened. This much we know – Mahaney never followed up with those he sinned against and he never made a public confession to SGM for any of the things that happened on his watch during his tenure as Chairman/President going back to 1991.
The same day Mahaney put out the Pastors Conference Update, the Board put out their own update. Here is an excerpt.
Board Update: A reasoned response to six questions
September 14, 2012
Dear Friends of Sovereign Grace Ministries,
We’re writing in response to questions that we’ve been hearing and discussing since our seating as a board this past spring. … These questions do not involve matters of sin or ethical violation—they are matters of judgment. We’re writing to let you know that these questions have had our attention and to explain why the SGM Boards and leaders have taken the steps they have. …
We also believed, given what we consider unfair and unwarranted damage that has been done to his [Mahaney’s] reputation through the past year, that it was important for us to express our support of C.J. and to let SGM know that this Board, if still in place, would consider him as a candidate to continue as president after the polity process is completed [in April 2013]. … We do not think this is the time for a debate about who should lead our ministry. We have a major transition to make in our governance, and we believe that no other leader in our movement has the qualities that will effectively guide us through these changes.
Much grace to you all,
The SGM Board
This terribly dishonest and deceptive response was put out by “The SGM Board” even though Paul Buckley, Ian McConnell, Al Pino and other Board Members wanted Mahaney to resign as President. So did Dave Harvey, Pete Greasley, Aron Osborne, and Jim Britt. There was a debate going on about Mahaney. Vice Chairman Buckley was pressing for his resignation. And yet this press release says,
- "These questions do not involve matters of sin or ethical violation—they are matters of judgment.”
- “We do not think this is the time for a debate about who should lead our ministry.”
- “We believe that no other leader in our movement has the qualities that will effectively guide us through these changes.”
Mahaney, Loftness, and Connolly were behind these outrageous lies but the other men let them get away with it. It was about “matters of sin or ethical violation” in Mahaney’s life and ministry. It was about debating whether Mahaney or someone else should be President. It was about a group of men trying to remove him.
The same kind of capitulation happened in June 2012 when the Board was divided but over Mahaney’s continuation as President but allowed a press release written by Loftness to say they were totally unified.
Once again, those opposed to Mahaney’s Presidency were unwilling to expose Mahaney, Loftness and Connolly for their horrendous duplicity and heavy handedness. They allowed them to lie and deceive. Is so doing, they enabled them like codependents enable alcoholics. Moreover, they allowed these men to silence all the pastors in SGM who “have always been part of the narrative.” The debate was over! End of discussion.
Some leaders took baby steps in confronting Mahaney but no one took manly steps. No past or present leader in SGM has ever stood up to Mahaney in the final analysis. That’s why he remains in ministry and the SGM Pastors College operates in his church. That’s why he has never been disciplined or publicly rebuked. That’s why he has never been exposed by any member of the four Boards.
Instead all the men on all the Boards have commended Mahaney in public statements as a man above reproach, fully qualified in character to be a pastor and teacher, and an outstanding ambassador to the Body of Christ. One day, I hope someone’s conscience becomes so troubled, they write an honest account about their view of Mahaney and his enablers.
From: Jim Britt
Sent: Saturday, October 27, 2012 8:00 AM
To: Al Pino
Cc: Aron Osborne
Subject: RE: Confidential
Re: #1 [in email above]. While I do want to stress CJ’s lack of authority, I do not want to imply that I want him out of future conversations or influence. I just want to see the playing field leveled out a bit as strength of personality in two of the guys seems to be affecting this. I am not saying it is intentional, but it seems to be there nonetheless.
Britt knows the playing field is not level for those wanting Mahaney’s removal. They are going up against the “strength of personality in two of the guys.” That is a reference to John Loftness (Chairman of the Board) and Mickey Connolly (Mahaney’s closes confidant). I don’t think Britt is being completely honest with Pino and Osborne. He knows the authoritarian leadership of Loftness/Connolly intimidates the other Board members. He won’t come out and say their intimidation is intentional.
I left Sovereign Grace Ministries five years ago this month. Soon thereafter, I began to produce “documents” for C.J. Mahaney that I hoped would bring about reform. That effort failed. As a result, it was necessary to send those documents to the SGM pastors in July 2011. Since then, I’ve continued to write. I’ve also worked behind the scenes helping leaders and people inside and outside of SGM including victims of sexual abuse. These endeavors have been my full time work.
I continue to hold SGM accountable, write about lessons to be learned, work for criminal justice, seek reform in the Body of Christ, and care for those who have been harmed. A lot of what I do is unseen. Your financial assistance in support of these efforts would be greatly appreciated.
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