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Rachael Denhollander Speaks Out Against C.J. Mahaney in Interview with Christianity Today – Predictably, Sovereign Grace Condemns Her “False Accusations” 

As reported by the Indianapolis Star in Rachael Denhollander’s courage led army of Larry Nassar accusers:

“Rachael Denhollander was the first woman to put her name on public allegations that a famous, beloved former USA Gymnastics doctor was a child molester.  She would be the last of 156 survivors to testify in a sentencing hearing that would get him a sentence of 175 years.”

She is demonstrating the same kind of courage and conviction in speaking out against C.J. Mahaney in an interview by Morgan Lee for Christianity Today.  The article should be read in entirety. 

My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness.
Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander spent years discovering God’s perspective on sexual abuse. Then her advocacy for survivors cost her her church.

I am going to use excerpts from the interview and other primary source material, add commentary, and document the horrendous treatment of sex abuse victims in Sovereign Grace Ministries which Rachael so forcefully addresses.

I will also address the despicable, but predicable, response of Mark Prater for Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries and the name I use in this post).  In what follows, I add clarifying notes in brackets [ ]. 

[CT] In your impact statement, you say, “My advocacy for sexual assault victims … cost me my church.”  Can you share about when you decided to share with your church that you were going to speak up about this and what happened? 

[RD] The reason I lost my church was not specifically because I spoke up.  It was because we were advocating for other victims of sexual assault within the evangelical community, crimes which had been perpetrated by people in the church and whose abuse had been enabled, very clearly, by prominent leaders in the evangelical community.  That is not a message that evangelical leaders want to hear, because it would cost [them] to speak out about the community.  It would cost [them] to take a stand against these very prominent leaders, despite the fact that the situation we were dealing with is widely recognized as one of the worst, if not the worst, instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse.  Because I had taken that position, and because we were not in agreement with our church’s support of this organization and these leaders, it cost us dearly. 

Rachael did not lose her church in Louisville, KY because she “spoke up” against Larry Nassar.  She lost her church because she advocated for the victims of sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  She knew crimes, like those of convicted felon, Nathaniel Morales, were covered up by C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris in Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.  

Read Brent Detwiler’s Factual Rebuttal of Covenant Life Church Apologist for an overview of the conspiracy to commit and cover up the sexual abuse of children.  Covenant Life Church was the headquarters for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  

Rachael is correct when she says, “the situation we were dealing with is widely recognized as one of the worst, if not the worst, instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse.”  And I would add, the worst cover up of ministry corruption and spiritual abuse.  Even the current senior pastor, P.J. Symth, who replaced Joshua Harris, is a documented liar concerning his knowledge of his famous father’s violent beating of boys and young men in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.  Read Lead Pastor P.J. Smyth Deceives Covenant Life Church About Knowledge of John Smyth’s Violent Beating of Boys.  

“It cost us dearly.”  It always does when you expose evil.  John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.  Because the Denholllanders disagreed with the church’s support of Mahaney, especially the support of their senior pastor, they were asked to leave.  

In her court room statement on January 24, she talked about the impact of Larry Nassar’s horrendous crimes on her.  She also talked about the horrible impact of her church.   

“Even my status as a sexual assault victim has impacted or did impact my ability to advocate for sexual assault victims [in Sovereign Grace Ministries] because once it became known that I too had experienced sexual assault, people close to me [e.g. her senior pastor] used it as an excuse to brush off my concerns when I advocated for others who had been abused, saying I was just obsessed because of what I had gone through, that I was imposing my own experience upon other institutions [e.g. Sovereign Grace Ministries] who had massive failures and much worse.”

Rachael was not obsessed, she was informed, unlike her elders who had been misled by Mark Dever.  Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. and the president of 9Marks (a ministry to churches and church leaders).  She, on the other hand, had acquired massive amounts of evidence against Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Her interview with Christianity Today also includes this statement.

“When I did come forward as an abuse victim, this part of my past was wielded like a weapon by some of the elders to further discredit my concern [for Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries], essentially saying that I was imposing my own perspective or that my judgment was too clouded.  One of them accused me of sitting around reading angry blog posts all day, which is not the way I do research.  That’s never been the way I do research.  But my status as a victim was used against my advocacy.”

This parallels what she said in her victim impact statement.

"My advocacy for sexual assault victims [in Sovereign Grace Ministries], something I cherished, cost me my church and our closest friends three weeks before [Aug 8, 2016] I filed my police report [with the Michigan State Police Department against Nassar on Aug 29, 2016].  I was left alone and isolated.  And far worse, it was impacted because when I came out, my sexual assault was wielded like a weapon against me.” 

And last Sunday, Rachael posted this comment on Facebook.  

“We did (were invited) to leave over many issues which stemmed from our significant disagreement and pleading over the support of CJ [Mahaney] and his church [Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville] and counseling methodologies.  And my status as a sexual assault victim was indeed wielded like a weapon by some of the elders [in my church].  I did include this, without naming the church, in my [victim impact] statement because it was a significant part of the damage that I went through.” 

At the most vulnerable point in her life, when she reported the crimes of Larry Nasser to police, she was abandoned by her church – “I was left alone and isolated.”  But “far worse,” her elders “wielded like a weapon against me” her “status as a sexual assault victim.” 

Now, back to the interview with Christianity Today. 

[CT] Church leaders thought that your own experiences made you biased? 

[RD] Correct.  So rather than engaging with the mountains of evidence that I brought, because this situation was one of the most well-documented cases of institutional cover-up I have ever seen, ever, there was a complete refusal [by her elders] to engage with the evidence. 

The same has been true of top leaders around the nation.  For the past five years, I have sent “mountains of evidence” to over 100 national leaders illustrating the corruption that is systemic in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Not only as it pertains to the conspiracy to commit and cover up the sexual abuse of children, but also as it pertains to other grievous patterns of sin that harmed and injured thousands of people.  

For example, from 2012 to 2014, approximately 40 churches, 100 pastors, 300 small group leaders, and over 12,000 members left Sovereign Grace Ministries due to these patterns of sin most prominently evidenced in Mahaney’s life.  He divided a movement.  He devastated his home church which he abandoned.  And he stumbled thousands and thousands of Christians in their walk with the Lord. 

Yet, many of these national leaders have refused to engage the evidence.  They condemn it as “slander.”  What was true in Rachael’s church – “there was a complete refusal to engage with the evidence” – has been true on a national scale.  

As a matter of fact, there has been a “vast right-wing conspiracy” (to turn a phrase) dedicated to the incomprehensible defense of Mahaney.  It has been headed up by those men associated with Together for the Gospel but is not limited to them.  That is, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, John MacArthur, David Platt, Thabiti Anyabwile and R.C. Sproul (recently deceased).  

These men have defended Mahaney every step of the way since I sent out Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine (Mar 17, 2010, 141 pages), A Final Appeal (Oct 8, 2010, 178 pages), and Concluding Remarks (Jun 8, 2011, 202 pages) in July 2011.  I sent these private documents to Mahaney, who once was a dear friend, in hopes he would repent of his pride, deceit, lying, hypocrisy and independence.  When he continued to deceive the SGM churches and Christian public, I was forced to send out the documents to all the SGM pastors. 

About these documents, Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said (underlining mine): 

“There is nothing disqualifying in terms of anything that is disclosed in this,” said Mohler, who regularly speaks on programs along with Mahaney.  “It’s just evidence we knew all along, that C.J. is human but a deeply committed Christian and a visionary Christian leader.”

Then he added: 

Detwiler has “an obvious vendetta” against Mahaney. 

He continued:  

“I always have had only the highest estimation of C.J. Mahaney as a man and a minister,” Mohler said in an interview — his first public comments on the situation involving Mahaney, one of his fellow leaders in the Reformed, neo-Calvinist movement. “That continues absolutely unchanged.  There is nothing in this current situation which would leave me to have even the slightest pause of confidence in him.” 

“There is nothing disqualifying in terms of anything that is disclosed in this [i.e., in my documents including Mahaney’s blackmail of Larry Tomczak],” said Mohler, who regularly speaks on programs along with Mahaney.  “It’s just evidence we knew all along, that C.J. is human but a deeply committed Christian and a visionary Christian leader.”

Ligon Duncan, Chancellor/CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, said this about the documents in Reformation 21 - the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (underlining mine). 

“It would have been very easy for the leadership of SGM to ignore and dismiss these charges, because so many of them are so evidently self-serving and spurious accusations.” 

And he said this with me primarily in mind. 

“I would then encourage you to ignore the assaults of wounded people on attack websites and blogs, and that you discount the opinings of those who have no real knowledge of these matters.” 

I was told by reliable sources, Mohler and Duncan had not read the documents when they made these statements.  I wrote them about it, but they refused to answer.  In any case, this was a classic case of condemning the messenger and the message by two of the powerful men in the Body of Christ.  Their statements are shown to be untrue if you actually read the documents which are charitable and just.  

Noted blogger, Tim Challies also opposed me. 

A Brief Response to Tim Challies
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 1:35PM
Tim Challies on Thinking Biblically About C.J. Mahaney and SGM
Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 2:21PM

The condemnation by Mohler and Duncan were part of a plan orchestrated by Mahaney and Dave Harvey to silence me.  In large part, it backfired.  Thousands of people saw through their machinations.  Read The Five Resolutions – July 13, 2011.  

The same thing happened when the final version of the civil lawsuit (i.e., the Second Amended Complaint) with 11 plaintiffs came out against Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries and others.  Mohler, Duncan and Dever never read the lawsuit before making the following mindless statement (and many others) in their public letter of support for Mahaney on the Together for the Gospel website. 

“A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry.  No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney.  Instead, he was charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.” 

This was incredulous!  Read C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from Together for the Gospel & Founders Remove Statement of Support.  It exposes Mahaney’s public lies and the reckless coverage by Mohler, Duncan and Dever.  And if at all possible (if you haven’t already), please read the Second Amended Complaint (i.e., lawsuit).  It contains all the allegations of fact demonstrating the conspiracy to commit and cover up the sexual abuse of children.  It repeatedly accuses Mahaney of “direct wrongdoing.”  Beware, it will shock your senses and break your heart!

Other leaders like Denny Burke, President of The Coalition on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, expressed their support.  Burke said, “Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, and Lig Duncan have issued a statement expressing their love for and confidence in C.J. Mahaney.… I am so thankful to see these men release this statement.  Consider this my cosign.”  Mahaney is a Council Member for CBMW.  He should be removed.  

Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor did the same thing at The Gospel Coalition.  Their vindication of Mahaney was outrageous and I use that word with discretion. Like Mohler, Duncan and Dever, they didn’t even read the Second Amended Complaint before posting their egregious defense of Mahaney on The Gospel Coalition website.  Carson is the President/Founder of TGC.  DeYoung and Taylor are noted bloggers for TGC.  By the way, Taylor is Senior Vice President for Crossway publishing where Mahaney is an author.  

Honestly, these men didn’t know what they were talking about in terms of legal proceedings, court rulings, or the allegations of fact made by the victims regarding the conspiracy.  They were also fed bogus information by Mahaney’s lawyer, made up fallacious arguments, and distorted the plaintiffs’ case.  I am not exaggerating.  It is all documented in Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor Defend C.J. Mahaney Against Charges in SGM Sex Abuse Scandal and Conclusive Evidence Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, & Justin Taylor Never Read Sex Abuse Lawsuit against C.J. Mahaney 

I’d encourage you to read both posts but here is one of their egregious assertions.     

“So the entire legal strategy was dependent on a conspiracy theory that was more hearsay than anything like reasonable demonstration of culpability. As to the specific matter of C. J. participating in some massive cover-up, the legal evidence was so paltry (more like non-existent) that the judge did not think a trial was even warranted.”  

Contrast their statement with the Opening Statement of Assistant States Attorney Jessica Hall for Montgomery County, Maryland at the first trial of Nathaniel Morales.  Morales sexually abused multiple boys in Mahaney’s church.  This transcript comes from the official court recording.  The underlining is mine. 

Jessica Hall
Assistant State’s Attorney
Opening Statement
Monday, May 12, 2014

 2:42:45-2:43:23 PM 

“And Sam [one of the victims] ultimately did not keep quiet.  He did unfortunately wait until he was an adult and when he told people about the abuse as an adult he went to the church and he brought the abuse forward to the church [i.e. the pastors] and laid it on the doorstep and asked them to do something about it.   He assumed the church would do the right thing.  That they would report the abuse to the authorities.  That they would go to the police so that Mr. Morales would be held accountable for his actions.  But the church did not.  You will hear from witnesses in the church and from Mr. Bates himself that the church [i.e. the pastors] covered it upThe church protected Mr. Morales.” 

2:46:38-2:46:53 PM 

“Jeremy [another victim] will tell that always he wanted to do something about the abuse and he always wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else, but he thought going to the church authorities would be sufficient.  He had no idea that the church would cover up for Mr. Morales.  He had no idea that the church would protect a man who molested children.”  

2:50:05-2:50:35 PM 

“And we are here today, ladies and gentlemen, in 2014 that this man [Nathaniel Morales] sexually molested three boys, Sam, Jeremy and Brian and when the abuse was occurring the boys didn’t tell.  And several years after the abuse ended and the abuse was disclosed to church authorities, the church did nothing.  They ignored the abuse.  The church pretended the abuse didn’t happen.  They accepted the defendant’s apology and went on with their lives.  They [i.e., Mahaney & Covenant Life pastors] ignored the fact that heinous crimes had been committed.” 

The statement by Carson, DeYoung and Taylor angers me because none of it is true!  There was no “conspiracy theory.”  There was only a conspiracy.  I have repeatedly documented Mahaney’s policy of not reporting sexual predation and abuse going back to 1981 with Charles Schmitt.  In that case, Schmitt continued to prey upon young men over the next 35 years as the senior pastor of a mega-church in the Washington D.C. area.  Read the sections relevant to Mahaney in Charles Schmitt Is a False Shepherd, Predatory Homosexual, & Divisive Deceiver - He Is Starting a New Church & Must Be Stopped!  

The same was true with Nathaniel Morales.  Mahaney did not report him though he learned about his crimes in June 1991 and again in 1992 and 1993 from multiple members of his staff.  As a result, Morales went on to sexual abuse boys for 20 years in at least five states and Puerto Rico, including two step-sons because the pastors never told Marcia Griffith, his wife to be, about his crimes.  They married in June 1994.  She divorced him in December 2013 after he was arrested.  Marcia told me she had no idea she was marrying a “monster.”  Mahaney and his pastoral staff have never asked her forgiveness or her sons’ forgiveness. 

One more quote from Keller, Carson and DeYoung.  They suggest the reason Mahaney was being “unfairly attacked and diminished” was because he is “high-profile” and “well-known.”  

“High-profile Christians are sometimes targeted not because they are guilty, but because they are well known. While those who are shown to be guilty should be exposed with rigor and with tears, surely as brothers and sisters in Christ we must understand how much gain there is for those who hate the gospel when Christian leaders are unfairly attacked and diminished.”  

John Piper also chose to remain uninformed.  He gave Mahaney an unqualified endorsement right after the first amendment to the lawsuit came out.  He did great harm to the victims in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Read John Piper’s Unqualified Endorsement of C.J. Mahaney Breaks Hearts.  Here is an excerpt.

“John’s unqualified support of C.J. and SGM has made a lot of people cry and grieve.  Especially the victims of sexual abuse that occurred in SGM churches under C.J.’s leadership.  I sent John the lawsuit on February 6.  Why did he express no concern for the victims’ plight on February 17 at C.J.’s church?  I find his abject silence incomprehensible.

“There should be weeping and howling throughout Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Instead, John Piper is telling everyone how thrilled and excited he is about C.J. (when so few trust him), the church plant (that was born out of division), and Sovereign Grace Ministries (which is being opposed by God).  The imprimatur of John Piper is not the imprimatur of God.”

I wrote Piper and Jon Bloom, who is Chairman of the Board for Desiring God and a member of a SGM church, to cover Rachael’s story.  Still nothing but silence. 

From: Brent Detwiler []
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 4:17 PM
To: John Piper <>; Jon Bloom <>
Subject: Rachael Denhollander

I’ve been looking forward to Desiring God doing an article on the role Rachael Denhollander, who is an outstanding Christian, played in the conviction of Larry Nassar.  Is anything forthcoming?  John, you love to preach and write about heroes of the faith.  Rachael provides a tremendous contemporary example.  I’d encourage you to cover her story.

I have written a lot of national leaders I know like Wayne Grudem.  Among other accomplishments, Grudem is the General Editor of the ESV Study Bible (cf. J.I. Packer, Theological Editor) which I consider the finest study Bible available.  But like so many, he has not used his brilliance to righteously assess Mahaney.  Read My Correspondence with Wayne Grudem Regarding His Support of C.J. Mahaney.  The article opens with this paragraph. 

“Wayne Grudem is like so many other national leaders who have blindly vindicated C.J. Mahaney without ever looking into the overwhelming evidence against him.  I wrote Grudem about this in July 2013.  He had just moved to teach at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.” 

Here is some of that correspondence. 

From: Brent Detwiler []
Sent: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 5:46 PM
To: Wayne Grudem (;
Subject: Please Reconsider Your Support of C.J.

Hello Wayne, 

It has been a long while since we have greeted each other.  I hope you are surviving the sweltering temperatures in Phoenix!  I imagine you miss the much cooler temperatures in Deerfield, IL this time of year…. 

Please reconsider your decision to preach at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville this Sunday in order to “signal support for C.J. in the face of unjust accusations.”  C.J. has not been on the receiving end of unjust accusations.  The charges against him are supported by overwhelming evidence and scores of witnesses.  

Wayne, C.J. was my dear friend as you well know.  He is your friend.  But tragically he has deceived a lot of people with his spiritual gifts and magnanimous personality.  The broad accusations against him are true and they are serious.  

Please study the evidence and help him come to repentance; otherwise, you will enable him like other leaders have mistakenly done.  I know you love C.J. and are indebted to C.J. but defending him in light his guilt is not being the friend he needs. 

Thank you for the many ways you have served Sovereign Grace Ministries over the years.  



Another example of baseless support for Mahaney comes from Joe Carter who is an Editor at The Gospel Coalition.  He ignorantly defends Mahaney.    Read Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition Says “Detwiler Is Making Up” Admission by Joshua Harris 

Here is an excerpt from my post. 

“In general, Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition has no clue what he is talking about as it pertains to the long-term knowledge of Morales’ crimes by former and current pastors at Covenant Life Church.  He doesn’t have the police reports.  He hasn’t read the indictments.  He hasn’t studied the “Memorandum of Law in Support of State’s Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Sever.”  He was not at the four-day trial [of Nathaniel Morales].  He did not hear [Grant] Layman’s [Mahaney’s brother-in-law] sworn testimony.  He has not spoken to or interacted with victims and witnesses.  I have all of the above and I’ve done all of the above.  

“Nor did Carter hear Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall tell the jury three times in her opening statement that the “heinous crimes” committed by Morales were “covered up” by Covenant Life pastors.  

“Joe Carter should be spending all his time exposing the widespread criminal conspiracy to commit and cover up sex abuse at Covenant Life Church and in Sovereign Grace Ministries rather than discrediting those who are on the side of justice.”   

On more example.  Here is a portion of what I told Phil Johnson, John MacArthur’s Executive Director for Grace to You; when he ignorantly, deceitfully, and arrogantly contended there was no evidence against Mahaney on his Facebook page.  

For those who don’t know, I helped start Sovereign Grace Ministries in 1982.  I served on its Board of Directors for 25 years.  For most of those years, I was the number two man after Mahaney.  No boast intended.  Johnson was alleging I must have known about the conspiracy to cover up criminal activity due to my high position. 

Brent Detwiler Phil Johnson  Once again, I am staggered by your ignorance.  I had no knowledge of the cover up until I began to investigate AFTER the lawsuit came out in Oct 2012.  That investigation will be covered in a 300-page book I am writing [still writing].  There was no running debate with C.J. over our sex abuse policy.  I assumed he was following the law.  He was not.  Nor was his staff.  They were all covering up and that has been acknowledged by Grant Layman in court, Joshua Harris in The Washington Post, the church administrator [Corby Megorden] in a closed meeting, etc.  C.J. and his staff had a policy of not reporting to law enforcement and that was due in large measure to their unreasonable fear of lawsuits.  That is also a matter of record.  Phil, I didn’t know about any of this or I would have confronted it.  C.J. hid it from me.  That is part of the conspiracy.  That is part of his long-term pattern of deceit.  Again, I am shocked by the extent to which you are uniformed and ill-informed.  Everyone knows these things who has taken any time to read even the most basic coverage.  I wish you would remain silent because you are leading a lot of people astray by your ignorance.  If you don’t want to read the 40 or 50 posts I have written on the subject, that is fine.  If you don’t want to read the media coverage from the past 3½ years, that is fine.  If you don’t want to read and study the court documents from the Morales trials, that is fine.  Just don’t pretend to know what you are talking about because you absolutely do not!
Like · Reply · 1 · April 22 at 6:44pm

I also attempted to post this comment, but it was blocked by Johnson. 

Brent Detwiler  Almost done.  Phil, there is SO MUCH more I would like to correct in what you have written for the benefit of your readers, but I have other priorities and responsibilities I must attend to including the care of a loved one, completion of the book, assisting law enforcement, and caring for victims of sexual abuse in SGM.  I’d encourage you to subscribed to my blog at  That way you can stay current. The abuses and scandals in Sovereign Grace, and surrounding Sovereign Grace, are unending.  Yet, many of the most powerful leaders in the US continue to commend C.J and cover-up for C.J.  They have brought great reproach upon the gospel and the Reformed faith.  My writings have not brought the reproach; my writings have exposed the reproach.  No one should be supporting C.J. or Sovereign Grace Ministries.  The top leaders in SGM have all proven themselves to be corrupt.  That is not slander.  There is a longstanding and proven pattern of deceit that the Body of Christ must know about. Not once, not twice, but countless times this deceit has played out.  You would know that if you studied the evidence.  For example, how in the world can anyone allow Mark Prater [the Executive Director for SGM] to promote SGM at T4G [Together for the Gospel 2016] after reading "Hush Fund Set Up by Top SGM Leaders to Meet the Demands of a SGM Pastor Whose Son Was Sexually Abused" by a senior pastor’s son.  This is typical.  And lest you wonder, I have repeatedly brought this 2013 illustration of profound corruption to the attention of all ten men representing T4G including John [MacArthur].  It is mind boggling no one has taken action.  To be honest, the evidence does not matter to these men.  If it did, C.J. would have been removed from ministry and he would never be a hyped speaker at T4G.

You can read more at John MacArthur Refuses to Follow His Own Teaching in Dealing with Phil Johnson’s Egregious Sins.

Continuing the interview by Christianity Today. 

[CT] Was this the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) scandal?

[RD] Yes, it was.

[Editor’s note: Denhollander clarified that she and her husband did not attend a SGM church, but a Louisville, Kentucky, church “directly involved in restoring” former SGM president C. J. Mahaney.  She said that she and her husband “left because we were told by individual elders that it wasn’t the place for us.” CT previously reported how Mahaney and SGM were accused of covering up abuse in a 2012 lawsuit; they denied the allegations and argued that courts shouldn’t second-guess pastoral counseling decisions.  A judge dismissed the suit in 2014, though a former SGM youth leader [Nathaniel Morales] was convicted of abusing three boys in a separate case.]

It is even worse in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  You are forced out and threatened with church discipline if you speak out against Mahaney or read anything I have written.  That is evidenced by these heavy-handed demands of Mickey Connolly at a closed meeting of CrossWay Community Church (which I founded with the help of family and friends).  After Mahaney, Connolly is the most powerful and corrupt player in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  He is also Mahaney’s closest confidante. 

“Having nothing more to do with him, avoiding him would include not discussing these things with him personally, reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook.  If that means you have to defriend him to avoid the temptation, do that, or following the story on anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs.… So I want to be clear!  Not discussing this [the documents] with him personally.  Not reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook or following the story on the anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs.... If you can’t trust your pastors, you need to leave.  You need to go... What I am saying very simply is this.  If you cannot trust your pastors, if you cannot obey your pastors and what we are asking you to do biblically then you need to find another church because we cannot function without your trust."

Hundreds of dear friends at CrossWay were being deceived.  Connolly went on to demand their obedience and condemn my writings as “gossip and slander.”   

“So here is the key question, really, of all of this.  It is a question that some of you have asked.  ‘If I don’t read this stuff how can I be informed?   How do I know that you aren’t telling me not to read these things because of what the blog says?  So, Mickey, isn’t this just a ploy to avoid having your sins uncovered?’… I want you to know that I understand the question and in some ways, there is only one answer I can give you and it is this.  You need to decide whether you trust your pastors.… Do you trust your pastors!  That is really the key question that we are facing here tonight.  And I want to let you know something.   We can’t function without your trust…. That is the great horror of gossip and slander and divisiveness.  It fosters suspicion.  It fosters mistrust.  Mistrust and suspicious divide…. If you can’t trust your pastors, you need to leave.  You need to go.... What I am saying very simply is this.  If you cannot trust your pastors, if you cannot obey your pastors and what we are asking you to do biblically then you need to find another church because we cannot function without your trust.”

This statement by Connolly was made on November 13, 2011.  Two days earlier, Mahaney gave these marching orders to all the gathered pastors at the SGM Pastors Conference.  

“I think the days ahead are going to require more discernment as it relates to the identification of slander and the influence of slander in our churches.  I think the days ahead are going to require courage on the part of pastors and when necessary publicly identify those who are divisive.  I think the days ahead are not only going to require, I think they are going to require courage.  I think in some ways in Sovereign Grace we have more humility than courage.  And we are going to need more courage.  We are not capitulating to slander in the name of humility.” 

All of this is covered in the following posts including my response to the charge of slander.

Trust and Obey for There’s No Other Way to Possibly Stay at CrossWay!

Ten Common Cult-Like Characteristics Evident in Mickey Connolly’s Leadership 

C.J.’s State of His Heart Message - Reflection on Personal Sins

Eight Reasons Why Sending Out “The Documents” Was Not Slanderous But Necessary

Back to the interview. 

[CT] After you had confronted church leaders and you decided that you were going public with your own abuse, you realized that your church would never take this seriously? 

[RD] We have failed abhorrently as Christians when it comes to that test.  We are very happy to use sexual assault as a convenient whipping block when it’s outside our community.  When the Penn State scandal broke, prominent evangelical leaders [e.g. Al Mohler] were very, very quick to call for accountability, to call for change.  But when it was within our own [Reformed/evangelical] community, the immediate response was to vilify the victims or to say things that were at times blatantly and demonstratively untrue about the organization [Sovereign Grace Ministries] and the leader [C.J. Mahaney] of the organization.  There was a complete refusal to engage with the evidence.  It did not even matter. 

I wrote about Mohler’s hypocrisy in The Tragic Lessons of Penn State — A Call to Action by Al Mohler.  And I wrote, “If justice were served, Mahaney and these pastors would spend time in jail too” in Former Penn State President Gets Jail Time in Sandusky Case

Rachael is correct.  Mahaney and his surrogates did viciously “vilify the victims.”  They defamed them by saying they were in it for the money and in many cases, said the victims in SGM lied and made up their stories of sexual abuse.  So damnable.  So demoniac.  Read Executive Director Mark Prater Effectively Calls Victims of Sexual Abuse Liars on Behalf of All Sovereign Grace Leaders 

Furthermore, top leaders inside and outside of Sovereign Grace Ministries frequently (not simply “at times”) lied or acted deceptively for Mahaney in order to protect him and cover up for him.  

A good example of this treachery is evident in the "preliminary assessment" of Mahaney’s confessions covertly done by Kevin DeYoung, Ray Ortlund, and Carl Trueman.  Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, the president of Renewal Ministries, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition.  Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.  

Read Conclusive Evidence the Investigation of C.J. Mahaney’s Confessed Sins by Kevin DeYoung, Ray Ortlund, & Carl Trueman Was Thoroughly Corrupt.  Here is an overview. 

“On July 6, 2011, I sent out The Documents to the pastors in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  The same day, Mahaney announced a “leave of absence” to examine charges of a “serious nature” against him including pride, deceit, hypocrisy, unteachableness, and the sinful treatment of others.  The examination he promised never happened.  Instead, a corrupt process was designed and put into place whereby leaders inside and outside SGM defended and vindicated Mahaney despite the overwhelming evidence against him.  That included Kevin DeYoung, Ray Ortlund and Carl Trueman.  All powerful and influential leaders. 

“After the release of The Documents, these three men were quickly picked by a newly installed puppet Board for Sovereign Grace Ministries and asked to “offer non-binding advice on the narrow question as to whether C.J. Mahaney is presently fit for ministry based on those sins to which he has already confessed.”  On July 27, 2011, they wrote the Board and declared Mahaney fit for ministry, above reproach and a model for others to follow.  I never knew who was on the Preliminary Panel until Dave Harvey posted their findings on August 2, 2011. 

“For years, I’ve wanted to write DeYoung, Ortlund and Trueman about their findings.  I finally did this past spring in separate correspondence.  I respectfully asked each of them 15 questions including “Why didn’t you talk to me?”, “Did you take seriously C.J.’s confession that he remained blinded by pride for over 10 years despite constant correction?”, and “What is your definition of ‘above reproach’ in 1 Timothy 3:2 and ‘blameless’ in Titus 1:6-7?”  They refused to answer any of my questions.  

“I also asked, “Did you tell C.J. it was decidedly unwise for him to take a leave of absence?”, “Did you tell C.J. none of his sins needed to be confessed in public?” and “Did you tell C.J. he overstated his sin and thereby confused people outside of Sovereign Grace?”  I knew the answer to these questions based upon evidence I had discovered.  It was unambiguously “Yes.”  These men pretended neutrality in public but behind the scenes were acting with great prejudice.  That’s why I asked another question of them, “Do you think the panel acted ethically in keeping with its narrow assignment?”  Of course, the answer was categorically “No.”  The facts bear this out in what follows.” 

One final excerpt from the interview with Rachael Denhollander in Christianity Today.  Please note, the comments below in brackets are NOT mine.  They are original to the article and added by the interviewer for clarification. 

[CT] After you had confronted church leaders and you decided that you were going public with your own abuse, you realized that your church would never take this seriously? 

[RH] 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.

The ”community” is “every evangelical leader out there.”  That is not literally true, but it is true of hundreds of the most powerful and influential Reformed and evangelical leaders in the nation who have reprehensively defended Mahaney despite the incontrovertible evidence against him.  Nothing like this has ever occurred since the advent of modern evangelicalism in the 1940’s.  Rachael is absolutely right!  Had she been a victim of sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries, she would have been “actively vilified and lied about” and “massively shunned.”     

And I might humbly add, if you speak out against Mahaney and in support of victims in Sovereign Grace Ministries, you will be actively vilified, lied about and massively shunned. 

C.J. Mahaney must resign from all forms of Christian ministry because he falls far short of the most basic requirements laid out in Scripture.  Fading from the evangelical scene and going into “early retirement” is woefully inadequate.  He must be called to account by all the men I mentioned above AFTER they take responsibility for transgressing the clear teaching of Scripture.  

1 Timothy 5:20-21 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. [21] I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 

Some of those men, like Dever and Mohler, are Southern Baptists.  They must follow their own resolution to not affiliate with Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  In 2013, the following resolution was passed at the Southern Baptist Convention with Mahaney and SGM in mind.  Read Southern Baptists: Take care with ties to those accused of mishandling abuse by Peter Smith

“RESOLVED: that we encourage all denominational leaders and employees of the Southern Baptist Convention to utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups [SGM] and/or individuals [Mahaney] that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse.”  

It is amazing to me that the Sovereign Grace Pastors College (PC) has a special arrangement with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), whereby students in the PC can received credit toward a degree at SBTS and get a discounted rate for any additional studies they do at SBTS.  

Mahaney has contributed over $200,000 to Mohler’s institution from Covenant Life Church, Sovereign Grace Ministries and his own funds.  Mahaney’s church website says, “Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville also partners with the Southern Baptist Convention for the purposes of training and gospel mission.” 

In the future, I will be writing about Jacob and Rachael’s former senior pastor based on my correspondence with him.  He put out a false narrative on Twittter about the sex abuse scandal in SGM that I corrected in 2016.  I also emailed him in private at the time.  I will contact him again in private and hope for his repentance. I will also write about Mark Dever and the false information he has pandered for the past seven years.    

And I will be writing a post about a recent example of unbelievable lying by Mahaney in a funding raising video released in December.  It is a piece of mindboggling deception.  That brings me to my conclusion.  

Yesterday, Mark Prater put out a press release that condemned Rachael Denhollander.  That was predictable!  It was also despicable!     

Before I deal with the press release, I want to call attention to this post: Hush Fund Set Up by Top SGM Leaders to Meet the Demands of a SGM Pastor Whose Son Was Sexually Abused .  It illustrates Prater’s corrupt leadership.  I could put forth many other examples of his deceit.  It also illustrates the extent to which Mahaney, et al. will go to silence victims or their families.  Here are the “Story Highlights” from my article.  

“Two years ago, a “hush fund” masquerading as a benevolence fund was deceptively set up by Mark Prater (Executive Director for SGM), Paul Buckley (Chairman of the SGM Board), and Tommy Hill (Director of Finance & Administration for SGM) in order to surreptitiously meet the demands of a SGM pastor whose son was sexually abused by the son of another SGM pastor in the same church.   

“The fund came about because the father of the victim was thinking about joining the sex abuse lawsuit against SGM if SGM did not agree to reforms and if he did not receive restitution monies from SGM for harms done.  Insurance lawyers told SGM leaders they would lose their liability coverage if payouts were made; thereby, arguably admitting fault.  Instead, SGM lawyer Chip Grange suggested a plan whereby monies be raised for the victim’s family as “a collection and private gift to help him avoid eviction.”  This plan was approved by C.J. Mahaney and the SGM Board of Directors and implemented by Mark Prater.   

“As a result, many SGM pastors who knew the pastor that was the father of the victim were contacted and asked to give benevolence to the family.  Prater, Buckley, Hill and the Board deceived these pastors into giving personal and church monies to a benevolence fund that effectively functioned as a hush fund.  The pastors had no idea what was really going on behind the scenes.  They were intentionally deceived in the matter.  

“People inside and outside of SGM must come to grips with the corruption that characterizes the leadership of SGM starting with C.J. Mahaney.  He was the President of SGM when this hush fund was set up.  No one should be supporting or following any of these men.  As I’ve demonstrated countless times, you cannot believe anything they tell you.” 

Now for the press release (or disinformation campaign) by Prater. 

Sovereign Grace Churches Response to Christianity Today Article
February 2, 2018 by Mark Prater 

On January 31, 2018, Sovereign Grace Churches became aware of an article published that same day in Christianity Today.  The article is an interview with Rachael Denhollander.  Rachael was the first to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, and her testimony was instrumental in drawing attention to the horrific crimes he committed.  We thank God for Rachael’s courage in confronting Nassar and commend her invaluable work on behalf of other abuse victims.  Like so many, we were impressed by her faithful witness to Christ in such difficult circumstances.  At the same time, it needs to be said that she 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.  It is our sincere hope that this brief statement has done both by speaking truthfully, respectfully and in a way that honors God.

Prater says, “She is mistaken in her accusations…which are not true and have never been true.”  They are all “false accusations.”  He links to a previous press release as proof but there are no proofs to be found there.  Only more categorial denials!  

He also claims, “The Christianity Today article publicly mischaracterizes Sovereign Grace and Mahaney based on accusations of which Rachael had no involvement.”  That is not true. I know for a fact she interacted with the people related to victims and carefully did her research as a lawyer. 

Furthermore, everyone knows, the lawsuit was dismissed on technicalities!  The merits of the case and the substance of allegations were NEVER heard by a judge or jury.  A cadre of personal lawyers and insurance lawyers got the defendants off not because they were innocent but because of legal loopholes (e.g. the statute of limitations had expired in Maryland).  

Here is the most important statement from the 2014 press release.    

An Open Letter to Members of Sovereign Grace Churches
October 9, 2014 by Mark Prater 

Second, there is my response as Executive Director for Sovereign Grace. The specific allegations made against Sovereign Grace in this suit were those of conspiracy claiming that we covered up abuse.  Let me be clear that we deny—in the strongest terms possible—that any Sovereign Grace leaders conspired to cover up abuse as alleged in this lawsuit.  There were allegations made in the civil suit against current pastors of Sovereign Grace churches, namely John Loftness, Gary Ricucci, and C.J. Mahaney.  I want to be clear regarding these men: We believe these allegations are not true.

People MUST also realize that there are victims in Covenant Life Church who have not come forward or pressed charges.  I’ve interacted with some of them.  

And people MUST realize there were victims (and predators) in Fairfax Covenant Church (now called Redeeming Grace Church) across the Potomac River in Virginia.  Mahaney was directly involved and covered up multiple crimes in conjunction with Steve Shank, John Loftness, Kenneth Maresco and the local pastors (i.e., Mark Mullery, Lou Gallo, David Hinders, Vince Hinders, and Frank Ecelbarger – all defendants in the lawsuit).  That includes sex crimes committed by one of the pastor’s sons.  Four victims from the church were plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  There are other victims who have remained silent.  I’ve interacted with some of them.  

I led Fairfax Covenant Church from 1983-1987.  It served as my home base for extra-local ministry until 1991.  That year my family, Bob Kauflin’s family, and a church planting team were sent to Charlotte, NC.   I led the church in Charlotte until 2002 when I unwisely turned it over to Mickey Connolly.  I mention these things to establish credibility.  I know and taught all the men mentioned above.  Many were close friends.  When I left Fairfax Covenant Church in 1991, there were no suspected or known cases of sexual abuse.  I would have reported them to law enforcement.  That was my practice born of conviction and Romans 13:1-5.

And people MUST realize that Mahaney and his surrogates have covered up crimes in Sovereign Grace Churches at large.  Covering up the sexual abuse of children is NOT confined to Covenant Life Church. 

Finally, people MUST recognize that victims in SGM have been afraid to come forward knowing they will be treated like the victims in the lawsuit and now, like Rachael.  

Read this featured article in Washingtonian, The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch - Inside the rise and fall of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  The magazine has a readership of 400,000 people.

I absolutely believe the accusations against Loftness and Ricucci are true.  Why?  Because I have personally interacted with their victims and/or family members and corroborating evidence .  Read John Loftness in Focus – Former Chairman of the SGM Board & Alleged Sexual Sadist and Gary Ricucci & the Conspiracy Surrounding Convicted Felon, David Adams

Now, take special note of the emphatic and categorical denial issued by Prater in 2014 and continues to stand by.

“Let me be clear that we deny—in the strongest terms possible—that any Sovereign Grace leaders conspired to cover up abuse as alleged in this lawsuit.”   

This is what Prater gets paid to do – lie, lie, lie.  This outrageous claim is directly contradicted by many evidences but let me share just one. 

Grant Layman is Mahaney’s brother-in-law.  He worked for Mahaney as a pastor and reported directly to Mahaney.  He was a key witness against Nathaniel Morales who sexually abused at least 7 boys in Covenant Life Church.  Under cross examination, Layman was forced to tell the court he knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully did not report the heinous crimes committed by Morales to law enforcement.  In this segment from the court record, he also says “there were plenty of people involved.”  That includes Mahaney.  The underlining is mine. 

Defense Counsel Alan Drew
Cross Examination of Grant Layman
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 

2:12:39-2:13:03 PM 

Drew: “And was part of your responsibilities, doing those things that you just mentioned, that is to lead, to encourage, Bible studies, service in the community; did you have a responsibility that if you became aware of incidences of child abuse that you had a responsibility to either bring it to the people who are in charge of the church [C.J. Mahaney] or to the police?” 

Layman: “Yes.” 

2:15:02-2:16:04 PM 

Drew: “Okay.  Do you know whether or not Sam and his family went to the pastoral team?”

Layman: “I believe they did.” 

Drew: “Okay.  And are you aware as to whether or not any member of the pastoral team at any time contacted the police concerning allegations of sexual abuse?” 

Layman: “I am not aware of that.” 

Drew: “And when was that again?” 

Layman: “I believe it would have been the early 90s.” 

Drew: “And when did you first become aware of it?”  

Layman: “Sometime after that.  I don’t know exactly when but I think I would have been encouraged to meet with Sam and the other man [Brian Wolohan] at that point in time to just provide encouragement and support.”   

2:16:36-2:17:02 PM 

Drew: “And from back in the early 90s until you were contacted by Detective Magee of the Montgomery County Police Department [on January 7, 2010], did you ever come forward and tell any member of the Montgomery County Police Department about allegations of sexual abuse by Nate Morales at your church?” 

Layman: “No.”  

2:20:02-2:20:54 PM 

Drew: “So you knew about Sam Bates and allegations of being sexually abused.  Correct?”  

Layman: “Yes.” 

Drew: “And you knew about Brian Wolohan being sexual abused.  Correct?” 

Layman: “I knew there was abuse.  I didn’t know details.” 

Drew: “And you had no duty as a pastor, or one of the pastors at that church, to report that to the police department?  Is that what you are telling me? 

Layman: “I am telling you that there were plenty of people involved and I had no.” [Drew interrupts] 

Drew: “I am asking about you!  I am asking about you!” 

Layman: “Right.  I did not.” 

Drew: “Did you have a responsibility as a pastor, when you become aware of sexual child abuse, did you have a responsibility to report that to the police department?  That is a yes or no!” 

Layman: “I believe so.”  

Drew: “And you didn’t do it.” 

Layman: “No sir.”  

After the trial, Mahaney put out a statement in which he emphatically denied all wrong doing of any kind.    

“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.” 

This is typical of Mahaney.  He had a long-term unwritten policy of not reporting sex abusers to law enforcement.  Everyone knows it!  That is why Layman did not report even though he knew he was breaking the law.  That is why none of the pastors reported.  These men “conspired to protect” child predators.  To “conspire” means two or more persons decide not to report suspected or known sex abusers and predators as mandated by the law.  That went on for 30 years at Covenant Life Church.  And let me add, if you don’t report a vile predator like Morales, you are not going to report anyone!  The Judge who sentenced him said this about him.   

“You can’t even bring your despicable self to admit your crime.  So, you hide behind your phony self-diagnosis of amnesia.  Mr. Morales, you are one pathetic human being.  I don’t believe your insatiable appetite for boys can be cured.  Your wires are permanently twisted.  Your conduct has had a profound and lasting deleterious effect.  A long sentence is the only way to adequately punish you, protect society from you and deter other potential boy molesters.” 

Read Judge McGann Calls Nathaniel Morales a "Cowardly Pervert"

This is the man Mahaney and his staff protected.  They should all have served time in prison for conspiring to cover-up his crimes and enabling him to continue his crimes.  In fact, Assistant States Attorney Amanda Michalski told people in the courtroom that she could have arrested Layman on the spot but did not have the permission of her boss, States Attorney John McCarthy.  That’s a story for another day. 

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?  

Moreover, will fellow pastors Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, Gary Ricucci (brother-in-law and alleged accomplice in the sexual abuse of children) and Brian Chesemore (son-in-law) call for his resignation as the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville?  Not a chance!  They have all lied for Mahaney and covered up for Mahaney. 

I fear none of the men mentioned above will take any of these righteous actions.  If any do, I will be the first to applaud them in the name of the Lord!  On the other hand, I am confident tens of thousands of ordinary saints will take a stand and call these men to account and appeal for their repentance for the sake of Jesus Christ and his Church.  

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