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SGM Pastors College on Life Support – Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Terminates Special Agreement

The Pastors College has been the pride and joy of Sovereign Grace Ministries but it is on life support and someone needs to pull the plug!     

Let me illustrate from the most recent Audited Financial Statements.  Operating expenses for the school year 2012-2013 were $743,000.  Revenues were $137,000.  That resulted in a $606,000 deficit for a ten month program.  Incredible.  But here’s the real kicker.  Only nine students graduated from the Pastors College in 2013.  And the same is true in 2014 – just nine graduates.  

This kind of spending makes the Federal Government look frugal and efficient by comparison.  And please don’t think 2012-2013 was an aberration.  Over the last four years, the Pastors College has amassed a deficit of 1.9 million.  That is incomprehensible.  If only for financial reasons, the Pastors College should be shut down.     

Of course, Jeff Purswell and Gary Ricucci are not going to be laid off even though they are the main operating expense for the Pastors College.  Compensation and benefits for 2012-2013 totaled $482,000.  I’d love to know how much Purswell was paid to part time teach nine students for ten months.  And I’d like to know how much Ricucci was paid to care for nine PC families.  His group was smaller in size than most Care Groups or Home Groups in Sovereign Grace churches.  

These are the kind of questions SGM never answers and don’t reveal in their budget or financial statements.  This kind of arrangement is only possible in a good ole boy network.  Purswell is on the SGM Leadership Team, Ricucci is Mahaney’s brother-in-law, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  What a life of ease! 

If you go to the SGM website for the Pastors College you’ll see this picture.  It is the graduating class of 2011-2012.  Dave Harvey pointed out it was “the largest ever for us” when he was looking for some good news to share about SGM in July 2011.  You will also read on the website that “usually 15-25” students attend the college every year.  That is a falsehood.  The PC has never had more than the 23 students like it did in 2011-2012.  That was a banner year.   

At the time of this photo, the Pastors College was housed in the Covennat Life Church building in Gaithersbrug, MD.  It had a top notch lecture hall, offices, library, and Starbucks like kitchenette and lounge area for students.  All this was paid for by SGM donors.  SGM also owned five townhouses free and clear for student housing.  

All of this was lost when C.J. Mahaney angrily left Covenant Life Church and impulsively moved SGM to Louisville, Kentucky in August 2012.  The real reason for moving was covered up by one of the most deceptive statements put out by SGM over the past 3 years.  It was written by Chairman of the Board and alleged sexual sadist under criminal investigation, John Loftness.  I am still astounded by the shameless dishonesty contained in his Relocation Announcement.  

As everyone now knows the move to Louisville has proven to be a disaster.  As an aside, SGM was forced to sell the five townhouses for 1.4 million and land in its possession for $627,000.  But even with the 2.0 million in proceeds from those sales, SGM ran a budget deficit of 1.2 million in 2012 and 1.6 million in 2013.  SGM is now using deceptive means to raise money.  It only figures.  That’s what corrupt organizations do.  See SGM Uses “Strategic Global Projects” to Fraudulently Raise Money

But there is more bad news for the Pastors College.  SERIOUS bad news!  In May, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) severed its “special agreement” with Sovereign Grace Ministries over “suspicions cast upon Sovereign Grace by the ongoing civil suit, and again by the recent Morales trial.”  The civil suit catalogues unimaginable sex crimes and the criminal conspiracy to cover them up in SGM. 

The “Morales trial” is a reference to Nathaniel Morales who was a member of Covenant Life Church while C.J. Mahaney was the senior pastor.  Morales abused numerous boys in the church from 1983-1991.  This was known to Mahaney and he conspired to cover up the crimes with his pastoral staff.  Grant Layman, his brother-in-law and fellow pastor, testified to this effect in two separate trials.  Morales was found guilty on eight counts of child sexual abuse and offense with a maximum sentence of 120 years.  Immediately after these trials concluded in May, SBTS ended its “articulation agreement” with the Pastors College.  This was confirmed by Bob Allen of ABPnews. 

Thereafter, this letter from Jeff Purswell was sent to the nine students in the Pastors College. 

Dear Brothers, 

I’m writing with some disappointing news.  Southern Seminary has informed me that it is discontinuing the formal relationship between Southern and Sovereign Grace.  This is a rather complex situation, and I’m unable to share all of the internal factors influencing their decision.  Suspicions cast upon Sovereign Grace by the ongoing civil suit, and again by the recent Morales case, have unfortunately produced pressures upon various friends and partners of Sovereign Grace.  Such factors appear to have played a role in this suspension. 

My conversations with Southern representatives were nonetheless encouraging—they are grateful for Sovereign Grace’s influence and for the pastors who are studying at SBTS, and they hope this continues.  This change involves only the formal degree-completion agreement between our organizations. 

Here are the main implications of this development:  

  • The key point is this: Future students from Sovereign Grace no longer qualify for automatic credit transfer or for an SBTS scholarship under the degree-completion program.
  • Fortunately, students who have already had their Pastors College credits transferred to SBTS retain those hours.
  • Students from Sovereign Grace continue to be welcome to apply to SBTS and may submit transcripts and request to have credits transferred from the Pastors College (or any other institution).  These will be treated on a case-by-case basis, just like any other student.  The status of the Pastors College as an academic institution from which SBTS will consider transfer credit has not changed.
  • Students from Sovereign Grace may apply for financial aid from SBTS.  These will also be treated on a case-by-case basis, like any other student.
  • In sum, there is no longer a special agreement between SBTS and Sovereign Grace.  Pastors College graduates may pursue degrees, credit-transfers, and financial aid like any other student, just not under the auspices of any agreement with SBTS. 

Officials at SBTS communicated that they want to do all they can to keep from penalizing current students who transferred credits from the Pastors College.  They also desire to give students as much information as possible so that they can anticipate tuition costs.  Moreover, they hope that Sovereign Grace students will continue to consider SBTS as they plan their academic futures. 

This is obviously a disappointing development.  However, we as pastors should not be deterred from continuing to grow in our biblical and doctrinal understanding, whether that be informally or formally, through SBTS or another institution.  We continue to appreciate SBTS and are grateful for the relationship we have enjoyed over the past couple of years, and it is possible that that relationship could be reestablished in the future.  Even more so, I am grateful for the blessing of the Pastors College and its unique mission to equip men for pastoral ministry within our family of churches.  In God’s mercy, the college was built without reliance upon any single institution, and it will continue to be so.

 If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or anyone on the Pastors College staff.

 Yours in Christ,



(502) 855-7704

The hope of a “degree completion program” with SBTS was a prominent reason for relocating SGM and the PC to Louisville.  

Sovereign Grace Ministries Relocation Announcement
John Loftness
April 19, 2012 

The proximity to Southern Seminary allows us to upgrade our academic offerings, including opportunities for collaboration and potential transfer credit toward a Master’s degree. … As noted above, we are excited about opportunities this will afford us to collaborate with Southern Seminary, which will only enhance our program and facilitate further training for our students and pastors.  

Moving to Louisville - A Few Thoughts from Bob Kauflin
May 24, 2012 

But Louisville has more to offer than low cost living.  It’s home to Southern Seminary.  Being close to Southern will enable us to beef up our academic offerings for the Pastors College and possibly offer credits toward a Master’s degree.  … The folks at Southern have already been incredibly welcoming. 

Church planter interview: C.J. Mahaney (Louisville, KY)
September 26, 2012 

Louisville is also strategic because we have the opportunity to benefit from and support an excellent seminary like the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have a deep appreciation for the superb leadership of Dr. Al Mohler, the president of SBTS—he is both a friend and a mentor in many ways. … The elders of SGCL [Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville] are already taking classes, building relationships, and exploring ways to support the ministry of SBTS.   

Meet the Pastors College Class of 2014
September 27, 2013

This past week, we welcomed our sixteenth Pastors College class.  This is our second class in Louisville, Kentucky.  The first year proved to be a rich one with much blessing coming from our new location, including our degree-completion program with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

In November of 2012, the hope of a degree competition program became a reality.  This was a major milestone for the Pastors College.  The arrangement made the PC much more credible and desirable.  It was put forward as a laudable achievement and used as a recruiting tool for new students.  

Pastors College announces a degree completion program through Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
November 16, 2012 

At this year’s Pastors Conference in Orlando, Jeff Purswell announced an exciting new opportunity for Pastors College graduates to pursue further studies to strengthen their pastoral ministry.  A degree completion program established between the Sovereign Grace Pastors College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) now provides a viable means for Pastors College alumni to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree from SBTS without disrupting their church ministry.  Here are the basic facts: 

  • Up to 35 credit hours transfer from the Pastors College to SBTS.  An M.Div. in Christian Ministry at SBTS requires 94 total credit hours, so hypothetically a PC graduate is over a third of the way towards an M.Div. (The briefer but more demanding Advanced M.Div program requires only 86 credit hours). Of the remaining 59 credit hours, 41 are elective hours in the Christian Ministry program. (In the Advanced M.Div program, only 21 of the remaining 51 credit hours are elective hours).  Transfer credit will depend upon the actual work completed in the PC. 
  • Flexible learning options make it possible to complete an M.Div. without moving to Louisville.  Southern offers a wide array of learning options, from on-line courses to brief intensive classes at SBTS, making it possible to further one’s education without leaving a ministry position. (For more information on distance learning options, go here). 
  • The Ministry Apprenticeship Program.  Through the Ministry Apprenticeship Program, PC graduates can earn up to 18 credit hours for doing a qualified post-graduation pastoral internship at their local church. (Pastors can also participate in this program).  For more details, go here
  • Pastors College alumni are eligible for scholarships to lessen the financial burden of pursuing their degree. (Sovereign Grace pastors who have not graduated from the Pastors College and who wish to be considered for such a scholarship should contact

Here’s the upshot.  If you graduate from the Pastors College and do the Ministry Apprenticeship Program throughout your pastoral internship the following year, you will only have 41 credit hours left to complete for an M.Div in Christian Ministry at SBTS; 23 of those remaining hours will be elective hours.  You can complete those credit hours while continuing your ministry in your local church.    

So if you’re a PC alumnus and you want to pursue this opportunity, what should you do? Complete the SBTS online application, and email Melissa Goins ( to request a transcript from the Pastors College.  

This special arrangement came about because of C.J. Mahaney’s special relationship with Al Mohler.  Mohler brought about these extraordinary benefits for students in the Pastors College! 

The Masters of Divinity is the most distinguished graduate degree for pastors.  It requires three years of study including courses in Hebrew and Greek.  Under this arrangement a PC graduate could transfer 35 credits, earn 18 more credits as a pastoral intern in his SGM church, and complete the remaining 41 credits without moving to Louisville.  He was also eligible for scholarships.  That’s a Cadillac package.  

Two other things have changed with the termination of this agreement.  First, students from the PC were automatically accepted into SBTS.  They didn’t have to apply for admission on their own merits.  A high school diploma wasn’t even required.  That has changed.  Now, I doubt anyone without a four year undergraduate degree will be accepted into their graduate level degree programs. 

Second, the tuition rate doubles for PC students.  It goes from $254 per credit hour to $508 per credit hour.  Let me explain.  The Southern Baptist Convention subsidizes the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.    

Southern Baptist Membership Verification: The purpose of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) is to train, educate and prepare ministers of the gospel for more faithful service.  SBTS is an institution of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that is supported by the Cooperative Program (CP), a giving strategy for contribution and distribution.  CP funds support the denominational task of preparing biblically-trained Southern Baptist ministers, subsidizing approximately half of the institutional cost for all Southern Baptist students.

Under the special agreement, PC students were charged the SBC tuition rate rather than the non-SBC tuition rate.  In other words, students who were part of Mahaney’s church were treated like they were Southern Baptists.  They automatically received the reduced rate.  No longer.  The total cost of tuition for the Masters of Divinity program just went from $24,000 to $48,000. 

The unaccredited Pastors College has nine students.  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has over 4,600 students with more than 1,700 in the Master of Divinity program.  It is considered by many to be the finest theological institution in the nation.  That’s why cutting off the Pastors College is so painful.  Purswell calls it a mere “disappointment” but it is much more.  It is devastating.

Purswell plays all of this down in his letter.  Anyway, who needs the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when you have the “unique mission” of the Pastors College that is dependent upon no one except Purswell who runs it and teaches many of its courses? 

This is obviously a disappointing development. … Even more so, I am grateful for the blessing of the Pastors College and its unique mission to equip men for pastoral ministry within our family of churches.  In God’s mercy, the college was built without reliance upon any single institution, and it will continue to be so. 

The most important news in Purswell’s letter is none of the above however.  The most important news deals the impact of “the ongoing civil suit” and “the recent Morales case.”  

Southern Seminary has informed me that it is discontinuing the formal relationship between Southern and Sovereign Grace.  This is a rather complex situation, and I’m unable to share all of the internal factors influencing their decision.  Suspicions cast upon Sovereign Grace by the ongoing civil suit, and again by the recent Morales case, have unfortunately produced pressures upon various friends and partners of Sovereign Grace.  Such factors appear to have played a role in this suspension. 

Al Mohler is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is the most powerful and influential leader in evangelicalism today.  He is also C.J. Mahaney’s ally.  No one has defended Mahaney more arduously on a national scale than Mohler.  He cleared Mahaney of ALL wrong doing in the criminal conspiracy to cover up child sex abuse in May of 2013.  He also pronounced him a man of integrity.

Immediately after Mohler’s defense of Mahaney, however, the Southern Baptist Convention passed seven resolutions on the sexual abuse of children in June of 2013.  Resolution six had Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries specifically in mind.

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 and/or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse; and be it finally… 

Mohler and others totally disregarded this resolution.  He was still publicly promoting Mahaney right up until the Nathaniel Morales trial in May of 2014.  Then came the conviction of Morales based upon six days of testimony in two trials.  This testimony implicated Mahaney for his role in the criminal conspiracy.  That “produced pressures” upon the powers that be at SBTS to sever its ties with SGM.  Purswell is “unable to share all of the internal factors influencing their decision.” 

I hope this decision was based on principal and not pragmatism.  Mahaney and SGM are a liability to SBTS.  Southern Baptist pastors and churches throughout the nation don’t want money they give to the SBC Cooperative Program used to underwrite the tuition for non-Baptist students from the Pastors College.  I hope SBTS terminated the agreement with the PC because they see through C.J. Mahaney and are seriously concerned about the child sex abuse scandal in SGM.     

What may be true of SBTS is certainly not true of Jeff Purswell!  I was the person who initially recruited Purswell to SGM.  Later in 2000, I turned the Pastors College over to him.  He has made a living riding the coat tails of Mahaney and others.  

I use to respect Purswell but that began to erode in 2008 when I experienced his willingness to lie, deceive, and harm at Mahaney’s direction (cf. Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, pp. 120-125 and footnote 216, p. 140).  This kind of activity has continued to the present.  No one in SGM has enabled Mahaney in his sin more than Bob Kauflin and Jeff Purswell – that’s one reason they are both on the SGM Leadership Team.    

With this letter, however, I have lost ALL respect for Jeff Purswell!  Why?  For his statement, “Suspicions cast upon Sovereign Grace by the ongoing civil suit, and again by the recent Morales case…appear to have played a role in this suspension.”  This angers me and it should anger everyone reading this article! 

The civil suit (a.k.a., Second Amended Complaint) contains the real life horror stories of children who were sexual abused in Sovereign Grace Ministries in large measure because C.J. Mahaney and his pastoral team refused to report known or suspected child predators over 30 years.  As a result, the number of predators grew and victims multiplied from one generation to the next generation and beyond.  

Moreover, the Morales case produced conclusive evidence of a criminal conspiracy at Covenant Life Church in 1991, 1993 and 2007.  Because Mahaney and later his protégé, Joshua Harris did nothing, Morales went on to abuse children for 20 years in different parts of the United States. 

It is despicable that Purswell blames the civil suit and the Morales case for casting unwarranted suspicions upon Sovereign Grace and in this context “Sovereign Grace” is practically a synonym for C.J. Mahaney.  

This evil tactic has been constantly employed by the leaders of SGM over the past three years.  Church members are incessantly warned by their pastors not to read the evidence because it will create “suspicions” about Mahaney and others.  Such leadership is unquestionably cult like in its control of individual lives.  

Let’s be clear, according to Purswell all the evidence against Mahaney is spurious.  It only causes evil suspicious.  The SBTS leaders have been duped according to Purswell.  The severing of ties should never have occurred because the grounds for doing so are baseless.  Mere suspicions based upon the civil suit and Morales trial!  

Purswell is a cool-aid drinking.  No, I am wrong.  He is a cool-aid dispenser.  That is evident in this letter to his PC students.  He is willing to deceive people into thinking all the evidence contained in the Second Amendment Complaint and all the evidence that came out in the Morales trial against SGM and Mahaney is false. 

In this he is following the strategy laid out by C.J. Mahaney and his lawyers.  Deny, deceive and disparage!  After the conviction of Morales, Mahaney put out this statement

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. 

That is Mahaney’s position.  That is Purswell’s position.  That is the denomination’s position.  And that position may very well destroy what remains of Sovereign Grace Ministries and the Pastors College.  

When SGM decided to move the Pastor College to Louisville, KY it cited three reasons.  One, lower cost of living.  Two, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Three, C.J. Mahaney. 

There was no church in Louisville when the decision was made.  In his relocation announcement, John Loftness answered the question, “Don’t we want the Pastors College to be near a Sovereign Grace church?”  Here was his answer. 

The Leadership Team has wanted to plant a church in Louisville near the seminary for several years, and after speaking at a college event there in February 2011 C.J. began to consider leading the plant himself.  He made this desire known to us when we were seated as a Board, and we approved the plant this month.  Although this was by no means determinative for the Pastors College, this does mean that students will have the opportunity to participate in a church plant led by C.J.  This will both facilitate CJ.’s ongoing influence in the college, as well as provide students a smaller church experience that will more resemble their ultimate ministry context.    

Recently Purswell wrote the following and included this photo on the SGM website.  That is Mahaney on the far left with Gary Ricucci next to him.  Ricucci is accused of aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of children and participating in the criminal conspiracy with Mahaney.  Purswell is on the far right.

This past Sunday, the Class of 2014 graduated from the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. … On the diplomas the students received is 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  To help them “watch their doctrine,” they attended 33 weeks of class designed to provide them a biblical and theological foundation for pastoral ministry. 

The program is also designed to cultivate godly character. … And they experienced all of this with an intimate connection to the local church at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville—which is of critical importance.  Their training took specific account of the local church precisely because they are being equipped to serve in a local church context.

Even more egregious is this statement on the SGM website about the Pastors College and it connection to Mahaney’s church.  

Students live in Louisville, Kentucky, during the ten-month program so they can observe and participate in the life of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.  Frequent small groups, along with pastoral care from Sovereign Grace Church pastors, provide an environment that facilitates growth in humility and Christlike character.

Small groups and pastoral care from Mahaney, Purswell, Kauflin, Ricucci and Brian Chesemore (C.J.’s son-in-law) are the keys to “growth in humility and Christlike character.”  Purswell is not shy about holding up this fiefdom of five and their church as the “environment” “designed to cultivate godly character…which is of critical importance.”  

This is so foul.  Yet this charade of godliness has been used to recruit students to the Pastors College where you learn to “pay close attention to your life” by following the example of C.J. Mahaney and the staff that has covered up for him. 

In November 2012, Joshua Harris asked the members of Covenant Life Church to vote in favor of leaving Sovereign Grace Ministries over its ungodly leadership culture as exemplified by these five men.  In that context, he explained why they could not send “future pastors for training in the Pastors College.”

One of the most significant examples of this relates to the decision to move the SGM headquarters and Pastors College to Louisville. … Our perspective is that this was by far the most far reaching of the decisions made over the past year.  We didn’t immediately understand all the implications when the decision was first announced.  But the location of the Pastors College has a significant impact on how future pastors in our movement will be trained and what model of ministry they will observe.  And yet this decision was not one that the pastors of SGM were invited to participate in at all. … While we’re talking about the Pastors College, I want to acknowledge that because of our differences with SGM regarding leadership practice and culture, we would not feel comfortable sending future pastors for training in the Pastors College.  All of the men leading the college have expressed strong disagreement with our leadership.  I’m sad to say this, but obviously this has significant ramifications for future partnership in SGM. 

At that time, I provided the following commentary in response to Harris’ statement. 

Joshua, the CLC pastors, and many other pastors in SGM, don’t want men going to the Pastors College to be “trained” by a “leadership culture” that is abusive.  Nor do they want these future pastors to be immersed in C.J.’s “model of ministry” in his Louisville church. … C.J., Jeff Purswell and Gary Ricucci lead the Pastors College.  The CLC pastors aren’t “comfortable” sending anyone to the PC because of the “leadership practice and culture” these men represent.  They don’t want the future pastors of CLC immersed in a leadership culture that is unethical and abusive in its practices. 

Joshua Harris is right.  C.J. Mahaney, Jeff Purswell, Bob Kauflin, Gary Ricucci, and Brian Chesemore are not about “humility and Christ like character.”  They are about hypocrisy, leadership abuses and protecting Mahaney no matter what it takes out of pure self-interest.  

These men acted corruptly when they opposed the Covenant Life pastors for trying to bring a small degree of correction into Mahaney’s life for fleeing the church and relocating SGM without ever talking to them.  These four men have also been covering up for Mahaney and the criminal conspiracy he led at Covenant Life Church and managed in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  In fact, Ricucci and Chesemore were part of the CLC conspiracy and the same is likely true of Purswell and Kauflin.    

That’s why it is no surprise to find Purswell disparaging the civil suit and the Morales trial for casting unfounded “suspicions” upon SGM and Mahaney.  The SBTS was wise for cutting off its ties with the PC because of the evidence, not suspicions.  And let me add, no one in their right mind should attend the PC in 2014-2015. 

The Pastors College is on life support.  Millions in debt.  No ties to the SBTS.  An average enrollment of nine in recent years.  Hosted by a church with corrupt pastors.  Led by a dean who thinks the victims in the civil suit are liars and the sworn testimony of Grant Layman at the Morales trial was fallacious.  And a senior pastor who is under criminal investigation. 

Mark Prater, the Executive Committee, the Leadership Team, and the national Council of Elders are nuts if they don’t shut down the school and that’s why they won’t do so.  As Purswell said in his letter, “The college was built without reliance upon any single institution, and it will continue to be so.” 

Bad things lie ahead for C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  If they don’t close the Pastors College in Louisville they are just postponing the inevitable.


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