Semper Reformanda – or more exactly in the latin, Ecclesia semper reformanda est – which is basically, the church must always be reforming.
One of the stars in the present Reformed universe is C.J. Mahaney. He is a favourite speaker at Together for the Gospel – one of the four founding friends of this Reformed movement.
“T4G is convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many Churches and among those who proclaim the name of Christ.”
It appears that Mahaney has both misunderstood & misrepresented the Gospel in his own network of churches while marginalizing or discarding any who dared questioned his motives, methods & ministry.
Allow me to explain.
A number of years ago I began to read SGM Refuge – a blog I was turned on to by Michael Newnham and the community at Phoenix Preacher. (And I had discovered PP through the truly inimitable iMonk, Michael Spencer.) What I found at SGM Refuge (and later, SGM Survivors) were hard stories of hyper-controlling leadership, devastating coverups and a particularly effective ministry of “shooting the messengers.”
There is not enough space nor time to go into great detail – you can do your own reading at the provided links. Suffice to say that it would appear that a legion of wounded SGMers are in recovery from what they’ve suffered at the hands of this “ministry” led by C.J. Mahaney, their lead apostle. And this while Mahaney has trod the conference stage of the Reformed universe – as one of their “humble” super-apostles to be emulated.
But, even though some want to deny or question the seriousness of the charges, apparently CJ’s sins have found him out.
Phoenix Preacher quotes Mahaney from his blog:
“Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.”
As PP states, it seems that what finally motivated CJ to respond – after ignoring the hundreds of thousands of painful words written at SGMR and SGMS and the countless meetings of SGM pastors with wounded people – was what has been called the SGMWikiLeaks from former SGM senior leader, Brent Detwiler. Reading it is like entering a world where the walls are all funhouse mirrors – everything is distorted – SGM polity in particular.
Again from PP,
600 + pages of emails and documentation from another one of the co-founders of the movement detailing the palace intrigue, politics, and even blackmail that kept humble C.J. and his cohorts in power while disposing of those who crossed them.
That massive document is not just an indictment of Mahaney, but of the whole leadership structure of Sovereign Grace Ministries and it appears that they are all complicit either by commission or ommission in creating yet another culture of leadership impunity. [emphasis added]
Read that again – “and even blackmail…” It would seem that Mahaney forced out his original co-founder Larry Tomczak who was not happy with then PDI’s move to Calvinism. It is suggested Mahaney did this by threatening to reveal counselling secrets about Tomczak’s son.
If anything needs semper reformanda, it would be Sovereign Grace Ministries. And one should question any leadership from someone who may have been willing to blackmail in order to get his own way. But you won’t hear that concern expressed from Mahaney’s T4G buddies.
Ligon Duncan dismisses those who have suffered directly from the leadership of Mahaney and his hand-picked team. And, of course, none of the rest of us have any right to comment. (Except for C.J.’s buddies.)
I would… 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 or relation to SGM or authority to comment upon them, and that you refrain from assuming that you (or they) are in a position to render judgment on these things.
One might reasonably ask Duncan whether he has spoken to any of the folk who have been wounded by SGM. But. Obviously he doesn’t need to. He’s one of the T4G Celebs working with CJ – “ C.J. knows of my complete love and respect for him.” One wouldn’t want to confuse the facts with friendship.
Al Mohler has also stepped up to the plate for CJ in this Courier-Journal news item, which Duncan approvingly links to. (Note that the good folk at The Wartburg Watch have shown how Mahaney and his SGM church are significant donors to the seminary where Mohler is president.)
“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.”
“I assume he would retain every position in leadership,” Mohler said. “I expect he should be very quickly returned to leadership of Sovereign Grace.“ [emphasis added]
Nothing to look at here. Move along. Everything’s under control.
And this from the people who seem to live to sit in judgment on their non-reformed brothers and sisters.
But. Those are the people, they would tell you, who have “misrepresented” and “misunderstood” “the Gospel of Christ” “in many Churches and among those who proclaim the name of Christ. “
Unlike their dear brother, C.J., of course.
There are those like Ligon Duncan who will say that I and others have no right to comment on these matters. They are wrong. The public ministry of Mahaney is held up by the new Reformed as an example to be emulated by young male leaders. (In the T4G world – women can never be church leaders.) If it was reasonable to expect Dever, Duncan and Mohler to actually concern themselves with the charges against Mahaney and respond appropriately – I would not have bothered to spend the time writing this. But Mohler and Duncan’s cavalier response to the many hundreds if not thousands who have been damaged by Mahaney’s leadership suggests this won’t happen – in fact, these wounded will no doubt be blamed for the troubles in Mahaney’s ministry. If only they’d submitted properly none of this would have happened.
Another story in the Celebrity-Driven Church.