With apologies to Will Shakespeare for the title.
Perhaps it is just me — and the things I read — but there is a level of madness in the present North American Evangelical/Christendom landscape that appears to know no bounds.
From the Ridiculous
One narcissist, from his perch as a theological academic of indeterminate stripe, portrays himself as a victim of inverse racism — while another, his former traveling companion, a self-proclaimed “gigachurch pastor” commends himself as a true green arbiter of all things Jesus funny. The two proving the fine line between comedy and pathos.
Through the Painful
In the city that hosts the World that Walt built, three Megachurch pastors resign over adultery — one of them from one of the “10 healthiest churches” in America. A Charismatic voice claims it’s “the spirit of Jezebel” whilst another voice states “it’s probably more related to the feelings of isolation experienced by large-church leaders.”
To the Tragic
— the embarrassing disaster that is Sovereign Grace Ministries led by C.J. Mahaney (no matter what rearranging of deck chairs on the SGM Titanic has recently taken place) and the amended and expanded sexual abuse lawsuit they now face. (Read The Wartburg Watch posts here, here, here and here. They have been more than faithful in staying on top of this story.)
This is a tragedy at so many levels — the worst being what has (allegedly) happened to the victims and their families. Many of their stories first told at SGM Survivors over the six years that blog has existed — for those who had the willing eyes and hearts to read and comprehend.
It appears that Mahaney has both misunderstood & misrepresented the Gospel in his own network of churches while marginalizing or discarding any who dared question his motives, methods & ministry…
…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.
Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan have both stood up for Mahaney and, in essence, insist that his critics shut up and that everyone else move along.
What’s remarkable about this is that there seems to be a reflex here that is shockingly similar to the one that kicked in at the Vatican when the child sex-abuse scandals started to leak into the media. (Note: Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that C.J. Mahaney is the equivalent of a sex offender.) The hierarchy circled the wagons and went about blaming everyone else while trying to protect itself. Neither T4G nor SGM is a hierarchy like Rome, but there is an undeniable star system at the top of today’s Reformed church world with a handful of powerful men who dominate conferences and bestseller lists, and it appears that they have taken to looking after their interests – the interests of the powerful – at the expense of all those whom they claim as followers. (emphasis added)
Though it has not been alleged that Mahaney was directly involved in sexual abuse, Dan’s comment was prescient in that the Mahaney-led SGM allegedly engaged in coverups not unlike that of the Roman Catholic Church. With mini-Pope’s like Al Mohler defending the honour and integrity of Mahaney, whilst Ligon Duncan cast aspersions on the victims;
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. (The original link for this in the Reformation 21 site archives does not work — but it’s alive and well at the Wayback Machine.)
Matt Redmond, blogger and author of the very good book, The God of the Mundane, wrote this yesterday in his post, Answering Some Objections I’ve Gotten About the SGM Lawsuit
What I keep hearing is we should wait till the verdict comes in to hear both sides because SGM has totally denied the accusations. Therefore no blog posts and no articles till then. Before the trial of Sandusky, an article “Love Notices Wet Hair” was published on The Gospel Coalition site and distributed widely. That article was posted 7 months before he was found guilty. Either we need an admission of how wrong that was, or we need a similar stance. Really all they would need to do is write a blog post that said, “in light of the accusations against SGM we offer this post.” That would be a start.
I would also like to see a public announcement about the need for any and all named parties to stop speaking at conferences. This would benefit everyone. I want you to imagine what it must be like for a victim of abuse to continually hear about the speaking engagements of those who enabled the abusers or were themselves an abuser. To see them rise in popularity. To see them above criticism. When the Reformed community does not see any problem with CJ Mahaney speaking at conferences because he has denied the charges against him and none have to be proven in the courts, our cult of personality has reached an apex. (emphasis added)
Zach Hoag, another gifted blogger and author, wrote this in his post A False Gospel of Reconciliation yesterday
I’ve written before about the current lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries and how it represents a rapidly approaching counseling cliff for the evangelical church at large – a cliff especially perilous when conservative churches deal with matters of abuse. Well, this week, more allegations were filed against SGM, and they are horrific. And, as of now, the major evangelical institutions that are closely connected to SGM – namely, The Gospel Coalition (where C.J. Mahaney, a defendant in the suit and founding leader of the SGM movement, is a council member) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (major supporter/ally of C.J. and SGM, with President Al Mohler as close friend and staunch defender of C.J.) – have not issued anything in the way of cautionary or even concerned statements regarding the man or the movement (that I am aware of). There has been total silence about a celebrity preacher and an organization that is now literally inundated with accusations of sexually and physically abusing children and conspiring to cover it all up over many years. Nor have any/many connected big-name individual leaders, themselves also institutionally powerful, come out with words of warning or grieving. Instead, powerful men like John Piper have made gestures of support in the midst of C.J. and SGM’s legal troubles.
The silence is deafening. (emphasis and links in the original)
The attitude of many who purportedly swim in the same spiritual streams as Mahaney et al, is either that the rest of us are out to get SGM because we don’t like Mahaney, or we simply hate the beauty and truth that is NeoReformed theology.
In a Twitter back and forth with Spiritual Sounding Board’s Julie Anne Smith, me and fiery writer & Calvinist gadfly, Frank Turk (who, despite our profound theological differences, I consider a friend), Frank made this Tweet comment about the present debacle
@kinnon @DefendTheSheep Like I said: I admire the starch it takes to find a sex offender when the charges of spiritual abuse can’t work out
It would appear that Frank and many of his NeoReformed brethren see the lawsuit as simply another attack on poor C.J. — and their shared NeoReformed/Complementarian doctrine.
And therefore the tragedy is compounded as many of the NeoReformed appear most concerned about protecting the belief in the veracity of their doctrine. They don’t appear to really care about what happens nor what has happened to the victims of the cult-like behaviour of C.J.Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Whether they mean to or not, they seem to be saying,
‘Screw the victims, C.J. believes the right stuff.’