Saturday, July 9, 2011

C. J. Mahaney stepping down

I've posted twice before regarding SGM Sovereign Grace Ministries which was a look at structural problems in their discipline process and Sovereign Grace Ministries' use of demotivational methods which was a particular abusive technique they made heavy use of which was a distinctive. The leader of SGM C. J. Mahaney is stepping down. Note on his blog, note from the board, leaked documents regarding the dispute.  C.J. heads up Together for the Gospel, and is bringing in his friends from that organization to guide him during his stepping down.

I'd like to congratulate the people at the various SGM blogs: SGM Survivors, SGM Refuge, Spiritual Tyranny, Wartburg Watch, SGM Uncensored .  Mahaney has been a major leader in the whole New Calvinism movement.  So far the issues being discussed are internal problems regarding Mahaney creating problems with other pastors, rather than the more widespread  longstanding pattern of abuse of membership.  Its the authoritarian culture that's the problem, Mahaney, as dictators go is not unusually bad.  Part of being a dictator is terrorizing or at least intimidating those around you, that's the job.  If you don't like the behavior don't create authoritarian structures that necessitate it.

So the doctrinal and structural problems remain.  But what has changed is the problems are being widely talked about on the web.  When Joshua Harris rereleased Boy meets Girl the fact that 2 of the couples in his previous edition were getting divorced was public knowledge.  Stories about church facilitated sexual abuses have leaked.  Stories about embezzlement have leaked.  Stories about wrongful terminations, ruined marriages, and how miserable so many women are in SGM have leaked.   SGM is not able to act in secrecy anymore and the blogs above, and several others that were active over the last few years are responsible.

I don't have much to say other than this was an important step in people banding together to try and prevent the sorts of rampant abuses in authoritarian churches.  And the offer I made to Josh Harris 3 years ago remains open.  If SGM wants to start trying to build structures to stop abuses rather than to facilitate them I'd love to engage in constructive conversation.


Post Script (Feb 2, 2012)

It appears that way these allegations were handled was to create a biased board that investigated it and exonerate C.J. Mahaney.  The results are still not published, but the underlying facts to present Mahaney as having threatened someone to keep them silent years ago.   I'm not sure what is going to ever get published but I'll update here as more information becomes available:

See also:


Steve said...

Here is where the documents are posted:

It is really shocking to read what is included in these documents. They show a much different picture of Mahaney and other senior SGM Leaders than the picture they present of themselves. It is really sad to read.

CD-Host said...

Steve --

Could you elaborate, what specifically did you find shocking? What came as a surprise?

Steve said...

I just tried to leave a long comment and it didn't go through. Maybe I had too many links in it?

CD-Host said...

No its not the links. There is a 4096 limit. Just break the comment into multiple comments (part 1, part 2...) and it will get through.

Steve said...

What I found the most shocking was that Mahaney didn't follow the same rules he imposed on other pastors in SGM. This includes that he would discipline other pastors in SGM certain actions but wouldn't accept the same discipline.

One action that stood out is that Mahaney attempted to blackmail the cofounder of the group. What is even worse is that other top leaders in SGM new about this and did nothing including disciplining Mahaney for his actions.

If you read, Kris's latest entry discussed Mahaney's entitlement mentality.

So far no one including SGM has questioned the validity of these documents. I understand there are more that could be released.

In addition to SGM Survivors I am sure that:

TheWartburgWatch.Com has indicated they will be making posts that discuss some of the shocking items being revealed in these documents.

Steve said...

BTW You have the wrong picture up.

I know a lot of the leaders look similar with their bald or shaved heads but you are posting Josh Harris's picture when you probably mean to be posting Mahaney's.

Steve said...

Here is a good link that gives a summary of what is going on with Mahaney:

The author has used humor and is quite interesting to read.

CD-Host said...

Steve --

I didn't even think of that, its just my generic SGM banner I use it on the SGM posts. I'll get a CJ image for this post.

Steve said...

Where are getting that "stories about embezzlement have leaked?" I have not heard that yet. Please either show the source or delete that entry. The closest thing to that I have heard is how pastors get to voucher a number of expenses etc.

Regarding Harri's book, while it is true that 2 of the couples listed in Josh Harris's Boy Meets Girl book are either divorced or filing for divorce, Harris hasn't yet released the revision. Before this scandal broke, Harris was promising to at least "will be changing the chapter in which they're featured" which is referring the couple where divorce has been filed.

In addition to these other problems Harris is being shown that "kissing dating goodbye" and "courtship" aren't nearly as perfect as he seems to make them out to be.

I will say that I was encouraged by Harris's message this past Sunday. Listening to that message and if Harris follow through on what he said there may be hope for the group.

CD-Host said...

Embezzlement you see comments on SGM Refuge from around 2008. There was quite a bit of discussion of people who had taken from the till.

What in was Harris' message?

Steve said...

I don't have time to share what Harris said now but will try to do later.

Father's Discipline is the message you would want to listen to.

In summary Harris didn't deny or try and sugar coat what was revealed or there were problems.

Steve said...

One thing you left out of your "laundry list" of problems in SGM was the group's nepotism. Mahaney has two brother in laws on the "payroll" and his 3 son in laws are on the "payroll." There are also other leaders that have their relatives on the "payroll."

I mention my being encouraged by Harris attitude I was saddened by the response of two other SGM Churches. I viewed a video of the SGM Fairfax Leader giving his announcement of what happened with Mahaney and was quite smug and showed no remorse etc. It was almost as if nothing happened. SGM Fairfax is where at least 2 reports of child molestation occurred where the pastors sided with the molester.

A similar smug response was given by two leaders at Kingsway (Richmond VA). This the SGM Church where the Sr. Pastor admitted withholding the truth for 10 years (lying) but has remained as Sr. Pastor. After this was revealed about 1/2 of the members left the church.

Thus despite encouragement from hearing Harris's message it doesn't seem like the group as a whole has recognized the severity of what Mahaney and other top leaders have done.

CD-Host said...

Steve --

I find it funny how you comfortable put "payroll" in quotes. If you think they were working then its nepotism. If you think they were just taking money, i.e. payroll in quotes then its embezzlement.

Part of that is he's being vague and the complaints are vague. I haven't heard a good one sentence summary of something C.J. is accused of that he agrees he did.

Steve said...

I am not saying they are being paid and not doing any work. My concern is that with so much nepotism I question whether these family members "selected" are the most qualified for the job. From what I have heard some are at least qualified while others aren't.

I joke about and sometimes refer to SGM as the "family business" for some of these families. That is my theory for why these family members are so protective of criticism of their group. I have seen this in action on the blogs. It is a nice source of income for some of these families and they want to protect it.

I find it interesting in Mahaney's "confession" statement his assumption that there will be a Pastor's Conference in the fall and he will be there. Figuratively speaking, Mahaney's house is on fire and he is planning a family reunion at his house. The house (meaning SGM) may be figuratively burned down before the reunion.

I am curious why Mahaney isn't more concerned that his group just might implode than make assumptions about the pastor's conference. There just might not be one

Steve said...

Just when you thought it might be getting better a few other leaders outside SGM are saying there is nothing in Mahaney's actions that disqualify him:

This is very disappointing.

If Mahaney would just "take his lumps." If Mahaney truly wanted to protect SGM as he claims then he would have kindly asked these other "celebrity" leaders to not saying anything like this.

CD-Host said...

He doesn't want to take his lumps. He wants to step down ambiguously, then be cleared then come back and all this stuff is "after discipline". The goal is to avoid structural reform.

Steve said...

It sure sounds like he doesn't want to take his lumps as you indicate.

I guess in SGM's bible blackmailing isn't something that disqualifies a pastor. It is either that or church discipline only applies to members and not pastors though if another pastor had done this while Mahaney was in power he would have quickly pushed to remove that person (unless maybe they were "family").

As I said earlier:

"I find it interesting in Mahaney's "confession" statement his assumption that there will be a Pastor's Conference in the fall and he will be there. Figuratively speaking, Mahaney's house is on fire and he is planning a family reunion at his house. The house (meaning SGM) may be figuratively burned down before the reunion. "

I see the chances of the group imploding and there being no Pastors' Conference increasing. With the SGM Board giving this kind of statement their group could implode.

One thing that should be noted is that Josh Harris's name wasn't signed in the SGM's Board statement even though he is on the board. It appears that Josh Harris has a different viewpoint. Hopefully he is making a courageous stand.

Unknown said...

Its laughable that anyone would call Mehaney "reformed" he is about as reformed as Benny Hinn. just because he believes in predestination, dosn't make him reformed. they would send him packing if he showed up at Dordt or any real reformed (read confessional) church. he is a loose cannon that needs to be stepped down for good.

CD-Host said...

Hi Unknown welcome to the blog. You I assume are from another reformed church? PCA, OPC...?

Matt McMains said...

I"m wondering if we are all going to just assume that these documents that were posted to the web are completely accurate? Just the small portion I read seemed to be written to CJ in malice and contempt, which a good deal of sarcasm thrown in. If this is the heart of the man bringing the charges, I wonder if we should give full weight to what he is alleging?

Steve said...


Even Josh Harris indicated that he thought Brent Detwiler was a man of integrity and didn't "doctor" the emails. Brent wasn't the only one urging C.J. Mahaney to repent etc. Others were doing the same thing.

One of the other leaders (Dave Harvey) indicated that you had to talk to Mahaney like he was a teenager he was just that unapproachable etc.

No one so far has questioned the validity of the emails that were included in the posted documents. The have questioned Brent Detwiler's analysis and opinions that were in these documents.

CD-Host said...

Matt --

Just the small portion I read seemed to be written to CJ in malice and contempt, which a good deal of sarcasm thrown in. If this is the heart of the man bringing the charges, I wonder if we should give full weight to what he is alleging?

This is a defendant's blog. But if you are arguing that accused people should have the right to an impartial and unbiased evaluation of the evidence, the right to refute hostile testimony and the right to present counter evidence in an open forum I completely agree with you. C.J. however does not, and that's an example of the sorts of problems we had with structural abuse.

Steve said...


A lot of people within SGM like to use the "malice and contempt" card like Matt appears to be using as a way to detract. You play this card as a way of saying that one should ignore any accusations despite them being true. It sounds like this is what Matt is doing.

It should be pointed out that most of the document contains emails discussions that occurred. Even if there was "malice and contempt" Brent posted what was discussed.

Steve said...

Well the SGM "kangaroo court" has made its decision and decided that despite what is documented about Mahaney, including his blackmailing, Mahaney is still qualified to be the group's leader. The group assembled 3 groups of 3 SGM Pastors (hardly unbiased) to make this determination.

Here are some blogs that discuss this "ruling:"

CD-Host said...


For future reference Steve's link should be SGM survivors.


Steve --

Welcome back! Please let us know when they posted the whole packet, I'd love to read it. My issue with SGM was a long standing history of abuse of members.

That is SGM has structural problems not just personel problems with C.J. I think Mahaney still being in charge is not a huge problem given that there are now a dozen websites exposing the abuses. People in SGM are developing a habit of coming forward publicly. Mahaney has a reputation nationally, he is going to have to get rid of cultic aspects of SGM if he wants to maintain it.

It would have been very nice though to see that SGM gets it and wrote something more than a full whitewash statement exonerating C.J. of all the substantial abuses.

Steve said...

Here are the two posts that SGM made last week on the issue of CJ Mahaney (one was posted by Mahaney himself).

In this announcement it was stated that Mahaney is only back temporarily. Some, such as Kris on SGM Survivors, see this as a "face saving" tactic by SGM. This way he is gone as leader (though I am sure he will still have significant power) but SGM didn't have to admit that Mahaney did anything wrong. SGM's identity is so intertwined with Mahaney's that if they admitted Mahaney had issues then it would be admitting SGM had issued.

One can never say SGM Leaders aren't savvy.

A few months ago it was announced that all 3 of CJ's son in laws who were currently SGM Pastors were leaving their positions with SGM. One of Mahaney's brother in laws, Gary Riccuci moved his membership from Covenant Life Church to another SGM Church apparently due to the "hostile" environment towards CJ Mahaney. It is good to know that at some SGM members and churches are starting to see Mahaney's hypocrisy.

Steve said...

Here is a link that gives Larry Tomczak's response to Sovereign Grace Ministries declaring Mahaney "qualified."

Steve said...

Just so you will have it, here is the link where SGM has posted the findings of their 3 committees that found C.J. Mahaney still qualified to lead SGM.

This is what generated all the criticism.