Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Gospel Coalition, SGM and CJ Mahaney-Opinion-Ecclesiastical Malfeasance

(*To my readers, I have had less time to blog lately hence, less material.I do have several articles in the works which need more contemplation and time but hope to have a few more articles soon. )


Over the past two years or so a charismatic/pentecostal Neo-Calvinist/Neo-Puritanist sect called Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) has been embroiled in a couple of scandalous events which, in part, involved its unschooled former leader/Teacher/Apostle and what some might call co-founder, CJ Mahaney. The remarkable events are generally first a lawsuit against the sect, itself, which had/has its own government making it a real or formal body and this first issue is regarding repeated sexual abuse claims of adults and children against various full-time, part-time and volunteer ministry persons. The lawsuit, itself, has for the most part been dismissed due to either time expiration or jurisdiction issues. But you can read an account of its claims here.

The Wartburg Watch blog has given special attention to this issue and you can read about it at their blog. They have performed a defensible job of bringing to light what should be brought to light, though they, in my opinion, permit too many comments of the self-righteous and crusading kind at its blog without rebuttal which lessens their authoritative stance on the matter. But that aside, their documentation and formal treatment of the issue is worth reading.

The second is a more direct conflict with CJ Mahaney and some of his board subordinates regarding the nature of his/their ecclesiastical administration. This conflict involved Brent Ditwiler (former SGM Minister) against the above parties and was documented by Brent in amazingly great detail. His records reveal a bizarre labyrinth of micro-controls and subsequent self-righteous posturing and judgments leveled by CJ Mahaney and others against various ministry persons. What is manifested is a cultic and certainly toxic environment of ministry established and fostered under CJ Mahaney's "apostolic" rule (he believed that the ministry of the apostles had not ceased and he had equal apostolic standing as Paul with regard to his sect, SGM. It is unclear whether he sill believes in his charismatic/apostolic doctrine).

It suffices to say that under the leadership of CJ Mahaney there was a two-fold failure; first a mutation of sound ecclesiastical authority as presented in the Scriptures into a cultic micro-control environment where the petty reigned and the substantive was of lesser importance. Subsequently, in this maladjusted context a second category of mistreatment is broadly claimed to have occurred, namely spiritual and physical or sexual (apparently regularly as many claimants attest), if we are to accept even half of these claims on face value and reject that there is either a collective or deliberate conspiratorial act by the parties making the accusations.

Ultimately, this is not the result of qualified or competent theology, this is not the result of competent or qualified leadership and this is not the result of competent or qualified practice. If, in the end, CJ Mahaney was ignorant of all of these matters, he is at best the most incompetent and unqualified men for leadership in quite some time in the body of Christ and is wholly disqualified for and from ecclesiastical leadership and the teaching of doctrine.

Fast Forward------>

The Gospel Coalition is an organization of mainly Neo-Calvinist/Neo-Puritanists who have had an ongoing relationship with SGM and particularly, CJ Mahaney for a while. That relationship has been one of not only an affirmation of his work, theology and/or practice but a partnering and promotion of it. Through all of this many have been frustrated that TGC has been silent on the matter (they haven't been, actually, with associates making independent comments at times but no formal one has been made until now, I suppose). So recently they responded with an article, Why We Have Been Silent About the SGM Lawsuit. Yes, I'm listening...and I did listen and something I read caught my attention over all the rest of their nuanced statements. Here it is:
Please do not hear us saying that we assume all of the plaintiffs are lying. We do not assume all the defendants are innocent, or that they are all guilty. We are not privy to the sort of information necessary to make that determination. Where the allegations are accurate, we have nothing but the deepest sympathy for the victims, desiring that legal justice might prevail and that they might know the Lord's healing and vindication.
Ecclesiastical Responsibility vs Ecclesiastical Avoidance

I suppose some people might not see the obvious problem here, that is the theological/Biblical tragedy. So in that case I will quote a brief response I made at Sharper Iron, an online fundamentalist/conservative Evangelical Journal and blog at which I participate as a commenter and did so in a thread regarding this matter:

The Gathering of Calvinists has a Biblical fatal flaw in their position. They readily admit that some of these allegations which were part of the lawsuit could be true (ah sweet charity). Their problem, they complain, is that they are not privy to this degree of discovery therefore they cannot make assumptions and hope and pray the justice system is able to render appropriate justice for the sake of the victims, in essence.

Sorry TGC, you have formed a Christian body with a government which includes officers and disciplinary protocols, though elementary they be. You, of all people, those of the Kingdom of God for the sake of the banner of Christ know we are explicitly told to deal with such thing within the body and not relying upon governmental courts.

Some might object that SGM did do some of that and its inadequacy is demonstrated by your not knowing resulting in your ignorance on the matter rendering you impotent as Teachers and ecclesiastical leaders. You have an association with officers and a standard which has in place an accountability process. Do your due diligence so you can be privy to whether or not CJM indeed did reign over a system of abuse as was either too incompetent to know of such matters in such high volume or aided in their cover-up. This is not a reason but an excuse.

Friends, the Bible speaks plainly. The Scripture says 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (NIV):
 1If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

It appears TGC wishes to rest upon the world, the government's enlightenment and trust that its own people (the church) have their ecclesiastical matters determined by a government outside of the body of Christ. No, we are not asking ("we" meaning me and anyone else that believes TGC needs to perform its due diligence and I know I am not alone simply by reading on the internet so I safely say "we" not to enlarge my argument but to acknowledge it is not companionless) that you, TGC, determine the civil cases or the criminal cases, if so you are mistaken. We are asking that you perform an ecclesiastical case, that is hold court, bring witnesses and rebuttals and determine his (CJ Mahaney) fitness and/or appropriateness for ministry with you, TGC.

You must, by all means, hold court as a body, yes you, TGC. You have a government, you have officers and you have a standard, uphold it. Do not hide behind that you do not know that you are not "privy". Such claims are not reasons but excuses. Find out, interview, one after another, for the sake of Christ's name and work. Protect God's people if there is a threat. Stop your posturing, stop hiding and stop the protecting because if you are not doing this, it sure as green granny smith apples looks like you're trying to do so.

And to TGC, I trust you less and less and have reason to with your lack of good faith demonstration. Interview, if you will just ten of the most outstanding claimants. Research all the trails, where they begin and where they end. Ask the attorney for the claimants which ten to interview. Find out where it leads.


The truth is, though, in the end, effective and qualified leadership does not lead to where SGM went to and now is and it did so under CJ Mahaney. His moral and theological authority is gone.  He is a brother in the Lord, it appears, and he is warranted all the ministry he is able and need to receive for his restoration but he is in no way, shape or form, qualified to be promoted and accepted as a spiritual/ecclesiastical leader, administrator or Teacher of doctrine in light of his unmitigated disaster at SGM. You and you alone stand as against an onslaught of Christian people who simply can no longer look the other way.


Steve Scott said...


I agree with your assessment of the ecclesiastical failure. Reading the 1 Cor 6 passage in the NASB and KJV, there seems to be more direct weight for ecclesiastical law courts. In general, autonomous neo-calvinist churches shun such an idea, as we can plainly see.

This aside, TGC and other such groups could simply go to something they really do know - 1 tim 3:2 "An overseer, then, must be above reproach..." What they are acting like is that none of this mess is any kind of reproach.

Alex Guggenheim said...


You said it in a doctrinal nutshell, 1 Tim 3:2. Reproach is not forever and one can become re-qualified, though in my view CJ Mahaney was never qualified to begin with. That aside, the point is that there is a real reproach regarding his ministry, a substantial one and now, I believe, TGC and T4G are going to have some of that reproach upon themselves.

Eleanor said...

Wow! So true! I completely agree, having said all along that Mahaney's only defense against corruption and abuse of power is gross incompetence.

He is utterly unfit to lead, and those who support him have thrown in their lot with him.

terriergal said...

As usual, your observations are spot on.

Alex Guggenheim said...

Thank you TG. And your observations about my writing eccentricities were quite on target so much so I laughed at myself and anyone that might read me and find me maddeningly disjointed. LOL.

I do see that CJM has removed himself from some upcoming engagements but the discrediting of the Neo-Cals embracing him so far down the road and now pretending it never happened won't be erased by CJ's alleged self-censoring. Go Lutherans except that a few a straying dangerously close to this crowd lately.