Asking Questions

[Kris says:  A reader - "Nickname" - posted the following observations about the questions the panels explored prior to issuing their reports about C.J. Mahaney's fitness for ministry.  I thought "Nickname's" analysis was quite good and didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle.  Here it is.]

From “Nickname’s” comment –

Question #1: Was CJ Mahaney’s participation in fellowship in 2003-2004, including the giving and receiving of correction, in keeping with the teaching of scripture?

The answer to this one is an easy “YES”, but that wasn’t the right question. The question should’ve been “Was CJ Mahaney’s participation in fellowship in 2003-2004, including the giving and receiving of correction, in keeping with his own teaching and personal/corporate expectations of participation by members of SGM churches?

The answer to THAT question is NO. Because SGM taught extra-biblical requirements for participation in fellowship (i.e., homegroup attendance and an extra-biblical definition of fellowship found in CJ’s own book, “Why Small Groups.”

Question #2: Did CJ Mahaney wrongly influence Brent Detwiler’s dismissal from his church in Mooresville, NC?

The answer to THAT question is also NO, and if you want to get technical, the church in Mooresville did not belong to Brent, so the term “his church” makes it impossible to answer the question in the affirmative.

A better question would have been: Did CJ Mahaney have prior or ongoing knowledge of Brent Detwiler’s dismissal, reinstatement, and subsequent final dismissal from the Mooresville church, and what was his role in instructing, discussing, and/or approving Gene Emerson’s advice to the Mooresville church?

Reality check needed here. Can any one imagine a scenario, ecclesiastical, political, miltary or corporate, where the #3 guy gets booted without the #1 guys knowledge or approval? Sure, Brent was no longer #3 — but he had been for a long time, and his presence and influence in SGM was huge. Does anyone think for one second that CJ did not have veto power over these shenanigans?

The board admits that GE was wrong in conveying faulty information to the Mooresville church. At the time, GE answered to CJ. CJ had the responsibility of supervising GE, and instructing his decisions regarding Brent. So, YES, CJ wrongly influenced the firing of Brent Detwiler, whether or not Brent’s performance justified his dismissal. It was poorly done.

Question #3: Was Larry Tomczak’s departure from Sovereign Grace ministries handled properly?

Hmmm. The panel danced around a straight answer by saying they weren’t lawyers and therefore couldn’t determine whether or not Larry was coerced or blackmailed.

Hmmm. The panel continued to sidestep by saying that since SGM had no policy in place, they had no way to know if it was handled properly — they don’t know what properly means. What — were these guys raised by wolves? Does it take a steel-trap legal mind to know that coercion, blackmail, and the willful and deliberate betrayal of a minor parishioner’s confidence is NOT PROPER under anybody’s definition?

Hmmm. Notice that in Question #1, they wanted to determine if an action was in keeping with the teaching of scripture. But in this question, they only wanted to know if an action was handled properly.

So, the better question would’ve been: Was Larry Tomczak’s departure from Sovereign Grace Ministries handled in keeping with the teaching of scripture? Not hardly.

They recommended that SGM make some kind of monetary gift to Larry, carefully noting that severance packages are not customary when someone resigns rather than gets terminated. HELLO???? So, what definition do they give to the golden parachutes that the resigning Mahaney sons-in-law just received from CLC? Hey — I LIKE it that they recommended some kind of cash restitution to Larry. And I’d like to see them extend that same courtesy to every other pastor who ‘resigned’ under coercive circumstances, and even more importantly, make financial restitution to the families who’ve suffered major financial ramifications due to long-term hardships caused by covered-up molestation cases — EXCLC’ers Mom, Happymom and Wallace, Noel and Grizzly, SGMnot, and any others. But don’t go trying to look all benevolent and generous by pointing out that severance packages aren’t customary — when the precedent was just set by giving severance in the nepotistic situation. I realize that the sons-in-law were given their severance by CLC, not by SGM. But I wonder whose idea was that in the first place?

Closing Remarks on Brent Detwiler: “…(Brent) continues to unfairly criticize…we renew our appeal to have his pastor contact us so that we might take the next steps toward this goal….”

The board negates any claim to objectivity with the use of the word “unfairly” in regard to Brent’s criticisms.

And then, the condescending idea that Brent needs to “have his pastor contact us” is beyond rude. Where do they get the idea that Brent’s pastor needs to talk to them? Brent’s a big boy — he can contact them himself. And where do they get the idea that they are somehow ecclesiastical royalty that can only be approached by a pastor? I don’t see any tearing down of the dividing walls of hostility here, and this statement exhibits their ignorance of the priesthood of all believers. This statement in itself is worth asking Question #1 of the Board. Are you participating in fellowship with Brent in keeping with the teaching of scripture?

[Kris again:  Something else that I wanted to highlight comes from Brent Detwiler's response to the reports.  Here it is:]

By Brent Detwiler –

Here’s the harsh reality people must accept!  The overwhelming vast majority of my charges have not been presented, heard or judged in a hearing by anyone.  Like the O.J. Simpson trial, C.J. is getting away with murder (a little hyperbole folks).  Here is what Dave promised two months ago.

“How is Sovereign Grace’s board handling the allegations that Brent Detwiler has brought against C.J. Mahaney?  We know that you care about this a lot.  We also care about this a lot, and we are taking Brent’s allegations seriously.  We don’t want to ignore the many accusations that now sit in the public mind.  We want to get this right.  Brent’s documents require impartial examination and C.J. deserves a fair hearing.” (Dave Harvey, “What are we doing about the allegations against C.J.,” November 28, 2011)

Dave is full of it.  The SGM Board has never taken my allegations seriously.  No siree!  They came up with the three panel approach so they could purposely ignore “the many accusations” I’ve documented in over 1,200 pages of evidence.  This wasn’t a “fair hearing” for C.J.  It was a rigged hearing.  Soft ball questions.  Biased jury.  Misdemeanor charges for a felon.  The suppression of evidence in the verdict.  No cross examination.  C.J. was not held accountable for his sins.  Very little was investigated and all the terms and conditions were favorable to C.J.  The three panel approach was an ostentatious show of righteousness – a pretense for justice.  It was all image and no substance.  People should be outraged.

This statement from Dave on Wednesday is also terribly deceptive.

“To further protect the integrity of the process, the interim Board sought the counsel and affirmation of an outside conciliation ministry, Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AOR).  With C.J. on leave and AOR involved, the review process took the following form:  We [the SGM Board and AOR] commissioned three outside ministers to review Brent’s documents in light of C.J.’s confessions and render their judgment on his fitness to serve in ministry.  In light of their evaluation, they found him to be completely fit to serve.  We [the SGM Board and AOR] then commissioned three panels—each consisting of three SGM pastors—to evaluate C.J.’s involvement in the three central events of Brent’s allegations.” (Dave Harvey, “An announcement regarding C.J. Mahaney,” January 25, 2012)

Dave says Ambassadors of Reconciliation “commissioned three panels-each consisting of three SGM pastors.”  This is a lie!  Three days ago, I talked to Ted Kober about this very subject in detail.  I asked him if AOR helped create the three panel approach.  He said no.  I asked if he commended the approach.  He said no.  I asked him if he supported the approach.  He said he never expressed support or a lack of support.  He remained neutral because he did not feel it was his place to take a position since the SGM Board devised the plan entirely on their own.

Ted Kober did not help to create this plan and he did not in any way “commission” the three panel approach.  This fabrication by Dave is just like his lie that Bryce Thomas came up with the questions for the three panels.  SGM acted independent of AOR but the SGM Board wants you to believe otherwise.

159 comments to Asking Questions

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  1. Roadwork
    February 1st, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Agreed, Kris. What SGM teaches about tithing is not the problem. How these “leaders”, now 30 years into their chosen profession, run a privately held corporation is.

    Publically held corporations can be held accountable. Privately held corporations or businesses are directed at the whim of the owner with no accountability.

    Not being skilled and professional in one’s trade is inexcusable after 30 years of OJT, regardless of what formal training they may or may not have started out with.

  2. Kris
    February 1st, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Confederacy –

    Welcome. Good comment.

    I keep wanting desperately to believe in the overall integrity of these quasi-celebrity bloggers/preachers. I’ve appreciated so much of what they’ve written and where they stand on other issues. It’s really hard for me to accept that they are just being willfully blind to the CJ thing…and possibly for their own self-serving reasons.

    Yet after awhile, that starts to be all that I can conclude, barring some of the reasoning I tried to articulate in my previous comments (#65, #71, #76). Perhaps when you hit a certain level of fame and influence, you cross over to the other side and consider yourself a leader? And thus identify more with leaders like CJ? And naturally side with other leaders?

    Again – I really don’t understand it. Of all the mysteries I’ve faced throughout this site’s history, the responses (or lack of responses) from the “Reformed watchbloggers” have puzzled me the most. How can they in good conscience make such a gigantic deal out of James MacDonald and his Elephant Room interactions with T.D. Jakes and work themselves up into a lather about whether or not Jakes has rejected modalism while at the very same time go on the record endorsing CJ and celebrating his return to ministry…while not seeming to make any real effort to understand why SGM members themselves are so concerned?

  3. 70'sshepherdingsurvivor
    February 1st, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Perhaps it is the use of the tithes, not the teaching of the tithing principle, that is sending some people over the edge here? If the leaders are heaping money upon themselves, they are certainly insulated from real world concerns. They have more time to figure out ways to get more money: investing their own money, write more books, plan more conferences. etc. They do not have to concern themselves with where their next meal is coming from. If they are plenty comfortable, they have more time to further their own interests, which is how the “rich get richer”. If the tithes were used to support the pastors in line with the average lifestyle of those in the congregation and they then ministered with love, and if then the rest was used to lessen the suffering of those in need, I doubt there would be such an uproar.

  4. Kris
    February 1st, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    70ssurvivor –


    To be fair to many SGM pastors out there, I think it’s accurate to say that most live a lifestyle similar to or not too far removed from that of the average family in their congregations. I’m not aware of any SGM pastor who’s living in a mansion with a Mercedes and an Escalade in the garage.

    That being said, though, I don’t think pastors have to be living the high life in order to find themselves manipulated and controlled by money. A pastor’s comfortable salary (comfortable enough to support owning a decent-enough home and a stay-at-home wife) can be a tool used by the organization to make pastors eager to maintain the status quo…less likely to question their superiors’ decisions and thus make waves…which would then enable those at the top of the organization to have more unchecked power. If a pastor knows that it would be really hard to find a similar-paying job somewhere other than at an SGM church, he’s going to be much more reluctant to speak up if he sees something questionable. He’ll be much more likely to accept, for instance, something like the SGM board’s reinstatement of CJ at face value.

    My take on all this is, it’s the lack of specific, formal accountability, as well as the idea that pastors have intimate knowledge of who is giving what, that cause most of the problems. That, and the legalism about the “10% of your gross income” formula.

    Too many questions arise when pastors essentially set their own salaries (maybe with the help of their hand-selected finance committee) while no one in the congregation actually knows precisely what the pastors earn. It seems out of balance to me, if pastors can know what individual members are giving, but people can’t know what individual pastors are paid.

  5. griefofwisdom
    February 1st, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Perhaps it is the use of the tithes, not the teaching of the tithing principle, that is sending some people over the edge here?

    Maybe for some, but I bet not too many, for me authoritarianism is the problem. The quote (the rhetorical question) above from Alcorn, “Can I afford to rob God?”, does not leave much room for a differing opinion on the issue. OK, that’s his conclusion, fair enough. But really, tithing is just one example of authoritarianism in SGM. On issue after issue after issue, “Can you afford to ________?”, you will be told what to think in one way or another.

  6. Kris
    February 1st, 2012 at 2:20 pm


    That’s the part that especially boggles me – the various Reformed celebrities who have made statements in support of CJ.

    Like you say, I can understand wanting to be careful and reserve judgment. But guys like Mohler and even Kevin DeYoung placed themselves in the middle of this fiasco and planted themselves in Camp CJ without doing much in the way of due diligence with actual former SGM members.

    Plus the timing of these endorsements is troublesome. Mohler made his statements just days or weeks after the news first broke. DeYoung responded to SGM’s request for outsiders to examine the materials – but that was early in the process, too.

    Now, the timing is even more troublesome, in that bloggers like Challies have reported on the SGM panels’ findings – the pro-CJ internal panels’ findings – as though some sort of independent adjudicators found CJ completely blameless. But the Ambassadors of Reconciliation’s report hasn’t even been issued yet.

    It will be interesting to see if these “Yay CJ!” bloggers bother to clarify that CJ was merely reinstated by some of the guys he himself had hired…and that the internal panels were limited in scope to very narrow questions about bizarro ideas like whether or not CJ had been in “proper fellowship”…and that these questions seemed purposefully divorced from totally related issues like SGM’s fear-filled authoritarian leaders-can-never-be-questioned culture…and that the AoR report hasn’t even been issued yet…

  7. Sopwith
    February 1st, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    HowDee YaAll,

    Excuse me, am I missing something?

    …hasn’t CJ Mahaney, just made ‘fools’ out of the following distinguished T4G gentlemen?

    Ligon Duncan
    Albert Mohler
    Mark Dever
    David Platt
    John Piper
    Kevin DeYoung
    Thabiti Anyabwile
    Matt Chandler

    (…or have they just simply made fools out of themselves?)


    If a lowly church Deacon must be ‘blameless’, what does that say for those who lead the flock of God? (…Moreover, mustn’t he have a good report of them folk which are without the church; lest he fall into reproach, and the snare of the devil?)


    Nahhhh… Don’t worry yourself none, this is the 21 century for pete sake, no one believes the bible anymore  -snark-
    ♪♪♪Jesus’ gotz dis millstone baby…itz gonna roll all over you… hum, hum, hum, hum…


    Sopy ♥,† 

  8. 70'sShepherdingSurvivor
    February 1st, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Timing of CJ’s reinstatement? Coincidence? CJ’s friends support?

    Check out the Together for the Gospel website. This is a huge conference, sponsored by SGM for Pastors and is held every two years. This year it will be held in Louisville, KY in April.

  9. ExClcer'sMom
    February 1st, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Something I have witness in the administration of other organization is not always using money to live such an outwardly lavish lifestyle (as in jaguars, escalades, or mansions), but “using money” to influence people to take up your cause (so to speak)..and if it is “tithe money’, I would think the appropriate questions for it’s use would be does it further the gospel of Christ (as opposed to the gospel of CJ), does it help the poor or needy, or widows and children? Does a pastor really need a personal basketball court adjacent to their office? These are minor offenses, considering the abuse of human beings, but still things to consider when one is looking to where they want to contribute their money..IMO anyway..

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