Covenant Life Church Members Vote To Leave Sovereign Grace Ministries

Covenant Life Church affirmed their pastors’ decision to leave Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Here is a breakdown of the vote:

Total Adult (eligible voting) Members 2,442
Total Members who voted 60.8%
Voting Members who AFFIRMED 93.3%
Voting Members who voted No      6.7%

Interesting to note:

Only 100 members voted against leaving.
The pastors do NOT know how each member voted.
CJ and John Loftness were notified yesterday.
CLC will post a PUBLIC statement on the church website on Monday, December 17th.


  1. claude says:

    Has the Fairfax Church decided to poll it’s member about leaving SGM?

  2. SaintElsewhere says:

    I was astounded to hear the number of those voting against CLC leaving SGM was so low, although I had expected anyone who was unconcerned or sitting on the fence to be swayed by the combination of the opportunity to support the pastor’s decision and the ~lawsuit.~
    To me what this number says most is that there is not some secret groundswell of silent SGM supporters who would rise up and leave CLC for more SGM-like pastures. CLC may not be in for smooth sailing, but perhaps she may not be in for a huge rift over the exit from SGM.
    “It was a long time coming, but it came at just the right time.” Mal – Silverado

  3. formersgmer says:


    The Fairfax church votes on January 13. The outcome should be the same.

  4. Kris says:

    What’s so fascinating to me about this whole thing is what it says about SGM’s identity now. I mean, until very recently, SGM was at least somewhat synonymous with CLC. The two entities’ identities were very much intertwined. SGM had come out of CLC. In a way, CLC’s leaving is a little like a parent who disowns a child.

    I also wonder if people are going to figure out what this says about CJ. Yes, yes, we know – CLC’s gonna use a whole bunch of flowery language about how much they still love their SGM brethren and how great a debt they owe to CJ, blah blah blah…but the reality is, what does it mean when the leaders of CJ’s (until 2011) lifelong “local church” reject the organization he heads? (And yes, yes, we know – CJ no longer officially heads SGM…but of course the reality is that he’s still the power behind whichever designated figurehead took over from him.)

  5. Persona says:

    Kris 4

    I notice that SGM hasn’t removed CLC from their list of ‘local churches’ yet, on their website. So many SGM leaders were either trained at CLC or were members for years. It has to sting to no longer be together although, in some ways, it must be a relief to no longer sustain their complex relationship. Neither entity will be the same from this day forward.

    I hope this represents a healthy beginning for the people of CLC who, for all their many sacrifices, deserve a healthy church home. I continue to pray that they will gain better representation in the leadership and influence of the direction of the church. And, I trust they will all be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, as they rebuild their identity as a people of God.

  6. intheNICKoftime says:

    I think CLC becomes just another mega-church.

    But SGM becomes the CJ show. He will continue on the lecture circuit and will use the term SGM like it always was, but more and more will know that SGM is now a shadow of it’s former glory, and really just a small coalition of connected churches. As CJ’s stars slowly burns down, so will SGM diminish. And that should happen fairly quickly.

    As SGM looses a few churches, that means fewer and fewer guys going to the pastor’s college. There is no recording studio there so the music wont be running as regularly.
    they will slowly sink into the morass of church life in the southern states. An ignominious ending to a once rising star.

  7. delta dagger says:

    That 6.7% must be brain dead or think CJ is cute.

  8. justme says:

    DD, really? “Brain dead?”

  9. MAK says:

    I really don’t think this is going to effect SGM much. They’re in their own mired world. If you look at their website there all gung ho about church planting and the new pastors college. There are still a lot of leaders willing to follow.

  10. Persona says:

    IntheNickoftime 6

    My sources say SGM recently installed a new recording studio.

    I think CJ will crawl out of this hole and limp onward until the sun sets on his career. He is a master of recovery techniques.

  11. 28 years gone... says:

    This is both sad and promising. It is, for sure, the end of an era. No longer will CLC be the “Proof Church” that SGM is the bright star. No longer will CJ be able to go around the country touting that his home church gives 17% of their income to tithes and offerings (Hint hint, you should too!) No more mother ship. As an ex-member of a SGM church plant, they don’t go simple and easy, no matter how much money you throw at it. Those in L’ville can’t be happy. As far as a studio is concerned, $5000 gets you a MAC computer and pro-tools and some nice mics. That might be all they need now for who will be buying new CDs once everything shakes out of SGM.

  12. Pete Clemenza says:

    intheNICKoftime…very well worded…a nice obituary entry for this denomination at some point.

  13. 5yearsinPDI says:

    This calls for celebratory haiku, 5-7-5 standard meter:

    Worship your leaders,
    They stand in the stead of God?
    CLC changing.

    Slap backs in public,
    Brag of the happiest place.
    Now what will they say?

    Apostolic men
    sued in the courts by victims.
    God brings down the proud.

    Internet evil
    blogs from the bitter and hurt;
    Will big dogs see truth?

    AOR Report,
    No reconciliation.
    400 grand flushed.

    God bless CLC.
    You have done the right thing guys!
    better days ahead!

    Jesus- glorified!
    No more men as the spirit
    Priesthood is for all!

    Bye Bye SGM
    Bye Bye Louisville lackeys
    The vine has withered.

    Pray for revival
    Another awakening
    A reformation!

    May God heal the hurt
    May the true church move forward
    In the Word of truth.

  14. Unassimilated says:

    Treasures in Heaven

    “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

  15. Wow says:

    Did CJ really brag that his home church gave/gives 17% of its income in tithes and offerings? This troubles me, because how could he possibly know what percentage unless they are asked how much they earn and how much they give. Tell me this isn’t true.

  16. Mary says:

    Well done CLC. I hope other SGM churches follow suit. It is time for SGM to say good night. Now I pray for some straight forward repentance to the victims of years of control,abuse of authority, and legalism. This problem with CJ did not spring up overnight but he created a unhealthy culture in CLC for years before SGM. This is a good start.

  17. Wow says:

    Ditto what Mary said. Well done, CLC.

  18. Steve240 says:

    Kris said:

    And yes, yes, we know — CJ no longer officially heads SGM…but of course the reality is that he’s still the power behind whichever designated figurehead took over from him.

    If you look on SGM’s website here they show C.J. Mahaney as the president:

    What you may be thinking of is the board of directors that I believe C.J. Mahaney is no long on or heards (they just have C.J. “puppets”/myrmidions on that board).

    Either way C.J. Mahaney is still clearly in control.

    I am glad to hear that CLC has left Sovereign Grace Ministries. It will be interesting to see which additional churches leave. I hope significantly more leave, especially the larger ones but I am sure there will be those that remain.

  19. katie says:

    Brent says that now the CLC pastors find themselves in the same place he has been in over the past few years.

    I do not agree with this.

    Brent severed ties and spends his life writing documents about the faults of SGM and still believes that the organization is good but the people need to change or step down. He is obsessed with this in almost a psychotic way because it was his entire way of life, his belief system and his support system.

    The CLC pastors have severed ties and I think that will be the end of it. They have made plans to move on with their lives and move the church along in order to better themselves. I don’t think they will be spending their lives obsessing over making SGM better. That’s one reason they left, because trying to resolve problems with SGM is causing such a huge distraction in the church that they want to move past that.

    So no, Brent, the CLC pastors are not in the same place as you. It’s time to move on and let SGM dissolve on it’s own.

  20. MaryMelissa says:

    Free from the law of men (CJ/SGM) at last. There is a lot of work ahead for CLC, start with undoing all of CJ/SGM’s error and cultic ways. God is merciful!!!!

  21. jb says:

    The high percentage is striking. This isn’t a decision where there is a large vocal contingent for staying. Which was almost inconceivable when this all started in 2011. CLC leaving? How could that happen? Well, we’ve seen how that could happen, with how SGM treated CLC.

    CLC had, for many years, loved being a part of Sovereign Grace. It was a very important part of how the church thought of themselves. Many members worked for SGM. And now . . . they have left with a reverberating “yes” vote. Simply incredible.

  22. Uriah says:

    Mary #17 …. I totally agree, “Now I pray for some straight forward repentance to the victims of years of control,abuse of authority, and legalism”.

    Hopefully the leaders will see this as the next order of business, admitting that they have been propagators and accomplices regarding years of spiritual abuse, control, and legalism toward God’s people. I pray the leaders will have insight and courage to confess and repent, and thereby begin the process of healing for themselves and the members of CLC.

  23. Deuteronomy 32:35 says:

    Katie 21: I think what you fail to recognize is that had Brent not taken great care to document his SGM experiences, this announcement today from CLC would NEVER have happened!

    Yes, it was his life, as it was for many of us. And is not heartfelt, zealous, fervent pursuit of the Kingdom of God what God in and through Christ encourages?!?!?!

    If you think that this announcement “is the end of it” for CLC I don’t mean to be unkind but you are either ignorant or naive. This is a new beginning for CLC but they are in the thick of it now as those of us who have been willing to lose everything for the sake of the truth have learned. Do you think such decisions are made in the face of the enemy and he takes no notice?!?! God is good and great but the truth has a live viable enemy…pray for CLC…pray for a continued sense of the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace…

    SGM would never and is not dissolving on its own…God has done it and it is marvelous in our eyes…but His primary earthly agent for that dissolution was Brent Detweiler…like it or not…I’m not advocating trust in the arm of flesh…but The Lord does always have His man…just the way He works…all glory to Him…

  24. just saying... says:

    Deut is Brent

  25. yellowisahappycolor says:

    Now, if only they would keep voting……

    Vote to ban sin sniffing!

    Vote to ban pastors from peddling their wares from the pulpit!

    Vote to come clean about mishandling sexual abuse of children!

    Dream BIG, CLC and do those ‘hard things’….hahaha….

  26. Persona says:

    Yellow 27

    Josh said they don’t approve of voting by the congregation. Members are only allowed to affirm, not affirm or abstain from participating, in this decision, made by a group of two dozen staff pastors. They are not saying they will make this activity a regular part of the church calendar.

  27. 28 years gone... says:

    @ WOW 17

    Yes, CJ really did say CLC tithed 17%. Back when they were going through the first building fund. I heard it at a Celebration or when CJ visited the SGM church I used to attend. How he came up with that number I can’t say.

    @ JB 23

    I agree, it is amazing. But all of this was not necessary if CJ and the others had listened to Brent in the first place, or better, not set this overloading system they call SGM.

  28. Kris says:

    I have a word of advice for CLC’s leaders, particularly those who help draft statements and letters in the upcoming days.

    Please can the flowery lingo and the fake graciousness. Contrary to what CJ always thought, pastors just aren’t the Apostle Paul, so there’s no need to write like him. It’s the 21st century – you don’t need to sound like you’re writing to the church at Corinth.

    Just say what you need to say. Don’t add all sorts of “We love our brothers in SGM” disclaimers. By now, if it’s true, your people ought to know already that you love your brothers in SGM. Saying it isn’t going to make it more true. And it just sounds like you’re wimping out on taking a tough stand. There’s so much you probably should have said to and about CJ throughout the past several years, considering you were supposedly his pastors and his circle of accountability. You blew those opportunities because of your fear of man, of not wanting to get on his bad side. Now you’re actually taking the hard stand. Don’t ruin it with trying to stay on his good side.

  29. Stunned says:

    Kris, AMEN!

  30. Diego says:

    To paraphrase CS Lewis – no matter how you try to arrange bad eggs, you cannot make a good omlet from them. God Bless CLC for removing some bad eggs. God’s Blessings on the CLC pastors in their effort of following HIS cookbook.

    Encouragements to the remaining SGM pastors in recognizing the stink of the SG bad eggs leading them. God’s church that you are shepherding deserves better. No polity flavoring can hide the rancidness of these men.

  31. Christopher says:

    Can someone who is closer to the goings on in this church tell us… the 39%+ that did not vote, why? That’s a huge chunk of members missing (or simply withholding their vote) for such an important vote.

    Having seen similar affiliation shifts play out in other churches before, my gut feeling is that they saw the handwriting on the wall and didn’t think their vote to stay SGM would matter. I’ve got to think that there’s probably a significant percentage of the 39% that is banking on SGM planting another church mission just down the road from CLC. So they might just bide their time until the CJ Express comes through town. Or maybe a there’s a significant percentage of the 39% that has already left CLC. Or maybe both.

    Who do you all think the statistical makeup of the 39% is made up of?

  32. Somewhereintime says:

    Please note everyone:


    Plain and simple. The ONLY thing that has been communicated (and that by CJ himself … of course) is that he does not want to be considered for any of the new leadership roles once the polity is rubber stamped.

    Whereas circus’ were huge back in the 1940s and 1950s eventually they fell out with the public. Ringling Brothers is still around and still perform, but only to much smaller crowds in much smaller venues. CJ and his merry gaggle of clowns will continue to perform for the misinformed and the blind sheep remaining in SGMs and they won’t go away.

    Why? Because the leaders need jobs! Because the leaders reject the clear voice of the Holy Spirit in His church! Because the pastors with any “Gazoombas” have already left or were already tossed out. What has left is a bunch of spiritually castrated men leading the blind down a path not blessed by the Lord.

  33. Somewhereintime says:


    Is Deut 32 Brent Detwiler? If it is that is a shame. If not, please clarify for us all. Thanks!

  34. Lover of CLC says:


    I talked to a former housemate yesterday who told me he did not vote as he did not take the time to do it. How many people would be like that? I don’t know. More common I think would be another friend who did not vote as he think it is up to the pastors to lead to make the decisions. I also heard at the the “Coffee With the Pastors” that a number of people were neutral and not planning on voting. And I do agree with you that some people did not vote because they did see the handwriting on the wall. I do wonder if more people will now leave the church. For the record I voted to leave SGM. It was really the only way to go.

  35. Diane says:

    Kris #30~

    That comment is solid gold!

  36. Jenn Grover says:

    I think speculation that Deut 32: 35 is Brent is vain speculation. When Brent has posted on the blogs, he uses his real name. He has no need or motive to post under another name.

    RE: CLC becoming “just another megachurch.” here is a question, “Were they not already a megachurch?” What is different about CLC now that makes them “just another megachurch?” Second, what is wrong with megachurches? I realize that in SGMland, we were taught to look down on megachurches, but if they are preaching the gospel and lives are being changed, why consider them less?

    Deut 32:35’s words resonate with me. Some may think it is because I am still drinking the Kool Aid and maybe I am. But, it has long been apparent to me that revival would follow repentance and that is what is going on at CLC. It might be slow in its coming but I believe it is coming, nonetheless. I don’t rejoice in SGM being undone, but I rejoice that an authoritative system that has grown corrupt is being undone. The SGM leadership rejected Josh’s assertion that God was disciplining SGM. That rejection puzzles me to this day. Why would they reject such an assurance that God was treating us as sons and daughters? Why would they think that SGM was different than any other church or movement in history? God brings correction so that new fruit will be born. If your local church is rejecting the pruning that God is doing, any fruit you see now will be short lived and wither on the vine.

  37. Wow says:

    Katie #21, I ditto your sentiments about Brent. He still continues to make this all about himself. If they hadn’t turned on him, there would be no documents out there.

    28 years #29, That’s downright freaky. Our pastors have no idea what any of us earn….just what we give.

    Kris #30, RIGHT!!!!! The way they write comes across as shallow and arrogant….as though they believe they are the apostle Paul. Give it up already. The “loving correction” between the gracious jargon before and after begins to come across as competitive, untruthful BS. Does anyone recall whether CJ sandwiched his remarks in his dethroning of Larry T. between such positive statements, or did he simply throw him under a bus? I believe I remember some very harsh, cut and dry judgments against Larry. I don’t remember a lot of love for Larry and faith for his future ministry.

  38. Wow says:

    Just sayin, #26…..

    Deut said, “those of us who have been willing to lose everything for the sake of the truth…”

    I’m just thinkin. You are probably on to sumthin.

  39. Kris says:

    Deuteronomy is not Brent, to the best of my knowledge.

  40. just saying... says:

    Christopher, #33…
    CLC has a very large, asian, hispanic and international population that have little concern for the politics of it all. They have very little knowledge of SGM or interest in same.

    The vote brought out the white, homeschool old-timers with knowledge of the past.

    Many newer people just have no opinions nor do they understand the nuances of it all.

    From what I can tell, the Louisville loyal are a very loud, slanderous few.

  41. MAK says:

    just saying…I would agree. Also, a lot of members have been added since Josh took the reigns. A lot of the new members don’t even know who Sovereign Grace is. I’m sure some took the time to vote but just like the US national elections a lot of folks just don’t bother to vote.

  42. MAK says:

    Jenn, I would agree there is nothing wrong with Megachurches that extol the name of the Lord and walk in integrity. I think the next big SGM spin on this is that CLC was not really a “model church” as most normal SGM churches are small and don’t have the resources as CLC. Having CLC as a model church is “not reality”. I’ve already heard this from a former PC student that I spoke with. The Louisville church plant will be the new “model” as it’s a small start up (even though they have national leaders in the leadership team…which is not normal either).

  43. MAK says:

    The statement on CLC’s website has not been posted yet but they have updated the bottom of “Our History”. I’m sure they’re still working on making it gratituous enough for Kris, LOL!!

    CLC hasn’t been delisted yet from the SGM website.

  44. old timer says:

    Kris, # 30 a pet peeve of mine forever.If they would talk like a regular person they would get a lot further in relating to the world.

    I find it ironic that clc is leaving sgm……when most of the orginal members came from other churches in the first place. Mennonites, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, etc, etc. they make up most of the other churches of sgm also. Looking for something better than what they had. And now…..the same old song and dance. It didn’t work out so we will do something new….every generation switches it up.

    See, what goes around comes around…..all those people left their churches for something different to really follow God. They had it right and their parents didn’t. hahahaha

    “Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
    When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
    And life has a funny way of helping you out when
    You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
    In your face ” alanis morissette

    I am just reflecting to the irony of it all and realizing that the Lord will not be mocked. If the leaders of clc are not going to live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit then they better shut the place down today because the same thing will happen again in a few short years.

  45. ccinnova says:

    The percentage of those voting to leave is astounding. Is CLC planning to function as an nondenominational church for the time being?

  46. Fruit Flavored says:

    Thanks for posting the announcement from the pastors of Covenant Life Church. Unfortunately the last paragraph is a bit sickening.

    “We will be ever grateful to those leaders of SGM who played a foundational role in establishing and building this local church. They will remain dear to us as brothers in gospel ministry, and we anticipate cooperating in future ministry endeavors, even though the nature of our partnership has changed.”

    I guess I wonder what they define as “gospel ministry”. SGM seems to have its own gospel and not with a capital “G”. It is also very confusing as to how exactly they have separated if they plan to cooperate in future ministry endeavors. To me it doesn’t sound as if the marriage is over.

    One last question for those CLC folks who read here… How is the separation going to affect Gracia Soberana, the Latino SGM congregation, meeting at CLC? To me if CLC is cutting the cord, then they need to cut the cord!

  47. Rick says:

    Sadly, Kris, they did not read your comment at #30–had they done so, and taken it to heart, —–well, their statement demonstrates that they they think of their congregation as little children with little wisdom or discernment apart from the pastoral staff to come to right conclusions.