One of the great frustrations of those trying to bring the allegations of rampant child abuse and cover-up in Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) churches to light has been the silence of those who have long been founder CJ Mahaney’s greatest supporters – Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan of Together For The Gospel (T4G) and Don Carson, Justin Taylor, and the rest at The Gospel Coalition (TGC).
In the past 24 hours, in light of the dismissal of the majority of the civil suit against SGM folks (due to the statute of limitations), and in what appears to be a coordinated move, both those groups have issued statements of their continued support for Mahaney.
Together for the Gospel
The T4G statement came out last night on Facebook [Update: statement has been deleted from FB; It is also on the T4G website, which doesn’t allow comments.] and is troubling. They first seek to cloud the water about the civil lawsuit:
Claims presented in a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation are beyond the ability of the public to render judgment. Often, such claims are even beyond the ability of a court to deliberate.
So if even the courts don’t have the ability to render judgment in these sort of issues, who can? Paul seems pretty clear in Romans 13 that God has established the civil authorities to bring punishment to wrongdoers.
They go on:
If a Christian leader is accused of any wrongdoing, those to whom he is accountable must investigate the charges and then deal responsibly with the evidence. If a criminal accusation is made, Christians have a fundamental duty to inform law enforcement officials. This does not, however, preclude or mitigate the church’s responsibility for biblical church discipline.
This is a key point. To whom was CJ Mahaney responsible? It has been made abundantly clear from the brouhaha around Mahaney and SGM polity over the past couple years that Mahaney was essentially accountable to no one. When it was deemed best that he step down from leadership, he didn’t stay at his home church, under discipline; instead he left to attend Dever’s church in Washington, DC, then went to start another church in Mohler’s backyard in Louisville. If anyone was in position to hold Mahaney accountable, it was Dever, Mohler, and Duncan, but to all appearances they have completely failed to do so.
A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry. No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney.
This almost defies belief. Mahaney was accused, in the lawsuit, of conspiring to keep the abuse covered up. At a bare minimum, he failed to report the abuse accusations to the authorities, even though he was in a position where he was legally required to do so. So are those charges not credible? Not serious? Or not direct? It would appear that Mohler, Duncan, and Dever are saying either that (1) the charges against SGM aren’t credible, or (2) that failure to mandatorily report child abuse is not a serious or direct charge. Really?
Those who minister in the name of the Lord Christ bear an inescapable duty to live and to minister in a way that is above reproach.
Finally, we get to a place where we agree. What I’m led to wonder is if the term “above reproach” means something significantly different to Pastors Mohler, Dever, and Duncan than it means to me.
The Gospel Coalition
TGC’s statement (“Why We Have Been Silent about the SGM Lawsuit”) was published this morning as a statement from Don Carson, Justin Taylor, and Kevin DeYoung. It’s slightly less troubling than the T4G statement… but only slightly.
They acknowledge up front that their silence could indeed feel like a betrayal to those who suffered abuse, and that pastors hold a responsibility to obey all civil mandatory reporting laws in addition to overseeing church discipline. (This is a lesson that, by all accounts, SGM badly needed to learn.)
However, then TGC turns on the alleged victims, claiming that the conspiracy charges against Mahaney were underhandedly and unfairly manufactured, and praising the statute of limitations as “an important feature of our legal system”.
My question is this: why should church leaders be so happy to escape due to the statute of limitations? Regardless of the legal limitations, shouldn’t the charges be fully investigated by the church, and discipline enacted accordingly? God is not restrained by any statute of limitations.
TGC goes on to encourage us to let the litigation to play out, to hear both sides, to not assume all allegations or false, and to not assume that all defendants are guilty. Good stuff. I could’ve almost been happy with their statement until this final paragraph:
Reports on the lawsuit from Christianity Today and World Magazine (among others) explicitly and repeatedly drew attention to C. J., connecting the suit to recent changes within SGM. He has also been the object of libel and even a Javert-like obsession by some.
And there we are. “Javert-like obsession.” TGC has now turned the tables. The victims of abuse are now the accusers, and Mahaney, the head of an organization that allegedly let the abuse run rampant, is the victim.
“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Luke 12:1-3
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6
“…the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
[Update at 9:30 Friday morning]
The T4G statement has been removed from Facebook in its entirety. I’ll link to a copy of it if I can find one.
[Update at 10:06 Friday morning]
The T4G statement is available on their website. Commenting is not allowed.