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Mark Dever and other leaders came to Louisville, Kentucky last weekend to preach at C.J. Mahaney’s church. Mark Dever roasted the man who wrote the book on humility, C.J. Mahaney. I transcribed a few sentences here:
“What a joy this is. It’s a particular privilege to be here. . . . We know a number of the brothers and sisters involved here. We’re thankful for you all – thankful for the ministry you’ve had in our church over the years. The Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) churches in general that I’ve had to do with have marked fruits of the Spirit in them - more marked than any other group of Christian churches I know of. And I am thankful for that. . . “
WHAT?! Yea, I’ve seen some marked fruits, but they aren’t from the Spirit. No, I’ve heard of rotten fruit. For years I have been reading about the fruit of deception and cover-up, the fruit of spiritually and emotionally abandoning defenseless victims. And I am NOT thankful for that. I mourn and weep for what I have read about scores and scores of abuse victims.
ABPnews.com picked up this story today, too, and had more to say, including additional quotes from Dever:
Members of Pastor C.J. Mahaney’s Kentucky church plant “don’t fully grasp” their privilege, the embattled Calvinist leader’s defender and friend Mark Dever told the congregation of Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville June 2.
Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., spoke at the church that meets in a Louisville hotel days after joining Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler and Presbyterian Church of America minister Ligon Duncan in a joint statement expressing confidence in Mahaney, who is named in a lawsuit being described as the largest evangelical sex-abuse scandal to date.
The trio, who with Mahaney lead a biennial preaching conference called Together for the Gospel, originally posted the statement on Facebook, but after more than 100 negative comments appeared in the first 24 hours it was moved to the T4G website.
In his sermon, Dever appeared unfazed by the backlash, perhaps alluding to the controversy when he told the congregation of hearing “gossip” about Mahaney the day before while attending the wedding of Mohler’s daughter.
“There were three Christian leaders standing there,” Dever said. “I overheard them talking about C.J., and I stepped in to listen. And all three of them know him, and all of them were bragging on him and his integrity in a number of ways, one of which is the way he’s begun in leading this church plant.”
“So you all who are here in this church, and particularly if you’re visiting or if you’re sort of new to Sovereign Grace, you have a privilege in having this man as your pastor that you don’t fully grasp, and that’s absolutely fine,” Dever said. “Just thank God for him and enjoy the word of God as he brings it from a life and a heart full of the gospel, and know that I am delighted to be here. It’s a privilege to address you brothers and sisters.”
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Meanwhile, it seems there are more and more people and outside of SGM’s circle of friends who are speaking out about abuse cover-up in churches, yet trying not to point fingers, but we get it. The pressure is mounting, it’s swelling like a tsunami. Folks, this is no minor case. Remember the Penn State outrage across the nation? There was one man involved, Sandusky. In this case, there are multiple perpetrators and we’ve heard of three convictions already. There are countless victims. Alleged crimes occurred across state lines in multiple churches and school. This is no small case.
Mary DeMuth wrote a great article, When the Church Prefers Perpetrators.
The church does far better when it acknowledges its sin, living fearlessly and honestly, than when it prefers to show a pretty, unadulterated face to the world. Unfortunately, we have become so enamored with the ministries we have built, forgetting that God Himself builds His church (and thinking it weighs on our shoulders), that we have lived in depraved fear, preferring the words of perpetrators over the words of those abused. We wrongly believe that we are in the business of reputation management.
Of course, I am not in the midst of this recent scandal, and I am not at all walking in either crowd’s shoes, leaders or victims, but from the outside it feels a lot like covering up for the sake of keeping the ministry machine alive.
It’s interesting that Matt Redmond also quietly referred to Dever’s church in his most excellent article, What Kind of Hard Heart. Here are some excerpts:
“His heart is hard as a stone,
hard as the lower millstone.” – Job 41:24
What kind of hard heart are we witnessing in the SGM abuse scandal?
What kind of hard heart sides easily with a wealthy pastor against those who suffered at the hands of sexual abusers under his watch and then does so in the name of the One Who had no place to lay his head?
What kind of hard heart winks at a pastor who demanded an accountability of pastors and then ran from it to a church outside of his network of churches?
JA note: Where did CJ run? It is important to note that C.J. Mahaney, while taking a leave of absence from his duties as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, left command of his ship and sought care, counsel, and shelter from his friend, Pastor Mark Dever at nearby Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Dever is senior pastor there. It is common knowledge among Sovereign Grace circles that if any other pastor was under such scrutiny, they would have been expected to stay at their home church under guarded watch of elders/pastors. You see, Mahaney made the rules for other pastors, but those same rules do not apply to him. Read Mark Dever – C.J. Mahaney’s BFF.
Additionally, during this season of reflection, when Mahaney’s personal integrity was on the line, Mahaney also preached at Dever’s church. Let me state that again. Pastor Mark Dever allowed C.J. Mahaney to preach at his church while Mahaney’s behavior was under the limelight back at Covenant Life Church, Sovereign Grace Ministry’s flagship. Who does that? Read more here: C.J. Mahaney Preaches At Capitol Hill Baptist Church During “Season Of Reflection,” Refers To Mark Dever As “His Pastor”
I interrupted Matt Redmond’s beautiful words with my editorial comments, but here are some more profound lines to consider (please do read the whole article, What Kind of Hard Heart)
What kind of hard heart refuses to listen and then says those who would cry out for justice and help are divisive and gossips?
What kind of hard heart could read the Second Amended Complaint and not think the leader of such an organization should step out of the limelight?
What kind of heart is so hardened it would publicly insult the blogs that have given a voice to the sexually abused while publicly embracing one who is accused of conspiring to cover up and silence the abused?
What kind of hard heart are we witnessing?
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- Mohler, Dever, and Duncan break their silence and release statement in support of C.J. Mahaney (spiritualsoundingboard.com)
- C.J. Mahaney supporters struggle to find a sympathetic following (peterlumpkins.typepad.com)
- Evangelical leaders stand by pastor accused of abuse cover-up (religionnews.com)
- Mohler, other Calvinist leaders back Mahaney (blogs.courier-journal.com)
- Evangelical leaders stand by pastor accused of abuse cover-up (democraticunderground.com)