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July 19, 2011


On the CJ Mahaney Mess

If you happen to be following the CJ Mahaney drama, then the following is, in my opinion, the best summary of the whole mess I’ve yet read (although I disagree with the guy’s ecclesiology).

If you are not following from home, let me bring you up to speed. CJ, the former pastor of the Sovereign Grace flagship church in Gaithersburg, MD, was the head of the Sovereign Grace network. I say “was” because two weeks ago he stepped down in light of accusations against him. These accusations were made by former pastors who were on his staff. The essence of the accusations? CJ is proud and manipulative.The main accuser, Brent Detwiler, put out over 600 pages of emails interspersed with his own commentary to make those points. I have read much of those 600 pages, and let me save you some time by telling you this: 1. Don’t waste your time. These things have been downloaded 55,000 times, and I feel sorry for anyone who has read more than 10 pages of them; 2. There is no smoking gun. Strip away all of the commentary and whining, and you are left with a picture of a pastor who is running an organization, and some associates who feel slighted.

Honestly, reading this made me ask: “Don’t these people have real sin to confront?” Some of the pastors think CJ is acting too proud, and they rate him on his pride, and they schedule meetings to talk about his pride, and CJ repents of 9 of 11 species of pride that they have identified, and they go back to the drawing board to identify examples of the other two species of pride, they email each other to ask if others have seen that pride, and then CJ thinks those fit under the first species of pride, and they chart the pride, and so on. Blah. Wouldn’t it be nice if occasionally love covered a multitude of sins?

I will give you one example, just because it illustrates the pointlessness of this whole ordeal. CJ and his wife were scheduled to speak in Phoenix around the same time. CJ emailed the executive pastor asking if he could bring his son with him, because he wanted to spend more time with him. After a few emails among the finance committee, they decided that they would rather CJ pay for it out of pocket, unless he felt like his finances were too tight, then they would give him a taxable bonus to cover the flight. CJ decided to pay for it himself, saying that the reason he wanted to bring his son is because both he and his wife were going to be there simultaneously. At this point, I felt like this was actually an exchange I had with my accounting department last week.

But then Brent (a former member of CJ’s “apostolic team” and the one who posted the emails), points out that CJ is manipulating the situation. CJ originally said he wanted his son to go with him to spend more time with him, and then changed his story and said it was really because both he and his wife would be there! AH HA!

This synoptic problem is typical of the whole lot. Maybe I am jaded. I used to attend a megachurch where the pastor got busted absconding with hundreds of thousands of dollars and the radio equipment…and he is still the pastor. CJ, meanwhile, asked permission to spend $300 on his son’s airfare—and they told him no!—but the crime is in the way he asked? Did he have too much pride in his voice?...more

If you’re not following the CJ Mahaney drama, then nevermind


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10 comments

With the same caveats that you have attached, I agree, it’s an excellent commentary.

[1] Posted by Fr. David McElrea (formerly farstrider+) on 7-19-2011 at 10:49 PM · [top]

Jesse Johnson makes some good points about the theological problems with Sovereign Grace Ministries structure (making discipline difficult) and with calling their pastors Apostles. 

Reading about this situation takes me back over 40 years ago to the Shepherding Discipleship era when C J Mahaney and Larry Thomczak were young unmarried ministers working together, teaching at Tennessee Georgia Christian Camps along with other charismatic shepherding pastors like Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Don Basham, Ern Baxter and others. 

The small non-denom charismatic churches in our town had ‘shepherds’ and went through the same constant agonizing intraspection, nit-picking, sniffing the air for any hints of sin and demonic activity - exactly what SGM seems to be going through now.  Hurt feelings were ministered to a lot.

The incident with CJ Mahaney asking if his son could go along on a trip at church expense shows more about the people making the accusation than it does about CJ Mahaney.  This is the kind of accusatory griping whining stuff pastors put up with on a daily basis. 

Churches (and homes) can be cruel, unstable, unhealthy - even dangerous places when Jesus is not really Lord and our first love, when we don’t walk in the Holy Spirit and His glory isn’t our first goal and His Word is not practiced with love and humility.  Following men rather than God is another real temptation in church life.  Preaching and teaching the Word is a whole lot easier than living it.

This topic relates to “The Tyranny of Past Hurts” thread.

[2] Posted by St. Nikao on 7-19-2011 at 10:49 PM · [top]

There is a great book on church leadership and governance, Miracle In Darien, by Bob Slosser. 

It’s the story of Fr. Terry Fullam, an Episcopal priest (who was also a gifted orthodox Bible teacher and preacher) and the vestry at St. Paul’s, Darien, Connecticut in the 1970s, that agreed to let Jesus be head of His church and direct all their decisions.  The book was written in the 70s and reprinted in the late 90s and will still be available at used book resources like http://www.abebooks.com.  Here’s a LINK to several reviews.

Taking ownership/proprietorship of the church or a church role is a temptation when it is Jesus Who is Head and Builder of the Church and Scripture shows us how He wants it to be run…by listening and obeying and loving Him…together.  Only Jesus can create unity and peace.  He is our peace.

[3] Posted by St. Nikao on 7-20-2011 at 06:34 AM · [top]

RE: “The essence of the accusations? CJ is proud and manipulative.”

No, the essence of the accusations is that a number of leaders have attempted for years to hold CJ to account for precisely the same things that he has held others to account—and he has refused to be held to that same account.

He simply will not live by the same theological practices that he has wrongly afflicted on many many others.

I thoroughly agree that Sovereign Grace is behaving in a dreadful horribly scrupulous fashion—towards everyone, including the hundreds of laypeople and tens of leaders that they have driven away with their ridiculous and heretical “shepherding” theology where the leaders get to be deemed “apostles.”

But SGM actually [and rather randomly and suddenly with almost no explanation] gave up the charismatic theology about which this author clearly has a bone to pick—the predominant theology of SGM is Reformed, not charismatic, with the added layer of being riddled with horrible heresies in ecclesiology, sanctification, and more.

RE: “The main accuser, Brent Detwiler, put out over 600 pages of emails interspersed with his own commentary to make those points.”

The main accuser has merely placed into writing the past some dozen years of the attempt by the leaders to “live out” [heh] the theology with which CJ has meticulously and publicly lacerated and flogged the laity and leaders of Sovereign Grace.

RE: “Strip away all of the commentary and whining, and you are left with a picture of a pastor who is running an organization, and some associates who feel slighted.”

No—strip away all the commentary and you’re left with a dozen years of people attempting to live out their own false theology with a “pastor” who has also led by that theology, ruined lives, and now does not wish to live by that theology for himself.

*With* the commentary—which incidentally was *not* posted by Detwiler [he’s merely the one who assembled the written product of the past dozen years of trying to confront CJ using CJ’s own heretical theology]—we have a detailed history of just how much CJ has refused to live by CJ’s heretical theology, when it applies to him that is, and we also have sordid details of the extent to which CJ applies the CJ Theology to others, including a horrible attempt by CJ to blackmail a father with the supposedly entirely confidential “confession” of that father’s son.

I only disagree with one thing that Detwiler has attempted to do.

He has attempted to hold to account and force repentance of the evil and hypocrisy of CJ Mahaney through his own writings.

Instead—after a dozen years of attempted challenge [by a number of leaders], after the blackmail attempt, after the wrongful discharge, and on and on—he needed to craft his piece complete with the unarguable emails, distribute it to all the pastors, as he did, and then walk away.

The only responsibility he had was to publicly expose [at least to the SGM pastors] the rank hypocrisy and foulness and then move on, having done his duty.

He is still trying to control people—as he was taught so well to do—to control others within SGM.  He doesn’t need to do that. 

He himself needs to repent of the heretical shepherding doctrine, coupled with the legalistic scrupulosity and attempts to control and manage other people’s lives under the guise of “caring and apostolic authority” and he needs to walk away from them, now that he has so thoroughly documented CJ’s unwillingness to live within his own false theology to the SGM pastors.

Hopefully many people will walk away from SGM, freer, and many will read about the CJ Theology and thoroughly reject it.  I hope that Detwiler gets the help he needs to repent of the CJ Theology, and recover from the cruelty of heresy, which cruelty Bishop Allison so thoroughly reveals in his book.

[4] Posted by Sarah on 7-20-2011 at 08:39 AM · [top]

I can agree with you that any theology which leads Christians to sit there, as this group of leaders apparently did, and tirelessly navel gaze and nit pick and focus on the inner workings and motives behind every word spoken is a horrible waste of time and energy that produces really bad fruit.

[5] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 7-20-2011 at 08:52 AM · [top]

I seriously cannot imagine the real Apostles sitting around introspecting and diagnosing each other like these guys did.

[6] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 7-20-2011 at 08:56 AM · [top]

Wow, I read the transcript of CJ Mahaney’s dealings with Larry Tomczac…unbelievable.

It is good that the two have reconciled…but I don’t know that, in light of this obvious case of blackmail, CJ Mahaney should ever hold the office of pastor again.

Unbelievable:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/59533268/23/C-J-‘s-Blackmailing-of-Larry-Tomczak

[7] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 7-20-2011 at 10:12 AM · [top]

There is a distinct lack of trust here.  I pray the Holy Spirit will cover all involved; they are after all supposed to be on the same team with a common goal of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  Everything else is really a “nit”, right?

[8] Posted by B. Hunter on 7-20-2011 at 10:40 AM · [top]

Please pray for churches and Body of Christ in the Maryland, DC and Virginia areas. I think this is a season of spiritual attack in the area, as I know of a number of churches and Christian schools across denominations (the SGM churches and my own included) that are undergoing difficult situations right now, not to mention the VA Anglican church battles. Some are high-profile and sadly in the news like this, others are not.

FWIW & speaking from very limited knowledge from the outside looking in, I’ve known people over the years who’ve gone to one of the SGM churches in MD, and have close friends I respect just joining that church. 

I know at least 4 women who were seriously wounded and perhaps even spiritually abused during the shepherding/headship phase and had to leave, and others (mostly families) who’ve found a supportive home and thrive there. Recently, I think the church has been maturing and reforming under new leadership and currently is a strong light in the DC/MD community, especially supporting Christian education and many home schooling families. It is strange how a church can be such a mix of health in some areas and yet dysfunctional in others - I guess just like individual people.

While my heart breaks for those in the church right now and those who’ve been wounded over the years, my sense is that some things needed to come into the light.  In one sense, I’m sorry I even know about this at all. I pray for healing and restoration and that all glory and honor will go to God in the situation. 

-Cathy_Lou

[9] Posted by Cathy_Lou on 7-22-2011 at 11:30 AM · [top]

Thank you, Sarah, for your thoughtful and thorough observations above.

I have been following all the “threads” on this for the last three days - - reading the multitude of pages - - and feeling the hurt and pain all over again over things that took place in the “run-up” months prior to the official founding of “People of Destiny” (predecessor to SGM and whatever name(s) they operate under).

The biggest problem has been that there truly is no “upward accountability” (“Wise Bishops” if you will).  At one time they (Larry, CJ and many others in the “Core Group”) were under authority that encouraged and placed them, but then jettisoned that same authority to do “Accountability by Committee”.

How incredibly sad that it appears nothing has changed over the years. :(

[10] Posted by Opie56 on 7-22-2011 at 06:59 PM · [top]

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