We Need an Independent Investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries

Allegations of child sexual abuse and staff cover-up continue to swirl. Let’s set an example for all churches to follow, bringing healing to victims and churches alike.

Given the prominence of Sovereign Grace, especially in Reformed evangelical circles, this puts the gospel we preach under a cloud. If, in fact, they are as guiltless as they have proclaimed, and if, in fact, the incidences are as few as they suggest, it would be great news for the evangelical community and the cause of the gospel. At the same time, if the many charges prove to be true to a larger extent than they currently acknowledge, it would be sad and troubling—but not without hope if it leads to truth-telling and repentance. The truth of sin that leads to repentance is one of the most glorious moments in our life in Christ.

 

For nearly six years now, an open wound has been festering in the evangelical community. It’s time for healing to begin.

But that healing cannot begin until we all know the exact nature and extent of the wound; until all the facts are out in the open; until the truth that liberates can be known; and most importantly, if and when it is pertinent, there is repentance.

To put it simply: Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC; formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries) and its individual churches and leaders, present and former, who have been accused of failing to adequately respond to past incidents of child and sexual abuse should submit to a thorough, truly independent investigation.

For six years now—and more intensely in the last few weeks—charges and counter-charges (see links below), accusations and defenses have been conducted in public forums and in the courts, without a satisfactory conclusion. This has left many, many observers bewildered, angry, and deeply suspicious of SGC and these accused churches. What’s worse, these unseemly events reverberate outward, mixing with the #ChurchToo discussion and lingering anger over the Roman Catholic Church abuse scandal. Many now wonder if there has been a habit of covering up and denying child and sexual abuse in evangelical churches in general—if there is something in the evangelical DNA that makes us hesitant to deal with accusations quickly, openly, and truthfully when there is the suspicion of grave sin in our midst.

We call for a fresh and thorough independent investigation not because we believe those accused are guilty of every one of its critics’ charges. We are as bewildered as anyone and simply don’t have enough information to make a confident judgment on the matter. We see, however, that SGC, churches current and former—and pastor C. J. Mahaney (founder and former president) in particular—are under a cloud of suspicion. A former ministry partner of Mahaney turned critic, Brent Detwiler, has been chronicling the controversyfor many years and claims that 100 pastors, 300 small group leaders, 40 churches (including his own), and 12,000 members have left SGC churches largely over what they claim has been abusive and deceitful leadership.

Given the prominence of Sovereign Grace, especially in Reformed evangelical circles, this puts the gospel we preach under a cloud. If, in fact, they are as guiltless as they have proclaimed, and if, in fact, the incidences are as few as they suggest, it would be great news for the evangelical community and the cause of the gospel.

At the same time, if the many charges prove to be true to a larger extent than they currently acknowledge, it would be sad and troubling—but not without hope if it leads to truth-telling and repentance. The truth of sin that leads to repentance is one of the most glorious moments in our life in Christ.

To clarify the context: The focus on SGC and these accused churches and leaders is not because the charges and counter-charges are especially grievous, but only because the controversy is so public. Unfortunately, other evangelical churches are the objects of similar charges from time to time. And precisely for that reason, SGC has an opportunity to set an example for all evangelical churches that are facing—or, sad to say, will one day have to face—similar controversy.

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