For some time, I have known that C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries has been under some scrutiny regarding a civil lawsuit. Apparently, it was against Mahaney and his denomination, and alleged a large cover-up of sexual assault in SGM. I have intentionally avoided getting involved. I’m not in SGM, and I don’t have a particular interest in that denomination. I have no access to the sort of information I would need to render a decision, and I have no interest in trolling through the cesspool trying to find it.
But today I caught the Religious News Service’s story on the three members of Together for the Gospel – Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler – who have come out to speak to the “personal integrity” of “our friend, C. J. Mahaney,” who is also a member of “T4G.” (That statement can be seen here).
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. A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry. We believe this lawsuit failed that test. For this reason, we, along with many others, refused to step away from C. J. in any way. We do not regret that decision. We are profoundly thankful for C.J. as friend, and we are equally thankful for the vast influence for good he has been among so many Gospel-mindedpeople.
(The underlining is my own addition.)
What does the one paragraph have to do with the other? The men of T4G are not in a position to judge Mahaney. They have not given him a trial, they have personally investigated him. How can anything fail the test unless it is examined? What was that test? Did they speak to the alleged victims to see if there was any “credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing?”
What we have here is the cult of the Celebrity Pastor circling the wagons. Are you telling me that these famous, busy men, who pastor their own churches, teach at seminaries, write books, and travel around the world on lecture and conference circuits, have taken the time to conduct a complete investigation? These men are Bible teachers. They know Proverbs 18:17 – “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” They have heard the case from Mahaney. Have they spoken with the victims? Have they investigated any cover-up? Did they even speak to Joshua Harris, who took over for Mahaney at his church, who stated that he himself was the victim of sexual abuse? (About 23:00 in).
They do conferences and books and seminars with Mahaney. Well and good. I’m sure they’re inclined to believe their friend, and this is as it should be. But they are in no position to comment on the validity of the allegations in any way, especially since the lawsuit was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.
Celebrity pastors seem to form their own circles of other celebrities – the Evangelical Elite – and come together for “debates” (a.k.a. the “Elephant Room”) and conferences. It looks like they’re forming their own church courts as well.
Stay salty: Proverbs 17:28 says
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
It would be better for T4G to say nothing regarding guilt or innocence unless they can cite a responsible investigation by church leaders, including advocates for the victims.
I don’t know the first thing about the honesty or innocence of anyone involved, accusers or the accused. But until I see that an honest investigation has taken place, I won’t be advocating for anyone. Sexual abuse in the church is real, it destroys lives, and T4G owes it to the victims of abuse to speak strongly against abuse, and to defend or accuse only when based on an honest investigation.