By Bob Allen
A former associate of an evangelical leader accused in a lawsuit of covering up child sexual abuse says Southern Baptist leaders are enabling sin by continuing to promote the embattled preacher while serious questions about his fitness for ministry remain unanswered.
Brent Detwiler, one of four founders of Sovereign Grace Ministries, said in a statement he was deeply disappointed by popular author and speaker John Piper’s glowing endorsement of Pastor C.J. Mahaney in a sermon Feb. 17 at Mahaney’s church in Louisville, Ky.
Detwiler said that on Feb. 6 he sent Piper, founder of Desiring God Ministries and former longtime pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, a copy of the lawsuit accusing Mahaney and other Sovereign Grace leaders of enabling the sexual and physical abuse of children.
Piper was among 77 evangelical leaders that Detwiler asked in an open letter to stop promoting Mahaney in light of those allegations. Others included Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, who recently had Mahaney on campus, and Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Some of the greatest preachers in America have enabled C.J. in his sin when they should have been confronting his sin and taking action,” Detwiler said in a blog posting Feb. 22. “These men continuously promote one another’s books, conferences, ministries and celebrity status. It looks like a mutual admiration society, and it often leads to a double standard of living.”
Mohler participates with Mahaney in causes including Together for the Gospel, a biennial gathering that the two friends co-sponsor along with Baptist pastor Mark Dever and Presbyterian Ligon Duncan.
“I am concerned that Together for the Gospel is equally about together for Mohler, Mahaney, Dever and Duncan,” Detwiler continued. “Joel Osteen promotes ‘health and wealth.’ Too many Reformed leaders promote one another and thrive off the recognition (and money) they receive in return.”
Along with Piper, Mohler, Mahaney, Dever and Duncan are leaders in a movement popular in some Southern Baptist circles that goes by names including Neo-Calvinism, the Doctrines of Grace and Young, Restless and Reformed.
Last year Sovereign Grace Ministries moved its headquarters to Louisville, Ky., in part to strengthen ties with Southern Seminary. Mahaney has spoken numerous times at Southern, including a conference on marriage and pastoral ministry last August. According to back issues of the seminary magazine, Mahaney has given cumulative gifts to the school totaling more than $100,000.
Sovereign Grace Ministries grew out of a charismatic renewal movement that took place in the 1970s. One of its main founders was a Catholic. Beginning in the 1990s, the movement became more Calvinistic, and some of its top leaders began to part ways. Recently, several churches have left the fold after losing confidence in Mahaney’s leadership.
Detwiler fell from grace after compiling more than 600 pages of documents and annotation about internal problems that he provided to the SGM board. Someone put them on the Internet, raising questions about whether Christians should be whistle blowers and drawing comparisons to WikiLeaks, an online nonprofit that publishes secret and classified information obtained from anonymous sources.
Recently, the former SGM pastor has focused attention on a class-action lawsuit filed in Maryland alleging eight victims and 143 counts that include failure to report allegations of sexual molestation to police, counseling accused pedophiles on how to avoid arrest and forcing child victims to meet with and “forgive” their abusers.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 26 that Sovereign Grace Ministries has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in Montgomery County, Md., claiming that courts cannot get involved in the internal affairs of a church.