By Bob Allen
Sovereign Grace Ministries in Louisville, Ky., has released a statement adopted in May by the organization’s leaders commending founder C.J. Mahaney and denouncing a former associate turned vocal critic of the well-known evangelical leader.
A website posting dated Aug. 5 carries a statement by the Sovereign Grace Council of Elders, the highest governing body within the 80 church union, which met for the first time May 23-25 in Orlando, Fla.
The statement alleges that whistleblower Brent Detwiler, a former Sovereign Grace pastor, “has repeatedly and grievously slandered our churches and our leaders.”
“We denounce as sinful and unbiblical his determined effort to accuse our brethren,” the council says of Detwiler, who blogs at BrentDetwiler.com. “Consequently, we urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to avoid giving audience to Brent Detwiler’s unbiblical speech until such a time that he repents of this ungodly pattern. Such harmful speech is ruinous to the church of God.”
Detwiler said he has known about the statement for months and is preparing a response that he will post Friday, Aug. 9.
Detwiler is one of four founders of Sovereign Grace Ministries. He left the church-planting network over differences with Mahaney in 2009. That was before a lawsuit filed in January alleged serial physical and sexual abuse of children covered up by church leaders, including Mahaney.
In February Detwiler wrote 77 evangelical leaders, including three Southern Baptist seminary presidents, requesting that they remove the embattled minister from leadership roles and stop inviting him to speak at religious gatherings until the allegations are proven false.
In May, Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler and Washington, D.C., pastor Mark Dever joined in a public statement vouching for Mahaney’s personal character. Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, added his support in a blog May 23.
In June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution on child sexual abuse amended on the floor to encourage denominational leaders and employees to “utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse.”
Mahaney announced July 2 his decision to withdraw from participation in the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference. Mahaney, along with Mohler, Dever and Presbyterian pastor Ligon Duncan, previously worked together in the biennial preaching conference popular among the New Calvinism or “young, restless and reformed” ministerial crowd.
Mahaney, senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, stepped down as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries in April, reportedly to devote more time to his full-time pastorate. Detwiler claimed Mahaney was asked to resign by a board concerned with damage control.
In their May statement, the council of elders “vigorously reiterate our support of C.J. Mahaney as a qualified minister of the gospel.”
“While we wholeheartedly support our reformation in polity, we also publicly declare our gratefulness for C.J.’s many years of service and commend his ongoing ministry of the gospel,” the elders said.