By Bob Allen
A Calvinist church-planting network with ties to Southern Baptist leaders faces new allegations of covering up sexual abuse of children in a 46-page amended lawsuit filed May 14 in Maryland.
The new court document includes graphic descriptions of molestation of boys and girls at churches affiliated with Sovereign Grace Ministries and accuses pastors of conspiring to cover up the alleged abuse.
One of the alleged perpetrators, former SGM board chairman John Loftness, denied ever abusing a child or shielding a known pedophile from arrest. The ministry website said an internal review of the allegations “has not produced any evidence of any cover-up or conspiracy.”
Sovereign Grace Ministries is best known in Baptist life for ties between founder C.J. Mahaney and leaders in a movement sometimes called “young, restless and Reformed,” a resurgent interest in Calvinism gaining ground at Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.
Mahaney, who recently resigned as SGM president, planted a church in Louisville, Ky., last year when the ministry headquarters moved there from Gaithersburg, Md., in part to strengthen ties to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Seminary President Albert Mohler has worked with Mahaney on projects including Together for the Gospel, a conference for young pastors, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which has offices on the Southern Seminary campus. Podcasts by Mohler are offered in the Sovereign Grace Ministries Store.
The Sovereign Grace website includes Mahaney’s 2009 interview with Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In January, Akin brought Mahaney to the seminary campus in Wake Forest, N.C., to speak at this year’s 20/20 Collegiate Conference, an annual event for college students from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area known as North Carolina’s Research Triangle.
Mahaney spoke recently at a conference in South Africa called Rezolution that he headlined with Calvinist leaders Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Bob Kauflin and Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington and president of 9Marks Ministries.
Mahaney penned the foreword to the 2009 book Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches, authored by Russell Moore, a Southern Seminary administrator and professor recently named president-elect of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
In February, a former SGM leader turned whistleblower accused Baptist and other evangelical leaders of enabling sin by continuing to promote Mahaney while questions about his fitness for ministry remain unanswered.
The second amended lawsuit adds three new plaintiffs, making a total of 11. Five plaintiffs are now using their real names, and the rest are pseudonyms. It accuses church leaders of conspiracy, negligence, misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It requests a jury trial.
Sovereign Grace Ministries recently sought dismissal of the lawsuit, arguing constitutional claims including the freedom of religion.