A Bad Week for Evangelicals

On Monday a friend informed me of a local pastor who is being charged with financial impropriety.

On Tuesday I read the article about Dineesh D’Souza, who is both married to a woman and engaged to another.

D’Souza’s speech earned him a standing ovation and a long line at the book-signing table immediately afterward. Although D’Souza has been married for 20 years to his wife, Dixie, in South Carolina he was with a young woman, Denise Odie Joseph II, and introduced her to at least three people as his fiancée.

Finally, near 11 p.m., event organizer Tony Beam escorted D’Souza and Joseph to the nearby Comfort Suites. Beam noted that they checked in together and were apparently sharing a room for the night in the sold-out hotel. The next morning, around 6 a.m., Beam arrived back at the hotel and called up to D’Souza’s room. “We’ll be down in 10 minutes,” D’Souza told Beam. D’Souza and Joseph came down together, and Beam took them to the airport.

The next day another conference organizer, Alex McFarland, distressed by D’Souza’s behavior, confronted him in a telephone conversation. D’Souza admitted he shared a room with his fiancée but said “nothing happened.” When I called D’Souza, he confirmed that he was indeed engaged to Joseph, but did not explain how he could be engaged to one woman while still married to another. When asked when he had filed for divorce from his wife, Dixie, D’Souza answered, “Recently.”

According to San Diego County (Calif.) Superior Court records, D’Souza filed for divorce only on Oct. 4, the day I spoke with him. Under California law, that starts the clock on a six-month waiting period for divorce. D’Souza on Oct. 4 told me his marriage was “over,” said he “is sure Denise is the one for me,” and said he had “done nothing wrong.”

On Wednesday I read an article that some Christians are fighting table fellowship with others.

On Mix It Up at Lunch Day, schoolchildren around the country are encouraged to hang out with someone they normally might not speak to.

The program, started 11 years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center and now in more than 2,500 schools, was intended as a way to break up cliques and prevent bullying.

But this year, the American Family Association, a conservative evangelical group, has called the project “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools” and is urging parents to keep their children home from school on Oct. 30, the day most of the schools plan to participate this year.

And now C.J. Mahaney is under fire yet again:

Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), a network of Reformed church plants in 21 countries still dealing with the aftermath of an internal investigation of founder and president C. J. Mahaney’s leadership, now faces allegations that its president and board chairman, among other leaders,covered up child sex abuse by church members.

Three female plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Wednesday “allege a conspiracy spanning more than two decades to conceal sexual abuse committed by church members” throughout the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Associated Press. Mahaney and board president John Loftness, along with six other leaders, are named as defendants for allegedly failing to report incidents of abuse to law enforcement, encouraging parents to not report them, and “mislead[ing] law enforcement into believing the parents had ‘forgiven’ those who preyed on their children.”

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Joel Chan

    Regardless of whether D’Souza is in fact “guilty” (see his response to World Magazine here: http://bit.ly/XCQRvf), the fact that this story fits within a familiar narrative of big-name evangelical leaders or media darlings falling short is sad to me. Society is no longer surprised by such events.

    The table fellowship story is even sadder, in my book – totally counter-productive throwing of unnecessary salt on an open wound, putting up further obstacles to true, loving engagement of the Church on this issue.

    Kyrie eleison.

  • Holly

    D’Souza says the testimony of McFarland is made up. He came out pretty strongly and clearly on his own behalf in this matter. He says that World has a personal vendetta against him; Olasky in particular.

    What I found troubling is that he said that he didn’t even know he’d done anything wrong in the evangelical world by becoming engaged while still legally married. I think that illustrates the exact problem evangelicals have had with him all along….he’s not one. (I’m not attacking him – I, too, question World’s report. Still….not realizing an engagement while not yet divorced could be a potential problem? He obviously does not understand his constituency.)

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    Holly, I have to agree that he does not understand it constituency, but I can’t believe that there would be any less opposition from Catholics to be engaged to another woman while in the process of a divorce from your wife.

  • Eric E

    I have another for you, Scot. I just saw a blog post at the Christianity Today blog about how CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries have a lawsuit against them for covering up child abuse.

  • scotmcknight

    Eric E, o my, let’s pray that’s not true.

  • Mark Farmer

    James MacDonald is no mere Chicagoland pastor. He has a church here in Columbus, and he has a major radio ministry.

  • Robin

    I like the idea behind the “mix it up” but I am completely skeptical of anything promoted by the SPLC. If my school was doing this independently, I would be completely supportive, but knowing that SPLC, with all of their baggage, was behind it would lead me to double check all of the materials being used.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    This is why I have come to believe that an embrace of theosis as salvation rather than right beliefs leading to salvation is essential. With out an intense focus on allowing God to redeem and restore us to alignment with himself, we will continue to fail – often in spectacular ways. We just don’t have what it takes to live as we are called to live otherwise – no matter how hard we try or how correct our beliefs.

  • http://google.org Andy

    Eric and Scott, CJ is not involved in this at all. If you read the proceedings, he’s listed as a defendant but isn’t accused in the papers for anything. The plaintiffs wanted to file the charges against Sov Grace but the only way they could do that is if it was class action. So that’s how CJ’s name got tossed into this.

  • http://google.org Andy

    Eric and Scott, there was no cover up at any point. One of these men served four years in jail. I’d hardly call that a cover-up. Terrible reporting on CT’s part…and SP Bailey’s linking to the HuffPo.

  • http://wordshalfheard.blogspot.com Carol Kuniholm

    For me the saddest thing in the evangelical world this week was news that the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, in a move to help the Romney campaign in any way possible, decided to remove references to Mormonism as a cult from their website. While reconsideration of the term “cult” might make sense, the timing of this is purely political, and suggests to anyone watching that political expediency trumps theological concern.

  • Holly

    Good point, Adam, of course. Thanks for that.

  • Tim OK

    For me, the fact that D’Souza rose in the evangelical world is more dangerous than marital improprieties he might be involved with.

    That “Roots of Obama’s Rage/ Obama 2016″ stuff is real vitriolic, hateful stuff. It’s based on innuendo and pulling very loose threads together for a cohesive portrait of Obama that a lot of (mostly conservative) evangelicals WANT to believe is true. The result is “logical/ reasonable” reasons to think derisively about him.

    To me, this is the worst stuff of Christianity. The stuff that has provided our worst moments in history. The stuff that makes me not want to associate with it, frankly.

    When people like D’Souza rise in our world, I think it does everything to harm what we are trying to do in witnessing to Christ.

  • Christine

    @Robin, why? Many of my colleagues and I use Teaching Tolerance materials. They are often high quality. Social justice is something that I think Jesus supports. Mix It Up is a wonderful way to encourage students to eat and talk with other kids at lunch for a day. Homosexual agenda involved in that? Oh please, AFA. Please.

  • http://donthaveone Denis Carroll

    The theme of the article “bad week for evangelicals” certainly sets one up to hear all bad stories, however why should we be in any way surprised?. Sometimes people expect that
    evangelicals, are away and above all that simply because they are evangelicals. To some extent evangelicals are partly to blame for this themselves because they walk a dangerous tight rope when they seek to appropriate the word righteousness to themselves and generally speaking regard most other forms of christianity as falling short of their revelation.
    Implicit in this position is the failure to grasp fully St. Paul’s statement “All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God”. The implications of the word ALL are obvious. Some of the implications of the word all is this; every single individual has built in what has to be recognised as a “dark side”. This dark side has the potential to wreck our own lives as well as those of close friends and family members all about us. Didnt Jesus warn Peter “the devil desires to sift you like wheat……”but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not…”. If Jesus felt the necessity to pray for Peter how much more do we each need the constant prayers of each other and indeed how much more do we need to pray for the leadership of all the Churches…..lest we forget did not Christ remind us again in Scripture ….”I shall strike the shepard and the sheep will be scattered”. Lets therefore stand above individual cases of leadership failure here and look at the cunning strategy of Satan who has wormed his way into a position where he has been slowly undermining the leadership in several Christian Churches and the results are profound for the Body of Christ as a whole.
    I believe the situation is so serious as to warrant the setting up of an interdenominational prayer group whose function alone would be to pray for the needs of all church leadership.

  • AHH

    Carol @11,
    And this morning, in the front section of the largest newspaper in the “swing state” where I live, is a full-page ad in which Billy Graham is basically portrayed as endorsing Mitt Romney (it manages to avoid using the words “endorse” or “Romney”).
    Sad how a decades-long legacy of placing the gospel above partisan politics is being tarnished.

  • Steve

    AHH wrote:

    “Sad how a decades-long legacy of placing the gospel above partisan politics is being tarnished.”

    Billy Graham has connected himself with politics going all the way back to the 1950s.

  • Rick

    Carl Trueman brings up an interesting point in the D’Souza situation:

    “I confess that I find equally disturbing the idea that there are Christian groups out there willing to pay Christian leaders fees of $10,000 and upwards for giving a single lecture. When my youngest son read the reports online, his initial reaction was not to the marriage issue but to the cash: “That’s what really gets Christianity in this country a bad name.” was his comment.”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2012/10/a-cloud-the-size-of-mans-hand.php

    HT: Denny Burk

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I asked my kids about the Mix it Up and they do it, though they claim mixed results. But, the knew of the gay tie and informed me that the best way to meet homosexual kids is to go to the diversity club, the least diverse club in the school since it is almost exclusively gay and bi.

  • GRD

    The allegations about Sovereign Grace have been out there for years, but those making them were told to shut up and stop “gossiping.” Guess that’s not going to work anymore . . .

  • MatthewS

    “Oh please, AFA. Please.”

    Sorry for the ignorant meta-question, but what does AFA mean?

  • Susan

    I am sure that many of your readers have already ascertained that the lawsuit filed against those specific leaders of SGM is serious and each defendant in the case, including C.J….may well serve jail time with these criminal charges. The excerpt below appears in this weeks post from the Wartburg Watch. Not a blog to discount anymore, SGM!

    A radio interview with Attorney Susan Burke

    Yesterday, the assertive and compassionate attorney for the victims, Susan Burke, was interviewed on the Janet Mefferd Show. You can listen to it here. The host, Janet Mefferd, stated that child sex abuse is rampant in today’s church. Burke made the following allegations about those named in the lawsuit. Warning: the second to the last comment may be difficult to read.

    The pastors did not handle the trauma of the victims.
    They protected the perpetrator
    They kept the incidents quiet and did not alert others in the church.
    They used intimidation to enforce the silence.
    It appears they were more concerned about the reputation and the finances of the church.
    They portrayed the civil authorities as untrustworthy.
    They portrayed the pastors as being trustworthy to handle the situation.
    They emphasized homeschooling and created fear and distrust of secular authorities.
    The pastors had little training for their position, either in seminary or otherwise.
    The parents were led to believe that they were the only ones that that had this happen due to the culture of silence.
    The various blogs helped people to find one another and realize that they were not the only ones who experienced these events these events.
    These incidents fall well within the statute of limitations.
    More people are coming forward so the class action suit is the most logical way to help those coming forward.
    She emphasized the story of a 3 year old child who was made to meet with and forgive her abuser. The poor child was so afraid she hid under a chair. (Dee is throwing things and screaming in horror at this point).
    The son of a high level church official was involved in some form of predation.


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