CJM, TG4G, TGC and Boz Tchividjian

Kris and I are with Boz Tchividjian, a former prosecutor and one deeply committed to fighting injustices against children, on this one. There is blatant failure here to recognize the complicity of a leader in what transpired under his watch. God have mercy.

From Boz Tchividjian:

Earlier this week, I read the second amended complaint filed by eleven plaintiffs against SGM, two churches, and a number of individuals, including a man named CJ Mahaney.  I won’t go into the factual details of this complaint here (if interested, you can read it here), but it is one of the most disturbing accounts of child sexual abuse and institutional “cover up” I have read in my almost 20 years of addressing this issue.  Besides the horrific accounts of child victimization (some of which allegedly occurred on church property), what struck me most about these allegations is the systematic efforts by these churches to discourage and sometimes prevent the families of children who had been victimized by church officials from speaking out and reporting to law enforcement.  Another aspect that struck me as I read (and re-read) through this complaint were the myriad of common threads related to the efforts made by these SGM churches to silence these survivors.  As a former prosecutor, much credibility is given to disclosures made by more than one person that have distinct and unique similarities…these did….

I think it is fair to mention at this point that besides being one of the founders of SGM, CJ Mahaney was the senior pastor at one of these two churches during the period of this horrific abuse.  CJ Mahaney is a founding member of an organization called “Together for the Gospel” (T4G) and close friends with the other founding members who are evangelical leaders. …

On May 23rd, a joint statement by the founders of Together for the Gospel was released. Some leaders of the Gospel Coalition released a similar statement this morning.  Without addressing both statements in detail, let me make four quick observations:

  1. Neither statement that makes mention that the heart of this lawsuit is about a systematic church effort to discourage and eventually prevent the families of children who were allegedly (and repeatedly) sexually victimized by church officials from speaking out and reporting to law enforcement. A statement that fails to mention that this lawsuit is less about the abuse and more about an institution that took steps to protect itself and its reputation over the victimized souls and bodies of little ones. Omitting such fundamental facts from these statements speaks volumes about the inability of the authors to grasp the eternal significance about which they write.
  2. Neither statement mentions that CJ Mahaney was actually the Senior Pastor at one of these churches where all of this horrific abuse allegedly occurred AND where these families were discouraged from bringing this matter to the God ordained civil authorities? Including this would simply state a known fact without implicating Mr. Mahaney in any wrongdoing.  Omitting such a fundamentally important fact from this statement is extremely disturbing to me and very disheartening to so many others.
  3. The statement by T4G fails to mention that this lawsuit was dismissed for one reason and one reason only…expiration of the statute of limitation. Isn’t it tragic that the reason why this suit was dismissed – taking too long to file – was the very objective of these church leaders allegedly had when they discouraged these individuals and families from stepping forward.
  4. The statement by the members of the Gospel Coalition says the following as it relates to the statute of limitations and the dismissal of the case:
    So the entire legal strategy was dependent on a conspiracy theory that was more hearsay than anything like reasonable demonstration of culpability. As to the specific matter of C. J. participating in some massive cover-up, the legal evidence was so paltry (more like non-existent) that the judge did not think a trial was even warranted.Does this sound like a statement that even appears to make an effort to be objective?

Many of these men have not hesitated to write (or tweet) on the Penn State horrors, homosexuals in the Boy Scouts, and universal healthcare, but have been conspicuously quiet on this issue. And when they finally speak, what is omitted speaks more than what is said.

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.

  • MatthewS

    I wish there were a way to communicate to DeYoung and the others how horrible this is for their “brand” to communicate disregard for the victims. Perhaps I’m seeing it wrongly, but as I see it, there is something horribly wrong in their silence.

    Two verses from Jeremiah:

    but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
    that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
    declares the Lord.

    Did not your father have food and drink?
    He did what was right and just,
    so all went well with him.
    He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
    and so all went well.
    Is that not what it means to know me?”
    declares the Lord.

  • Barb

    Don’t read any of the details if you don’t want to be disgusted. This whole thing is so wrong there just aren’t enough words to describe it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.kinnon Bill Kinnon

    Thanks for this, Scot and Boz.

  • Isabelle

    Yes – God have mercy.
    When are the leaders of these churches and organizations finally going to say something about this?
    Millstones around necks come to mind.

  • Liberty Beach

    Bravo! God/mammon. Decisions, decisions….

    Those pesky abuse victims are really bad for business.

  • http://davidbrush.com mrdcbrush

    What do we expect from those whose entire system of worth and ego is built upon mutual back-scratching and high-fiving? It is spinelessness, pure spinelessness, and gross pandering.

  • http://www.SpiritualAuthority.wordpress.com/ monax

    Amen to Tchividjian’s observations!

  • SteveSherwood

    The TGC post this morning was even more disappointing than their prolonged silence. Just because the case was dismissed on a statute of limitations technicality, the dismissal should not be read, as it is by them, as vindication for SGM. They have joined the Catholic Church and Penn State leaders who closed ranks with their friends and peers rather than stand with the wounded. I believe this statement will come back to haunt them as truth continues to come out (and, win out).

  • http://willandgraced.tumblr.com/ William Watson Birch

    I’ve been following this as well through several “SGM-survivor”-type blogs (including The Wartburg Watch) and have been equally disturbed, especially with The Gospel Coalition’s recent post. For me, their credibility is entirely shot.

    This mess is especially troubling to me, since I contributed to someone’s being offended last year. The victims are to be cared for and defended, not the offenders, or those included in any sort of cover-up.

  • http://willandgraced.tumblr.com/ William Watson Birch

    Very well stated!

  • Bill Crawford

    How is the church, as an entity ruled by Jesus and his Word, to respond to these sins/crimes/allegations in a way different than, say Penn State, which is not ruled by that Word?

  • Desley Noneofyerbiz

    I found point 4 the most disturbing and I wish that Boz would have expounded on that a bit further because it is key here.

    TGC stated:

    “So the entire legal strategy was dependent on a conspiracy theory that was
    more hearsay than anything like reasonable demonstration of
    culpability. As to the specific matter of C. J. participating in some
    massive cover-up, the legal evidence was so paltry (more like
    non-existent) that the judge did not think a trial was even warranted.”

    But this is so far from the truth it’s hard to believe that they are making
    an honest mistake here. It seems rather to me that this is a deliberate
    misrepresentation of the facts — and one, I might add, that casts doubt
    on the victims who have had the courage to come forward. This is so
    wrong. And then they claim to care so much about the victims in this
    case.

    BOLOGNE.

    A commenter at Spiritual Sounding Board corrected this lie and I really
    think that people need to make this point crystal clear:

    “..Based on the information I have seen, the judge merely found that the statute
    of limitations bars most claims, and the existence of a conspiracy or
    coverup, even if proved at trial, would not be sufficient, as a matter
    of LAW, to toll or delay the running of the statute of limitations—as
    can be the case in some circumstances in the state where I practice
    law.”

    He continues:

    “Inasmuch as they admit they have not seen the dismissal order, it
    appears that Carson, DeYoung and Taylor are not being entirely candid
    when they attempt to assert, as established fact, that the dismissal was
    somehow based on insufficient evidence, as opposed to the
    technicalities of the statute of limitations.”

    I do not think this was by accident.

    As far as I’m concerned, the group of men that wrote the statement in
    support of Mahaney have exposed themselves as the liars they are.

    Oh, and I might add too that their little shot at the victims – making them look like they are out for money — and all the alleged legal gymnastics they are doing to get that money — was nothing short of character assassination.

    Low blow.

  • http://twitter.com/Rachel_M_Stone Rachel Marie Stone

    Wow. The reaction from Mahaney’s buddies is really, really troubling. Glad Boz (and you) are speaking up. Thanks.

    In reporting an article on clergy abuse I wrote for PRISM late last year, I discovered that what harms victims almost as much as the abuse itself is the complicity or, at least, indifference of the wider church community: http://prismmagazine.org/saving-bathsheba/

  • Nate Yoder

    Thanks Scot for speaking out on this issue. It’s a shame that more prominent evangelical voices are not joining you and Boz. I find it sadly ironic that two organizations who exist to supposedly advance the gospel are now issuing statements which likely will hurt the spread of the gospel among victims and non-Christians. May God bring comfort and healing to the victims.

  • pastordt

    I feel sick. And overwhelmingly sad.

  • Jack

    You contributed? That’s quite an understatement…

  • https://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/ Barbara Roberts

    Good on you and Boz for standing with and for the victims of SGM.

    Jesus said: “Woe to you, Pharisees . . . for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”

    In my opinion, the men from SGM who covered up the crimes of pedophiles and the men from TGC who are allying yourselves with them, are Pharisees.

  • Jeremy Nakasone

    This is greatly disturbing not just in what was said by both organizations, but by their obvious effort to defend their camp. Both statements come off as “we’re the Church so we’re above the law” which is not good on their part.

    I’m thinking that both TGC and T4G may be beginning to dig their own graves.

  • The JennCast

    Thank you for recognizing the problems.

  • The JennCast

    The case was dismissed because of the Statute of Limitations and jurisdictional issues, not due to lack of evidence. The charges are undergoing criminal investigations as well.

    At the heart of the lawsuit was the accusation that SGM leaders, led by Mahaney, intentionally conspire to concealed the abuse at the peril of others.

    What is not questioned is whether there is a tie to the blackmail Mahaney was found guilt of in fall of 200 by a panel of SGM pastors and the alleged abuse cover-up.

    These guys actually know very little about Mahaney. The degree that they stick their necks out for him more reveals that they have something to lose through his woes than it does anything else.

  • The JennCast

    They are a self-appointed papacy and their statements equate to a decree from Rome.

  • Benjamin

    I don’t understand the disgust aimed at TGC. This is what I read from their post:

    “Please do not hear us saying that we assume all of the plaintiffs are lying. We do not assume all the defendants are innocent, or that they are all guilty. We are not privy to the sort of information necessary to make that determination. Where the allegations are accurate, we have nothing but the deepest sympathy for the victims, desiring that legal justice might prevail and that they might know the Lord’s healing and vindication. And where allegations may be false or misconstrued, we sympathize with those whose reputations have been unfairly tarnished with no public recourse. This is a tangled mess.”

    Are they lying when they wrote that “”the sole allegation against him [C.J. Mahaney] in the Complaint is that he founded Sovereign Grace Ministries (“SGM”) and is currently its President. . . . He is not specifically identified or alleged to have performed any other act or omission throughout the 143-paragraph Complaint..”?

    Their post clearly condemns the sin, but withholds judgement until evidence is found. Am I missing something? Thanks…

  • Benjamin

    I don’t understand the disgust aimed at TGC. This is what I read from their post:

    “Please do not hear us saying that we assume all of the plaintiffs are lying. We do not assume all the defendants are innocent, or that they are all guilty. We are not privy to the sort of information necessary to make that determination. Where the allegations are accurate, we have nothing but the deepest sympathy for the victims, desiring that legal justice might prevail and that they might know the Lord’s healing and vindication. And where allegations may be false or misconstrued, we sympathize with those whose reputations have been unfairly tarnished with no public recourse. This is a tangled mess.”

    Are they lying when they wrote that “”the sole allegation against him [C.J. Mahaney] in the Complaint is that he founded Sovereign Grace Ministries (“SGM”) and is currently its President. . . . He is not specifically identified or alleged to have performed any other act or omission throughout the 143-paragraph Complaint..”?

    Their post clearly condemns the sin, but withholds judgement until evidence is found. Am I missing something? Thanks…

  • David Rogers

    The TGC statement that you cited in your second paragraph came from the defense attorneys in a motion to dismiss, thus it was biased toward the defendants, and the TGC guys chose to quote it in their statement. It seems that Carson, DeYoung, and Taylor naively or purposefully chose not to read the Second Amended Action Complaint and Jury Demand in which Mahaney’s name appears in three places and thus negating the idea that there was only a “sole allegation” against Mahaney:

    109. Defendants Ecelbarger, Mullery and V. Hinders, conspiring
    together with Mahaney and Loftness, violated the mandatory reporting
    obligations and conspired together to cover up [name withheld pending
    court ruling on defense motion]‘s molestation of children. (p. 25)

    138. Discovery will show that Defendants Mullery, David Hinder and
    Vince Hinders (sic) spoke with Maryland-based Defendants Mahaney and
    Loftness, and together conspired to prevent any reporting to the secular
    authorities. (p. 31)

    157. Rather than report the ongoing abuse to secular authorities or
    take any steps to stop the abuse, Defendants informed the father that
    his children had reported the abuse. This led to further abuse by the
    father. In exchange for the conspiracy of silence, the abusive father
    paid to send Defendants Mahaney, Ricucci and Layman and their families
    on vacation to the Kiawah Islands, South Carolina. (p. 35)

  • snap network

    Thanks for weighing in on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressors.

    David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143

    314 566 9790 (SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

  • Benjamin

    Thanks David


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