Manhood Fail (by Carolyn Custis James)

Carolyn Custis James (Go to the link to read the full article.)

There is no togetherness for the gospel when the victim stands alone.”
—James Kessler

The recent 2016 Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference in Louisville, Kentucky put on public display one of the biggest complementarian manhood failures in recent history. Not only did the leaders of this all-male organization refuse to stand by their masculinity manifesto—that “real men” are the protectors of women and children—these men circled the wagons and protected a man.

Despite many protests and appeals, T4G leaders spotlighted CJ Mahaney as a plenary speaker before an audience of 10,000. Mahaney, one of T4G’s founding members, has been living under a cloud ever since he was implicated in lawsuits alleging systemic leadership cover-ups of sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). The lawsuit never made it to court—not because the charges from eleven plaintiffs were dropped or proven invalid, but because the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of children in the state of Maryland ran out.

The scandal implicating Mahaney for knowing and neglecting to act on behalf of sexually abused children within his ministry (there have been convictions and prison sentences) remains an active issue in the judicial system. Mahaney (founder and former president of SGM) denies any knowledge of abuses or participation in cover-ups, although he’s still named in pending court cases. His denials—even if true—don’t change the fact that the abuses and the cover-ups took place under his watch. Besides, denials fall woefully short of the urgent, uncompromising response such a profoundly serious matter demands.

If it wasn’t bad enough for a pastor—still embroiled in an unresolved sexual abuse and cover-up scandal—to be a featured plenary speaker at T4G 2016, the cavalier way Al Mohler, Mahaney’s close friend and one of his prominent male defenders, chose to introduce him went beyond the pale.

Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, offered a glowing tribute of his friend. He followed that endorsement by insensitively brushing up dismissively against the sexual abuse/cover-up scandal. He even evoked laughter from a predominantly male audience of 10,000 by saying “I told CJ that in getting ready to introduce him I decided I would Google to see if there was anything on the Internet about him.” He then yielded the podium to Mahaney who preached on the sufferings of Job.

One might think the topic of Job’s innocent suffering provided Mahaney with a perfect opportunity to address the innocent suffering of abuse victims both inside and outside the church and to reach out with remorse and compassion.

Instead, he focused on the suffering of pastors.

… Needless to say, the Internet exploded with outranged protests over Mohler’s hurtful words and Mahaney’s prominence—none more fiercely than what came from one of their own—PCA pastor, James Kessler:

“Look no one really wants to hear this, certainly not the 10,000 dutifully nodding through CJ Mahaney’s sermon . . . not the men standing on the stage with CJ, who have chosen an unconscionable loyalty to a friend and encouraged him to take the horns of the pulpit to preach and to rip apart the wounds of so many abused under his watch. . . . No one wants to hear about it, and I suppose that is their luxury because they are not the wounded, they are not the abused who were told to forgive and not to call the police. They are not plagued by nightmares, they are more fully functional if not more fully human. That hardness is their luxury, but it is privilege taxed from the bent backs of the humiliated, it is an arrogance woven from bruised reeds. . . . This is of course, nothing new. This abuse is decades old, but the new thing is the whitewash.”

That whitewash smacks of a whole new layer of cover-up and comes with devastating consequences—especially, but not only, for those who have suffered abuse.

How likely will it be for abuse victims to come forward, tell their stories, and seek help from the church when their ordeal is a matter of levity among the very men who (according to their own standard) should be the first to protect them?

How likely is it that the men who follow T4G’s lead will educate themselves about issues of abuse and avoid the impulse to cover-up?

How likely are they to report alleged offenders to law enforcement and seek professional help in ministering to abuse victims?

How, before a watching world, have T4G leaders cast yet another shadow over Christians who don’t share their views, but who care passionately for those who suffer and are actively engaged in acts of compassion and justice?

… The manhood that went missing at the T4G 2016 was the manhood Jesus embodies. He shielded the vulnerable, spoke truth to power, opposed abusers and their allies, valued and benefitted from the minds and ministries of women, and rejected the muscular power that the world admires and cherishes. Although Jesus was always a sufferer, his focus was on alleviating the suffering of others. This is the gospel—the call to put the interests of others ahead of ourselves. It reflects the fact that Jesus’ kingdom, according to his own definition, is not of this world.

 

 

About Scot McKnight

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