Long Story by Washingtonian Magazine about C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, & Sovereign Grace Ministries

January 28, 2016

by Brent Detwiler

This article was originally published HERE and is used by permission.

For the last 10 months, Washingtonian Magazine has been working on a longform story (i.e., longer than an article, shorter than a novel) about C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  It hits the newsstands tomorrow.  In the next week or two, it will be posted on their website.  The magazine is read by hundreds of thousands of people and will address the conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of children and other pertinent issues.  

The featured article in the February issue is called “The Fall of a Mega Church.”  It is written by Tiffany Stanley.  Here’s her brief description found in the table of contents.

Over four decades, a Gaithersburg church became a global evangelical empire—the center of a cloistered world many locals knew nothing about.  Then things went terribly wrong.”  

Here’s a description of the magazine and its website.  

About Us 

Washingtonian, the magazine Washington lives by, is the region’s top source of information for dining, shopping, entertainment, and personalities.  It has been Washington’s most trusted guide to living, working, and playing in the area for more than four decades thanks to features like “100 Very Best Restaurants,” “Top Doctors,” and “Great Places to Live.”  The magazine is read each month by more than 400,000 people, who spend an average of 96 minutes with each issue and save each issue for an average of five months.  The Washingtonian is a five-time National Magazine Award winner for its reporting and writing. 

Washingtonian.com, the online extension of the magazine, helps hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors explore and live in the nation’s capital.  From planning a night out on the town to locating the best pediatrician or lining up a new hairstylist, Washingtonian.com is the region’s premier destination for lifestyle information.  Through online chats with editors, online columns, events calendars, and blogs, the site helps readers keep up with everything happening around them.  Whether you’re contemplating moving and want to know the area’s best places to live or contemplating switching jobs and want to know the region’s best places to work, Washingtonian.com is the national capital region’s one stop for trustworthy, dependable, and thoughtful advice. 

For over three years, I have worked with victims, child abuse experts, lawyers and law enforcement.  I hoped to have completed a book length treatise on the conspiracy by now; but that was not possible given health challenges that arose over the past year.  People need to hear the whole story because they have been ill-informed and misinformed – that includes the members of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD formerly led by C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris.

Though I’ve not yet read the story in the Washingtonian, I am hopeful it will shed light on the conspiracy to commit and cover up child sexual abuse by leaders in Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and Covenant Life Church (CLC).

For example, C.J. Mahaney’s lawyer told CLC’s lawyer, Lar Liebeler, that Mahaney knew absolutely nothing about the sexual abuse of boys by Nathaniel Morales even though at least seven of his CLC pastors (i.e., Grant Layman and Chris Glass in 1991; Robin Boisvert in 1992; Gary Ricucci in 1993; Joshua Harris, Kenneth Maresco, and Corby Megorden in 2007) were apprised of Morales’ sexual abuse as a matter of fact.  These facts were established under oath in two separate trials and Morales was subsequently sentenced to 40 years in prison in August 2014.

Mahaney oversaw these men as their senior pastor from 1980-2004 and as President/Chairman of SGM from 2005-2011.  I believe he is lying when claiming complete ignorance about Morales’ crimes.  Such extraordinary information would most certainly have been reported to him by his pastors.  It is inconceivable he had no knowledge.  No pastor employed by him would have dared withhold it from him.  I know – I worked for Mahaney for 25 years.  He micromanaged crises in the church and the larger ministry.  Withholding that kind of information from him could get you fired – and in this case, understandably.  Of course, you tell the senior pastor about children in the church who are being sexually abused!

The Lars Liebeler “independent” investigation of CLC in 2013-2014 was not independent.  How could it be?  Liebeler was hired by the pastors to investigate the pastors while retained as their lawyer.  Because of this arrangement, Liebeler could not put the CLC pastors or church members in legal jeopardy.  He could not report criminal findings.  Such is forbidden under the law governing attorney-client privilege and confidentiality.  Any incriminating evidence had to be withheld from his oral report to CLC in October 2014.

I contacted Mr. Liebeler to discuss this and other matters but he refused to engage me.  So too the CLC pastors on several occasions.  They would not meet with me.

From: Brent Detwiler [mailto:abrentdetwiler@gmail.com] Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2014 1:31 PM
To: Joshua Harris; Robin Boisvert; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Isaac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Adam Malcolm; Kenneth Maresco; Corby Megorden; Mark Mitchell; Kevin Rogers; Eric Sheffer; Greg Somerville; Keith Welton; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler
Subject: Concerns for Liebeler Report

I am concerned for the Lars Liebeler report to CLC for various reasons.  The same is true for comments made by Mark [Mitchell].  I’d like to request an audience so I can share those concerns in a redemptive manner and also ask you some questions.  I am willing to drive up or talk via a conference call.  I hope you respond in the affirmative.

Thanks
Brent

From: Brent Detwiler [mailto:abrentdetwiler@gmail.com] Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 11:30 AM
To: Joshua Harris; Robin Boisvert; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Isaac Hydoski; Jamie Leach; Joe Lee; Adam Malcolm; Kenneth Maresco; Corby Megorden; Mark Mitchell; Kevin Rogers; Eric Sheffer; Greg Somerville; Keith Welton; Ben Wikner; Bob Schickler
Subject: Re: Concerns for the Liebeler Report

I assume you are uninterested in hearing my concerns since I’ve heard nothing from you.  That’s your decision but please know I genuinely wanted to help you and give you the opportunity to respond to my observations. 

From: Brent Detwiler [mailto:abrentdetwiler@gmail.com] Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:43 AM
To: Joshua Harris
Subject: Please Meet

Dear Joshua,

Would you please call me or meet with me?  I’d like to talk about how you, the pastors, and the church can prosper once again.  I don’t desire your demise in any way.  I want to help.

Sincerely,
Brent

I even wrote Joshua Harris the night before he announced his resignation as senior pastor.  I pleaded with him to be honest with the church.  All for naught.

Click HERE to read the full article!

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Rick Patrick

What a heartbreaking story. My plea for all churches is to adopt a good Child Security Policy and live by it—background checks, training, reporting requirements, and above all, the institution of a Two Adult Rule to protect these little ones.

Apart from the coverup allegations detailed by Brent Detwiler, which will hopefully come to light in the civil trial, there is a separate concern for Southern Baptists, namely, that we have been forming an ever closer alliance with Sovereign Grace Ministries and C. J. Mahaney over the past several years. In fact, it was reported in September 2015 that C. J. Mahaney is now affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, as is his church. Thus, the students in his school can enroll at Southern Seminary and take full advantage of the Cooperative Program discount.

Perhaps I am missing some pertinent piece of information here, but it would seem more appropriate for Southern Baptists to be distancing ourselves from Mahaney and SGM rather than joining hands in joint ministry ventures.

Scott Shaver

“But it would seem more appropriate for Southern Baptist to be distancing ourselves from Mahaney and SGM.”

Why then are Mohler, Moore et al joining with him in an upcoming conference… while at the same time Moore is criticizing Trump for his marriages and behavior toward women?

Talk about blind as bats.

Jim P

This is laying land mines in the lives of people for the sake of pubic discussion (gossip is the right word).

Even the world, who doesn’t know Christ, would judge this as wrong.

Matt. 5:13 ¶ “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

    Rick Patrick

    Jim,
    I’m afraid you have confused the victims with the criminals here. It is not gossip to expose evil.

    Is it true? Yes, we have credible firsthand testimony.

    Is it kind? Yes, kind to the victims so that justice might prevail. We are not at all bound to show kindness or give comfort to pedophiles and their protectors.

    Is it necessary? Seemingly, since so much of the Christian world is simply giving SGM a free pass on this. We have even accepted them into the SBC. If SGM had already been among us, we would be in the process of kicking them out—I hope. Instead, we are moving precisely in the opposite direction.

    Does it improve upon silence? Absolutely. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. My dear brother, this is not gossip. This is exposing sin and calling for God’s people to respond with righteousness and biblical accountability.

      Rick,

      Thanks for taking a stand for what is right. My family and I were in CLC/SGM for over 20 years. We heard all the teaching and doctrine and thought these leaders were so holy, but when the sex abuse stories were exposed, not one pastor or leader stood for the victims ( I know because my daughter was one them) Not one confessed to any cover up; not one apologized. I want to thank you for speaking truth on behalf of the victims.

    Andrew Barker

    Jim P: I refer to your comment “Even the world, who doesn’t know Christ, would judge this as wrong.” I’m assuming that you are suggesting that ‘gossip’ is wrong but the world and his wife will not see this story as gossip. They will look at the behaviour of those concerned and make their own judgement.

    Also, has it passed your attention that in fact it was the ‘world’ who in your terms “doesn’t know Christ” which has been responsible for bringing to justice a serial child abuser while it was those the allegedly ‘know Christ’ who looked on and tried to keep the truth hushed up. It’s no good quoting Matt 5:13 when what is happening is Rom 2:24. Much damage to the reputation of the Church has been done with more to come due to the continued denial of responsibility by those like Mahaney. It is a disgrace in itself that leaders cannot see that they have to operate within the law of the land. In fact scripturally one could argue that church leadership should only be open to those of good standing in the community and community does not mean a bunch of cronies who are prepared to promote each others’ interests and share a platform and book launches etc.

    You may refer to this as gossip, but what was done in secret will now be shouted from the rooftops. I don’t feel this as keenly as some because I’m not within the SBC or even Baptist for that matter, but the fact of the matter is that Mahaney has now cosseted himself within the SBC so that what was done years ago when he was not affiliated will now inevitably reflect on the current membership of the SBC like it or not. I suspect most are in the ‘not’ category.

      norm

      Well said, Andrew. Too often, the pragmatics of bureaucratic ascendency stomp fiercely on the pure purposes of God. It is a tragic and ongoing behavior that will be judged. It is past the time that every Southern Baptist should rend his/her heart in genuine repentance instead of continuing in the faux facade of self-righteousness and calling it Gospel-centeredness.

    Scott Shaver

    Jim P.

    One’s ability to cast Bibles verses and reference right and left does not by default make one author, arbiter and interpreter of the same :)

    Holy Spirit has that job more than adequately covered….thank you.

    Scott Shaver

    Looks to me Jim P like if anybody has been “laying land mines” it would be Mahaney et al.

    Kinda cross-eyed on this one aren’t you?

Lydia

JimP, Funny, CJ always called it gossip, too. ask the victims if they consider it “gossip”. Check your calloused heart. If you as a pastor, put a molested 3 year old in the same room as her molester, tell her she is just as big of a sinner so has to forgive him instead of just Calling the police,, then what does that say about you? And that is just ONE example of many.

Thankfully the depositions put one of the minister molesters in prison. How is that for ” gossip “?

SGM is a shepherding cult our SBC leaders promoted and now prop up its founder, the former head Apostle of the People of Destiny. Driscoll told us years ago, Mahaney was his mentor. What does that say about the SBC?

The SBC has the blood of children on its hands for promoting and propping up this stuff and turning a blind eye to pure evil in the Name of Chrust. And yes, I am quite serious. This is the stuff of millstone judgement and all the spin and playing fast and loose with scripture is not going to make it go away.

norm

“Why then are Mohler, Moore et al joining with him in an upcoming conference… while at the same time Moore is criticizing Trump for his marriages and behavior toward women?”

The fadism of Calvinism and its cronies overshadows its fatal flaws and points the spotlight to FTE.

We ought not be too surprised at the behaviors of the proponents of Calvinism, who fail to acknowledge that they have embraced the theology of a murderer who was trusting his infant baptism to get him to heaven. Rather, we ought to pity such leaders and pray for them.

In the same manner as God ultimately hardened Pharoah’s heart after Pharoah repeatedly hardened it himself, I suspect God will finally remove the candlestick from the SBC as long as we keep hiding it behind faulty theology and bureaucratic bamboozlements. In my estimation, the flame flickers weakly even now.

    Les

    From what I have read online I happen to agree that CJ has no place in the SBC, or rather should not have a place. If what I have read about his involvement or looking the other way is true, he should not be in ministry.

    “We ought not be too surprised at the behaviors of the proponents of Calvinism, who fail to acknowledge that they have embraced the theology of a murderer who was trusting his infant baptism to get him to heaven.”

    But Norm, to attribute his involvement and the others associated with him, to Calvinism is an extreme cheap shot and just plain ignorant. First, non Cals have more than their share being involved in sexual abuse. So there’s that fact which betrays your broad brush swipe. Second, there are millions of Calvinists who embrace the theology of the Reformers who have NEVER done one single bit of harm to children. But don’t let facts get in the way.

    Not surprised at the cheap shot though.

      Scott Shaver

      Unbelievable.

      Two comments in same thread where I totally agree with Les.

      My caveat would be leaving the issue of whether or not fallen leaders return to “ministry” in the hands of God and those Christians personally involved with the “fallen”. Biblical history is replete with examples of fallen leaders making “come-backs”.

      The hard issue here is trying to figure out why SBC leaders will publicly go after a guy like Donald Trump on moral concerns, when despite the official warnings of their own SBC entity about public perception, they continue to align and promote openly individuals and organizations now appearing publicly as more “seedy” than Trump?

      When Russell Moore appeals to a 1998 SBC resolution on political campaigns to express his disgust with evangelicals who vote populist, does that resolution become more binding/relevant than a recent SBC resolution to avoid alliances with those facing charges for criminal sexual abuse?

      Here in Houston, the names of middle schools still bearing the names of confederate personalities from the civil war are being replaced. Did the images of Broadus and Boyce ever come down at Southern Seminary.

      Nuff said.

        Lydia

        Scott,

        The support and then subsequent silence concerning Driscoll and Mahaney and their promoters within the SBC are one reason why I see the OTT response to Trump by certain groups and entity employees of the SBC– to be totally hypocritical and a clear case of double standards.

      Norm

      You still baptizing babies, Les?

        Les

        Hi Norm. Actually haven’t baptized a baby in a number of years. I have however immersed quite a few people lately.

David R. Brumbelow

Tale of evangelical sex scandal hits Washington newsstands
https://baptistnews.com/culture/social-issues/item/30865-tale-of-evangelical-sex-scandal-hits-washington-newsstands

David R. Brumbelow

Lydia

I took my kids to see Spotlight over Christmas. I wanted them to be very aware of how this stuff thrives for years in authoritarian closed systems. The system protects and enables the evil. The followers viewed the priests and bishops as God’s representative on earth. Does this sound familiar? Can you say 9 Marks? . This thinkiing has infested the SBC from the authoritarianism of Acts 29/Driscoll to the Shepherding cult influence of Mahaney and so on.

It is the DNA of the YRR movement. It is the DNA of Calvin. The problem is authoritarianism. People are not taught to think for themselves. But to follow and obey the authority.

Lori

Rick Patrick
Thank you for the courage to speak out on what has sadly been a silent issue in the SBC.
Just a few years back Ligon Duncan’s counsel was to “ignore the bitter and wounded” as the abuse stories were coming out regarding SGM, unfortunately it seems most took his advice. (He has since removed that post, but it’s been archived)

The question here is why haven’t more pastors in the SBC showed concern over Moehler’s allegiance to CJ and why are they not concerned with the effect this support has on the Gospel? In fact at the next T4G conference, not only is CJ returning to the stage, they’re giving SGM churches a break-out session to promote this ministry. It’s hard to fathom that men like John MacArthur are ok with this. “We were born out of protest” is their tag line.
If these men can’t protest the sexual abuse of children, I’m afraid they’re missing Jesus entirely.

The only message victims have received so far has been, you don’t matter. I know this first hand, some of those victims are my children.

    Max

    “… at the next T4G conference, … CJ returning to the stage … It’s hard to fathom that men like John MacArthur are ok with this.”

    Or that thousands of other pastors will attend T4G2016! These folks wouldn’t have a stage, if it wasn’t for an audience.

      David

      Max, if only people would vote with their feet and refuse to attend T4G because of CJ Mahaney.

        Max

        What?! And miss seeing all your New Calvinist idols on one stage! Duncan, Mohler, Dever, Piper, Platt, Chandler, DeYoung … and Mahaney. Not to mention Sproul and MacArthur. It doesn’t get any better than this! They ain’t going to stay home and miss the biggest NC event of the year!!

    Lydia

    Lori, I am so very sorry. Children are so valuable to our Lord.
    I read the lawsuit and was totally devastated. The patterns and length of time showed these men in charge were doing all they could to protect the image. The children were throw aways to them and their need to preserve the image of SGM. Families were told to mention it at all would be the sin of gossip.. It is still going on with help from the SBC. Silence means consent when it comes to the protection of the least of these. I am praying for your precious ones.

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