Thabiti Anyabwile and C.j. Mahaney: a Twitter Tale of Willful Blindness
March 30, 2016
Leaders inhabit a bubble of power, and they are both mentally and physically cut off from the reality most people would recognize. Reality is the obligation to tell the truth, “the reality most people would recognize” is the imperative, if they witness improper or unlawful behaviour, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
But just because willful blindness is endemic doesn’t mean it’s irresistible. Roy Spence, a Texan advertising executive, refused to work with Enron even as the rest of the world beat a path to its door. How did he see what others missed? He thought a lifetime of seeing through the eyes of the powerless gave him different perspectives. “My sister had cystic fibrosis and I used to push her wheelchair to school every morning. I could see people pitying us, oblivious to the richness of our relationship. It made me ask, then as now: If they’re missing so much about us, what I am missing about them?” That internal dialogue is what Hannah Arendt called thinking.
A member of a controversial church has been arrested for child sex crimes committed over nearly 11 years when he worked in “children’s ministry.” We hope kids at the church weren’t hurt. And we fear that other church members or staff knew of or suspected the abuse but kept silent. Why? Because that’s the pattern in this troubled denomination.
Last week, Larry Ellis Caffery of Damascus Maryland was charged with multiple counts of child sex abuse and false imprisonment in Montgomery County, Maryland. He belongs to Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg. CLC is part of a denomination once called Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). Since 2012, it has faced a series of lawsuits charging a conspiracy to commit and conceal child sex crimes by church staff and members. The cases have drawn national attention:
Caffery joined CLC in 1996, was a member at least until 2010, may still belong to the church, and “takes part in the children’s ministry program” there, according to his autobiography.
In a book that was reportedly edited, in part, by a CLC pastor, Caffery wrote about his fear of sexually abusing any daughters he might have. This comes from Brent Detwiler, a former CLC co-founder and 25 year SGM board member. (He left SGM “as a matter of conscience” in 2009 and has “spent ten years trying to bring about internal reform of an ethical nature.”)
The abuse charges against Caffery cover a period from February 2004 until December 2014. At least some of this time, he worked at CLC. That’s one reason we fear that Caffery may have hurt kids in the congregation.
Often, law enforcement focuses just on those who commit child sex crimes. But it’s crucial that they also address those who conceal child sex crimes, especially in churches with troubling track records of ignoring or hiding – and thus enabling – more child sex crimes. That’s the case here. So we strongly urge police and prosecutors to dig deep and search for evidence that current or former staff or members at CLC knew about or suspected Caffery’s crimes but refused to call 911.
No matter what happens with these charges against Caffery, we strongly urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups at in SGM churches – especially at Covenant Life Church – to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling journalists, get justice by calling attorneys, and get comfort by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted and cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
NOTE – SGM has changed its name and is now called Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC).
Read the charges against Caffery here.
Brent Detwiler writes:
The continuing course of conduct refers to the fact that these incidences were ongoing. They occurred over an 11-year period of time. That is, from February 24, 2004 to December 31, 2014 according to the charging document. In other words, they began when Larry was a worker in the CLC children’s ministry and continued past the time he republished his book on April 13, 2010 and cited his membership in CLC on the back cover.
These abuses and false imprisonment happened when C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris were consecutively the senior pastors and Kenneth Maresco was the executive pastor. P.J. Symth is now the lead pastor and Mark Mitchell is the executive pastor. These men have some important questions to answer.
Brent Detwiler shared with me two emails that he has sent to Thabiti Anyabwile regarding C.J. Mahaney:
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Saturday, January 18, 2014 5:47 PM
To: Thabitti Anyabwile
Subject: Preaching and Commending C.J. at SGCL
I’ve never had the opportunity to meet you but felt the need to drop you this short note as a matter of conscience regarding your plans to preach at C.J.’s church tomorrow. I assume you will take the occasion to support and commend C.J. like other noted leaders before you. If so, you are making a grave mistake. I appeal to you in the sight of Christ, please don’t proceed to honor C.J. Let me explain.
C.J. was once a dear friend. I knew him as well as anyone. We began SGM in 1982. Larry Tomczak led it until 1991 when C.J assumed that role. From 1991 to 2007, I was the person primarily responsible for the care of C.J.’s soul in SGM. In 2007, I resigned from the Board of Directors after 25 years of service because I could no longer support C.J. His character had eroded so badly, I could not trust him and I no longer respected him.
For many years, I did all in my power to care for his soul but it came to nothing. Other leaders also tried to help him grow in Christian character. The vast majority of them have left SGM and no longer relate to C.J. Those that stayed with C.J. compromised their integrity. Two of them, John Loftness and Gary Ricucci, allegedly conspired to commit and cover up sex crimes as detailed in the extensive lawsuit against SGM.
You will see Gary in the morning when you preach. He is C.J.’s brother in law, a pastor at SGCL, and the Director of Student Care in the Pastors College. Of course, C.J., John and Gary have denied all wrong doing. In so doing, they have made the victims and witnesses out to be the most vile liars imaginable. Yet, the facts show C.J. failed to report known and suspected sex abusers to law enforcement for over 30 years and he counseled others to do the same. As a result, scores of children and youth were sexually abused and exploited in SGM. Do you understand what is going on here? C.J., John and Gary are lying when the say the victims of sexual abuse in SGM are liars. And do you intend to promote these men and their ministry?
Thabitti, if you commend C.J. you are enabling C.J. in the worst possible way. He needs to be publicly rebuked not empowered. I find absolutely no pleasure in saying that C.J. has a long and proven record of lying, hypocrisy and abusive leadership. These are the plain facts. I say so without malice. I know well the C.J. you are impressed with and attracted to; but that is not C.J. at the core of his being. Leaders like yourself have been drawn to his personality, gifting and doctrine. I understand the attraction. What I don’t understand is your disregard of the evidence against C.J. This failure to study the evidence is grossly irresponsible. As a result, men like yourself have been deceived by his pretentions of character and accepted his demonizing of men like me. You treat C.J. with partiality and favoritism when you neglect to closely examine the evidence using the rules of evidence. It is a deplorable state and ever so grievous to our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are interested in the evidentiary facts, I am glad to meet with you and other leaders from Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition. I am happy for C.J. to be present. In fact, I want him to be present so he can offer a defense and I can cross examine him. If you’ve read my documents, you know C.J. and SGM repeatedly promised this kind of objective hearing. In the end, they broke every promise and created a process that was thoroughly corrupt. Every aspect of due process promised me was deceptively and intentionally violated. That is a matter of fact statement, not a bitter statement. As a result, C.J. was never held accountable which means he never received the help he needed.
I care deeply about C.J. My appeal to you is born out of love for my brother and concern for Christ’s church. Evangelical and Reformed leaders who commend C.J. as a qualified minister are doing him and the Body of Christ a great disservice. The leaders of T4G and TGC should have been calling C.J. to account the last 2? years. Instead they justified C.J. at every turn without any judicial inquiry or hearing of evidence. Rather than pursuing the truth, they accepted as true the talking points provided them by C.J. and SGM. Those talking points amounted to gossip. That is, the whisperings of false information behind closed doors where it could not be known or challenged. This gossip was accepted like false prophesy that goes unjudged by Scripture.
It is my fervent prayer that God will raise up national leaders that will not be duped or intimidated by SGM and their enablers. C.J. has never been held accountable in any real sense. The evidence against him from the past 30 years has never been heard or justly tried. That includes the conspiracy to commit and cover up sex abuse in SGM. Law enforcement may not secure the kind of evidence needed to convict in a court of law but that does not absolve C.J., John, Gary, et al. of crimes and heinous transgressions. The evidence against these men should be presented to leaders of T4G and TGC since SGM is a notable evangelical organization with a history of increasing abuse and corruption. I am prepared to engage you in such a process. I sincerely hope you will not reject this offer and thereby continue to justify a man and ministry that is guilty of great iniquities.
To date, the leaders of T4G and TGC have claimed C.J.’s innocence and protested his guilt. They have done so without ever evaluating the evidence against him. Please don’t follow their example as you address C.J. and the church in the morning. Thabitti, I hope you will be different. I am dead serious about my offer to meet with you, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Don Carson, Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung. You men have not heard the truth! I’d be ever so grateful if you called me at 704-935-9487 to discuss the contents of this appeal.
God’s grace to you in discerning the truth and taking a stand for righteousness sake!
and most recently:
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 5:52 PM
To: Danny Akin Thabiti Anyabwile Voddie Baucham Alistair Begg Mike Bullmore Robert C. (Ric) Cannada Jr. Bryan Chapell Mark Dever Kevin DeYoung Ligon Duncan Tim Keller Albert Mohler Russell D. Moore Ray Ortlund Richard D. Phillips John Piper Phillip G. Ryken Sam Storms Sandy Wilson John Yates
Subject: Washingtonian Magazine and TIME Magazine Articles on Mahaney & Sexual Abuse of Children
Below you will find links to articles recently done by Washingtonian magazine and TIME magazine about C.J. Mahaney and the sexual abuse of children in Sovereign Grace Ministries. I’ve also supplied links to two posts I wrote afterward in order to provide compelling evidence not contained in the articles. This remains a very serious matter.
Washingtonian magazine (online edition):
The Sex Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch
Inside the rise and fall of Sovereign Grace Ministries
By Tiffany Stanley on February 14, 2016
TIME magazine (online article):
Inside the Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries
How one reporter investigated child sex abuse at a major evangelical church
By Elizabeth Dias on February 16, 2016
Long Story by Washingtonian Magazine about C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, & Sovereign Grace Ministries Hits Newsstands Tomorrow
Detailed evidence and analysis documenting the conspiracy to cover up child sex abuse.
By Brent Detwiler on January 20, 2016
C. J. Mahaney, now senior pastor of the Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, is scheduled to speak at the Together for the Gospel Conference April 12-14 in Louisville, KY.
Talk Title: Sustained in Suffering by the Saga of Job
C.J. Mahaney serves as the Senior Pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He is the author of several books, including Living the Cross Centered Life, Humility: True Greatness, Don’t Waste Your Sports, and Sex, Romance and the Glory of God. C.J. and his wife, Carolyn, have three married daughters, one son, and twelve grandchildren. They reside in Louisville, Kentucky but C.J. cheers for his hometown teams the Washington Redskins, Nationals, Wizards and University of Maryland basketball.