CJ Mahaney on scandal: 'I have never conspired to protect a child predator'
CJ Mahaney has broken his silence on the two-year sex-abuse scandal that has rocked Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), a coalition of 80 Reformed evangelical churches.
SGM and its leadership have been embroiled in controversy for some time following allegations of a child abuse cover up in its former flagship church, Covenant Life Church (CLC).
Nathaniel Morales, now 56, was convicted on May 15 this year of sexually abusing three underage boys between 1983 and 1991 during his time as youth pastor at Covenant Life.
During his trial, questions were raised as to whether or not the leadership of the church knew about Morales' transgressions.
In a separate civil lawsuit, Mahaney - who founded Sovereign Grace and was lead pastor of CLC during Morales' employment - was accused of being aware of the youth leader's crimes and failing to take action against him.
Mahaney was named as a defendant in the lawsuit which alleged that he and several other leaders of SGM, including Larry Tomczak - who was also accused of repeatedly physically abusing a woman across two decades, beginning in her childhood - conspired to "permit sexual deviants to have unfettered access to children for purposes of predation and to obstruct justice by covering up ongoing past predation", though this case was dropped in May 2013 due to the statute of limitations.
However, on May 20, Mahaney's brother-in-law Grant Layman, another former pastor of CLC, admitted in court that he may have withheld incriminating information about Morales from the police. Billy Graham's grandson Tullian Tchividjian has expressed his belief that this proves Mahaney has lied about his role in the cover up.
"CJ was, for many years, the micro-managing head of the organisation and nothing happened under the umbrella of Sovereign Grace that he wasn't made aware of, so for anyone to say, 'Well he didn't know,' that's totally naive," he told the Christian Post.
"These people, they're family. Of course he knew," he added.
The lawsuit against Mahaney and his colleagues is due to be appealed next month.
As a result of these controversies, Mahaney and Joshua Harris – bestselling author of 'I kissed dating goodbye' and currently pastor of CLC – have formally left The Gospel Coalition (TGC).
Mahaney has now released a statement in which he addresses the lawsuit brought against him for the first time. He denies the allegations and says he "look[s] forward" to a time that he can discuss it more freely.
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"For nearly two years now, I have remained silent about a civil lawsuit brought against various parties including myself. During that time, many have urged me to respond publicly and address the accusations against me," he writes in the open letter published May 22.
"I look forward to the day when I can speak freely. For now, the simple and extraordinarily unsatisfying reality – for myself and others – is that in the face of an ongoing civil lawsuit, I simply cannot speak publicly to the specifics of these events.
"Even with those constraints, however, let me be clear about this: I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit."
Mahaney continues: "I am deeply grieved for those who suffered abuse while part of Covenant Life Church, as well as those beyond the church who were abused—and I continue to pray for justice to be served on their behalf and for God's healing grace in their lives.
"I'm saddened, too, by the confusion and damage that has resulted from public comments and speculation about these events. Still, my trust remains in the Lord, who comforts the brokenhearted and promises in his justice and in his time to right every wrong," he finishes.
Brent Detwiler, one of the four founders of Sovereign Grace Ministries who stepped down in 2009 following a fall-out with Mahaney and who has since openly criticised the church's leadership and handling of the abuse scandal, has responded to his former colleague's statement with a comment on his own blog.
Arguing that Mahaney's denial is "contrary to ALL the evidence in my opinion and in my possession", Detwiler says it didn't surprise him that the former head of Sovereign Grace has not admitted any wrongdoing.
"He has no choice but to deny on the advice of his lawyers...What else can he do at this point? Confess? Now that's an idea!"
"I was on the SGM Board of Directors for 25 years and worked closely with CJ I was the number 2 leader in SGM from 1998-2007. resigned in 2007 as a matter of conscience. I have no knowledge of Mahaney ever reporting, or instructing his staff to report, suspected or known paedophiles to law enforcement. That is my sworn testimony," he wrote. "I now have knowledge he did not report known paedophiles. That too is my sworn testimony.
"This statement by Mahaney is meaningless. It is a public relations piece. Mark my words. No one will be deterred from going after the truth and holding him to account."