Sovereign Grace erupted into scandal in 2011, when the Christian church found out about the allegations of criminal activity about C.J. Mahaney. Those allegations still dog him today and hang over his “ministry.” Against all that Wil Owens the Senior Pastor of Clovis Evangelical Free Church embraced Mahaney and recommend a wolf to his congregation. This post asks the following question…does the Senior Pastor of Clovis Evangelical Free have the ability to practice discernment and protect his flock?
“Thanks for throwing those of us who were in SGM under the bus, yet, again. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the neo-reformed elite. The blackmail is very well documented and Mark Prater, the current SGM director, sat at my dining room table and all but said it was justified due to Larry Tomzcak’s behavior. This ought to be grounds, alone, for his disqualification, but to know that the blackmail was related to concealing a sexual abuse was unconscionable. I personally know that the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report was rigged from the onset. The gentleman co-leading the told me and my brother, separately, that they believed that the men around CJ were afraid to speak truth (fear of man) and that he had been accommodated in his abusive leadership by them. None of the concerns this man expressed in his report. When the report was issued, he would not respond to contact him for clarification. Instead, the report vilified those who had to participate in the investigation. So, thanks, thanks for spitting in out faces. It’s nice to know that men who to be pastors are more with protecting their peers than serving the flock.”
Jenn Grover from SGM Survivors responds to Phil Johnson (Grace to You) dismissing C.J. Mahaney’s corruption on Facebook
“Those events occurred AFTER Mahaney wrote this book! In other words, whatever God had taught him about humility was then put into practice before the entire evangelical world! That’s why I read this book and I’m glad I did!”
Will Owens worshipping C.J. Mahaney and making him an idol.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Matthew 7:15 NIV
***Quick edit I changed foam to drool on 7/14/16***
In 2011 behind the scenes of Sovereign Grace Ministries all was not well. Despite the image, and how things were portrayed publically there was a huge and growing cancer in the organization. A few years earlier Brent Dewtiler was forced from SGM and banned from all churches. Brent started to send documents to the SGM board on C.J. Mahaney’s sin. Brent documented Mahaney’s hypocrisy and how he was no longer above reproach. Brent Detwiler made the SGM board aware that he was going to email additional documents about C.J. Mahaney’s sin. Three days later Dave Harvey emailed all SGM Pastors and lets them know what Brent is going to do, and warns them that Brent’s view has problems. Within the next ten days Brent emails the documents about C.J. Mahaney to Covenant Life Church Elders and again to the SGM Board. On June 26, 2011 Brent submitted to SGM pastors a document called “Tell it to the Church” that exposes Mahaney’s wrong doing and even allegations of criminal activity. You can read all those documents here. In response on July 2, 2011 C.J. Mahaney states that he will take a leave of absence, and writes about the situation to SGM pastors and then his blog a few days later. Then on July 7, 2011 thousands upon thousands of internal Sovereign Grace documents and emails are spilled on the internet, in an event called “SGM WikiLeaks.” Because of this the allegations of C.J. Mahaney’s criminal activity is being exposed and revealed openly to the church. People think that Brent Detwiler dumped the documents but he denies doing so. Quick side note, on March 1, 2013 Jim from SGM Refuge took credit for dumping all the documents. Eventually C.J. Mahaney leaves Covenant Life Church while being defended by Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler. In early August a board consisting of Karl Trueman, Ray Outland, and Kevin DeYoung claimed that C.J. Mahaney was “fit” for ministry. In the process this board which was rigged mirrored questionable backroom Chicago style politics of Richard Daley. In early August it is revealed that C.J. Mahaney is attending Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I should point out that in Mahaney fleeing Covenant Life he violated 5 of the 9 Marks that Mark Dever teaches. You can read about that in this post called “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.“ As turmoil happened in the course of time Covenant Life and churches started to divorce themselves from Sovereign Grace. In December of 2011 Larry Tomczak tells his side of the story of how C.J. Mahaney allegedly blackmailed him. (Note you can read that transcript of that blackmail here.) In disbelief C.J. Mahaney was made president of Sovereign Grace even while being dogged by allegations of criminally activity. Eventually in the course of time C.J. Mahaney eventually fled to Louisville. I write about all this to move this post in the next segment. Here is a good timeline to access the history of Sovereign Grace.
Wil Owens, Clovis Evangelical Free and Foaming at the Mouth
I spent some time trying to find the history of Clovis Evangelical Free Church. I seem to recall when I was involved in Fresno Evangelical Free that I heard that Fresno Evangelical Free helped plant Clovis Evangelical Free. Is that true? Do I remember correctly? If I am wrong I gladly invite correction. I do not know when Clovis Evangelical Free was established. Today this is a Neo-Calvinist church, which you can see the influence of D.A. Carson, Mark Dever, John Piper and John MacArthur on this church. Its current pastor is Wil Owens. Wil served churches in North Carolina and Kentucky before coming to Clovis Evangelical Free. He attended North Greenville University where he graduated in 1999. He then obtained a Master of Divinity and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
I have to say that the internet is beautiful. On the internet information lives forever and you have to know where to find it. With the graduate level research I have done in the past this was a situation that I mined the internet to find. Wil Owens had an older blog and in October 10, 2012 he published a glowing blog post review of C.J. Mahaney’s Humility which was published in 2005. To my knowledge he has never recanted what he wrote. The events that led Wil to write and review Humility and his comments about Mahaney against the back drop of scandal are what warrant this post. I have to say when I read how the Senior Pastor wrote about C.J. Mahaney I could almost imagine him sitting at the keyboard, pounding away and drooling just at the mere thought of Mahaney. I do pose this question…has the Senior Pastor confessed this to his accountability partner? Before I critique Wil’s review lets read it first in its entirety.
This was a hard book to read. In fact, I would say it ranks toward the top of the list of the most difficult books I have read. It wasn’t a hard read because of the length; it’s only 174 pages. It wasn’t a hard read because of the technical language; it’s a very conservational in style. It wasn’t a hard read because it was too academic in nature; it’s very practical in nature. It was a hard read because it kept hitting me right between the eyes! The content was difficult because a book on humility is going to reveal ignored areas of pride.
It was a hard read yes, but it was a good read too. I learned. I was convicted but I was also encouraged. It didn’t leave me feeling as if pride is insurmountable and that it is a useless fight against an unbeatable, ever-present foe. It left me with grace, zealous to root pride out of my life by the strength of God, for the glory of God.
Mahaney provides excellent tools on how to sever he root of pride in various ways; at the beginning of your day, the close of your day, having real, open, honest accountability, and the one thing the stung me the most, how to pass on true greatness to your children. I benefited greatly from his suggestions. However, this book is not a simple list of things to do. Mahaney bases his applications on scriptural truths and examples. The suggestions are just that, mere suggestions of how to appreciate Scripture into our lives, specifically in this case, how to pursue a life of humility.
One of the reasons I looked forward to this book is because of the author. Anyone can write a Christian book on humility by simply studying the relevant passages and making applications. However, it’s a far different context when humility is present in the life of the one speaking to you about humility!! Mahaney is that kind of author. If you are aware of the recent events in his life, having recognized accusations against him, Mahaney voluntarily stepped down from Sovereign Grace and submitted himself to an accountability board to investigate the matter and then decide what actions he should take. That took a lot of grace; that took a lot of humility.
Those events occurred AFTER Mahaney wrote this book! In other words, whatever God had taught him about humility was then put into practice before the entire evangelical world! That’s why I read this book and I’m glad I did!
Mahaney was reinstated by the way after a full investigation. I guess it’s true, God does exalt those who humble themselves!
Analysis and my Question: Is the Senior Pastor Capable of Discernment?
I read this old review by Wil Owens of C.J. Mahaney’s Humility and I was stunned. For me it raises deep concerns about his ability to practice discernment and look out for the flock at Clovis Evangelical Free. Here’s what I find most troubling about what Wil did. Here you have a situation where Sovereign Grace is imploding. All this deep, dark information of Mahaney’s corruption is coming to light. People are learning all is not well within the denomination. Against all this it emerges that C.J. Mahaney allegedly practiced blackmail against Larry Tomczak. Also during this time story after story of child sex abuse cover up was coming out of the denomination. This brings me to my next point, I wrote up the brief scenario that happened in SGM in the very beginning of this post. However, the question must be asked…what happens next? In October 2012 a number of families formerly of Sovereign Grace bonded together and launched what would become the largest lawsuit in evangelical Christian history. C.J. Mahaney had conspired to cover up child sex abuse, that was the allegation. This lawsuit consisted of a number of families in Maryland, and Virginia. In 2013 as the lawsuit was beating against the door of SGM a new situation erupted. One of the Sovereign Grace pastors in the denomination learned that his son was sexually abused by the child of the other SGM pastor in the same church. The father of the victim was thinking about joining the SGM lawsuit. This SGM pastor wanted reforms. What happened is that a hush fund was set up that masqueraded as a benevolence fund. It was set up by Mark Prater (Executive Director of SGM), Paul Buckley (Chairman of the SGM Board) and Tommy Hill (Director of Finance & Administration for SGM). C.J. Mahaney allegedly signed off on this hush fund that was created to buy a SGM pastor’s silence and keep them from joining the lawsuit. All together now…can we say a “Gospel Centered Bribe!” Many SGM pastors and churches gave unknowingly to this cause not knowing the real reason for giving. If I read everything correctly $35,000 exchanged hands in this back room drug deal. This information came out in 2015 but when SGM was imploding in 2011 and 2012 there was already so much that was known about Mahaney’s corruption.
It would be wrong to hold what happened in late 2012 and 2013 to Wil’s book review of Humility, and I am not trying to do that at all. However, you do have the following situation which needs to be pointed out and contested. All this corruption is pouring out of Sovereign Grace and C.J. Mahaney, and then against all this scandal you have Wil Owens as the Senior Pastor of Clovis Evangelical Free embracing a man who doesn’t even meet the qualifications of Elder. And in the process he is pointing to a wolf and recommending him to his congregation. As they say in the United States Army…Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot! Can the Senior Pastor of Clovis Evangelical Free practice discernment? After all does a humble person practice blackmail? Does a humble person allegedly cover up the rape of a child? Does a humble person brag of demanding sex from his pregnant wife while she is dealing with morning sickness like C.J. Mahaney has done? Does a humble person run and hide like C.J. Mahaney did when he fled to Capitol Hill Baptist Church? How does Wil Ownes define humility? If Wil Owens believes C.J. Mahaney is the model what does that mean? Will the Senior Pastor of Clovis practice “Gospel Centered Blackmail?” Will Clovis Evangelical Free engage in child sex abuse cover up like Sovereign Grace allegedly did? I will say this if there is a problem with child sex abuse at Clovis Evangelical Free Church I will write about it.
When I read C.J. Mahaney being promoted by Wil Owens against all that has transpired I was deeply disappointed that this happened in my home area. I hail from the Fresno/Clovis area originally and to see this come out of my backyard is disappointing. I would think the Senior Pastor would have more insight and can practice critical thinking skills. What was Wil Owens thinking? How could he dismiss all the criminal allegations, scandal and corruption? Does he believe that is normal in ministry? Wil I have a proposal for you if your are interested. I get back to the Fresno/Clovis area once a year. If you want to meet and discuss this at Sandy’s Country Junction next December I am up for that to occur. But if I were you I would hang your head in shame and do some hard thinking about what you have done. As a Senior Pastor you have a lot of responsibility and to promote a wolf is irresponsible and reckless. I have met some of the people from Sovereign Grace and they are beautiful. If you were to meet some of these people you would honestly wonder who could have any problem with these individuals? But this behavior by the Senior Pastor raises deep concerns about the health of Clovis Evangelical Free. If there are any members who have any stories, or concerns I would be willing to publish them here at The Wondering Eagle as this blog is going to document issues in the Evangelical Free Church of America. As always I love you guys!