Recently Sovereign Grace Fairfax changed its name to Redeeming Grace Church. Its my belief that this church changed its name due to the baggage from the last SGM lawsuit. Little has changed as its still the same outfit, with Mark Mullery in control. This is an organization that should still be avoided and that is the purpose of today’s post.
“My God what is wrong with these people? No, no and a thousand NOs.”
Noel in her story from Sovereign Grace Fairfax
“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Proverbs 28:13 ESV
Redeeming Grace Church
Redeeming Grace’s new sign
Sovereign Grace Fairfax which was a prominent church in the SGM denomination before they broke away recently changed their name to Redeeming Grace Fairfax. On the internet the new website was launched on the July 30/31 time frame. There are many reasons why I would suggest Sovereign Grace Fairfax, which is still under the leadership of Mark Mullery, changed its name. But before we get into that let’s explore the history of this church, and its problem with allegations of child sex abuse cover up and re-visit the stories of Happymom and Wallace, Noel and Grizzley, Set Free and Taylor.
History of SGM Fairfax
The Fairfax Community Church of Believers officially began in November 1979 and originally met in a high school. Shortly after it was launched a new organization arose out of the Jesus movement that was to become People Of Destiny International. Led by CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak it started to plant churches in the DC area. Fairfax Community Church of Believers eventually joined PDI in October 1982. Chris Lutyk came on staff in 1981 as well as Larry Malament in 1983. Fairfax Community Church of Believers, changed its name to Fairfax Christian Church and then Fairfax Covenant Church (FCC). Brent Detwiler moved to Fairfax and then led the church in 1983. Brent Detwiler then turned the church over to Benny Philips in 1985 before he was sent to plant another church in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1985 Bob Kauflin also came on staff. Benny Philips led Fairfax for 20 years. In the early 90’s it met in West Springfield High School. There was even a legal dispute that worked its way through the court system related to FCC. The church raised money and was built, Scott Long Construction I believe was involved in the building. In the course of time FCC changed its name to Sovereign Grace Church Fairfax. Today it is led by Mark Mullery. FCC was one of the first churches in Sovereign Grace Ministries and it firmly embraced the shepherding movement. If you want to know more about the shepherding movement you can read here, here and here. In about 2007 or 2008 a blog popped up that was a thorn in the side of Sovereign Grace Ministries called SGM Survivors. Of all the churches discussed on SGM Survivors the situation at Sovereign Grace Fairfax was one of the most disturbing. On SGM Survivors the stories of several families who dealt with child sex abuse or spiritual abuse indicated deep issues at Sovereign Grace Fairfax. Those families are Happymom and Wallace, Noel and Grizzly, Set Free, and Taylor. Their stories are going to be told in a condensed form below. Sovereign Grace Fairfax also sent some members to help plant a church in Denver, Colorado in 1995 until 1997, and then to help plant Redeemer Arlington in October 2010 according to the Covenant Life Church blog. In early 2013 Sovereign Grace Fairfax separated from SGM. It became embroiled in the massive lawsuit against SGM and faced serious allegations of covering up child sex abuse.
Happymom and Wallace
Happymom and Wallace were involved in SGM Fairfax for 12 years. They had two children who were sexually abused by two different individuals. The molestations did not occur on church property and Happymom and Wallace have forgiven the sexual abusers involved. In 1998 Happymom and Wallace learn child A had been molested by a young man and he was forgiven and had minor restrictions at SG Fairfax. In spite of that the abuser intimidated child A to where the child didn’t want to go to church. The SGM Pastors were indifferent to what was going on. In 2007 Happymom and Wallace learned that child B had been molested. The molestation happened in 2002. This came to light after child B was hospitalized for 7 days for cutting and suicidal thoughts. Cutting was how child B was dealing with the misguided guilt. The police were contacted and charges were pressed. The abuser of child B confessed to CJ Mahaney’s son-in-law. Despite requests for information SGM Fairfax didn’t cooperate with law enforcement. The detective who handled the investigation for Fairfax County Police stated that Fairfax had been “uncooperative.”
Happymom’s brother-in-law was pastor Lou Gallo at SG Fairfax. During this time SGM Fairfax was more concerned with the abuser than the family of the child who had been abused. In the course of time Lou Gallo stopped contact with Happymom and her family. And when there was a disagreement with leadership all ties were cut, and all relationships were severed. In interacting with her sister (wife of Lou Gallo) Happymom noticed that her sister changed the topic of child B’s legal case. In the course of time Lou Gallo told his wife not to discuss the case until the investigation was finished. When raised Lou Gallo lied to Happymom and Wallace’s family. In 2008 the trial happened and SG Fairfax leadership refused to attend or cooperate claiming “they had their church’s reputation to consider.” They were threatened with a subpoena. In the last minute the SG Fairfax pastors’ changed their mind and attended. The young man pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a child, a felony. Lou Gallo and his wife, which was Happymom’s sister had abandoned Happymom and her family in the process. Happymom tried to convey to her sister the hurt, pain and frustration and Lou Gallo and his wife put it back on Happymom. From 2008 to 2010 there was nothing but a series of meetings involving SG Fairfax and Covenant Life Church leadership. In December 2008 child A contacted CJ Mahaney and asked what SGM had to say about the child sex abuse situation at Fairfax. In February 2009 a meeting was set up at SG Fairfax between Happymom, Wallace, a mediator and CJ Mahaney who led Sovereign Grace Ministries. At the meeting the pastors apologized for failing to “care” for the family of Happymom and Wallace but avoided difficult questions. It was later learned that the mediator was given a check by CJ Mahaney for $5,000. Meetings took place over the next two years in trying to resolve the conflict between Lou Gallo, leadership of SG Fairfax and Happymom and Wallace. At the very end the conflict led to a split between Happymom and her sister and the family of Lou Gallo. SGM Fairfax sided with Lou Gallo always. In the end Happymom and Wallace were accused of “sinfully craving answers” in the questions they asked. In the discussions between Happymom and Wallice Kenneth Maresco was involved in at least one Fairfax meeting with Mark Mullery, Happymom and Wallace.
Noel and Grizzly
Noel was a reluctant care group leader with her husband at SG Fairfax and led care groups for 10 years. Noel was struggling with the legalism. One morning Noel was awakened by a phone call by her SG Fairfax pastor and there was going to be a meeting between her, her husband and pastor. Noel was 7 months pregnant and the meeting was moved to their home. The pastor started the “meeting” by saying, “You are going to have an opportunity to forgive today.” Then one of Noel’s closest friends who lived up the street looked nauseous and physically shaking. She told Noel and her husband that her oldest son, a 15 year old boy had been “inappropriate” with her 3 year old daughter. This happened during a Homegroup Leaders and Wives meeting. Noel’s child was having night terrors that we’re violent and resulted to even going to the emergency room. As Noel and her husband were initially dealing with the situation of the child sexual abuse her pastor’s wife said to Noel, “Suffering teaches us to shrink from sin – even from the remotest and most indirect connection with it.” This led Noel to think this happened because she was sinful? In the course of time the 15 year old boy confessed more of the molestation to Lou Gallo. Noel wanted to take her daughter to the doctor to be examined when the 15 year old’s mother showed up at Noel’s house asking her not to go to the doctor. By law her son would be reported by the doctor. The mother of the 15 year old asked why Noel wanted to punish him, and why were they being so mean? In the conversation the mother told Noel, “you know _____ would never hurt her!” Noel’s doctor encouraged it to be reported to social services. The Fairfax County Police investigated and it turned out the 15 year old boy sexually abused the child for 7 months. This couldn’t be talked about at SG Fairfax because it would be construed as “gossip.” Within 7 days of the 15 year old’s confession to child molestation the boy’s maternal uncle who was living in the boy’s home confessed to molesting his nieces, the 15 year old’s sisters. Noel’s child started counseling and there was concern because the counseling was not “Biblical.”
As the investigation continued the detective proceeded to keep Noel informed. Noel struggled with anger during this time and after her child was born the 15 year old had his first court date. Noel didn’t know what the court date was for as they were not pressing charges instead it was the county of Fairfax. Tensions grew between Noel and the 15 year old molester’s mother who made a series of highly offensive comments to Noel that led to SG Fairfax Pastors to have a meeting. The SG Pastor asked Noel, “why are you so interested in the court dates? Do you have a carnal rage to see ______ suffer?” Noel and Grizzly had an unsuccessful meeting with the 15 year old molester’s family. A final court date was coming up and SG Fairfax bullied, maligned and ordered Noel not to come to court. The detective called Noel and said that the 15 year old had his sentence assigned. He would be on the central registry for sex offenders and he would have probation. Noel on hearing the news was full of rage. Noel and her husband had to keep all this information to herself. To speak of it in home group would be to “gossip.” At the one year mark the 15 year old’s father committed suicide on the anniversary of the 15 year old’s confession of molestation. In the course of time the new SG Pastor met with Noel’s husband over lunch and in the conversation asked him to pray about supporting overturning the charges against the boy with a letter to the commonwealth attorney or a signature on a form. Grizzly told him on the spot, “No!” Two weeks later Grizzly told the SG pastor that he and his wife would not support any effort to overturn the charges and if they found out anyone had tried they would stop it immediately and hire an attorney. After more meetings in the course of time the 15 year old’s mother approached Noel and asked her to sign a paper overturning the charges. As Noel said, “No,” “No” and a thousand times “No!” The 15 year old wanted to serve in the military and with the charges he couldn’t serve or be a teacher either. When Noel and Grizzly heard about the final court date they spoke with the commonwealth attorney and scrambled to put together a 6 page document and read it to the commonwealth attorney and asked that the charges not be overturned. Due to how SG Fairfax handled the situation Noel felt like she was no longer part of a church.
On June 6 nearly two years after the incident the court date came around. Noel was pleased to see the commonwealth attorney hand her 6 page paper to the judge, offending family and read it word for word. Noel was pleased, the SG Fairfax pastors livid to the point that they couldn’t even look at Noel. In the 6 page paper Noel outlined 15 year old mom’s denial, boy’s comments, mom normalizing it. They outlined mom’s history, boy’s adoptive father’s history, the uncle molesting the children, boy molesting their child. They outlined how much people thought of boy, how he was honored as scout of the year, how he studied Sin and Temptation by John Own, how boy confronted others on their sexual sin and pornography while he was steeped in it. Finally they outlined his lack of total confession and truthfulness. The judge in the courtroom listened, the SG pastors looked like they were going to blow but someone had heard the story openly and the truth got out. After the court session the teenager who molested Noel’s daughter got in her face and stated, “How dare you upset my mother like that!” The SG Fairfax pastors agreed with the molester and Mark Mullery pulled Noel aside and said, “Now the bridges are burned we may not be able to reconcile now…” Further meetings were frustrating and when Noel wanted the abuse to be referred to as rape the SG pastor said “sin is sin.” Finally the boy confessed a very minimized version of things in the homegroup. While in the kitchen following homegroup not knowing Noel was nearby the boy boasted of his minimized confession “I guess that will shut them up for a while.” Noel decided that they needed to bring in apostolic oversight and Mark Mullery pleaded for Noel not to contact John Loftness. At the next meeting the SG Fairfax pastors had determined that Noel and Grizzly were the problem and now this is a discipline issue. What was the discipline over? The issue was “lying.” Noel lost it and pointed to each SG Fairfax pastor and said, “You are the problem!” When Noel got to the senior pastor Mark Mullery Mark told Grizzley “Get your wife under control” In the course of time Noel finally left SG Fairfax with the molester’s Mom still demanding a meeting wanting to confront her for the 6 page document that was read in court.
Set Free is the oldest of 6 children (3 girls and 3 boys). When she published her story at SGM Survivors she was 22. Set Free’s brother was 12 years old at the time her story was published and he is autistic. Set Free’s parents got involved in Fairfax Covenant Church (later Sovereign Grace Fairfax) where they were saved and baptized. Set Free was young at the time. Set Free’s father was love bombed heavily to the point that it encouraged sociopathic pattern of behavior in him. Set Free’s father already had a history of manipulative and controlling behavior.
When Set Free was young her father engaged in horrific acts of domestic abuse. Under Sovereign Grace Fairfax’s theological system Set Free’s father abused greatly. In his anger he even threw his pregnant wife across the room. His behavior got worse at Sovereign Grace Fairfax. Under complementarism theology he treated his wife like a slave, and would yell and intimidate her personally. If the house looked messy he would yell what a horrible wife he had. The abuse and questionable behavior often occurred before home group. Set Free’s father would yell and scream at his kids to have a clean house. Behind the scenes it was complete dysfunction, but when people arrived for home group the façade of the perfect evangelical Christian family was presented. Then Set Free’s father wanted to participate in a church plant in the Atlanta, George area.
Shortly after the baby was born Set Free’s mother realized that he was not where he should be developmentally. One of the bigger problems was his difficulty eating. Despite a growing situation with sensitive medical needs there was conflict with the doctor and the leadership of Sovereign Grace Fairfax gave instructions they believed should be followed. The church wanted them to act like nothing was wrong with Set Free’s developmentally challenged sibling. The culture of Sovereign Grace Fairfax/SGM was encouraging Set Free’s father to be to be more controlling and things would get worse. Several months later Set Free and her family relocated from Northern Virginia to Atlanta and participated in a church plant. During this time Set Free’s mother was on the phone often. Set Free noticed her mother being on the phone and asked why she cried so much. Set Free’s mother was spending time on the phone speaking to her sister Noel, who was also involved in Sovereign Grace Fairfax. During the course of time Set Free’s mother was on the phone she would find scraps of paper in the garbage that would have words like child molestation, rape, the name of a person she knew from Sovereign Grace Fairfax, and another family. Set Free preserved the notes and was scared. They became concerned that something terrible had happened and when they asked her mother would never give any answers. When Set Free got a broader picture from all the scraps of paper she sat down with her mother and stated she knew something was going on. Set Free was 14 at the time. Set Free’s mother explained she was on the phone with Noel and that something terrible had happened to her cousin. A boy Set Free knew, who was 15 at the time had sexually assaulted her cousin who was three, and repeatedly raped her. Set Free and her mother cried together and wondered, “how can this person do this to our cousin? We were friends and close to them?” This boy had also been sexually abused, Set Free couldn’t understand why he would want to hurt another person. Set Free wanted justice and that the boy didn’t get away with this act. She also learned that the leadership of Sovereign Grace Fairfax told Noel and her family to just forgive and let it be.
As time passed Set free watched the situation play out with her Aunt Noel. It became clear that Sovereign Grace Fairfax was not going to do anything, and the boy who sexually abused her cousin would not be punished. Set Free just boiled with anger. According to Set Free’s story in the course of time the perpetuator’s family came down south and were assigned to Set Free’s parents home group. Then the perpetuator’s aunt contacts Set Free’s mother and tells her she found out her children are doing horrible, horrible things to each other, to other children, to animals and to themselves. Set Free’s mother told the perpetuator’s aunt that she needed to get the kids out of the house immediately otherwise she would call social services. Set Free’s mother called her pastor’s wife and told her this new information. At first the SGM pastor’s wife agreed but a couple of hours later she called back and told Set Free’s mother to stop “gossiping” and butt out of the situation. Children were getting raped and doing stuff with animals but the bigger concern in Sovereign Grace is “gossip.” When the perpetuator’s uncle learned that Set Free’s mother was going to call social services he wanted Set Free’s address and claimed that if she made the call to social services he would kill Set Free’s mother. Noel finally made the call to social services but since the charges were made by a third party they were dismissed. The perpetuator’s uncle was angry that social services were contacted and he engaged in harassment and stalking behavior. He would call up repeatedly and breath heavy on the phone and suddenly hang up. He also called and threatened Noel of which Sovereign Grace Fairfax told Noel she needed to apologize for contacting social services. The perpetuator’s uncle followed Set Free home from school and would sit in his car and watch Set Free leaving school. He stalked the family and called regularly when Set Free’s parents left home. The situation was so terrifying that Set Free would have nightmare’s when sleeping. The difficult aspect was seeing him in church and knowing that he was being protected by the Sovereign Grace pastor. Every Sunday Set Free would sit in church and asked herself, “Why would a pastor cover up for a sexual offender?” or “Where was God in all this?” Having the relatives of the family’s perpetuator in their home group was like putting salt in the wound.
As time continued Set Free’s father became more abusive and unreasonable. Finally Set Free’s mother asked him to move out of the house, which he did for 6 months. Set Free’s mother got no help or support from Sovereign Grace church leaders. Instead Sovereign Grace told her that she sinned by not submitting and obeying her abusive husband. Set Free’s mother struggled to deal with an autistic child. He moved back in the house and the situation got worse. Set Free at 17 was being spanked and out of anger she left the Sovereign Grace church, along with her mother. In high school she was shunned by people she knew in Sovereign Grace. She was treated as though she was dead. She was completely ignored in the hall ways. Set Free’s mother’s friends also shunned her. People who once expressed love and concern wanted nothing to do with her. Since Sovereign Grace encourages people to “fellowship” only with people in Sovereign Grace, Set Free and her family were completely alone. A week after graduating high school she moved out and hardly spoke to her parents for three years.
Taylor’s story also concerns Sovereign Grace Fairfax. In Taylor’s story her husband had a pornography addiction, and it all came to a head when she discovered that her husband was sexually abusing their 10 year old daughter. Taylor started having concerns and thinking that something was going on, as her husband started spending more time with her daughter than the other children. One night Taylor went into her daughter’s bedroom to kiss her goodnight and said, “You know honey, NO one, not even me or Daddy has the right to touch you in your private areas.” Taylor’s daughter started crying and said Daddy has been doing that that every day for a long time and making her touch him as well. Taylor fainted and came to and told her daughter that it will not happen again. Taylor went downstairs and confronted her husband who fell to his knees and begged her not to tell anyone. Taylor said she has to protect her daughter and went to make a phone call to her Sovereign Grace pastor. Taylor’s husband got in the car and fled stating he would rather die than go to jail. Taylor spent three days in agony not knowing if her husband was alive or dead. One of the Sovereign Grace pastors praised Taylor for not reporting the situation to the police and said that she was a “Godly example” of a Christian wife. When Taylor told a couple of friends about the situation the Sovereign Grace pastor came down on her for saying anything and reprimanded her for “gossiping.” On the fourth day her husband answered his phone and finally came home. Taylor and her children stayed with her husband’s relatives, while her husband gathered his belongings and moved in with his mother.
In counseling at Sovereign Grace Taylor’s 10 year old daughter was told that her sin allowed the sexual abuse to continue and that she must have wanted it. She was told that she needed to forgive her father for sexually abusing her. Outside professional counseling was discouraged. In the shepherding model of Sovereign Grace Taylor’s husband got 4 months of counseling with a pastor, and the idea is that covering would trickle down to Taylor and his daughter. Taylor’s husband lost his job for viewing pornography at work and even being into child pornography. The pastor’s knew that the child sex abuse and the child pornography needed to be reported to law enforcement but they decided against doing it themselves. They wanted him to turn himself in, but then another lawyer advised against it and decided to approach a state attorney and discuss the situation. In counseling with the Sovereign Grace pastor Taylor was told that to be “Godly” she must forgive her husband, and was told her sin contributed to the sexual abuse of her daughter. She also was told that she needed to make herself more sexually available to her husband, and that if she had then her husband would not have been tempted towards his own daughter. The Sovereign Grace’s pastor’s advice was that she needed to have more sex with her husband. She was also told to put a lock on her daughter’s bedroom door. With that advice the family moved in together and looked like the happy, normal evangelical Christian family. However, every time Taylor had sex with her husband she felt so sick to her stomach. Every time he got up in the middle of the night she bolted up in bed, and she spent time making sure he was staying away for the children’s bedrooms.
In the course of time Taylor eventually heard back from an attorney who wrote up a hypothetical report and gave it to the state’s attorney. Since Taylor was told she could file charges against her husband, the Sovereign Grace pastor advised against it saying that he was “repentant” and that a Godly person does not bring in the civil authorities. For the Sovereign Grace pastor this was an example of God’s grace. Then a new Sovereign Grace church plant was being put together and Taylor and her family were instructed to join it. After the new church plant Taylor caught her husband spying on her daughter in the bathroom as her daughter was using it. The new Sovereign Grace pastor of the church plant told her that her husband will have weak moments, and that she was damaging her daughter’s relationship with her father. Taylor knew that she was truly alone especially with the Sovereign Grace pastor siding with her husband. She followed along, her daughter locked her bedroom door each night, and Taylor forced herself to have sex with her husband even to the point of making herself physically ill. The toll on Taylor’s self-esteem, her family, and her health was huge. Then people started to pull away. Her lone friend encouraged Taylor to divorce her husband. As she left the church Taylor was ostracized and shunned. Sovereign Grace told her that she couldn’t leave the church as long as he was a member, she was one also.
The effects on Taylor’s children were huge. The older children are very bitter towards Sovereign Grace Ministries and want nothing to do with them. Their relationship with God has been destroyed.
Why Did Sovereign Grace Fairfax Change Their Name?
There are many reasons why I suggest Sovereign Grace Fairfax changed its name to Redeeming Grace Church. First among them is that it is trying to distance itself from the SGM lawsuit that occurred. In that lawsuit Vince Hinders, Lou Gallo, and Mark Mallery were the defendants. That lawsuit has tainted this church in many ways. Another problem I would suggest is that recently The Washingtonian published an article called “The Sex Abuse Scandal that Devastated a Suburban Mega Church” which explored the problems of child sex abuse in SGM. Sovereign Grace Fairfax was one of the churches in the spotlight of that article and it did not look good at all.
The problem however is this….SG Fairfax has always been about damage control and still is doing damage control. In July of 2011 Mark Mullery gave a passionate and emotional sermon apologizing for not caring for the families involved. In the end however even that sermon was about damage control. Mark Mullery who claimed he was “sorry” twisted and warped the facts in the meetings with Happymom and Wallace. The families that were hurt by this church never received a deep, sincere, and remorseful apology. This church has had current and former leadership that have acted like Jonah in that all they do is flee from owning their mistakes and misconduct. Lou Gallo from what I read on SGM Survivors left the area and decided to do ministry in South Korea without repenting or seeking out his family to apologize for hurting them. The only significant new development at this church is Kenneth Maresco joining the staff. Kenneth Maresco was also involved in Happymom and Wallace’s story. However, in the case of Kenneth he came from Covenant Life Church which was also dealing with allegations of child sex abuse cover up as well. In regards to what happened at Covenant Life the question I have is what did Kenneth Maresco know about allegations of child abuse and when did he know it? In the end I would suggest that all Mark Mullery did is to put lip stick on a pig in trying to re-package and re-launch Sovereign Grace Fairfax in a new name. In the end however it appears that this will be futile. In the Washingtonian article it was stated that there will be a second Virginia lawsuit against Sovereign Grace. Plus Renee Gamby put out a call for people to join the lawsuit so Fairfax’s troubles are far from over. A church can run, deny and refuse to deal with the issues at hand but they will have to deal with them one day. In the end I would suggest nothing has changed but the name. Many people have likened Fairfax to a cult or a cult like church because of the heavy shepherding that has been practiced here. The website is only a couple of days old and the paint isn’t even dry on their signs and yet its reputation is still following them. I want Mark Mullery to know that I believe the stories from the former members at Fairfax and this blog will support them. Its my hope and prayer that Noel and Grizzley, Happymom and Wallace, Set Free and Taylor all find justice from Redeeming Grace Fairfax.