The Run Away Pastor: The Embattled C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from T4G a Second Time

For the second time in the history of T4G C.J. Mahaney withdraws from this national conference in Louisville, Kentucky. This post looks over his withdrawal in 2014 due to the SGM lawsuit and his withdrawal in 2018 due to Rachael Denhollander challenging Mahaney over the allegations of cover up of child sex abuse in SGM.  The fact that Mahaney keeps withdrawing shows how corrupt he is and why he should not be in ministry. In other words he is a fraud. 

“There must be no worse punishment to a totalitarian nation than the withdrawal of capital.” 

Jerzy Kosinski 

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[a] so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT 

What will be C.J. Mahaney’s favorite moment when it comes to T4G 2018? Will it be his withdrawal? 

There has been a lot of news regarding the embattled C.J. Mahaney from Sovereign Grace. I have been following the story and its been on my agenda to write about. C.J. Mahaney withdrew from T4G which is taking place in Louisville, Kentucky this April 2018. Instead of just looking at this as an isolated incident I want to look at the overall history of C.J. Mahaney withdrawing from T4G. 


C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from T4G in 2014

A lawsuit commenced against SGM October 17, 2012 by several former members alleging the cover up of child sexual abuse, forcing young toddlers to forgive their molester, and giving free legal advice to the sexual abusers themself and helping them flee from the law.  This lawsuit would grow and expand again on January 14, 2013, with deeply disturbing revelations about additional child sex abuse and domestic abuse. Included in these revelations was a claim that an adult woman was physically spanked by a then SGM pastor. This lawsuit was spearheaded by Susan Burke, an attorney who cut her teeth on military rape cases.  This lawsuit would also grow to be the biggest evangelical sex scandal at the time. 

As churches were departing SGM it became known in early November 2012 that Covenant Life Church Pastors recommended separating from SGM. This is noteworthy because CLC is the flagship church and the original church from which SGM grew CLC became embroiled in the lawsuit as horrid details of alleged criminal activity came forward. In December 2012 Covenant Life Church left Sovereign Grace Ministries.  When CLC left it took 30% of SGM national operating budget.  As the lawsuit developed SGM’s response was to claim the First Amendment as its defense in claiming pastoral assistance to those who emotionally injured by SGM.  Turmoil continued within the SGM organization with the next departure being Dave Harvey who resigned from the SGM leadership team and then in the distant future would resign from Covenant Fellowship Church in Pennsylvania in which he led.

On May 17, 2013 most of the lawsuit against SGM was thrown out on a technicality. The problem was the statue to limitations had expired. It didn’t mean the sexual abuse claims never happened, it meant that the legal avenue had run its course. In SGM culture members were discouraged from reporting child sex abuse to the local law authorities, so many of the law authorities were unaware of the abuse having occurred. Then in an act of corruption which made one wonder why the Protestant Reformation even occurred on May 24, both T4G and The Gospel Coalition “The Neo Calvinists Rome” released a statement in support of CJ Mahaney

In a statement by DA Carson, Justin Taylor, and Ligon Duncan that was calledWhy We Have Been Silent About the SGM Lawsuit the TGC stated the following, and in the process went after a SGM rape victim as well. On May 29, Susan Burke filed a motion for reconsideration of the thrown out lawsuit. And internally at The Gospel Coalition strife over the organization supporting CJ Mahaney led to the organization to silently change its statement and add that it doesn’t speak for everyone. Billy Graham’s grandson’s would soon find themselves immersed in the controversy. Boz Tchividjian who runs a ministry called G.R.A.C.E that deals with sexul abuse became very critical of the way SGM was handling pedophilia. Eventually the controversy would drag in Tim Keller and Tullian Tchividjian of Coral Springs Presbyterian Church. 

Back in Montgomery County, Maryland legal officials were in the process of investigating CLC.  A former youth minister Nate Morales who was arrested and tried for sexually abusing a number of victims. Under oath in a Maryland State Court Room former CLC Pastor Grant Layman admitted that he knew Morales had sexually abused victims. Layman was Mahaney’s brother in law and it also came out that the Pastoral Staff as recently as 2007 knew that Morales had a long and ongoing history of sexual abuse. Again this information was kept from police.  The question which would pop up is how much information did CJ Mahaney know? Morales was convicted of child sex abuse bringing substance to the child abuse allegations. No longer could they be alleged – in a Maryland court room they were officially adjudicated. Morlaes would be sentenced to 40 years in prison. (This was later reduced I believe) For 5 minutes on Twitter on May 16, 2014 blogger Zach Hoag led the national tweets with the following hashtag #IstandwithSGMvictims. In a sign of ongoing and deep corruption The Gospel Coalition blocked all Tweets from those who sent that message. And then Tullian Tchividjian entered the scene on May 19, 2014. Michael Newham who nationally blogs as The Phoenix Preacher put it best: 

It was like a swarm of gnats attacking an elephant on Twitter…bloggers, lay people, victims, and one courageous reporter all demanding answers and relentlessly pursuing truth and accountability from Sovereign Grace Ministries and The Gospel Coalition.

The big boys were unyielding.

Then someone showed up with an elephant gun.

That person with the Elephant Gun was Tullian Tchividjian who validated the fact that CJ Mahaney knew about the cover up of child abuse. Tchvidjian was given the boot from TGC and explained how he and others were deeply upset about DA Carson’s statement of support for Mahaney. Tullian claimed that he didn’t want his ministry tainted by Mahaney’s. In the following statement Tullian told the Christian Post:

“Give me a break. These people, they’re family. Of course he knew,” Tchividjian told The Christian Post. “C. J. was, for many years, the micro-managing head of the organization 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.”

Josh Harris and CJ Mahaney resigned from The Gospel Coalition immediately after the fiasco. This dragged out both Tim Keller and DA Carson into the fray who tried to address Tullian’s claims and to make peace with Tullian. The last part of history in this sordid tale of corruption occurred on May 22, when CJ Mahaney issued a statement that claimed they he never knew of any child abuse cover up. In response two of the litigants Happymom and Wallice issued a statement through a blog called The Wartburg Watch that publicly disputed his claim and provided evidence of his knowledge of child abuse cover up at Sovereign Grace Fairfax.

Because of the lawsuit, the controversy and more C.J. Mahaney announced on July 2, 2013 that he will withdraw from T4G. He said that he would do so to respect the event’s co-sponsors. The statement which you can see here I have down below in its entirety.

After much prayer, reflection and counsel I have decided to withdraw from participation in the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference. My reason for doing so is simple: I love these men and this conference and I desire to do all I possibly can to serve the ongoing fruitfulness of T4G.

Unfortunately, the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, two former SGM churches and pastors (including myself), continues to generate the type of attention that could subject my friends to unfair and unwarranted criticism. Though dismissed in May (and now on appeal), the lawsuit could prove a distraction from the purpose of this important conference. My withdrawal is not intended to communicate anything about the merits of the suit. My decision simply reflects the reality that my participation could create a hindrance to this conference and its distinct purpose of serving so many pastors. My strong desire is to make sure this doesn’t happen. I believe the most effective way I can serve my friends who have supported me, and continue to support me, is by not participating in the 2014 conference.

My enthusiasm for this conference is undiminished and I believe it will continue to be a powerful context for encouraging and equipping pastors in their efforts to serve their churches and proclaim the gospel. I am immensely grateful for the undeserved privilege to have been involved in previous conferences, and, most importantly, my ongoing friendship with these men I love and respect.

C.J. Mahaney
Sovereign Grace Church | Louisville, KY


C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from T4G in 2018

The second situation that resulted in C.J. Mahaney withdrawing from T4G centered around a chain of events. Rachael Denhollander was sexually abused by Larry Nassar who was the sports medicine doctor at Michigan State University. She became the first out of 160 females to report the sexual abuse. When Larry Nassar was in an Ingham County Circuit Court, Rachael was the last one to read her statement. Her bravery stunned the nation. Rachael also contacted the Indianapolis Star when it was investigating gymnastic sexual abuse. After that situation she gave an interview to Christianity Today. Rachael spoke about the challenges of sharing abuse in an evangelical setting. She went on and spoke about what it costed her. Friends, her church and more when she challenged the status quo. The issue that Rachael had to deal with is the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal with C.J. Mahaney. She went on about how Christians enable, how they stay silent and how they are told to stop gossiping and more. Evangelical Christians can not see the evil in their own communities. You can read that Christianity Today interview in, “My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness.” 

Sovereign Grace Churches issued a response to that Christianity Today interview on February 2, 2018. Mark Prater published a blog post at Sovereign Grace that disputed the allegations that Rachael made. Sovereign Grace also accused Rachael of making a false accusation. You can read the statement right here. Rachael responded by answering the claim and laid out the facts of what happened. She did this on her Facebook page on February 5, 2018. Sovereign Grace then responded in kind on February 13, 2018. In Sovereign Grace’s response again reiterated the false accusation and said it was irresponsible to compare the situation with SGM to what happened at Michigan State. This is how Sovereign Grace worded it. 

The comparisons drawn between SGC and horrific, widespread episodes of abuse—about which the facts are already publicly established – are irresponsible. The pastors and leaders of SGC are believers in Jesus Christ, and our churches are led by pastors who fear God with the sobering reality that we will give an account for our ministry (Hebrews 13:17). We are also unceasingly aware that our faith is rooted in the absolute truths of God’s Word. To allChristians, truth matters, and zeal without knowledge leads to error and strife.

Sovereign Grace also disputes the idea that Boz Tchvidjian can do a fair and unbiased investigation. Then the organization pushed back on the allegations of abuse being widespread, covered up and that pastors were involved i the process. The statement also defended C.J. Mahaney against the claims that he protected abusers or created a culture that perpetuated them. You can read the entire statement here. Rachael responded to Sovereign Grace again on Facebook on March 1, 2018. You can read that rebuttal right here. Mahaney responded by withdrawing from T4G on March 7, 2018. In the statement which you can read below he still asked people to buy as many books as one can with your “Gospel Centered” credit card. You can read the statement on the T4G website here. Plus I also snagged it and posted it below. 

My Friends,

Given the recent, renewed controversy surrounding Sovereign Grace Churches and me individually, I have decided to withdraw from the 2018 T4G conference.

This conference exists to serve pastors with the gospel and exalt the Lord Jesus. I want to do all I can to promote that purpose. Mark, Lig, Al and the other speakers should also be able to devote themselves to that purpose without the distraction of having to defend me or answer questions about Sovereign Grace Churches. They should be preparing their sermons, caring for their families, and serving their unique and strategic ministries.

I am responsible, where necessary and appropriate, to defend myself and Sovereign Grace, and this I continue to do as I have for the last several years. Sovereign Grace churches are led by godly men and filled with good and godly people who love Christ and his gospel. So that there is no lack of clarity on this: I am innocent of the allegations that have been made against me personally, and the recent, public characterizations of Sovereign Grace as a whole are absolutely false. I categorically reject the suggestion that I have ever conspired to cover up sexual abuse or other wrong-doing. No one should interpret my withdrawal as an acknowledgment of guilt. I withdraw out of care for my friends and for the sake of this conference and the cause of Christ.

I do not want this wonderful conference to become a context where questions about me or Sovereign Grace distract from the exaltation of Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). I desire the run up to this conference to be filled with nothing but joyful anticipation. I want the experience of the conference to be the deep edification of pastors through preaching, singing, praying, conversation, laughter, food, and buying as many books as one’s credit card allows, all for the glory of God.

T4G is sold out. In 2006, when we held our first conference, we met in a cramped hotel ballroom. Mark, Lig, Al and I did not imagine the conference ever reaching the Yum! Center – much less filling it. It is amazing and humbling. When the four of us are together, we fumble for the right words to describe all that has unexpectedly taken place in and through T4G. I think the psalmist best captures it when he writes, “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:23). I’m praying this T4G will be the best gathering in the history of this blessed conference.

CJ Mahaney

In response to Mahaney withdrawing Rachael Denhollander then issued a statement. 

I am deeply grieved today to see CJ Mahaney’s statement regarding his stepping down this year from T4G. I am grieved for two reasons:

  1. It is unnecessary if, in fact, there are answers to every credible allegation that has been raised of falling to properly handle and report sexual and domestic violence. If all these allegations and each concern raised regarding the credibility of the investigation into CJ’s former church, Covenant Life Church are false, then this should have been and still should be, made known through an independent investigation. 
  2. If, in fact those allegations are true and SGM has a significant and damaging problem regarding how they have handled sexual and domestic violence in their churches, then temporarily stepping down from a conference does not solve the problem. It seeks to avoid it. 

Brothers and sisters, I have not asked for anyone to sit as “judge and jury”. In fact, I have specifically said we should not do this. What I have said, and plead for again, is that we treat these concerns as the serious concerns they are, and require of ourselves what we require of every other secular institution. That the truth be sought, and accountability be pursued, through an independent investigation into SGM’s handling of sexual and domestic violence allegations. 

As Christians who speak to the necessity of accountability, transparency and the pursuit of truth and right, should we not be the first to submit ourselves to the same processes we call for secular institutions to follow? And if the sexual assault of children is not important enough to motivate us to pursue these Biblical aims, what will be? If these allegations are found to be false, will we not all rejoice in the finding of the truth? If they are found to be true, should we not then weep and grieve of the damage, minister to the wounded, and see to deal rightly in the future? In either resolution, the truth is found, and this is what we should seek, for the good of all involved. 


What Does this Mean for the Embattled C.J. Mahaney and T4G? 

So what does this all mean? In the context of T4G and that movement what exactly does this mean? T4G is well known for many Neo-Calvinist pastors, and a large number travel across the United States to hear from Neo-Calvinist celebrities in Louisville. I wrote this post the way that I did because I think people should remember that C.J. Mahaney withdrew not just once, but twice. To my knowledge, and correct me if I am mistaken, Mahnaey has been the only pastor who had withdrawn repeatedly in the history of T4G. Will he withdraw for a third time in 2020 or 2022? The fact that he has withdrawn twice speaks volumes about his “ministry” and the corruption of people around him who continue to support him. While Mark Dever has been silent in this situation he has been a vocal advocate of Mahaney in the past. This situation shows how tied these individuals are to each other financially and how they are eager and willing to overlook criminal allegations. Why because T4G is a business for many of these individuals. Its about sales and marketing. Just look at Mahaney’s statement about the credit card and buying books. Those of you who still buy his material are sending him on an all expense trip to Disneyworld and more. Florida thanks you! 

There is another thought on my mind and its this claim. Rachael Denhollander is a brave woman. What is also ironic is that it was a female that forced Mahaney out of T4G. Sovereign Grace is a very patriarchal system and women are largely second class citizens. Can you imagine how humiliating it must be for Mahaney to be forced out by a woman? While saying that keep this in mind, Mahaney withdrew from T4G in 2014 and then he sat on the floor next to either John MacArthur or Kevin DeYoung if my memory serves me correct. That was a statement and can we see that again in 2018? Yes we absolutely can. Mahaney is literally a fraud and corrupt to the bone. Sovereign Grace is a family business for him. After all he placed family and friends in key positions in his churches and empire. So remember this is only temporary and that he still is the pastor of Sovereign Grace Louisville. Here is another point to remember when T4G 2016 came around Mahaney preached on Job. He had suffered by not being at T4G in 2014. In other words poor C.J. you allegedly engage in criminal activity and then you preach about how you are suffered and persecuted. Hasn’t Mahaney also heard of another lesson in the Bible, that of you shall reep what you sow? Mahaney should be out of ministry entirely. When he is out of the pulpit completely then we can recognize that he has retired. That is my take on the Mahaney situation. Take care guys and have a good day! 


8 thoughts on “The Run Away Pastor: The Embattled C.J. Mahaney Withdraws from T4G a Second Time

  1. “I want the experience of the conference to be the deep edification of pastors through preaching, singing, praying, conversation, laughter, food, AND BUYING AS MANY BOOKS AS ONE’S CREDIT CARD ALLOWS, ALL FOR THE GLORY OF GOD (emphasis added).” -CJ Mahaney, in writing for all to undeniably see

    Grab a screen shot before it gets edited (or learn how to use the wayback machine):

    Wow. I mean… WOW.

    Shameless does not even begin to describe this.
    Arrant? (Full disclosure: I’m using a thesaurus now)

    What world does that guy live in?

    Ms. Denhollander’s response was spot-on, and on-target.
    I suspect that those blokes at SGM had no idea who they were dealing with,
    given the way they dismissed her with ad hominem attacks.

    You all really should go and read Ms. Denhollander’s detailed step-by-step legal take-down.


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