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Mega-Church Pastor Issues “Statement” on Child Abuse Case

  • Rob Kerby Contributor
  • Updated May 27, 2014
Mega-Church Pastor Issues “Statement” on Child Abuse Case

After a two-year silence, author and mega-church pastor C.J. Mahaney has finally commented publicly on child abuse charges against a youth minister formerly on his staff. On a blog, Mahaney comments that he can’t make a statement, then denies that he knew anything about the years of molestations.

A few days ago, Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, scoffed at claims Mahaney knew nothing about the abuse of three boys over several years at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

In Mahaney’s blog statement, "For nearly two years now,” he writes, “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.

"These pleas have only intensified over the last week in light of reports of testimony in a recent trial. 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.”

Nathaniel Morales, now 56, was convicted May 15 of sexually abusing three boys between 1983 and 1991 during his time on Mahaney’s staff. One of the boys alleges he was molested more than 50 times.

Scoffing at Mahaney’s claim of ignorance, "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."

Sovereign Grace Ministries is a group of 70 churches. While pasturing in Gaithersburg, Mahaney served as the group’s president for 27 years, stepping down in 2011. He now pastors Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The scandal has also touched the Gospel Coalition, which bills itself as "a coalition of people for the sake of promoting the Gospel," that includes author and New York City pastor Tim Keller and such authors and Christian leaders as John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Driscoll, Richard Lints, Ligon Duncan, Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Matt Chandler, Albert Mohler and Darrin Patrick.

Mahaney and Tchividjian resigned from the coalition last weekend after Morales’ conviction. Tchividjian expressed frustration with how the scandal had been handled.

Mahaney concluded his public statement on his blog by expressing grief for the abuse victims and his sadness over public speculation surrounding the case, which has included criminal prosecution as well as civil litigation:

“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.”

However, accusations continue to fly. Brent Detwiler, a former Sovereign Grace Ministries has been highly critical of how the Gospel Coalition leaders and others have treated the allegations. He issued a statement that Mahaney's blog statement "is contrary to ALL the evidence in my opinion and in my possession."

It appears the embarrassments, recriminations and accusations will continue.

Publication date: May 27, 2014