Sunday, October 21, 2012

Exposing Extremism: Sovereign Grace Ministries

In reading the great blogs of former fundamentalists like Bruce Gerencser, reading the responses to the promotion my blog on Reddit, and doing research for my posts on fundamentalism, I'm starting to realize that there's a dark world out there of various cult like fundamentalist groups out there, even more than I ever could have imagined, despite my personal experiences in that world. So many ministers, so many different churches and denominations that I need to tell the story of.

For this reason, I'm announcing a new series for the blog, Exposing Extremism. I know, fun, right?
It may be a depressing topic to talk about, but believe me, it's necessary. I'll try to break up these posts with other posts to keep from making this blog too depressing of a site. If you would like to help to try to improve the mood of the blog, you can submit a guest post that I can publish.

For the first installment in this series, I'm diving into the denomination known as Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), a group with 90 churches and 28,000 members, although at least 2 churches have left due to a major scandal.

SGM started in the 1970's, then named People of Destiny International, as a Pentecostal style movement, with it's two founders, CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak coming out of the Charismatic Catholic movement of the mid 1900's. Tomczak left the leadership in 1998, citing CJ Mahaney's slide towards Calvinist theology, he returned to the organization in 2011, but later said that his departure was an "unbelievable nightmare" and that his family had been threatened.

SGM's slide towards more Calvinistic theology won it some famous fans in the religious world, and the group has deep ties to major Southern Baptist Convention ministers and institutions.  Popular SBC pastor and speaker John Piper is a fan of Sovereign Grace Ministries, here is a transcript of a panel discussion he had at SGM's annual Together for the Gospel Conference on the subject of pornography. John MacArthur is also a supporter, here is a transcript of his panel discussion at Together for the Gospel on "prosperity gospel" ministers. Support for Sovereign Grace Ministries is growing in the Southern Baptist world to such an extent that they recently moved their headquarters to Louisville, Kentucky because of a dispute with it's former headquarters church in Maryland, and so the organization could be closer to Southern Theological Seminary, a Southern Baptist university whose president, Albert Mohler is a close friend of SGM co-founder CJ Mahaney.

Albert Mohler has stood behind CJ Mahaney despite accusations of having a very abusive and coercive leadership style within his organization, by several leading church members and leaders.A leading member of the movement, Brent Detwiler, released hundreds of pages of documents detailing statements and communications made by Mahaney and other leaders that he felt showed that evidence of dishonesty and abusive tactics on the part of the leadership. Some SGM pastors also have a reputation for harsh leadership tactics that include interfering in the lives of their congregants, ostracizing members they thought were not moral enough, and trying to cut them off from close friends.

Another criticism of the group and it's social structure is it's avocation of "courtship", a growing movement within fundamentalism to return to the old ways of thinking about marriage and family, no dates between young couples without adult accompaniment, no sexual contact, or even physical contact between young couples before marriage, etc. . Leading the charge is SGM pastor and popular author (in fundamentalist circles) Josh Harris. In his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he outlines his views on dating and marriage. The title of his book is rather ironic, because he believes that couples should not even kiss before marriage!

This kind of thinking has been criticized by former members as leading to young adults with limited social skills, and afraid to approach the opposite gender because of fear of people judging them , feeling that anything they say or do could be deemed inappropriate. Here's a few quotes from a blog opposed to SGM and Josh Harris' book:

"It has been reported that in some courtship circles including Sovereign Grace Ministries there is a lot of social “segregation” of the single men and. That is the pastors and parents don’t allow single men and women in their teens and older to interact much (with those of the opposite sex). This includes limiting this interaction even in group settings."

"One clear affect of this “isolation” is that it doesn't allow these single men and women to develop social interaction skills with those of the opposite sex. In other words, it leaves these young people with immature and underdeveloped social skills with those of the opposite sex. This would include the young men having problems approaching and talking to a single women and single women being shy and “unapproachable.” Put another way the singles become afraid of any interaction with the opposite sex."

"When singles don’t have these social skills it makes them more dependent and easily controlled by their parents. Without having the opportunity to develop the interacting skills needed to meet a mate, they can become dependent on their parents and others in finding a mate. I value the opinions and input of others on finding a mate but seriously question if parents should be the ones deciding who you should marry."

 What is more disturbing than this, however is the recent sexual abuse scandal that has come to light about SGM. Allegations have surfaced that sexual abuse was widespread throughout the group and committed by a large number of members,. Church leadership is said to have done their best to try to avoid having victims file charges against their abusers, and in some cases even retaliated against abuse victims for trying to seek justice. Some former members have sued SGM for the church's role in trying to cover up the abuse.

From an AP report:

"The plaintiffs allege a conspiracy spanning more than two decades to conceal sexual abuse committed by church members.  The alleged abuse happened in Maryland and northern Virginia in the 1980s and 1990s.  The lawsuit accuses church representatives of permitting suspected pedophiles to interact with children, supplying them with free legal advice to avoid prosecution and forcing victims to meet with and “forgive” the person that had molested them." 

"One of the three plaintiffs, a high school student in Virginia, alleges she was sexually assaulted when she was 3 years old and that the mother of the boy who abused her revealed the molestation to the church.  But church officials discouraged her family from reporting the allegations to police and, instead, repeatedly interviewed the alleged abuser and worked with him and his mother to determine how best to prevent any prosecution and publicity regarding the abuse. "

"A second plaintiff, a college student in Maryland, says she was sexually abused as a toddler by a church member.  She says the church pastor scolded her parents after they called the police and then tipped off the accused that he had been reported to the police.  She says her parents were instructed to bring her to a meeting with her alleged abuser so they could be “reconciled,” but that she was “visibly scared and crawled under the chair” after being brought into the same room with him."

"The third plaintiff says her adoptive father, a member of the church, sexually abused her older sister for three and a half years.  She says the church warned her mother not to pursue a prosecution, then kicked the family out of the church and denied the children reduced tuition to the school.  The man was ultimately prosecuted and imprisoned, the lawsuit says."

What is unusual is that though the church tried to cover abuse the rampant abuse, the abuse was committed by church members, not clergy, such is often the case with groups like Catholic church and the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement.

 I do not understand why that prominent Southern Baptist ministers would continue to support a group like this. Traditionally when a group has been going down the road that SGM has, the group either isolates itself from the rest of the world, even other Christian groups, or other Christian groups tend to start trying to keep their distance, scared that the group will drag down their reputation or they are scared of the extremist turn the group is taking.

This isn't happening with prominent leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, and it's members should be questioning why. Why is a denomination which sees itself as mainstream evangelical having it's leaders associate with a group like this, and defend their leaders despite clear evidence of their extremism?
Should we all be worried that an already fundamentalist denomination, which also happens to be the largest Protestant denomination in the US with 16 million estimated members is developing an even closer relationship to a group like SGM? Should we be concerned that they will slide even further into the world of fundamentalism, and that their large numbers will mean more influence for the worse in US society?

I wonder how many Southern Baptists even know about their own denominations ties to SGM. Maybe we should tell them, and see their reactions. If you know anyone in the Southern Baptist denomination, pass this post onto them, they need to know who their leaders are associating with, it might be an eye opener for them.


  1. I am starting to be quite proud to have been dismembered by these schmucks.

    1. You should be glad that you have left.....

      After reading The Wartburg Watch, I've had my fill of what SGM has done to people.

  2. <>

    Good questions.

    I almost literally died in and from SGM,

    I advise you to check -- and continue checking -- the links between CJ Mahaney and Al Mohler, esp. the money link.


    Search Results for: Al Mohler SGM Mahaney money

    You will find articles with titles (some go back a number of years) like:


    Mahaney / SGM – Unprecedented Rescue by the SBC?

    $$$ THE MAHANEY MONEY MACHINE $$$ -- — C.J. Mahaney’s contributions to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

    $ The Mahaney Money Machine $ (Part 3 All the CBMWs Men) --
    Evaluating the big money in books, conferences, etc especially the money flow from CJ Mahaney into Southern Seminary

    Peasants Rising-What Mahaney, Mohler, etc., Could Learn From Martin Luther’s Mistakes

    Mohler, Mahaney and Their Fanboys – The LoveFest Continues

    A helpful visual image demonstrating the influence of a single man [Al Mohler] in the Southern Baptist Convention

    Mar 29, 2013


    Al Mohler: SBC is the perfect combination of Sterling Cooper and Dunder Mifflin
    June 12, 2013

    ...Moore’s promotion is a triumph for his old general, Al Mohler. Mohler is delighted to have one of his lieutenants taking over this high-profile position in the SBC. For Mohler, this is a final piece of his consolidation of power in the denomination — one last triumph in the Republican coup he began 20 years ago when he first started seizing control of denominational institutions, purging them of “liberals,” women, moderates and Arminians....

    Paul's Passing Thoughts
    The Gospel According to Dr. David Allen and Al Mohler: Is the Official Southern Baptist Gospel Biblical?

    December 6, 2013
    << lydiasellerofpurple said, on December 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Another thing, Paul. I think they are a bit naive when it comes to Mohler who is the most brilliant political strategist around. For Mohler this is not really about doctrine at all. it is about power USING doctrine as he has put his loyalists in many entity positions over the years. He owns it. . So they will play right into his hands for the sake of unity. The SBC is already spiritually dead. As recent as the late 90′s they had 20,000 people (mostly non clergy) at the conventions. Now they are lucky to get 5,000 and most are pastors or employees of the SBC. It has become a club. The only thing that will make any diffference is when the money dries up.>>

    Pass these around SBCers:

    Larry Tomczak’s Story
    By Kris, on December 2nd, 2011

    [Story of SGM's former cofounder -- details of blackmail by Mahaney and standard Mahaney and SGM tactics. Standard.]

    Blogs that expose SGM --


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