Friday, May 17, 2013

The Allegations Against Sovereign Grace Ministries Are Getting Worse

The evangelical group Sovereign Grace Ministries, which has heavy ties to the Southern Baptist denomination, is facing a class action lawsuit by former members over sexual abuse by it's clergy and adult members.

5 of the 11 plaintiffs have had the courage to come forward and let their names be revealed, and face the accusations and attempts at silencing that often come in these situations.

I have a great deal of respect for the writers of The Wartburg Watch for calling out SGM, and standing with the victims. Some of the details coming out in the amended lawsuit (court filing can be read here), are extremely disturbing.

 SGM leadership refused to follow mandatory reporting laws, and took bribes to hide abuse:

From The Wartburg Watch (quotes from the lawsuit text):
109.  Defendants Ecelbarger, Mullery and V. Hinders, conspiring together with Mahaney and Loftness, violated the mandatory reporting obligations and conspired together to cover up [name withheld pending court ruling on defense motion]'s molestation of children. (p. 25)138.  Discovery will show that Defendants Mullery, David Hinder and Vince Hinders (sic) spoke with Maryland-based Defendants Mahaney and Loftness, and together conspired to prevent any reporting to the secular authorities.  (p. 31)
157.  Rather than report the ongoing abuse to secular authorities or take any steps to stop the abuse, Defendants informed the father that his children had reported the abuse.  This led to further abuse by the father.  In exchange for the conspiracy of silence, the abusive father paid to send Defendants Mahaney, Ricucci and Layman and their families on vacation to the Kiawah Islands, South Carolina. (p. 35) 
The defendant's lawyer had this to say on a Christian radio show:
"On several different occasions church officials kinda placed themselves between the accusers and the accused and from the victim's point of view it certainly appears that they were advocating very hard on behalf of the accused….they would tell a family that a court date was the 25th when in fact the court date was the 18th, so the family wouldn't be there.  They misled families into missing their opportunity to present victim impact statements.  They represented to Virginia Commonwealth attorney that the pastors were talking on behalf of the family when in fact that was not the case…" 
Children raped/molested in front of other children, and children encouraged to taunt the victims:

One of the defendants who has been willing to be name publicly in the suit, Heather Thompson Bryant tells what happened to her.

(Notice to readers, I am going to link to her account, which is given at The Wartburg Watch, but the post contains graphic details, proceed with caution)

In 1988, the Thompson family traveled to Indiana for an SGM conference called Celebration. Heather was taken from her room to a room with 15 children and some adults wearing masks. The names of some of the children present are being withheld until a ruling from the judge. 
During this time, she was raped by Griney and Hoffman while other children yelled at her.
When she returned to second grade, the victimization by Griney and Hoffman decreased. Heather believes that they preferred girls in kindergarten and first grade. She reports that she was brought to a band room in which some boys were told to push her and humiliate her because boys should dominate girls.

The abuse is astounding, and so is the church's willingness to cover it up. It's a disgrace.


  1. Wow, I didnt even know about this case. It really is horrible that the church stops the secular authorities getting involved. The only reason for something like this is if the church heads are also directly involved in the action, which is certainly the case here.

    and it seems the case has been thrown out of court!

    1. That's disappointing. At least the judge didn't comment on the merits of the case, and it was simply dismissed on technicalities.

      I have heard that district attorneys in Virginia have been looking into whether criminal charges could be possible under state law.

  2. The case has not dampened support for Mahaney across the conservative Christian spectrum. Popular Calvinist author John Piper has weighed in with his support, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary invited him to speak to students earlier this year. Ugh. Just ugh.

    1. I know, Piper and Mohler are still enamored with him, and other SGM leaders. They have a big fan base among well known Southern Baptist leaders and other hyper Calvinists.


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