I was sitting on the couch last night, totally engrossed in an ABC2, Sunday Best doco, “Silence in the House of God”. It was about sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and how a case in Milwaukee, USA opened the flood gates to this horrific scandal. In amazing detail it traced the abuse in that town and many other towns around the world, straight up the church line of power right to the Pope. It was like a train wreck that just kept getting worse and closer to me, but I couldn’t look away.
I sat there and as the extent of the depravity within the world’s largest organization and arguably most influential church in history, became so obvious, I said out loud to my husband, “God must be weeping.” I continued to listen to what they were saying about the years and years of intricate cover-ups in the highest ranks of the Vatican and how men who had done this were viewed as “upright” and “Godly”, so no one believed the victims at first…and THEN when they did, no one wanted to do anything because of how it would reflect on church leadership and ultimately, call into question their “God given” power. The victims were viewed as a liability to hundreds of years of unquestioned obedience and the control that one institution had over the masses. I felt heart sick.
Then I started, almost immediately, to reflect on recent cases in the USA within the Evangelical church, where accusations of abuse are being brought against some of God’s “most honourable” leaders and men….and how Evangelical leaders on a large scale (though not all of them thankfully!) are reacting in the same exact way towards the victims and evidence, that the Catholic church had done in this documentary. I looked at my husband and I said “This is exactly how the Evangelicals are dealing with CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)!” And I felt rage.
I have been aware for the past year or so about what was going on at the “flag ship” church of Sovereign Grace in Maryland, because we have close friends with ties to that church. We had heard “rumblings” of black-mail by CJ and how the church had split over it. That was the extent of what we heard for a while. Then a lot more started popping up on blogs and news reports about the extent of the “scandal” with CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries and it was horrific. However, I have noticed over the last month or so that the news about what has been going on with CJ and SGM, hasn’t reached across the globe. I spoke with a guy at my CPSW conference last week and he wanted to know what Christian authors in the USA I liked. I rattled off a few and then he rattled off a few, including John Piper and I cautiously said “Yeah, I have lost a lot of respect for Piper in the last year because of some things he has said and the fact that he is supporting CJ Mahaney of SGM, in what is a pretty damaging and extensive abuse case…” He looked at me baffled, said he had never heard of it and when I tried to explain it, he looked doubtful that I knew what I was talking about nor did he show any shock or concern about the matter. This man was also a pastor and he did mention his “liking” of SGM though, so I’m gonna take an educated guess, that he went home and will continue reading whatever Piper puts out…I will try not to judge.
I also know people here in Australia who are very “into” SGM and excited about their church plant here and a friend even recently posted a podcast to a speaker at CJ’s new church in Louisville. That’s right…remember how the “bright idea” the Catholics had, was they just moved the paedophile priests around the state (or country) anytime an offense came up, hoping if they moved them enough, no one would notice. Well, once this court case blew up for CJ, SGM quietly moved him to plant and lead a church in Louisville, KY. I checked his church bio, there’s no mention of his pending allegations or the amount of trauma he would’ve helped facilitate and sweep under the carpet, for many in his former “flock”. I am certain that this information is something I would want to know, if I was “church shopping” in a new area and stumbled upon this church.
The thing is, Evangelicals are notorious for pointing out how different and “better” we are to the Catholic Church and its’ doctrine, its’ way of doing things. We pride ourselves on being “real” and coming to Jesus as ourselves. And yet, in one of the fastest growing churches of the past decade, where those in church leadership had real power and authority that was looked upon with utmost respect, sexual and physical abuse happened. Not only did it happen, but when it did, those that are in this case and those who have been heavily “embedded” in these churches with their families, were told to make amends with their abuser and not to tell the authorities. The allegations are that children were brought before their abusers to “make-up and move on”, and then these men continued “serving” in the church.
We listen to the countless abuse stories in the Catholic Church and are horrified…can’t believe it was allowed to happen for so long. Then it happens in the Evangelical “camp” and it becomes very obvious how it was able to happen. Someone once said “The standard you walk by, is the standard you accept!” and that is exactly what is happening in this case. No one is willing to stand up to CJ and his appearance of Godliness (because how could someone THAT Godly and let’s not forget, charismatic, really do something like this??). SGM needs to do some serious house-cleaning and hold CJ Mahaney and those in leadership who contributed to and took part in this abuse, to full account. Many (including John Piper) are blindly supporting CJ and refusing to accept any evidence of wrong-doing. But there are those who are raising their voices and I pray that they ultimately are the ones who are heard and remembered by the victims.
We here in Australia also need to be vigilant because our churches are not immune to these types of people coming to our church and making victims of our children. I have heard reports from friends who work in social services, of how they have called a church (one of Adelaide’s “big ones”) enquiring about abuse allegations against one of their members who works in ministry, because that person was applying to foster children. They have called to get assistance from the church to either help prove these allegations right or wrong so the children are not placed in an unsafe environment and the church has refused to speak to them. In a very determined way, they were “stone walled” by an organization who should have one of their primary objectives be the care and well being of its’ children! So Australia, we do not have a “free pass” on this issue…at all!
One of the latest articles written on the SGM case can be found here:
Have a look, do some digging (Rachel Held Evans and Home Schoolers Anonymous are other great sources) and see the tragic parallels between the abuses and cover-ups done by the Catholic Church and what is happening right now, in an influential branch of the Evangelical Church. If you are bothered by it and especially if you haven’t heard anything about it until now, I encourage you to speak up. Ask the questions, demand the answers, make the changes (if need be) in which Christian leaders and churches you support and stand in solidarity with the victims. They need to know, now more than ever, that what happened to them was not of God and that He is there waiting to heal them, regardless of if these fallen, wretched, wolves in Shepherd’s clothing, ever have the courage to truly seek their forgiveness. This is not something to stay silent or ambiguous about. Jesus was so clear about His love for children and the importance of not harming them. The damage that has been done and is being done still, in His name, is frightening. We need to raise our voices loud enough to drown out the apathy that has been shown up to this point. We need to look at the history of the Catholic Church abuses and pray hard that we do not repeat it!