Embattled C.J. Mahaney visits SEBTS

Under scrutiny for a lawsuit alleging a cover-up of sexual abuse, Sovereign Grace Ministries President C.J. Mahaney spoke to about 700 college students Feb. 1-2 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

By Bob Allen

A pastor named in a class-action lawsuit alleging a cover-up of sexual and physical abuse of children warned students at a Southern Baptist Convention seminary against the “temptation to be puffed up and arrogant in attitude” because of the education they are receiving.

“This is a world-class institution with world-class scholars teaching here,” C.J. Mahaney, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Ky., said Jan. 31 in chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “You are blessed. There shouldn’t be any complaining by any student here.”

CJMahaney“One of the policies that should be imposed and enforced is, if you are going to be a student at Southeastern, no whining allowed,” Mahaney said. “We don’t want to hear any whining about attending classes and reading and studying and papers and examinations. No whining, because you get to study the Bible. You’re taught by godly scholars -- no whining, just gratefulness.”

“You know how many people there are who envy you, wish they could trade places with you?” Mahaney asked. “One is addressing you.”

Mahaney, president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, took a voluntary leave of absence in June 2011 after charges of “pride, uentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hyprocrisy” were leveled against him by a former Sovereign Grace pastor. After review by three separate panels, Mahaney was reinstated six months later.

In the fallout, 13 churches left the network of about 100 congregations, including the founding church, Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., where Mahaney was senior pastor for 27 years.

Last year, Sovereign Grace Ministries moved its headquarters from Maryland to Louisville, Ky., in part to strengthen ties with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Mahaney started Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, the network’s first congregation in Kentucky or Indiana.

Last October, three anonymous women named Mahaney and other Sovereign Grace leaders in a lawsuit in Maryland claiming a cover-up of sexual abuse of children in the 1980s and 1990s. An amended lawsuit filed Jan. 11 alleged 143 separate charges involving eight victims, including an alleged “pedophilia ring,” where perpetrators were not reported to police and went on to prey on other children.

Mahaney was invited to Southeastern to speak Feb. 1-2 at the 20/20 Collegiate Conference, an annual event for college students from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area known as North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Mahaney, co-host of the Together for the Gospel conference with Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler, is a leader in the movement to promote Calvinism, a theology that elevates divine predestination over human free will in salvation.

In a sermon at the 20/20 conference, Mahaney told about 700 college students that if they are Christians, it is because “you received a gracious, personal call from God, a call that you did not deserve.”

“It’s not a general call,” Mahaney said. “The call …isn’t simply an invitation generally given awaiting your favorable or unfavorable response…. It’s an effectual call.”

“Before you came to God in repentance and faith, God came to you, because if he didn’t come to you, you never would have come to him,” Mahaney said “Your conversion did not originate with you. Your conversion was not initiated by you. You didn’t’ discover him. He revealed himself to you.”

Mahaney said the notion that God draws and preserves sinners to salvation is “not in any way a denial of human responsibility.”

“In dependence upon the grace of God, we have a responsibility to keep ourselves in the love of God,” Mahaney said. “But we will be effective in keeping ourselves in the love of God only because we are being kept by God. So, yes, we are called and commanded to persevere, but our perseverance is effective ultimately because of preserving grace.”

Previous stories:

New charges filed in abuse lawsuit

Ministry: Abuse suit harms confidentiality

Radio host: evangelicals ignoring abuse

Controversy follows Calvinist group