Sovereign Grace Ministries: Courts Shouldn't 'Second-Guess' Pastoral Counseling of Sex Abuse Victims
In Maryland, where the lawsuit was filed and SGM was based until relocating to Kentucky last year, state law does not require the reporting of child abuse if such notification would disclose a communication protected by the clergy-penitent privilege.
However, Tchividjian said the focus of the law "is on perpetrators who may 'confess' and not victims or their family members who may disclose the abuse to their pastor."
The lawsuit, originally filed in October, seeks class-action status. The petition was amended in January, adding five plaintiffs (bringing the total to eight) and alleging that some church leaders—who are among the dozen defendants—engaged in abuse directly.
The amended lawsuit came shortly after SGM flagship Covenant Life Church of Gaithersburg, Maryland, voted to sever ties with the denomination, and SGM leader Dave Harvey stepped down from his duties.
SGM made headlines in 2011 when its president, C.J. Mahaney, took a leave of absence for a "period of examination and evaluation" of charges against him by alienated SGM pastors, including "various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy." The process proved difficult for the denomination, but six months later SGM reinstated Mahaney after vetting the charges and declaring full confidence in him.