As Appeal Is Announced in Sovereign Grace Case, Joshua Harris Says He Was Abused As A Child
Following Friday's news that a Maryland judge dismissed most of the civil lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), attorney Susan Burke promised to appeal the dismissal.
"We (the victims and the lawyers) all knew about the statute issue at the outset," Burke said in a statement posted at The Wartburg Watch, a site critical of SGM. Maryland's statute of limitations requires that victims file their lawsuits within three years of turning 18. "But fighting for justice means doing so even against known obstacles. We had a conspiracy theory to overcome the statute, but the court rejected it. … [W]e think the court erred, and will be appealing her ruling."
The SGM blog, which had a post last week on the amended lawsuit, has not had a post on the dismissal. (An earlier statement from John Loftness, former chairman of the SGM board, has apparently been removed from his church's website.)
Joshua Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church, referenced the lawsuit in his Sunday sermon.
"Reading this past week about the allegations of sexual abuse was very difficult," he said. "I know it is for anyone. But it is very personal for me because I was a victim of sexual abuse as a child." He continued:
I know from personal experience the confusion, and the pain, and the isolation that this terrible sin causes in the life of a child. And I'm so sorry for how all of this has brought it to mind for many of you the same thing. … If you have been a victim of sexual abuse or physical abuse, you need to hear this from me. You need to hear this from God. You need to believe this: What happened to you is not your fault. It is not your fault. You are not the one to blame. And if you have been abused or you are being abused, I want to plead with you, please go to the police. Please get help. If you are afraid to go to the police, go to a friend, and ask them to go with you to make that phone call. There is help for you.
Harris said that people last week had told him they would leave the church over the allegations in the lawsuit. (Covenant Life Church had long been the flagship congregation for SGM, but formally separated from the network in December.)
Harris publicly asked them to stay, but added "Know and understand is that if you need to leave, you go with our blessing. … But please don't allow the circumstance to draw you away from faith in Jesus. Please stay close to Jesus."
The theme of Harris's message was "How the story ends." For Christians, he said, "No matter how painful and difficult and dark it might be along the way—your story has a happy ending because Jesus is victorious in the end. … God knows how painful life in this world can be. He knows that sin has real life costs for his people, so he doesn't just say welcome to a perfect world, get over your past pain and sorrow. … [But] he will wipe away every tear from your eyes."