Update (July 22): GRACE has spearheaded a public statement and petition urging evangelicals to increase discussion of and responses to child sex abuse within churches. The Southern Baptist Convention passed a similiar resolution at its June annual meeting.
Third Update (May 24): Scot McKnight disagrees with the many prominent Reformed supporters of C. J. Mahaney. "There is blatant failure here to recognize the complicity of a leader in what transpired under his watch," he writes.
McKnight supports the view of GRACE's Boz Tchividjian who, noting that the now-dismissed lawsuit's allegations are "one of the most disturbing accounts of child sexual abuse and institutional 'cover up' I have read in my almost 20 years of addressing this issue," writes:
These leaders have once again, and perhaps unwittingly, demonstrated the art of marginalizing individual souls for the sake of reputation and friendships.
Does this mean that a jury is required in order to determine the existence of evil? ... Such an approach to sin is incredibly damaging to so many precious individuals who were sexually victimized for years and manipulated by perpetrators and church leaders into remaining silent. It tells them that their voice and experience doesn't matter nearly as much as the voice of a judge or jury.
Many of these men have not hesitated to write (or tweet) on the Penn State horrors, homosexuals in the Boy Scouts, and universal healthcare, but have been conspicuously quiet on this issue. And when they finally speak, what is omitted speaks more than what is said.
His statement, like the ones below, is also worth reading in full.
Second Update (May 24): Three more prominent Reformed figures–Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Albert Mohler– have also expressed support for C. J. Mahaney, saying they "have stood beside our friend ... and we can speak to his personal integrity."
If the filing of civil litigation against a Christian ministry or leader is in itself reason for separation and a rush to judgment, no ministry or minister is safe from destruction at any time. Furthermore, the effort to try such a case in the court of public opinion prior to any decision rendered by an authorized court is likewise irresponsible.
Our hope and prayer is that Christ's healing and health will come to all parties involved in this matter and that justice and righteousness will prevail for all. May every true victim of any injustice be vindicated. May every doer of wrong be exposed. And may all of us speak no further than we can responsibly speak.
Both statements (above and below) are worth reading in full. RNS also reports on the statements, adding a counter-opinion from GRACE's Boz Tchividjian.
Update (May 24): In the wake of Joshua Harris revealing from the pulpit his own abuse as a child, a trio of Reformed figures who are friends with SGM founder C. J. Mahaney have issued a lengthy joint statement explaining their silence until now on the SGM lawsuit.
New Testament professor Don Carson, pastor Kevin DeYoung, and blogger Justin Taylor write:
Many have asked why we have not spoken publicly. Is this a conspiracy of silence, a way to whitewash accusations against a friend? Is it a way to stand with the powerful and to make a mockery of the weak? Is it simple cowardice? Why hasn't more been said?
Over the past several months we often weighed the idea of writing a statement like this. Every time we concluded that caution was the better course. It is generally unwise to make public comments concerning a civil case that is being considered for trial or currently under deliberation. But now that most of the complaints filed in the SGM Ministries civil lawsuit have been dismissed, it seems an appropriate time to explain our silence and some of our thinking behind it.
The trio write that, while "the actual acts alleged in the lawsuit are utterly evil" and "pastors who learn of such abuses should contact the appropriate authorities immediately," they "deemed it wiser to let an impartial judge rule" on the conspiracy allegations that were intended to beat the statute of limitations but, in their estimation, were "more hearsay than anything like reasonable demonstration of culpability."
We are not in a place to adjudicate all the charges leveled against Sovereign Grace Ministries or the specific individuals named in the lawsuit. The purpose of this statement is not to render a verdict on the charges, nor in any way to trivialize the sins alleged. We realize some will construe this post as confirmation of their worst suspicions, but we trust most of our brothers and sisters will be able to consider our explanation with an open heart and a fair mind. Our silence was not decided upon lightly; neither was our decision to break this silence. Our prayer is that one day—and please, Lord, soon—all who face injustice of any kind will see the Lord bring forth his righteousness as the light, and his justice as the noonday (Ps. 37:6).
(Originally posted on Friday, May 17, at 8:07 p.m. Central)
A judge has dismissed most of the civil lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), days after it was amended to add names and charges.
"Today's ruling did not deal with whether or not the sexual abuse actually happened, but it was a big disappointment for the alleged victims," reports Greta Kreuz of WJLA.
The judge ruled that victims didn't sue in time before the statute of limitations had expired. "The judge agreed [with SGM attorneys] that the victims had to sue within three years of turning age 18," said Kreuz, "and that deadline expired years ago."
"I think it was the right decision," Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax attorney Robert Worst told the ABC affiliate.
"It was just all based on technicalities," said alleged victim Renee Palmer Gamby to the station. "It wasn't even based on the merit of whether or not it actually happened."
Kruez notes that two of the 11 plaintiffs recently turned 18 so may have a case on their own.
She also notes that there is no statute of limitations for felonies, so the SGM pastors and churches named as defendants could still face criminal charges.
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