Monday, May 20, 2013

Maryland Judges Dismisses Most of Abuse Lawsuit Against SGM; Criminal Investigation Continues

Posted by Christine Pack

Most of the class-action lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries, in which rampant sexual abuse was allegedly committed against children, has now been dismissed by a Maryland judge. From the Courier-Journal:
"Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Sharon V. Burrell ruled Thursday that nine of 11 plaintiffs waited too long to sue under the statute of limitations, which in Maryland would mean within three years of their turning 18.......Two other plaintiffs are under 21, but Burrell dismissed their claims as well because they center on alleged abuse in Virginia. Update: Burrell’s dismissed those two 'without prejudice,' meaning they have the option of re-filing." (source)
Attorney Susan Burke, legal counsel on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case, released a statement in response to the dismissal. From the statement:
"We (the victims and the lawyers) all knew about the statute issue at the outset.  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.  The victims are all brave and courageous people whose willingness to fight against evil has already made a difference in the world.  Also, please realize going forward with a civil lawsuit does not in any way prevent criminal actions – perhaps may even make it more likely.  And please keep praying, as we think the Court erred, and will be appealing her ruling.  All the best, Susan L. Burke." (source)
Attorney Bill O'Neil, who is also legal counsel for the plaintiffs, gave a brief interview with the Janet Mefferd regarding this latest development in the SGM case. That interview can be listened to here.

As O'Neil stated in his interview with Mefferd, it was known at the outset that the age of many of the victims had long since passed the statue of limitations, which was the stated reason that the Maryland judge dismissed most of the charges. However, the legal team for the plaintiffs had still pursued this lawsuit because they had hoped that the allegations that SGM leadership had systematically pressured victims not to seek legal counsel or help outside of the church when sexual abuse situations were uncovered would have weighed more heavily into the judge's decision.

My thoughts: This is a frustrating development to me because SGM leaders apparently worked very hard over the years to convince the parents of victims NOT to go to the legal authorities over weeks...... and months...... and years. Susan Burke, lead attorney who worked with Bill O'Neil on this lawsuit, stated in an interview that parents of molestation victims told her that, when they discovered their children had been molested and went to their church leaders, they were told by the church leaders "not to call the police," but rather to let the church handle the abuse in an "in-house" way. And yet, when the victims eventually did seek legal counsel after exhausting all means of justice/resolution through the church channels (again, as directed by church leadership), they were then told, oh sorry, too late.

Also, because of the way this has been played out, it appears to me that the SGM leadership thought it vital to protect their own reputations, and the reputation of the SGM franchise, over protecting the helpless. This strikes me as the ultimate in prideful, wicked pragmatism. Not to mention that the Bible is chuck full o'verses that specifically speak to the importance of protecting children, as well as the weak and oppressed (Isa 1:17, Psa 82:3, Prov 31:9, Matt 18:6 just for starters).
"Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:17 
"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed." Psalm 82:3 
"Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:9 
"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Matthew 18:6
For those seeking more information about this ongoing court case, below are some interviews by Janet Mefferd documenting the progress of the SGM class action lawsuit:
10/18/2012 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Attorney Susan Burke About Lawsuit Against Sovereign Grace Ministries ("I don't know how long evangelicalism can ignore this problem.") 
5/16/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Attorney Bill O’Neil Again About the Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit
5/20/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Bill O'Neil Regarding Latest Details About the SGM Child Sex Abuse Class Action Lawsuit
6/6/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Boz Tchividjian Regarding the Silence of Christian Leaders Over American Evangelicalism's Largest Sexual Scandal to Date
10/7/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Boz Tchividjian: Are Evangelical Christians Worse Than Catholics on Sexual Abuse Response? (References the SGM Child Sexual Abuse Scandal)

  Additional Resources  

The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch (The Washingtonian)

Sovereign Grace Ministries Survivors Website

Copy of Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries

SGM - Updated Statement on Reported Lawsuit


As Appeal Is Announced in Sovereign Grace Case, Joshua Harris Says He Was Abused As A Child

Joshua Harris Discusses Being Sexually Abused During Sunday Morning Sermon (25:10 marker)

Lawsuit Claims Sovereign Grace Ministries Concealed Sex Abuse

Flagship Churches Prepare To Leave As Lawsuit Charges C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries With Covering Up Child Sex Abuse

Sovereign Grace Ministries: In Sex Abuse Case, Courts Shouldn't "Second Guess" SGM's Pastoral Counseling

SGM's C.J. Mahaney Gets Support From John Piper

Joshua Harris Drops A Bombshell

Posted by Christine Pack

Pastor Joshua Harris,
Covenant Life Church
Christianity Today is reporting today that Joshua Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, shared in a recent sermon that he had been sexually abused as a child. In talking about the abuse he suffered, Harris encouraged anyone hearing him who was currently being abused to go to someone trusted and seek help. (The sermon in which Harris discussed the abuse can be accessed here.)

What makes this admission all the more shocking is that Harris pastors what was once the flagship church for Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), and Sovereign Grace Ministries is currently embroiled in a class action suit involving allegations of child sexual abuse. 

I want to make it clear that Harris did not state where the abuse he suffered occurred, so it is unclear whether or not the abuse was connected in any way to Sovereign Grace Ministries. But God bless Pastor Harris for speaking up, whatever the circumstances, and my prayers are with him.

For those seeking information about this ongoing court case, below are all interviews to date by Janet Mefferd documenting the progress of the SGM class action lawsuit:

10/18/2012 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Attorney Susan Burke About Lawsuit Against Sovereign Grace Ministries ("I don't know how long evangelicalism can ignore this problem.")

1/18/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Attorney Bill O’Neil About the Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit


2/28/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Former SGM Founder Brent Detwiler About The Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit


5/16/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Attorney Bill O’Neil Again About the Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit


  Additional Resources  

Copy of Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries

SGM - Updated Statement on Reported Lawsuit


As Appeal Is Announced in Sovereign Grace Case, Joshua Harris Says He Was Abused As A Child

Joshua Harris Discusses Being Sexually Abused During Sunday Morning Sermon (25:10 marker)

Lawsuit Claims Sovereign Grace Ministries Concealed Sex Abuse

Flagship Churches Prepare To Leave As Lawsuit Charges C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries With Covering Up Child Sex Abuse

Sovereign Grace Ministries: In Sex Abuse Case, Courts Shouldn't "Second Guess" SGM's Pastoral Counseling

SGM's C.J. Mahaney Gets Support From John Piper

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Francis Chan Rebukes Mike Gendron?

Posted by Christine Pack

In February of 2003, Christian apologist Mike Gendron was invited by Francis Chan to give a presentation at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA where Chan is the pastor. Gendron is a former Catholic and founder of the ministry Proclaiming The Gospel, which is devoted to explaining why Catholic teachings and traditions are unbiblical, and simply do not line up with Scripture. After giving his presentation at Cornerstone Church, Gendron was about to go into the Q&A section of his talk when Chan came onto the stage and prevented this from happening. He also expressed to the audience his concern over having invited Gendron to speak at his church, and that he thought parts of Gendron's presentation were "cold" and "sarcastic."

Mike Gendron (L) and Francis Chan (R)
The reason I'm covering a story that is ten years old is because Mike Gendron recently went on a radio show to discuss what happened. From the program notes:
(WVW 5/13/13) Mike Gendron joins (host) on this program. Topic: Francis Chan apologizes to his church, visiting Catholics and the secular media after former Catholic Mike Gendron finishes a message on the Biblical gospel. Chan shut down the meeting and stopped any question and answer time from taking place and then publicly announced his regret for inviting Mike to speak at his church. The apology was covered in the secular news the next day. Topic: What message was Chan sending to the unsaved followers of the false gospel of the Church of Rome? Can Chan be trusted as a minister of the gospel? (source)
This topic was also discussed by Dave Hunt and Tom McMahon in The Berean Call back in January of 2012, before Dave Hunt passed away. From the article, More Sparks Between Catholics and Evangelicals:
Tom McMahon: (H)e had this experience of going to this church and then, he was about to give a Q and A, and say, “All right, now let’s have an interaction.” (Pastor Francis Chan) stood up and said, “No!” He was offended by what Mike had to say, and he began ten minutes of apology to the audience! Wow! 
Dave Hunt: It’s sad that political correctness seems to rule the day. When it comes to Islam, we must be politically correct; when it comes to Catholicism, we must be politically correct. Rather let someone go to hell than offend their feelings. There is something really sad out there, Tom. Christians don’t think—we don’t recognize that truth is truth. It is black and white; you can’t compromise, you don’t dialogue with God, you don’t re-negotiate with God. The Bible has made it very clear exactly what the gospel is. It’s a matter of justice. God is the one who makes the rules. He created this universe; He created us. We’re going to have to go His way, and Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” But these people think that’s too narrow minded. 
The Catholic Church is not true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as you know, but we don’t want to point that out because that might offend someone. Let’s let them go to hell. (source)
On a personal note, I have heard Mike Gendron's presentation which contrasts Christianity and Catholicism many times, and it is hard to imagine Gendron being perceived as "cold" and "sarcastic." I'm not saying he is infallible and might not ever sin in this way, I'm just saying it's very hard for me to imagine it. As I said, I've heard Mike's presentation a number of times, and I've also listened to him be interviewed many, many times on the same topic. But please don't take my word for it: if you follow this link, you will find a number of interviews that Mike has given. Judge for yourself if he is cold and sarcastic. What you will find, I believe, is that Mike's heart genuinely is to labor lovingly, graciously, earnestly and biblically for the truth. His desire truly is to help Roman Catholics see the futility of their beliefs, and their need for the all sufficient Savior of the Bible, not the "Jesus" of the Roman Catholic teachings who give a nod to Jesus, but not his all-sufficiency. It's not enough that they claim belief in Jesus, the question is: which Jesus? The Jesus of the Bible who made full payment for our sins on the Cross? or the Catholic "Jesus" who couldn't quite get the job done, and needs us to add our works to his work on the Cross to get us to heaven?  In closing, shouldn't we all, as Christians, be doing as Mike does, and laboring earnestly with the lost? After all, it is Bible believing Christians alone who have the life-giving truth that all the world so desperately needs.
"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3)

 Additional Resources 

Proclaiming The Gospel (Mike Gendron)

Catholicism is Not Just Another Christian Denomination

Berean Beacon (former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett)

Explaining The Heresy of Catholicism (John MacArthur)

Catholics, Physical Suffering and Doctrines of Demons (Sola Sisters)

A Chart With Christian/Catholic Views Side-By-Side (Berean Beacon)

Testimony of a Former Roman Catholic Priest....From Darkness to Light
 (Berean Beacon)

Far From Rome Near To God (Amazon)

The Myth of Mother Teresa (Challies)

Mother Teresa A Lost Soul (Berean Beacon)

Mother Teresa in Her Own Words (Sola Sisters)

French Study Claims Mother Teresa Wasn't So Saintly
 (Washington Times)

Book: Pope John Paul II Self-Flagellated to Get Closer to Jesus (CNN)

Rick Warren Endorses "Catholics Come Home" Campaign (Sola Sisters)

Why the Reformation Was Important (Sola Sisters)

After The Darkness, Light (Post Tenebras Lux) (Sola Sisters)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Latest Interview About the SGM Child Sex Abuse Class Action Lawsuit

Posted by Christine Pack

[UPDATED: Former Sovereign Grace Ministries youth leader Nathaniel Morales has been sentenced to 40 years in prison, as of 8-14
-14]


As we've documented in earlier articles, Sovereign Grace Ministries is currently embroiled in an ongoing class action lawsuit alleging child sex abuse dating back a number of years. Radio talk show host Janet Mefferd has been diligently reporting on the case by interviewing various attorneys involved in the lawsuit, as well as former Sovereign Grace Ministries leader, now turned whistle-blower, Brent Detwiler. From the latest interview with the attorney for the plaintiffs, Bill O'Neil:
Radio host Janet Mefferd: "Now, you have a lot of details in here, and obviously we can't go through them all, but for example, you talk about one pedophile who was convicted and jailed, and then came back to the church. I mean, to what extent did this sort of stuff happen, where somebody who was a known abuser of children, as you're alleging in this lawsuit, was allowed to be present among children and was not revealed to be a pedophile to people who didn't know any better?" 
Attorney Bill O'Neil: "And that's the real breach of trust that I think is at the heart of why these people came forward.....Someone who had already been convicted of molestation-related charges would be having sleepovers at his house with children where parents didn't know the details of what had happened." 
Mefferd: "Why, why in the world......" 
O'Neil: "The church officials definitely knew." 
Mefferd: "Yeah." 
O'Neil: "......and (the church officials) participated in defending him in the courts." 
Mefferd: "Just out of curiosity, when the sleepovers would occur, were they in conjunction with the children of the couple (at whose house the sleepover was held), or was it just, 'the leader of the church is gonna have a sleepover and a bunch of young kids come to my house'?" 
O'Neil: "(The sleepovers) were not always in conjunction with the couple's children. There were sleepovers at one pedophile's house, who― he didn't have any children."
Other interviews by Janet Mefferd documenting the progress of the SGM class action lawsuit:
10/18/2012 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Attorney Susan Burke About Lawsuit Against Sovereign Grace Ministries ("I don't know how long evangelicalism can ignore this problem.")
5/16/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Attorney Bill O’Neil Again About the Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit
5/20/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Bill O'Neil Regarding Latest Details About the SGM Child Sex Abuse Class Action Lawsuit
6/6/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Boz Tchividjian Regarding the Silence of Christian Leaders Over American Evangelicalism's Largest Sexual Scandal to Date
10/7/13 - Janet Mefferd Interviews Boz Tchividjian: Are Evangelical Christians Worse Than Catholics on Sexual Abuse Response? (References the SGM Child Sexual Abuse Scandal)

  Additional Resources  

Copy of Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries

SGM - Updated Statement on Reported Lawsuit


As Appeal Is Announced in Sovereign Grace Case, Joshua Harris Says He Was Abused As A Child

Lawsuit Claims Sovereign Grace Ministries Concealed Sex Abuse

Flagship Churches Prepare To Leave As Lawsuit Charges C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries With Covering Up Child Sex Abuse

Sovereign Grace Ministries: In Sex Abuse Case, Courts Shouldn't "Second Guess" SGM's Pastoral Counseling

SGM's C.J. Mahaney Gets Support From John Piper

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rick Warren Endorses "Catholics Come Home" Campaign

Posted by Christine Pack
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." (Romans 16:17-18)
Now that Saddleback pastor Rick Warren has endorsed the Roman Catholic campaign Catholics Come Home, created to bring lapsed Catholics back to the Catholic faith, can he finally and officially be publicly marked out and separated from for the false teacher that he is?
“The mission of Tom Peterson and Catholics Come Home to bring souls home to Jesus and the church is critically important during this challenging time in our history. I fully support this new evangelization project.” —Rick Warren, author The Purpose Driven Life



 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren Endorsing Catholics Come Home (Apprising Ministries)

Catholicism Is Not Just Another Christian Denomination (Sola Sisters)

Why the Reformation Was Important (Sola Sisters)

After The Darkness, Light (Post Tenebras Lux) (Sola Sisters)

Biblically Explaining The Heresy of Catholicism (Dr. John MacArthur)

A Chart With Christian/Catholic Views Side-By-Side (Berean Beacon)

Testimony of a Former Roman Catholic Priest....From Darkness to Light (Berean Beacon)

Far From Rome Near To God (Amazon)

On The "Faith" of Mother Teresa: John Ortberg Strikes Out (Sola Sisters)

The Myth of Mother Teresa
 (Challies)

Mother Teresa A Lost Soul (Berean Beacon)

Mother Teresa in Her Own Words (Sola Sisters)

CNN Reports That Mother Teresa Underwent Exorcism (CNN Archives)

BBC Reports About Exorcism Performed on Mother Teresa (BBC Archives)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Being Missional The New Legalism?

Posted by Christine Pack

Professor Anthony Bradley of King's College has written an excellent article entitled The New Legalism: Missional, Radical, Narcissistic, and Shamed. In this article, Bradley cites David Platt and the notion of "radical Christianity" for contributing to this new legalistic mindset, and states the following:
"Being a 'radical,' 'missional,' Christian is slowly becoming the 'new legalism.' We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40)........I continue to amazed by the number of youth and youth adults who are stressed and burnt out from the regularly shaming and feelings of inadequacy if they happen to not being doing something unique and special. Today’s Millennial generation is being fed the message that if they don’t do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential. The sad result is that many young adults feel ashamed if they 'settle' into ordinary jobs, get married early and start families, live in small towns, or as 1 Thess 4:11 says, 'aspire to live quietly, and to mind [their] affairs, and to work with [their] hands.' For too many Millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about." (Anthony Bradley, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, King’s College, New York)
Or to paraphrase Christian researcher Bob DeWaay, "Why can't we just be ordinary Christians, living out our lives fulfilling ordinary responsibilities by keeping a job, paying bills, taking care of our families, etc.?" In other words, there is a growing perception in evangelicalism that those who don't do Great Big Things For Jesus are somehow deemed inferior. That unless you've sold everything to go take care of orphans behind enemy lines while taking incoming fire, you're sort of a "second-tier Christian."  So unconsciously, but pervasively, there is now a mindset in evangelicalism that there are these "ordinary Christians" who live in America and take care of their families and work at their jobs, and then there are the behind-enemy-lines-in-a-third-world-country "Super Christians." And this new pietistic mindset of missional legalism sure does seem to prey upon the immaturity and folly of youth, doesn't it?
"For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge." (Romans 10:2)
For the record, please understand that I am not against missions. And neither am I saying that it's bad or wrong for Christians to go to third world countries and feed orphans behind enemy lines. What I'm saying is that the "ordinary Christians" in America and the Christians who go to third world countries to proclaim Christ and care for the needy are both important for building up the body of Christ, and both are vitally necessary.
"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:27)

 Additional Resources 

If Platt's Radical was Radical

Pastor Gary Gilley Reviews David Platt's Radical