There is going to be a huge kerfuffle in a section of the God blogosphere as news of a decision by a major ministry leader to step away for awhile starts to reverberate.
Known by others as part of ‘the truly reformed’ and ‘Calvinistas’ Mahaney’s group of 70 churches have been discussed online for years.
SGM is led by an authoritarian, patriarchal, complimentarian group of men who have left a very long legacy of hurt and broken people. Two places former congregants tell their story are SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge.
From his leave of absense letter - Mahaney:
Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.
SGM were aware that some damaging information about Mahaney’s leadership was going to go public.
It surfaced yesterday in some documents posted with the titleSGM Wikileaks. (that is clever and appropriate!)
The title is funny, but the content is decidedly not. This is meticulously detailed and chilling information from a former SGM minister who was ousted.
It’s not a fun read, it’s a slog; full of inside language and syrupy spirituality in between incredible nit-picking about sin. The larger picture could be lost in the several hundred pages of minutia.
Fear. Hypocrisy. Leadership tiptoeing through an autocratic minefield. Self-absorption to the neglect of so many others being crushed, wounded and hurt. Wounded and frightened leaders who wound others.
And yet, the SGM wikileak documents give an amazingly detailed picture of years and years of problems in this troubled and toxic group of churches. A sick system is exposed.
I doubt the SGM wikileak documents will be online for long.
What strikes me, apart from the obsessive and meticulous documentation by Brent Detwiler is the dreary pattern of repeated behavior; years and years of spiritual abuse, neglect, punishment, hobbling, rules and fear. Years of empty, empty words.
An outside conflict resolution group has been asked to step in, but it is far to late for people who have spent years trying to bring their stories to light, trying to heal and move on from the trickle down effect that glaringly comes to light in the dysfunctional and deeply toxic leadership and belief system.
Blogs and ministries who worship leaders such as CJ Mahaney are posting about not gossiping, witholding judgement and forgiving.
I suspect that may change as the SGM wikileaks spreads past the Calvinist subculture and emotionally healthy people respond in an emotionally healthy way. To say Mahaney is a bully, to say he shaped bullies is an understatement to me. Emotionally healthy people can judge for themselves.
This is soul sucking stuff. I recommend taking some time to read the stories of people who left SGM churches. There are hundreds of accounts online. The abuse; the manipulating, game playing, shaming, scolding, shunning is similar to what occurs in cults. So many former leaders and congregants at the two blogs above, tried to warn, tried to be heard. Tried and tried until the wearing reality of spiritual abuse sank in and they left to save their faith, their sanity and in many chilling cases, what was left of their lives.
People in SGM churches have been kept in the dark, the information in the SGM wikileak documents is going to be a shock. I believe good will come for some individuals with the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the opportunity to make things right with former brothers and sisters in Christ. No one willingly joins a toxic system, and I think there are mature healthy people in these 70 churches who have tried to bring about change from the inside out. I believe some in leadership may have a few burdens lifted and an opportunity to move on.
But given the pattern, (evident in Mahaney’s current leave of absence letter) is so entrenched, so taught, and so long embraced, I don’t think the SGM corporate system/structure is fixable.
I think Mahaney fanboys will lash out online as news of Mahaney’s leave spreads, they are quick to do so for lesser evils.
Reading informed online chatter, it appears that Brent Detwiler did not post his documentation. At this stage, no one who follows the this reformed charismatic group knows who leaked his stuff. I fear for him, and others; these guys play hardball with reputations, conference and book money and careers on the line.
This is a sorry and shameful mess, and I do agree with Mahaney cheerleaders in part. Pray for every SGM member and former member, pray for safety for whistleblowers, families and for the outside conflict resolution team. I think this outside team will do their job, get paid; but I’m not optimistic what they offer be heeded.
The Wartburg Watch is one of the many blogs who have followed SGM drama from time to time and have good background posts.