[Update: Some have asked if any contact was made with the PCA speakers at T4G. Correspondence was sent, and, after communicating with Dr. Ligon Duncan, I can confirm he did not receive his until his return from Kentucky as he was already out of town when it arrived.]
This week, Together for the Gospel (T4G) meets for its tenth anniversary. It’s a partnership that consists of PCA, Baptist, and non-denominational pastors who began a conference to show that, despite disagreements, they held a commitment to Dortist view of soteriology (TULIP). Over the years, what began as something small now inhabits large conference space and a sold out crowd of over 8,000 who will gather to sing, hear their favorite celebrity pastors, get new books and all the SWAG we love.
But there is a problem. CJ Mahaney. Mahaney is one of the original T4G members. He has a shroud of suspicion over him as the church he founded, Covenant Life, in Maryland is embroiled in sexual abuse scandals. Pastors have testified they did not go to the police. Josh Harris has even said such. Some people in lawsuits claim CJ knew about the abuse and did not report anything to the authorities and treated it as an internal matter, requiring the abused to forgive their abuser. In addition, investigative journalists seem to be uncovering abuse and cover-ups that rival the Roman Catholic cases. (See here and here.)
In 2014, wisely, CJ did not speak at T4G. He also left the leadership of The Gospel Coalition (TGC), though TGC still kept him as a speaker at a conference in Phoenix that year.
In 2013, the SBC passed a resolution on Sexual Abuse of Children that says: RESOLVED, That we encourage all denominational leaders and employees of the Southern Baptist Convention to utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse;
In 2014, our denomination, the PCA passed Overture 6 that includes: Be it further resolved that we urge all church leaders to use their influence for the protection of children, by any and all godly means, including preaching and teaching against the heinous sin of child sexual abuse, warning anyone with knowledge of these sins to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11), and by supporting victims who often suffer in silence and shame without the vocal and compassionate support of the church;
Fast forward to 2016, we have PCA pastors and SBC pastors sharing the stage with CJ Mahaney while the State of Maryland debates changing the statute of limitations on sexual crimes, with Covenant Life Church as one of the examples in testimony. It is possible CJ Mahaney is innocent in terms of knowledge of all the sexual crimes that took place at Covenant Life. What is not debatable is that his leadership and church policy did not protect children. Children were harmed while he was the Senior Pastor, responsible for the direction and oversight of the church.
There have been convictions of men like Nate Morales, who used their position at Covenant Life to prey on children. There are lawsuits that have been dismissed because of statutes of limitations. There is an investigation in the commonwealth of Virginia.
Despite these issues, PCA pastors are sharing the stage with him this week at the T4G conference.
PCA pastors are leaders in The Gospel Coalition that has crossover in leadership with T4G. PCA pastors are part of TGC that has a contractual relationship with Crossway Publishers that still lists CJ Mahaney as an author and continues to publish his works. It is time to apply pastoral wisdom to this issue and realize that people do see associations between TGC, T4G and Crossway, and do interpret the allowance of CJ into the celebrity fold as dismissal of numerous claims against him that have not been cleared in a church court, or court of law.
For the sake of peace of the Church, CJ Mahaney should not speak at T4G, or any conference, until his name has been cleared and I would humbly ask my PCA brothers and sisters to lead the way.