Komen, Lifeway, SGM and T4G Or, Maintaining the “as is” Structure

David E Fitch


Oh boy. Here’s a question from scotmcknight (@scotmcknight) . Dare I suggest Bill Kinnon (@kinnon) tackle this one? Ok gotta go 🙂 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/02/06/why-3/

Blame Bill Kinnon. He took the bait. David Fitch posted Scot McKnight’s, “Why,” about the different responses to Piper/Driscoll and Tim Keller. Kinnon trod where . . . well we will see where.

Yesterday I was reading the Out of Ur blog post informing readers of the recent decision by Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) to re-instate C.J. Mahaney as President. I vaguely remember when this quake hit last year. Evidently the handling of the situation is churning quite an aftershock.

Several things converged in my mind reading this post concerning my own tribe, the Southern Baptist Convention. Lifeway, the for-profit entity of the SBC, planned to support breast cancer awareness via the production and sales of a pink Bible. The Bibles were produced and sales had begun when, and I am speculating here, Thom Rainer or another ranking SBC figure received word that Komen provided grants to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and breast cancer awareness. That Planned Parenthood spends more money funding abortions problematized the Lifeway gift. It was rescinded. (As an aside, it appears the situation between Komen and Planned Parenthood was no surprise to Planned Parenthood. Their reaction surprised Komen.)

We Southern Baptists have long guarded ourselves against investing dollars where we have an ethical position to preserve. We take guilt by association seriously. Well, most of the time. It really depends who is associating with whom.

Lifeway is a “proud sponsor” for the upcoming T4G event. (Just wait for the scrolling banner to appear.) Al Mohler is a co-founder of the event as is Mark Dever. Several Southern Baptists will speak at main sessions while others lead Breakout Sessions. I know a number of Southern Baptists will attend the event. Even if the scope of “together” is narrow, that Southern Baptists participate with those outside their denomination is noteworthy.

What problematizes the Lifeway/SBC sponsorship and support is C.J Mahaney. Mahaney is also a co-founder of the event. Others have noted the curious timing of his re-instatement. The suggestion is that it came so he could participate in this event. An inside investigation into his admittedly poor leadership ethics did not prompt a change in leadership. For others this raises questions about an independent investigation report that may be released.

That Mahaney admitted to behavior that would get most of us removed from the pastorate does not rise to the level where the SBC entity has an ethical position to preserve. Bill Kinnon is aghast at the developments – not Lifeway. Even a member of the SGM network is flummoxed. But, the sorts of practices Mahaney acknowledged were, and who knows if they remain, normal fair in the pragmatic antics pre- and post- CR in the SBC. It is very difficult the pot calling the kettle black. And, since Mohler defended Mahaney when the story broke it would be hard now, I guess, to suggest either Mahaney withdraw participation until the independent investigation is complete or that the SBC /Lifeway would rescind its support, sponsorship, and participation. But wait, what about Baptist autonomy. We do have our trump cards, even when ethics are in question.

The point is not about the “togetherness” of a group of Christians for the Gospel. I am for a much wider vision for “togethering” for the Gospel. I have no issue with Mahaney personally. I am as frail and prone to hubris as the next pastor. What interests me is the way decisions are framed. Lifeway rightly positions itself against abortion – it is an ethical position. But, so is leadership ethics. On the one hand we defend the “not yet born.” What about those lives littering the byways of this world suffering at the hands of powerful religious leaders? Are they less valuable? Surely Ed Stetzer has written something about the reasons there are “de-churched” people in our Country. Clergy abuse fits that bill.

Political theology would frame the matter structurally. I recently heard the descriptor, “Inverse Theology.” The move in “inverse theology” is to privilege a different move that disrupts the “as is” structure of the way the world works. Or, put more plainly, the radicality of theology is witnessed when the move shifts from the “up (God) and in (heart)” as the primary real world move to the “down (wounded lives) and out (structures lending support).”

Another way of saying the same thing may be to suggest the “up and in” move represents the vocabulary associated with “What God has done for you,” and “what is residing in your heart toward God.” The “down and out” move describes a sensitivity to the damaged lives strewn around as we travel the world and the actions taken to change the structures that produce those real world wounds. The pietistic move, or for McKnight, the neo-Puritan revival tends to couch human need in only the “up and in.” Structures are created to attend to those internals thereby keeping the “as is” structures in place resulting in the ongoing wounding of real people, in real time.

Put another way, if the “up and in” references the Great Commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind – then, the “down and out” becomes the Second Like Unto It – love your neighbor as yourself. There is no reform when only one move is made. In fact, there is a greater chance reform comes with the “down and out” move than ever with solely and “up and in.”

Why? Once more we may look to the radical move the Apostle Paul makes. Loving God and others is not new with Jesus. Deuteronomy contains the admonition. Jesus makes an alteration. From, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might, he agrees with, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Paul offers a shorthand move in Galatians by asserting it all may be summed up in, “love your neighbor as yourself.” He is not simply doing so due to a lack of papyrus. The collapsing of the first and second commandments into this shorthand radicalizes Jesus’ move further. The new way the world works under the reign of God is to privilege those moments where we choose love for others over power and position, where we bind up their wounds and sacrifice for their good.

Jesus people cannot privilege one ethic over another where people are concerned. When we cast our support for life, it cannot be selective. When we withhold support it cannot be selective. Now that is a radical move that changes the “as is” structure of the way the world works into the world “as it should be.”

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

21 comments on “Komen, Lifeway, SGM and T4G Or, Maintaining the “as is” Structure

  1. Alan Cross says:

    What did Mahaney do? I have spent the past 20 minutes reading links trying to figure it out and all I can see is people reacting – some viciously. I see them talking about abuse of power and pride, but there are no examples. I just stayed away from this story when it first broke because these things make me tired.

    1. Alan,
      Yes, clergy abuse makes me tired. Blackmail as a means to maintain power makes me tired. SGM pulled Mahaney’s public apology. Follow the links on Bill Kinnon’s post. If you are still tired of reading I don’t know how to help you. I deliberately withheld comparable examples from the old Outpost days. If that does not stir you from your fatigue . . .

    2. Steve240 says:


      Here is Larry Tomczak’s explanation of what Mahaney did to him and Tomczak’s analysis of SGM declaring Mahaney “qualified” to lead SGM.


  2. Lydia says:

    Alan, you can go read sgmsurvivors blog from the last 4 years. It would take days, of course. But the spiritual abuse is “systemic” at SGM. And includes many stories of victims of sexual predators in the church counseled by SGM pastors NOT to call the police but told by the pastors to forgive the pervert immediately and let the church handle it.

    one woman, whose SGM husband raped her teen daughter, was told to send the daughter away so the husband could be the head of the home and not be tempted.

    The stories are endless and systemic. Not just one church here and there but system wide the stories flowed in over the last 4 years. SGM (formerly people of destiny) is really a shepherding cult that went Reformed and became accepted by other big names. LarryT was forced out and his son’s confessions to CJ used as blackmail to keep Larry from speaking out about PDI (now SGM) going Calvinist.

    What is astonishing is that Mohler, our entity leader, supports Mahaney….vigorously with NO oversight. He felt comfortable enough to make a statement to the secular press that the bloggers just did not like strong leadership. I think this is very telling about where we are headed in the SBC.

  3. Alan Cross says:

    No, I meant that I couldn’t get a handle on what he did. I started reading some links and it was like I walked into the middle of a conversation. I kept reading and all I saw were people saying how terrible everyone was who did not condemn Mahaney. I am not saying that they are not correct, but I couldn’t get a handle on what he actually did. I have not been following blogs for about 9 months now, really. I only read a few, so while I vaguely heard about this, I don’t know what happened and find it hardmto catch up. I remember back during the Outpost days, I was reading and writing stuff everyday both on my own blog as well as elsewhere and there were so many layers that it was hard to know the extent of it. It was sometimes like boxing with shadows. I am not doubting any of it. I have been through it all before personally and know it feels like you are in a washing machine. The “tired” comment is just a general weariness from church conflict, personality cults, power plays, and everyone trying to produce perfection in the other person. I made a similar comment on Fitch’s post yesterday about the T4G seminar on celebrity pastors.

    1. Alan,
      Yes, the entire episode would seem difficult unless pointed to the starting place. I had not done that work and so the link to Bill.

      That you have not been reading blogs but stopped here is a compliment.


  4. Alan Cross says:


    Wow. Thank you. That sounds horrible. I didn’t know any of that. Like I said, I’ve not followed this story at all. I only picked up on it a bit yesterday because of Fitch and now Todd bringing in the T4G conference and the SBC leadership’s connection. Actually, I think I reemerged with a bit of interest in anything related to the Evangelical leadership landscape with the Elephant Room 2 a couple of weeks ago and the Driscoll/Piper stuff on masculinity the past few weeks. All of this seems related, doesn’t it?

  5. Alan Cross says:

    Todd, I should have followed your link to Kinnon. I think I clicked on another one that was a discussion in midstream. Thank you for making us aware of these things. Just thinking about this this morning has caused me to search my own heart and “leadership” impulses and ask God to refine me and help me to be more of a servant to others instead of my own agenda. It is so easy to get things mixed up. I have no idea how the pastors of large churches can even do it, especially the young guys. Apart from an absolute miracle of grace that is exceptional, I don’t even know if it is possible to do what so many are trying to do. Sometimes, “success” can be the worst thing for us. Thanks.

  6. todd i would like to personally think the volenteers from your church who came out last monday to bring clothes andfellowship to the church

    1. Michael – glad to participate.

  7. Steve240 says:

    The saddest thing here is that if C.J. Mahaney had found another pastor in his group doing the same thing that Mahaney did Mahaney would have made the pastor step down. Sadly a double standard. Rules that apply to most SGM Pastors don’t apply to Mahaney.

    Brent Detwiler, a former top SGM Leader, prepared a set of documents compiled from emails that were exchanged by SGM Leaders over a number of years and wrote an appeal to C.J Mahaney for repentance and confession.


    Some of the things that these documents show is that Mahaney:

    -Blackmailed Larry Tomczak when Tomczak was considering leaving the group (called PDI at the time). Tomczak was indicating that he didn’t agree with the group’s move toward a Reformed/Calvinistic theology. One of Tomczak’s children (under 18) had previously confessed to Mahaney some sin. Mahaney threatened to breach this pastoral confidence if Larry left the movement and indicated it was due to the group moving towards Calvinism. Mahaney and other top leaders even hired a lawyer to give a legal opinion on doing this.
    – This blackmailing was hid for over 10 years and other SGM Board Members conspired to hide it rather having it confessed.
    – Other top leaders in SGM were questiong Mahaney writing a book on humility when Mahaney wasn’t practicing what he indicated people should do in his book.
    – Mahaney always taught the importance of attending what they call care groups. Despite saying this is something so important Mahaney chose not to do this for a few years.
    – The documents also seem to reveal that Mahaney was more of a tyrant running the group vs. a servant leader.

    Sadly despite all of what was revealed in the documents the SGM Board and the 3 committes composed of SGM Pastors didn’t see anything that would disqualify Mahaney.

    Mahaney supposedly stepped down from leadership while this review was happening so that there wouldn’t be an appearance of Mahaney trying to influence the outcome. During this period Mahaney spoke at at least 3 SGM Churches and at a conference attended by all SGM Pastors. Especially the latter looks like trying to influence.

    1. Steve,
      That there is often a double-standard in these cases is nearly indisputable.

      The aim of the post is not to offer a repository for the citations of specific actions. These are readily available on the interwebs. Instead, it is to demonstrate how the lack of radicality creates the occasion to support things “as they are” rather than “as they should be” for those living under the rubric of Jesus and enlivened by the Spirit. When our sole concern is for a confession to God and an internal move for the assuaging of guilt, things remain as they are. The best step, in my opinion, Mahaney or any other who finds themselves subject to our natural impulses to pride and the attendant heart of darkness, would be to develop habits that conform to the radical freedom Paul applied as he traveled – “love your neighbor as yourself.” This would be Good News that Mahaney would himself become a liberator of those who have suffered these sorts of wounded lives.

      We have to admit the dangers from the other side. Those who have been oppressed often become themselves oppressors of another sort. So, it is easy to see how, rather than exercise radical forgiveness, those wounded could themselves internalize their experiences of oppression and via an egregious judgmental move influence other communities away from radical grace. Or, put another way, it is easy to see this creating an Orwellian “animal farm” where those held down by those once around the table do nothing more than themselves take their place around the table thereby offering another iteration of oppression. This simply maintains the “as is” structure.

      1. Steve240 says:


        I am not totally sure what you are saying. I believe it is similar to making sure that those who live under the example of bad leadership don’t follow that same pattern if/when the are in leadership. Another example would be children of abusing parents doing the same to their children.

        If groups present themselves as being Christian then they should hold all and especially their leaders to the standards of Christ. I think you are saying that it was basically “convenient” for people to overlook what Mahaney did including being able to have Mahaney speak at T4G rather than admit and impose the proper consequences of Mahaney’s actions.

        1. Steve,

          Discipline for Mahaney by right should be determined by his church and SGM. That there should be some means to help Mahaney with the very issues that created this occasion should go without saying.

          My point more specifically – this post was not intended to be another place on the internet to record the particulars of Mahaney’s actions. There are other places on the web where that is taking place. I don’t need the traffic for that. Instead, the central point, that I fear is missed in these details, is that Lifeway has one standard for guarding an ethical position related to abortion that should lead them to more carefully scrutinize their support of actions that themselves are as caustic and killing as has been reported. Further, that when Lifeway, or another Christian ministry, makes the move to support and sponsor the reputation as guarding the ethical moves flowing out of the Gospel, applied radically by Paul, are gutted. Consequently they contribute to an “as is” structure rather than the always reforming move toward the “as it should be.”

          Surely I do not want anyone treating others poorly. Take the occasion to read the previous post. It was my opening line after the Gingerich quote.

          1. Steve240 says:


            A couple points about your stating “Discipline for Mahaney by right should be determined by his church and SGM.”

            Mahaney chose to leave CLC not long after the Brent Detwiler documents became public and went to a non SGM Church. A lot of people questioned this and was another example of Mahaney doing something that he had taught against and chastised other pastors for doing including Larry Tomczak. A lot easier to avoid your local church’s discipline when you no longer attend there.

            SGM has a polity where their “elders” are typically the same as their paid pastors. Most Churches when you think of elders you think of someone different typically lay elders and not the paid staff or maybe just the Sr. Pastor is one of the elders. Having separate lay elders provides a check and balance. Also, in groups where you are on the payroll it is sometimes harder to speak your mind or question when doing so might cause you to risk your position and how you support your family.

            Thus just how judicial and accurate SGM’s “discipline” and review of Mahaney’s actions have been questioned. Additionally some of the current SGM Board members are the same ones that were complicit in blackmailing Mahaney which is another possible conflict.

          2. Steve,

            We do not know each other. My use of Mahaney was in relationship to Lifeway’s decision to support T4G knowing the circumstances surrounding Mahaney, SGM, and the countless numbers of affected/wounded people. You describe a systemic issue that is related to what I have referenced with “as is” structures. The details you provide illustrate how the “as is” structure functions when crisis hits. It also illustrates how one may obfuscate the process.

            Mahaney is not the sole illustration for such a move. When the “as is” structures do not experience the radical moves appropriated by Paul – that is my framed reference point – all actions are taken to support the structure “as it is.” That means Mahaney, and others, face the prospects in front of them as consequences of their actions and they are able to go on to the next church and evade accountability precisely because the “as is” structure decline reform for any of a number of reasons.

            Were a Lifeway, for this illustration, to make the sort of splash it wanted Komen to make re: Planned Parenthood, T4G would be less one sponsor. Arguably the largest denominational publishing house would indeed draw attention to themselves in a way that says, “we are going to exhibit a consistent ethic for all human beings” – not yet born and born alike. While T4G may have elected to find another partner, those filling platform time and breakout sessions would then have a decision to make themselves. If they believed strongly enough in the action of their publishing entity, T4G would then be less a number of plenary speakers and breakout leaders. If this move prompted any change in the way T4G systemically supported Mahaney despite how he had handled himself and his relationship to his church, SGM, etc – one may argue the result would be a move toward an “as it should be” world.

            Until conservative Christians come to understand the sytemtic nature of sin operative in structures that intend to maintain things “as they are,” there will always be stories just like this one. My contention is those who lay claim to the radical move of Paul who fail at this point gut the notion of radicality as they pass by the wounded, beaten human beings lying from their painful events while other simply walk by on the other side of the road.

  8. Steve240 says:


    You bring up some good points.

    One thing that happened when these documents were made public was that Josh Harris (SGM CLC’s Sr. Pastor) called the documents release and their effect “the Lord’s discipline.” Dave Harvey and the rest of SGM’s Board came back with a statement indicating that they disagreed that this was “the Lord’s discipline.” This difference in views lead to Josh Harris resigning from the SGM Board.

    SGM’s Board claiming this wasn’t the “discipline of the Lord” seems to be a sad example of “sytemtic nature of sin operative in structures that intend to maintain things ‘as they are.'” SGM’s response sounded like they were “making light” of the Lord’s discipline that Hebrews 12:5 warns about.

    The SGM Board even went to claiming what Brent “slandered” C.J. Mahaney though there was no claim that Brent “doctored” the emails.

  9. Bill Kinnon says:

    A very good post, Todd which I’ve added a link to as an update to mine.

    For them who have ears to hear, eh!

    1. Thanks Bill. You keep writing, I will keep linking.

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