Sovereign Grace Churches Posts New Response to Rachael Denhollander (Updated with Reactions)

In a January 31, 2018 Christianity Today article, former gymnast Rachael Denhollander described her experience being the first to make public abuse allegations against Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar. Her brave disclosures led to many more from other women which eventually led to Nassar’s conviction and sentencing for criminal sexual contact.
In the CT article, Denhollander confronted the topic of sexual abuse in the church and specifically raised the controversial case of Sovereign Grace Churches. She didn’t feel supported in her struggle against Nassar by her church because that church was sympathetic to what she believes to be a past cover up of abuse within Sovereign Grace Churches. Denhollander said she and her husband didn’t feel welcome in the church after she expressed concerns about SGM.
In response, SGC posted a blog entry challenging Denhollander’s knowledge of the case.

On January 31, 2018, Sovereign Grace Churches became aware of an article published that same day in Christianity Today. The article is an interview with Rachael Denhollander. Rachael was the first to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, and her testimony was instrumental in drawing attention to the horrific crimes he committed. We thank God for Rachael’s courage in confronting Nassar and commend her invaluable work on behalf of other abuse victims. Like so many, we were impressed by her faithful witness to Christ in such difficult circumstances. At the same time, it needs to be said that she is mistaken in her accusations made against Sovereign Grace Churches and C.J. Mahaney. The Christianity Today article publicly mischaracterizes Sovereign Grace and C.J. based on accusations of which Rachael had no involvement and which are not true and have never been true. It’s extremely difficult to respond to false accusations without appearing unsympathetic to victims of abuse. It is our sincere hope that this brief statement has done both by speaking truthfully, respectfully and in a way that honors God.

Then, on February 5, Denhollander posted a response to SGC. In it, she issued a challenged to the organization to allow an independent organization, GRACE, to do an independent investigation of the allegations:

I am asking SGC to support their recent claim that I am making “false accusation”, “mischaracterizing” and communicating things that “are not true and have never been true”, and instead show true care for the victims by finally dealing transparently with these concerns, through taking one specific step:
Allowing GRACE, an Christian organization whose expertise is sexual assault and institutional dynamics, to do a thorough independent investigation of the organization’s historical and current handling of abuse complaints, which will be released to the public.

SGC Responds

This evening, Sovereign Grace Churches posted a lengthy and detailed response to Denhollander’s request for an investigation by GRACE. In addition to a denial of the bulk of Denhollander’s allegations, the church organization flatly rejected her request.

Rachael calls for a “fair, independent” investigation into SGC led by GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) because of the organization’s supposed neutrality. However, Boz Tchividjian, the leader of GRACE, has on multiple occasions written and spoken publicly in ways that suggest he has already prejudged the case against SGC. He has publicly indicted the motives of SGC as it relates to those allegations, and he has publicly criticized others who have expressed any support for SGC.

The rest of the statement takes on some of the points raised by Denhollander as well as others which she did not raise. It also refers to an independent investigation secured by Covenant Life Church. Covenant Life is no longer affiliated with SGC. However, this report has not been released to the public and remains mysterious.
Essentially, the statement from SGM denies a cover up of abuse. Although the church leadership team acknowledges “in hindsight that there were grave errors in judgment, and the abuse should have been reported regardless of the circumstances or a victim’s wishes,” they deny protecting abusers through a policy of not reporting abuse. Furthermore, the organization expressed regret over past mistakes and claimed to have improved their processes for handling allegations in the present.
I reached out to Rachel Denhollander for comment. On her behalf, her husband Jacob said she would respond to this new statement after a careful review. Later, Jacob Denhollander posted this tweet:

Other Twitter reactions to SGM’s statement range from approval to scathing criticism.

Joshua Harris and C.J. Mahaney No Longer Listed As Gospel Coalition Council Members

Checking out a lead that Joshua Harris and C.J. Mahaney had resigned from the Gospel Coalition Council, I asked the editor of the GC, Joe Carter, for comment. He wrote back to say that the GC isn’t commenting on the resignations and referred me to Harris and Mahaney for additional information.
The current Council page does not list either minister whereas the Google cache on May 16 shows both men.
Both men are leaders in the Sovereign Grace Ministries which has been rocked this week by the conviction of Nathan Morales, former member of former SGM flagship church Covenant Life Church on charges of child abuse. The church has been on the defensive due to allegations that senior leadership of the church knew of the allegations but did not report them to authorities.
This morning Joshua Harris tweeted his reason for resignation:


Update on the Sovereign Grace Abuse Case

On May 29, plaintiffs filed a request to reconsider the dismissal of claims in the Sovereign Grace abuse case.  Plaintiffs are alleging a conspiracy on the part of Sovereign Grace leaders which, if granted, would allow the presentation of claims relating to that claims. Read the entire motion here.
A helpful summary can be found here.
A leading advocacy group formed out of the Catholic church abuse scandal has spoken out in condemnation of Christian leaders who have come to the defense of C. J. Mahaney, founder of the Sovereign Grace network. David Clohessy said the public stance of the ministers who defend the accused send a chilling message to the victims of abuse and may keep others from coming forward.
Related post:
The Sovereign Grace Abuse Scandal

The Sovereign Grace Ministries Scandal

I have only recently learned about the lawsuit alleging wide-spread child abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries, a neo-Calvinist denomination based in MD.  Check here for local coverage of the lawsuit, much of which was dismissed earlier this month.

I don’t know what to make of this yet, as I am still reading about it. However, the story is pitting some evangelical heavy weights against each other.
Christianity Today is covering this scandal and notes that Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Justin Taylor, and Ligon Duncan have come to the defense of SGM founder C.J. Mahaney.  On the other side, supporting those who allege abuse, are Rachel Held Evans, Scot McKnight and Liberty University professor Boz Tchividjian.
For summaries of the situation, the following sites seem to have good coverage.
Rachel Held Evans
SGM Survivors
Internet Monk (Update)
Wartburg Watch
World Magazine
Christianity Today
Given the seriousness of the allegations and the notoriety of the those who are taking sides, this set of events could be the foundation of a major disruption in the evangelical world.