Reaction to Brent Detwiler’s documents – highlights

After skimming through Brent Detwiler’s, ahem, copious comments on his numerous issues with C.J. Mahaney, my overall impression is that they corroborate pretty much all of the issues that various blogs and individuals have raised about SGM, and shed new light on how those issues manifested in the inner circles of SGM leadership. It’s not a pretty picture. No one comes out looking very good, not even Brent himself.

Much of my reaction to the documents echoes what people have already commented on at length on the SGM Survivors and Refuge blogs. For those who don’t read there or don’t want to wade through the comments, the highlights are below. I’ll post some of my thoughts that haven’t been discussed as much on the other blogs in another post.

The main issues, in summary [Trigger warning: sexual assault]:

– A long-standing pattern of narcissistic and egotistical behavior on C.J.’s part: passive aggressive or outright aggressive responses to the slightest criticism or questioning, expectations of special treatment, unilateral decision making, intense scrutiny and interrogation of the lives and work of his fellow pastors, all the while routinely being dishonest or secretive about his work and home life.

– This was coupled with extreme enabling behavior on the part of basically everyone around C.J. Despite their numerous statements effectively damning C.J. as a poor leader (see the above), they were continually praising him for being an amazing and wonderful a leader: “CJ is an exceptional leader and this summary does not provide the opportunity to celebrate all of the ways in which he excels.” They  consistently stated that the thought of him stepping down never crossed their minds: “There is no one we would rather have leading the apostolic team than CJ”. Despite over 10 YEARS of attempting to persuade C.J. to be less difficult, despite the fact that even the most basic of tasks (e.g., keeping track of his vacation time) were made inordinately difficult by his insistence on being treated as perfect and special. The cognitive dissonance is kind of mindblowing.

– The fact that 6 men – at the very least – weren’t able over 10 years to keep C.J. from running amok makes the CLC pastors and apostolic team look very, very weak and cowardly.

– The interactions between the men leading CLC and SGM are stilted and highly scripted – and incredibly uncomfortable to read. There’s page after page of interrogation of the tiniest details of each others’ words, and motives behinds words, and motives behind questioning words or motives… Constant “loving challenges” to each other over “sin” and confession of “sin” that really amounted to unrelenting examination and policing of each others emotional, spiritual, and personal lives. I can’t imagine how exhausting it must have been to live like this every day, having people constantly in one’s business and constantly being in other people’s business, all while claiming to be the closest of friends…

This. is. not. friendship. It’s not. I feel sad for these men who clearly have no concept of how joyful and affirming real friendship can be.

– Worse, the correspondence reveals the leadership teams to be a big nasty circle of bickering, backbiting, backstabbing, and thinly veiled jostling for power and approval. Meanwhile, the whole time these men are presenting themselves as a totally united front and CJ as the most humble and wonderful leader ever. The man literally WROTE A BOOK on humility – and they knew the whole time that they were lying through their teeth to CLC and all of SGM.

C.J. wasn’t humble. The men who worked most closely with him unanimously observed this. They routinely presented unilateral decisions on C.J.’s part – about handing the leadership of CLC over to Joshua Harris, e.g., or changing CLC’s doctrinal stance on baptism and communion – as unified decisions the pastoral team arrived at after lots of prayer and discussion together. Bottom line, they were lying to everyone for YEARS. Years.

– Oh yea, and there’s the whole part about C.J. trying to blackmail Larry Tomczak, co-founder of what eventually became SGM, into not leaving the group. This is the most serious allegation, with potential legal ramifications for C.J. and SGM. The story is that C.J. threatened to reveal information about his teenage son’s “youthful sin” (as Larry Tomczak puts it) to the church. It seems pretty clear that this was some sort of sexual “sin.” What’s less clear is whether this was participation in a consensual act, or, as has been alleged on the Survivors blog, a case of Tomczak’s son sexually assaulting a teenage girl in the church. If the latter, then not only is C.J. guilty of blackmail, he and everyone who knew about this incident are guilty of keeping a sexual crime from the authorities.

Narcissism. Enabling. Lying in order to maintain their influence over the congregation. Power grabbing. Blackmail. Coverups. Wonderful pastors for you. Again, that’s what Jesus was all about, right? Self-aggrandizement and dirty politics for personal gain? Yep.

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11 Comments on “Reaction to Brent Detwiler’s documents – highlights”

  1. merehuman says:

    What good are you doing by bringing condemnation with self righteousness? CJ is human, everyone is human. We all sin. Is that so shocking? The gospel teaches GRACE. Let’s all practice it on each other. This website is nothing but slander, as it is intended to specifically bring a God-loving ministry and it’s leaders down. What you all have a problem with is the sinfulness of people– I implore you to stop this negative banter. It is not Spirit filled. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Please stop the accusations and condemnation!

  2. jo says:

    Your name is ironic, then.

    • Grace says:

      No, it’s not. Christians don’t have a monopoly on the meaning or expression of grace. In fact, I’ve found way more grace outside the church than in it, so my thinking is Christians would do better paying attention to whether people in their own communities are behaving graciously than worrying about random people on the internet.

  3. merehuman says:

    Weak platitude? Sin to discuss bad behavior? Where did you get that from? Feel free to swim in your negativity… and inability to accept the immutable fact that people are not perfect.

    • Grace says:

      Oh, you weren’t claiming it’s a sin for me to post about C.J.’s bad behavior? Interesting.

      Thanks for the permission to run my blog as I see fit. You have my permission to keep telling yourself that C.J. “not being perfect” is an adequate excuse for blackmail and covering up spousal abuse and the rape of minors.

      • merehuman says:

        Grace,
        Do you read the Bible?
        Clearly, you do not. I am not judging you about it, I am just saying that it is clear that you have no basis in your theology. Once you’ve read the Bible, then maybe what you say about Church, rebuke, “what’s right and wrong” will change its position– specifically regarding the manner in which you are intentionally trying to bring someone down.

        And why did you describe your name that way? No one suggested that Christians have a monopoly over any “word.” What a manipulative way to say something. Whether you like it or not, grace is a godly, beautiful thing that God owns. You have a beautiful name, Grace.

        I apologize for commenting rudely on your blog about the CJ thing. I guess I’m kind of passionate about it, because I actually know these people you speak so ill of. And I am quite certain you have no personal relationship with CJ– which made me angry because you talk about him like he’s the worst person in the whole world. I don’t think it’s wrong of you, per se, to THINK that someone has bad behavior but the Bible teaches us to be wise about our dealings. To seek peace, to fight to love, pursue righteousness, practice forgiveness, and in everything give glory to God’s holiness. I just felt like you were going about such a personal issue in such an insensitive way. But of course, you have every constitutional right to write what you please on this blog. But that doesn’t mean that it sits right with God. Right? :)

        I’m sorry for coming off rude. I hope you know how hot of a topic this is, and how close to home it hits for many people.

        But through people who have reproached CJ with humility and love have already been successful. He has already shown that he is sorry, asked for forgiveness, stepped down from his position to make sure everything is “right” within his own heart– I mean what more could he do?

        I believe that if God forgive CJ through his repentance, then no man has the right to hold charges against Him. Otherwise, we would be playing “God,” and I don’t think that’s what you wanna do. Saying that CJ is “imperfect” and therefore giving a blind eye to his misdeeds is not exactly what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting that CJ is imperfect, just like you or me. So pointing fingers just sounds hypocritical, wrong, self-righteous, and foolish. I am no master at controlling my spite against others, but if someone told me what I am telling you I would feel silenced with truth.

        Again, I know this isn’t a categorically “Christian” blog, but let’s be real.. your blog welcomes such talk!

        • Beady Sea says:

          “I believe that if God forgive CJ through his repentance, then no man has the right to hold charges against Him.”

          Well that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? It’s a convenient philosophy for abusers, I suppose.

          Also: nice Freudian touch, capitalizing the pronoun referring to CJ. Loving it.

          “if someone told me what I am telling you I would feel silenced with truth.”

          What you are really saying here is that you agree strongly with your own argument. That must be very… comforting? But as far as outside perspectives go, a lot of people feel CJ is an abusive cult leader. So saying that anyone who criticizes his abusive actions ought to feel silenced… not really helping.

        • Grace says:

          Have you read any of this blog apart from this post? Clearly you haven’t, or you’d know I grew up Christian and was in Sovereign Grace for years. I’m plenty familiar with the Bible, thanks.

          It’s kind of hilarious that you’re defending a master of manipulation like CJ while chastising me for for so-called manipulation. As for why I responded that way, I suggest you go back and read the comment I was replying to. I don’t have time to waste walking people through stuff that’s already been said.

          And no, there’s no welcome anywhere on this blog for Christians to come in and preach to me about how my writing doesn’t live up to your beliefs or doesn’t sit right with your god.

  4. […] Mahaney stepping down? 9.   Confirmed: SGM leader C.J. Mahaney to temporarily step down 8.   Reaction to Brent Detwiler’s documents – highlights 7.   Damage control at Covenant Life Church, pt. 1 6.   Mark Driscoll: If you don’t […]


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