A public letter has started to circulate the world wide web – C.J. Mahaney is taking a leave of absence. In an open letter, Mahaney writes, “I’ve asked to take a leave of absence in order to give time to considering these charges, examine my heart, and receive the appropriate help from others.” The “charges” do not deal with financial or sexual issues, but Mahaney is taking them seriously. Through his letter explaining why he is taking a leave of absence, Mahaney demonstrates a heart that is soft towards the Lord and is living out what he wrote in his book Humility.
Here is the letter from C.J. 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.
I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others. I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness. But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed. Although my experience of conviction has already started—and this is an evidence of God’s mercy—I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge. Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others. And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private. Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.
So here is what I am going to do. I’ve asked to take a leave of absence in order to give time to considering these charges, examine my heart, and receive the appropriate help from others. With the guidance of the SGM board, I would also hope to pursue reconciliation with former pastors of Sovereign Grace during this leave. I have stepped off the board and I will not be the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries during this period of examination and evaluation. In order for me to receive an objective evaluation in relation to these charges the board is securing the help of a third-party ministry that has no history of relationship with SGM. With counsel from that ministry, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward. After processing these findings, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward. This leave of absence will also help remove any impediment to the panel’s exploration that could potentially arise if I remained in my current position, and it will enable me to fully cooperate in the process.
Just so you’ll know, I have also contacted David Powlison and Mark Dever and asked them to review the charges and provide me with their counsel and correction. I have enlisted them to serve me personally during this time and to ensure this process of examining my heart and life is as thorough as possible. And for the past year I have been the recipient of Ken Sande’s correction, counsel and care. That, I am grateful to say, will continue. And as you would expect I will continue to meet with the appropriate men on the board of Sovereign Grace and benefit from their correction, counsel, and care as well. I am deeply moved as I reflect on how rich I am relationally and I am humbled by the time these men are willing to spend serving me and Sovereign Grace.
My friends, I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I continue to walk through this process. Please pray that God would give me the gift of sight where I have been blinded by my sin and others have been adversely affected by my sin. Pray that I will be convicted and experience godly sorrow resulting in reconciliation where necessary and adjustments to my heart and leadership. Thank you for praying in this way for me.
One more thing. For the past 5 years or so I have become increasingly aware of certain deficiencies in my leadership that have contributed to deficiencies in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ structure and governance, the lack of a clear and consistent process of conflict resolution and pastoral evaluation, and the number of former Sovereign Grace pastors who are offended with me/SGM. I have met with some and by God’s grace there has been reconciliation with men like Larry Tomczak (I wish I had recognized and repented of my sin against him years ago). This brings great joy to my soul. In other cases, appeals for mediation have thus far been declined, but I’m hopeful this process will facilitate further reconciliation. But beyond this, there are still issues that need to be addressed and fixed in our family of churches. And I bear a primary responsibility because it has happened on my watch and under my leadership. I have resolved that I and the Sovereign Grace team can’t effectively lead us into the future without evaluating the past, addressing these deficiencies, improving our structure, and as much as possible pursuing reconciliation with former pastors. So during this leave of absence I will not only devote all the appropriate and necessary time to the independent panel and the charges but also to doing what I can to identify where I have failed to lead us effectively in relation to pastoral evaluation and conflict resolution.
My friends, though my soul can be easily overwhelmed as I contemplate my sin and its effects on others, I am also resolved to examine my heart, address the past, and play my role in preparing SGM for a future of planting and serving churches. And given the mercy of God portrayed in the gospel my heart is filled with hope that his good purpose for us will come to pass and cannot be frustrated. I trust there will be much grace to tell you of at the end of this process.
For an open letter from SGM regarding Mahaney’s leave of absence go to the Gospel Coalition blog.
Update (07/07/11; 9:48pm) : Since the posting of this blog entry, I have received emails seeking to attack the character of C.J. Mahaney and maligning his current state of repentance and the seeking of forgiveness from those that he has offended in the past. Having offended people in the past while in a leadership role in a church and having been offended by people in leadership positions within the Christian church in the past, I can empathize with both Mahaney and those who feel offended by Mahaney. This blog is not to defend or accuse Mahaney or SGM, but to celebrate the work of Christ within people’s hearts. The open letter demonstrates a conviction from God in Mahaney & SGM as well as those who have felt wronged and have demonstrated the grace of forgiveness, forgiving others just as God in Christ forgave them. It is my prayer that the grace of God will continue to operate in a strong way within Mahaney, SGM, and those who have felt offended so that their lives will shine forth Christ through humble and loving repentance and forgiveness rather than pride and a root of bitterness.