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A New Denomination Featuring Several SGC Pastors

The latest church to leave Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. is Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, North Carolina.  Apex is outside of Raleigh.  They will be changing their name.  Daniel Baker is the senior pastor.  I was his systematic theology teacher in the Pastors College (1999-2000), conducted his ordination examination (2003), and ordained him to ministry (2004).  I know Daniel well.  I know his father-in-law, Phil Sasser, even better.  Phil led the church from 2001-2015.  He is now Pastor Emeritus.  Daniel took over in 2016. 

A couple weeks ago, I notice their church was removed from the list of Sovereign Grace Churches.  I wrote Daniel.

From: Brent Detwiler Sent: Monday, May 4, 2020 7:20 AM To: Daniel Baker Subject: Have You Left SGC? Hello Daniel, Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yesterday, I noticed your church has been removed from the directory of churches listed on the Sovereign Grace Churches website.  Have you left?  If so, can you tell me why? I also noticed this statement on your website.  “Our church is a part of the Sovereign Grace Churches, and you’ll find an introduction to this family of churches on these pages.” I assume you have not gotten around to removing it.  Is that correct? Thanks Brent

I didn’t get a direct response from Daniel but soon thereafter the website was change to read, “Our church is a part of the Trinity Fellowship Churches, and you’ll find an introduction to this family of churches on these pages.”

Trinity Fellowship Churches doesn’t have a website yet; so Daniel wrote an introduction for his church.  This departure represents another radical rip in the fabric of SGC.  I’ll explain later.  Here is the introduction which appears on church’s blog.

May 6, 2020 Our New Denomination: Trinity Fellowship Churches By: Daniel Baker As of Tuesday night, May 5th, our church became a member of Trinity Fellowship Churches.  Our elders signed the Partnership Agreement Friday May 1st and then Tuesday night the General Assembly of TFC voted to receive us.  For this post I want to share some of the key aspects of TFC.  No, TFC doesn’t have a website yet.  That’s why no hyperlinks in this post.  But, it’s got a Book of Church Order with approved Rules of Discipline and a solid Confession of Faith.  Those priorities are good ones, we think.  The website is due to go live later this month.  Getting to Know TFC It’s going to take a little while before our church really knows the leaders throughout TFC, but in God’s providence 2020 has some cool opportunities for that.  This summer Craig Cabaniss from Frisco, TX, will be teaching a marriage seminar in July and then preaching on Sunday morning.  Also, this October we’re hosting the TFC General Assembly.  We hope while the pastors gather here for that meeting, we can find a way to introduce them to you.  And, of course, Ian McConnell has preached here a couple times already.  The Vision of TFC TFC is a group whose values are closely aligned to ours.  That’s one of the reasons we explored partnership with TFC and then opted in.  In the opening of the Book of Church Order of Trinity Fellowship Churches they describe themselves like this: Trinity Fellowship Churches is an ecclesiastical union of confessional, connectional, and missional congregations committed to maturing and multiplying disciples with the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. Saying they’re “confessional” means they’re tied to the historic beliefs of Reformed Protestants.  In our case that means being tied to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  That was the starting point of the current Confession of Faith.  It has been modified in significant ways, though.  The updated Confession affirms our view of spiritual gifts (Continuationist), gender and gender roles (Complementarian), church government (Elder-governed churches with a presbyterian approach to extra-local church government), and has other changes throughout.  To be “connectional” means the member churches are united and connected for the sake of encouragement, protection of one another, and for mission. “Missional” is a word meant to capture our commitment to evangelism and church planting—but also the side of discipleship where our whole lives become re-imagined with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  How does the gospel impact how I relate to my co-workers?  The answer to that question (and similar ones) is what we mean by “missional.”  The List of Churches The current slate of churches in TFC isn’t big, but it’s a group with many seasoned pastors and some very gifted leaders.  Here’s the current lineup:  - Crossway Church (Peter Privitera & Doug Plank; Millersville, PA)   -  King of Grace Church (Paul Buckley; Boston)                                        -  Crossway Church (Bauer Evans; Boston)                                          -  Covenant Community Church (Ian McConnell; Philly)                      -  Grace City Church of the North East (Rob Chisholm; Philly)        -  Christ Church South Philadelphia (Jeff Boettcher; Philly)                      -  King of Peace Church (Mike Lilley; Salem, MA)                        -  King’s Cross Church (Jacob Young, Manchester, NH)            -  Grace Church Frisco (Craig Cabaniss; Frisco, TX)                                -  Redemption Hill Church (Shawn Powers; Des Moines, IA)     We are extremely hopeful that with churches with DNA like this, TFC will grow well—not necessarily fast, but well.  There is a good blend of courage and care-fulness in these men. Accountability for SGC Elders One important role that a denomination performs is providing true accountability for elders.  Last night TFC approved its Rules of Discipline and its procedures for how charges are to be made against elders.  Since TFC only began last November, having these in place now communicates a lot.  Church Planting Internationally One change with the move to TFC is how we’ll approach missions.  In the past our denomination was a key way we participated in the Great Commission.  TFC is beginning with a sense we should connect with groups outside of our denomination for the sake of missions.  This is an acknowledgement that other groups are further along in figuring how to mobilize church planters internationally, and we should take advantage of their expertise.  Church plants in the US are more graspable.  So, within the US, TFC itself will oversee church planting for the member churches.  We think this dual approach to fulfilling the Great Commission will serve our church extremely well. A New Name? Yes, with the change to TFC we’re also working toward a name change of SGC.  It’ll take a little while for that to happen, but we’re hopeful that by late summer/early fall we’ll have a new name.  As elders of SGC, our primary ministry is right here in this church.  We believe TFC will be a great asset to us in fulfilling our ministry, and we’re excited about the potential that TFC has.  Please join with the elders as we continue to pray for fruitfulness and growth in SGC—and in the TFC churches. Daniel

There has been a vast exodus of people, pastors, and churches from Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries) over the past seven years.

In July 2011, it was necessary for me to send out The Documents to the 300 pastors in Sovereign Grace.  At the time, there were four documents amounting to 600 pages that I prepared in private for the benefit of C.J. Mahaney and the ministry I loved, help to found, and served for 27 years.  C.J. knew I might send them out if he did not follow through on his promises to respond in writing and make a public confession.

Instead, he made an extremely deceptive statement to Sovereign Grace regarding his reason for a “leave of absence.”  He pretended to appear humble to preempt my charge of pervasive pride.  This was one part of a comprehensive plan to do damage control. 

My Thoughts on C.J.'s Leave of Absence

Friday, August 5, 2011 at 5:10PM

Later, I would learn that Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell and Joshua Harris were working behind my back to discredit me and my writings during the three week period leading up to C.J.’s leave of absence.  They were mocking and labeling The Documents “a sad tale.”  These were my friends and I thought they were relating to me with integrity.  They were not.   

The Mona Lisa of Spin by Master Harvey

Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 5:27PM

When I sent out The Documents, it resulted in a nationally orchestrated campaign to oppose and slander me.  That is not an overstatement.  Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan played a central role.

The Five Resolutions – July 13, 2011

Friday, January 13, 2012 at 8:36AM

Struck Down But Not Destroyed

Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 5:14PM

Jared Mellinger, one of the top pastors in SGC, told his Covenant Fellowship Church that reading The Documents was worse than viewing pornography.  Moreover, Mark Prater, the executive director for SGC, is on his staff and based in the church.  Both of them, along with Dave Harvey and Marty Machowski, covered up the sexual abuse of children in Covenant Fellowship Church.  There is a reason why these men have adamantly refused to allow an independent investigation of past sexual abuse – they are guilty!  It is not just C.J.!

What Does My Website Have in Common with Pornography? Ask Jared Mellinger! Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 3:10PM

Sex Abuse Victim Asserts Prominent SGM Pastor Marty Machowski “Threw My Children & I to the Wolves” Friday, October 31, 2014 at 2:39PM

A Victim’s Anguished Letter to Dave Harvey Revealing Sexual Abuse & Its Alleged Cover Up at Covenant Fellowship Church Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 2:10PM

One more example.  Mickey Connolly, now the Number 2 man in SGC, told members of CrossWay Community Church, they needed to leave the church if they refused his emphatic order not to read any of my writings.  This was the man Al Mohler pressured Janet Mefferd to have on her radio program to defend C.J.

The Five Resolutions – July 13, 2011 Friday, January 13, 2012 at 8:36AM

Struck Down But Not Destroyed Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 5:14PM

Despite this massive attempt at damage control, people throughout Sovereign Grace saw through their evil plans and were appalled.  Forty churches, 100 pastors, and roughly 12,000 people left the family of churches.  C.J.’s rebellion and arrogance especially did harm to Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  It once had 23 full-time pastors.  It now has four.  That was his home church, which he always called the “sweetest place on earth,” until they called him to account for his pride, deceit, and hypocrisy.

Here is what one godly member (who wished to remain anonymous) wrote Dr. Wayne Grudem upon hearing he was going speak at C.J.’s “runaway” church in Louisville, Kentucky to commend his character and actions.  It was representative of most members in Covenant Life Church.  The letter was sent after the lawsuit was filed against C.J. (and others) by 11 plaintiffs alleging a conspiracy to commit and cover-up the sexual abuse of children.  You can read the heart wrenching lawsuit here

July 2013 Dear Mr. Grudem, I’m very troubled to learn that you are speaking in Louisville at the Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. Someone told me you said you wanted to stand by CJ as he faced “unjust accusations”. I appeal to you to consider how painful that remark is to those of us in Covenant Life Church who have been abandoned by the leader we loved and trusted for nearly 40 years. I don’t know if the accusations in the lawsuits are true. I don’t know if all of the accusations of spiritually abusing authority are true, although I’ve certainly seen some things. But, I do know that this dearly beloved pastor, who you know enjoyed profound affection from his congregation, left his sheep without a word of explanation or attempt at reconciliation, taking many of this church’s founding fathers with him. For this congregation, it was like a father abandoning his children. His mysterious actions caused his loyal followers to distrust Josh Harris for unknown reasons. You see, by his silence and by his actions, he is accusing Joshua Harris. Of what, we do not know. But, I can tell you that his divisiveness has split every family and every home. He divides parents and children and husbands and wives and brothers and sisters and some very longstanding friendships. To protect his legacy and his reputation, he has torn apart everything he built. He will no longer be remembered for all the amazing things he did at Covenant Life. His legacy at CLC will forever be how he left. In losing credibility, people are now disillusioned, and everything he ever taught is now in question. People who have never once doubted their faith now question everything they have ever been taught. If his affection was not genuine, was anything he said genuine? If his affection was genuine, he would not have done what he has done to this body of believers. Is anything true? Husbands have left wives. Wives have left husbands. Families are estranged. Not just the families that left to Louisville. Hundreds and hundreds of families are torn. Ask any Covenant Lifer what the Gospel Song now represents to them? Terrible pain. A great divorce. So, I don’t know whether the other accusations are true. I only know what I know to be true. And what is true is that this man has sinned grievously against his own body of believers. And your support of him wounds us even more. You represent the greater body of Christ, the people we need to help us through this, and yet you stand with him. I appeal to you to step away. I appeal to you to consider those he has wounded. I appeal to you demand this man take responsibility for his actions and apologize to our body so that we might be healed. I appeal to you to represent Christ in this matter. Please don’t continue to aid and abet him in his sin. That is such a painful, hurtful thing for you to do on top of what has already occurred. I would leave my name, but people come after you for that. Hopefully someday that will not be so.

The CLC member received this response from Grudem’s assistant.

Jul 15, 2013 Hello My name is John Paul Stepanian, and I am Dr. Grudem’s assistant as well as a student here at Phoenix Seminary. One of my jobs is to see to Dr. Grudem’s correspondence on his behalf. Thank you for your concern. I have forwarded your message on to Dr. Grudem, so he received your message. He has, however decided not to respond individually to emails on this topic or get personally involved in trying to sort out the situation. Sincerely, John Paul Stepanian

The blind support of Wayne Gruden and countless other national leaders caused thousands of believers in Sovereign Grace Churches to stumble.  All these men have a responsibility before God to publicly confess their sins and ask forgiveness for their long standing support of C.J. Mahaney contrary to the evidence they refused to read.  

In this regard, no one has been more guilty than Mark Dever, President of 9Marks and senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.  His defense of Mahaney for nearly a decade has been reprehensible.  I plan to write an article about him in the future.

Today, only 65 churches are listed on the Sovereign Grace website.  Almost half the churches from 2012 have left and roughly 70% of all the people.  That doesn’t matter to many national leaders.  They continue to support Mahaney and Sovereign Grace.  

For example, Michael Reeves spoke at his church on August 4, 2019; Ray Ortlund on  September 29, 2019; and Thomas Schreiner on January 26, 2020.  It doesn’t matter that C.J. has devastated countless lives and covered up sexual abuse and assault going back to 1980.  These are matters of fact.

Nor does it matter that C.J. and the SG Leadership Team & Directors (i.e., Mark Prater, Mickey Connolly, Jeff Purswell, Rich Richardson, Tommy Hill, Eric Turbedsky, Bob Kauflin, & Dave Taylor) refuse to do an independent investigation of this scandalous history.  Instead, they continue to lie and claim one has already been done and men like Ray Ortlund foolishly believe their deceitful talking points.

Ray Ortlund@rayortlund

Replying to@jeff_owens@R_Denhollanderand@CTmagazine

The allegations have been fully investigated. Thanks.

5:28 PM · May 23, 2018

Someday, I hope Ortlund reads the evidence and repents.  There was never an independent investigation and the allegations were not fully investigated.  Far from it!  Ortlund is bearing false witness.

Like Ortlund, Al Mohler believed C.J.’s talking points until he finally read the evidence in March 2018.  At that point, he severed all personal and ministry ties to C.J. and SGC because both refused to embrace an authentic investigation.  He didn’t reveal his severing of ties until February 2019.  Here’s an excerpt from a previous article.

The Inside Story: Al Mohler Severed All Personal Ties With C.J. Mahaney & Sovereign Grace Churches Because Mahaney Deceived Him Into Believing An “Independent Investigation” of Abuse Was Done

Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 4:54PM

C.J. Mahaney deceived Al Mohler into thinking an investigation of sexual abuse done by Covenant Life Church included the investigation of Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc.  When Mohler found out otherwise, he severed their relationship but didn’t reveal it until Robert Downen of the Houston Chronicle started asking him questions.  Mahaney and SGC were never investigated.  Mohler was duped by his closest of friends.  I call that betrayal.  Understandably, all ties with Mahaney & SGC were completely severed.  That has been a secret until now.  Here’s the inside story.

In God’s providence, Mohler was forced to publicly acknowledge he cut off his relationship with C.J. and SGC but there is a lot more he needs to do to make things right with those he sinned against for a long time in his continuous defense of C.J. from 2011-2018. 

A Must Read: "Al Mohler's Incomplete Apology: My Story" by Talk Show Host Janet Mefferd

Saturday, February 16, 2019 at 12:04PM

Despite all the public pressure, Sovereign Grace Churches continues to dig its heals in.  In an astonishing statement on April 12, 2019, the Leadership Team claimed: “Practical matters alone make this option impossible….We remain persuaded that an investigation…is inappropriate, impractical, unjust.…Most importantly…it would ultimately dishonor Christ and harm the cause of the gospel.”

This position was downright arrogant and deceptive.  An independent investigation could be done and it needed to be done to honor Christ and protect the gospel.  As a result, more pastors and churches continued to leave SGC.

The Sovereign Grace Leadership Team Rejects an Independent Investigation of Sexual Abuse Insisting It Would “Dishonor Christ and Harm the Cause of the Gospel.” Rachael Denhollander Responds. So Do I.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 6:52PM

Sovereign Grace Leadership Team Says Independent Investigation of Child Abuse Is Impossible – Three Prominent Sovereign Grace Churches Publicly Disagree

Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 7:57PM

A Fourth Sovereign Grace Church Reproves Leadership Team for Refusing Independent Investigation. Denhollander Responds. I Put Focus Back on SGC Leader John Loftness for Alleged Sexual Sadism of Children

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 6:45PM

Seven More Churches Leave Sovereign Grace Churches, Inc. Over Prideful Refusal to Do an Independent Investigation of 35-Year History of Sexual Abuse & Assault

Saturday, November 16, 2019 at 11:59AM

Over the last seven months, 11 churches have left Sovereign Grace Churches.  They have joined together to start a new denomination.  Daniel Baker says, “It’s a group with many seasoned pastors and some very gifted leaders.”  I have written about the prominence of these men in the articles above. 

This is a “brain drain” and financial drain.  It represents the departure of more than 30 full-time pastors and 6,000 members.  It also means a loss of roughly $1 million in annual income to Sovereign Grace Churches.  The churches are required to tithe to the denomination.

I’ve asked Tommy Hill, the Director of Finance, for the most recent audit but he won’t release it contrary to SGC policy.  Maybe someone else can get it and send to me.

From: Brent Detwiler Sent: Monday, May 18, 2020 12:27 PM To: Tommy Hill Subject: FY 2019-2020 Audited Hi Tommy, Would you please send me the SG Audited Financial Statement for 2019-2020 or provide me a link? My address is: Brent Detwiler 2237 E. Bel Air Lane Gilbert, AZ   85234 Thanks Brent

From: Brent Detwiler Sent: Thursday, May 21, 2020 12:04 PM To: Tommy Hill thill@sovgracemin.org Subject: RE: FY 2019-2020 Audited Tommy, I don’t need to remind you that SG policy says you will provide the Audited Financial Statement to anyone upon request.  Are you going to violate your own policy as its Comptroller?

Other prominent leaders have also left SGC and started new churches but not joined the new denomination.  In the first article listed above I wrote the following on April 17, 2019. 

I regularly pray the Lord Jesus will mercifully lead pastors to repentance and out of Sovereign Grace Churches.  Last month, four pastors from two churches in the Phoenix area left.     One of those men was Jason Hansen.  He was the Regional Leader in the West and based in the Gilbert, AZ church with Rich Richardson who is on the SGC Leadership Team.  Gilbert is a suburb southeast of Phoenix.  Another pastor, Tyler Jenner went with him along with a lot of people including many members from the worship group.   Richardson tried to spin the “church plant” as a positive but this is a big hit to his church and the region.  Hansen has been replaced [by Eric Turbedsky] but SGC, Inc. never tells people about it or why.  Any negative news is hushed up unless forced to acknowledge or address it. … In addition, Chris Daukas and Jamie Self pulled Grace Church out of SGC, Inc. [in March 2019].  It is in Peoria, AZ, a suburb northwest of Phoenix.

Here’s why.

Our concerns fall mostly into two categories: 1) SGC’s response to the ongoing allegations of widespread mishandling of sexual abuse cases within SGC churches, and 2) growing disagreement with aspects of the SGC Book of Church Order (BCO). 

I have appealed to most of the pastors in the newly formed Trinity Fellowship of Churches for the last ten years (some haven’t been around that long).  I’ve sent them thousands of pages of evidence documenting the pervasive abuse and corruption in SGC.  Men like Paul Buckley, Phil Sasser, Ian McConnell, and Craig Cabaniss were at the center of it.  I’ve written articles about them and their sinful engagements that caused me great harm.  They too lied, abused, and deceived like C.J.  I’m glad they have come out of SGC but they have not come to repentance.

For instance, most of the pastors who have left to form the new denomination endorsed this condemnation of me in 2013.  It remains on the SGC, Inc. website. 

Sovereign Grace Statement on Brent Detwiler by Sovereign Grace Staff | Aug 5, 2013 The Sovereign Grace Council of Elders approved the following statement on May 25, 2013: As the Sovereign Grace Council of Elders, representing the elderships that govern local churches, we believe that Brent Detwiler has repeatedly and grievously slandered our churches and our leaders.[1] We denounce as sinful and unbiblical his determined effort to accuse our brethren.[2] Consequently, we urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to avoid giving audience to Brent Detwiler’s unbiblical speech until such a time that he repents of this ungodly pattern. Such harmful speech is ruinous to the church of God. Furthermore, in contradiction to Brent Detwiler’s ongoing statements, we vigorously reiterate our support of C.J. Mahaney as a qualified minister of the gospel.[3] While we wholeheartedly support our reformation in polity, we also publicly declare our gratefulness for C.J.’s many years of service and commend his ongoing ministry of the gospel.[4] [1] This belief is based on the numerous public statements Brent has made accusing leaders of Sovereign Grace churches of lying, deception, hypocrisy, conspiracy, abuse, etc. without due process nor sufficient information and at times blatantly contrary to the facts. [2] See Exodus 23:1, Proverbs 11:9,13, 20:19, 26:20, 1 Corinthians 13:7, Ephesians 4:29-32, 1 Timothy 5:19, Titus 3:1-3, James 4:11-12, and 1 Peter 2:1. [3] Per Interim Board announcement on the review panels dated January 25, 2012 and Preliminary Panel Report dated July 27, 2011. [4] C.J. serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville but does not hold a staff position with Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc.

Here is another example.  Paul Buckley, Phil Sasser, and Ian McConnell were on the Sovereign Grace Board of Directors that approved the “hush fund” to prevent a victim’s family from joining the lawsuit.  Their wheeling and dealing was unscrupulous. 

Hush Fund Set Up by Top SGM Leaders to Meet the Demands of a SGM Pastor Whose Son Was Sexually Abused 

Monday, March 30, 2015 at 1:56PM

Here’s another.  Buckley, Sasser, McConnell and Craig Cabaniss lied when they stated all were united in C.J. Mahaney continuing and remaining as the President of SGM back in 2012 and 2013. 

The Cover-up of Buckley’s Cover-up of Mahaney Is Underway Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 5:02PM These are the Board Members that lied when they publicly stated in June 2012 and August 2012 that they were all united in C.J. Mahaney continuing and remaining as the President of SGM.  They also reiterated this claim to all the SGM pastors in March 2013.  That was far from the truth.  In fact, Paul Buckley was pressing for Mahaney’s removal. 1) Paul Buckley  2) John Loftness  3) Ron Boomsma  4) Craig Cabaniss  5) Mickey Connolly  6) Ian McConnell  7) Ken Mellinger  8) Al Pino  9) Phil Sasser.

Phil Sasser also played a major role in framing me in 2009.  It is why I left Sovereign Grace Churches.

The Untold Story June 25, 2011 / Updated: December 3, 2019 Preface I wrote The Untold Story in 2011 but never completed it.  It is still not complete, but I have updated and expanded it in December 2019.  It is the most personal and painful of my writings and tells the story of extraordinary betrayal by friends.  In November 2007, I resigned from the Sovereign Grace Board of Directions [i.e., the apostolic or leadership team] after 25 years of service due to my loss of trust in C.J. Mahaney.  I still loved Sovereign Grace so I decided to plant a church in April 2008 and remain in the organization.  This was not acceptable to Mahaney.  Through Dave Harvey, Gene Emerson, and Bob Kauflin, he framed my ouster. I resigned as the senior  pastor of Grace Community Church in July 2009.  I left Sovereign Grace Ministries in August 2009.

You can read it on Scribd or the Wayback Machine

Daniel Baker says, “TFC is a group whose values are closely aligned to ours.  That’s one of the reasons we explored partnership with TFC and then opted in.”

He also says, “We are extremely hopeful that with churches with DNA like this, TFC will grow well—not necessarily fast, but well.  There is a good blend of courage and care-fulness in these men.”

Daniel has a high opinion of the pastors. That is misplaced. They have the same DNA as Sovereign Grace Churches. There is no difference. For the last ten years, most of these pastors covered up for C.J. and SGC. They refused to study the evidence and/or take a stand. They steadfastly condemned me and my writings. They have not demonstrated any courage, only cowardice; and their “carefulness” has been nothing but compromise. They should have left Sovereign Grace like 40 others churches did from 2012-2014. Now, six years later, they are finally leaving. That is not credit worthy.

Daniel also lauds Trinity Fellowship of Churches for “providing true accountability” and “procedures for how charges are to be made against elders.”

“One important role that a denomination performs is providing true accountability for elders.  Last night TFC approved its Rules of Discipline and its procedures for how charges are to be made against elders.  Since TFC only began last November, having these in place now communicates a lot.” 

This is ironic. Phil Sasser was co-chairman of the Polity Committee with C.J. Mahaney when it was set up in March 2012. Daniel, Phil’s son-in-law, was added to the committee later. Phil remained chairman until he retired the end of 2018.

Sasser was the main architect of the BCO. It was put forward as the solution to all the problems in Sovereign Grace Ministries (now Sovereign Grace Churches) but it was not followed. Corruption has flourished in Sovereign Grace since its ratification in October 2012. If the BCO were followed, Mahaney would have been removed from ministry. Here is what Prater said about Sasser’s role.

Mark Prater: Introducing the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team October 18, 2013 Phil chaired our Polity Committee that developed our Book of Church Order while leading his church as the senior pastor in Apex, North Carolina.  I’m not aware of anyone who knows our polity and Book of Church Order better than Phil and, therefore, I’m excited to see how God will use him to strengthen our ecclesiastical union.

Yet, things have only gotten worse in Sovereign Grace under the BCO. That’s because it is no remedy for lust, arrogance, corruption, or sinful ambition. Let me illustrate.

One of the seven men on the Polity Committee who helped write the BCO was a “favorite son” of C.J. Mahaney. He was athletic, good looking, intelligent, and a leader. C.J. quickly made him a lead pastor and “poster boy” for Sovereign Grace and the Pastors College. He used his platform to flatter C.J. and others like Jeff Purswell. He was rewarded and put on the Polity Committee in March 2012 and continued until December 2016, when he was exposed for a three year history (at least) of hooking up with prostitutes for hire. His wife caught and exposed him.

You can have a Book of Church Order but if you don’t have Jesus Christ it is powerless to restrain hypocrisy. The other members of the original Polity Committee included Paul Buckley, Bruce Chick, Jared Mellinger, and Jeff Purswell. None followed the BCO in relation to C.J. and others like Steve Teter and Gene Emerson. These men are Pharisees.

New Evidence Exposes Corrupt Actions of Steve Teter, Adam Campbell & Matthew Williams in Letting Gene Emerson Off from Church Discipline Despite No Repentance for Intentional Lying & Solicitation of Prostitution

Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 9:36AM

Back to Daniel’s comment above. He says, “One important role that a denomination performs is providing true accountability for elders.”

If Trinity Fellowship of Churches is different, it must provide accountability for the serious sins committed by Buckley, Sasser, McConnell, Cabaniss, and others. For example, covering up for C.J., calling victims liars, using a “hush fund” to prevent a family from joining the lawsuit, slandering and framing me, breaking their promise that all my allegations in The Documents would be heard, etc.

Remarkably, Paul Buckley, former Chairman of the Board (aka Executive Committee) for Sovereign Grace Churches, still promotes his leadership in SGC. Yet, his leadership was corrupt. Furthermore, he should not be the Director for The Gospel Coalition in New England.

Paul Buckley Lead Pastor Hi, my name is Paul Buckley and I’ve had the privilege of serving as the Lead Pastor for King of Grace Church since its founding in 2002.  I’ve also enjoyed the privilege of serving on the Executive Committee for Sovereign Grace Churches, and as the Director for The Gospel Coalition – New England.

The question is will Trinity Fellowship of Churches provide “true accountability” for Buckley and the rest. Daniel Baker is oblivious to his hypocrisy. Nevertheless, his words are an indictment of Sovereign Grace Churches. It did not provide true accountability. That is why Daniel’s church opted out of SGC, and opted in with TFC.

He states, “TFC is a group whose values are closely aligned to ours. That’s one of the reasons we explored partnership with TFC and then opted in.” There is little difference in theology or practice between TFC and SGC. The difference is in “values” according to Daniel. He implies that is why they left SGC and aligned with TFC.

Then he says, “Last night [May 5] TFC approved its Rules of Discipline and its procedures for how charges are to be made against elders.” He implies TFC will actually allow charges to be made against elders. In Sovereign Grace Churches, The Book of Church Order makes it extremely difficult for church members to bring charges against elders; and impossible for members or former members they deem disgruntled or ill-motivated to bring charges. For example, me.

That is not the case (at least for now) in the Rules of Discipline found on pages 34-35 in the TFC Book of Church Order.  Here is what it says about receiving a charge against an elder.  There are no restrictions on who can bring a charge.

Receiving the Charge Before an adjudication begins, the charge must be made and officially “received.”  Not every grievance against a party is a legitimate charge. Elders must first weigh the charge(s) to see if there is sufficient weight for a trial.  Weighing the charge(s) will involve interviews with the accuser and the accused and evaluating the evidence.

Therefore, TFC, please receive this article, and the evidence it contains, a formal charge against Paul Buckley, Phil Sasser, Ian McConnell, and Craig Cabaniss. Please “weigh the charge(s) to see if there is sufficient weight for a trial” which “will involve interviews with the accuser.” Therefore, let me know when you would like to do the first interview. I trust you will do this in submission to your founding documents. If I am denied admission of charges and due process, you are following the same course of hypocrisy and partiality as the denomination you just left. I hope you will be different. I am eager to forgive. I’d love for you to succeed.

Daniel views Trinity Fellowship of Churches as “a great asset.”

“As elders of SGC, our primary ministry is right here in this church.  We believe TFC will be a great asset to us in fulfilling our ministry, and we’re excited about the potential that TFC has.  Please join with the elders as we continue to pray for fruitfulness and growth in SGC—and in the TFC churches.”

The pastors of Sovereign Grace Church (i.e., Daniel Baker, John McLeod, Jim Martin, Mike Noel, Phil Sasser) gave up on Sovereign Grace Churches.  The latter is a great hindrance to fulfilling their ministry and a great detriment to fruitfulness and growth.  I cannot overstate the significance of these eleven churches forming a new split off denomination.  Most of these men were “lifers.”  Yet, they’ve had it with SGC.

Why? First, they are disgusted with the arrogance of the Leadership Team and Directors (i.e., Mark Prater, Mickey Connolly, Jeff Purswell, Rich Richardson, Tommy Hill, Eric Turbedsky, Bob Kauflin). They are leaving because they now have firsthand experience with these power brokers and it has left them shaken. They don’t trust them anymore.

For example, one pastor wrote me:

“When we left SG, my elders counseled me not to engage in conversations that would perpetuate anger, hostility, or bitterness toward SG.  It’s not productive for my soul and for my leadership.”

In other words, what he experienced with men on Leadership Team was so bad he could not talk about it lest he be tempted to sin.

A second reason for leaving. Sovereign Grace is a liability. Increasingly, no one wants to be identified with them and for good reason.

The tide began to turn when Rachael Denhollander spoke out on January 31, 2018 and Mark Galli on March 22, 2018. Then Al Mohler and Danny Akin on February 15, 2019 in an article done by investigative journalist Robert Downen of the Houston Chronicle. I was providing evidence to Rachael, Mark and Robert and also appealing to national leaders.

Rachael Denhollander Speaks Out Against C.J. Mahaney in Interview with Christianity Today – Predictably, Sovereign Grace Condemns Her “False Accusations”  Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 6:15PM An Appeal to National Leaders for Action Against C.J. Mahaney & Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc. Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 6:41PM Mark Galli, Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, Calls for a Fresh & Thorough Independent Investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 4:56PM

Statement from R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Sovereign Grace Churches Friday, February 15, 2019

The Inside Story: Al Mohler Severed All Personal Ties With C.J. Mahaney & Sovereign Grace Churches Because Mahaney Deceived Him Into Believing An “Independent Investigation” of Abuse Was Done Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 4:54PM

Leading Southern Baptist apologizes for supporting leader, church at center of sex abuse scandal By Robert Downen Updated 6:08 pm CST, Friday, February 15, 2019

Here is what Danny Akin told the Houston Chronicle.  He is the President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.  The seminary is a 40 minute drive from Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, NC.  Daniel Baker, Phil Sasser, and the church had added incentive to pull out of Sovereign Grace Churches.

Another Southern Baptist seminary president, Danny Akin, expressed similar regrets in an interview with the Chronicle Thursday [Feb 14, 2019]. Akin, the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, was one of 77 recipients of a [Feb 6, 2013] letter in which a former Mahaney associate [Brent Detwiler] pleaded for them to denounce Sovereign Grace. Akin said he has not had a close relationship with Mahaney since a speech Mahaney was slated to give at the seminary was cancelled. On Thursday, he said he was wrong to support Mahaney without properly investigating the allegations.  He also criticized how Mahaney and Sovereign Grace handled the allegations. “Do I think that Sovereign Grace handled the accusations brought against them well?” Akins said. “No, I don’t.  I think they could have been far more transparent.  I think they could have been far more forthcoming.  Even to this day, there’s still a lack of clarity.” He added, “I absolutely think they’ve handled (the allegations) poorly and that they have not been as transparent as they should have been or could have been, and (that they) could have saved a lot of people a lot of grief,” Akin said.

Paul Buckley acknowledged the public pressure this put upon pastors in SGC.

King of Grace Church Position on a Third-Party Investigation of Sovereign Grace Churches April 15, 2019 On Friday, April 12th, 2019, the Leadership Team published a FAQ and position paper making it very clear that they opposed engaging a true third-party investigation.… Given this very clear statement, the elders of King of Grace Church need to inform you that we strongly disagree with the Sovereign Grace Churches Leadership Team and have registered our dissent with them…. We believe the formation of a third-party panel of qualified experts with the ability to act relatively independently is essential for the performance of a due-diligence response to this crisis.  This third party should act to gather as much evidence as they can and deliver the most conclusive report possible.  This report should include in-depth analysis with appropriate recommendations for action.  Only this sort of response will reflect a just and thorough answer to the allegations made by reputable leaders in the Christian community (e.g. - Albert Mohler, Rachael Denhollander, Christianity Today).

For some reason, he didn’t include me as a reputable leader or mention “the allegations” of fact I’ve been making for a decade. Laugh out loud.

Third, the refusal to do an independent investigation has freaked out believers and unbelievers alike around the country. It is the Roman Catholic Church all over especially for the churches in New England. Here are a few excerpts from Jacob Young. He is the pastor of King’s Cross Church in Manchester, New Hampshire; a 50 minute drive from Boston. They left SGC over its arrogant refusal to do an investigation. The church is now part of Trinity Fellowship of Churches.

An Appeal to Sovereign Grace Churches February 2018 In recent years, Sovereign Grace has walked through very difficult and turbulent waters regarding our past. There have been many questions; questions about allegations of improper handling of sexual abuse within our churches, and questions regarding our policies of pastoral practice. These questions are right to ask. These questions address serious ethical issues. Knowing the love of Jesus for the safety and flourishing of children, and concern for the reputation of his churches and his pastors and thereby the reputation of the Gospel to the watching world, these questions must be answered. Over the last five years [2013-2018], SGC has had ample opportunity to publicly address these questions. Answering them publicly would have been both humble and wise, and would have bolstered the reputation of the Gospel through our churches. Despite SGC’s virtual silence on these issues, in God’s good providence these questions still demand answers. … It is contrary to our values and history for SGC to baldly refuse any third party investigation into the questions about past allegations.  We strongly disagree with this posture.” King’s Cross Statement on a Third-Party Investigation of Sovereign Grace Churches Jacob Young June 11, 2019 In the wake of the Boston Globe’s 2002 Spotlight investigations into child abuse within the Roman Catholic church, Manchester, NH, was one of the cities found to have a bishop who enabled abusive priests: Fourteen sexual predators continued to hold positions of power and authority in the church despite the church’s awareness of their sins against God, their flocks, and the state.  The institutional cover-up (not to mention the crimes themselves) devastated the reputation of the Catholic church — and, for some, Christianity itself — in one of the most heavily Catholic parts of the country.  The Catholic church’s response communicated disregard for the abuse of children, lacking humility, introspection, and repentance. With this local history recent and personal, our neighbors care about institutional accountability on the issue of child sexual abuse.  They want to see courageous and determined systems to ensure current and future accountability for child safety and a humble, transparent accountability for the past.  This is a matter of justice that our neighbors feel through common grace, and they have not experienced a church that pursues introspection and care on this issue.  While those betrayed by a religious organization are looking for Jesus, we must show them that Jesus’ people will walk with them in their pain and recovery.  This includes being honest about potential past mistakes, failures, and malpractice. … While it is appropriate for SGC elders to assert their innocence, we believe that the church’s right to investigate through a third-party — for the sake of Gospel witness — should also be asserted.  Our elders should submit on this matter for the sake of the church’s witness before a watching world. … In our perspective, Sovereign Grace Church’s Leadership Team’s public statements have consistently lacked the appropriate humility about these allegations of pastoral malpractice in our history, and have sidestepped the agreed process our churches have approved in our Book of Church Order.

C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Churches are now disgraced and distrusted around the nation. It doesn’t pay to stay or identify with them like it did in the past. But yes, there are still strongholds of support among national leaders but they are decreasing.

If you are a regular attender or member in a Sovereign Grace church you will not, be told the truth about negative developments that are occurring on a local, regional, or national level. SGC fights for its existence by keeping you in the dark and painting a rosy picture that all is well.

Take for instance, CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, NC. Mickey Connolly is based there. He is Mahaney’s closest confidant and the number 2 leader in SGC. He was extremely close friends with Phil Sasser (and his family) in Apex, NC. The severing of ties with Mickey (who oversaw the church) by Phil, Daniel and the staff is like Mohler severing ties with Mahaney. It is inconceivable. You are not going to hear about this fracturing or the start of Trinity Fellowship Churches on Mark Prater’s podcast. Prater is the executive director of SGC.

Similarly, you are not going hear about the severing of ties to Prater by men like Peter Privitera, Doug Plank, Paul Buckley, Bauer Evans, Ian McConnell, Rob Chisholm, and Jeff Boettcher in the northeast. Or the severing of ties to Rich Richardson by Craig Cabaniss, Chris Daukas, and Jansen Hanson in the southwest. Only an insider can appreciate what I am saying. These men were friends and co-laborers.

All of this comes back to C.J. Mahaney. He was confronted by me and seven other leaders in 2004. Then he was confronted by his elders and church in 2011. Then he was confronted by victims in 2013. Then by Mohler in 2018. That doesn’t include countless other times he’s been confronted. What does he do in those situations? He turns against those calling him to account and seeks to lie his way out of it with the help of surrogates.

This is what he told the 11 plaintiffs and 10 victims of sexual abuse in their 46 page lawsuit against him and others.

Statement from C.J. Mahaney May 22, 2014 Let me be clear about this: I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit. 

He is lying and that is why he and those around him will never allow for an independent investigation. Read this article for proof.

C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church & the Conspiracy to Cover-up the Sexual Abuse of Children

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 12:42PM

No church should remain in Sovereign Grace Churches.  I’m glad Trinity Fellowship of Churches has formed but it too needs to be reformed.  They are having their first General Assembly of elders in October 2020 at Daniel Baker’s church building in Apex, NC.  I hope to get a guest invitation.  Seriously, it would be a great time to do the “trial” of their “seasoned pastors” and “gifted leaders.”  I really hope Trinity Fellowship of Churches will do what they have asked Sovereign Grace Churches to do.  Investigate the allegations against them.    

Financial Support 

My efforts are designed to help Christians judge righteously, think biblically, and live courageously.  Your financial support makes that possible.  Please consider a gift today at PayPal.Me/BrentDetwiler.  It is easy to use.  Checks can be sent to my address below. Thank you!

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This article was originally published at brentdetwiler.com, and is reposted with permission from the author, Brent Detwiler.


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