Monday, February 15, 2016

The Sex Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch

C.J. Mahaney was a Takoma Park pot smoker when he found God and opened a church. Over the next 40
years, he expanded it from a hippie congregation into an evangelical empire.
Pam Palmer was at a barbecue when she heard the news.

It was 2011, five years after her family had left Covenant Life Church. But the Gaithersburg congregation and its founder, C.J. Mahaney, remained on her mind. Now one of her relatives was telling her that amid controversy Mahaney had surrendered the top post at the organization he had built into an international empire. “Literally,” Pam says, “that moment changed my life.”

Pam had been one of the church’s early followers back in the 1980s. And she’d given 22 years of her life to the megachurch, in the all-in manner that many members embraced. Early on, her husband, Dominic Palmer, whom she’d met there, led one of the small fellowship groups that underscore church life, and she dutifully assisted him. When the couple had children, Pam homeschooled them, as so many women in the church did. Every step of the way, a foundational principle of the church was reinforced—that Christian men knew best.

But in the years since the Palmers left Covenant Life, Pam had come to see its culture as toxic.

After the barbecue, she went online to find out more about the revolt inside Sovereign Grace Ministries, the religious conglomerate that Covenant Life had grown into. A few years earlier, a pair of disillusioned followers had launched a blog called SGM Survivors. It was like a public square, and an increasingly crowded one at that, where former congregants of Sovereign Grace churches—there were roughly 90 at the time—gathered to vent.

Pam had visited the blog before. But this time, she encountered a whole new narrative. Parents were reporting that their children had been sexually abused by other church members. And they were sharing stories, saying they were mistreated by churches when they spoke up. Until that moment, Pam had no idea there were other families out there just like hers.  (more...)


" doesn’t take a Calvinist to know that when you combine built-in power imbalances with a skepticism of outside...
Posted by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) on Monday, February 15, 2016

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