I haven’t written much about the ongoing scandal at Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) although I’ve spent countless hours reading about it. If you have somehow missed it, numerous people in SGM are being sued for various reasons related to the alleged sexual abuse of children as well as the alleged coverup of the crimes. A second amendment was filed by the plaintiffs last week and the content was so disturbing and vile I had to stop reading. I’m not going to take the time to recount the events here since other blogs and websites that have done that. If you aren’t aware, you can do a little looking and find them.
I have no direct connection to SGM (Thank you, Lord!), but I have a morbid fascination with the situation due to a spiritual abuse situation David and I went through with another very similar group of churches. They all come out of a group called People of Destiny International (PDI). And when I read accounts of the abuse people have suffered through the hands of SGM, none of it surprises me. It is like reading a recount of our own awful experience that took us years to move on from.
Perhaps most striking has been the near complete lack of acknowledgement of the lawsuit by the prominent Neo-Reformed writers and speakers. The silence is so deafening one can hardly believe it. The women at The Wartburg Watch have a running tally in their sidebar of how many days the Neo-Reformed website The Gospel Coalition (TGC) has publicly ignored the reality of what is going on. As of today, it is up to 178 days.
For six months one of the leading Neo-Reformed groups (SGM) has been under intense legal scrutiny and TGC has pretended it isn’t happening. (TGC includes the head of SGM, C.J. Mahaney.) TGC members have done nothing publicly to show concern over the situation. Compare this with the Penn State scandal when they quickly jumped into the fray. Bloggers at TGC had no problem writing about that. I did a quick search on their website of “Penn State” and turned up numerous posts about the scandal, some written just after the news broke.
But when it concerns one of their own? Deafening silence. For six months. Not one expression of concern. None.
Until this week.
Finally, people within the Neo-Reformed circles have been willing to address the situation.
And do you know who stepped out bravely to do so?
Yes, the women. The women are the ones who are leading the way because they can no longer sit by silently while their brothers in Christ pretend that nothing is going on.
I’m glad these women are saying something. I have no doubt they have counted the cost of doing so. After all, many in their camp will consider it unseemly that they are questioning the national leaders. Many in their camp with consider them stepping out of their natural, biblical sphere. And a few in their camp will truly despise these women for speaking out.
Thank God they are willing to risk their reputation within their own circles and speak up.
One of the women willing to step out and question what in the world is going on is Wendy Alsup. She wrote The Elephant in Our Own Backyard this week, pointing out the concerns she has regarding how this has been handled by those close to C.J. Mahaney and SGM. Other women jumped into the comments and shared their own frustrations, disillusionment and posts they have written.
I’m not a history expert, but I know enough to know that God has frequently worked through women to bring about big changes in His church and different countries. Some of those women end up revered for their courage. Rosa Parks, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Clara Barton come to mind. Great missionary movements have often been led by women. (Then when the work was successfully established at great personal cost to the women who went forth, the men come in and take over.) God is more than willing to work through his cherished daughters.
Amanda at Cheesewearing Theology has written a series about women who suffered during The Reformation. Their crime? Thinking theologically and calling out the men who were failing as leaders. Pointing out the flaws in the leaders’ theology and practice. These women were excoriated by those around them.
Invectives: Examples of Reactions to Women in Leadership in the Reformation is fascinating reading. Here are a few quotes to encourage you to click over.
It is interesting how quickly invectives against these women took on a sexual nature. George Hauer condemned Argula von Grumbach as a “shameless whore.” The pseudonymous poem against Argula suggested that Luther’s theology was the reason that women like Argula were prone to “fornication and lechery/ of brazen, gross adultery.” The author insinuated that the reason Argula so forcefully defended the student on trial was because she was in heat and lusting after him. Katharina Schutz Zell, being one of the first women to marry a clergyman in Strasbourg, was denounced as a concubine of the Matthias Zell, and that he should pay the proper tax for his illicit relationship with her. In England, Anne Askew was described as “a coy dame, and of very evil fame for wantonness” simply because she chose to go by her maiden rather than her married name.
…there seems to be evidence that the invectives against these women were not because of bad theology or heretical teaching, but solely a result of their gender. If these women had been men, would their ideas and their contributions have been so ridiculed? When Katharina Schutz Zell wrote her defense of clerical marriage, it was roundly criticized by the leadership of Strasbourg, but it was not the content that was objectionable. Indeed, the council of Strasbourg would later give three male pastors a chance to address Conrad Treger, who had originally condemned clergy marriage and the Zell’s marriage specifically. Their argument did not differ theologically from Katharina’s, but theirs was accepted and hers was not!
Kirsi Stjerna concludes her presentation on Marie Dentière by suggesting that “she was criticized for achievements and fortitude for which a man would have been praised.” While it is true that Dentière was perhaps more outspoken and used more colourful and crude language than the other women examined here, where she was condemned for these behaviours, men who displayed the same characteristics were not. Even some in the time of the Reformation recognized the double-standard. The engraving on the tombstone of humanist scholar Olimpia Morata in Heidelberg Germany reads: “Nature denied you nothing of all her gifts with one exception: that you were a woman.”
If you think this was an isolated time in church history, think again. Check out The Complementarian Argument from Historical Precedence. The Church has a long history of men despising women.
How will the Neo-Reformed male leadership and other Neo-Reformed men who follow their lead respond to women speaking out? I don’t know. Will it shame them into finally speaking? Will it force their hand? Will they publicly disparage the women who are speaking out? I highly doubt they will call the women shameless whores. We’re all far too sophisticated to put something like that in print or on the internet. But there is no doubt in my mind that at least a few men in the privacy of their own home (or mind) will think something along those lines. Many in the Neo-Reformed movement (and SGM, in particular) have made an art form out of putting women in their place and keeping them silent.
The scales have fallen from the eyes of many women in Neo-Reformed circles. They are joining other sisters in Christ who have already been speaking publicly about the problems surrounding the SGM lawsuit. These women in Neo-Reformed circles see the truth. And may God bless them as they step forward in an attempt to see that truth released so that many more may be freed.