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Former church members said Mahaney had created something they thought was more like a cult.His leave came days after a former top Sovereign Grace pastor distributed hundreds of pages of e-mails and internal church documents that portrayed Mahaney as fixated on the sins of everyone below him, particularly critics.“We as a family experienced a pattern of spiritual abuse, hypocrisy, harshness, deceit and some unfortunate threats that were not righteous for Christians and need to be repented,” said Larry Tomczak, who co-founded the ministry with Mahaney during the hippie-ish Jesus Movement of the 1970s and then bitterly split from him two decades later.“There has been something systematic in the handling of people that has deviated from biblical, pastoral norms and has had serious implications in many people’s lives. Hopefully, things are changing.” Now facing what its interim leader, Dave Harvey, calls a “time of crisis,” Sovereign Grace has called in a Christian reconciliation firm to help decide Mahaney’s future and whether to create a new structure for dealing with conflicts.Mohler called Sovereign Grace “one of the most vital evangelizing movements of this generation.” What happens to Mahaney is important because American churches are increasingly unable to take firm stands on anything, he said.“You have an America today where very strong churches will bring forth strong disagreement and strong kinds of ministry may bring on strong adverse reactions. Some close watchers of American evangelicalism say the Sovereign Grace controversy shows the challenge in balancing desire for strong pastoral discipline with a culture swimming in free, unaccountable chatter on social media.Perhaps the most amazing, strong, and devout followers of Christ on the earth.Just as the Waldensians are the most persecuted of all protestant denominations, the Coptic Christians of Egypt are the most persecuted of ALL Christian denominations, period.
Mahaney took a leave of absence this summer from the helm of his 100-church denomination, saying he was guilty of “various expressions of pride,” conservative evangelicals nationwide took notice.Debate broke out among members when Harris first suggested that people read the insurgent blogs and then said not to. “Sometimes pastors in their zeal to help people, they have strongly suggested things they needed to leave it to people to figure out for themselves,” said John Loftness, a member of the church’s board. “I think many people nationwide have been watching and waiting and hoping for this day to come,” Tomczak said. Thousands of pastors have come to Together for the Gospel leadership conferences centered on these ideas.They are run by co-founders Dever, Mahaney and Al Mohler, a Southern Baptist leader.