Sovereign Grace denomination president resigns
Pastor C.J. Mahaney is ending his three-decade tenure as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a Louisville-based denomination that has faced recent leadership controversies, defections of congregations and an expanding sexual-abuse lawsuit.
Mahaney said he would remain as pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, which launched in 2012 when the denomination shifted its headquarters here from Maryland.
Mahaney, in a statement, said he’s stepping down as of April 12, when the denomination enacts a new form of government. He said he didn’t “think my gifts and sense of call are the best fit” for a new executive-director position.
Mahaney — a Maryland native and former drug user who began preaching amid the hippie-friendly Jesus Movement of the 1970s — is a popular speaker at conferences emphasizing doctrines associated with Protestant reformer John Calvin, such as as divine power and predestination, male leadership and church discipline.
Mahaney took a leave of several months in 2011 and 2012 amid accusations of dictatorial and unaccountable leadership.
Mahaney disputed many of the claims, and the denomination returned him to leadership.
The denomination is contesting a pending lawsuit in Maryland alleging that a culture of fear and unquestioning obedience allowed for the repeated cover-up of sexual abuse by members.
Several congregations began leaving the denomination in recent months. Before then, Sovereign Grace reported having about 90 congregations, predominantly along the East Coast, with 28,000 members.
Statements issued Friday by Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace board did not address such controversies.
“With our recent church plants and those that are forthcoming, churches requesting to be adopted, the current Pastors College class, and ongoing music projects ... there is much to be encouraged about,” Mahaney wrote. “Despite our inadequacies and weaknesses, the Lord has been abundantly merciful to Sovereign Grace Ministries.”
The board expressed “a debt of gratitude” to Mahaney, saying his “leadership and example have helped to instill so many of the values that have shaped our family of churches.”
Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.