A May 23 statement of support for C.J. Mahaney by Mark Dever, Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan, is no longer found on the Together for the Gospel website. In its place is an announcement by Mahaney that he is withdrawing from the 2014 conference.
An evangelical preacher plagued by scandal over an alleged cover up of child sex abuse has withdrawn from a biennial Bible conference next year that he previously led in partnership with high-profile Calvinist leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.
C.J. Mahaney, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Ky., announced July 2 his decision to withdraw from participation in the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference out of concern for the event's co-sponsors.
"Unfortunately, the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, two former SGM churches and pastors (including myself), continues to generate the type of attention that could subject my friends to unfair and unwarranted criticism," Mahaney said in a statement on the T4G website.
Mahaney said he doesn't want the lawsuit, mostly dismissed for legal reasons in May but under appeal, to create a distraction for the gathering first convened in 2006 out of the friendship of four preachers: SGM founder Mahaney, Presbyterian pastor Ligon Duncan, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler and Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington and a Southern Seminary trustee.
"I believe the most effective way I can serve my friends who have supported me, and continue to support me, is by not participating in the 2014 conference," Mahaney said.
Brent Detwiler, a former associate to Mahaney and now his leading critic, speculated the reason behind the decision was last month's passage of a Southern Baptist Convention resolution amended to encourage "all denominational leaders and employees of the Southern Baptist Convention to utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse."
"Given this resolution, Mark Dever and Albert Mohler, both Southern Baptist leaders, had to 'counsel' C.J. not to participate in the conference," Detwiler posted on his blog July 3. "Or, if they allowed C.J. to participate, they would have to withdraw from participating themselves."
"C.J. goes or Mark and Al go," Detwiler concluded. "You can't be a good Baptist with any discernment (let alone highest discernment) and affiliate with SGM or C.J."
The Together for the Gospel conference, scheduled for April 8-10, 2014, in Louisville, Ky., features Duncan, Mohler and Dever, along with other keynote speakers including Desiring God founder John Piper and David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.
All four of the conference's founders are established leaders in a movement that goes by names including the New Calvinism and "Young, Restless and Reformed," which is expected to increasingly influence the SBC in the years ahead.
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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press