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Charles Joseph Mahaney, commonly known as C.J., is an American Christian minister. He is currently the senior pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, and was formerly president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, now known as Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly People of Destiny International or PDI, co-founded with Larry Tomczak), a network formed to establish and support local churches. He was one of the founding pastors and leaders of Covenant Life Church, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Under Mahaney's leadership, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville is a member of Sovereign Grace Churches and works with the Southern Baptist Convention for training and Christian mission work.

C.J. Mahaney
CJ Mahaney Pastor.jpg
Charles Joseph Mahaney

(1953-09-21) September 21, 1953 (age 66)
ResidenceLouisville, Kentucky
NationalityUnited States

Mahaney resigned from the presidency of Sovereign Grace Ministries in 2013 in order to plant Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. A 2012 class-action suit was filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries and listed Mahaney as a defendant. The lawsuit was dismissed due to the statute of limitations;[1] Mahaney released a public statement explicitly denying all claims in the suit.[2]


Early life and careerEdit

Mahaney was born in Maryland into a Roman Catholic household, the middle child of five. He was the son of a metalworker in Takoma Park, Maryland.[3] As a child, he was more interested in sports than God.[3] Mahaney attended Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. He reports having been converted in 1972 at age 18 by a friend who shared his faith. He says that a newspaper ad motivated him to join a local prayer meeting known as Take and Give, which evolved into Covenant Life Church.[3]

In 1974, aged 20, Mahaney had met Larry Tomczak, with whom he led and taught a large local prayer group. He says his only reading in theology at that time had consisted of the Bible and The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey.[3]

In 1977, Mahaney became senior pastor of what had evolved into Covenant Life Church. He cites his reading of the works of 19th century Baptist leader Charles H. Spurgeon and the Reformed theology of John Calvin as influences.[3]

Mahaney met Carolyn Layman in the 1970s, while he was teaching at Take and Give and she was working as a secretary at a Christian conference ministry in Sarasota, and they soon married. Mahaney has one son and three daughters.

Recent careerEdit

Mahaney is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, a church he planted in the fall of 2012 with Bob Kauflin, Brian Chesemore, Jeff Purswell, and Gary Ricucci. Mahaney resigned from the presidency of Sovereign Grace Ministries in April 2013 while planting this church. He was the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland for 27 years before handing the senior pastor role to Joshua Harris on September 18, 2004. He has most recently planted a church on the east side of Louisville, Kentucky.[4]

In June 2011 Mahaney voluntarily took a leave of absence for self-examination after charges were leveled against him by a former Sovereign Grace pastor.[5][6][7] His leave occurred in the wake of accusations from a former top Sovereign Grace pastor who distributed hundreds e-mails and internal church documents that portrayed Mahaney as focusing on the sins of others below him in the church hierarchy. After Mahaney's departure, the Sovereign Grace board gave a strong vote of confidence to him, saying that he is "a qualified minister of the gospel and this board approves his pastoral and teaching ministry."[8] After an extensive outside review by Ambassadors of Reconciliation[9] of the charges brought against him and affirmation of the Sovereign Grace board,[10] Mahaney continued to serve as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Covenant Life Church, the church Mahaney co-founded and pastored for 27 years left Sovereign Grace Ministries.[11]

In 2012 a class action lawsuit was filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries alleging that leaders including Mahaney covered up child sexual abuse.[12][13] The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in May 2013. The Maryland Court of Appeals also dismissed the case after finding that the Plaintiff's lawyer had filed the appeal too early.[1] A police investigation resulted in no charges or arrests, and an independent investigator found that the new allegations "likely never happened".[citation needed]

Mahaney co-hosted the Together for the Gospel conference with Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler.[14] It was announced that he was pulling out of the 2014 T4G due to ongoing lawsuits against Sovereign Grace Ministries.[15] He is scheduled to return as a guest speaker at the 2016 T4G conference,[16] a decision which drew protest from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.[17]

In February 2016, Mahaney was the subject of a Washingtonian Magazine article, titled The Sex Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch - Inside the Rise and Fall of Sovereign Grace.[18]

Selected publicationsEdit

  • Don't Waste Your Sports, Crossway Publishing 2010, ISBN 978-1433522475
  • Living the Cross Centered Life, Multnomah Books 2006, ISBN 978-1590525784
  • Humility: True Greatness Multnomah Books 2005, ISBN 978-1590523261
  • Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God, Crossway Publishing 2004, ISBN 978-1581346244
  • Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, Crossway Publishing 2010, ISBN 978-1433502804
  • Christ Our Mediator, Multnomah Books 2006, ISBN 978-1590523643
  • The Cross Centered Life, Multnomah Books 2002, ISBN 978-1590520451
  • Why Small Groups?, Sovereign Grace Ministries 1996, ISBN 978-1881039068
  • Disciplines for Life, People of Destiny International 1994, ISBN 978-1881039006


  1. ^ a b Lee, Morgan (July 1, 2014). "Sovereign Grace Sex Abuse Case Appeal Dismissed by Maryland's Court of Special Appeals". The Christian Post. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  2. ^ Mahaney, CJ. "A Statement from CJ Mahaney". Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Keeping their eyes on the cross". The Washington Times. December 23, 2002. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  4. ^ "Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville". Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  5. ^ Peter Smith (July 12, 2011). "Mohler backs Mahaney, dismisses claims of abusive leadership". Courier-Journal. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  6. ^ Why I'm taking a leave of absence Archived September 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, C. J. Mahaney's blog
  7. ^ Lillian Kwon (July 11, 2011). "C.J. Mahaney Takes Leave Over Charges of Pride, Hypocrisy". Christian Post. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  8. ^ "Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors Announcement". Archived from the original on March 19, 2015.
  9. ^ "Ambassadors of Reconciliation's report on Sovereign Grace Ministries". Archived from the original on May 22, 2012.
  10. ^ "Board Update: Response to Ministry Recommendations". Archived from the original on May 12, 2013.
  11. ^ Jeff Schapiro (December 20, 2012). "Maryland Megachurch Secedes From Sovereign Grace Ministries". The Christian Post.
  12. ^ Allen, Bob (November 19, 2013). "Mahaney, Mohler share speaker platform". Associated Baptist Press. Archived from the original on December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
  13. ^ Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (May 24, 2013). "Evangelical leaders stand by pastor accused of abuse cover-up". Religion News Service.
  14. ^ "The People & History : Together for the Gospel". Archived from the original on February 7, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  15. ^ "CJ Mahaney Drops Out of 2014 Together for the Gospel Conference Due to Sovereign Grace Lawsuit". Christian Post. July 2, 2013.
  16. ^ Bob Allen (September 10, 2015). "Controversial preacher returning to T4G stage". Baptist News Global.
  17. ^ Bob Allen (March 31, 2016). "Abuse survivors want conference speaker removed". Baptist News Global.
  18. ^ 14, Tiffany Stanley on February; 2016 (February 14, 2016). "The Sex Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch". Washingtonian. Retrieved February 15, 2016.

Further readingEdit

  • Clap Your Hands! by Larry Tomczak includes stories from Mahaney's early days in ministry and details the origins of Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries[better source needed]

External linksEdit