Religion News Network reported this past weekend that two pastors have left the Reformed evangelical group The Gospel Coalition after a youth leader from the Maryland megachurch they oversaw was convicted of sexually abusing three underage boys. Joshua Harris and C.J. Mahaney have vacated their posts on the leadership council of TGC after the criminal trial which raised questions about why the leaders of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., didn’t do anything to prevent or stop the abuse. Mahaney founded Covenant Life in 1977, and Harris took the leadership of the church when Mahaney left to lead Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Ky.
Nathaniel Morales, 56, was convicted last week of sexually abusing the boys between 1983 and 1991 while he was a youth leader at Covenant Life. During the trial, former Covenant Life pastor Grant Layman confessed that he did not report the alleged abuse, even though he was aware that he should. Layman is Mahaney’s brother-in-law, and the alleged abuse cover-up has brought unwanted attention to TGC.
Mahaney has been dogged with issues since 2011 when he took a leave of absence from his post with Sovereign Grace Ministries after other pastors in the network accused him of “expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy.” Six months later, the group reinstated Mahaney. But in 2012 at around the same time the abuse lawsuit was filed, Mahaney left Sovereign Grace Ministries to focus on his pastoral ministry at Sovereign Grace Church. Nearly a year ago, Dr. Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung and other evangelical leaders came to Mahaney’s defense after he was accused in a lawsuit of covering up sexual abuse of children.
Harris said in a tearful sermon at Covenant Life this past Sunday that he has asked the church’s leadership to place him on administrative leave while the church investigates the issue. “We have a zero tolerance policy of abuse of any kind,” Harris said, and he urged people to report any abuse they knew of.