Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has decided to leave and disassociate from the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) family of churches. CLC, under the leadership of Pastor Joshua Harris, brought the decision of the pastoral team before the congregation in November. On 12 December, the congregation affirmed the leadership’s decision with 93 percent of voting members opting to leave SGM.
Though SGM recently relocated its headquarters to Louisville, Kentucky, CLC served as the original flagship church and formerly housed the organization’s offices on its campus. CLC’s decision to leave the denomination, then, no doubt will greatly impact SGM. A statement on CLC’s website dated 17 December offers additional information:
For the past 18 months, Covenant Life Church has been going through a time of testing which we see as an expression of the Father’s loving discipline. Various circumstances have led us to evaluate ourselves and consider how God is calling us to grow. While we can already see ways in which God has used this experience to teach and help us as a church, it has not come without pain and loss. It has been challenging in many ways. One of the most difficult aspects of this time has been realizing we find ourselves going in a different direction from that of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), the organization that was launched within our church and whose leaders have played a foundational role in the life of our church.
Over the past year there has been a growing clarity for our pastoral team that our differences with the leadership of SGM make it difficult for us to remain as a member church. After much prayer and sober consideration, the pastoral team presented their perspective and proposed disassociation from SGM to the members of Covenant Life Church at a members meeting on November 4. On December 12, 2012, the members of Covenant Life Church affirmed the pastors’ decision to end our formal association with SGM.
CLC leadership notes that they remain “sincerely thankful for the vital role the leadership and churches of SGM have played in helping us be a church that treasures the gospel. We will be ever grateful to those leaders of SGM who played a foundational role in establishing and building this local church.”
In reporting CLC’s departure from SGM, The Christian Post reminds that SGM has undergone various trials in the recent past:
The exit of Covenant Life Church is just one of a number of struggles SGM has been forced to deal with in recent months and years. In June 2011, Mahaney took a leave of absence from his role as president after being accused of having characteristics including “pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy” by former pastors and leaders from SGM.
But after an interim board of directors was installed and an outside organization evaluated some of the accusations – especially those of former SGM board member Brent Detwiler – Mahaney was eventually found to be fit to serve and was returned to his leadership role.
In October of this year, a lawsuit was filed against SGM alleging a failure of some leaders to report child sexual abuse and misconduct to the police. SGM last released a statement regarding the lawsuit on 14 November, declaring that “the complaint contains a number of misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.”