President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, released a statement Thursday apologizing for his continued support of Pastor C.J. Mahaney who was accused of concealing sex abuse allegations in his church.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, the non-southern Baptist church he used to lead, were sued in 2013 by 11 people claiming that leaders within the church covered up sexual abuse accusations.
Only one person was convicted as a result of this lawsuit and eventually the case was dismissed since the statute of limitations had run out.
The church eventually partnered with the Southern Baptists Convention and changed its name to Sovereign Grace Churches where Mahaney is currently serving as the Senior Pastor, the church's website states. According to the Chronicle, Mahaney has long maintained his innocence.
For this reason, the Chronicle reports that many other SBC leaders, including Mohler, have stood by Mahaney despite sexual abuse cover-up allegations.
Now, in the wake of the Houston Chronicle investigative report that showed that more than 700 people had been sexually abused by SBC leaders since 1998, many of the people who once stood by Mahaney, are expressing regret.
Mohler told the Chronicle on Thursday, “I believe in retrospect I erred in being part of a statement supportive of (Mahaney) and rather dismissive of the charges.”
He continued, "And I regret that action, which I think was taken without due regard to the claims made by the victims and survivors at the time, and frankly without an adequate knowledge on my part, for which I'm responsible."
Mohler also apologized for an insensitive joke he made at a 2016 conference when he was introducing Mahaney as a speaker. Reportedly, the conference was protested by former Sovereign Grace Ministries members.
“What I did was wrong and caused hurt to the victims and survivors who felt that their experience had been trivialized and dismissed,” Mohler said. “And I grieve that, I apologize for that, it was wrong. I would never make such a comment again.”
Mohler said retrospectively he believes he should not have stood with Mahaney before knowing all of the facts.
"Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes," he said. "I should have been very clear about insisting on an independent, credible third-party investigation.”
He added, “I should have said nothing until I had heard from those who were victims and who were making the allegations. I should have sought at that time the advice and counsel of agencies and authorities who were even then on the front lines of dealing with these kinds of allegations.”
Photo courtesy: James Thompson/Creative Commons, cropped to 1200X627