Do No Harm
April 13, 2016
I continue to receive a great deal of feedback on my post in which I urge the organizers of T4G to not include CJ Mahaney. Some of the feedback (both positive and negative) has been quite helpful. As you can imagine I have heard from those who are convinced that Mahaney is the worst sort of human being and others who strongly support him believing all the charges to be false. But the actual guilt or innocence of CJ Mahaney was never the point of my post. At no point do I try to render a judgment on CJ Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, or Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Some have expressed great frustration with me suggesting that since they “know” CJ Mahaney is guilty of the charges against him that I should have directly condemned him and the other organizers of T4G. Others have told me that since they “know” CJ is not guilty of the charges made against him that my suggestion that he not speak at T4G is unjust. I want to humbly suggest that both sides are missing the point.
My opinion that CJ Mahaney should not have been included in this year’s T4G has nothing to do with whether or not he is actually guilty of the charges that have been made against him. No doubt that will immediately illicit charges of injustice on my part. After all, why should a man suffer because of false and slanderous charges? I understand the outrage. Believe me. As a pastor I know what it feels like to be falsely accused. It is terribly painful.
Others have written to me pointing out that Mahaney has not been found guilty of any crimes in a court of law. But of course for the pastor the standard is much higher than whether or not we’ve been convicted of a crime. As one rather well-known pastor Tweeted today: “Pastors, being ‘above reproach’ isn’t a suggestion, it’s a fundamental requirement.” That is true. And sometimes a certain amount of unfairness has to be tolerated in light of that requirement.
I never once have called for the elders of the church Mahaney pastors to remove him from his position. But headlining a mega-conference is not a right for pastors. Pastors must think of their work in terms of duties and responsibilities not rights. If you don’t like that then whatever you do, do not become a pastor. The operative question for pastors in this sort of situation is not, “Do I have a right to this?” but “Will it cause harm?”
One of the clauses of the Hippocratic Oath is, “I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.” Some have often extrapolated from that clause the well-known: “First, do no harm.” That is not a bad rule of thumb for overseers in the church. And that is at the heart of my admonition to CJ Mahaney and the organizers of T4G: “Do no harm.”
I have always had a great deal of affection for T4G. I have benefited from those biannual gatherings. I am thankful that so many were blessed once again this year. Indeed, I missed being there this year. But I stand by my position in the original post.