Rachael Denhollander defends statements accusing Christian ministry of covering up sexual abuse

(Reuters/Brendan McDermid)Victim Rachael Denhollander speaks.

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander has defended her statement claiming that Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) has carried out "one of the worst" instances of an evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse.

In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Denhollander, who was one of the many sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, had alleged that SGM had taken part in an institutional cover-up of abuse because it had refused to consider looking at the "mountains of evidence" that she brought before the ministry.

The former gymnast also alleged that when she advocated for sexual abuse victims at SGM, church leaders felt that her experience as a former victim had made her biased.

She went on to note that her former church's stance towards the victims and its involvement in restoring former SGM President C.J. Mahaney had prompted her family to leave the congregation.

In response, the ministry, now called Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC), issued a statement on Feb. 2, calling Denhollander's characterizations untrue, and pointed to a 2014 dismissal of a civil case against SGM.

"The Christianity Today article publicly mischaracterizes Sovereign Grace and C. J. based on accusations of which Rachael had no involvement and which are not true and have never been true," SGC executive director Mark Prater wrote.

"It's extremely difficult to respond to false accusations without appearing unsympathetic to victims of abuse. It is our sincere hope that this brief statement has done both by speaking truthfully, respectfully, and in a way that honors God," he continued.

In a Facebook post shared on Monday, Denhollander contended that the lawsuit had been dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, and the court had lost its authority to examine the claims of the plaintiff.

"Ultimately, this dismissal means that the evidence against SGM was never examined by the courts. This is not evidence, in any way, shape, or form, that SGM has not done what is alleged," she explained.

The case against SGM five years ago had alleged that the ministry had conspired to cover up abuse within its network.

In 2014, Nathaniel Morales, a former youth leader at SGM's flagship Covenant Life Church in Maryland, was found guilty of sexual abuse against three underage male victims between 1983 and 1991. Mahaney, who led the church at that time, expressed grief for the victims but denied participating in a cover-up.

Denhollander, who now works as a lawyer, gained media attention last month when she shared her impact statement in court, urging Nassar to repent and seek true forgiveness from God.

In her statement on Facebook, the former gymnast insisted that her opinion on how SGM treats sexual abuse has remained the same. She warned the ministry that the most "unsympathetic thing" that it can do is to refuse to respond to concerns of sexual abuse victims.

Denhollander concluded by saying, her concerns about sexual abuse within the church had only grown after reviewing allegations and evidence against SGM and the ministry's own responses to it.

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