Type to search

#ChurchToo Church Uncategorized

Georgia SGC Pastor Charged With Sex Abuse of Minor

Critics Decry History of Alleged Sovereign Grace Churches Cover-Ups

Avatar photo

More than a decade after the dismissal of a lawsuit accusing Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries) of covering up physical and sexual abuses of children, one SGC pastor faces new abuse claims.

Russell Jon Tusing II, 44, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange in Troup County, Georgia, was jailed for allegedly assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

Police were alerted in February to multiple allegations going back to 2022, but waited until March 15 to make the arrest. Troup County Jail records indicate Tusing was charged with sexual battery and child molestation under Georgia’s Family Violence Act and booked as “not bondable.”

Tusing, a father of four, had been with the LaGrange church since 2010 and was installed as lead pastor in 2011. After the arrest, Tusing’s church appeared to scrub his name, as well as the name of his wife who led a ministry for special-needs children, from staff leadership on its website. However, their bios remain online on what appears to be an alternate church website.

The church later released a public statement to Atlanta News First.

“We are both shocked and grieved by the nature of these charges,” the statement reads. “Upon learning of the allegations, we immediately suspended Russell Tusing from his duties as pastor. He is not permitted to attend meetings, functions, or gatherings of the church during the pending judicial process and investigation.

“We have been and are actively working and complying with the authorities. We would ask that if anyone has any knowledge or information related to these charges that they please report them to authorities.”

Brent Detwiler, an SGC co-founder who left the network in 2009 and became one of its most vocal critics, disputed the church’s willingness to cooperate.

“Their phone service has been disconnected. That is not surprising. They are following denominational procedure and the advice of lawyers. You never answer questions unless strictly controlled. You never admit fault,” Detwiler said on his blog, which documents his legal dispute and ongoing criticisms of SGC.

In an email to LaGrange Police Chief Garrett Fiveash, Detwiler wrote, “The latest with Russell Tusing comes as no surprise. Scores of pastors, leaders, and people in the organization have been accused, charged, and found guilty of sex crimes.”

Access to MinistryWatch content is free.  However, we hope you will support our work with your prayers and financial gifts.  To make a donation, click here.

By contrast, SGC communications manager Lauren Maples characterized the broader SGC controversy as “over a decade-long battle with slander, gossip, and even published works that are riddled with factual errors.”

Maples wrote, “It is important to note that, when the [2012] suit was filed, we reviewed our 30 year history up to that point and did not find a single instance in which a Sovereign Grace pastor or staff member had ever been charged with—much less convicted of—sexual abuse or covering up abuse including those pastors named in the civil suit.”

The lawsuit, which alleged a pattern of cover-ups in two SGC congregations, was dismissed on a technicality in 2013. That same year, the network’s Council of Elders denounced Detwiler’s attacks as “sinful and unbiblical” slander. However, intense public scrutiny continued to follow SGC and its former president, C.J. Mahaney, who resigned from his post but remains in good standing with the network as pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.

Public calls for SGC to submit to an independent, third-party investigation into its handling of abuse claims have been rebuffed by the denomination. A 2019 statement by the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team argued that such a measure would be impossible because its churches are “independently constituted,” leaving SGC with no authority to impose a denomination-wide investigation. Also, the team noted, the two churches targeted by the lawsuit are no longer members of SGC, so any investigation could not include the congregations where the alleged cover-ups took place.

“We remain persuaded,” the team concluded, “that an investigation of the sort we’ve been challenged to authorize—both in good faith and otherwise—is inappropriate, impractical, unjust, and finally would be unsatisfactory to all interested parties.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Why does MinistryWatch report on sex crimes? These stories are tough to read and sometimes even tougher to report, but we think they are vital to our mission to bring transparency, accountability, and credibility to the evangelical church. To read more about why and how we report these stories, read “Why MinistryWatch Reports On Sex Crimes.” You can find that story here.

TO OUR READERS: Do you have a story idea, or do you want to give us feedback about this or any other story? Please email us: [email protected]