Covenant Life Church

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Covenant Life Church is a reformed charismatic church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It has its roots in the "Jesus People" movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and through church planting. Covenant Life Church, along with other churches, came under the Sovereign Grace Ministries umbrella. Later renamed Sovereign Grace Churches the organization has taken on a more denominational structure. Covenant Life Church was the flagship church of Sovereign Grace Ministries until it left the group in December 2012.

The church began in 1977 as a group of 30 meeting in a Rockville, Maryland basement, under the name "Gathering of Believers". This group included Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney held the role of lead pastor for over 20 years, and in 2004 passed this role to Joshua Harris (author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl,). In January 2015 Joshua Harris stepped down as lead pastor.[1][2]

Covenant Life Church had its roots in a city-wide charismatic prayer meeting called Take and Give (TAG) which ran from 1970 to 1979. TAG began as a small bible study led by Lydia Little, a Washington, DC area resident who had experienced the Jesus People revival in California and wanted to see similar renewal brought to local young people.[3][4] TAG continued to grow in numbers with the Tuesday night meetings moving from the Blair High School auditorium to a larger auditorium space at Christ Church of Washington. Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney became the main teachers with Jim Orban leading worship and a number of other young people taking on other leadership responsibilities as the group grew.

At its largest point TAG attracted over 2,000 people, primarily young attendees under the age of 25. Many of the original members of CLC were at one point TAG attendees. The group went through several name changes (including Covenant Life Christian Community) as well as location changes to become more formally established as Covenant Life Church around 1980. Covenant Life Church met in the Magruder High School auditorium for several years before building their current structure nearby at 7501 Muncaster Mill Road.[5]

The initial church group practiced "co-equal" leadership with a highly participatory congregation. Church life centered on numerous small groups meeting in congregation members homes. Over the first few years Larry Tomczak and C. J. Mahaney increasingly assumed larger leadership roles. Tomczak eventually left the movement and C. J. became "senior" pastor. When Larry Tomczak left he stated that the increasingly Calvinistic theology was a major factor in this parting of the ways.[6][7]

In September 2004, after several years of internship and preparation in varying pastoral roles, Mahaney turned the senior leadership position over to Joshua Harris.

Over the years in association with ongoing church plants originating from CLC around the U.S. and a few international locations, Sovereign Grace Ministries was started as an association of local churches (originally known as People of Destiny International). Later, in December 2012, after a year of internal strife, Covenant Life Church formally separated from Sovereign Grace Ministries, citing numerous differences, but especially noting differences on issues related to church polity.

Covenant Life has little quarrel doctrinally with Sovereign Grace; its statement of faith[8] is almost identical to Sovereign Grace's statement.[9]

In 2017, Covenant Life has 10 pastors on staff and 9 non-staff elders. The congregation is estimated to be above 2000 people.

Lead pastor Joshua Harris and pastor C.J. Mahaney "resigned from the council of The Gospel Coalition (TGC) in 2014. Also in 2014, a former volunteer youth leader was convicted of sexually abusing three boys in their homes in the 1980s and early 1990s. None of the abuse occurred at Covenant Life Church. [10]

In January 2015, Joshua Harris, lead pastor of Covenant Life, and successor to C.J. Mahaney stepped down,[1] saying he planned to attend Seminary school at Regent College to pursue more formal education and connections to other branches of Christianity. He believed that "the isolation of Covenant Life, and of a small cluster of churches of which it was a part, may have fed leadership mistakes, including the decision of pastors — himself among them — to handle a child sexual abuse case internally instead of going to police."[2]

In 2014, a lawsuit alleging a cover-up of child sexual abuse against Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries was dismissed by three courts in Maryland. The case was dismissed by a lower court with prejudice, based on the merits of the case brought. Because the case was dismissed with prejudice, the Maryland plaintiffs are now legally barred from ever filing the civil case in Maryland again. The appeals court dismissed the case because the plaintiffs filed the appeal too early. The case was finally dismissed by Maryland's highest court on September 22, 2014 without comment. A police investigation resulted in no charges or arrests, and an independent investigator, hired by Covenant Life Church, found that allegations of child sexual abuse at Covenant Life Church and/or Covenant Life School "likely never happened" at all. None of the plaintiffs filed criminal charges against Covenant Life Church. There is no statute of limitations for criminal child sex abuse in Maryland.[11][12]


The church currently meets at 7501 Muncaster Mill Road in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The church meets at 10 AM on Sunday mornings.

Covenant Life also runs a K-12 day school and a home school program. Almost 300 students currently attend the day school, which is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Over 300 students are enrolled in the home school program.

Church plants[edit]

Covenant Life has over 25 years sent out numerous church plants to many cities in the U.S. and a few abroad, including Cleveland, Chicago, San Diego, Mexico, and the Philippines.

In 1984, Covenant Life Church planted Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

In 2006, Covenant Life Church planted Sovereign Grace Church of Frederick in Frederick, Maryland.

In 2008, Covenant Life Church planted Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Gaithersburg in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Gaithersburg is the second Spanish speaking Sovereign Grace Ministries church in the USA. Its pastor is José Mercado.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lee, Morgan (February 5, 2015). "Why Joshua Harris Kissed His Megachurch Goodbye". www.christianitytoday.com. 
  2. ^ a b Boorstein, Michelle (January 30, 2015). "Pastor Joshua Harris, an evangelical outlier, heads to mainstream seminary". The Washington Post. 
  3. ^ "Life on Wings". February 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  4. ^ Tomczak, Larry. Clap Your Hands. pp. 154–155. 
  5. ^ Tomczak, Larry. Clap Your Hands. p. 193. 
  6. ^ "Charisma Magazine". Charisma Magazine. July 2000. Retrieved 2008-02-09. 
  7. ^ Tomczak, Larry (1998). What Do You Believe About How People get Saved?. 
  8. ^ Covenant Life Church statement of faith
  9. ^ Sovereign Grace statement of faith
  10. ^ Weber, Jeremy (May 19, 2014). "C. J. Mahaney, Joshua Harris Resign from Gospel Coalition after SGM Abuse Conviction". www.christianitytoday.com. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  11. ^ http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/inquiryDetail.jis?caseId=369721V&loc=68&detailLoc=MCCI
  12. ^ https://www.bing.com/search?q=dismissed+with+prejudice+related+claims&pc=MOZI&form=MOZLBR

Coordinates: 39°9′14″N 77°9′5″W / 39.15389°N 77.15139°W / 39.15389; -77.15139