In response to new reporting about its handling of marital counseling and abuse cases, John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church says it doesn’t “respond to attacks, lies, misrepresentations, and anonymous accusations.”
The statement from elders at the California megachurch follows the Feb. 9 publication of a lengthy Christianity Today article by Kate Shellnutt. She interviews former GCC elder Hohn Cho, who says the church is “playing Russian roulette” with counseling, especially regarding at-risk women and children.
Shellnutt confirms March 2022 reporting by The Roys Report. She also spoke with eight women who say church leaders instructed them to submit to their abusive husbands rather than report them to authorities. CT’s policy is to not name abuse victims who request privacy.
In response to GCC’s statement about her article, Shellnutt tweets: “I stand by my reporting, which wasn’t ‘lies,’ but verified by documentation, court records, and [by] a multitude of sources beyond those referenced in the article.”
Former Elder: Grace Community Church Counseling Is ‘Grievous’
Cho, a lawyer whom Grace Community Church asked to study a 20-year-old abuse case, concluded the church had erred and should “do justice” for victim Eileen Gray. Her then-husband, David Gray, had been on staff at GCC and is now in prison for crimes including aggravated child molestation and child abuse. When Eileen Gray didn’t obey church leaders’ instructions to lift a restraining order against her husband, she says MacArthur publicly accused her of living in unrepentant sin.
Instead of apologizing to Eileen Gray, GCC leaders became defensive, Cho says, and MacArthur told him to “forget it.” In March 2022, Cho wrote a 20-page memo to church leaders, saying, “I cannot ‘un-know’ it, and I am in fact accountable before God for this knowledge, and…you are now accountable before God for it as well.”
Cho tells CT that elders “sided with a child abuser, who turned out to be a child molester, over a mother desperately trying to protect her three innocent young children. And that was and is flatly wrong, and needs to be made right.” He adds, “Numerous elders have admitted in various private conversations that ‘mistakes were made’ and that they would make a different decision today knowing what they know now. But those admissions mean you need to make it right with the person you wronged; that is utterly basic Christianity.”
More Victims Come Forward
After Cho left GCC, he says, God “kept placing reminders in front of me.” He describes being “horrified to discover the same awful patterns of counseling were still happening” at MacArthur’s church. Last fall, the former elder says he learned of “another grievous GCC counseling case,” in which leaders told a domestic violence victim to move back in with her husband. Some GCC pastors even filed legal declarations on behalf of the accused husband.
The woman in that case says church leaders warned her not to provoke her husband and said it would be “un-Christian” to get a restraining order. “I hit subzero spiritually,” she tells CT. “I thought, ‘If God is real but we’re supposed to submit to church leaders when this is going on, I’d rather die.’”