John MacArthur under attack for publicly shaming a woman in his church


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Today’s question: John MacArthur is under attack for publicly shaming a woman in his church. Is this right? 

Good question. First let us know the context. David Gray and his wife Eileen were members of Grace Community Church pastored by John MacArthur. It was a beautiful family:  husband, wife and a bunch of cute kids. Well, sin destroys everything beautiful God made in this world. Eileen brought a bombshell charge against her husband: He is an abuser. Based on her experience and the testimony of her children, Eileen accused her husband of emotional and physical abuse of her and her children. She reported this to the elders of the Grace Community Church. The elders talked to David and counseled him. They did not report it to the local police or child protection services. They asked Eileen to forgive her husband and take him back into their home. She did not comply. So, based on the elders’ reports, John MacArthur rebuked her and publicly shamed her during a communion service at Grace Community Church. This happened twenty years ago. Now, Eileen comes out and says that John MacArthur unfairly shamed me. 

    This case gives us an opportunity to understand the matters of church discipline. God established the church to be the house of individuals who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. They must live holy lives. They should never abuse even adults, let alone children. Abusing children is hellish, devilish and pure evil. Once upon a time, we were leaving our kids in the church and running some errands in the town. But those days are gone. There are child abusers even in the church. There are individuals who watch movies that exploit children. 

    Once upon a time, if the police received a complaint about a church member, they would talk to the pastor. If the pastor says, ‘that guy David is a wonderful guy. A father, a husband, a son, a teacher, a junior pastor. Great guy’. The policeman would say, ‘thank you pastor, that’s enough for me’. That was during our great grandparent’s time. We are not living those times now. This is a completely new world. The police would not close a case based on a pastor’s word. Abuse is taken more seriously in our time and we should. 

  1. It seems that elders at the Grace Community Church believed David’s description of events. He probably told them in a fit of anger he hit a kid with his belt and he regretted it. When a woman or even a man reports abuse in a home, always report it to the police. 
  2. The elders advised Eileen to take David back into her home. That is very bad advice. The Bible says that we should take our marriages seriously. We should live with our wife or husband for a lifetime until ‘death does separate us’. Some pastors apply this commandment to even extreme and dangerous circumstances. They say even under abuse, the marriage must be maintained. I do not agree with them. In this case, it seems John MacArthur and the elders were not aware of the sexual abuses of David. They saw only emotional and physical abuses. Eventually, David was investigated of his sex crimes, got convicted and now serving a 20 year sentence in a California prison. 
  3. Whenever there is domestic abuse, take it seriously. Don’t tell the victim to continue to live with the abuser when her life or her childrens’ lives were in danger. Inform the authorities. In many states, it is mandatory to report all forms of abuse to law enforcement. The police gave a misdemeanor charge to one of the elders for failing to report this case to the authorities. Al Mohler wrote a letter in defense of this elder based on religious freedom. You should not bring  ‘religious freedom’ in these cases. A wife is reporting sexual abuse from her husband. There should be spiritual discipline. The man must be removed from the church staff. He should not be allowed to participate in the communion. Then there should be legal consequences coming from the state or federal authorities. Remember God instituted both church and the government to punish evil. Both should work in harmony to settle the matter. Al Mohler should not bring ‘religious freedom’ in these cases. Even Al Mohler now says that he would not use the same argument today that he used twenty years ago. What does it tell? New information came out about David. John MacArthur probably would say the same thing about this matter. He would not do the same thing today knowing what David exactly did to his kids. 
  4. I heard some pastors say, ‘Well, if we report this to the government, that would bring shame to our church and atheists who hear about it, will never take the gospel seriously and will go to hell’. That is also a bad argument. It is sad that atheists who hear about abuse in the church will never come to Jesus and go to eternal hell. But that should not be our explanation to cover up abuses happening in our churches. 
  5. From what I read, it seems to me that John MacArthur and his staff misjudged the seriousness of this case. It seems David misled them with a benign version of the events. It does not appear they covered up sexual abuse. MacArthur’s church has over 8000 members and they have to deal with hundreds of complex cases like this one. So, let us cut some slack for MacArthur. 
  6. Also, remember some woke activists are going around opening all archives of the churches and ministries to dig up some dirt. John MacArthur is among the few great men of God in our generation. They are desperately trying to destroy his reputation. Some people have been calling for John MacArthur’s resignation. I don’t think that is necessary. At age 83, he has been preaching the Word of God faithfully. We should encourage him and pray for him. Like all of us, he is also prone to making mistakes. So,let us be gentle.  
  7. To summarize, when someone reports abuse, take it seriously, follow the Word of God and involve the local police. 

7 thoughts

  1. First thank you Dr Paul for this truthful post. I’m glad I found your website. I have to say though, you should add to your post here that it is necessary for John MacArthur to immediately and Publicly apologize for this grave error. It would serve the church far better if Macarthur displayed David’s humility and repentance after sin, rather than continuing to pretend this never happened.

    1. Mistakes can happen, and it does seem like MacArthur over-trusted his staff on this, and may not have been aware that David himself had confessed to a lot of the abuse.

      However, the fact MacArthur has neither publicly apologized to Eileen, publicly informed his church it was an error to shame and disfellowship her, has not attempted reconciliation himself, and that he continues to let his staff slander Eileen is a big problem. He should be held to account like any other leader in the faith. If he refuses to, then he should have to go through a process of church discipline himself.

      The, “oh but he’s a great man of God” defense will not cut it here. When Peter was wrong, Paul publicly rebuked him – he didn’t say, “oh but the wicked want to destroy his reputation, I better let it go.” And as scripture says, if we suffer (such as reputation lowering) for an evil we ourselves committed, it is not to our credit. The longer other leaders in the church let this slide and let MacArthur continue in unrepentant sin just indicates to the world that a) the church doesn’t judge itself, it’s more concerned with judging the world (opposite what scripture shows we should do, I Cor 5:11-13); indicates to women that our suffering is less important than ‘maintaining the reputation’ of mega church leaders; and indicates to children that their suffering isn’t important to the church.

      1. I should add that the word for “verbal abuser” in I Cor 5 isn’t just about yelling or swear words. It’s loídoros – to reproach or revile someone, injuring their reputation by insult and denigration.

        MacArthur not only shamed Eileen before the church, his church claimed she “might not even be a believer” and continues to slander her and insult her to this day.

        So if MacArthur refuses to repent, he shows himself as the evil man we are to expel from among us – no matter what teaching or ‘good’ he does to offset that. The church needs to take this seriously and those around MacArthur, Johnson, Hardy, etc. need to hold them to account.

        The best course for MacArthur to take would be to repent and apologize. The worst course for other leaders to take is to give MacArthur a free pass.

    2. Exactly, John Maccarthur has not apologized publicly to Eileen, for publicly shaming her. All he does is say that he is being persecuted, it’s all about him.

  2. This article is pure bad advice. Shame on you. After 20 years, this harpie tries to go after men of God? Right. Where’s the book deal?

    1. Now now, “sscce”, or whatever your name is, you are just being a mindless drama-queen by calling E.G. a “harpy”. Charming!

      Also, sir/sirra, the only book deals that touch the subject of Grace Community/Collectivistic Church are the book deals made by John MacArthur himself regarding books written by himself, probably featuring his mediocre/inferior writing.

      The Lord Jesus Christ does not need propagandists such as you or your sweet little idol named John MacArthur.

      God’s grace be with all who love the truth, and all those lovers of truth very probably include Eileen G. and probably not some unrepentant* creep named David.

      *(Has David repented any time recently?)

      May God’s holy Shalom be with those who love the truth!

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