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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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To summarize, when someone reports abuse, take it seriously, follow the Word of God and involve the local police.