John MacArthur’s bad shepherding and how churches respond to domestic abuse.
Saiko Woods has interviewed me about the church’s responsibility to respond to domestic abuse, and how John MacArthur and Grace Community Church (GCC) treated Eileen Gray and David Gray.
In the interview, Saiko asked me six questions. I’ve put time stamps for where each question occurs in the video.
- What contributing factors were involved in writing your book? (3:55)
- Why is abuse disregarded / minimized in most churches today? (7:55)
- Why do you believe abuse is grounds for divorce? Does 1 Cor 7:15 allow for divorce in cases of abuse? (14:53)
- Does Malachi 2:16 mean that God hates divorce? (34:50) This was an impromptu question, so off the top of my head I misremembered some details of the translation of Malachi 2:16. Go here for my accurate treatment of Malachi 2:16.
- What are your thoughts regarding the situation with John MacArthur, Grace Community Church and Eileen Gray? (46:40) I have put a written version of my answer to this question below the video.
- What counsel would you give to those who are recipients of abuse? (1:01:00)
Note: My internet connection is via satellite. There are occasional times in the interview where my response seems to appear in slow motion. If I ever do another interview, I will do it from a place that has a better internet connection.
Grace Community Church ran the playbook for how to mistreat women who are victims of domestic abuse
Grace Community Church abused Eileen Gray for refusing to reconcile with her abusive husband, David Gray.
From what has been revealed in the public domain, John MacArthur and Grace Community Church ran pretty much the entire playbook of the script for how churches can abuse women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.
John MacArthur alleged that Eileen Gray was in sin because she had decided “to leave her husband, to grant no grace at all, to take the children, to go away, to forsake him.” MacArthur claimed that by doing this, Eileen was rejecting “all the instruction and counsel of the Elders, all instruction from the word of God.” (Click here to see MacArthur saying those things.)
Yes; Eileen was rejecting the counsel of the Elders at Grace Community Church. But she was not rejecting all instruction from the word of God. She was in fact obeying the word of God which tells us to have nothing to do with people who profess to be Christians but are in fact grievously abusive to others.
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 says:
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (ESV)
This tells us there are six sins for which professing believers should be promptly and resolutely disciplined:
- fornication — sexual sin
- covetousness — greed
- idolatry — elevating something other than God to the place that only God can occupy
- reviling — assailing with abusive and scornful language, verbal abuse, slander
- swindling. The Greek word for swindling can also mean extortion, snatching, taking by force, predation, rape, plundering, subsisting on live prey.
The playbook of abusive churches runs like this
When a woman appeals to church leaders to protect her and her children from her abusive husband, the leaders define it as a mutual problem. They are very reluctant to see it as abuse. They insist that both spouses are contributing to the problem. They get the wife to attend couple counselling with the husband. The wife may initially be happy to attend couple counselling because she wants the abuser to stop being abusive. The counseling is run like some kind of Matthew 18 process. The husband admits to a small number of his faults, but does not admit to his many other sins against the family. The husband gets the church leaders to collude with his agenda. If child abuse is part of the allegations, the church does not report the matter to the police; instead, they deal with it ‘in house’. The church does not discipline, let alone excommunicate, the abuser. The church supports the abuser if the abuser has to attend court. The church harasses and eventually excommunicates the victim for defying the counsel of the Elders. The church leaders have happily colluded with the abuser’s agenda because it fits with their preconceived doctrines. In the following list of preconceived doctrines, I am giving a link to where this blog discusses or refutes that doctrine.
- God hates divorce. Link
- Abuse is not grounds for divorce. Link
- Wives must submit to their husbands. Link
- Church members must always submit to the Elders of the church. The Elders’ authority trumps the conscience of the person who sits in the pews. (The Elders won’t admit this is their attitude; but in practice it is.) Link
- Women’s testimony is to be suspected, because Eve was deceived in the garden. Link
- Women are driven by a desire to usurp the authority of their husbands; they must be put in their place. Link and Second Link
- Forgiveness must always entail reconciliation of the relationship. In marriage, this means living together as man and wife. Link
- When a woman discloses that her husband is abusive, she is deemed to be committing the sin of gossip. Link
Let me read to you one victim’s statement:
I can’t take my case to the Elders and ask them to excommunicate my spouse! The very thought of it terrifies me because they are saying that the problem is mutual and they’re judging me for not being submissive or loving enough, not praying enough, not wanting to reconcile. They are siding with my abuser because he’s wrapped them round his little finger.
The counsel of the Elders of Grace Community Church ran counter to the word of God.
The Elders were colluding with the abuser’s agenda. The Elders may or may not have realised that they were colluding with the abuser’s agenda, but they were. And they haughtily, pridefully, do not accept rebuke. To this day, they still have not admitted how unjustly they treated Eileen.
Don Hennessy has coined the word “psychephile” for a man who abuses his female intimate partner. We all know that pedophiles target children for sexualized abuse. The word “psychephile” combines the root of ‘psyche’ meaning mind or spirit, and ‘phile’ which comes from the Greek for friend. A psychephile targets the psyche of the woman he has selected as his target for a long term intimate relationship. (More on that here.)
Hennessy uses the word “psychephile” in order to emphasise that it is by befriending the mind of the woman that the abusive man can establish, maintain and intensify his control of another adult.
Here is a quote from Don Hennessy’s book How He Gets Into Her Head —
The psychephile is a man who gains control of the mind of the target woman so that he can dictate the level of intimacy and sexual activity in the relationship. (173)
The main reason why any woman becomes trapped in an abusive relationship is because a skilled offender decided to target her. …. When we look for any explanation for the continuing abuse by analysing the character or the behaviour of the sufferer we not only further abuse the woman but also begin the process of colluding with the abuser.
This collusion is the lifeblood of the skilled offender. He has drawn us over to his worldview. …. In a very subtle, covert and powerful way he has targeted us all. We have all been targeted without even knowing it. We are all subjected to the same tactics as the target woman and sadly we are all capable of colluding with the abuser. (22-23)
This is exactly what happened in John MacArthur’s church. David Gray was a skilled offender. From the fact that he is serving a long sentence for aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child, and child abuse, we know that at least some of his sexual preferences are to indulge in pedophilia and incest. He would have selected Eileen Gray as his wife because she is kind, loyal, dedicated and truthful. He would have befriended her mind in order to be able to satisfy his selfish and criminal sexual preferences.
Eileen sought help from the church because her husband was abusing the children. David Gray was also abusing Eileen, but she sought help mostly for the children — she put her children’s needs before her own. David Gray drew the church over to his worldview. The church blamed and shamed Eileen and the church supported David. The church colluded with the abuser. They colluded because the church leaders are themselves abusers (spiritual abusers at the very least).
The leaders of Grace Community Church have bought right into the twisted doctrines which abusers have been infiltrating into churches for centuries.
Further Reading, Listening and Viewing
EXCLUSIVE: John MacArthur Covered Up Pastor’s Sexual Abuse, Witnesses Say — Trigger Warning — The Roys Report, April 19, 2022.
Sharon Woods, Saiko’s wife, was a recipient of abuse from age 12 to 27, before she married Saiko. She talks about this in eight videos at Love Life and Marriage With The Woods (unscripted). Note, Barb has watched the series and recommends it apart from one thing: at the end of Part 7 they recommend Nouthetic or Biblical counselling. Those kinds of counselling have a bad track record when it comes to abuse, see here and here.
Is Abuse Grounds for Divorce?: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 — Saiko Woods’ sermon series. Saiko provides biblical reasons and support as to why divorce is permitted in cases of physical, verbal, emotional abuse, desertion and / or abandonment in marriage and why remarriage is allowed for the innocent spouse. Note: Barb Roberts has not listened to these sermons yet.
Buy Not Under Bondage. Please read my book in conjunction with my article Church discipline and church permission for divorce: how my mind has changed
The Levite’s Concubine — How the domestic abuser gets the religious community to collude with his agenda.