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Grace Community Church Pastor Removed as Approved Biblical Counselor

By Liz Lykins
bill shannon gcc grace community church
Pastor Bill Shannon of John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, has been removed as an approved counselor by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. (Photos: RNS / GCC)

A pastor from John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church has been removed as an approved counselor by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), the oldest and largest biblical counseling organization in the world.

Pastor Bill Shannon, who oversees the biblical counseling ministry at Grace Community Church (GCC), was removed from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) list of approved counselors, according to the mensaje cristiano.

The Post reportedly obtained a letter written by lawyer and former elder Hohn Cho, lodging a “concern or complaint” with the ACBC regarding the counseling practices of Shannon and GCC. According to the Post, Cho wrote the letter at the urging of his “friends who appreciate ACBC.”

El Informe Roys (TRR) reached out to Cho, ACBC, GCC and Shannon for comment. No response was received by press time.

Shannon was also removed from the ACBC’s list of scheduled breakout speakers for their annual conference, which was held in early October.

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “The Atlas Factor: Shifting Leadership Onto the Shoulders of Jesus” by Lance Ford. To donate, haga clic aquí.

Pastor John MacArthur

GCC in Sun Valley, Calif., has been embroiled in controversary the last few years due to investigations by El Informe Roys (TRR), revealing the church’s shame-inducing counseling y abusive culture.

While ACBC continues to recognize GCC as an approved training center for counseling, the counseling organization is currently investigating complaints against the church concerning its counseling practices, according to the mensaje cristiano. ACBC has heard testimony from multiple women who claim GCC’s counselling ministry protected abusers and shamed victims.

One woman from the investigation shared her testimony with the Christian Post, explaining that GCC asked her to leave the church after she filed for separation from her husband. She alleged that her husband abused her children and was engaged in extramarital activities.

When she told GCC counselors, including Shannon, about her husband’s abuse, she alleged they reprimanded her for taking away his parental authority.

Ultimately, Shannon stopped the process of expelling the woman from the congregation after she made a tearful appeal, the Christian Post reported.  

Megachurch had “awful patterns” of endangerment

Cho has previously shared concerns about GCC and its counseling practices. Last February, Cho confirmed with Christianity Today reporting by TRR that GCC and MacArthur side with abusers against their victims. And he accused the influential California megachurch of “awful patterns” of endangering victims.

Cho reportedly discovered multiple cases of GCC’s counseling women to return to their abusers.

Hohn Cho Grace Community Church MacArthur
Ex élder del CCG Hohn Cho

Cho dijo que Dios seguía “poniendo recordatorios” frente a él de mujeres en peligro por las prácticas de consejería de GCC. “Cuando un amigo nos pidió a mi esposa ya mí que oráramos por una mujer que mi esposa conocía. . . nos horrorizó descubrir que seguían ocurriendo los mismos patrones terribles de asesoramiento en GCC”, dijo Cho.

“Ahí fue cuando tristemente llegué a creer más allá de cualquier duda personal que los feligreses de GCC a quienes todavía amamos podrían estar jugando a la ruleta rusa si alguna vez necesitaran asesoramiento en GCC, especialmente cualquier cosa relacionada con el cuidado de mujeres o niños”.

Eight women came forward to Christianity Today and shared similar stories.

Following this, Grace released a declaración responding to Cho’s accusations, stating that “Grace Church’s elders do not publicly discuss details arising from counseling and discipline cases — especially on social media.”

“Nor do we litigate disputes about such matters in online forums. Grace Church deals with accusations personally and privately in accordance with biblical principles. We do not respond to attacks, lies, misrepresentations, and anonymous accusations,” the statement read.

“Our church’s history and congregation are the testimony. Myriads of Grace Church members who have sought counsel at our church will testify that the counsel they receive is biblical, charitable, supportive, and liberating.”

GCC, Shannon shamed Eileen Gray and other women

GCC and its counseling practices were first exposed in an exclusive TRR investigación in March 2022. The investigation revealed how MacArthur and GCC excommunicated and shamed Eileen Gray for refusing to take back her child-abusing husband, David Gray, in 2002. Even after David was convicted in 2005 of child molestation and abuse, the la iglesia siguió apoyando a David y despreciar a Eileen, TRR informado.

eileen dijo TRR that she went to GCC elders, hoping they would protect her and her children and get David professional help. Instead, she said the church subjected her to spiritually abusive counseling and used church discipline to try and coerce her to take David back into the family’s home.

Eileen shared that Shannon was one of the pastors at GCC who counseled her. She saw him shortly after she filed a legal separation and restraining order against David. Shannon accused Eileen of sinning by going to the law against a brother, Eileen said.

Eileen is not the only woman to share about how the church’s abusive counseling and culture.

In October 2022, a woman alleged that GCC taught her to stay with abusive husband, TRR reportado. Her husband was a longtime GCC member and lay leader.

For years, she kept her husband’s alleged abuse secret, even though she said some GCC leaders noticed and commented on signs of abuse they saw. When she finally shared the abuse to GCC leaders, GCC urged her not to divorce.

Another woman shared of how MacArthur and the church covered up a her father’s sexual abuse for decades. Her father, who was then a pastor at the church, confessed his abuse to MacArthur. Yet, her father continued to work at GCC for three more years following his confession to MacArthur. MacArthur later encouraged the woman to forgive her father and drop her “obsession” to hold her father accountable. 

The culture of abuse has also been taught at The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS), where MacArthur serves as chancellor.

macarthur street
The Master’s Seminary professor John Street (left) pictured with chancellor John MacArthur. (TRR graphic)

John Street, the head of counseling at TMUS and an elder at GCC, has urged wives to endure abuse as missionaries endure persecution. He shared this message in both  serie de conferencias sobre “consejería bíblica avanzada” publicada en línea in 2012 and in a sermón en Grace Community Church in 2020.

MacArthur and GCC have also promoted corporal punishment of children and encouraged the use of a “whacker”—a 6-to 12-inch leather strap for inflicting pain, sources previously told TRR. In one case, the “whacker” and other instruments were even used by a well-respected GCC member to brutalize his children for years, the wife of the alleged abuser shared with TRR.

MacArthur, who also hosts the Christian radio program Grace to You, has gained a reputation as “el predicador expositivo más importante del mundo.” A pastor at GCC since 1969, the church’s two morning worship services “fill the 3,500-seat auditorium to capacity” under his leadership, according to GCC’s sitio web.

Freelance journalist Liz Lykins escribe for WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today, Ministry Watch, and other publications.

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13 Respuestas

    1. John Street was a difficult person to interact with when I was at GCC. He seemed harsh, the opposite of what you would expect from a counselor. But that kind of counseling is disconnected from modern research. A lot of data has been collected in the last hundred years to help us understand the human experience more. And it’s a sin to not use that data to better inform one’s counseling ministry.

  1. GCC version of “Biblical Counseling” seems to simply be about keeping the powerful in power. And keeping the vulnerable and marginalized under their abuse, all supposedly in the name of Jesus. It could more aptly be named Abuse Management.

  2. Although not directly related to this story I have to wonder what will happen to GCC after the passing of John MacArthur. My personal perception is the church won’t survive or at least not thrive on the level it did under JM.

    1. In this specific case, maybe that is ok. Not only because of the bad practices but our obsession with particular preachers. There is a widespread problem of pastoral transitions in churches caused by the professionalism of ministry. If pastors were trained in a church context with people they come to know and love with a pastor who could mentor them, then there wouldn’t be these big shifts in our congregations.

    2. How is it possible that the Spirit of God could dwell in these men, who seem to have a longstanding practice of showing zero compassion for many of the women and children among them?

      How do these men reconcile their behaviour with the very Scriptures they so openly profess to believe?

  3. Thanks to TRR and Liz Lykins for this article. Would like details, when they become known, of exactly why ACBC withdrew its credentials from Mr. Shannon.

  4. There are people who want to do biblical counseling because they want to help people by suggesting what might be helpful scriptures. Sadly, there are also people who want to do biblical counseling because it provides them with an opportunity to act like big shots.

  5. I did some “biblical counseling” at a former church years ago. But I already had a firm foundation as a SPED teacher working with families. I also was more of a support and listening ear and anted to help steer them into area of church service. It is my opinion that most people are not equipped to be volunteer counselors. Especially if they espouse only taking the bible “literally” and do not believe in medication. Also, abuse and pedophilia are way beyond the purview of even ‘pastoral counselors’ and are areas of highly specialized training and even then, I believe the best counselors are those gifted in helping these cohorts.

  6. The unfortunate Evangelical and Catholic misunderstanding of Luke 16:18 branding divorced/remarried Christians as terrible adulterers and sinners who need to repent has caused many abused spouses to stay in bad and even dangerous marriages. It’s a shame so many Christians who left toxic marriages were given the Scarlet Letter by their misinformed counselors and pastors. By that faulty interpretation, Jesus abrogated the Mosaic Code in Deuteronomy 24:1,2, effectively restricting divorce to circumstances of adultery only. In actuality, Jesus forbade the then-current practice of some Jews of serving a get so they could marry a paramour. See Jesus the Jewish Theologian, Brad H. Young, pgs 113-117.

  7. Some of this is perhaps a helpful inquiry into nonbiblical abuse. Some of it’s woke nonsense, perpetrated in the name of abuse prevention. Practically every child I knew growing up was disciplined (as needed) with either a switch or a belt. The use was extremely rare for some, unheard of by others. Some boys were extremely hard headed (like me). They got more than the complient (like my friend). He got at most, two or three whippings in life. I had great respect for men’s ability to inflict correction, but I required a lot more. I’ve got zero hard feelings towards my folks and love their memory. They were trying to keep me from letting my passions rule me. I appreciate the effort.

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Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “The Atlas Factor: Shifting Leadership Onto the Shoulders of Jesus” by Lance Ford.