Hohn Cho, a lawyer and former elder at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC), accused the influential California megachurch of “awful patterns” of siding with abusers and endangering victims in an article published today in Christianity Today (CT).
Cho’s testimony confirms The Roys Report’s (TRR) investigation last March, which detailed 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 church continued to support David and spurn Eileen, TRR reported.
Cho told CT that after TRR’s initial story published, GCC’s elders tapped him to review the decades-old case. When he did, he became convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that David Gray was guilty and GCC had committed a terrible injustice.
In a 20-page document submitted to the GCC board, Cho reportedly wrote: “Now that the facts are indeed known, it is not too late to ‘do justice’ even at this late stage, almost 20 years later. One’s own integrity, and upholding justice and righteousness, and being faithful even in the small things, even for something 20 years ago, all matter immensely.”
Cho told CT he expected MacArthur and the elders to right the wrong. To this day, the church and MacArthur have not admitted any error or issued any apologies concerning the case.
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Instead, Cho said many GCC leaders refused to even read the TRR article. And MacArthur refused to reconsider Eileen’s discipline, citing claims of her “bizarre behavior,” Cho said.
GCC Elder Board Chair Chris Hamilton told Cho he would need to “walk back” his findings if he wanted to remain on the board, Cho told CT. Instead, Cho and his wife resigned the next day—an event TRR reported last April.
“They 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,” Cho told CT. “And that was and is flatly wrong, and needs to be made right.”
Pattern of endangering victims
After learning of the injustice done to Eileen Gray, Cho reportedly learned of other cases where GCC had counseled women to return to their abusers. This included a case from 2022 where woman claimed GCC leaders told her to return to her husband, despite evidence of him searching for incest porn and behaving inappropriately with the couple’s daughter.
Cho said God kept “placing reminders” in front of him of women endangered by GCC’s counseling practices. “When my wife and I were asked by a friend to pray for a woman my wife happened to know . . . we were horrified to discover the same awful patterns of counseling were still happening at GCC,” Cho said.
“This is when I sadly came to believe beyond any personal doubt that GCC congregants who we still love could effectively be playing Russian roulette if they ever needed counseling at GCC, especially anything involving the care of women or children.”
Likewise, eight women told CT that GCC had urged them not to report their abusive husbands and fathers to authorities. Instead, church leaders reportedly quoted the women Scriptures on forgiveness and submission and told them to return to situations they feared were unsafe for them and their children.
The accounts are consistent with teaching by John Street, chair of the graduate program of biblical counseling at MacArthur’s The Master’s University and Seminary, which TRR reported last April. In lectures posted online, Street claimed that a Christian wife should endure abuse by an unbelieving husband the same way a missionary endures persecution.
The woman in the 2022 case told CT that whenever she moved toward getting a restraining order, GCC leaders would warn her against a “heart of retaliation” and claim that seeking legal protection was “un-Christian.”
CT reported that the woman once called 911 in fear during an argument with her husband. Domestic violence officers dispatched to the scene reportedly told the woman not to return to her husband. But GCC pastor and elder Rodney Andersen urged her to submit to him “as unto the Lord,” according to court filings obtained by CT.
GCC pastors also reportedly downplayed the woman’s evidence of abuse. A filing by the woman obtained by CT reportedly showed photos of her child touching her husband’s pants zipper and selfies by the husband with the child naked. GCC pastor and elder Brad Klassen said in his declaration that the woman told him about pictures taken by her husband but didn’t have “evidence” of abuse, CT stated.
The woman and her husband reached a settlement in the case in January. But the woman told CT that GCC’s betrayal harmed her profoundly.
“I hit subzero spiritually,” she reportedly said. “I was doubting if God is real. I thought, If God is real but we’re supposed to submit to church leaders when this is going on, I’d rather die.”
Several of the other women told CT that at some point, they felt somewhat responsible for their husband’s behavior. The women said they hoped their prayer and submission would change their husbands. But when it didn’t, they sought help from the church.
GCC pastors told them to stay with their abusive partners, CT reported, and to reconcile, rather than seek legal protection.
One of the women CT interviewed, Wendy Guay, told her story of abuse by her father, a former GCC pastor, to TRR last April. According to documents and eyewitness accounts, Guay confessed his abuse to MacArthur but remained on staff for three more years. And decades later, when Wendy asked MacArthur for help exposing her father’s abuse to the elders of the church where he pastored, MacArthur refused and shamed Wendy for her “obsession.”
“It takes a tremendous amount of courage, humility, and vulnerability to even seek help from the church when there has been abuse in the home,” Guay told CT. “Women have hidden, persevered, and tried to handle things on their own until there was no other choice.”
Call for repentance & independent investigation
This afternoon, Eileen Gray called on GCC and MacArthur to repent.
“Many precious ones have been deeply hurt by GCC’s actions, causing some to turn away from their faith in Christ,” she wrote in a text to TRR. “God’s name and character have been misrepresented by GCC. It is my prayer they repent.”
In a Facebook post, Cho stated that CT’s article “accurately reported” his comments and added that he’s praying for the abuse victims mentioned in the story, GCC and “particularly John (MacArthur).
Many others responded to the recent revelations on social media.
David French, who helped found The Dispatch and now writes op-eds for the New York Times, tweeted that “a responsible organization would commission an independent investigation and leave no stone unturned.”
A responsible organization would commission an independent investigation and leave no stone unturned. A church should not play (as the story says) "Russian roulette" with the lives of women and children.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) February 9, 2023
Rachael Denhollander, a well-known abuse survivor advocate, tweeted, “This is not a one-time mistake. When a case is handled this badly, when women and children are destroyed this thoroughly, it is a product of beliefs which are driving the ministry and the movement. . . . And if your ideas are crushing God’s children, you may want to reevaluate them in light of Scripture.”
This is not a one-time mistake. When a case is handled this badly, when women and children are destroyed this thoroughly, it is a product of beliefs which are driving the ministry and the movement. And it will happen over and over.
— Rachael Denhollander (@R_Denhollander) February 9, 2023
Denhollander’s husband, Jacob Denhollander, added that he’s “proud of how Hohn has pursued justice for those who were wronged . . . He is the sort of leader that gives me hope for the church.”
Similarly, a Master’s University alum and former GCC member using the pseudonym Meg Wise tweeted: “I cannot tell your how HUGE this article is. . . .Hohn Cho, a VERY respected elder, like SO RESPECTED, spoke the truth & advocated for Eileen Grey. He pleaded for repentance. And he basically got kicked off the board.”
TRR reached out to MacArthur and GCC for comment, but they did not immediately reply. However, the church published the following message on its website,* saying it does “not discuss details publicly arising from counseling and discipline cases 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. . . .”
*This story has been updated to include GCC’s statement.