Eileen Taylor’s 20-year-old self could never have imagined her life today.
At age 20, Eileen — known to many by her previous, married name of Eileen Gray — knew nothing about Christianity, and she was on the fast track to a successful career in banking and finance.
Then she met Jesus.
Not long after, she met a man in church who also claimed to have a newfound faith. They married and later headed to seminary, where her husband enrolled as a student and Eileen took advantage of the opportunity the school offered wives of seminarians to attend classes.
Those were the happiest years of the marriage, Eileen told me recently, as she shared about the circumstances that led to her becoming headline news throughout the past year, after she reluctantly came forward to share how her former church dealt with her family after the church elders learned of her husband’s abuse of their children. (Eileen’s then-husband, who eventually divorced her, was convicted of aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child and child abuse. He is serving a prison sentence of 21 years to life.)
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Eileen never planned to come forward about her experience with Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. On the contrary, she moved away and worked for many years to build a quiet life for herself and her children.
Then, in 2017, another woman from Eileen’s former church reached out to her, asking Eileen to share her story in order to help other women who had experienced similar treatment from the church.
Eileen’s children were young adults, and she was battling cancer for a second time. She wasn’t ready. But she continued to hear of more cases of abused women receiving spiritually abusive counseling. Some of these cases were detailed last week in a report from Christianity Today.
Now Eileen can’t help but think, “If only I had spoken up sooner.”
These days, Eileen hangs out with cops and criminals.
As a certified law enforcement chaplain with the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office in California, Eileen serves inmates and law enforcement in countless ways: from serving as a community call-out chaplain, to teaching regular Bible studies in the jail, to running a 24-hour hotline out of her home, to placing releasees in rehabilitation out-programs, to mentoring women charged with or convicted of drug crimes, assault, embezzlement, murder and a host of other charges. She maintains these relationships with these women whether they are behind bars or back outside.
Eileen’s life now is a far cry from the white-collar trajectory of her youth. It’s also a far cry from the subservient, servile role she once played to a domineering and violent husband, a role God called her out of initially to protect her children, then herself.
I first spoke to Eileen last year at the Restore Conference, a gathering of abuse survivors and advocates. Like everyone else, survivors represent a range of ages, backgrounds and personality types. Some are boisterous and funny, peppering their stories with humor as an analgesic to pain.
Others wear the hard armor of tattoos, piercings and purple hair, defenses against their former innocence, which seemingly betrayed them. Some still retain their identity as churchgoing Christians, struggling to reconcile what they’ve always believed with what they’ve actually experienced.
At first I didn’t notice the slender older woman standing quietly by herself in a corner of the kitchen. Someone then introduced me to Eileen, the eldest woman among these survivors. Survivors often tilt young — not because abuse has become more prevalent in recent years, but rather because speaking up and out is more realizable today than in generations past.
Back in Tehama County, they call Eileen “mother of the jail.” To the younger survivors gathered there that day, she could rightly be called “mother of the survivors.”
To spend a few minutes with Eileen is to sense under her diminutive shell the strength of steel and the grace of a reed. It is also to recognize the power of her genuine love for the hurting and vulnerable — conditions she knows all too well.
Yet, Eileen is so much more than a survivor of domestic violence and spiritual abuse.
A year after her former husband was sentenced and imprisoned, she remembers praying, “Lord, you have comforted me so much, where are the hurting women? I want to find them so I can tell them about you and how you love them and will comfort them in their pain.”
The local jail was the obvious answer. This was the beginning of Eileen’s now full-time ministry with Ripe for Harvest World Outreach, a mission organization that depends on donations — which have, unfortunately, dropped dramatically in the year since Eileen went public with the story of how her former church handled the abuse of her children.
When she was going through her ordeal, Eileen explains, “I did not know any women who understood the grief and pain I was going through.” One woman who tried to help thought she should just “get over” the loss of her husband and the trauma of what he had done to her and her children more quickly. While this friend was well-intentioned, such advice can be given only in ignorance of the kind of suffering abuse entails. Eileen, on the other hand, knows firsthand the challenges and heartache facing many of the women she helps.
Even so, she says, “I’m not a savior type. I’m tough,” sharing a bit of the hard counsel she gave to a woman guilty of a particularly heinous crime. She added, “But they do know that I love them.”
This love is clear from the newsletters the ministry sends to supporters, which are filled with stories and pictures that both break your heart and give you hope.
One of these tells the story of Honey (whose last name is being withheld), a former inmate Eileen met in 2006, when she first began her jail ministry. Eileen shared the gospel with Honey over and over for years while Honey attended the Bible study Eileen held in the jail. When Honey hit “rock bottom,” Eileen continued to offer her love and encouragement. She was “never judgmental,” Honey explains. Finally, she continues, “I completely surrendered my life to Jesus.”
Honey was able to graduate from a drug and alcohol counselor training program, then enroll in college. Last year — with the constant spiritual and material help from Eileen’s ministry — she earned a B.A. in social work.
In a letter Honey shared with Eileen not long ago, Honey recounts the “darkness” in her early life that led her to drug addiction. Honey says she has been “clean and sober” since 2010.
Chaplain Eileen, Honey says, “has been a light to me throughout many phases in my life and I thank God for her.”
May this light — and many similar lights — continue to shine in the darkness.
This article was originally published by Religion News Service and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Roys Report.
Karen Swallow Prior, Ph. D., is Research Professor of English and Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a columnist at Religion News Service. She lives in Virginia.
17 thoughts on “Opinion: John MacArthur’s Church Let Her Down. Now She is Standing in the Gap for Women.”
Such an encouraging and excellent article.
Thank you for this article, and for finding out how Eileen is ministering grace to others. Real grace, not the Grace of GCC…
So beautiful! The strength that only Jesus gives and the amazing flourishing growth of a true minister of the Good News to those in need out of her own pain and suffering. What the evil one planned for demise, God prospered for His glory and Eileen’s (and many others’) good!! Wow!
In all the horrible news and heartache surrounding this whole thing, this is wonderful to see. Praise God.
Thank you for this, I’m grateful to be able to support her current ministry while we wait for the Lord’s justice to prevail.
Such an encouraging story. Thank you for telling us.
I’m glad she escaped being physically and mentally abused. Her ex husband should be ashamed of himself. John MacArthur should have taken a deeper interest in the events in her personal life. A pastor isn’t called to be a leader, but a servant. Jesus Christ said the greatest among his disciples would be the ones that were as a servant, not a leader over the group.
This is exactly what my sister in law told me about Eileen a year ago. She is well known and respected in their community.
Frankly, I was appalled at the level of support some high profile Calvinist preachers and You Tube influencers gave to John MacArthur, in the wake of this revelation. Some I have not watched since as it is clear to me that their support for him borders and even crosses into idolatry.
Not shocked given that they elevate Calvin and his writings above the Bible itself (even though, based on his writings, Calvin espoused infant baptism as his basis for salvation — which would disqualify him from membership in the Reformed Baptist churches who worship him).
I am encouraged and blessed by Eileen’s journey. She not only survived an abusive husband but a church and leadership blind to the realities that many women suffer under the guise of so-called complementarianism. At a time when we are witnessing a surprising work of God at Asbury University, Eileen’s story reminds us that so many Christians and congregations like this one desperately need Christ-centered revival; revival that will create a deep love for all including women and minorities who have been marginalized in our churches.
Her life of service and ministry speak volumes, it came at a cost and is itself priceless. Grateful for this powerful testimony.
Thankful Eileen Taylor has persevered in following God and serving others, including by making her story known, despite not only her abusive former husband, but also the unrepentant abuse of MacArthur and his henchmen.
Jesus the savior saves while Macarthur the teacher shames. Jesus sits with sinners, Macarthur shuns abused victims. Jesus sends the sinner forgiven and free while Macarthur excommunicates the victim defeated and defamed. Paul took no royalties nor fat salaries, and chose to give the gospel freely, while Macarthur made millions from the gospel that wasn’t his. Paul denied himself for the sake of the gospel while Macarthur denied himself nothing for his own sake.
Thank you so much for this article about a woman I have been praying for ever since I read Julie’s article. I am praising the Lord for His mercy and grace and power to bring healing and redemption to our sister Eileen. And what an amazing warrior sister she is!! Wow. She is living it out. Quietly. Sacrificially. What an example she is to me! (I was at that RESTORE conference. I would have loved to have met her…) May we all honor her continuing to speak out on behalf of her and others who not only have been harmed in their relationships but also by the church that does not come alongside to protect and help.
Thank you Karen Swallow Prior for writing this article and TRR for the republication. I was so very gladdened to hear of God’s redeeming grace in Ellen’s life! I really appreciate this follow-on to TRR’s expose’ from a year ago. My now 94 yo mother was battered by my father and while it wasn’t a church or clergy but rather the locale’s culture during the late 50s/early 60s that protected an abuser, the consequences for my mom and her children were no less real. May God continue to provide Ellen with sufficient grace to keep sharing Jesus so genuinely in her sphere. Peace!
So glad to hear Eileen is doing well in her life, and as she shared that awful day JM shunned her, every time I think of it as now I type this my eyes fill with tears, but Elieen say she felt Jesus with her, and He is doing such a work in her life , it beautiful praise God. It would be nice to hear how the children have faired too. Thank you for sharing the article. Still praying PJM will repent. I just can’t listen to him now. Thank God I have been lead to Dr Andy WoodS wow the real deal… not to be mixed up with Andy Wood minus the Dr and S at the end of his surname.
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