On February 20, 2004, David Gray, a former teacher at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC), was charged with multiple counts of sexual and physical abuse of children.
Five days later, Carey Hardy—an associate pastor at Grace Community Church (GCC) and personal assistant to John MacArthur—emailed a letter to the church, which reportedly was posted at GCC’s website.
In the letter, Hardy defends David Gray and challenges the credibility of Gray’s wife, Eileen Gray, whom GCC had shamed and excommunicated just 18 months earlier for separating from David. Eileen also had reported Gray’s abuse to the Los Angeles Police Department in June 2003.
“I’m sure you know by now that one of our own, David Gray, has been arrested,” Hardy stated in the letter. “The accusations being brought against him have to do with child abuse. Most likely, these accusations come from his estranged wife, Eileen.”
Hardy wrote that the church was first made aware of the allegations two to three years ago. But he added that after “a time of counseling,” the church became “very concerned with the integrity of Eileen’s statements” and had to “disfellowship” her.
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Hardy’s letter is no longer available online. But The Roys Report (TRR) has obtained a copy of the letter that retired L.A.P.D. Detective Nancy Nelson confirmed she downloaded in 2004 from GCC’s website.
In his letter, Hardy did not mention that just three months earlier, David had filed for divorce. Hardy also claimed in the letter that David did not admit “any guilt” regarding abuse of his children.
However, as documented in TRR’s previous report, Eileen stated in sworn court testimony that David Gray confessed he repeatedly kicked and even tried to suffocate one of his children in 2001—not just to Hardy but to GCC staff pastor Bill Shannon. Within weeks of that confession—in July 2001—GCC decided not to renew David’s teaching contract.
David also submitted a handwritten confession of abuse to Hardy during a 2001 counseling session, Eileen testified. And, in a sworn declaration, a pastor who heard tape recordings of Hardy’s 2001 counseling sessions with Eileen and David stated Eileen was being told to submit to David despite “his admitted abuse of her and her children.”
Yet Hardy disclosed none of this in his 2004 letter.
Instead, he wrote: “Many of you have interacted with David on a personal level. And, like those of us on staff who know him, you have great difficulty believing the accusations that have been brought. It ends up being an issue of character—whether or not David has demonstrated the type of character that fits these accusations or not. . . . (W)e can still strongly say that the accusations do not fit with what we know of David.”
Hardy then detailed an effort to raise $20,000 cash for David’s bail, $250,000 in collateral “to complete the bail amount,” and $20,000 for lawyer’s fees.
Hardy writes that he “cannot and am not asking anyone to contribute,” but then asks the reader to “pray about” and “consider what you . . . might do according to your conscience.”
Today, David Gray is serving 21 years to life for aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child, and child abuse.
Just last Friday, the California Board of Parole denied Gray parole for 10 years.
The transcript of that hearing is not yet available. But according to retired detective Nelson, who participated in Gray’s parole hearing via zoom, commissioners described Gray’s crimes as atrocious and said the evidence against him was overwhelming. Commissioners added that Gray weaponized religion and used the church to gain trust, Nelson said.
Yet neither the evidence presented at Gray’s trial, nor his conviction in 2005, appears to have dampened GCC’s support for him.
Instead, TRR has obtained evidence that GCC leaders helped start and sustain a ministry Gray launched from prison.
A 2012 newsletter for Gray’s ministry, called “Grace Prison Fellowship,” even contains an alleged endorsement from John MacArthur. And on Gray’s Facebook page, which was active until earlier this week, GCC staff and church members repeatedly affirmed Gray and his ministry in posts as recent as 2018.
TRR reached out to John MacArthur, Carey Hardy, and several other pastors at GCC repeatedly to explain their apparent support for Gray. None of them responded.
Meanwhile, Eileen told TRR that John MacArthur and Grace Community Church have continued to shun her.
At David’s 2005 trial, Eileen testified, “They (GCC) rejected me. Every single person rejected me.”
After David’s conviction, Eileen said she called John MacArthur at his office, which is recounted in a 2007 email to a friend that Eileen shared with TRR.
Eileen wrote that MacArthur’s secretary “immediately knew who I was” and put Eileen on hold for five minutes. Then MacArthur’s secretary returned and said she would give Eileen’s number to MacArthur.
“I told her that people were asking me if he had apologized to me yet and I wanted to make it easy for him to call and apologize,” Eileen wrote in the email to her friend.
Eileen told The Roys Report MacArthur never called back.
Grace Prison Fellowship
“Dear friends, I wish to relate to you what the Lord has done by His grace through this ministry so that He may receive the glory,” wrote David Gray in a December 2012 newsletter to supporters of his Chains for Christ Ministry. “Over the past seven years, He has seen fit to use me, an unworthy servant, to share the Gospel of Christ to many inmates . . .”
Gray adds that he has started a “leadership group using John MacArthur’s book on leadership and expository preaching,” which has become the core of an additional ministry called “Grace Prison Fellowship” (GPF).
Gray also mentions that GPF has been blessed “with the support of Grace Community church (sic) supplying Bibles, CDs and commentaries.” Gray ends his newsletter with “testimonies of others,” including one allegedly by John MacArthur:
Dear David . . . Your steadfast faithfulness in the midst of such a difficult trial is truly a monument to the grace of God in your life . . . It is such an encouragement to my spirit to hear of your work on the Lord’s behalf there at Corcoran. I am moved to hear of your steadfast faithfulness to the truth of Scripture in the face of much prevalent error . . . for now, however, you are our missionary to Corcoran State Prison, and we pray that the Lord will give your (sic) tremendous strength, overwhelming grace, and great patience to fulfill your mission.
Gray’s 2012 newsletter was posted on Gray’s Facebook page for years, where Gray, with the help of then-GCC member David Johns, would periodically post from prison.
TRR reached out to Johns via email for comment. Johns replied, “GCC did not believe some of Eileen’s accusations as credible, but the justice system did. That should NOT have happened—but it did. . . . Both the justice system AND GCC should have come to the same conclusion.”
This week, Gray’s Facebook account vanished.
Earlier, TRR had reached out to several GCC staff, asking about their apparent involvement with Gray, which was mentioned on Gray’s Facebook page. TRR also sent MacArthur and pastors at GCC a copy of Gray’s 2012 newsletter, asking if Gray’s claims of support were accurate. No one responded.
Screenshots of posts and comments on Gray’s Facebook page reveal a very supportive relationship between GCC and David in 2012 and beyond.
On August 27, 2015, David posted that he thanked God “for this prison trial,” adding that God “has ordained sorrows, pain and loss.”
In the post, David also announces the first publication of a new newsletter for Grace Prison Fellowship and thanks several people for “all their help,” including GCC Pastor Mike Riccardi.
On the comment thread for the post, GCC Minister of Music Bill Brandenstein writes, “I can’t imagine what it is like walking this path the Lord has given you, but His grace (obviously!) is sufficient. May that sustaining grace and the power of God’s Word continue to be abundantly evident through your life.”
TRR reached out to both Riccardi and Brandenstein, asking specifically about the nature of GCC’s help for Gray and any personal support, but neither responded.
On December 22, 2017, David announced on Facebook that he was teaching Greek and biblical counseling classes to prison inmates and starting a “School of Ministry and Discipleship.”
In response, Dave Costanzo, a career development specialist at The Master’s University where MacArthur served as president (now chancellor), wrote, “(W)hat an encouragement this is to my heart brother! We all would have written a different chapter in your life man but what others meant for evil God meant for good. . . .”
TRR reached out to Costanzo for comment, but he did not respond.
Last Sunday, TRR downloaded the friends page on David’s Facebook account. At the time, Gray had 250 friends, including Bill Brandenstein and GCC Pastors Mike Riccardi, Tom Patton, Bill Shannon and Shannon’s son-in-law, Jesse Johnson, a former GCC outreach pastor who’s now lead teaching pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Virginia.
TRR reached out to all these men, asking why they were Facebook friends with Gray. Only Johnson responded.
“I’ve never met David Gray, I’ve never talked to him, and don’t know him,” Johnson said. “After receiving your email I looked into it and realized we are connected on Facebook, but we’ve never interacted there or elsewhere.”
Yet according to two former GCC members who spoke with TRR, GCC leaders were very open about their support of David Gray.
Christine Kent, who attended GCC from 1997 to 1999 and again from 2007—2014, said she heard about David Gray in GCC’s Sojourners fellowship group, which included several hundred people.
Kent said the church portrayed David Gray as a victim who was wrongly convicted and Eileen Gray as a wicked woman who had falsely accused her husband. Kent said she believed everything GCC said at the time and would regularly write David Gray in prison and send him Bibles for inmates.
Similarly, former GCC member Sheri Evans said she learned of David Gray and his ministry from the Sojourners group, as well.
Both Kent and Evans said David Johns would routinely visit Gray in prison and give updates on Gray in front of the entire Sojourners group.
A post on Gray’s Facebook account on February 12, 2014, states: “I am going to visit David Gray on February 22nd. If you would like to pass on any greetings to him, write a comment below (or message him) and I will pass the messages on to him. David Johns”
Evans wrote a weekly prayer letter for Sojourners from 2000 to 2010 and said she would always include a reminder to pray for David Gray.
Evans said she believed GCC’s narrative about Gray, as well. And even after leaving GCC for what she described as “spiritual abuse,” Evans continued sending the prayer letter to family and friends. Less than two weeks ago, Evans sent a prayer letter urging recipients to pray for David Gray’s upcoming parole hearing.
After reading TRR’s first article about David and Eileen Gray, Evans says she’s removing anything about David from further communications.
“I was misled,” Evans said. “I wish I had known the truth because I wouldn’t have been doing it (promoting Gray) all these years. They (GCC) kept saying he’s innocent. He’s innocent. He’s innocent.”
Evans added that she wanted to reach out to Eileen and tell her how sorry she is for what Eileen endured.
Kent similarly said she was stunned by TRR’s article.
“I just feel so stupid, like, ‘What in the world?’,” she said. “Until your report, I was still a full-on supporter and that really bothers me . . . I sided with the abuser and not with the wife and children.”
Varner, who left GCC in 2021 but remains a Bible professor at The Master’s University, told TRR he doesn’t recall anything about David Gray.
King, a former GCC elder who left the church three years ago, stated in a text that Eileen Gray’s case “was handled by staff and I knew little about it at all. Discipline issues are presented to the board of elders by the pastor in charge of the case. He presents the ‘facts’ and a vote is taken.”
King added, “Seems typical of how marriage problems are handled at GCC. Wife is at fault and should repent.”
Defending Carey Hardy
Not only has GCC rallied around David Gray. They also enlisted the support of Dr. Albert Mohler after Los Angeles police charged Carey Hardy in June 2004 with failing to report David Gray’s abuse and intimidating a witness—Eileen Gray.
Mohler is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention. And in March 2004—less than two weeks after David Gray was arrested—Mohler was a keynote speaker at GCC’s annual Shepherd’s Conference.
In a recent interview with TRR, Mohler said that after Hardy was charged, a GCC elder, whose identity he couldn’t recall, asked him to write a paper in Hardy’s defense.
Mohler said the elder presented the case as a religious liberty issue.
California has an exemption to its mandated reporter law for clergy who hear about abuse within the context of the confessional. Mohler said the elder claimed that since Gray’s abuse was divulged within the context of biblical counseling, the exemption should apply.
Mohler said that’s essentially what he argued, though Mohler doesn’t have a copy of his paper anymore. He added that he no longer believes there should be any exemption for clergy when it comes to reporting child abuse.
TRR tried to obtain court documents for Hardy’s case but was told by a Los Angeles Superior Court that records for misdemeanor cases are destroyed after five years. An online summary of the case says it was “dismissed or not prosecuted.”
Hardy’s case may have been dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. Eileen reported David’s abuse to L.A.P.D. in 2003, but Hardy’s crimes allegedly occurred in 2001.
TRR spoke with Attorney David Gibbs III, president and general counsel for the National Center for Life and Liberty. Gibbs confirmed that the statute of limitations in California for most misdemeanors is one year.
He added that California’s clergy-penitent privileges would not apply to Hardy’s situation. The exemption applies only to one-on-one confession, he said, not to counseling where others, like a spouse, are present.
Redeeming the pain
Today, Eileen Gray is safe, as are her grown children, though scars remain.
“I’m not bitter,” she told TRR. “Was I wounded beyond belief? Did I go through anger? Absolutely. I went through everything—every painful emotion. But I did it before the Lord, asking Him to bring healing.”
Eileen said she was devastated by GCC’s rejection of her, the shock of learning David had molested her children, and the turmoil of his trial. So were her children.
“I cried a lot. . . . I cried and I cried to God,” she said. “And I said, ‘I don’t know what good could come out of this? How you could ever bring glory to yourself?”
But, she added, “I know the Lord. And I know Jesus isn’t anything like them (GCC). . . . And I can’t blame what they’re doing, or what David did, on the Lord.”
For years, Eileen concentrated her energy on her kids’ and her own healing. But she said she also asked the Lord to help her find hurting women she could help.
At first, Eileen volunteered in a nursing home. But then, someone invited her to minister to women in the local jail, where she flourished.
Today, Eileen serves as a local missionary in the jail, leading Bible studies and church services and helping women to overcome addictions. She also has a free hotline for inmates installed in her home, where they can reach her anytime, day or night.
Eileen’s also received training in trauma care and critical incident debriefing and serves as a law enforcement chaplain for a local sheriff’s department.
Looking back, Eileen says David’s abuse and the ordeal at GCC was “horribly hard,” but said, “God drew me closer to himself and deepened my faith through the whole thing.”
She added, “I saw God turn it to good, years later. . . . He gave me a heart for hurting women, a deep heart. And after a time of healing, of course not total healing, but healing . . . I was saying to the Lord, ‘Okay, Lord, You’ve been comforting me, strengthening me. Where are the hurting women? Show me. I want them to know you like I’ve come to know you.’”
This article has been updated.