MacArthur Ministry Employees Defend Child Abuser, Dismiss ‘Screeching’ Pushback

By Julie Roys
John Macarthur defend Phil Johnson

Following exposés revealing that John MacArthur excommunicated a wife for not taking back her child-abusing husband, prominent employees of MacArthur’s broadcast ministry are defending the abuser and dismissing pushback from the survivor community as “screeching.”

Neither MacArthur nor Grace Community Church (GCC) have offered any official response to TRR’s initial exposé two weeks ago, detailing the shaming and ex-communication of Eileen Gray. They also have not responded to TRR’s follow-up story documenting how MacArthur and GCC continued to shun Eileen and promote her husband, David Gray, even after David was convicted of child molestation and abuse.

However, two employees of MacArthur’s broadcast ministry Grace to You—Phil Johnson and Fred Butler—have commented online about TRR’s articles.

Butler has defended GCC’s treatment of Eileen Gray and called it biblical. He also has asserted that David Gray is innocent, and that Eileen’s children accused Gray of molesting them only after seeing a therapist and recovering “repressed memories.”

Eileen denies Butler’s assertions, and they are not supported by court documents.

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Johnson has referred to Eileen’s excommunication as a “20-year-old discipline case” and says he doubts the “noise about it” is legitimate based on the “screeching tweets from the ‘Survivor’ community.” He later walked back part of his comment.

Johnson, a longtime GCC elder and the executive director of Grace to You, also claims he had “no involvement” in Eileen Gray’s 2002 discipline case and “wasn’t serving as an elder in 2002-05.”

However, records obtained by The Roys Report show that Johnson was a GCC elder as early as 1994 and including at least some of the years between 2002 and 2005.

Records contradict Johnson’s statements

Johnson has been an elder at GCC for nearly three decades or more. And according to letters obtained by The Roys Report, the GCC elders began their involvement in the Grays’ case in July 2001.

That’s when Eileen reported David’s abuse to GCC pastors and submitted to marriage counseling with David under GCC pastor and elder Carey Hardy. It’s also when GCC decided not to renew David Gray’s contract as a teacher at GCC.

Hardy urged Eileen in counseling to submit to David despite his admitted abuse, TRR previously reported.

So in November 2001, Eileen asked the elders to remove her from church membership. Hardy refused on behalf of the elders.

Over the next five months, GCC repeatedly urged Eileen to drop a restraining order against David and allow him to return to the family. When Eileen refused, GCC informed her of the elders’ intention to excommunicate her. MacArthur publicly carried out the excommunication on August 18, 2002.

Responding to our initial exposé, Johnson wrote in an email posted online that Eileen’s excommunication was a “20-year-old discipline case that I had no involvement in.”

He added that Eileen’s case “doesn’t pertain to me in any way, though she (Julie Roys) always attaches my name to pretty much everything she does.” Johnson was not named in TRR’s initial or follow-up exposés.

Johnson also wrote that a “friend of mine who is both an elder and an attorney with a special interest in defending real victims is investigating the case. . . . But I’m disinclined to think all the noise about it represents a legitimate desire to know the truth, because of all the screeching tweets from the ‘Survivor’ community calling for a halt to ShepCon (Shepherds’ Conference) while someone gives a speedy answer to a piece written by a career muckraker who has proven to be inaccurate and misinformed in the past.”

Johnson’s comments sparked considerable backlash from abuse survivors on Twitter, who objected to Johnson characterizing their tweets as “screeching” and his use of the term “real victims.”

Screeching tweets Johnson MacArthur

Johnson MacArthur

Johnson tweeted a few days later, “I apologize for the use of the word ‘screeching.’ It’s prejudicial to apply that adjective to written objurgations.”

He also again denied any involvement in the Grays’ case. “I wasn’t serving as an elder in 2002-05,” he tweeted. “I have no firsthand knowledge of this case & I’m not the right person to nag for answers. . . .”

Johnson did not address being an elder in 2001, when GCC elders began addressing David’s abuse. Records obtained by The Roys Report also show Johnson’s longtime board service, which includes at least part of 2002-2005.

In 1994, the year David Gray was hired as a GCC teacher, Johnson served as a member of GCC’s Elder School Council, according to a yearbook photo obtained by The Roys Report. Johnson did not respond when asked about his role on the council.

Johnson also is named as an elder in 1999 and 2000 on the Spurgeon Archives, a subpage of GCC’s website. In 2000, Christianity Today also cited Johnson as “an elder at Grace Community.”

In 2003, John MacArthur expressly thanked Johnson for serving as a “fellow elder.” Johnson also is included in a 2004 list of GCC elders obtained by The Roys Report.

Johnson did not respond when asked directly if the 2004 list was accurate.

However, after being confronted with numerous pieces of evidence on Twitter, Johnson tweeted, “GCC elders can take a year or more on inactive status for various reasons. I’ve done it twice. Hence I was not involved in this case.”

Johnson also said that he “might have been” present when Eileen Gray was publicly shamed in August 2002.

“We have discipline issues to deal with in about a third of our communion services,” Johnson tweeted. “I don’t remember or record each one.”

GTY Employee Fred Butler Defends GCC, accuses Eileen

Fred butler  macarthur
Fred Butler

Another Grace to You employee and GCC member, Fred Butler, has also commented online about TRR’s stories involving GCC’s and MacArthur’s treatment of Eileen Gray.

Butler, whom former GTY Managing Director Travis Allen once called “one of the strongest theological minds I know,” argues that GCC handled the Grays’ case biblically.

Butler stated in a tweet that David Gray was “confronted over his sin . . . repented of his behavior . . . wanted to reconcile w/ his family and be counseled/discipled . . . the wife refused to take him back, which is an unbiblical reason for her wanting to leave the marriage. She was held accountable for that.”

However, Eileen says David was not repentant before or after her excommunication. She says David stalked her and repeatedly made death threats against her and her children. Two of Eileen’s neighbors corroborated her accounts.

Butler further claims that the Grays’ children accused David Gray of sex abuse “AFTER the mother took the kids to a therapist who ‘recovered’ their suppressed memories.” He adds, “Suppressed memories is (sic) as reliable as spectral evidence” (evidence of ghosts).

However, according to Eileen and court documents, Butler’s claims are false. Eileen says the first report of sexual abuse by one of her children came spontaneously in May 2003.

After crying for hours while other children played outside, one of Eileen’s children told her that David had molested the child, Eileen stated in her 2005 court testimony. The child also drew a picture of the abuse, which was entered as an exhibit in the 2005 trial.

The next day, the same child revealed more details of the abuse, Eileen testified.

Eileen then contacted her attorney, who filed motions to temporarily stop David’s monitored visitations so a court-ordered professional could evaluate the validity of the child’s accusations.

A licensed clinical social worker then conducted a court-ordered investigation and determined the allegations were credible, Eileen said. She added that in the social worker’s final report, the evaluator stated that David profiled as a pedophile. 

Within a week of the evaluation, one of Eileen’s other children told Eileen that David had molested that child too, Eileen testified.

The Roys Report reached out to Fred Butler on Twitter, asking where he got his information and requesting to speak with him. So far, Butler has not responded.

The Roys Report has also reached out repeatedly to John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, and other pastors at GCC for comment on GCC’s treatment of Eileen Gray. No one has responded.

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53 thoughts on “MacArthur Ministry Employees Defend Child Abuser, Dismiss ‘Screeching’ Pushback”

  1. Mellisa Fernandez

    My case was similar in that I refused to reconcile with my abusive husband who described himself to the pastor as, ‘a monster who doesn’t deserve a wife and kids.” He was still legally married to his first wife. I discovered this after 10 years of marriage and began the process of filing an annulment. The church stood by him because he ‘had changed’ after just 3 weeks of counseling by the pastor. My obligation was to myself and my daughters, not to the church. My ‘husband’s’ obligation was to his real wife, not me. I was shunned at a church members meeting where dozens of people cried for me, including my very confused teenage daughter. She had no idea it was going to happen at the meeting. The elder read the allegations against me and made it sound like I was a drug addict and a prostitute. Rumors were flying around the church and most thought I’d suddenly gone from a wonderful Sunday school teacher and youth leader to a debauched sinner. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth but so be it. I lost most of my friends. I lost work as a specialist in local schools because of the drug addict rumors. I didn’t lose faith in God but I lost faith in Christians.

    1. A few observations…

      1. Going before a church tribunal is often a horrible experience.
      2. A number of pastors and elders in U.S. evangelical churches should not be in a leadership position.
      3. Grace may be preached from the pulpit, but is rarely exhibited by members in the congregation.
      4. Never become a member in most churches in the U.S.

      Your experience is not isolated, and you are not alone.

      Remember, Jesus is your friend.

      1. Agree with you wholeheartedly Gordon J. I haven’t given up on God, but I have on the church. After 40+ years as a tithing member who was very involved in any church my wife and I were a member of, we have not looked for a church when we moved to a new city. We have jointly agreed to not attend church anymore. We are involved in non-profits, but will not be involved in a church again. We are disgusted how church leaders (John MacArthur, James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, the list goes on and on) treat people. I don’t trust church leaders as a whole and will not be involved in any ministry.

      2. Hi Gordon. This is the most simple, succinct, yet down-to-earth post that would benefit an absolute multitude of people if they took it to heart.

        THANK YOU for expressing the realizations (sometimes after years and years) that so many come to…in a non-preachy, non-snooty, non-religious, non-Scripture quoting way.

        Remember, Jesus is your friend. Amen and amen to that!! Is there really anything else we need to know?? Let Him be your friend, and treat Him like your friend. Cause HE IS THE BEST.

      3. It’s the 21st century. Churches are not supposed to be law enforcement on criminal matters. Church leaders always want to keep there image clean by abusing scripture written when maybe 5% of the population could read to avoid the congregation from running away in disgust. Again it’s the 21st century. If anything these churches become complicit in the crime by not reporting it.

  2. Josh Kurtenbach

    “It’s prejudicial to apply that adjective to written objurgations” is not a very good apology. I’m trying my hardest to put the best construction on this, but the best I can do is, “I should not have said screeching because I can’t know if they were actually screeching because it was written rather than said.” It is incredibly unfortunate, and I pray there may be peace and reconciliation.

    1. Cynthia Wright

      “I should not have said screeching because I can’t know if they were actually screeching because it was written rather than said.”

      That is exactly what he said. What a great exemplar of a Mafia don’s consigliere he is.

  3. This article seems to define spectral evidence as “evidence of ghosts.” It is actually the dreams or visions of a witness admitted as evidence. It was famously allowed as evidence during the Salem witch trials.

  4. It sounds more and more like the pastors at GCC are lying misogynists. They will take the word of a man over that of a woman. They are also guilty of spiritual abuse.

  5. Wow, they get more cult-like all the time. I don’t anywhere in what the Grace guys say get a flavour of love being their driving motive. I think they have mis-construed ‘church discipline’ into ‘organisation survival’, particularly when the husband was not ‘disciplined’ for failing to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Nor has ‘mutual submission’ entered into their public discourse, or the preservation of the peace and safety of the children. Their acceptance of corporal brutality being another tendentious misconstrual of the scriptures and egregiously contrary to Eph 6:4.

    1. My thoughts exactly. It seems that they were more than willing to throw this woman and her children out to the wolves in order to protect the Grace to You empire. If they thought he was innocent, why let him go. Why not allow him to keep on teaching. They knew…
      And to use 1 Corinthians 7:10 as their excuse to discipline her but to omit the very next verse that allows her to depart, as long as she remain unmarried is deceptive. But they get away with this because the average koolaid drinkers don’t test them by the Word.
      Regardless of if they think this guys was innocent or not, there were NO BIBLICAL grounds to do what they did. She is allowed to leave her husband as long as she remains unmarried, so these Pharisees decided to add their law to Gods Word and go above and beyond what scripture states. Not surprising for a man who has the audacity to attach his own name to God’s Word and call it his study bible.

  6. Why was he not arrested? If this is correct he should have been arrested. Did you interview all parties involved including JMac? If not do not push you agenda to get attention!

    1. I have repeatedly reached out to John MacArthur for an interview. He does not even acknowledge receipt of my requests, so I have copied numerous other GCC pastors. Still nothing.

      1. Well, Julie. According to this guy, John MacArthur can’t be expected to know what’s happening within such a large institution.
        This YouTube link is his long-winded response I believe to your ‘blog’.
        He claims he’s not siding with JM but I beg to differ.
        I must confess to almost turning it off several times.

  7. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

    Just a reminder to Phil Johnson that an elder must not be arrogant or quick tempered (Titus 1), he must be sober minded and self controlled (1 Timothy 3) and must be an example to follow (1 Peter 5).

    The chances are that Johnson may not be qualified to be an elder.

    1. Thank you for seeing this. Glad SOMEBODY else see’s it. Seems that the only requirement to be an elder here is like so many other religious themed BUSINESSES:

      1 – Must be a yes man
      2 – Must be willing to defend your Dr. pastor chief elder CEO etc. no matter how wrong they are
      3 – must squash all opposition that would even dare to question the protestant popes
      4 – having discernment, boldness, and ethics need not apply…

    2. I am considering removing GTY from my will. This is just heartbreaking. I hope all the issues Julie reported are addressed by JFM in the near future rather than by Phil. Praying for ALL concerned.

      1. Diane, I believe you are in for a disappointment. Mr MacArthur never addresses such questions. He stays silent and lets other like Phil Johnson defend him. At best that is called cowardice.

        If you are considering removing GTY from your will you would be wise to go back and read all of the Roys report posts (and wartburg watch blog posts as well) on Mr MacArthur. The truth can be hard to face, but the truth does set us free.

    3. Danielle Downing

      My thoughts exactly! Turn the other cheek. Love our enemies be self controlled and be a good example to others especially younger men! His behavior is disappointing to me!

  8. So in a third of the communion services at this church they are publicly shaming people? And the elder trots this out on social media thinking it somehow helps to justify the obvious failings by the leadership of the church towards this lady and her children? It is truly awful that such attitudes are to be found among those who purport to be evangelical, this is a deep betrayal of the grace of the gospel.

      1. It’s so interesting that this churches name is Grace and that John MacArthurs radio show is called Grace To You.
        I think we have a pretty good example of modern day Pharisees in these reports.
        What would Jesus do?

    1. Indeed. Over a span of nearly 30 years I have never ever witnessed a “discipline issue” aired in a church service of any kind. Not once.

      Also not the highly misogynistic language used in their tweets (“screeching” and “nagging”) intended to put Julie Roys and the women who dared go public about their abuse in their place.

  9. Is it any wonder that this is what happens when a relatively small group of men in church governess place the man in the pulpit above the Man on the throne of Heaven? Can somebody please explain to me why anyone still attends GCC? Sorry to say the evangelical mega-church in America is a complete train wreck.

  10. I was very ill 8 years ago and housebound at times. I started listening to YouTube videos of various preachers and teachers, John MacArthur was one of them. I knew nothing about him at the time. After listening a few times I had an instinctual dislike of him. I didn’t give up and stop watching him, but my instincts never changed. As a survivor of severe childhood sexual abuse even with years of therapy I still blamed myself, after all this was a famous man of God.
    Then I started listening to Justin Peters. Same instinctual reaction but for different reasons. Again I blamed myself.
    I started noticing that frequently John would quote scripture but would chop it up in order to back up his words. I wrote to him about it and received a curt reply from Phil Johnson. Later I questioned Justin Peters about something he said in a video and I kid you not he denied that he ever said what was right there for all to hear. When I questioned him further, giving him his exact quote he blocked me. I also listened to a friend of Justin and Phil’s named Chris Roseborough, I found him to be mean and sarcastic.
    My point in telling this is to show how survivors of abuse will often doubt their own instincts and feelings first, especially, (at least for me) if someone is a well known and respected preacher. I believe that Jesus sent me to the Roys Report, and it has been a major factor in my forty plus year healing journey.

    1. Ann-Marie Ferry

      From age 12 to 24 I attended two churches that had similar biblical counseling models to JM’s church and at 23ish I went to my first and last nanc conference and started doing the readings to become a nanc counselor. Saying that Eileen took her kids to a counselor that is not a biblical counselor (nanc/acbc/ and the like) is likely an veiled, yet significant accusation. Biblical counseling (nanc/acbc/ and the like) has become akin to a second gospel in some congregations…its not an option…its the only right way. In these congregation secular counseling is often seen as ungodly (even if the counselor themself is a Christian) and likely to lead people astray. The importance of this statement (potential accusation) could easily be lost on someone who has never been in this kind of church context.

  11. If you want to know why Jesus called certain religious white-washed leaders “A brood of snakes” look no further than this. Satan loves pretending to be a Christian and this is what it looks like when his followers start a “Christian” church.

  12. Having had dealings with MacArthur’s followers, it does not surprise me at all that they are doubling down on this and that no real apology or reversal is forthcoming. I don’t think that will ever happen. It’s not right, but it’s just what they do. It’s one of the things that makes this group cult-like, or at the very least extremely insular.

    I don’t see much grace or Christian love in their actions here. Unfortunately that does not surprise me either. Based on my experience, if you not part of their group, you are an outsider and they don’t seem to care how you are treated.

  13. I understand that the Eileen’s children told their mother about the abuse before going to therapy. But I hate that MacArthur and his people mock memories that return when a person is in therapy or another safe space. MacArthur was doing this a few years ago too, and I responded to it here: https://heresthejoy.com/2018/10/what-about-repressed-memories-a-response-to-john-macarthur/ The Christian world needs to understand the reality of this phenomenon and respond with understanding and compassion.

    1. Ann-Marie Ferry

      The mocking tone you note in this article is something that really gets me. Pastors are called to be like Christ (just like the rest of us)…not mockers and scoffes.

  14. If you have done any marital or family counseling, you will know there are three sides to every story. Hers, his and the truth. Or, mine, yours and the truth. Without having everyone involved in a room together, you cannot know the full truth. You will get different points of view, and some of it will be plain false.
    I’m surprised GCC is publicly commenting on this at all. I have been involved in church discipline and would NEVER, EVER comment publicly about it, or even privately to someone outside of my church family.
    Church discipline should be loving, restorative if at all possible, and respectful of privacy within the bounds of the church family – unless mandatory reporting is required.

    1. Cynthia Wright

      “Without having everyone involved in a room together, you cannot know the full truth.”

      And if you do have everyone in a room together, you may not know the full truth. Being in a room together doesn’t magically produce truth.

      If a counselor believes it does, he might find that he’s on the side of the best performer, the most persuasive storyteller … the sociopath … rather than the person who is telling the real truth.

        1. Cynthia Wright

          One Olsen, by what specific mechanism does the good counselor determine that a participant’s voice has been heard “in full”? After that, by what specific mechanism does he or she identify “the full truth”?

          1. Group and individual conversations with parents and kids.
            Often, having a man (two is better) meet with the husband and a woman meet with the wife to avoid intimidation (which can cut both ways) is effective.
            Have someone talk to the kids without the parents present.
            Document what is true to the best of the counselor’s understanding in writing (to avoid misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and future backtracking).
            Review the document individually and as a couple to see if there is agreement.
            Documentation is extremely helpful if mandated reporting is needed, or if something is discovered and investigated years down the road.

          2. Cynthia Wright

            One Olsen, those seem to be good practices, if not guaranteed to result in “the full truth.”

    2. I heard the claims that the stories were made up by the kids who claimed they were repressed memories at the time of David’s arrest. They still claim David is innocent despite graffiti testimony and a conviction. The claim Phil Johnson didn’t know anything is absurd. Every word in John’s writing is touched by Phil Johnson

      1. Why does the phrase
        “ send in the clowns” keep popping up in my mind every time I see a response from Phil Johnson?

  15. The more popular the less truth. If you were the devil, where would you spend the most time interfering, discrediting, and destroying the Lord’s people? With international media stars no doubt. This poor woman and her children. I’ve personally had interaction with JM in the past regarding some of his doctrinal heresy. Shooting or ignoring the messenger is all they know for it works. For now. And his worshippers follow the same tactics. You should see my file with their comments. 2 Timothy 3 is clear what our response should be to those being irreconcilable, why they act this way…and their eventual eternal destination. Their behavior is just another coat of white paint on the tomb. Thank you, sister Julie, for your work here.

  16. I am wondering if anyone noticed John MacArthur ‘s short commentary to Laura Ingraham on March 24, 2022? The subject was violent teenagers. Also, I believe that John MacArthur has been asked to speak at the Conservative Baptist Network get together in June, before the SBC meeting in California this year.

  17. “We have discipline issues to deal with in about a third of our communion services.”

    Does anybody else find this a little weird? Jesus didn’t even kick Judas out of communion.

    1. Greg,
      Judas was not in a church.
      And, he committed suicide before he could even be confronted with his sin.
      And, it was the Father’s will that he betray Jesus.

      1. Jesus knew Judas’ heart. He could have sent him out.

        But back to the point. Do you think it normal that every third Lord’s Supper ends with throwing somebody out of the church?

        Sounds more like a religious reality show- “Who will get cast into darkness this week?”

        1. According to their website, they have communion monthly, so every third would be quarterly. That doesn’t seem outrageous for a 7,000 person church. In my personal experience, churches don’t follow the biblical process that Jesus requires in Matthew 18. It’s not a suggestion. Excommunication is the last step and the last resort, but many churches are afraid to take the last step in particular, even though that may be the most loving thing to do (if it is done correctly, humbly and lovingly). This is not to say I agree with GCC’s handling of this case. It sure doesn’t look good, Another thing church leaders don’t do enough is admit their errors and sins, repent and ask for forgiveness. There aren’t enough humble shepherds, especially in large churches.

          1. One,

            It is the hypocrisy. Why is MacArthur throwing congregants out of the church when he does nothing about *his own* staff? He let Gray stay on, knowing of his abuse.

            And Wendy S., on another MacArthur story here, had this to say about a different staff member at Grace:

            I was a victim of molestation perpetrated by a pastor on staff at Grace in 1979. I won’t go into the story, but what I can say is that this particular pastor was believed over me (even after I found out I wasn’t his only victim in 2003). Even so, over four decades ago, I was told in a letter written by JM himself that the pastor would be counseled by him personally. It never happened.

  18. Joseph Stanley

    This is one of the many problems that come in megachurches, which are often run more like a business corporation than functioning as the body of Christ. The people don’t even know each other. How can you love one another when you don’t know every other member? How can you have fellowship with one another when you don’t know every other member? I for one have no interest in ever stepping foot into a megachurch. Every church has some level of dysfunction, but the foundation of this church is dysfunctional. (This doesn’t give anyone a right to sin by not assembling together in a local church – their sin doesn’t make your sin ok – Hebrews 10:25). It’s not a blessing from God to have so many people in your church – it’s a curse from God because of sin (love of money? Love of power?). Unfortunately in this case, it has left a shattered mother and her children in its wake.

    I think someone should organize a demonstration out in front of their church to warn the people going in, and publicly rebuke the elders. Easter Sunday would be a high traffic day.

  19. Carmine Esposito

    The JM crowd are a nasty, self righteous group. Never apologize for anything, ever. They are infallible it seems. The coverup for thier abysmal failure in this case is appalling and self serving to the core No one ever equates them with the words humble or meek. They correct everyone but they themselves cannot be corrected by no one.

  20. Lydia Brinkmann

    I find it odd/perhaps-telling that Macarthur’s church was fine with Gray being around public school children and fine with Gray being at home with his own children but not willing to renew his contract in their own church.

  21. Mic 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

    John and Phil, in what way have you pursued justice for Eileen and her children ? in what way have you shown kindness to them when you shamed them in public church discipline? An it what way have you demonstrated humility in handling or mishandling this case to date by refusing to acknowledge, answer or repent of the wrong done to the abused ?

    For the John worshippers who neither sought nor refused to seek the truth, you are nonetheless partakers of the cover up and sin. In time, your sin shall sought you out.

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