What’s the truth about John MacArthur, his ministries, and the Master’s University and Seminary?
On this episode of The Roys Report, a former vice president at John MacArthur’s seminary reveals stunning details about the culture of fear, nepotism, and celebrity surrounding the famous pastor.
From 1991—2015, Dennis Swanson worked at The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS)—first as the director innovation and then as the vice president of operations, the library, and accreditation.
Swanson worked with MacArthur’s son-in-law, Kory Welch, who’s been paid millions in contracts by MacArthur’s ministries. Swanson says Welch was barely competent.
Swanson also was involved in the writing and editing of the John MacArthur Study Bible, which he says John MacArthur didn’t write. Swanson also wrote a chapter in John MacArthur’s book on counseling. Yet Swanson’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the book.
But that’s the tip of the iceberg of what Swanson saw and experienced. He says a woman he supervised lost her job simply because she was a woman. Swanson says he lost his job simply because he and other administrators were successful in making The Master’s Seminary less about MacArthur and more about a quality education.
This is an insightful conversation and extremely relevant to the issues recently raised about MacArthur and his leadership.
Dr. Dennis M. Swanson
JULIE ROYS, DENNIS SWANSON
JULIE ROYS 00:04
What’s really going on with John MacArthur, his ministries, and the Master’s University and Seminary? Today, a former high ranking administrator at the Master’s Seminary gives us an inside look. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is Dennis Swanson, former Vice President at John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary. For more than 20 years, Dennis worked as an administrator there and during his time, he oversaw operations, the library and accreditation. He also was involved in editing the John MacArthur Study Bible, which he says John MacArthur didn’t write. He also wrote a chapter in John MacArthur’s book on counseling. Yet Dennis’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the book. But that’s the tip of the iceberg of what Dennis saw and experienced. He says a woman he supervised lost her job simply because she was a woman. He says he lost his job because he and other administrators were successful in making the Master’s Seminary less about MacArthur and more about a quality education. Dan is also has insight into the alleged 40 hours a week the MacArthur claims he worked at the school for many years. And Dennis says the culture of fear and intimidation reported by the accrediting body that put the Master’s University and Seminary on probation is real. This is going to be an eye opening interview and I’m so excited to dive into these topics with Dennis. But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson is a top ranked Christian university providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to buyacar123. com. Well, again, joining me is Dennis Swanson, an education administrator and former Vice President at the Master’s Seminary. For more than two decades, Dennis worked at both the Seminary and the Master’s University. He started as Director of Innovation. Then he became the librarian, and then the director of accreditation, and finally the Vice President of Operations, Library and Accreditation. So Dennis has seen a lot over the years. And I’m so pleased to have him in studio with me today. Dennis, welcome! And thanks so much for joining me.
DENNIS SWANSON 02:52
Thank you glad to be here.
JULIE ROYS 02:53
And you’re in studio, you’re not usually in the Chicago area. What brings you here?
DENNIS SWANSON 02:57
I’m exploring some job opportunities., and I think I may be relocating to this area. And I love Chicago, so I could walk around and take pictures all day.
JULIE ROYS 03:07
Well, welcome to the Chicago area. If you end up in this area, it will be fun to have you here. But again, we’ve talked quite a bit over the past year about your experience with John MacArthur with the Master’s University and Seminary. And again, you were there for over two decades. So you must have, in the early days and 1990s, early 2000s enjoyed being there. Tell me what it was like in those early days.
DENNIS SWANSON 03:32
My first year, year and a half was at the college. Back then it wasn’t the university. That’s a later invention. But I worked with a guy named Doug Bookman, and we worked on innovation, ideas, and so anything to make the school better, to make the programs better, to come up with new ideas. That’s kind of what we explored. And at the same time, it gave me an opportunity to teach once in a while, which I always enjoyed doing. And then I was approached by Dr. Dick Mayhue, who is the dean at the Seminary and asked if I would like to come back to the Seminary. I had graduated from the Seminary and come and be the librarian. It was busy for the first year because I had to actually get a degree in library work. So I enrolled at San Jose State University. And I finished another master’s degree in two semesters. And then Dr. Mayhue again asked if I would help with accreditation, I said, sure, give it a try.
JULIE ROYS 04:22
And that’s been a big deal. Accreditation.
DENNIS SWANSON 04:23
Accreditation is a huge deal. And WASC, which is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, was our regional accreditor. And they had just started a new program called Assessment Leadership Academy for leaders. And so I was in the first group of that with about 12 other people in the region.
JULIE ROYS 04:41
We’re going to talk more about accreditation. So let’s let’s table that discussion, because you left in 2015. In 2018, was when WASC put the Master’s University and Seminary on probation. So part of the reason we’re talking is because John MacArthur is in the news right now. And I have done some reporting on him. And, and so there’s a lot of people asking what’s really going on at the Master’s University and Seminary, what’s really going on at Grace Community Church, at Grace To You, with John MacArthur? So let me just ask you, what was it like working with John MacArthur? And you know, what kind of President was he because he was the president of the Seminary, when when you were there?
DENNIS SWANSON 05:23
John wasn’t so much for us day to day, we didn’t see him a lot. John was, you’re always wondering, you know, when he when he would come in, it would be kind of like a whirlwind, you know, and what was he going to do today? And what was going to happen? And you kind of just held your breath until he came and left.
JULIE ROYS 05:42
You told me at one point, when we were talking that you literally would go months, and wouldn’t see John.
DENNIS SWANSON 05:48
Oh! You could go months without seeing him. You’d see him it, you know, some events and certainly at graduation, but then, in terms of regular meetings with the faculty in 20 years, three or four.
JULIE ROYS 06:01
And you said there was a annual retreat that the Seminary would do?
DENNIS SWANSON 06:06
We would begin the year with a faculty retreat. Usually in the spring, we would have kind of end of the year dinner with everybody.
JULIE ROYS 06:12
Okay, so he’s the president, was he there?
DENNIS SWANSON 06:14
For the retreats, almost never. For the annual dinners, he might show up, but a lot of times didn’t show for those either. And it was always very busy with everything else, or traveling or doing whatever it is he was doing. But it wasn’t something he did very much.
JULIE ROYS 06:30
Part of the reason I ask is that from 2006 through 2012, if you read the 990s, which are the IRS tax forms that they file every year, they claimed that MacArthur was working 40 hours a week from 2006 to 2012. For six years, supposedly, and this would have been six years you were there. It says he worked 40 hours a week at the Seminary.
DENNIS SWANSON 06:51
Not possible, unless he counted working at home or or doing things, but in terms of being in the office, no, he was never there. He had a little room in the Seminary building. But it was just a place where he could have meetings. His main office was just you know, 50 yards away over at the church. But he didn’t even have an office in the building.
JULIE ROYS 07:11
So as President, what was his role?
DENNIS SWANSON 07:14
Raise money, when he would speak he would promote the school and do things like that. But in terms of an active administrative role, I would say he had virtually none.
JULIE ROYS 07:23
One of the things that has raised some eyebrows is the fact that he takes three salaries at the Master’s University and Seminary. He was taking a salary there from $42,000 a year to $100k to $182,000 some years. Grace to You, he’s taking a salary of$ 174,000 to, you know, over $402,000, the one the one year that he got that King James Bible that I guess was worth more than $200,000 that Grace To You gifted him? Were you aware of him taking these multiple salaries at the time that you were there?
DENNIS SWANSON 07:56
JULIE ROYS 07:57
Were you aware of like when he was at Grace Community Church was that is considered a full time job? As the other ones were part time.
DENNIS SWANSON 08:05
He’d always say that he spent 40 hours a week on each message that he preached. After a while you take that with a grain of salt, but there’s only so many days in the week and hours, and he couldn’t be 40 hours a week at five different places or anything like that.
JULIE ROYS 08:18
You know, I mentioned that in 2012, John MacArthur made as much as it was over $400,000, from Grace To You gave him this salary. But it was a little bit bigger that year because he got this $200,000 King James Bible. Now, the narrative that’s come out by Phil Johnson is that this Bible was given to MacArthur for you know, as an anniversary year. And we want to thank him for this. But he’s not a very good miser, because he turned around right away and gave it away to the Master’s University and Seminary. I’ve discovered that it doesn’t show up on the 990s till four years later, in 2016, is when there’s a gift of a historical artifact to the Seminary. Doesn’t look like he turned around and gave it away. But you know, something, in fact, you gave me he sent me a picture, which I’ll post, that shows that what was this 2012 is when you took that picture?
DENNIS SWANSON 09:13
JULIE ROYS 09:14
And at that point, what did that note say? And what does that say about the intention of John MacArthur with that Bible?
DENNIS SWANSON 09:20
We created a room, kind of a museum of rare Bibles, and we had his Bible and I created little cards for them to talk about the Bible and what it was. His Bible is a Hebrew Bible, which is the rarer of the two. They said it was $200,000. I might quibble that that would not be a great assessment of that, in that year, but I had to put on the bottom of that card that “on loan from John MacArthur”. It wasn’t given to the school.
JULIE ROYS 09:48
So you actually were told to put that note there.
DENNIS SWANSON 09:51
Yes. That’s how they wanted it worded that this was on loan from Dr. MacArthur, his personal collection or whatever it was. That was still in place in 2015 when I left.
JULIE ROYS 10:02
DENNIS SWANSON 10:02
It was never given to the Seminary that that I was aware of. It if it when it was I guess it was ultimately given that was after I was gone.
JULIE ROYS 10:10
Well, and it was also after 2014 when these bloggers started blogging about John MacArthur’s salary, and what how much Grace To You had paid him.
DENNIS SWANSON 10:20
JULIE ROYS 10:20
His lifestyle, did it raise any, any red flags at that point?
DENNIS SWANSON 10:24
What raised the red flags was driving money to his son in law and his company. When I was running operations at the Seminary, I had to hire Corey Welch. I had to hire that his company to do something. But working with them was not an enjoyable experience. The end product wasn’t anything to get excited about. But you know, there’s certain things you didn’t have a choice about.
JULIE ROYS 10:48
So let’s talk about Cory Welch. He is John MacArthur son in law, as you mentioned, he was a Grace To You employee in 2008, working for about $80,000 as an employee, as the director of the television broadcasting there. Then, in 2009, he started working as a video production contractor for Grace To You,Grace To You getting more than $740,000 per year for doing production of Grace To You. What he had been doing before, I’m not sure. I’ve heard from Phil Johnson, who’s the executive director of Grace To You, that, that it was cost efficient to have him move into that. But I mean, if you just look at the salary he was making, I mean, obviously, there were more costs than just his salary for production. But that’s a lot of money.
DENNIS SWANSON 11:31
Yeah, well, it is. And he formed his own company, I guess, and Welch Productions, and then continued as a contractor doing what he had been getting paid to do before.
JULIE ROYS 11:40
What year was this?
DENNIS SWANSON 11:41
Early 2014. We remodeled the front lobby of the of the Seminary. He was contracted to make a video wall with big screen TVs and produce the slideshow, which ended up being a little more than a PowerPoint. I mean, I could have gotten any 20 college kids probably do the same thing. The annoying part for me was I continued hounding him basically, you know, give me the specs for the computer system, we need to run this thing. And he didn’t do it. I’ll get back to you. I’ll get back to you finally gave me the specs. Well, they were wrong. So I ended up with a very nice computer that wasn’t powerful enough to do what we needed to do. Had to go out and spend another, I couldn’t return it, ended up spending another 12 or $15,000 on the right system, which just drove the cost up for my budget, but didn’t affect what we paid him.
JULIE ROYS 12:37
How much did you pay him?
DENNIS SWANSON 12:39
I have no idea. That part of it was off of the budget.
JULIE ROYS 12:41
DENNIS SWANSON 12:42
So it was whatever he got paid, he got paid.
JULIE ROYS 12:45
So your impression of Cory as the the quality of the work that he produced, because I mean, this has been a key point that Phil Johnson has made is, Hey, listen, he shouldn’t have a problem with us hiring Corey Welch because he does such outstanding work.
DENNIS SWANSON 13:02
That’s not my experience. My experience was adequate work, rarely on time, and kind of slowed the whole process down more than anything. I was never impressed with his work.
JULIE ROYS 13:13
So it’s interesting to me, because I just looked this up, because any kind of payments to say a son in law is considered related business transaction, should show up on the 990s. You’re telling me the Cory Welch did work in 2014. Belinda Welch did some work as well. And it doesn’t show up on the 990.
DENNIS SWANSON 13:35
Their salaries and their contract was, part of it was handled, you know, Oh! we’ll take care of that. And it was done elsewhere.
JULIE ROYS 13:48
Okay. So let’s talk about books. Because you were involved in a lot of the writing of these books that John MacArthur’s name is on. In fact, you told me one time that John MacArthur has never actually written a book in his life. Is that right?
DENNIS SWANSON 14:07
That’s my opinion. Yeah, I know who the ghost writers are. And I know who wrote even the earliest books. He was a English professor. He was I can’t remember his name. He was a reformed Episcopal minister, but he wrote the early books, and they were sermons.
JULIE ROYS 14:24
So they’re, they’re taking the sermons and sort of massaging them. You’re saying there’s no part of it that was John MacArthur?
DENNIS SWANSON 14:27
And putting them into in some readable order. And that’s kind of when Phil Johnson came in. He did, he had been an editor, I think, at Moody Press. And then he came in to do the gospel according to Jesus and one thing led to another and he ghostwrote several books after that, and there’s another person right after that, who’s Nathan Buseness, who is the ghost writer, he wrote books out of whole cloth. I’m wasn’t there was no certain underlying sermon series behind it. Other than maybe him looking at it and saying, Yeah, that looks good.
JULIE ROYS 14:58
You weren’t involved firsthand in those other books, but you were in the MacArthur Study Bible?
DENNIS SWANSON 15:02
We got different sections assigned to us, different books of the Bible, and we create notes and then Dick Mayhue would edit them and put them together.? And then, I mean, the process was supposed to be then John carefully looked at each one and, you know, changed the wording to and that was not what I saw.
JULIE ROYS 15:20
What did you see?
DENNIS SWANSON 15:21
I saw him appear every other week or so for half hour, 45 minutes in this little room where Dick had taken a little conference room and created the whole, where the study bible is produced. The study Bible, in my view, was 80% Dick Mayhue taking the stuff that the Seminary had created, re-editing it and John doing something. But I mean, the idea that he looked at every single note and rechecked them all I rather doubt that happened.
JULIE ROYS 15:50
Is it unusual though, in the publishing business?
DENNIS SWANSON 15:53
I guess, for big name authors and things like that, it might not be unusual. I question it ethically, at a certain level. If everyone thinks you did this, and you really didn’t, and you don’t really do anything to dissuade people of that fact. I mean, it took a lot of work. And you can’t write a note on every single verse, and you have to figure out what’s what and then go through, and then all of us had our own expertise in different areas. And we would look and you know, what would be something useful in this area?
JULIE ROYS 16:21
So did you write a portion of it?
DENNIS SWANSON 16:23
I redid a lot of the notes in Proverbs that had to be taken a look at and I over, I went through and checked the notes for I used to teach the archaeology class. So I checked the notes on archaeology and suggested a few here and there that that occurred. And you know, some of them are there.
JULIE ROYS 16:41
You did actually write a chapter though, as I understand in a counseling book.
DENNIS SWANSON 16:46
Yeah, there were three books in a series that I think Word ended up publishing them. One was the book on preaching. Another one was on pastoral ministry. And then there was a book on counseling. And a guy named Wayne Mack, who is the professor of counseling at the college at the time was kind of the the lead editor. It was one of those John MacArthur, Wayne Mack and the college faculty, just like the preaching book was the Seminary faculty. I did a lot of the editing, just, you know, proofreading and things like that. And then I did one chapter where I compiled it, it was a frequently asked question, chapter. I wrote some of the answers and a lot of the contributors answered, as well. And it came out and it was well done, it was well received. I think they still use it as a textbook. And then, oh about two years later, the book was being reissued. I think they tinkered with the title, I think they changed all of the titles of those slightly, and reissued them. And when the new one came out, and I’m working in the library. So I see a lot of the new books. And so all the new counseling book came out. And I saw, let me look at it, and I’m skimming through it. And I come to the chapter that I had done. And my name wasn’t there anymore. It was now John MacArthur.
JULIE ROYS 18:00
Just like that.
DENNIS SWANSON 18:00
Just like that. I complained a little bit, but it was already printed, what are they going to do? And I never got any kind of explanation as to why that was done, or who did it or anything else. It just my name disappeared.
JULIE ROYS 18:14
And did you get royalties?
DENNIS SWANSON 18:16
No. The contributors all got a stipend to originally produce whatever it is they produced. And then.
JULIE ROYS 18:22
And who paid the stipend?
DENNIS SWANSON 18:24
Oh, gosh, I think the check to me came from the school.
JULIE ROYS 18:27
From the school?
DENNIS SWANSON 18:28
JULIE ROYS 18:28
So I guess the question is, and we don’t know the answer to this question. But there’s this whole issue of intellectual property and who owns what?
DENNIS SWANSON 18:37
JULIE ROYS 18:37
If you were paid by the Master’s University, then they should own that intellectual property of the book. And whether or not John got royalties on that or not. And I guess we don’t know. All we know is that Phil Johnson recently said that John MacArthur makes millions in royalties.
DENNIS SWANSON 18:57
I’m certain he does.
JULIE ROYS 18:58
Huh. You did tell me about a project though, while you were there, this hymnal project. And in Grace to You, as I understand it, would buy tons of copies of books. And that would often put them on the bestseller list? If they were bought, where they bought through Amazon?
DENNIS SWANSON 19:19
I just assumed they would get them as from directly from the publisher. So I don’t know how they accounted for that.
JULIE ROYS 19:26
So if you do get it directly from the publisher, it doesn’t count for your sales and you do get it at a fraction of the cost?
DENNIS SWANSON 19:31
Right. And I’m sure that’s what they did for a lot of them. I would have said Grace To You use them as giveaways and different things, but it was it always struck me odd you know, we couldn’t find a hymnal we like, so we created our own. They’re working on a Bible translation. The Legacy Bible. We don’t like we don’t have any there’s no Bibles we like so we’re going to create our own. Well, they said they have six people that have been working for a year to translate them out. Well, that’s it’s impossible. That’s just silly. There. That’s an old The New American Standard that they’re tinkering with the wording. And that’s all it’s I’ve seen the sample that they’ve just put up on the web page. And that’s all it is. It’s not what the King James took all those guys, you know, 13 years to produce. The NASB originally, I think took seven or eight years of 40 people working on. The idea that six people working a year are going to create a whole new Bible translation is just absurd. And I don’t see the point in it. Why do you have to create something that’s already done?
JULIE ROYS 19:47
The Legacy bible. Let’s talk accreditation, because that’s something that you you worked on. And from discussing this with you, and I don’t know anything to the contrary to this in 2008, the school was doing great. And then you went from great accreditation 2008, to being on probation in 2018, which was three years after you left. But one of the things and I’ve read the report, the WASC report, which is the accrediting body, and one of the things that they really highlight is what they said was a culture of fear and intimidation at the school, and that they seem to have tied that directly to MacArthur. They also complained that he was not working full time at the school and for a school that size and what needs to be done with accreditation and everything else, it needs a full time administrator at the top. So I mean, talk about that. Did you feel a culture of fear and intimidation?
DENNIS SWANSON 21:24
To a degree. There was a colleague that Dr. Andy Snyder who was fired, despite the fact that he was universally loved by all of the faculty. He was not loved by Phil Johnson. And that was common knowledge that that was where the attack was coming from over some arcane theological issue, frankly, but probably starting about 2012. That’s when it really began to get difficult. You walked around kind of on eggshells, sometimes wondering what in the world was going on? There were changes. I remember Dr. MacArthur got rid they started getting rid of he got rid of his secretary who had been there for him been a secretary for like 25 years. And because they were they were moving female employees out.
JULIE ROYS 22:10
Why? Why were they moving female employees out?
DENNIS SWANSON 22:12
I have no idea. It it just, I remember that there was one person that worked for me in the library, my circulation manager. She was the only woman left in the school, the Seminary side who had authority over men, you know, the student workers.
JULIE ROYS 22:29
That wasn’t okay?
DENNIS SWANSON 22:31
Apparently not because they fired her.
JULIE ROYS 22:33
Just for being a woman?
DENNIS SWANSON 22:34
I don’t know exactly why they fired her. But that was mainly the reason. And it was done poorly enough that she sued and won. And I think they settled out of court. But there was a judgment against the school at that point. And it was just, they tried to run the school like it was the church. And they’re separate entities. They have separate missions, they have different guidelines, they have all sorts of different ways of doing things, and you can’t run a school like you run a church. And it became problematic, you know, they withdrew from the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability. And they’ve had trouble since I left with loss, with the creditors. It’s like they don’t want any outside entity holding them to the basics of professionalism and standards. And and either in higher education or financial dealings or anything like that.
JULIE ROYS 23:27
The Master’s University and Seminary is accredited by ECFA now.
DENNIS SWANSON 23:30
The schools are. I think the church withdrew.
JULIE ROYS 23:32
The church withdrew. Exactly. And that’s recent, though.
DENNIS SWANSON 23:34
Yeah, that’s fairly recent. And you know, at what point will the schools withdraw? I mean, that’s a very inward growing isolation. I mean, we have to have our own hymnal. We’re gonna have our own Bible. We have our own school. We’re, you know, we’re gonna watch it ourselves. It’s becoming very insular. In terms of education, that’s very worrisome. I was looking at the list of faculty for the Seminary now, and it’s mostly people who graduated from there. It’s a large number who are, they got all their degrees there. And that’s not the way education supposed to work.
JULIE ROYS 24:10
I don’t mean to be inflammatory. But to use this word will sound inflammatory. And I’m only asking because a number of people I’ve talked to, who have come from either the Master’s or Grace Community Church, seem to be afraid to speak on the record a lot of them.
DENNIS SWANSON 24:27
JULIE ROYS 24:28
But they describe it as cult like. Now I know one of the characteristics of a cult is it has to teach bad doctrine and I don’t think
DENNIS SWANSON 24:39
No. Not necessarily.
JULIE ROYS 24:40
Well, I’ve heard that it’s not just the control but usually when it’s called a cult, it has that other element and I don’t think that could possibly be said of of MacArthur. Although some people would there this whole controversy of mark of the Beast, and we’re not going to get into that but but yeah, I mean, I I don’t see any glaring issues. In fact, I have appreciated John MacArthur’s preaching. In fact, a little known fact that when I was reporting on Harvest Bible Chapel, people were circulating a John MacArthur sermon on First Timothy 5:20, about publicly exposing an elder who’s sinning because he preaches very straight up on that. And hardly anybody preaches on that. And so I actually appreciate a lot of the preaching of John MacArthur. But this control and fear that I’ve seen from people who, I’ve had numerous people really upset about things that are going on, and they’ll talk to me, but they won’t go on the record. And I’m like, why? You don’t go to the church anymore? You’re not at the school anymore? And they’re like, you don’t understand! I’ll be ostracized!
DENNIS SWANSON 25:39
JULIE ROYS 25:39
By everyone. Tell me about that dynamic.
DENNIS SWANSON 25:42
They often can’t just get rid of people. You know, they have to trash their reputation on the way out. It’s like this recent deal with Dr. Horn being dismissed.
JULIE ROYS 25:53
Let me just say because some people listening might not know. But Dr. Sam Horn was brought in less than a year ago to be president of the school because one of the things when they were put on probation by WASC, one of these issues, again, was John MacArthur serving as president. So he moved to Chancellor and they brought in a full time president, which was Sam Horn. And Sam, from my understanding, had a stellar reputation at that point.
DENNIS SWANSON 26:18
A great guy, a great experienced educator, school administrator, upfront guy. I have all the respect in the world or him. I met him a few times ,but I have other friends who’ve known him for 304-40years. And who were all just outraged. I mean, first of all, you hire somebody, and then who you announce to the world, he’s the he’s the guy, this is going to be our leader going forward. And nine months later, you’re letting him go. I mean, you’re he resigned, you’re forced out, I’m sure. And four board members are leaving at the same time.
JULIE ROYS 26:53
That really hasn’t been reported yet. Because I can’t get anybody to talk to me again.
DENNIS SWANSON 26:58
Right. And and that’s a shame. And there’s the thing about talking is not only ostracizing, but there, there are a lot of people they believe in the greater good. Yeah, MacArthur has got his flaws, and all of these things, and these things have happened. But, you know, if we attack him, or if we expose this thing, it’s gonna hurt the whole cause of Christ. Christianity is gonna rise and fall on that. And I don’t believe that. I believe in holding people accountable and if it needs to be called out needs to be called down and what are they, they’ve already fired me. What else are they? What else? I mean, I’m sure they’ll come up with some, you know, horrible stories about me, you know, what a terrible person I was or something but that’s I’ve been gone for six years. I mean, it’s what offends me is how they hurt people on the way out. The poor guy that replaced me in the library. I mean, he lasted for six months, and then they fired him too. And the lady who worked for me who they fired in, she at least got some you know, financial compensation but and with Sam not I mean, just letting him go, but then going to chapel to students, and saying he has anger issues and all of these terrible things, you know.
JULIE ROYS 28:04
And this by the way, this is on my website. If you go to JulieRoys.com. There’s a story about Dr. Sam Horn resigning, but I also was given somebody had recorded the chapel that you’re talking about, and Dr. Abner Chow, got up in front of chapel and he essentially said there’s qualifications for an elder and some of these is that he can’t be pugnacious, can’t be given to the outbursts of anger. And now we want this just to stay with us. That’s what killed me! It’s like I’m gonna sit this spread this to hundreds of people in the chapel.
DENNIS SWANSON 28:38
JULIE ROYS 28:38
Maybe more than hundreds maybe I don’t know how many what’s the student body at?
DENNIS SWANSON 28:41
Oh, my there might have been four or 500 there.
JULIE ROYS 28:43
400-500. And he said, This applied to Sam Horn, which was shocking, apparently, to those who knew him because they’re like, this is a man whose proven character we know. This has never happened before and why he left? Maybe you have some insight on that. I’m certainly not getting anything from the school. Anything official.
DENNIS SWANSON 29:06
Oh, no. And first of all, I mean, I’m not an attorney. But I know something about the HR rules. And what Dr. Chow did was probably actionable. I mean, it’s slanderous. It affects his ability, perhaps to get other employment down the road. What somebody else told me, I mean, the first the Dr. Horn knew about this is when he heard the recording, and was horrified, and rightfully so. And no small coincidence that Dr. Chow has now been appointed the interim president. I mean, it’s some of the strangest, you couldn’t write a novel with these twists and turns and have it make any sense.
JULIE ROYS 29:38
Well, it will be interesting to see what happens whether the Master’s University and Seminary will stay together or be split. I heard that was part of the discussion. Whether John MacArthur will take over as president of one of those, probably the Seminary if, if any, but at this point, we don’t know.
DENNIS SWANSON 29:54
No. I mean, that’s the rumor I’ve heard that they want to make the Seminary a ministry of the church, separated from the college And put it under the control of the elders. That’s John’s baby, the Seminary. Get rid of, takes him out from under oversight of WASC.
JULIE ROYS 30:07
Which means they if you’re not accredited, you can’t get loans, right?
DENNIS SWANSON 30:10
Well, the students couldn’t get student loans. People who are thinking about going into the military chaplaincy or other things like they couldn’t get their degree there, because those agencies require an accredited degree.
JULIE ROYS 30:24
Like, if you’re getting a teacher certificate? Can you do that if you’re not accredited?
DENNIS SWANSON 30:27
Not necessarily. I mean, you end up having to explain and or if you transfer, you know, your unaccredited degree and tried to go get a PhD somewhere, I mean, it can be done. But it’s just a lot of extra work. And frankly, you can’t just pick up the phone and call and say, Well, we’re not with you anymore. And we’re going to split the schools. There’s a thing called the substantive change report that needs to be done ahead of time. And it’s not just a one page letter that says, you know, this is what we’re going to do.
JULIE ROYS 30:54
You’ve done these.
DENNIS SWANSON 30:55
Yeah, I’ve done these before. There’s an enormous amount of work that has to go into this. And you can’t just because if you split, I mean, the church Treasurer will take care of the finances, and the HR department will take care of all those things. But there’s a lot of stuff that goes on with that. They think perhaps they’re going to go to ATS, the Association of Theological Schools, to get accreditation. Well, that’s a two or three year undertaking. And ATS is a great organization, and a grade accreditor. They don’t cut corners. I will be very surprised to see what comes out of that.
JULIE ROYS 31:29
Sure. Well, let’s talk about your dismissal because as I understand it came to an abrupt end in April 2015. That’s when you got fired. However, this all began with a survey. Tell me about that survey and the process and why it came to head like it did.
DENNIS SWANSON 31:49
If I was chronicling this I chronicled the beginning of the end, April 2014. We had a we every year, the Seminary faculty had a dinner and nice restaurant, we did it every year, it was fun. It was in the evening. It was a Monday, John came to it, MacArthur came to it. He was late. He was obviously in a surly, disagreeable mood. And he got up and in front of faculty, wives and different staff members. And and started off by saying, You know, you guys, you’re doing a great job. I’m proud of you. You’re doing wonderful, it’s all but your leaders have just stabbed you in the back. You know, they’ve just undercutting everything you’re trying to do. And everyone’s looking around at each other saying what in the world is this all about?
JULIE ROYS 32:34
Cuz this is supposed to be a nice banquet?
DENNIS SWANSON 32:36
Yeah. It’s supposed to be a nice banquet. This goes on and he just continues to lambast. And they’re basically the leadership was there were four people as Dr. Mayhue, Dr. Busenitz, myself and a guy named Ray Mehringer, who is in charge of admissions and different things. And it turned out what he was upset about, apparently was we had begun to really work on Why do students come to Master’s Seminary? John was in his middle 70s at the time. We all understood he was not going to live forever. We would do surveys of incoming students, Why did you come here? And the number one reason constantly was, you know, John MacArthur. I want to come and study under John MacArthur, which he preached in Chapel once in a while, but he didn’t teach classes or anything like that. And we realize that’s not sustainable when he’s not here. So we had just earlier before this dinner, had a new survey, and we had what we thought was success. The number one reason students were coming to the Seminary was the reputation of the school. And then it was, you know, the faculty and the academic programs. And there was something else and John MacArthur as the reason people were coming to seminary was like number 5.
JULIE ROYS 33:40
And this was new, this has never happened.
DENNIS SWANSON 33:42
It never happened before. And so we were happy. We thought we had accomplished we were we were building for the future. He was apparently patently upset. I went straight from that dinner to LAX because I was flying to somewhere for a conference. And I didn’t get back in the town until Thursday. And I went in the next morning. First thing I went to Dr. Mayhue’s office when he got there, and I just said, I you know, I just want to apologize. I think we You’re doing a great job. I think this is exactly what we’re trying to do. And he was you could tell he was just utterly defeated. He just said, Well, it is what it is. He was gone. By fall, he had been replaced. And they dressed it up. They said, Well, he’s going to retire. He’s going to become this research professor. Well, they moved him to a little office. It didn’t last. We did our annual lecture series. And this is something Dick has thought up and it was very well received over the years. And they renamed it you know, the Dick Mayhue Lecture series. Well, apparently it lasted about a year and a half or two, maybe one year after that, they cancelled they don’t do the series anymore. It’s not even listed on the webpage anymore. It’s just gone. So it’s like, like they’ve erased everything related to him. And then the following April, then I was it was a holiday. I got called in and said, We’re reorganizing, and you’re not needed anymore. I’ve been there for almost 25 years. And I said, that’s fine. But what I really want to talk to John personally about this. I mean, I think I’ve earned the right to have a conversation with the president over this. And I was told that Nope, nope. He’s not interested in talking to you. And that was it. I was given a little bit of a severance, but it was, I was not like I was planning to go look for a job at the time. But it was Monday, it was a holiday, I had my office cleaned out by Wednesday. And I was gone. I wasn’t allowed to tell my staff. I wasn’t allowed to meet with anybody.
JULIE ROYS 34:44
You’d like to persona non grata.
DENNIS SWANSON 35:14
Right I was persona non grata. And it was, you know, if you want to talk about fear and intimidation, well my staff was just devastated. People, you know, students otherwise, you know, what in the world is going on? Fortunately, I wasn’t teaching that semester, or what could have been even more problematic. But apparently, I was wanted by somebody, I became the Dean of the library in the University of North Carolina system. And we had been there for the last five or six years.
JULIE ROYS 36:03
So you had said that other people who had left, that their character was essentially assassinated as they were going out the door. Did this happened to you?
DENNIS SWANSON 36:13
Yeah. I mean, there were a lot of various rumors and innuendos that were put out, and I think they did have some sort of staff meeting where they said, Well, you know, the reason Dennis has gone into this reorganization, and we just, you know, we couldn’t afford to pay him just to be the librarian anymore. And we were gonna go, you know, the funny thing is, they didn’t give me a choice. It’s not like, well, would you take just a pay cut to keep being the librarian? and you don’t, we don’t want you to do accreditation or operations anymore. That was never an option.
JULIE ROYS 36:39
And and to your knowledge, you don’t know anything that you did that put you out of his good graces?
DENNIS SWANSON 36:45
No, one thing that was told that kept being repeated was you were too close with Dr. Mayhue. You were too much like him. And you were trying to run things the same way he ran things. As though that was a bad thing.
JULIE ROYS 36:57
And I know, as an administrator, and/or a professor, often you don’t have a lot of contact with the board. But I know when there’s issues, they say, you look at the board. And I know one of the things that came up, and again, this WASC report that was three years after you left, was that the board was not independent. Almost everybody was good friends with MacArthur. They were you know, or pastors at Grace Community Church. I mean, did you feel like you had any recourse that you could go to the board? What was the board like?
DENNIS SWANSON 37:28
The board was exactly as WASC described. And it’s interesting, I created a memo a couple months before I was gone, like January, February, because we were getting ready for a new cycle of accreditation. I said, These are the these are the things we need to work on. I said this is getting too insular. And, and we’re gonna run into problems. We need to stay ahead of this. And when they were put on probation in 2018, it’s almost verbatim almost everything I wrote in that memo was one of the things that they talked about. I’m glad they got off probation. I love the school is a good school. It has a lot of potential. It’s been mismanaged, I think the last five or seven years.
JULIE ROYS 38:09
One of the things in the report, though, that we haven’t talked about is some of the Cleary Act, and Title IX violations that supposedly were in there of women who say they were sexually assaulted when they were at the school, they tried to report it. And not only did they not find comfort or protection or help at the school, but that they felt like the administration actually turned on them.
DENNIS SWANSON 38:34
JULIE ROYS 38:34
Do you have any first hand knowledge of any of that?
DENNIS SWANSON 38:36
Most of those occurrences were at the college. So with the female students and things like that, obviously, the one person that worked for me that was fired and then sued. I don’t know what all of that was about. But since she won, I assumed that the judge thought that she was right. It was a disturbing trend. I mentioned the fact that Dr. MacArthur got rid of his secretary at the church who had been there 25 years. And she still needed to work. The turnover and the women’s place was in the home, and not in ministry, and not even in supporting ministry, not even working. It was like, we don’t want women to work at all. And we’re and we believe that so strongly, we’re just not going to hire any women. I found that to be disturbing at a lot of levels. I mean, should women be pastors? I personally think the Bible is clear on that. But at the same time, there’s lots of things women can be involved in. It’s another story, but all the Beth Moore stuff and all the things that that he said about her. It was just, it’s just inappropriate. I mean, there’s a way to express your being on the other side of an argument then pejorative sorts of comments like that.
JULIE ROYS 39:52
Well, I’ve seen plenty of pejorative.
DENNIS SWANSON 39:54
Yeah, well, yeah, we all have it’s, and that’s that may be the thing that upsets me the most about what’s happening at the school, is the trashing of reputations. I remember when my good friend Dr. Larry Pettigrew taught theology there for a long time. And he was moving to become dean at Shepherd Seminary in Cary Indiana. Well, and MacArthur said, in public, you know, well, you know, Larry Pettigrew was out of the will of God. And in his, you know, it wasn’t he wasn’t kidding. Which reminds me of another story. We were, we were in a WASC meeting. It was a conference call. Dr. MacArthur was there and myself and two other people from the college were there and WASC was on the phone, and they were asking pointed questions, and they at one of the questions they asked was about, you know, you don’t have any minority representation on the board. And and that’s true. It is, there is there are no women, there are no and there are no minorities on the board and John, with a completely straight face, and he was dead serious. I was sitting like, we’re sitting right now. I was looking right at him. And he said, we do have minorities on the board. We have a Dutchman. And, and I looked over at the the vice president over the colleges is a friend of mine, and we look to each other. He says, Yeah, we and MacArthur continued, we have, you know, John van Winterton, you know, he’s he’s a Dutchman. He’s not, he’s not an American, you know. I wish we were we all were and and and it wasn’t, he wasn’t making a joke. It wasn’t light hearted, you know. Andthe people at the WASC office were on the other end of the call. I could I could almost imagine their faces. They were just, you know, dumbfounded. Well, they just kind of politely moved on to the next thing. They didn’t know how to respond to that.
JULIE ROYS 41:36
I’m dumbfounded. I mean, that is a show of how insular it’s become when you don’t even know that your your opinion is so completely out of step with the conventional wisdom on things. I mean, that’s, that’s stunning. But when you talk about people’s character being assassinated, pejorative comments, I will say I have never in my life, and I’ve been reporting for a while, never been called or treated by a ministry director, the way that Phil Johnson has treated me, and the things that he has said about me. It is shocking to me that he remains in that position with his behavior. But I’ll say even more than that, I didn’t even know this, but a whole army of YouTubers out there that defend John and just vilify anybody who dares to publish anything that might possibly be negative about John, and they say things that are just flat out false. I mean, they’re, it’s such a twisting of the truth or such as pulling things out of context. I’ve never received the kind of hate mail I’m getting now. The names I am called. The middle finger emojis. I mean, there’s nothing godly about it.
DENNIS SWANSON 42:21
Oh, no, not at all. It’s like a mafia. I don’t get any of it. There’s nothing Christian about the way they deal with people who don’t agree with them. When the school is put on probation, by WASC, MacArthur went to the spoke in chapel and he said, You know, this is a an organized satanic attack.
JULIE ROYS 43:06
DENNIS SWANSON 43:07
No it wasn’t! You need to get your house in order. It’s not just a difference of opinion. It’s a it’s an attack, or it’s a satanic attack, or it’s an organized, orchestrated attack on truth.
JULIE ROYS 43:21
The same thing happened to Austin Doucet, who was the Seminary student who spoke out about these COVID guidelines that TMUS who had themselves, that was their guidelines that they were flagrantly violating and how he was being balked by professors because he was wearing a mask these things. And he showed the conversation that was going on in this kind of a private social media that they had at the Seminary. And they were saying pray for Austin’s salvation.
DENNIS SWANSON 43:48
Yeah, if you don’t agree with them, you must be evil, or you’re just not saved. And all those things have been said about me. It’s really too bad because the schools had really good people, really knowledgeable people, broad thinking people who could really make the schools shine much more than they have. I don’t know what the future holds.
JULIE ROYS 44:13
You said, It’s a good school. They have great people there. At the same time. We’ve got this really toxic culture.
DENNIS SWANSON 44:20
JULIE ROYS 44:20
It sounds like. Can it change? And if so what needs to happen?
DENNIS SWANSON 44:25
I think the college perhaps is salvageable. If the right person comes into lead. If they split and the Seminary becomes a ministry of the church, it’ll John’s what 81 or 82. What happens when he dies? Anyone who would want to succeed him at the church, I would question their mental stability at a certain level. You know, but what happens? Who’s going to who’s being groomed to take over? No one that I’m aware of. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. And if the accrediting people You know, dropped the hammer on the whole thing and ultimately the college is going to suffer, things could be bad. I don’t know what the future holds. I think it’s very, very shaky right now. What would they do to change? They should have allowed Sam Horn to continued what he was doing as the President. I think he had some good ideas. Somebody, him or somebody like him, a reworking of the board to get some independent thinking, and move on from there.
JULIE ROYS 45:26
And then end of cult of personality.
DENNIS SWANSON 45:28
I think so. It can’t be everything related to one person.
JULIE ROYS 45:33
Yeah. Well, Dennis, we could talk a long time about this. But I have enjoyed our conversation. And I’ve enjoyed the inside look to this. And I wish you the best as your job searching here. And maybe we’ll end up in the Chicago area. But thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it.
DENNIS SWANSON 45:47
Thank you. And I appreciate all the work that you’re doing and the reporting. I enjoyed seeing all the comments as well and pray for you regularly that the truth always wins. That’s what I’ve always believed and taught, and truth and the right thing always comes out on top. It may just take a while.
JULIE ROYS 46:03
Well, thank you. And I do appreciate that. And I do believe that, that the truth does win out in the end and so we just hold it. Again. Thank you so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to find me online, just go to Julieroys.com. And please subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.