Grace to You Executive Director Phil Johnson this week appeared in a video with Justin Peters ostensibly to set the record straight, following my February 3rd article revealing John MacArthur’s expensive lifestyle, multiple large salaries, lack of transparency, and nepotism.
The video was what I’ve come to learn is classic Phil Johnson—replete with character assassination, half-truths, and red herrings, but woefully lacking in facts.
The first words from Johnson were telling, referring to me as someone “pretending to be an investigative reporter who already had a long track record of trying to torpedo John MacArthur’s reputation.”
Johnson doesn’t establish this alleged “track record” with evidence. Nor does he mention that of the two dozen articles I’ve published about MacArthur, a dozen were straight news articles, reporting on legal battles MacArthur has faced with government authorities.
One article was extremely positive, showing how MacArthur was one of very few Christian leaders who years ago warned the Moody Bible Institute about its unwise association with now-disgraced celebrity preacher, James MacDonald.
Throughout the video, Johnson accuses me of cherry-picking facts to fit my narrative, but ironically, that’s precisely what Johnson does throughout. Yet he doesn’t just omit important details; Johnson also makes assertions that are false.
In part one of my response, I’ll address Johnson’s personal allegations against me. In part two, I’ll explain why his responses to the financial issues raised in my Feb. 3 article fail to resolve them.
Johnson admits in his video that I repeatedly sought answers from him and his ministry to the financial issues I examined in my recent article. However, Johnson says he didn’t respond to me because I demanded answers the next day and he “doesn’t respond well to blackmail.”
The truth is that the first time I reached out to Johnson was in February 2020. I noticed Johnson was active on Facebook, so I sent him a private message, asking if he’d speak with me about some financial questions I had.
At the same time, I also reached out to David Fisk, CFO of Grace to You (GTY), and Grace Community Church (GCC).
Weeks later, neither GCC nor Johnson had responded. However, Fisk had sent me GTY’s financial statements, and on March 20, I replied with a list of questions.
In the video, Johnson says Fisk forwarded the questions to him and Johnson intended to respond. Then he states:
And then she sent another sort of accusatory—one of her hallmarks is she’ll send a list of questions and say, “I need your answers by, you know, noon tomorrow because I’m going to go to print with this, with this story,” which I don’t respond well to blackmail. And that’s when I wrote back to her and said, “Look, I had prepared an answer to all your questions. But now I’ve looked you up online I see that all you’ve ever written about John MacArthur has been an attempt to discredit him. And so, I’m not going to answer your questions, and furthermore, nobody else from our ministry is ever going to answer any questions you have.”
Johnson’s narrative is puzzling because I never sent a second email, demanding an answer the next day. However, in the original email, which was sent on a Friday, I asked for an answer by the end of the following Tuesday—so within four days.
However, during those four days, I published an article on a different topic: I reported that a pastor who had attended the 2020 Shepherds’ Conference, Alexey A. Kolomiytsev, had died of COVID-19.
That article unleashed a torrent of negative tweets by Johnson and his followers. Johnson accused me of “purposefully” going out of my way to “stir Twitter mobs.” Others called me a “hack” reporter.
I was assailed for not giving Johnson enough time to respond to the inquiry I had sent through Facebook messenger. Then, I was pummeled for sending an inquiry through Facebook, instead of email. (I had called the church and sent an email to MacArthur, as well.)
As soon as I got Johnson’s comment on the story, which admittedly was after a few hours because I was in a meeting, I updated the article and posted the update on Twitter. But that didn’t stem the vitriol.
On Monday, March 23, Johnson sent me an email, full of nasty characterizations and informing me that neither he, nor anyone from his ministry, will ever answer my questions.
I responded with a conciliatory email, apologizing for not giving Johnson more time to respond to the initial story, but Johnson didn’t reply.
I’ve now learned that personal attack is Johnson’s modus operandi.
Rusty Leonard, the founder of MinistryWatch, told me that in the early 2000s, he received a “vicious” email from Johnson simply because MinistryWatch gave GTY a three-star rating.
Brannon Howse, founder of Worldview Weekend Radio, claims in a 2017 blog post that Johnson bullied him mercilessly merely because Howse criticized Johnson’s friend, apologist James White.
In 2019, Paige Rogers became Johnson’s target after she wrote a piece for the NOQ Report, exposing major contradictions between MacArthur’s account of the night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated and the account of Charles Evers. In predictable fashion, Johnson pummeled Rogers, calling her article a “hit piece” and comparing Rogers to “gossip rag scandal reporters” and “rancor monsters.”
Now I realize Johnson is a bully and I need to ignore his insults. But at the time, the experience was extremely unnerving. It caused me to pull back temporarily from investigating GTY and MacArthur, which I’m sure was Johnson’s intent.
For the record, a second person who attended the 2020 Shepherds’ Conference also contracted COVID-19 and died shortly after Kolomiytsev died.
I informed Johnson and GCC of the second person’s death on April 4. Yet on April 23, MacArthur and Johnson published a video in which MacArthur states that Kolomiytsev is “the only person that we know of that came out of the Shepherds’ Conference and had that virus and ultimately died.”
That scathing email Johnson sent me on March 23, 2020, appeared online in letter form two weeks ago. The only difference between the email and the letter posted online was that the letter redacted David Fisk’s name, but added my home address, GTY letterhead, and Johnson’s signature. (My home address is now blurred in the online letter.)
In his interview with Peters, Johnson admits he doxed me when he published the letter. He then furthers the injury by encouraging people to look up my address online and alleging that I’m milking the situation for “victimhood.”
Johnson also accuses me of doxing MacArthur, which is untrue. Every document I’ve posted online has redacted MacArthur’s address, and posting aerial pictures does not identify someone’s location the way an address does.
Johnson’s behavior is a stunning example of how not to treat someone after you’ve wronged them. But his bad behavior is much more serious than that.
Johnson never deals with the overwhelming evidence that he fabricated the letter with my address. This would make Johnson’s doxing of me not mere oversight, but a calculated cyberattack.
As I noted in an earlier article, Johnson never mailed me the letter he posted online, which Johnson admits.
In the video, and on Twitter, Johnson claims he printed a copy of the letter last March. Then two weeks ago, he scanned the months-old letter to PDF so he could publish it online.
Yet the original PDF Johnson published is not simply a scanned image of a hard copy, as Johnson claimed. Metadata reveals the letter was digitally created the same day I published my article about MacArthur’s finances.
Johnson now has modified his story, saying on Twitter that he scanned the email to PDF and then made a “clean copy” in Microsoft Word. Johnson claims he deleted the Word copy, so there’s no way to prove or disprove his story.
Yet what’s especially telling about the online letter is that the GTY logo is an embedded image that was inserted into the PDF. Similarly, Johnson’s signature is not a scanned image either, but a “wet” digital signature, as David West noted recently on Twitter.
That's a reasonable technical explanation for page 1; which is also consistent with the metadata.
But not for page 2.
If you max zoom into your signature it remains perfect.
That's not from a scanned printed letter. That's a vectored image of high quality I might add. pic.twitter.com/ss2TkNgCnC
— David West (@InfinitelyManic) February 18, 2021
So even if you accept Johnson’s story, it’s clear Johnson went to a lot of trouble to “recreate” a letter with my address on it so he could post the letter online. In addition to allegedly scanning the letter to PDF and converting it to Word, he also added GTY letterhead and his electronic signature, then redacted Fisk’s name, but not my address.
However, if Johnson created a letter from my email, which seems likely, he not only made all these modifications, but also added my personal address, which he apparently scoured the internet to find.
At this point, it defies logic to think Johnson doxed me by accident.
Johnson also assails me in his interview with Peters because I allegedly ignored a document in which Johnson allegedly “answered many of the questions” I had sent to GTY.
Johnson also tweeted a similar claim, accusing me of not linking to “full versions of the documents I cherry-picked quotes from.”
These claims lack credibility for several reasons. First, there’s no evidence that the “full” document Johnson posted on February 5, 2021, was available online before I published my article. I tweeted Johnson two weeks ago, asking him to provide evidence that it was, but he has not responded.
Once again… The metadata for the statement you published defending John MacArthur shows it was created on Feb. 3, 2021–the date I published my article. Can you provide evidence that the statement you posted yesterday was available publicly when I wrote my story? pic.twitter.com/vUngsvUyAK
— Julie Roys (@reachjulieroys) February 6, 2021
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the two documents. (The documents are long, so including the documents in full is not practical. Follow the links above to read the full versions.)
Lastly, the comments Johnson says I ignored are practically verbatim what I quoted in my article.
In the video, Johnson states:
And what are the facts that absolutely doesn’t help (Roys) narrative that I’ve made over and over again: You don’t evaluate a person’s stewardship, based on how much money they make, what size their salary is. You evaluate whether they’re a lover of money or not by looking at their lifestyle. And I dare anybody look at john MacArthur’s lifestyle and accuse him of extravagant living.
Here’s what I printed in my article:
Johnson also argued that “(MacArthur’s) lifestyle, not his income, is what biblically-minded people should look at if they want to evaluate his character.” . . .
“(N)o one who actually sees how John lives has ever accused him of self-indulgence or even thought in their wildest dreams to describe him as a lover of money,” Johnson stated.
Rather than proving that I cherry-picked only quotes that furthered my narrative, Johnson actually proves the opposite—that I fairly represented his position in my original article.
Also included in my original article is Johnson’s explanation of MacArthur’s $400K+ salary from GTY in 2012 because the ministry gave MacArthur a rare King James Bible. However, I’ve uncovered new details about that gift, which I’ll reveal in part two of my response to Johnson.
I’ll also respond to Johnson’s defense of the millions of dollars GTY has paid to companies owned by Kory Welch. And I’ll present new information to help evaluate Johnson’s argument that MacArthur deserves royalties for his sermons, which MacArthur allegedly has waived.
I hope Johnson’s audience proves “noble” like the Bereans and fact-checks everything both Johnson and I have presented. I am confident if they do, they will see exactly what I’ve seen—that Johnson deflects, attacks, and bends the truth. Given his position at Grace to You and Grace Community Church, this is extremely concerning.
*One mistake that was noted by Johnson in the video was the aerial picture of MacArthur’s Colorado home in my original article. The correct photo is now posted. However, Johnson’s claim that MacArthur’s Colorado home is on two acres as opposed to five does not match the information provided by El Paso County nor TMUS Trustee David Wismer, Sr.