Top 10 Stories of 2020

By Julie Roys

Already, people are talking about 2021 as a time of reckoning for the evangelical church. But 2020 was a reckoning, as well, with scandal after scandal rocking the evangelical community. Thanks to your support, The Roys Report covered it all, and even broke many of the major stories.

In this Top-10 List, we’ve ranked the stories that got the most views with a few exceptions.

One of those exceptions was a single article about the SEC charging Mark MacArthur—son of John MacArthur and Grace to You board member—with fraud. Though this garnered enough views to rank in the top 10, we felt the stories we included were more important.

Another exception was an article about a pastor accused of urinating on a female passenger during a domestic airlines flight. The story garnered a lot of public interest because it was so bizarre but had little lasting impact on the Christian community.

So here is our Top-10 list. Though it is a sobering list, we pray the continued exposure of wrongdoing in the church brings repentance and reform.

Top 10 Stories of 2020 on The Roys Report:

1. Ravi ZachariasRavi Zacharias Exposed: In September, The Roys Report launched a three-part series with new testimony and documents providing much evidence that the late apologist, Ravi Zacharias, was a sexual predator. (Read part onepart two, and part three.) Weeks later, Christianity Today reported allegations that Zacharias had sexually abused massage therapists at spas he owned, and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries launched an investigation. An interim report from the investigation found “credible evidence” that Zacharias “engaged in sexual misconduct over many years.”

See related podcast: Atheist Explains His Investigation of Ravi Zacharias

 

2. Churches and COVID: Last February, we published a story about a Chicago-area megachurch pastor who told his staff to keep an outbreak of COVID-19 among his staff secret. That article garnered more than 100,000 views. But we had no idea at that time how politicized COVID would become. In the summer, high-profile pastor, John MacArthur’s church defied public health orders banning indoor worship and began a months-long battle with authorities. At the end of the year, we reported that there was a COVID outbreak at MacArthur’s church, but church leaders were pressuring members not to report for fear of being shut down.

 

Jerry Falwell Jr.3. Fall of Jerry Falwell, Jr.: At the beginning of 2020, several exposés had been published about Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s financial misconduct and bullying, but the Liberty University President seemed invincible. Then in August, Fallwell published a racy picture of himself with his pants unzipped and his arm around a woman to social media. Allegations of sexual misconduct soon followed, and Falwell was forced to resign. Now, Liberty is conducting an independent investigation to determine the extent of Falwell’s misconduct.

 

Thomas White4. Cedarville University Scandal: In April, we reported that Cedarville University had fired a known sexual predator who had been serving as a professor and advisor to the president. In May, capping a series of reports indicating that Cedarville President Thomas White had misled parents and trustees about the professor’s background, White was placed on administrative leave. Despite an investigation that confirmed White’s misconduct, Cedarville reinstated White, prompting two trustees to resign.

See related podcasts: Analyst Exposes Deceptive Tactics Used by Cedarville President & Rape Victim at Cedarville Asks: “Where was my protection?”

 

5. Willow Creek Co-Founder Accused of Clergy Sexual Abuse: Willow Creek Community Church this year suffered yet another scandal when a longtime member accused co-founder Gilbert Bilezikian of sexual abuse. The church then admitted it had known about the abuse for about 10 years, but had allowed Bilezikian to continue serving in ministry and had even honored him as a “living legend.” Wheaton College, where Bilezikian taught for two decades, rescinded Bilezikian’s title of professor emeritus, following reports he had also abused female students there.

See related podcasts: Sex Abuse Victim of Willow Creek Co-Founder Speaks, Lawyer for Bill Hybels’ Victims Shares Inside Story & How Churches can be “TOV,” not Toxic

 

James MacDonald RV6. James MacDonald Relaunches: Despite being disqualified for public ministry by Harvest Bible Chapel, James MacDonald is back. This year, he launched (then suspended and relaunched) a Home Church Network. He returned to Chicago and secured a multi-million dollar arbitration settlement from Harvest. And he posted a new website where he’s accusing Harvest of running a “campaign to destroy” his reputation. At the same time, MacDonald’s son, Luke MacDonald, also returned to Chicago to plant a church, despite reports of Luke’s bizarre and bullying behavior.

See related podcasts: Mancow’s New Mission: Stop James MacDonald & Insider Tells What Really Happened with James MacDonald

 

7. Bullying & Cover-up at Acts 29: The church planting organization Acts 29 experienced major upheaval this year. First, it removed its CEO Steve Timmis for alleged bullying and spiritual abuse. Then, several former employees came forward, alleging they had reported Timmis’ bad behavior to Acts 29 President Matt Chandler years ago. But instead of firing Timmis, Matt Chandler reportedly fired the whistleblowers!

See related podcast: Acts 29 & Bullying in the Church & Acts 29 Revisited

 

8. PPP Funds Go to Televangelists, Megachurches & Large Media Ministries: The federal government issued more than $78.6 million in Paycheck Program Protection funds to televangelists, megachurches, and large media ministries this year. These included Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes and Paula White. It also included Daystar Television, which soon afterwards, bought a private jet. Also receiving funds were two scandal-ridden, Chicago-area churches: Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel.

 

John Ortberg resigns9. John Ortberg Resigns amid Scandal: John Ortberg was considered a champion of sex abuse victims because of his role in exposing Bill Hybels’ abuse in 2018. That changed this year when it was revealed that Ortberg had failed to protect minors at his church from a volunteer who had admitted attraction to children. Later one of Ortberg’s children revealed that the volunteer was Ortberg’s son, Johnny Ortberg, and alleged that an earlier investigation by Menlo Church had not been thorough. Menlo launched a new investigation. Soon afterwards, Ortberg resigned.

 

Carl Lentz10. Turmoil at Hillsong Following Removal of Carl Lentz: In November, Hillsong Global fired Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz for “breaches of trust” and “moral failures.” Then came accusations that the church knew of sexual transgressions in 2017 but did nothing, and Hillsong launched an independent investigation. That investigation is ongoing, but the turmoil continues. Just last week, the pastors of Hillsong Dallas resigned suddenly with little explanation.

Podcast with Hillsong insider releasing soon. Stay tuned!

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6 thoughts on “Top 10 Stories of 2020”

  1. im suprised james macdonald isnt one of the top 5 considering he had tons of drama going on this year. honestly he is one of the most problematic pastors who had many problems. like chile-

  2. As a new reader of your site I want to thank you for the truth you discover and write so that others can be warned about the false prophets–wolves in sheep’s clothing–and their sincere but deceived supporters.

  3. Mitch Templeton

    Sadly, all 10 top stories involved scandal and moral failure. Keep up the good work, Julie, and don’t lose heart.

  4. Not sure what you are trying to expose with macarthur. Do the math on covid. Driving your car could get you killed, does that mean you don’t drive your car anymore?

  5. Julie,

    I don’t know if you read these comments regularly still but I respectfully have to disagree with your exclusion of the “Pastor” Daniel Chalmers story from your top ten, and not just because it qualified by number of clicks and comments. This quack of the frock is a perfect symptom of the rot infecting not just the hyper-Charismatic wing of the faith, but celebrity-driven hipster “Christianity” in general.

    Let’s call this slimeball what he is. This is not some idiot who didn’t know what he was doing in some drunken, Ambien-induced stupor. If that’s all he was he would be an idiot who deserves our mockery and perhaps to be barred from the pulpit pending substance rehab. Instead, he got defensive and threatening and attacked this poor girl. He was also accused of making sexual contact with young Ms. Alicia Beverly in the complaint. Ms. Beverly is a young, attractive lady–total coincidence, right?

    We see other examples of this rot and filth emanating from Bryan Loritts’ pulpit and family, from all the rapists/abusers John MacArthur helped cover up at The Master’s University, from the dead pervert Ravi Zacharias, and too many other predators of the cloth and their enablers. This story deserved more attention, not less. Chalmers deserves a serious jail sentence and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

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