Pastor Bill Shannon role in counseling practices at Grace Community Church (GCC). Discover the investigations, concerns, and testimonies shedding light on the GCC counseling controversy, and how it impacts the congregation.
In Sun Valley, Calif., Grace Community Church (GCC) has found itself embroiled in controversy in recent years. Investigations by The Roys Report (TRR) have shed light on the church’s counseling practices and abusive culture. These revelations have sparked concerns and investigations into GCC’s actions, even while the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) continues to recognize GCC as an approved training center for counseling.
Investigations and Concerns
While ACBC maintains its approval of GCC, the organization is now investigating complaints against the church regarding its counseling practices. According to the Christian Post, ACBC has heard testimony from several women who accuse GCC’s counseling ministry of protecting abusers and shaming victims. Among these testimonies is one woman who shared her experience with the Christian Post. She disclosed that after she filed for separation from her abusive husband, GCC requested that she leave the church. In her allegations, she claimed that her husband had abused her children and was involved in extramarital affairs.
When she informed GCC counselors, including Pastor Bill Shannon, about her husband’s abusive behavior, she stated that they reprimanded her for diminishing his parental authority. It wasn’t until she made an emotional appeal that Pastor Bill Shannon decided to halt the process of expelling her from the congregation, as reported by the Christian Post.
Patterns of Endangerment
Former GCC Elder Hohn Cho has previously raised concerns about GCC’s counseling practices. In February, Cho confirmed TRR’s report to Christianity Today, expressing that GCC and Pastor John MacArthur appeared to side with abusers rather than their victims. Cho pointed to “awful patterns” of endangering victims within the influential California megachurch.
Cho revealed that he became increasingly convinced that GCC congregants might be at risk if they sought counseling at the church, especially when it involved women or children. He encountered multiple cases where GCC counseled women to return to their abusers. Christianity Today also featured the testimonies of eight women who shared similar stories.
Church’s Response and Silence
In response to Cho’s accusations, Grace Community Church issued a statement. They emphasized that their elders do not discuss counseling and discipline cases publicly, particularly on social media. The statement clarified that Grace Church adheres to biblical principles and addresses accusations privately. They do not engage with attacks, falsehoods, misrepresentations, or anonymous claims. The statement emphasized that the church’s history and its congregation bear witness to the effectiveness of their counsel as being biblical, compassionate, supportive, and liberating.
Pastor Bill Shannon and Eileen Gray’s Story
The controversy surrounding GCC and its counseling practices first came to light in a TRR investigation in March 2022. The investigation unveiled how MacArthur and GCC had excommunicated and shamed Eileen Gray for refusing to reconcile with her husband, David Gray, who had abused her child. Shockingly, even after David’s conviction in 2005 for child molestation and abuse, the church continued to support David while turning away from Eileen, according to TRR.
Eileen shared her experience with TRR, revealing that she sought help from GCC elders in the hope of protecting her children and getting professional assistance for David. Instead, she said the church subjected her to spiritually abusive counseling and used church discipline to pressure her into accepting David back into their family’s home. Shannon, one of the pastors at GCC, played a role in her counseling and accused Eileen of wrongdoing when she involved the law in her family situation.
Other Cases of Abusive Counseling
Eileen’s story is not an isolated incident. In October 2022, another woman alleged that GCC had advised her to remain with her abusive husband, as reported by TRR. Her husband had been a long-standing GCC member and a lay leader. Despite some GCC leaders noticing signs of abuse, she had kept her husband’s alleged abuse a secret. When she finally shared it with GCC leaders, they discouraged her from seeking a divorce.
Additionally, there is a case of MacArthur and the church covering up sexual abuse committed by a pastor for decades. Although her father confessed to MacArthur, he continued to work at GCC for three more years following his confession. MacArthur then encouraged the woman to forgive her father and to let go of her desire to hold him accountable.
Wider Influence at The Master’s University and Seminary
The culture of abuse has extended beyond GCC and has also been identified at The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS), where Pastor John MacArthur serves as chancellor. John Street, who heads counseling at TMUS and is an elder at GCC, urged wives to endure abuse, comparing it to how missionaries endure persecution. He delivered this message in a series of lectures on “advanced biblical counseling” posted online in 2012 and in a sermon at Grace Community Church in 2020.
MacArthur and GCC have additionally endorsed corporal punishment for children, advocating for the use of a “whacker” – a leather strap of 6 to 12 inches for inflicting pain, as reported by sources. There is even a case where a respected GCC member used the “whacker” and other instruments to abuse his children for several years, according to the wife of the alleged abuser, as shared with TRR.
John MacArthur, who also hosts the Christian radio program “Grace to You,” is renowned as “the world’s premier expository preacher.” Since 1969, he has been a pastor at GCC, and under his leadership, the church’s two morning worship services consistently fill the 3,500-seat auditorium to capacity, as stated on GCC’s website.