Consider for a moment: If Grace Community Church did everything they were supposed to do biblically, and if David Gray is actually innocent of what he was convicted of in 2005, Julie Roys’ articles technically wouldn’t need to change at all. This should shake all of us to our core.
When we last left this story (see part one here), I had untwisted the timeline of events presented in Roys’ first article, revealed the not-so-conservative source of her financial support, and scratched the surface of the deceptive techniques she uses to disguise her activism as journalism – techniques that have fooled some of our favorite internet personalities into carrying water for her. She has (as I predicted on the most recent Polemics Report) introduced the supposedly damning evidence of a David Gray prison ministry newsletter that contains an endorsement from John MacArthur. Yet this is far from the totality of new evidence revealed, much of which will be revealed in this article.
Roys has attempted to retry the case of the Grays in the court of public opinion – this time with different defendants, different charges, and relying overwhelmingly on evidence that was disallowed in 2005. Not a trial by jury, of course, but a trial by internet mob. Sadly, many professing Christians have been unable to control their emotions and exercise proper skepticism regarding what they read online, rushing to pledge their allegiance to #ChurchToo in response to Julie Roys punching her ticket into evangelicalism’s version of The Squad (Denhollander, Byrd, Du Mez, Prior, and elder stateswoman Beth Moore), many who dutifully echoed Roys’ smear along with their Frenchian pet beta males. So quick were these professing believers to signal their virtuous opposition to abuse that they didn’t stop to think, why is this apparently open-and-shut case showing the true MacArthur just coming to light now, nearly twenty years after the details were already known?
It’s the Doctrine
Roys claims that she reports on the “behavior of leaders, not their theology” – as if the two are unrelated when used to navigate the complementarian/egalitarian waters her pirate ship now sails. Roys’ belief that the “toxic” male headship found in whatever “version” of complementarianism Beth Moore rejected “can also be present in egalitarianism” betrays a strategy of category muddling that renders Roys doctrinally ambiguous and causes readers to lower their defenses. A barely-veiled disdain for male headship (Gen. 3:16, 1 Cor. 11:3, Ephesians 5:23) in the church (1 Cor. 14:34, 1 Tim. 2:11-12, Titus 1:6-9) pervades Roys’ writing, even as she faithfully maintains her third-party journalistic caveats (“allegedly,” “according to”). Roys’ underlying doctrinal framework plays out in what she finds noteworthy or scandalous, and this happens to be exclusively influential male leaders within evangelicalism. Yet male leaders who are soft on church gender roles and parrot the #ChurchToo line (Ed Litton, for example, is the subject of puff pieces) find their scandals minimized, while strong proponents of male headship like MacArthur become the subject of laughably framed articles chronicling why the appreciated value of his family home in the LA suburbs and gifts he has been given show how he’s actually the Calvinist Kenneth Copland.
There is no denying the potential usefulness of the Gray’s sordid affair in Julie Roys’ personal war on John MacArthur, whose outspoken positions on women in ministry strike at the heart of everything Roys has come to reject from God’s Word. While other conservative pastors have gone soft, equivocating on the clear teachings of scripture with regard to gender roles in the home and the church, MacArthur has unflinchingly preached the unchanging words of scripture into our modern, feminized culture. This is something Roys and her ilk cannot allow. While MacArthur’s sermons from the 70’s sound like they could have been preached last weekend, Anglican Julie Roys confusingly partners with a Baptist university to masquerade as a religious charity, running a so-called ministry absent any identifiable or published religious convictions.
In addition to providing badly needed context for Julie Roys’ latest allegations, it is important to expose her for the activist (not journalist) she has unfortunately become. For her part, she is attempting to convince readers that this 20-year-old saga is a smoking gun exposing a misogynistic, abuse-supporting culture lying just underneath the 50+ ministerial career of John F. MacArthur. If true, Roys’ story would expose perhaps the most elaborately disguised, deceptive, and damaging scandal in the history of the modern American church. If false, her efforts would join on the ash heap of church history the dozens if not hundreds of attempts to cancel the ministry of John MacArthur. This article contains new context, analysis, and information that calls into question not only the prevailing Roys narrative but the credibility of her entire journalistic enterprise.
Hunting the White Whale
Roys has become a muckraker in the pejorative sense of the term (this term could be applied to this website as well). Muckraker traditionally referred to an investigative journalist holding the powerful to account (Roys embraces this definition), but now is often defined as “one who spreads real or alleged scandal about another (usually for political advantage),” or in the UK, “a sensationalist, scandal-mongering journalist, one who is not driven by any social principles.”
While some might be tempted to interpret her so-called investigation into John MacArthur and Grace Community Church as falling within the muckraker tradition, no less than twenty articles on Roys’ website about MacArthur unquestioningly side with the powerful, parroting as fact the now thoroughly discredited COVID presuppositions of the government-media elite. The underlying belief that the church is the subject of the state forms the epistemological foundation for all of Roy’s writings during the COVID era.
While hardly the first sailor to seek revenge against the whale who cut off feminist egalitarianism at the knees, Roys began her Ahab-like pursuit of MacArthur in the wake of MacArthur telling lady preacher Beth Moore to “go home” at the Truth Matters Conference in 2019. Roys later described his comments as “cruel and ungodly.” Julie Roys has slowly outed herself as an unapologetically egalitarian feminist, which Pulpit and Pen noted back in 2020 as Roys called lady preacher-promoting Wade Burleson an “SBC insider” and hosted him on her podcast to discuss “silencing women.”
Yet Roys’ primary line of attack toward MacArthur and Company was in response to Grace Community Church’s now vindicated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, casting shade on Shepherds Conference 2020 for failing to notify the over 5,000 attendees of an attendee’s suspected case of COVID-19 when it was discovered over two weeks after the conference ended. The attendee was identified as 90-year-old pastor Alexey I. Kolomiytsev, who was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus after passing away. This began a sustained attack on Grace Community Church from Roys’ website, culminating in seventeen articles being published attacking GCC for their stubborn refusal to let government officials dictate the terms of their worship. Roys continually emphasized information favorable to the government narrative while making no appeal to scripture either in support of or against GCC – strange behavior indeed for a “Christian” ministry that claims to be “restoring the church.”
Roys bought the government the narrative on COVID-19 hook, line, and sinker. For example, during a podcast with Judson University president Gene Crume in April 2020 which rather than titled “Colleges and COVID” should have been titled “My Glaring Conflict of Interest,” Roys describes the “debacle” at Liberty University of one (yes one) student testing positive for COVID-19, one “awaiting results,” and eight students being isolated because Liberty remained open. She announces the podcast topic right before announcing that car dealership Marquardt of (nearby) Barrington is offering 84 months of zero-interest financing. Roys describes Crume as a “great supporter of the Roys Report” with no mention of the fact that Judson was (and is) acting as the non-profit fiscal agent for the so-called “Julie Roys Initiative” and actually controls all of the finances and bears responsibility for the Roys Report.
While Roys’ claims to fame primarily involve her investigation into James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, she recently falsely claimed to have broken the story of Ravi Zacharias’ infidelity, even though this ministry broke the story over two and a half years prior. Roys dismissed earlier investigations as irrelevant due to them being from “blogs” rather than “official” journalists like herself, ignoring the irony that her site was started as a blog.
Yet her obsession with John MacArthur dwarfs her interest in any other large ministry, dominating her attention and her online activity. Since September 2020 (the month she “broke” the Ravi story), Roys has mentioned the accounts of MacArthur, Phil Johnson, and Grace Community Church over five times more than she has mentioned Ravi Zacharias Ministries. Her top liked tweets in this timeframe have been one announcing Rick Warren’s Saddleback church ordaining woman pastors, the recent tweet linking her first Gray article, and a later recent tweet announcing the denial of parole for David Gray (complete with a celebration befitting any true “journalist”).
Yet all of the underlying positions and preferences Roys brings to her work do not necessarily disqualify her from being a true investigative journalist. Narrowing her investigative interest to her theological opponents is not in and of itself wrong (this website does exactly this). The problems arise (especially in Christian journalism) when an author or operation fails to reveal their beliefs (thus concealing their true motives), and when deception is used in the interest of furthering those motives. Roys does exactly this, and nowhere is it more blatant (and perhaps more effective) than in her latest barrage against John MacArthur. She has managed to fool a great number of casual Christian observers into throwing away their MacArthur study Bibles based on what is clearly activism masquerading as investigative journalism.
Investigative Journalism 101
Part of what leads readers to let their guard down when reading Roys is her claim to be an investigative journalist – a job that carries an assumption of dispassionate objectivity. She claims to be “restoring the church” (in and of itself is not purely objective), a claim that should lead the discerning Christian reader to ask exactly what “church” she claims to be restoring. Yet Roys does not publish any sort of doctrinal statement that would give her readers the answer to this fundamental question. By contrast, this website has very clear doctrinal positions. Readers know what our goals are, and what presuppositions we bring to our writing. Readers might disagree with our beliefs or agenda, but we do not hide them. We do plenty of investigative work in the pursuit of defending biblical truth and are entirely unapologetic about what we believe.
The rest of this article is dedicated to showing how it’s done – especially how badly Julie Roys has failed to meet this standard.
In the interest of demonstrating true investigative journalism (versus what Roys does), and since large portions of the evangelical internet community continue to uncritically parrot demonstrable falsehoods about the Gray case, let us examine the case using investigatory logic. True investigative work (much like presuppositional apologetics – don’t worry, I’m not here for that) is basically a systematic rejection of every possible theory, disqualifying said theories based on what can be objectively verified. That is, a true investigator dispassionately develops and works multiple theories that explain the totality of the unquestionable. The investigator does not dismiss any theory that is not disproven by evidence, and a disproven theory is not rejected as a whole – similar, adjacent theories remain until they are similarly disqualified.
A quick example: A convenience store claims I robbed them at 7:30 pm on Monday. The investigator begins with a theory that the convenience store was robbed by me at 7:30 pm Monday. Later it is proved that I was not at the convenience store at 7:30 pm. This does not prove that I did not rob the store. The adjacent theory that I robbed the store at 8:00 pm remains.
A more related example to our subject: A convenience store claims I robbed it at 7:30 pm on Monday. The investigator begins with a theory that the convenience store was robbed by me at 7:30 pm Monday. Through investigation, I admit to pickpocketing the convenience store owner the week before the convenience store was robbed. While this is notable (and should lead to increased suspicion), this is not evidence that I robbed the convenience store. An uncritical observer might say, “Come on, he’s an admitted thief and this is the same victim! We must proceed as if this guy is guilty for the sake of convenience stores everywhere.” To the investigator, however, this emotionally-derived leap is not only fallacious, it’s antithetical to the investigative process.
Rebutting The “Case” Against the Church
With this framework understood, allow me to challenge (retry, in a sense) the Roys version of the Gray case from the perspective of what we as readers can actually know, including some basic things that Roys clearly knew and left out. These things do not include contested testimony. I will focus on the church’s involvement in chronological order since the church and MacArthur are the ones being tried in the court of public opinion.
Remember, a sworn statement is not evidence (much less considered factual) simply because it is submitted to a court. For the court to allow the admission of a sworn statement, the witness who provided the statement must be able to be cross-examined in order for the statement to become hard evidence, and in this case, no opportunity exists to cross-examine. This does not mean that witness statements are not true, but it does mean that the statements cannot and should not be used to rule out competing possibilities.
Again, this new trial will focus on the church and Roys’ reporting on the case, not David Gray.
Failing to Report
The first awareness the church has of marital problems with the Grays is after Eileen files a restraining order against David in June 2001. This is an essential fact, as it establishes that Eileen has already reported suspected child abuse to the authorities by the time the church elders are made aware of the situation.
Roys writes in her March 8th article:
But at the time of Eileen’s shaming, Eileen had not yet reported her husband’s physical and mental abuse to police. (She was not yet aware of his sexual abuse.)
Instead, she had reported the abuse to elders and pastors at GCC.
Notice Roy’s sneakiness. Yes, technically Eileen did not report the suspected abuse to the police – she reported it to the court, who issued a temporary order but was not presented with enough evidence to charge David Gray with a crime. This explains why church elders did not report the suspicions to the authorities – the authorities had already been notified. This is likely why neither Carey Hardy nor Bill Shannon was convicted of the crime of failing to report or intimidating a witness (can’t intimidate a witness to not report when she had already reported). Hardy’s case actually went to trial and the charges were dismissed. Yet Roys is content to claim that, “The reason Hardy’s case was dismissed is not clear” to intentionally sow doubt in the minds of readers on an issue that can be reasonably deduced by simply noting that the authorities were already aware of the allegations at the time Hardy became involved.
In September 2001, the Grays began counseling together with pastor Carey Hardy. Did the church require this? No, actually Eileen requested marriage counseling and would have had to amend the restraining order to allow her and David to receive counsel together. This counseling focused on parenting, and David and Eileen both admitted to “excessive spanking” (or abuse as the court later defined it) of the children. Still, the elders chose not to report Eileen to the authorities for her admitted “abuse,” choosing instead to respect the confidentiality of the counseling and continue handling it within the church.
Roys writes that the counseling sessions were taped, leading readers to assume that anything in the article referencing the counseling must be fact:
With permission from all parties involved, Eileen recorded her counseling sessions with Hardy. Eileen shared the recordings with the pastor who officiated her wedding to David, Alvin B. Barber, Jr.—former pastor of Sunrise Bible Fellowship in Northern California. (Barber passed away in 2008.)
In a written declaration to a California Superior Court, Barber corroborated Eileen’s account.
Recording the counseling sessions was reportedly at the request of Eileen, who asked to record the sessions to listen to them later so she could take notes in the interest of learning. Additionally, the recorded sessions were not the only counseling that occurred – Hardy met with David at separate times and Eileen at separate times. Not only would the recordings not provide the full context of pastoral communication, they were also confidential. Alvin Barber listened to one of the tapes and formed his opinion, allowing Eileen to violate the trust Carey Hardy had placed in her by allowing recording of the sessions, and Roys used this abuse of trust to further the narrative. Confidential counseling sessions are generally inadmissible as evidence, and Barber’s opinionated statement would likewise be inadmissible. Barber’s August 2002 statement was actually written to help Eileen get her permanent restraining order in September 2002, the month after final church discipline was administered to Eileen at the communion service.
Roys embeds a video in her article of the portion of the service where MacArthur reports what the elders had decided, calling the private communion portion of the service “public shaming.” There is no evidence any church member would have been aware that this “shaming” was going to take place on August 18th (although Eileen’s purported sin was apparently brought before the congregation on May 19th, 2002), yet Eileen was sent a letter dated August 8th, 2002 informing her they would disfellowship her in front of the congregation on August 18th, and indicating that no such discipline would occur if Eileen reengaged in the reconciliation process. This indicates that the church would have been entirely unaware of the planned removal of Eileen from fellowship. Yet Eileen (or someone made aware of the letter she received) arrived at the church on August 18th with a handheld camcorder (this was years before camera phones) for the purpose of recording the announcement of Eileen being removed. This is odd behavior considering Eileen had likely not attended church since she requested to be removed from membership nine months earlier.
All evidence seems to demonstrate that the church discipline on August 18th, 2002 marks the last time the church had any interaction with Eileen Gray.
Supporting a Convict
Roys followed up her March 8th article with a follow-up revealing support the church had offered to David Gray after he was charged with sexual abuse on February 20th, 2004. True to her brand, Roys claims “exclusive” status for “breaking” information that has largely been known for years (and discussed on social media by non-“journalists”).
In the article, she uses the charging of David Gray with sexual and physical abuse to again go after Carey Hardy and the church for, in her words, “support[ing a] convicted child abuser and pedophile.” Her initial discussion of the church’s support fails to note that at the time of the expressed support, Gray had not been convicted of anything – once again purposefully muddling the timeline to create a false impression of what the church knew and when.
Three months prior to the charges, David Gray had filed for divorce from Eileen. Such a decision was biblically allowable under the principles of 1 Corinthians 7:15, but the divorce’s absence from a support letter written by Carey Hardy is characterized as a nefarious omission. Roys claims, “Hardy also claimed in the letter that David did not admit ‘any guilt’ regarding abuse of his children,” yet a reading of the letter shows the context of the remark (emphasis mine):
David is a brother in Christ and certainly needs the opportunity to defend himself. He has maintained his innocence from the very beginning on any of the more serious accusations that have been brought against him by Eileen. He has admitted to many failures as a husband and a father, but has been eager from the start to change in all these areas. He has not, though, admitted any guilt as to issues related to child abuse.
Clearly, Hardy is reiterating that David was claiming innocence regarding the new charges he was facing, not claiming he never admitted to any sinful treatment of his kids (failures as a father).
Roys then launches back into the same inadmissible personal testimony that formed the foundation of her roundly discredited first article, insinuating that Hardy was wrong for not disclosing to the church the particulars of the confidential counseling from 2001. She follows by accusing the church of helping “start and sustain a ministry Gray launched from prison” as if this is somehow an indication of sin, posting David’s “Chains for Christ Ministries” newsletter with a supporting quote from John MacArthur encouraging David to share the Gospel in prison. Roys continues to quote supportive interactions from GCC members for Gray in prison as apparent evidence not of David’s repentance, but of other church members’ approval of child abuse.
Roys also reports contacting all 250 of David Gray’s Facebook friends, apparently asking why they had failed to fully abandon David for what the court found he had done, and “exposing” the fact that the Sojourners prayer group dared to pray for David Gray and his upcoming parole hearing. Note: this is the same prayer group Julie Roys “exposed” for not reporting the contents of their prayers to the COVID authorities.
When did Julie Roys become aware of the case of David and Eileen Gray? Although there has been no new evidence informing her published understanding of the case against David since 2005 (some evidence of the church supporting his prison ministry are obviously more recent), we must assume she only recently believed she had a “scoop” to share with the world. Eileen seems content with her current church and ministry. It is Roys that has the motive to drag all of this back into the public eye.
The stunted, one-sided, and frankly graceless way Julie Roys has handled this nearly 20-year-old story is deeply saddening. Whether or not a reader concludes that David Gray committed the awful crimes he was convicted of or not (again, there is absolutely no way for a third-party observer to know), Roys has offered absolutely no room for redemption, forgiveness, or the possibility that the Grace Community Church elders were in any way right in how they handled the situation. It should go without saying that nothing discussed in 2022 will change what happened or didn’t happen in 2002, and church members commit no sin by having doubts about David Gray’s guilt before or even after a jury convicted him.
Even if David Gray is guilty of everything he has been accused of, he is not beyond Jesus’ power of forgiveness and redemption. Neither am I. Neither are you. We are not capable nor called to be the judge in this matter. Neither is Julie Roys.
Yet rather than allowing Eileen’s current prison ministry to thrive (and quite possibly allow David’s ministry to also thrive), Roys has brazenly and heartlessly exploited the people involved in a cynical attempt to score points against John MacArthur. Roys’ major claims that implicate Grace Community Church all fall apart (or at least draw undeniable suspicion) upon fair and reasonable examination.
If the church did not fail to report, did not engage in “abusive” counseling by insisting Christian marriages are to be reconciled, exercised church discipline based on what they knew and/or believed to be true and didn’t abandon a church member before, during, and after he was convicted of crimes, there is no case to be made against them. Using this case to attack the church is downright sinful.
What is worse, in her cynical attempt to leverage sympathy for abuse survivors against MacArthur by pushing twisted, unverifiable conclusions, she does grave damage to future abuse victims, whose claims may now be looked at with greater skepticism than is warranted. Julie Roys twisted the timeline, She abused the facts. She abused the people involved. Most seriously, she denied the true power and nature of God’s sovereignty in redemption and reconciliation.
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