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Grace Community Church Pastor Removed from Approved Counselors List Amid Controversy

A well-known Christian counseling organization has taken the step of removing a pastor from Grace Community Church (GCC) from its list of approved counselors.

This move came to light through a letter obtained by The Christian Post from an anonymous source, who wished to keep their identity concealed.

Grace Community Church, located in Sun Valley, California, and led by the outspoken pastor and author John MacArthur, found itself embroiled in controversy earlier this year. In February, a former elder, Hohn Cho, raised concerns about GCC allegedly siding with abusers over their victims.

In a letter authored by Cho and dated in September, he revealed that the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) had removed Pastor Bill Shannon, responsible for overseeing GCC’s biblical counseling ministry, from their list of approved counselors and his status as an ACBC fellow. Furthermore, Shannon was also excluded from the ACBC’s roster of scheduled breakout speakers for their annual conference held in October. The Christian Post reached out to ACBC, GCC, and Pastor Shannon for comments, but none provided a response at the time of reporting. The article will be updated if any responses are received.

The letter details how Cho submitted a “concern or complaint” form to ACBC regarding the counseling practices at Grace Community Church, including those led by Pastor Shannon. Cho took this action after being encouraged by friends who held ACBC in high regard. The Christian Post contacted Cho, who confirmed the authenticity of the letter.

While ACBC continues to acknowledge GCC as an approved training center for counseling, the organization has initiated an investigation into the complaints raised against the megachurch concerning its counseling practices. As part of the investigation, ACBC heard testimonies from multiple women who alleged that GCC’s counseling ministry was protecting abusers at the expense of their victims.

One of these women shared her testimony with The Christian Post, which she had submitted to ACBC in April. In her account, she described seeking marriage counseling from GCC in 2009 due to marital issues within her 22-year marriage. The woman detailed her husband’s alleged abusive behavior and suspicious activities, including seeking her co-signature on a significant loan without providing a clear explanation.

According to the testimony, Pastor Shannon advised her to sign the loan without fully understanding it and seemingly refused to acknowledge her husband’s extramarital activities despite credible evidence. The woman also recounted an incident in which her husband physically punished their children, causing them distress. When she reported this abuse to GCC, she claimed they reprimanded her instead of following California law’s reporting requirements. The woman further alleged that when her husband abruptly left their home, GCC leaders failed to provide assistance. When she initiated separation proceedings, GCC informed her of her impending expulsion from the congregation. Eventually, Pastor Shannon halted the disciplinary process after a heartfelt appeal from the woman.

Nonetheless, the woman asserted that she and her children suffered considerable harm due to the counseling process, particularly at the hands of Pastor Shannon. Before submitting her testimony to ACBC, she attempted to reconcile with Shannon, but he did not respond.

In March of the previous year, The Roys Report published an article alleging that Pastor MacArthur had shamed and excommunicated a mother in 2002 for seeking separation from her husband, David Gray, a former music and Bible teacher at GCC who was later convicted of child molestation. The report claimed that GCC leaders failed to report the allegations against Gray to authorities and harassed the mother to change her mind about the separation.

In response to Hohn Cho’s concerns raised in February, Grace Community Church issued a statement, stating that they do not publicly discuss counseling and discipline cases, especially on social media. The statement emphasized that they handle accusations privately and in accordance with biblical principles, without responding to attacks, lies, misrepresentations, and anonymous accusations. They asserted that the counsel provided at their church is biblical, charitable, supportive, and liberating, attested to by numerous members who have sought their guidance.

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