A Faithful Elder Stands Up For The Sheep

Last year, Hohn Cho concluded Grace Community Church had made a mistake. The elders had publicly disciplined a woman for refusing to take back her husband. As it turned out, the woman’s fears proved true, and her husband went to prison for child molestation and abuse. The church never retracted its discipline or apologized in the 20 years since.

As a lawyer and one of four officers on the elder board at Grace Community Church (GCC), Cho was asked to study the case. He tried to convince the church’s leaders to reconsider and at least privately make it right. He said pastor John MacArthur told him to “forget it.” When Cho continued to call the elders to “do justice” on the woman’s behalf, he said he was asked to walk back his conclusions or resign.

It’s been 10 months since Cho left Grace Community Church, and he has not been able to forget the woman, Eileen Gray, whose experience was described in detail last March in Julie Roys’s news outlet, The Roys Report.

Though Cho stepped down quietly, he continued to hear from other women from his former church. They had also been doubted, dismissed, and implicitly or explicitly threatened with discipline while seeking refuge from their abusive marriages. Even at his new congregation, Cho began to meet visitors with connections to Gray’s case, which he saw a sign of God’s providence.

No, he couldn’t “forget it.”

The more he learned, the more people he talked with, the more the injustice weighed on his conscience and the more concerned he grew about the church’s biblical counseling around abuse.

As Cho wrote in a 20-page memo to top leaders at Grace Community Church last March, “I genuinely believe it would be wrong to do nothing. At the end of the day, I know what I know. I cannot ‘un-know’ it, and I am in fact accountable before God for this knowledge, and if you have labored mightily to read this far, you are now accountable before God for it as well.”

…Months after raising his concerns about a 20-year-old case, Cho discovered “another grievous GCC counseling case” in the fall of 2022. A woman reported that church leaders had advised her to move back in with her husband and not get a restraining order despite his documented grooming behaviors, infidelity, and angry outbursts. Though the case settled in January, after the woman sought court-ordered protection last year, two pastors had filed declarations on her husband’s behalf.

“In God’s providence, he kept placing reminders in front of me, completely unbidden. When my wife and I were asked by a friend to pray for a woman my wife happened to know, she reached out in concern, and we were horrified to discover the same awful patterns of counseling were still happening at GCC,” Cho told CT.

“This is when I sadly came to believe beyond any personal doubt that GCC congregants who we still love could effectively be playing Russian roulette if they ever needed counseling at GCC, especially anything involving the care of women or children. I knew I could not pass by silently on the other side of the road, that I needed to help this woman and to call out a warning, or else the blood of the people would be on my head.” Read more»

Kate Shellnut | “Grace Community Church Rejected Elder’s Calls to ‘Do Justice’ in Abuse Case” | Christianity Today February 9, 2023


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  1. Praise God. We should keep the doctrine of the lesser magistrate always in mind, whether in the civil or ecclesiastical realms.

    • Hohn wrote on FB:

      Kate Shellnutt of Christianity Today is a sister in the Lord and her competence and character have been attested to by mutual friends who I trust. In December 2022, she reached out to me for official comment on a story she was working on. I promptly made one final private appeal to all of the elders of GCC, after months of private interactions with various elders of GCC since the March 2022 GCC elder meeting, when the initial internal investigation for the purpose of clarity and reconciliation was candidly discussed.

      In my final appeal, I requested a response within a week, but for various reasons including subsequent developments relating to John MacArthur’s health, I waited for significantly longer than that. As I informed the one elder who was willing to reply to my final appeal, I was even prepared to wait until after the January 2023 GCC elder meeting, and I implored him to please let me know if there was any news of John’s health that differed from the public statements that he was doing better. But I then heard nothing, which I have sadly come to expect as a response. Shortly thereafter, I was so encouraged to hear the “good news and glad tidings” from Austin Duncan at the GCC pulpit when he shared that John was recovering well and sounded strong as a bull.

      And so after even more time and reflection and study and counsel and prayer, in the interests of calling out a warning (Ezek. 3 & 33) to cherished GCC congregants who I still love, speaking up for the afflicted (Prov. 31:8-9), exposing unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11), the public critique of public matters (Gal. 2:14, Mark 6:14ff, Phil. 4:2-3) as GCC has done many times in the past, and even as a matter of personal integrity (Prov. 2:7-8) as a former ardent and public supporter of GCC who now wishes to make his retraction of that support similarly public, I spoke on the record to Kate earlier this month. I have now read the story, which is full of hard evidence and grievous testimony from a multitude of witnesses, and I believe my own comments are accurately reported and properly presented within context.

      Although I take relief from the discharge of the demands of my own conscience, this entire matter has certainly been a cause of much grief, to me and to others. I am also intensely daunted and discomfited to be such a focus of the story, but my conscience would not ultimately allow me to be dissuaded or deterred. There is certainly much more I could say, about both this matter and several other GCC matters that have come to my attention, largely after my departure via multiple witnesses and hard evidence. My personal preference would be to let it rest here, but that will likely depend on the nature and extent of the response (if any) from GCC and its allies.

      Finally, a note to my earnest friends. Although I would certainly welcome your agreement and support, I do not expect it, nor is it any kind of precondition for our friendship, certainly. There is not a single person on earth with whom I agree on everything, including my own wife and children; and yet the existence of those disagreements do not lessen my love for them in the slightest. If you ever want to talk privately, I would love to do that, we could talk about this, or anything at all, or nothing in particular. And if we still disagree, that is fine, I only hope and pray that we would be able to disagree well, civilly and in good faith. Many thanks, and we are praying for the afflicted women and children described in the story (and elsewhere), the people and elders of GCC and particularly John, and this entire situation, in the name of our precious Savior, for His glory. And we would certainly welcome your prayers for us as well.

  2. I’ve exposed, denounced and disentangled the false teaching which cause churches to mistreat abused women. My work is largely ignored by evangelicals. But survivors have said “The chains fell off” when reading my work.

  3. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and my siblings and I were variously abused and experienced the same treatment that has been described here. It’s sad to see people that claim to be the most biblical adopting the same uncaring discipline practices as a cult.
    This is an example of why P&R church government is both a practical and biblical necessity.

  4. GCC/GTY, Mars Hill, Sovereign Grace Min, Southern Baptist Convention, Willow Creek, and Hillsong(?)/IHOP (?). It seems the bigger they get the harder they fall, and unfortunately before an unbelieving culture. It breaks my heart to say we the Church in America have become the muddied steam and polluted fountain mentioned Proverbs 25:26. Before we pray for awakening in America, we should pray for a revival in the church. May our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on and purify His true church.

  5. And, Zach’s charge of cultic, authoritarian leadership is exactly correct…oh, and in my list of failures above, I forgot one–Doug Wilson and the CREC theonomic cult in Moscow, ID.

    • Debbie,

      I have my criticisms of CT–lots of them–but the source for this story, Hohn Cho, is unimpeachable. CT is simply reporting. I know Hohn. I’ve been aware of this issues for some time. The evidence is very solid.

    • Regarding David Gray, the court record of B184183
      (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. LA045233) can be found.
      Warning: it will turn your stomach.
      The appeal recently denied parole.
      Yes Julie Roys is an egalitarian, but is right on this issue.

  6. The evidence *seems* solid but as they say: no matter how flat you make a pancake, it still has two sides. The fact that GCC does not defend itself publicly is not evidence of guilt. What is there about Hohn Cho that we should consider him “unimpeachable”.

    • Bob,

      How does one prove a negative? No one has anything but good to say about him. He was not only an elder at Grace Community Church, but he was on what Reformed Churches would call the executive committee, the inner circle. Evidently the members, elders, and staff at GCC thought he was unimpeachable, or he would not have held such elevated positions within the church. When he left, there was no accusation of any wrongdoing on his part. He left because they refused to address very serious problems in the way they were handling these cases.

      • Tom,

        There are false accusations and false witnesses but the response by the elders at GCC wasn’t: “It didn’t happen.” The response was/is: “forget it.” Those are quite different.

        Read the story carefully. Go back and read Roys’ account.

        We have to be prepared to believe true testimony and to follow the facts.

        We’re not talking about a single case. We’re talking about a pattern supported by “hard evidence.”

    • GCC replies:

      Grace Church’s elders do not publicly discuss details arising from counseling and discipline cases—especially on social media. Nor do we litigate disputes about such matters in online forums. Grace Church deals with accusations personally and privately in accordance with biblical principles. We do not respond to attacks, lies, misrepresentations, and anonymous accusations. Our church’s history and congregation are the testimony. Myriads of Grace Church members who have sought counsel at our church will testify that the counsel they receive is biblical, charitable, supportive, and liberating.

      Hohn did not begin by asking, in public, on social media, nor in the pages of Christianity Today, which is hardly “social media,” his fellow elders to do justice to abused members. He began in private, by following Matt 18.

      Are they now willing to talk to Hohn?

  7. Scott is absolutely right about Hohn.

    Having known Hohn Cho since childhood, shared part of my own spiritual journey with him, visited Grace Community Church with him, and been a guest in Hohn and Heather’s home, I’ve witnessed his integrity on this issue and how wrenching it was for him to find himself at odds with his church community. Hohn, who was raised in a nonreligious home, *became* a Christian at GCC, where he also met his wife and devoted himself to ministry. During my most recent visit to LA, in June, Hohn was clearly troubled by what had occurred. Although the incident in question had occurred before Hohn was even involved in GCC, he and Heather felt they had to uproot themselves from their spiritual community for no other reason than that a serious wrong had been done to Eileen Gray–a wrong that the community refused to make right.

    How do we know that Eileen Gray was seriously wronged ? John MacArthur’s excommunication of Gray for getting a restraining order on her husband David Gray is on *video*, as displayed on the CT website. That her husband was charged and convicted of child abuse is documented by the LA Times and court records. And the Eileen Gray case is further heavily documented in The Roys Report. Various comments on Hohn’s Facebook wall from current and former GCC parishioners also confirm others’ knowledge of the events and agreement with Hohn’s stance.

    As one of GCC’s most prominent elders, Hohn had nothing to gain from leaving the community over the wrongful excommunication of a woman who had been expelled from it before he even joined. And what he reports is backed up by a cloud of witnesses. In light of this, why should anyone perpetuate the mistake that GCC did 20 years ago by taking the side of the one doing the harm rather than the one being harmed?

  8. So what happens if GCC grants Mr. Cho a hearing and afterwards decides against his position? There is no higher earthly church court to review decisions made by GCC under their polity. Would he submit to the judgment of his church under those circumstances? If not, then what he was seeking was not a hearing but rather the outcome he wants. He’s been an elder at GCC for a while and has seen how its polity is administered. Some have suggested that things would have been different in a church with Presbyterian polity. Yes the process would have been different but not necessarily the outcome. If you want perfect ecclesiastical justice from any church this side of glory then your expectations are unrealistic. Why doesn’t Mr. Cho leave GCC if it as corrupt as he suggests?

    • Ok, I re-read the article and statement. I now understand that Mr. Cho left GCC. Since he has, why does he continue to insert himself in their church polity? The parts that set off my spider senses were that first he is a lawyer. Second, he states that he was asked to “review” this case. I’m sure he wasn’t asked by GCC, so who else digs up a 20-year old case for him to review? Is he contemplating some legal action against GCC on behalf of a client? There are too many things that don’t add up in this case because we’re not getting the whole story. I would caution against not going too far out on this limb until all the facts are known. If the elders of GCC have sinned, what church court is going to adjudicate the matter? Clearly, they must not be criminally liable unless giving bad advice is now a crime.

      • Bob,

        I don’t know if you have ever been called to help shepherd a flock. I have been a pastor (shepherd) and a ruling elder. When a man is called to those offices he takes certain vows and assumes certain obligations. We speak of a “call” for a reason. Hohn was not merely a lay member. He was an elder and on what was essentially their executive committee. He tried to work patiently within the system to achieve Reformation. GCC refused. So, he is fulfilling his vocation by speaking out. A true pastor or a true elder is a time server. It’s not like working for IBM, when you get your gold watch you hang up your garters (yes, the old IBM dress code was very strict about those things) and go fishing. The problem still exists. People have been hurt and are being hurt and the GCC response is to “move on” and “let it go.” Those are people being ground up in those sprockets of the Big Eva machine. Those are sheep for whom Christ died.

        Why do I speak out about abuse in congregations where I’ve never served? You might very well tell me to shut up about Mark Driscoll, Doug Wilson etc? You haven’t complained about that. Perhaps it’s a matter of whose ox is being gored?

        I understand that JM is a hero to a lot of people and that he’s helped a lot of people but there’s the show biz and then there’s the reality behind the show biz and sometimes, too often, that reality isn’t nearly as pretty as the show biz.

  9. Bob, Grace Community Church ASKED Cho to review the Gray case. Chi DID NOT pickup this 20 year old case on his own as an attorney.

    Julie Roy’s website did several articles on this story and the story went wild in the public many months ago. Again Cho as an elder and an attorney was asked by Macarthur to review this case.

    Go read the numerous articles about Grace Church with NUMEROUS documentation how they treat abused women and be prepared to have your stomach turned. Mr. Gray was convicted in court for SEXUALLY abusing his kids. Grace church is still supporting the convicted ABUSER today in prison.

  10. Margaret: I hope you are as vocal when Julie Roys comes for some notable Reformed church and its leadership. Let’s see who is able to stand against the cancel culture mob when she starts digging into their distant past. As a famous politician once said “What matters is not the nature of the evidence but the seriousness of the charge.”

  11. Has Mr. Hohn released a copy of his letter and/or his report to the GCC elders for public review? If so, could somebody please provide a link to it?

  12. While I am a complementarian, it seems most complementarians go beyond what is written and make up rules nowhere in the scripture. The same ignore the nature of abuse, and deny divorce even in cases where it is a life-saving necessity. The ones who speak for the more patriarchal models are usually also heretics (eternal subordination and the judaizing, romanizing federal vision).
    Where are the complementarians who don’t go farther than the scriptures (i.e not legalists)? I only know of three who speak on the issue (Dr. Clark, Rachel Green Miller, and my own father). Who will stand up for the sheep? Who will defend the widow and fatherless?

    • Samuel,

      I don’t know about “most complementarians” but I agree that there are patriarchalists who lurk among the complementarians. That is why I wrote on rescuing complementarianism. I agree entirely re the connections with EFS and the FV.

      There are complementarians without that baggage but they aren’t making as much noise as the patriarchalists who call themselves “complementarian.” There are faithful pastors out there fulfilling their vocation. We have to trust that the Chief Shepherd is guarding and defending his sheep and raising up faithful shepherds. He is, even if we don’t see it online.

      • Thank you Scott for saying this: “ I agree that there are patriarchalists who lurk among the complementarians. That is why I wrote on rescuing complementarianism. I agree entirely re the connections with EFS and the FV.”

        I have just read your ‘Rescuing Complementarianism’ post. I’m disappointed comments are closed on that post. (I was out of action in 2019 so am just now catching up.)

        For me, some of the highlights of that post are:

        “ we need a robustly and unequivocal Nicene Complementarianism. … We should affirm that order does not entail ontological subordination either between the persons of the Trinity or between men and women. We should distinguish between the submission of God the Son incarnate and any speculative theory of ontological subordination of the Son to the Father. … Further complicating things is that fact that those who are, in fact, patriarchalists, i.e., those who believe that there is an ‘ontological’ (their word) hierarchy in the nature of things between males and females, have begun calling themselves complementarians. … we need a robustly and unequivocal Nicene Complementarianism. … We need a complementarian[ism], not patriarchalism pretending to be complementarianism.”

        I love your proposal that complementarians expel the patriarchalists.

        I agree with your statement that, “By definition a complementary relation is not ontologically hierarchical.”

        But most of all I appreciate your ‘Mea culpa’ —

        “… had the evangelicals driving the complementarian movement in the late 1980s a more traditional Christian understanding of nature and grace (and had they been more thoroughly Nicene in their theology) they would not have been tempted by ESS. I know because I did not resist ESS when I first read it. I thought it was a clever response to ‘the feminists.’ I was not a Baptist but I too lacked a clear understanding of the distinction between nature and grace. I too was not sufficiently Nicene in my theology to see the dangers inherent in ESS. It was not until an egalitarian feminist challenged me about the problems inherent in ESS (c. 1995) before I ever even considered that there might be substantial issues here. Mea culpa.”

    • Good questions: Who will stand up for the sheep? Who will defend the widow and fatherless?

      Pastors who are complementarian usually cop a lot of flack if they stand up for the widow and the fatherless. But note: Abused wives and their children are facing an even fuller force of that flack.

      Few complementarian pastors seem to have the courage to stand up to peer pressure from their fellow pastors, so they are wary of publicly standing against the legalistic hard patriarchalists.

      As I understand it, Rachel Miller was almost crucified by hard patriarchalists. The fact that she — a woman! — was criticising them, would have doubly enraged them.

      You ask: “Where are the complementarians who don’t go farther than the scriptures (i.e not legalists)?” I was what you might call a soft complementarian when I began advocating for abuse victims more than two decades ago. But at my blog cryingoutforjustice.blog I discouraged comp/egal debate because (a) it only led to unhelpful and irresolvable argument, and (b) I have come to the conclusion that it is pie in the sky to think that complementarianism or egalitarianism will fix or mitigate abuse. I know from wide observation that abuse can and does occur in both comp settings and egalitarian settings. More to the point, I have observed that very few Christians are willing to understand the depths of the abuser’s malevolence and how skillful the abuser is at working towards his goal. Most people flinch at the idea that male sexual entitlement is the root of the problem and that the battleground is the bedroom: the man believes he is entitled to get his sexual preferences met without having to negotiate.

      Most people, including most professionals, are unwilling to see that abusers have powerfully influenced and manipulated all the institutions of society. Legal. Medical. Mental health and counseling. Media. Entertainment. Religious and spiritual. “How He Wins” by Don Hennessy is a good book that explains how men who abuse their female intimate partners have deceived or bewitched the whole of society.

      If godly comp leaders want to help remedy this problem, they will have to strongly stand against the hard patriarchalists and legalists who have been slow-torturing women and children.

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