Christian counseling group removes Grace Community Church pastor from approved counselors list

The gathering at Grace Community Church's Shepherds' Conference in 2020.
The gathering at Grace Community Church's Shepherds' Conference in 2020. | Facebook/Shepherds' Conference

A prominent Christian counseling organization has removed a Grace Community Church pastor from its list of approved counselors, according to a letter obtained by The Christian Post from a person who asked not to be named to protect their identity.

Led by outspoken pastor and author John MacArthur and based in Sun Valley, California, Grace Community Church (GCC) garnered controversy in February when a former elder named Hohn Cho shared concerns about GCC siding with abusers against their victims.

The letter, which was authored by Cho and written in September, explains that the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors recently removed Pastor Bill Shannon, who oversees Grace’s biblical counseling ministry, from their list of approved counselors and as an ACBC fellow.

Shannon was also removed from the ACBC’s list of scheduled breakout speakers for their annual conference, which was held in early October.

The Christian Post reached out to ACBC, GCC and Shannon for comment, however, none responded to CP's requests. This article will be updated if responses are received. 

According to the letter, Cho filed a “concern or complaint” form with ACBC regarding the counseling practices of Shannon and Grace Community Church, among others, at the urging of his "friends who appreciate ACBC."

The Christian Post reached out to Cho, who confirmed the authenticity of the letter.

Although ACBC continues to recognize GCC as an approved training center for counseling, the counseling organization is also investigating complaints against the megachurch regarding its counseling practices.

As part of the investigation, ACBC heard testimony from multiple women who claimed that GCC’s counseling ministry was protecting abusers while harming their victims.

One of the women shared with CP her testimony, which was submitted to ACBC in April, detailing her experiences with Grace’s counseling operations.

According to the testimony, the woman claimed she had received marriage counseling with GCC in 2009, in response to experiencing marital problems in her 22-year marriage.

She described to Shannon the alleged abuse from her husband, as well as his suspicious behavior, which included missing family gatherings and wanting her to co-sign a second $50,000 loan without an adequate explanation for the purpose of the loan.

Shannon was quoted in the testimony as telling the woman to sign the loan without adequate understanding and allegedly refused to believe that the woman’s husband was engaged in extramarital activity despite credible evidence.

She also spoke of an incident in which her husband had physically punished two of their children by stuffing their mouths with tissues, reportedly to the point where the children were unable to breathe.

When she reported this abuse to GCC, she alleged that rather than reporting it pursuant to California law, they ultimately reprimanded her for supposedly taking away his parental authority.

According to the testimony, when the husband suddenly moved out to a place that he had been secretly renting and left his wife and children, GCC leadership failed to provide any help.

When she filed for separation from her husband, GCC sent her a letter giving her a date on which she would be expelled from the congregation. Ultimately, Shannon stopped the discipline process after a tearful appeal from the woman.

Even so, the woman alleged much harm to both her and their children from the counseling process, and Shannon in particular. Prior to submitting her testimony to ACBC, she tried to reach out to Shannon for reconciliation, but he did not reply.

In March of last year, The Roys Report published a piece stating that MacArthur shamed and excommunicated a mother in 2002 for filing for separation from her husband, David Gray, a former music and Bible teacher at GCC, who was later convicted of child molestation.

When the woman reported Gray’s abusive behavior to GCC, according to the report, GCC leaders allegedly never reported the allegations against Gray to authorities and even harassed the mother to change her mind about the separation.  

In response to the concerns that Cho shared in February, Grace released a statement explaining that “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,” read the statement from February.

“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.”

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