David Platt's megachurch faces lawsuit alleging improper ties to SBC, violations of church bylaws

David Platt
David Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church near Washington, D.C., and founder of Radical, a resource ministry that serves churches, preaches during the second session of the two-day 2019 Pastors' Conference held June 9-10 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. |

David Platt's McLean Bible Church is facing a new lawsuit filed by members who take issue with the Virginia-based nondenominational megachurch's current leadership and alleged donations to the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Six McLean members filed a new lawsuit against church leadership, as reported by The Capstone Report. The church was served the amended complaint last week.

In a statement emailed by a spokesperson to The Christian Post, church leadership acknowledged the new lawsuit, saying it comes from "a small group of members and former members" who have filed other complaints in recent years.

"We are aware of yet another recent lawsuit filed by this same small group, which again seeks to 'make changes to the church and its leadership,'" the statement from church leaders reads. "And just as before, we will respond to the suit as a unified church committed to our future direction."

At issue in the new lawsuit filed in Virginia are allegations that the multi-campus church, under Lead Pastor Platt, violated its constitution and retaliated against members opposed to certain financial expenditures, among other issues. 

These include McLean forging ties to the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. — and donating to SBC entities even though the church's constitution says it cannot join any denomination.

The lawsuit alleges that elders inappropriately transferred at least $375,000 to SBC entities. Before being hired at McLean in 2017, Platt served for years as the president of the SBC's International Mission Board.

The lawsuit also alleges the church disciplined members who raised questions about the financial issues at the church. 

"Upon information and belief, the Church made additional transfers of large amounts of funds to SBC entities and agencies, in amounts specifically unknown to Plaintiffs at this time," stated the complaint, as quoted by Capstone Report.

"This misuse of Plaintiffs' charitable donations, in violation of the Constitution, is a breach of the contract between the Church and Plaintiffs. The only remedy is to fully disclose this information to the membership of the Church so that they can review the information and make, as needed, any necessary changes to the Church and its leadership."

McLean's leadership contends that, similar to their past lawsuits, the plaintiffs seek to "overturn the church's continued and overwhelming affirmation to move forward under new leadership."

"However, each and every one of these prior complaints have been dismissed with prejudice," the church leadership stated.

"[W]e are grieved that our brothers and sisters are still choosing to file lawsuits rather than meet with us, our prayer is that we are soon nearing a day where this kind of thing is behind us for good." 

As a nondenominational megachurch located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, there has been some question as to what ties McLean Bible Church has to the SBC given Platt's ties to the denomination.

When Platt was hired at McLean in 2017, an IMB spokesperson said at the time that "IMB trustees mutually agreed that it would be a good, wise, and right use of his time to be a part of leadership in a local Southern Baptist church."

The spokesperson stated that McLean "began cooperating with Southern Baptists in 2016" and became "the hub for the North American Mission Board's church-planting efforts in the Washington, D.C., area." 

Last year, Ashley Clayton, the executive director for church affiliation for the SBC Executive Committee, wrote in a letter to McLean Board Chairman Larry Cooper that McLean was considered a "partnering" church but not a member church.

"As background, the SBC Executive Committee Office for Church Affiliation exists to identify and facilitate 'partnering relationships' with like-minded evangelical churches for the purpose of gospel advancement, church planting, sending missionaries, offering theological training and giving hope and relief to broken and hurting people," wrote Clayton.

"We intentionally do NOT use the term 'membership' in these partnership initiatives, as we know many/most non-SBC churches are looking for a 'fraternal' status, again, a working partnership with the SBC, and do NOT intend to join our denomination, or otherwise identify as Southern Baptists."

Clayton clarified that McLean was "included in the SBC church database, with an identifying SBC ID number," but that this was "purely for the sake of accounting purposes as MBC partners together with SBC entities on mission."

In late June, a Virginia court dismissed a lawsuit against McLean leadership over claims that a 2021 election of elders was improperly performed, with other allegations claiming that Platt and others were causing the church to go into a leftward drift.

"Amidst a divisive culture around us, members of our church family have clearly stated that they want to move forward together as a thriving, united church bringing hope to the nations, starting here in Washington, DC," said Platt in a statement following the lawsuit dismissal.  

"I know that many churches across America have faced and are facing similar challenges during these days, and it is vitally important that we move past division and live out John 13:35, demonstrating love for one another and love for a world in need of Jesus."

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