Public Criticism Of Gary Ezzo: Does it Violate Matthew 18?

by Frank York

Gary Ezzo and his followers frequently suggest that if a person has a criticism of Ezzo or his teaching materials, the critic is biblically mandated to go through the Matthew 18 process to resolve the dispute.

Joan Grosser, the head of Growing Families Australia, for example, strongly implied in an email to a mother that she should travel to South Carolina to visit with the Ezzos to express her concerns. Grosser's comment is posted on Parents Place. Grosser urged a "Matthew 18" approach with Gary Ezzo.

Matthew 18, however, has no application to a public leader and his public writings. Matthew 18 deals with personal concerns between two individuals-and is usually conducted within the confines of a church. The person who feels he has been sinned against is urged to confront the person privately. If this fails, he is to bring a witness. If this attempt fails, the next step is to bring it to the church. If the person continues in sin, he is to be publicly rebuked and may be excommunicated.

This is the process that Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship was going through with Gary Ezzo when he fled from the church.

Gary Ezzo continually demands that people who are critical of him go through a Matthew 18 process, but he is unwilling to submit himself to such a process-even from his own pastor and elders when he is confronted about his sins.

The Living Hope excommunication of Gary Ezzo is not the only disciplinary process Ezzo has gone through. He faced a similar situation at Grace Community Church. In addition, numerous individuals over the years have gone privately to Gary to confront him over his sinful behavior. He has repeatedly rebuffed these efforts. Kathleen Terner and Elliot Miller have documented several of these cases in "A Matter of Bias?: Examining the Response of Growing Families International Criticism."

Many individuals have attempted to go through the Matthew 18 process with Gary-even though this does not apply to public leaders whose materials are widely distributed. Yet, in the interest of going the extra mile, pastors, elders, critics, and friends have attempted this process.

What does apply to Gary Ezzo and other rebellious Christian leaders and false teachers is 1 Timothy 5:19-20, which states: "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning." In short, Gary Ezzo is to be rebuked publicly.

Ezzo Uses Meetings To Dodge Accountability
Gary Ezzo uses reconciliation meetings as a way of confusing his critics and avoiding true accountability. In mid-1995, for example, Ezzo met with the elders at John MacArthur's Grace Community Church. In this meeting, these men confronted him over his pattern of dishonesty and lack of accountability.

In this gathering, Ezzo assured the elders that he was going to rectify their concerns. Instead, he began a quiet campaign against those who had raised concerns about his materials, resigned as an elder at Grace, and then withdrew from the church altogether.

In response to Ezzo's actions, the elders at Grace Community Church issued a public statement disavowing any connection to Ezzo and pointed out significant character problems and unethical conduct by Ezzo in his dealings with the church.

You can read Grace Community Church's statement about Gary Ezzo here:
"A Statement Regarding Gary Ezzo and Growing Families International (October 16, 1997).

After this public statement was posted on the Internet, Gary met with one of the elders at Grace and assured him that he was making himself accountable to the pastors and elders at Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship.

Taking Ezzo at his word, this Grace elder then revised and shortened the Internet statement and removed comments about his character problems. According to a subsequent statement issued by Grace, however, Pastor John MacArthur noted: "After the revised statement was issued, however, Mr. Ezzo made no further attempt to address the larger concerns we had raised about his personal character."

In short, Gary Ezzo had misled the elders at Grace Community Church-and issued his own statement mischaracterizing the discussions that took place with the Grace elders.

Grace Community Church then issued another Internet statement about Ezzo after he fled from accountability at Living Hope. You can read this statement here: John MacArthur Comments On Gary Ezzo's break with Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship.

Gary Ezzo attempted to spin himself out of this dilemma in an interview he gave to Christianity Today. His comments, of course, are filled with lies and half truths. Here is Gary's response to questions from the editor of Christianity Today: On the Record: Gary Ezzo - Christianity Today Magazine.

Resources On Matthew 18
We have provided the following links below to show that Gary Ezzo's use of Matthew 18 is invalid and unbiblical. A Christian leader who has published materials in the public domain, can be freely criticized and rebuked for his sins or heresies. No one has to attempt a Matthew 18 process to criticize someone like Gary Ezzo.

The fact is that Gary Ezzo has fled from accountability from two churches, has rebuffed repeated efforts by critics and former friends who have attempted a Matthew 18 process, and is currently operating as an unaccountable "Christian" leader. He can be openly and repeatedly criticized and condemned for his behavior. In fact, it is the duty of Christians to condemn and expose corruption within the church-especially corrupt leaders who should be held to far higher standards than are regular church attendees.

Links on Church Discipline, Church Corruption, and Matthew 18

Truth and Consequences: Exposing Sin in the Church by Bob and Gretchen Passantino

Public Trust. Should Christians Tell the Truth? by Bob and Gretchen Passantino

Revisiting Public Criticism from the Personal Freedom Outreach

Matthew 18:15-17 by Pastor David Cloud, a fundamentalist preacher

Exposing Doctrinal Errors: Heresy Hunting or Biblical Mandate? From Christian Research Institute

Investigating and Profiling from Telling the Truth by WORLD Publisher Dr. Marvin Olasky

John MacArthur's Comments On Gary Ezzo's Break With Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship posted on

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Discipline at