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July 23, 2005

Evaluating Ezzo's Leadership: Church Discipline

One of the key facts that people should know in evaluating Ezzo as a Biblical teacher, is that Gary Ezzo has a pattern of not submitting to the discipline of the elders of his home church.

How can a person be trusted to teach on discipline within the home when his life shows a failure to understand discipline within the Church?

Gary Ezzo says, "A text without a context is a pretext." While I'm left scratching my head at that phrasing, to better understand the context of this church discipline post, I refer you to A Timeline of the Ezzo Controversy.

Please note that the following account of Gary Ezzo's pattern of unresolved church discipline is not "gossip." It is a factually accurate record to provide Christians with the information to evaluate Gary Ezzo's qualifications as a teacher. Read here for a complete documentation of the original sources of the below quotes. If necessary, please contact the churches for verification.

New Hampshire Church Discipline

By late 1979 -- Ezzo was considered to be one of the leaders/elders of His Vantage Point Church in Laconia, NH (This church came to be known as Lakes Region Bible Church.)

1980/1981 -- Ezzo became pastor-teacher of this church

1982 or 1983 -- Ezzo was asked to step down from leadership in this church amid complaints of authoritarianism, exclusivism and divisiveness.

Grace Community Church

Spring 1993 -- Grace Community Church elders "asked Gary Ezzo to be more accountable to them" Source: Oct '97 GCC Elders' Statement Regarding Gary Ezzo and Growing Families International

June 1993 -- Ezzo announced plans to resign from the pastoral staff at GCC but to continue as a lay elder.

Mid-1995 — GCC's pastoral staff met with Gary to discuss concerns about doctrinal and biblical content of GFI materials. Gary "promised to make changes in his material to alleviate everyone's concerns."

Mid-1995 — The promised changes were never submitted to the pastoral staff. Instead, Gary resigned as an elder and withdrew from GCC completely.--Source GCC Statement Regarding Gary Ezzo and GFI

July 18, 1995 — Gary's pastor at GCC, Dr. John MacArthur, wrote to Gary upon Gary's resignation from the elder board to summarize and "put to rest" an apparently unfruitful discussion concerning GCC's decision to drop GFI materials and remove them from the church's bookstore. While MacArthur expressed his affection for the Ezzos he also noted his dissatisfaction with Gary's behavior. . .

October 16, 1997— Grace Community Church issued a public statement "A Statement Regarding Gary Ezzo and Growing Families International" to explain why GCC is no longer affiliated with Gary Ezzo and GFI and why they no longer use or endorse GFI materials.

October 26, 1997—The Ezzos' initial public response to GCC's statement stated that they were "under the care and guidance and spiritual authority of the elders" at Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship and promised that these elders would conduct a "thorough investigation." Two of the three elders were on GFI's staff at the time.

November 11, 1997— The Final GFI response to Grace Statement disputed at length issues like the dates of the meetings mentioned in the GCC elders' statement and whether the GCC elders had pursued resolution of the issues aggressively enough. It was "reviewed" and "approved" by elders at Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship. No longer available on GFI's website, but I have reproduced it here.

June, 2005--Grace Community Church staff pastor Adam Bailie reaffirms GCC's position that Ezzo was under church discipline when he left GCC and confirms that Ezzo's children have chosen to limit their interaction with him. (See the linked posting and also the clarification in the comments thread.)

The concerns about Gary Ezzo and Grace Community Church can be summed up by what Pastor John MacArthur, who knew and worked with Gary Ezzo for many years, wrote "It appears rather obvious on biblical grounds that Mr. Ezzo's refusal to heed his own church's discipline disqualifies him from Christian leadership or public ministry in any context. After all, the first and most important qualification for those who would lead the church is that they be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:6)."

Original Grace Community Church Statement
Revised Grace Community Church Statement
Note from Phil Johnson, GCC statement author
Pastor John MacArthur's Comments

Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship

September 1999 -- Gary approached his pastor at Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship for advice regarding his son-in-law's misappropriation of GFI money.

December 1999 — Ezzo's pastor/elders at LHEF recommended that he take a "personal and spiritual sabbatical" to focus energy on repairing broken family relationships and the crisis within his company. Gary refused and started to express concerns about LHEF leadership, spreading an "ever widening circle of lies".
Source: LHEF's excommunication statement

Mar 9, 2000 – The Ezzos informed LHEF that they were withdrawing from the church, claiming concern over the elder board's integrity. Source: Resignation Letter, dated Mar 9 2000

April 2000 — LHEF issued an excommunication statement citing Gary Ezzo's pattern of sin and unrepentent behavior.

Aug 2000 – Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo sent a report to GFI supporters about their church's discipline of them and how they responded to it.

"In our attempt to stay above reproach and respond prudently
to LHEF's accusations, we invited two committees of men,
independent of each other, to come to Los Angeles, review the
charges, and evaluate the context of our departure."

One committee was composed of GFI Regional Administrators (GFI 'full-time missionaries' who assist in training GFI class leaders, etc), and the other was a committee of unnamed supporters. Both groups concluded they could "continue to affirm" the Ezzos. In other words, they may have been independent of each other, but they were not independent of GFI. --Sources: GFI documents: "Independent Committee Review, July 14, 2000" and "Regional Administrator's Committee Summary, July 10, 2000.

I agree with the heartfelt sentiment that sums up the LHEP statement, "Although his excommunication from our church means that LHEF is no longer carrying out a process of restoration we pray that God will use this measure to win back Gary's heart and restore truth and integrity to his life."

Original LHEP Discipline Statement
Expanded LHEP Discipline Statement

Seacoast Church

At this point, Gary Ezzo is active at Seacost Church in South Carolina. It is unclear how the pastoral staff/elders at Seacoast have addressed Gary Ezzo's issues of unresolved church discipline nor is it clear to what extent Gary Ezzo has placed himself under the authority of the local church.

Seacoast Church has allowed Gary Ezzo to distribute information about his materials and endorsed the use of GFI materials as part of their "Parenting Ministry."

Evaluating Ezzo's Leadership, Part 1: Why Bother?
Evaluating Ezzo's Leadership, Part 2: Church Discipline
Evaluating Ezzo's Leadership, Part 3: Other Concerning Patterns


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The majority of this posting is old news between God, Gary Ezzo, and a few previous churches. That is if there was ever any substantial issues in God's eyes in the first place.


I attend Seacoast. I know of at least a three pastors and four elders at Seacaost who are leading or have led GFI classes in the past 12 to 18 months.

Seacoast was offering and promoting the GFI material long before the Ezzos moved to the Charleston area.

Posted by: Hank Osborne at July 24, 2005 02:37 AM

Hank wrote, "The majority of this posting is old news between God, Gary Ezzo, and a few previous churches."

I don't think five previous situations where a Christian leader has been asked to be more accountable or disciplined can be discounted as "old news" or a "few churches." As was said in the introduction to this post: a pattern of behavior like this in any ministry would make one very concerned about a ministry's fruit and credibility.

Posted by: swamphopper at July 24, 2005 04:36 PM

If it's such old news, why isn't Mr. Ezzo reconciled with the churches from which he's left?

Posted by: Kim in ON at July 25, 2005 08:21 AM

"It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated..."

Keep up the good work, Tulipgirl!

Posted by: Carol at July 25, 2005 02:14 PM

thank you tulipgirl. i think of ezzo often as i indulgently nurse and rock my baby girl off to sleep. surely she'll grow up to be a demanding evil little tyrant!

Posted by: sweetviolet at July 25, 2005 08:34 PM

Well, I finally did it. I sent a link to this post to the preacher and family-life minister at our church. I have really struggled with this because one of our most beloved elders started the GKGW classes at our church. He recently passed away, his widow still facilitates the classes, and I do not in any way want to undermine their legacy of helping young parents with their parenting journey. But I have sent this information along, with the suggestion that we as a church find another type of parenting class to endorse. Thanks for giving me the courage to do so.

Posted by: Gem at July 25, 2005 11:29 PM

"the suggestion that we as a church find another type of parenting class to endorse."

That is reasonable under the circumstances. There are many solid, helpful parenting resources out there whose authors enjoy an unblemished reputation.

Posted by: Kathy at July 26, 2005 09:39 AM

I have been reading here for a LONG time now, and just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your time and effort in researching the Ezzo situation. You always state things on your blog (and in the comments of others) with such class and grace - I so appreciate your example. That last post by Gem must make it all worth it and then some. (Lots of courage Gem!! I'll be praying for you!) THANK YOU! I have also ordered some books that you included on your reading list . . . thanks for the tips.

Posted by: tracy at July 26, 2005 06:21 PM

Thank you for the encouragement, y'all!

Gem, I find it's always hardest to discuss these issues with the people closest to us. Even though the concern is about a particular teacher and his teachings, it very easily feels like someone is criticizing *us* personally as parents. Praying that what you share will be received as it was intended. And that the widow in your church can continue to nurture other women, but leave behind the more problematic and non-Biblical ideas. *hug* It's very hard to leave behind Ezzo parenting. Many of the Voices of Experience stories are from parents who were teachers and leaders with GFI for many, many years. And it is hard to admit to oneself that, "Oh, I love my kids--but maybe I made some wrong choices for them--while trying to do the best for them." Praying for peace for your church and your relationships there.

Oh, Tracy! Your words mean a lot to me today!

Posted by: TulipGirl at July 26, 2005 11:23 PM


Old news? I've got to echo Kim and swamphopper. . .

If it were only the one church in New Hampshire two decades ago, then it would be "old news."

You've probably heard Gary Ezzo talk about whether a child is characterized by a certain behaviour, or whether it is simply a mistake.

This pattern of church discipline illustrated that Gary Ezzo is characterized by a lack of submission to Biblical authorities in his life. He is characterized by not resolving issues of church discipline. He is characterized by those who know him most closely and care about him most dearly, voicing concerns "patterns of sin and unrepentant behaviour."

If you read nothing else from the above post, I encourage you to read the statement from Living Hope Evangelical Fellowhip. Church discipline is not as common in Generic North American Protestantism as it likely ought to be. Their statement helps give a background on the purpose of church discipline in a general way.

And before you dismiss the church discipline concerns with disbelief that "there was ever any substantial issues in God's eyes in the first place," I want to give you a little more context. GCC was where Ezzo first started leading a parenting group and outreach. The elders there were people that knew him well, and cared for him deeply, who worked alongside him for many years.

The elders of LHEF included people that were/had been on the GFI board of directors, people Gary Ezzo trusted and had a "shared vision."

These elders involved with this church discipline, were motivated from love for a brother in Christ.

Can you consider that these Christians who knew Gary Ezzo well, worked with him for years, and respected him may--just maybe--had legitimate concerns?

Posted by: TulipGirl at July 26, 2005 11:34 PM

TulipGirl said:
"He is characterized by those who know him most closely and care about him most dearly, voicing concerns 'patterns of sin and unrepentant behaviour.'"

I just wanted to comment that, as one of those who know him closely and care about him deeply, I would "characterize" him much differently than he has been portrayed on this site. He is a caring individual whom I respect a ton.

I think it is interesting how a believer could devote such a large portion of their site to attacking the integrity of another believer that they don't even know personally.

Posted by: josh at July 27, 2005 08:44 AM

Thank you for joining the discussion here, Josh.

"I just wanted to comment that, as one of those who know him closely and care about him deeply, I would "characterize" him much differently than he has been portrayed on this site. He is a caring individual whom I respect a ton."

As, I expect, would GCC and LHEF have said in the beginning, also.

Even recently, a representative of Grace Community Church stated:

"For the record, Grace Community Church does not "disagree" with Gary Ezzo. We are not mad at him, nor are we differing in a minor opinion issue. Gary Ezzo has been church disciplined out of our church. Matthew 18 had run its course with no repentence on the part of the sinning brother, namely Gary Ezzo. Therefore, he was put out of the fellowship of the local assembly. If you have any knowledge of the elders and their sobriety here at Grace, you would not make light of this discipline."

I notice that you have a seacoast.org e-mail address. Would you care to weigh in with the steps that Seacoast has taken to address the unresolved church discipline issues Gary Ezzo brought along with him when he joined your church?

Posted by: TulipGirl at July 27, 2005 06:50 PM


I am not aware of what steps have been taken. I know that there have been discussions, but I have not been a part of them...so I don't want to comment on something that I don't know about.

My intentions are not to win anybody over to Gary's teachings, although I have many friends who have found it to be very beneficial. I don't have kids, but I have asked the Ezzo's to consider writing Bringing Your Dog along the Puppy Way because I am having trouble with my dog. JK

I just happened to spend some time with the Ezzo's last night at the hospital where one of our friends was in surgery...so when I came across your site this morning I probably reacted a little quickly. Please accept my apology that my previous comment was not posted in love! I don't know if it came across that way, but I felt convicted about it this afternoon and wanted to apologize.

Posted by: Josh at July 27, 2005 11:03 PM

If I were Tulipgirl, and I had been so deeply hurt from the Ezzo's teachings, I would do whatever I could to expose his track record.

Ezzo would be good at dog training with his expertise on behaviour modification. But the sinful little puppies might want to nurse too often and at the wrong time. Hope they don't starve to death. And puppy beating doesn't go over that well in most areas.

Posted by: Carol at July 28, 2005 08:45 AM

I think that you and I both know that Gary doesn't teach you to starve your children to death and\or abuse them.

I read a great book by Andy Stanley called Choosing To Cheat. It talked about how important it is to place your family above your job. I made several changes that he recommended. However, some of the suggestions that he made would have caused me to lose my job had I applied them without wisdom. That doesn't make him a bad person. Each of us is responsible to discern how to apply principles that we are presented with to our specific situations.

I respect each of you for choosing not to follow Mr. Ezzo's teachings. I have several friends who take his classes and several who don't. I am sure that we could all be friends in the real world in spite of our differences in opinion. I was just stating that my experience with Gary as a friend has been great. That is just one person's humble opinion.

Posted by: Josh Surratt at July 28, 2005 10:06 PM

Josh: You may want to read my article, "Adventure in Ezzoland" posted on ezzo.info that describes my two-year ordeal working with this man as his editorial director at GFI. None of the serious character problems I mention in this article have ever been resolved.

In addition, you may want to ask him how his relationship is with his two daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren and brother and sister-in-law. I'll be interested in how he describes this non-relationship with all of his primary family members. This should be of concern to you since he portrays himself as an expert on family life. His own family shuns him. You might want to find out why. -- Frank York

Posted by: frank york at August 26, 2005 11:23 PM

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