Saturday, December 20, 2014

Timeline Introduction

Introduction: Growing Families International [GFI] has been controversial within the Christian church for a long time. With the publication of Babywise, the Ezzos extended their influence into the secular world.

Purpose: To illustrate that the present-day controversy surrounding Ezzo is the consequence of longstanding patterns of behavior and questionable advice.

Why Read This? To avoid repeating history and to evaluate the Ezzos' suitability to provide guidance in infant care and parenting.

Corrections and additions to the timeline may be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Timeline

(Note: for clarity, some listings have been grouped by topic rather than by date)

Early Educational and Professional Background

Not much is known about Ezzo's early life or employment background before the late 70's. On a GKGW (2nd ed.) teaching tape Ezzo refers to having some kind of farming or sheepherding background.

Fall of 1966 - Summer of 1969 

Gary Ezzo took several classes at Mohawk Valley Community College but did not get an AA degree.

1974 - 1977

Approximate time of Anne Marie Ezzo's employment as an RN at Concord Hospital. GFI materials through the mid-90's advertised Anne Marie's "background in pediatric nursing," but neither Concord Hospital nor GFI could verify the claim, and it did not appear on later material.
Source: More Than A Parenting Ministry footnote #57, CRI Vol 20/Number 4 1998 April-June

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 His Vantage Point Church (aka Lakes Region Bible Church.)

1982 or 1983

Ezzo was asked to step down from leadership in this church amid complaints of authoritarianism, exclusivism and divisiveness.
Sources: More Than a Parenting Ministry, Christian Research Journal Vol 20/Number 4 1998 April-June and A Matter of Bias?, Christian Research Journal Vol 21/Number 2

Ezzo in California

Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo and their two daughters moved from New Hampshire to Southern California.

1983

Ezzo entered Talbot School of Theology full time to pursue a Master of Arts in Ministry degree in a program designed for candidates without a bachelor's degree.

1984

The Ezzos started teaching parenting classes at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley CA.

1985

Having accepted a staff pastor position at GCC, Ezzo filled out an employment application, listing an AA degree from Mohawk Community College.

Sources: "Unprepared to Teach Parenting", Christianity Today, November 13, 2000; GFI ministry letter on file, dated 2001.

Circa 1985

Anne Marie Ezzo prepared and circulated a 4-page paper titled "Parent Controlled Feeding". Although contradictory at some points, it included:

  • a sample timetable for "the first four weeks" which laid out feedings at 4 hour intervals
  • instruction to keep nursings to 20-30 minutes "maximum"
  • advice to consider formula supplementation if the baby, by three weeks of age, isn't able to go 3-4 hours between feeds.
  • advice on stretching the time between feedings by use of a pacifier or other distractions.

Source: Copy of original document on file (view scan of page 4)

1987

The Ezzos formed GFI as a nonprofit corporation along with five other Grace Community Church couples.

1989

The nonprofit corporation was dissolved and GFI became a for-profit corporation

The version of Preparation for Parenting that was circulating in 1989:

  • criticised demand feeding, the approach recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • criticised mothers who respond to their babies' cries, calling their practice incompatible with scripture, practiced by an "extreme fringe," primitivistic, humanistic, based in evolution, emotional, idolatrous, unhealthful, harmful to marriage, and the cause of health and developmental problems.
  • advised parents that by three weeks the baby should only be breastfed every three to four hours, taking formula supplementation as necessary to achieve those intervals.
  • instructed that the baby was to be sleeping through the night by six weeks, enforced by letting the baby cry if necessary.

Source: quotes on file from Preparation for Parenting c 1989

1990

The 3rd edition of Preparation for Parenting: A Biblical Perspective was published.  It taught parents that:

  • spacing feedings 3 to 4 hours apart would cultivate self-control in the infant and counter-act his desire for immediate gratification
  • feedings should be spaced at 3-4 hours intervals.
  • hunger patterns would "begin to line up" with scheduled mealtimes. If not, formula supplementation was recommended to maintain the plan.
  • By 8 weeks, the baby would sleep through the night and have 5-6 feedings daily.
  • A table showed 4-5 feedings as the average number of feedings for 8 week olds according to a survey of users

View quotes from Preparation for Parenting, 3rd Edition

1992

Eric Abel was GFI's Director of Ministries. The Abels were among the five couples who originally co-founded GFI with the Ezzos. Abel's wife Julie was featured prominently on teaching videos and during the weekly radio programs.

Source: A Matter of Bias, Christian Research Journal Summer 1998 issue.

1992

Dr. Robert Bucknam, listed as co-author on Babywise beginning with the 1993 edition, was in a pediatric residency program at Children's Hospital in L.A.
Source: Medic Data

1993

1st edition of Babywise was self-published by GFI. This edition was nearly identical to Prep for Parenting, except that:

  • Explicit religious language was removed
  • Dr. Robert Bucknam added a foreword in which he denigrated maternal instinct and the practice of feeding at two hourly intervals.
  • For babies from 0-8 weeks of age, the book recommended 3 to 4 hour feedings.
  • This edition touts a benefit of fewer feedings: fewer diapers to change. (pp. 133-134.)

August 16, 1993

Christianity Today published the first national article voicing concerns:The Brave New Baby by Thomas S. Giles

August 20, 1993

GFI responds to this article by sending a letter and response sheet to supporters.

  • They accused Christianity Today's reporter of deliberately misleading the public.
  • They claimed that 92% of mothers using the program breastfeed and more than 99% of the babies on the program sleep through the night by 8 weeks, linking these outcomes to use of the material,
  • They expressed doubt that the negative experiences descrbed in the article could be linked to use of the material.
  • They stated that even if there were a hundred babies who had failed to gain weight adequately, it would be statistically insignificant in comparison to the success stories.

Source: Ezzo's August 20, 1993 letter and response sheet on file

September 1994

Eric Abel resigned as GFI's Director of Ministries over concerns "about the integrity of the company and its leadership." Abel remained at GFI in a different capacity through February of 1996 while seeking other employment. During this period he and his wife Julie removed themselves from their public role with the company because of their integrity concerns.
Sources: Abel Family Public Statement & Eric Abel, email on file, 5.19.06

Ezzo and Grace Community Church

Spring 1993

Grace Community Church elders "asked Gary Ezzo to be more accountable to them"


June 1993
 

Ezzo announced plans to resign from the pastoral staff at GCC, but continue as an 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.  The promised changes were never submitted to the pastoral staff. Instead, Gary resigned as an elder and withdrew from GCC completely.
Source GCC Elders' Statement Regarding Gary Ezzo and Growing Families International (original version)

July 18, 1995

Gary's pastor at GCC, Dr. John MacArthur, accepted Ezzo's resignation and summarized the issues in writing, expressing personal affection for the Ezzos but dissatisfaction with Gary's behavior:

What is most important is that submission, love, forgiveness, humility, kindness and support prevail and I haven't always seen that on your part. Though the issues here are certainly between brothers who hold the same sound doctrine, it's really an old story, Gary. I'm still grieved about unkind statements, innuendos and sarcasm.

Source: letter dated July 18, 1995 from John MacArthur to Gary Ezzo, provided by GFI

July 8, 1995

Gary, who answered questions on an America Online (AOL) message board devoted to discussions about his programs insulted several participants:

Ladies, (and the few gentlemen crazy enough to join this conversations.) Wow, talk about women and emotions. (I read all the responses.) I feel like I walked into the hen house during egg laying... ...I do have other more important activities to fill up my day, than the go nowhere debates with emotionally charged demand feeding mothers talking about demand feeding practices." full text here, along with the responses he received.

1995

Multnomah Publishing House picks up Babywise and publishes its 1995 edition.. 

March 1996

Eric and Julie Abel, former co-founders of GFI, ended all remaining ties with GFI.
Sources: Abel Family Public Statement & email on file from Eric Abel 5.19.06

May 14, 1996

The Child Abuse Council of Orange County, California appointed a religious task force to evaluate GKGW following complaints by area health care professionals who had observed dehydration, slow growth and development and failure to thrive among babies on Ezzo programs.
Source: "Religious Parenting Programs–Their Relationship to Child Abuse Prevention"

Ezzo and World Magazine

May 25/June 1, 1996

WORLD Magazine published The Ezzos Know Best, subtitled "Controversial Parenting Curriculum is Sweeping the Church"

Ezzo reacted by sending letters to World editor Marvin Olasky suggesting the magazine call for the resignation of Roy Maynard, the journalist who wrote the piece, and by asking Maynard's church elders to take disciplinary action against him.

He also published a letter to Olasky on GFI's website which objected to the word "controversial" in the subtitle and included what purported to be a "verbatim" transcript of a confrontation with Maynard, in which Ezzo grilled Maynard about his journalistic methods.

Two substantially different versions of the "verbatim" transcript were discovered on GFI's website by Dr. Steve Rein, a Christian father and statistician (and owner of Ezzo.info).  In the mid-90's Rein collected articles about the Ezzos' materials and hosted a small message board for open dialogue on webspace allotted for his personal and research use as a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dr. Rein drew attention to the differing "verbatim" transcripts, and Ezzo attempted to press criminal charges against him for "hacking."  A police investigation concluded that the complaint was unfounded. 

The following school year, Dr. Rein accepted a position at a different university.  Ezzo told GFI supporters he had "heard" that Dr. Rein had lost his job over this incident, adding, "we have no reason to doubt that." 

Contrary to Ezzo's innuendo, Dr. Rein left VCU on good terms.  With extended family on the West Coast, the offer of a position at Cal Poly was advantageous personally and professionally. He continued to work on projects for VCU from a distance for a period of time after his departure. 

Sources: "Unprepared to Teach Parenting", Christianity Today;
                GFI's 2001 extended response document on file
                correpondence on file from Dr. Steve Rein

July 1996

WORLD's writer Roy Maynard called the "verbatim" transcript inaccurate and "threaded together in such a way as to distort my words, views, and journalistic methods."
Source: Roy Maynard's personal response to the situation.

April 1997

WORLD eventually published a restrained apology in "We Could Have Done Better," but stood by the fairness of the article and their journalist.

Spring 1997

GFI's ministry newsletter publicizes WORLD's apology in a full page article.
Source: "Gary Ezzo's thoughts on World Magazine", The Community Perspective, GFI, Vol.2 No.1

Later, Ezzo would use WORLD's minor concession to dismiss the whole affair.

"Does it seem strange to you, the reader, that all of the terrible things cited by Mrs. Terner could have taken place with Roy Maynard or World Magazine and yet, few months later [sic], World Magazine publishes an apology to GFI." 
Source: Ezzo's ministry letter to supporters about CT's Unprepared for Parenting article (on file)

July 11 1996

ABC World News Tonight television featured a report on Ezzo's method, by religion reporter Peggy Wehmayer, herself a Christian.

July 1996

GFI published a response on its website denouncing the report as part of the media's "War Against Moral Truth" but did not address the issues raised.

Ezzo and Grace Community Church cont'd

August 22, 1996

Having resigned from GCC's pastoral staff in 1993, and from its board of elders in 1995, Gary sent an email to a donor to the radio ministry of GCC containing a negative portrayal of the church. GCC's concern mounted when similar rumors came back to them from around the world. It appeared, said GCC elder Philip Johnson, that Ezzo was conducting a "private smear campaign."
Source: Questions About Growing Families International, Grace Church and Gary Ezzo

September 1, 1996

Dr. John MacArthur, Ezzo's senior pastor at GCC, corrected the false information and demanded Gary set the record straight immediately.
Source: Questions About Growing Families International, Grace Church and Gary Ezzo

September 17, 1996

Gary sent an apology to MacArthur and to the donor.  However, Gary later wrote that his

error was not in the veracity of the facts shared, but in the amount of information communicated.

Source: GFI response document

October 1996

GFI claimed to have conducted 'advanced research':  

one of the most notable highlights of this program is the Ezzos' advanced research on healthy infant nighttime sleep.

Source: "Growing Kids God's Way--Why it's Right".  (The article states: "This document was reviewed and approved for circulation by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. 10/96")

Late 1997

Conservative Christian parenting ministry Focus on the Family said rigid adherence to the GFI materials could result in child abuse and stated that Focus on the Family does "not recommend" the material.
Source: Focus on the Family statement

March 1997

Boulder Weekly article "Wise Advice for Babies?" by Eric Patterson quoted Babywise co-author Robert Bucknam who claimed that research to support Babywise's ideas was soon to be published, but refused to name the researchers or the journals that would publish the research.

Babywise credits no one as the book's primary lactation expert. Bucknam says he was not at liberty to give her name. "But, yes, she is certified and highly regarded in her area of expertise," he adds. ...Bucknam also says that University of Virginia and University of Arizona research, soon to be published in major medical journals, will support Babywise's principles. (When asked twice, Bucknam would not divulge the names of the principal researchers or the journals where this research will be published.) 
--Boulder Weekly, "Wise Advice for Babies?"

(That research never appeared.)

April 26, 1997

The Bradenton Herald published a feature length article together with a sidebar interview of Gary Ezzo:

Herald: Some critics say you are not qualified to give such advice regarding infant feeding. What are your qualifications as well as those of Anne Marie Ezzo? When you say Anne Marie has a "background in pediatric nursing," what specifically do you mean? (i.e. education, where employed, and when, etc.)

Ezzo: Again, who are the critics? What are their families like? Are they sought after by young parents as role models to be emulated?

Full interview:Q & A With Gary Ezzo

(The feature length article was republished by iVillage on the web at: Ezzo Parenting: Threat to Baby's Health? )

March to October 1997

Christian education expert Dr. Kent McClain and a committee from his former church in Arizona conducted a review of GKGW. The process included reading the GKGW materials and viewing the teaching videos and comparing them with other parenting materials. Dr. McClain spoke with Gary Ezzo by phone and set up a meeting. When McClain got to LA, Ezzo "cancelled the pre-arranged meeting."

Dr. McClain updated the critique in 2001:PDF version here

Ezzo and Grace Community Church, cont'd

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. The document mentioned the elders found no biblical justification for various teachings Ezzo portrayed as biblical, and noted concerns with the way Ezzo had handled criticism.

Gary Ezzo has declined to listen to concerns from essentially friendly critics--including fellow elders, pastors, and even co-workers in the GFI ministries. ...> At the same time, Gary has been known to respond with exaggerated and even false accusations against his critics

October 26, 1997

The Ezzos' initial public response to GCC's statement insisted that they were "under the care and guidance and spiritual authority of the elders" at Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship (LHEF) and promised that these elders would conduct a "thorough investigation."  Two of the three LHEF elders were on GFI's staff.

November 11, 1997

The Final GFI response to Grace Statement disputed -- at great length -- matters such as the dates of meetings and whether the GCC elders had pursued resolution aggressively enough. It was "reviewed" and "approved" by elders at LHEF. It was originally available GFI's website. View here.

December 11, 1997

GCC elder Phil Johnson who framed GCC's statement responded to common questions about the situation in "Questions about GFI, Grace Church, and Gary Ezzo"

Feb 1998

GFI called on Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries to assist in reconciliation meetings with GCC elders.

March 20, 1998

The reconciliation meetings resulted in a revised statement by GCC elders "A Statement Regarding Gary Ezzo and Growing Families International"

In a comment on this revised statement, GCC elder Phil Johnson stated that during the meetings Ezzo indicated a desire to rectify character-related issues mentioned in the original statement, so in good faith GCC agreed to retract their earlier statement in favor of a briefer, vaguer statement.

May 13, 1998

Ezzo used this milder statement to minimize the seriousness and ongoing nature of GCC's concerns in a statement to followers.
Source: "Grace Church /GFI Ministry statement" originally published on GFI's website.

July 25, 2000

After Ezzo was excommunicated from LHEF, GCC's pastor Dr. John MacArthur made an updated public statement, part of which refers to the events in this section of the timeline:

Almost three years ago, the elders of Grace Community Church issued a public statement about Growing Families International (GFI) and Gary Ezzo. In addition to several concerns about the extra-biblical content of GFI materials and divisive tendencies in the GFI program, we also initially voiced some rather significant concerns about Mr. Ezzo's personal character.

Specifically, we reported that he had shown a pattern of resisting accountability, and that he was not always truthful. (We had become aware of several instances in which Mr. Ezzo twisted the truth, ranging from a false claim that he held a degree he had never really earned, to the spreading of false reports about our church in a manner that appeared to be deliberately divisive.)

Mr. Ezzo subsequently met with one of our elders and expressed a desire to rectify our major concerns about his character. He assured us that he was making himself accountable to a group of men he trusted--the pastor and elders of Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship (LHEF).

In the interest of seeking peace, we issued a revised and abbreviated version of our public statement. In that revised statement, the concerns we had raised about Mr. Ezzo's integrity and accountability were no longer expressly mentioned, pending further action on Mr. Ezzo's part to mitigate or allay those concerns. 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.

We have nonetheless been able to verify that LHEF's discipline of Mr. Ezzo involves the very same issues we raised in our initial public statement: Gary Ezzo's lack of truthfulness and his refusal to be held accountable. It is not without significance that the men who have excommunicated him are the same men to whom he claimed to be making himself accountable. This has clearly become a pattern of behavior with Mr. Ezzo. LHEF is at least the third church Mr. Ezzo has left with questions pending about his character.

Ezzo's pattern of agitating for an apology or for private reconciliation meetings, then portraying to followers that the concession indicates that the concern was entirely dropped or resolved may be one reason other critics have been unwilling to enter into private "reconciliation" meetings with him.

Feb 17, 1998

Wall Street Journal article "Striking Behavior"

More than 100 doctors, nurses and other health professionals hope to persuade the academy [the American Academy of Pediatrics] to investigate the Ezzos. A "Letter of Concern" they signed and sent to the academy last year stated that some of the Ezzos' medical claims are "untrue, misleading or unsubstantiated." Arnold Tanis, a Hollywood, FL pediatrician and past president of the academy's Florida chapter, submitted a resolution expressing similar concerns at the academy's recent Southwest district chapter meeting. The resolution passed earlier this month... ...Ezzo says the accusations in the Letter of Concern are "wild." A lot of people are upset, he says, because he and his wife are displacing them as the "authority" on child-rearing.

April 20, 1998

AAP MEDIA ALERT titled "AAP Addresses Scheduled Feedings vs. Demand Feedings" affirmed the American Academy of Pediatrics' support for cue feeding and reiterated the AAP position that "scheduled feedings designed by parents may put babies at risk for poor weight gain and dehydration."

April, 1998

"Babywise Advice Linked to Dehydration, Failure-to-Thrive" by Matthew Aney, MD, AAP News, Volume 14, No. 4, p 21

Spring 1998

3rd edition of Babywise published. This edition recommends feedings at 2 1/2 to 3 hour intervals (though most examples still refer to 3 hours) in the first 8 weeks, a plan that yields 8-9.6 parent-directed feedings in 24 hours. (The AAP recommends infants be fed in response to hunger cues yielding 8-12 times daily on average.)
View quotes from the 1998 edition of Babywise

August 6, 1998

Salon–Getting Wise to Babywise feature article includes a statement by Dr. Richard Ferber rebutting Ezzo's ideas on continuous nighttime sleep for small babies:

Dr. Richard Ferber, director of Boston's Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital and the author of the bestselling "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems" (Simon and Schuster). [rebuts Ezzo] "Parents shouldn't expect babies to sleep that long that early, although a very few will on their own and in that case, you may sometimes need to actually wake them to feed them," says Ferber. "There is no good evidence that babies that young can go that long without a feeding."

The Salon article also addresses the issue of documentation and research:

Incredibly, the 1998 edition actually cites the work of Ezzo critics Kathleen Huggins and Kathleen Auerbach as being supportive of Parent Directed Feeding [when their work actually warns against the practice.] The book also relies heavily on GFI's own self-conducted, never-before-published studies. Although the phraseology Ezzo uses to describe GFI's "survey" of more than 500 infants leaves an impression of rigorous medical research, no actual peer review process, as defined by the scientific community, was employed.

August 1998

"Pediatric News" column in Child Magazine: "Baby-care book could be dangerous", an opinion piece by the Drs. Zuckerman

Because the Ezzos appeal to widely held childrearing goals, the book may fool some parents. If you have questions, we urge you to speak with your family physician...

September 11-13, 1998

Annual American Academy of Pediatrics Chapter Forum passes AAP Resolution # 53SC (98)—"Evaluating Infant Management Programs". It noted that the PDF feeding schedule is "inconsistent with AAP recommendations" and that "over 100 health care professionals across the country including 19 AAP fellows have asked the Academy for feedback on [GFI's] potentially harmful program". It resolved that "the Academy continually evaluate infant management programs such as Preparation for Parenting and On Becoming BABYWISE and regularly report its findings."

Well, first of all, our advice on feeding babies is identical to the American Academy of Pediatrics...
--Gary Ezzo in 1999 BBC television interview

Ezzo and CRI

June 30, 1998

CRI cover story, More Than A Parenting Ministry published. Summary from 11-page article:

The programs mix sound parenting advice with highly disputable ideas, but this does not fully account for the controversy. GFI has provoked unprecedented public censure from Christian leaders because, although it is not a cult, it has consistently exhibited a pattern of cultic behavior, including Scripture twisting, authoritarianism, exclusivism, isolationism, and physical and emotional endangerment.

The article also presented evidence that the Ezzos tend to attack anyone who criticizes or questions to them.

July 29, 1998

Ezzo complained to Hank Hanegraaf, president of CRI, that the article was "gossip-dependent, and tainted with duplicity and half-truths." and asked for a personal meeting to discuss the matter, suggesting Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries as an observer. Ezzo noted, "Mr. Sande was extremely helpful in bringing resolution to the Grace Church/GFI conflict last year...."
Source: GFI document: A Response to the Christian Research Institute

July 30, 1998

GFI's website published a "preliminary response" claiming that CRI's More Than A Parenting Ministry article was an

attempt to create the pretense of believeability by withholding facts, telling half-truths, or by removing statements from their appropriate context to establish something other than the author's intent.

August & September 1998

Letters sent back and forth between Ezzo and CRI staff: Ezzo pressed for a private meeting with CRI head Hank Hanegraaf to discuss his complaints about the More Than A Parenting Ministry article and CRI responded by asking Ezzo to provide evidence in writing of the alleged misquotes and lies to establish a 'warrant and basis' for a meeting.

October 26, 1998

GFI responded to CRI's article on their website and in their print magazine, "The Community Perspective". The response is archived here:
Preface Introduction Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Conclusion

On the subject of accountability, this response insisted:

In addition to the accountability provided by our local church leadership  [LHEF], there are several godly men to whom we are accountable for our conduct and our theology.

LHEF's pastor Dave Maddox and 2 of the 3 elders were listed on GFI's website as a staff members of GFI of Gary's organization.
Source: GFI website staff page, no longer accessible

When this accountability structure recommended a course of action to Ezzo in order to repair broken family relationships, he balked.

Fall 1998

CRI published "A Matter of Bias?" to respond to Ezzo:

...GFI has responded to our article much as they have responded to other Christian critics. They issued a statement saying they wished to address their concerns toward us privately, but at the same time they publicly accused us of "withholding facts, telling half-truths," and "removing statements from their appropriate context," and they promised to provide more details to those who contacted them directly.3 When we asked for examples that would substantiate their concerns prior to agreeing to meet with them, they continued to make similar charges publicly for three months without providing any substantial written documentation.4 They finally issued a 16,713-word (not including attachments) public critique of our 10,696-word article, questioning our motives, accusing us of duplicity and demagoguery, characterizing us as wicked liars, and challenging the accuracy of our statements, sources, and quotes, even to the point of debating minutiae.

January 28, 1999

GFI issued a statement on their website, reiterating their disappointment with CRI for not meeting privately in accordance with Matthew 18

March 1999

The Washington Post published an article on Babywise. The article included real-life examples from GFI's online advice and support Forum message board:

"We're now on Day 5 of Timothy's retraining for naps," a Michigan mother wrote recently. "Yesterday was the most difficult day ever. I thought the screaming and crying for 45 minutes was difficult, but I could endure because I felt sure that this was the right thing to do. However yesterday, when I saw a little blood, it was hard not to panic and question my methods." This complete message in context

A rumor immediately circulated among GFI followers, and was posted as true in GFI's Forum message boards by one of the GFI Forum Administrators, that some of the examples quoted by the Post came from messages that were faked by imposters and that the blood mentioned in the post above was the result of a preexisting medical condition (compare this interpretation with the complete message).
Source: message board posts on file.

April 1999

Ladies' Home Journal "Babies in Danger?" by Jenny Deam detailed the story of the Kambas baby's slow weight gain while using the Ezzos' method, and Ezzo's reaction.

"The woman who taught our [Ezzo parenting] class said, 'They're going to tell you in the hospital to feed the baby when the baby is hungry....Just smile at them.'"

[after following the program for several weeks]....The doctor turned to Kambas and asked, "What's going on here?" She broke down and told the clinic staff about the feeding schedule she had Elizabeth on.

Looking back, Kambas is tormented by the thought of what she did to her baby. "[She] was so little," Kambas says. "We were starving her."

Gary Ezzo is skeptical. He's heard these kind of stories before, and dismisses them as either made up or extremely rare. "We don't teach hunger," he says...."We're an alternative to the last twenty-five to thirty years of runaway permissiveness," he insists.

Aug 1, 1999

Immediate closure of the GFI Forum advice and support message board was announced. Behind the scenes a permanent shutdown was planned while a "temporary" closure would be announced to the message board community.
Source: documentation on file

August 1999

Ezzo's son in law, Robert Garcia--GFI's Vice President at the time-- misappropriated a large sum of GFI money for personal use. Ezzo later disputed the reported amount of $500,000.
Sources:Christianity Today "Unprepared to Teach Parenting", and
GFI's privately circulated document "A Response to Christianity Today: Unprepared to Teach Parenting?"

September 1999

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

October 29, 1999

BBC Newsnight interviewed Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo in a segment on GFI during their speaking tour in Britain.

Paxman: ...The American Pediatric Association says your advice on feeding babies is wrong. Why should we take the word of, with respect, one nurse against 53,000 registered pediatric practitioners?

Gary Ezzo: Well, first of all our advice on feeding babies is identical to the American Academy of Pediatrics...

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

Feb 2000

The accounting firm of Hamilton, Boynton and Speakman terminated their 9-year relationship with GFI. Partner Chris Hamilton's said that Ezzo misled him personally regarding the firm's investigation of whether funds were misappropriated.
Source: "Unprepared to Teach Parenting?" Christianity Today, Nov 13, 2000


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.

May 2000

Mark Severance, Ezzo's personal assistant, resigned from his position.
Source: Christian Research Journal News Watch

July 2000

Gary's other son in law, Paul Luedke, resigned his position with GFI.
Source: Christian Research Journal News Watch

July 25, 2000

Dr. John MacArthur made a public statement to add the testimony of what had occurred in his church to what had just occurred at LHEF.

Aug 2000

Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo sent a report to allay the concerns of supporters, styled as an "Independent Committee Review".

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.

It was not an independent review in the normal sense of the term: one committee was composed of GFI Regional Administrators, and the other was a committee of unnamed supporters. Both groups concluded they could "continue to affirm" the Ezzos.

Sources: GFI documents: "Independent Committee Review, July 14, 2000" and "Regional Administrator's Committee Summary, July 10, 2000

Aug. 16 2000

Bob Gaby, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ezzos' non-profit organization resigned.
Source: Christian Research Journal, News Watch

Aug. 18 2000

Sharon Nelson, MD, Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Ezzos' non-profit organization resigned.
Source: Christian Research Journal, News Watch

Aug 2000 -- Laurie Moody, a "Contact Mom" with the organization, one of the few people associated with GFI to have any training in lactation counseling, resigned over concerns about the material's effect on nursing mothers and babies and concerns about the Ezzos' integrity.

Nov 13, 2000

Christianity Today "Unprepared to Teach Parenting"

Nov 13, 2000

Christianity Today On the Record: Gary Ezzo An interview between CT editor Tim Morgan and Gary Ezzo.

November, 2000

"GFI Responds to Christianity Today" document published on GFI's website.

Some of you may have come across the November issue of Christianity Today and read the news story "Unprepared to Teach Parenting" by Kathleen Terner. If you did not read this opinion piece, you can probably catch the gist of what was said from this response....

....For the record, it is enough to say that while members or regular attenders, we have never been dismissed from any church or asked to leave one, including Living Hope. We are members of a well established evangelical fellowship, sitting under normal elder accountability, and have the freedom to minister our gifts. Living Hope accusations have been scrutinized by the GFI regional Administrators. An independent counsel [sic] of four Godly [sic] men have also evaluated the circumstances of these rumors.

To correct some of the less significant comments reported by CT, Gary does have a fully earned Master of Arts degree from Biola University (Talbot Seminary 1985) with a Christian Education emphasis. He has never intentionally mislead [sic] anyone about any other degrees. He does not accept the title "Doctor", in public or private. He was not the pastored [sic] of a church called His Vantage Point* nor has he ever been asked to step down from any church position for "divisive conduct." There is no cover-up of embezzled funds taken from us personally or GFI, we have never reported anyone to the IRS, and yes, to their journalistic credit, World Magazine did publicly apologize to the Ezzos for not getting all the facts right in a story they ran in 1996. (See "From the Publisher," World Magazine April 1997.)

On and on we can go with bits and pieces of error that became the mosaic of CT's story, but do we really need to? Is character really the issue? Or is it the standard we teach?

Source:  GFI Responds to Christianity Today (public response)

*The church called His Vantage Point changed names; Ezzo is equivocating.

January 4, 2001

An Open Letter to Multnomah Publishers by Frank York, former editorial director for GFI pressed Multnomah, the publishing house for the Babywise series, to investigate facts brought forward in the CT article.

Feb 2001

GFI circulated an 18 page private response to the Christianity Today article. It partially mirrored their public response--but fleshed out its arguments with vivid details and disparaging comments about the Christianity Today article's author and critics mentioned in the article. One of these, former GFI editorial director Frank York, responded in a public statement .

In the private response, Ezzo admitted he had claimed a degree he had not earned, but argued that the fiction "suited the purpose for which the information was being requested".

GFI also began sending out "Cyberspace Rumors and the Ezzo's [sic] Church Status":

If there were any biblical merit to this [church discipline], we could not be members in good standing of a well-respected evangelical church, sitting under normal elder accountability, and given the freedom to minister our gifts, as is presently the case.

Evangelical churches have varying ideas about church discipline and are not obligated to abide by another church's disciplinary action.

GFI and Multnomah Publishers

March 23, 2001

Christianity Today "Babywise Publisher Plans Contract Cancellation"

Summary: After years of persistent controversy surrounding Ezzo and his books, Multnomah took steps toward cancelling Ezzo's contract when the company reluctantly investigated complaints about Gary Ezzo.

Multnomah's president suddenly reversed the decision, saying the investigation was still in process, in a statement posted on Christianity Today's site the same day the cancellation story appeared.

May 16, 2001

A Second Open Letter to Multnomah Publishers by Frank York, former editorial director at GFI reminds Multnomah:

...one of the primary criticisms of Gary Ezzo — from his former pastors, from his critics, and from former employees like myself — is that Gary consistently lies about his materials and his critics. This is why it is highly unreliable for you to depend upon Gary Ezzo to tell you the truth about those of us who have challenged him. You need to talk to the people whom he has repeatedly maligned.

June, 2001

Christianity Today, in "Babywise Almost Dropped" noted that two Babywise companion books describe Ezzo's coauthor pediatrician Robert Bucknam as a faculty member at the University of Colorado Medical School. School.  Officials say he was never employed there. A member of Dr. Bucknam's office staff explained that medical school residents have visited his practice as observers.

The article reminds readers that Ezzo's program had been developed for several years when Dr. Bucknam's name was added to the cover of Babywise as co-author in 1993; he was certified in pediatrics in 1992.  It marks the irony of the book's high claim of providing a "needed reformation to pediatric counsel."

July, 2001

Multnomah invited Frank York, Eric Abel, John MacArthur, Dave Maddox and the head of Ezzo's former accounting firm to participate in private, individual meetings with Gary to discuss accusations against his character and content concerns regarding Babywise. The meetings, said Multnomah, would fulfill the biblical procedure of Matthew 18 for disputes between two believers. The proposed meetings were to be mediated by Peacemakers Ministries headed by Ken Sande.

Mr. York's response to the invitation reminded Multnomah that the company had a moral obligation to follow through on their investigation of Ezzo's behavior and materials and that the individuals they invited to address Mr. Ezzo weren't speaking out about private personal disputes with Gary Ezzo. Instead, they were witnesses of Ezzo's persistent patterns of sinful behaviors, and as such Matthew 18 (resolving a private matter between two individuals) was not the relevant scripture, 1 Timothy 5 is.

Sept 12, 2001

Multnomah announced their decision to return publishing rights to Ezzo effective Oct 1, 2001. (The announcement is no longer on the website as of March 2002, but is referred to in this bulletin from the Christian Booksellers Association.)

Dec 29, 2001

WORLD Magazine cover story "Religion: A Year in Review":

Dumped: Gary Ezzo, controversial author (On Becoming Babywise and founder of Growing Families International), by his publisher, Multnomah Publishers. Reasons: too much criticism of his parenting philosophy, and too many questions following excommunication from the latest of three churches he left under a cloud.

Oct 2001

In a letter to a supporter, Gary Ezzo dismissed concerns about several published critiques of Growing Kids God's Way by making disparaging statements about the authors and offering gossipy, false information about the authors. His letter also complained that these authors had misled or withheld information about their background and credentials; however the information Ezzo said was missing was either included within the critique itself or easily available.
Source: letter posted in internet discussion board, date and origin verified privately; emails from authors on file. Helpful evaluations of the facts and logic in the letter are found here, here, and here.

Jan 2002

Self-published edition of Babywise available from Ezzo's newly formed company "Parentwise Solutions"

Feb 2002

A university professor discovered that material in Ezzo's article, "Parental Affection and Character Development" published on GFI's website had been plagiarized from “The Killer Narcissists” by psychologist Barbara Lerner (National Review, May 17, 1999). She commented, "We

When this example of plagiarism was publicly criticized, Ezzo added an acknowledgement to his article, characterizing it as an "oversight."

Ezzo Family Estrangement

Summer 2002

Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo moved from Chatsworth, California to the opposite coast in Charleston, South Carolina, leaving behind their children and grandchildren.  They attend Seacoast Church which offers a full range of Ezzo parenting courses. Reason given for the move: Charleston is a friendly place.
Source: Charleston Post and Courier, Oct 13, 2002

November 2002

Jennifer and Paul Luedke (one of the Ezzos' daughters and her husband) cut off contact with her parents after much prayer, consideration and counsel, based on their personal observation of the same types of issues raised by the LHEF elders. Their hope is that the relationships will be restored following the Ezzos' repentence.
Source: emails on file from Paul Luedke, dated January 25, 2006, July 31, 2008, and June 24, 2011

The relational goal of our parenting is friendship with our children.
-- GKGW, p. 133

June 2005

Grace Community Church staff pastor Adam Bailie, writing informally in a message board posting, reaffirmed GCC's position that Ezzo was under church discipline when he left GCC, confirmed that Ezzo's children have chosen to limit their interaction with him, and referred readers to 2 official church statements which were attached to the posting. (One about issues with the material itself, and one about issues of character .)
Source: Posting on file.

July 2006

After the public posting was taken down in accordance with Bailie's request, a GFI representative characterized the post as "gossip", "slander", a "splinter/log" situation and accused Bailie of having "stolen" the Ezzos' reputation.
Source: Letter from Tom Reed to Adam Bailie, posted on his website, EzzoTruth.com

August 2008

After hearing a rumor to the contrary, I verified that Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo remain estranged from their daughters.
Source: Email from Paul Luedke on file.

June 2011

Again verified the ongoing estrangement of the Ezzos and their children.
Source: Email from Paul Luedke, dated 6/24/2011.

Key Documentation

LIVING HOPE EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP:
Excommunition Statement

GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH:
Statement about Ezzo - Materials

GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH:
Statement about Ezzo - Character

CHRISTIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE:
"The Cultic Characteristics of Growing Families International"
(originally titled "More than a Parenting Ministry")

CHRISTIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE:
"GFI"
(orginally titled "A Matter of Bias?")

CHRISTIANITY TODAY:
Unprepared to Teach Parenting?

CHRISTIANITY TODAY:
Babywise Publisher Plans Contract Cancellation

AMERICAN ACADEMY of PEDIATRICS:
Media Alert

Guide to Abbreviations

GFI--Growing Families International, The Ezzos' for-profit company

CRI---Christian Research Institute, a leading Christian cult research and apologetics teaching organization

GCC---Grace Community Church, the large church pastored by Dr. John MacArthur where Ezzo was employed and from which he launched GFI. GFI materials that refer to Ezzo's "10 years as Pastor of Family Ministries in Sun Valley, California " are referring to this experience.

LHEF---Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship, Ezzo's place of worship after leaving GCC, pastored by Ezzo's friend and former GFI staff member Dave Maddox.

CT---Christianity Today, a well-respected monthly news and features magazine

GKGW--"Growing Kids God's Way", the centerpiece of the Ezzos' parenting curriculum, usually studied in weekly classes for 18 weeks.