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.
February 16, 2001
By Frank York
Former GFI Editorial Director
April, 1996-May 11, 1998
The following is a response to Gary Ezzo's misleading comments about my employment at GFI, and the comments I made about Gary in the November 13, 2000 issue of Christianity Today.
The following is a verbatim transcript of comments Gary Ezzo made about me in an 18-page document entitled, "A Response to Christianity Today: 'Unprepared to Teach Parenting?'" (November 13, 2000)
The comments about me begin on page seven of this document. Gary's response has apparently only been distributed to GFI supporters. It has not been made public.
The comments in italics are my explanations of Gary's attempts to paint me as a disgruntled former employee and emotionally disturbed person who was so incompetent as a writer/editor that I had to be terminated.
Gary's comments about me are listed as "Item 19" of a series of libelous remarks and lies made about other reliable sources in the Christianity Today article who have had the courage to openly question Gary's lack of integrity.
Here is the section on me:
19. We do not believe Mr. York's comments added credibility to Mrs. Terner's report given the circumstances of his dismissal from GFI. And this is one of Mrs. Terner's and CT's key witnesses.
Frank came to our ministry from Focus on the Family. He presented himself as a ghost writer/editor. Anne Marie knew his wife from childhood. We hired him on that basis. We covered his moving expense from Colorado Springs and nearly doubled his salary. Unfortunately, he wasn't at GFI long when it became apparent that Mr. York did not possess the level of skills required to work for this ministry. In less than eighteen months, he went through three different supervisors. After a great deal of time, effort, and money, attempting to give Mr. York every chance to improve his skills, he was finally dismissed by the GFI administrative staff. A termination letter is on file, dated May 12, 1998 signed by Mr. York acknowledging and accepting the grounds of his dismissal.
Every word Gary uses must be carefully parsed in order to determine exactly what facts he is trying to conceal. In the paragraph above, Gary says I "presented" myself as a ghost writer/editor.
This gives the reader the impression that I sought Gary out for a job but had falsely represented myself as a ghost/writer editor. The facts are these: In early 1996, my wife and I went out to dinner with the Ezzos in Colorado Springs after they had presented a GFI seminar at a local church. When I told Gary about my background as an editor and ghost writer, he told me that he needed a ghost writer, and that I needed to come to work for him. In fact, he nearly hounded me all evening to come to work for him. I was not looking for a position with GFI. He offered me a job based upon my professional experience.
I have been a professional writer, working for a number of major ministries during the past 20 years. I have worked for CBN, writing materials for Pat Robertson. I was the staff writer for Tim and Beverly LaHaye in the mid-1980s. I worked for eight years as an editor/writer for Focus on the Family. These are not inconsequential ministries and my "skills" have always been adequate for the jobs I have had with these organizations.
Gary says it became obvious that I did not "possess the level of skills required to work for this ministry." This leaves the impression that I was incompetent in my work as an editor/writer. This is an untruth and every former GFI staffer knows it.
Gary is also misleading his readers by referring to GFI as a ministry. It is not a "ministry." It is a for-profit publishing firm that Gary operates for his own personal enrichment. He also runs a small, inconsequential nonprofit as a separate entity called Christian Family Heritage.
The next sentence in his commentary says that I went through "three different supervisors" while I was on staff. The implication here is that I was so inept and troublesome at my job that I had to be transferred from one manager to another, but finally had to be fired because no one could handle me. This is a deliberately misleading statement.
Here are the facts: When I came on staff, I was placed under the supervision of Robert Garcia (Gary's son-in-law who has now been shown to be an embezzler of GFI funds). When Tim Howard (Gary's brother-in-law) moved his family to California, he was to take over the graphics and editorial department. I was to be transferred under his leadership. Unfortunately, in an unethical bait-and-switch move, once Tim was in California, Robert and Gary changed jobs on him. He was placed over ministry outreach programs and Tom Buell was made head of graphics/editorial. I then worked for Tom until my firing in May, 1998.
Gary's statement that I "went through" three supervisors is a lie and totally misleading. I was never under Tim Howard because he was never permitted to take over the job he had been promised when he moved his family from New Hampshire. I had only two supervisors while at GFI. The transfer came in order to expand Tom Buell's responsibilities and free Garcia to do his other work.
Gary then says, "After a great deal of time, effort, and money, attempting to give Mr. York every chance to improve his skills, he was finally dismissed by the GFI administrative staff." This is a half truth, and it is misleading.
During my first year review, Robert Garcia told me that Gary had some vague dissatisfaction with my work. However, I was never told why he was dissatisfied. Nor did anyone on the staff tell me what "skills" I needed to improve. No staff member spent any time, effort, or money on me on skills improvement.
Another untruth that Gary told about my employment is that he nearly doubled my salary. The fact is that I received a 48% increase because of the inflated cost of living in California compared to Colorado. To say that he nearly doubled my salary is incorrect, and he should know better.
In an omission of fact, Gary fails to mention that a month after my firing, my wife and Anne Marie had breakfast together to discuss my firing. At the end of the conversation, Anne Marie asked Barbara if I would be willing to do freelance writing for them. My wife told her in no uncertain terms that I would never write another word for Gary. If my writing skills were so lacking for GFI's purposes, why would Anne Marie ask me to start writing again for them? Or, perhaps my "skills" were not really at issue in my firing, but something else.
Even though he was dismissed, GFI, in consideration of his age, gave him a very generous severance package including three months full salary. Although we attempted to treat his departure with dignity, Mr. York did not handle his dismissal very well, blaming GFI for his problems.
GFI did give me a generous severance package. But Gary is telling an untruth when he says I did not handle my dismissal very well. Robert complimented me on my family and on how well I was taking the news. I was relieved that my two year ordeal was finally over. I rejoiced at being fired. I believe I handled it very well because it was an answer to prayer. I never blamed GFI for any unnamed "problems."
One my primary jobs at GFI was to monitor Gary's "enemies" on the Internet. As I read their materials, I began to realize that his writings were filled with inaccuracies and medical advice that could not be backed up by research.
In fact, I turned in a lengthy report to him on failure-to-thrive infants who had suffered as a result of his parenting advice. He ignored the report, claiming that these cases were either "exaggerated" or "fabricated." In addition, in December of 1997, Robert Garcia asked me to go through Preparation for Parenting to document any medical inaccuracies in this book. I turned in my report in January, 1998 and included numerous examples of bad medical advice or statements made as "fact" that could not be substantiated. I never heard a word back from Robert or Gary about this report. I did, however, stop receiving work assignments after I turned in a truthful analysis of the inaccuracies in Gary's book.
Although disappointed, we are not completely surprised with Mr. York's post-departure ethic and speech. He did a similar thing when he left Focus on the Family, revealing his displeasures of how he was treated, some frightful stories about the children of certain VPs, and the infighting within management. In our own naivete we saw ourselves as a 'listening' post to someone who needed to vent. We can now see those conversations should have served as a 'yellow flag', reflecting how Mr. York dealt with unresolved conflict.
When he talked to me about coming to work for him, I told him that I had been praying about leaving Focus because of problems in my department and a drastic organizational restructuring taking place at Focus. We also discussed parenting styles, and I mentioned the fact that even Focus parents were having parenting problems. I thought it was appropriate to share these things with someone who was offering me a job. After Focus moved to Colorado, three-quarters of the people who moved with Focus from California eventually left the ministry. I was not alone in my inability to adjust to the explosive growth that Focus experienced.
At no time during my discussion of Focus with Gary did I ever make any disparaging remarks about Dr. Dobson. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Dr. Dobson. Since I left Focus on good terms, they have continued to give me work, and I am just completing my second book to be published by Focus on the Family.
This section is designed to paint me as a disgruntled former employee who is simply trying to get revenge upon Gary, the victim. He is also attempting to give the reader the impression that I have emotional problems and am still dealing with "unresolved conflicts."
Gary sent out the same kind of smear letter about Eric Abel after Eric went public with his concerns over Gary's lack of integrity. Eric and Julie Abel were two of the first founders of GFI, and were on GFI's teaching tapes for many years. They worked closely with the Ezzos. However, anyone who leaves GFI with honest concerns about Gary's questionable character can expect to be smeared by him.
Now, this is the man, Mrs. Terner would have CT readers believe, Gary Ezzo secretly confided in.
This is exactly what Gary did. He secretly confided in me in the GFI conference room while the company was still in Chatsworth, California. He called me into the conference room, asked me to close the door, and put a finger to his lips in a "hush-hush" gesture. It was clear that he wanted to discuss something confidential. Our graphic artist, just outside of the conference room attended John MacArthur's church.
In regards to the article, we really do not know whose version is being told, Frank's or Kathleen's. Here are the facts. While there is some truth to Mrs. Terner's statement, there was nothing clandestine about our inquiry, as she suggested. There was not just one conversation with Frank but many relating to why GFI will not use nonprofit labor to assist in writing any of our books. We did discuss the illegalities of a principal agent of a nonprofit, such as a pastor/teacher/radio personality, taking advantage of nonprofit donations for his personal gain. We had similar conversations with other staff members. The general discussion centered on whether nonprofit employees can legally work on personal book projects that eventually pay enormous royalties back to the pastor teacher each year and not the nonprofit? Can nonprofit labor be legally used this way?
Again, Gary is making misleading statements about this event in the GFI conference room. Gary told me that John MacArthur was engaged in a practice he thought violated IRS code. Gary knew that I had worked with a nonprofit attorney on IRS issues while at Focus so he asked me if I could get an attorney to give him a legal opinion about MacArthur's alleged practice. I told him I could contact my attorney friend. I also stated up front that this attorney charges around $200 an hour, but Gary said that was okay.
At no time did Gary think he was getting "free" legal advice from a high-powered Washington, D.C. attorney. Gary asked me to get this legal opinion on my own. He also said he wanted me to have the lawyer send the invoice to my home address, not to the GFI office. He said he would then reimburse me after I was billed by the attorney. I kept a copy of my check to the attorney and a copy of Anne Marie's check when I was reimbursed.
After I received this legal opinion, Gary said I'd failed to get all of the information he'd requested. He said he also wanted the address of the IRS office in the district where MacArthur's church was located. I then sent another email to the attorney asking him for the IRS address in the San Fernando Valley. I kept records of these exchanges.
The context of these questions came at a time when such things were being discussed by former Grace Church and Christian Research Institute (CRI) insiders. The question was and still is legitimate. We have no reason to back away from those conversations. What Mrs. Terner is attempting to now do is call into question our private legitimate concerns, as if we were wrong to have them. In so doing she has now unwittingly created a new public awareness of a practice that was only part of a private conversation. In one sense we are relieved that the question is now in the open so we do not have to side step it anymore.
Mr. York explained that from his experience, the hypothetical above was illegal. He volunteered that he had an attorney friend he could ask that specialized in such things. We could have asked one of our attorneys if we really wanted to know, but quite frankly, "free" sounded pretty good. (It turned out the attorney was not free. He did send Frank [a] small bill for his services that we ended up paying.)
As I stated in my previous comment, Gary understood from the beginning that he was going to be paying for this legal opinion. He is lying when he says he expected it to be free, but later found out he was being charged for it. Why would he tell me he would reimburse me for the cost of the legal opinion if he thought it was free? And why would he ask me to have the invoice sent to my home if he thought the advice was free? If something is free, you don't pay for it. Why was I asked to do this on my own and have the invoice sent to my home? It was to conceal Gary's involvement in a plan to turn John MacArthur over the IRS.
We do not know where this issue will lead in the future, but at no time in the past was this matter ever reported to the IRS by us or anyone we know, nor did we ask Mr. York to "obtain legal information to report Grace Community's MacArthur to the IRS." The statement is silly. If we had any intent or desire to do such a thing, we only had to pick up the phone and call the IRS ourselves. We did not need Mr. York or an attorney's opinion to help us figure that out.
Gary says he never reported John MacArthur to the IRS. This may be true, but he was certainly thinking about it and was doing everything he could to hide his involvement in the plan. He was using me as a conduit to conceal his involvement.
Before the Father of all glory, our conscience bears witness that we have attempted to conduct ourselves honorably before the Lord and men in all matters. We have spoken honestly. We are not the aggressors, or false accusers in the marketplace. We submitted ourselves to outside accountability. With both of our former ministry partners, we strove to fulfill Romans 14:19, "Let us therefore do everything that leads to peace and to mutual edification." In the past, we have written letters to both sets of elders seeking forgiveness if in any way we may have done something to offend them.
There is not much more we can do, except rest in the Lord and move on. But what about the church at large? Who will stand up and say "enough is enough" with this type of journalism and rumor muggering [sic]? Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond.
This sounds like a prayer to the Lord, but it is actually just another commentary designed to portray himself as a Godly Christian leader who is being victimized by false accusers and aggressors who are determined to destroy him.
One can only wonder how a man who has been publicly rebuked by the leaders of two churches in recent years for his deceit, slanders, and lack of character, can still claim to have a clear conscience.
At the beginning of Gary's response to the Christianity Today article, he makes the following comment:
What is the Christian response to false accusations? This is not an easy question to answer for several reasons. First and foremost, one wrestles with the potential negative impact of a defense on the name of Christ. Yet, being falsely accused is a serious matter in the eyes of God. If a child of God is doing God's work, then the false accusers, in effect, attack God."
This statement should be carefully analyzed by anyone who wishes to know the truth about Gary Ezzo. Read what he is saying. He is claiming that: 1. He is a child of God doing God's work; 2. That those who are falsely accusing this child of God are actually attacking God.
In other words, anyone who criticizes Gary Ezzo is actually "falsely accusing" him and is attacking God.
In the first place, those who have written about Gary Ezzo (myself included) are not "falsely accusing" him. We are telling the truth about his lies, deceptions, and attempts to destroy those who criticize him. Second, he is guilty of bad logic. By refusing to acknowledge the truth of the charges against him, he is claiming that those who are critical of him are guilty of attacking God. To criticize Gary Ezzo is not to attack God.
Those who wish to continue being deceived by Gary will do so. Those who can discern the truth, however, will be set free from the strange hold he has over people and churches.
It is my prayer that God's truth will ultimately prevail in this controversy.