His six-week series of sermons on “The Divine Pattern for Marriage” progressed well until the topic, “The Wife’s Priorities.” Then, California pastor John MacArthur found himself in the national spotlight, bombarded by calls from the media, including a woman talk-show host who warned before her interview went on the air, “I’m going to tear you to shreds.”

MacArthur had said that wives and mothers should not work outside the home. He believes that if a family can’t live on the earnings of the husband, then its members are living beyond their God-intended means and their priorities are out of order.

The substance of the 39-year-old pastor’s remarks fueled controversy by itself; but an apparent media error further ignited the issue. A newspaper had headlined the mistaken information that “Grace Community Church in Panorama City Fires Secretaries” in the wake of MacArthur’s comments.

“We haven’t fired anybody and the press got the story all wrong,” the popular Bible expositor said in an interview. An anonymous person, one of up to 7,000 who gather each week for services in the nondenominational church, gave a Los Angeles newspaper reporter the impression that the pastor was discriminating against women. The reporter then phoned a friend, who was the wife of an elder in the church, and that resulted in a garbled story which since has been retracted. The woman apologized in writing after the story had hit the national news networks.

MacArthur is not unused to attention. His Grace Community Chapel ranks with Robert Schuller’s Garden Grove Community Church and Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel for size and influence among evangelical churches in the Los Angeles area. He is a former college football star who frequently leads Bible studies ...

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