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David Platt’s Church Sued Again by Members Seeking New Leadership

Months after a lawsuit against leaders of McLean Bible Church was dismissed, the Washington, D.C.-area megachurch is facing more allegations—again brought by members. Six congregants accuse church leaders of breach of contract and retaliation against people who try to investigate expenditures.

Since 2017, McLean has been led by Pastor David Platt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Board. The multi-site church’s constitution states that the body is to remain independent, unaffiliated with any denomination.

According to the lawsuit, McLean and Platt aren’t being transparent about ties and donations to the SBC. A church statement indicates the lawsuit is merely another attempt to oust current leadership. A previous lawsuit, dismissed in June, alleged that McLean leaders violated the church constitution through its handling of a 2021 elder election.

Plaintiffs Allege Improper Ties and Donations to SBC

The new lawsuit, filed in Virginia, lists reasons the plaintiffs believe McLean Bible Church has joined the SBC, against constitutional mandates. These include the church receiving an ID number from the denomination and allegedly giving “millions of dollars” to the SBC and its church-planting network.

Any inquiries about McLean’s SBC ties and donations are rebuffed and met with church discipline, according to plaintiffs. The new lawsuit cites several fact-finding attempts—one of which resulted in a criminal trespass charge. Other members who have tracked attendance and asked questions about financial issues received “a Matthew 18 Restoration” letter from McLean leaders.

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“Plaintiffs made offerings to the Church, with the binding assurance that these funds would go to the Church’s independent promotion of faith unrelated to other denominational organizations,” reads the lawsuit. “This misuse of Plaintiffs’ charitable donations, in violation of the Constitution, is a breach of the contract between the Church and Plaintiffs. The only remedy is to fully disclose this information to the membership of the Church so that they can review the information and make, as needed, any necessary changes to the Church and its leadership.”

On a Facebook page titled “Save McLean Bible Church,” posts emphasize that the goal is transparency and that more than just a few members are unhappy. Some comments note a major attendance drop since Platt became pastor; others accuse him of leftward drift and “authoritarian” management.

McLean Leaders Are ‘Grieved’ by More Legal Action

In a statement, McLean leaders say these plaintiffs are again trying to “overturn the church’s continued and overwhelming affirmation to move forward under new leadership.” The church says “every one of these prior complaints [has] been dismissed with prejudice” and “just as before, we will respond to the suit as a unified church committed to our future direction.”

McLean leaders, the statement continues, are “grieved that our brothers and sisters are still choosing to file lawsuits rather than meet with us [and] our prayer is that we are soon nearing a day where this kind of thing is behind us for good.”

In a 2021 letter to the church’s board chairman, SBC executive C. Ashley Clayton clarified McLean’s “relationship status” with the denomination. The SBC considers McLean a “partnering” church, not a “member” church, he wrote, adding that McLean has an SBC ID number “purely for the sake of accounting purposes as [McLean] partners together with SBC entities on mission.”

This article was originally published by ChurchLeaders.com.

Main photo: David Platt preaches on Dec. 4, 2022. Screenshot from YouTube / @McLean Bible Church

Stephanie Martin

Stephanie Martin, a freelance writer and editor in Denver, has spent her entire 30-year journalism career in Christian publishing.