04 Personal: Issues Between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon

On This Page:

  • Seeking Integrity and Justice for Julie McMahon Regarding Emergent’s Tony Jones
  • How to Access Public Court Case Files

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August 19, 2015. UPDATE: On August 18, The Wartburg Watch posted “So Sad: Tony Jones Reportedly Sues Julie McMahon for Custody of All of the Children.” The article notes that “Tony is suing Julie for the custody of the rest of her children and is reportedly claiming that Julie is an unfit mother. This is the woman who cared for the children while Tony pursued his degree, his career and then another relationship. Julie was there for those children all of those years.” No details available at this time on related court schedule for his litigation.

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Seeking Integrity and Justice for Julie McMahon

Regarding Emergent’s Tony Jones

INTRODUCTION. I researched and wrote this executive summary, based on combining my strategic foresight skills with studies of organizational development, cultural contextualization of ministry, and indicators for measuring qualitative change through social transformation endeavors. Since 2009, I have written extensively on dynamics of spiritual abuse and toxic systems. I also participated in the beginnings of the “emerging ministry movement,” and have tracked Julie’s story since 2009 when I first saw it erupting in social media.

This summary represents my own analysis/interpretation framework for issues involved here, based on personal research. (I estimate I have spent at least 150 hours since 2009 in research, reflection, and writing about this particular situation in the larger context of profiling the emerging ministry movement and the Emergent Movement that streamed from it.)

Nearly half of the 60 or so links in this article come from online comments posted by Julie McMahon, the former wife of Tony Jones. In those comments, she typically shares two to four paragraphs of details on the topic words or phrases I have linked them with. Those comments represent her own her understanding of facts and opinions, based on her experiences and on relevant documentation she has. But the selected series of comments provides a significant hearing of her story, in her own words, in her own voice. Please note that this executive summary was reviewed by Julie McMahon before its posting and publication.

© Brad Sargent ~ January 26, 2015

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1. Summary. Julie McMahon, the former wife of Emergent ministry leader Tony Jones, has been attempting since 2009 to tell her story of what she contends are his patterns of extreme and ongoing emotional abuse of her, and spiritual manipulation of his followers to pit them against her. She is seeking:

  1. to be heard and believed as a survivor of Tony’s infidelity and abuse,
  2. to expose the hypocrisy of Tony posing as a credible role model/leader in Christian circles, and
  3. to find justice and an end to his continued abuse and manipulation of Julie and others – especially women.
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2. Biographical Information. Tony Jones has long been a public figure in Emergent / Progressive Christian ministry circles, especially since his high-level involvement in Young Leaders Network during the late 1990s and early 2000s. He served as an Emergent Village board member from 2003-2005, and its Foundation Manager-National Coordinator from 2005-2008. Tony has a reputation and resume as a progressive theologian, book author / editor, and teacher (including adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary and St. Cloud State University, and distinguished lecturer at United Seminary.) Since 2008, his JoPa Group business partnership with Doug Pagitt has offered consulting, and event facilitation, primarily within the Emergent / Progressive Christianity perspective.

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3. Issues Background. Tony filed for divorce from his wife, Julie, in August 2008. The divorce was finalized in November 2009. Hearings on custody for their three children began in April 2010. Julie was granted sole custody; Tony was granted visitation. There is documentation of physical violence against Julie by Tony, and a trail of his alleged emotional and spiritual abuse, legal system manipulation, and financial negligence. Tony put pressure on Julie to be silent, lest she “ruin his career” and make him incapable of financial support. When their story appears on social media, some of Tony’s followers defend him / Emergent aggressively to silence critics and her.

Physical abuse / violence. In August 2008, on the night Julie found out about Tony’s affair, he had been drinking and shoved her very hard, which ended up dislocating her shoulder. A police report was filed, including a witness statement from one of their children, all three of whom saw it happen. Julie did not press assault charges at the time, not wanting to see him arrested, but has since been pursuing further legal actions on this alleged assault for the sake of justice and to validate their child for the statement made to the police.

Emotional / spiritual abuse of power by Tony and his network. Julie discovered evidence of Tony’s marital infidelity near when he filed for divorce. It turned out later that, around that same time, “gaslighting” rumors were being spread among Emergent ministry circles – that Julie was “batshit crazy” and to avoid her. (However, Julie’s court-ordered psychological evaluation in May 2009 showed she did suffer symptoms from “acute distress,” but had no psychological disorders.) She contends Tony used this supposed mental illness to gain sympathy and justify divorcing her, and influenced others to provoke reactions to prove his point.

Legal system manipulation. As examples of abusing the system, Tony has filed over 35 court motions since first filing for divorce in 2008. So, in the six full years since then, Julie has had at most only six months without litigation from Tony. (Julie’s father, now deceased, spent over $500,000 to fight custody battles and court motions by Tony to reduce his child support.) Also, Tony has referred to his assumed protection under what he called “the code of the blue,” since he served as a local police chaplain and has friends on the force. And, he seems to be planning and then manipulating situations to cause Julie to have a criminal record for violating Orders for Protection and social services – thus presenting Tony as the actual victim of “abuse.”

Financial negligence. Shortly after Julie found out about Tony’s apparent affair and suffered his physical assault, she was served divorce papers. Meanwhile, Tony cancelled all their credit cards, drained their joint bank accounts, and moved to the town where his girlfriend lived. Tony then failed to obey the court order to continue paying the mortgage on the home Julie and their children lived in, which led to its foreclosure, and he paid no support. Julie and her children were penniless, homeless, and living off of her American Express credit card. Julie’s father eventually purchased a home for Julie and the children, so they had a place to live.

Tony eventually started paying child support. But when he was over $50,000 in arrears on payments, he won an appeal to the court to reduce his support, due to his income suffering from the recession. (Tony works self-employed with multiple “income streams,” but also has a $50,000 clergy housing allowance.) Julie and their children have been living below the poverty line, and on assistance like government-funded school lunches. She has pursued a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling to improve their financial well-being soon as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. Her degree program will be finished in a year and a half.

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4. Early “Eruptions” of Julie’s Story on Social Media – 2009 / 2010. As an Emergent celebrity, Tony has long enjoyed a public platform for his views, while Julie basically has had none. So, she has relied on opportunities in social media to share her story and challenge those whose support keeps Tony’s hypocrisy propped up. Her early attempts in 2009-2010 were met with public silence or deflection by Tony, and aggressive defense from his avid supporters. About a dozen blogs engaged in fast-paced threads. Some blog owners deleted Julie’s comments (whether she posted with a pseudonym or her actual name), and a few others refused to delete comments from her, Tony, or his supporters. But additional behind-the-scenes pressure was put on some bloggers to convince them there was no affair, (a planned forthcoming blog post by an insider will document first-person specifics), to delete Julie’s comments, and/or to stay out of Tony’s private life and not criticize the beauty of his new marriage.

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5. Four Years of Relative Silence. In the spring of 2010, Julie retreated from publicizing her story because custody hearings were starting. She wanted to minimize agitation and potential retaliation from Tony in court for any negative publicity from her online disclosures as a survivor and public questions they raised about his alleged pre-divorce infidelity. Tony’s potential for retaliation was strongly suggested by his court-ordered psychological evaluation, conducted February 2009 by a licensed professional, which resulted in a confirmed diagnosis of his Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Their divorce was finalized in November 2009, so then Tony was freed from Julie – whom he had called his “legal wife” – and could openly continue his apparent relationship with Courtney Perry – his true love and “spiritual wife.” Tony and Courtney “sacramentally” married July 2011, but did not “legally” marry until November 2013. They reportedly waited until marriage equality was in force in Minnesota as a way to protest unequal treatment and show solidarity with LGBT communities. Tony and Courtney married the same day as their friends Rachel and Ratchet, and Tony served as the minister to perform the legal ceremony for this couple.

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6. Renewed Efforts for Light, Truthtelling, and Justice – 2014 / 2015. Julie took up commenting more in social media again in September 2014. This was sparked mainly by a blog post Tony wrote about the demise of his Young Leaders Network-era peer Mark Driscoll, postulating how bad theology can affect any leader. A blogger named David Hayward took issue with theology as the sole source of toxic behavior. He posted a critique of Tony’s post on his NakedPastor blog, and looked at the question of “Which came first, the thug or the theology?” Tony commented on the NakedPastor thread, and Julie followed soon after. She noted Tony’s own hypocrisy in calling out bad behavior while behaving badly. This opened to Julie the unhindered opportunity for three months to share her own account of abuse she endured from Tony, his inner circle of collaborators, and his wider circle of followers. The post had 1,000+ comments, including from people who apologized for spreading rumors that they’d heard that Julie was mentally ill. (Julie also received apology emails from both inner and outer circle Emergents.)

In January 2015, Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans announced their co-curating a September 2015 event called WX15 / “Why Christian?” Facilitated by The JoPa Group, it features an all-women storying / speaking venue on: “Why, in the wake of centuries of corruption, hypocrisy, crusades, televangelists, and puppet ministries do we continue to follow Jesus? Join us for three days of courageous storytelling to answer just this question.” Almost immediately, advocates for abuse survivors and supporters of Julie began social media push-back on Nadia and Rachel, asking whether they were aware of and/or cared about Tony’s abuse of Julie, questioning the apparent ethical disconnect and hypocrisy of hiring JoPa, and wondering if Progressives were willing to call out their own when it looks like misconduct. This escalating challenge has led to wider knowledge of Julie’s narrative, contentions, and concerns about Tony through another near-thousand-comment thread on The Wartburg Watch.

It also led to greater scrutiny of Tony’s writings about “spiritual versus legal wives,” the context of his personal relationships, and his many professional partnerships and endorsers. For instance, many Emergent / Progressive leaders are JoPa clients and also Tony’s friends. They endorse and review each other’s books, participate in each other’s events, and guard each other’s celebrity reputation. For instance, rather than blog direct support for Tony or Emergent, it appears this time friends and followers instead post against debating details of a messy divorce, against being ruled by digital mobs, and against abuse AND false accusations of abuse but still being for WX15.

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7. Forthcoming Documentation. Julie McMahon has posted many specifics online of her account concerning what has happened between Emergent’s Tony Jones and herself. She also has collected much primary evidence that backs up her narrative. Efforts are underway to continue collating such material – and other online sources. This research site has been produced by “futuristguy” at: Diagnosing Emergent.

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How to Access Public Court Case Files

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Tony Jones and Julie McMahon – Register of Court Actions

The register of actions related to the Jones’ divorce case is public access information.

To locate the Register of actions for the divorce of Anthony Hawthorne Jones from Julie Anne McMahon Jones:

  1. Use this link to the home page for Minnesota court records, or use this link with the case number for their divorce proceedings. Either link takes you to the search page. (It appears you cannot link directly to the records of proceedings from their case, but must go through the search page.)
  2. Select a location: Choose –Hennepin Family as the county and court system.
  3. Click on Civil, Family & Probate Case Records.

The next page allows you to specify what record you are searching for.

  1. Select to search by Case Number.
  2. Insert this number for their case: 27-FA-08-5921.
  3. Type in the anti-bot code.
  4. Click Search. (If you happen to get the anti-bot code wrong, be sure to re-insert the case number on your next attempt.)
  5. That will take you to a page with links that have that case number.
  6. Click the link for Anthony Hawthorne Jones and Julie Anne McMahon Jones.
  7. That link takes you to the cumulative register of actions and court-related payments.

September 09, 2008. The official filing date registered for Tony Jones’ petition for dissolution of marriage.

November 17, 2009. The date the dissolution was officially granted.

NOTES. In the version of the Case Register accessed January 22, 2010, the Lead Attorney listed for Tony Jones is “Pro Se,” meaning that he was representing himself at that time. The version of the Register accessed July 1, 2014, notes his Lead Attorney as M. Sue Wilson. It appears that she did not come into the picture until sometime in 2011.

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Unpublished Appellate Court Ruling

March 03, 2014. Appellate Court Ruling on an issue related to clerical error in Tony Jones’ monthly child support amount.

To reach this public access information:

  1. Link to Minnesota Court of Appeals Decisions 2014.
  2. Search for case number A13-482
  3. Click on the line that gives the abbreviated title: In re the Marriage of: Anthony Hawthorne Jones, petitioner …
  4. This takes you to a page with the unpublished court ruling in a window where you will see the full title at the top of the page: In re the Marriage of: Anthony Hawthorne Jones, petitioner, Respondent, vs. Julie Anne McMahon Jones, Appellant.
  5. There is also a download button link for a PDF file of the Court’s decision.
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Christopher Hamilton and Courtney Perry – Divorce Records

January 8, 2009. The divorce of Christopher Hamilton and Courtney L. (Perry) Hamilton was finalized.

To locate basic public information about the divorce:

  1. Go to Texas Divorce Records.
  2. In the Search Divorce Records section, type in Courtney Hamilton. (If you search for Christopher Hamilton, there is a far longer list to look through.)
  3. Click on the line that says Courtney L and Christopher A Hamilton, divorced 01/08/2009 in Dallas County.
  4. This will bring up the basic facts about their names, marriage, and divorce.

SITE NOTES. The Texas Divorce Records site states the following about obtaining official copies: “The Report of Divorces Indexes are not themselves legal documents and are meant only as an aid in the locating the official divorce records. These records reside with the County in which they were filed and can be obtained from the District Clerk of that county.”

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2 thoughts on “04 Personal: Issues Between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon

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