James MacDonald Sues Harvest Bible Chapel Critics for Libel

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James MacDonald Sues Harvest Bible Chapel Critics for Libel

The authors of a longtime watchdog blog and Julie Roys, who was reporting on the church, face defamation claims.

Pastor James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel filed a lawsuit this month against two ex-members and former Moody Radio host Julie Roys, accusing them of spreading false information about the Chicago-area megachurch’s financial health and leadership.

The main targets of the church’s defamation complaint are Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant, who together run the blog The Elephant’s Debt. The site has culled stories of alleged mismanagement at Harvest since 2012, including claims of as much as $70 million in mortgage debt and a lack of accountability from its elder board.

Harvest has addressed some of the criticisms. MacDonald, its founder and senior pastor, apologized in 2014 to a trio of former elders who were disciplined for speaking out about a “culture of fear and intimidation.”

But the church challenges the blog’s characterizations of its financial standing and MacDonald’s character, wealth, and leadership. The lawsuit lists more than 57 points of disagreement with details published on The Elephant’s Debt.

Leaders at Harvest said the blog harmed its reputation enough that 2,000 people left the congregation in 2013. The multi-site church numbers 13,000 attendees across seven locations, making it one of the biggest in Illinois.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/october/james-macdonald-harvest-bible-chapel-sue-elephants-debt-jul.html

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This here what now follows below, is a quote taken off of the blog run by critics that are being sued by James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel

Quote :

The Power

From the earliest days of Harvest Bible Chapel, the church was governed by the consensus of the elders.  When a motion was put on the table, it was considered necessary for all members of the board to approve of the motion for it to carry forward.  If one individual dissented, the motion was tabled for future discussion.  When the time came for reconsideration, if the objecting elder had not come around to a place of agreement or a willingness to lay aside their objections, the board would not move forward.  Thus, every decision of the elder board was arrived at by the practice of consensus.

By 2007, as a direct result of the unprecedented debt that had been accumulated under the leadership of James MacDonald, there were significant and routine conflicts occurring between MacDonald and the elder board.  These meetings culminated in a particularly tumultuous confrontation which reportedly functioned as an ultimatum by the elders on MacDonald’s leadership.  At the climax of this meeting, the Senior Pastor of HBC reportedly said something to the effect of:

“If you want to remove me, you’re going to have to sue me to get me out of here.  And gentlemen, I have two things you don’t have: control of the pulpit and the control of the money.  So good luck.”

Following this meeting, further attempts to peaceably govern alongside MacDonald were made internally.  When these attempts failed, in the eyes of some, elders began the arduous process of disentangling themselves from this ministry.

Even as these events were still unfolding, MacDonald was changing his thinking on elders.  At a meeting with Harvest Bible Fellowship pastors in the fall of 2009, James MacDonald unveiled his new thinking on how power ought to be distributed in a church.  What follows is an account of that meeting, which has been verified by four additional men who were present at the “poolside chat.”

In the summer of 2010 [Editor: one account suggests that this meeting may have occurred in the Fall of 2009], every Senior Pastor of an HBF church was invited to come to Chicago and help James story-board his newest book, Vertical Church.  There were approximately 30 HBF pastors in attendance.

The HBF pastors were invited to James’ home for pizza and fellowship one evening. The pastors gathered outside James’ Inverness home around his pool for a Q & A time with James.  The matter of elders and leadership in the church became the topic of conversation.

One of the pastors asked James something along the lines of, “James, you have always taught us to keep a small, nimble elder board that can respond quickly to opportunities as they arise. You have recently told us that you are significantly increasing the size of your Elder board. Would you please explain to us why you have done this, especially since it is seems to be a change from what you’ve been saying all these years?”

James then proceeded to give his explanation.  He said that he had learned many things over the years about elders and leadership in the church, wishing he had learned these lessons years ago.  He went on to reveal his opinions about leadership and power in the church, and in particular, who controls the church.

He continued by saying that the elders and the senior pastor share a pie, representing authority and influence in the church. He explained that the senior pastor, by virtue of his calling, gifting, and role in the church, ought to possess, right off the bat, 50% of this pie.  The pastor controls the pulpit, is the most vocal member of the elder board, and also has the most on the line as the primary leader of the church.  He said that this leaves 50% of the pie to be divided by the remaining elders.

Here is where it became more disturbing.  James said that Harvest had grown so much that he had come to realize a small group of elders can’t handle this responsibility anymore.  James continued, saying that in order to protect Harvest from an elder who goes “sideways,” doing great damage to our body, he needed to lessen the elder’s influence.  He stated that the way he was going to lessen the influence of the Harvest Elder Board was to increase the size of the Elder board, thus giving each member of the board a smaller piece of the pie.

At that point, one pastor decided to brave a question.  Senior Pastor Rob Willey of Harvest Bible Chapel – Davenport, IA, asked a question along these lines, “But James, this is so different than what you’ve always taught us. This is a profound change. Do you realize what you are saying to us here?  Senior pastors need accountability and dividing up the power makes it more difficult for them to hold us accountable.”

James began to dress down Rob in front of all of the HBF pastors in attendance.  He retorted to Rob that he would eventually have an elder go “sideways” on him in the future, and that Rob would come back to James, admitting that James was right.

Rob and James continued to go back and forth for another minute or two.   Eventually, James was quite angry and yelled at Rob, telling him he had no idea what he was saying!  James continued by saying that he had a great relationship with his elders, but they can go “sideways” on you.  Sadly, he never took into account the greater damage that takes place when the main, lead, senior, 50%-of-the-pie-elder goes “sideways.”

Later that same year, during Harvest University, [MacDonald] met with all the senior pastors and their wives during the annual dinner.  At that time, James addressed them regarding a number of issues, but one issue stood out in particular: his vision for the new direction of Harvest and Harvest church plants.  He stated that HBF had been a movement of Pastors and Elders, but HBF was going to change.  Going forward, HBF was to become a movement of senior pastors. He further added that they needed elders, but the elders will never understand “our” role and the tremendous weight that is on pastors.  I wonder if his current elder board is even aware of their “true” role as defined by MacDonald.

These stories, as reported, speak to the issue of power.  In our opinion, it would appear that MacDonald has intentionally structured the current elder board in such a way as to minimize their ability to effectively govern and assert control over the direction of the church, thus further consolidating the control of the congregation into his own hands.  Whereas a group of 8-10 elders used to meet on a weekly basis, the newly constituted elder board of over 30 members meets on a quarterly basis.  Additionally, instead of being involved in the details of ministry life at HBC, the elders are now “flying 35,000 feet” above the ministry, which in our opinion, is too far removed to provide sufficient oversight on MacDonald.  In our opinion, true accountability has been cashed in for a facade, which masks his virtually unchecked, autonomous control over Harvest Bible Chapel.

During the writing of this blog, MacDonald had the Elder Board restructured to include a greater number of Elders. And, the Elders assured the congregation that there would be greater transparency and accountability going forward. Was the Elder Board able to keep its assurances?

Executive Summary

end quote (you can read more, through the link above “Executive Summary” )

Oh and for interest sake, make sure to check out this blog page here https://theelephantsdebt.com/the-documents/too .Take special note of the pledge to downsize into a smaller home, and then the large mansion of what the leader evidently now lives in

From this

 

to this

So much for pledge to “downsize” then huh

It shouldn’t happen like this right ?. Religion is not supposed to be used misused as being like some “get-rich-quick” “pyramid scheme” ?

These faith groups are unregulated . There is little accountability . Our governments are in effect funding religious dictatorships . More or less equal to religious mafia . Without thinking twice about the harm it then in turn helps cause to the lives of a number of people

That’s wrong ?

Our Governments are like puppets. They are overpowered by organized religion

I know that there are number ex members of exclusive brethren who still help actively support organized religious groups.

They need to ask themselves this question. If time ever arrives, that perhaps the exclusive brethren mafia might decide to sue themselves, in the similar same way like what they are already attempting to sue Ian McKay right now, then where will those organized religious groups be then ,when the financial support will be needed from them?

Hell ,truth be known ,those organized cashed-up religious groups wont even care to offer-up verbal support publicly (if there is any, it will be kept secret, and so in effect amounting to something of what’s in fact still utterly worthless )

That’s how totally useless they are

Chances are ,that once again , the weight of the litigation will be thrown on the shoulder of a few rag tag cult survivors . A number of whom already struggle to make ends meet week by week anyway

Not that the organized Christian groups will ever care to give a damn about that though . They will be far more concerned with seeding more churches, or converting more and more people

Christians are irresponsible people

They never care to take any responsibility for harm caused to people through religion

They don’t

 

They wont lose any of their own sleep at night .

Right?

Most will sleep blissfully , bathed in their own thoughts of how wonderful they feel about themselves for helping to convert more people

They are so useless

That faith abuses are now spread right across the world ,and yet meanwhile there is still no very little attention being paid to the huge mess that has amounted

No very little attention is being paid to it

So little attention, that in fact its hardly even worthwhile us even bothering with mentioning anything about it

Why would ex members of cults continue to support organized religion ?

I figure they must be stupid

Be kind of similar, to escaped Jews feeling content with still continuing to support the Nazi organization after having escaped from within it

Who in their right mind would happily support a organization of what also offers no support to help set more captives free?. Offers no support to help attend to harm in any “meaningful way” so that harm might in fact at some stage cease to occur

 

About ExEB

I'm a agnostic/atheist . Interested in learning more about science. I also am an "ex-member" of a group most publicly known within modern times, as the Exclusive Brethren. Whom are an off-shoot of the original Plymouth Brethren group. I'd say it likely my personality could possibly be described as quirky.You know ,as in being , unconventional , unorthodox , unusual, off-centre, strange, bizarre, weird, peculiar, odd, freakish, outlandish, offbeat, out of the ordinary, bohemian, alternative, zany I'm sure iv'e been classed as "crazy" . Many times But then, being born into a group like the exclusive brethren. Doesn't lend itself ? to tend to produce things considered as being "very normal" .Does it I escaped the Exclusive Brethren cult as a 15 year old teenager. Even since that time iv'e been trying to adjust to living life outside the cult. With much of my life being lived within the genre of "wild colonial boy" style. In the general sense of a church-rebel picking and choosing from role models who appeared within-life along the way. But as the exclusive brethren cult had traditionally maintained a general church-rule , of need to shun and totally excommunicate any ex member of their group.Treating such people as if they were dead. Thus this situation developed more to do with my need of following traditionally enforced church-rule , as apposed to it being so much about "life-choices". Certain emotional experiences, and parts of life in general, have led to me adopting a sense of low self esteem. Which is a situation i still deal with from time to time. Through my ongoing interest in science. I find i am able to gather more information to help me better understand my situation. Much about life for me, has often seemed like a massive puzzle.With many missing pieces.
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