UPDATE: HBC has responded to Julie Roys’ post. Without talking to Mr. Williams, they believe he didn’t mean it.
We believe that Randy Williams is not the man portrayed in the texts publicized by Julie Roys. He has never said anything to the leaders of our church in the many years we have served with him that resembles the content of the texts she published today. If Randy Williams was secretly antagonistic about the health of our collective governance, it was not known to any of us. We offer him the grace we all need in the context of regrettable words or actions. Love prompts us to believe he does regret these words. After a positive and warm lunch with Jason Acres today, Randy has not been available to us by text or phone. Based upon what is known about his love for our church and Pastor James, we believe he must have read what Julie Roys published and felt devastated. Love compels us to believe the best; if that is not the case, we will of course make it known here. Key points are below (if you’re in a hurry, read points 10-13).
Read the entire response here where current elders contest what pastors White and Borinstein wrote in their texts.
Call this the fruits of discovery.
This morning, Julie Roys, journalist and one of five defendants in Harvest Bible Chapel’s defamation lawsuit, posted emails of a current elder accusing senior pastor James MacDonald of control and manipulation. The elder and former chairman of the executive committee Randy Williams also indicated that the church had endured financial mismanagement, and governance failure. Roys reproduced the email thread on her blog.
The emails were obtained as the results of a subpoena by Roys attorney as a part of her defense in the defamation suit brought by Harvest Bible Chapel. Roys also obtained text messages from others who had concerns about the leadership of MacDonald. For instance, according to material provided by Roys, pastor of a Harvest Bible Chapel in North Indianapolis Brian White said
The problem is James. His control, his manipulation, his anger, his torching of others to protect his reputation, the wake of his irresponsible financial stewardship and direction of his organization. The continued manipulation of people and narratives. The problem is James.
In that text thread, another HBC pastor, Bill Borinstein (at the time of this writing, pastor at HBC North Phoenix) wrote:
No church would ever allow their Sr Pastor and leadership team to act over a long period of time with such a blatant lack of transparency or in a culture of fear. . . . We were told by James in a meeting that HBC paid for the systems upgrade and they were giving it to us for free (yet we were charge(d) $500K), we were never told that 10% of our funds were given to WITW (Walk in the Word), we were never told that the bylaws of our organization were changed in 2014 . . . we were never told about a 100 year lease the HBF was signatory to or that the HBF would be paying operating expenses for the training center in Croton (including staff), we were never told that designated funds for Harvest Gives were being held and not paid out… do I need to go on. . . .
I know not one pastor who cares that James lives in a $4-$5 million* dollar house, what they care about is his publicly lying about it and the lengths he went to hide it (all while he was president of our organization). Where is the integrity in that? . .
There are too many people in our fellowship who know too much, who have seen too much of James. They have seen how employees have been treated, they have been in rooms where they have been berated or seen others berated, they have heard about his blow up at HCA (Harvest Christian Academy), the blowup at the Sr pastors retreat, the blowup at our leadership meeting in downtown Chicago, they have sat in restaurants when he has dressed down servers, they have heard the stories from the many ex-employees scattered around the country, from the ex-elders who have left because they could not in good conscience stay in that culture anymore. 1 Tim 3:2 says, “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach…” You are dealing with 100+ pastors who know that passage. We are not perfect, we do not expect James to be perfect. What we have seen and experienced is not above reproach . . .”
Borinstein and White are on the board of the Great Commission Collective which is the subject of the HBC elder update in 2017 and no longer has a relationship with James MacDonald. An earlier version of this post referred to Borinstein and White as HBC elders. That is not the case. I apologize for any confusion that caused.
What Can Elders Do?
Recently, I asked HBC how a senior pastor may be removed and if it was true that removal required an unanimous vote, including James MacDonald. Sherri Smith answered, “According to page 22 of the bylaws of Harvest Bible Chapel (https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/bylaws.pdf), unanimous under Executive Committee does not include anyone under corrective who could not participate in a decision concerning themselves. The Elder Board does not need to be unanimous, just in general agreement or “consensus” that the decision is best for the church.”
Here is the relevant section:
Removal of Senior Pastor. Subject to the rights, if any, under any contract or covenants of employment with the Church, the Senior Pastor shall only be removed, by unanimous recommendation of the Executive Committee and by the consensus of the Elder Board at any general or special meeting duly noticed pursuant to Section 7.05 of these Bylaws. The Senior Pastor shall only be removed from office, subject to the terms of any employment agreement or covenants, for any of the following reasons: (i) disqualifies himself as a result of a violation of the Sexual Immorality Policy; (ii) engaging in conduct that is in opposition to the best interest of the Church; (iii) teaching doctrines inconsistent with the Bible; (iv) neglect of duties; (v) resignation; or (vi) death, long-term disability or incapacity.
I also asked for a comment or reaction from HBC to Roys’ post but they did not reply by the time I posted. I will add any responses here.
Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134