ABUSIVE FAITH & PRACTICE, Harvest Bible Chapel, James MacDonald, Learn to Discern

Learn and Discern: Harvest Bible Chapel – Church Discipline and Excommunication

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If you’ve been following the Elephant Room 2 spectacle with Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, you know there has been some shakeup within the elder ranks.  More drama recently unfolded.  Below, you will find the link to the video of MacDonald and four of the elders from Harvest Bible Chapel issue statements on behalf of all of the church elders and publicly excommunicate two former elders.  It’s pretty brutal.

But first . . . . . check out this excommunication scene from the movie, Becket with Richard Burton.  Maybe you can compare notes from the two videos.

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A special thanks goes to my behind-the-scenes-elf who transcribed the nearly 6-minute video.  I encourage you to watch the video.  The words are below if you’d like to read along.

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Pastor James MacDonald:  I am so thankful to be a part of this church.  This church is such a great blessing to me and our family and I just want to remind you that God has entrusted a spiritual authority to the local church and every local church has an authority under God.  We believe that the Bible that the authority of the church is vested in the elders.  And that when the elders speak collectively in agreement, they speak for God to our church.  That’s about as serious as serious gets.  Here are four of the elders in our church that have a message for us that we would do well to take heed to, so listen very carefully.  These four men are speaking on behalf of the entire elder board of our church on every campus – listen now.

From Left to Right:

My name is Paul Inserra.

My name is Steve Huston

My name is Randy Williams

My name is Jamie Harrison

Paul Inserra:    All but one member meeting is successfully behind us. We come to you today further fulfilling our pledge for greater transparency with a sad but necessary message from our entire elder board of our church.  We need to communicate with you regarding the discipline of two former elders and their combined effort with other former elders, all outside Harvest working to discredit our elder board and destroy our pastor.

Jamie Harrison:  Three elders who broke with the rest of our 30-member elder board in June have continued to spread discord through their false and unrelenting viewpoint.  It was unanimously rejected by the elders over many months and with finality in our June meeting.  They made their point, we rejected their opinions, but they refused to submit to elder consensus, choosing instead to sew discord and create division.  This is a very, very serious sin, one that we are told in Proverbs 6 that our Lord hates.

Steve Huston:  This week, the elders received a letter with 13 accusations against our pastor and his integrity,  all of which the elders have already unanimously rejected multiple times, nothing new, just a continued refusal to accept the consensus of the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel.

If these men would express even a fraction of the constant and ongoing grace and humility that we see so frequently in our pastor, they could move beyond their bitterness to healing.  Their current refusal to do so is defiling many people and that is great sin.

Randy Williams:  Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh have been notified that they are under church discipline and no longer welcomed in our church until they repent.  A copy of our board resolution regarding their conduct was given to them personally, and can be seen online under Elder Updates.  Please pray for their repentance and victory over persistent spirit of superiority and self-righteousness.

Paul Inserra:  Together these men continue to lead and seditiously promote an attack on the credibility of the church elders, our governance of church staff and the integrity of our pastor.

Jamie Harrison:  Their goal is to discredit our pastor and to divide this church and we call upon the people of the Harvest family to make sure this does not happen. This problem is not new.

As Paul said in 2nd Timothy 4, “Alexander, the coppersmith, did me great harm.  The Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him, yourself; for he strongly opposed our message.”

Steve Huston:  Church matters are not to be tried in the court of public opinion.  Publicizing viewpoints rejected by the elder majority, for any reason,  is satanic to the core and must be dealt with very directly.   Those who have no standing in a local church, but continue to assault it from outside with factious messages must be rejected according to the word of God.  We warn the people of Harvest Bible Chapel to separate themselves from these false messengers. Don’t stand in the middle, don’t seek to mediate.  Please avoid these former Harvest elders at all cost,  lest you incur great detriment to your own soul.

Randy Williams:  To be clear, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel – 30 men – who meet frequently and closely with Pastor James and know first-hand his character and conduct, want you to hear that we the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel are completely satisfied with Pastor James’ growth and grace, including the way he responded to the three dissenting elders from January through June, and sought reconciliation with former elders as directed.  Pastor James has gone out of his way repeatedly, to seek counsel, submit to consensus, and welcome and even solicit contrary opinion for the betterment of the church.  The elders of Harvest stand behind his character and integrity without reservation or ongoing concern of any kind.  Great pains have been taken to review and learn from these accusations. But there are no ongoing issues of any kind.   We are satisfied and grateful to our pastor for his Christ-like behavior.

Steve Huston:  We call upon the people of Harvest Baptist Chapel to support these actions of the elder board as biblical.  Titus 3:10-11 says, “as for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self condemned.”

Also 1st Timothy 5:20 says, “as for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, [which, is, what we are doing] so that the rest may stand in fear.”

Randy Williams:  Before honor, comes humility.  In one week, we gather in one service to celebrate God’s amazing 25-year faithfulness to this church, but God is winning a mighty victory in and around us today. Nothing is covered, nothing is unresolved, nothing is ongoing – only this attack from the enemy.  Let us examine ourselves, for unconfessed sin and seek to live in fear of the Lord,  lest bitterness overtake us.

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Ok – – so, this is a Learn and Discern post.  What do you see?  Does anything strike you as off?  Is this appropriate way to handle church discipline?

Now, I know there are a bunch of sleuths here and no doubt someone will come across a recent article from the blog, The Elephant’s Debt, telling the other side of this story.   I’ll post the link later on in the day, but I’d love to first see what you think of the video.   Can you resist the urge to find that article?  LOL  You’re on Scout’s honor.

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Related links:

Note:  I found the video on YouTube thanks to Paul Dohse and was able to embed it in this article (previously was only a link to the original video).


123 thoughts on “Learn and Discern: Harvest Bible Chapel – Church Discipline and Excommunication”

  1. “We believe that the Bible that the authority of the church is vested in the elders. And that when the elders speak collectively in agreement, they speak for God to our church.”

    The authority of God is vested in His Word, the Bible; not in a bunch of men who claim to speak for God. If what they are saying (and doing) is not absolutely in line with the Word of God, it is false at the least, and blasphemous at the worst.

    Deuteronomy 13:1-4
    “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,
    and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ — which you have not known — ‘and let us serve them,’
    you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
    You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.” (NKJV)


  2. Was it really? I saw that Paul Dohse posted it on YouTube, so I snagged it there. Originally, I didn’t even have it posted on the blog because I couldn’t get it embedded. That is ridiculous and typical pattern abusers learn from the Creepy Spiritual Abuse School (CSAS). The tactic is called “damage control,” but they are fools to think they can remove that kind of thing from the internet. I’ve got the transcript right here and it ain’t goin’ anywhere 🙂


  3. Too many comments to read, so dunno if this was called out before:

    “Publicizing viewpoints rejected by the elder majority, for any reason, is satanic to the core and must be dealt with very directly.”

    AKA “No way we’re giving you any ammunition to use against us! We’ll call it satanic and so you’ll believe our tyrannical rule.” (How I see it anyway.)


  4. Sean-Allen, Welcome! Yes, you nailed it. It’s typical bully language with a spiritual hook in it to shut people down who don’t agree with them. Basically, it’s “woe is you if you disagree with us, your God-appointed leaders.”


  5. Whatever you do DO NOT let them make you take this transcript down! I am so ticked… these men blaspheme the Lord with this behavior. Seriously.


  6. we left HBC many years ago because i was following protocol and alerted them that they were about to let someone become a member that still had serious unresolved sin in a leadership role elsewhere. i was treated horribly for doing my duty to that church because i believe they felt more highly of this person than to listen to his sin issues or me. finally one of the elders, that has since left, came to my aid. so it seems that they don’t even play by their own rules. i truly believe God whispered to us to leave HBC. i pray for james heart alllllllllll the time.


  7. Hi Alyssa, Welcome! Looks like you are new here. Thanks for your comment from your life experience. Yes, disheartening when you try your best and your efforts are rejected by those who should be listening and should know better. Sounds like you are in a much better place now.


  8. We are affected here, in Romania too, by the LEADING of James on Harvest.
    Out church, here, was part of Harvest Bible Fellowship until february 2013.
    I found out that the politics in Harvest Churches is that no matter what, the vision of the senior pastor is a MUST. If you are in “the way”, than it means that you must be removed. If you say something against the RULER, you will be silenced. It is very easy to use Scripture to motivate your speech and behavior.
    It is not clear how God gave the authority to James. Is he a kind of a POPE?
    It is hard to believe that such things are happening in Church. What kind of people are those who follow such a model?
    In the last speech in our church, instead of a sermon, the pastor spoke 45 min. about James’s life, trying to defend him and his behavior. After that he took the audio recording of that fiasco service.
    I our church, the senior pastor said that he must be treated like FIRST AMONG EQUALS. I am sure that he is no good in maths. It is painful!
    It is not enough to be a good voice, great speaker, remember, even Balaam’ ass (donkey) spoke God’s message. (Numbers 22:23)
    I think it is time to learn that in Church is not about LEADING, but is about SERVING.


  9. This style of church government is cultic. I saw this type of thing in the Worldwide Church of God. I know for a fact that many from the WCG are in this group. I have talked with people who left because of cult like control in some Harvest groups. In Canada a Fellowship Baptist Church gave over the entire building to Harvest. The pastor has to preach what Harvest (James McDonald) says. Many sound baptist churches are taking on the Harvest brand. This is not let by Jesus Christ, this is led by cool marketing and Branding. Harvest has moved it way into Heritage College & Seminary in Cambridge Ontario. See website: http://www.harvestwaterlooregion.ca/
    The growth of Harvest is not in reaching the world for Christ, but reaching
    into other flocks with slick branding and enticement. This is showing discord among brethren.


  10. “Criticize privately” means not warning those who are attracted by outer winsomeness, get pulled in and then are damaged or destroyed by the poison within. Yes, if there are wolves in sheeps’ clothing, they must be pointed out. There are churches we will not attend, in our search for a new church, because of the warnings of others we have come across in our research. Not just one dissenting voice (a disgruntled person with an ax to grind), but a chorus of agreement and personal testimonies of hurt.

    It appears that in many of these cases, a lot of private criticism has gone on, and been dismissed or ignored. Even Matthew 18 keeps expanding the circle, from private confrontation, eventually to public disclosure.

    Keeping criticism private is actually a great tool for abusers. They can keep on abusing and destroying without much, if anything, to deter them.

    Dysfunctional, destructive bodies that bear the name “church” can look so attractive from the outside. Satan, after all, is the father of lies, and can make himself appear as an angel of light.


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