Harvest Bible Chapel Responds to Our Criticism of their Lawsuit Against The Elephant's Debt Blog and Reporter Julie Roys
December 3, 2018
Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) released a statement, which can be found below, apparently in response to MinistryWatch’s and other press outlets questioning their motives for pursuing a lawsuit against the Elephant's Debt blog and reporter Julie Roys. HBC covered two issues in its statement but did not respond to many of the issues raised in our original article. While MinistryWatch has requested an opportunity to ask questions of HBC and perhaps thereby resolve some of our questions, HBC has thus far chosen to respond via this statement only, which unfortunately leaves many questions unanswered. Moreover, it leaves the impression HBC only wants to address the issues it feels it has good answers for.
Unfortunately, even the answers it gives are not fully satisfactory. The first question HBC addresses is why they are suing now. MinistryWatch’s contention is the timing of bringing a lawsuit now seems very odd and therefore was perhaps an attempt to threaten and/or financially intimidate the Elephants Debt bloggers and particularly Julie Roys, who is known to be putting together an article about other possible misdeeds at HBC. HBC’s response about the long time frames involved is hardly convincing and they also claim those being sued can be considered "unbelievers" since they failed to engage in a Matthew 18 reconciliation process with HBC. Unfortunately, we have been unable to determine how much effort the parties on either side of this disagreement made in seeking such reconciliation, so we can’t say for sure if HBC has a credible excuse for suing a fellow Christian. Moreover, while it may be convenient for HBC to count them as "unbelievers", they clearly are Christians. In light of this, Paul’s advice of, "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?", would seem to be the best advice for HBC to follow.
The second question HBC addressed was why they also sued Julie Roys and whether this indicated they were trying to suppress her forthcoming story from becoming public. HBC’s answer to this question is also unsatisfactory. Julie Roys is a member of the Christian press who is seeking answers from HBC about something, evidently financial misdeeds based on the HBC statement, which HBC evidently believes they do not need to address in public. Roys has every right to pursue alleged misdeeds at HBC and, should she actually uncover any, will have been a blessing to those who may have financially supported HBC and its various entities, as well as the organization itself should it respond by making appropriate changes. If HBC has nothing to hide, as their statement claims, it is certainly strange they have preemptively sued Roys in a case that they must already know would certainly never be upheld in court. They claim Roys is stirring up gossip and sowing discord, among other charges. If so, that will come to light in the course of time and HBC will be vindicated. The fact HBC has preemptively sued Roys, before any article has been written by her, leaves the strong impression HBC already knows what she is investigating and feels they cannot rebut it well in an open forum. HBC’s actions seem like a pretty desperate attempt to prevent Roys story from being published as they really have little or no hope of finding a court to protect them from the article being published.
At this point, absent any additional information coming forth from the various parties to the lawsuit, drawing any additional conclusions will need to wait until the Roys article is published in World magazine. We feel very confident is stating that World will not allow any charges to be brought against HBC that were not adequately substantiated with evidence. Once we know what info Roys might have that has led HBC to act as it has, we will be better able to evaluate both it and whatever response HBC offers to it. Stay tuned.
Here is the full statement from HBC:
ANSWERS TO TWO MEDIA QUESTIONS
November 30, 2018
Q. "Why did we proceed with the lawsuit now, given that the attack bloggers had not published since December 2017?"
A. As of June 2017, the attack bloggers had not published since January of 2014 due to a period of relative peace in our church. Then, as we were concluding a difficult process of separation from leading HBF and all the churches we had planted, the attack bloggers began to publish in earnest doing great damage through outright falsehoods. This, after more than four years of silence and with significant detrimental impact upon treasured relationships in our own church and among our church plants.
So after sixteen months of reflection and consultation among Christian leaders outside our church family, we decided to move past self-examination and the many changes we had made and take action to protect our church family. We agreed that the bloggers refusal to come under Matthew 18’s prescription for conflict resolution among believers, freed us to "treat them as a non-believer" (Matthew 18:17) and seek the legal protection afforded us in the civil authorities "ordained by God for the punishment of wrongdoers" (Romans 13:1-6).
Q. "Why have we involved Julie Roys, and was it to suppress a story she was working on about Harvest in matters we feared becoming public?"
A. It was not the fact of a story about Harvest that concerned us, as we have nothing to hide or anything we would be concerned if it were made public. By policy, there are a few matters the Elders keep private to protect the church or to conform to Illinois employment law; however, there is nothing secretive between or among the Senior Staff and Elders of the church.
The issue with Julie Roys is her lack of objectivity and how she came to focus on Harvest Bible Chapel, a church she has never participated in. Our awareness of her attempts to stir up gossip, sow discord, inflame old animosities, and confront sensitive matters with specific church families in order to discredit the church led us to include her in the lawsuit.
Following a recorded interview we gave to World Magazine to answer several old issues Julie raised, she turned her attention to financial accusations. We were contacted by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s (ECFA) President Dan Busby, related to a series of questions she brought them. ECFA has informed her that Harvest is an ECFA member in good standing. We invited ECFA to do an onsite visit on December 10. We anticipate no issues once our best practice financial records are again independently verified as meeting all ECFA standards. The last time ECFA came to review our financial records they commented, "Never have we seen such a gap between what we were told about a church and what is actually true." We anticipate the same result, but no longer believe patience will stop this time wasting and injurious assault upon the integrity of our church. We remain committed as a church to the biblical teaching on conflict resolution and forgiveness between believers. If any or all of the defendants agreed to cease their interference and leave the governance of our church to the Elders that God has raised up, we would drop them from this suit immediately. However, we are willing to go the distance in seeking a legal remedy because we believe these actions serve notice that we will not hesitate to protect Harvest Bible Chapel from malicious efforts to discredit our church and its leaders.