Why did Harvest Bible Go After The Elephant’s Debt Now? What was Julie Roys Going to Break Through World Magazine that James MacDonald is Desperate to Silence?

Why did James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel go after The Elephant’s Debt now? Why after all that the blog has broken about MacDonald’s church network? The key to the story is actually Julie Roys. The question people need to ask is what was Julie Roys going to break through World Magazine? And why was James MacDonald so desperate to stop it? That is what today’s post at The Wondering Eagle considers. 

“Desperation can make a person do surprising things.”

Veronica Roth 

“Desperation is like stealing from the Mafia: you stand a good chance of attracting the wrong attention.”

Douglas Horton 

When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers[a]! 2 Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? 3 Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. 4 If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? 5 I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? 6 But instead, one believer[b] sues another—right in front of unbelievers!

1 Corinthians 6:1-6 NLT 

 

I was deeply puzzled as to why James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel chose to go after The Elephant’s Debt now. It struck me as odd. I have written a couple of other articles analyzing Harvest Bible Chapel. You can read about the lawsuit commencing in, “James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel Goes After The Elephant’s Debt Blog Accusing it of Defamation in a Lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, Illinois.” Plus you can read the actual lawsuit in, “James MacDonald vs. The Elephant’s Debt Lawsuit.” This blog was given permission to publish that lawsuit, but The Elephant’s Debt requested that I redact the personal addresses which was done.

 

Why a Lawsuit Now? 

The lawsuit against The Elephant’s Debt was filed in Cook County Circuit Court on October 16, 2018. The timing of the lawsuit seemed odd. The Elephant’s Debt has been around since October of 2012. It has broken several stories over that time frame. It has had former Harvest Bible Chapel members and leaders issue statements through The Elephant’s Debt. This has been ongoing for years so why would all this come to a head now? And what are James MacDonald’s motivation for a lawsuit? In this situation I think The Elephant’s Debt would play a key role in a possible developing story about Harvest Bible Chapel. The Elephant’s Debt is the primary critic of James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, For the last several years, (with the exception of the long pause when they stopped writing for a while) The Elephant’s Debt has been a challenge to James MacDonald. As a narcissist and control freak that has to get under the skin of MacDonald but I think something else was about to develop and The Elephant’s Debt which discusses the issues in Harvest Bible Chapel would have written about it after the story broke. The key person in this situation as I see it is Julie Roys. The actual question that needs to be asked is what was Julie about to break that James MacDonald wanted to keep people from knowing?  Before we look at that let me do an overview of Julie Roys. 

 

Who is Julie Roys? 

Julie Roys is a Christian reporter. She graduated from Wheaton College and also attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Julie recently publishedRedeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood.The forward to the book was written by Kay Arthur. Julie has published many articles at Christianity Today, World Magazine. Religion News Service, The Federalist, and The Christian Post. You can see some examples of some of the articles she published here, here, here, and here. And those are but a small selection of the many articles and op-eds that she has penned. Julie hosted a live, call-in talk radio show on the Moody Radio Network that was called Up For Debate. She was known for being a whistle blower at Moody which you can read her rationale right here. For calling out the issues at Moody she apparently lost her job. Julie Roys also has an active website and blog you can read here.  Julie and her husband live in the Chicago area and they have three children.

 

What Was Going to be Broken Through Julie Roys at World Magazine? 

I was reading the lawsuit when someone communicated a section of the lawsuit to me through Twitter. In order to understand what happened with Julie Roys and The Elephant’s Debt pay close attention to sections 129 through 131 of the lawsuit. I have them reproduced below and I underlined the key sections. 

129.  On or about October 5, 2018, Plaintiffs sent Defendant Roys a gracious e-mail invitation to meet with the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel and discuss her desire to publish a story about Harvest Bible Chapel. Defendant Roys refused to meet. 

130. On or about October 11, 2018, Defendant Roys contacted former Harvest Bible Chapel employee, Joel Smith, and demanded that he turn over video footage with the intent to further gain an unfair competitive advantage. 

131. On October 12, 2018 Defendant Roys contacted Plaintiffs’ employee Sharon Kostal through a voicemail, informing her of a pending story that she was writing for World Magazine and requesting to schedule interviews with current staff members of Plaintiffs. Sharon Kostal returned Defendant Roys phone call within two hours, offering to assist and asking for names of those to be interviewed. Sharon Kostal also sent Defendant Roys a text message affirming the same details. Defendant Roys did not respond for 24 hours, then texted with a request to communicate via e-mail. 

So here is what happened, Julie Roys was working on an article about Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald for World Magazine. MacDonald feared this article coming out and wanted it killed. Keep in mind James MacDonald’s history. James was close to Mark Driscoll at one point and sat on Mars Hill’s Seattle Board of Advisers and Accountability.  As Mars Hill Seattle was imploding MacDonald resigned in July of 2014. You can read Warren Throckmorton’s article about it here. If you recall World Magazine played a role in toppling Mark Driscoll and bringing his empire to a close. Warren Cole Smith in an article for World Magazine revealed some of the shady financial activity of Mark Driscoll in March of 2014. In Cole’s article he detailed how Mars Hill Seattle paid a California based marketing company called RSI at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 to guarantee that Driscoll’s “Real Marriage” would make the New York Times best seller list. World magazine obtained the documentation to show the contract RSI had with Mars Hill. In the contract RSI agreed, “to conduct a bestseller campaign for your book, Real Marriage on the week of January 2, 2012. The bestseller campaign is intended to place Real Marriage on The New York Times bestseller list for the Advice How-To list.” Keep in mind that James MacDonald saw the effect that this article had on Mars Hill and the questions about both finances and Mark Driscoll’s legitimacy that were raised by the article. You can read that World magazine article right here.  With everything that has come out about Harvest Bible Chapel James MacDonald feared a similar article that would both threaten his legitimacy which was already been questioned by The Elephant’s Debt and others. Its this blogs belief that James MacDonald knew that an article in World magazine would have been devastating to Harvest Bible Chapel and he knew that The Elephant’s Debt would have written some more about the article. The lawsuit is an attempt by James MacDonald to silence his critics. In other words…his ministry is slowly collapsing and MacDonald is desperately trying to keep alive the empire that he has built. The lawsuit is an act of a desperate man. 

 

Matt Boedy’s Thoughts on Defamation and the Harvest Bible Chapel Lawsuit 

A while back I told Matt Boedy’s story involving an Acts 29/ Evangelical Free in Columbia, South Carolina called Riverside Community Church. You can read that article in, “Disturbing Allegations of Spiritual Abuse at James Walden’s Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina.” Matt has done journalism in the past and is a professor in a college in the south. I asked him if I could get his thoughts on the lawsuit by Harvest Bible Chapel.  First there are two good websites that look at defamation law in Illinois. You can read those here and here.  Matt read over the lawsuit and these are his thoughts. 

The basic defenses to defamation are one told the truth (showing the underlying facts are true) and what is called “opinion and fair comment privilege,” a privilege allowed in Illinois. In short, if Elephant Debt can prove that its numbers are correct and are therefore rightly go against what the church has publicly stated, a judge would toss the case. So of the 100 or so statements by the ED that the church lists in its filing, if they involve numbers, then ED should be able to prove them to at least be “substantially true.”
ED has said the church owed $70 million. On that note, McDonald in his note to church members about the lawsuit admits to 66 million in debt. BTW McDonald’s argument for suing as a church includes “fake news” and the desire to defend the “body of Christ.” I laughed. 

 

And this is where your assertion that this was a mistake by McDonald has some power. Now ED with the court’s permission can get access to bank records and such to prove their numbers if they didn’t have a good idea to begin with. They can take depositions of many and get many people on the record. 
Second, on opinion and fair comment, in these cases, the claim that the plaintiff is public figure becomes important. McDonald is clearly a public figure, not a private individual as defined by law. So he would have to prove “actual malice” by the ED. That they knowingly published false info. That is a huge bar to cross and most don’t get anywhere near it. I suspect McDonald won’t either. 
The many of the 100 statements listed in the filing suggest the ED in quoting former employees or elders ignored the “more important” opinion of current elders can be defended with this opinion privilege, as long they have facts to back up their opinion. 
McDonald and Harvest’s filing read like a business being hurt, and they use some interesting legal theory to get around the obvious First Amendment stuff. The lawsuit claims that the church’s “business” of evangelizing and getting donations have been hurt by these posts. I  would love to see them prove that, though they say a loss of 2500 members. And we are not talking a dollar less in donations but a substantial loss directly related to the blog. A megachurch losing 2500 people – that’s small potatoes, to me. 
I cant speak to the other defendant, the journalist. But the blog itself can act as a journalism entity as well. 
In short imagine the standards of journalism being applied to the blog – and it looks like they have good sources – and then the church trying to sue the Chicago Tribune. Tough case to make. 
In short this looks like a vindictive lawsuit by a guy who wants to shut up his critics. There may be a claim or two where ED can’t defend with truth and the people it let opine don’t have all the substance needed. But I don’t see this lawsuit being successful. 

 

Closing Thoughts

It is my belief that this lawsuit will backfire. James MacDonald has drawn more attention to himself and The Elephant’s Debt by his behavior. This is an effort to silence his critics and in the end that too will fail. MacDonald is creating more enemies by this behavior and illustrates why he should not be a pastor and why he is a fraud. Empires don’t collapse in a day they take time to decline. If you study history and look at the French, Ottoman, and many others they decline in the course of time. Harvest Bible Chapel is an empire also, and its on the decline and coming apart. This lawsuit validates that claim. Its my belief that The Elephant’s Debt and Julie Roys will come out on top. This will be stressful but I don’t believe that The Elephant’s Debt committed defamation. James MacDonald is a public figure and criticism goes along with the territory. My next article about Harvest Bible Chapel will explain why people need to leave the network. Why its time to walk away and vote with your feet. Until next time please know that you are loved. 

9 thoughts on “Why did Harvest Bible Go After The Elephant’s Debt Now? What was Julie Roys Going to Break Through World Magazine that James MacDonald is Desperate to Silence?

  1. The short answer to your question is yes.

    My current theory is that, among other things Ms. Roys was investigating, was the criminal activity and firing of a former youth pastor at HBC: https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ct-met-harvest-bible-chapel-pastor-child-sexual-exploitation-a20181018-story.html

    Based on my reading of several documents that HBC has now posted on its site–as well as on our years as members of the church–I believe that HBC did NOT, in fact, report the Youth Pastor to DCFS when they say that they did. Ms. Roys was on to that, perhaps. It’s not a coincidence that the YP turned himself the same week that the lawsuit against TED and Ms. Roys was filed.

    HBC also announced via all-church email this week that an employee is may have stolen thousands of dollars from the church. See first document under “Important Questions Answered” here: http://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/2018/10/23/inthenews/

    A preliminary police report has been filed, bu the content of the email clearly uses language than tries to minimize what the employee has done.

    The All-Church email also mentions the criminal activity of the former YP and immediately after, in a third bullet, says this:

    “Please also be in prayer about the lawsuit filed to protect our church from lies that seek to discredit our ministry. For example, in the matter mentioned above, we have had to resist extensive efforts to distort the truth about a matter our church handled with integrity toward all parties involved. You can read more about the legal protection we are seeking in the October Elder Update, including our biblical rationale and how we came to this decision.”

    Although Ms. Roys is not mentioned, the implication is that (according to HBC) someone is trying to distort HBC’s version of events in the YP case. That could be Ms. Roys, from the church’s perspective; thus, the reference to the lawsuit thereafter. HOWEVER, Harvest has a long history of writing things with twisted language and connections so that they’re not lying per se, but are leading the casual reader to make certain inference.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the person may have stolen more than just a few thousand dollars… Harvest minimalizes this by saying the funds in question are “less than 1% of their budget,” but if their budget is $25 million, that makes $250,000 1 percent of their budget. So they could have stolen $5,000 or $200,000. I’m an accountant and how someone could easily steal that amount of money without being noticed is concerning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I agree. If a preliminary police report was filed, then it’s a significant amount. (I said “thousands of dollars, not “a few thousand dollars”. I almost said “tens of thousands” based on their budget, but their language doesn’t allow for that guess.)

        More importantly, notice the verbiage they use as they attempt to minimize the situation:

        “The amount of money in question appears to be less than 1% of our annual budget and the time period appears to be less than a year. This person has never led any public ministry in our church and is on leave pending the completion of this investigation.”

        Allow me to illustrate by re-writing:

        “The amount of money in question appears to be more than $10,000 over many months. This person holds a position on our organizational staff and is on leave pending the completion of this investigation.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • I would really like to know how much money we are talking about in this situation. Also how can the money be so loose and unaccounted for? How was this person caught? In some financial jobs if you engage in embezzlement they catch it quickly and immediately. Everything has to balance.

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