This post is from a disheartened mother whose son stayed in Paxton Singer’s cabin at Camp Harvest. This is a letter, a call to action and she wants results. The issue of Paxton Singer hit her family and this mother had to sit down with her son and ask if he was abused or being groomed by Paxton Singer. This is a hard topic to deal with but this must be dealt with in the context of the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal.
“Truth does not change on our ability to stomach it.”
Flannery O’ Conner
“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”
Luke 17:2 ESV
***The mother who wrote this post contacted me and asked me to add an amendment. Its the result of what PC said in a comment. You will see the amendment at the end of the post.***
Sex abuse and sexual misconduct are hard topics to face, and yet they are one of the issues that happen in modern evangelicalism. In the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal the church network as led by James MacDonald is dealing with this topic as well. It is the arrest of Paxton Singer that is most disturbing, as well as how Harvest Bible Chapel handled it.
This post comes from a mother whose son was involved in Harvest. She is angry and deeply troubled over how Harvest handled Paxton Singer. There are many professions such as education, law enforcement and medicine where people are trained to spot and handle abuse. This person has been trained in such a profession and that is why she knows Harvest Bible Chapel mishandled the situation. Paxton Singer’s arrest hit home as her son looked up to him and stayed in his cabin at Camp Harvest.
But remember Harvest you are loved…
- You are loved when you learn details of the arrest of your son’s youth pastor through the media when your church is trying to protect the brand.
- You are loved when you see Harvest not notify people who could have been abused or affected through Paxton Singer at Camp Harvest.
- You are loved, when you worry that your son could have been abused or groomed. And you speak with your son about homosexual or other sexual behavior from an adult as you fear that your son could have been impacted.
Harvest Bible Chapel its time to come clean on the Paxton Singer situation. This blog would like to ask if there have been other incidents of sexual abuse or misconduct that have taken place? After all is this why Harvest has a black budget? To buy people’s silence as you work to protect the brand? You can read about that black budget in, “Walk in the Word, a Black Budget at Harvest Bible Chapel and Finances that Resemble a Criminal Syndicate More Than a Ministry.” The mother of this open letter below doesn’t want words, she wants action. And she is hoping that this post will bring other people forward or get people to speak out more. This situation with Paxton hit her family as she had to ask her son if he was abused. This blog has a deep amount of respect for her, and at the same time I am saddened that this incident even touched her family.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PARENTS OF STUDENTS AND YOUTH PASTORS AT HARVEST BIBLE CHAPEL, LANDON MACDONALD AND EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP
Romans 16:17-19 English Standard Version (ESV)
Final Instructions and Greetings
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.
FROM A MOTHER OF ONE OF YOUR STUDENTS
I am writing this letter anonymously as a loving and concerned mother. It doesn’t matter which campus I attend, or who is my son’s youth leader, because all of the 7 campus youth leaders bear the same burden. The spirit of this letter is to create awareness, influence positive change, and not to be inflammatory.
My heart is broken over the deception and misguided efforts of all leadership at HBC handling the Paxton Singer sexploitation & arrest. I am not writing this to simply complain but to offer what I think is a reasonable and appropriate Christ-like path to disclosure, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation.
But KNOW THIS: There is an unspoken number of children affected, damaged, hiding, shamed, hurting, and potentially running from the church and God. I believe this because many parents out there may not even be aware that their child was in harm’s way or under the supervision of a sexual predator. The reasons for this could be endless. They no longer attended HBC when the news of the arrest broke. Their son/daughter attended Camp Harvest as a guest of a HBC student and never were in the database of HBC “register” contacts. The students may have moved or feared telling their parents about events that transpired, or didn’t know who to tell about their experience. All of these reasons are feasible. Moreover, any are possible because Harvest leadership to date, has failed to make ANY concerted effort in contacting the core group of students who would have been under direct supervision of Paxton Singer during his tenure at HBC. How do I know? Because I should have received some sort of notice, but have NOT.
Just think of those kids out there who could have avoided pain, isolation, shame, doubt, hate of God, or fear of man, because of what could have happened to them or DID happen to them by acts of Paxton Singer. In my humble opinion the fallout of the lives of those youths hiding right now in the shadows of their own fears, confusion, and disbelief, is ALL BY PROXY of HBC’s pride and calculated silence and cover-up in attempt to save their good name and reputation.
MY SON’S STORY
What parent wouldn’t be delighted when their adolescent son, then teenaged son, was excited to go to church and attend youth group. Isn’t that the goal of most youth pastors? To ignite and excite a passion for God in the next generation and rise up godly young (particularly male) leaders. Well job well done! Just think. Our son was excited. He was engaged. He loved his youth group, his small group leader, his Youth Pastor and was (mostly) engaged during corporate worship time. He looked forward to events like Winterfest, Camp Harvest, lock-ins at his SG leader’s home, etc. He was baptized at HBC and confessed his life to follow Christ as the tender age of 13. All a parent could hope for a teenage boy in a world that could pull him into so many dark and dangerous places. Youth Pastor—you did your job well. You prayed with our son. You hugged our son and knew him—things he didn’t even discuss with his own parents. But you also snatched that away as well…abandoned him…
SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
“YOU ARE LOVED”
—REALLY? I ask myself these days.
I heard that mantra roll out of the mouths of the pastor at the end of each week’s sermon for 10 years. We attended and tithed faithfully every week except when out of town. Our family was not the type to take church lightly or attend when it was convenient. We were committed. We served in different ministries. Our son served in at least 3 different ministries as soon as he was old enough
What went wrong was… a series of events between 6/2016 and 10/2018. Most of the details have been kept from the majority of attendees at HBC. More specifically, the serious and dangerous sexual predator behaviors of Paxton Singer, have been kept from most parents of students who were directly under the supervision or in direct contact with Paxton Singer.
Paxton Singer was first brought into the Harvest Family as an intern the summer of 2016, then later onto staff. I vividly remember the Sunday he was introduced to our campus as a new intern. Tall, handsome and a charismatic smile. Engaging…
Our son, then 13 years old, also took an immediate liking to Paxton and they found many common things to chat about. Soon, Paxton was in full swing in his intern role. During that time, in the summer, our son was more than excited to go his first middle school Camp Harvest! He was entering 7th Grade. As he tells it, he arrived and soon learned he was accidentally separated from his (entering) 7th grade small group, and placed into the (entering) 8th grade cabin. After recognizing the administrative error, they offered to make room for him back in his SG’s cabin, but our son decided to hang out with the older boys. Camp Harvest came and went. Being 13, our son didn’t give us too many details other than it was “fun.”
Fast-forward to October 2018. HBC issues a statement on the Elder Update, 4 days after their 10/19/18 Enough is Enough statement about why they sued The Elephant Debt. In the 10/19/18 Update, they mention someone embezzled $270,000 and “I am also sorry to report that a youth director who served with us a few short months was involuntarily released last January when illegal and disqualifying behavior came to light. The three affected families, as well as parents of students on those campuses, as well as DCFS were notified immediately. Find here the statement issued to the press and their article here. The June call they reference was a follow up from Craig Steiner, our Aurora Campus Pastor. That call seems to have provoked what the initial January reports did not. All of this is documented.”
PROBLEMS WITH THIS STATEMENT:
“Illegal and disqualifying behavior came to light”: I had seen the Elder update and really not thought much of it. Yes, I knew of Paxton Singer. Yes, I remember him being introduced and at times featured in some videos during campus services. I knew Craig Steiner but not enough to peak my interest to click on the links. After all, we’re all busy, aren’t we? And this “illegal and disqualifying” behavior seemed none of my business or anything that would not concern me, JUST A MOM at a different campus.
The next night, Wed 10/24/2108, I went to my ladies’ small group and a woman mentions she was cornered at work by a coworker who said “isn’t this your church?” She brings up a photo of Paxton Singer on her phone, and shows it to the rest of us in the group. I ALMOST FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR!! The newspaper article described Paxton’s sexploitation arrest and HBC statement to them that “Parents related to his ministry on multiple campuses were also informed by email on January 7, 2018.”
“From: Landon MacDonald
Date: January 7, 2018 at 9:26:18 PM CST
Subject: I am sorry to report some bad news
Hey Harvest Rolling Meadows Parents,
I am writing to you tonight to tell you to some bad news that might bring some sadness. Paxton Singer has been released from his position today as a director of Students at our campus. We found out this morning that Paxton had a compulsive, repetitive and addictive text relationship with a student from another campus. The exchange was verbally inappropriate and broke the boundaries of a pastor/student relationship that is above reproach.
It has deeply saddened us and we have informed our students as well as leaders tonight. Paxton will be attending the Aurora Campus for the time being where his family attends and he will be given pastoral care on that campus and we are committed to him and to helping him move forward. Let this be a reminder to all of us what the Lord says in his word – “Sin is crouching at the door.”
Feel free to respond or approach me at Church this weekend with any questions. I will be at Rolling Meadows on Saturday Night and preaching in Aurora on Sunday morning.
Praying and believing for bright and better days ahead,
SO WHAT’s THE PROBLEM YOU ASK???
- The 10/23/18 Elder update was vague and misleading mentioning nothing of sexploitation or Paxton Singer by name unless you chose to click on the related links.
- The information given to the Daily Herald was misleading because parents “related to his ministry on multiple campuses” were not informed and HAVE NOT BEEN INFORMED as of the WRITING OF THE LETTER.
- Further, the 1/7/18 email by Landon MacDonald was only distributed to ROLLING MEADOWS parents and ALSO WAS VAGUE AND MISLEADING WITHOUT MENTION OF THE SEXUAL NATURE of Paxton’s criminal activity.
When I saw the Daily Herald news article the evening of 10/24/18, my heart sank. You see, what I didn’t tell you before was that, the reason our son decided to stay in the 8th grade cabin at Camp Harvest that summer, was because Paxton Singer was the cabin counselor of the 8th grade cabin!! He liked Paxton and that was enough to make him want to stay with complete strangers for the rest of the week. What teenager does that?
Now you can see how just reading the Elder Update and the information that was NOT given would not cause a parent of a young man (or young woman) any concern or alarm to look further or ask any questions. A similar vague letter was sent to the parents of basketball team members at HCA.
This is what was sent to the Harvest Basketball team regarding Paxton Singer’s arrest.
People have asked me, “How do you know that Harvest has not reached out to parents of the campers or basketball team on this issue?” I know because, IF THEY HAD… my household would have received a letter, an email, a phone call outlining the specifics of Paxton Singer’s crimes and acknowledging HBC’s awareness that our son was in direct contact with Paxton. WE HAVE NOT. This is the point…we do not attend Harvest any longer, but still have the right to be notified that our son was under direct supervision of a sexual predator.
But now, a very tough tender sensitive and difficult conversation between my husband, myself and our son had to occur.
Our son had been schooled at a private Christian school his whole life. He had never seen anything more than PG 13 and even with that, hands over eyes for anything we deemed too provocative for his pure eyes. We had touched on some basic “birds and bees” issues at home just this past summer to prepare him for the more detailed information that would hit him between the eyes in high school. His naiveté about the idea of sexploitation, homosexual activities, and why someone would even do what Paxton did would be a tenuous discussion at best. Soon after our discussion with our son, I transcribed to the best of my recollection the general content of that conversation because I knew there would be need for recounting it in the future. Here is my recorded account:
Us: (our son), we have to talk to you about something serious. We know you remember Paxton Singer and that you really liked him when he was at Harvest. We also know that you looked up to him a lot. Unfortunately he has been arrested for some serious charges of some kind of sexual nature with kids at Harvest. We just found out and don’t know much, but have to ask you some difficult questions. From what we understand, he was arrested for having text relationships with some Harvest students of a sexual nature and DCFS was notified. We don’t even know if this is true or if the allegations are false. But we can’t ignore it in any case.
(Our son): What’s DCFS?
Us: Dept of Children and Family Services. They protect children from many things, including sexual predators or creeps who want to hurt kids. Now we know that sometimes kids are too afraid to say anything when adults they really liked or trusted have done things wrong. This can be for many reasons. Sometimes they’ve been told not to say anything. We need you to be completely honest answering these questions. We won’t be angry or upset. We just need the truth if it helps these kids or even if it helps Paxton (caveat—we didn’t have any clue what the allegations were or nature and extent of issues because of vagueness of HBC leadership! We wanted to give grace and presumption of innocence to Paxton). Just know if you’re truthful, you’ve done nothing wrong. Also, we need to make sure you have not kept anything to yourself that you should have told us about. We also need to know you were not hurt by Paxton. Do you understand?
(Our son): Yes
Us: Unfortunately we don’t know if the allegations were with boys or girls so we have to ask you awkward questions. You had Paxton as a cabin counselor at Camp Harvest right?
(Our son): Yes
Us: Do you remember if you felt in any way uncomfortable around him when you were dressing, undressing, or swimming or using the bathroom, if he was around? Did you feel he was looking at you weird?
(Our son): No
Us: Did any of the boys in your cabin say anything to you about Paxton saying or doing anything to them that you would consider unusual or abnormal? We mean, something that you would find weird for your counselor at Camp (his usual summer camp) to have done?
(Our son): No not that I remember. It was almost 2 years ago.
Us: Did Paxton ever text you or call your phone with any comments of a sexual nature?
(Our son): well at camp we didn’t have phones.
Us: What about after camp ended?
(Our son): No.
Us: Did you see Paxton outside of church youth group or Camp Harvest cabin events alone—just the 2 of you?
(Our son): No.
Us: Is there anything else you can think of that you would want to tell us?
(Our son): no.
Us: Ok. We believe you. If you think of something later, come and tell us right away. We will let you know what we learn about the case, if you want to know. Do you?
(Our son): Yes.
Since that conversation, we have checked our son’s phone contacts and all his Instagram and snap chats and found nothing in history or photos of any sexual nature or from/to Paxton. We are satisfied he was NOT a victim. CAN THAT BE SAID FOR THE OTHER BOYS WHO HAD PAXTON AS A CABIN COUNSELOR in the summer of 2016 or 2017?? Or of those WHO WERE ON THE HCA BASKETBALL TEAMS COACHED BY PAXTON BETWEEN 2016 AND 2018?? NO ONE AT HBC CAN ANSWER THAT WITH A RESOUNDING YES since they have not contacted parents to alert them to have a conversation with their child/ren! However there are a few steps that could be taken to potentially remove doubt in many cases.
- MAKE A LIST: Pull up databases of all Camp Harvest attendees who cabined with Paxton Singer in 2016 and 2017 and/or had him as a basketball coach. Get the contact information for all the parents or guardians (for camp parents paid > $400 each to entrust their children to HBC leadership ) James 4:17 ESV “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.“1 Corinthians 5:12 (ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
- CONTACT THE PARENT OR GUARDIAN IMMEDIATELY: this should be done with full disclosure of the reason (including sexploitation, dates, arrest information)
- Ideally this would be a personal method—phone call from the campus Pastor or Youth Pastor, Email, or letter, or ALL THREE.
- Then follow-up to the initial contact to be sure the information was received
- Continued follow-up to ensure that all questions are answered to completion and satisfactorily. 1 John 1:8 ESV If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Matthew 18:5-6 (ESV) “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
- APOLOGIZE AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS: Express sincere remorse and apologize for dancing around such as serious subject as the mental, spiritual, sexual, and physical health of their children. Apologize for calling sexual sin something other than what it really is. In the adult world, we don’t call adultery by another name. Why minimize the pillaging of our future hope and dreams—our children. Matthew 25:40 (ESV) And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
- REPENT: turn from doing things the way you have been doing them.
- In the future, do not let sin go un-checked, particularly sins against our children.
- No one can hold you responsible for Paxton’s behavior. But you are responsible for covering up his actions and deceiving parents. Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways according to the fruit of his deeds.” Revelation 22:11 ESV 11 Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”
OFFER TO PAY FOR BIBLICAL COUNSELING and PASTORING at a facility of the individual’s choosing: Pastor care was offered to Paxton at the Aurora campus during his difficult season after being fired (see 1/7/18 letter). The same courtesy and care should be made available to victims, their families, and anyone who needs to process the aftermath of events that resulted from the actions of Paxton Singer.
- Any identified victim, or student who is in need of or who requests assistance in processing the events and aftermath, should have funding made available immediately.
- This could be done through your benevolence fund or whatever means necessary at HBC.
- BE CREATIVE….For example, a special offering dedicated to a “You Are Loved” fund should be initiated with specific earmark being these children and their families.
I am not here to crucify you for hiring a sexual deviant. Unfortunately they’re everywhere. However, I expect you to do your DUE DILIGENCE in making this RIGHT to the best of your abilities and to completeness so that no one can say you did not try to reach out to each potential victim of this unfortunate Human Resource choice
Now we’re back to:
YOU ARE LOVED…
I do not feel loved. My husband and I did not feel loved when we had to sit and have that horrible conversation with our son. His Youth pastor has not called to see how he is doing since we left the church some time ago. I must say, Kudos to our son’s SG leader who continues to keep in touch with him, but the SG leader is a volunteer college student, not staff at HBC. My pastor has not called once to see how we are doing or how our son is doing. He did call us twice and email twice and text once to make sure we were coming to the CL-OS-ER campaign kick-off events. Sadly someone looking in from the outside might say that is a reflection of where Harvest’s true interests lie… (Matthew 6:21 (ESV) 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.) So why not invest some of your treasure and hire a full time temporary person to dedicate their time to compiling the list and data then having your pastors and staff to reaching out to these families. Then dedicate the treasure of your counseling staff to helping any child or family who needs pastoring or care.
So when you say
“YOU ARE LOVED”
Make sure what you do demonstrates LOVE.
Taking the above actions would DEMONSTRATE LOVE TO THE STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Otherwise you’re nothing but a hypocrite.
If you’re comfortable living with that label, DO NOTHING.
The author of this post asked me to add the following amendment on January 16, 2019.
Thank you “pc” for your comment. Because of my own shortcomings, I failed to see the danger of inviting victims back into the same setting where the abuse was allowed to occur or into the arms of people who failed to protect them in the first place. I truly appreciate your swift and prudent observation!!
As a result, I want to apologize to everyone for my hasty recommendation on #5 (Offer Biblical Counseling, Pastoring). I would like to amend that to the following
5. OFFER TO PAY FOR BIBLICAL COUNSELING and PASTORING at a facility of the individual’s choosing: Pastor care was offered to Paxton at the Aurora campus during his difficult season after being fired (see 1/7/18 letter). The same courtesy and care should be made available to victims, their families, and anyone who needs to process the aftermath of events that resulted from the actions of Paxton Singer.
- This could be done through your benevolence fund or whatever means necessary at HBC.