This submission comes from the Executive Committee of the Elder Board.
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).
Why Julie is Attacking our Elder Governance
In her ongoing effort to divide and destroy Harvest Bible Chapel, Julie Roys has taken aim at our governance, and its health. She is attempting to show that our Pastor does not submit to Elder authority and has no accountability. This is entirely false – an old lie that’s traceable to former Elders who failed to force their view on the majority, more than 5 years ago. Now, through Julie’s digging, it has resurfaced again demanding renewed clarity.
Find below documented points, enumerated for clarity.
1) Harvest has faced many challenges past and present, but is a wonderfully harmonious church, both among the staff and at the board level. Board meetings are filled with joy, occasional laughter, much prayer, and a true readiness to engage in the challenges of difficult local church governance.
2) In 2013, three Elders brought a three-fold accusation against Pastor James. The entire Elder Board of 30 men heard them completely, then, one by one, unanimously rejected their viewpoint based upon personal experience to the contrary. The three Elders then resigned, and the Elder Board informed the entire church family of their rejected viewpoint and resignation. It is that incident, now regurgitated by Julie Roys, that leads to this false accusation.
3) Executive Committee of the Elders (EC) Chairman Randy Williams instituted the Senior Pastor annual evaluation policy in 2013, which gathers input from up to 20 staff invited to anonymously fill out a survey about serving with Pastor James. Randy Williams led that review from 2013 to 2016 and never raised the issue of Pastor James’ submission to Elder authority or healthy working within Elder plurality.
4) Pastor James has his performance reviewed annually by the EC, and that review is then presented to the whole Elder Board in summary form. Find here an example of Elder Senior Pastor review summaries.
5) In August of 2017, the EC held a private meeting with Pastor James offsite to give more than six hours of accountability on weaknesses revealed during the HBF wind down. There was no concern expressed that Pastor James had problems related to manipulation, deception or respect for Elder authority. A major focus was upon Pastor James’ not self-advocating in times of crisis, due to how others can perceive that. This is the main reason Pastor James has said so little about the HBF dissolution; he was asked not to. The EC has been pleased with Pastor James’ efforts to avoid self-advocacy regarding false accusations, leaving the needed response to us, as here.
6) For more than five years (from 2013-2017), Dr. Garrett Higbee, a respected counselor and member of our pastoral staff for eight years, sat in on Elder meetings to evaluate the health of Elder discourse and mutual respect during disagreement and consensus. Find here attached examples of Dr. Higbee’s meeting evaluations from Elder meeting minutes. Not once in more than 30 evaluations did Dr. Higbee raise a concern about Pastor James manipulating, deceiving, or refusing to be accountable to Elder consensus. Frequently he affirmed his observation of the opposite.
7) In June of 2017, Pastor James resigned himself and our church from the church planting entity we started called Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF), having reached the end of his capacity to manage the many complexities in HBF. He erred by also resigning our church’s role in HBF without Elder approval and was subsequently reprimanded and apologized.
8) In June 2017, the EC stepped in to carry the transition and unwinding of HBF. The timing was bad in that HBF was behind in budgeted revenue, which led to a significant stream of financial misinformation that was only cleared with finality by a clean Capin Crouse audit from August 2017, and ECFA confirming our integrity in all HBF finances.
9) During the summer/fall of 2017, Randy Williams bore immense pressure from former HBF pastors and began to sympathize with their viewpoints in a way that led to a conflict between Randy and other senior leaders. In a retreat at Camp Harvest, called to resolve the divergent viewpoints, Randy subsequently felt misunderstood and unfairly characterized. For that reason, he was given time to process and participated less in EC activities from September – November 2017. During this time, he apparently texted things to GCC pastors he had not spoken to any of us and, we believe, regrets.
10) On December 15, 2017, in response to an invitation from Pastor James and Kathy, Randy Williams and his wife met downtown for an extended lunch. The purpose of their meeting was to come together in grace and forgiveness. A report was given to the EC of a beautiful time together resolving some of the relational impact of the HBF wind down. Following the meeting, Randy texted Pastor James:
“It was a great blessing to be with you both. We love you and are even more committed to serving the Lord together. I really got a deeper appreciation for your relationship with Kathy. You have a very special relationship together and I’m thankful for the love you two share. Thank you for being willing to be vulnerable with us both. We understand how difficult it is to trust yourselves to others. Healing for you both will take time but we are here to love you and support you as needed. Col. 3:13.” [“…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”]
11) In January – February 2018, Randy Williams and Pastor James worked meaningfully together to glean and present for full Elder Board review a presentation on “lessons learned“ from the HBF dissolution. Texts between them at this time further confirm that Randy’s unfortunate late fall 2017 texts were an anomaly that are inaccurate both to the truth and to Randy’s own heart for Pastor James and for Harvest.
12) As those familiar with the impact of words spoken in a moment of weakness, we offer the grace of Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 which instructs, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”
13) The Williamses are a treasured family in our church, and we grieve, given their years of faithful service, that they now must endure this onslaught over a few texts exposed to the public by those working to discredit the wonderful ministry happening at Harvest Bible Chapel.
With every post, the unhealthy fixation of Julie Roys grows more evident. Randy and Karen deserve our thanks for immense efforts to bridge a difficult divide; please keep them in your prayers. Randy completes his term of service at the end of December and was publicly thanked at our recent Elders and wives Christmas party. He now rotates off our Board on schedule and will be eligible to serve again in one year.
Why Were These Texts Made Known At All?
The lawsuit against Ms. Roys is not in discovery at this time because defendants have filed multiple motions to dismiss that will not be answered until early February 2019. Regardless, defendants’ attorneys have no authority to subpoena discovery from Indiana or Michigan. This raises the question of why GCC pastors would offer this damaging content.
Below, the Elders themselves refute the false information being circulated about our Pastor and our Elder Board. Reaction from the Elders to the mischaracterization of their governance was quick and substantive. They are quite upset by this attack and wanting to provide clarity and assurance for our church family and interested friends about the immense health, plurality, and unity of our Elders’ governance – the very opposite of what has been published. In an effort to allow them to express their own thoughts, they were given the opportunity to sign this statement and/or leave a comment. [Note: additional comments will be added as received.]
Confirmations offered by the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel – December 18, 2018
Harvest’s monthly Elder Board meetings provide an open forum for discussions on various church matters and decisions on issues which materially impact the congregation. Decisions are always weighed according to Biblical standards and are made on a consensus basis. As a member of the board, members are all encouraged to provide input. As a member of the Board, Pastor James, along with all others, are totally submissive to the consensus of the group. At all times James has been completely respectful to the collective authority of the Elder Board. – Bill Sperling, Elder for 6 years and observing through 2018 on Executive Committee
My observation is that our Elders govern by written policy in accordance with our Bylaws. The Executive Committee sets compensation and works closely with our Executive staff in the operations of the church and management of key staff members. Other specific committees do the deeper work, in Finances, Audit, Ministry, and Personnel. Staff make monthly reports relative to needed permissions and established written policy they are required to adhere to. Elders weigh in on areas of concern related doctrine, direction and discipline of the church. Our staff, all of our staff, submit to the guidance and direction of our Elders. We have healthy discourse and we debate our opinions, but in our consensus we do our best to honor the Lord in everything we do in a way that represents our love for the Lord, His Kingdom and each other. – Steve Huston, Elder for 10 yrs, former Elder Chairman, current Chairman of Executive Committee
I believe the health of our governance is strong as a group. I feel different Elders are on different committees according to their knowledge in specific areas. When these groups come to the Elders collectively we are all encouraged to give our input and ask questions about anything that may not be clear to us. I believe Pastor James has respect for our authority and the decisions that we come to as an Elder Board. Pastor James is always clear in the meeting and often pauses and makes us go back to make sure we are understanding everything about the topics we are discussing. He welcomes any questions or concerns so we can be united on our decision making. – David Martin, Elder for 3 years
I see a strong unity among our Elders with good collaboration in making decisions together. I am grateful to see meetings where a robust discussion takes place with differing views expressed and embraced. This has improved greatly since our Board expansion in 2009.
Pastor James has always demonstrated a high regard and respect for the Elders in our church. He sees it as the biblical model and a source of authority and accountability for he and the other leaders. I have seen Pastor James always submit to the consensus of the Elders, believing that God speaks through the leaders of the church even when that decision has been divergent from his.
Pastor James has taught this same principal enthusiastically to the pastors who come through our training center. Pastor James has been the one pushing our Elder Board towards more transparency through various channels to our church family (Elder Updates/ family meetings). – Rick Donald, Elder for 29 years
Our governance is very healthy as evidenced by our Pastor’s encouragement of dissenting viewpoints, which are listened to and given appropriate consideration, as we make Elder Board decisions. – Paul Inserra, Elder for 9 years
In my 9 months as an Elder, I have been encouraged to ask questions and leadership has always responded with transparency and submission to God’s Word. – Matt Woodhead, Elder for 1 year
Over the past year I have learned much as a new member of the Elder Board. I can say with full sincerity that the dichotomy between the HBC Elder Board and HBC Pastors is a relationship of mutual respect and healthy boundaries. I’ve witnessed this firsthand in watching the leadership of HBC’s pastors yield to the collective wisdom of the Elder Board on multiple topics. In nearly all situations there is agreement between these two bodies, however in the situations in which there was disconnect; I observed a willingness to listen and more importantly the humility to act accordingly to the recommendation of the Elder Board. In short, I feel the governance of HBC is one of health and mutual respect. – JR Lang, Elder for 1 year
It has been my experience that the governance of the church is owned by the Elders through consensus of the Elders. As Elders we have a voice and discussions about matters continue until consensus is achieved. Our Pastor has unequivocally and consistently respected the collective authority of the Elders. – Ernie Holton, Elder for 7 years
Our Elders work collectively and through consensus to govern Harvest according to Scripture. There is a healthy environment for the debate and discussion in our meetings of the critical things to the life of our church. I have always observed Pastor James to not only adhere to this, but champions this same attitude. – Jeffrey Kee, Elder for 3 years
As far as my experience on the Elder Board, I would agree that there is a willingness to discuss dissenting views and adequately address questions brought by board members. – Elvin Velez, Elder for 1 year
This letter expresses my support and appreciation for Pastor James. I believe our current form of governance is designed to be quite effective. XLT manages staff, Elders govern by policy governance and provide counsel and provide doctrine, discipline and direction for the congregation. EC provides executive governance in the way of Senior Pastor accountability and counsel and the governance link with the XLT and executing for the elders on such matters as Compensation Committee, overall budgeting and transactions (bank accounts, real estate, etc.). We can always use improvement and don’t always make perfect decisions. But we can and do correct our course when needed and are able to make improvements where necessary, under God’s guidance. – Jeff Smith, Treasurer of Harvest Bible Chapel, Elder for 6 years
As an Elder of Harvest Bible Chapel for several years, I have seen firsthand, how diligent our senior pastor and church staff work to honor God. Our church is very blessed to have such a committed team of people who welcome accountability and elevate the name of Jesus Christ. – Mike Lawson, Elder for 4 years
The Elder board at HBC is full of humble men who mutually submit to one another in service to the people of the church. This godly character is exemplified in James as I have seen him on multiple occasions submit to the decision and guidance of the board. – Mike Lankford, Elder for 1 year
As an elder of Harvest Bible Chapel, I am writing to express my appreciation and unconditional support for our Senior Pastor, James MacDonald. Pastor James has faithfully led the church, modeling humility, courage and generosity. He welcomes accountability into his life. I have seen him, despite great personal sacrifice, quickly forgive others, as well as, seek forgiveness when he has erred. It’s a privilege to serve alongside Pastor James, as a fellow Elder, on an Elder Board that invites healthy debate and dissenting views in an effort to faithfully lead God’s church through God’s chosen governance structure of a plurality of elders. – Tod Desmarais, Elder for 6 years
This letter expresses my support and appreciation for Pastor James, the Elder Board and the pastoral staff at Harvest Bible Chapel. As with any organization, there are improvements that can be made, but by God’s grace, Harvest has taken actions that will serve well to correct the course when needed and make improvements where necessary, with God’s direction. – Robert Jones, Former Elder Board Chairman, Elder for 11 years
Although this past season has been a challenging one for our church, I count it a blessing to see first hand how God is using and leading this church. My trust in the integrity and leadership of our church has only grown since getting a “behind the scenes” view into the church’s governance. In some of the most difficult circumstances, I’ve personally seen how our leaders – and James in particular – have responded with grace and the same love that he has taught us from the pulpit. The Board governs by consensus, has healthy debates when necessary, and most of the time is able to come to quick consensus. Occasionally the Board has pushed back on ideas brought by the pastors, and I’ve found our pastors very open to listening and submitting. I’m pleased to have seen the Board is not full of “yes-men.” I’ve also seen the power of individual board members submitting their own personal preference (but never biblical conviction) for the sake of the consensus and unity of the entire Elder Board. Meetings are prayer-filled, seeking the Lord’s direction in all we do. – Sam Booras, Elder for 1 year
I have served as an elder for the past 5 years and am a witness to the grace and patience frequently modeled by Pastor James. Without question the goal of our Pastors ( including James) and the elder board is to serve the church body of Harvest in a manner above reproach and to bring glory to God in our discussion and decisions. Pastor James leads us well in all of this. He’s very patient and thorough in making sure we all have a chance to be heard. He always seeks consensus in every decision as does the elder board.
I’m very confident when James stands before the Lord he’ll hear these words…”well done good and faithful servant”. Matt 25:23 – Mike Dunwoody, Elder for 5 years
I agree whole-heartedly with the attached Elder Statement. Pastor James has led our Church well, and closely follows the admonitions of Scripture. Our Elders are free to speak up on any issue, and often do, with the result of better outcomes for Harvest Bible Chapel. – Joe Brightwell, Elder for 2 years
I completely concur with the statement issued regarding the health of our governance and especially the leadership by our Senior Pastor, James MacDonald. I agree with the statements regarding the exemplary character and transparency modeled for us by Pastor James.
One key contribution to the health of our governance is that Pastor James and Ron Duitsman regularly invite comments and questions to draw out any unspoken concerns that might be held by less vocal elders such as myself. This is especially helpful in our governance that decides issues by consensus. Differing opinions can be freely voiced and discussed in a very healthy and respectful dialogue. I am very grateful for this leadership and have seen the benefit of this regularly during our elder meetings. – Dale Kuntz, Elder for 3 years
I have been on the Elder Board for a few years now and have witnessed firsthand that our meetings do not lack for diverse opinions, we encourage everyone present to speak their mind as the Lord leads them. We have some very strong leaders on our Elder Board, and you might well imagine that we have some lively discussions. The level of strength, conviction, and dedication to the Word exhibited by the Elders, are a wonderful witness to me, these are Godly men trying to do their best to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. I feel that our governance is in a very strong place right now as a result of the decision to enlarge the Elder Board a few years ago, and the strict selection process that every Elder has to work through. We have very capable Godly men serving as Elders.
We come to our decisions through the full consensus of the Elder Board and we are guided by the Bible and by the Holy Spirit when coming to those decisions. When the Elder Board is able to come to a consensus, given the large number of very diverse individuals involved on the Elder Board, you know it is the working of the Holy Spirit, we are all submitting to His leadership. We have a tremendous amount of respect and good will toward our fellow Elders, we have joyous times and we are very serious at other times, you can be confident that your Elder Board has the best interests of His Church in mind anytime there is a decision to be made.
I can assure anyone reading this that Pastor James and all of the XLT submit willingly to the authority of the Elder Board and the EC, as well as to Biblical Authority and the Authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the things that has impressed me when I began attending Harvest was the dedication of the Staff. They are in the work of saving souls, and helping people grow in their Faith.
We are doing the Work that He has asked us to do, and while we should not be surprised at the opposition, remember Sanballat and Tobiah, we will continue as best we can to do our Lord’s work, with the Lord’s help. I would simply ask for all of your continued prayers. – Ron Duitsman, Chairman of the Elder Board, Elder for 4 years
I have reviewed the attached letter and am in full concurrence with its content as it pertains to the health of our governance at Harvest Bible Chapel. I have a deep respect for our Senior Pastor, James MacDonald. During my tenure on the Elder Board he exhibited the highest standards of accountability to the Elders while providing outstanding leadership and vision for the church. He has exhibited humility and repentance when required always working toward caring for the growth and care of the congregation. – Jim Clegg, Elder for 6 years
Every elder meeting begins with a devotional and prayer. We ask the Lord to guide us as a Board. As agenda items are brought up, there is ample time allowed for healthy discussion. Input from every elder is permitted and solicited. The elder Board, by design, is comprised of a variety of skill sets. Elders who are subject matter experts are highly valued and their guidance carries much weight. The motto we hear often is: best answer wins. Pastor James is our longest serving elder, our Senior Pastor, and is revered for his willingness to submit to the consensus of the elder Board. We believe the Lord guides, and works through, the consensus of the elder Board.– Stephen Stewart, Elder for 5 years
I agree . . . I also see willingness to putting things with clarity and transparency from Pastor James even in situations that for him might be painful.– Pedro Assumpção, Elder for 1 year
The Harvest elder board does the hard work to get to consensus. As we do, divergent opinions are welcomed and actively drawn out. Candor is valued, especially by our Senior Pastor. Fidelity to God’s word is paramount. Doing what is best for the church is the priority.
If Harvest is your home church, you know Pastor James’ love for God’s word and his unwavering commitment to leading us in active obedience to it. I wish you could all witness how Pastor James lives out and models the priority of what is best for the church in the elder board.
The only fear cultivated in the Harvest elder board is a fear of God. – Dan George, Elder for 9 years, former member of the Elder Leadership Team (now the Executive Committee)
In the time that I have been on the Board of Elders I have seen James demonstrate very intentional leadership in terms of inviting and encouraging input on discussions and decisions involving church related issues, including opposing points of view. He has demonstrated graciousness to individuals on the Board and difference to the Board as a whole. His actions have shown willingness to be accountable for his words and actions, and to seek an pursue reconciliation when relationships have been strained.
Please continue to pray for us as we seek to lead our local church to the glory of our great God. – John Dierker, Elder for 2 years
Having concluded a 6-year Elder Board term in 2017, my comments are in support of Pastor James and our Elder Board. HBC Elder Board meetings exemplify how meetings of this type should be run. The Agenda and important documents are delivered prior to the meetings. Reports given include appropriate supporting documentation to allow for in depth discussion. Ample time is given for discussion of all Agenda items as well as “other business.” Every Elder, including Pastor James (our longest serving Elder) may provide their opinion and/or ask for further clarification and in all cases, consensus is the only method used to approve /support the Agenda item. Prior to the next Elder meeting, a complete recap of the previous meeting is provided to all Elders (whether they were in attendance or not) to ensure that nothing was miss-quoted or incorrectly represented. If so, the previous month’s recap is amended and then approved. Prayers begin and conclude each meeting as well as prayers at specific times in support of each other, our church, the Staff, the XLT, EC and for Pastor James and Kathy. Although at times we have had to “wrestle” with challenging issues, Elders maintained that highest personal regard for each other and the spiritual health of Harvest Bible Chapel. – Ron Frahler, Elder for 7 years
I support Pastor James, the pastoral staff and the Elder Board of Harvest Bible Chapel. No board is perfect in its execution, but we strive to quickly make changes where needed and continually learn how to better grow a large and dynamic church. I am excited to watch all that God has for us in the years ahead. – Mike Collett, Elder for 2 years
– The Executive Committee of Elders, Harvest Bible Chapel