On June 22, 2013, The Elephant’s Debt issued an update informing you that three HBC elders (Dan Marquardt, Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh) had resigned from the elder board. Subsequent to that post, we then released a copy of Marquardt’s resignation letteras well as three other documents that all pertained to his resignation.
Now, as of late last week, we came into possession of a new document, which has been authored by Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh. It was our intention to publish the original piece on Monday morning. However, events have unfolded quickly; and we now have additional information to report.
After sending a brief letter in which Phelps and Slabaugh offered their public support of Marquardt to the Elephant’s Debt, Scott Phelps sent a text to Robert Jones, the Chairman of the Harvest Elder Board. His text reads as follows:
“Robert, as a courtesy, I want you to know that Barry and I have made a public statement indicating our full support and agreement with Dan. We have attempted to speak with grace and truth. I expect that our statement will be posted shortly. – Scott”
Subsequent to that, Robert Jones called Phelps and they had what Phelps describes as a “candid conversation.” The next morning, the elders of Harvest met in an emergency meeting and made a decision to place Phelps and Slabaugh (but, interestingly, not Marquardt) under public church discipline. A letter, which can be found here, was delivered to Phelps and Slabaugh on Saturday. Then, beginning on Saturday night, a video, which can be found here, was shown to the congregation in which James MacDonald and four other elders explained to the church why these two former elders were being placed under “discipline.”
Very significantly, the video begins with James MacDonald asserting that when local elders speak with a unified voice, they speak for God:
I just want to remind you that God has entrusted spiritual authority to the local church. And every local church has an authority under God. We believe that the Bible teaches that the authority is invested in the elders. And when the elders speak collectively, in agreement, the elders speak for God to our church.
Following this theologically misguided introduction, elders Paul Inserra, Steve Huston, Randy Williams and Jamie Harrison then speak for five minutes on the subject of Phelps and Slabaugh. According to these elders, Phelps and Slabaugh are “working to destroy” James MacDonald by “sowing discord” and “creating division.” Furthermore:
“… 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.”
Phelps and Slabaugh are then charged with “defiling many people,” before they are labeled as having a “spirit of superiority and self-righteousness.” Finally, in a rhetorically shocking move, Steve Huston, argues that Phelps and Slabaugh’s decision to publish a letter on The Elephant’s Debt is “Satanic to the core.” What must be noted here and recalled with absolute clarity is that per MacDonald’s admonition, when the elders speak, God Himself is speaking. So God Himself has declared that these men are “Satanic to the core” for their decision to publish a letter on The Elephant’s Debt.
Near the end of the video, the congregation is informed that Phelps and Slabuagh are no longer allowed to worship at HBC until they publicly repent. Furthermore, the congregation is strongly advised to avoid any and all contact with these two men until such time as they might turn from their “sin.”
Interestingly enough, Harvest’s reaction may have been predicated upon a simple misunderstanding. The original letter, received by the Elephant’s Debt, did not contain a 13-point list of accusations against MacDonald and his character. Rather, as Phelps said to Robert Jones in his text, the original letter he and Slabuagh sent to us was merely in support of Dan Marquardt and sought to keep things very general. The original letter is very similar in nature to the revised letter on this site. And, if anything, it is gentler and more gracious in tone. Moreover, with the revised letter that he has submitted to this website, we see a fuller picture of what actually occurred.
At the same time that Phelps and Slabaugh sent their original letter to us, another letter was was sent to Harvest. This letter, which Phelps claims is written by eight former elders, was a private letter addressed solely to the Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Board. This letter did in fact contain thirteen specific concerns pertaining to MacDonald and his ministry. This letter has never been sent to The Elephant’s Debt; and it is only because Harvest has now publicly acknowledged it that the congregation is aware that eight former elders are speaking with a unified voice. If, at some point, these elders wish to make this letter known to the whole church, we will publish it for your consideration. Until such time, we leave you with Phelps and Slabaugh’s revised letter that now details some of this unfolding story.
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On June 18, 2013, along with Dan Marquardt, we brought several concerns to the Elder Board of Harvest Bible Chapel, in keeping with the biblical requirement of two or three witnesses. This fundamental principle requiring the verification of testimony is taught by Moses, (Dt 19.15), Jesus (Mt 18.16), and Paul (2 Ct 13.1, 1 Tm 5.19).
With Dan’s resignation letter now made public, we recognize our obligation to corroborate his testimony in accordance with this biblical principle. We now come forward to verify Dan’s statements. Dan Marquardt is a godly man of integrity and character and he has provided a truthful account of the events he records in their proper context. We share his concerns and the three of us are in complete agreement on these matters. (Scott was not present for the January, 2013 meeting at which the budget was approved, however Barry and Dan were present and so provide the two witnesses necessary.)
It has only been our intention to fulfill our responsibilities as elders according to Scripture, ever mindful that we are ultimately accountable to Christ alone (2 Ct 5.10). We have prayerfully and consistently sought the good of our pastor, the good of our church, and most importantly, the glory of God. We continue to pray for Harvest to these ends.
We have not been eager to bring these matters forward and have remained silent until now. However, since our resignations we have heard from many members as well as former members, elders and staff. The consistency of these testimonies we have heard has only bolstered our concerns.
We three have been engaged in a struggle with Harvest leadership for nearly a year in seeking to fulfill our responsibilities as elders to address consequential matters, many of which are detailed on this site. Until now, we have not said anything publicly. We have not posted on any website, or Facebook, nor have we sent out a single tweet about these matters. Our goal has been to challenge the elders and work for reform in a God-honoring way, keeping these matters private.
We have maintained close communication with the elder board chairman through all of this. So, having written the above statement in support of Dan, Scott sent the following text to the elder chairman on Friday, September 13th: “Robert, as a courtesy, I want you to know that Barry and I have made a public statement indicating our full support and agreement with Dan. We have attempted to speak with grace and truth. I expect that our statement will be posted shortly. – Scott”
His text response was: “Thanks for the heads up. I’m traveling on business…will call in 3 min.” He called. We talked. Cordial and candid as always.
In addition to making the brief public statement above in support for our friend, we also felt it necessary to send a private letter to the elders. Eight of us former elders, including the former chairman of the board, drafted a strong private letter of concern to the elders. We want to emphasize that this was a private letter sent only to the elders. The existence of this letter has only become known because the elders announced it to the church during the weekend worship services. This letter was never intended to be made known.
On the weekend of September 14th & 15th, we were publicly rebuked by name, in all services on all seven campuses. This rebuke was then posted on the Harvest website.
Through all of this, we trust that God is in control. We are not bitter or vindictive. We pray that the leadership of the church will address the concerns that we have brought to their attention in our private letter, as well as many of the issues that have been raised on this website.
For the Glory of God,
Scott Phelps & Barry Slabaugh – Psalm 27.4-5.
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Editor’s Note: Finally, we wish to inform you that Scott Bryant attended Harvest Bible Chapel – Crystal Lake on the morning of 15 September 2013. He was a quiet participant through the service; and had attended solely for the purpose of confirming the Phelps/Slabaugh discipline statement first hand so that The Elephant’s Debt did not inaccurately portray what had been said via video. After the service, Greg Bradshaw, Campus Pastor of Crystal Lake, confronted this author in the lobby of the church. After chastising this author for failing to bring his Bible to church, Mr. Bradshaw informed this author that he was not welcome to attend services at Harvest until such time that he would publicly repent of his “gross, sinful behavior.” This is the first time that this author has been informed that he is not allowed to attend the church; and thus, it should be noted publicly that he was not acting in violation of previous church mandates. In point of fact, no leader of Harvest has ever contacted either author of TED following its publication in October 2012.