On June 22, 2013, we informed you that three HBC elders, Scott Phelps, Dan Marquardt and Barry Slabaugh, resigned from the elder board, and now, the disclosure of Marquardt’s resignation letter and other communication provides a far more detailed account of the serious character concerns that drove Marquardt to resign.
On July 23, 2013, we received an email with four documents attached, including: 1) Marquardt’s email to his friends, 2) his resignation letter, 3) a response from the HBC elder board, and 4) Marquardt’s response to the HBC elder board letter. The resignation letter was making its rounds through the electronic world while we were taking steps to verify the authenticity of these documents as well as ensure there were no legal, privacy issues with publishing all of this material. Being satisfied that these documents are indeed authentic, we were prepared to publish these documents when Dan Marquardt commented at another blog, confirming he was the author of the resignation letter in question. We are publishing these documents with no editorial, but we are only highlighting the most relevant portions for easier perusal.
Dan Marquardt’s Email to Friends
You are probably aware by now that last month I resigned from the Elder Board at Harvest Bible Chapel. My resignation was followed by two other Elders that shared my concerns. Over the last month I have sought God’s guidance through prayer and the Word, as well as council from friends and other pastors if and how I should share my concerns with friends that still call Harvest their church home in a way that honors the LORD. It was important to me not to make a rash or emotional decision, but one that was prayed through and that the LORD guided. As followers of Jesus we are to be champions of the truth especially when it involves the bride of Christ, His church, and so I feel compelled to share this information with you. These actions are not out of bitterness or anger with Harvest’s leadership but rather love and caring for you and the church.
If you were to come to our home a year or two from now and the subject of HBC and my departure came up and I shared with you then what I know now I believe that some of you might feel angry, hurt, maybe even betrayed that I didn’t share my concerns with you earlier. Please be clear, I am NOT telling you to leave Harvest. That decision is between you and the LORD. You should be aware of what transpired and led to me stepping down and my decision to find a new church. As an Elder the biblical order of obligation is: 1. To Christ 2. To the Congregation and 3. The pastors/staff. A couple scripture verses that speak to my heart are:
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:25
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18
It saddens me that I have been told firsthand that some in leadership are referring to me and the Elders who also resigned as wolves and that we need to repent. That could not be further from the truth. You know my character and this email is not intended to defend me but to simply share with you the truth as I have no desire to suppress it. The three items that I have included are: My letter of resignation, the Elder Letter addressed to me and the two other Elders who resigned which we received via email (note the language in the second paragraph) and the last item (immediately below) is my reply to the Elder Letter to which I was told I will not be receiving a response to. To best understand them you should read them in that sequence.
Jennifer and I have been blessed to find another wonderful church home and we look forward to serving the LORD as long as He gives us breath. Have a blessed week and feel free to call, email, or visit anytime.
Your friend and brother in Christ,
Dan Marquardt’s Resignation Letter to HBC Elders
June 21, 2013
After many months of prayer and after reflecting on our last meeting together it is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation as an Elder of Harvest Bible Chapel. This decision is not an impulse nor an emotional reaction but where I feel the LORD has led me to act. In good conscience and out of love for the church and our pastors I could not sit back and quietly rotate off in ninety days. That route would’ve been disingenuous and dishonest to the congregation and the LORD. My family and I just surpassed the sixteen year mark at Harvest and considering that I’ve known James since before he was a pastor that clarifies the magnitude of my decision.
I’m thankful for the privilege it has been to serve with each of you and I leave the Elder Board and Harvest Bible Chapel without anger or bitterness but admittedly with sadness. Harvest, James, and all of you that compose the leadership will be in my prayers. This decision is a compilation of matters that are intertwined together but the ultimate affirmation came the other night. From my first phone calls and emails to Robert sharing minor concerns to major concerns I have always endeavored to show respect and be patient. Personally I strive for continual improvement in everything I do. My disposition is not one of a critical spirit and I am often an optimist, but there are many things that we do not see eye-to-eye on. It is not my desire, nor has it ever been, to cause anyone strife, but rather to address things in Christ’s church that I don’t believe are healthy or in the best interest of the church.
James has asserted multiple times that my concerns have consumed fifty percent of the XLT’s time for the last six months and that confuses me. Not because I brought matters to their attention, but that I haven’t seen any changes. Additionally, the assertion was clear that I was attempting to monopolize time and be a critical spirit when neither could be further from the truth. James thought it absurd that I could come up with twenty concerns in “one of the fastest growing churches in America”. Yes, Harvest is growing and giving is up, praise God for that! While growth and giving are important, don’t use those two metrics to assess that all is healthy.
James has repeatedly stated that he is not in a good place and I affirm that. In our recent meeting of seven elders (Scott, Barry, James, Rick, Robert, Bill, and myself) when we requested James disclose his income to the elders he replied, “I would lose 1,000 people before I would disclose that.” This is not unique as James rebuked Greg Bradshaw in our December Elder meeting in a similar light when Greg told James, “I’m concerned about the sheep.” James rebuked him, “Who cares about twelve or fourteen families whose faces or names I don’t even know leave!… What about the shepherd?!” When Christ, the Good Shepherd, stated that He would leave the other ninety nine to save the one, that is where a Pastor’s shepherding heart should remain. It concerns me deeply and I warn that James is heading down a very dangerous path if his heart on this matter isn’t made right.
During that meeting of seven, Rick stated clearly that they did not trust us. Apparently, grounds of questioning our pastor’s behavior are perceived as an attack on him and the church, rather than a loving concern for protecting him and the church. It is important to note that Scott, Barry, and I were appointed to the Pastoral Care Team and it was our obligation to care for our pastors with special emphasis on our Senior Pastor.
In our full Elder meeting I was shocked that James mocked Scott by referencing their phone conversation earlier that day. During that call Scott stated that he only had one person he wasn’t reconciled with (under the subject of James’ lengthy trail of broken relationships) and during our meeting James deflected those concerns by mocking, “In your stream of influence and the volume of people that you interact with compared to me, I would say that I am doing exponentially better than you Scott!” By that statement alone James doesn’t take responsibility or blame for his trail of broken relationships. Later in the meeting he also stated that he does not accept any blame regarding his decision to purchase his house in Inverness. He blamed the Elder Board at the time since they gave him permission. All of these matters concern me deeply but apparently Scott, Barry, and I are on the fringe of having concerns over James behavior past and present.
The tone at the meeting was unfortunate and it was clear to me that Scott, Barry, and I were painted to be the villains. When James framed questions to the full Elder Board to see if they supported our actions his questions were completely distorted. When it was our turn to answer whether we approved of the behavior/actions that he alleged were taken, even we were in opposition to the extreme and exaggerated questions! It felt disingenuous to me that Tom Barber’s resignation from the Elder Board and departure from Harvest the prior week wasn’t even brought up. As a result, none of his concerns that led to his decision were addressed at an Elder Board level, regardless of his decision to rescind his resignation and remain. Yet our concerns seemed to be on an island and Tom didn’t affirm any of our concerns in the meeting.
In a court of law the oath stated is, “I swear to tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING but the truth.” The truth can be manipulated while still walking a “legal line” of truth but everything done in Christ’s church should be above accusation and not manipulated to conform to one’s own agenda.
After four years of observation and participation, the assertion that Harvest is an Elder-led church is not reality. The XLT makes most decisions and is compiled of James and four subordinates. Often at our monthly meetings their decisions are reported to the Elder board as having been made and they are simply informing the Elders. We approved a $30,000,000 annual budget with a pie chart in thirty seconds. As Elders we requested a line-item budget and that request was denied. So much of the lack of trust is admittedly attributed to the fear of an Elder going “sideways” as James often references. If an Elder isn’t trustworthy and above reproach/accusation he shouldn’t be an Elder! A good friend of mine in ministry told me, “The enemy has no power in the light, he only has power in the shadows.” With reference to the church, I fear information that is hidden and not disclosed, especially to the leaders who are accountable for those decisions, only gives the enemy opportunity to do damage.
All of us, including our pastors should meet the minimum standards our LORD requires in Titus 1:7-8, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21 “but test everything; hold fast what is good”. We are instructed to test (examine, investigate, probe) everything to ensure that it is good and right in the eyes of the LORD. We have been told in the past that we can ask anything as Elders but when that happened we were met with resistance.
After James departed the room Randy looked me in the eyes, with clear anger, and said, “We have a lot of work to do and better men to do it.” So I am encouraging you to find better men to lead as I will no longer be serving alongside you.
In closing, the Elder Board collectively, apart from Scott, Barry, and me, made it clear that you do not share our concerns with: 1) James’ behavior and irritable disposition 2) His refusal to disclose or allow review of his compensation by fellow Elders 3) The numerous faults of HBC’s existing authority structure in contrast to the perception of the congregation. Therefore due to my conflicted conscience on these matters as well as those stated above, I can no longer serve as an Elder at Harvest Bible Chapel. My prayers will be with all of you and you have my assurance that I love the church and mean it no harm. Although I am leaving you have my word that I will not tell anyone they should leave Harvest, not even my brother/business partner. I’m hopeful that God will only strengthen Harvest after my departure and give all of you courage to ensure that God is truly glorified in ALL that you do individually and collectively. Please do not barrage me with phone calls or in-person meetings attempting to persuade me otherwise as my decision is made. You are all loved.
You brother in Christ,
HBC Elder’s Response to Marquardt’s Resignation
Dear Scott, Dan and Barry:
We are grieved but agree that the paths you have chosen make it impossible for you to continue on our board and we accept your resignation with regret. It is no longer possible to reach agreement or profitable to rehash the many things we see differently. We differ greatly with Dan’s view of our final meeting and with some of the things Scott asserts in his resignation but are content to leave those matters unresolved lest attempts to reach agreement cause further injury. Suffice it to say, we believe your concerns on all three major points are adequately and increasingly addressed.
Your motives are not in question and we do not doubt your love for our pastor or this church. We do trust that your promise of silence and not further dissonance in what we disagree about will prevent wider disclosure of our disappointment with your participation on our board. As discussed and agreed upon during our retreat in Oak Brook, we will not hesitate to protect any member of the church who is recruited to a negative view of this ministry by opinion that does not reflect Elder consensus.
Let’s do our best to focus on the best days of ministry we shared together with gratitude and pray for self control so that innocent people are not injured by any pride or defensiveness between good men who simply see things differently.
We wish you every grace in Christ and pray for your peace,
The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel
Dan Marquardt’s Reply to HBC Elders
Given that this attached letter was from all of you I only felt it appropriate to reply to all of you with a desire to alleviate any miscommunication. First, I want to thank those of you who have shared kind words of support and encouragement, they are very much appreciated and know that all of you are in my prayers often.
There are several concerns about this letter and I want to share with you why I cannot accept it as written. First is the assertion that we have chosen a “path” and that is not true. It is accurate to state that we have chosen to share our concerns in a loving way and many of you didn’t share our concerns. The word choice “path” seems to imply that we have somehow changed course. That we have strayed or erred. Is this what you intend to imply? Do you intend to suggest that we are off “path,” and if so have we sinned? Do you see us as needing to repent? If so, please give us a specific account with scripture to affirm.
I’d like clarity on what and how you disagree with my “view” of the final meeting and exactly what you disagree with that Scott “asserts”. You also state that all three of our concerns have been adequately and increasingly addressed. One of the core concerns we share was James’ behavior past and present which we felt was ultimately a heart issue (that was clearly explained in my resignation letter). I’ve been told that has been further demonstrated in statements he’s made in the last week. After resigning I have had many friends share with me their concerns about Pastor James and his mistreatment of people in and outside of the church. Since my resignation, my concerns for James have only deepened as I hear the flood of these accounts.
The other day I left Rick a voicemail and reiterated to him that I love him, James, and Harvest Bible Chapel and affirmed that I didn’t feel the Elder Letter to us was appropriate and I did not accept it. Additionally I reiterated that if I were to dilute all of my concerns to one point, that would be that James needs to repent for his failures and sinful behavior. It does concern me that I’ve been told that some in leadership are painting us as the “sinners and wolves”.
The other concern in your Elder Letter is the sentence: “We do trust that your promise of silence and not further dissonance in what we disagree about will prevent wider disclosure of our disappointment with your participation on the board.” To my best recollection, I do not recall giving a “promise of silence” either verbally or in writing. My promise was to honor the LORD in all that I do and to speak the truth in love. This statement comes across as a threat to tarnish our reputations and discredit our concerns. Is that what you really think/meant? Knowing many of you I have to assume that this letter was not thoroughly reviewed and edited so I would like to give you a chance to clarify your hearts on this matter.
This section of scripture has resonated in my head and heart since the evening of my resignation and the more I read it the greater clarity I have. Know that I am taking these words to heart personally and seeking to apply them as best I can.
James 3:13-18. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Please let me know if you are willing to revise your Elder Letter and therefore provide greater clarity to the three of us on these matters. You are in our prayers and we are trusting our Awesome God to do a mighty work through these difficult circumstances.
Your brother in Christ,