For the first time in the eleven-month history of The Elephant’s Debt, we are using this platform to address a specific member of the HBC Elder Board who is not James MacDonald. Before we go any further, you (and any who support your role in HBC’s (appalling video) should know that we will not get bogged down in any discussion of Matthew 18. We will openly admit that we have not brought this to you personally, nor have we brought this to you with two or three additional witnesses. Instead, we are bringing this to you before the Church because you are an Elder that dared to “speak for God” in front of thousands upon thousands of people. You are an Elder that dared to publicly attack the reputations of two brothers in Christ. So our concern with you is a not a matter in which private sin must be addressed in a private fashion. You took the microphone; and then, with all the power of your church office, with all the power that is invested in your church title, you posted a video on the internet trashing the names and reputations of two God-fearing men. So today, we address you as two brothers in Christ to another; and we want to challenge you to answer a few questions in a public format.
First, in your video message to Harvest, you argue that “church matters are not to be tried in the court of public opinion.” You argue that “publicizing viewpoints rejected by the elder majority for any reason is Satanic to the core.” (3:30 mark) Whether you authored these words or merely spoke them into a camera, these are your words, Mr. Huston. So we ask you, was Martin Luther “Satanic to the core” when he nailed the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door? Was he “Satanic to the core” when the church cast him out and he continued to publish and circulate essays throughout Europe? Remember, Mr. Huston, according to your Senior Pastor, “when the elders speak collectively, in agreement, the elders speak for God to our church.” (0:29 mark) So tell us, when the Church at that time “spoke for God,” was Luther “Satanic to the core?” Or what about John Wycliff? When all he wanted to do was translate the Bible into English, and the ruling elders of the British Church would not allow him to do so, was he “Satanic to the core” for publicly defying their wishes and publishing a Bible? Your lack of consistency betrays you, Mr. Huston. When you and your church claim to be heirs of the Protestant Reformation, you cannot claim to speak finally and authoritatively for God without the humility to recognize that everything you say must be tested by the Scriptures.
Secondly, lest you forget what we are discussing here, you assert that “publicizing viewpoints rejected by the elder majority for any reason is Satanic to the core.” So we ask you, when your Senior Pastor published a blog post entitled “Congregationalism is from Satan” as a direct response to Winnetka Bible Church’s decision to reject (on two different occasions) coming under the fold of Harvest Bible Fellowship, was your Senior Pastor “Satanic to the core?” When he lashed out at that church, was he in league with Satan? You tell us. Because we would be fascinated to hear how MacDonald’s use of the internet to battle matters out in “the court of public opinion” is so Godly by comparison to the morally reprehensible – nay, Satanic! – decisions made by Mr. Phelps and Mr. Slabaugh.
Finally, we would like for you to answer one last question. If you agree with James MacDonald when he asserts that “when the elders speak collectively, in agreement, the elders speak for God to our church,” and if you believe James MacDonald when he publicly asserts that the former elders knew about the extreme levels of the debt and that the former elders are responsible for leading the church into debt, are you prepared to say that God Himself was leading the church into colossal levels of debt? Is this the theology that you wish to stand behind? Because this is the logic that follows from the two assertions that have been made; and we want to know if you would feel comfortable standing before the body, as an Elder, telling them that God wanted them to live with colossal levels of debt. Please recall, this is not the first time that James MacDonald has felt the freedom to assert that he can speak for God. During the 5G Campaign meetings, MacDonald said to his congregation: “I’ll tell you how to figure out what the Lord is leading you to pledge.” So we ask you, is “speaking for God” now a part of Harvest’s theology?
You should know that very little of what has transpired over the past twenty months has angered us. We have come to a place where much of the “discussion” that surrounds this crisis in leadership at HBC has little emotional resonance with us. We knew what we were getting into when we began to write about these issues; and we do not struggle with the harsh things that some people say about us. But what we do struggle with is a man daring to “speak for God” as he condemns two brothers in Christ as being “Satanic to the core.” You and your fellow elders owe both of these men a public apology; and anything less than a public apology that is shown to every campus will merely demonstrate to the world a complete and utter lack of character on your part.
Mr. Huston, we have addressed you specifically because you are the individual that spoke the most degrading and ultimately harmful words. To be clear, we are not asking you to publicly agree with The Elephant’s Debt. We are not even asking you to allow Phelps and Slabaugh to worship at your local church. These are matters that you must decide on your own as a group charged with leading your body. But we are asking you, individually, to publicly repent of the hyperbolic language that you used and we are asking you, as a body of elders, to repent of the dangerous language you affirmed in suggesting that your collective decisions are the equivalent of “speaking for God” in your church.
We submit this to you as your brothers in Christ,
Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney