A little over two weeks ago, on the 17th of September, The Elephant’s Debt brought to your attention a shameful and theologically bankrupt video that was used to ex-communicate two former elders from within Harvest’s body. You may recall that in our post, we called upon Steve Huston and the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel to publicly apologize and make amends for describing the actions of these two former elders, Phelps and Slabaugh, as being “Satanic to the core.”
Sadly, it would appear that Harvest has elected not to do this. Instead, they appear to have adopted a defensive posture in which they are now trying to eliminate all evidence of the video’s existence. As has been reported elsewhere yesterday, the September Elder Update that contained the video (and three corresponding letters) was removed by Harvest; and it has been replaced with a newer version that does not contain the video or the letters that were posted in the original version. More troubling still, at least one website, authored by Paul Dohse, is also reporting that legal pressure has been put on his site to remove a copy of the video from its YouTube account.
Interestingly enough, even as Harvest works to expunge the video from the far reaches of the internet, the latest version of their September elder update, suggests that they may actually recognize that they are not blameless when it comes to the circumstances surrounding the production of the video.
Our goal and great longing is not to hurt these men or portray that we have handled everything perfectly, rather only to see them submit to the Elder request that they stop sowing discord in the church.
As you can see, Harvest is not willing to suggest that it has “handled everything perfectly.” But the problem with an admission such as this – an admission that is buried deep within the architecture of the church’s website – is that no one is clear as to what Harvest failed to “handle perfectly.” Are they trying to suggest that they no longer believe that they speak for God? Are they trying to suggest that they are no longer comfortable demonizing men who are merely trying to following the dictates of their personal conscience. It is unclear.
So, if the congregation is going to understand the actions of its leadership, questions must be put forth to Harvest in the hopes of clarification. First and foremost, it must be asked whether Harvest wants to maintain their position that when elders speak collectively, they speak for God. Because if this is true, their actions over the past two days are highly puzzling. If God directed them to say the the things that they said on that video, has God suddenly changed His mind? Has God suddenly decided that it wasn’t right to to demonize men publicly?
Alternatively, if this is the sort of language that Harvest is attempting to back away from, with its vague and ill-defined statement, then a follow-up question must be asked. On the heels of teaching a warped and dangerous theology that is antithetical to the entire Protestant movement, why would they not want to make their retraction and apology as public and as explicit as they made the discipline of Phelps and Slabaugh? Why would they not want to “Act Like Men,” unless, of course, Harvest believes that “acting like a man” entails trying to offer only the vaguest of apologies to those that you have hurt, even as you attempt to eradicate all evidence of your wrongdoing?
When it comes right down to it, the plain and simple reality is this. If Harvest truly believes that the elders spoke for God in that vitriolic video, than their current attempts to now distance themselves from the video can only mean that they are no longer willing to stand by God when He speaks. And if that is the case, then there is not a man on the elder board, including James MacDonald, that is fit to serve in his current role. On the other hand, if Harvest does not want to endorse this ill-chosen and spiritually abusive language, then they need to dedicate some serious time to both publicly apologizing to Phelps and Slabaugh, and perhaps, more importantly, to training and educating their body as to just how destructive and ill-informed their theological pronouncements truly were.
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Editor’s Note: An article that was very similar in nature to this article was first published in the late morning of October 3rd. Sometime around 2:00 pm, notifications began to arrive informing the authors that the website was experiencing difficulty. Some even wondered whether we had been forced to remove the article in question. In reality, there was a technical glitch that we cannot explain. But ultimately, this glitch erased the article and made it impossible to recover the original. So we have had to re-write the post from memory, trying to stay as close to the original as we could. We apologize for those of you who had already commented. Your comments were also lost in this process. For the sake of documenting the history of this site, we now include a copy of the original post that we “lost.” A kind reader sent it to us shortly after we wrote the new version. The original version can be found here.