The Board of Directors of the GCC (Formerly Harvest Bible Fellowship) Speak Publicly

Last night, the Board of Directors of the Great Commission Collective (GCC) released the following statement publicly.  As many of you know,  the GCC is composed primarily of churches that were formerly a part of Harvest Bible Fellowship, which was dissolved in 2017 when James Sherwood MacDonald severed ties with the organization.  Furthermore, as you may recall, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel publicly reprimanded MacDonald for his impulsive actions in destroying the longstanding ties between these ministries; and stated that he had no authority to act in this fashion.

Now, over the last 24 hours, it would appear that Harvest Bible Chapel’s decision to place MacDonald on an “indefinite sabbatical,” where he will be afforded the opportunity to continue to preach in Naples, FL, has motivated the GCC Board of Directors to publicly speak with clarity for the first time.


It should be noted that the GCC Board of Directors is composed of at least eight men, all of whom have long term relationships both with MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel.  Among these men [1], there are two in particular that stand out.

First, there is Garrett Higbee, the former Chief Health Officer of Harvest Bible Chapel.  During the three months that MacDonald and HBC were suing the authors of this blog, MacDonald and the elders of Harvest attempted to point to Garrett Higbee as a witness to the overall well-being of James MacDonald’s character (see their statement below).

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But as a part of the GCC’s Board, it would appear that Mr. Higbee is now prepared to refute Harvest’s use of his name as an implied endorsement of MacDonald. [2]

Secondly, there is Rob Willey, Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport [3].  In a recent sermon preached on the subject of a pending name change for his church, Willey had this to say:

“[The name change] comes down to three main reasons.  Number one, we’re no longer a part of Harvest Bible Fellowship … We pulled out of that a year and a half ago; and it doesn’t even exist anymore.  That’s the first reason.  Second, we’re no longer associated with the church or the pastor, who started the Harvest movement.  And we don’t want to be.  There have just been too many decisions over the years, too many things that we don’t resonate with or agree with – even more as of late.  And while we’ve always been an autonomous, self-governing church, sharing the name implies association and support; and nothing could be further from the truth anymore.”

As the days continue to pass, it would appear that more and more former associates and leaders are seeking to distance themselves not only from James MacDonald himself, but from the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel.  And that is a stinging rebuke that cannot be ignored as Harvest continues to try to spin this situation.

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[1]  Robbie Symons (Pastor Harvest Bible Chapel Oakville), Scott Hollingshead (Lead Pastor Harvest Bible Chapel Sacramento), Tim Harkness (Senior Pastor Harvest Bible Chapel Peoria), Trent Griffith (Senior Pastor Harvest Bible Chapel Granger), Jerry Lingenfelter (Senior Pastor Harvest Bible Chapel Lancaster), Rob Willey (Senior Pastor Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport), Earl Seals (Former HBC Elder and “Mighty Man”), Brian White (Executive Director of GCC and Lead Pastor Harvest Pastor North Indy)

[2]  The original piece in appropriately identified Garrett Higbee as a member of the GCC Board of Directors.  Additionally, it failed to identify Earl Seals as a member.  This has been corrected by this post.

[3]  Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport is changing their name to Coram Deo Bible Church

Editor’s Note: The original title of this piece inadvertently suggested that the Board of Directors of Harvest Bible Chapel spoke.  This error was caught within moments of publication and was immediately corrected.

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23 thoughts on “The Board of Directors of the GCC (Formerly Harvest Bible Fellowship) Speak Publicly

  1. Looks like your list of GCC Board Members is not current.

  2. Seems interesting that the GCC is now throwing JMac under the bus. Where have you been all these years. You can’t say you never seen this behavior before. As matter of fact, several have former HBC attenders to your churches that have gave testimony of your conduct.

    1. I imagine the GCC pastors had too much to lose in speaking out earlier. Who need power, prestige, and money too much. Now that James MacDonald is clearly a liability, they finally speak. I thought it was always right to do the right thing, not merely waiting until it is convenient. In search of professional christians with balls of courage and integrity. But i’m getting very tired.

  3. James’ brother John who helped plant Harvest Oakville is in Naples as well. He travels there between Oakville and Florida quite regularly. He is just as well off as James, and very involved in the Harvests. They are a very rich family. Given that his brother is very well versed in finance as he ran his own accounting firm for many years. John has likely counselled James financially over the years. Im also not surprised we have not heard anything from Harvest Oakville from Robbie Symons. Given his closeness to the MacDonald family, I’m sure this is taking a toll on him. I’ve yet to hear the Canadian churches distance themselves from this situation. Both James and John are close with the many of the Pastors as are the MacDonald families who attend the HBC churches still. Whenever this site or the stories coming out of Rolling Meadows was brought up, we were told that it had nothing to do with us in Canada. right…….

  4. I, wholeheartedly agree with the comments from HBCD survivors. This is a spin to save face(and income). A farce. Nothing else. The coat tails of James have run their coarse. It’s sickening. It’s a ploy to ramp up excitement for the BS Bandwagon. We left the Davenport HBC after 7 years totally hurt by the leadership there. We have not looked back. Other than to watch the debacle unfold – not gleefully but as affirmations we weren’t crazy. There was so much pain and confusion at the time. Heartbreaking on so many levels. So many walking wounded in the Quad Cities (and elsewhere) for many of the same reasons.
    I, too was surprised to see Rob Willey’s name. The apple does not fall far from the tree. From the top there was a toxic, abusive environment, lack of accountability, manipulation, secrecy, demands for loyalty, deception and ultimately rejection. When you questioned, disagreed, called something out, and finally left you were a backslider, dissenter, a gossip… you name it.
    BUT GOD… He will NOT share His glory with another! Putting a pastor, a church, ministries or friends in the place of God is idolatry. SIN! Turning a blind eye to dishonesty, abuse and corruption is SIN. Renaming, rebranding or relocating a church or pastor doesn’t change/remove the sin… only God can do that in the hearts of men and women. Faith and true repentance. There’s a whole lot of repenting that should be happening not repackaging the same old mess.
    There is hope in Christ. He has restored what was broken. It takes time. We pray God exposes the truth and people’s eyes are opened.

  5. It’s good TED published a correction to this article in a different post. However, Garrett’s new statement seems to contradict the very love and support he made for James in his resignation letter?

    https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Garrett-Higbee-Letter-of-Resignation.pdf

    Will Garrett be the first of the scorn ex-employees to come out and say how either:
    1. someone else wrote his letter, or
    2. someone told him how to write this letter

    Man up Garrett. Fear not the wrath of James and whatever NDA you signed. You were deep in the counsel of James in both a small group and counseling.

  6. [Former Congregant at] HBC Davenport January 19, 2019 — 2:33 pm

    We were involved at HBC Davenport (HBCD) for the first nine years of its existence. Over that time, we became increasingly aware of many disturbing issues, and watched as the church became a revolving door of elders, deacons, staff, and attendees. A culture of control, secrets, image, spin, shunning, criticism, money, and numbers is the norm. HBCD mirrors Chicago’s narcissist leadership, hand-picked elders, “first among equals” governance, lack of accountability, spending without congregational/financial support, spinning of financial reporting…many equivalencies to what has been documented regarding HBC Chicago.

    As Angie, Anne, DW, Evie, and Ed have commented below, Rob Willey is a mini James MacDonald. Don’t be fooled. When we first read this post, we couldn’t believe that Rob was appearing to receive accolades for speaking out against James MacDonald now. The pastors/elders/churches of true conviction spoke up and left six years ago. Rob had every opportunity at that time to take the same stand (and has every day since) and was asked to do so. What we see happening now with Rob and the GCC is that the rats are finally being forced to abandon the sinking ship. This is not spiritual discernment, but an effort at survival. A name change does nothing to alter the underlying toxic culture, anymore than whitewashing a tomb can alter the contents. (And who came up with this new name again?) This is all just more spin. It may seem like a “virus” spreads from Chicago to the HBF plants, but it’s not a virus. It’s a genetic defect engineered by James and delivered by Harvest U into the DNA of HBC plants and pastors. There’s no cure. It’s who they are.

    So here are six voices speaking out about HBC Davenport, and there remain many, many more unheard. The Quad Cities is filled with walking wounded who have been “catapulted” or run over by the HBCD “bus”. There is only idolatry when we worship pastors, churches (and our brand-new church signs) instead of our Lord. If you’re a former elder, deacon, pastor, or staff from HBCD and haven’t spoken up, now is the time to lend your voice.

    The implosion of Harvest is sad, difficult to watch, and there is no joy in it. But judgement starts with the house of God, 1 Peter 4:17. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

    [Editor’s Note: The original post came under the name “HBC Davenport.” We were contacted by Grady Adkins (Executive Pastor of HBC Davenport), and we were asked to clarify that this was not a formal statement made by the leadership. So we changed the name.]

  7. Ex-Member and Staff wife 2004-2013

    With all due respect this HBC/Moody Bible institute situation has taught my husband and I to be much more careful who we trust. We helped plant HBC Davenport with Rob Willey (based on JM’s personal recommendation). We did not know Rob but came to know him over 10 yrs. serving together. I think we all had good intentions in the first 5 years. What none of us could foresee is how money, “Christian radio fame”, and power would impact James MacDonald and by default all of his church plants (us). His example was below reproach for a pastor. His love of money did corrupt those around him. Many were harmed in the process. My husband left the staff after warning Rob and his elders about large scale church mismanagement. His warning fell on deaf ears. All of the men influenced by JM for decades and their boards should resign because at some level they mimicked and hid James’ sin to keep a job and pastors don’t get that luxury. Teachers are held to a higher standard because their example matters. God’s mercy and forgiveness are enough to care for us all. Your witness will be so much more powerful in repentance rather than hiding behind new names. Let someone who hasn’t struggled take your place. You can teach from the things you learned while at HBC as a member of the congregation and help the next generation to be wise as sepents and innocent as doves. Repentance seems hard at the moment but will bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Please take this to heart! You be the change!

    1. Angie I respect your courage in speaking out. This isn’t just about one man and I think it is a great caution to people who are quick to jump on board with the GCC. I have personally written the GCC Board of Directors after their response, as many of those on the board have exhibited very similar personas and ambitions. (In case you don’t recognize my name I had a legal name change after my horrendous excommunication from Harvest formally Buraga)

    2. Shortly after John left, a “town hall meeting” was held. People at that meeting were calling for HBCD to leave the fellowship and disassociate the church from James MacDonald. Rob knew then how bad James was. They still continued to give to and be apart of the fellowship. And how many people did he hurt along the way? And now as chairman of the board of GCC he sends this letter? Looking back there were a lot of similarities between Rob and James MacDonald. And by reading some of the other posts sounds like that’s a common theme within the GCC. Of course I’m sure that doesn’t apply to all of the pastors.

      1. DW,

        We heard about the town hall meetings and it meant a lot to us that the flock was fighting to end ties with JM. Unfortunately, Rob & John Cochran were enmeshed with HBF. They continued to collude with James and HBF after we left.

    3. Based on Rob Willey’s reasoning for the Davenport church disassociating with James and Harvest, one could conclude there is wisdom in choosing to step away from church leadership in which you do not agree or resonate with, right?

      The hundreds that left Harvest Davenport over the past several years due to the mistreatment or abuse of people there, also felt that way, but sadly, weren’t called wise or heralded as having character over the decision to leave. Instead we were described as bitter, having gone “sideways”, “borrowing the offenses of others”, ungodly and being “purged”, to name a few of the things said of those that left. Should that be said of Davenport for choosing to disassociate from Harvest and James?

      It’s sad that Rob and his decision is somewhat elevated on the ED website because the very thing ED has been sounding the alert about has happened in Davenport, and a multitude of people there would tell you authentic repentance has not yet happened.

      In conclusion, yes, it’s very wise to leave a church that is abusing the Body of Christ.

      1. Evie,

        You are right,the abuse and mismanagement are systemic and when you look at Coram Deo’s website, the governance and words are similar to HBC’s—-No Change in governance = No Repentance. A name change is simply a hiding mechanism and we hide when we have sinned (Gen 3). Garrett Higbee and Rob Willey are notable in that they hid and continued JM’s sin more closely than most. Isn’t that why Rob won a Senior Pastor of the Year award! We need to ban together and shine the light in our community to eradicate the darkness that James MacDonald brought here.

        1. GCC has the same personality as HBC. Look at the make up of churches in GCC. They are what they are because of their training from Harvest University. Who is strong enough to change this culture?

      2. Harvest claims they follow Matthew 18, but not once in the 6 years I was there did I observe the last step of “telling it to the church”. I do know steps 1 and 2 were followed. And yet I know in that amount of time there should have at least been one excommunication. Now you could claim that the videos shown at certain campuses mentioned on this site about excommunication of certain elders is proof they do practice it fully. However, those were done from the narrative of those elders that remained with a claim that the sin was a divisive spirit. But Jesus didn’t put a restriction on the sin that should be brought forward. Therefore, I don’t think it is a coincidence that only a particular sin at Harvest rises to the level of “telling it to the church”. It is purely to protect power esp. when the original issue had to do with dissenting opinion not sin. So the only reasons I can figure that excommunication for any typical sin of any member doesn’t occur at Harvest is that they take the incorrect position that confrontation with the elders is the same as telling it to the church and that they practice silent shaming so that the person leaves (as evidenced by the stark language used in banishment videos and what Evie mentioned above plus I’ve seen staff intentionally avoid and isolate another staff member who was on the outs and I’ve seen members quietly forced to withdraw from serving).

        But there are accountability benefits for telling congregants as the last step. It forces the elders to consider if this is really a sin issue or a matter of difference in opinion. It forces a right investigation and clearing of the innocent on baseless or unproven accusation. It forces a focus on restoration and not banishment for personal agendas such as PR. It avoids unilateral decisions by the “first among equals”. It forces clarity on the sin, thus, minimizing rumoring. Lastly, it would give confidence that congregants can approach leadership knowing that they would be heard fully and fairly and only rejected for sin.

  8. Ex-Member 1999 -2012 January 18, 2019 — 12:40 pm

    This is an unbelievable story of deception. This so scripted and planned, probably for months. James was going to Florida to get out of the cold of Chicago and the heat, from the congregation. He just needed an exit strategy to retire to FLA on the Church’s dime and call himself the victim..

    My Wife and I started attending HBC Rolling Meadows at the end of 1999 and ended our membership in 2012. I volunteered for WITW for 10 years or so and had seen many behind the scenes antics. I did not put it all together till James went in front of the Church on a Saturday Night in 2011 or 2012 to address the concerns of the Elephant’s Debt. At that time James said he was entering into a season or repentance and reconciliation. After that Saturday, the things I had seen and heard started to become clear. I had seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, James take the Lords name in vain. This was in a warmup session before the service. “God Damn it what the Hell are you doing?” I was taken aback and had to discuss it with some folks. I was told that I must have heard him wrong or if he did, he may of had the right to be angry. Well, isn’t that a large part of the problem? People sticking up for James and coming up with reasons to protects him (the victim). My Small group leader sticking up for James telling me that James did not have control over the money. James deserves the 2 Million dollar home because the Bible tells you to pay your pastor. James housing an unmarried young woman living in their home and folks telling me that the elders must be watching over that situation.

    So now, James is in another season of repentance and reconciliation. How many seasons does the congregation need to go through this with him to find out it it all smoke and mirrors? How many times does the Church need to forgive and forget? 70X7? Why is the current fund raising called the COLSER campaign? Because James is closing the books on Rolling Meadows and moving to Florida?

    Mark my words, the “The Peacemaker campaign will be executed and worked through to an end. Then a study of the session will be repackaged and sold to the congregation and Churches as a teaching tool of how Harvest worked through this difficult season.

    Members of Harvest, wake up! The evil one is at work. He deceives our hearts and calls evil – good and good- evil. Time has come to resist and walk away.

  9. Hmm… Let’s call roll. Dave Corning. Ron Allchin. Jim Jodrey. Mike Mahoney. David Jones. Dan Marquardt. Scott Phelps. Barry Slabaugh. Russ Barney. Fred Agase. Daryl Rice. Mike Bryant. Rod Van Solkema. Matt Till. David Wisen. Rob Willey. Jeff and Debbie Richardson. Matt Stowell. Josh Caterer. Dallas Jenkins. Randy Williams.

    How many more elders (former or current), eye witnesses, and people of character need to come forward before the people of Harvest Bible Chapel get it?!?

    The list above is a very partial…and impartial list. Impartial as in a list of people who are objective and trustworthy. And partial as in a list that falls woefully short of the actual number of people who have been wounded by James MacDonald and his antics. Some think that number may be as high as 50x the number of folks listed above.

    People of Harvest…If you are not willing to find another fellowship, then how could you not immediately call for the resignation of every elder, campus pastor, and leader who has been responsible for enabling and covering up James MacDonald‘s antics and engaging in more spin than a Texas tornado?!?

    I’m not sure what’s so difficult to understand what 1 Timothy 3 has to say about the biblical qualifications of an elder nor can I understand why people at Harvest can’t seem to connect the dots.

    Campus pastors and leaders like Jeff Donaldson and Rick Donald have been complicit in all of this mess, month after month, year after year…and because they are very well paid, I suspect they have chosen to keep quiet for fear of losing their jobs…as they would have little or no way to make a fraction of the money they make at Harvest anywhere else.

    I’ve heard it said by people of Harvest, “But all our friends are at Harvest!” To those people I would like to ask, “Are you fearful your friends won’t join you if you decide to leave Harvest? Do you not believe you will find fellowship and friends in another church?”

    How many more men does James MacDonald have to bring up on stage for a cheesy sermon illustration and humiliate them before people wake up to the reality he has long ago disqualified himself as an elder (pastor), period. Surely I can’t be the only person who’s noticed over the years how James seems to get a kick out of pushing people around on stage, embarrassing them. Or could I be mistaken, and no one else has ever given it a second thought just how bizarre, sick and twisted that is?

    Switching gears, if you live anywhere near Crystal Lake and want to visit a wonderful church, I recommend the Evangelical Free Church of Crystal Lake where my family and I have been worshiping since 2013.

    Unlike Harvest, you will find series and sermons that are truly Christ-centered and communicated with grace and truth.

    Secondly, the gospel is front and center at EFC-CL and is preached each and every week. I’m thrilled the pastor there understands just how important that is, not just for the unbeliever, but every bit as much to encourage the believer in Christ. A week hardly goes by where an appeal is not made for sinners to be reconciled with God. With that said, it is done without the use of manipulation, or other man-centered methods like Harvest has employed for years. I have yet to see a single altar call given. The pastor at EFC-CL understands that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict a sinner of their need for a Savior. What a breath of fresh air, in contrast to churches like Harvest where pastors employ man-centered methods to get decisions rather than gain converts.

    Thirdly, the music (i.e. song lyrics) is theologically sound and tastefully done. The folks up front singing aren’t necessarily there because they’re good-looking, young, professional, or well-connected. I like how things aren’t done in a showy kind of way or to excess and that the people “on stage” don’t appear to be performing, but rather worshiping God along with others in the building.

    Additionally, the fellowship is multi-generational. But not only is it multi-generational, so many older people serve there joyfully and remain an integral part of the church’s ministries. I sense these folks at EFC-CL are respected and looked up to in a way maybe unlike I’ve seen in other churches where people of age can be marginalized, forgotten about, or who no longer seem to be welcome to serve up front on the worship team.

    Unlike Harvest, at EFFCL there is a strong emphasis on sending out “home-grown” missionaries, and supporting them both financially and prayerfully.

    Furthermore, EFC-CL does not seem to be influenced negatively by our culture or employ worldly methods in how they “do church”.

    The people at EFC-CL are very friendly, down to earth, and go out of their way to introduce themselves and get to know folks they don’t recognize.

    Lastly, EFC-CL does not seem to be caught up in the church growth movement, nor does it seem to be caught up in the “circus” church and its antics that I would describe characterize much of the landscape of the American evangelical, mega-church today.

    As we all know, there is no perfect church, at least not here on Earth, but I do pray that folks will flee HBC and make their way over to healthy Bible-believing, God-honoring churches… and do so quickly.

    1. That’s a good report.

    2. Thank you, we will check out EFC-CL.
      Looks like its 15 mins. from our house.
      Shalom

  10. Huh. I still don’t get why MacDonald would be allowed to preach if he’s got serious issues about which he needs to repent. Of whom does he have dirty pictures?

  11. Good comment, PC.

  12. After Mars Hill imploded, the splinter churches often scrubbed all references to their connect with Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. I think it’s important for churches to own their history and DNA, or at least make it plain why they’ve changed and no longer support what they use to support. Keeping members and visitors in the dark does them a disservice and perpetuates misconduct and creates an environment where misconduct goes unchallenged.

    1. Agreed, but the $64000 question is how to get there. Or move the decimal point three places to the right if we’re talking about Harvest. Everybody just wants to “get past things”, but doesn’t realize you’ve got to learn from the experience if you want to avoid repeating it.

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