Last fall, approximately one month after James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel filed the defamation lawsuit, HBC announced that they were adding three new Elders and three returning Elders to the 2019 Elder Board (see below). Among these names is one Mr. Robert Jones, a longtime associate of James MacDonald, who previously served as an Elder at HBC for eleven years, and who even served as the Chairman of the Board. In addition to his formal service, when it came time for MacDonald to sit down for an interview with World magazine, Jones went on record with the magazine and said that MacDonald’s “character is not in question.” Shortly thereafter, Jones signed a document that promised “unconditional support” of James MacDonald, and even released a more detailed statement that reads as follows:
“This letter expresses my support and appreciation for Pastor James, the elder board and the pastoral staff at Harvest Bible Chapel. As with any organization, there are improvements that can be made, but by God’s grace Harvest has taken actions that will serve well to correct the course when needed and make improvements when necessary, with God’s direction.”
Clearly, Robert Jones has deep connections to MacDonald and Harvest; and this brings us to the point of this post.
On Monday, 20 January 2019, Harvest Bible Chapel updated its website. In addition to removing MacDonald’s picture and name from the Executive Leadership Team (XLT), HBC also updated its roster of Elders. Of the six elders that Harvest promised to add to the board in November of 2018, five of the names are now present on the website. The only name that is missing is Mr. Robert Jones.
So, yesterday afternoon, The Elephant’s Debt reached out to Mr. Jones through a mutual contact. This acquaintance agreed to call Mr. Jones and inform him that we were preparing a piece noting his absence from the Elder Board. We then sent an email to both Mr. Jones and our mutual contact asking Mr. Jones to confirm the statements he had made in conversation with our contact. Had Mr. Jones failed to reply to TED, we would not have been able to publish this post.
But today, Mr. Jones emailed us back and confirmed that he “declined the HBC offer to join the Elder Board.” More significantly, he said that he “intend[s] to remain at Harvest Bible Chapel to see it get to a healthy place.” The implication of this statement is clear. By saying that he intends to see it get to a healthy place, he is implicitly acknowledging that it is not currently in a healthy place.
Ultimately, this development leaves us with three questions:
1. If Mr. Jones wants HBC to “get to a healthy place,” why would he elect to do this from outside of the Elder Board as opposed to being an experienced voice from within its own ranks?
2. Does this decision by Mr. Jones suggest in any way that he does not have the confidence that the Elder Board is the best place through which he can effect change, helping Harvest “get to a healthy place?”
3. After the HBC Elder Board failed to fully disclose their statement to the Naples campus and got caught hiding relevant information from that campus, why is it that the Harvest congregants are learning from The Elephant’s Debt and not their own Elder Board the change in Robert Jones’ status in leadership? This lack of transparency is one of many critical problems that have plagued HBC over the years; and it is troubling that they do not appear to be making much progress in terms of correcting this behavior.