HBC Elder Steve Huston Resigns and Apologizes

Steve Huston

On 9 March 2019, just hours after Julie Roys published her explosive exposé regarding HBC finances, elder board member Steve Huston stood up during the HBC Saturday night service to resign and apologize. He spoke for the elder board when admitting to several areas of failure in their leadership, and he went as far as to call it sin. He stated, “We put the fear of the outcome over the fear of the Lord, and that is sin.” After speaking for the entire board he made a much more personal statement of regret.

Before getting to his statement, recall that on 21 February 2019, HBC announced that – in the wake of the MacDonald scandal and termination – the 30 plus elder board would be reduced to just nine members: Steve Huston, Dan George, Jeff Smith, Bill Sperling, Dale Kuntz, Gil De las Alas, Sam Booras, Tod Desmarais, John Dierker. However, four of these men, including Steve Huston, were part of the controversial Elder Executive Committee (EEC) which oversaw a more detailed budget, which the regular elder board could not access. Several recent stories indicate that the EEC men knew far more about MacDonald’s disqualifying behavior than the regular elders. While this new, nine member board was to be an interim group until replacements could be found, Huston’s departure is sooner than anticipated because “more visible change is necessary.”

Of course, Steve Huston is most infamous for his role in the excommunication video from 2013. In that video, along with other elders, he was a loyal soldier for MacDonald when three elders were removed from the board and the church for questioning the information they received and the manner in which decisions were made. Steve Huston famously called their actions, “Satanic to the core.” It took approximately one year for MacDonald and the elders to apologize to those men for the defamatory comments made in the video.

The HBC Excommunication Video

Tonight HBC took another necessary step in quickly removing one member of the leadership team that knew full well how toxic and abusive James Macdonald was while at HBC. If HBC is to rebuild trust with it’s people it needs to continue to remove more elders and staff quickly.

Good evening. My name is Steve Huston. I’ve had the pleasure of serving as an Elder here for a number of years. The Interim Elder Board has asked me to just kind of share some things from our heart. I don’t have a prepared statement and just kind of have some notes so that I don’t forget to say some of the things that we wanted to say. But if you’ll just give me a moment to share what’s on our heart, in reflection about the season that we’re going through.

I would just say first and foremost that you need to know that we as Elders believe that if we had a chance to do it all over again, we would just do it way different. We want to just kind of share some things that we’ve learned, things where we feel that we have let you down, where we have failed in our leadership. Just know that when we say these things, we are speaking from heavy, grieving, broken, repentant hearts.

A few areas where we feel like where we have failed the church. First one would really be a failed system. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Elder-governed, staff-led”. And really what that basically means is that rather than the Elders sitting at a table and making daily decisions and operational decisions and who [sic] gets spent where, who gets hired, things like that. he church is too big. It’s not reasonable for people who are volunteers who work other jobs to show up and make those decisions in the right kinds of context. So what we do is we created a policy. Says, you know, staff has boundaries. They can do whatever they want, as long as they stay within the boundaries. Unfortunately, it’s a failed system in the sense that the boundaries were too broad. Too much latitude, too much trust given. And I think we’re feeling the consequences of decisions that were made without enough oversight. Also allowed–sorry, just trying to get everything out. The other part of our failed system was an expanded Board. On paper it looked good. Greater accountability, but the reality was just the opposite. It had too many people. It was too hard to get decisions done. And as a result, we resulted with a Board inside of a Board and broken trust and [unclear].

Another area that we have learned that we failed in would be the area of accountability. That was our job. Especially the Executive Committee, but also as Elders, was to hold the Senior Staff accountable, the Senior Pastor accountable. And what we did is we operated under a model of accountability defined as giving an account after the fact. I’ll report back to you what we’ve done, but without relying on too much. It was on a pretense that people would do the right thing. That kind accountability is really just partial accountability. It’s not full accountability. Full accountability is saying “I want to share with you, this is where we going, this is what we’re going to do. Here’s the plan. Speak into those kind of things. Help us make some course directions. But when it’s always in arrears, it’s often too late. And that builds itself up until finally we had what we went through. And everything got held of until the very end, where we did bring full accountability, first by the EC, then by the Elder Board, terminating Pastor James MacDonald.

The other area where we have really failed–I just want to look you in the eye and say as Elders, we have really failed strongly in this area. And that’s in the area of communication. It’s a phrase that I’ve heard many times in the past six weeks. In the absence of communication, you burn trust as fuel. I just couldn’t think of anything that’s more truthful than that. We spoke up too little. We were often too late. And very much too vague. And that left you wondering what we were thinking, where things were going. And one of the lessons I’ve learned from seasons past is that you should tell your story or someone else will. And I would say that that’s what we have suffered from. And so I sincerely apologize on behalf of the full Elders for that. It’s a daunting task, but we didn’t–we failed to prioritize it for the importance that it was. We just ask for your forgiveness for that.

Another area of failure was [pause and deep breath] following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Too many times we had to make hard decisions. Fast decisions. Decisions that, frankly, were preloaded, I think, for some specific outcomes. I know sometimes as members of the EC we would talk about some things and I would say, “We did that.” We felt we had weighed out all the options and said, you know, here’s what we should probably put in front of the Elders, and so, as a member of the EC, I just want to confess that to you. We weren’t really trying to coerce folks or outcomes. We thought we were being efficient, but we realize now we really limited the ability of those extra men to provide their insight and their knowledge and their expertise.

In addition to that–just again, you know, having limited options–hurry and make a decision. You gotta do it this way or I’ll quit, or the staff the quit. And some of our most desperate most actions, these were the conditions that we operated on. That’s a failure of leadership. So I confess that to you, on behalf of our Elder Board. In this we actually sinned. Because, in reflection about what we’ve been through, each and every one of us can say, You know what? We think we felt something in our heart about the decision that we made, but we were afraid. We put the fear of the outcome over the fear of the Lord. And that’s sin. And so we repent that in front of you.

So for these reasons, and others I’m sure, you all know that we have, as an Elder Board, resigned. A few of us are lingering around, just to make sure that we can begin the process of transitioning new men onto the Board, assisting with Harvest 2020, with whatever tasks that they decide that they need from us. And pretty soon Harvest 2020 will have a more clear update exactly about how we are in the process of doing that ,but basically our goal is to have every man who is on the Interim Elder Board to be rotated off by May 31st, if not sooner.

So that’s the part that the Elders have asked me to share on their collective behalf.

Now I want to speak for me. [Long pause] And I do this with the permission of the Elders. I am in full agreement with our Elders and the fact that we’ve been hearing and seeing very clearly–I’m just going to read this because otherwise I won’t have it right. Hearing and seeing very clearly that change is needed–not just in word but also in deed. As I just said, the process for replacing the Elders is well underway. However, I am convinced that more visible change is necessary. And I’m pleased to say that I can see that we’ve got staff stepping up into leadership roles that have been vacated. There’s a process in place. There’s accountability starting to form. A change in culture. I see it. Because I can, I feel like it’s the right thing to say that, as of my moment walking off the platform, I’m no longer on the Elder Board. I will have no further involvement in the leadership [voice breaking a little with emotion] or the governance of this church. Because it’s the right thing to do. And I will just be available to answer questions that the leadership may have. 

In addition to the comments that I shared with you before, I just want to add that I apologize for my part in defending actions and people that I now know weren’t the complete picture, or even correct. In my ignorance, or in my misplaced trust, I perpetuated misinformation and extended the problem. And I just repent before this church. Just please forgive me.

I’ve had some friends that have tried to console me, saying that, “You weren’t alone,” “You did your best,” or “You just didn’t know.” But like other leaders who have shared their own expressions of regret and repentance, I just want to say on my part and the leadership failures of the church, I have sinned and I ask for forgiveness from the Lord and from you. 

As I go, I just want to say I love this church. It’s the only the church that my family, my kids know. I truly, truly believe it’s beginning to take the steps in the right direction for a more healthy culture, more transparency, better financial oversight–fixing all these cultural problems that we’ve lived with, so that we can be the forgiving, loving, and nurturing church that I know we can be. That God calls us to be. I have hope that God will continue to do His work in this place. 

So I just want to leave you with God’s Word, taken from Lamentations. Chapter 3:21 through 24. And this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” 

Thank you.

Steve Huston

16 thoughts on “HBC Elder Steve Huston Resigns and Apologizes

  1. Ex Harvest Member March 10, 2019 — 2:20 pm

    I am sure they are all lawyering up and being “trained” on what to say and how much to say. that is what the outside PR / Crisis management folks from Swicegood are bringing to the table in my opinion.

    if you don’t say it then it wont b used against you. its that simple as to why every apology is 1 inch deep

  2. How is it that Brian Musso can be on the Harvest transition team and overseeing the cash when JMAC is staying at his parents home and living on their couch? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

    1. Is this true and what are your sources. Nothing would surprise me at this point, but if that’s the case Harvest should be notified and asked this ques.

    2. Highly doubtful this is true. Comments like this are part of the problem.

  3. Please….someone from the IRS investigate MacDonald. I can’t believe the Roys article. The boldness of MacDonald with credit cards, vacations, safaris and other the other expenses with sacrificial giving is too much for me. I am sure this is only the start of more sinful acts being brought out into the light. MacDonald and others belong behind bars.

  4. Nolongerattending March 9, 2019 — 9:26 pm

    I hear Steve Huston saying he’s sorry that the elders couldn’t do their jobs and that they made decisions based on a fear of outcomes. Can Steve clarify this? Fear of James’s wrath? Fear of HBC going under?

    I am glad HBC is revamping its system. Obviously change is needed. But I do not see any evidence of the transparency that Steve is referring to. Less than a few months ago, these same elders allowed for the church to sue TED and Julie Roys and gave a statement of unconditional support to Pastor James. Be transparent. What changed? Did the tapes released by Mancow cause the elders to realize for the first time that James considers his role as a teaching pastor an act? Was he really such a great performer that you had no idea who he was behind the curtain? Say so.

    Again speaking to the issue of transparency, how were funds misused? The church deserves to know how much James and other employees were compensated annually. And did a black budget really exist? If so how was that money ultimately used and how the heck did it happen? How did the church end up in such a large amount of debt? How was this ever approved. Is James earning retirement income from HBC? How much and what is the rationale behind this?

    Folks, there are stories to tell. “We are being transparent by generically admitting that we sinned and failed to provide transparency and oversight” dosen’t cut it. Tell the truth. The whole story. Let the members of the body decide how to proceed as the Holy Spirit leads them. For once do the right thing. No more dark secrets in God’s house.

    1. yes, yes👍

    2. yes and Amen. I’ve never read so many statements from the elders that barely stated a thing. You are left wondering what was just said!

  5. I’m confused. On the February 21st elders update it said that
    “To maintain our accreditation with both the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) and the ECCU (Evangelical Christian Credit Union) our mortgage lender, the interim Elder board must retain its officers (our former Executive Committee members) until qualified replacements can be transitioned.”
    So is Steve Huston resigning tonight, without naming his qualified replacement, does that mean that the ECCA &EFCA change their rules and regulations or that HBC voluntarily relinquished their accreditation status? OR was the information in the February 21st Elder statement just another lie told to the congregation? Someone please help me understand

    1. Who cares about an accreditation that allowed such rampant fraud and lavishness?

      Every time I hear the EFCA mentioned, it always seems to be in the context of massive fraud and book cooking.

      The EFCA needs to take a look at themselves but suffice it to say, keeping their accreditation would not be anything of value to me if I were an elder. It might be 12th on the list of important things.

      These “elders” were all running the Lord’s church as moneychangers and ran it as a corporation …

      It’s time that all of the elders…all of them…resign.

      To me, harvest now stands for “disaster” and there is nothing related to what’s left that needs to be kept. It all needs to be shut down and this will be especially hard fir those who have had Harvest as their idol for far too long…

      Harvest needs to close now. And the true Christian relationships and study groups and prayer chains and studies? They will flourish and grow as the Lord wills now. There will no longer be millions of dollars to create the atmosphere or the ambiance or the environment or the sound or the availability Harvest provided. It is way more important to shut down this deformed, sick, emotional form of “Christianity” that brought about the right “words” and “decisions” and “growth”. When did Jesus become not enough? When did the music HAVE to be a certain kind…at a certain volume sung by the right people at the right time…?

      Jesus doesn’t need the Harvest. Harvest has nothing special to save. It’s people need to go fill the churches that all shrunk because of the Harvest vortex installed to grow and multiply and take over other entities…a movement…?

      Read the book Vertical Church. Jesus is not to be found in it. The book could have been titled “How to Push all the Right Buttons have a Money Maker”.

      It was the very sick James Macdonald writing his own man centered manifesto to congratulate himself.

      He was not a great teacher…he was not a great preacher…great teachers and great preachers never become bigger than irrelevant…

      Great teachers and preachers? They need the Holy Spirit and I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit had been quenched long ago.

      In the end, I’ve listed to 500-600 sermons of James Macdonald and I will never again say that he was a great teacher. What James MacDonald taught me in retrospect is to avoid everything he did and everything he became.

      Such a devastating day for the church…it is the first day where I think everyone can now clearly see that Harvest isn’t going to make it. And why? Because of the wickedness of the so called overseers….all they did since I left in 2012 is to treat those that left and were sounding alarm bells as though we were in sin and that we were to be shunned and treated harshly or completely ignored. I was told I would be immediately escorted to the door if I ever walked into a Harvest at any location…

      And everyone knew it and yet somehow you still stayed? Did that sound like the Lord’s church? Most of the congregation that stayed after seeing what was printed on this website in 2012 knew how the church was treating those who left…and stayed and watched all of this.

      Why? Because you liked the music and the show and the coolness and whatever…but it certainly was not about Jesus Christ.

      My point is, everyone needs to now realize that this church abused those who left and withheld its blessing from us and all of us made it through and all of us are saddened by the complete disaster James Macdonald and his sons and Rick Donald passively allowing all of it..

      How could you?

      All of you need to step down immediately. There is no such thing as “people who didn’t know”. Everyone knew and claiming ignorance now just perpetuates the sin that has destroyed a church that many of us invested a lot of time into.

      There is nothing salvageable that another local church can’t do better.

      1. Wow – that is a powerful story! I agree Harvest should and will in all likelihood close. That Vertical Church logo / buck stripes should be discarded to the bin post haste.

      2. A very brave and insightful comment, John Byrne. How many will be able to heed your warnings and suggestions? If ‘the show’ was what brought so many in, how many would remain minus the slick, manipulative entertainment? It is so much easier, and more fun, to do the weekly theater and plop the bucks in the bucket, than to actually spend time in the Word, personal prayer and figuring out how to pour one’s life into the needy.
        At least those who sincerely desire a genuine relationship with God have had the veil pulled back, and need no longer be deceived and manipulated. Unless that is the bang people actually want for their bucks.

  6. The Harvest 2020 is made up of insiders. Some maybe all are paid. Pastor Greg Bradshaw is representing the campus pastors who were well aware of who James is. They looked the other way. One pastor even got to go on a safari. Steve Huston Alluded to the idea that the church was to big for volunteers to make decisions. Sounds like they are going to professionalize the elders, and 2020. I wonder what the “Tentmaker” would think. It sounded like an inside job.

    1. Nolongerattending March 10, 2019 — 11:10 am

      How can they allow outsiders to come in? They would see the books. The fraud wouls be uncovered. Like I said before, there is not an ounce of transparency here. Just a general admission that “Yeah, we screwed up. Now let our insiders fix it.” I mean, fool me twice, you know?

      1. They should restore the old elders who they called satanic. If they are willing ,let them start as the new the board. They can add from there. You would gain in transparency.

        1. I totally agree Paul.

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