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.Steve Huston
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.”