I would criticize Harvest Bible Chapel and accuse them of running a cult, but I’m afraid they would make me an elder.
Then again, I guess I don’t have to worry about that, since I’m a woman. HBC wouldn’t make me an elder no matter how much I spoke ill of the church and its leadership in private—or, more appropriately, no matter how godly I am—and apparently, they’ll retain any number of men of poor character as pastors and elders.
Previously I authored a post called “I Suffer Not a Woman—But I’ll Suffer Just About Anything Else” wherein I pointed out the absurdity of churches not ordaining women only to tolerate the most appalling behavior from their male leadership. In that case, my example was Tullian Tchividjian, who had gone straight from his public admission of a “revenge” extramarital affair to a (technically non-ordained) leadership position in Willow Creek Church in Winter Springs, FL. Then we learned that Tchividjian had engaged in an earlier affair, which some of the elders at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church had known about and declined to act on, and which Tchividjian did not disclose to Willow Creek Church prior to accepting the “Director of Ministry Development” position.
(By the way, I care not that Willow Creek Church claims it was just trying to help Tchividjian support his family by giving him a job. I was a struggling single mom for four years and know A LOT of struggling single moms. Not one of us has ever been “helped out” by a church with the offer of a paid “Director of Ministry” job. Were food pantries and secondhand clothes not good enough for the Great and Powerful Tullian Tchividjian?)
But let’s return to Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, located one mile away from my own church in Palatine. I touched on their unbiblical and unwise decision to sue reporter Julie Roys and some Christian bloggers (and their wives) back in November. This is something that Wayne Grudem apparently advised them to do, which makes rather a lot of sense, because if you’re hoping to drum up some unbiblical advice on controversial topics (“Should I ordain this woman?” “Should I vote for a man who brags about sexually assaulting women?“ “Should I sue these bloggers and their wives for defamation?”), Grudem’s about as good a bet as any. (UPDATE 12-21-18: Wayne Grudem denies having advised HBC to pursue this lawsuit, as James MacDonald intimated in his Christianity Today op-ed. I’m rolling my eyes a bit at Grudem’s refusal to comment on the HBC suit, even after James MacDonald tried to attach him to it, but if he’s content to let his fellow hierarchists drag his good name into the mud with them, that’s his prerogative.)
Instead of speaking with a theologian known for doling out poor advice, Harvest should have spoken with an experienced defamation attorney, who could have advised them that discovery exists. Because the first round of discovery was recently completed, and the results are disastrous for Harvest Bible Chapel. You can and should read about that in full here, but in sum: one of their top elders (who is still currently serving as an elder) sent text messages last year which corroborate the main criticisms of HBC and James MacDonald published by The Elephant’s Debt, namely, that James MacDonald is unfit to serve as a pastor or elder per 1 Tim. 3:2, and that HBC engaged in significant financial mismanagement. Yet no action was taken and James MacDonald continues to preach, teach, and remain in authority over the church.
Harvest Bible Chapel is a hierarchist (aka “complementarian”) church that excludes women from ordination. But here’s the thing, gentlemen: that passage you use to exclude women from the pulpit (1 Timothy 2:11-15) is literally right next to the part about qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Like, there are no verses in between them; they belong together.
So when you assiduously refuse to install women as pastors and elders (because no woman, you say, is qualified to be in authority) while simultaneously refusing to uninstall men who are not qualified to serve as pastors and elders, your actions belie your claim to be holding fast to Scriptural teachings on leadership. Instead, it looks an awful lot like you’re weaving a good ol’ boys network where the men at the top can (allegedly) slander, rage, and abuse free from accountability or consequences, and we both know God has no part in that.
What’s ironic to me is that hierarchists frequently argue that biblical women in leadership positions (like Deborah) were only called by God due to a “lack of worthy men.” They never seem to consider that there may be a “lack of worthy men” problem happening right now, and that they are part of that problem.
In any case, I congratulate Julie Roys and The Elephant’s Debt bloggers and their wives on winning the lawsuit against them. It’s a matter of “when” now, not “if.”