Harvest Bible Chapel scraps lawsuit against Julie Roys, bloggers

By The Christian Post

Pastor James MacDonald. | (Photo: Harvest Bible Chapel video screen grab)

Harvest Bible Chapel has dropped a lawsuit against author and journalist Julie Roys and the writers of the Elephant's Debt blog amid public scrutiny for an alleged culture of fear, intimidation, and financial mismanagement.

The suit first came about last fall before the publication of Roys' eight-months investigation into Harvest Bible Chapel's financial activities and allegations that longtime Pastor James MacDonald had serious anger issues and had been verbally abusive to many people, including staff and former elders. The Elephant's Debt blog has been writing about these issues since 2012; the site was launched for the purpose of making a public case that MacDonald should no longer serve in his pastoral office.

The church sought two motions in court, one for an emergency protective order to seal documents that had been returned during the discovery process. The other was a motion to stay discovery, which would have essentially barred them from conducting any further discovery until spring. Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larsen denied both motions on Monday.

Following her refusal to grant the motions, on Monday the church put out a statement on their website maintaining they still believe that what Roys and the Elephant's Debt blog did was illegal, though they did not mention the parties by name.

Julie Roys

"Recent events have made it clear that any further private content subpoenaed from third and fourth parties will likely be publicized online," the statement from the executive committee of elders explained.

"Case law contains many legal precedents related to restricting these actions, yet the court ruled against our motions in both instances. The result is that even if we filed a motion to reconsider, even if we amended the complaint to exclude private matters sensitive to some third parties, the court appears unwilling to protect our many friends, including those with whom we seek to reconcile. "

Harvest Bible Chapel went on to say that they could not in good conscience subject innocent people, in many instances against their will, to a complete subpoena process and therefore decided to scrap the lawsuit altogether.

"With this decision, we can again focus our energies on continued growth in personal and organizational faults we have owned, enduring what is false, and striving to mitigate the damage such attacks bring to our church family and friends," the elders concluded.

Last week, MacDonald announced that he was removing his Bible teaching program "Walk in the Word" from all television and radio platforms in the coming months and transferring them to digital mediums like podcasts. While he said the move was mostly pragmatic, he admitted that the scrutiny the church was under had been straining relationships with Christian broadcast ministries that had hosted his content.

“There’s all the upkeep that’s going on with all the relationships,” MacDonald said at the time. “When our church goes through difficult times like of late, that becomes even more of a strain and a burden to carry in a way that none of you would ever even know what goes on behind the scenes.”

Both Roys and the Elephant's Debt blog welcomed Judge Larsen's decision on Monday, expressing gratitude the suit was over.

"I am heartened that James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel decided to drop the lawsuit, but grieved that both the church and James MacDonald continue to spin lies," Roys said in an email to The Christian Post Tuesday afternoon.

"Their statement accuses me and the other four defendants of illegal actions and of publicizing false and distorted information, but nothing could be further from the truth. When Harvest filed the lawsuit in October, I hadn't published anything about the church, but simply had contacted Harvest for its response to allegations made by former elders and staff in the course of my investigation."

Source:The Christian Post