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Harvest to Drop Lawsuit Against Critics

Harvest Bible Chapel

Harvest Bible Chapel has released a statement announcing its intention to drop the lawsuit it filed in October 2018 against writer Julie Roys, the authors of the blog TheElephantsDebt.com, and the authors’ wives. The decision comes after the court ruled to deny Harvest’s request that the defendants be prevented from continuing their investigation and that the information they had already found not be publicized.

“We receive these outcomes as God’s direction and have instructed our legal counsel to drop the suit entirely,” the statement reads. While the statement indicates the elders still believe the action on the part of the defendants is “illegal,” and that the information published about the church is “false and distorted,” they feel they are fighting a losing battle in the court at this point.

Harvest Bible Chapel Was Surprised by the Judge’s Decision

The elders were surprised by the decision from the judge, calling it “contrary to expectation and legal precedent.”

The authors of TheElephantsDebt.com, Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant, have been covering the iterations of the lawsuit leveled against them. On January 7, 2019, when the court ruled against Harvest’s request to keep the information discovered private, the bloggers wrote a post explaining the two motions Harvest requested:

The first of these motions was a Emergency Motion for a Protective Order. In short, this motion sought to have the judge “seal” any documents that had been returned thus far via the discovery process. As you know, subpoenas had been sent to the following individuals: Brian White, Maida Korte, David Wisen and Rob Williams. All parties, including the Plaintiffs, had already received copies of these documents that had been returned by White, Wisen and Williams; and thus all parties knew exactly what these documents contained. [James] MacDonald and Harvest were essentially asking the Judge to prevent these documents from being made public.

The second motion, which was a Motion to Stay Discovery, attempted to ask the court to put a halt to all further discovery until the three Motions to Dismiss were heard later this spring. Put another way, the plaintiffs were attempting to have the Judge bar the defendants from conducting any further discovery until sometime after the month of March and/or April.

As they explained, because the judge denied both motions, “the defendants in this case are free to continue to send subpoenas to relevant parties; and they are free to publish legally appropriate materials.”

Roys, in particular, used subpoenas to garner information for the World Magazine article she wrote on the various grievances former staff and elder board members have against Harvest and its leader, James MacDonald, specifically. The grievances range from the mishandling of funds to the supposedly domineering nature in which MacDonald runs the church.

In a recent radio interview, Roys acknowledged she has information that has not yet been released. She says she is praying about when and how to release the information and asked for those listening to pray with her. “I want to do it in a way that is proper and brings glory to God and furthers the Kingdom…sometimes that involves telling the unfortunate truth,” Roys said. 

Many who have followed the story from its beginning see Harvest’s announcement as proof they are more concerned with what else their critics may find, and ultimately, what will be publicized than they are with allowing the truth to be told.

Hope of Reconciliation Is Faint

While Harvest’s elder board may be surprised by the ruling of the judge, some language in their statement indicates they may be aware changes are necessary in order for Harvest to continue functioning. The statement speaks of the need to “focus our energies on continued growth in personal and organizational faults we have owned.”

The elders also write they are willing to meet with the defendants “for a face-to-face resolution of grievances.”

This point, in particular, raised the hackles of Mahoney and Bryant, who wrote an open letter to MacDonald and the elders in response. In it, they outline three public steps they believe MacDonald should take if he is serious about a resolution. First, they ask he come clean about including their wives in the lawsuit, a move they saw as unwarranted. They believe the reason for this decision was to disrupt their families. Mahoney and Bryant are asking MacDonald to admit he mislead people when he talked about the lawsuit and only mentioned three of the defendants, in their eyes conveniently leaving out the fact that he was including their wives as well.

Secondly, Mahoney and Bryant request MacDonald admit he lied about the two former members’ track records while serving Harvest. MacDonald claims Bryant became disgruntled after not receiving a teaching position he had requested. The letter claims this is untrue, that Bryant never requested such a position. As for Mahoney, MacDonald claims he was disciplined three times while on staff as a teacher at Harvest Christian Academy and that he negated MacDonald’s sermons and spread misinformation while on staff. Again, the letter claims these statements are not true.

Finally, Mahoney and Bryant request MacDonald pay for the legal fees the defendants have incurred as a result of “this unnecessarily damaging lawsuit.”

As far as Roys is concerned, the judge’s decision to deny Harvest’s motions is “a real victory for freedom of speech, and it’s also a victory for truth.”