Longtime Harvest Elder Steve Huston Resigns; Harvest Pastor Admits “Ungodly” Spending

Steve Huston, the former chairman of Harvest Bible Chapel’s executive committee–and one of the elders who appeared in a video in 2013 excommunicating former elders–has resigned from the elder board. Also tonight, Campus Pastor Greg Bradshaw, head of the Harvest 2020 Team, admitted that “there’s been ungodly behavior as it relates to the spending in our senior pastor’s office.” Bradshaw also admitted “there hasn’t been proper  controls or good accountability” over senior pastor’s spending. 

Earlier today, I reported accounts by former staff showing that now-fired Harvest founder, James MacDonald, used church money for multiple lavish expenditures like African safaris, vacations in Naples, Florida, and expensive remodeling of his executive office. Tonight, Bradshaw said Harvest would be undergoing an independent financial review by an independent firm, Plante Moran.

In a tearful statement before the congregation tonight in Rolling Meadows, Huston apologized on the part of the board for a “failed system” that gave “too much latitude” and “too much trust”; for requiring only “partial accountability” of MacDonald; and for an “absence of communication” that “spoke too little, too late.” In addition, Huston admitted that the former executive committee, which had sole responsibility for the setting the church budget and executive compensation, “failed to follow the Holy Spirit.” 

“Huston apologized on the part of the board for a ‘failed system’ that gave ‘too much latitude’ and ‘too much trust’; for requiring only ‘partial accountability’ of MacDonald; and for an ‘absence of communication’ that ‘spoke too little, too late.'”

Huston also apologized for his “part in defending actions and people that I now know weren’t the complete picture, or even correct.” He added, “In my ignorance, or in my misplaced trust, I perpetuated misinformation and extended the problem.”

However, at no point did Huston apologize for excommunicating former Elders Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh in 2013, and censuring former Elder Dan Marquardt. On the videotaped excommunication, Huston labeled the former elders’ refusal to accept “elder consensus” a “great sin.” He also  says that “publicizing viewpoints rejected by the elder majority for any reason is Satanic to the core.” And he warns “the people of Harvest Bible Chapel” to avoid these former Harvest members at all cost lest you incur great detriment to your own soul.” 

In 2014, MacDonald gave a general apology to these three men. However, I reached out to these men tonight and asked if Huston has ever apologized to them. Marquardt responded, “No, not in any way, shape, or form.” Similarly, Phelps said, “We’re still waiting–five-and-a-half years and counting.” Slabaugh simply said, “Steve has not reached out.”

Huston also offered no apology for the lawsuit the church brought against me and the authors of The Elephant’s Debt and their wives. 

Personally, I found Huston’s apology severely lacking. This is a man who was as close to MacDonald as anyone. And as the chairman of the executive committee, he was responsible for the gross misappropriation of funds for MacDonald’s private use. He also lied and supported lies repeatedly. One of the biggest lies was the Elder Update about the dissolution of Harvest Bible Fellowship, which claimed that all HBF monies had been used for “churchplanting purposes.” We now know major amounts of the money went to Harvest executive salaries and a systems upgrade for HBC Elgin.

In light of this fact, I find the following statement by Huston laughable: “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.'” 

Steve Huston knew. And he didn’t do his best. He lied, covered up MacDonald’s sin of which he was well aware, slandered former elders, and in the past few weeks, obstructed those who tried to report the truth. I’m glad he apologized for some things tonight, but his repentance tonight was shallow at best.

Similarly, I think Harvest’s decision to undergo a financial review falls short. Given the magnitude and scope of the financial improprieties at the church, Harvest should be inviting the authorities, not a private company, to do a thorough investigation.

Below is video of Huston’s statement tonight and a transcript. Also, at the bottom of the page is the 2013 excommunication video in which Huston took part. I’m also posting audio of Huston’s statement and the Harvest 2020 update, which followed.

Video of Steve Huston’s statement:

Transcript of Huston’s Statement:

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 be really 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. Thirty men. 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 under 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 to 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 a member 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, 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.

But 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– And by the way, 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 Board. I will have no further involvement in the leadership [voice breaking a little with emotion] or 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 former or present 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.

 

Audio of Huston’s statements and an update from the Harvest 2020 Team:

 

Excommunication Video:

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69 thoughts on “Longtime Harvest Elder Steve Huston Resigns; Harvest Pastor Admits “Ungodly” Spending

  1. Kevin

    Julie,

    Unfortunately this pattern of “Blind” devotion elders and deacons have to their Pastor is repeated over and over across the U. S. This Blind devotion would seem normal in a cult, but should never be found in Christ’s church. I have seen the same pattern in all the churches I have attended since my conversion. Size of church doesn’t make any difference. I personally (with humility) have approached pastors & leaders with concerns about their promoting of teachings from false or controversial teachers, for not following their own by-laws, and for singling out and preventing members they don’t like from becoming deacons or elders. (without any biblical justification for doing so)

    I have been called a “Tool of Satan” and lost so called friends. The Truth as defined by God’s Word has no place in most churches for correcting the members or the leaders and for Identifying ungodly behavior in our lives or our Pastors lives.

    Imagine that. Churches who claim to revere and follow the Bible….. but never do.

    Members who revere the Pastor, rather than the Risen Christ and King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

    -Kevin

    • “This Blind devotion would seem normal in a cult, but should never be found in Christ’s church. I have seen the same pattern in all the churches I have attended since my conversion.”

      Well HBC may very well be a cult or what some call a “personality cult.” With as popular of a teaching including radio program MacDonald had I really wouldn’t question it was a “personality cult.” Apparently the church was built on crowd that MacDonald drew and thus leadership worked to protect this commodity.

      “I have been called a “Tool of Satan” and lost so called friends. ”

      That is a typical tactic of many to label any type of disagreement or questioning of leadership something to that affect.

  2. Mary

    Kevin, you are so on point.

  3. Sssssssteve Housssssston is sssssspeaking, or isssss he sssssssssheadidng hissssss sssskin?

    • Now that’s Funny!

  4. Steve Huston seemed genuinely choked up during his emotional “You got me” speech…..but buck up stevey, there’s always prison ministry you probably already have your 1st “prison tat”…you know the vertical church logo.

    • just a guy trying to help

      dude really? that’s just immature

      • David

        and you are DECEIVED

  5. UNGODLY SPENDING!!! UNGODLY SPENDING!!! yes it always becomes unGodly when you spend money that’s not yours to spend…some people call it stealing….hopefully a Judge will.

  6. Honestly, the longer this goes on and the more these disconnected crooks speak, the more angry I become…..it started as shock and disbelief then sorrow, and now I’m very angry.

    • Nancy

      Then stop watching

  7. Veritas

    Why does’t this new elder board release everyone form their non-diclosure agreements? That would be real transparency.

    • lostsheep72

      My question is are these nondisclosure agreements valid if the other party is a criminal or criminals and did not keep their part of the agreement? Great legal question I would like to know.

  8. Patrick Gaffney

    Vertical Worship was suppose to be playing near my home in Greenwood Indiana Wednesday. I went and looked today to see if it was still happening and couldn’t find anything on it. A couple of pages showing it was scheduled. But I could not find anything anywhere about the tour being canceled. It was still there a couple of weeks ago. Weird that there is not even a statement anywhere about it being canceled.

  9. Lawrence Manzer

    Huston said as much as is advisable. I believe he and other executive committee members can be held responsible for their actions. But a forensic audit is necessary. Which may happen whether they call for it or not. Their actions are now public knowledge and eventually the IRS or etc. is going ask for an audit.

  10. Carlito’s was out of Harvest

    I don’t buy this apology if you can call it that! Houston is just sorry they got caught. All I would say is that what JMac and his cronies have done is SATANIC TO THE CORE!

  11. What is really sad is that James MacDonald is a repeated story in the USA with mega churches and leaders that are able to draw a following. Sadly so many of these leaders that may have very well started out right but fell into a trap. As one person told me many men can handle failure but few can handle success as MacDonald has shown if you even believe MacDonald was ever sincere.

    When will the body of Christ learn and do what is necessary to try and prevent this from being a regular occurrence that so many pastors fall into. What checks and balances need to be put in place? What do these leaders need to do early in their ministry to prevent them from falling into this trap assuming they start out with pure motives?

  12. malachi256

    Village Church of Bartlett has been hosting seminars on Overcoming your Church Hurt. Powerful, relevant and timely. Many innocent people have a lot to process as more truth rises to the surface. Though these so called “leaders” have caused a lot of pain in their failure to lead biblically, I refuse to let my disappointment in them and their sinful behavior sabotage my faith. God is still on His throne, and is purifying His Bride. He will not be mocked. He still is at work, and can use even this heartache to bring about His purposes for good in the lives of all who follow and trust Him. It’s a message we must not forget, even as more of what’s been hidden is revealed.

  13. Mishael Barrios

    Ungodly ……”spending”?…
    I think the IRS would call it FRAUD…
    Like I mentioned before, if the IRS were to deep dive into Harvest’s, we would have Harvest “Cohens” singing like canaries.
    Keep up the good fight, Julie! (Jude 3)
    In His Grip,
    Riö
    <

  14. PsychoDrama

    This ‘new’ statement is nothing but the same old, same old. Every one of these guys didn’t know what was going on until the Titanic hit the iceberg? They always like to close their statements with an emotional appeal, “This is the only church my family has ever known.” Or, “We grew up in this church.”

    Garrett Higbee’s statement is more of the same. A man who is a Dr. of Psychology with 30 years experience, but who wouldn’t know a sociopath if it bit him in the behind. I think that all of these people knew and now that the crimes are coming out they don’t want to say too much because their lawyers are advising them and won’t have it.

    Remember, in prison everybody is innocent.

    I see no repentance or acts of contrition. I see damage control. The only way is to call for a forensic audit, charge the guilty, and let the ship go down. It must be dissolved because it is too polluted.

  15. Former HBC

    Keep reading over and over on the blog about IRS, prosecution and forensic auditing. Most people think this should happen, but my honest question is, what are the chances? Does the government care to get involved with church business, or is it similar to Pilot, who wanted to leave Jesus for the Jews to handle? Church business is church business.

  16. John

    Sorry if this has already been posted, but this is such a good summary of these HBC “apologies” that I thought I’d copy and paste it here from twitter:
    Marc M
    ‏@MarcAnon6
    Replying to @TheDarthXander @HarvestBible1
    Mistakes were made. Not by us, but by someone else. We were all shocked to learn of these mistakes. We will attempt to not make these non-specific mistakes in a non-specific way. We apologize to no one in particular for the mistakes that none of us made. #accountability

  17. rcs452

    The attendance @ HBC in Elgin @ 9AM was down IMO significantly. 2 sections of seating that is normally full was almost empty. Tithing is down 1.2M for the year for budget.

    • Sadly the only thing that will get the attention of HBC Leadership is when the contributions dry up and they are getting to the point of where they will have to fold.

      Who knows, with how messed up the leadership in the church was for so long the only option may be to just close HBC down and that may very well be God’s will.

  18. AWB

    This fell far short of an apology, not even close to repentance. To suggest this is a gap in oversight vs intentionally participating in something corrupt — insufficient oversight vs complicit — tells me that God has not yet brought these folks to their knees – He will, though. He will continue to turn up the heat on these sinners unto repentance.

    They talk of restoring trust, the first REQUIREMENT toward that is that they issue a statement “freeing” the dozens of former employees from their NDAs/ gag-orders. Think of it. These people are slaves to the bondage upon them by the elders….STILL! These are Christians who were victimized, whose voices are enslaved by these elders… STILL.

    ECFA does not evaluate compensation or HR sorts of matters. It just doesn’t. It’s really not worth the paper it’s written on in this case, that’s just a fact.

    I don’t believe these culprits are concerned at the longevity of HBC churches any longer – they’ve moved on. A few are staying in transition to ensure ‘the plane lands without blowing up’, in other words – to ensure that any remaining activity doesn’t lend increased exposure to James and family. I suspect you will see the majority of these players appear alongside James at his next ministry. Some of the people I believe James used, even some pastors, will be ‘left behind’. They will be left behind in the same fashion and countless others that were used, manipulated, and abandoned. I sense the mission remains: “protect James”, even at the expense of the church. The church has some cashflow and an asset base still that in operation, will permit it to continue for several months, maybe longer – each month becoming more thinly staffed, etc.

    Listen, if we believe the Bible – if any of us do at this point – we must not ignore what it tells us about God and what He will bless.

    He WILL NOT bless the gagging of voices of His good people; He will not allow HBC to flourish amidst ongoing dishonesty and deception.

  19. One thing I find really shocking is that with all this financial impropriety that is coming out about James MacDonald who had the radio program Walk In The Word and was the Sr. Pastor at HBC is that HBC claims they are in good standing with ECFA since 2013. This is what HBC’s “FAQ: claims

    “Harvest was awarded accreditation by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in 2013 and has remained a member in good standing since then. See ECFA’s latest report on Harvest here. ECFA exists to enhance trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries by establishing and applying ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship to accredited organizations. “

    https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/2019/03/02/faq/

    What does that say about ECFA? I guess ECFA thought it was OK for James MacDonald to spend $250K on refurbishing his office while imposing austerity measures on the rest of the church staff? I guess they also endorsed the trips taken on the trip? It really makes you wonder.

    • JesusLuv

      If that money was in an “approved” budget then it wouldn’t be considered a problem in an audit, sadly.

  20. LW

    “”Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
    ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:12-17

    Absolutely no fear or reverence for God. No true repentance. It’s tragic. God will not be mocked. Falsehood to the core.

  21. Matt Anthony

    Good job, Ms. Roys. You should leave out the comments about not receiving an apology for their suit against you. It comes out sounding like a personal vendetta. Just make a “full disclosure” kind of statement.
    I would like to hear someone discuss MacDonald’s dealings with the construction company he dealt with in an incident he details in his book Vertical Church (so it’s not gossip.) MacDonald acted as his own contractor. He ordered beams with the wrong drill measurements. When the misdrilled beams were delivered, MacDonald demanded they be replaced free of charge. When the contractor refused, MacDonald said he would just tie them up in the courts so that the court costs would be a larger liability than replacing the beams. The man obviously has a vindictive, unethical side to him.

    • lostsheep72

      That’s an understatement. He had 2 disturbing sermons this year.
      #1- was where he was in an argument with the stewardess and made the plane turn around because he was not obeying her request
      #2- was when he talked about as a teenager, some other guy was bothering Kathy, so he and other Real Big Guys, 6’4″ and over all were dressed up in suits, rented a limo, and showed up at this guys house to threaten him in front of his family.
      He was telling these stories to instill fear in people to not go against him. It was such a lovely Sunday sermon.

  22. Jason Miller

    Hi Julie, great work as usual. You should go back and read all three elder updates in 2012. It is fascinating to read them through the lens of today. It talks about their new elder accountability, debt management, staff compensation and communication. On their debt management, they talk about their current plan to be debt-free by 2020!

  23. Song of Joy

    AWB said: “A few are staying in transition to ensure ‘the plane lands without blowing up’…”

    I agree. And I don’t think they even really care if the plane blows up in mid-air and crashes in flames, as long as *they* have enough time to put on their own golden $$$ parachutes and jump…

  24. Unepetiteanana

    I’ve heard several stories about the failure of elders. Maybe elder-leadership isn’t the way to go. I mean, how many of these men have sat in their seats for years and years? How about re-elections, or is that too close to deaconship?

    • Hurting yet hopeful

      Elder leadership is both biblical and effective, if properly implemented. You do indicate a key problem; elders in their role for years and years is an issue. Not unlike our government……..

      There are over 12,000 people who attend Harvest, or at least used to. No reason there couldn’t have been (and there should have been!) more rotation through other godly men in the congregation onto the elder board.

  25. GJ

    Talks of resignation, ungodly spending and new vision sounds nice but what about the mounting debt? Withholding of tithes to a failed and false 501C3.entity (not a church) is both Biblical and correct. Will the new leadership demand restitution from the thieves that stole from the church? Those that have been terminated or resign should not receive any severance or compensation in their dismissal. Rick Donald leave of absence should be unpaid so he can reflect on his ongoing habitual sin. Present staff should have their salary reduced and expense accounts closed immediately to prevent future fraud. Similar to the govt,;unpaid vacation days should be used one day a week till the church is debt free. Staff that received bonuses based on financial goals attained through offering should return those bonuses based on decrease offering due to forecast financial losses. Selling of assets with Camp Harvest, Freedom House and the Academy to a Godly and Biblical will stop the tarnish in the name and cause of Christ. $600K deficit per month and the goal of being debt free in 2020 will not be attainable without cost cutting measures. The hemorrhage must stop now!

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