Harvest Confirms Pastor Failed to Report Abuse, Yet Accepts Explanation That He Thought He Had Reported It

By Julie Roys
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Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) this week published an update confirming an allegation I published in May that HBC Aurora Pastor Craig Steiner failed to report an incident of suspected child sex abuse involving former Harvest Student Pastor Paxton Singer.*

The update also stated that Steiner “believed that he had completed all the necessary steps in his role as a mandatory reporter” by placing an initial phone call to DCFS in January 2018. Yet this contradicts statements Steiner made in texts with other Harvest pastors the day he learned of the incident.

Pastor Craig Steiner

In the update, Harvest said it had recently received a letter back from DCFS confirming that Steiner failed to provide sufficient information for a report when he called the DCFS hotline on January 31, 2018. As a result, no incident report was filed with the department.

Instead, DCFS said that the formal report, which then led to Singer’s arrest in October, 2018, was filed on June 13, 2018, by Rob Williams, a former counselor at Harvest.

Williams, who said he’s made at least five reports to the DCFS hotline, explained that reporting incidents to DCFS almost always involves a two-step process. He said every time he’s called the DCFS hotline, an operator answers the call, asks for his name and number, and then says someone will call him back.

Williams said DCFS generally calls back two days later and then takes the actual report. Williams said DCFS will call back twice, but if the reporter misses those calls, it’s up to the reporter to call DCFS again. (I called DCFS numerous times in May to confirm the process for reporting but never received a call back. I did talk with a hotline operator, though, who said that sometimes it takes only one call to the hotline to file a report.)

According to Harvest’s phone records, Steiner made one call to the DCFS hotline on January 31, 2018. Harvest said the only other call Steiner made to DCFS was on June 29, 2018, allegedly to follow up on his call five months earlier.

Though Steiner maintains that he believed this first call to the hotline was sufficient, a text thread from January 31, 2018, indicates otherwise. The text thread, which Williams gave me, includes Steiner, Williams, former Student Ministries Pastor Landon MacDonald, and former Assistant Senior Pastor Rick Donald. According to time stamp on the phone, the text thread begins at 12:59 p.m.—24 minutes after Steiner allegedly called the DCFS hotline.

In the text thread, Steiner wrote that an Aurora dad had come to him earlier in the day complaining about inappropriate texts between Singer and the dad’s 16-year-old son. MacDonald then told Steiner, “DCFS has to be called—do u want to do it? Or do u want me to do it”?

Steiner responded, “I can call Is there a file or contact at DCFS”?

“General DCFS number and with Paxton’s name and birthday they will add to existing file,” MacDonald wrote. (MacDonald had reported another alleged victim of Singer’s to DCFS in early January, which was later determined to be “unfounded” by DCFS.)

“Called to report,” Steiner said, “DCFS has my number, will call me back. they are backlogged with call backs from Monday.”

Text between Steiner & Landon MacDonald:

After making the call in January, Steiner apparently knew that he hadn’t “completed all the necessary steps” and that DCFS was going to call back. Yet by Steiner’s own admission, the only other contact he had with DCFS was in late June, shortly after Williams filed his report.

When I questioned Steiner in May about the contradiction, he asserted that the time stamp on the text thread was wrong and that only the last text was made after his call to the DCFS hotline. (Steiner wasn’t able to produce any evidence to support this claim, but said his phone regularly deletes texts, so he didn’t have an independent record of the conversation.)

Yet even if only the last text came after Steiner’s call to DCFS, it still doesn’t resolve the issue. Why would Steiner say DCFS is going to call him back, and that the department is backlogged with calls, if he thought he had successfully filed a report?

This is extremely troubling. We now know that Steiner, a pastor and mandatory reporter, failed to report an alleged incident of child sexual abuse at his church. And had Williams not reported the incident in June, the current charges against Singer would not have been filed.

But equally troubling is Steiner’s response. Rather than admit an error, Steiner repeatedly has offered explanations that don’t match the evidence. And instead of calling Steiner out on his apparent contradictions, Harvest seems more than willing to repeat his insufficient explanations.

What’s entirely possible, and in fact probable, is that Steiner knew he didn’t successfully report the incident with the alleged victim in January. But when authorities began investigating the case after Williams’ report in June, Steiner called DCFS to do what he should have done in January.  Harvest’s latest update to the timeline says it’s “still confusing as to why Craig received an indication letter from DCFS” last October. But this isn’t confusing at all since Steiner says he called DCFS June 29 and presumably reported what he knew then. I reached out to Steiner for comment, but he did not respond.

In May, I presented the discrepancies between Steiner’s and DCFS’ statements, and the statements on the text thread, to Greg Bradshaw, Harvest Church Leadership Team Chairman. At first, Bradshaw asked a lot of questions and seemed interested in hearing the evidence.

However, when the evidence clearly pointed to the fact that Steiner never filed a report, Bradshaw shifted to asserting that Steiner fulfilled his responsibility as a mandatory reporter by calling the DCFS hotline once. As evidence, Bradshaw sent me the document posted at the end of this article, which DCFS requires clergy to sign.

The document states that as a mandatory reporter, “I am required to report or cause a report to be made to the child abuse Hotline . . . whenever I have reasonable cause to believe that a child known to me in my professional or official capacity may be a sexually abused child.” The document does not say that a mandatory reporter merely needs to place a call to the hotline. I contacted Bradshaw see if he had any comment following the most recent development, but he did not respond.

Harvest concluded its latest update by expressing regret that Steiner didn’t provide sufficient information to DCFS for a report. The church added that since then, all Harvest mandatory reporters have been “trained in the proper steps for completing a full DCFS report,” and will “stay up to date with DCFS training every year.”

I appreciate that the church is now providing training on reporting abuse, but I am disappointed that Harvest appears unwilling to hold Steiner accountable. Also, there remains one other alleged victim of Singer’s that seemingly remains unreported.

According to Harvest’s timeline, Landon MacDonald reported two inappropriate texting relationships between Singer and two different students. One was reported on January 7, 2018, and was investigated and dismissed by DCFS. However, MacDonald allegedly reported an incident with another student on January 16, 2018, but DCFS has no record of that report. As with Steiner, Harvest has phone records indicating that one call was made to the hotline on January 16, but that’s it.

Harvest needs to explain what happened with the victim related to the January 16 DCFS hotline call. The church also needs to hold Steiner accountable not just for failing to report an incident, but for claiming he didn’t know he hadn’t successfully reported the incident despite the evidence indicating otherwise. Either Steiner is extremely obtuse or he’s lying. And either scenario raises questions about Steiner’s fitness to continue pastoring. 

*Singer was charged with sexual exploitation of a child in October.

UPDATE: At a motion hearing on July 3, State’s Attorney Lori Schmidt said she wanted two more “uncharged victims” of Singer’s to testify in Singer’s case. The defense asked for more time and the trial was moved from July 10 to September 4. 

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17 thoughts on “Harvest Confirms Pastor Failed to Report Abuse, Yet Accepts Explanation That He Thought He Had Reported It”

  1. Julie,
    Craig Steiner has been lying about things since his early days at Harvest. We had an experience with him over 11 years ago in the JH ministry my son was attending.
    It was not related to sexual abuse, but still troubling enough.
    We got a first hand of the lies and cover up by Craig and his youth pastor, Mark at that time.
    If you weren’t a “harvest family” per their criteria, it was better to drop it before you were blamed for it.
    I also find it hard to believe that HCA is still opening in Aug.
    There is still the same power and even staff from Jame’s rule!

  2. Oh, Lord God, I pray you will convict and lead all involved in any kind of wrongdoing at Harvest and all churches that proclaim Christ to repentance and restoration. The Apostle Paul in his letters to the Thessalonians said that there would be a spirit of delusion characterizing the end times even within the Church. Please Father God call us to seek only truth, to submit to You, to resist the devil that he will flee. Deception has no place in your church. Grant spiritual victory in all these situations which must so grieve Your heart. In Jesus precious name. Amen.
    Patty

  3. Shameful. From his bio Steiner has three children. Would he have failed to report the individual if it was one of his children? Makes me wonder if he failed to follow up on purpose. Is he personal friends with the alleged abuser? The state should be looking at Mr. Steiner’s failure to report and his license to practice ministry. Part of his job is reporting allegations of abuse against children. He clearly can’t be trusted to do that.

  4. Excellent work, Julie. I believe this visual shows the basics of what HBC is saying, what the evidence says, and and where the “holes” are. https://padlet.com/jessicahockett/HBCSingerDCFS

    Craig Steiner needs to resign for his failure to report suspected child abuse–and for participating in the cover-up of his failure. If he were a public school principal, he would have been forced to do so already. It’s deeply concerning that the leader of a church won’t confess his sin and step down.

    HBC attenders–especially at the Aurora campus–need to petition their Elders for both Steiner’s resignation AND the full truth about how the church handled mandated reporting in January 2018.

    The questions that I have are these:

    1) Does HBC stand behind its claim that Landon MacDonald reported Paxton Singer for suspected abuse involving a second student on January 16, 2018? Why doesn’t DCFS have a record of that report?

    2) HBC all-but-admits that Steiner’s January 31, 2018 phone call to DCFS was not an actual report. And Steiner’s texts contradict the claim that Steiner was ignorant about what constituted a report under the law. Rob Williams spoke with Aurora PD on June 6, 2018. I have that police report (via open records request). Portions are redacted, but the narrative strongly suggests that Aurora spoke with someone at Harvest. Can Harvest confirm that a leader (Steiner?) spoke with Aurora PD on 6/6/18? Also, what was it that actually compelled Craig Steiner to speak with DCFS on June 29, 2018? Did he call them, or did they call him? Is Harvest STILL claiming that Steiner called DCFS to follow up on his 1/31/18 “report”?

    3) When Craig Steiner failed to file a report, was he acting on an “order”, be it explicit or implicit? Given what we’ve learned about the culture at Harvest, it’s hard to imagine that he made an independent decision. Who or what influenced his thinking?

    4) Why was the January 9, 2018 report that DCFS found to be “indicated” on May 10, 2018 then determined to be unfounded on June 12, 2018? Did DCFS receive new information from the church or the student’s parents? Who or what prompted DCFS to voluntarily unfound the January 9, 2018 report?

    5) Paxton Singer is being charged with sexual exploitation involving one victim. However, this morning, Jim Engleman attended a motion hearing regarding this case. Jim shared on Twitter (via his @BiblicalJustice account) that the prosector made reference to two other victims who are in the case file. Are these two victims the same students that Landon MacDonald is said to have reported on January 9, 2018 and January 16, 2018?

    This story isn’t going away. HBC must prioritize full disclosure of the truth about their (mis)handling of suspected child abuse. Whether the Elders & other leaders are lying, being lied to, or some combination thereof, time is running out for them to come clean.

    1. Jessica Hockett

      Correction/update re: #2 above based on my re-reading of the Aurora Police Department report (which was also posted by the Daily Herald on Wednesday).

      That report indicated indicates that the reporting officer Laura Kolanowski…

      a) Received two student victims’ names from Rob Williams on 6/4/18

      b) Called DCFS and had a conversation with them, presumably re: whether the incidents had been reported to DCFS (summary redacted).

      c) Checked APD records to see if the parents of one victim had filed a police report. She saw they hadn’t. She called and left a VM with the parents. One parent called her back and (according to the Kolanowski) “appeared alarmed and confused to have received my call.” The summary of the conversation with the parent is redacted.

      d) Called Elgin PD and learned that the parents of the other victim had not filed a police report. (Wording in the Kolansowski’s narrative suggests acknowledgement that a report to DCFS was made.) Kolansowski then called and spoke with one of the parents of that victim. That summary of that conversation is also redacted.

      So, as far as I can tell, the APD did not call Harvest in response to Rob Williams’ initial conversation with APD on 6/4/18.

  5. Thank you Julie for this update and Jessica, we all know the answer to number 3 in your comments. jm was notorious for telling others “what to say” or “this is what you should say”. Deny and minimize and then cheerlead. The Harvest way.

    1. Jessica Hockett

      I agree that Mr. Steiner’s choices in this matter were influenced by the HBC/James MacDonald ways of doing “church business.” But I am interested in who & what else, specifically, in this situation was (is?) at play.

      I’m also wondering about the parent of the third student that talked to Steiner in late January. Did the parent assume that Steiner had reported to DCFS? Either way, wouldn’t the parent follow up with the church in some way? Does that family still attend Harvest, even though (presumably) their child is the victim a true the center of the charges?

      Steiner’s decision to reach out to Lloyd Singer, Paxton Singer’s father, also strikes me as odd. (See last text bubble, cut off.) Paxton Singer was 24 years old and living on his own. Did Steiner (or anyone) reach out to Paxton as well, or was the strategy to let his father inform him? Either way, Steiner informed Lloyd Singer before (or rather, instead of) filing a report with DCFS.

      And HBC Aurora parents were never informed…unless we count the October 2018 all-church email, which was sent after Singer had turned himself in.

  6. strange that a call to report child abuse would ever require a call back within a couple days. Such reports should be taken immediately.

    1. Jessica Hockett

      What’s strange is that Craig Steiner, a pastor and mandated reporter under IL law, would tell Julie Roys that he doesn’t remember if DCFS called him back. Stranger still is that Harvest Bible Chapel would say that Craig Steiner thought that he made a report, even though Steiner’s text messages on Jan. 31, 2018 indicate that he knew he did not report when he called the hotline.

      Also strange is that either before or after leaving his number with DCFS, Steiner apparently called then-HBC pastor & Elder Rick Donald, and tried to contact Paxton’s Singer’s father, Lloyd. Not sure what Rick told Steiner, or what Steiner said to Lloyd Singer, but this mug is clear: Craig Steiner is not telling the truth, and the HBC Elders are helping him hide.

    2. That’s what I think too. That’s our state for you, nothing is done efficiently. I can’t count the number of times the state or feds have screwed up records with me. You can probably multiply those mistakes by thousands times thousands when adding in the rest of the population. The old saying applies “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” Uhh NO THANKS. Less government less problems. You would think they would protect kids a lot better than they do.

      1. Jessica Hockett

        Except that Harvest isn’t blaming DCFS, or saying that DCFS neglected to call back, etc. It would be pretty easy to point the finger at the agency, don’t you think? So why don’t they? Because DCFS is not to blame.

        Craig Steiner did not file a report with DCFS on 1/31/18 or thereafter. HBC is kind of/not really admitting that Steiner broke they law. Except that they are saying he was ignorant and didn’t know what he needed to do to file a report…which is contradicted by the texts that Julie has provided in her article.

        Steiner also did not (as the church is still claiming) call DCFS on June 29, 2018 as a follow-up to his 1/31/18. (“Hey guys, what’s going on with the report I never made in January?”)

        Can’t blame the government on this one. We can blame the church–a church that STILL won’t come clean about what happened.

  7. David Jankowski

    Count me obtuse! I have never (in 51 years of ministry) had a case of sexual abuse come to my attention. If it had, I’m pretty sure that I would have tried to find out how to handle it. Are Catholic priests exempt from formal government reporting? Really, I don’t know. I know for sure that I wouldn’t know that I had to call twice to the same agency. That seems strange to me. What would be done with the second call that wouldn’t be accomplished by the first call? Do they want to make sure one is serious in his charge? Or, do they hope the reporter won’t be able to get through, so they can forget about it? A year ago we had some suspicious texting take place between an adult and a teenager brought to the attention of our youth pastor, but I wasn’t involved. The FBI was brought in along with the state police, but they concluded that no legal charge was appropriate. I don’t think DCFS was involved at all. So this is all very strange to me. I back Julie’s articles 99% of the time, but I’d be tempted to give the pastor in question a lecture and let him get on with his ministry. I’m quite sure he will never make the same mistake again!

    1. All clergy — Catholic, Protestant and otherwise — are mandated reporters. According to Williams, when one first calls the DCFS hotline, you get put on hold. Then when an operator answers, they simply ask for your name and number and say someone will call you back. Hotline operators often don’t have time to do anymore than that. By Steiner’s own admission, the operator told him they were backlogged when he called. If that’s what happened, I think it was pretty clear that a follow-up call was necessary.

      But what’s so egregious imho, is that Steiner apparently tried to cover up his error, rather than admit it. Steiner called a few days after Rob reported the incident in June. He says he was simply following up on his call in January. So we’re to believe that Steiner never receives the call back from DCFS that he says in the January text that he’s expecting. For five months, he doesn’t call DCFS. Then out of the blue, he decides to follow up on the case?

      Certainly during that June call, Steiner discovered that someone else had reported the incident. Yet, when Steiner gets a letter from DCFS the following October and the date of the reported incident is June 13, the date Williams reported it, Steiner writes DCFS trying to get the date changed to January. Then the church publishes a timeline in May, and rather than admitting that Steiner failed to report, the timeline says DCFS got the date wrong. When I confront Steiner with the text thread, he says the time stamp on the phone record must be wrong.

      At every juncture, Steiner urges us to believe him, not DCFS, not phone records. Only when the church receives definitive word from DCFS that Steiner failed to provide sufficient information during the first call, does the church finally admit that Steiner failed to report. But again, they forward this narrative that Steiner thought he had given all the necessary information during the first call to the hotline.

      As they said during Watergate, it’s not the crime; it’s the coverup.

  8. Anybody who has a genuine care and concern to see an abuse victim protected, and a burden to see the rest of the church protected, would NOT walk away from these disturbing allegations after making a single phone call. Even if Steiner truly believed he had made the appropriate report (which his texts clearly indicates he did not), where was the urgency to follow-up, see what was being done, warn others etc? It’s one thing to check a box for making “the” call to DCFS, it is a whole other thing to take action to protect those entrusted to you.

    When Harvest says “proper intent AND CARE was demonstrated”, I want to know what they mean by “proper care”. hat about his actions demonstrated “proper care”? What evidence can Harvest provide to support this “proper care was demonstrated” claim?

    Making “a” call to DCFS demonstrated a general awareness of laws and regulation, but everything else about this situation demonstrates a blatant disregard for being a shepherd to a vulnerable flock.

  9. liar liar soul on fire

    Ephesians 5:11 English Standard Version (ESV)

    ‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’

    Leave hardened liars to themselves. A bleeding-heart facilitates liars by ignoring their lies. Lying can’t be overlooked or explained away. It is a root of self-deception in the soul that entertains a lying spirit. That path guarantees a broken heart. Pray for them, confront them, be there when they fall, but do not participate with liars through silence. Passively associating with liars is debilitating and vexing to the soul of someone who wants to go forward in Christ. You will not influence them through your visible integrity. ON THE CONTRARY, a liar will draw security from your honesty. Liars feel okay about themselves BECAUSE someone like you hangs around them. You are doing neither the liar nor yourself any good by hanging around with them.

  10. Really enjoy the Roys’ Report and Podcast; breath of fresh air as HBC continues to spin the truth. What happen to the new leadership promoting honesty, openness and transparency? It looks like business as usual; keep the congregation in the fog. The shepherds are to protect the flock; not the predator or image of the church. We need to remember that these carnal pastors are JMac’s hand picked disciples. They set their standards according to the Book of Macmons; another newer testament,. BTW, Is Jordan Donald; Aurora Worship Pastor related to the most High Reverend Rick Donald? If the Mac boys resign, shouldn’t Donny’s son resign too? The apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree!

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