Harvest Insider Tells What Really Happened with James MacDonald

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The Roys Report
The Roys Report
Harvest Insider Tells What Really Happened with James MacDonald
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What really caused Harvest Bible Chapel to fire James MacDonald? And what happened in all the backroom meetings, private conversations, and phone calls leading up to that fateful event?

In this episode of The Roys Report, former Harvest elder, Dan George, joins Julie to tell the real story of MacDonald’s firing.

This is a story that directly contradicts what MacDonald published in recent videos and statements on his webpage. But it’s a story that needs to be told—and remembered—given that MacDonald is trying to relaunch his ministry in Chicago.

Hear the dramatic and sovereignly orchestrated story of how MacDonald’s actions finally came to light at Harvest. And learn how MacDonald almost escaped being exposed—and how six scathing letters that revealed MacDonald’s true nature almost failed to reach the elder board.

Dan George

Dan George served as an elder at Harvest Bible Chapel over a period of 10 years, actively serving on the elder board from 2010 through 2015, and rejoining the board in late 2018. Dan resigned from the Harvest elder board in March 2019, calling for reform. Dan and his wife, Kim, subsequently left Harvest, but remain committed to the integrity of the Church and caring for those who have been hurt in the Church. Dan currently is an executive and leadership coach and the founder of Front Seat Leadership.

Show Transcript

SPEAKERS

JULIE ROYS, DAN GEORGE

JULIE ROYS  00:00

What really caused Harvest Bible Chapel to fire James McDonald? And what happened and all the backroom meetings, private conversations and phone calls leading up to that fateful event? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today you’re going to hear from a former insider at Harvest, former elder Dan George. Dan was one of the elders who fired James McDonald. He was in the many meetings leading up to McDonald’s termination. And he was the elder who insisted that scathing letters written by former and current staff at Harvest actually reached the members of the board. As you’ll hear in this podcast, there was a strong push to suppress those letters by those loyal to James McDonald. And had those letters not reach the board, it’s hard to say where James McDonald would be today. Dan also was in numerous meetings with James McDonald prior to his firing. And you’re going to hear all about what happened in those meetings and the strong arm tactics that McDonald used to try and get his way. So this is going to be a fascinating podcast. But it’s also an important podcast, because as you may know, James McDonald is aggressively trying to rewrite history and relaunch his ministry. So it’s critically important that the truth be told. But before I dive into my interview with Dan, I just want to take a minute to thank the sponsors of the Roys report, Judson University and  Marquardt of Barrington. There would be no Roy’s Report without Judson University. So I’m deeply grateful for their faithful support. Judson is a top ranked Christian university providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson is located on a beautiful 90 acre campus just 36 miles northwest of Chicago. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information just go to Judsonu.edu/visit. Also, if you’re in the market for a car, I encourage you to check out my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. The owners of Marquardt are friends of mine, Dan and Kurt Marquardt. And in case you don’t know, Dan Marquardt was one of three former elders at Harvest, who stood up to James McDonald in 2013, and was excommunicated as a result. So that tells you something about the backbone and the integrity of Dan Marquardt. For more information on Marquardt Buick go to buyacar123.com. Well, again, joining me today is Dan George, a former elder at Harvest, and one of only two former elders who’s apologized to me personally, for some of the nasty things that were said about me when I was reporting on the church and James McDonald. So, Dan, thank you for that. And welcome to the podcast. 

DAN GEORGE  02:53

Well, you’re welcome. Julie. Good to be here.

JULIE ROYS  02:55

Well, Dan, like I said, on an earlier podcast that I had with Mancow Muller, I was hoping to be done with James McDonald and reporting on Harvest months ago. But this is a story that just is not going away. Then let me just ask you from the start, why are you doing this? Why is it important to you to let people know what really happened?

DAN GEORGE  03:15

I think of a few things Julie. One is, I don’t want people to give up on the church.  Because I believe in the church. And you know, shepherds, I think of John 10, right, the the hireling runs away, the Good Shepherd stays. And there’s  Ephesians 5 about exposing the unfruitful works of darkness having nothing to do with those. And I want to help people lead the church well.

JULIE ROYS  03:40

And what’s so tough in this whole thing is that there are wolves among the sheep. And many who have followed this story know what James McDonald has done. But like I said, He’s really working hard to rewrite history. And so what I’d like to do is just rewind a couple of years to fall 2018. And this is when everything really started happening. I had been investigating Harvest for months. But it was at this point that I started to reach out to Harvest and really seeking their comment on some of the things that I had heard. And then out of the blue, I get slapped with a lawsuit from James McDonald before I published anything.

DAN GEORGE  04:24

It didn’t sit right with me when I heard about it, that the church was suing you, and the Mahoney’s, and the Bryant’s. If you went back to when the Elephant’s Debt was launched, I think this is telling. That was positioned as an attack from the start. The leaders were brought together. It was a Wednesday or Thursday night on the Rolling Meadows campus. I don’t know how many people had heard of it. I at least heard of it from somebody by that point. It was in the very, very early days of its launch.  It was positioned as an attack because the ministry was growing and those people were bitter, etc. That was a very common part of how Harvest approached things like that. The ministry is growing, we should expect to be attacked. And then you know, you would categorize these things. 

JULIE ROYS  05:12

So you weren’t part of the lawsuit. However, you did sign a letter of unconditional support. And that would have been right before you came back on the board. That would have been December I think 18th, 2018. And, again, this is five days after I published my expose of Harvest and World Magazine. As I saw it, this letter of unconditional support was a huge and somewhat desperate PR move on James MacDonald’s part, to say, hey, look, all our leaders stand with us, I must be okay. Again, you’re seeing it from a total other perspective where I’m the bad guy, James is a good guy. And I’m just trying to smear him. Is that an accurate representation?

DAN GEORGE  05:55

Yes, it is. And if I can give you a context, where I was in my thought process, in that. I was literally sitting in a hotel lobby waiting for a pickup at one o’clock in the morning to catch an overnight flight back from India. And I hadn’t I hadn’t signed that yet, I hadn’t given a statement yet. And I checked my voicemail. And there was a voicemail from one of the pastors at Harvest, in a really sort of pushing for me to sign that put my name to that. And if I would, you know, post some sort of statement. And I had already written back to Executive Committee Chairman at the time and said, we cannot say unconditional support. One, it’s impossible, and we’re gonna get killed, we’re gonna get slaughtered on that. You can unconditionally love someone. You can’t unconditionally support anybody. Should have that should have been enough of enough of a clue for me to say, Wait, wait, wait, that’s a check. I shouldn’t be doing this. But, at whatever time it was, you know, midnight in India or something sitting in the lobby, I sent an email, put my name on it, here’s my statement. It was one of the big red flags to me, or I guess it was a yellow flag could have been a red flag, I wouldn’t have done it. I wish I’d never done it. And I have, you know, probably probably six weeks later, less than, probably four weeks later or something I I apologized for signing that.

JULIE ROYS  07:07

Understandable. And again, you’re one of the people who actually apologized for that. And so really appreciate that and appreciate the time at which you did that. Because it was still a time when many elders were not admitting any of the wrongs that they had done. So appreciate that and appreciate your humility. So let’s move on to these letters. Again, six, absolutely scathing letters. Five of the six have been published. I have them up at my website if you want to see those. There’s a number of narratives out there right now about how these letters came to the elder board. James McDonald recently did a video with Ron Duitsman, as you said, former chairman of the elder board, where he claims this was all part of a campaign by Dallas Jenkins, who’s a former executive leadership team member at Harvest. That this was all a plot by him that he was vengeful, towards James McDonald. And he conspired with these staff to bring these letters because they all just were out to get James. Is that how it went down? 

DAN GEORGE  08:17

No, it’s not how it went down, Julie. If you read his letter, he was going to publish his letter. He wasn’t bringing it to the elders and through a discussion with a couple of the pastors, chose to give it to the elders, which we were thankful for. So he did that. And Dean Butter’s letter came in that way as well. But the one letter that isn’t published came from Sandy Song. And I actually requested the letter from Sandy, because Sandy had shared some things with us about what she had seen. I knew letters were coming to the elder board per First Timothy 5. This wasn’t anything else. These were people bringing charges against an elder. And scripture is really clear that it’s got to be, you know, two or three witnesses. We turned out to have six witnesses who wrote 28 pages with innumerable charges. I asked Sandy Song to potentially write a letter. When I did, I told her letters were coming in, would she consider writing it. I said, again, please don’t do it just because I’m asking you. And she immediately said, I’ll write a letter. And so she sent me a letter before it went to the elder board. She wanted me to look at it. And I got it. And I looked at it, and I could not read the whole letter in one sitting. I felt physically sick reading the letter. I stepped away from my computer a couple of times. And I thought, well, I got to read the letter. She sends it to me and I wrote it. I wrote back to her, and I apologized to her. I said, Sandy, I’m so sorry, for what happened on my watch. I didn’t know these things were going on, but I’m so sorry. And you know, told her that I would get it to the motherboard.

JULIE ROYS  09:43

Can you say what was in that letter? Because again, that was one letter that never got published and the contents, other than what Ron Duitsman said in his recent video because he actually referenced that letter. Can you share what was in it?

DAN GEORGE  09:56

Yeah, I can share some of it. Sandy talked about over the years, other staff members coming to her after meeting with James McDonald in tears, just crushed. And this wasn’t a one time thing. This was a many time thing. She wrote about, you alluded to it, she wrote about the end of this Risen for the Nation’s tour when they were in Haiti. And the demands that James McDonald made to try to go home a day early.

JULIE ROYS  10:27

And again, I’m going from memory, but also from what Ron Duitsman recently said. But he demanded that he be flown home on a private jet. I mean, here he is in Haiti, that’s just been wracked by an earthquake, unbelievable poverty and devastation. And you have James McDonald coming in, from the United States, getting off the plane for a little bit, doing a few meetings, which I guess he complained about doing. And then saying, I need a private jet to fly me home. Am I characterizing that correctly?

DAN GEORGE  10:56

You’re, you’re characterizing it correctly. And when I read that, I just shook my head. We’re talking about the difference of maybe a day. And we’re talking about a private jet.

JULIE ROYS  11:08

But James McDonald, he did not like to fly with the commoners, from what I understand. I talked to other people who told me of demands that he made for private jets on numerous occasions. So these letters, and this is what I found really riveting about your story, is when these letters were first given, as you said, they were given to pastors, with the exception of Sandy’s letter that went directly to you. And you then forwarded them to the elder board. But the other letters, my understanding is they came in, and you’re in a meeting with the other elders. And I don’t know whether it was Rick Donald, who was was talking at that point about he had the letters, and didn’t think that the elders should read all of them. 

DAN GEORGE  11:52

Right.

JULIE ROYS  11:53

Tell me about that meeting and what he did.

DAN GEORGE  11:55

So that’s, that’s February 5, 2019. That’s a Tuesday night. So we’re in the meeting. And now think about this. There’s 30 men in the room. And most of them, a number of them, I’ll say, have not read any of these letters.

JULIE ROYS  12:10

So they have no idea what they really these, the elder board was large and had no idea really who James MacDonald was, am I right?

DAN GEORGE  12:18

Yes, yeah, there were a number of people. It was a large elder board. Not saying anything about the about the men in the room, but that becomes unwieldy. How do you how do you do anything with 30 people? And as people rotated through, there were newer people on the board, and they wouldn’t have really had a lot of access to to James McDonald. However, there were a number of people in the room who did know him and knew him well. So the topic of you know, among other things, the topic of the meeting that night on the agenda was to go through the letters to look at the charges and to walk through it and decide, does he meet the qualifications of an elder? And if he doesn’t, what does that mean in terms of employment at Harvest Bible Chapel? There was a spirited discussion of the letters and who should be able to read the letters. There were voices raised. And you know, Rick Donald was one of the people. Others as well, who were defending and saying, well, the elders shouldn’t even have these letters we had agreed, they go to the reconciliation team. And there were several of us saying, you know, looking at I Timothy 5, looking at Hebrews 13:17, which tells us that elders are going to give an account. I remember talking and saying, guys, we’re all going to give an account to the Lord one day for what we’re doing in this meeting. And we shouldn’t be, you know, happy with standing in line and say, well, so and so said that, right? This is this is one of the biggest things elders could do. It was a heated discussion about letters and who should have the letters who should read the letters, etc., that night.

JULIE ROYS  13:44

And let’s just, for people who don’t know, tell them who Rick Donald is and the position he held and his relation to James McDonald.

DAN GEORGE  13:52

Yeah. So Rick was, in effect, the Assistant senior pastor. He was the second longest tenured pastor at Harvest. He had joined, I think a year into, into Harvest’s history. And by that time Harvest was 30, in it’s 31st. year. So Rick had been there 29 plus years.

JULIE ROYS  14:09

And very loyal to James McDonald.

DAN GEORGE  14:11

Very loyal to James McDonald. So Rick was in the meeting, as were others, and they were defending saying the elders should not have the letters. And I remember being in the meeting thinking, I can’t believe we’re arguing about this. 

JULIE ROYS  14:23

Wow! So at the end of the night, no one got the letters. Right? The elder board is still in the dark.

DAN GEORGE  14:28

Yeah. Now what we did do is there were probably I don’t remember the number Julie. But over there, you know, I, you know, six, seven people who had read the letters, probably more than that by the time, and we talked about what was in the letters. And that was actually the night we went, we went into the I think we went to one o’clock in the morning and actually walked through whether James McDonald was qualified as an elder. And it was a pretty tough meeting. But by the time we were done that night, the decision that night was two things. And this is this was this was hard, but at the end of the night, we talked through it, we shared things from the letters. Not everybody had the physical letters, but we talked through what was in the letters. And at the end of the night, we looked around the room, we had talked through it. And we had consensus from everybody in the room that James McDonald was not qualified to as an elder and that his employment at Harvest Bible Chapel was over. Whether he was going to resign or have an opportunity to resign or, you know, terminate his employment was to be determined at that point.

JULIE ROYS  15:24

Okay. And that was a big question. Because if he resigns, he gets up in front of the church, gets to spin things, and, you know, can probably relaunch somewhere else. If he’s fired, and it’s in the church is very clear on him being fired and disqualified for ministry. That’s that’s a much harder relaunch. So then James McDonald flies in, right? And, and the drama begins. So walk us through the drama of that weekend, James McDonald trying to save his job. And when he sees he can’t save it, it sounds like then he was trying to lobby for being able to resign, and a lot of emotional manipulation being used that weekend from from what you’ve told me. So what happened? 

DAN GEORGE  16:11

Right, so now you have this meeting that ends you know, Tuesday night meeting that ends in the wee hours of the Wednesday, February 6. And there were meetings on Wednesday, where James McDonald was informed of the decision of the elder board. On Thursday, the seventh, I got a text from one of the elders who said, Call me if you can before such and such a time. I stepped into a conference room. I called him. And he said, you know, James Macdonald had requested that I come out to a meeting and he had requested Mike Dunwoody and one other elder Mark Hopwood was a longtime elder from Elgin that we would all join them for a meeting at seven o’clock on that Thursday night. It was a four hour meeting. And to give you the flavor of the meeting, when I walked in the room, and we all greeted each other, we were in the former executive pastor’s office around an oval table, and James McDonald sitting across from me. And he opened the meeting, looking at me and said, I know what you’re going to do, and the church is going to implode or blow up, and it’s going to be on you.

JULIE ROYS  17:09

Wow!

DAN GEORGE  17:11

So I had a pretty good sense of what the meeting was gonna be from that point on.

JULIE ROYS  17:15

And that’s got to be a heavy. I mean, even though at this point, your eyes have been opened. This man has been your pastor for decades. 

DAN GEORGE  17:23

Yeah. 

JULIE ROYS  17:23

And to hear that, it’s still got to be pretty tough to stand up to that, or at that point where you like, now I know the truth, I’m moving forward.

DAN GEORGE  17:33

Both are true. I remember praying before the Harvest Elgin campus as a garage, and it’s a former corporate space. And so I was pulling into the garage, and I knew I knew, as soon as I pulled in the garage, you know, I was, I was gonna go drive up to whatever floor and go to the meeting. And I stopped my car. And I sat and prayed. And I just asked the Holy Spirit to show me You have to show me You have to show me what’s going on. And with that opening, I felt like it was confirmed. I knew that I wasn’t going to win any arguments in the room. I also knew that I needed to talk enough so that it wasn’t like, well, this what’s what’s going on with him? Because I’m not a quiet guy in meetings. There were times in the meeting where, you know, I didn’t even know what gaslighting was. I wish I didn’t. Still. But it happened to me in the meeting where I raised a couple things and James McDonald is like, I don’t remember that.  I didn’t, I didn’t argue with him. What’s the point of arguing the point, you know, like, okay, you’re gonna say you don’t remember that part. But one of the circumstances he’s talking about, he’s talking about something specific where I’d stood up for him in a meeting years ago. Rick, Donald actually had talked to me after the meeting and said, how much that meant to James. So for Jim McDonald to say that he didn’t remember like, I’m not buying it, right? It was really it was a painful meeting, it was a was an eye opening meeting as well though.

JULIE ROYS  18:50

And at this point, the letters, what had happened with the letters? Had they reached all the elders at this point?

DAN GEORGE  18:56

I had all the letters at that point. I had asked one of the one of the people on the reconciliation team earlier that day, I said, I’m going to go into a meeting with James McDonald and I need I need to have the letters I need to know. Not all the elders had physical copies of the letters at that point. I think of the timing, I think it was earlier that day, that I actually I sent I had sent Sandy’s letter out, because Sandy sent, she addressed her letter to the elder board. She gave it to me to get to the elders. And my job was to get it to fellow elder board. But I had all I had all the letters by that point. I’d read through everything and all the letters. We brought up several things from the letters with James McDonald that night, and he was just dismissing everything we brought up. That didn’t happen.

JULIE ROYS  19:35

And in those letters like Jacob Ross, who was the bodyguard of James McDonald. I mean his letter, not just talking about the abusive behavior of James, but the things he did with the money – going on African safaris with the church money. On that Haiti trip. I don’t know whether it’s the way way down or the way back I’d have to reread the letter, but I mean, they stopped and went to the DR,. Dominican Republic, a resort there and invited their wives to come with them. And again, this was on the church’s dime. Jacob Ross, all the credit card that James used for personal expenses. Again, James is is now saying, oh, all of that had approval. Well, maybe it had approval by the executive elders, maybe it had approval by Fred Adams, who was the CFO at the time. I don’t see that as absolving James McDonald. I see that as just simply implicating a larger group and a conspiracy to use church money for stuff that was never intended. But again, reading those letters, and it does have a different impact when you read the actual letter than someone summarizes it. So if you’re listening, you need and you haven’t read those letters, you need to go back and Dean Butters, I mean that one has to be just the emotional impact of the the bullying and the abuse, and then even a video where he mocked a very well known Christian leader because she was getting married in midlife for the first time and mocking her for never having sex before. I mean, just stuff that you just can’t even fathom comes from a man who supposedly is a man of God, a preacher of the gospel. So those letters, and I just, I had to thank you, Dan, because those letters may have never reached the full elder board had you not push the issue. And you got all of them. And eventually, and I know you send them with a lot of safeguards, so they couldn’t be forwarded. And you couldn’t be accused of disseminating them to the larger public. You don’t know how I got ahold of them. I don’t know how the person who gave them to me got them. Honestly don’t to this day. And I don’t need to know. I just know I got them. But again, you push that issue, you got those letters. You disseminated down to the elders, and then that became really the sticking point for James, wasn’t it? He was like he started appealing the process. So if you can’t say anything, I mean, again, he’s dismissive of the actual letters. But he starts arguing process. Am I right?

DAN GEORGE  21:50

That’s right. In that same meeting that same Thursday night, he argued, the elders shouldn’t have the letters. They should go to the reconciliation team. And I remember a comment being made. Rick Donald said that that would make us the judge, the elders, if we had the letter. To myself, I said, and do our job. No one takes joy in doing this. It’s so interesting. If you wind back and in in elder meetings, I remember it being said by several several people, years before, if people start arguing the process, you know, you have them right up there arguing in the process. And so when they started arguing the process, I was just like, Oh, my gosh, that’s what we’re just gonna talk about the process. And I remember, Julie, I was in that meeting that Tuesday night. I remember saying to the larger board, Guys, it is the grace of God that we have these letters. There were six people who were brave enough, vulnerable enough to write letters. Six people who I doubt wherever actually all in the same room. Nearly 30 pages, innumerable charges between all those people, Julie, they served on the staff of Harvest Bible Chapel for somewhere between 40 and 50 years collectively.

JULIE ROYS  23:01

Also, in addition to those, you have the letter that was written by eight former elders at Harvest, who brought them in 2012, to the elder board, and within 24 hours, were excommunicated for bringing charges against James McDonald. None of those charges were looked into. So I mean, again, this was round. You know, there’s, I would say, round two, but I my guess is there were lots of small rounds in there, of people being silenced and bringing charges and, and the board looking the other way. And I’m just grateful that finally, the board, open their eyes. At least some did. And I know it was a battle. At the end of that weekend, before James MacDonald got fired in February 2019. You really didn’t know at that point, whether he was going to get fired, or resign, or what was going to happen until Mancow Muller aired those vulgar excerpts from this hot mic recording that James McDonald didn’t know he was on mic. He was in Walk in the Word studios apparently, and said some really vile things, including, you know, joking about putting child porn on a computer, joking about me having an affair with a Christianity Today editor, which has no basis in fact whatsoeve. Just saying a lot of vile things. Had it not been for that recording, I mean, what do you think? What do you give, he would have been removed from Harvest, there’s no doubt. But would he have been able to save face do you think?

DAN GEORGE  24:25

I think he might have and the reason I say that is that weekend, so you know, here we are on Tuesday, Tuesday, the fifth. I’ve already told you there was consensus from board. He’s not qualified. His employment is coming to an end. On Thursday, I’m in a meeting with him where honestly, Julie, they were trying to convince me and the other elders in the room that hadn’t been in previous meetings to let him resign. And we got to a Saturday meeting then on the ninth. There was a whole discussion about whether he was repentant and I said, I don’t know, he’s not repentant. He’s asking for money. He’s like the whole the whole thing was about resigning. I remember one other elder leading over to me and said repentant people don’t ask for money. And so we had a long meeting that Saturday to talk about what we were going to do. And this still disheartens me, because the people of Harvest, who we were supposed to be overseeing at that point, we were silent on that weekend, because we couldn’t come to an agreement about what we would do. There was a push for him to be able to resign, and to negotiate on several points that we now know what have you know, let him walk away with millions of dollars. I think there was a group in the in the room that would have let him have the microphone that weekend. And there were a number in the room who were looking at I Timothy 5, that’s for those who persistence sin rebuke them in the presence of all so that the rest may stand in fear. And we were at a stalemate. I remember going home, my wife picked me up, I went home, and I just laid on the couch and looked at her. Like, I can’t believe this. There was just an absolute refusal to rebuke him publicly. And I remember reading through that scripture and reading through Hebrews 13:17, about elders overseeing and giving an account, and Galatians 1:10 about am I trying to please man, am I trying to please God? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of God, and Proverbs, etc. And I read all these verses, and we were talking about it. And there was just this push against a public rebuke. And I said, Listen, I get it. He’d been the senior pastor the whole time. Harvest didn’t know what it looked like to not have him as a senior pastor. And I said, I understand that. We don’t know what it would look like tomorrow. But for us not to act would be unbelief. There’s no joy in doing this. The only joy in doing this is we would be obeying God’s word. And we would be loved, it would actually be a loving thing for us to do. You do that, and hope that the person will repent, and that they will turn and that there’ll be restoration. And why do you do it in front of everybody? Well, because Scripture says you do it in front of everybody. And it’s to warn people, right? If you hear that from the pulpit, or you hear that up front, I think, if I’m sitting, if I’m sitting in the seat, I think well, how fast can I get to my car and confess everything that just the Holy Spirit just brought to mind? 

JULIE ROYS  27:07

And James, recently, in this video that he posted, said that there was an elder, in these meetings, he says, it’s very, very disparagingly who, who was holding his Bible and kept reading scripture. That was you, wasn’t it?

DAN GEORGE  27:21

That was me. Yeah.

JULIE ROYS  27:23

Shame on you for reading scripture! What what were you thinking?

DAN GEORGE  27:27

Imagine such a thing. Well, you know, we laugh about it. But But I remember saying to the guys, listen, here’s the passages I’ve been studying. This is the passage. If there’s other passages we should be talking about, let’s talk about them.

JULIE ROYS  27:39

And that reminded me of something that Dan Marquardt told me. Again, Dan was one of the elders who confronted James back in 2012, and then got excommunicated from Harvest. But he said when he and Scott Phelps and Barry Slebaugh went into a meeting with James in the summer of 2012, asking for, what’s your salary James? How much do you make? We’re supposed to approve this budget, and we don’t even have a line item. We don’t know how much the top people at Harvest make. How can we approve this? And they started reading scripture about the qualifications of the elders. And they said, I remember Dan telling me that that James slammed his fist on the table. He’s a large imposing man. And I don’t know what his exact words were, but it was basically don’t you dare read scripture to me. And Dan said it was just so unnerving. But he said even the way said that he said, we got out of that meeting, we looked at each other. And we’re like, boy, I hate to say this, but that just felt demonic.

DAN GEORGE  28:40

Yeah, yeah. And I, I look back at those meetings that I was just describing, Julie, I don’t I don’t say this lightly. I look back at those meetings. And when I look back at it, that’s what I think. I think, how is it that we had the word of God sitting in front of us, which is pretty clear about what to do. And we were at an absolute stalemate. I’ll tell you on that Saturday, there were, we took a break, because it was a long meeting. And I remember talking to another elder and I looked at him, he was almost in tears, saying, I can’t believe we’re not going to do what God’s word says.

JULIE ROYS  29:09

Wow!

DAN GEORGE  29:10

I remember saying we got to pray. We got to pray. But it was dark. It was demonic.

JULIE ROYS  29:14

Well, and I remember, I remember this whole thing, because I’m getting bits and pieces from different sources about what’s going on and what’s happening. And there was a group and we had two prayer meetings of people who had been former elders, staff people who have gone on the record with me. Literally more than two dozen people. And they were praying in earnest this entire time. And this was a spiritual battle. I know a lot of people look at this. And it was it was a battle in the natural, exposing James McDonald, the letters, the articles, everything. It was a battle in the natural but more than that, there was a spiritual battle going on then, and I think it’s still going on now. And there is one thing we know about Satan. He’s a deceiver. So that’s why I think it’s so important to get the truth out there and to just keep speaking the truth. So let me let me take you to February I believe is February 12. And that was the day that Mancow Muller aired these excerpts. And man, if you go back and listen to this morning, morning show I I just, I remember turning on the radio and hearing this, you know, Old MacDonald had a call, e-i, e-i, o This young man had put together it only Mancow can can deliver something the way that he does. And I was just, it was entertaining, you know, on one level, but on the other level, just absolutely tragic. But as, as these excerpts of James speaking as, as James did, to so many people knew that, that this was the way he really, really spoke and who he really was. Now, now James is saying, oh, Mancow edited this to say something that it really didn’t say. I’ve listened to the entire recording. No, it wasn’t edited. This is James said what he said. You did you have any idea that that this was out there, and might get aired?

DAN GEORGE  31:10

I did not. Although as soon as, pretty much after Mancow aired it. I had, of course, people from Harvest who had heard it, sending me sending me clips. I was at work. Thankfully, I had headphones on. And I listened to it. And I thought, Oh, my gosh! You can imagine it wasn’t it wasn’t long before the elders were, you know, talking and I don’t remember the timing exactly. But by the middle of day, right, we were talking about how we were clearly going to have to have an elder board meeting that night. I know James McDonald says it was a conference call. It was a conference call because it happened fast. And remember, a week before the decision had been made, in terms of not qualified as an elder and his employment would be over. The airing accelerated the timeline. We had to deal with it. And by the meeting that night, the executive committee came to the elder board with a unanimous recommendation, per the bylaws, that James McDonald’s employment should be terminated for cause at that point. That’s what meeting and when you’re in a conference called and you’re making a decision like that, every elder everybody on the meeting on the call had to make right had the voice be asked any question you have. We will talk through it. We did not hurry. And everybody had to say, right? Yes, yes. Yes, I agree. I agree. I’ll tell you one thing, Julie. While we were doing that, I was in my office at home. I knew what the topic was. You could tell where it was headed probably. And I was muted on my phone. And I sat down on the couch in my office and cried. It’s come to this. Later that night, or first thing you know, into the wee hours of the next morning, the communication was out to the people of Harvest, and it was over.

JULIE ROYS  32:45

I remember that too. I remember waking up that morning. After you guys. I mean, again, it was a meeting into the wee hours of the night, early morning. And I got the text. I believe it was from Mancow who texted me. I’m not positive on that. But I think it was And anyway, he’s fired. And I just remember my first feeling, you know, just honestly, relief. Like this had been a months long drawn out battle. And so I felt relief. And then immediately after I felt that relief, I thought of Betsy Corning. And her being in my house and literally shaking as she’s recounting. Again, she was the the wife of Dave Corning who was an elder at Harvest for over 20 years, and telling her stories, and one of her stories was you know about pictures of her being put up on a on a wall as a target practice for James McDonald and her seeing this shot up with a pellet gun. And the things that were done to them after they left. I mean just absolutely devastating stories and, and feeling the pain. Because when you report on this for months, you feel the pain of the people that are involved. And and I’m still feeling it and I’m still hearing from people. And the pain is overwhelming. And it was just a deep sadness, deep sadness. And and again, I got out of this like so unbelievably easily. Yeah, I got sued, but the case got dropped. All my legal fees got paid. I mean, I got exonerated rather quickly. But some of these people, for 10 years or more, had been maligned. Because they stood up to James or they just tried to walk away quietly because they couldn’t they couldn’t stomach what was going on any any longer. And I know I totally get what you’re talking about. I totally get the emotion that you must have felt because I felt it, too. Maybe not as profoundly as somebody who’d been involved so long, but it was powerful. So he was fired. There’s still one more thing I want to ask about. Ron Duitsman, Chairman of the Board, who agreed to fire James, now appears to be out there, saying that after James got fired, that the elders were were spinning what happened in a false way. And from the video that he recorded with James, it sounds like the spin is that James was actually guilty. However, an email that I got, that Duitsman had sent out and then it was leaked to me, said that what Duitsman was upset about was the fact that the elders were admitting that they had failed. That this wasn’t just James failure. It was the elders failure. And all of the elders should resign and repent for what they did. Am I characterizing what happened there accurately?

DAN GEORGE  35:45

You are Julie. I’ve looked back at that email thread, Ron Duitsman who was the elder board chairman, resigned that day. And his email says, it seems we are being targeted. This is going amongst the elders now. It seems we are being punished for the acts of someone who was our spiritual leader. So who is he talking about? He’s talking about James McDonald, but not calling him out by name. It seems we are being punished for the acts of someone who was our spiritual leader and was misleading us in a very unqualified way. You know, they asked him as an executive committee member and the elder board chairman. And he says he refuses to read it and says he’s not going to mislead the congregation.( was spent) That seems pretty straightforward.

JULIE ROYS  36:26

It does. Yet, Dan, you owned it. Why did you think it was important to own not just who James McDonald was, and not just point the finger at him. But to also say, this was this was my fault, too.

DAN GEORGE  36:41

We’re just talking a minute ago, you know, the emotion and the weight and the relief and the sadness, and all those things are true. And I was still on the elder board, we shrunk the elder board that next week down to nine men. And I was still on the board. And I just felt this incredible weight. And I turned to Scripture, and I went to Psalm 32, where you know, the companion to Psalm 51, where David’s writing. He says, Well, for when I kept silent my bones wasted through my groaning all day long for day and night, your hand was heavy upon me. My strength is dried up, as by the heat of summer. I acknowledge my sin to you. I did not cover my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgression to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. And it became so obvious to be like that that was what it was. That’s what the weight was. I thought the weight was dealing with everything else in there was a weight, but that was the weight. So I asked the other elders, I said, I need to repent. I’ll write a statement. You can review it. We can put it up on the Harvest site, and I’ll read it to the congregation on Saturday night. I wasn’t looking forward to that. But I knew I needed to do it. They said no, for various reasons. We all need to do it together, etc, etc. I just thought, yeah. And I, the next day, I wrote and said, Well, okay, I respect your wishes. I need to repent. I’m gonna put it up on my Facebook page, on my blog. Because Julie, I knew that, even if I’d gotten the chance to read it in front of Harvest, which would have been really hard, but would have been healing to people. I knew that there were hundreds of people, probably more, that were hurt that all this stuff happened. You know, while while I was an overseer, I didn’t know it. And I knew that I needed to do something publicly. And I hope I hope that a lot of people have read that and they don’t owe me anything, but I hope it’s been healing to them. I just knew the Lord made it clear I had to do it. I remember sitting on my couch waiting to press the button to publish it. And my wife, my wife and I looking at each other and going are we really doing this? It wasn’t an argument. We knew what we knew what we were going to do. We knew I needed to do it. And I did it. And I gotta tell you, the people of Harvest, the people who were there before, the people who were still there, were so forgiving. 

JULIE ROYS  38:48

Yeah. 

DAN GEORGE  38:48

So quick to forgive and people were giving me hugs the next night. I knew I had to do it. The Lord made it really clear. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. But like you do what that says and the people responded as you hope Christians do.

JULIE ROYS  39:01

Yeah. Again, only you and Mike Dunwoody, did that publicly. I did hear from one after I reached out to him because we had another connection with another organization that he’s a head of. And then he apologized. This was months months later. Like wow! You know, I’ve been here the whole time. He could have apologized a long time ago, but nothing publicly. And and it’s sad to me other than when they did finally, the former elders apologize for the lawsuit that was brought against me. But so much else not owned. There is a solution for our sin in Scripture. Jesus died on the cross for to take the weight of our sin so that we could be released from it. So that we could live in freedom. And and that would be my word to James McDonald. That would be my word to Ron Duitsman. to Rick Donald. to anyone who’s been a part of, of what went on. That was really wrongdoing at Harvest, would be to repent. And yet so many still have not and still waiting for James McDonald to do that. But that is my hope. I know it’s your hope too, Dan, and I just want to thank you. Thanks for for standing up for what was right. Thank you for taking the stand that you did. And I know it’s cost you personally. And thank you for loving our Lord and showing the way. So I appreciate it. Thank you.

DAN GEORGE  40:25

Oh, you’re welcome, Julie. 

JULIE ROYS  40:26

Well, and thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to find me online, just go to Julieroys.com. Also, make sure you subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then if you could, please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you have a great day and God bless.

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9 thoughts on “Harvest Insider Tells What Really Happened with James MacDonald”

  1. Dan, thank you for being a humble man of God. You have exemplified godly leadership and godly character. Thank you for loving the Church and the Lord God Almighty, to take the hard but righteous way rather than the hard way. Julie, thank you for your excellent work in exposing that which is done in darkness, among the body of Christ.

      1. Charles,
        From the overflow of your heart your mouth (and thumbs) are speaking. Guard your heart and keep it diligently…for from it flows the content of your life. Think of the godly ones you’ve known and thank God for them. Then pray for all of us. Thank you.

        Jared
        An elder in a local church

  2. What I especially find troubling is this: How come nobody has talked about the false doctrines that MacDonald has been preaching??? Not all he said was false because then it would have been obvious to any discerning Christian. There was just enough false doctrine so that it was swallowed up with the truth. And everyone who stayed just drank the Kool-Aid,

  3. This story saddens me. I remember as a young pastor first hearing about James at a 2002 Moody Pastors Conference and reading his well written book on hermeneutics with an apologetic leaning and being blessed from his book. I followed his ministry for almost 2 decades. We had a group of Pastors who interviewed him and he gave us free tickets to his Straight Up conference. But somewhere around 2008-10 his preaching changed a bit. First he used to walk up and down the isles and second it was a bit more exegetical than primarily exhortation based and those dynamics flipped. I would listen to MacArthur, Piper and Macdonald on a regular basis. I’m sad for his fall. It’s almost like he got a bit weird with elephant conference and his new ministry associations as he left the Gospel Coalition and jumped into the Prosperity group. Who were all shameless self promoters. His sermons changed from adoration of the text to little postcard messages. Makes me sad and understand why his life went out of control. I pray for the man. He was an incredible communicator both orally and his deportment was engaging. It just seems that the church of the USA is a joke. Production and performance have replaced biblical exegesis and fellowship. Jesus help us.

  4. My husband really appreciates James McDonald’s preaching… against my better judgement I told him about the new messages…so we have the Advent message from his Home Church network cast to the TV… I had planned to leave the room so I didn’t have to watch it… I have to tell you he sounds sincere (without wax)… I find the whole situation so heart breaking and confusing…

  5. Any update on the James MacDonald vs Harvest debacle? I don’t understand how folks in a church can continue to contribute to the church knowing that a significant portion of their contributions have gone / are going to line someone’s pocket in this dispute.

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