Oh, that silly James Macdonald! He thinks he can sue bloggers into silence and not expect a backlash from other bloggers. HA HA HA.
Last week he claimed he had ‘biblical’ reasons to take legal action against other Christians that are based on rethinking Bible passages according to today’s current litigious culture. And apparently Wayne Grudem’s theology backs him up. Bloggers, he claims, have no righteous role to play because they are outsiders and do not fall under his church’s authority. Christianity Today gave him a platform for his novel doctrine, which he blogged as Why Suing is Sometimes The Biblical Choice and defended to his church with Enough is Enough: Why We Can and Should Take Bloggers to Court. (PDF)
BTW I first heard of James Macdonald when he was attempting to discredit the emerging church movement by saying the leaders allowed culture to influence their theology rather than God’s revealed word . . . and . . . for not being open to analysis from the outside. Hmmmm. Those posts on his blog are now scrubbed but Christianity Today re-posted them here and here. I was quite kind but Scott McKnight said Macdonald’s critique fell flat.
And now, James Macdonald has declared war on bloggers. Not the first time. His mega-pastor guests on The Elephant Room often disparaged bloggers. Matt Chandler said that “bloggers who live with mom aren’t qualified to call out false doctrine” and Perry Noble said “God didn’t raise up internet bloggers to call out wolves”. Mark Driscoll didn’t criticize bloggers in the Elephant Room but a few years later was warning his church members to stay off the internet because it was all shenanigans. You can see those Elephant Room clips on a copy of James Macdonald’s blog , right above the part where he belittles the Royal Wedding and calls the Bishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London “resurrection denying-Green Peace-ministers who care more about carbon footprints and unity at the expense of truth than fidelity to the revealed word of God and the gospel.” If the video doesn’t work, try this one.
Many bloggers have, in fact, criticized James Macdonald over the years, most commonly over his promotion of T.D. Jakes, the Las Vegas gambling, the gatecrashing event at Strange Fire when they tried to hand out Driscoll’s new book, and when he and Driscoll went to Haiti after the earthquake in a private jet so they could take some video, speak to pastors and leave straight away. But all in all, I don’t think those posts hurt his wallet.
There are two lawsuits stemming from James Macdonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel that are being discussed right now on the blogs.
The first is their attempt to sue Evangelical Christian Credit Union for not refinancing their 5 loans and for taking too long to decide. I took a look at ECCU and I was really impressed with how they support world missions. 4000 missionaries in over 120 countries count on them. I think the lawsuit is insulting and I hope this terrible story somehow gives them some positive promo. I have already recommended them to someone who recently asked me about a Christian Credit Union. You can find that shameful lawsuit and some discussion about it at The Wartburg Watch.
The second lawsuit is against the bloggers of The Elephants Debt (Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant) and their wives, and journalist/author Julie Roys. Julie Roys is not really sure what she said but is guessing the lawsuit is related to the article she is writing for World Magazine, an article that is now eagerly awaited. As for the bloggers at The Elephants Debt, they are being blamed for defamation, for allowing comments that harmed the reputation of James Macdonald and thus prevented him from making more money, and in particular, for the loss of 2500 members from their church at a monetary value of 3 million dollars. That makes each church member worth about $1200. That’s got to be insulting to some people, right?
I read through some of The Elephants Debt on the weekend, and some other sites. The comments are made by former members/leaders/elders of Harvest Bible Chapel. They make it very clear why they left and the bloggers had nothing to do with it. They say they left because, for example, of the bullying style of their leader, the lack of accountability, the $50,000 check Macdonald gave to Mark Driscoll without the church member’s knowledge of how their tithes were being invested, and the “hush fund“. One former staff member said she was offended that she had to decorate three of Macdonald’s four houses as a volunteer. But a serious biggie was when the church gave the 2012 – 2016 offering of $5.1 million towards church planting and then took back $4.9 million for themselves claiming “shared services”. Now that’s an elephant sized overhead!
As for factual accuracy, it’s my opinion that The Elephants Debt has done due diligence in reporting the facts and allowing others to do the same in the comments. Some might consider the photo of Macdonald’s estate to be a little under the belt. And it may turn out that they have made a few mistakes along the way. Like, they claim Macdonald put the church into debt to the tune of $70 million but that number might be closer to $65 million. Maybe as the courts look deeper into the financial accounts, the right figures will start to emerge.
I really don’t see any way a judge would take this lawsuit seriously, especially considering the legal protections that Section 230 gives to bloggers who allow comments. But I will be watching anyway.
UPDATE: JAN 8, 2019
The court case was dropped by HBC and James MacDonald.
The Elephants Debt responds with an open letter.
Julie Roys tells her story on this podcast. Start at 39.30.