"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

James MacDonald and Christianity Today

Last week I wrote an article entitled Boys and Their Toys: Understanding the Southern Baptist Convention's Celebrity Leadership Politics. In essence, I challenged Christianity Today's decision to publish a guest editorial (Nov.2, 2018), written by James MacDonald, the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. In his CT guest editorial, Pastor James MacDonald defended his decision to file suit against three families - Julie Roys, Scott Bryant, Ryan Mahoney, and the men's respective spouses - for their writing of articles that outlined what the authors believed to be Pastor MacDonald's' gross mismanagement of people, resources, and ministries at Harvest Bible Chapel. Eventually, James MacDonald dropped the suit that he defended in his CT editorial. Subsequently, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel fired James MacDonald for some of the very things the one-time defendants of his lawsuit revealed in their writings.

In the comment section of my blog, Mark Galli, the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, entered into a written dialogue with me. I appreciate Mark's transparency as he took issue with what I wrote. He said the decision for Christianity Today to publish James MacDonald's opinion piece was his alone, and it had nothing to do with James MacDonald giving a vintage 1971 VW Beetle automobile to Ed Stetzer. Ed is a contributing editor to Christianity Today.

In the dialogue, I asked Mark this question:
"If Julie Roys (one of the defendants in James MacDonald's lawsuit) wrote you an email and asked for an editorial on the abusive power of celebrity pastors, or if Ed Stetzer connected Julie Roys with CT (and you) and she requested to write an editorial about the dangers of power run amok among celebrity pastors, would you have responded positively?"
Mark responded:
"Absolutely. Under the same restraints: It would have to have been a biblical argument about the abuse of power in general. The challenge would have been taking the argument forward because we have editorialized on that very theme often over the years."
After reading this exchange, a pastor friend in Florida, Brett Maragni, contacted me. He told me he had two written pieces that had been submitted to Christianity Today for potential guest editorials in response to James MacDonald's opinion piece. Mark Galli and Christianity Today chose not to publish either one of these two written opinion pieces. 

David W. Jones, James MacDonald's research assistant for ten years, wrote the first editorial piece and submitted it to Christianity Today for publication. Joel Anderson, a long-time staff member of Harvest Bible Chapel wrote the second opinion piece and sent it to Christianity Today requesting publication as well. Neither man had conversed with the other before writing and submitting their individual articles, and neither man even knew the other one was writing something to send to Christianity Today

Again, Christianity Today rejected both pieces for publication. The question that keeps ringing in my head is "Why does James MacDonald receive permission to publish a guest editorial in Christianity Today and others who wrote opinion pieces -  better-written articles, definitely more biblically grounded, and more reflective of Christianity today - did not receive permission from CT editors?"

Could it be "Boys and Their Toys" is far closer to the truth than some would like to admit?

Both men rejected by CT for publication of their articles have given me permission to make public their written responses to James MacDonald's opinion piece


Then read the two guest editorials rejected by Christianity Today (below). 

After reading all three pieces, it may be time to draw your own conclusions about the state of Christianity today. Using the little "t" for "today" in the previous sentence and not the big "T" is intentional. So is the pun.

Here are the two articles rejected by Christianity Today. 


_____

Is It Biblical to Sue Another Christian?
By David W. Jones

On October 17, 2018, megachurch pastor James MacDonald and his church, Harvest Bible Chapel, filed a defamation lawsuit against five individuals: Scott and Sarah Bryant, Ryan and Melinda Mahoney, and Julie Roys. The lawsuit seeks damages and a temporary restraining order. The catch?  All five defendants are professing Christians.

Aware that 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 forbids Christians from suing other Christians in secular courts, Pastor MacDonald wrote an opinion piece to explain why his lawsuit is biblically justified. (1) To make his case, he needed to prove two things: (1) that Scripture’s prohibition on Christians suing other Christians is not absolute, but rather allows for certain exceptions; and (2) that his specific situation qualifies as one of these exceptions. His argument fails on both counts.

Did God Actually Say?
Regarding the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, MacDonald argues for what he calls “a deeper understanding of Scripture.” He asserts, rightly, that we must look at all relevant texts regarding an issue, not just one primary text (in this case, 1 Corinthians 6). So he puts forward three additional texts for consideration: Matthew 18:17, John 8:49, and Romans 13:1-7. Yet MacDonald does not demonstrate how these texts give Christians the freedom to set aside 1Corinthians 6 and sue other Christians. An examination of each reveals no such justification.

Matthew 18:17 describes the end of the church discipline process. If a sinning church member refuses to repent after multiple appeals by other members, the sinner is to be excommunicated and treated as an unbeliever. MacDonald infers that the person can then be sued. Yet Jesus does not actually say that; lawsuits are foreign to the context.

Regarding John 8:49, MacDonald cites Wayne Grudem’s recent book on Christian ethics. (2) Grudem shows that, even though Jesus remained silent on his way to the cross, he did not normally allow his character to be slandered. Rather, the Lord responded to critics. Grudem then infers that we need not suffer in silence when our character is maligned. We can follow Christ’s example and refute false statements made about us. This is a valid point and helpful. Yet Grudem does not mention suing fellow Christians, as MacDonald implies. In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not appear in that section, nor anywhere else in the book.(3) So Jesus may have corrected his opponents, but he did not sue them (nor their spouses). The record can be set straight without resorting to secular courts, especially for a megachurch pastor with multiple communication platforms.

Romans 13:1-7 does not apply to Christians suing Christians, either. It says government has been ordained to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer, literally, ‘the one practicing evil’ (verse 4). In the same verse, Paul says a ruler ‘does not bear the sword in vain,’ which is widely understood as a reference to capital punishment. So this passage refers to criminal behavior, such as murder and the like. Presumably, the wrongdoer is not a Christian. So Romans 13 is talking about criminal law, not civil law. (4) Also, it immediately follows Romans 12, which contains one of the longest and clearest passages in the New Testament about not seeking revenge, but rather treating your enemy better than he or she deserves (see Romans 12:14-21). Surely that colors any application of Romans 13:1-7.

So MacDonald uses three texts that are not about civil suits to explain away the one text that is about civil suits (1 Corinthians 6). He also ignores completely the biblical teaching on nonretaliation (e.g., Leviticus 19:18; 1 Samuel 24:12; Proverbs 20:22; 24:29; 25:21-22; Matthew 5:38-45; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:27-36; 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:14-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 3:9, 14-18; 4:8; Hebrews 10:32-34 et al). In light of these texts, MacDonald’s so-called “deeper understanding of Scripture” appears shallow and unconvincing—a ham-fisted attempt to justify unbiblical behavior.

Missing the Sarcasm
MacDonald’s handling of 1 Corinthians 6 is also inadequate. He does not seem to grasp how incensed Paul is over Christians suing other Christians. The word dare in verse 1 denotes insolence or presumption. It could be paraphrased, “What nerve you have!” The apostle asks whether they are incompetent (verse 2). He explicitly shames them (verse 5). He incredulously asks rhetorical question after rhetorical question, concluding that the presence of lawsuits shows they are already defeated (verse 7). Commentator Gordon Fee refers to this passage as “the most biting sarcasm in the letter.”(5)

MacDonald, who is normally fluent in sarcasm, downplays this. He says, “1 Corinthians 6 deals with two brothers in a single church dealing with a trivial matter that should just be ‘let go.’” Now the word trivial does appear in verse 2, but it must be understood in context. In verses 7-8, the apostle spells out what was going on: wrongdoing and defrauding. The former term denotes behaviors that harm, such as slander and injury; the latter, various types of cheating, such as breach of contract and property right infringements. Why, then, does Paul call such civil suits trivial? For rhetorical effect. In verses 2-3, he says believers will judge both the world and angels—a reference to eschatological judgment. Craig Blomberg says, this “does not mean that the Corinthian litigation did not involve serious offenses, merely that all human litigation is trivial when viewed in the light of Judgment Day.”(6)

So the Corinthians were not simply arguing over the color of the church carpet. Some believers had wronged others, though not to the level of criminal court. Paul does not just dismissively say “Let it go.” He wants them to resolve their disputes—only among believers (verse 5). If a matter cannot be resolved privately, the apostle urges them to suffer the injustice and be defrauded, rather than parading the church’s dirty laundry into the public square (verse 7). The testimony of Christ and the unity of the church trump personal rights. (7)

MacDonald also seems unaware of the social context. Romans with higher social status had an unfair advantage when it came to civil cases. (8) The rich could hire good attorneys; the poor could not (9).  Juries were typically composed of wealthy citizens, who may be peers and perhaps even
friends of the plaintiff, and thus not completely objective. Justice could also be perverted by a bribe, which the wealthy could afford, and the poor could not. All of these factors made it difficult for a poor person to get justice in civil court. So it is possible that wealthier, more powerful Christians were taking those less fortunate to court, in order to power up on them. This almost certainly factors into Paul’s sense of outrage.

The piece raises issues of practical application. To paraphrase MacDonald, what if there is collateral damage? What if the matter is serious, perhaps even illegal? What if the plaintiff and defendant are from different churches? These are legitimate questions, though it should be recognized that they deal with the application of 1 Corinthians 6, not its interpretation. Paul provides no exception for collateral damage or illegality. He urges the Corinthians away from the secular courts, even if it means allowing oneself to suffer injustice or be defrauded. The issue of different churches does pose a difficulty, but it is not insurmountable. In Roman law, a citizen might opt for private arbitration rather than dragging a matter through the courts. (10) Paul points out that Christians could do the same. Surely, there are wise Christians in the area who can step in and mediate—leaders who are respected and trusted by both parties. So MacDonald has not made his case that the Bible allows exceptions to its prohibition on Christians suing other Christians. Both his interpretation and application of the relevant passages
are wanting.

Brother Goes to Law against Brother
The second thing MacDonald needs to prove is that his lawsuit constitutes an exception to the general prohibition in 1 Corinthians 6. Several factors make this highly suspect.

First, the piece says MacDonald is suing “three outspoken critics.” As mentioned above, the lawsuit actually specifies five defendants: two bloggers, their wives, and an independent journalist. The inclusion of the wives casts the lawsuit in a different light. 

Second, the bloggers have published little in the last few years. Why sue them now, especially since MacDonald admits that some of the criticisms had merit and bore good fruit? Why try to get a temporary restraining order against them after six years?

Third, the inclusion of the journalist was initially puzzling, because she had not published anything about MacDonald or Harvest prior to the lawsuit. How could she be labeled an“outspoken critic”?  Why seek a temporary restraining order against her? Turns out that Mrs. Roys had been working on an article about MacDonald, and the latter got wind of it.11 The temporary restraining order appears to have been an attempt to keep the article from seeing the light of day. Mrs. Roys quipped, “I always knew I ran the risk of being sued for speaking the truth. But I always envisioned that it would be for something I actually published, not for something I merely indicated I was going to publish.”(12) If this is the motivation behind the lawsuit, it should be recognized as an attempt to limit freedom of speech.

Finally, MacDonald ends by denying he seeks vengeance. He also denies seeking damages (although the lawsuit does request damages in multiple places). He expresses a willingness “to give grace and forgive,” but that of course assumes it is the bloggers and journalist who sinned. Until MacDonald answers the charges made about him (apart from simply painting them all as “lies”), the question remains open as to who is telling the truth. MacDonald says he prays for “the blogger’s peace,” although that is hard to reconcile with the decision to sue these families for damages. Like the wealthy citizens of Corinth who used the courts to their own advantage, he almost certainly has resources at his disposal beyond that of the defendants.

So MacDonald has not made his case that his lawsuit qualifies as an exception to 1 Corinthians 6. On the contrary, several factors call into question the motive(s) behind the suit.

WWJS—Who Would Jesus Sue?
As a general rule, when someone contravenes the express teaching of Scripture, and then tries to justify it with a “deeper understanding of Scripture,” discerning believers should take note. The question, “Did God actually say?” landed the first couple—and the rest of the human race—in a world of hurt. Jesus says, ‘whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:19). Later, in the same 
chapter, the Lord instructs us to turn the other cheek, renounce our rights in court, and go the extra mile (verses 39-41).

To answer the question posed in the title of this article, it is not biblical to sue a fellow Christian. Perhaps there could be an exception. But MacDonald has not made a case for why his lawsuit is that exception. Mediation is the preferred way of resolving disputes among Christians. Thus, I would urge the leadership of Harvest Bible Chapel to withdraw its lawsuit against these five believers and seek private mediation with a third party.

Dr. David W. Jones is Senior Pastor at Village Church of Barrington in Barrington, Illinois.
From 2001 to 2010, he served at Harvest Bible Chapel as James MacDonald’s research
assistant. He was also Associate Editor for The Holy Bible: English Standard Version
(Crossway, 2001).

Footnotes:

1 James MacDonald, “Why Suing Is Sometimes the Biblical Choice,” Christianity Today, Nov 2, 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/november-web-only/james-macdonald-harvest-bible-chapel-suing-ourcritics-bibl.html.

2 Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2018), 334-35.

3 Grudem has made a statement regarding this lawsuit: “I have not expressed any opinion on the merits
of the specific lawsuit that James McDonald has initiated, nor have I looked into any details about that lawsuit or the accusations from the people who have criticized his ministry online. Nor do I intend to.”

4 In the Roman world, slander and libel were matters for the lower courts, as they are today. See Bruce Winter, “Civil Litigation in Secular Corinth and the Church: The Forensic Background to 1 Cor 6:1-8,” NTS 37 (1991): 559-72; cited in Thiselton, 420. So also Brian S. Rosner, Paul, Scripture, and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5-7 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 112-15.

5 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987), 229.

6 Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), 117.

7 Sadly, the “Friendly Atheist” (Sarabeth Caplin) has already picked up on Harvest’s lawsuit and blogged about it. https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/10/26/chicago-megachurch-files-defamation-lawsuit-againstbloggers-and-journalist. Accessed Nov 8, 2018.

8 A.C. Mitchell, “Rich and Poor in the Courts of Corinth: Litigiousness and Status in 1 Cor 6:1-11,” NTS 39 (1993): 562-63; cited in Thiselton, 419.

9 Gerd Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (Philadelphia: Fortress,1992), 97; cited in Thiselton, 420.

10 Winter, “Civil Law and Christian Litigiousness,” 67.

11 Julie Roys, “Hard times at Harvest,” World, Dec 13, 2018, https://world.wng.org/2018/12/hard_times_at_harvest. Accessed Dec 13, 2018.

12 Kate Shellnutt, “James MacDonald Sues Harvest Bible Chapel Critics for Libel,” Christianity Today, Oct 30, 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/october/james-macdonald-harvest-bible-chapel-sueelephants-debt-jul.html. Accessed Dec 3, 2018.


____________

James MacDonald and The Elephant’s Debt:
The Issues Underneath the Issues
by Joel Anderson

It was 1995 and my wife and I had just moved to the Chicago area to attend seminary. We were in a bagel store where the college student working the counter commented on Christian shirt I was wearing and invited us to church. What college kid is that fired up about their church? We’d been in town less than two weeks and decided to take her up on the offer.

That was our introduction to Harvest Bible Chapel.

We loved the simple, clear and urgent way Pastor James taught God’s Word and the
fresh and meaningful worship. We were hooked.

I joined an early morning men’s small group led by Pastor James, and in a matter of months, had been given an opportunity to join the staff—a dream coming true for a hungry seminary kid.

The church was in a season of explosive growth and moving into their first building. I thrived on the fast-pace of the team and appreciated the strong leadership and uncomplicated, no-nonsense vision Pastor James provided.

We were part of the team that birthed the church planting vision, planted two churches with Harvest (numbers 2 and 27), saw the birth and growth of Harvest Bible Fellowship, served as a founding board member and later served on the Harvest Bible Fellowship staff, recruiting and training church planters.

All told, we’ve served at six different Harvests over 22 years.

During those early days, I served as the young adult pastor and ministry partner for bothScott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney, the authors of The Elephant’s Debt blog. They were small group leaders and helped teach.

All that backstory to say this, I know and love personally each person embroiled in the lawsuit brought by Pastor James and Harvest Bible Chapel against Scott, Ryan and Julie Roys (the only person I haven’t met personally). Through my journey, I’ve been through the ringer because of my own sin and have been shown unbelievable grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and a redemptive path through it all—and that’s what I ache for.

I have no axe to grind and no loyalty or agenda to foist on an already complex matter. My heart is only to attempt to bring some clarity from what may be a unique vantage point.

It may sound trite, but my sole desire is to see Christ honored through this apparent impasse, offering a model for the body of Christ, and a watching world, of what an ambassador of reconciliation truly looks like in the mire of real life.

After reading the first report of the case and the follow up editorial Pastor James wrote, I felt compelled to plead for a Christ-honoring path to “come reason together.” With a legal case pending, those being sued are in many ways, locked out of the public forum to provide an apologetic for their blog. Just as Pastor James has written to offer further clarity, I believe there is helpful, and necessary, dialogue to be added.

My primary concern is this: the presenting issue (the biblical grounds for believers suing believers) isn’t the primary issue. The issue under the issue are the claims Scott, Ryan, and Julie have made, and their right to make them. That’s the real issue. If we allow the discussion to be diverted toward an apologetic about lawsuits, the squirrel has taken our eyes off critical substance that compelled TED to go public with their concerns.

Were their facts correct and do they have a right to report their concerns? That’s the question we should be discussing.

I get it and I’ve been there. None of us love our laundry put out for public display and possible scrutiny. But aren’t we encouraged to bring matters into the light? What often causes fear (and subsequent anger) is what unexpected and undesired exposure will cost us.

But if the Christian’s economy is truth, let’s seek it, and refuse to allow the damage control machinery to engage. The world’s concern is controlling the narrative. That’s not the playbook for the body of Christ. No church or pastor is perfect and shouldn’t be held to an unrealistic and impossible standard. And, no blogger or radio host is perfect either. 

So what do we do? We work through it. If the facts are true, own it. If they aren’t, provide the missing data. This is Christ’s church we’re talking about. And if ministry is done in the open and with integrity, what do we have to fear?

The precious tension in an elder-governed church (Harvest’s model) is what the body “gets to know.” The TED blog exposed details of the Harvest financial story that weren’t public. While we can get stuck in the debate about how much information is necessary and helpful for the body to know, that again isn’t the issue. Were the facts reported accurate and do they have the right and freedom to go public with it?

The answer, I am convinced of, is a clear “yes.”

I love Pastor James. He was a mentor who gave me more than I could return. I love Scott and Ryan and don’t believe their intent was to spread lies or be exacting or malicious. But it isn’t about that either—who we love or like or appreciate or don’t. It’s about honoring Christ in the mess and trusting that He will guide us as we humbly defer to wise counsel, His Word and Spirit.

Bottom line, we cannot allow the matter of suing another believer to eclipse the substance and inception of this debacle. What is true and do people have the right to know and report it?

Shut down the legal process. Stop draining kingdom resources and appeal to godly spiritual peers to help corral and guide this toward a Christ-honoring process of reconciliation.

We’re broken people who need the Gospel every day. Let’s admit our need and work it out.

Let’s get to the issue under the issue and let the church and watching world learn from our frailty that we serve a God who is able to supply all our needs.

___________

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

To be clear I have no personal interest in defending Christianity Today or James MacDonald. I think this is an important conversation with several important pieces to the wider body of the church. I do feel like there is a need for a little more nuance than is currently being expressed in the greater blogosphere and social media. It seems that anyone who associated with James in any way is de facto guilty by association. I believe some of the blame being pushed on CT is misplaced for the following reasons:

1. The fact is that James MacDonald has more power and notoriety than either of these other authors. I understand that is part of your point, but it is not abnormal for someone with more, for lack of a better word, celebrity, to have more access to platforms than others. From that standpoint this is an instance of a pastor using his power to damage the sheep instead of using his power to defend and provide for the sheep.

2. It's worth noting that no one who does match James' celebrity was willing to challenge this article. There are several men, including those cited in the article, who do have the power to speak out on behalf of the sheep that I believe CT would have published, yet many of those men remain silent.

3. The articles you listed did explicitly reference James, sometimes in a derogatory manner. While JMac's OpEd may be a thinly veiled critique of specific people I don't believe it reference specific people explicitly. This isn't saying that James was in the right, but he did play by CTs rules.

4. Publishing an article isn't an endorsement. In fact publishing this article exposed how anemic JMac's basis was for suing. In some ways I really believe this article and the choice to sue were JMac's undoing.

In the end do I think CT showed poor judgment in publishing this article? Absolutely. Was James trying to use his power to silence legitimate critics. I believe so. But CT, like so many others, were lied to. They were the instrument that JMac tried to use to exert his power and ultimately, I believe, the instrument used by JMac to self destruct and unveil who he truly is. I think there is nuance between poor judgment and being a part of a grand conspiracy. In this day and age of outrage I pray we can discern the difference.

Sallie Borrink said...

"If this is the motivation behind the lawsuit, it should be recognized as an attempt to limit freedom of speech."

- Silence objections.

- Touch not the Lord's anointed.

- He who will not obey will be crushed.

It always comes down to these when the little people try to cross the powerful, even in the "church" and the Body of Christ.

And if it is a woman trying to bring forth truth about a powerful man?

The crushing will be twice as bad because women who don't know their place are even worse than a man who would try to reveal the truth.

Wade Burleson said...

Anonymous,

You make some excellent points.

The sad state of Christianity today (the world, not the magazine) is the idea that men with "celebrity and power" are deemed wiser those with humble heart, servant's hands, and a graceful attitude.

Wade Burleson said...

Sallie,

Spot on.

Anonymous said...

Sallie, well said.

Call it what it is - Pharisees devouring widows houses.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous,

You make some excellent points.

The sad state of Christianity today (the world, not the magazine) is the idea that men with "celebrity and power" are deemed wiser those with humble heart, servant's hands, and a graceful attitude."

No argument there. But CT itself is an artifact of the evangelical celebrity culture. It's sort of difficult to expect them to operate outside of it. It seems to me that they are a symptom not the problem.

Anonymous said...

the new evangelical culture is influenced by its approval of the new politics of self-aggrandizement, bullying, and chest-thumping

no servant-leadership in this culture is there

Bridget Jack Jeffries said...

David Jones' article was ~600 words longer than MacDonald's, not counting its 14 footnotes (footnotes on an op-ed??) which brought it to over ~1000 words longer than J-Mac's article. A little less than twice the length. I'm sorry but space matters when it comes to op-ed writing; you have to say what you want to say quickly and with punch.

Joel Anderson's article barely references the Bible and is heavily couched in his own personal feelings and opinions. I know that sounds paradoxical when we're talking about an opinion piece, but a good op-ed should build its case on something other than "I think" and "I feel." And we don't need several paragraphs of anecdote about how you know and care about the church/subject in question; that's what the bio line is for.

Neither of them really has punch in the first couple of paragraphs that makes me want to keep reading. Like it or not, the J-Mac article was at least advocating for an unusual position that drew readers in.

As written, I probably would have rejected these, too. (Though I still think CT's decision to run the J-Mac article in the first place was an awful one.)

Anonymous said...

Bridget Jack Jeffries, LOL... perfect analysis of some lame writing. It does not however change the fact that MacDonald was dead wrong suing. It cost him his ministry, in the end... God is not to be messed with and His enduring patience has a limit... It also doesn’t change the fact that TED’s, Roys’, and their Twitter Swamp cohorts’ intentions don’t look as pure as they are being portrayed. “I think” and “I feel” that God took their wickedness and used it to clean up shop at Harvest for the good of the Bride. There is such a thing as both entities in a conflict being on the wrong side of the same issue...

Jeff Rodrigues said...

If David Jones' article, which was a very reasonable response, was too long, and if Christianity Today was open to publishing the article, it would have made sense for someone at CT to tell him to shorten the article. But for there to be no communication to David Jones in response to what he wrote gave indication that they didn't have an interest to publish his response.

Anonymous said...

Bridget Jack Jeffries and Anonymous, excellent points. Neither article in my view is appropriate content for an op-ed, for all the reasons you both noted. Also, any article that includes lame insider jargon like "kingdom resources" would be cause enough for rejection. I agree the J-Mac article should not have been run either, for the same reasons.

Additionally, I'm over Christians claiming court remedies aren't available to them unless they follow some legalistic steps. How about if you don't love your neighbor and you're caught doing bad things, let the courts decide. Christians shouldn't get a pass. This thinking has been a real issue in churches doing the wrong thing in reporting abuse on their staffs or in their buildings, IMO.

Christiane said...

My thought is that
IF Christianity Today published the J-Mac article;
THEN, the responses are absolutely appropriate.

I agree that the 'new norm' for the behavior of some Christian people is influenced by a very negative political culture, and part of that culture is trying to 'silence' the opposition:
'nothing to see here', 'time to move on', etc.

If there is a forum for someone like J-Mac on Christianity Today, and responses are not being accepted, you have to assume that there is a REASON for both of these occurrences, and since we are all smarter than the average bear, we can figure out that the 'culture' of the publication has defined itself in a certain way that is OPENLY revealing of the state of its ethical and moral values. The give-away is that the responses were rejected. Length is a flimsy excuse considering the REASON for those responses, and I have to wonder at the thinking there. I wonder if other responses were not published as well. But there it is and the 'new norms' of our religious/political scene in this country are startlingly similar and that is worrisome, yes, for the sake of the WITNESS of the Church.

Sallie Borrink said...

Average people without the celebrity pull have been attacked and silenced for a long time. It's not like this is something new that's developed in the past few years and the idea that this (like apparently everything else) is Trump's fault is simply false. Bullies and the powerful have been squashing dissenting opinions for a long time. Christian bullies (including pastors and celebrity speakers) have been attempting to smack down uppity Christian women online for as long as I've been blogging and I started in 2005.

The difference is the pervasiveness now of internet. Whereas in the past a small group of editors held the keys to all major Christian periodicals and publishing houses, there are many ways to get around that now. Blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc. all offer the regular people in the pews the opportunity to speak out and be heard.

With that comes both the good and the bad. But the idea of content gatekeepers has taken a hit in the past decade especially.

The more the press (both secular and Christian) try to undermine the voice of the little people, the more they help along their own ultimate demise.

As an aside, it's interesting how many anonymous negative comments there are. It would be nice if people who want to provide a differing opinion would use their actual name so we can know who is behind what is being said.

Anonymous said...

BREAKING: The writing's on the wall for Mark Galli. Kate Shellnut has been appointed as the new "Senior News Editor" for Christianity Today. With a new president for the mag coming in to clean things up, those in Chicagoland can see how she's being groomed and prepared to occupy Galli's seat. The other question is when new prez Tim Dalrymple has meetings with Galli and Ed $tetzer to inform them of the changes, will they bring someone else in to replace $tetzer's non-employed position? Dalrymple's got a big job in giving Galli the axe, shooing $tetzer away, and restoring the reputation of the organization. Sorry, Tim, that you have to have these meetings, but everyone will be better for it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's all moving that fast, but I do know from talking with people who work in Chicago that there is a bit of surprise for how much effect Julie Roys' work has, so it won't surprise me if her pushing this issue of the Galli/JMac/Stetzer/VW=CTOpEd brings down a few folks.

Anonymous said...

I became aware of Mark Galli's position and involvement by reading his comments on the previous blog post. I couldn't believe the arrogance! ... especially when presented as open-mindedness and 'hey, give me a call, send me an email.'

Anonymous said...

vintage cars?

the reputation of a respected publication sold away for a VW beetle

Jessica Hockett said...

Bridget - regarding length, per the "hot mic" recording of Jeremy Weber talking to James about his op-ed, James could've submitted an article between 800-2,000 words. Yes, Weber said to aim for 1,000 words, but I know from a very credible source that CT did a lot of trimming to what James ended up submitting.

While Mr. Anderson's submission is more appropriate for a personal blog, Dr. Jones' submission is theologically substantive and well-organized. Is it on the long side? Yes. But it would have been VERY easy to trim. While Dr. Jones is not widely-known, his position as James MacDonald's research assistant for many years gives him far more credibility than most Evangelical celebrities who could have written a response.

Also notable is that Mr. Weber changed the headline on Kate Shellnut's 10/30/18 article about the lawsuit, in response to James MacDonald's ire over the content. Ms. Shellnut's coverage of Harvest in December was also very skewed toward Harvest and included the church's entire press release at the end of the article.

Bottom line: CT Magazine and Mark Galli compromised, with an assist from Ed Stetzer. They should come clean, apologize to their readers, and intentionally abstain from covering HBC/James MacDonald news for at least the next few months.


Anonymous said...

Some of y'all are losing the plot.

One person here is clearly a bad actor.

You can and should question the system that allows the bad actor to operate.

I would caution on making accusations and assuming motives on people. JMac has fooled a lot of people. Most of the people outraged are outraged precisely because they themselves have been fooled in the past.

Afterburne said...

Reading the CT article I come away with a couple of perceptions now with much more clarity about the situation than I would have had before the implosion at HBC. CT was, in some ways, had and MacDonald is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

CT need not have been fooled like they were had they done just a wee bit of journalistic investigation. They allowed themselves to be had and that is indeed very telling. Others knew the truth, why could they not have figured it out?

The other perception is what a sad state Christianity has come to in this day and age - in this country at least. It has been completely sullied, and in some cases outright corrupted, by money and power.

That is to be expected though. The church here in the states has been playing in a sandbox it never should have been playing in. The sandbox of money, power, influence, and fame. This has manifested itself in this situation and so many other high profile church scandals of late. It can also be seen in its attempts by various "leaders" to curry favor and influence with politicians when it should have been more focused on the mission of Christ - which never looked like much of what is seen from well known or famous "ministers" and their platforms today.

The article I link to below is opinion. However, it probably expresses the opinion of many non-christians (and certainly expresses an opinion I formed on my own about the church and politics during the last election). We (the leaders of the Church in the U.S. and by extension those of us who count ourselves as part of that same church) have been playing with tools, weapons if you will, of flesh to try and "advance" some mistaken cause of Christ rather than the tools of prayer and simply overcoming evil by doing good.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/04/franklin-graham-and-the-high-cost-of-the-lost-evangelical-witness/amp/

What an extremely sad state Christianity in the U.S. finds itself in today. Both in how it behaves internally within itself and how it is viewed by the world. Very grievous indeed.

May the pruning and purging continue so we are in a better place for His witness. May the offense we present be the offense of The Gospel rather than the offense that is being presented by our current gross and infected behaviour.

And let it be said - NO, the reporting and disclosure of said behavior is NOT the problem. The behavior is THE PROBLEM and God will, as we are currently witnessing, expose and prune such behavior.