CHICAGO (RNS) — Harvest Bible Chapel has apologized both privately and publicly to a freelance journalist and two bloggers whom it sued last fall.
The lawsuit, which also included the bloggers’ wives, had claimed the journalist and bloggers defamed the Chicago-area megachurch. The lawsuit later was dropped.
Not long afterward, Harvest fired founding pastor Rev. James MacDonald, who had claimed the suit was biblical.
“With a new church leadership team and new elder board now in place, along with this apology and the restitution Harvest has made/offered to each of you, we hope this will start the healing process between each of you and Harvest,” reads the apology posted on journalist Julie Roys’ website.
The move comes as Harvest transitions to a new board of elders this week and prepares to move forward under new leaders.
Roys — who was sued while investigating trouble at Harvest, which she later wrote about for World Magazine, an evangelical Christian publication — said she received the apology via email from church elders on Tuesday (April 30).
In the email, Harvest elders asked for forgiveness and admitted they never should have sued Roys, Elephant’s Debt bloggers Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney or Bryant’s and Mahoney’s wives.
“While at the time we thought we were acting in the best interests of the church, we now realize this lawsuit, while lawful, was a sinful violation of 1 Corinthians 6 and biblically should not have been pursued,” it said.
“This action put you through undue stress, took significant time, energy and resources, and left you to defend your reputations. We are sorry; please forgive us.”
The passage in 1 Corinthians encourages Christians to settle disputes among themselves and not with lawsuits.
Roys wrote on her blog she wasn’t expecting an apology, “but it is a welcome development and a step in the right direction.”
“I do forgive each one of the elders for pursuing the lawsuit against us. And I truly hope for healing and reconciliation in the days to come,” she said.
The Elephant’s Debt declined to comment.
Harvest elders also apologized for suing its mortgage lender, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, offering to reimburse ECCU for legal expenses incurred as a result of its suit.
In an update earlier this week, church elders said they were working with Crossroads Resolution Group, a third-party ministry specializing in reconciliation, conflict resolution and mediation. At Crossroads’ direction, they had met with MacDonald on April 12 to “both begin biblical reconciliation between us, as well as make efforts to address complex legal issues and lingering disagreements still open since his termination,” the update said.
“We believe by faith that God is not done working in our church and look forward to seeing how He will continue to use Harvest Bible Chapel for His glory,” it said.
The church installed a new elder board of nine men after the apology went out on Tuesday, according to the latest elders update.
Harvest did not immediately respond to a call from Religion News Service requesting comment.