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Letters from our readers

Mailbag

News of the Year

[ Dec. 29 ] What this and every year should teach us is that no matter how nutty liberals seem to be this year, next year will be much worse. The secular, statist religion that tries to create heaven on earth leads to hell on earth. —Rick Flanders on wng.org

2018 Deaths

[ Dec. 29 ] Perusing this list makes me wonder what they would write about my life. What are my priorities, values, and loves, and does my life reflect them? —Steve Shive on wng.org

Hard times at Harvest

[ Dec. 29 ] Your articles on James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel and Mez McConnell (“Good news for wretches,” p. 28) reminded me of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. I am saddened by MacDonald’s lack of humility but refreshed by the humility of McConnell. Thank you for this bold reminder of grace and the heartbreaking consequences of pride. I will be praying for both. —Lee Taylor / Dade City, Fla.

As a member of a former Harvest Bible Fellowship church, I am glad we are no longer affiliated with a church that seems to foster a climate of intimidation and secrecy at the leadership level. —Scott Rhodes / Hickory, N.C.

Great research and reporting, with both sides given full opportunity to respond. The evidence of extreme pastoral authoritarianism seems pretty damning, especially the idea that disagreement equals disloyalty. Thank you for writing about hard topics both inside and outside the church. —Matthew Bell / Seattle, Wash.

Maybe I’m reading too fast, but I can’t tell the difference between “Hard times at Harvest” and the next article, “State of surveillance” (p. 42). In both, the more loyal one is to the Great Leader, the more one benefits. Is MacDonald going to China to learn how to be more adept at keeping an eye on his sheep? Thanks for not sweeping things under the rug. —Jeff Goodall / Holly, Mich.

It’s hard to reconcile my experience every week at Harvest with these stories. —Alex Hageli on wng.org

You took eight pages to tell us that MacDonald is a passionate but difficult person to deal with. This hardly seems like an issue that needs to be dragged out before the world. —Allen E. Beltle / Brick, N.J.

MacDonald worried it might be “misinterpreted” that he used pictures of colleagues for target practice? I can’t think of a context where that would be anything other than disturbing. —Ann Marshall on wng.org

This article is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s what happens when you do not have adequately equipped and trained elders who have authority over the pastors. Pride destroys everything. —Keith Thomas on Facebook

Every leader of a large group has these kinds of disputes with those he serves. This is just a hit piece about a pastor who, of course, is a sinner. I expect better from WORLD. Tearing down God’s church is never helpful! —Josh & Claire Akin on wng.org

Why would anyone concerned about reaching the lost, sign (or require) a noncompete agreement? This issue by itself raises my eyebrows. What do they feel they’re in competition for? —Ken Isgrigg on wng.org

The issues Julie Roys raises indicate MacDonald should receive serious church discipline, and MacDonald’s replies show he has not identified with the sins. He does not meet the Biblical qualifications of an elder, but no one can challenge him without risking lawsuits. May the Lord have mercy and lead all to Biblical self-evaluation and true repentance. —Tim Yates on wng.org

Freedom on the wane

[ Dec. 29 ] This is a very informative column, not just about Tom Steyer but about socialism itself. Thank you for continuing to sound the trumpet!  —Julie Davenport on wng.org

The histories of socialism and communism show clearly how dangerously absurd they are. They promise things like social and economic equality but deliver oppression and class distinctions between the ruling elite and everyone else. A just society will come only when we at last love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. —Thomas Nally on wng.org

Venezuela shows what happens when you take other people’s money to pay for your desires. That country is in ruins, and it’s spilling over into the surrounding countries. —Mark J. Anthony / Monument, Colo.

Checking it twice

[ Dec. 29 ] Thank you to Mindy Belz for reporting that World Vision is distributing aid through Muslim organizations, even ones that have supported terrorism. Sadly, World Vision is no longer following its roots or meeting the expectations it fosters among donors. Its website states, “Jesus’ love at the center. Always.” Apparently not always. —H. Clay McDowell / Rising Sun, Md.

A rivalry is born

[ Dec. 29 ] My brother and I watched the World Chess Championship closely. We were rooting for American Fabiano Caruana. I was a little bit surprised to see this article in WORLD, but I was glad to see the background on Fabi. —Daniel Strange on wng.org

Here for a reason

[ Dec. 29 ] I have a third suggestion for how to react to evil days ahead: Do not make our present “persecutions” in the West bigger than they are. I recently heard a missionary who trains chaplains in the Southern Sudanese army describe brutality that should embarrass us into silence. We hardly suffer. We should advocate for a just society, but let us also teach a proper perspective. —Brendan Bossard on wng.org

What price hope?

[ Dec. 8 ] Marvin Olasky’s review of the Accessible Theology Book of the Year, Therefore I Have Hope, was good grist for conversation with my wife and friends. His voracious reading appetite and ability to succinctly summarize Christian truths are enriching and encouraging. —David J. Watkins / Fayetteville, Pa.

Correction

Teng Biao entered Peking University Law School in 1991 (“The fight for Chinese rights,” Feb. 2, 2019, p. 42).

More letters, emails, and comments we didn’t have space for in the print edition:

Hard times at Harvest

Dec. 29 ] As pastor of a small Lutheran congregation about 30 miles from Harvest Bible Chapel’s Elgin campus, I have received several calls from Harvest members who asked for but did not receive spiritual care from Harvest’s pastors during dramatic life changes and emergencies. Recalling those pained faces and tear-filled eyes is literally making me nauseous and furious. —Matthew Gunia / Niles, Ill.

When will American Christianity shed itself of this fascination with personalities in the pulpit? —Daniel Holmes on Facebook 

This is an astonishing exposé and cautionary tale. My husband and I were attending Harvest a decade ago when James MacDonald’s purchase of his first expensive home created his first scandal. When we asked about it, we were told, indirectly, Don’t criticize MacDonald’s house purchase or he may leave. The harm MacDonald has done to the church is incalculable. —Laurie Higgins on Facebook

Why do we continue to be surprised when the concentration of power brings out the worst sin tendencies in our leaders? I think most Biblically based large institutions and their leaders start out with the best of motives, but without vigilance and constant correction by a truly independent oversight group, the downward drift is inevitable. Tom Hanks on wng.org

Correction

Julie R. Neidlinger wrote the following sentence of a Mailbag letter we attributed to Gayle Robinson Snyder: “While the artists of the Italian Renaissance were busy creating masterpieces, how many equally talented females were making pasta and tending kitchen gardens for the Medici family instead of receiving their patronage?” (“Mailbag,” posted Jan. 3, 2019).