Pastor James’ statements of repentance

Note – all 2019 statements were in the hands of church leaders with the request that they be shared, and/or made public.

  1. JANUARY 11, 2019 excerpt from statement read to Executive Committee Elders of HBC but withheld from the church: 
    “I am not at all resistant to messages from friend or foe about patterns of sin in my character or flaws in my leadership and want to offer clarity here about those two matters…

    My Struggle with Anger:

    I do not struggle to confess anger as the besetting sin of my life and have done so frequently. Is that a disqualifier of my service to Christ, I know some say yes, and I only wish that my progress in this area, by God’s grace, was known to them and not marred by a couple of incidents about which I feel great shame. I have often taught or really testified that while growth in Christ eliminates some parts of our flesh, for me at least my growth in the sin of anger has grown only by length of time between failure and quickness to confess and make amends.

    To any and all currently estranged from me and or Harvest Bible Chapel, I am very sorry for my role in your leaving, and any action taken or anger toward you that involved me personally, and I believe many of you know I would love an opportunity to hear you fully and to ask your forgiveness face to face in private. … I take responsibility for the failure in relationships and the subsequent fallout that dishonors Christ.”

  2. JANUARY 16, 2019 – excerpt from sabbatical announcement sent to entire church and published online:
    “For a long time I have felt unequal to all but the preaching task at Harvest. I have battled cycles of injustice, hurt, anger, and fear which have wounded others without cause. I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin. I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns.I have long known and taught it is not about the messenger, it is about the message and I am grateful for a time of extended sabbatical, during which Harvest will be in capable hands. I may continue preaching at the Naples Campus through some of the winter season and have postponed all writing and leadership to begin in earnest now. I will continue this focus as long as it takes and participate wholeheartedly as requested in the process shared above.Please pray that this welcomed time of sabbatical rest will lead to needed changes in me and a fresh opportunity to reconcile with others in God’s time…”

  3. FEBRUARY 12, 2019 – expanded resignation/repentance statement prior to termination:
    “I have felt increasingly trapped in a pattern of personal emotional decline that has increased injury to others and prevented the level of health the broader church has needed and desired. Since 2017, leading up to my resignation from Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF), I have regressed in patterns of fear, self pity, woundedness, and anger. I have felt great shame about these things, and longed to be free from the weight of leadership, but could not see the self-imposed idolatry of needing to pay off the church mortgage, or wanting to live down the failures I do own. I have had no role in the financial matters being questioned and know of nothing in that area that is out of order. I have never seen money at Harvest spent for any purpose other than to support those who labor to get out the good news of the gospel.

    I am deeply regretful of the flawed thinking that allowed me to lead our church to file the lawsuit. While possibly allowable biblically, I should have seen that it was not advisable, because it signaled to others that the progress we have made in grace and organizational health was either not real or not lasting. I am so grieved by this realization and the discouragement it causes to the many wonderful servant leaders who have given so much past and/or present to make Harvest a life-giving church. …

    To any former leaders or staff impacted by me, I commit to participation in the peacemaker process as requested and pray for an opportunity to hear more fully how I have impacted you, in order to express my sorrow personally and seek your forgiveness. I blame no one, and praise God for the courage of the Elders in ensuring this transition happens now. I have been asking for it and waited only for matters related to my exit and 30 years of partnership to find a path to gracious separation.

    We will always love the people of Harvest and pray that in God’s grace the needed focus upon my failings will, by His mercy, give way to a contentment in knowing much good has been accomplished, too, and for His glory.”

  4. JULY 8, 2019 – excerpt from email to HBC Elders:
    “My Sin:
    In addition to my sin and failing which i fully own and repent of. My sin of leading the church out of hurt and foolishly leading to file the lawsuit which had such devastating consequences – which prompted me to resign and desire to leave after confessing same to entire congregation which i offered to do and am still willing. Beyond my ultimate failure to live beyond the hurt i experienced and find effective partners to bear the load with me and my sinful idolatry of paying down the debt – i am deeply grieved to learn of those who felt hurt by my management of them and would yet welcome an opportunity to confess this publicly or seek their forgiveness in private or both as you men believe would bee best for the church. There is much more on the subject of my failings i would gladly confess in person and have so long sought that opportunity without response that at times i have despaired.”

  5. NOVEMBER 5, 2019 – excerpt from email to HBC Elders:
    “I also sought to resign, as you know, but was encouraged to continue serving as Senior Pastor. I gave very specific and lengthy expressions of my repentance to the leading Elders. I requested permission multiple times to share my confession with the whole Board and the congregation before I left.       

    From a communication to my Elders in February 2019: I was, am and will remain very sorry for my careless and hurtful words that were recorded and publicized. I immediately sent written apologies where appropriate, grieving what it revealed about the state of my heart at the time, as well as the hurt caused to those who trusted me to be a more consistent example of Christlikeness. I have no excuse, and I am truly sorry.’

    Further, in the spirit of repentance and wanting to meet, I sent an email, which went unanswered to the current Elders on July 3, 2019: ‘I was, am and will remain very sorry for my careless and hurtful words that were recorded and publicized… There is much more on the subject of my failings I would gladly confess in person and have so long sought that opportunity without response that at times I have despaired.’

    Given these multiple expressions of repentance, I am confused and grieved by the Elders’ decision to draft the November 2, 2019, letter and to disseminate it publicly…”

  6. NOVEMBER 8, 2019 – excerpt from social post:
    “I was, am, and will remain very sorry for the careless and hurtful words that were illegally recorded and publicized. I immediately sent written apologies where appropriate, grieving what it revealed about the state of my heart at the time, as well as the hurt caused to those who trusted us to be a more consistent example of Christlikeness. I have no excuse and am truly sorry.

    I confess to all who have followed my ministry, a regression into sinful patterns of fleshly anger and self pity that wounded co-workers and others. These sin issues had been points of growth and victory as expressed through my preaching and writing, but I fell back beginning in late 2016 and have only myself to blame. I wrestled with the stress I felt, the injustice I endured, etc. Yet, over time I have come to see only myself and my own relational failing in the mirror, and with grief and sorrow I ask your forgiveness.

    As part of this, I have come to see my sin of handling pressure in a way that got things done, but neglected the priority of love and the presiding humility of serving others first. Letters have been sent to those the Holy Spirit has brought to mind, owning what is true without reference to what is false. We are looking to the Lord to keep my focus here as long as it takes in hopes of reconciliation with every willing heart.”

  7. NOVEMBER 22, 2019 – social post following Harvest’s false financial condemnation:
    “On Thursday, November 21, Harvest Bible Chapel leaders announced results of their financial investigation. The study covered Elder and auditor-approved spending and compensation, all of which predate the involvement of those now speaking. It is disappointing that Harvest would publicize their alleged findings while simultaneously seeking resolution of these issues through confidential Christian arbitration. Behind it all since the start are issues surrounding historic agreements related to the disposition of Walk in the Word and other matters connected with my departure. The Elder-imposed moratorium on communicating with us directly has excluded significant exculpatory information. We began down the road of trusting God to be our defense (Psalm 37:5-6) through the bylaw-prescribed method of Christian arbitration, and we will not change paths now nor violate the rules of arbitration by speaking uncharitably about the actions of others. Truth will come to light in God’s time as we continue entrusting ourselves to Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).”

  8. FEBRUARY 12, 2020 – excerpt from “A Year of Not Preaching”:
    “I am not a victim, and don’t blame anyone for this reality. I simply did not find ways to cut back the demands or consistently share the load. However, I was not a hostage and have no one to blame. I fought for as long as I could and finished in a way I just never saw coming.

    Back then I thought my endurance was noble, but not anymore. I refused to slow down or let anything fall, until it all fell – in such a destructive way it seemed I did not care for those around me, and I own that false impression. I am deeply sorry about that, even sleepless in a way maybe only another pastor would understand. …

    Not only was I exhausted from the undoable job, but I had become starkly aware that the mandate of modeling the patient, loving, relentless tenderness of Christ was incompatible, for me at least, with the demands of a big organization CEO. What came with more force was that for all my teaching and trying, I was among the “exhibit A’s” of the problem, and not as I longed to be an always others-first, every-moment, ‘fruit of the Spirit is love’ Christian. Knowing the ways my childhood church lacked love, or how my strain of Evangelical Christianity struggled with love had not delivered me from always loving the truth but not, in truth, always loving.

    Instead, I was failing to consistently put others ahead of mission, ahead of self, and unable to shake the shame I felt about it. Yes, I had searched in vain for a vein of Christ’s body that was hitting the love ball out of the park — but worse than failing to find a model was failing to be one consistently in my own church family.”