Rocked by allegations of financial impropriety and abuse, Harvest Bible Chapel today announced that founding and senior pastor, James MacDonald, is taking an “indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership in Chicago.” (MacDonald will continue to preach and teach from Harvest’s newest campus in Naples, Florida.) The church also announced it is launching a “peacemaking process,” which will seek to “identify and address our personal failures, sins, and errors in leadership.”
The announcement comes a week after Harvest dropped its lawsuit against me and four other defendants, following a judge’s refusal to keep all documents subpoenaed in the case private. It also comes about a month after my exposé in WORLD Magazine revealed allegations of financial mismanagement and a culture of deception and intimidation at the church.
“James will still run the gang from the prison. There needs to be an objective new appointment of EC (executive committee) . . . They are all pawns of James.”
The elders added that the church would reach out to individuals who “have complaints against us,” and would thoroughly examine the church’s financial and leadership policies and make “whatever changes necessary.” They also claimed that MacDonald had “recused himself fully from any direction of this peacemaking process.”
Former elder Earl Seals, who resigned from Harvest’s board in 2017, expressed dismay about today’s announcement. “James will still run the gang from the prison,” he said in a text to me. “There needs to be an objective new appointment of EC (executive committee) and even old elders like Mark Hopwood and (Mike) Dunwoody have to go. Even recently, Robert Jones stepped back onto the EC. They are all pawns of James.”
Former campus pastor R.T. Maldaner, whose children were kicked out of Harvest Christian Academy because Maldaner planted a church near Harvest’s Elgin campus, had similar feelings. “I remain hesitant and cautious because James will soul search in Naples, while preaching to a people who haven’t figured out the disqualified nature of the man they have ‘leading them’ in the Word,” he said. “This decision perpetuates spiritual abuse in another geographical location and . . . is no good for the people at Harvest Naples, Chicago, or James himself.”
“I remain hesitant and cautious because James will soul search in Naples, while preaching to a people who haven’t figured out the disqualified nature of the man they have ‘leading them’ in the Word.”
Dave Corning, who served as chairman of Harvest’s elder board for 21 years said MacDonald’s statement falls far short of the repentance he believes is required. Corning and seven other former elders wrote a letter to the elder board in 2013 accusing MacDonald of being disqualified for ministry because of serious character flaws. “Nothing has changed,” Corning said, “just trying to maneuver around the real issues. Not even close to repentance or godly sorrow. . . . Sad and very disappointing.”
The email concluded by stating that the “lead/campus pastors will continue to lead the day-to-day ministry of the church” and asked for peoples’ support.
The full text of the email is below. As I wrote last week, Harvest leaders and MacDonald have consistently lied and deceived, so I join those who are skeptical about this announcement. Given all that’s occurred, including a baseless lawsuit for which Harvest has still not apologized, what’s required now is not a “peacemaking process,” but confession, repentance, and resignations. There can be no true peace without it.