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Harvest’s James MacDonald takes ‘indefinite sabbatical’

by Mickey McLean
Posted 1/16/19, 01:06 pm

The elders of Harvest Bible Chapel announced Wednesday that Pastor James MacDonald would take an “indefinite sabbatical” from preaching and leadership at the Chicago megachurch while it works to reconcile with past critics. The decision came after the church’s Executive Committee of the Elders held a closed-door meeting on Monday and presented its recommendations to the entire Elder Board Tuesday night.

The announcement follows recent criticism of the church’s financial and management practices. (See WORLD Magazine’s “Hard times at Harvest.”)

“We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years,” a statement from the elders acknowledged. “It has become apparent that these efforts have failed to fully identify and address our personal failures, sins, and errors in leadership, thus perpetuating a continuation of the criticism.”

The elders said MacDonald has permission to continue preaching at the Harvest location in Naples, Fla., this winter but has recused himself from having any leadership role in the reconciliation process and will participate only when asked.

“I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin,” MacDonald said in a statement. “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.”

Earlier this month, MacDonald pulled his Walk in the Word program from radio and television while keeping it as a podcast, citing costs and changing demographics. And on Jan. 7, the Executive Committee of Elders announced that the church had dropped a defamation lawsuit it had filed against freelance writer Julie Roys, who wrote WORLD Magazine’s feature about the church’s financial and management problems, and the owners of a blog who had chronicled the controversy surrounding the church and its leaders.

Editor’s note: We have updated this article to note the status of Harvest Bible Chapel’s defamation lawsuit.

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Mickey McLean

Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital.

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Wed, 01/16/2019 05:41 pm

    And what of the lawsuit filed by pastor MacDonald?

  •  CherylQuilts's picture
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 08:02 am

    Yes, Jerry. I agree...what about the lawsuiit?

  • RC
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 10:10 am

    An article in Christianity Today, dated 1-16-19 11:00am, says Harvest dropped the law suit. Hmmm. Anyway check it out.

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 12:43 pm

    We have updated the article to include the latest on the lawsuit.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 01:36 pm

    These are good signs.  The announcement states that Harvest still believes that what World did is illegal, so the way is not yet clear.

  • VISTA48
    Posted: Sun, 01/20/2019 07:12 am

    There are several sources that attribute the lawsuit being dropped so that HBC could avoid having to disclose internal documents in discovery. The steam seems to have left as soon as Julie Roys requested the documents. It doesn't appear that much has changed at Harvest.