Click here to hear the Elders's statement regarding James McDonald and the main Harvest Church.
Dear Church Family,
It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that James MacDonald has been fired from the main Harvest Church as of today. Harvest Palos is entirely independent from Harvest Rolling Meadows, and we withdrew our affiliation from their church planting network years ago. But these matters still affect us, as we still share a common name and history. I will make an announcement this Sunday once we know more details, but here are some initial remarks as we reflect on this sad ending to his 30-year tenure in ministry.
1. James MacDonald biblically disqualified himself from ministry. All pastors sin and require God's grace on a daily basis, but ministers are warned against a pattern of unrepentant sin. "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear." 1 Timothy 5:20. James MacDonald remains publicly unrepentant for his disqualifying conduct as a minister of the Gospel. Also, the elders at Harvest have yet to demand biblical repentance from James, and they have yet to repent publicly of specific sins they have been aware of and involved in.
2. The main issues were: lack of accountability, spiritually abusive leadership, and financial mismanagement. These charges have been verified by a chorus of credible witnesses and a mounting pile of documentation. On WLS yesterday, Chicagoland heard audio files of James MacDonald saying deceptive, crude and criminal things about other Christians. Earlier this week, Julie Roys released texts where James admitted that over 1 million dollars of Harvest Bible Fellowship money was used for his church expenses. It is unfortunate that people outside of the church had to bring all of this to light, and we still wait for complete confession and ownership to be expressed by Harvest elders.
3. The message and the ministry model were not the problem. So many people were blessed by the preaching of James MacDonald. I was trained for pastoral ministry by him and by other great men of God at Harvest. The message, the ministry, the movement were built on solid, biblical foundations. The MAN was the problem. He did not practice what he preached. The Bible he taught from is still true, and everything God's Word warned him about is coming to pass. We should believe the Bible more because of this, not less.
4. Moving forward will require both grace and truth from Christ. We must avoid the twin pitfalls of unbiblical grace and unmerciful truth. James MacDonald remains in a place of disgrace and discipline, and if we bypass his need for repentance, we preach a different Gospel to a watching world. But if we refuse him forgiveness, we forget how much God has forgiven us. Grace and truth. This is a time to sympathize with those who were victims of all the drama. Most people were not exposed to James MacDonald's private patterns of sin, and they are now heartbroken that their former pastor failed them. They need grace. But the truth must prevail once again at Harvest. The people need the truth---about the finances, about James MacDonald's patterns of sin, and about those who were right to blow the whistle.
We want Harvest, the elders and James MacDonald to be healthy and holy as Jesus continues to build them into a temple of the living God. Ask God to bring beauty from ashes. Pray for Christ to be glorified through a process of repentance as the leaders consecrate themselves to serve the King who will return in heavenly glory soon.
Dear Church Family,
For several years, our elders have been monitoring the increased commotion coming from the main Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin. The controversy surrounding Pastor James escalated this week, and we want you to understand what is happening.
1. What is happening?
Spanning many years now, an unusually high number of former members and former elders from main Harvest have raised concerns about the leadership culture and about Pastor James's integrity as a leader. A few former members started a blog to document examples of questionable behavior by Harvest leaders. Then, Julie Roys, an independent journalist, began writing a story for World Magazine about the complaints at the main campus.
Pastor James responded by suing the 2 bloggers, suing their wives, and suing Julie, the journalist who was writing this story. After Julie's attorney requested and received much new information about Pastor James and the church, Pastor James decided to withdraw the lawsuit.
Based on a pattern of spiritual abuse and ongoing mismanagement, many, including Julie Roys, are calling for Pastor James and the elders to resign and repent. This week, Pastor James stopped short of repentance and took a sabbatical, removing himself from leadership at Harvest indefinitely. He is also removing his radio and television shows from all stations.
2. Why is it happening?
Many credible sources, including the former chairman of the elders from the main Harvest and 8 previous elders, have publicly stated that Pastor James is spiritually disqualified from ministry due to his patterns of anger, lack of accountability and financial indiscretion. The current elders of Harvest Elgin have had years to resolve these complaints and have not. Nor have they demanded biblical repentance from Pastor James.
3. How are we responding?
We do not endorse how Pastor James and the executive elders are handling this crisis. We are saddened to see how the church of Christ is being damaged in the eyes of the world by this ordeal.
In 2017, Harvest Palos responded to this pattern of unresolved sin and what we view as mismanagement of the old Harvest Bible Fellowship by withdrawing our affiliation. We then joined the newly formed Great Commission Collective, along with about 90 other Harvest churches. I currently serve on the board of directors for this church-planting network.
We have been an independent church since we installed our own elders in 2011. We are not tied to Harvest Elgin other than by sharing a common name.
In order to further distance ourselves from Harvest Elgin and to protect our congregation from additional fallout, the elders decided to begin the process of re-branding our church in 2019. Our core distinctives will remain the same, but we will find a new way to express these biblical values in the months ahead.
Earlier this week, I worked with 7 other Harvest Pastors to develop an official statement on this matter. This statement reflects the heart of our elders at Palos:
In light of the Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Update today regarding James MacDonald, we want to make our stance clear both to our member churches and to the larger Christian community.
What is needed in the situation at hand is true, heartfelt repentance by James and for the Elders at Harvest to fulfill their biblical responsibility. We hope that a long-term, indefinite sabbatical will help this to occur but believe it is only possible if the plan described is completely void of manipulation and avoidance.
In keeping with our past private statements to Harvest’s leadership and to our pastors - The primary issue is not reconciliation or peacemaking, it is repentance. A peacemaking process, while helpful for personal and relational reconciliation, is not the approach to address failed governance, biblical disqualification, and a toxic leadership environment.
Our hope and prayer is that the HBC Elders will shepherd James toward the proper care of his soul and a genuine repentance evidenced in the months to come. We will continue to pray for all involved.
If you want to know more about this controversy, we recommend you read the articles posted by Julie Roys. Please contact us with any questions.
You are loved,
On behalf of the elders of Harvest Palos