Harvest Bible Chapel has fired its founder and senior pastor James MacDonald following years of controversial behavior, financial scandal and allegations of bullying and intimidation. In a statement written by church elders, the Chicago-area megachurch says they fired MacDonald for “engaging in conduct … contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church.”
“Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor. That timeline accelerated, when on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported,” the church wrote. “This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors.”
The decision comes after an explosive scandalous period at Harvest, including a botched excommunication, an ill-fated attempt at a defamation lawsuit, a scathing investigative report from World Magazine and then this most recent, shocking revelation. On Tuesday, Chicago shock jock and one-time friend of MacDonald Mancow Muller aired a series of clips featuring someone who sounds like MacDonald making offensive comments.
In the clips, the person who sounds like MacDonald talks about a plot to plant child pornography on Christianity Today CEO Harold Smith’s computer. He also makes vulgar comments about Wheaton College executive director of the Billy Graham Center Ed Stetzer and repeatedly degrades Julie Roys, the reporter who wrote the World Magazine story.
All this comes on the heels of another scandal. Following the initial World report, MacDonald announced he would be taking a sabbatical, but suggested he may still occasionally preach at a Harvest-affiliated church in Florida. The pastor of that church, John Secrest, said he would be uncomfortable with MacDonald preaching at his church and asked Harvest to sever their affiliation. For this, according to the Daily Herald, Secrest was fired.
“Our Elders and Staff are committed to fulfilling our fiduciary duty as the leadership of this congregation, knowing that at times the outcome may be misunderstood or emotionally painful,” the elders’ statement read, promising a “more detailed” plan for the church’s future in coming weeks.