In a statement to the congregation, the elders of Chicago megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel, announced that pastor James MacDonald “is taking an indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership at our church in Chicago.”
In the opening to the statement, the elders said, “We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years. 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.”
Back in December, World magazine published an investigation into the excommunication of several elders in 2013. As we previously noted, “The move sent ripples across the country as the fallout hinted at a messy culture of relational, financial and spiritual tension at Harvest.”
In recent weeks, things have gotten extremely messy, with Harvest filing a defamation suit against blogger and reporter Julie Roys, who spoke with dozens of former staff and elders who made allegations of misconduct—including mismanaging funds, a lack of transparency and intimidating potential whistle blowers. After a court ordered that certain documents be made public, Harvest has attempted to withdraw the suit.
In their statement today, the elders said, “In an effort to invite others to join us, we are working with two highly respected ministries (modeled after “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict,” though not directly aligned with the organization of that name) that specialize in helping churches resolve issues in God-honoring ways.”
MacDonald released his own statement as well. He said (in part),
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 … 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.
You can read the full statements here.