The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has suspended Harvest Bible Chapel after the firing of longtime Pastor James MacDonald. He was fired over character issues, church finances, and "highly inappropriate" recorded comments after serving as senior pastor of the Chicago-area megachurch for more than 30 years.
The ECFA has suspended the church's accreditation status and is continuing an investigation into the church's previous financial practices.
"The investigation has been and will remain ongoing during the suspension as we work to determine whether Harvest Bible Chapel should be terminated, advised of the steps necessary to come into full compliance or whether they are in fact in compliance with our standards and should, therefore, be restored to full membership," wrote the ECFA.
The latest consequence from the scandal has some former members of the church demanding their donations be returned. Former church volunteers Scott and Marsha Thompson shared with CBS Chicago of their disappointment with the possible financial mismanagement. The couple desires for their contributions of over $72,000 to be refunded to them.
Harvest Bible Chapel has experienced a great deal of backlash since the announcement of Pastor MacDonald's departure in February.
Originally, MacDonald took a "indefinite sabbatical" from the pulpit because he was caught in a cycle of "injustice, hurt, anger, and fear, which have wounded others without cause." However, the elders of the church updated the church post announcing his removal "as senior pastor and as an elder of the church for engaging in conduct that the elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church."
MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel previously filed a defamation lawsuit against critics who previously accused him of mismanagement of funds. CBN News reported on the lawsuit against The Elephant's Debt bloggers, their wives, and Julie Roys, a freelance writer for World Magazine who published an investigation into mismanagement in the church. Harvest stated the magazine was "asserting false allegations," but then dismissed the case once evidence came forward.
Harvest Bible Chapel's elders are requesting prayer during this time. In a post on their website, they asked for prayer for the elders and their new plan for the board.
The new elder board plan states:
- Lead Harvest Bible Chapel in a Christ-honoring way with integrity, honesty, transparency, and love.
- Support the Harvest 2020 Team and staff as they provide strategic plans for rebuilding a healthy, stable church.
- Facilitate the board selection process for the replacement of the interim Elder board with a brand-new Elder board.
"We sincerely thank you for your prayers, your support, and your patience as we work together to restore a trust in leadership, a humility to surrender to biblical authority, and a firm resolve to move forward as a church family. Please continue to uphold our church, the Elder Board, staff, and the MacDonald family in prayer at this time," the elders wrote in their post.
Before the church crisis, Pastor MacDonald went viral in 2018 for dressing up as a homeless man and sitting outside his church. He wanted to see how his church members responded when it came to loving others. The video received over 1.5 million views.