After being officially released from ministry, James MacDonald apologizes
Matthias Browning

Matthias Browning

Ousted Harvest Bible Chapel Chapel pastor James MacDonald has finally spoken out after being fired from the church he founded.

The former Chicago megachurch pastor was fired for multiple allegations of bullying, financial mismanagement and a taped recording of him making crude threats.

MacDonald took to Facebook to apologize, his full apology published further below. “I was, am, and will remain very sorry for the careless and hurtful words that were illegally recorded and publicized. I confess to all who have followed my ministry, a regression into sinful patterns of fleshly anger and self pity that wounded co-workers and others.”

In a statement recently released, the church’s Elder board stated, “We want to start by being clear that Harvest Bible Chapel is very thankful for the 30 years of ministry that James MacDonald served this church,” they stated.

“There are countless stories of how God used James for His glory and His purposes in the lives of the people of this church and around the world. His example of teaching the Word of God as the final word of authority will remain in the fabric of this church moving forward.

“On February 12, 2019, James MacDonald’s employment was terminated by our Elder board as our Senior Pastor for not being “above reproach” and for having a “sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger, and domineering behavior.” Since then, there was a full transition to the new Elder board. The Walk in the Word donor list was also informed about the termination of James’ employment and that Harvest was closing the Walk in the Word website and no longer accepting donations.

“You may be wondering why we are coming to you now, months after James’ dismissal. As we spent time with the congregation and visited all of our campuses, it became clear that there was confusion over the previous statements about our former Senior Pastor. We are here today to provide clarity to our church family and also to those who listened to and supported Walk in the Word, a ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel. We understand the seriousness of these spiritual matters and desire to be wise and discerning as we seek the Lord to guide us through the Scriptures.”

Macdonald and his wife are now attending New Life Covenant Church in Humboldt Park, Chicago.

Dear Friends:

I trust this timing finds you well in the Lord and growing in your awareness of how good He truly is. Our efforts to work through existing channels in our former church have reached an unsuccessful end, leading to this release of words we have long sought to express.

Our lifetime calling continues to be “igniting passion in the people of God through the proclamation of truth.” Yet God, in His sovereignty, appointed for me and Kathy this chastening (Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 12:7-11) and abrupt termination last February from the church we founded and have loved for more than 30 years. It has taken an extended time of silence to see the Lord’s hand, see my sin fully and speak about it non-defensively.

My Repentance

I was, am, and will remain very sorry for the careless and hurtful words that were illegally recorded and publicized. I immediately sent written apologies where appropriate, grieving what it revealed about the state of my heart at the time, as well as the hurt caused to those who trusted us to be a more consistent example of Christlikeness. I have no excuse and am truly sorry.

I confess to all who have followed my ministry, a regression into sinful patterns of fleshly anger and self pity that wounded co-workers and others. These sin issues had been points of growth and victory as expressed through my preaching and writing, but I fell back beginning in late 2016 and have only myself to blame. I wrestled with the stress I felt, the injustice I endured, etc. Yet, over time I have come to see only myself and my own relational failing in the mirror, and with grief and sorrow I ask your forgiveness.

As part of this, I have come to see my sin of handling pressure in a way that got things done, but neglected the priority of love and the presiding humility of serving others first. Letters have been sent to those the Holy Spirit has brought to mind, owning what is true without reference to what is false. We are looking to the Lord to keep my focus here as long as it takes in hopes of reconciliation with every willing heart.

Failed Decision Making

This relational decline led to regrettable decisions, such as Senior Staff transitions with some of our best leaders departing, my reactive resignation from Harvest Bible Fellowship, the fearful and defensive lawsuit, the rapid move of Walk in the Word to digital-only, etc.

All of these big-impact “retreat decisions” were initiated out of the desperation I felt, and from my clearer thinking today, I see how wrong I was. I recognize how these actions undermined team member support for my leadership, eroding the margin of grace between us. I am especially grieved for certain co-leaders who felt wounded by me and deserved better – those who have expressed it and those who have not. We had many moments of joyful partnership, the memories of which I will always treasure. I am deeply and forever sorry to each of you and pray, in God’s timing, for the opportunity to say that personally.

Decisions by the current Elder/staff, along with inaccurate announcements and recent public condemnation, signaled clearly the timing to communicate our message directly. With sadness we accept that no face-to-face confession or truth-advancing interaction will be forthcoming.

The above matters are now in Christian arbitration where impartial believers will hear and give a written, objective ruling. As we cannot give specifics, we are trusting the Lord for truth to be revealed in His time, and we covet your prayers.

2 Corinthians 3:2,5-6

“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all… Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

After waiting many months in hope of a pathway toward restoration, we have been welcomed into the congregation of New Life Covenant Church in Humboldt Park, Chicago. A multi-ethnic church under Pastor Wilfredo DeJesus, New Life has embraced us in love, offering us a place to serve and the beginnings of healing community.

Please know that God continues His work in my heart – we have never doubted the Lord or His Word and believe He is not done with us. We are planning a future focused on preaching and teaching God’s Word, helping pastors preach the Bible more impactfully, living the mandate of Christ’s love, and being free from the weight of large organizational leadership, which was simply too much for me. In time we hope you will think of us as serving the Lord with gladness while we enjoy our kids and grandkids, who continue to flourish in local church ministry where God has planted them.

We look forward to more frequent communication with you as the Lord continues giving light to our next steps. Thank you for your interest and prayers.

Warmly in Christ our Savior,

James and Kathy MacDonald

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