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Current Page: Church & Ministries | Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Former Harvest Bible Chapel worship leader says James MacDonald touched her inappropriately

Former Harvest Bible Chapel worship leader says James MacDonald touched her inappropriately

James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, speaks at the Pastors' Conference 2014, ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention's Annual Meeting, on Monday, June 9, 2014, in Baltimore, Md. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)

James MacDonald, who was recently fired as senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, is now facing an allegation of sexual misconduct by the church's former worship leader.

Anne Green, who is married, alleged that MacDonald touched her inappropriately on a private plane in 2005.

“I was sitting in the back seat. And James, uh, moved over by me, and he snuggled up to my right side, and leaned his head onto my right shoulder. And then, uh, he reached across with his right hand, and put his right hand on my right upper thigh, right next to my crotch,” Green said in an interview on Mancow Muller’s radio show on WLS/AM 890, which was cited by independent journalist Julie Roys.

Green, who said she was traveling with MacDonald and several other staffers at the time, told Muller that she had to raise her voice at MacDonald to get him to back off.

“I was shocked and immediately said, ‘You can’t touch me there!’ And I said it loud. And I heard giggles from the others, I thought. And James kinda got flustered, pawing his hands on my shoulder, laughed and said, ‘I never would’ve thought Anne Green would be the one to bring down my ministry,’” she recalled.

Muller, who is also a former member of HBC, said he had heard stories about that kind of behavior before and said he once asked MacDonald about the allegations when they were still friends.

“He basically said that you’re a holy-holy type, and that’s not the words he used, that you’re just holier than thou, easily offended and that there was some turbulence, and he brushed up against you because the plane shifted, and you made it some kind of sexual harassment thing. That’s what he told me,” Muller said in the interview.

Responding to the allegation in a statement ib Monday, HBC officials said they first heard about it in September 2018 and reached out to her to discuss the situation via email but she did not respond.

“We care about all who have labored for the Lord with us, past and present and since it was not reported at the time, we want to offer an opportunity to tell your story to a couple of women who remain here and remember you fondly,” the email sent on Sept. 30 from the church’s human resources department said in part.

“I would like to schedule a call with you and [other woman on plane], maybe an Elder’s wife and myself, as I work in our HR department. We are offering a safe environment to share your story without fear and understand if you choose not to. Also, be assured this offer does not expire should you wish to talk with us in the future,” the message continued.

The church said Green did not file a police report against MacDonald and noted that they also checked with staff who were on the flight at the time of the alleged incident and no one recalled Green’s version of the event.

“The three other passengers from that flight were interviewed. The passengers stated that they did not recall seeing or hearing anything suspicious or inappropriate,” the church stated.

“With no complaint filed by Mrs. Green, no report to the police and the testimony of three witnesses on the flight, Harvest Bible Chapel closed the investigation with the Elders considering the case appropriately vetted and no further action required,” it continued.

“In light of today’s radio interview that Mrs. Green provided to WLS Radio, Harvest Bible Chapel would like to reiterate a sentence from the email sent to Mrs. Green in September, ‘be assured this offer does not expire should you wish to talk with us in the future.'"

MacDonald was removed as senior pastor last week due to "highly inappropriate recorded comments" he made that were recently made public as well as for "other conduct."

MacDonald was recorded talking about planting child pornography on Christianity Today CEO's Harold Smith's computer, and making crude remarks about independent journalist Julie Roys — including joking that she had an affair with CT Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli — and a vulgar reference to Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

"Given that and other conduct under consideration, in accordance with the procedures in our Bylaws, Pastor MacDonald was removed 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. His employment has been terminated from Harvest Bible Chapel, effective today, February 12, 2019," the elders said last week.

Earlier, a report by Roys revealed allegations from former elders who said MacDonald mismanaged money, bullied people, and was known for "abusive speech" and "outbursts of anger." 

Just days after announcing MacDonald’s firing, Bill Sperling, identified as an elder on the church’s executive committee, said in a video recording cited by the Chicago Tribune Sunday that the executive committee will be completely replaced in the coming months.

It’s been “without question one of the most difficult weeks in the history of the church,” Sperling said as he acknowledged how the church’s leadership “failed” in some areas to hold themselves accountable in MacDonald’s controversial saga that culminated with his firing.

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