Harvest Bible Chapel founder James MacDonald signals ‘early 2020’ return to ministry

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.
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)

Disgraced Harvest Bible Chapel founder James MacDonald who recently repented for the circumstances that led to his unceremonious ouster from the greater Chicago megachurch he founded more than 30 years ago, has signaled he could likely return to the pulpit in “early 2020.”

“Early in 2020, around the anniversary of my last local church sermon, we will begin considering interim preaching opportunities,” MacDonald said in a message on his ministry website,, where he lists Vertical Church and Act Like Men as ministries that are “coming soon.”

MacDonald was ousted as leader of Harvest Bible Chapel on Feb. 12 in the wake of "highly inappropriate recorded comments" he made on a radio program as well as "other conduct."

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

He was also investigated for financial abuse and on Thursday, Harvest Bible Chapel published a summary of a legal and financial review of MacDonald’s reign, suggesting he extensively misused the church’s financial resources for improper financial benefit.

While he continues working on his healing and restoration with his wife, Kathy, under the leadership of Pastor Wilfredo DeJesus of New Life Covenant Church in Humboldt Park, Chicago, MacDonald said he was still working on “significant unresolved issues related to our separation from the church we founded in 1988.”

Some of those issues relate to the shifting around of resources between the church and church-related entities such as MacDonald's teaching ministry, called Walk in the Word, and Harvest Bible Fellowship, the former church planting network that was dissolved in 2017.

The former executive committee at the church said MacDonald signed an agreement dated Jan. 1, 2015, which gave him ownership of all “works of authorship created by MacDonald” and “all net financial and legal assets related to Walk in the Word.”

That agreement is now under question because no corporate board minutes reflect the integrity required regarding intellectual property issues.

Last Thursday’s report also showed that MacDonald was receiving in excess of $1 million in executive compensation annually from Harvest Bible Chapel from 2015 to 2019.

It also found that from Jan. 1, 2016, through Feb. 14, 2019, approximately $3.1 million was spent through the private accounts controlled by James MacDonald and his close associates. Approximately $1.2 million was used to fund deferred compensation plans, primarily for the benefit of James MacDonald, all of which was approved by Harvest Bible Chapel’s compensation committee. Another $1.9 million was also used for other spending, apparently at James MacDonald’s direction the report said.

Much of that expenditure, the report said, lacked sufficient documentation “to determine who authorized the purchases and whether the expenditures served a purpose for HBC or were of a personal nature.”

Harvest Bible Chapel, which formally disqualified MacDonald from ministry earlier this month, is also now asking him to supply evidence that his spending of certain church funds was approved, and to reimburse the church if it was not.

On his comeback website,  MacDonald noted that the disagreements between himself and the church on matters regarding his separation will be settled through a process of Christian arbitration, administered by the International Counsel for Christian Conciliation as mandated in the church’s bylaws.

“ICC rules require a level of confidentiality, which precludes efforts to gain advantage through publicity or otherwise seek to bypass the work being done by a panel of Christian arbitrators. This process will likely continue through spring of 2020. Beyond a settling of disputed matters, we pray for a true reconciliation and mutual public statement that resolves false information, accomplishes closure, and begins the healing for all concerned. Please pray for our Spirit-filled endurance toward those ends,” MacDonald added.

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