Megachurch founder James MacDonald says PTSD was factor in alleged assault of woman

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. | The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)

Founder of Harvest Bible Chapel in greater Chicago, James MacDonald, who is facing seven years in prison for allegedly attacking a 59-year-old woman in a California parking lot and causing her “great bodily harm,” said he was struggling with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder when the incident occurred.

MacDonald, 62, made the confession in a recent interview with Baptist News Global.

“According to counselors I’ve been to, I’ve been diagnosed as having symptoms of PTSD,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of counseling with Henry Cloud, and he’s helped me understand two very important sentences. … The first one is first they idolize you. And then they demonize you.”

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The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, series of events or set of circumstances. An individual may experience this as emotionally or physically harmful or life-threatening and may affect mental, physical, social, and/or spiritual well-being.”

MacDonald, who was ousted from HBC on Feb. 12, 2019, after making "highly inappropriate recorded comments" on a radio program as well as "other conduct" under a cloud of allegations of financial abuse and bullying, told BNG that the stress of leading a megachurch had impacted his general well-being so much he wanted to quit months before he was fired.

“I would say by 2015 and 2016, I was in some pretty serious decline,” he told BNG. “I was trying to resign. I would say regularly in elder meetings, ‘I’m not doing good, this is too much for me.’ But, you know, I was the rainmaker, and they were very reluctant to let me go.

“And in 2017, I went to a ministry recovery center in Edmonds, Washington, and I was there for a month. I shouldn’t have come back. I should have stayed out for at least a year right then, but, you know, there’s all this pressure and everything like that. So I came back Nov. 1, 2017, and I was gone from the church about 15 months later.”

MacDonald said his very public downfall that followed his years of struggling as a megachurch leader “broke” him.

“All this broke me down, broke me down, broke me down to where I’m just like, I cry every day,” he said. “I can’t take anything. … My threat response is completely trashed. I have no ability. If somebody brushes past me in the mall, I have to literally stop and make myself know that’s not the same as someone drawing a gun on me.”

It was in this condition, according to MacDonald, that he had the confrontation with the woman in the California parking lot.

In the complaint filed against MacDonald in the Superior Court of California in San Diego, he is charged with assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury.

The complaint alleges that on March 22, MacDonald “did unlawfully commit an assault upon Barbara Bass by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, in violation of PENAL CODE SECTION 245(a)(4)” and also “did willfully and unlawfully use force and violence upon the person of Barbara Bass resulting in the infliction of serious bodily injury on such person, in violation of PENAL CODE SECTION 243(d).”

According to Kraut Law Group, “a serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of one's physical condition. Such injuries may include loss of consciousness, concussion, bone fractures, impairment of an organ or body part or a wound that requires extensive stitches.”

statement from the city of Coronado Police Department said at around 10:15 a.m. on March 22, MacDonald was attempting to parallel park his truck in the 900 block of Orange Avenue “when he struck the vehicle parked in front of him which was occupied by a 59-year-old woman” later identified as Bass.

When Bass got out of her car to talk with MacDonald, things escalated quickly, police said.

“As the woman got out of her car to talk to the man, he jumped out of his truck and attacked the victim. As he was assaulting the woman, his truck rolled backwards striking the vehicle parked behind him. Witnesses came to the victim’s aid and stopped the man from leaving the area,” the statement said.

“Officers arrived on scene, arrested the suspect, and also found a stolen handgun inside his truck. The victim was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. The roadway was closed for approximately 1 ½ hours while officers investigated the incident.”

MacDonald, however, doesn’t appear to remember attacking the woman and told BNG, “I think I blacked out.”

“I barely touched the lady in front of me. She jumped out of her car and came running at me. And I was so startled that I jumped out of my car and didn’t even put it in park,” he said. “And it rolled into the person behind me, and I reached toward this lady. …  And what I think we’ve been able to piece together, there isn’t a video, but I think I blacked out and I fell. The reason I know is because I fell to the ground. I never put my hands underneath me.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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