James MacDonald to get no severance, money from tithes, church says; Naples church hires new pastor

Harvest Bible Chapel in greater Chicago.
Harvest Bible Chapel in greater Chicago. | Instagram

Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago said no tithes or severance will go to James MacDonald, its longtime pastor who was ousted in February, nor will any of its affiliated entities benefit him financially.

An update from the HBC elders was posted to the church website on April 30 to explain that a meeting occurred earlier that month to start a biblical reconciliation process and "make efforts to address complex legal issues and lingering disagreements still open since [MacDonald's] termination.”

The megachurch saidFriday: “We want to assure you that none of your tithes and offerings have gone to James since his termination, and he did not receive severance because his termination was ‘with cause.’"

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In recent weeks, questions have mounted as to whether or not the longtime pastor would receive any income from other sources linked with the church such as Walk in the Word, MacDonald's teaching ministry that is heard on radio broadcasts nationwide.

“To be clear, none of Harvest Bible Chapel’s or Walk in the Word’s donations or assets have gone to James, and we will not be giving him anything in the future,” the church said Friday.

The church signed a separation agreement with MacDonald on April 12 that was contingent on their mortgage lender’s approval. The mortgage lender stated Friday that they "do not consent to the release of any assets including cash, physical property, and/or intellectual property." As a result of that decision, the separation agreement is null and void.

MacDonald was fired in February after local radio host Mancow Muller played audio on the air of MacDonald making profane comments on a hot mic, amid controversy about MacDonald's and the church's use of finances and other factors. The church is reportedly deeply in debt and monthly donations have dropped significantly.

The most recent statement follows months of controversy that engulfed the church after journalist and former Moody radio host published an investigative report in World magazine called "Hard Times at Harvest."

Prior to publication, the church sued her and two other bloggers, along with their wives, who had been writing critically of MacDonald and the church for several years, a lawsuit the church ultimately dropped after a judge denied it two motions earlier this year.

Last week, the outgoing elder board issued a public apology to those they sued for filing the lawsuit they now consider an ungodly move.

"While at the time we thought we were acting in the best interests of the church, we now realize this lawsuit, while lawful, was a sinful violation of 1 Corinthians 6 and biblically should not have been pursued," the apology read.

"This action put you through undue stress, took significant time, energy and resources, and left you to defend your reputations. We are sorry; please forgive us."

A new elder board is now in place and is vowing to press ahead amid ongoing challenges.

"[W]e know the Lord is able to lead Harvest Bible Chapel through our gifts and through our weaknesses,” the church said.

“We ask for your grace and understanding as we dig into the challenges alongside our pastors and staff as we chart a new path forward.”

Harvest Bible Chapel was founded in 1988 in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and has several locations across the Chicago region and one in Naples, Florida.

The Naples location announced Sunday that it had hired Jeff Donaldson, a close friend of MacDonald's, as its new lead pastor. Donaldson is a former pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel's Elgin location and a former member of the HBC executive leadership team.

Donaldson will be formally installed on June 9.

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