Pastor James MacDonald Admits Harvest Bible Church Board Wrongfully Disciplined 3 Excommunicated Elders

james macdonald
Pastor James MacDonald. |

Pastor James MacDonald of the Chicago-based seven-multicampus Harvest Bible Church, issued an apology statement on Sunday saying that the board of the megachurch unanimously agreed to lift a discipline ban from three excommunicated elders.

Harvest ousted Daniel Marquardt, Scott Phelps, and Barry Slabaugh in 2013 after they protested against what they claimed was a culture of fear and intimidation and a lack of transparency among church leadership.

"For many months, we have labored under the awareness that our church discipline of a year ago was a failure in many respects, not the least of which was the complete lack of biblically required restorative component, which wronged the brothers that we were attempting to help," said MacDonald.

MacDonald added, "We delayed making this confession, not wanting to worsen matters as we prayed for a true reconciliation. Praise God, that reconciliation happened meaningfully and mutually this week."

The elders' discipline was brought on when they signed a private letter of concern and sent it to a board member. World Magazine reports that the letter alleged the church was run by a "puppet elder board" whose leadership had left a trail of broken relationships.

They also complained that they did not have access to the church's detailed line-item budget, MacDonald's salary or expense accounts although they were entitled to that information as elders.

In response, Harvest posted a video on the church's website last year which was shown on all campuses. A few remaining elders appeared in the video announcing the men's excommunication and accused them of seeking division among the congregation.

In Sunday's announcement, MacDonald apologized for the harsh language that was used in the video to describe the former elders and noted that they immediately realized they were wrong in posting it.

"It was seen by many thousands of people and damaged the reputations of these brothers. For this we are truly sorry ... we lost sight of the biblical priority of seeking a redemptive solution for our differences," said MacDonald.

Furthermore, he apologized to the wider Christian community for his and his board's actions saying,"As the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel, we're committed to regaining your trust in all that we do and say. With this action we consider this difficult chapter closed."

He said Marquardt, Phelps, and Slabaugh accepted his apology however, he noted that there were still differences among each of their perspectives regarding the church leadership but said they had "agreed to be at peace with us and with Harvest."

Since the fall out among the elders and the church last year, Harvest announced a few changes aimed at increasing accountability. In September 2012, they joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability then a few months later, the board announced that MacDonald had voluntarily downsized to a smaller home and had taken a reduction in his salary.

The Harvest elder board is currently comprised of 33 individuals, all of whom have final authority on decisions pertaining to the congregation, according to their church's constitution.

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