Former elders, pastors, and staffers from Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel accuse the church of financial mismanagement and a culture of deception and intimidation
(Julie Roys – World Magazine) Five years ago, Harvest Bible Chapel, a Chicago-area megachurch with multiple campuses and an average weekly attendance exceeding 12,000, sent shock waves through the Christian community when it publicly excommunicated two former elders and indirectly censured a third.
The edict was news beyond Chicago because James MacDonald is Harvest’s pastor: His Walk in the Word radio and TV ministry reaches millions weekly. Harvest also is home to Vertical Worship, Vertical Church Films, Vertical Church Network, and Harvest Christian Academy in Elgin, Ill., and Camp Harvest in Newaygo, Mich.
What many didn’t know at the time was that the September 2013 surprise came just 24 hours after eight former elders—including longtime board chairman Dave Corning—sent a strongly worded letter to the remaining elder board. The letter stated that 2 Timothy 3:1-5 lists nearly 20 traits that disqualify a person from being a pastor or elder, and “it is our opinion that these apply substantially to James.”
The letter charged MacDonald with, among other things, “self-promotion … love of money … domineering and bullying … abusive speech … outbursts of anger … [and] making misleading statements,” adding, “We are prepared to bring forth a host of specific examples and witnesses.” (WORLD has published the entire letter here.)
Harvest officials quickly went on the offense. In a video shown on seven Harvest campuses the next day, four sitting elders accused the three former elders who had resigned most recently—Scott Phelps, Barry Slabaugh, and (without naming him) Dan Marquardt—of “great sin” for sending the letter to the elder board. Current elder Steve Huston warned members to avoid the three men, saying they were “defiling many people.”