The elders of Harvest Bible Chapel, one of the best-known megachurches in the United States, released a statement Sunday declaring that their founding pastor, James MacDonald — whom they fired in February — was biblically disqualified from ministry and can never return to leadership at their church.
MacDonald was terminated as senior pastor in February “for not being ‘above reproach’ and for having a ‘sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger, and domineering behavior.'”
The full statement can be read below:
Dear Harvest Bible Chapel Family,
We come before you today with very heavy hearts, saddened by the necessity of this statement regarding Dr. James MacDonald. The content of this statement is going to be very difficult to hear.
We want to start by being clear that Harvest Bible Chapel is very thankful for the 30 years of ministry that James MacDonald served this church. There are countless stories of how God used James for His glory and His purposes in the lives of the people of this church and around the world. His example of teaching the Word of God as the final word of authority will remain in the fabric of this church moving forward.
On February 12, 2019, James MacDonald’s employment was terminated by our Elder board as our Senior Pastor for not being “above reproach” and for having a “sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger, and domineering behavior.” Since then, there was a full transition to the new Elder board. The Walk in the Word donor list was also informed about the termination of James’ employment and that Harvest was closing the Walk in the Word website and no longer accepting donations.
You may be wondering why we are coming to you now, months after James’ dismissal. As we spent time with the congregation and visited all of our campuses, it became clear that there was confusion over the previous statements about our former Senior Pastor. We are here today to provide clarity to our church family and also to those who listened to and supported Walk in the Word, a ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel. We understand the seriousness of these spiritual matters and desire to be wise and discerning as we seek the Lord to guide us through the Scriptures.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 says, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”
In accordance with this passage, over the past several months we have been investigating the charges against our former Senior Pastor. 1 Timothy 5 is the guiding passage for this circumstance because James was an Elder of Harvest Bible Chapel. We have interviewed and documented first-hand evidence of these accusations seeking to validate or refute them. In this investigation, you can be assured of these three things: (1) We have only considered accusations that included two or three witnesses. In fact, all that is covered in this letter includes many more witnesses than the biblical requisite of two or three. (2) We have only considered evidence from first-hand witnesses. (3) We have listened to these witnesses in groups of two interviewers in order to protect us from an individual opinion swaying the outcome.
These accusations address James’ qualifications to be an Elder or Pastor in the church. The results of this investigation have led us to conclude that James had a substantial pattern of sinful behavior in the following areas:
- Above Reproach (Titus 1:6) – To be above reproach is to have a reputation of being blameless and honorable. The accusations against James are of great quantity and continue to be brought forward. His character should have been such that this magnitude of accusations would not have been believable. But sadly, James’ reputation does not defend his character. Instead, his reputation affirms many of the accusations against him as plausible.
- Respectable (1 Tim. 3:2) – The antithesis of being respectable is to be disruptive. We found that James had a pattern of being disruptive in public and private settings at the expense of other people’s well-being.
- Upright (Titus 1:8) – We found that James failed to meet the standard of dealing with others fairly and honorably. At times, he misrepresented gifts paid for by the church as gifts from him personally.
- Not Arrogant or Violent (Titus 1:7) – James’ behavior and language indicated that he thought of himself more highly than he should as evidenced by his pattern of insulting, belittling, and verbally bullying others.
- Not Quick-Tempered or Quarrelsome (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:3) –We found James had a pattern of quickly becoming angry, manifesting itself in unmerited force and frequency. James’ behavior was that of a combative person who insisted on his own ways and failed to cultivate peace.
- Not Domineering (1 Peter 5:3) –We found that James had a pattern of improperly exercising positional and spiritual authority over others to his own advantage.
- Not Greedy for Gain or A Lover of Money (Titus 1:7;1 Tim. 3:3) –We found that James made repeated efforts to profit himself beyond what was honorable. There was a pattern of extravagant spending utilizing church resources resulting in personal benefit.
- Disciplined (Titus 1:8) – James failed to keep his emotions under control. The failure is not in the dynamic range of his personality, but in the lack of self-discipline, which an Elder should display in a bridled tongue and sound speech.
- Self-Controlled and Sober-Minded (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:2) –We found that James had a pattern of acting on sudden impulses with insufficient deference to wise but differing views. In some of the most crucial moments where James needed to be calm and cautiously wise, he was hasty and reckless.
Because of these findings, James was biblically disqualified from the position of Elder, meaning he did not meet the spiritual standards to which a Harvest Bible Chapel Elder is held. The Bible does not teach that disqualification from ministry is permanent; however, with the scope of the damage caused by his behavior, James will not be able to serve again as an Elder or Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel.
We believe James could be restored to ministry someday, but in order for that day to come, the fruits of repentance must be evident. Based on Harvest Bible Chapel’s interpretation of the scripture, we have not yet seen evidence of this. There is much potential for God to be glorified through him in the coming years, and our hope is to witness that someday.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
We have communicated to James that he needs to find a small group of godly brothers to restore him biblically in the spirit of gentleness. He needs an extended period of time away from ministry in order to focus on repentance and to seek relational reconciliation and restitution where it is possible. We are all in need of God’s grace, and we have implored James to humble himself and fully surrender to the Lord.
We have no desire to shame James, but seek only to be in submission to God’s Word. 1 Timothy 5 does not require us to reveal all the details and witnesses of these accusations; our biblical responsibility is to accept or reject these accusations and issue this public rebuke. We have done what is biblical by rebuking him in the presence of all so that the rest of us will stand in fear.
The appropriate response to the content of this statement is grief and sadness. It should grieve the heart of every child of God to see the founding Pastor of this church in this place. Though this is painful, we desire this rebuke to be loving and we remain open to meeting with James. Please don’t ever stop praying for James and Kathy.
We trust God with this church that belongs to Jesus Christ.
The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel