Chicago area megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel and its influential pastor, James McDonald, have been under a lot of scrutiny ever since they took the extraordinary step of excommunicating two former elders (and “indirectly censuring” a third) back 2013. The move sent ripples across the country as the fallout hinted at a messy culture of relational, financial and spiritual tension at Harvest.
Just one day before the public announcement of the excommunication, eight former board members had sent a letter to the board, stating their opinion that McDonald was not qualified for church leadership according to the traits listed in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
World reported in September of 2014 that McDonald and the excommunicated board members had reconciled with the understanding that Harvest would implement certain reforms. Now the three board members tell World that they feel “misled,” and have not seen evidence of change at Harvest. In fact, they allege the pattern of financial mismanagement, deception and intimidation has continued. Harvest itself disputes the claims.
Reporter Julie Roys spoke with two dozen former staff, elders and members of Harvest, all of whom alleged serious mismanagement of funds, including a lack of transparency; a spirit of fear and intimidation amongst the leadership; and a lack of accountability. Her article alleges that Harvest funneled money from McDonald’s popular radio program, Walk in the Word, and from its former church planting operation, into Harvest Bible Chapel operations itself. The original director of Harvest Bible Fellowship Gordon Zwirkoski claimed MacDonald nurtures “a spirit of fear in the staff, almost like a dread.”
In a statement to Christianity Today, Harvest officials said that the allegations were “the opinions of a few disgruntled former members” and that the report as a whole “failed to find the desire scandal.”