Outgoing Harvest Bible Chapel elders apologize, call for prayers, patience

Outgoing elders at the embattled Rolling Meadows-based Harvest Bible Chapel offered an update on mediation efforts, an apology, and a call for patience for new elders in their final communication with fellow followers.

"Our church has never before had a full elder board replacement. This is why we ask for your prayers and patience as they step into their role," read part of an email to church members from the elders, who all resigned Tuesday. "We believe by faith that God is not done working in our church and look forward to seeing how He will continue to use Harvest Bible Chapel for His glory."

"This has been an incredibly trying time to serve as elders, navigating the most difficult time in the history of our church. Issues we faced were complex, and we prayerfully sought the Lord to lead us throughout our time serving. So many of you have been supportive, prayed for us, and lifted us up at times when our completing this season felt like an impossible task. Thank you," the email concluded.

The email touched upon efforts the elders had to face with ongoing work with a mediator instead of a "more costly" third-party arbitrator to resolve issues regarding the finances and leadership under founding pastor James McDonald, who was fired earlier this year.

The email also said lawsuits against former church members, which have been dropped by the church, were lawful but still a "sinful violation" of a biblical section of the Corinthians.

"We've privately and now publicly apologized to the defendants regarding the suits," read part of the email.

Finally, the former elders outlined a revamped process in which more congregational input was given to selecting new elders; the outgoing elders said they wanted to be excluded from the process.

"We felt our absence was necessary to begin restoring faith to our church in the biblical office of eldership," they wrote.

The Harvest Bible Chapel, founded in 1988, last year sued several former church members and a writer who publicly criticized its handling of finances and the leadership of MacDonald.

The church, however, decided to drop the lawsuit in January after a judge ruled against the church's request to keep some documents private.

MacDonald was fired the following month after recordings he made that church leaders deemed "highly inappropriate" were aired by radio show host Mancow Muller, a former church member.

In recent weeks, the church has reorganized under an interim leadership team whose members say they want the church to change and reconcile with people who might have been wronged. They have acknowledged that there was a separate budget for MacDonald's office, under his control, that congregants and some leaders did not know about.

In an update posted on the chapel's website Wednesday, the new elders reflected on their responsibility and also ask for the congregation's continued support.

"We are truly humbled to be in this role as elders," read part of the update. "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. We have much learning to do as a brand new board."

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