Harvest Bible denies severance pay to fired founding pastor MacDonald
The founder and former lead pastor for Rolling Meadows-based Harvest Bible Chapel has been denied any compensation since his termination, new church elders who took office days ago announced on the church's website.
"A recent development has occurred that we, the Elder Board and the Church Leadership Team, wish to bring to your attention, our church family," according to an update posted on the church's website Friday. "On April 12, a separation agreement between James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel was signed. However, the agreement was contingent on our mortgage lender's approval.
"Today, we were encouraged to receive a letter from the mortgage lender stating they do not consent to the release of any assets including cash, physical property, and/or intellectual property. Because of this decision, the agreement is null and void," the statement continued.
"We want to assure you that none of your tithes and offerings have gone to James since his termination, and he did not receive severance because his termination was 'with cause.' To be clear, none of Harvest Bible Chapel's or Walk in the Word's donations or assets have gone to James, and we will not be giving him anything in the future."
MacDonald was fired in February after questions arose last year about his spiritual and financial leadership of the church he founded in 1998.
Reached by phone Saturday, MacDonald declined to comment. "I'm not arguing anything in public," he said before hanging up.
Last year, the church sued several former members and a writer who publicly criticized its handling of finances and the leadership of MacDonald. The church eventually opted 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.
At the time, elders said MacDonald had engaged in conduct that elders believed was "contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church."
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.
The announcement about the severance, or lack there of, capped a busy week for the embattled church, which has seen a decline in donations in the wake of MacDonald's firing and other resignations.
Tuesday night, church elders resigned en masse to allow a new group to take the reins at the congregation. The outgoing elders provided a congregation-wide email to update efforts to move forward through mediation instead of arbitration, apologized for lawsuits against former members, and urged prayers and patience for the new elders.
"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 the email.
The new elders said they were "truly humbled" by their responsibility and asked for prayers in website post.