Harvest Bible Chapel, former pastor in arbitration over ownership of TV ministry

  • Rolling Meadows-based Harvest Bible Chapel fired James MacDonald, its founder and senior pastor, in February.

    Rolling Meadows-based Harvest Bible Chapel fired James MacDonald, its founder and senior pastor, in February. Courtesy of Harvest Bible Chapel, 2017

 
 
Updated 5/20/2019 8:07 PM

The former senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel is pursuing binding arbitration to get a settlement on what he contends he is owed from the church he founded.

One of the primary issues, according to the church, is whether James MacDonald or the church owns the "Walk In the Word" radio and television ministry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The church received a letter May 16 from MacDonald, according to a statement it published on its website and distributed to members Saturday.

MacDonald is pursuing arbitration through the Institute for Christian Conciliation.

The church's bylaws call for disputes, except ecclesiastical ones, to be resolved through mediation.

If that fails, then they are to be resolved through binding arbitration, through the Institute for Christian Conciliation or a similar Christian faith-based organization.

The statement from the church said its leaders expect arbitration to take months. It did not say how many.

It also reiterated that the church believes it was right to fire MacDonald, and that the church owns "Walk In the Word."

Church officials could not be reached for comment Monday. MacDonald has not returned text and voicemail messages.

The church had reached a separation agreement with MacDonald in April. But it was contingent upon the approval of the credit union to which the church owes nearly $40 million. That credit union refused to approve the agreement. Details of that proposed settlement have not been disclosed.

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According to the Institute for Christian Conciliation's guidelines for arbitration, its "conciliators" can render a legally binding decision, which can be enforced by a civil court.

"Walk in the Word" began as a radio broadcast in 1998. In 2013, it started broadcasting on cable television. As recently as January, the church said the shows were reaching millions of people on more than 2,000 outlets worldwide.

The last broadcast was in mid-January, just before the church put MacDonald on sabbatical.

The church fired him in February after questions arose last year about his spiritual and financial leadership of the church he founded in 1998. The mega church based in Rolling Meadows with seven Chicago-area locations held services where about 12,000 people worshipped weekly, according to documents the court filed in a lawsuit last fall.

Almost two weeks ago, the church removed videos and other content from the "Walk In the Word" website, which was called www.jamesmacdonald.com. The ministry is registered with the state as a corporation, with the church's attorney as its agent.

But in March, someone registered "Walk In the Word With Dr. James MacDonald" as a corporation.

The initial registration listed Harvest Bible's attorney and a church address, but both were changed May 9 to an incorporation-services company.

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