Fired Harvest Bible Chapel senior pastor gets $1.45 million, broadcast ministry in arbitration

  • Pastor James MacDonald gives a sermon at the Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin in 2013.

    Pastor James MacDonald gives a sermon at the Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin in 2013. Daily Herald File photo

  • Harvest Bible Chapel's Rolling Meadows campus.

      Harvest Bible Chapel's Rolling Meadows campus. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, October 2019

 
 
Updated 10/15/2020 7:37 PM

The fired senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel is receiving $1.45 million in an arbitrated settlement, the church's elders have announced.

He also will get the assets of the "Walk In the Word" television, radio and digital broadcast ministry, and a property in Crystal Lake, according to the church's announcement, posted on its website.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pastor James MacDonald wrote on his own website Tuesday what he thinks of how he was treated by the church he led for more than 30 years -- that the church pursued a "vicious but unsuccessful strategy" against him, including a "hostile takeover" of the church.

And Thursday, he told the Daily Herald he is considering releasing a "detailed and documented" response within the next week.

This is the first time MacDonald has spoken with the news media about his rift with the church in the 20 months since he was fired. The church's statement said the two sides were supposed to put out a joint statement but could not agree on one.

The church said that when "Walk In the Word" merged with Harvest in 2010, there was an agreement that MacDonald could remove the show and its assets.

The transferred assets include books MacDonald wrote, marketing materials, equipment, sermons, podcasts and websites.

The church's insurance company is paying $1.2 million and transferring to MacDonald a 6.68-acre vacant parcel next to its Crystal Lake campus as part of the agreement concerning "Walk In the Word." Harvest also has campuses in Rolling Meadows, Elgin, Aurora, Chicago and Deerfield.

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MacDonald also will receive $250,000 from the church, for reimbursement promised to him in connection with selling a former home, the statement said. Last week, a bank that had foreclosed on his current home in Elgin withdrew its lawsuit.

The church elders also apologized to members and MacDonald.

"Sometimes we have spoken hastily, and at times our tone was unloving," the statement said. "We apologize to you, our church family, to the broader church, and to James MacDonald for not always acting in a loving manner in our communications about him."

On Tuesday, MacDonald posted on his website, jamesmacdonaldministries.org, that there had been a "false narrative in financial matters -- HBC's most grievous sin against us."

He wrote there had been a hostile takeover of the church, that the church has forced out 10 of its staff leaders, and that it had wrongfully seized "Walk In the Word" assets. He said the church had destroyed "Walk In the Word," tried to end the ministry permanently, and pursued a "vicious but unsuccessful strategy."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When asked Thursday about the church's statement, MacDonald said, "A detailed and documented explanation of what has really transpired is currently being developed."

MacDonald became the first pastor of Harvest Bible in 1988, when it was founded by 18 people. By 2019, the church had seven suburban and Chicago campuses, and one in Florida, with about 12,000 people a week worshipping.

He was fired in February 2019 amid claims of malfeasance and bad behavior.

"Walk In the Word" started as a radio ministry in 1997. In 2014, a television version started airing on Trinity Broadcasting Network. MacDonald announced in January 2019 that he was ending the radio and TV versions and making "Walk In the Word" all digital.

But the church and MacDonald disagreed about who owned "Walk In the Word."

The church had approved a separation agreement in April 2019, but it was contingent upon the approval of the lender to which the church owed nearly $40 million. The lender refused.

The two sides then entered arbitration, with a Christian arbitration organization, as spelled out in the church's governing documents.

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