Image: James MacDonald
UPDATE: As I reported yesterday, Chief Operating Officer of Harvest Bible Chapel Scott Milholland has resigned. His resignation letter was posted earlier today on the HBC website.
Illinois multisite megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel and pastor James MacDonald have been in the public eye over a defamation lawsuit filed against bloggers and their wives (see also this article from RNS for which I was interviewed). The suit also targets journalist Julie Roys who is about to publish an article in World on HBC. The legal action appeared to be designed to frighten the bloggers and intimidate World magazine into pulling the plug on the article.
The past year has been tumultuous for the church with turnover in various aspects of the gigantic religious business. In June 2017, MacDonald stepped down from the church planting arm of Harvest Bible Chapel (now called Vertical Church). Then at the end of 2017, three more executive resignations were announced.
Most recently, according to multiple sources, Scott Milholland has resigned. Milholland was the Senior Executive Pastor at HBC. Calls to the communications staff of the church were not returned.
Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134
In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:
- Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009. Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.
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The learn more about the sexual identity therapy framework, go here.
The Elephant’s Debt is back.
I surmise that this news is not welcome in Elgin, IL at the HQ of the Harvest Bible Chapel empire led by James MacDonald. Read the first two paragraphs of TED’s executive summary:
The Elephant’s Debt is a website dedicated to exposing some of the underlying reasons why many people have both privately and publicly questioned the character of Pastor James MacDonald and his lack of qualifications for being an elder and pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel of Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
By the close of 2010, Harvest’s balance sheet revealed that the church, while under the pastoral leadership of James MacDonald, had amassed approximately $65 million of debt, and in the midst of addressing the issues raised by this website, HBC Elders informed the congregation that the debt had been as high as $70 million. While this number in and of itself is shocking, what makes it worse is that some elders and much of the congregation had no knowledge of the extent of the debt. The rapid expansion of MacDonald’s ministry, for reasons of ego as much as concern for the Kingdom, was the cause for the sudden and surprising accumulation of debt. The point in raising the surprisingly accumulation of debt is not to question the current financial stability of the institution, but it is put forth as an example of the underlying character issues of MacDonald that many people are now expressing publicly.
So what brought the folks at TED back? Read this post about the “resignation” (forced removal?) of James MacDonald as president of the mission arm of HBC – Harvest Bible Fellowship. I had this news out first but TED is the leader when it comes to Harvest Bible Chapel so check out the analysis of the current situation.
MacDonald was once a member of Mark Driscoll’s Board of Advisors and Accountability as well as a member of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board. To his credit, he left Trump’s board when it became clear the board wasn’t getting anywhere. He left Driscoll’s board when the heat got hot at Mars Hill Church.
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UPDATE (6/15/17): I have informed by multiple sources that the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, James MacDonalds, wrote Harvest Bible Fellowship member pastors yesterday to step away from leadership of HBF. According to the communication I have seen, MacDonald said, “As of this notice, the Harvest Bible Chapel that I lead is resigning all responsibility to lead our fellowship of churches and administer the funds that you send to our Elgin campus in support of church planting. I, too, am resigning my role as President and, as of this notice, retain no role of influence over the work of HBF.”
He added that the work of HBF is now in the hands of interim Executive Director Brian White and “governance leaders, Ron Zappia, Bill Borinstein, and Robbie Symons.” MacDonald asked the HBF pastors to give the new leaders support and called them “good men.”
MacDonald said he and Harvest Bible Chapel will “continue to plant Harvest Bible Chapels and Vertical Churches retaining ownership of those marks and brands which we gladly share without reservation or new condition with all of you.” He added that those church planting efforts will continue under the oversight of HBC’s elder board.
Although the email indicates that the Vertical Church Conferences may be “suspended,” the current splash page for Harvest Bible Fellowship says the August conference is on.
The original post starts below:
On June 10 of this year, Harvest Bible Fellowship’s website actively promoted James MacDonald’s church network and Vertical Church Conferences. HBF is (or was) the church planting arm of Harvest Bible Chapel, a megachurch in the Chicago area.
Now amid rumors of a shake up at HBF (and the flagship Vertical Church Conference), the HBF website went from active to being “under construction” to being parked at Go Daddy.
On June 10:
Under construction early this afternoon:
Now the domain is being parked at GoDaddy.com.