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James MacDonald takes ‘indefinite sabbatical’

NAPLES, Fla. (BP) — The elders of Harvest Bible Chapel announced Wednesday (Jan. 16) that pastor James MacDonald would take an “indefinite sabbatical” from preaching and leadership at the Chicago megachurch while it works to reconcile with past critics.

The decision came after the church’s Executive Committee of the Elders held a closed-door meeting on Monday and presented its recommendations to the entire Elder Board Tuesday night.

The announcement follows recent reports of criticism of the church’s financial and management practices.

“We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years,” a statement from the elders acknowledged. “It has become apparent that these efforts have failed to fully identify and address our personal failures, sins, and errors in leadership, thus perpetuating a continuation of the criticism.”

The elders said MacDonald has permission to continue preaching at the Harvest location in Naples, Fla., this winter but he has recused himself from having any leadership role in the reconciliation process and will participate only when asked.

“I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin,” MacDonald said in a statement. “I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns.”

Earlier in the month MacDonald pulled his Walk in the Word program from radio and television while keeping it as a podcast, citing costs and changing demographics.

In December, MacDonald withdrew from his speaking slot at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Birmingham, Ala. MacDonald has spoken at the SBC Pastors’ Conference at least four times since 2012. During his 2015 appearance, MacDonald announced Harvest would begin cooperating with the SBC.

For full statements from Harvest and MacDonald, go to https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/2019/01/16/january-2019-elder-update/

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  • Mickey McLean/WORLD

    Baptist Press contributed to this story. Mickey McLean writes for WORLD Digital, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.wng.org) based in Asheville, NC. Used by permission.

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