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Pastors’ Conf.: MacDonald out, Andrew Brunson added

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Chicago pastor James MacDonald has withdrawn from his speaking slot at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Birmingham, Ala., conference president Danny Wood announced Dec. 17.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brunson, the American pastor released this fall from imprisonment in Turkey, has been added to the June 9-10 lineup of speakers, the Pastors’ Conference announced in late November. Brunson will preach from Matthew 5:10 — “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

Wood said via Twitter that MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, “contacted me personally to say he is stepping away from all outside speaking engagements for a season (including Pastors Conference 2019). Thankful for this brother, and he has my prayers as he focuses upon his own local church ministry.”

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.

Wood’s announcement came the week after WORLD Magazine renewed past allegations MacDonald and other Harvest leaders “have shown an ongoing pattern of relational and financial abuse, a lack of transparency, and outright deception.” Problems at Harvest have not “been resolved,” WORLD claimed, during the five years since they first were alleged publicly.

MacDonald “disputed much of the criticism,” according to WORLD, and a former Harvest elder board chairman said MacDonald’s “character is not in question.” In a Dec. 14 statement published by Christianity Today, Harvest took issue with WORLD’s report and said the church “has owned its mistakes and endured to become a happier and healthier church.”

Brunson’s addition to the Pastors’ Conference lineup was announced Nov. 27 via Facebook and Twitter. The Pastors’ Conference told Baptist Press today (Dec. 18) Brunson’s sermon will include his story of imprisonment in Turkey. He also will participate in a roundtable discussion with author and missionary Nik Ripken and another panelist to be announced.

Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, contacted Brunson after hearing an address he delivered to his home church in North Carolina, the Pastors’ Conference said.

“We’re beyond excited to welcome Andrew Brunson to #SBCPC19,” the Pastors’ Conference stated on Facebook. “Andrew served church plants in Turkey for 25 years, the last two of which he spent falsely imprisoned.”

Brunson was released from incarceration in Turkey Oct. 12 after being held for two years over what religious liberty watchdogs called unfounded charges of terrorism and espionage. The day after his release, Brunson prayed for President Donald Trump during an Oval Office meeting.

Prior to his imprisonment, Brunson pastored a Presbyterian Church in Izmir, Turkey.

Additional information about the Pastors’ Conference is available at sbcpc.net.