James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel: In 2019 several prominent faith leaders were either removed from their leadership roles or chose to walk away from Christianity, publicly renouncing their faith. Among the most shocking of these were former Harvest Bible Chapel pastor, James MacDonald and author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris.
In February, after announcing his “indefinite sabbatical” in January, Harvest Bible Chapel announced that they had fired founder and lead pastor James MacDonald.
In a letter on the church website, the Elders wrote, “It is with great sadness that we as the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel wish to convey to you a very recent development that has caused us to take immediate action regarding our Senior Pastor, Dr. James MacDonald.
“Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor.”
According to the letter, the decision to fire MacDonald was “accelerated” on Tuesday after “inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported.”
MacDonald’s behavior, the Elders noted, was both “contrary and harmful to the best interest of the church.”
In November, HBC issued a statement in hopes of clarifying MacDonald’s role with the church noting that he was “biblically disqualified” from ministry. The elders shared the announcement that MacDonald “was biblically disqualified from the position of Elder, meaning he did not meet the spiritual standards to which a Harvest Bible Chapel Elder is held.”
In a letter read to the congregation, Elder Karl Jackson said the elders were thankful for MacDonald’s service to the church, but he is not “above reproach.”
Jackson said MacDonald was fired from the elder board in February for “having a ‘sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger, and domineering behavior.’”
The founder and former lead pastor first came under fire in 2018 when journalist Julia Roys published an exposé in World Magazine about MacDonald and his Chicago-based church. Two other writers for The Elephant’s Debt blog also criticized MacDonald and HBC for poor management and leadership.
According to Church Leaders, Roys backed accusations made by former HBC elders that MacDonald was guilty of “self-promotion…love of money…domineering and bullying…abusive speech…outbursts of anger…[and] making misleading statements.” MacDonald was also accused of self-dealing and financial mismanagement.
Joshua Harris Walks Away from Christianity: In a series of July Instagram posts, former evangelical leader and author Joshua Harris first shared that he and his wife were getting a divorce. Nine days later, Harris also announced that he was no longer a Christian. He wrote in his July 26 post denouncing Christianity, “My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision.”
He continued, “The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”
In the post, Harris also repented for his treatment toward and beliefs about the LGBTQ+ community. Harris wrote, “I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.”
Photo courtesy: Creative Commons/Esther 5000