On February 12, 2019 on Mancow Muller’s radio show in Chicago a recording emerged from someone that sounded like James MacDonald. In it the voice speaks of wanting to plant child pornography on a “critic’s” computer. Later that day the Harvest Bible Chapel elders met and fired James MacDonald in the middle of the night.
“The deceitful have no friends.”
“CT is Anglican, pseudo-dignity, high church, symphony-adoring, pipe organ-protecting, musty, mild smell of urine, blue-haired Methodist-loving, mainline-dying, women preacher-championing, emerging church-adoring, almost good with all gays and closet Palestine-promoting Christianity, so of course they attacked me.”
James MacDonald allegedly on tape
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Psalm 34:18 NLT
James MacDonald’s rant about Christianity Today reminded me of this classic scene from Chevy Chase
This is a fast moving story and this blog is going to focus more on Harvest in the near future due to the swift developments that are occurring. Let’s start with Mancow Muller.
Mancow Muller Show on February 12, 2019
Mancow Muller had his show on February 12, 2019. It was clear as I listened to it this afternoon that Mancow is an individual realizing that he was used and manipulated by James MacDonald. His anger, which I believe is legitimate, stems from the abuse and problems that have come from James MacDonald. Mancow discussed a class action lawsuit against James MacDonald if he did not resign. The goal is to open up the books and force transparency. But what was to come in his show was deeply stunning. The clips began with “James MacDonald had a cult, e i e i o!” The named of the show is called, “Elections, R Kelly and church scandals oh my!“ Mancow played several clips that were jaw dropping in what was claimed. For legal reasons Mancow didn’t say they were James MacDonald but when you listen to them, it sounds like the James I have listened to in several clips. The voice is unmistakable and classic James MacDonald. In the clips that were played this is what James MacDonald allegedly said.
- He claimed that Julie Roys and Mark Galli of Christianity Today were having an affair. The recording also said that Julie Roys would be riding a tricycle and that she harassed a family of a former victim claiming there was a cover up at Harvest.
- In the recordings the voice claims that Ed Stetzer gets unwanted erections over Christianity Today which is a tabloid.
- The voice in the recording said that he was going to plant child pornography on Harold Smith’s computer. Harold Smith is the CEO of Christianity Today.
- The recording claimed that Mark Galli is a certified prick.
And there was the following comment in the recording. “CT is Anglican, pseudo-dignity, high church, symphony-adoring, pipe organ-protecting, musty, mild smell of urine, blue-haired Methodist-loving, mainline-dying, women preacher-championing, emerging church-adoring, almost good with all gays and closet Palestine-promoting Christianity, so of course they attacked me.” And with these recording being broadcasting on Chicago airwaves Harvest Bible Chapel had a brand new scandal.
Another Crisis for Harvest Bible Chapel and Different Responses
James MacDonald’s alleged remarks which were recorded and on tape stunned many and the reactions came forward. Julie Roys denied any allegation of an affair with Mark Galli and said their relationship was professional. This is part of what Julie Roys said in her blog in response. “But the clips Mancow played today are breathtaking. On them, the man who’s presumably MacDonald jokes about me having an affair with Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today (CT). That’s not funny. It’s disgusting. Galli and I have never had anything but a professional relationship, and it’s repulsive that anyone—a pastor, no less—would make a joke about that.”
Mark Galli wrote a response to the allegations at Christianity Today. This is the response bulk of the article below.
First, we want to address MacDonald’s alleged derogatory remarks about various members of CT’s staff broadcast today on Mancow, a radio show based in Chicago. MacDonald is clearly angry with the way CT has covered his leadership at Harvest, and he’s succumbed to the temptation to slander me, threaten our CEO, and denigrate others. This is unfortunate. But this is part of the life of journalism, because we know that we’re not exactly popular with people about whom we have to report bad news. We also know that people (including me) privately say things in anger that they later regret. So we’re not going to blast back at MacDonald or to demand a public apology. The only things we demand are that he deal fairly with his accusers, that he tell the truth about what’s been going on at Harvest, and that he make amends if and where he has misused his office.
Second, as MacDonald’s reaction demonstrates, it’s common for people on both sides of a dispute to believe that CT is against them. It’s pretty clear by his slanders that MacDonald thinks we have it out for him. That’s ironic, because his accusers, whom he sued, believe we’ve taken his side. They base their accusation on the fact that we gave him space on our Speaking Out forum to explain why he believes it is biblical to sue fellow believers.
In fact, this is a tradition at CT: to allow mainstream, otherwise orthodox evangelicals accused of being unbiblical a chance to defend their views. Recently, we gave Andy Stanley, accused of denigrating the authority of the Old Testament, a chance to explain his views. Sometimes those views are expressed in the context of a news article. Sometimes we host a forum. Sometimes we offer op-eds. Sometimes we offer a variety of coverage, which is what we did in this case.
We’ve published four news articles full of accusations against MacDonald, explaining why his accusers believe MacDonald’s actions are troubling and why his suing fellow believers is unbiblical. We also produced a podcast with a leading expert on reconciliation to talk about ways Christians can resolve disputes without going to court. It didn’t seem unreasonable to let MacDonald have a chance to defend why he thought suing fellow believers in this case was justified. Key staff people joined me in debating whether to give him space to do this or not, but as editor in chief, I made the call to do it.
The main stake we have in this as in every other controversy is (a) that the truth will come out and (b) that aggrieved parties will eventually make their way toward reconciliation. We also make it a habit of praying for the parties involved, as well as our news team as they cover especially controversial issues.
CT hasn’t yet taken “a side” on Harvest. But clearly the church and MacDonald have some serious problems that need to be addressed. Some people have been deeply hurt. Some of Harvest’s actions have been morally questionable. MacDonald clearly has a troubling track record as a pastor.
As we have said in other cases of this nature, we would think an independent investigation could bring out the full truth of what has been going on there in a more healthy atmosphere than what we’re witnessing now on social media and talk radio.
We’ll continue to attempt to report the story as fairly as we can, trusting in our readers to gently, and sometimes not so gently, point out where they think we can do better.
Harvest Bible Chapel Fires James MacDonald
Late in the evening on February 12, 2019 the Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Board met. They decided what to do. From what I have heard in the middle of the night the elders decided to fire James MacDonald. In their view James’ alleged conduct was not becoming of a pastor and elder. This is the statement that was released by Harvest Bible Chapel.
Dear Harvest Bible Chapel Family:
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. That timeline accelerated, when on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported. Given that and other conduct under consideration, in accordance with the procedures in our Bylaws, Pastor MacDonald was removed as Senior Pastor and as an Elder of the church for engaging in conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church. His employment has been terminated from Harvest Bible Chapel, effective today, February 12, 2019. This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors.
Our Elders and Staff are committed to fulfilling our fiduciary duty as the leadership of this congregation, knowing that at times the outcome may be misunderstood or emotionally painful. A more detailed communication regarding next steps for our church will take place in our weekend services.
We sincerely thank you for your prayers, your support, and your patience as we work together to restore a trust in leadership, a humility to surrender to biblical authority, and a firm resolve to move forward as a church family. Please continue to uphold our church, the Elder Board, staff, and the MacDonald family in prayer at this time.
– The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel
Response to James MacDonald Being Fired and Coverage
The termination of James MacDonald brought a response by many people. Julie Roys said MacDonald’s firing is “long overdue.” Her hope in a Facebook post is that people would heal and find closure. Over at The Elephant’s Debt blog Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney reported James MacDonald’s termination. They also issued a statement in response to his firing. For more coverage of the firing of James MacDonald you can read the following articles.
- Religion News Service, “James MacDonald fired as Harvest Bible Chapel pastor.”
- Daily Herald, “Harvest Bible Chapel moves quickly to fire founder MacDonald after recordings air.”
- Chicago Sun-Times, “Mancow bites minister: Radio host brings down Harvest Bible founder.”
- WLS-TV – Chicago “Harvest Bible Chapel fires founder James MacDonald.”
- Chicago Tribune, “Harvest Bible Chapel pastor James MacDonald fired: ‘A hard but necessary day for our church‘”
- Christianity Today, “James MacDonald Fired from Harvest.”
Analysis and Thoughts on the Situation
This is a sad day and it pains me that it had to get to this point. What bothers me is why did it take years to get to this point? Why didn’t Harvest Bible Chapel Elders respond in this manner in 2013? Or much earlier? This is not a day for being happy or rejoicing. I don’t take joy in seeing someone go down in flames. That is not a pleasure and its a heavy burden to deal with. But the termination of James MacDonald is the right course of action. This blog has a deep amount of respect for Mancow Muller and his courage in airing those recordings. Over the next few days I plan to camp out here and work on several articles from different perspectives. There is a lot of analysis to be done and a lot to consider. One thing I want to caution the Harvest Bible Chapel community and former members is with this concern. Your troubles are in many ways just beginning. I have a feeling in my gut that says in the days and weeks to come a lot of secrets and problems will be coming out of Harvest that will shock you. This church is going to go the way of Mars Hill Seattle. It has always been my contention that Harvest Bible Chapel is the Mars Hill of Chicago. MacDonald’s saying about Christianity Today reminded me of the rant by Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation. That is why I have that leading this post.
As I come to a close there is another thing I want to say. This blog’s sources are good and I lean on them heavily for information. I have drilled down into the Harvest community and have information relayed to me. Last week in speaking to one of my sources I was told that there was an audio tape of James MacDonald allegedly wanting to plant child pornography on a critics computer. It led to an interesting conversation. I struggled with what to make of the claim. I trust my sources and both look out for and respect them. While I heard the claim I didn’t know how to verify the tape, or even if I could get access to it. If I can confirm such a claim then I would happy break the story. But let me emphasize this blog is not about being first. Its about being accurate and solid in information. This is being shared because you can imagine my shock when I listened to Mancow’s show earlier and heard the recordings about James MacDonald allegedly wanting to plant child pornography. Its not every day that this blog has its information confirmed by Mancow Muller, or major media. Its with that said that I am going to have some late nights over the week and weekend analyzing and working on this problem set in Chicago. To those of you affected by Harvest this blog grieves with you. To those who were hurt, I also cry on your shoulder. There is much to do and to discuss. More coverage will be coming later.