The saga of James McDonald’s fall from the Chicago-area megachurch he founded has been complicated and very sad for all involved. Harvest Bible Chapel has since deemed MacDonald “unqualified” for ministry, after investigations uncovered instances of bullying, of alleged financial misconduct and fostering a spirit of fear and paranoia in his church. He was fired a year ago.
Now, MacDonald is back with what he’s calling the Home Church Network which aims to be a church situation for those who “struggle to get to a church or to stay in a church, or to find a church with the teaching, worship and service opportunities that match your passions.”
On HCN’s website, MacDonald maintains that he’s not disillusioned with church model as we mostly know it, but says he believes that “large churches present complicating logistics and often negatively affect Christian relationships. For that reason, we feel led by the Lord to offer an alternative for those who need it.”
The idea appears to be to provide teaching and worship resources for home churches. The website asks those who are “building a core group or have longed for an opportunity to lead a ministry from your home with solid biblical teaching and worship designed to impact your neighbors and loved ones” to “prayerfully consider” using HCN. Anyone who wants to lead a group can apply for a two-day training seminar hosted by MacDonald and his wife Nancy.
The website addresses the accusations of financial impropriety, justifying a lack of details by referring to an ongoing arbitration between MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. MacDonald maintains his innocence with regard to finances.
There was no “secret” account, no lack of accountability, no coercion of co-leaders. The character of the men and women who served with me is revealed by their long suffering and silence. By patiently awaiting an arbitration panel’s review of the facts so that truth can be objectively established, they behave in a manner befitting the integrity of their financial leadership at HBC through 2018—which stands in stark contrast to 2019 HBC leadership.
MacDonald says that he apologizes for “the careless and hurtful words that were illegally recorded and publicized.” That’s a reference to Chicago shock jock Mancow Muller’s release of audio that finds MacDonald talking about planting child pornography on the computer of a Christianity Today editor and making degrading comments about freelance journalist Julie Roys.
MacDonald says he confesses a “to all who have followed my ministry, a regression into sinful patterns of fleshly anger and self pity that wounded co-workers and others.” MacDonald has filed a lawsuit against Muller for defamation, invasion of privacy, eavesdropping and emotional distress. He has filed a number of other lawsuits, including one against Roys, but ultimately dropped them.