BACK IN 2015 Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel gave its pastor James MacDonald, above, $5,000 dollars for a safari vacation – but the preacher wasn’t satisfied and wanted more to enable him kill a ‘high value’ animal, a sable to be precise.
This fact emerged as attention continues to be focused on the mega-church, which recently sacked MacDonald and is now enmeshed in a leadership struggle and rows about “ungodly” spending.
According to this report, details of MacDonald’s safari “on the church’s dime” were revealed by his former bodyguard Jacob Ross.
In a post on her blog, journalist and former Moody Radio host Julie Roys noted that in a January letter leaked to Roys Ross alleged that MacDonald was not satisfied with the $5,000 the church had allotted for him for a safari in South Africa
MacDonald thought the amount was too small as he wanted to shoot a high-value animal, “a sable to be specific, which cost $15,000 to $20,000,” Ross wrote.
MacDonald, who was fired last month after profane comments he made on a hot mic were played on the air by local radio personality Mancow Muller, reportedly called the former chief financial officer of the church to wire him extra funds.
The letter claims that the church also footed the bill for MacDonald, Ross and HBC Executive Pastor Jeff Donaldson — who is still on staff — for a three- to four-day stay at a resort in the Dominican Republic, in addition to flying each of their wives out to join them. It was to reward him for a “stressful” mission trip he’d undertaken.
The pricey excursion was just one example of misappropriation of ministry resources, other similar letters from previous and present church staff say, which were submitted to the elders several weeks ago.
Roys, who posted a photo on her blog that indicates MacDonald revels in killing animals, also noted that another church employee penned a letter alleging that MacDonald green-lighted a $40,000 expense for a fence for a deer herd at Camp Harvest in Michigan, as “austerity measures” such as removing the coffee and water dispensers, were being implemented at the church. She wrote:
These expenditures were in addition to MacDonald’s salary, which the church continues to keep private. However, Dave Corning, a founding elder who chaired the elder board for 21 years, told me that in 2009, MacDonald was making a combined $550,000 from both the church and Walk in the Word, MacDonald’s broadcast ministry.
Former Executive Director of Business Operations at HBC, Dean Butters. explained in his letter that the church had paid $50,000 to help MacDonald move and store his personal belongings; that MacDonald used church funds to purchase over $500 worth of cigars, and gave a waitress a $400 tip with church funds.
Butters also explained in his letter to the elders that MacDonald demanded his office be renovated in 2013, which cost $150,000, while all senior and middle management, and their direct reports, had their pay reduced by 10 percent.
Harvest Bible Chapel is currently accredited by ministry watchdog group the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
ECFA President Dan Busby told CP that they will be reviewing the allegations.
The new information alleging financial impropriety at Harvest Bible Chapel is obviously a cause for significant concern. We will be addressing the implications of these allegations immediately and expect to have more information about ECFA’s response in the coming days.
Ross told Roys he left his bodyguard position because MacDonald kept verbally abusing him; he was called “stupid”, “incompetent”,“worthless”, and “of no use to him” and he could not take it any longer. Until now, Ross said he had kept quiet about everything that has been transpiring out of both fear and a desire to not harm his church.
Ross said of his decision to blow the whistle:
Those who are seeking to make the correct decision regarding the future of Harvest Bible Chapel simply can’t without the correct information.
Ross also indicated that he thinks most of the elders, staff and parishioners are not aware of the multiple situations he documented in his letter.
Likewise, Butters explained that he left the church because he could no longer trust the leadership, adding that:
The things I was seeing with my eyes, hearing with my ears, and feeling in my soul became more convincing than the narrative that was continually being spun.
Roys spent eight months investigating Harvest and published her findings in World magazine in December. Prior to publication, the church sued her as well as two bloggers, along with their wives, who were former members and had been writing critically of MacDonald and HBC for several years, alleging illegal activity. When a judge denied the church two motions in January, HBC ultimately dropped the lawsuit.
MacDonald founded the church over 30 years ago, starting with 18 people.