James MacDonald used thousands from church funds on vintage car gifted to Wheaton prof Ed Stetzer

"Citing a tip published by Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch, independent journalist Julie Roys, confirmed in a report Tuesday that MacDonald gifted Stetzer a just under $13,000 1971 VW Beetle last April. Stetzer said he had no idea MacDonald used money from church donations to pay for the gift." - Christian Post

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Bert Perry's picture

...both of these guys should have known that big gifts from a pastor to an editor of articles about that pastor are a bad, bad idea.  

So huge conflict of interest sort of ameliorated by their friendship, but Stetzer should have known about a huge conflict of interest there.  Did he know at the time that the benefactor was the church and not the pastor?  Might have showed up on the title that he was handed, but then again, we're talking already about a guy who hid his tracks, financially speaking.  Whether or not he knew is not obvious to me at least.  

A note here about church governance; when you have elders looking at the line by line budget and spending, it's harder to sneak this kind of thing by.  MacDonald's "supervision" here was guys on his team that he could fire at any time, and it may end up biting him HARD if it's actionable fraud.  Even if not, it's yet another case of "James MacDonald being generous with someone else's money."  Ick.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

This just keeps getting messier by the minute.  This certainly looks bad for Stetzer, as it should be, even if he knew where the money came from.  He put himself in a bad position.  At best he looks careless and naive,  At worst he was outright unethical.

As I've said before, to some degree (& in my opinion much, much more than just a little) this mess falls on the elders and the people of the church who enabled this toxic culture by not demanding best practice and biblical leadership and financial management.

Bert Perry's picture

....but a friend of mine had his final year in college paid for by someone at church.  That would be about the same amount, and my friend did not ever find out who gave the money--no obvious quid pro quo, to put it mildly.

We should keep in mind here that the big issues here are not the size of the gift--though a person serving Christ ought to be wary of signs of the love of money per Paul's instructions to elders--but rather whether the gift is done openly or not, and whether or not that gift can be seen as a quid pro quo.

Stetzer did right by repaying the money, sure, but there are still a lot of questions to be asked here.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim Welch's picture

I am sorta feeling bad for Stetzer's daughter.  Wasn't Stetzer and his daughter doing a restoration project on a 71 beetle?  (Our first car; and I don't know why anyone in a right mind would want to restore it,ha!)  But to all of a suddend get one, project over, no more dad/daughter time, not good.

For the sake of full disclosure, my wife and I were given a 10 year old Grand Marquis by the family (all living out of state) of a deceased church member.  We still use it and are grateful for the timely gift.

Larry Nelson's picture

Jim Welch wrote:

I am sorta feeling bad for Stetzer's daughter.  Wasn't Stetzer and his daughter doing a restoration project on a 71 beetle?  (Our first car; and I don't know why anyone in a right mind would want to restore it,ha!)  But to all of a suddend get one, project over, no more dad/daughter time, not good.

The OP article says this: "He reimbursed the ministry for the full value of the car in March."

Note: it doesn't say he gave back the car; it says he reimbursed the ministry for the full value of the car.

Jim Barnes's picture

I have been given several cars or the funds to buy one, but I've never been gifted one by a preacher.

Joeb's picture

My brother was at some Pastors Seminar and met McDonald.  My brother commented McDonald had his hipster Francis Schaffer outfit on.  His impression of McDonald was that McDonald was full of himself.  They say don’t judge a book by its cover but in this instance it probably was true.  Needless to say it did not surprise my brother when the news came out about McDonald.  Oh well we can thank the Lord it was just spiritual and emotional abuse and financial mismanagement versus the usual Me To Church To issues ie no sex abuse.  

  Bert I’m always open to any big cash gifts you want to give me.  I’ll spend it in a Godly manner. Just no cars.  Cash.  I only like cash.  

Rob Fall's picture

do you have a headache that can only be soothed by the rustle of cash?

Joeb wrote:
SNIP

Bert I’m always open to any big cash gifts you want to give me.  I’ll spend it in a Godly manner. Just no cars.  Cash.  I only like cash.  

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Bert Perry's picture

.....I'm too broke to bribe him!  He'll have to be happy with an asian feast if my daughters' friends are over when he visits, or something good if I'm cooking.  

Seriously, the kind of observation Joe mentions might be something very key for the megachurch pastor.  It's one of those "what people see who aren't used to seeing you every week" things where outsiders see problems in one's ministry that insiders do not.

Another example is that as Tullian Tchividjian's life began to go off course, he went first from suits to short sleeve shirts, and that mysteriously as he spent large amounts of time in the weight room and got his tattoos.  All he lacked for the classic midlife crisis was the Camaro or Harley.  Note; MacDonald does own a Harley.  Don't know about the Camaro.

(for me, my midlife crisis is going to be a carbon fiber bicycle, I think)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

In my previous comment, it could be reasonably interpreted as if I were saying that my daughters' friends were not good cooks.  The opposite is the truth!  (oh, how I get to suffer for Christ when they come over and cook....well, at least I get to suffer in the gym the next day trying to work it off)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

I believe Tullian’s wife was unfaithful to him first. We all have to admit how traject that would be if it happened to anyone of us out of the blue. Especially to a Pastor.   Now Tullian later did the same so there is no excuse.  I could at least understand why he might have had a midlife crisis.  McDonald has no excuse for his behavior  except  for being just plain dumb   

Anyway what’s this thing about older Pastors and older Christian men playing the hipster.  Where the heck did that come from.  Also older Christian men getting inked up   My older son has some tats but none of my other kids  Everything is sagging on me anyway   A ship tatto on my chest would look like a sinking ship   

 Also I could careless how dress or look.  Of course my younger brother said I could live in a chicken coop.  I have no pride in the way I dress.  I only bought a new suit to walk my daughter down the isle.  

Bert I hope you get your carbon fiber bike.  Any toy the promotes good health in my book is a winner and honors our Lord.  

Bert Perry's picture

Joe, I've seen the alleged timing of his vs. hers adulteries, but I'm pretty sure Tullian's gym obsession and tats came before her adultery, which is what I was getting at.  The long and short of it is that if (if) this is correct, then the elders had some clear signs of classic midlife crisis that they might have been smart to act on.  Something like "T, we're seeing some things that we've seen lead to disaster with others--let's take a look at what's going on here."  

Back to the subject, I think this whole deal is in some ways along the lines of my decision about that bike.  Am I in need of something new?  Not really--my 22 year old Trek and 42 year old Schwinn meet my needs.  Does a $10k bike do anything more for me than a $2k carbon fiber bike?  Not really--I'm not going to win the Tour de France.  And it's distinctions like that--needing to kill a big deer instead of just going hunting, needing the good seats at Stanley Cup games instead of just enjoying it on TV, etc..--that seem to have gotten MacDonald into trouble.

(that said, good news; my 4th daughter is trying to "steal" my Trek.....maybe I'll have a chance after all...ha!)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.