Harvest’s James MacDonald takes ‘indefinite sabbatical’

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Jim's picture

https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/2019/01/16/january-2019-elder-update/

As part of the peacemaking process, Pastor James is taking an indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership at our church in Chicago. He has recused himself fully from any direction of this peacemaking process, other than to participate when and how requested. He may continue preaching at Harvest Naples through some of the winter months and will be on sabbatical, pending the completion of the reconciliation process and a full report to the congregation. Please be in prayer for Pastor James and Kathy through this season.

T Howard's picture

I assume he's getting paid his regular salary during his "indefinite sabbatical"? Nice gig.

Get paid to vacation in Florida for an indefinite time period while others deal with the mess you created.

Jim's picture

T Howard wrote:

I assume he's getting paid his regular salary during his "indefinite sabbatical"? Nice gig.

Get paid to vacation in Florida for an indefinite time period while others deal with the mess you created.

My exact thought!

Bert Perry's picture

Seems that Harvest and MacDonald are taking PR lessons from MSU President (hopefully not for long) John Engler.  Here's the Elephant's Debt on the matter.  As far as I can tell, the recent lawsuit of the Elephant's Debt and Julie Roys never had any evidence in its favor--it was pure intimidation and "do it my way or I will make you pay"--and thus MacDonald and Harvest really need to simply make a public apology for that, as well as other things that have alienated a lot of people.

The irony here is that if MacDonald does make public apologies, he isn't necessarily disqualified from ministry--probably needs to take some time out to understand his triggers of vindictiveness, but it's not like he's been caught sleeping with his secretary.  Hence it's my view that HBC and MacDonald are, like John Engler at MSU, doing their darnedest to simply wait out the furor.  Dumb, dumb move, I presume born of pride.

Side note; MacDonald has just built a mansion in Chicago and now finds himself living in a Florida resort town, Naples.  Sending him south reminds me a LOT of how Jack Hyles dealt with his son, sad to say.  

And a bias alert for me; having read one of his books and having found it quite lacking, I am not a fan of MacDonald or Harvest.  The funniest bit for me was when he--a man obviously carrying at least 50 extra pounds--claimed that fasting broke his addiction to food.  Yeah, you and the Fridge, James.  

I like to think that it is an informed bias on my part, but it is a bias nonetheless.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

The irony here is that if MacDonald does make public apologies, he isn't necessarily disqualified from ministry--probably needs to take some time out to understand his triggers of vindictiveness, but it's not like he's been caught sleeping with his secretary.  Hence it's my view that HBC and MacDonald are, like John Engler at MSU, doing their darnedest to simply wait out the furor.  Dumb, dumb move, I presume born of pride.

If MacDonald isn't disqualified and this is a dumb move, what should he & Harvest do instead?

mmartin's picture

Perhaps this wasn't MacDonald' intention for it to be a thorough apology, but in my opinion, the letter from MacDonald after the note from the elders falls well short.  For all the criticism, for all the reports of this-n-that, and the people who claim to be hurt by him, those people & his church deserve something more than this brief note.  Again, perhaps at some point there will be a complete apology, we'll see.

Naples??  Not bad!  I can think a few worse places to take sabbatical.

Didn't Driscoll do something similar - take a leave of absence before his church imploded?

 

Bert Perry's picture

Martin, look at the first paragraph sentence in the quote you made; it's all about apologies.  Instead of waiting things out and doing complex PR moves to "manage the crisis", just apologize for the things they've done in public.  Look at the culture that's developed there and ask "why did things get to this point?"  Correct the things that caused the problem, own it, and reconcile.  

If you read Julie Roys' site or The Elephant's Debt, or the newspaper reports to which Roys and TED link, what you'll see is pretty clear.  HBC dropped the lawsuit rather than provide documents required by the courts; I read that as "they never had a case, but filed it anyways."  Translated again, it means "If you cross James MacDonald, he will do his best to take everything you have from you."  

Step 1 is apologies.  Whether he can reasonably return to the pulpit has everything to do with how he does that, and how he answers the question of "why do I have this pattern of vindictiveness, and how can I stop it?"  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

Got it!  Just wondering what you meant.

According to the letter from the elders, the sabbatical is a part of Harvest's working with two respected ministries to review the operations, finances, and culture of the ministry.  This may be simply PR code for "let's ride out the storm," but that is what the elders claim they are doing.

In the end, only time will tell what is what.

Bert Perry's picture

The elders claim that, but there are some things that are obvious enough that you don't need to finesse them.  Among them is "filing a lawsuit with little or no evidence to back it up", and if an institution hires "two respected ministries" to review an obvious case, that generally means they're trying to "ride out the storm".  

Those ministries might be very helpful in figuring out what went wrong in other areas, but there are a few things where the evidence is pretty clear and the best counsel is to just apologize.  That HBC is not doing this is a bad sign.

Side note: in my profession as a quality engineer, I've learned that it is amazing how quickly people calm down when you own up to the obvious.  They can come in ready to rip a few new holes in your body, and if you say "yes, we agree that this is unacceptable, and we apologize for that, and we're going to make it right for you", it's amazing how much they calm down.  As a rule, they not only calm down, but they give you a fair amount of time and room to make things right.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

According to the letter from the elders, the sabbatical is a part of Harvest's working with two respected ministries to review the operations, finances, and culture of the ministry.  This may be simply PR code for "let's ride out the storm," but that is what the elders claim they are doing.

They may not be different things, depending on who the investigators are.  I'm hoping that they are, but again, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Bert - I completely agree with you.  If MacDonald gets in front of the congregation and owns it, almost all the wind comes out this particular problem.  And it's just the plain old right thing to do.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

The Elephant's Debt has a couple of posts about this situation, and the HBC board appears to be simultaneously saying it's about repentance--we can infer that it's about MacDonald's--which makes his new sinecure in Naples, Florida seem even odder.  He needs to repent, but he gets to preach?  Really?  

Sometimes you want to take people by the scruff of the neck and shake them a little in the hopes that they will understand what they're doing, and how harmful it is.  Or maybe this is going to be a slow process where HBC leaders have the scales fall slowly from their eyes and realize how badly they've been had.

And keep in mind; again, MacDonald has been one of the big headliners for Moody for years.  This is likely to leave a mark there, too. I remember reading one of MacDonald's books a few years back and wondering whether his manuscript had ever been edited.  Reviewing his theological claims, it was clear nobody was allowed to stand up to him in writing the book.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.