CHICAGO – James MacDonald, a former radio and television preacher who has spoken several times at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference, has been fired as pastor of Chicago-area Harvest Bible Chapel, the church announced Feb. 13.
Harvest's elders said in a statement they already "had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of senior pastor," but their "timeline accelerated" Feb. 12 when "highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported."
The elders' statement apparently referenced recordings aired Feb. 12 by Chicago radio personality Eric "Mancow" Muller that allegedly depict MacDonald using crude language and insulting journalists who have written about him.
"This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors," the elders stated.
MacDonald has spoken at the SBC Pastors' Conference at least four times since 2012. During his 2015 appearance, MacDonald announced Harvest would begin cooperating with the SBC. According to the SBC Executive Committee, Harvest contributed to the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget in 2015. The EC has no record of contributions by Harvest since that time.
Harvest does not cooperate with the Illinois Baptist State Association.
In December, MacDonald withdrew from his speaking slot at this year's SBC Pastors' Conference in Birmingham, Ala., amid renewed allegations by WORLD Magazine that he and other Harvest leaders "have shown an ongoing pattern of relational and financial abuse, a lack of transparency, and outright deception."
Harvest announced last month MacDonald would take an "indefinite sabbatical from preaching and leadership."
At the time, MacDonald said in a statement, "I have carried great shame about [a] pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin. I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns."
Earlier in January, MacDonald pulled his Walk in the Word broadcast from radio and television while keeping it as a podcast. He cited costs and changing demographics as reasons for the move.
In the elders' announcement of MacDonald's firing, they requested prayer for "our church, the Elder Board, staff, and the MacDonald family."
MacDonald started Harvest in 1988 and has seen it grow to a weekend worship attendance of thousands.
The Baptist Press is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.