James MacDonald and former megachurch reach $1.45m settlement

Pastor James MacDonald was fired from Harvest Bible Chapel in 2019(Photo: Harvest Bible Chapel)

James MacDonald has been awarded $1.45m after reaching an arbitration settlement with Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC), the megachurch he founded.

He will also receive the assets of his Walk in the Word (WITW) broadcast ministry, settling a dispute with HBC elders who had maintained that it was the property of the church.

MacDonald was forced to leave the Chicago-based megachurch last year following a scandal over inappropriate remarks he made about Christianity Today CEO Harold Smith and independent investigative journalist Julie Roys. 

Roys was the author of an investigative piece in World magazine that alleged financial abuse and a culture of bullying at HBC.

As part of the settlement reached with HBC, MacDonald will receive all of the legal and digital assets of WITW, including sermons, podcasts, websites and real estate.

"Walk in the Word (WITW) will no longer be a ministry under the umbrella of HBC. As part of the merging of WITW to HBC, there was an agreement that MacDonald could remove WITW and its assets to an external organization," HBC elders said in a statement.

"Our insurance company paid MacDonald $1.2 million," the statement continues.

"HBC also agreed to transfer a vacant parcel of property adjacent to our Crystal Lake Campus which we had listed for sale on the market since mid-2019.

"These funds and this land are for the assets that Walk in the Word brought to HBC when it came under the church in 2010."

The church will also pay an additional $250,000 in cash - a sum that had apparently been promised to MacDonald in relation to the sale of his former home prior to his firing in 2019.

The elders ended their statement by apologizing to MacDonald for "not always acting in a loving manner" towards him. 

"The Scriptures are clear in their instruction to us to 'live at peace with all men, as far is it depends on you' (Romans 12:18). We certainly have not done so perfectly," they said.

"Sometimes we have spoken hastily, and at times our tone was unloving. We apologize to you, our church family, to the broader church, and to James MacDonald for not always acting in a loving manner in our communications about him.

"Now that these differences with MacDonald have come to resolution, our focus and full attention are on the future of Harvest Bible Chapel. We encourage you, if you have further questions, to reach out to your campus elders.

"We are grateful to our staff, particularly those who worked selflessly and tirelessly in the midst of this arbitration process. And we are most grateful to those of you who faithfully prayed for us during this time. Thank you." 

In a statement following the settlement, MacDonald expressed his anger at the church, which he accused of carrying out a "hostile takeover" and maintaining a "false narrative in financial matters".

He alleges HBC sought the "destruction" WITW, and said he and his wife are considering further action against the church.

"Please pray that HBC leaders begin welcoming our reconciliation efforts. Our hope is for a joint statement owning what they have done, that ends the stonewalling and prevents having to clear our own name – a biblical but last option," he said.

"After 20 months, we are just days away from that decision. Please pray with us that church leaders will finally yield and make peace, so the church itself is not further injured by the many deceptions.

"We have simply reached the end of our ability to carry all of this alone."