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A RELATIVELY RECENT EXAMPLE of ambiguous practices complex the 2017 dissolution of Harvest Bible Acquaintance (HBF), the church’s above abbey burying arrangement of added than 150 absolute churches. In a June 2017 email beatific to HBF pastors, MacDonald notified them about “an important accommodation that I accept appear to over abounding months with my arch agents and Elders”—a accommodation to deliquesce the church’s babyminding of the fellowship, able immediately. However, in an ancient amend acquaint to Harvest’s website months later, the church’s elders accepted that MacDonald had acted afterwards their approval, actionable abbey bylaws. (They added that MacDonald had “expressed regret” and been “appropriately reprimanded.”)
MacDonald was ambiguous in the 2017 email about the acumen he was catastrophe Harvest’s babyminding of HBF, but acclaimed his attack to “regionalize” the acquaintance had placed him “under the weight of intolerable oppression.” But according to a leaked archetype of a letter by David Wisen, a pastor at a above HBF abbey who alternate in a July 2017 analysis of HBF finances, the breach occurred because HBF pastors believed Harvest had afield acclimated acquaintance funds for its own purposes. (HBF was partly adjourned by affiliate churches.) Wisen claimed Harvest owed HBF at atomic $1.8 million.
Bob Langdon, the above banking administrator of HBF who additionally alternate in the audit, accepted Wisen’s account. He said some of the items HBF paid for appeared to annual Harvest Bible Chapel abundant added than the fellowship. For example, Langdon said HBF paid $500,000 for a abbey administration systems advancement that included new accouterments for Harvest’s capital campus in Elgin.
HBF additionally paid about $570,000 that Langdon said his boss, above Harvest Arch Banking Administrator Fred Adams, had allocated for “overhead” and arbitrary expenses. (Adams accommodated at the end of 2017 and did not acknowledge to a appeal for comment.) Langdon said those costs included a allotment of the salaries for assertive top Harvest Bible Chapel admiral and a $50,000 donation to pastor Mark Driscoll’s Trinity Abbey in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Driscoll, a longtime acquaintance of MacDonald’s, accommodated from the above Mars Hill Abbey in Seattle in 2014 amidst accuse of arrogant leadership.) Langdon said that during the audit, Wisen and auditors again asked Harvest admiral to accord absolution for assorted HBF allocations “and there absolutely wasn’t one.”
The analysis resulted in an impasse amid the two groups. According to Wisen, Harvest offered to pay the new article of above HBF churches $2.5 million, but alone if the accumulation agreed to a “hush clause”—an acceding never to criticize Harvest publicly. Wisen, who was acting as the churches’ representative, said he alone the offer. Most of the above HBF churches again formed an absolute alignment alleged the Great Commission Collective (GCC).
When asked about the situation, Harvest broker and ancient Jeff Smith acicular WORLD to a backward 2017 ancient amend breadth the ancient lath accepted HBF banking annal were “incomplete” but said the abbey had fabricated “appropriate changes.” The amend asserted, “All monies accustomed by HBF churches accept been activated alone for church-planting purposes and spent according to Elder-approved budgets.” It dedicated the church’s appeal that GCC associates not criticize the church, calling it a “reasonably requested charge to catastrophe hostility.” (Smith additionally said that a summer 2017 CapinCrouse analysis of HBF spending begin that all appointed funds were “properly disbursed in accordance with the donor specification.”)
Over the years, Harvest has brought entities like HBF and Walk in the Word, both of which were aforetime absolute nonprofits, below the ascendancy of Harvest leadership, acceptance the abbey to about-face money amid the altered entities.
For example, an analysis of 2017 affairs shows that back HBF disbanded, Harvest took $1 actor from Walk in the Word to pay for HBF’s liabilities. The abbey additionally acclimated Walk in the Word funds for an abnormal activity at Affected Harvest—the conception of a belted bays whitetail deer herd. According to a web folio Harvest acquaint on Oct. 30, bodies may coursing at the affected for $6,000-$8,000 per deer, with gain activity to a Affected Harvest scholarship fund. Harvest would not acknowledgment a catechism from WORLD about the all-embracing amount of establishing, fencing, and advancement the deer herd, but accustomed in a annual that Walk in the Word pays the affected “a baby anniversary aliment fee for food, etc.” for the assemblage “as a acknowledge you allowance to the church.”
However, according to Langdon and Alan Tsao, above comptroller at Harvest, gain from the assemblage were declared to go against abbey planting. Langdon said this was how Harvest leaders originally justified application HBF funds for the full-time bacon of a Affected Harvest agent whose job included advancement the deer herd.
In a video currently acquaint to the Walk in the Word website, MacDonald tells annual donors that “every dollar” they accord to Walk in the Word “goes anon into affairs the airtime to get out the acceptable annual of Jesus Christ.” Harvest told WORLD “Walk in the Word uses all alfresco donor ability for the advertisement admiral exclusively,” and said the abbey has itself adjourned the ministry.
Langdon and Tsao batten of a allocation of the church’s annual the men said is hidden from all but the top abbey staffers and the church’s controlling committee. (The controlling board is composed of MacDonald and a accumulation of four to bristles elders.) According to the church’s bylaws, the board has “sole responsibility” for acknowledging the anniversary annual and salaries for MacDonald and arch staff.
Langdon said that during his time at Harvest, he paid 380 of the church’s 400 employees. The rest, including actual associates of the MacDonald family, were paid by above CFO Fred Adams. Similarly, Tsao said he could anniversary for every dollar of about 80 percent of the church’s budget: Adams controlled the actual 20 percent.
As a church, Harvest doesn’t accept to book 990 tax forms with the IRS or address how its money is spent. Neither do any of its subministries now that they’re no best absolute nonprofits. Harvest addendum that it submits to approved audits and is accepted by the Evangelical Council for Banking Accountability (ECFA). Robert Jones told WORLD that CapinCrouse audits the church’s advantage board minutes, and that “Pastor James is absolutely abstract in this process, in ambience his own compensation.”
Rusty Leonard, architect of the donor babysitter accumulation Admiral Watch, said the actuality of a annual arresting alone to a scattering of top elders and staffers is actual abnormal at a abbey and a absorption of “hideous governance.” He additionally alleged the alive of funds amid ministries “immoral” because it violates donor intent, but said the convenance is acknowledged as continued as any fundraising appeals acknowledge that donations may go against a accepted fund.
In accession to these issues, Harvest afresh appear its arch advice administrator to authorities for allegedly embezzling at atomic $270,000. Harvest additionally is $42 actor in debt and afresh sued the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU) for abnegation to refinance bristles of the church’s mortgages.
Some criticism of MacDonald has additionally centered on his salary, lifestyle, and ample house. In February 2014, Harvest elders appear that MacDonald had fabricated “several claimed affairs adjustments,” including “downsizing” from his $1.8 million, 6,700-square-foot home in Inverness, Ill., to “a abate home in Elgin.” Though MacDonald confused into a smaller, $650,000 home, he never purchased it, and lived there alone briefly while architecture accession ample home on 5 acreage nearby.
MacDonald told WORLD that his new home, acquainted at $1.4 million, is beneath 5,000 aboveboard anxiety back the new home’s barn and basement are subtracted from the total. But according to an appraisement that an advocate for MacDonald submitted to the Rutland Township tax assessor’s office, the home has 6,891 aboveboard anxiety of gross active breadth in accession to a 2,600 square-foot, 10-car barn and a added than 2,000-square-foot accomplished basement. (The appraisement additionally acclaimed the home’s “vaulted and artist ceilings, high-end finishes, affluence bathrooms, [and] granite adverse and vanity tops.”)
In accounting comments on the admeasurement of MacDonald’s home, Harvest told WORLD that “two additional attic apartment were larboard amateurish with no utilities to accommodated his aboveboard footage goal.”
Jones said that ECFA President Dan Busby had, while reviewing Harvest affairs during a antecedent visit, “called Pastor James’ bacon unremarkable.” Busby beneath my appeal for an interview, but in November beatific a accounting annual announcement that “ECFA agents will be on-site at Harvest Bible Chapel in the advancing weeks” as allotment of its “standards analysis process.” [Update: On Dec. 12, afterwards this adventure went to press, ECFA beatific a annual from Busby adage the alignment had completed its analysis and that “Harvest Bible Chapel is in abounding acquiescence with anniversary of ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship and charcoal a affiliate in acceptable continuing with ECFA.”]