More Turnover at Harvest Bible Chapel?

Image: James MacDonald

UPDATE: As I reported yesterday, Chief Operating Officer of Harvest Bible Chapel Scott Milholland has resigned. His resignation letter was posted earlier today on the HBC website.

Illinois multisite megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel and pastor James MacDonald have been in the public eye over a defamation lawsuit filed against bloggers and their wives (see also this article from RNS for which I was interviewed). The suit also targets journalist Julie Roys who is about to publish an article in World on HBC. The legal action appeared to be designed to frighten the bloggers and intimidate World magazine into pulling the plug on the article.

The past year has been tumultuous for the church with turnover in various aspects of the gigantic religious business. In June 2017, MacDonald stepped down from the church planting arm of Harvest Bible Chapel (now called Vertical Church). Then at the end of 2017, three more executive resignations were announced.

Most recently, according to multiple sources, Scott Milholland has resigned. Milholland was the Senior Executive Pastor at HBC. Calls to the communications staff of the church were not returned.


Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

22 thoughts on “More Turnover at Harvest Bible Chapel?”

  1. Warren – I was wondering when you were going to post, or if you were one of the ones named in the suit! 🙂 Glad you’re not, brother…

    1. Thanks, I predict the suit will be settled out of court. I think the church should have to pay the bloggers attorney fees. By the logic of HBC, the bloggers could counter sue since HBC isn’t a church but a religious corporation. A case can be made that HBC has defamed them in the statement issued today /2018/12/01/harvest-bible-chapel-treats-believers-as-non-believers-ecfa-to-review-finances/.

  2. Thanks, Warren, for reporting on this. As predicted, Scott’s resignation letter was posted today.

  3. This is starting to look more like Mars Hill every day. TWELVE TOP EXECUTIVES have resigned from HBC since May 2017!

    1) Scott Milholland COO – resigned Nov 2018
    2) Paul Gracey Special Counsel to Sr Pastor & Chief Admin Officer – resigned Nov 2018
    3) Jeff Parham CIO – terminated for embezzlement Oct 2018
    4) Janine Nelson – Exec Dir of Walking in the Word (WITW) – HBC broadcasting ministry – resigned July 2018
    5) Tammy Kelley – Dir of Mission Harvest – resigned June 2018
    6) Fred Adams CFO – resigned Dec 2017 (replaced by their Capin Crouse audit partner – convenient)
    7) Dallas Jenkins – Exec Dir of Media – resigned Dec 2017
    8) Garret Higbee – Exec Dir of Biblical Soul Care – resigned July 2017
    9) Kurt VanMaanen – Dir of International Church Planting – resigned June 2017
    10) Kent Shaw – Exec Dir of Harvest Bible Fellowship and HBC Elder – resigned May 2017
    11) Bill Molinari – Chief Operating Officer HBF – resigned May 2017
    12) Dean Butters -Exec Dir of Business Ops -resigned April 2017

    There’s a rumor that two elders just resigned as well. Harvest has a relatively small executive leadership team for a $50M a yr corporation. This is a staggering loss of top leadership. There are clearly major problems at Harvest. Are there ANY other corporations that size that while still experiencing financial growth, have faced that much turn-over at the top? Not Enron. Not WorldCom. Giant business scandals don’t have 12 top execs leave in 1.5 yrs (with over half in just the last few months) and those corps had thousands of employees. How bad is it working under James right now if the turnover is this massive? It looks like HBC is in freefall and no one is reporting on what should be a very large story except Warren Throckmorton. Maybe James got what he wanted after all with his little lawsuit threat?

    *edited to show 3 more executive departures courtesy of former HBC members. Oddly, HBC excluded listing these three departures on their Elder Staff Transition updates

    1. Good morning Amy,
      Thanks for you posting. It is the ‘fake’ news gambit that lights off the alarms for me. One would hope that there is nothing to hide and invite a journalist for a frank discussion to clear the air and stop the rumor mill.

      — CJ

    2. I’d like to direct everyone’s attention to a post from early November on The Wartburg Watch regarding a lawsuit HBC has filed against its lender, Evangelical Christian Credit Union.

      Basically, HBC is saying that ECCU deceived HBC and didn’t go through with a planned refinance of the five real estate loans HBC has with ECCU. The lawsuit is scant on details (and, so far as I can tell, ECCU hasn’t filed a response yet), but it does mention there was a 19 percent increase in the monthly mortgage payment as of August 1, apparently on the largest loan.

      What the HBC filing does NOT mention is that HBC lost members over time. We know this from the lawsuit against Roys and The Elephant’s Debt. Any lender looking at a situation where a church lost a good chunk of its “giving units” would have second thoughts about a refinance. I know I would. Also, expecting to get a better interest rate in a period when the Fed Funds rate has increased 0.75 percent is kind of a joke.

      So there’s more going on here than meets the eye. I wish ECCU would file its answer; I suspect it would have all sorts of juicy information in it.

      1. How would the loss of twelve top executives affect the banking relationship? That kind of turmoil cannot instill confidence. Multi-millionaire HBC Executive Bill Molinari was one of the wealthiest donors, as he was the man who spearheaded the $1.2B sale of VanKampen funds to Morgan Stanley. He apparently had disagreements with James’ son Luke, the heir to the HBC throne. They lost his business acumen, guidance and support.

        1. That’s a great point. If I’m ECCU, the departure of some of these Execs would be very alarming

      2. As far as I know, ECCU requested that the case to moved to a court in California (where ECCU is). In the meantime, I think people at HBC can reasonably infer that their tithes are going toward the payment of a loan in the tens of millions of dollars that has a 20%+ interest rate.

      1. Thanks for supplying it! As you know, that particular resignation represented a significant turning point at HBC. It’s still curious that the Elders excluded this from their published lists of staff transitions. As I understand it, Bill was with MacDonald from the beginning and was a significant financial supporter for many years.

    3. Thanks, Amy. You are correct about all of this.

      We can add Dean Butters – Executive Director of Business Operations to the list. He left (without formal announcement to the Congregation) in April 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile.

      There have also been two terminations in student ministry related to sexual sin, one of which involved criminal sexual exploitation of a child.

  4. There must be major problems at HBC. Senior guys with 6-figure paychecks and million dollar homes don’t leave on a whim. The bodies are falling at an accelerated rate. James MacDonald seems to be obsessed with money, power, and control over anyone who questions his ruling with an iron fist. Could we be seeing the next Mars Hill implosion?

  5. From one of the linked articles:

    In the lawsuit, the church accuses The Elephant’s Debt of conducting “an ongoing campaign of harassment” and publishing defamatory statements that paint MacDonald in a false light.

    “Ongoing” seems a bit of a stretch since there hadn’t been a new post on The Elephant’s Debt for ten months before the lawsuit was filed, and suing the bloggers’ wives for “material support?”

    I don’t know anything about the situation, but judging from the last few blog posts they’re complaining about, the church is going to have an uphill battle making their accusations stick. Looks like they have plenty of evidence from third parties as to the turmoil going on at Harvest.

  6. Mr. MacDonald is just another Grifter for Je$u$. And seeing Ms. Roys getting sued by this clown tells me she’s on to something big.

    How anyone can stay associated with MacDonald, and think that their eternal soul is being guided by him, is beyond me.

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