Lawyer Takes James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel to the Woodshed (UPDATED)

I don’t know any other way to describe the report written by Sally Wagenmaker about the financial and governance practices of Harvest Bible Chapel during the tenure of former pastor James MacDonald.

MacDonald recently defended himself against the church action of declaring him disqualified as a pastor.  He may have to write another Facebook post or ten with asbestos gloves to handle the fire in this report.

If interested in a blistering report about a megachurch in disarray, you must read it for yourself. Here are some spicy appetizers to help you decide:

Based on our law firm’s review of available information, we determined that a massive corporate governance failure apparently developed over several years at HBC, primarily due to the following factors:
• MacDonald’s powerful and subversive leadership style;
• His development of an inner-circle leadership group through which he could control HBC;
• His marginalization of broader leadership, particularly the former HBC Elders; and
• His other aggressive tactics that thwarted healthy nonprofit governance.
Directly resulting from such problems, MacDonald appears to have extensively misused HBC’s financial resources for improper financial benefit.

MacDonald’s strong and persuasive role as authoritative senior pastor, along with his close inner circle, insulation from proper accountability mechanisms, and key changes to the church’s operational structures, resulted in a highly problematic culture. Policies, formal and informal, were put into place to reinforce this unhealthy power structure.

We were provided with extensive salary information for MacDonald and the HBC Compensation Committee’s year-end meeting minutes, reflecting summary approval for executive compensation, housing, deferred compensation, and the housing allowance for MacDonald. The Committee unanimously approved an overall 2015 compensation amount
of $1,240,000, a 2016 compensation amount of $1,370,000, and a 2017 compensation amount of $1,387,500. For year-end 2017, we provided with a “Memorandum of Understanding and Documentation” dated December 19, 2017, reciting “commitments and pledges given in good faith [that] represent a contractual and covenant commitment” to MacDonald, plus a statement that “Walk in the Word and the respective assets are a bible teaching ministry of Dr. MacDonald.” For year-end 2018, the minutes of the “Elder Executive Committee Compensation Committee,” reflecting a total compensation package of $1,270,000 for 2019.

In a word, this is obscene.

Within this context, a leader who receives a tangible personal benefit as a result of a decision affecting the church’s operations or assets has an inherent conflict of interest that must be fully addressed through disinterested, independent leadership decision-making. Based on our legal evaluation, MacDonald seems to have acted in his own personal interests – reaping significant personal financial benefits, avoiding accountability to any governing board, and with heavy-fisted exclusionary leadership. His close inner circle of HBC leaders helped him to do so and without the important accountability measures needed for effective nonprofit ministry governance.

Although I am not an attorney, I would be worried about my legal liability were I formerly involved in leadership at HBC.

UPDATE: James MacDonald responds:

18 thoughts on “Lawyer Takes James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel to the Woodshed (UPDATED)”

  1. * $142,058 was paid directly forJames MacDonald’s known personal expenses, of which $48,127 was added to hisW-2 as additional compensation.

    * $23,378 was paid directly or indirectly to James MacDonald for reimbursements that do not establish a business connection and are not substantiated as required by the Internal Revenue Code [IRC Sec. 62(c) andReg. 1.62-2(c)].

    * $120,660 was spent for the direct personal benefit of James MacDonald’s family members.

    * $416,139 was spent on travel (including those expenses related to James MacDonald’s “refreshment”), of which $94,046 was added to his W-2s as additional compensation.

    * $170,851 was spent on hunting and fishing trips and related expenses. Expenses within this category include hunt cost, airfare, lodging, gas, food, gratuities, apparel, guns, and taxidermy (and related shipments).

    * $139,502 was spent on meals and entertainment. Entertainment expenses within this category include golf, club dues, boat tours, and event tickets.

    * $94,017 was spent on apparel and eyewear, of which $17,277 was added to James MacDonald’s W-2s as additional compensation.It is our understanding that these purchases were not required as a condition of employment, therefore tax guidance states that the cost and maintenance of such expenditures represented personal expenses.

  2. “James MacDonald Responds”

    With a Chapter-and-Verse Proof Text effectively saying “I AM CHRIST!”?

    Or is this what that guy at the gas station in Colorado prophesied over him?

      1. Anything from the Pulpiteers at Pulpit and Pen is automatically suspect.

        They are among the most unreliable of Unreliable Narrators.

  3. So does MacDonald’s tweet mean that when the inevitable lawsuits happen he won’t fight to have them dismissed?

  4. I doubt very much that any man will do anything about this other than talk about it. There are very few who call themselves “Christians” who care to hold much of anybody accountable for what they actually do in these days. We are living in the days of the wild, wild west where serving God and Mammon is preached and promoted everywhere. The Church has lost its way into lawlessness where a snake like this can get away with all of this and even attempt to murder his personal enemies. There is nothing Christian about any of this. This is all a false church that serves Psychopaths like JMac, and Narcissists and their accomplices who are actually Machiavellists doing anything necessary in order to personally profit from the circus freak show they have created. Have we learned nothing from the judgments God sent the way of His people the Jews? Where is the fear of God and the courage to say enough is enough?

    1. Most recent exhibit… Kanye and Osteen… and per my facebook feed, all manner of corrupted trumpist christians and other low-info, shallow faith, Biblically/theologically illiterate “christians” are jumping on that bandwagon. It’s almost guaranteed that this new freak show is going to go down in some kind of moral flames someday…
      I know it sounds pessimistic, but I frequently wonder these days, if the american evangelical (mostly white) church is not one of the most corrupted, off the rails “churches” in the history of church history? I personally consider it right up there with the low of the Catholic church pre-Reformation. They had indulgences… we have a whole list of crap that’s just as corrupt and disgusting. And it’s why I’m often tempted to laugh out loud at those who whine about “persecution”. I think in reality, it’s probably deserved and/or self-inflicted. (And I’m not a none, I’m not a bitter ex-Christian… I’m a faithful church goer, but maybe with less blinders? I hope.)

      1. And so it is. Few “Christians” would agree with you about the level of pure moral depravity going on in 501c3 churches, missions organizations and denominations, but I am one of the few who does. God has been warning me for over 10 years of a great storm that is coming to the world. I think the primary reason for it is that judgment has to start with the house. It is coming very soon for I see signs of it right around the corner. It will bring economic and political turmoil to the west like about none of us alive have lived through. Many things will change rapidly much as they quickly did in the 30’s. Few see this now just as what happened in early 1929 and will be ill prepared for it. There will be much less profit possibilities coming from the Evangelical Industrial Complex and we will see many drop Christianity quickly to turn to something that looks much more profitable.
        God led me to a place where I met two other men who have foreseen different aspects of this in a place that does not look or act like what we now call church. We have all taken significant life-changing actions to get ready for what is coming. I suggest that everyone who has eyes to see does so as well.

    2. I watched the full meeting. They said they would present a final accounting of inappropriate expenditures to MacDonald by the end of the year, and he can either repay it or it will be reported to the IRS as income.

  5. Whew! The authors of that report certainly didn’t hesitate to say what they found, or what they thought about it. Good. James MacDonald (and his cronies?) were living almighty high on the hog. I hope they get sued into oblivion. They will have deserved it, for abusing the finances of the church they were supposed to care for.

  6. As we’ve seen over and over again, within the confines of a mega-church, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  7. MacDonald had a private credit card account, and it was named the Vanilla Bean LLC. He named it after ice cream. Can’t make this stuff up.

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