Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability Revokes Harvest Bible Chapel’s Membership

The logos of ECFA and Harvest

Harvest Bible Chapel has lost its standing with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), months after controversy over founding pastor James MacDonald culminated with his firing.

The ECFA board voted today to terminate the Chicago-area church’s membership status due to “significant violations” to four of seven of the association’s financial standards, citing “direct and substantial evidence” uncovered in the past week.

The association said that Harvest withheld pertinent information about their finances and policies during earlier reviews.

According to the ECFA, Harvest failed to comply with standards around governance, financial oversight, use of resources and compliance with laws, and compensation-setting and related-party transactions (full requirements listed in the earlier coverage below).

The violations are serious enough that the organization said restoring Harvest’s full membership status was “not a viable option.”

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Original post (March 16): Harvest Bible Chapel had its accreditation suspended this week by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), after “new information” led to concerns that spending under former senior pastor James MacDonald was in “serious violation” of 4 of the agency’s 7 standards for biblical and ethical financial stewardship.

“During the indefinite suspension, the church may not represent that they are an ECFA member or display ECFA’s membership seal,” wrote president Dan Busby in a statement released Friday afternoon. Harvest used to display ECFA’s seal prominently on its online giving page.

“The investigation has been and will remain ongoing during the suspension as we work to determine whether Harvest Bible Chapel should be terminated, advised of the steps necessary to come into full compliance,” wrote Busby, “or whether they are in fact in compliance with our standards and should, therefore, be restored to full membership.”

On Wednesday, Julie Roys—author of a months-long investigation into MacDonald’s leadership published by World magazine that contributed to his February firing—devoted a blog post to critiquing ECFA’s affirmation late last year that Harvest remained a member in good standing despite what she called “glaring improprieties.”

Roys summarized her findings on Harvest’s “extremely disconcerting, and potentially fraudulent, activity”:

For example, the church has repeatedly used money donated for one purpose to fulfill other purposes. Money given to Walk in the Word, the broadcast ministry of recently-fired Harvest founder James MacDonald, was used to develop a deer herd at Camp Harvest in Michigan. And $1 million in Walk in the Word funds were used to pay liabilities for Harvest Bible Fellowship when that organization dissolved in 2017.

But on Saturday, I reported what was probably the grossest misappropriationof funds. According to past Harvest executives, MacDonald used church funds to pay for lavish personal expenses, including an African safari, Florida vacation, expensive cigars, and more. What’s perhaps most shocking about this revelation is that not only did the church know and approve these expenditures, so did Harvest’s auditors, Capin Crouse, according to Harvest Elder Bill Sperling.

In Friday’s statement, Busby wrote that ECFA’s board of directors suspended Harvest as of Thursday based on “new information” received on Monday, March 11.

He stated that ECFA “opened a formal investigation” of Harvest on November 28, but “during a site visit to the church in December, we thoroughly examined the information made available to us and believed the church was in compliance with our standards.” [Editor’s note: After the December 10 visit, ECFA reported that Harvest “is in full compliance with each of ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship and remains a member in good standing with ECFA.”]

However “given the emergence of new information,” Busby stated ECFA now has “concerns the church may be in serious violation of ECFA Standards 2, 3, 4, and 6.”

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Source: Christianity Today