We know you have questions. In the last six weeks, our Elders have heard from more than 260 of you through the Questions for the Elders form on our website and from many more through direct emails. The incredible volume of questions made it impossible for them to reply to all. The quantity of questions has told us:
- You care deeply about the ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel
- You share many of the same questions
Those factors have led to the creation of this FAQ page. This FAQ page includes answers from the Elders and the Harvest 2020 team.
This first installment, with more answers to come over time, is another step forward in providing you with more communication. This is a “living document.” These answers reflect our knowledge to date, and as new information is uncovered, we will add that to the relevant topics.
Thank you, Harvest family, for your continued patience, your prayers, your understanding, and your support.
– The Harvest 2020 Team (March 2, 2019)
ELDER ANSWERED QUESTIONS
- NEW Question: What happened to Harvest’s ECFA certification? posted 3/22/19
Answer: For the past five years – and as recently as December, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) declared Harvest Bible Chapel a member in good standing. Currently, our certification is suspended and under review. We are in ongoing discussions with them and meeting face-to-face in May to address their concerns in an effort to regain the status of a member in good standing. Our church Elders and new leadership team are doing all we can to regain their certification based on their list of requirements. In addition, we’re hiring a new outside auditing firm for a full comprehensive financial review. Also, our new policies ensure there is no further spending or separate budget in what was the Office of the Senior Pastor.
- NEW Question: How did Harvest Bible Chapel take on so much debt? posted 3/22/19
Answer: Back in November 2008, HBC had a collective debt of approximately $68 million due to rapid growth, expansion of the overall ministry, and the numerous Harvest church campuses. Through the faithful giving and support of the mission of Harvest Bible Chapel, the debt has now been significantly reduced to $40 million.The church leaders are committed to not acquiring any new debt while paying down the current debt with the priority of being debt free. Our new leadership is tasked with developing a plan to meet this priority. Simultaneously, we’re in ongoing discussions with our lender to aggressively service and reduce the overall debt.We recognize that $40 million in debt sounds sizable for a church, but we are a church that meets on seven campuses in Rolling Meadows, Elgin, Niles, Crystal Lake, Chicago, Aurora, and Highland Park with a weekend attendance of more than 8,500 people.
- NEW Question: What was the end result of the fraud investigation? posted 3/21/19
Answer: As previously communicated, in late October, we discovered evidence that a non-ministry member of our staff who worked in operations defrauded the church. This person was suspended without pay pending an investigation at that time. The church retained outside legal counsel, a forensic attorney and a forensic accountant who both specialize in these types of matters, to conduct a thorough investigation. Together, they have more than 50 years of combined experience and have conducted dozens of similar investigations, including allegations of embezzlement, misuse of corporate assets, fraud, bribery, etc. The investigators worked closely with church leadership and the Elder board. They were given full access to requested data, systems, and church personnel during their investigation.
The investigation is complete. We can confirm that the amount of the theft was $298,172.71. The investigators have confirmed that no one else on the HBC staff was involved in the underlying fraud. We submitted a claim to our insurance carrier, and the employee’s status was changed from suspended to terminated on February 13, 2019. We have shared the findings of the investigation with the Elgin police department. Given the amount of the theft, the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office will be determining whether to pursue this matter further.
In addition, we are implementing a series of recommendations from our advisors to enhance our internal controls and with a focus on the prevention of future recurrence, including enhanced purchasing procedures, onboarding procedures, segregation of duties, data management, and compliance monitoring.
- Question: Why doesn’t Harvest just “open the books”? How has Harvest been held accountable to financial integrity in the past, and why is there a need for additional financial scrutiny by the Harvest 2020 team? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Harvest receives an audit of our financial statements every year from an independent CPA firm, CapinCrouse. This audit has been published on our website for the past 11 years (Our goal is to publish each year’s audit by April 1 of the following year). As part of this process, the CPA firm has full access to all of Harvest’s accounting records. They spend approximately 300-400 hours working through various levels of detail in our accounting records so they can issue an opinion on our financial statements.
In addition, Harvest was awarded accreditation by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in 2013 and has remained a member in good standing until March 15, 2019, when the ECFA suspended Harvest Bible Chapel’s accreditation pending further review*. See ECFA’s latest report on Harvest here. ECFA exists to enhance trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries by establishing and applying ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship to accredited organizations.The Harvest 2020 team will be hiring an independent accounting group to conduct a thorough financial review beginning in the coming weeks. The financial review will determine if there was any information that was not included in our annual audits. This will also include an extensive review of expenses involving our former Senior Pastor’s office. The Harvest 2020 team will be reporting results to the congregation. *updated 3/15/19
- Question: Is Pastor James being offered any severance package? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Pastor James will not receive severance. He did, however, have a retirement plan at Harvest in which he is fully and legally vested.
- Question: Does Harvest own or lease a plane? posted 3/2/19
Answer: No. Many years ago, Walk in the Word had partial ownership in a plane for about 6 months.
- NEW Question: Why was Pastor James terminated? posted 3/22/19
Answer: Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that James MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor. That timeline accelerated when we learned of highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor James. These were given to media and reported. Given that and other conduct under consideration, in accordance with the procedures in our Bylaws, Pastor James was removed as Senior Pastor and as an Elder of the church for engaging in conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church. His employment was terminated from Harvest Bible Chapel on February 12, 2019.
- Question: Given the rocky relationship for several years by some current and former Elders, will there be any changes in the Elder board and in the way our church going forward will be managed or governed? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Yes. Please refer to the very important statement posted on February 21, 2019. As communicated, the Elder board has been reduced and will be replaced. We are planning to be at the interview stage of the process within 6-8 weeks. Harvest 2020 is tasked with recommending the best future governance structure for our church moving forward. We will do so by benchmarking other church’s governance structure.
- Question: How will the new elder board be selected? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Nominations for new elders have begun. The goal is to complete the entire nomination, application, vetting, and selection process and to have the new elder board in place by early summer. Pastors, elders, and staff are making nominations. If any church member desires to put forward a member’s name for consideration, they may provide that name to their campus pastor who will provide names into the nominating committee. No one who has ever served as an elder before at Harvest will be part of these nominations. The nominating committee to decide on the future slate of elders will consist of at least one elder, at least one pastor and at least one church member from each campus.
- Question: Who decides who leads the church? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Harvest Bible Chapel is a staff-led, elder-governed church. In accordance with the church’s long-standing bylaws and governances, the elders’ primary responsibilities include doctrine, direction, and discipline. Congregants have access to the elders, but there will not be a congregational vote. For more details, please go to What We Believe About Church Government.
- Question: Who is leading the church now? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Harvest is elder governed, and the Harvest 2020 team will finalize the Interim Church Leadership Team, which will take over the leadership of the staff. This interim team will replace the existing Executive Leadership Team (XLT) and will be announced next week. UPDATE: As of 3/10/19, there is a new Interim Church Leadership Team.
HARVEST 2020 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
- NEW Question: When will the 2018 audit of Harvest Bible Chapel be available? posted 3/20/19
Answer: In keeping with our church Bylaws and Constitution, “The Church shall have each annual financial statement of the Church audited by a certified public accounting firm selected by the Audit Committee. Upon completion, this audit will be made available to the congregation via the website or other appropriate means consistent with other similar organizations, as determined by the Finance Committee.”
- Question: What is Harvest’s plan to manage expenses while giving has decreased? posted 3/17/19
Answer: Harvest has executed the plan to reduce our weekly operating expenses (not including mortgages) from $409,000 to $308,000*. We have done this through reducing and/or eliminating budgets for multiple ministries, reducing and/or eliminating operating expenses at all campuses, and through a number of staff reductions this week. We are working hard to care for each staff person that has been impacted by these decisions.*Correction from Harvest 2020 Team Update on March 10, 2019: We had originally communicated $289,000 as the reduced weekly operating expense. The actual amount as of March 15, 2019, is $308,000.
- Question: Are our staff and leadership overpaid? posted 3/10/19
Answer: In Fall of 2018, the Human Resources department, with oversight from Harvest’s Personnel Committee, worked with a company called Church Compensation Services to review each employee’s compensation (over 400 employees). Each employee’s compensation was compared to the average church compensation for each position with other churches similar in scope. Out of the 400+ employees on staff, 95% were in their appropriate salary range. Based on the findings, Harvest needed to adjust the compensation of only 25 employees, who were underpaid, so that they were more appropriately in their range.
- Question: Who owns the 7 campuses and Camp Harvest? posted 3/10/19
Answer: HBC owns Rolling Meadows, Elgin, Cathedral, Crystal Lake, Niles, and Camp Harvest. HBC North Shore LLC owns Deerfield Road. HBC Aurora LLC owns Aurora. Congregants purchased those two properties and leased them back to the church. Both LLCs are managed and majority controlled by HBC. No elder, staff or pastor has any ownership in the LLCs. No Executive Leadership Team (XLT) member, staff, Pastor James, or Pastor Rick has ever had any ownership in these LLCs.
- NEW Question: What organizational changes are being implemented? posted 3/22/19Answer: Here’s a summary of what’s changed. We are making a number of changes to our church leadership starting with our Elders. On February 21, 2019, we reduced the Elders from more than 30 to 9. All the remaining elders, which currently stands at 7 will roll off the board by the end of May 2019. We will have a completely new Elder board in place by June.
The search for a new Chief Operating Officer (COO) is well underway now being fully coordinated by our HR department, in conjunction with our elders. We believe by the time the new elders are in place we will have viable candidates that they can select from regarding the new COO. The same will hold true for eventually hiring a new Senior Pastor, that process will be led by the new elder board.
Our transitional leadership team, called Harvest 2020, talked to over 104 congregants and more than 87 staff members. Harvest 2020 did a lot of benchmarking from mega and small churches and used their past experiences on how to create a leadership new structure. Based on these findings, as of March 10, 2019, Harvest has a new leadership team in place.
This church has never been about one pastor or individual. Since its founding in 1988, Harvest Bible Chapel has been about the worship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ and proclaiming the authority of God’s Word without apology.
With new leadership, we prayerfully and purposefully seek to regain the trust of the community we serve and people who call Harvest Bible Chapel their church home by focusing on our five foundational pillars.
We recognize our past failures and shortcomings and are excited about the future for Harvest Bible Chapel.
- Question: What will be the process in identifying candidates and ultimately calling a new pastor to be the Senior Pastor of HBC? posted 3/2/19Answer: Later this year, a process for selecting a new Senior Pastor will be determined and conveyed to the congregation. We are not going rush this very important decision and the required process.
- Question: Who will fill the pulpit in the coming weeks as we look for a new pastor? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Our pastoral staff and interim leadership will be responsible for filling the pulpit. We plan to continue to invite guest preachers, like Pastor Dave Stone, to fill the pulpit in addition to our Campus Pastors. Once an Interim Teaching Pastor is secured, he and our current pastoral staff will determine the pulpit schedule moving forward.
- Question: It appears we have no women in leadership at this time. Are there any changes coming or consideration given that would include women in any key leadership roles? posted 3/10/19
Answer: Women play a key role in multiple leadership positions in our church. As we make important decisions, the opinions of both men and women are being sought. Some of the key women leaders of our church can be seen here.
- Question: Who are the members of the Harvest 2020 team? posted 3/2/19
Answer: The Harvest 2020 team has been finalized and is comprised of the following:
Rick Korte (congregant)
Pastor Greg Bradshaw (staff)
Laura Weigle (staff)
Sam Booras (interim elder)
Jon Vesely (outside professional)
Lawrence Swicegood (outside professional)
This makes up the Harvest 2020 team.
Additional individuals will be involved in the 5 tracks under the Harvest 2020 charter:
- Question: What connection(s) does Rick Korte have with the church? Does he have any financial or relational ties with current or past leaders? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Rick Korte is a congregant with organizational leadership experience. He and his wife attend the Elgin campus and have since 2015. Rick is a volunteer helping lead the Harvest 2020 team. This means he is not being compensated for his effort in any way. Rick has no relational ties to past senior leadership* beyond that of a normal church attendee on the Elgin campus. He has never met Pastor James. Rick has no financial ties to the church (he is not involved in any of the LLC’s nor do any of the companies that he has run have any financial relationships with the church). Rick’s desire is to offer his skills, gifts, and experience to our church and to help it navigate through this transition. Rick will roll off the Harvest 2020 team as soon as a stable Interim Church Leadership Team is in place.
- *Clarification and correction from Rick Korte on March 3, 2019: “Regarding my relationship to senior leadership (Pastor James), I have never met him personally in any fashion. I have never exchanged any texts or phone calls with Pastor James. I, like numerous members of our church, know many of the staff including pastors. I have been out to dinner with pastors and with many members of our church, as well. These dinners were always social in nature. Regarding my relationship with our former senior pastor (Pastor James), I have never met him personally in any fashion.”
- Question: Who can we send questions to going forward? posted 3/2/19
Answer: Questions from congregants for the Harvest 2020 team can be emailed to [email protected]. The elder’s inbox will remain open for congregants to send questions directly to the elders at [email protected].