Editorial: After turbulent year, a promise of renewal for megachurch
Many people put their trust in the Lord to get them through life. Many who attend church likewise put their trust in their spiritual leaders -- whether they be priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, or swamis.
But these leaders are still people, susceptible to the same sins we all are. Sometimes they let us down.
Congregants of Harvest Bible Chapel, the Rolling Meadows-based megachurch with campuses from Chicago to Elgin and from Crystal Lake to Aurora, learned the hard way this year that while one might easily put his faith in God, it's not wise to implicitly trust human beings.
Some church members already had left the fold at Harvest at the start of the year, concerned about the church's finances and its founder's sometimes abrasive personality.
Radio personality Mancow Muller, who had been a member of the church and a friend and mentee to Harvest founder and spiritual leader James MacDonald, unleashed a torrent of complaints regarding MacDonald's behavior, both in the Daily Herald and on his WLS-AM 890 radio show. When the unsavory contents of a recorded phone conversation that included MacDonald were aired on the radio, the church had had enough and showed MacDonald the door.
Harvest's divorce from MacDonald will be long and painful -- they are pursuing arbitration over intellectual and financial rights.
And now a defamation suit lodged by MacDonald against Muller and his employer will keep the wounds fresh for some time. But there is hope for Harvest.
MacDonald and his two sons -- both pastors -- are gone, as is the former elder board.
In is a new structure that promises a level of transparency the church has never known, and a strict setup of checks and balances.
In the secular realm, President Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, "Trust, but verify."
That certainly applies here. Harvest leaders know they have a long row to hoe in convincing the flock to stick with them. They know that if they are to make steps toward rebuilding what they've lost in church family, it will take more than the word of God.
It will require open books, accountability, responsiveness and no more secrets.
It's clear that the adoption of a new governance structure and a plan for greater participation in each of the church's satellites is putting the church on a path toward redemption.
In a season of renewal for Harvest, church leaders are putting their faith in God to get them there. Greg Bradshaw, the new Lead Ministry Pastor and one of the team of three administrators, said, "If we do this as a church family, we will not fail."