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A megachurch pastor has asked for prayers as he prepares to step aside from leadership duties as his church continues to "deal with external criticisms." 

Pastor James MacDonald and the Chicago-area church he founded, Harvest Bible Chapel, made the announcement in a statement on January 16.

The church had filed a lawsuit against a journalist in October of 2018. Julie Roys was sued for defamation for “asserting false allegations” during her eight-month investigation which she wrote of in a World magazine article. That article focused on the previous church discipline of three elders in 2013. Those three elders had been vocal and public in what they felt were shortcomings of the church's finances and leadership structure.

"I have battled cycles of injustice, hurt, anger, and fear which have wounded others without cause. I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin."

"We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years," the Elders board said in the statement. "It has become apparent that these efforts have failed to fully identify and address our personal failures, sins, and errors in leadership, thus perpetuating a continuation of the criticism."

The Elders say that this latest development is part of what they hope will be a "peacemaking process that seeks both reconciliation and change where needed . . .

"As part of the peacemaking process, Pastor James is taking an indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership at our church in Chicago."

MacDonald says that he recognizes he has caused harm to others. "I have battled cycles of injustice, hurt, anger, and fear which have wounded others without cause," he said in his statement.

"I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin. I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns."

MacDonald says that he may continue to preach at one the church's campuses through the winter months, but is stepping aside from all leadership.

"Please pray that this welcomed time of sabbatical rest will lead to needed changes in me and a fresh opportunity to reconcile with others in God’s time," MacDonald said in closing.

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