Let me say up front that I have little hope that this "investigation" will have any real effect. The "Media Ministries" will wave their interpretation of the First Amendment (of the US Constitution) before the investigator and probably get a pass. And that will be a shame.
What the heck am I talking about?
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who have been actively following the financial triumphs of the High Priestess of Prosperity, Joyce Meyer,
The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee has launched a wide-ranging investigation into the financial dealings of six TV evangelists, including Joyce Meyer, the popular preacher who has built a $124-million-a-year empire headquartered in Fenton.
Senator Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa) has asked for significant accounting from Ms. Meyers on the financial self dealings of her "ministry" including,
From Question # 8 of Executive Compensation, (a pdf file of the letter is available here)
A detailed accounting of all expense account items for Joyce and David Meyer for years 2004 to present, including, but not limited to, clothing expenses and cosmetic surgery for years 2002 to present.
From Question # 16 of the Other segment of Senator Grassley’s request,
According to Jefferson County real estate assessor’s office, the following items were purchased for the headquarters of JMM. Please verify the cost of each item and explain the tax exempt purpose:
(a) Commode with Marble Top $23,000
(b) Malachite Round Table $30,000
(c) Conference Table $30,000
(d) Reception Desk $20,741
(e) Coach $17,420
(f) Pair of Dresden Vases $19,162
(g) French Clock $11,219
Good grief, a $23,000 dollar toilet! No sh__! They’ve also asked for info about the multiple vehicles she, her husband and her family have at their disposal. Note the reasonably-priced German family sedan pictured parked under the "Look What the Lord Has Done sign. (As an aside, I really love Skitch.)
Sister Joyce is not the only "media minister" being asked for a little accountability. Creflo and Taffi Dollar (they of twin Rolls Royce ministries), Bishop Eddie Long, Gulfstream IV wanting/needing/getting Benny Hinn (who’s ministry is located in Grapevine, TX but lives in a multi-million dollar mansion in Dana Point, CA – the Gulfstream is helpful) the divorcing Randy and Paula White, & Kenneth and Gloria Copeland have apparently also received similar letters from the Senator.
Grassley says this in his letter,
It is important that the Congress and the public have confidence that public charities, which benefit from significant tax breaks, are operated in a manner that promotes continued trust and that these charities adhere to guidelines established by the Internal Revenue Service. Historically, Americans have given generously to religious organizations, and those who do so should be assured that their donations are being used for the tax-exempt purposes of the organizations.
Recent articles and news reports regarding the possible misuse of donations made to religious organizations have caused some concern for the Finance Committee.
Would that it cause the same kind of concern amongst orthodox Christians of all flavours, as Imbi said to me when she read the article this morning. Why is the government stepping in where Christian leaders should have stood and screamed "Enough!"?
Where is the modern day Luther who stands and says that the sins of the Prosperity Peddlers are as egregious as the Indulgence selling church hierarchy of the 16th Century? What Christian leader is willing to name Hinn, Dollar, Meyer et al as no different than Luther’s nemesis Johann Tetzel. Instead, we leave it to the media and the government to deal with these who drag the name of Christ and his bride through the mud of their deceit – whilst orthodox leaders of the Church stand idly by. Incredible. (Note: John Piper did recently attack the perversion of the prosperity gospel.)
For a little more on Hinn’s antics, go here.
UPDATE: From the CBS article,
In a statement, Benny Hinn’s spokesperson, Ronn Torossian, said the ministry was in the process of determining the best course of action in response to the Senate investigation. "World Healing Center Church complies with the laws that govern church and non-profit organizations and will continue to do so," Torossian wrote.
In a statement to CBS News, Creflo Dollar called his ministry an "open book" and said he would comply with any "valid request" from Grassley. But he noted that the inquiry raised questions that could "affect the privacy of every community church in America." (emphasis added)
Go back and read the opening paragraphs of this post to see how these clowns are going to play this out. They will hide behind the First Amendment and try to draw legitimate ministries into the fray on their behalf with worries of government interference in the life of the Church – in direct contravention of the First Amendment. The separation of church and state card has been well played by these folk before. It’s being played again. Where will legitimate gospel leaders stand? Or will they just stay silent. As per usual.
UPDATE 2: Dan Edelen deals with this issue in a slightly different but every bit as important manner.