A Wakeup Call to “Media Ministries”?

kinnon —  November 6, 2007 — 16 Comments

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

Joycesmerc 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.

HT: The BHT. Note they also point to this CBS story.

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.

kinnon

Posts

A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

16 responses to A Wakeup Call to “Media Ministries”?

  1. Thanks, Bill. I will make mention of the prosperity gospel this month, as I continue to deal with objections to the Christian faith. We have become irrelevant to our culture, and this is part of the reason. Thanks for being prophetic on this.

    Dan

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  2. Interesting, the Senate can launch a witch hunt against the tax exempt status of the “Evangelical” ministries.

    However, they never launched an investigation into continuing the tax exempt status of the Catholic Church that foster pediphiles with malice and forthought. They can continue to practice hurting children, and be tax exempt.

    The Catholic Church felt it was above all the laws of this country.

    Amazing, but typical of our lawmakers.

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  3. These tv so called, evangalist have been living like the Rich and Famous for years. They hold the carrot out to their supports and ask them to send money to Jesus, but put their address on it. They tell them how they will prosper and be rich just like them, but they must keep the money rolling to their ministry.
    Why will people not go to a local church. At least most of the churches have to give an account to them. (But this is not always true. Southern Baptist have a new method of lumping every thing together so no one knows how much the pastor makes. One day they all will give an account to God Himself.

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  4. Dan,

    As you are one of the best pulpiteers in the Greater Toronto Area I look forward to listening to your series.

    Kay,

    Are you suggesting supposed Evangelicals should be given a pass because of the sins of the Catholic Church? Your logic escapes me. Oh, and you might want to read about some of the court judgments against numerous dioceses of the U.S. Catholic Church.

    Morris,

    ‘Tis all about accountability. Or the lack thereof.

    Thank you all for commenting.

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  5. It’s about time. Let justice roll.

    However, I might add that most congress people probably have a serious log/speck problem in regard to issues of corruption and misuse of finances.

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  6. Um, yeah, several Catholic dioceses have declared bankruptcy because of the cover-ups.

    Unfortunately, no bishops have yet seen jail time..but here’s hoping.

    (I say that as a Catholic)

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  7. As far as I am concerned all these tv preachers and their ministries can dry up and blow away. I suspect they do “some” good but by and large they are a blight on the Christian Church.

    I pastored many years near Rod Parsley. Now I live near Toledo and we have Michael Pitts. It is utterly amazing how people will defend these types of ministries. They see their extravagant lifestyle as a sign of God’s blessing. Seems Jesus wasn’t very well blessed.

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  8. The prophet Amos had some words for followers like these … he began them like this: “Woe to you, you cows of Bashan …” It went downhill from there.

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  9. A number of people have been asking me for my personal take on Senator Charles Grassley’s “investigation” into the finances of six major Christian ministry organizations. The ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee says donors deserve to have their “money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code.” Certainly, as an American consumer and donor myself, I want more and more transparency among all non-profits and religious organizations. It’s not just a matter of IRS regulations, it’s also a matter of ethics and common sense. If you want trust among your supporters, then let them know where their money is going.

    On the other hand, we have to note the fact that this is being done curiously in an election year, and these ministries represent literally millions of Christians in this country. Regardless of what you may think about the theology or doctrine of any of the ministries on the list, when a politician targets a particular religious group – especially at this level – it should be a serious cause for concern. Can you imagine how the media – and the population in general – would react if a ranking Senator called for the rounding up of the top six Muslim groups in America? Or the top six gay or lesbian organizations? How would the NAACP react if Grassley targeted the top six African-American organizations?

    Why am I suddenly reminded of Joseph McCarthy? I can understand an investigation into a single organization with the caveat that there is reliable evidence of wrongdoing. But when a politician targets such a large number of organizations that represents so many Americans – all from a single religious group – then we need to worry.

    I have no idea of what caused him to do this, although the name Ole Anthony keeps showing up in news reports. Anthony assisted Dianne Sawyer in her exposé of Robert Tilton and two other Dallas-based televangelists, W.V. Grant and Larry Lea, for the ABC news magazine PrimeTime Live. Since that time, Anthony has been involved in investigations of numerous religious figures, working with programs such as NBC Dateline and 60 Minutes. I don’t know Anthony or his motivations, (many of which maybe sincere and helpful) but a book does exist which purports to “expose” his organization. Perhaps the senator should look into that.

    I wonder if Anthony also exposes Islamic organizations that funnel money into questionable causes? And if Grassley is concerned about organizations like that, instead of organizations that millions of Americans love and follow?

    Even if any of the organizations are found to be violating IRS rules, why a powerful Republican attacking a large group of Christians during an election year is beyond me. Right now, the smartest thing a Democratic presidential candidate could do is call for a stop to this insulting action.

    Remember – Joseph McCarthy targeted Communists – a group that we were legitimately terrified of back in the 1950’s. But we stopped him. Now, I think it’s time to stop Senator Grassley.

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  10. Gee, Phil, thanks for copying and pasting your blog post into my blog. Just wondering. Is it possible any of these folk are your clients?

    Your post/comment is disingenuous at best. From your bio,

    His consulting clients have included Pastor Joel Osteen in Houston, Joyce Meyer in St. Louis, Ed Young Jr. in Dallas, Pastor Jack Graham in Dallas, Feed The Children in Oklahoma City, and many more – a virtual “who’s who” in the religious media world.

    Or perhaps a rogues gallery.

    Perhaps had the Church dealt effectively with the heresy of the prosperity gospel and its practioners, Grassley et al would not have needed to step in. I for one will cheer them on. Hopefully it won’t create too big a dent in your pocket book.

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  11. When I stop to think about it, I can’t remember even once hearing any of the people you mention preaching about Ananias and Sapphira.

    I’m suprised to hear that Joyce Meyer had cosmetic surgery, who unfortunately, seems to have a perpetual frown. I’ve noticed it when I’m trying to channel surf fast enough to skip the Miracle Channel to avoid that angry look in her eyes…which gets me flustered and, darn – sets my remote on the Vision Channel and Peter Popoff and his miracle spring water. By the way, my TV directory puts his show in the ‘shopping’ category, along with the green prosperity cloth.

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  12. NEWS RELEASE NOVEMBER 8, 2007
    (Bill says: I’ve removed this “News Release” as it appears to be just as much about selling something as our “prosperity brethern”.

    Carl, you are welcome to comment here. Just don’t bother to cut and paste again. Or that will deleted as well.)

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  13. Shades of the Prayer Palace.

    This is about compliance with the law, all it takes is a cursory reading of the letters sent out.

    Any denominational accounting firm wouldn’t blink. Independent ministries are far more subject to abuses.

    What the heck is this Freedom Journal cut and paste doing cluttering up your comments?

    If Carl A. Patton has something to say, tell him to just say it instead of pasting in a book in your comments on your dime.

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  14. Bad info on Joyce Meyer’s toilet. It’s actually a commode – an antique chest of drawers donated (not purchased) to the ministry by a supporter.

    Story here link to philcooke.com

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  15. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

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  16. I am just wondering…why can’t we spend our money the way we want. We buy tickets to sporting events, movies, etc all the while making actors, directors, etc very rich. Is it that you think that people who love Jesus can’t be rich also. If I make a dchoice to tithe to my church, give money to an the movie industry, why is it your business.

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What do you think?