March 26, 2007
From below, it looks just like a flying cross
More jet-setting for Jesus:
Christian ministries and charities promise to do all kinds of good things with your money, and that makes donors feel great about sending in their checks. The problem is, they can’t always find out exactly how their donation is being spent.
The givers are very confident that they will. One parishioner told ABC News that “when I give to this church, I know that my money’s being put to excellent use. Without one question.” While her pastor, Fred Price of Ever Increasing Faith Minis-
tries, does support inner city programs with donors’ money, she’s apparently not bothered when he also boasts that “I live in a 25-room mansion, I have my own $6 million yacht, I have my own private jet and I have my own helicopter and I have seven luxury automobiles.”
At least he tells his parishioners about all this wealth, but many preachers don’t advertise how well they live.
The popular Kenneth Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries lives in a large mansion in Texas. He recently asked his audience to help him spread the gospel by giving him $20 million to buy a new jet. Copeland promised that the plane “will never, ever be used as long as it is in our care, for anything other than what is becoming to you, Lord Jesus.”
[Leonard] runs a company called Stewardship Partners, which invests wealthy clients’ money in companies that he believes have Christian-friendly values. Before that, Leonard spent a decade as a high-powered money manager for Templeton Investments.
When he quit, he was in charge of $3.5 billion. He walked away from a seven-
figure salary because he felt called by God, and says, “You know, when you feel called to do something, you do it.”
That calling was to look after donors’ money and make sure it was spent properly. He says some people are being “hosed” because they just don’t know what’s being done with the cash they give.
… As a result, Leonard started up the research group Ministrywatch. They asked Christian ministries and charities to reveal their finances. At first it was tough going, since, he says, “nobody had ever held them to account from an independent perspective. So they were totally freaked out by it.”
Many said no, others threatened to sue. Leonard wasn’t intimidated. He says his attitude was “bring it on. And you know, frankly, they like to threaten that, but they don’t actually like to do it. Because if they did it, they would raise the awareness of the whole problem to a higher level.”
While charities legally must report their finances, ministries are generally exempt. However, Leonard feels they have a moral responsibility to do so. As a result, Ministrywatch criticizes 28 Christian groups, including some of the most successful televangelists in America, all for having little or no financial transparency. (Click here to see the full list.)
… A small but prominent number of groups receive “Donor Alerts.” These are the cases where he has been able to review some financial information, and as a result, has serious concerns about how their money is spent. That list includes [Jan and Paul Crouch] and their Trinity Broadcasting Network—the largest religious broadcaster in the world.
Ministrywatch revealed that Trinity Broadcasting sits on a $340 million cash hoard, and owns houses in an exclusive Orange County, Calif., community hidden behind very regal gates.
They control one mansion worth about $4 million, and an even bigger one—over 10,000 square feet—that’s worth about $6 million. The Crouches also travel the world in a jet worth a reported $7 million.
Leonard criticizes the Crouch’s lifestyle, noting that “we would expect that [in] most Christian ministries, the leadership should have some degree of sacrifice. You want to see that. Jesus lived a life of sacrifice.”
Paul Crouch, however, disagrees. In the past, he has fired back, charging that “these critics want us to be humble and poor like Jesus. … Let me tell you how subtle that is from Satan himself. If God’s people are poor as Job’s turkey, who’s going to pay to send the gospel to the ends of the earth?”
Jan Crouch has expressed similar feelings, saying that “It’s the devil, it’s Satan. If he has said don’t give, hey, you’re listening to the wrong side.”
Let me get this straight: Satan is working through Rusty Leonard to deprive the Crouches of their Canadair CL-600 Regional Jet? (Which, by the way, is worth a whole lot more than $7 million, even used.) Makes total sense.
In response, Leonard notes that “it’s kind of hard to declare that you’re living in a fine house as a good deed. That just seems like a selfish deed. They do some good work. But they could spend a whole lot more money if they sold the house and the car and the jet plane.”
But how could they then “send the gospel to the ends of the earth?”
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