How Greed Determines What Christians Watch

This article is quite old. Still it is informative now.


Preaching For Profit

By Alan Matheson – posted Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The scramble for cash and possessions has finally caught up with some of America’s leading televangelists. Six of the best – Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn, are now under investigation.

All are well known in Australia. They head the best seller lists in Christian bookshops; travel regularly to Australia, frequently in their own planes; host radio and television programs, and repatriate an unknown amount of cash to the USA each year. Before the Federal election, Copeland, confirming Pastor Danny Nalliah’s prophetic anointing of John Howard as Prime Minister, declared that Howard, was “God’s man in Australia”. A director of Kenneth Copeland Ministries Eagle Mountain International Church Ltd, is Nabi Saleh, of Gloria Jeans Coffee, and elder of Hillsong church.

Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee is leading the charge into allegations of financial fiddling. At stake is the honesty, transparency and integrity of some of the biggest names in religious circles in Australia and the USA. Advertisement

The issue, as Grassley explains is that, “Americans give generously to religious organisations, and those who do so, should be assured that their donations are being used for tax exempt purposes of their organisations”.

In an exceptionally detailed letter, to Joyce Meyer, for example, the Committee has requested, all audited financial statements: lists of all domestic and overseas bank accounts and investments; details of all her aircraft, as well as flight records; a listing of all expense account items including clothing and cosmetic surgery; records of all houses, including purchase and maintenance costs; details of all monies earned overseas; as well as confirmation of the costs of such items as the marble topped toilet!

Let there be no doubt, television preaching is exceptionally profitable.

All of those named, run multimillion dollar empires. Creflo Dollar took in US$69 million in 2006; Joyce Meyer US$124 million; and Copeland, after appealing for an additional US$20 million has just taken delivery of his fifth plane. Lifestyles are excessive. Copeland was given US$2 million to mark the anniversary of his ministry; Dollar was given a Rolls Royce, and White gave a colleague a Bentley convertible.

A greed based theology has its rewards. For Joyce Meyer, “God has made her rich … .a US$10 million corporate jet … a US$107,000 silver grey Mercedes, her US$2 million dollar home and houses worth another US$2 million for her children are all blessings … straight from the hand of God”.

Fiddling cash and claiming the blessing of God is not just a travesty of the Christian faith, it may also break the law. Accountability, integrity and transparency seemed to be of little concern to the religious right, not only in the USA but also in Australia.

Most of the mainline American denominations and established religious organisations are members of the self regulating, but highly regarded, Evangelical Council for Evangelical Accountability (ECFA). None of the six under investigation are members., an organisation monitoring and auditing the religious right, has graded Dollar, Hinn and Copeland at the bottom of its transparency table. No such auditing organisations exist in Australia.

Para church groups from the Australian religious right have been involved in the federal election campaign. The Australian Christian Values Institute, with Saltshakers, ran it’s “Christian values checklist” in the daily papers; Catch the Fire Ministries conducted conferences in Parliament House, and the Australian Christian Lobby, a private company, with staff in most states was involved in national mail outs and a sophisticated media campaign. None have public and accessible information on the sources of their finances.

These same groups mobilise the religious right, unsuspecting participants, as well as politicians in Parliament House on national days of thanksgiving, praying for rain, sexual integrity forums, and Christian values. Where their finances come from remains a mystery. Houston’s Hillsong was turning over some $40 million in 2005; Pringle�s Christian City Church, more than $38 million, and Mier’s Christian Outreach Centre, $48 million. (Business Review Weekly, May 26, 2007)

According to a former general secretary of the Assemblies of God, Philip Powell, in the same business report, “many of these ministers have made themselves multimillionaires. They are no more than business magnates who benefit from the tax-free status of corporations … and who have cashed in on a loophole in the … tax system”.

In 2005 the USA Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began an inquiry into Hinn’s finances, and donors were advised by Ministry Watch to consider withholding their contributions. At the time, Hinn’s salary was reported to be upwards of a million dollars; he was getting around in a $100,000 Mercedes, and living in a $10 million seaside mansion.

With Australia�s Channel 10 running Hinns� programs, Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) was informed both of the IRS investigation and that Hinn was not a registered fundraiser. CAV responded saying that “in fact Benny Hinn Ministries did not appear to be exempt from the requirements to register”. In 2007 Hinn Ministries appears to be still missing from CAV’s registered fundraising list.

Australia’s premier religious broadcaster, the Australian Christian Channel, continues to program Copeland, Hinn and Meyer, seemingly without any concerns.

Grassley’s Committee is demanding accountability and transparency. There is no such demand being made on churches and Para church organisations in Australia.

In the meantime for much of the religious right, preaching continues to be a profitable pastime.

4 thoughts on “How Greed Determines What Christians Watch

  1. After 9 years of giving, man has no Chrysler, no wife, no wealth

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch/November 17, 2003

    Bob Schneller gave to Joyce Meyer until it hurt. Nine years later, he says, it still aches.

    He’s out of money, out of a marriage and out of faith with televangelists.

    Schneller, 59, lives alone in a 600-square-foot, early-model mobile home in House Springs. He’s surrounded by videotapes of televangelists. He says he studies the tapes to learn how he was taken in by Meyer.

    Not so long ago, Schneller spent his days hanging on Meyer’s every word. The money he gave her – $4,400 a year – surpassed his annual mortgage payment. He and his wife lived on $30,000 a year.

    “She teaches you that if you give a seed offering, it will come back tenfold or a hundredfold,” Schneller said. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but you get caught up in it. You believe it as truth.”

    Schneller was reared as a Roman Catholic but said he was reborn as a Protestant Christian when he was 40.

    A year later, in 1985, the Schnellers started attending Life Christian Center, near their home in Fenton. At the center, they learned what Schneller calls the prosperity message: If you give, you will get more in return. And there they met Joyce Meyer, then an up-and-coming preacher.

    “Her teachings were practical,” Schneller said. “I’d never heard anyone preach that way before.”

    He and his wife, Mary Jo, followed Meyer to her church meetings in a Ramada Inn in South County, one of several places she preached.

    Soon, the Schnellers were working for Meyer. Bob Schneller became Meyer’s exterminator. Mary Jo worked as Meyer’s hairdresser.

    Most of what Meyer taught, Schneller said, is what he calls the “name-it-and-claim-it” theology: If you have enough faith, you can name what you want.

    “So I laid across the hood of a brand new 1985 Chrysler Fifth Avenue,” Schneller said. “I never did get it. She would say that I didn’t have enough faith, or that there was sin in my life blocking the blessing. It always goes back to you.”

    The Schnellers began giving more to Meyer: $350 a month. They went to Meyer’s home Bible sessions.

    By the early 1990s, Meyer’s popularity started to climb.

    But Schneller was less fortunate. His back went out, and he lacked money to pay his bills. He went to Meyer and told her what was happening. She laid her hands on him, he said, and told him that he would be healed, that his problems would soon go away.

    “One day, I went out to my mailbox, and there inside were six $100 bills wrapped up,” Schneller said. “Right after that, she had me give testimony, and she used it to prove that you can be blessed.”

    Despite the $600, nothing changed, he said. He went on workers’ compensation and underwent neck surgery. Meyer called him to wish him well, he said. She began giving seed money to a ministry that Schneller and his wife had started, Sword of Spirit of Truth.

    Then, in the spring of 1994, a new technique was percolating among charismatics like Meyer. It was called “holy laughter,” a ritual in which the congregation sings songs repetitively. The preacher steps onstage and begins laughing. Immediately, the room breaks into laughter. People slide out of their chairs and onto the floor, “drunk on the Holy Spirit.”

    But Schneller felt uncomfortable with it.

    The Schnellers went to a church in Waterloo. There, Schneller spoke out against holy laughter. A few days later, Schneller said, his wife was called into Meyer’s office.

    Meyer told her, Schneller said, that because of their position on holy laughter, “I can no longer support you.”

    They parted ways.

    Since then, Schneller’s marriage has fallen apart. He works as a security guard and attends a “regular church, where the Bible is taught verse by verse.”

    Referring to Meyer’s ministry, he says: “My advice to other people thinking about getting involved and giving: Don’t give it – you’re being ripped off.”

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