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US Senate investigates TV evangelists

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William Crawley | 11:06 UK time, Monday, 19 November 2007

benny_hinn-india.jpgSenator Charles Grassley, the leading Republican on the US Senate's Finance Committee, has asked six celebrity televangelists to provide financial statements and records for an investigation into possible improprieties. The TV evangelists -- including Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer, who recently conducted campaings in Northern Ireland -- have until 6 December to file their accounts with the committee.

The Senate investigation appears to have been prompted by complaints from Ole Anthony's Trinity Foundation, "a watchdog monitoring religious media, fraud and abuse".

Television ministries in the US (controversially) enjoy tax-emept status. Senator Grassley has therefore written to six leading ministries requesting accounts and detailed answers to pretty direct questions (see below). In addition to asking about the use of private jets and luxury homes, the Committee would also like to know what possible ministry purpose Joyce Meyers is assigning to her $23,000 "commode with marble top".

What the Senate Finance Committee wants to know

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas, a $20 million organization and prosperity gospel pioneer. Questions were raised about the transfer of church assets to a for-profit company, Security Patrol Inc., a $1 million loan from Gloria Copeland to the group, and a "personal gift" of more than $2 million given to Kenneth Copeland to mark the ministry's 40th anniversary. A Copeland spokeswoman released a statement saying the ministry is working on a response to Grassley's letter, follows all laws and best practices governing churches and religious nonprofit groups, and "will continue to do so."

Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga. Grassley's letter asks for records on private planes, board makeup, compensation and donations and "love offerings" to visiting ministers. In a statement, Dollar called his ministry an "open book" and said he would cooperate. He also questioned whether the investigation could "affect the privacy of every community church in America."

Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas, is asked about use of a private jet, a home in Dana Point, Calif. and "layover trips" while traveling on ministry business. Hinn did not respond to requests for comment.

Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga., was questioned about his salary, a $1.4 million real estate transaction and whether he, and not the board, holds sole authority over the organization. Long plans to fully comply with the Senate's request, and his church has "several safeguards" to ensure transactions comply with laws governing churches, according to a statement from Long's spokesman.

Joyce and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., who were quizzed about receiving donations of money and jewelry and the handling of cash from overseas crusades. They also were asked about expenditures at ministry headquarters, including a $30,000 conference table and a $23,000 "commode with marble top."


  • 1.
  • At 04:33 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Rhea wrote:

I'm an American, and some Christians over here have attacked Sen. Grassley for what he's doing, but I think that it's important to note that he himself is a committed Christian. I think that he just wants to make sure that everything is on the "up and up" as it were. My thinking is that if these ministries haven't done anything wrong, then they shouldn't worry about anything. They might be slightly inconvienced by this, but that's it. Now, if some "shady business" HAS been going on...then they're going to be in a LOAD of trouble.
Do television ministries not enjoy tax-exempt status in the UK or Ireland? What about non-television ministries?

  • 2.
  • At 05:23 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • franky, andy-town wrote:

Doesnt surprise me at all. Thats the prosperity gospel for you!

  • 3.
  • At 08:36 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Billy wrote:

He was Born of Jewish parents in an obscure village, the child of a virgin peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, He worked in a carpenter’s workshop until He was thirty, and then, for three years, He was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book, He never held an office, He never owned a home, He never had a family, He never went to college, He never put his foot into a big city, He never travelled more than two hundred miles from the place he was born, and He never did one of these things that usually accompany greatness. He had no BA’s or BD’s or PhD’s his credentials were himself.

He had nothing to do with this world, except the naked power of His manhood. While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross, between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth, while he was dying-and that was His coat. When He was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.

Twenty wide centuries have come and gone, and today he is the centre piece of the human race, and the leader of the centre column of progress. I am far from within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon earth as powerfully as His solitary life.

Author Unknown

  • 4.
  • At 03:08 AM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • David Devlin wrote:

This kind of financial abuse is precisely what one expects of fundamentalisy christianity, which is individualistic and focused on "rewards". Not only spiritual rewards in heaven but also material blessings on earth. It's interesting that very few evangelicals are coming out of the woodwork to dissociate themselves from these minitries. When Meyer visited Belfast recently she was surrounded by evangelicals on the local church scene. Its time for churches to stand up and be counted in this basis moral question.


So they agree with the ministries' message. For what do they need to "stand up and be counted"? They already have.

  • 6.
  • At 04:20 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Joe wrote:

He had no PhD's?? Haha that has to be one of the silliest comments ever. I would suggest to you that Jesus's actual life hasnt had nearly as much influence on the world as those who promulgated and exaggerated his life for their own ends!!!

Leader of the centre column of progress today??? How do you justify that?

Commode with a marble top?? That is a disgrace and can never be justified. But all these charlatans have to do is say that God told them to buy it and their idiot flock will believe them!!!

  • 7.
  • At 04:29 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Ian Hall wrote:

As an unashamed Biblical fundamentalist I take exception to the nonsense which David Devlin has published .
Neither Hinn nor Meyer are fundamentalists . Meyer is a radical charismatic who would have much more in common with the charismatic/ecumenical movement.
In fact many fundamentalists have been severely critical of both Meyer and Hinn .
Please David attack fundamentalists if you wish but dont attempt to link us to the likes of Hinn and Meyer.
As far as evangelicals supporting these characters is concerned that is to the shame of some so-called evangelicals who frankly would support any heresy if they thought it would gather them a crowd .

  • 8.
  • At 05:26 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • BRENDAN HILL wrote:

Whether Ian Hill likes it or not, these characters are fundamentalist christians and evangelicals. Their theology is entirely within that tradition. He may be embarrassed to have them as bed fellows, and I can understand why he would, but that's exactly where they are. Pity is that churches haven't come out against these groups already, it's left to the Senate to raise the concern.

  • 9.
  • At 11:16 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Ian Hall wrote:

It is deceitful nonsense to attempt to link the charismaticism of Hinn and Meyer to biblical fundamentalism .
Fundamentalists like myself have opposed the charismatic movement . It is the ecumenical camp who have welcomed the big name charismatics from the US .
Those who are propagating the blatant falsehood that Hinn and Meyer are fundamentalists are just interested in any opportunity to blacken biblical fundamentalists .
It is the ecumenical camp who should be blushing at this news .

I must admit Ian is right on this. Fundamentalists have opposed anything charismatic (or remotely lively) for years; not that that's any endorsement of their own ideology. Hinn etc. tend to be most welcomed by pentecostal fundies rather than boring fundies: but what's the difference? I've seen Benny Hinn in Brussels - it was a few of the most entertaining hours I've ever spent anywhere. It's a cracking show, and a fantastic sociological interest, and it's even uplifting and inspirational in parts..... but it's business.

  • 11.
  • At 12:36 AM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • helenanne smith wrote:

All of those being investigated are fundamentalist evangelical christians. They are literalistic in their reading of the bible. They believe exactly what evangelicals believe about the bible and salvation and the church. The only difference is they preach a "prosperity" gospel: if you follow god, he will bless you materially. I agree with those who complain that evangelicals have not doen enough to expose these groups financially.

  • 12.
  • At 10:07 AM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • Ian Hall wrote:

John , I appreciate your honesty on this one .
It is a pity others feel the need to resort to dishonest slurs to advance their arguments.
It is a matter of public record that both Hinn and Meyer are radical charismatics . They have been repeatedly criticised by fundamentalists and they themselves are deeply hostile to biblical fundamentalists like myself .
It is those on the ecumenical wing of christendom that have welcomed and encouraged charismaticism .

  • 13.
  • At 10:56 AM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • D Smyth wrote:

"It is deceitful nonsense to attempt to link the charismaticism of Hinn and Meyer to biblical fundamentalism ."

Every time I get worried about the rise of loony fundamentalists, comments like these reassure me that they'll never be able to agree with each other for long enough to do any real damage...

  • 14.
  • At 12:48 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • vsuk wrote:

Charismaticism or Fundamentalism? People's Liberation Front of Judea or Judean People's Liberation Front?

  • 15.
  • At 01:56 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • dp wrote:

Benny Hinn, isn't he the one that chased scantily dressed women around a park and slapped that little bald bloke on the head?

  • 16.
  • At 04:45 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • Dylan_Dog wrote:

"People's Liberation Front of Judea or Judean People's Liberation Front?"


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