Wolves in Sheep's Clothing – Modern Day False Teachers and Prophets!
Greedy Radio & TV Evangelists! Follow the money!
“Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter” (Isaiah 56:11).
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” (2nd Peter 2:3)
Christianity began as a new birth in Jesus Christ. When it went to Athens, it became a philosophy. When it went to Rome, it became an organization. When it spread throughout Europe, it became a culture. When it came to America, it became a business.
In view of billions of lost souls who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, imagine how many souls might be saved with the money wasted on antiques, jets, jewelry, fancy cars, mansions, wardrobes and watches. Did you know that 2,500,000,000 people in this world live on less than $2 a day? It's true! Do you want to help Benny Hinn buy another Rolex, or help a missionary get a megaphone, some Bibles, a bicycle, a warm coat or even a pair of shoes, all of which are desperately needed. Oh how foolish are people today with money. Just as Simon learned in Acts 8:18-19, you can't buy God's blessing and power. It's not for sale. Don't be deceived by these wolves in sheep's clothing!
The Word of God plainly warns everyone about greedy false prophets who associate financial gain and prosperity with godliness…
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1st Timothy 6:3-5)
There are far more poor Christians than wealthy Christians in this world, and that is how God intended for it to be. James 2:5, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” 1st Peter 2:7, “UNTO YOU THEREFORE WHICH BELIEVE HE IS PRECIOUS…”
The TBN Salaries
In 1998, the Crouches showed a combined income of nearly $600,000… (OC Weekly) The Crouches occupy two of three seats on the TBN board of directors and earning six-figure incomes. He is paid $159,500 a year as president, while she gets $165,100 as vice president, IRS records show.
“Crouch’s earnings went from $159,500 in 1997 to $262,915 the following year. Jan, the organization’s vice president, also received a big raise. Her earnings more than doubled, going from $159,500 to $321,375 during the same time period.” (Mike Oppenheimer. Let Us Reason Ministries).
According to 2001 IRS income tax statements (990 forms),
“Paul Crouch, president of California-based Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, received $403,700. His wife, Janice Crouch, earned $347,500 as the vice president for the organization, which broadcasts sermons nationally on the Trinity Broadcasting Network”. (www.rickross.com)
But it gets worse.. information reported on the organization's most recent Form 990 has Paul Crouch’s compensation package at $419,000. The compensation package includes salary, cash bonuses, and unusually large expense accounts and other allowances. (www.charitynavigator.org).
The TBN Building
“Trinity Christian City International is a dazzling 65,000-square-foot building that houses a new studio, bookstore and theater, and a richly appointed suite of offices for TBN founder Paul Crouch. It is an office building, but its TV studios are designed to look like the inside of a Gothic cathedral, complete with stained-glass windows and padded pews for the audience.
The building was designed and decorated at the direction of the Crouches, from the main lobby's baroque marble staircase and 15-foot-high, molded polymer statue of Michael the Archangel, to the velvet settees in the executive suite.
When TBN purchased the building for $6 million, it was a drab, brown stucco-and-glass box, the former home of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, and the Crouches planned only minor changes. A new $1 million face was put on the building using an "exterior foam insulation system," Hubble (whose Fort Worth, Texas, construction company put a new facade on the building) said. Balustrades, columns and other architectural features were made from styrofoam, then covered with fiberglass mesh, coated with plaster and painted.
The main fountain in front of the building is used for full-immersion baptisms and is patterned after one in New York's Central Park. It is fed by a small aqueduct the Crouches call "the River of Life." Hubble said it cost about $1 million, and landscaping the property tacked on about $400,000.
Much of the interior features gleaming marble floors and intricately detailed ceilings. The lobby ceiling is covered with 217 hand-painted cherubs, many depicting the faces of TBN employees' children. The cherubs on the lobby ceiling were done by portrait artist Jane Garrison, who spent 10 months on it. She worked atop a scissors lift, a week at a time, eight to 10 hours a day, and then went home to Arkansas to rest before resuming. "By the end of the week, I kept thinking, 'If I have to climb this ladder and do one more cherub …,' " she said. "But then I'd get down and think, 'Yes, I'd like to do another.' " Garrison, who charges $3,000 apiece for full-length portraits at her Fayetteville studio, would not say how much she was paid for her work at TBN.
The exterior features elaborate Corinthian columns, colonial balustrades, French wrought iron and Greek colonnades with dental molding and egg-and-dart detailing. The faux brass ceilings in the bookstore and bathrooms are polished to a mirror finish. Austrian-style drapes plunge three stories from ceiling to floor. Everywhere are hand-painted gold moldings, beveled glass and portraits of cherubs.
The building also features the "Via Dolorosa," where visitors can stroll a movie set-like replica of the Jerusalem street over which Christ carried his cross to Calvary, complete with thunder and lightning effects.
A trio of water-spewing lion heads near the main entrance are fashioned after those at William K. Vanderbilt's Marble House in Newport, R.I. Frank McGervey, a Trabuco Canyon painting contractor who worked on other TBN projects, said the new headquarters was one "to die for." He noted that a laborious technique was used to apply several coats of paint to interior walls, giving them a richness much like fine furniture. (Kim Christensen and Carol McGraw. The Orange County Register. June 2, 1998).
TBN’s Private Suites
Visitors may stroll the manicured grounds, browse the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Gift Shop and relax in a state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Theater to watch high-definition videos of the life of Christ. But what most won't see at Trinity Broadcasting Network's new world headquarters is founder Paul Crouch's 8,000-square-foot executive suite, which occupies half of the top floor of the three-story building and is strictly off-limits to the public.
Behind doors kept locked throughout construction are a wet bar and sauna, a personal gym, meticulously handcrafted black walnut woodwork and ornate velvet furniture.
The third-floor quarters will serve as Crouch's executive suite. He broadcasts his "Praise the Lord" program from the second floor of the building, dubbed Trinity Christian City International. TBN officials described the quarters as "standard executive offices" and declined The Orange County Register's request to view them. Crouch does not grant interviews and would not comment.
But others who have been inside or helped build the suite say it is more befitting a mansion than an office building. "This makes Hearst Castle look like a doghouse," said Steve Oliver, a master journeyman carpenter.
While scores of hired hands worked on the exterior and other public areas of the building, Oliver and others in a crew of highly skilled carpenters spent several months last year on Crouch's private third-floor quarters. The finished product is "really rich looking," said Willa Bouwens-Killeen, a Costa Mesa senior planner.
"The wood is the very best quality, and they used the best craftsmen," she said. "It looks like something you'd expect in a mansion type of house rather than offices."
Work on the third floor was kept "under lock and key," said Oliver, whose account was verified by others involved in the project. He said as many as 40 carpenters worked on the project at any one time, while Richard Hubble, who owns a Fort Worth construction company that put a new facade on the building, put the number at about two dozen.
In either scenario, it required a lengthy and expensive process to install and finish top-quality black walnut columns and Corinthian columns, mantels, egg-and-dart moldings, lion's head inlays and other accouterments.
"There were probably 25 carpenters on that floor for six months," Hubble said. "When you figure 25 carpenters for six months at the California rate of 30 bucks or so an hour, it costs a bunch."
Adding substantially to the cost of Crouch's quarters were a variety of expensive, handcrafted woodwork items, including $825-apiece lions that flank the massive fireplace, and an array of columns priced at $1,500 each and up. All of the items were crafted from black walnut, said Stephen Enkeboll, president of Raymond Enkeboll Designs Architectural Woodcarvings in Carson, which caters to upscale clients.
"It is what is called veneer quality, the highest type of wood," he said, declining to disclose how much TBN spent on his company's products. Money seemed of little concern, Oliver and others said.
Doors were custom-made at a carpentry shop set up at the site. Walls were straight-lined with sophisticated laser equipment, and woodwork was installed in a painstaking fashion that eliminated visible joints or nail holes. A separate crew of furniture finishers spent about two months staining and polishing the woodwork, Hubble said.
Throughout the project, Oliver said, if anything was deemed to be less than perfect, it was ripped out and discarded. After he spent three weeks meticulously straight-lining the walls of a the executive suite dining room, Oliver said, TBN officials walked in one day and told him to start over.
"They came in, changed their minds and moved everything over a half an inch," he said. "They threw all that work away. There's probably 10 grand in that, and they threw it all away." The Crouches personally inspected the work, Oliver and others said. Jan, in particular, was quick to change or discard anything she didn't like, Oliver said.
"She came through once and was terrorizing everybody," he said. " 'Throw this out, throw that out.' You could see the smoke coming out of her." TBN officials defended the renovation project and disputed Oliver's contention that it is a monument to excess. "I wouldn't say they are lavish," art director Doug Marsh said. TBN Vice President Terrence Hickey agreed. "We have stayed to the vision God has given us," Hickey said. "We are careful with every penny."
He said the woodwork and other appointments are in keeping with the building's overall design theme. Inexpensive, ultramodern furnishings would be out of place, he said. "You don't go to IKEA and throw it in there," he said. (By Kim Christensen and Carol McGraw. The Orange County Register. June 2, 1998.
The Crouch’s Homes
Televangelists Jan and Paul Crouch of the Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network have purchased a Newport Beach house for close to $5 million, Orange County Realtors say. The home was described as "a palatial estate with ocean and city views." The Crouches had been living in a smaller house in the same neighborhood. The house they bought has six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a billiard room, a climate-controlled wine cellar, a sweeping staircase and a crystal chandelier. The three-story, nearly 9,500-square-foot house, which has an elevator, also has a six-car garage, a tennis court and a pool with a fountain. The house is on slightly more than an acre. Jan Crouch had been wanting a bigger yard for her dogs, sources said. (Los Angeles Times, Nov 4th. 2001).
One of the Crouch estates is TBN's ranch in Colleyville, TX, just minutes away from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The 80-plus acre ranch is located between the city limits of Colleyville and Southlake – two of the wealthiest cities in Texas. The ranch, which contains eight houses and horse stables, is estimated to be worth about $10 million.
"Hellooooo Woorld!" yells Paul, who has seen much of it in the past 25 years. He gets around nowadays in a Canadair Challenger 600 executive jet worth about $13 million. (Orange County Register, 1998)
Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church
“30,000 people endure punishing traffic on the narrow roads leading to Lakewood Church every weekend to hear Pastor Joel Osteen deliver upbeat messages of hope. A youthful-looking 42-year-old with a ready smile, he reassures the thousands who show up at each of his five weekend services that "God has a great future in store for you." … Osteen's best-seller, Your Best Life Now, has sold 2.5 million copies since its publication last fall…. In his book, Osteen talks about how his wife, Victoria, a striking blonde who dresses fashionably, wanted to buy a fancy house some years ago, before the money rolled in. He thought it wasn't possible. "But Victoria had more faith," he wrote. "She convinced me we could live in an elegant home…and several years later, it did come to pass." … Osteen's flourishing Lakewood enterprise brought in $55 million in contributions last year, four times the 1999 amount, church officials say”. (Earthly Empires, Businessweek.com)
Early in 2001, when the city of Houston decided to build a new sports/entertainment complex the powers that be placed the Compaq Center (home to the Houston Rockets) on the market. It is extremely unlikely that they dreamed it would be leased by Lakewood church, much less that the church would make a one-time, lump-sum payment of $12 million to the city for the first 30-year lease period (with an option to renew). Which, as it turns out, is only the beginning. After all one has to make the transition from basketball to god, from run of the mill entertainment complex to a place “unlike any other place in the nation”.. a $70 million project.
So what kind of place is this one of a kind worship center going to be. According to INJOY Stewardship Services, whom Joel Osteen hired as consultants.. “The new complex, which is to be called Lakewood Church Central, will transform the Compaq Center from a sports venue to a 21st century worship center. The main floor, which is now flat (to accommodate basketball and hockey), will be sloped to allow for direct viewing of the platform. Below the main floor, the current locker rooms and administrative offices will become the new Children's Ministry Center-an 85,000-square foot area now being designed by former Disney artists. The exterior of the building will be enhanced with architectural elements that carry the interior design features to the outside. As part of that renovation, new columns will be added to the south and west ends of the building.
The Lakewood Church Central arena will seat over 16,000 people yet achieve a sense of intimacy through state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video. The stage area will allow for the Pastor's mobility while providing complete 360-degree visibility to ensure that every seat has a direct view of the pulpit. The stage will be surrounded by three high-definition screens which provide live image support for every service. The new choir loft embraces the worship platform in two curving arcs, with seating for over 250 members.
The Lobby and Food Court, with its dynamic lighting and decorative features, will create a warm atmosphere in which the congregation can gather before and after each service. This new facility will include a bookstore, numerous resource centers, meeting rooms, and information centers conveniently located throughout the lobby area.
Describing his vision for the church's new home, Osteen explains: "We intend to share this great resource and make Lakewood Church Central a gathering point for the entire city of Houston. The ice rink and basketball facilities will remain open for families and city leagues. There will be concerts, sporting events, family conferences, conventions, business workshops, personal growth seminars and much more -and all of these opportunities will bring in people from all walks of life. We're going to touch untold thousands of lives in this place." After it opens in July, he predicts weekend attendance will rocket to 100,000. Says Osteen: "Other churches have not kept up, and they lose people by not changing with the times." (Emphasis Ours)
The East Building, a yet-to-be-built four-story complex, will house the International Broadcast and Production Center, the Youth Complex, the main Lakewood Bookstore and the new Grand Entrance. The new broadcast facility will produce Lakewood's weekly television program, the nation's top-rated devotional program as determined by Nielsen Media Research. The Grand Entrance and Lobby will be a spectacular multi-story foyer accessed through towering glass doors. Cascading water features will surround the main stairway and three new escalators leading up to the Worship Center Lobby. An array of new elevators, conveniently located throughout the facility, will aid access to both the Worship Center and the East Building”.
Incidentally Injoy’s founder John Maxwell was once pastor of a small church in Hillham, Indiana. Studying the “correlation between leadership effectiveness and effective ministry” John founded one business which ultimately led to ‘INJOY Stewardship Services’. He resigned his pastorate in 1995 to devote full attention to ISS, seeing “greater potential in the thousands of lives that could be reached through INJOY…”, He speaks frequently for several high-profile organizations such as Promise Keepers, Focus on the Family, Sam's Club, Chick-fil-A, Mary Kay, and various Fortune 500 companies.
“On June 20, 2005, Osteen sat for an interview with Larry King on CNN’s The Larry King Show. King introduced Osteen as “evangelism’s hottest rising star, pastor for the biggest congregation in the United States.” And what does he preach? Osteen said he doesn’t get into controversial subjects like sin and judgment. False religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism don’t concern him. He doesn’t really know who’s going to hell and who isn’t”
Lakewood celebrates “the king,” Elvis Presley
From Ingrid Schlueter of sliceoflaodicea.com who…
“…personally talked with one Elvis impersonator in Houston who has performed numerous times at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church. … It is somehow a fitting metaphor for these churches that the false god of their choice is a bloated, drug-infested rock star who died a lonely, needless and tragic death on the floor of his own bathroom.”
“It seems Elvis impersonators are in big demand there as he is performing on the 22nd of October, this Saturday, for a nurses get together at the church. He said that it doesn't matter what kind of church he does Elvis at, it all "glorifies the Lord". He has 20 different outfits, one of which has 1,000 pieces of cut Austrian crystal and made by the same guy who made Elvis's suit of the same type. He said he wears a special suit for "Heartbreak Hotel" in honor of Elvis' first gold record. I haven't quite recovered from the conversation. Ralph stressed that he doesn't impersonate Elvis, because nobody can. "I pay tribute to him," he said. "The kids really eat it up," he added.”
“Since Hagee and his wife, Diana Hagee, founded GETV 25 years ago, the organization has gone from a back-room operation broadcasting Sunday sermons to San Antonio area viewers to a 50,000-square-foot multimedia studio broadcasting to 127 television stations and 82 radio stations nationwide…
…. According to the 990 forms for GETV, the organization in 2001 netted $12.3 million from donations, $4.8 million in profit from the sales of books and tapes, and an additional $1.1 million from various other sources, including rental income.
As the nonprofit organization's president, Hagee drew $540,000 in compensation, as well as an additional $302,005 in compensation for his position as president of Cornerstone Church, according to GETV's tax statements.
He also received $411,561 in benefits from GETV, including contributions to a retirement package for highly paid executives the IRS calls a "rabbi trust," so named because the first beneficiary of such an irrevocable trust was a rabbi.
The John Hagee Rabbi Trust includes a $2.1 million 7,969-acre ranch outside Brackettville, with five lodges, including a "main lodge" and a gun locker. It also includes a manager's house, a smokehouse, a skeet range and three barns.
Taken together, his payment package, $842,005 in compensation and $414,485 in benefits, was one of the highest, if not the highest, pay package for a nonprofit director in the San Antonio area in 2001.”
”Hagee's compensation was among the highest pay packages for television evangelists in 2001, according to IRS 990 filings”
In Addition Hagee’s wife “Diana Hagee received compensation of $67,907 as vice president of GETV and $58,813 as the special events director for Cornerstone Church.” (www.rickross.com)
Joyce Meyer… Ministry Headquarters
The ministry's headquarters is a three-story jewel of red brick and emerald-color glass that, from the outside, has the look and feel of a luxury resort hotel. Built two years ago for $20 million, the building and grounds are postcard perfect, from manicured flower beds and walkways to a five-story lighted cross.
The driveway to the office complex is lined on both sides with the flags of dozens of nations reached by the ministry. A large bronze sculpture of the Earth sits atop an open Bible near the parking lot. Just outside the main entrance, a sculpture of an American eagle landing on a tree branch stands near a man-made waterfall. A message in gold letters greets employees and visitors over the front entryway: "Look what the Lord Has Done."
The building is decorated with religious paintings and sculptures, and quality furniture. Much of it, Meyer says, she selected herself.
A Jefferson County assessor's list offers a glimpse into the value of many of the items: a $19,000 pair of Dresden vases, six French crystal vases bought for $18,500, an $8,000 Dresden porcelain depicting the Nativity, two $5,800 curio cabinets, a $5,700 porcelain of the Crucifixion, a pair of German porcelain vases bought for $5,200.
The decor includes a $30,000 malachite round table, a $23,000 marble-topped antique commode, a $14,000 custom office bookcase, a $7,000 Stations of the Cross in Dresden porcelain, a $6,300 eagle sculpture on a pedestal, another eagle made of silver bought for $5,000, and numerous paintings purchased for $1,000 to $4,000 each.
Inside Meyer's private office suite sit a conference table and 18 chairs bought for $49,000. The woodwork in the offices of Meyer and her husband cost the ministry $44,000.
In all, assessor's records of the ministry's personal property show that nearly $5.7 million worth of furniture, artwork, glassware, and the latest equipment and machinery fill the 158,000-square-foot building.
As of this summer, the ministry also owned a fleet of vehicles with an estimated value of $440,000. The Jefferson County assessor has been trying to get the complex and its contents added to the tax rolls but has failed.
Stylish sports cars and a plane
Meyer drives the ministry's 2002 Lexus SC sports car with a retractable top, valued at $53,000. Her son Dan, 25, drives the ministry's 2001 Lexus sedan, with a value of $46,000. Meyer's husband drives his Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG sedan. "My husband just likes cars," Meyer said.
The Meyers keep the ministry's Canadair CL-600 Challenger jet, which Joyce Meyer says is worth $10 million, at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield. The ministry employs two full-time pilots to fly the Meyers to conferences around the world.
Meyer calls the plane a "lifesaver" for her and her family. "It enabled us, at our age, to travel literally all over the world and preach the gospel" with better security than that offered on commercial flights, she said.
Security is important to Meyer, who says she has received death threats. She has a division of the ministry dedicated to her safety. Her officers wear pistols; they guard the headquarters' front gate, keeping out anyone but employees and invited guests. The ministry bought a $145,000 house where the security chief lives rent-free to keep him close to the ministry's headquarters.
The family compound
The ministry has also bought homes for other key employees.
Since 1999, the ministry has spent at least $4 million on five homes for Meyer and her four children near Interstate 270 and Gravois Road, St. Louis County records show.
Meyer's house, the largest of the five, is a 10,000-square-foot Cape Cod style estate home with a guest house and a garage that can be independently heated and cooled and can hold up to eight cars. The three-acre property has a large fountain, a gazebo, a private putting green, a pool and a poolhouse where the ministry recently added a $10,000 bathroom.
The ministry pays for utilities, maintenance and landscaping costs at all five homes. It also pays for renovations. The Meyers ordered major rehab work at the ministry's expense right after the ministry bought three of the homes. For example, the ministry bought one home, leveled it and then built a new home on the site to the specifications of Meyer's daughter Sandra and her husband, county records show.
Even the property taxes, $15, 629 this year, are paid by the ministry.
Meyer called the homes a "good investment" for the ministry and said the ministry bears the cost of upkeep and maintenance because the family is too busy to take care of such tasks. "It's just too hard to keep up with something like that when you travel as much as we do," Meyer said.
She said that federal tax law allows ministries to buy parsonages for their employees, so the arrangement does not violate any prohibitions against personal benefit. Meyer also said the decision to cluster the families together was a way to build a buffer to better ensure privacy and security.
"We put good people all around us," she said. "Obviously, if I was trying to hide anything or thought I was doing anything wrong, I wouldn't live on the corner of Gravois and 270."
The irrevocable trust
Meyer says she expects the best, from where she lives to how she looks. Much of her clothing is custom-tailored at an upscale West County dress shop. At her conferences, she usually wears flashy jewelry. She sports an impressive diamond ring that she said she got from one of her followers. Meyer has a private hairdresser. And, a few years ago, Meyer told her employees she was getting a face-lift.
Not everything is paid directly by the ministry.
Last year, the Meyers bought a $500,000 atrium ranch lakefront home in Porto Cima, a private-quarters club at Lake of the Ozarks. A few weeks later, they bought two watercrafts similar to Jet Skis and a $105,000 Crownline boat painted red, white and blue that they named the Patriot.
In 2000, the Meyers also bought her parents a $130,000 home just a few minutes from where the Meyers live.
The Meyers have put the Mercedes, the lake house, the boat and her parents' home into an irrevocable trust, an arrangement that tax experts say would help protect them from any financial problems at the minisry.
Meyer says she should not have to defend how she spends the ministry's money. "We teach and preach and believe biblically that God wants to bless people who serve Him," Meyer said. "So there's no need for us to apologize for being blessed."
Meyer's "trusted" board
For the most part, Meyer can spend the ministry's money any way she sees fit because her board of directors is handpicked. It consists of Meyer, her husband and all four of her children — all paid workers — as well as six of Meyer's closest friends. (Ministry officials said that daughter Laura Holtzmann has now resigned; state records still list her on the board.) "Our family is a huge help to us," Meyer said. "We couldn't do this if we didn't have somebody we trusted."
Board members Roxane and Paul Schermann are such close friends that for more than a decade they lived in the Meyers' home. The ministry employed both of them as high-level managers and in 2001 bought them a $334,000 home. Roxane Schermann no longer works at the ministry; her husband continues as a paid division manager. The Schermanns bought the house at the same price from the ministry in January. Delanie Trusty, the ministry's certified public accountant, also serves as the ministry board's secretary.
The board decides how the ministry's money is spent. The salaries of Meyer and her family are set by those board members who are not family members and are not employed by the ministry, Meyer's lawyer said. The arrangement meets IRS regulations, the lawyer said.
"We certainly wouldn't have enemies and people we don't know" on the board, Meyer said. "That wouldn't make any sense. Anybody who has a board is going to have people in favor of you."
Meyer and her ministry refuse to tell how much the ministry pays Meyer, her husband, her children and her children's spouses. "I don't make any more than I'm worth," Meyer said. "We're definitely within IRS guidelines."
Such an overlap between top administrators and board members concerns the IRS because "the opportunity to manipulate and control the organization is easier to accomplish," said Bruce Philipson of St. Paul, Minn., the IRS group manager of tax-exempt organizations for this region. (Carolyn Tuft and Bill Smith St. Louis Post-Dispatch 11/15/2003)
Pat Robertson is a wealthy man… An extremely wealthy man. Some estimates put his net worth at 1 billion. He lives on the top of a Virginia mountain, in a huge mansion with a private airstrip. He owns the Ice Capades, a small hotel, diamond mines, and until recently, International Family Entertainment, parent company of the Family Channel. How does a televangelist, who is supposedly involved in non-profit work, manage to create such a fortune for himself?
The ministry's income is unavailable, but newspaper accounts say the ministry paid $18 million in cash for his new 8,000-seat World Changers Church International on the southern edge of Atlanta. Creflo Dollar flies to speaking engagements across the nation and Europe in a $5 million private jet and drives a black Rolls-Royce. and travels in a $5 million private jet. Dollar's ministry became a focus of a court case involving boxer Evander Holyfield in 1999. The lawyer for Holyfield's ex-wife estimated that the fighter gave Dollar's ministry $7 million. Dollar refused to testify in the case. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch. STLtoday.com 11/18/2003)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 5, 2000 says this:
The Rev. Creflo Dollar Jr. has unabashedly embraced his name by building a religious empire on the message that his brand of piety leads to prosperity. He drives a black Rolls-Royce, flies to speaking engagements across the nation and Europe in a $5 million private jet and lives in a $1 million home behind iron gates in an upscale Atlanta neighborhood… The World Changers campus sits on a slight hill… Inside the church is a lobby befitting a five-star hotel. Chairs are scattered about on baby blue carpet thick enough to muffle the sound of the stadium-size crowd arriving for a Sunday service… There are no visible traditional Christian symbols – no cross, no image of Jesus, no stained-glass windows…Dollar lives in a $1 million home owned by the church in the Guilford Forest subdivision in southwest Atlanta. World Changers purchased another $1 million home on 27 acres in Fayette County in December. The church has amassed a fortune in real estate, mostly in College Park… As World Changers grew, so did Dollar's emphasis on prosperity. Dollar has no degree in theology. Much of his prosperity message, according to church and his family members, is based on the teachings of friend and spiritual mentor Kenneth Copeland… And a frequent criticism – that the church refuses to help nontithers – isn't true either, Lett said. Tithers simply "have priority," she said. People are not allowed to touch Dollar during services, she said, simply because "the anointing is flowing at that point." She said the church purchased a Rolls-Royce for Dollar's use because "he deserves the best."
The word Anointing has become arguably the most overused, overworked, misunderstood, misinterpreted term in the Pentecostal and Charismatic arenas.
The "million-dollar" wedding of Dr. Juanita Bynum, well-known evangelist and author of the best-selling Matters of the Heart, to Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III featured a wedding party of 80, all friends and family, 1,000 guests, a 12-piece orchestra, and a 7.76-carat diamond ring. The black-tie wedding cost "more than a million," the bride said, and included flowers flown in from around the world. "My dress," she says, "took nine months to make. All of the crystals (Swarovski) on the gown were hand-sewn. The headpiece was sterling silver, hand-designed. (www.marriage-planner.com).
On that chilly, overcast spring day, about 900 guests–including relatives, close friends and a quorum of Christian celebrities–shuffled through the revolving doors of the hotel's grand ballroom. What awaited them on the other side resembled Paris in April: gurgling fountains, a 10-piece orchestra, lots of soft candlelight, and the aroma of roses, calla lilies and cymbidium.
n the midst of this fantasyland, the bride appeared–wearing a platinum-colored satin gown designed by Tony Coralle and Peter Abony. The bodice, which was covered in Swarovski crystals, blossomed into a full skirt with floral embroidery trimmed in even more crystals. The 50-foot train, which reversed to a deeper shade of platinum, nearly covered the 200-foot aisle that Bynum walked down arm-in-arm with her father, Thomas Bynum.
As a young girl, I dreamed of having a beautiful wedding," Bynum told Charisma. She got her wish.
"Prophetess Bynum looked like a 21st century princess prepared for a royal coronation," said Joyce Rodgers, an evangelist with the Church of God in Christ, who traveled from Texas to attend the wedding. Other guests included Texas televangelist John Hagee, who assisted with the ceremony, and an eight-member camera crew from the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
The wedding party was huge, with more than 80 men, women and children participating. Bynum's bridesmaids lit up the processional wearing shimmering pink dusters with rhinestone buttons. Bynum and her dressmakers created the two-piece ensembles especially for the occasion.
"Juanita's wedding was fit for a queen," one guest from Chicago said. (She Tells It Like It Is By Vanessa Lowe Robinson. Charisma Magazine)
Robert Schuller: The Crystal Cathedral
“In September of 1959, ground-breaking ceremonies were held at the location of the present church property in Garden Grove, California. The Crystal Cathedral was completed in 1980, from which Schuller now tapes his weekly service and later broadcasts on his weekly "Hour of Power" television show (begun in 1970). This cathedral is a vast golden edifice with 10,000 windows, huge video screens, and a 10-foot tall angel hovering from the roof on a rope of gold. He has built up a congregation of over 9,500 members in a church that cost over $20 million.
The "Tower of Power" television ministry makes more than $50 million a year and is beamed to about 20 million viewers in more than 180 countries. Schuller claims to receive between thirty and forty thousand letters a week and has a mailing list of over one million people. He has authored more than 25 books, several of them national best sellers”. (Source: "A Profile of Robert Schuller," by J.P. Gudel, Forward, Spring 1985.)
Made almost entirely of glass (and a spiderweb framework of white steel), the star-shaped "cathedral" is something to behold: over 400 feet long and 200 feet across, rising some 12 stories above the ground, with an angular, mirror-like exterior, its transparent, sun-lit interior features a giant television screen, and an altar of rich marble (bearing a natural image that some think resembles Christ on the cross). The cathedral's pipe organ (with 16,000 pipes, it's among the five largest pipe organs in the world), the 100-plus voices of the Hour of Power Choir, or the electric fountain/stream that runs down the middle of the central aisle. The church seats almost 3,000 worshipers for Sunday services. But giant, sliding glass doors on the side of the church allow even more worshipers to watch the services from their cars in the parking lot.
Boasting over 12,000 panes of glass, and a sparkling, contemporary bell tower, the "cathedral " is an Orange County landmark visible for miles around. The new glass tower was added in 1990, and is a stunning edifice in its own right; at the tower's base you will find a tiny, dome-shaped chapel housing an uncommon, cross-shaped crystal. Instead the usual wooden church pews, the “cathedral.” offers soft, theatre-style, individual seats (each bearing a small plaque with the name of a donor). During Sunday services, the church offers a nursery and childcare services. (www.seeing-stars.com) Schuller's gospel is the replacement of negative self-concepts with positive ones. To Schuller, sin is merely the lack of self esteem.
He and his wife, Adonica, oversee his $16 million church, which they founded in 1996. The couple live in a six-bedroom, four-bath lakefront home on Cory Lake in northwest Tampa. The home includes a dock, spa, pool and gazebo. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch. STLtoday.com 11/18/2003)
“Jakes, who drives a Mercedes, has moved with his wife and their five children to a luxurious seven-bedroom home with swimming pool in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas.
“Flanked by a row of elegant cedars and surrounded by a tall iron gate, the $2.6 million pink brick house with fluted cream columns and a four-car garage is imposing even in this affluent neighborhood. Next door is the former mansion of oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, once known as the richest man in the world. The Hunt house has been undergoing repairs, and its lawn has withered to beige. These days it almost pales in comparison with its neighbor”. (www.trinityfi.org/press/tdjakes01.html)
‘I do think we need some Christians who are in first class as well as coach,’ Jakes said.” (Jim Jones, “Rising-star evangelist ministers to interracial congregation,” The Fort Worth Star Telegram, Aug.)
The Dallas Observer magazine reports:
“His conferences draw tens of thousands. His television show, broadcast on both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Black Entertainment Television, reaches hundreds of thousands. He has spawned his own industry, T.D. Jakes Ministries, which sells his books — 10 in all, with five best-sellers — and videotapes, the income from which allowed him to spend nearly $1 million last year on a residence in his hometown of Charleston, West Virginia.”11
The Dallas Observer goes on to report:
“He says he is not embarrassed by this, even though his extravagant lifestyle has caused controversy in his hometown that will likely follow him to Dallas. His suits are tailored. He drives a brand new Mercedes. Both he and his wife Serita are routinely decked out in stunning jewelry. His West Virginia residence — two homes side by side — includes an indoor swimming pool and a bowling alley. These homes particularly caused the ire of the local folks. One paper wrote at length about the purchase and made much of their unusual features. A columnist dubbed Jakes ‘a huckster.’” (Kaylois Henry, “Bishop Jakes Is Ready. Are You?,” The Dallas Observer magazine, June 20-26, 1996, pg. 19 and 22)
William Lobdell, a Times staff, wrote about target-rich environment: the unregulated industry of televangelism is estimated to generate at least $1 billion through its roughly 2,000 electronic preachers, including 80 nationally syndicated television pastors. He told of the founder of the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, Ole E Anthony, whose operatives struck dumpster pay dirt five years ago in south Florida when they found a travel itinerary for Benny Hinn, the Trinity Broadcasting Network's superstar faith healer who has filled sports arenas with ailing believers seeking miracles cures. Hinn's itinerary included first-class tickets on the Concorde from New York to London ($8,850 each) and reservations for presidential suites at pricey European hotels ($2,200 a night). A news story, including footage of Hinn and his associates boarding the jet, ran on CNN's "Impact." In addition, property records and videos supplied by Trinity investigators led to CNN and Dallas Morning News coverage of another Hinn controversy: fund-raising for a $30-million healing center in Dallas that has yet to be built.
According to a June article in The Dallas Morning News, shortly after Hinn announced his move to Texas, he said God had told him to build a "World Healing Center," and Hinn appealed for money. As much as $30 million was collected, but the center was never built. In April 2000, he told Trinity Broadcasting Network's Paul Crouch, "I'm putting all the money we have in the ministry to get out there and preach. The day (to build the healing center) will come. I'm in no hurry; neither is God."
Also about April 2000, Hinn's ministry began building a 58,000 square-foot office building in Irving. A few months after that, in August 2000, a holding company that is a subsidiary of Hinn's ministry began building a "parsonage" — a $3 million, 7,200-square foot oceanfront home — in Dana Point, Calif.
“Nor has Hinn publicly acknowledged his salary, though he told CNN in 1997 that his yearly income including book royalties was somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. A spokesman has said Hinn generates about $60 million a year in donations”. (The Sun Herald. Posted on Fri, May. 17, 2002).
However in a report dated 07/06/2005 the Denton Record Chronicle says this..
“According to documents provided to the newspaper by a watchdog group, the inquiry into the ministry began a year ago and the IRS has asked for dozens of detailed answers. The Trinity Foundation has investigated Hinn for more than a decade. Hinn ministry responses to IRS questions and a purported salary list for ministry officials are among documents that Trinity members said they salvaged from trash bins outside Hinn-related offices. The salary document lists Hinn as CEO and his annual earnings as $1.325 million.” (Emphasis Added)
“Since February of 2001, the Hinn Web site has been soliciting donations for a new orphanage to be built in this little town outside Mexico City saying it would be finished “soon.” But when we checked in Mexico, more than a year-and-a-half later, we could find no sign of any construction. But the Hinn web site kept promising that construction would be finished in, “a few short months.” That was news to the local official in charge of construction in the town, who told us the Hinn ministry hadn’t even been issued a building permit yet. What we did find, however, was this sign — curiously not in Spanish, but English — attached to a house the ministry called it’s ‘temporary orphanage,’ which appeared to be empty. The Hinn Web site continued to solicit donations”. (NBC News, Dec. 27, 2002).
“He lives with his wife and three children in a multimillion-dollar oceanfront mansion near the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dana Point…. In an attempt to clear up his image, Hinn suggests meeting a Times reporter at the Four Seasons hotel in Newport Beach. Accompanied by bodyguards, Hinn arrives in his new Mercedes-Benz G500, an SUV that retails for about $80,000. He is dressed casually in black, from designer sunglasses to leather jacket to shoes… Hinn fiddles with his cell phone, which sports a Mercedes logo….(Hinn drives an $80,000 Mercedes-Benz G500.). First, Hinn declines to divulge his salary. (He told CNN in 1997 that he earns between $500,000 and $1 million annually, including book royalties.) "Look, any amount I make, somebody's going to be mad," he says…. Hinn does reveal that the $89 million taken in by his church in 2002 is a record for his Grapevine, Texas-based ministry, which has experienced double-digit growth during the past three years through direct-mail requests, viewer donations and offerings taken at the Miracle Crusades. By comparison, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn. had revenues of $96.6 million in 2001, the last year available.
Many of Hinn's financial practices go against those set forth by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an organization that gained popularity after the televangelist scandals of the 1980s as Christian groups sought legitimacy in the eyes of donors. The council's standards include maintaining an independent board of directors with at least five members and allowing the public to view its finances” (Extracted from the Los Angeles Times July 27, 2003)
Paula And Randy White
The Tampa Tribune in an article by Michelle Bearden titled Expensive Walls recently reported: TAMPA – When preachers Randy and Paula White bought the $2.1 million red-brick house on Bayshore Boulevard last month, they were already thinking ahead to November. “We always do a `Table in the Wilderness' Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless,'' says Randy White, senior pastor at Without Walls International Church. “Now that we have the space to do it in our own yard, we'd like to find a way to bus them here for the party.''
The Whites, who came to Tampa 13 years ago, say they sometimes worried they wouldn't have rent money after they started their church in 1991.
Last year, they claimed a combined income of $600,000. Of that, $179,000 is Randy White's annual salary from Without Walls, a church that claims 15,000 members and brings in $10 million yearly in revenues. Co-pastor Paula White, who is gaining international acclaim as a televangelist and speaker, is paid $120,000. They also receive an $80,000 housing allowance from the church. Their ministry owns a jet airplane, a Cadillac Escalade and a Mercedes-Benz sedan.
The Whites did not reveal whether they had borrowed funds from their ministry to purchase their home . (Comparing Financial Accountability Among Evangelists. Cephas Ministries)
“The former U.S. senator Peter Fitzgerald has sold his house in Inverness, severing his lifelong ties with that northwest suburb…. Fitzgerald says that when he and his wife decided to sell the house last year, they did not state an asking price. Instead, their agent, Sheila Morgan of ReMax Unlimited Northwest, showed the property to five prospective buyers. James MacDonald, who is the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows and who also delivers a weekly sermon on a Christian radio broadcast, offered $1.9 million—“My minimum,” says Fitzgerald—and the deal closed this past October. “It’s a very exciting house,” says the Rev. MacDonald, “and it’s even better in the backyard.”” (Emphasis Added). (www.chicagomag.com – February 2006)
"Roberts' two California homes, partly for security reasons, were not much discussed by the ministry. Oral also remained sensitive about press criticism of his lifestyle. His house in Palm Springs, purchased for $285,000 and financed by a Tulsa bank, was his only privately owned home. In 1982 ORU endowment funds were used to purchase a $2,400,000 house in a high-security development in Beverly Hills. Considered a potentially profitable investment, the house served as Oral's West Coast office and residence." (p. 355)
"Oral's homes in California inevitably kept alive the old questions about his personal wealth and lifestyle. While probably not as probing as the press had been fifteen years earlier, reporters still took a keen interest in Oral's financial affairs. In 1981, the Associated Press published Roberts' personal income figures for the preceding five years–ranging from $70,000 in 1976 to $178,000 in 1978.
"Here is a portrait of the real Oral Roberts, the man not too many of his admirers know. He dresses in Brioni suits that cost $500 to $1000; walks in $100 shoes; lives in a $250,000 house in Tulsa and has a million dollar home in Palm Springs; wears diamond rings and solid gold bracelets employees `airbrush' out of his publicity photos; drives $25,000 automobiles which are replaced every 6 months; flies around the country in a $2 million fanjet falcon; has membership, as does his son Richard, in `the most prestigious and elite country club in Tulsa,' the Southern Hills (the membership fee alone was $18,000 for each, with $130 monthly dues) and in `the ultra-posh Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California' (both father and son joined when memberships were $20,000 each–they are now $25,000); and plays games of financial hanky-panky that have made him and his family members independently wealthy (millionaires) for life. (When his daughter and son-in-law were killed, they left a $10 million estate!)" (Evangelist R.L. Sumner's review of Give Me that Prime- time Religion by Jerry Sholes)
"In addition to his healthy income, derived mostly from book royalties, Oral continued to enjoy generous expense accounts: `The Robertses wear expensive clothes and jewelry and travel in a company-owned eight-passenger fanjet.' Oral Roberts: An American Life", by David Edwin Harrell, Jr., Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press 47405.
Jim and Tammy Bakker
The Bakkers bought mansions and luxury cars and the doghouse was air-conditioned. (The New Straits Times, 6th October 1989 The New Paper,6th October 1989). “Jim Bakker, who was convicted of wire fraud and served five years in prison, said he plans to start another TV ministry, this time in Branson, Mo”. (Knight Ridder Newspapers, Sep. 19, 2002)
President and director of the Mike Murdock Evangelistic Association, has had several luxury vehicles at his disposal. Some belong to him, and some are owned by the ministry. The BMW, work at least $69,000, was a gift, Murdock says, while the ministry bought the Jaguar. He says he got an idea that allowed him to buy the Cessna Citation 500, worth $300,000 to $500,000. Federal Aviation Administration documents show that the jet belongs to the ministry.
Murdock likes to describe himself as a "Wal-Mart guy." But a $25,000 Rolex adorns his wrist. And he can shoot hoops on the "NBA-style" basketball court at his estate or take notes with a $4,500 fountain pen.
Details of Murdock's lifestyle were pieced together from documents obtained by the Trinity Foundation, a televangelist watchdog group in Dallas; Denton County property-appraisal records; a report of a burglary at his home; interviews; and excerpts from his broadcasts and books. They show a man living a Hollywood lifestyle.
Murdock says he drives a BMW 745, which typically sells for $69,000 to $75,000. He used to prefer driving a Porsche to the ministry. He has had at his disposal a ministry Corvette, Jaguar and Mercedes, Lincoln Continentals and, since August, a corporate jet valued at $300,000 to $500,000.
Murdock lives in a Spanish-style, 3,177-square-foot adobe house that he calls Hacienda de Paz – or "House of Peace." He, not the ministry, owns it. Also on the grounds is a 1,660-square-foot building whose use is unclear. The 6.8-acre estate, east of Argyle, was valued at $482,027 by the Denton Central Appraisal District in 2002, documents show.
Few get a good view of the estate. It is protected by a black wrought-iron fence. The gates are monogrammed with two M's – his initials. On the well-kept grounds, a path winds near a tennis court and two of at least four gazebos on the property. At various times, Murdock has had a camel, an antelope, a donkey, ducks, geese, a lion and dogs. Near one edge of his property, he once kept llamas in a paddock. He has also had koi and catfish at the estate. He had 24 speakers wired in trees so he could hear gospel music everywhere on the grounds, he said during a 1998 broadcast.
Inside his home, Murdock has had several fish tanks, including a large saltwater aquarium. In the gym, Murdock can work out with his personal trainer. He can relax in front of his home theater or in a Jacuzzi. And he can enjoy the fountains in his pool and living room.
Murdock once kept coin and jewelry collections valued at $125,000. He reported the information to the Denton County Sheriff's Department after a theft. Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Patton said investigators dropped the case because Murdock would not list what had been stolen.
Murdock has a second Rolex watch, besides the $25,000 one he often wears, he said during an appearance Oct. 19 in Grapevine. He didn't state its value.
Murdock has said he was given the watches, expensive suits, several Chevrolet Corvettes, the BMW and a rare Vetta Ventura sports car – one of 19 made.
From 1993 to 2000, IRS records show his compensation package averaged $241,685 a year, or about 9 percent of the $21,040,299 the ministry took in during that period.
Rev. James Eugene Ewing
The Rev. James Eugene Ewing built a direct-mail empire from his mansion in Los Angeles that brings millions of dollars flowing into a Tulsa post office box. The approach reaped Ewing and his organization more than $100 million since 1993, including $26 million in 1999, the last year Saint Matthew's made its tax records public.
Ewing's computerized mailing operation, Saint Matthew's Churches, mails more than 1 million letters per month, many to poor, uneducated people, while Ewing lives in a mansion and drives luxury cars.
The letters contain an alluring promise of "seed faith": send Saint Matthew's your money and God will reward you with cash, a cure to your illness, a new home and other blessings. They often contain items such as prayer cloths, a "Jesus eyes handkerchief," golden coins, communion wafers and "sackcloth billfolds." Recipients are often warned to open the letters in private and not discuss them with others.
The approach reaped Ewing and his organization a gross income of more than $100 million since 1993, including $26 million in 1999, the last year Saint Matthew's made its tax records public. And while much of the money is spent on postage and salaries, Ewing's company receives nonprofit status and pays no federal taxes.
Though Ewing claims it is a church, Saint Matthew's Churches, once called St. Matthew Publishing Inc., has no address other than a Tulsa post office box. It has two listed phone numbers in Tulsa and both are answered by a recorded religious message.
"He capitalizes on the isolation of the loneliest and poorest members of our society, promising them magical answers to their fears and needs if only they will demonstrate their faith by sending him money," Anthony said. (Ole Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation. a nonprofit religious watchdog group)
"He is, quite literally, the father of the modern-day 'seed-faith' concept that fuels the multibillion-dollar Christian industry known as the 'health-and-wealth gospel.' "The only ones becoming rich are the men like Ewing." (Ole Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation. a nonprofit religious watchdog group). Ewing's flair for effective, dramatic direct-mail appeals won him jobs writing for evangelists including Tilton, Rex Humbard and "Rev. Ike." In many cases, the letters are identical but contain different signatures.
The Trinity Foundation, which obtained copies of the identical letters, has dubbed Ewing "God's Ghostwriter."
"We had nine different televangelists essentially sending out the same letter," Anthony said. "He (Ewing) makes most of his money by selling these packages to televangelists." Anthony said one Ewing letter, written for Humbard, brought in $64 for each copy mailed. Another mailing by Humbard contains a "sackcloth billfold" and asks recipients to mail a "seed offering" of $19 to a Boca Raton, Fla., post office box.
A similar letter from Tilton also contained a "sackcloth billfold" but encouraged recipients to return a "seed of faith" of at least $709.00. Joyce said Ewing has written for many other evangelists.
1997: St. Matthew Publishing Inc., incorporated at Joyce's Tulsa law office, files documents with the Internal Revenue Service reporting $15.6 million in revenue. Ewing reports receiving $307,187 in salary and benefits while McElrath reports $277,000 in salary and benefits.
1999: St. Matthew Publishing Inc. reports $26.8 million in revenue. Of that, the organization spent $4 million on salaries, $989,140 on legal fees, $817,000 for housing and rent and $649,000 on travel. (From the Tulsa World . 4/27/2003).
One of Ewing's letters, written for evangelist Rex Humbard, reportedly brought in as much as $64 per mailing. In 1968, Ewing, an eighth-grade dropout, doubled Oral Roberts' cash flow almost overnight with another mail campaign, sources say. Roberts rewarded him with an airplane, according to former Roberts aide Wayne Robinson.
“At his peak he purchased 5,000 hours of air time per month and appeared in all 235 U.S. television markets. His daily Success-N-Life show reached nearly every television set in North America. Tilton's mass-market ministry pulled in an estimated $80 million per year, and his church drew as many as 5,000 worshippers to Sunday service.
Tilton gleaned the donations by pitching a narrow, well-oiled version of the Pentecostal "prosperity gospel." In exchange for $1,000 "vows" from followers, Tilton promised to lobby God for miraculous improvements in their health and finances. According to one survey, he spent 68 percent of his air time asking for money. "If Jesus Christ were alive today and walking around, he wouldn't want his people driving Volkswagens and living in apartments," explained Tilton, who favored a Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz and lived a lavish private life in mansions in San Diego and Dallas.
Then came November 21, 1991. On that evening, ABC's PrimeTime Live aired the findings of a six-month investigation into the ministries of Tilton and two other local TV preachers, W.V. Grant and Larry Lea.
The segment on Tilton was by far the most damning. At its heart was the accusation that Tilton never saw the vast majority of prayer requests and personal correspondence sent to him by faithful viewers. On the air, Tilton promised to pray over each miracle-request. But on the ground, ABC said it found thousands of those requests and viewers' letters dumped in garbage bins in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Checks, money orders, and in some cases cash, food stamps, and even wedding rings sent by followers had been removed for deposit at a nearby bank.
Lawsuits from outraged followers quickly followed, along with further media exposes concerning dumped prayer requests. (Tilton claimed the trashed prayer requests were part of a plot against the church.) State Attorney General Dan Morales launched a fraud investigation of Tilton's ministry, and the FBI and U.S. Postal Service subpoenaed the church's records the day after the ABC broadcast” ….
“The problem is that mailing lists grow stale when the TV screen stays dark too long. Now, though, it's bright once more. Tilton's toll-free prayer line is up and running, and his Tulsa, Oklahoma, post office box awaits a hoped-for onslaught from the faithful. Every weekday between 11 a.m. and noon Eastern Standard Time, a fiberoptic telephone line carries the voice and image of Robert Tilton out of a small TV studio in Miami Beach. The signal runs under city streets and across Biscayne Bay until it reaches WPBT-Channel 2, a public television station in North Miami. A for-profit affiliate of the station called Comtel beams Tilton's brand-new Success-N-Life show up through the heavens to a satellite transponder.
What hasn't changed is Tilton's repetitious message. He quotes a bit of Scripture and speaks in tongues, but mostly he pushes emotional buttons: Cancer. Emphysema. Alcoholism. Credit card addiction. Job layoffs. These ailments can be cured through faith. But faith requires proof, a "vow." To make a vow, preferably $1,000, call the 800 number on the screen. (When a reporter called the hotline to seek solace regarding credit card addiction, a telemarketer took less than a minute recording his name, phone number, address, date of birth, and type of ailment, promising to pass on the information to Pastor Bob.)
Corporate records show that Tilton registered his nonprofit Word of Faith World Outreach Center Church Inc. in Florida more than a decade ago, but the registration is inactive. There are a few titillating hints in the Broward County court files: a trio of traffic tickets handed out over the years (one for doing 93 in a 55 m.p.h. zone on Christmas Eve, another for "failure to use due care," and a third this April for driving without registration documents.) Computer research reveals 12 addresses used by Tilton in the last decade, three of them in Fort Lauderdale. But two of those are commercial mail drops, and the last, a $500,000 waterfront vacation home in the Rio Vista, Florida, neighborhood, was sold last year as part of Tilton's divorce settlement with his first wife; ditto for his 38-foot fishing boat.
Federal records show that Tilton bought a 50-foot Carver motor yacht last year in Fort Lauderdale for $500,000. In July 1996, he told a judge in Dallas that he was living aboard and making $4,000 monthly payments on the boat, which he named the Liberty Leigh. (He is presently building a two-story home on a $1.39 million oceanfront lot on an island in Biscayne Bay off Miami Beach, and his ministry owns a 50-foot yacht. His ministry takes in about $24 million a year)
Cross examination of Leigh Valentine, September 4, 1996, court testimony:
"Bob's mail ministry is a lie and a total deception. He does not write those letters. He did not even proofread them during our marriage. He makes it sound like [he’s] writing to you right now, this is what God spoke to me for your life, Jesus will appear to you tonight; if you sleep with this little red cord under your pillow, you will prosper. He doesn't even know what's going out to those people, and he doesn't care, as long as they send their money in. One time he said in one of the letters that was sent, I will be taking these to the East Coast to pray for you by the ocean where Jesus prayed for his people. So we flew to Fort Lauderdale and we checked into a four- or five-star hotel on the beach and got a nice penthouse view… That is stealing from people. Most of those people are on welfare. They're little Hispanics and blacks. And he even said, what I do is I look at a map and we go after the ghettoes, we go after those on welfare, we go after those that don't read, those that are lower socioeconomic backgrounds. That's who we send our letters to…"
Other CEO Salaries
“Charity Navigator, America's premier independent charity evaluator, works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of America's largest charities”. The compensation Package of the following CEO’s is based on information reported on various organization's most recent Form 990. The compensation package includes salary, cash bonuses, and unusually large expense accounts and other allowances. (www.charitynavigator.org).
Paul Crouch’s compensation package stands at $419,000.
As near as we can tell he is only out salaried by
Peter Popoff, president of Peter Popoff Ministries… $550,096
And of course John Hagee (Above)
Other salaries include:
Bob Larson, President of Bob Larson Ministries… $142,242
Jack Van Impe, President of Jack Van Impe Ministries International.. $150,012
Ravi Zacharias, President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries… $179,918.
Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute … $233,759.
While Both CRI and Hank Hanegraaff (The Bible Answer Man Show) provide invaluable contributions to Christian Apologetics, sadly much controversy has swirled around Hank’s finances. See Greed: Case Study in Bad: CRI by Bernie Dehler, Executive Director of FreeGoodNews.com.
They're Leavin' On a Jet Plane
by Pete Evans & Todd Bates ( www.wittenburgdoor.com)
ENTRY-LEVEL, STARTER JETS
Up-and-coming Tilton impersonator Paula White owns a Hawker-Siddeley "Jet Dragon" – aptly named for the trail of smoke it would leave IF it could fly or IF she could get parts for this 1965-vintage relic. Truly a vanity purchase, it's been grounded since she bought it, just so she can SAY she has a jet.
THE CESSNA CITATION CLUB
· Copeland proteges Jesse Duplantis and Jerry Savelle, plus Florida upstart Mark Bishop, each fly their own Cessna Citation 500. They cruise at 400 mph with a range of 1,400 miles and carry a price tag of about $1.25 million each.
THE GRUMMAN GULFSTREAM GUYS
· Fred Price, Creflo Dollar and Brother Benny Hinn all have their own Grumman Gulfstream II's. With a two-man crew and 19 passengers, these babies cruise at 581 mph with a range of 4,275 miles. Used, they're worth about $4.5 million each.
THE BIG-BUCK BOYS, THE CHALLENGER 600s
· Paul Crouch owns the current Queen of the Flying-Televangelist Fleet – a Bombardier Challenger 604. Carrying a crew of two plus 19 passengers, she cruises at 529 mph with a range of 3,860 miles. She's valued at $16.5 million, not including Paul's "special interior remodeling."
· The late Ken Hagin's Challenger 601, about 10 years older than Paul's, is "only" worth about $9.6 million.· Recently exposed uberspender Joyce Meyer has her own Challenger 600. A full 18 years older than Paul's, this one's only worth a paltry $4.5 million. Let's hear it for Joyce's frugal stewardship!
KENNY COPELAND – UNDISPUTED KING OF THE FLYING COWBOYS
His Cessna Citation 550 Bravo (valued at $3.4 million), PLUS his Grumman Gulfstream II (worth $4.5 million) AND his Cessna Golden Eagle AND his Beech E-55 AND his assorted lesser aircraft AND his own airport all add up to untold millions of poor folks' dollars. But Kenny's masterstroke is the fact that he's now telling the faithful that God wants him and wife Gloria to EACH have their own Cessna Citation Ten super-jets. Flying just below the speed of sound, these state-of-the-art flying palaces carry a base sticker price of $20 million! That means when "God" has his way, the widows and orphans will have "invested" just about $50-60 million in Kenny's Heavenly Air Force.
UPDATE: “Over the past several years Kenneth and Gloria Copeland have been believing God for a Cessna Citation X jet—a plane they would be able to use in fulfilling their God-appointed assignment and the calling on Kenneth Copeland Ministries to take the Word of God to the world—from the top to the bottom and all the way around. At 2 p.m. on Friday, July 22, 2005, we made the initial deposit and signed the order for Citation X #240. We will take delivery on the plane the first week of March 2006”! (http://elitecxteam.org/update.php)
“There are bound to be some people who will read this article and say to themselves, "So the leadership live in nice houses or nice areas, so what? This is God's way of blessing them. They deserve this for leading God's people." I wonder if these people ever really stop to think about what they are saying? Do they really believe that God would bless those in leadership with lifestyles that totally contradict everything that Jesus taught. He and the men who led the first century church led by example. They were servant leaders. Ask yourself if any of the apostles would've chosen pricey homes or affluent areas for themselves. More to the point, would Jesus have done so? Ask yourself if the apostles would have used the contributions and tithes of the people in order to have done so? More to the point, would Jesus have done so?” (Leadership Lifestyles of the International Churches of Christ. Timothy Greeson)