Friday, December 07, 2007

LAYING UP TREASURES ON EARTH (TAX FREE)

One of the interesting stories floating around right now is the investigation by Republican Senator Charles Grassley into several television evangelists. He wants to see if their ministries are violating their tax-exempt status by spending donations on personal luxuries. I wonder what tipped him off? Was it Ken and Gloria’s new airplane? Was it the pictures of Benny Hinn and his wife shopping on Rodeo Drive? Was it Creflo Dollar driving around Atlanta in his Rolls Royce?

They are all proponents of the prosperity gospel to an extent. It raises many questions about Congressional power and other things. But, for today, I am interested in how the evangelists respond. You would hope to hear something like: No, problem. My finances are an open book. I don’t know if you have the power to investigate this or not, but I am a 501c3 organization as well as a parachurch Christian organization, so I want to be transparent so all my supporters will know I am honest and not using their gifts for my personal enrichment.

Two of them have basically done that. Joyce Meyer of, you guessed it, Joyce Meyer Ministries delivered information to Grassley's staff on Tuesday. Way to go Joyce. She obviously is not worried about the fact she spent $23,000 of contributors money on a marble topped toilet. Actually, in the scope of the spending of these “evangelists”, this is chump change.

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of, yes you guessed it again, Kenneth Copeland Ministries had their attorneys deliver information to Grassley's staff. Way to go Ken and Gloria.

We don’t know what the information is, but, giving them the benefit of the doubt, applaud these two for being transparent and honest.

Not everyone has been so forthcoming.

Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Ministry said through representatives they will cooperate. However, Grassley has not received any material or had contact from the ministry.

Benny Hinn, World Healing Center Church, Inc., has arranged a meeting between Grassley's staff and his attorneys today. WHCCI pays Hinn a salary of more than $500,000 a year, so he can afford to travel. It will mean he will have to leave his $10 million seaside mansion. If he does this like his South American crusades, he will stop at a vacation resort going to and coming from, and do it all in a private jet. If we ask WWJD, the answer must be that he wouldn’t fly commercial.

Randy and Paula White, Without Walls International Church Today, had their attorneys make initial contact and say they will contact Grassley's staff soon and very soon, but have not provided any information. (I will tell you this. As an old financial crimes prosecutor, when they say they are bringing the information, but it takes them a long time, it makes you suspicious they are creating it or altering it. So, Randy and Paula, get on down there.)

Then, last and least in terms of cooperation is, Creflo Dollar. That is a great name for a prosperity guy, isn’t it? He heads up World Changers Church. Grassley wants to make sure it’s not really Money Changers Church.

The Georgia Dollar refused to turn over any more financial documents to the Senate Finance Committee. So, he evidently gave some information to the Senator, but it was not sufficient or was the wrong information. Dollar said Senator Grassley can subpoena him if he wants more information. (Pause for bull fighting music, as video shows matador waving the red cloth in front of the bull.)

Dollar does live well. He does not follow Jesus’ advice to the Rich Young Ruler. There is the $2.5 million mansion in Georgia. But, if Georgia is not on his mind, he can relax at an apartment in Manhattan. He can drive there in one of his two Rolls Royces. He will not have too much trouble putting gas in the Rolls, even at today’s prices, as the church took in $69 million last year. The church bought one of the Rolls, too. There are also 3 jets. (It’s like prunes. You have to ask yourself, is 1 enough? Is 6 to many?) The Apostle Peter did not foresee this when he told the beggar, “silver and gold have I none”.

In other legal entanglements, Dollar is part of the Board of Regents of Oral Roberts University, which has been named in a lawsuit concerning the finances of the university. Richard Roberts, son of Oral, recently resigned in the face of allegations of financial impropriety. The University gave an honorary doctor of divinity degree to Dollar. His degree is not in theology, by the way.

So, we’ll see if the Prosperity Preachers continue to prosper. There is one thing to be said for their message: it certainly works for them.
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