Dr. Yonggi Cho rejected Budhism in his youth and converted to Christianity. In 1958 he founded what has now become, according to PBS, the worlds largest megachurch in Korea. Spread out across 7 different services, literally hundreds of thousands attend services every Sunday. We are sad to report that Dr. Cho was convicted on February 21st of embezzling over $12 million dollars over the course of many years. As a part of his sentence, he will have to repay close to $5 million of that amount.
We will miss his quirky style, his constant comments about those evil “heretic hunters” (possibly referring to us), and his colorful dress shirts–well, maybe not the dress shirts. Paul Crouch died this past weekend at the age of 79 after a long battle with congestive heart disease. Religion News Service reporter Adelle Banks provided quite a lot of information about Crouch and the television network, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), he founded and grew.
Ms. Banks quoted our own Ole Anthony as saying, “Paul Crouch at TBN is the greatest proponent of the oldest heresy in the church — that gain is godliness,” said Ole Anthony, a founder of the Dallas-basedTrinity Foundation, which has investigated Crouch’s ministries and others for more than 30 years. “All of the heresy connected with that position is what they’re based on and the problem is they’ve spread that all over the world.”
Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick has attracted some unwanted attention. WCNC reporter Stuart Watson recently uncovered Furtick’s large $1.7M house tucked in the woods away from public scrutiny and doubly hidden in a specially created trust. The expose asks a lot of questions about how mega-pastors with a ready-made audience can profit from book royalties. It also raises questions about the suitability of compensation committees comprised of fellow pastors with a vested interest as contrasted with a long-held church tradition of elders and deacons having decision-making authority. Take a look at this 3-part story by WCNC News of Charlotte, NC. (part 1 above, parts 2 and 3 below).
In the 3rd and final part in this series, WCNC reporter Stuart Watson also illustrated the connection and similarities between Pastor Steven Furtick and North Texas Pastor Ed Young. Take a look:
Other news outlets have picked up the story as well and interviewed our Trinity Foundation president, Ole Anthony: “What happens is these pastors are on television or on radio and they write a book, and it’s based on their sermons,” Anthonytold The Christian Post. “But then what happens is the church is paying for the time and the place to write the book, and then the church is paying for the airtime to advertise the book. And it’s just unseemly.”
And Anthony wasn’t done there.
“The idea of being a servant is lost. It’s just a job and they try to make more and more money, and the congregations are losing out,” he said. “It just infuriates me. It’s the opposite of the pastor being the servant and feeding the sheep, the pastor’s eating the sheep.”
Can a secular government be more compassionate than a Christian ministry? Knowing televangelists like we do, apparently so. Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda, recently cut her own salary by 30 percent, pledged to sell off 35 Mercedes Benz cars used by her cabinet, and sold the presidential jet for $15 million to help feed the 1.5 million people suffering from chronic food shortages, as reported by Associated Baptist Press (ABP). The Dassault Falcon 900EX jet was purchased by the late Malawi President Bingu wan Mutharika in 2009. In addition to the actual cost of the jet, its maintenance and upkeep cost Malawi roughly US $300,000 a year, according to a government official. We appreciate ABP’s tongue-in-cheek tag line: “It takes self-sacrifice to minister among the people whom Jesus called ‘the least of these,’ and sometimes it just takes being grounded.”
Latest in a rash of “Aviation Department” requests from rich evangelists is this letter to supporters from Mark T. Barclay of Midland, Mich. “Corrosion is a dangerous enemy for an airplane,” Barclay patiently explains, because his expensive Citation III jet needs to withstand “all forms of weather at very high speeds.” But a new paint job will stop corrosion in its tracks and allow Barclay to continue to reach “hurting, suffering and dying humanity.” If 80 people, ministries or companies sow $1,000, he says, “it will be taken care of.” With $1,000 to spare, we might add. See his letter here.
Recently, Pastor I.V. Hilliard of New Light Church World outreach Worship Center, Inc. (whew) sent out a letter offering God’s blessings to be bestowed on you in abundance. “Do you need better transportation? Does your car need repair or total replacement? Do you have a dream vehicle or luxury auto you long to purchase?…”
Well, Pastor Hilliard needs some better transportation too! We’re not too sure if Pastor Hilliard has upgraded the “ministry” jet (was N829NL) but its hard to get around town in a Gulf Stream jet anyway and a helicopter will bypass evening rush hour just fine. The church’s Aviation Manager stated that if they “upgrade their blades” (a new chopper, perhaps?) with well over $50,000, it will save the church “thousands in the days to come”.
Houston radio KTRH reports “Houston Pastor Asks Congregation to Fund a Chopper!”. If you fill out an online petition form verbalizing your dream transportation (don’t forget to include your $52 “transporation-favor-seed” –say what?), God will answer your petition in either 52 days or 52 weeks. Hmmmm, we want the 52 day answer here at the Trinity Foundation… will 52 cents work?
Just click the “Favor Seed” button on Pastor Hilliard’s letter–you can’t miss it.
According to BBC Africa and several anonymous informants who have contacted the Trinity Foundation, Nigerian televangelist TB Joshua was giving away free “holy water” at his church, Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN), when a human stampede occurred in a rush to get the water. Four were killed and many others injured in the urgent haste forward to get the water with alleged healing powers, which, according to a “joshua watch” website, evangelist Joshua admits has no special powers (he admits his “anointed” water is pointless). Read the BBC Africa story here –
According to a Forbes Magazine blog story from 2011, Pastor Joshua ranked fourth out of the five wealthiest pastors in Nigeria, with an estimated wealth between 10 and 15 million in terms of US dollars.