By Barry Bowen and Pete Evans, Trinity Foundation
Donors, where is the money going?
When a televangelist’s ministry or pastor’s church owns a private jet, you can almost be certain the leader lives in a mansion. That is one of the lessons Trinity Foundation has learned from investigating religious fraud and excess for more than 30 years.
In April 2021 the Houston Chronicle’s Jay Root asked Trinity Foundation for assistance on an article series about church parsonages in Texas. Trinity Foundation compiled a list of megachurches and large media ministries in the state and then searched for parsonages and homes of pastors and ministry leaders.
Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle examined the state tax code and filed open records requests with county appraisal districts seeking lists of parsonages.
Root’s thorough investigation uncovered startling evidence of pastors living extravagantly: “A months-long Houston Chronicle investigation of ministers’ tax-free residences found no shortage of extravagant homes in high-dollar locales. At least two dozen were worth over $1 million even using the artificially low values that exempt properties typically carry.”
If you are keeping track, that is at least 24 parsonages in Texas worth more than $1 million.
Trinity Foundation also investigated pastor and ministry housing in other states, discovering multi-million dollar homes of several televangelists and pastors who have received little media scrutiny. It’s time to present some of our findings.