December 8, 2007

Christian Ministries in the Crosshairs - Just 2 Ministries Submit Financial Data - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

Charles Grassley and the Senate Finance committee have put christian mega ministries in their gun sights, on a crusade to ensure there is no abuse of tax exempt status. Of the six ministries they have asked for information, only a few have submitted the information. Still others, notably Creflo Dollar, are resisting the request and say the committee should either refer it to the IRS or subpoena them.

I have mixed feelings about this probe. I think its curious that only large christian ministries are being approached in this manner. Why these six in particular? Just because they are large and successful ministries? The probe seems to be based on the subjective judgment by the committee that the leaders of these ministries are living too good for preachers. Is that the basis upon which a senate investigation gets to be initiated? Grassley isn't saying he has evidence or allegation of wrongdoing. In fact, in media reports he actually said the following:

On referring the whole matter
to the IRS, Grassley said Thursday,
"I can't tell (the IRS) what to do.
I can't refer anything to them unless I know something is wrong. And I
won't know if anything's wrong until we get the information."
So this is nothing but a fishing expedition. So I have a problem with it on those grounds. He has no allegations of wrongdoing, nor even irregularities pointed out by the IRS.

As someone who has been a member of a large "mega-church" (Word of Faith International Christian Center - pastored by Bishop Keith Butler), I think its important to have some perspective about the people who lead ministries of that size. At Word of Faith, Bishop Butler is responsible for a ministry which has over 10 satellite churches in the US and abroad, which contributes to missions work world wide, and which ministered to the needs of a congregation numbering 20,000 plus. Doing all of that well requires organization and leadership identical to that of any corporate CEO. Dollar ministries took in over $69 million dollars last year. The management of that level of resources and the ministry operation that money supports requires serious CEO level business management.

Just as with CEO's of large companies, the demands on these ministry leader's time is severe. When satellite ministries are being established in locales which are far apart for example, the practical, business necessity of private planes is just as apparent for them as any other type of CEO. Large ministries require excellent management, perhaps even more so than private for profit companies.

Now, in the stories, some attention is paid to Creflo Dollar's million dollar mansion, Manhattan apartment and the Rolls Royce he drives. I can say out of my own experience that Bishop Butler did not engage in that sort of ostentatiousness. I find myself a little uncomfortable with that lifestyle choice on his part. Nonetheless, if thats all the basis for Sen. Grassley to initiate a Senate investigation, then I think thats an overreach. If anyone or anything can be the target of a Senate investigation simply because committee members sense of propriety and appropriateness is offended, I got a problem with that.