THE prosperity gospel movement – “you give, we prosper” – has hit hard times in the US, and it’s not entirely the result of the credit crunch.
According to this report, it appears as if it’s finally dawning on the dupes that the only people prospering from the movement are thieving evangelists with dodgy hairstyles, impossibly white gnashers, private jets, trophy wives and tempestuous lifestyles.
J Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine said:
I believe the charismatic movement, of which I am a part, is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul. God is shaking us.
Grady predicts the movement will look much different in a few years as it refocuses on evangelism and overcoming what he calls the distraction of :
Materialism, flashy self-promotion, and foolish carnality.
But Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist who studies megachurches, is not so certain.
Most clergy who preach a prosperity gospel would interpret for their congregation any conflict, scrutiny, or questioning as an attack of the Devil and proof that they are following God.
â€¢ In Fort Worth, Texas, a review board ruled last December that Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ $3.6 million jet did not have tax-exempt status. The ruling came after the ministry, whose 1,500-acre campus includes a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion, refused to release details of the salaries of Copeland, his wife, and others.
â€¢ In suburban Atlanta, Georgia, a sheriff’s deputy served an eviction notice last November at Bishop Thomas Weeks III’s Global Destiny Church.
Court documents indicate the bishop, the ex-husband of televangelist Juanita Bynum, owed half a million dollars in back rent. The church has lost roughly half of its 3,400 members since Weeks and Bynum’s 2007 fight in a hotel parking lot, in which Weeks was accused of pushing, choking, and beating his then-wife.
â€¢ In Tampa, Florida, Without Walls International Church – which once attracted 23,000 worshipers – has shrunk drastically after co-pastors Randy and Paula White announced in 2007 they were divorcing. The church faces an uncertain future after the Evangelical Christian Credit Union began foreclosure proceedings November 4 and demanded repayment of a $12 million loan on the church’s property.
â€¢ In suburban Minneapolis last November, Living Word Christian Center pastor Mac Hammond won the first stage of a court battle with the Internal Revenue Service to keep his salary private. Yet in 2008, he was forced to put his private jet up for sale and cut Living Word’s hour-long television show in half to save money amid falling contributions.
Meanwhile, Copeland and the Whites are among six televangelists whose large organizations have been targeted in a Senate Finance Committee investigation into allegations of questionable spending and lax financial accountability. All six preach some form of the prosperity gospel.
Benny Hinn, one of those under investigation, is on record placing a “curse” from God against anyone “who dares to speak a word against this ministry”.Â See this BBC report.