Thursday, September 30, 2004

MinistryWatch calls for TBN reform

A Christian financial watchdog organization called Ministry Watch (who?--ed. Exactly) is calling for an overhaul of TBN. (blood is in the water and the sharks are circling?--ed. Let's not go too far.) It's really a so-what moment, except that the LA Times reported this in yesterday's edition. (plus the audacity of the watchdog group is humourous--ed.) Here are excerpts from the press release:
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(TITLE) MinistryWatch.com calls for establishment of an independent commission to take over governance of Trinity Broadcasting Network

(SUBTITLE)Dubious theology, likely personal enrichment and refusal to be authentically transparent all lead to call for dramatic steps.

MATTHEWS, N.C. – Newly revealed facts and allegations regarding questionable financial transactions at Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) – initially reported in the Los Angeles Times – coupled with MinistryWatch.com’s previous concerns about the dubious “prosperity theology” often heard on TBN and the unusually large profits and investments generated by TBN’s operations, have caused MinistryWatch.com to issue a second Donor Alert for this ministry.

Wall Watchers CEO Rusty Leonard observed, “Their exorbitant lifestyle is apparently financed by well-meaning donors who would naturally expect that their hard-earned money would go completely to further the Gospel of Christ, not to personally benefit the Crouch family.”

Mr. Leonard said, “Our concerns have only increased as a result of TBN’s public response, which is at times both caustic and misleading.” He continued "Accordingly, MinistryWatch.com is recommending a dramatic plan of action for the restoration of donor confidence in TBN. We are calling for the establishment of an independent commission to take over governance of TBN and thoroughly investigate and review what future steps should be taken to restore the world’s largest Christian television network to a place where authentic Christian theology is espoused and transparency in all activities is the norm.”

Mr. Leonard commented further upon TBN’s response to the newspapers’ articles, saying, “Since these facts and allegations have become public, TBN responded in a press release that demonstrated an attitude of arrogance and which lacked the humility one might expect from a Christian organization. This should be of grave concern to Christians because nonbelievers following this story may develop false lifelong impressions about Jesus Christ based upon TBN’s aggressive response.”

Indeed, said Mr. Leonard, TBN’s methods are ironic. “At present, the defense offered by TBN seems to be hypocritical in that it reflects a lack of faith in the Lord’s provision for the future of the ministry. Since TBN regularly asks its viewers to step out in faith and make donations larger than they feel able to do because ‘the Lord will ultimately provide for the donor’s needs,’ it seems odd that TBN itself is so lacking in a similar faith! In essence, TBN’s response indicates that TBN wishes its donors to trust in the Lord’s provision so that TBN will not have to!”

The plan outlined by MinistryWatch.com would allow for a full investigation of the issues by a newly formed, completely independent commission of Christian leaders. The specific recommendations include:

1) A commission of respected Christian leaders, composed of experts in counseling, theology, financial affairs, and other appropriate disciplines be put in place to establish a pathway of restoring Paul and Jan Crouch to a proper relationship with Jesus.
2) A new board of directors be selected who could lead TBN in a new direction where respect for the ministry’s mission and donors’ rights are the sole concerns.
3) The new board should also do a thorough overhaul of the ministry to put it on a path to teaching authentic Christian theology and which operates in a manner that rejects self-serving actions and is respectful of donors’ intent.
4) Future board composition should draw upon talents, treasures and time and be composed in a manner that guarantees independence.
5) The board should ensure that whistleblower protection and document destruction policies are in place, as required by law.
6) The board should establish an independent audit committee, with at least one board member a financial expert and other board members trained in accounting terminology.
7) Paul and Jan Crouch should step aside from leadership positions until this process is completed and the commission has concluded that true repentance has occurred. The commission would decide if the Crouch’s should return to any leadership position, as executives, board members or on-air personalities.

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(chuckle) This isn't really news, but the LA Times reported it and got a comment out of Paul Crouch's son:

An executive for TBN, the world's largest Christian network, rejected the idea but said he would meet with critics and review audited financial statements and other related documents with them. "We will turn over to them whatever we need to turn over," said Paul Crouch Jr., a network executive.
I am literally chuckling over #'s 1 and 7 above. If we take this all at face value, we have a Christian watchdog ministry publicly dressing down another ministry, telling TBN how to go about their business. It tells Paul and Jan Crouch, 'Step down, stop teaching what we don't want you to teach, and let some other people run your ministry.'

Paul Jr, no doubt following the sage advice of the same spiritual advisors who got TBN in this mess in the first place, basically says, 'no problem, we'll give our financial records to these nice folks.' Again, they choose the face saving, reputation preserving, compromising way of the world in the face of conflict.

OK, I hope TBN stops with the press releases and this story dies. I am a Christian, but I am not part of the TBN crowd. I don't want to blog about this anymore, but it's like a train wreck in slow motion, and it's hard not to look. Please, story, die down, go away, no mas.