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The Grassley report on Kenneth Copeland

I was going to dip into the Grassley staff report on Eagle Mountain International Church/Kenneth Copeland Ministries (EMIC/KCM) [PDF], written by staffer Lynda F. Simmons as an example of what constitutes an “integrated auxiliary,” but it makes for such gripping reading I decided to devote a post to it by itself.

Let me try to put this document in some sort of context. Senator Grassley sent EMIC/KCM a request in 2007 for some fairly detailed organizational and financial information. The ministry declined to respond. Staffers received a report from Ole Anthony of the Trinity Foundation [link] a report called Religious Conversion, from which a fair amount of the document linked above has been distilled.

Here is a list of the accusations against EMIC/KCM contained in the Simmons document:

  • Threatening employees who speak to investigators
  • A Board of Directors consisting primarily of Copeland family and friends
  • Veto power by Copeland over Board decisions
  • Lack of voting power by members of EMIC
  • Stating to the Committee that it had no “integrated auxiliaries” when records suggest it has at least 21
  • A complicated ownership situation regarding an airport, a fleet of jets, a ranch, and what appear to be a number of petroleum service entities
  • Excessive compensation to Copeland family members
  • A $6 million parsonage
  • Use of ministry credit cards for Copeland family personal expenses; failure to report same on tax returns
  • Use of a fleet of vehicles by Gloria Copeland paid for by the ministry
  • Taking “great precautions” to avoid having to file the Form 990 and keep “compensation issues” confidential
  • Paying roughly $1.5 million in salaries to 15 Copeland family members (1995)
  • Purchasing two companies from a Copeland family member for a total of $40 million
  • Transfer of ministry assets, including mineral rights, to Gloria and John Copeland
  • Peculiar loans to Copeland family members
  • Financial transactions with board members
  • Convincing the Tarrant County, TX Appraiser’s Office to waive certain requirements that would involve disclosure of salary information
  • Having separate budgets for EMIC and KCM despite the fact that they are legally the same thing
  • A complex relationship regarding ministry-owned gas wells and power plant and a for-profit company owned by a Copeland family member
  • Use of ministry employees at and for the benefit of for-profit entities owned by Copeland family members
  • Personal use of ministry jets
  • Possible conversion of ministry assets, including gas and water wells, water purification plant, etc.
  • Complicated royalty agreements between the Copelands and the ministry
  • Reciprocation of checks between EMIC/KCM and other ministries including Creflo Dollar
  • Unaccounted-for foreign donations
  • “Layover trips,” which are side trips taken for personal reasons while doing ministry travel
  • Raising money for personal gifts to Kenneth Copeland as tax-deductible donations
  • Failing to pay unemployment insurance and Social Security for ministry employees

I was tempted to just list highlights, but the full list is worth a look. I would note that a fair number of these items are not illegal in and of themselves. Take for example the personal use of ministry property; it isn’t illegal for a member of the Copeland family to use ministry property for non-ministry purposes, but the value of the use is taxable (Remember taxes? The Grassley investigation is about taxes.) and if unreported could amount to tax evasion.

I would especially recommend reading the short section of the document that describes the exchange of checks between ministries. If two for-profit companies were simply exchanging checks one might reasonably ask why; one of the plausible reasons would be money laundering. But why two ministries would be engaged in money laundering I can’t imagine.

All in all the accusations against EMIC/KCM make for a good sketch of what to avoid in a ministry; most of us would never know our local megachurch was e.g. involved in questionable natural resources transactions, but the obvious stuff — a board full of family members, business deals with insiders — is always worth looking for. I think that’s the real takeaway for me here.

I have not been able to find a copy of Religious Conversion online; I would love to see it.

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