Home > Current Events > What does a MinistryWatch Transparency grade ‘F’ ministry look like?

What does a MinistryWatch Transparency grade ‘F’ ministry look like?

As I think I’ve mentioned before, MinistryWatch put Eagle Mountain International Church/Kenneth Copeland Ministries (EMIC/KCM) on its Donor Alert list for 2010 and gave it among other things a Transparency Grade of ‘F’ [link].

I realize financial accountability in ministries is a touchy subject; money and how it is spent is one of those “if I answer your questions you’ll just ask more questions” topics. And probably with good reasons: people who get into ministry for the money don’t want to be found out; people who get into ministry for any other reason tend to be lousy or at best insecure with how they handle money. Both have good reasons not to talk about money. So I thought I’d pick some low-hanging fruit here and focus on EMIC/KCM.

They issued a financial accountability statement back in 2008 as a response to the Grassley investigation. The link to that has gone stale; instead they offer this [link]; here’s an excerpt:

We have a core set of values by which we govern Kenneth Copeland Ministries, including financial integrity. Our Board of Directors is comprised of outstanding business and ministerial men and women of God who provide direction for our organization. They hold us accountable to steward your donation dollars in the most effective and efficient manner. We also remain accountable to you through a Compensation Committee. This committee is responsible to determine compensation for each of the Copeland family members based on data compiled by an independent consulting firm. KCM also chooses to undergo a yearly financial audit by Ratliff and Sommerville, an outside accounting firm, in accordance with IRS and industry standards.

That’s it. Well, that and a pie chart. We’ll get to the pie chart in a minute. But first this. Let’s see if we can find any hint of actual accountability in this paragraph.

Our Board of Directors is comprised of outstanding business and ministerial men and women of God who provide direction for our organization.

Whoever these people are they aren’t listed on the website.

They hold us accountable to steward your donation dollars in the most effective and efficient manner.

I think “steward your donation dollars” means “spend money.”

We also remain accountable to you through a Compensation Committee.

I think this tortured construction is supposed to suggest that salaries are reviewed by somebody, and there’s some sort of chain of responsibility implied. How that would work isn’t clear given that the committee isn’t named on the website either. And what redress a donor would have via this committee isn’t clear either.

This committee is responsible to determine compensation for each of the Copeland family members based on data compiled by an independent consulting firm.

As best I can tell this is meant to be cover for the fact that multiple Copeland family members are paid by the ministry. Given that the data isn’t available and the firm isn’t named I can’t figure how an interested party would verify that this data even exists, much less how compensation is “based” on this data.

KCM also chooses to undergo a yearly financial audit by Ratliff and Sommerville, an outside accounting firm, in accordance with IRS and industry standards.

The good news here is that Ratliff and Sommerville really exists [link]; but there’s not much else in the way of good news here. The phrase “chooses to” here suggests to me that KCM considers this kind of accountability unnecessary. And as far as I can tell the phrase “in accordance with IRS and industry standards” is meaningless at best. To wit: if MinistryWatch sets the standard for the industry KCM isn’t meeting it. Also, I hesitate to mention that the IRS doesn’t set standards; it collects revenue and, occasionally, investigates crimes.

Here’s the pie chart:

34% Television and Media; 7% Local Church Outreach; 8% Administrative; 11% Conventions and Meetings; 12% Prayer Ministry and Personal Outreach; 15% Ministry Outreach; 13% Prisons, Missions, and Outreach to the Poor

This is better than nothing; it suggests in broad and occasionally vague categories (what is the difference between “Personal Outreach” and “Ministry Outreach?”) how KCM will spend a typical dollar. It doesn’t give a sense of how many dollars there are. And if you can figure out which of those pie slices includes salaries and compensation vs. which one includes facilities you’re better at pie chart anatomy than I am.

If my local church considered itself to have been sufficiently accountable by providing me with a paragraph and a pie chart like this I wouldn’t give it another dime.

And that’s more to the point: what’s interesting here isn’t whether or not KCM is behaving ethically; this is just an example of a ministry that fails to meet a minimum standard.

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