Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Prevo’

What’s up with the Prevos?

August 8, 2012 Leave a comment

I would encourage readers to take a look at a couple of articles from the Anchorage Daily News; a longer one from January [link] and a shorter one from a couple of weeks ago [link]. It’s mostly about a dispute between a local tax assessor and Anchorage Baptist Temple; the church had apparently allowed a number of ministers to accumulate equity in church-owned properties, meaning that the property would be tax-free (because it was owned by the church) and the ministers would own equity in the properties (which would otherwise be taxable) subject to secret agreements. Here are some choice quotes with salient facts from the later article, written by Richard Mauer:

The assessor, Marty McGee, said Friday his decision was final for the two homes in question — the residences of the Rev. Allen Prevo, the church’s lighting technician, and the Rev. Tom Cobaugh, its education minister.

That’s right: the church ordained their lighting technician.

The ruling could be expanded to include the home of the church’s chief pastor, the Rev. Jerry Prevo, Allen Prevo’s father, pending receipt of a sworn statement about whether he too holds an unrecorded interest his property, as he did for several years.

And he’s the son of the church’s head pastor.

Allen Prevo has lived on Banbury Drive in East Anchorage in a 2,650-square-foot, tax-exempt house since 2004. But in 2011, he and his wife were in divorce court. Both testified that he had a secret employment agreement with the Baptist Temple that allowed him to accumulate equity — ownership — in the house as if the church was carrying a mortgage and he was making monthly payments.

And the whole mess came to light because the younger Prevo was going through a divorce.
The earlier article explains what’s problematic here: church properties are supposed to be tax-exempt; but they’re supposed to be owned by the church. The secret agreements effectively meant that the ministers retained most if not all of the benefits of home ownership without paying the taxes they would otherwise owe. The article also questions who should be considered a minister; it’s a fair question and one that I don’t think has a lot of case law. It is fairly common practice for ministries to ordain men for the express purpose of making them eligible for the ministerial exception.
I don’t have much to say about this case in particular; despite the fact that the elder Prevo is the current chairman of the Board of Trustees at Liberty University [link], with a term scheduled to expire next year. I will say this, though: it rates pretty high in terms of what I’d consider warning signs that your church may have some ethical problems.
  1. The head pastor has family members on staff. A church is not a family business, and the bigger it is the less likely it is that members of the pastor’s family are really the best people for the job. This is something we see a lot of among prosperity theology folks, and it’s something I’d think conservative folks would steer clear of.
  2. Complicated business dealings, including complicated real estate, subsidiary business, and tax dealings. Especially cases where organizational changes are made to exploit loopholes in the tax code.
  3. Divorced ministers. A divorce should disqualify a man for the title of elder; pastors are elders; even if they’re just pastors for business reasons.

It is fairly popular in conservative circles nowadays to do very close readings of Paul the Apostle’s qualifications of an elder as they regard the gender of an elder but to be nuanced regarding the requirements that an elder be the husband of one wife, manage his house in an orderly way, and have well-behaved children. I hear all kinds of exceptions being raised, including single elders, exceptional divorces that don’t disqualify elders, and childless elders. It strikes me as odd that conservatives read a pronoun so closely and wish away Paul’s language regarding wives, households, and children.

Frankly it’s hard to make sense of conservatives getting so worked up about gay marriage when we’ve done such a poor job of dealing with divorce within the church.