Another mega-ministry preacher has agreed to cooperate with a U.S. senator’s request for information about finances.
Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., has indicated that he will send financial information to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Grassley announced in November that he has requested detailed financial information from six high-profile ministries that espouse the “prosperity gospel.” Grassley said he was responding to complaints from whistle-blowers that the ministries may be violating the laws governing non-profits by using tax-deductible donations to enrich the ministers and members of their families.
Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Mo., provided the material by the original deadline, but the other five ministries either asked for more time or pledged defiance. Grassley extended the deadline until April 1, and now some ministries are starting to come around.
Recently, TV evangelist Benny Hinn announced that he will comply. Paula and Randy White’s Without Walls International Church asked for more time and later said information was on the way.
Two others, Creflo Dollar Ministries and Kenneth Copeland Ministries, have vowed not to cooperate. Copeland has been attacking Grassley and the probe directly, telling his supporters the investigation is an assault on religious freedom. His ministry did send 291 pages of documents, but Grassley has said the material is “incomplete.”
Dollar has sent nothing, and he has hired as his legal counsel Marcus Owens, a former top official at the Internal Revenue Service. In a letter to the Finance Committee, Owens charged that Grassley’s inquiry is driven by “distaste for, or disagreement with, these churches’ theology and religious practices.”
Grassley is being cagey about what steps he might take next.
“Sen. Grassley is just taking it one step at a time,” Jill Gerber, an aide to the senator, told The Christian Post. “We’ve received a lot of cooperation so far. If he had decided to pursue subpoenas earlier, he might not be getting the voluntary cooperation he is getting now. Patience is something he’s willing to exercise.”
The Christian Post also reported that the second round of letters to ministries that extended the deadline until April 1 was signed by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who heads the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus’ involvement, the paper said, sends the message “that this was not a one-man or one-party operation.”
Baptist Press reported that the National Religious Broadcasters has expressed concern about the probe, even though none of the six ministries is a member of the group.
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has taken a different view. “Financial transparency is the cornerstone of financial integrity for nonprofits,” President Ken Behr said in a statement.