Televangelist Watchdog Group Questions Pope Francis' Decision to 'Unite' With Wealthy Televangelists
DALLAS, Texas, July 8, 2014 /Christian Newswire
/ -- When Pope Francis sacked the German "Bishop of Bling" Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst last October for spending $43 million of church funds for his residential complex, and denounced the "idolatry of money," self-indulgence and "insidious worldliness" within the church, we were hopeful. In May, when the pope condemned "profiteers" and "climbers" and "people who follow Jesus for money," calling for a "poor church for the poor," we applauded.
But now the Pope has met with several televangelists who engage in more financial excesses than any of his own bishops ever even imagined doing. So why is he becoming cozy with televangelist "bishops of bling?"
In June 2014, the pontiff hosted Kenneth Copeland, dubbed the "Godfather of Prosperity" by CBS News. Also present were James Robison and his wife, Betty, of Life Outreach International, and Tony Palmer, former director of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Africa.
If Pope Francis is blessing their activities, either he's not the Francis we've come to expect, or he lacks facts about the tax-free money-making operations owned by these religious frauds. For example:
• Kenneth Copeland and his wife, Gloria, live in a 20,000-square-foot lake-front mansion near Fort Worth, Texas. They regularly fly one of their two expensive jets around the world, including regular trips to their multi-million dollar mansion in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In 2008, Mr. Copeland even boasted that he had collected over $1billion in donor funds during his career.
• Tony Palmer, a former employee of Copeland, is ordained with the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches (CEEC), a small offshoot unrelated to the main Episcopal denomination. The CEEC also ordained Gene Ewing, who for decades has been running a direct-mail operation sending out gimmicky letters (with prayer cloths, holy water from the Jordan and holy oil) promising riches and healing for anyone desperate enough to send him money.
• Property records show that James and Betty Robison live in a "modest" Texas home appraised by tax-assessors at $742,800. They also own one or more multi-million-dollar homes in Silverthorne, Colorado and their large Robison ministry ranch and lodge in East Texas, likewise built with donor money.
Trinity Foundation has been investigating religious fraud for decades and was directly involved in the U.S. Senate investigation on religious organizations' abuse of donor money. Additional data is available for members of the media.