F Grade For Jakes, Hinn

The Lincoln Tribune reports that MinistryWatch has issued a “Donor Alert”, giving various Christian ministries an “F” for non-transparency. According to MinistryWatch founder and CEO Howard “Rusty” Leonard:

The refusal by these ministries to release the financial information is reason enough for donors to find other ministries to support, whether for tsunami relief or other purposes. We are confident that donors committed to doing their due diligence and who prayerfully consider how to best help those in need can find many worthy ministries to support by utilizing our website and the resources of those organizations listed on the last page of the Donor Alert.

MinistryWatch points the finger at 27 organisations, including several high-profile ones:

3. Benny Hinn Ministries/World Outreach Church

8. Creflo Dollar Ministries

9. Crystal Cathedral Ministries [Robert Schuller]

17. Kenneth Copeland Ministries

18. Kenneth Hagin Ministries

26. TD Jakes Ministries/Potters House of Dallas, Inc.

This is not particularly surprising: Hinn’s finances have come under critical scrutiny in the past, while the others are associated with “Word of Faith” Prosperity Gospel teachings (which MinistryWatch objects to for theological reasons as well as for the financial practices of its proponents). However, while Jakes (whom I saw in London in 1999 alongside Matthew Ashimolowo) undoubtedly has been influenced by Prosperity Gospel ideas, he is a much more complex and significant figure than Copeland, Dollar or the late Hagin. In 2001 Time called Jakes “America’s best preacher”, and “the next Billy Graham”, and his recent movie, Woman Thou Art Loosed, managed 50% on Rotten Tomatoes and a gained Jakes more media attention. Jakes can also claim to be an international figure, and just recently he was received enthusiastically in Uganda and Kenya.

MinistryWatch explains its transparency guides here. The organisation derives its grades (F being the lowest) from two questions (Wall Watchers is the organisation behind MinistryWatch):

How much transparency has the organization demonstrated through its responsiveness to Wall Watchers’ requests for information? (Responsiveness)

How much transparency has the organization demonstrated through the quality and quantity of financial information it makes available? (Disclosure)

However, it adds that:

This system for evaluating an organization’s transparency is not meant to be comprehensive. There are many other factors that could be considered in determining transparency. These other factors include membership in accountability groups, internal policies, and fundraising practices, to name just a few. However, Wall Watchers believes that the best indication of an organization’s transparency is how it responds when those commitments and policies are actually put to the test. This system tries to assess that commitment within organizations.

MinistryWatch has a database of 500 organisations, and the lack of information from Jakes and the others can be contrasted with comprehensive entries for very high-profile groups such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries. On the other hand, back in 2003 a spokesperson for the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability told the Christian Examiner that:

The unfortunate thing about the Transparency Watch list is that it lumps together organizations who by policy do not disclose…Non-disclosure to Wall Watchers shouldn’t translate into non-disclosure…There are philosophical differences in the community with the Wall Watcher findings.

Jakes, though, is not a member of the ECFA either…

(Lincoln Tribune link from Religion News Blog)