Sunday, June 22, 2008

Assemblies of God International Fellowship Supports Kenneth Copeland's Lack of Cooperation in Investigation

A group of Pentecostal ministers and churches have thrown their backing behind televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his refusal to cooperate with a Senate probe into his ministry's spending.

Assemblies of God International Fellowship released a statement in their latest newsletter saying the current investigation, led by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), into the financial records of six prominent ministries "seems to be crossing a legal boundary."

"Politicians enact laws to separate Church and State which many think to be unconstitutional and then try to intrude into Church affairs while denying the Church discussion of State (political) affairs. This sounds like a one way street in favor of the State," the group said.

Grassley launched an investigation last November, requesting financial records and answers to questions regarding organizational and personal finances from ministries led by Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Paula and Randy White, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long and Benny Hinn. Each has millions of followers and collects tens of millions of dollars in donations a year.

The senate probe was prompted by media reports and ministry watchdogs that alleged opulent spending and possible abuse of their nonprofit status.

Copeland submitted limited responses to the Grassley office and recently launched a Web site,, questioning and protesting the senator's investigation.

The televangelist, who has said his ministry fully complies with all laws, believes the inquiry is a violation of religious freedom, an invasion of privacy and a threat to the separation of Church and State. He also raised suspicion over Grassley’s targeting of only Pentecostal churches that preach the “prosperity gospel” – a teaching that God wants his followers to be rich both spiritually and materially.

A Grassley spokeswoman told The Christian Post that it's unusual for a tax-exempt group to take such action against an investigation. She noted that Grassley has looked at tax-exempt policy issues involving a variety of entities, including the Red Cross, the Nature Conservancy, the Smithsonian, non-profit hospitals and universities.

But some, including Assemblies of God International Fellowship, are backing Copeland and his questioning.

The fellowship believes that the IRS, created by the State, should be conducting an investigation, not the Senate.

"It seems that Rev. Copeland is right in ignoring the Senate’s investigation of Church affairs but pledging to fully cooperate with any investigation by the IRS," the group stated.

In response, the Grassley spokeswoman stated, "Senator Grassley points out that the legislative branch writes the laws, and the executive branch enforces the laws. His responsibility as a leader (chairman and now ranking member) of the Senate committee with exclusive jurisdiction over tax policy is to evaluate the effectiveness of that policy.

"He looks at whether the law is weak in certain areas and allows people to exploit, say, tax-exempt groups for personal gain," she continued. "He leaves the enforcement of existing tax law to the IRS, the executive branch agency with that responsibility."

As of Friday, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn are the only two ministries that have submitted full responses for the Senate probe. Randy and Paula White have submitted partial responses, Eddie Long and Copeland have submitted "very limited responses," according to the spokeswoman, and Creflo Dollar has submitted no requested information.

[By Lillian Kwon, Christian Post Reporter]

Fireworks Expected in Cleveland, Tennessee

"Let Freedom Ring" is the theme for the 11th annual Mount Olive Freedom Celebration on June 29 at the Tri-State Exhibition Center.

The celebration will feature a number of gospel acts including the Freedom Celebration Festival Choir, which is made up of area church choirs. Some 120 voices will be included.

There will be musical entertainment, shows, kiddy rides and of course -- fireworks.

The fireworks show, which will be synchronized to music, is being sponsored by Larry Hill Ford of Cleveland.

The fireworks show will be the only one in Cleveland this year, according to organizers.

Pioneer Credit Co. is sponsoring the stage area where Gina Bean, 4 by Him, Just Us and the 2x2 Quartet will perform. Also on the Pioneer stage, the Freedom Celebration Festival Choir will gather. The choir is made up of members from the Graysville Church of God, Peerless Road Church of God of Prophecy, and Mount Olive Ministries Choir. Dr. Mark Bailey, minister of music at Mount Olive Ministries and Lee professor, will coordinate the choir.

Steve Hartline and Bridgett Baggett will emcee the event.

Santek Industries is sponsoring more than 16 air toys, including a 60-foot slide and splash for the kids. A petting zoo and pony rides will also be available for the family friendly event. Presentations by the Endunamo Strength Team and the Mount Olives Children's Ministries will held on the Santek stage.

There is no admission to the event which is open to the public. Fireworks are scheduled to begin around 9:30 p.m. on June 29.

[By Greg Kaylor, Cleveland Daily Banner Editorial Assistant]