Christian Ministries Internship I
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Dick Pritchard & Dr. Steve Gerali

"CASE STUDY: Ordained Infidelities"

Case Study: "Ordained Infidelities"
(Group 2 – Borgmann, Buys, Comfort, Cronin, Kappen, Krill, Nation, Werner, and Williams)

Trinity Broadcasting Network, based in California's Orange County, is the largest religious broadcaster in the world. Their global satellite configuration carries programming throughout the world. Started personally by ministers Paul and Jan Crouch more than 30 years ago when they came to California from the Midwest, TBN espouses a Ôprosperity gospel' which encourages giving to TBN with the belief that God will repay or multiply the gift to the giver. This is encouraged even when the giver is in debt or may be on welfare or disability which many donors are. The result is that TBN has become the wealthy owner of corporate offices, studios, satellites, private jets, and, based on records, extravagant in the use of donations for fine meals and wines, alcohol, and various entertainments throughout the U.S. and around the world. Their investment portfolios make millions of dollars in profit daily even was they continue to raise funds on their television programs. TBN is largely led by Crouch family relatives. One adult son oversees all operations while the other is a producer. Paul Crouch's sister oversees the Human Resources Department and all hiring and firing while a niece is a lawyer for TBN.

The Los Angeles Time recently reported that in 1998 Paul Crouch and TBN secretly paid a former TBN employee $425,000 in a wrongful termination case that also included an agreement that the man would keep quiet about an alleged homosexual tryst with the televangelist in 1996 at a TBN-owned Lake Arrowhead cabin. The former employee, Enoch Lonnie Ford, is the son and grandson of ministers and acknowledges that he has a history of drug addiction and sexually predatory behavior. TBN had full knowledge of this and, in fact, hired him back more than once after he had done jail time. After the alleged 1996 incident, TBN paid about $17,000 of Ford's debts and gave him a rent-free apartment. Court records indicate Crouch and TBN have spent large sums of money and a great deal of time to keep all of this information out of public view. Ford recently threatened to publish a memoir exposing the incident unless he received $10 million from TBN. When a judge ruled that he had to be held to his agreement to be silent, the media broke the story. The details on records of hotel bills, alcohol use, etc. by Crouch and Ford together seem to add support to Ford's accusation that he was seduced by crouch. TBN sources also acknowledge that the Crouch's, married more than 50 years, seldom stay together, choosing to live separately in various network-owned luxury homes. There is also a rail of information that indicates others about the 1996 tryst as if it were fact. The alleged 1996 incident and 1998 payout appear to be common knowledge among TBN leaders.

We are at an interesting point in analyzing and reflecting on this situation. All of us are Christian college students that in one way or another are pursuing leadership within the body of Christ, yet none of us support TBN financially, nor feel loyal to their ministry. What is evident with this situation is that TBN takes in a large sum of money from its viewers despite their current economic situation. In turn they take their donations and spend elaborately within what appears to be their own family. The decisions made by the leadership of the ministry, particularly Paul and Jan Crouch, have led to a lifestyle of lavish living, as well as what appears to be poor decision making. In one particular instance, the decisions made by Paul Crouch led into a scandal that could have cost those involved in the ministry, but not involved in the scandal, their reputation. What isn't clear is what level of accountability Paul himself faced after this scandal was exposed and then dealt with, nor do we know what level of rehabilitation Enoch Lonnie Ford went through before returning to his job at TBN after jail time. What is known is at some point after the incident, Ford returned to ask for more money in order to remain silent. TBN, and the courts believed that per their initial agreement, Ford should remain silent, given that both parties had agreed to the previous arrangements. The issues in question here from our particular point of view are leadership, responsibility, nepotism, stewardship, and secrecy.

Theological Reflection
The main theological question that must be asked is what is appropriate biblical leadership in light of the large amounts of money. The heart of this issue is stewardship. Luke 16:10-12 is summed up basically by the concept that when much is given, much is expected. The problem with this is that both perspectives of this situation can easily use this passage to support their particular case. Those that support the Crouches could say that it is obvious that since they have been doing this for 30 years, God is continuing to reward them for their faithful service. Others could use this passage to show that the Crouches should not be entrusted with any more "riches" given the fact they have obviously misused them to continue to make lifestyle decisions that are not appropriate within the body of Christ. We have example in the Old Testament of Solomon building quite extravagant structures and living quite lavishly from the support of his fellow Israelites. On the other hand, 1Timothy 3 indicates that a Christian leader should "not [be] given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, [and] not a lover of money." To leave this situation with a clear perspective as to what the Bible has to say about Christian leadership is difficult at best. When dealing with stewardship within ministry, we must always turn to the concept found in Luke 12:48, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." This does not just apply to money, but with all of the resources, gifts, and talents that are given by God to His children. Only when this leadership is actualized, will true God-honoring ministry take place.