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Seed Faith Offering

Another term for Prosperity teaching.

This Word-Faith doctrine that claims to receive anything at all from God, one must first donate money, known as a 'seed-faith' offering. You reap what you sow, the claim goes. In this case you must send your money to - usually - a televangelist, some of whom promise a 'hundred-fold return.'

If this scam worked as advertised, televangelists would be sending you money.

The concept of the seed faith offering was invented by James Eugene Ewing, who has long run a scam known as St. Matthew's Churches:

Are you one of the area residents who recently received a curious "Jesus Eyes Prayer Rug" in the mail with the suggestion of divine blessings if only you would send money?

The come-on might seem bizarre, but it is said to be a lucrative direct-mail campaign.

Most people will just throw the letters in the trash with the other junk mail, but one organization says a few - the poor, the sick, those in spiritual crisis or otherwise desperate enough to grasp at any hope - will send money.

A lot of money.

"By their own estimates, it's up to $40 million to $50 million a year now," said Ole Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation, a religious community in Dallas, Texas, that for years has been tracking the operations of the man responsible for the prayer-rug campaign, James Eugene Ewing.

Ewing, believed to be near 70, lives in Century City, Calif., but the prayer-rug campaign is run under the name of Saint Matthew's Churches and carries a return address of a post office box in Tulsa, Okla.

As a federal nonprofit group, the organization filed tax returns through 1999, when it showed $26.8 million for the year in direct public support.

Then the organization declared itself a church and, as such, was no longer required to file returns.

On the GuideStar Web site, which provides information to help consumers evaluate charities, the information about Saint Matthew's seems routine.

"Since it was founded, Saint Matthew's Churches has been active in publishing, giving out, and mailing the Gospel, all free of charge," it says, and claims the "mother church" has the capacity to seat 1,600. In the absence of tax-return information, according to the Web site, such information is provided by the organization.

The address of the church is given as 515 S. Main St., Tulsa - the address of Ewing's attorney, J.C. Joyce. A telephone message left with the firm of Joyce and Pollard, seeking information about Saint Matthew's Churches, was not returned Monday.

Anthony said Saint Matthew's has no church, but instead rents other churches for photo shoots. Ewing has worked with some of the biggest televangelists in the country, Anthony said, and wrote the script when Oral Roberts said in 1987 that God would "call him home" if he didn't raise $8 million.

Ewing, said Anthony, was born in poverty but now lives like a king.

"He's from Kaufman, Texas, which is 30 or 40 miles southeast of Dallas, and he has a seventh-grade education, but he's a genius at direct mail," Anthony said. "He invented the concept of seed faith, which is kind of a heaven lottery where God is going to give (money). It's now all we see on radio and television, but it's the worst perversion of Scriptures you can imagine."

Anthony, 67, said his organization got into the business of tracking Ewing in 1991, when many of the homeless people who came to his group for help complained of being bilked by direct-mail scams.
- Source: Group: 'Ministry' targets sick, needy. The Joplin Globe, USA, Mar. 21, 2006

arrow For more on this subject, see Prosperity Teaching

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This post was last updated: Oct. 12, 2014