On March 23, 2007, ABC’s 20/20 broadcasted a profile of MinistryWatch.com founder Rusty Leonard
. During this segment, 20/20 reported on the luxurious lifestyle led by Trinity Broadcasting Network’s leaders Paul and Jan Crouch, raising issues that MinistryWatch.com had previously brought to donors’ attention. TBN responded with a press release (click here for TBN’s press release) containing inaccuracies and questioning the trustworthiness of MinistryWatch.com as a source for 20/20’s report.
In MinistryWatch.com’s view, TBN’s response was an attempt to divert TBN donors’ attention away from the truth. Since MinistryWatch.com seeks to help donors make wise and effective giving decisions, this Donor Alert highlights the errors in TBN’s press release so that donors will not be confused or misled. Due to TBN’s actions in this regard, TBN’s Transparency Grade has fallen to “F”.
MinistryWatch.com regrets that it must take this measure. Unfortunately, TBN’s decision to significantly distort the truth in its press release, combined with its previous actions to withhold critical information donors need to make wise stewardship decisions about their support for TBN, makes such a response necessary. MinistryWatch.com’s desire is that TBN will undertake meaningful reforms of its business and ministry practices and enter into a process that will restore the TBN network and its leadership to full effectiveness as a sound, biblically-based Christian ministry.
TBN’s press release goes on to specifically criticize MinistryWatch.com’s founder, Rusty Leonard, as someone “who has a longstanding practice of attacking ministries who are not in agreement with his brand of theology.” MinistryWatch.com does not “attack” but does report on the salient financial and theological issues of all the ministries on which it has produced research comments. Donor Alerts like this are rarely issued and only when particularly pertinent information for donors is deemed worthy of special commentary. Typically we inform donors via our analyst comments found on our website. These reports have both positive and negative points itemized (including TBN’s report on our website) so donors can have the best possible understanding of each ministry. Indeed, Mr. Leonard stated in the 20/20 interview that he believes TBN does do some good works. Neither TBN nor any other ministry has been singled out for special treatment in our MinistryWatch.com reports, as can be seen by a quick review of the MinistryWatch.com website. The same approach is utilized for all ministries reviewed.
Regrettably, MinistryWatch.com has discovered that TBN is one of the few ministries in its database of over 500 that has often engaged in activities of grave concern to donors. In fact, no other ministry has ever been subject to four Donor Alerts like TBN. Additionally, some of TBN’s corporate entities are not organized as churches. This allows MinistryWatch.com to have at least some access to TBN’s financial information and report to donors about our findings. Many other ministries that promote prosperity theology are organized as churches and thus do not have to disclose any financial information. Accordingly, we are unable to comment on that which we cannot know but such ministries also receive “F” Transparency Grades. These ministries have also not issued press releases that appear to be motivated to confuse donors. Moreover, TBN’s assertions may leave the impression that only MinistryWatch.com has concerns with the prosperity theology prevalent on TBN. In reality, TBN is among a relatively small number of ministries that endorse this flawed theological position yet attract as much as $1 billion in donations annually. TBN’s leaders need to give consideration to the words of Jesus when he said. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
For more information on MinistryWatch.com’s views on prosperity theology, please see the following MinistryWatch.com Reflection article on this topic: Prosperity/Word of Faith Theology
. Furthermore, MinistryWatch.com’s previous actions with regard to Joyce Meyer’s ministry undercut TBN’s claim of theological bias. Ms. Meyer’s ministry has taught theology that MinistryWatch.com has questioned, yet when this ministry reduced its leaders’ salaries, sold their homes worth millions of dollars and released audited financial statements, MinistryWatch.com removed its Donor Alert on her ministry. Likewise, if TBN would take similar actions to benefit donors, it is possible we would remove the Donor Alert on it also, even while we would continue to warn donors about the dangers of TBN’s teaching of prosperity theology in the analyst’s comments section of our online report on TBN, just as we do for many other ministries. In summary, TBN is not subject to MinistryWatch.com Donor Alerts simply because of theological differences but as a result of incidents and actions taken by TBN that have caused MinistryWatch. com to be concerned for the welfare of TBN’s donors.
– Source: TBN’s Response to ABC 20/20 Report Attempts to Mislead Donors, Transparency Grade Dropped to “F”
, MinistryWatch Donor Alert, April, 2007. Emphasis in original. Some links added by Apologetics Index.
Trinitiy Broadcasting Network (TBN), led by founders Paul and Jan Crouch, is the world’s largest religious TV network. It claims to be a Christian ministry.
However, while some legitimate ministries and teachers (those who adhere to the orthodox teachings and practices of historical Christianity) appear on TBN, the network promotes such an incredible amount of heretical material – including extremist Word-Faith teachings – that it is often referred to as “The Blasphemy Network.”
For the time being, the Apologetics Index research resources on the Trinity Broadcasting are still located in an older neighborhood of our site.