Joyce Meyer Ministries Addresses Lingering Controversies About Financial Practices

A representative for Joyce Meyer Ministries insists that the non-profit organization has long valued transparency and financial accountability and was not, in fact, moved to make significant changes to its financial operations due to being targeted by a Senate investigation or scrutiny from investigative reports.

Meyer is a popular Bible teacher and bestselling author who is president of her namesake nonprofit and also co-founder, along with her husband, of the ministry’s St. Louis Dream Center, where Meyer occasionally preaches.

The Fenton, Missouri-based Christian ministry, which enjoys the “regular support” of 405,414 donors, recently released its latest annual financial report detailing its assets, expenditures, and the results of its charitable and evangelistic endeavors.

Data not included in the report, however, are the salaries paid to members of Joyce Meyer Ministries’ board of directors, specifically, to her husband and two sons.

At one time, members of the Meyer family (including daughters Laura Holtzmann and Sandra McCollom) accounted for 50 percent of JMM’s board members.

The ministry, founded in 1985 as Life in The Word, expanded its board from eight to 12 members when it joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in 2009, about two years after the Senate probe was launched. Scrutiny by the St. Louis-Post

Dispatch allegedly also prompted the JMM board to reduce its CEO’s salary and change how Meyer financially benefits from her lucrative book sales. Proceeds from Meyer’s books, along with honorariums from her private speaking engagements, are given to the ministry and not to Meyer herself, according to an attestation letter in JMM’s annual report.

“Joyce Meyer Ministries was already transparent,” Lori Ann Potter, public relations liaison for the organization insisted in a July 29-30 email exchange with The Christian Post. “Our efforts to maintain financial accountability and transparency have been in practice for many years and were not a result of Senator Grassley’s inquiry.”

The inquiry in question was launched in 2007 by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance, and concluded in 2011. Meyer was targeted in the financial probe along with ministers Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Eddie Long, and Kenneth Copeland. The group, its members also referred to as prosperity preachers, was dubbed the “Grassley Six.”

None of the targeted ministers were obligated to comply with the Senate committee’s requests for detailed information on their financial practices, and faced no penalties for choosing not to. Meyer and Hinn did respond to the inquires and were commended by the panel for doing so, although Meyer was the only one who’s ministry joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

The ECFA, founded in 1979 by evangelist Billy Graham, states on its website that it provides services to many well-known Christian nonprofits

that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance.

Some notable ECFA members include Biola University, Cru, Gospel for Asia, and Jews for Jesus.

Seeking accreditation from the ECFA in 2009, increasing its board of directors from eight to 12 members and increasing frequency of board meetings to twice a year were the only changes adopted by the ministry, Potter told CP, in the wake of the Senate investigation.

 
“These were the only changes made. We were already fully compliant with IRS laws and no further changes were necessary as a result of the Senate Finance Committee investigation. We wanted to join the ECFA to be a part of an organization that provides guidance and oversight to religious organizations,” Potter said.

In the concluding report released by Grassley, the senator maintained concern over the:

the personal use of church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards by pastors and their families

and questioned

the lack of oversight of finances by boards often packed with the televangelists’ relatives and friends,

The Associated Press reported at the time.

The Senate committee handed the policy issues over to ECFA to study, Dan Busby, president of the accreditation organization told CP. The ECFA president explained that his organization then formed a national commission on accountability policies for religious organizations.

The committee produced two reports, including one entitled “Enhancing Accountability for the Religious and Broader Nonprofit Sector.”

The resulting recommendation from the committee, composed of “80 religious leaders from across all major faith lines,” was to let these non-profit organizations monitor themselves — since the IRS already has laws regulating charities.

As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, Joyce Meyer Ministries is classified as a “church” by IRS guidelines. The IRS prohibits heads or insiders of such nonprofits from gaining “excessive economic benefit” from their organizations. However, the IRS does not provide numerical guidelines for what it considers “fair” or “reasonable” compensation.

A tax exempt status can be jeopardized if the nonprofit’s activities “serve the private interests of any individual or organization” instead of “the poor or the distressed or the community at large” (for example).

JMM, like any church, synagogue or mosque, is exempt from otherwise mandatory federal income tax and can opt out of filing the related 990 form disclosing its financial dealings.

The long and short of that project that took a year or so to complete, we said basically there are enough laws on the books right now to monitor religious organizations if there are outliers, if there are concerns about ministries today, the Internal Revenue Service has the power to address those. So while the senator’s staff had really pushed for more legislation, our response was ‘no more legislation,’
Busby told CP.

Some might consider the Grassley investigation fruitless since it lacked teeth to enforce participation from these ministries, and in the end, left these nonprofits to simply monitor themselves. In other words, these ministries have gone about their businesses as usual, except perhaps for Meyer.

That’s true. Only Joyce Meyer Ministries…stepped up to be accredited. The others, various things have happened,

Busby said, noting the divorce of Randy and Paula White and the leadership reshuffling of the church they founded, Without Walls International Church.

“Bottom line is, we accredit and monitor Joyce Meyer Ministries… We did not accredit the other entities that were investigated by Sen. Grassley,” Busby added.


Senate Panel Probes 6 Top Televangelists:
The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by:

  • Paula White
  • Joyce Meyer
  • Creflo Dollar
  • Eddie Long
  • Kenneth Copeland
  • Benny Hinn.

Three of the six –

  • Benny Hinn
  • Kenneth Copeland
  • Creflo Dollar

– also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.

Grassley Investigation Ends with No Penalty for Televangelists:

Two of the targeted televangelists

— Joyce Meyer, based in Missouri and Benny Hinn, based in California

— told Grassley that they have made changes in how they govern their ministries or set compensation.

⇒ Joyce Meyer

⇒ Benny Hinn

The televangelists who did not provide full information included

⇒ Kenneth and Gloria Copeland

⇒ Bishop Eddie Long

⇒ Creflo and Taffi Dollar

⇒ Randy and Paula White.


joyce-meyer-ministries-inc-s-statement-of-activities-presented-in-the-organizations-2014-annual-report

Lingering Questions

Meyer, 72, was paid $250,000 last year, according to her ministry’s 2014 annual report. The ministry itself earned $110.5 million, with about 27 percent of its revenue ($29,837,903) used specifically for “missions and outreach” (not including “operating expenses” for conferences or JMM’s radio and television ministry).

As previously noted, among JMM’s current board of directors are Meyer, her husband and two sons (Dave, Daniel and David L. Meyer, respectively). Also listed on the board are: pastor Tommy Barnett; John Bevere; pastor Don Clowers; Dru Hammer; Paul Osteen; Paul Schermann; Kurt Warner; and pastor Bob Yandian.

Daniel Meyer took the helm as CEO of JMM’s U.S. operations in 2004, when he was just 25. David L. Meyer serves as CEO of JMM’s global missions arm, Hand of Hope. Meyer is president, while her husband, Dave, is vice president of the board.

The St. Louis-Post Dispatch reported in a 2003 feature on Meyer and her ministry: “Minutes of ministry board meetings show that for 2002 and 2003, the board approved compensation packages of up to $900,000 for Joyce Meyer and up to $450,000 for her husband.”

JMM’s public relations liaison disputed that report, telling CP that “although the information you bring into question was documented in meeting minutes as part of a discussion, the ministry never adopted salaries for Dave and Joyce Meyer at that level.”

“The board approved compensation studies to determine acceptable salary ranges, but these findings did not represent the salaries actually paid. The fact is, $250,000 is the highest Joyce has been paid, and again, her salary has remained at this level for well over 15 years. Likewise, Dave Meyer’s salary is not, nor was it ever set at $450,000,” Potter stated in her responses to CP’s emailed questions.

The St. Louis-Post Dispatch also reported that Joyce Meyer Ministries had purchased five homes for Meyer and her family members.

“To answer your second question, the ministry does not pay for any personal expenses of the Meyer’s homes or vehicles, and the same rules apply to the other board members,” Potter told CP.

 
That reply was clarification to her original statement that: “Vehicles owned by the ministry consist of trucks and vans used for transporting personnel, goods and services. Joyce Meyer Ministries does not own board member [sic] homes or vehicles. All ministry buildings and vehicles are strictly used for ministry purposes.”

One question that did not receive a response from JMM pertained to the amounts of the salaries of Meyer’s husband and two sons.

When asked why a response to that question was omitted, CP was told: “… we publicly disclose information on our president and founder. As for other executives, compensation studies are done each year on those requiring them, and they are based on the salary thresholds our outside attorneys recommend. This has been done for years to assure we are not exceeding the recommended compensation levels. We do report those salaries to ECFA.”

CP confirmed with the ECFA’s listed media contact that the accreditation organization does not publicly disclose reported salaries of board members.

Give.org, run by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance: declined to give Joyce Meyer Ministries its stamp of seal of accreditation as it has with other Christian charities, such as Prison Fellowship Ministries, American Bible Society and several others.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance concluded that JMM met 14 of its 16 requirements for approval, and noted its CEO sitting as chair of the board of directors as a negative mark. The charity report for JMM, last accessed by CP on Aug. 3, has since been removed from Give.org.

“It depends. It may be more common for a startup, a nonprofit that’s starting from scratch and hasn’t developed a network of supporters from which they can select board members,” ECFA’s Busby told CP when asked if it was common for a nonprofit’s president or CEO to have family members on his or her board of directors.

“Even with organizations that have matured over time. It’s not uncommon for a church or a parachurch organization to have a family member or two on the board,” Busby added.

Busby explained that for members, the ECFA’s

“litmus test is whether the majority of board members are independent, and their independence is reflected by the fact that they’re not on staff or that they’re not related to anyone on staff.”

 
“There are a few other fine line definitions involved there, but basically, that over 50 percent of individuals serving are not family members and not staff. That’s the test that we apply on that,”

he added.

Busby explained that the means of enforcement for this particular requirement involved the same “litmus test.”

Some Christians cannot help but be skeptical when questions about financial accountability and transparency are raised, CP told Busby.

Are ministries that refuse accreditation or oversight shooting themselves in the foot? How do they gain confidence if they are unwilling to disclose any of their financial dealings?
were some of the questions CP asked him.

The ECFA president referenced a passage in the previously noted “Enhancing Accountability” book produced by the national commission about freedom of religion leaving churches and other religious entities room to choose what works for them based on their own polity and doctrine.

The commission took the position that these non-990 filers have a great deal of freedom because the law gives them this freedom, yet at the same time they need to step up and demonstrate their commitment to oversight and accountability. That’s the America that we live in today. A great deal of freedom for these folks but they also have a great deal of responsibility from an integrity standpoint to demonstrate accountability,
Busby said.

“Sometimes that works out well where…they design enough accountability. And at other times, it doesn’t work out very well. That’s the landscape of where we are today,” he added.

Joyce Meyer Ministries, meanwhile, was preparing to host its first-ever Social Media Giving Day. On Aug. 20, the ministry will invited the 14.4 million supporters across its social networks to donate money for the “Joyce Meyer Ministries General Fund,” presumably to maintain its evangelism efforts and humanitarian outreach.

“We want to show the world what our social community (that’s all of you on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram) can do when they join together to Share Christ and Love People. No amount is too small, and when we all join together…well, amazing things happen,” reads the campaign promotion.

[Read “Joyce Meyer Was Never Paid $900,000 and Her Nonprofit Does Not Pay Expenses for Or Own Board Members’ Homes, Rep Says in Q&A About Financial Practices” for CP’s complete email exchange with Lori Ann Potter, JMM’s public relations liaison]

Email this CP reporter at nicola.menzie(at)christianpost.com |

by Nicola Menzie , Christian Post Reporter | August 16, 2015 | Source: christianpost.com "Joyce Meyer Ministries Addresses Lingering Controversies About Financial Practices"

Related:

Senate Panel Probes 6 Top Televangelists

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References   [ + ]

1. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/senate-panel-probes-6-top-televangelists/
2. note 01/02 http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2011/january/grassley-investigation-ends-with-no-penalty-for.html

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