In 1977 Carl Reiner directed the movie Oh, God! starring George Burns. Burns won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the role. I remember one scene in the movie where George Burns, cast as the Almighty, comes down hard on the lavish lifestyle of a religious leader: “If he wants to make money, tell him to sell shoes.”
I had read the concerns raised by Wall Watchers on the Joyce Meyer organization a few days back. The main concern was whether the Joyce Meyer organization should operate as a church or a public charity. Operating as a public charity affords more financial transparency to ensure appropriate governance and Wall Watchers believes that the Joyce Meyer organization is not operating a congregational church. They also challenge her excessive lifestyle and questionable ministry expenses.
I then came across the current mess with Clint Brown of Faithworld. Yet another story of lavish lifestyles and questionable expenses paid for by donations.
Clint Brown is a preacher and motivational speaker, and he is a successful songwriter. He has written and published over 250 praise and worship songs. He has released 14 albums and he has hit the top 10 list in Praise and Worship distribution charts.
He is the CEO of Tribe Music Group which owns and operates a recording studio as well as a publishing and distribution company.
He is also a pastor of a large church in Orlando, Florida. In less than 10 years Faithworld has grown to over 6,000 members.
This was the article that I came across at ReligionNewsBlog:
FaithWorld has bought a $500,000 parsonage for its embattled pastor, Clint Brown, in what the church’s attorney says was a vote of confidence in the congregation’s leader.
The church bought the house in the gated Park Springs development in southwest Orlando last month. Brown, a nationally known recording artist, has been the focus of media reports in the past two weeks related to a messy divorce case that revealed a lavish lifestyle.
Brown also is named in a suit alleging that $200,000 lent to the church was not returned. Both sides in that dispute agreed that the money was intended to purchase or build a new home for the church. But FaithWorld attorney Mark Matthew O’Mara said Monday that the money instead went into the church’s general fund.
O’Mara said the church’s Dec. 16 purchase of the four-bedroom, three-bath house for Brown on Park Springs Circle “was obviously a vote of confidence. More significantly, it was the appropriate fiscal decision for the church to own a piece of property rather than pay rent on one.”
He said the congregation also made “substantial improvements” on the property.
The church also is paying $7,000 monthly mortgage payments on a $1.4 million home in Alaqua Lakes, a gated Longwood community where Brown lived with his wife, Angela, until February 2003, when they separated.
O’Mara said the church is studying whether it is proper to make payments on two residences for their pastor. Also under examination are credit-card charges by Clint and Angela Brown that were paid by the church.
Neither the Browns nor their attorneys could be reached for comment Monday.
Angela Brown’s divorce filing provides a listing of the couple’s assets, including three Mercedes-Benzes, a Porsche Carrera, a Hummer, a Ford F-150 pickup, a Volkswagen Beetle and two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Several of the couple’s vehicles were paid for by the congregation.
The court documents also shed light on the couple’s spending.
On a visit to Diamond Quasar Jewels of New York in August 2002, Clint Brown spent $8,800. Other purchases were recorded at tony shops and spas in Bal Harbour; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Las Vegas; and Beverly Hills, Calif. Angela Brown spent more than $1,000 at Victoria’s Secret and nearly $10,000 for shoes at a Dallas store.
Using his wife’s Platinum American Express card, Clint Brown spent $85 at a San Diego Hooters on Jan. 24, 2003, according to court documents. Tattoos and tanning-salon sessions also were charged, along with nearly $1,000 in wine from a Heathrow shop.
In the divorce suit, Angela Brown also said that in one year, her husband charged more than $70,000 in women’s clothes on an American Express card and that neither she nor her daughter received any of the clothing.
O’Mara said that if an examination of the pastor’s credit cards found that some of the charges were for personal expenses, they would be taxable as personal income.
In addition to the divorce controversy, Clint Brown has been sued by Deborah Mitchell, a former church member who said he failed to return a $200,000 loan she made to the church in 1999.
The church maintains the money was a gift to the congregation. Mitchell’s attorney, Howard Marks, acknowledged that there was no written agreement defining the transaction. There were no witnesses to the discussion between Clint Brown and Mitchell, according to the suit.
O’Mara acknowledged that the money originally was intended to buy or build a new home for the church, which was then in Apopka.
“They were looking at a piece of property and building to expand the church,” O’Mara said, until televangelist Benny Hinn decided to move from the Forest City property to Dallas. FaithWorld acquired the property by assuming the $5.8 million debt.
When that happened, O’Mara said, the $200,000 went into the church’s general fund “at a time when they were expanding and incurring a lot of expenses” after the move from Apopka to Forest City Road west of Maitland.
Despite the recent revelations, support for Clint Brown has remained strong among the estimated 6,000 members who fill FaithWorld’s seats.
Janet Thompson, a member of the congregation, said Monday that she supports last month’s purchase of the parsonage for her pastor.
“Great. I’m happy about that. He deserves it,” Thompson said. “I would go to the ends of the Earth for a man of God who deserves it.”
Perhaps Clint should focus on selling shoes.