An independent organization that reviews Christian ministries for financial accountability and transparency has released its annual list of the top 30 most exemplary ministries and, for the first time, a list of 30 “donor alert” ministries.
Though Matthews, N.C.-based Wall Watchers for years has released its list of “Shining Light” ministries and a regular bulletin of "donor alerts" concerning potential frauds and pitfalls for donors, this year marks the first time it has released an official list of “30 Donor Alert Ministries” through its website, MinistryWatch.com.
“Most donors expect charitable organizations to act on behalf of others and not for greed, personal aggrandizement, or other reasons; however, ministries are operated by human beings who are subject to the shortcomings common to man, including what some may call the ‘principle of ethical entropy,’ or as Christians call it, sin,” the evangelical organization states in introduction of the newly released list.
“Donors do not always have the power or know-how to pursue accountability; however, each donor can do their part by making an informed giving decision by looking at various factors and issues,” it added.
For its new list, Wall Watchers took into consideration issues important to donors, such as lack of transparency, high salaries, misleading marketing efforts, revocation of tax-exempt status, ties to cultic practices, and in-process investigations. The organization’s stated aim is to offer the list as one of the various factors that donors can access in making giving decisions.
Among the ministries included in the 2008 list are the six that made headlines after Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa requested last year that they provide financial statements and records and respond to a wide range of questions regarding their personal and organizational finances.
Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance, said the probe was part of a long-standing priority of his to make sure that tax-exempt organizations are accountable to their donors.
“As a Christian myself, and a person who believes in tithing, I feel I have a right to know where my money goes,” he explained. “If a person gets a tax deduction for a donation, the deduction and donation should be for a legitimate purpose.”
Since the request last November, four of the six have come to cooperate with Grassley's investigation, namely Joyce Meyer Ministries, Paula White Ministries, Benny Hinn Ministries, and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries. Creflo Dollar Ministries and Kenneth Copeland Ministries, meanwhile, have both contested the investigation, arguing that the proper governmental entity to examine the Church is the IRS, not the Committee on Finance.
Though Joyce Meyer Ministries has been praised for cooperating fully with Grassley from the get-go and providing information “over and above what was requested,” according to the senator, it was still included in Wall Watchers’ “Donor Alert” list along with the others with “Senate Investigation” being the main reason.
In its general evaluation criteria, Wall Watchers noted that any one of the seven items it looks at could be a reason for inclusion.
Aside from the “Grassley Six,” other prominent organizations listed in Wall Watchers’ “Donor Alert” list include TD Jakes Ministries for “Transparency Grade of ‘F,’” Inspirational Network (INSP) for “High Salary,” and Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) for four previous “Donor Alerts” that covered several issues.
On the other side, ministries that were noted in the list of “30 Shining Light Ministries of 2008” for being ”‘Christian’ more than in name only” included widely respected organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Mercy Ships, Trans World Radio, Voice of the Martyrs, and Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Wall Watchers noted that the list of 30 included only “some of the ‘best ministries’” and that identifying a diversity of the best ministries “is challenging given the selfless work that so many do for the cause of Christ.”
“[W]e developed this format to highlight a sampling of ministries which are exemplary,” it stated.
Wall Watchers has released its “Shining Light” list every year since 2005.