Evangelical ministry leaders resign amid allegations of abuse, misappropriation of funds

Ministry accused of diverting food distribution donations for missionary internship program

Mike Rozell, co-founder of Potter's Field Ministries, conducts a pottery demonstration at Rock Church in San Diego, California, in 2012. | Screenshot: YouTube/Rock Church

Correction appended

The leaders of an evangelical ministry based in Montana have resigned following allegations of abuse and misappropriation of funds earmarked to help feed impoverished children. 

The new head of Potter's Field Ministries (PFM), a 27-year-old nonprofit that was previously affiliated with Calvary Chapel, announced last month that the organization's founders, Michael and Pam Rozell, have stepped down from their day-to-day leadership roles with both PFM and Potter's Field Ranch.

With PFM registered as a church, the Rozells preached the Gospel in churches across the nation for over two decades through live pottery presentations. Potter's Field Ranch is a separate nonprofit that houses the ministry's internship program.  

The couple along with all current sitting board members will resign from the board of directors of both entities, according to a statement from PFM's new CEO, Rob McCoy.

The Rozells were accused this year of verbally abusing and manipulating people who served with the ministry's IGNITE internship program.  

Over a dozen sources involved with the internship program since 2000 detailed for the Daily Inter Lake their experiences of verbal abuse, sexually inappropriate conversations and being forced to work excessive hours for below minimum wage. 

According to Montana Public Radio, McCoy explained that about half of the over $100,000 in monthly donations made to the Potter's Field Kids Club (which supports impoverished children in five countries including Cambodia, Uganda, Costa Rica, and Guatemala) were instead used to support the IGNITE program. Through the ministry's Ignite Program, students travel to learn from missionaries in other countries for months at a time. 

McCoy said that it cost more than the $6,000 fee students had to pay to feed, house and transport students to said countries. Thus, the ministry is said to have a subsidized program through other donations. 

Kenzie Kinney, a former IGNITE student who also handled Potter's Field finances for a period of time, told MPR that there were always more donations coming to the kids' program than were needed to support the children. 

She estimated that PFM supported about 500 kids in five countries and said she would work with about 20 kids on a weekly basis when she was interning with the program. She claimed that the Rozells would show videos of hundreds of kids being fed when they solicited donations from Calvary Church members and that the couple encouraged deceptive practices when interns were sending out letters to donors. 

The Rozells, Kinney further alleged, would write off personal expenses using excess donations and other profits from their Mudman Burger restaurants. However, she could not provide MPR with financial documents to support her allegations on how PFM handled donations.  

In the statement posted to the organization's website, McCoy announced that new officers and directors will be elected to continue the administration of children's programs. 

McCoy, who is the pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in California, assured that all properties and vehicles owned by Potter's Field Ministries will be placed on the market to be sold for current market value. 

The ministry will also shut down its MudMan Burgers restaurants and food trucks.

"America follows the code of law that requires due process.  I, as the new Chairman of the Board and with the assistance of pastors who are independent of Potter’s Field, will pursue a full investigation as to any formal allegations brought to the Boards of these ministries, including the service of volunteer hours, and the results of that investigation will be forthcoming when completed," McCoy wrote in his statement. 

"If these ministries are found to have been involved in any ethical or legal failure, it is our intention to both own those failings and make restitution where the fault has been established."

McCoy guaranteed that if any mismanagement of fraud is found by the investigation, he will authorize an independent audit. He vowed that the findings of the audit will be made public.

"In relation to the sponsorship program moving forward, no more than 15 percent of donations will be used for administration costs," McCoy assured. "A minimum of 85 percent of all donations will go directly to the children and missionaries. There will be full transparency and financial accountability of the audit and of the sponsorship program."

It was previously announced that PFM will no longer be in operation and that all ministries under the Potter's Field umbrella would be closed. It was explained that PFM's international and domestic kids programs would fall under the covering of Godspeak Church. 

But McCoy explained that after conferencing with the Montana attorney general's office, "we have ascertained that immediate dissolution of the two Potter’s Field nonprofits cannot be accomplished."

"That process will proceed as to each organization in keeping with Montana state law and will eventually be subject to the review and approval of the Attorney General," he stated. 

McCoy assured the Daily Inter Lake that Potter's Field Kids, which has over 6,000 donors sponsoring kids in the five countries, will be the only arm of PFM that will continue operating.

McCoy expects the majority of PFM's dissolution to happen by 2020, after assets have been sold off. The Rozells and original board members will hold their positions (on the board) until after the assets are sold off.

According to MPR, Calvary Chapel Association, which was PFM's main source of funding, severed its ties with the Rozells in the spring after learning about allegations of abuse from people who formerly served with the organization. 

Correction: Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019: 

A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a Facebook statement to Don McClure, a leading pastor with Calvary Chapel, and incorrectly labeled him chief financial officer at Potter's Field Ministries. McClure did not issue a statement on Facebook and has never been an officer at Potter's Field Ministries or Potter's Field Ranch.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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