The 'Grassely Six' Senate Investigation
Meyer, who once described herself as "an ex-housewife from Fenton (Missouri), with a 12th-grade education," earned a Ph.D. in theology from Life Christian University, an institution not officially recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. She entered ministry in 1980 and shuns the title "televangelist" in preference of "practical Bible teacher." Her Bible teaching, though popular, has been criticized by some Christians as "prosperity preaching" or "word of faith." As her ministry comments on its website regarding word of faith — characterized by critics as the belief that one can essentially declare his or her desires into existence, presumably in alignment with God's will:
Joyce Meyer Ministries believes in the Word of God. Joyce teaches that God has made promises to us in His Word and as believers, we should trust His promises (see 2 Peter 1:3,4 ). However, it can be damaging when people place their faith in faith alone instead of placing their faith in God. Misappropriation of God's promises solely for personal gain is not scripturally supported.
The Missouri-based minister has also been accused of promoting a "prosperity gospel," said by critics to place a heavy emphasis on God providing financial blessings presumably when believers donate money with that expectation in mind. Meyer's ministry clarifies:
Joyce Meyer Ministries believes that God desires to bless His people. Joyce teaches that God's blessings and prosperity apply to the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial areas of life. These blessings and prosperity are then to be used to bless others (see Genesis 12:2). A "prosperity gospel" that solely equates blessing with financial gain is out of balance and could damage a person's walk with God.
Criticism of Meyer's alleged prosperity teaching and tax-exempt status prompted her ministry, along with five other prominent Protestant preachers, to be scrutinized in a 2007 Senate investigation. Meyer was targeted for a financial probe along with ministers Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Eddie Long, and Kenneth Copeland, dubbed the "Grassley Six." The investigation was led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance.
Although none of the targeted Christian ministers were obligated to comply with the Senate committee's request for reports on their financial practices, Meyer — and Hinn — did comply. As the Senate Committee on Finance reported four years launching its probe:
"One of the six ministries, Joyce Meyer Ministries, responded fully to Grassley's inquiry and joined the ECFA in March 2009. Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church also provided complete answers to all questions. Both ministries wrote to Grassley to explain they have undertaken significant internal governance reforms."
"The reforms undertaken by pastor Hinn and Joyce Meyer are extensive and are to be commended," the Senate committee stated in its 2011 review, CP reported at the time.
The remaining ministers, "Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church, Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries submitted incomplete responses," according to the Senate committee.
"There was abuse. But I don't want to say because there was abuse by, you know, a handful of televangelists that that's spread among all the churches of America," Grassley told NPR last year for its multi-part report on Christian ministers and ministries "avoiding tax scrutiny."
Although the Senate committee's final report "recommended tightening IRS rules on church status and strengthening laws against self-dealing and excessive compensation," according to NPR, "Senator Grassley turned to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability."
The 2009 Senate investigation was not the first time being placed under scrutiny moved Meyer's ministry to make financial changes.
In 2003, the St. Louis-Post Dispatch reported in a money-focused feature that Meyer owned a $10 million corporate jet and a $2 million home and that her husband drove a $107,000 silver-gray Mercedes sedan — all of which she reportedly attributed as blessings from God.
The scrutiny by the St. Louis-Post Dispatch report and by critics prompted the Joyce Meyer Ministries board of directors to reduce her salary and change how she financially benefits from her book sales.
As previously stated, Meyer joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, founded in 1979 by evangelist Billy Graham, two years after the Senate's financial probe was launched.
The ECFA states on its website that it "provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance."
"Collectively, these organizations represent nearly $23 billion in annual revenue," according to the ECFA.
The ECFA published a press release when Meyer's ministry joined, and noted that the organization met its "Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship." Included on the ECFA's list of seven standards are "affirming a commitment to the evangelical Christian faith," being "governed by a responsible board," maintaining "complete and accurate financial statements," and submitting financial statements to the ECFA to maintain transparency.
Joyce Meyer Ministries' 2014 report includes a signed statement from the Stanfield & O'Dell accounting firm attesting to its opinion that the ministry "fairly stated" its claims regarding Meyer's compensation and its claim that 83 percent of its expenses were used for "outreach and programs directed at reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The Christian Post contacted Joyce Meyer Ministries for clarification on its 2014 annual report and information about the salaries of some of its board members and was informed that the executive team was currently out of the country. However, Erin Cluley, managing editor and public relations liaison at Joyce Meyer Ministries, informed CP that its questions would be addressed at a future date. In the meantime, Cluely sent CP the following via email:
We are committed to Financial Accountability
At Joyce Meyer Ministries, we want you to be confident your gifts are being used in the best way possible. That's why we are accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
In the unlikely event an outreach becomes fully funded, your gift will be applied to a similar outreach in need. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent.
Joyce Meyer Ministries is voluntarily audited each year by an independent public accounting firm.