Televangelist Kenneth Copeland blasted for 'unfulfilled promises'
Kenneth Copeland Ministries has come under fire for failing to fly disaster relief supplies to Haiti's earthquake victims after allegedly promising aviation assistance in the event of natural disasters.
The international organisation, which is also under scrutiny by the Senate Finance Committee for possible abuse of its nonprofit status, has been accused of "unfulfilled" pledges and unaccounted donations.
"While there is a huge crisis going on in the nation of Haiti right now Kenneth Copeland's promised Angel Flight 44 ministry is nowhere to be found and the money he collected to start that ministry has not been accounted for," said Rich Vermillion, co-author of Angel Flight 44.
Angel Flight 44 was birthed in 2006 during the Southwest Believer's Convention. Vermillion, Glen Hyde (co-author) and Kenneth Copeland announced in a live simulcast the formation of a new disaster relief ministry in which they would provide ongoing aviation aid. It was announced following KCM's relief efforts in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Vermillion – who started kennethcopelandblog.com, what he calls a "minister to errant-minister open rebuke" – says Copeland promised to form the aviation ministry but now believes it was never created.
"It is as if Kenneth Copeland had never said such a ministry had already been formed, nor had repeatedly promised that such an aviation support ministry would be further developed and ready for disasters – such as that which just occurred in Haiti a few days ago," he said last month.
The Texas-based organisation has rejected the allegations, calling them "misleading" and "potentially damaging misinformation".
"Kenneth Copeland Ministries is one of the premier Christian ministries in the world today and is run with the utmost integrity," it said in a recent statement. "The church has an annual independent audit and there are no funds that have been misused or unaccounted for."
In the statement, KCM highlighted that it did make "one of its aircraft available" during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2006 and "also investigated the possibility of providing such assistance for future disasters".
But KCM spokesman Dr Stephen Swisher told The Christian Post, "This was not a specific promise with a time line attached."
According to Swisher, Angel Flight 44 has collected only $7,788.43 and the donations have been spent on plane repairs. KCM has purchased an aircraft but it "currently has structural issues" and is still "not in airworthy condition." Also, the spokesman said they are lacking funds to buy a new aircraft - in addition to their four planes.
"However, it is our desire to have an aircraft to fly assistance during disaster relief efforts," Swisher commented. "We are believing God for the finances to have a fleet of aircraft to use during such instances."
For now, the organisation has set up a disaster relief fund. Since August 2005, the KCM/EMIC (Eagle Mountain International Church) Disaster Relief Fund has received more than $2.4 million. A little over $2.2 million have been directed for relief to areas affected by recent hurricanes in the US such as Katrina and Rita, the tsunami in Myanmar, fires in California and other storms, according to Swisher.
Regarding relief work in Haiti – which was struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake last month – the KCM spokesman said donations have been directed to various organisations currently working in Haiti: $30,000 to Christian Haitian Outreach; $10,000 to Operation Blessing; and $25,000 to Buddy Shipp American Samaritan, for a total of $65,000.
"It is our belief that instead of duplicating efforts or reinventing the wheel, so to speak, that we should support other ministries with the ability and capacity to hit the ground running and to help the people of Haiti as quickly and successfully as possible," Swisher noted.
KCM is also supporting partners such as Mercy Chefs and Glenn Hyde, who is preparing an "imminent flight to Haiti." They also have plans to help fly medical supplies and food into Haiti, but "it is difficult with the current backlog of flights at this time," said Swisher.
Though the international organisation is providing monetary support, Vermillion believes the effort still falls short of the promises Copeland, a "prosperity" preacher, made nearly four years ago.
"A generic relief fund is a far cry from a fully operational disaster-relief aviation ministry," Vermillion stated. "[M]y experience with Kenneth Copeland, his family, and his ministry, has given me the regrettable opinion that they may be nothing more than religious frauds.
"[T]hat is why we are calling on them to simply repent."
Kenneth Copeland Ministries is one of six ministries being investigated by Sen Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Each of the Pentecostal ministries was asked in November 2007 to provide financial statements and answer questions regarding their personal and organisational finances. Though KCM submitted responses by the following December, the responses were incomplete, according to the senator's office. Copeland has said the senate probe is a violation of religious freedom, an invasion of privacy and a threat to the separation of church and state.