HKL AnalysisSep 15th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Documents, Henry Kriete
Excerpts from Henry Kriete’s
Honest To God
The excerpts contained herein concern the financial matters addressed by Henry Kriete in his 42-page “letter” of Spring 2003 entitled Honest To God. Commentary comments occur in blue font. The excerpts occur in the order of their appearance, and each paragraph has been pasted in its entirety in order to be fair to the context. Emphasis has been added in purple texts. The reader who is in a hurry might enjoy reading simply the highlighted areas and the commentary in blue.
Brothers and sisters, as leaders in the kingdom, as servants of Christ-we have reason to pause and deliberate, deeply. We are at a crossroads, a crossroads that will soon become a crisis if we do not act courageously. Fallen elders and evangelists; countless other leaders who have resigned or stepped down-staff and non staff alike; questionable practices and teachings; serious concerns over finances; the heart-ache, disappointment and even disgust from the mouths of faithful but weary disciples who are now ‘allowed’ to talk openly (some in great anger); the quarter million who have fallen away; the tens of thousands who have walked away or been pushed away; and the enormous sub-culture of critics that constantly challenge us (and lets be honest, several of them are sincere and conscientious) – all of these things and more- have damaged our integrity, deepened the mistrust between ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’, and given reason for many to question our moral authority and even legitimacy….
This is from the 4th paragraph. Whatever Henry thinks, he thinks the concerns over finances are “serious”.
…God Says ‘Enough’
A backlash from years of ‘not listening’, insensitivity, abuse, coercion and legalism -as well as cowardice from the full-time ministry leaders to stand up for the truth- is now under way. We are in the midst of excruciating openness and pain right now. The credibility of much of the ministry staff is now being questioned .We are having open forums- and years of suffering, questions and concerns are pouring out. Some of it is hostile; some of it, unspeakably sad; and to be sure, some of it unfair. However, every last word is useful….
Note the word “coercion” and see how it is developed as a theme throughout the paper, particularly with regard to the coerced giving in the ICOC.
…Of course this is intensely personal, but in reality, it is not specific men who are under attack per se, but our ‘religious culture’. In London, the upheaval is against systemic evils that have gone unchallenged for too long. Rebellion is always the fruit of conformity and coercion, and rightly so-‘You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men’. And ‘Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery’ As JFK once said, ‘If you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable.’ Please pray for a peaceful revolution….
Here it is again—”coercion”
…What do I mean by a culture of control? Consider these facts: We are a hierarchy, and have been led by one man at the top. We have had a ‘founder’, complete with personal and ‘kingdom-wide’ authority that we were expected to respect and follow. We have had World Sector Leaders and Geographic Sector Leaders – to consolidate the grip of power and establish a global network of control over every last congregation. We teach ‘one church, one city’, not always in the pure interest of unity, but as a means of tightening control….
This passage is significant because of the trend among ICOC corporate entities in telling the IRS that they were NOT “controlled by any other organization”. Yet Henry’s statement here is just one more piece of evidence of the willful misrepresentations made to the IRS in order to avoid paying applicable taxes.
…Local church autonomy is practically viewed as heresy. Intimidating statements have been made to keep us all in line. We’ve been told to ‘get our Boards on board’, undermining the very purpose of having a board in the first place. As ‘lead evangelists’, we have routinely forced our administrators to ‘get in line’ or be ‘loyal to us’ – as plans and programs and pet projects are railroaded through to the dismay of all. Administrators have admitted to deceit in the name of compliance, and to ‘smoke and mirrors’ with the finances. Some of the more intimidated, have been involved in wholesale financial mismanagement….
Here Henry details some legally damning things. “Get our Boards on board” is compelling evidence that the local Boards of Directors in ICOC churches were indeed “controlled by (an)other organization”, contrary to what most of them claimed on their IRS tax-exempt applications.
Secondly, the allegations of “deceit” and “wholesale financial mismanagement” are astoundingly blatant, and beg the question as to what Henry was referring.
…We have routinely humiliated and marginalized those members who speak out as ‘critical’ and ‘disloyal.’ Many of our churches have autocratic leaders. We give perks to the compliant, and bigger pay checks to those higher up the chain of command. We reward outward conformity….
This sounds remarkably like illegal inurement or even bribery. Again, it begs the question as to exactly what Henry was talking about.
…‘Official Kingdom’ issues include an enforced Special Contribution every year, the collecting of monthly statistics worldwide, and the recognition of KNN and UpCyberDown as our ‘official’ media sources. (Some of these issues are the same as those brought up by Ed Powers, resulting in his being dis-fellowshipped and marked by us. While not endorsing his approach or commenting on his integrity, I wonder how many other members and leaders have questioned these same practices and pronouncements?)…
Here’s the coercion again.
…Why not? In the N.T. leaders were criticized, abandoned, disagreed with, questioned, challenged, and made the object of bad (or good) report. They were put on the defense by their own ministries- and to a large extent, this was surprisingly tolerated (Revelation 2) Sure, most of the time an enemy may have stirred this up, but the Christians were not uniformly condemned for it. Why should they be? There were many false apostles and deceitful workmen among them, and they needed to be alert. Those leaders and apostles who were truly accredited by God appealed to their life and doctrine as their defense. That is all. No one enjoys dealing with a strong willed or contentious opponent, especially a brother in Christ, but forced compliance, out of fear of being shut down or shamed, is just as evil. We have not cultivated an environment where there is freedom to question, challenge or confront the ‘leadership’. Shame on us….
Yet the early promises of Kip McKean said that the books were open to the members at all times. But Henry is right. In fact, this agrees quite squarely with the ICOC’s Minimum Standards 2003. Consider the following excerpt:
23.07.01 Recommended Guidelines for Review of Central Organization Records
All financial and business matters of the central organization, (“Central organization” in this document appears to be a code word for “ICOC, Inc.”) or a particular department of the central organization, are subject to review by the board of directors of each affiliated local church (or the appropriate affiliated local church board advisory committee) in good standing (affiliate membership not subject to expulsion or termination). (So the members of the board of the local churches can ask to see the records for ICOC, Inc.)
Any employee of the central organization may be allowed to review their department’s business and financial records at any time and for any legitimate reason relating to their employment, unless the employee is subject to discipline or where the central organization board restricts that review for legal or practical reasons. (OK, so if they’re mad at an ICOC, Inc. employee who wants to see the books, they can refuse the request.)
All local church members in good standing (membership currently not subject to suspension, termination or expulsion) (but anyone challenging the financial practices of the church might very well be “subject to suspension, termination or expulsion!) of a local affiliated church in good standing (affiliate membership not subject to expulsion or termination) are free to request financial information about the central organization for any legitimate reason relating to their membership in the fellowship of churches. Requests for that information shall be made via the affiliated local church board of directors, in a manner to be established by the central organization and affiliated local churches. The requested information shall be provided by the central organization within a reasonable period of time in the manner most convenient to the central organization.
The central organization shall order an annual audit and make the audit report available to the boards of directors of the affiliated local churches.
Yes, Henry was quite right about the atmosphere of untouchable leadership. Just to see the books that we were all promised were “open”, one has to get past his own local church’s board of directors, and then past the board of the ICOC! Oh that anyone would dare to request such while still a member!
There are now so many questions about golden parachutes, the special contribution, salary compensations, wasteful spending, and the misappropriation of funds that it is frightening. As the ‘clergy’, we have allowed for incredible retreats and pet projects: we have had harbor retreats, mountain retreats, castle and Hawaiian retreats, deep-sea fishing expeditions, five star hotels, presidential suites and the like; we have purchased unnecessary business class tickets and even season tickets to basket-ball leagues; no doubt we enjoy robust salaries, houses and perks. The higher up the pyramid- the greater the ‘responsibility’ factor- the better it gets: fatter paychecks, richer incidentals. We have the best cars, the best electronics, the best homes, the best schools, the best neighborhoods, the best clothes, and the best benefits.
Again, this sounds a great deal like illegal inurement from the profits of a not-for-profit organization.
We give golden parachutes to those forced to resign when others who are ‘let go’, after years of dedication, are sometimes not even mentioned in the next staff meeting as though an embarrassment has occurred. I agree legalities have been maintained, but this is God’s money not ours. Appearances and real issues of greed have now caused thousands to stumble and question our spirituality. A former GSL stated it like this, ‘Can we really expect sincerity from men who have placed a higher value on their paychecks and all the accompanying perks than they have on being true to their conscience?’ That’s an honest, unemotional observation from a guy deep within our system of things.
Not so fast, Henry. The personal benefiting from the profits of a tax-exempt organization is illegal. Consider the following section from ICOC’s Administrative Policies 2001, showing that they know this full well:
17.01.01 Inurement of Benefit
Inurement of benefit is the use of the Church’s assets for personal benefit by those deemed to be in control of the organization (i.e., founders, directors, officers, leaders, major donors, and the immediate family members of these individuals). The only exception to this rule is reasonable compensation (salary, housing allowance, and allowable employee benefits) for services performed. Expenditures of any amount deemed to be inurement may result in revocation of the church’s tax-exempt status.
When the average preacher in the United States makes about $40,000 in total compensation per year, and the average ICOC “lead evangelist” makes as much as two to three times that amount, it’s very hard to call this “reasonable” compensation.
…I am all for breaking the alabaster jar from time to time and even honoring guest speakers. I think this is right. I personally have been on many retreats and have benefited and been refreshed by the generosity of other leaders and their ministries. And truth be told, a large majority of Christians are more than happy to ‘reward’ their hard working staff members this way. They are grateful for our service and understand the pressures our families and we are under. But is it right or responsible to continue in light of wide scale allegations and concerns? Is it right to have rich leaders in an age of suspicion? Is it right to put any stumbling block in anyone’s path if we are ministers of the gospel? If so, said Paul, then we are no longer acting in love. And truthfully, have these retreat expenses and the like been made public? In detail? Or only from a generic ‘pot’ mentioned in a slide show?
So, in Henry’s opinion, ICOC leaders (at least some of them) are “rich”? That makes the inurement argument quite nicely—and especially in view of the fact that so many of these leaders started out with the “one-suitcase challenge”.
Secondly, Henry suggests that such practices could not bear detailed public disclosure. Again, this smacks of illegal inurement.
A sacred trust is set in place between those who ask and those who give- a trust that must be upheld at all cost. Every penny we receive and spend is a matter of love and respect for our Christians, especially the poorest among us. It also is a matter of personal integrity and the fear of God. We are no longer above reproach. I am not throwing stones here. I too am guilty. I too am deeply convicted.
Is this why Henry is not giving specific details of the financial abuses? Is this why he is hesitant to recognize in them the very crimes that he, himself, was doubtless made aware of in the various ICOC manuals he would have read, and in the various workshops he would have attended? Why is it so hard for Henry to see what the law can see so clearly?
…We have no choice but to open the books and be utterly transparent in our expenses, especially those that might convey even a ‘hint of greed.’ (Apparently, you do, Henry, since to the best of my knowledge, not one single ICOC congregation has yet posted its books for public perusal. May 2005) Mike Taliaferro once told me, ‘If you can’t say it before a thousand people, it’s probably not right’. Good advice. We must once again take pains not only to do what is legally right, but also what is Christ-like and commendable in the eyes of men and God. Only from specific accountability and transparency- not from evasive pie charts at the end of the year- will the total confidence and blessing of the saints be had once again, as well as commending our consciences to the poorest among our flock, the single moms in our fellowship, those who struggle week after week to support us, and the critics who are baying for blood.
The purpose of a pie chart is to inform the membership as to what was done with the money. If such charts are “evasive”, as Henry charges, then they are deliberately used to deceive. Such deception is illegal, Henry. It’s called “misrepresentation”.
Are we not alarmed when we find out a communist leader has a beautiful villa? Or when hard line mullahs have running water and air conditioning when nobody else in their village does? How much more should the church be appalled when her leaders live near the ‘top of the scale’, or convey a double standard and love for the world? Was this not at least one of the evils of Eli’s sons?
Again, Henry makes it clear just how rich he thinks these leaders are. Who will prove him wrong?
We must ask ourselves, honestly: What is the real rationale behind ‘more sphere of influence, more money? It is not necessarily more or harder work. More pressure, perhaps. But even so, this kind of salary model is the exact inversion of apostolic teaching and example. Paul: ‘having nothing, and yet possessing everything.’ Peter: ‘Silver and gold I have none.’ Accept it or not, if money is our motive in any guise, Jesus said, we have received ‘our reward in full.’
Could it be, then, Henry, that this is why no progress has been made in full financial disclosure in the two years since this letter was published? Could it be that they do indeed have their “reward”, and that they are simply not seeking anything other than the money which this venture has proven to bring in? If not, what other reason would you venture for the utter lack of change since your letter was published?
If we never pushed so hard to get money from our Christians, it would still matter a great deal to God, but not nearly as much as it does now, because of our constant asking and coercive ‘getting’. We have demanded extraordinary monetary sacrifice from our members, but comparatively, it appears we have demanded so little from ourselves. That is, if we gauge from what is ‘left over’ and not from what is ‘given’….
There’s the coercion again. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that reports of new coercion are being received with each passing month as the fuss over Henry’s letter evaporates more and more. It’s back to business as usual.
…We must apologize. No more spin, no more skirting the issues. We cannot move forward with out acknowledging our past. There will be no bright future without peering into what has been ugly in our history. I know that even now many changes are taking place in several churches throughout the world, but moving forward without acknowledging our past is a huge mistake that will continue to haunt us.
One would think, then, that Henry’s view of the ICOC is rather bleak at the present, since there has simply not been a full disclosure of the financial sins that he has detailed here. And as to the “changes” that he hints at here, it would be interested to see if anyone would consider these changes worthy of being held up as an example today.
16. Coercive giving is practiced, wide-scale. Of course there are may sincere and generous disciples who love to give, but the fact remains, our entire scheme for collecting the contribution is not based on the heart, or about love offerings, or true concern about the spiritual impact our system of ‘getting’ has on the rank and file Christian. That is not what is most important. Accountability, intense scrutiny and follow up and man made pressures are the order of the day. When a Christian is cajoled into a ‘multiple’, tracked down for their tithe, categorized on official spreadsheets for everyone to know so that sector leaders ‘can be on top’ – all to maintain budgets that we have created, this is coercive. Whether our plans and spending practices are noble or not, this type of contrived and controlled giving is utterly foreign to the spirit of the New Covenant. You know it as well as I do, but why do we keep on doing it? How we ‘get money’ and ‘make sure we make budget’ has evolved into one of our most invasive and grace- killing practices. And it has created untold bad feelings. In my opinion, London has become one of the most frugal and responsible ministries in our fellowship when it comes to financial integrity. Compared to most western leaders, the staff in London are very frugal and self- conscious about appearances. But even here, the backlash over finances has been loud and unrelenting. Some see themselves ‘on a holy mission from God’ in the words of a region leader. Why is this? For the most part, it is simply the byproduct of coercive tactics in ‘getting their contribution’ to begin with, and of the pressure exerted from weekly and monthly accountability, and not from cheerful giving. The leadership here is very much on the defensive to justify their lifestyles at the churches expense. Those who give joyfully easily forgive, and really don’t care, and will even defend the lifestyle and expenditures of its leadership. But those who are coerced to give and feel burdened, or made to feel guilty from missing their contribution will fight back hard over any financial ‘appearances’ or perceived improprieties. Real or not. That’s just the way it is-and ought to be!
I think that Henry defers too much to the “real or not” notion—hinting that a good portion of the concerns of the members sited here were imagined simply because they had been coerced to give. Yet Henry himself has (unwittingly) documented actual crimes in this letter—things that he is apparently not able to see for his intense wishing not to have been involved in a fraud ring. Oh, that he would take has firm a stand on obeying the law as he does on not being coercive!
Doesn’t the monumental absence of reform in the ICOC speak volumes as to the low level of concern for these matters? Which congregation has fired its leaders for breaking these sacred (and legal) trusts? Which have called for government audits of their finances? Or if that is too extreme, which of them has hired an accounting firm to do an audit, not on their accounting practices, but on their spending practices? (Most audit reports only say that the accounting rules were followed, and don’t even pretend to care about whether the monies were spent legally. Indeed, such an audit report for Al Capone’s “central organization” would have been stellar simply because his accountants followed accepted methods of accounting for the money he acquired!) But we have never seen from any ICOC church any report that details how the money was really spent. Instead, we are left to examine the bits and pieces we can glean from papers like this one, and Doug Jacoby’s 2002 paper on the roles of women.
Henry’s paper just doesn’t make financial sense, unless it is a picture of an organization that loves money more than it loves righteousness. Otherwise, they’ve had plenty of time to shine like the noonday sun by repenting completely of their secrecy and the things about which they have been secretive. Perhaps Henry and the others will wake up to this fact soon.
But it seemed good to me to let one of the ICOC’s brightest and best speak for himself as to the illegal inurement in the ICOC, even if he doesn’t want to acknowledge that it’s illegal! Think about it: if what they were doing with the money was truly wonderful and inspiring, they wouldn’t have to coerce anybody to give it!