Thursday 28 February 2013

Tony Blair defends Rwanda's role in DR Congo: Of course Tonny, you have always been a truth telling guy!!! I remember when you told us the ‘truth’ that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

The destruction of the Congo says much more about the West than it does about the Central African country. It reveals most clearly that the West is largely a criminal enterprise, the prosperity of which is based on the genocide of Third World people and the theft of their resources. The Congo is perhaps the worst example of this but the West has followed the same policy in Asia, Africa and Latin America for centuries. In this sense, Western countries can be seen as a murderous mafia led by their godfather the United States government for which no amount of blood and wealth is enough. 


The agony of deceit: After signing peace deal in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa: M23 Factions Clash: U.N. says Congo again on brink, peacekeepers need to combat rebels


Tony Blair defends Rwanda's role in DR Congo

Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has defended Rwanda over its part in the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

He told the BBC the causes of that conflict were complex and Kigali should not be singled out for blame.

He also said it was wrong to withhold aid to Rwanda, as many Western countries have done.

Rwanda denies a UN accusation that it has been backing the Congolese M23 rebel group.

About 800,000 people have been displaced in fighting since May 2012 when the rebels launched a rebellion against the DR Congo government.

Last year, a report by the UN Security Council's Group of Experts said that M23 leaders "receive direct military orders" from Rwanda's chief of defence staff, Gen Charles Kayonga, "who in turn acts on instructions from the minister of defence", Gen James Kabarebe.

 M23 rebels

Mr Blair acts as a personal adviser to Mr Kagame - who came to power after the 1994 genocide - and one of his charities, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), employs people inside the Rwandan government.

"If you read, and I have read, both the UN report and the very detailed rebuttal of those claims by the Rwandan government, you've got to say there's a dispute over the facts," Mr Blair told the BBC's Focus on Africa TV programme.

He said there were a dozen different small militias in DR Congo, complicating the situation for the government.

"I'm not disputing the need to make sure that everybody abides by the right international principles here, I'm simply saying it isn't right to put all of this on Rwanda ," he said.

Rwanda had made good use of the aid money and there had been massive poverty reduction in the country, Mr Blair said.

Rwanda had "virtually eliminated measles in the country, now moving on to rubella".

"The way they've reduced malaria deaths by something like 60%. These are massive achievements done through aid.

"To withdraw the aid in those circumstances seems to me a way to punish the Rwandan people without necessarily helping the issue of the conflict."

Mr Kagame's critics accuse him of leading a repressive regime, which jails opponents and cracks down on the media.

Last October, opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was convicted of treason and sentenced to eight years in jail. She denied the charge.

Tony Blair: 'Cutting aid to Rwanda is counter-productive'

27 February 2013Last updated at 20:40 GMTHelp
The government of Rwanda has come under severe criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups for its alleged role in supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Some western governments, including the UK, have been under pressure to cut aid to Rwanda.

Britain's former prime minister Tony Blair thinks that cutting aid to Rwanda is counter-productive.

Tony Blair defends support for Rwandan leader Paul Kagame

President under pressure after over Congo allegations, but Blair says Rwanda is still coping with the fallout from 1994 genocide

·  The Guardian,

Tony Blair has defended his close personal and working relationship with one of Africa's most controversial leaders, Rwanda's Paul Kagame, even as foreign governments distance themselves over accusations of war crimes and the suppression of political opposition.

Blair has described Rwanda's president as a "visionary leader" and a friend after making the central African country the focus of the work of his charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), to turn around the continent's fortunes.

The initiative includes placing officials hired by Blair in Rwanda's institutions such as the president's policy unit, the prime minister's office, the cabinet secretariat and the development board to assist with administration. Blair is leading a similar programme in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and says he intends to expand it to other African countries.

But the relationship has come under increasing scrutiny following a UN report that accused Kagame's forces of war crimes, including possibly genocide, in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo, and charges that the Rwandan government is increasingly authoritarian after the opposition was effectively barred from challenging Kagame in August's presidential election. The White House has criticised Kagame for the suppression of political activity and made clear that it does not regard Rwanda as democratic.

But Blair said allowances have to be made for the consequences of the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and suggested that Kagame's economic record outweighed other concerns.

During a recent visit to Washington to meet the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and promote his Africa initiative, Blair told the Guardian: "I'm a believer in and a supporter of Paul Kagame. I don't ignore all those criticisms, having said that. But I do think you've got to recognise that Rwanda is an immensely special case because of the genocide. Secondly, you can't argue with the fact that Rwanda has gone on a remarkable path of development. Every time I visit Kigali and the surrounding areas you can just see the changes being made in the country."

Kagame, pictured below, has been a particular favourite of Britain. Blair's former development secretary, Clare Short, directed large amounts of aid to Rwanda and lavished praise on Kagame. Rwanda also recently joined the Commonwealth.

For many years, Kagame, a Tutsi who led the forces that ended the genocide, was praised by other leaders – Bill Clinton called him "one of the greatest leaders of our time" – amid continuing guilt over the major powers' failure to stop the murder of the Tutsis and out of a belief that he had brought relative stability to a troubled region.

But the publication of a UN report in October accusing Rwanda of war crimes in eastern Congo, including the wholesale massacres of Hutu civilians and the plunder of minerals, tarnished Kagame's image. He has vigorously denied the accusations but human rights groups have been documenting such crimes for years.

Blair rolled his eyes at mention of the UN report, which he questions, and suggested that Rwanda's occupation of eastern Congo for many years was justified by the continuing threat from Hutu extremists.

"He (Kagame) and I specifically discussed this," Blair said. "They [the Rwandan government] very strongly push back against the allegations that are made.

"You've got to understand that it's a very difficult situation in Congo because you've got the rival forces fighting each other and that's spilling across into his territory."

Kagame has also been forced on the defensive over his re-election in August, with 93% of the vote, after his main rivals were jailed and barred from running after being accused of stirring up ethnic hatred between Hutus and Tutsis after what Human Rights Watch called "persistent harassment and intimidation" of their parties by the government, and the curbing of criticism in the press including the banning of two newspapers. The deputy leader of a third opposition party was murdered in July.

There is a growing perception among human rights groups that Kagame has used accusations of "divisionism" and "genocide ideology" to suppress legitimate political criticism. But Blair said the Rwandan government's sensitivity is justified because of the country's recent history.

"When they get upset about any form of politics that leaches at all into ethnic rallying cries, it's for a reason," he said. "You can't just dismiss that reason. I don't ignore these criticisms at all. Indeed, I've discussed these with the president. He's someone I've got to know well and I'm a believer in him, and I believe I won't be disappointed.

"You've got to make a judgment about this, and my judgment, rightly or wrongly, is that he is somebody who does want to do his best for his country, is doing his best for his country, and is a huge focus of stability in a place that still desperately needs it when we're only 16 years after the genocide."

However, there is also concern that a rising generation of Hutus will increasingly feel shut out of the political process, deepening ethnic divisions once again as extremists revive accusations of Tutsi domination.

Governing principles

Tony Blair's Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) is one of a series of programmes the former prime minister is juggling on the world stage, along with his duties as a Middle East envoy, for his faith foundation, a climate change initiative and a foundation to promote sport.

The AGI, a registered charity, launched its first project in Rwanda in 2008 and provides the model for similar programmes in Liberia and Sierra Leone, both rebuilding after devastating civil wars. It involves placing Blair's staff in high government offices, such as presidential policy units and cabinet secretariats, to build "effective governance" through "a combination of on-the-job coaching and support and formal and informal training".

Blair says a key to its success is a new generation of African leaders not hidebound by history.

"There is a clear sense by this generation of African leaders that the future of Africa is in their hands and they're not interested in a debate about the colonial past," he said. "They're very much eager to get their countries sorted out. They're perfectly willing to listen and learn from the outside. They're also keen on bringing in quality private sector investment and that is the way you build a country."

But the initiative is open to criticism for promoting a model that pressures African states to again surrender political and economic autonomy.

When the Children of this world see what believers can not see: Luciferian Todd Bentley Planning South Africa “Crusade Tour”in April

First Read:

Rejecting Apostate Canadian Todd Bentley: MP calls for ban on tattooed preacher who 'cures' cancer by kicking people in the face

When Todd Bentley removed all doubts that he is a spiritual fraud: Outrage as banned preacher Todd Bentley calls death of former Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks "the Lord's justice"


Todd Bentley Planning South Africa “Crusade Tour”

 Posted on by Richard Bartholomew
Controversial neo-Pentecostal revivalist Todd Bentley has announced details of a planned “South Africa Crusade Tour” for April, which will see him link up with “Prophet Zion Matthew” in Durban, followed by visits to the Solid Rock Church in Johannesburg, to the Jabulani Camp Site at Bronkhorstspruit (mis-spelled as “Bronkhorstpruit”) , then on to Worcester (hosted by YWAM) and finally to Cape Town, where he will minister”at Lighthouse Ministries (billed as “Light House Ministries”) and Celebration Covenant Church International.

Zion Matthew describes himself as “a HISTORYMAKER AND NATIONSHAKER”, and as an “intense worship warrior with a prophetic and apostolic thrust”, having been “impacted by  one of South Africa’s leading Prophets”; perhaps inevitably, he also runs a motivational speaking business. The “Solid Rock Church of Miracles”, meanwhile, is headed by Johan Van Wyk, who studied at the Rhema Bible Training Centre. In 2010 the church had some trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority over “miracle healing” adverts.

 Todd Bentley in his words: 3 great Generals of Faith and healing in Heaven! When I started my ministry in Africa TL Osborn prayed for me in a dream. I was in Korea and saw Kenneth Hagins Anointing and joy back in the church. Then the Night Oral Roberts died my wife Jessa saw him pray for us and Impart to us. TL was the last Major General of the Voice of Healing. A new wave is coming now!(Source: Fresh Fire USA

Lighthouse Ministries is also a Rhema church, while the Celebration Covenant Church is “a church that relates to New Covenant Ministries International, a apostolic team that is located around the world headed up by Tyrone Daniels.” The NCMI grouping comes under some critical scrutiny at this blog.

Last year, Bentley planned a visit to the UK which was cancelled after the Home Secretary banned him from entering the country. Bentley’s visit was also opposed by Malcolm Wicks, the MP for Croydon, who at the time was very ill from cancer; Wicks died a few weeks later, and in December Rick Joyner (a close associate of Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin) declared that this was an instance of God “removing opposition from His people”.Crus

Houston father says he lost family to dangerous cult

Houston father says he lost family to dangerous cult

by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News
Posted on February 26, 2013 at 10:19 PM
HOUSTON -- James Todd thought he found heaven on earth. He had a wife, four kids and a high-paying job as a computer programmer.

After nine years of marriage, however, he still worried something was missing.

“We were hungry, we wanted more,” he said.

He and his wife, Jennifer, feared they were not living their faith to the fullest. Both Christians, they had become disenfranchised with their church.

Then one night, while searching the Internet, they discovered a YouTube channel for a community called the “Fellowship of the Martyrs.” It was founded by a man named Doug Perry.

“My first impression was, believe it or not, was like I don’t like this guy,” Todd said.

Perry founded the Fellowship of the Martyrs in 2004 in Liberty, Missouri, which is located about 30 minutes outside of Kansas City.

According to its website, they operate like a co-op, with about 70 members sharing apartments and often praying together.

But Todd now chooses another word.

“I consider it a cult,” he said.

Drawn by the appeal of ministry, the family moved in nearly two years ago. After a few months, Todd's life began to fall apart.

He said the fellowship allowed addicts and former criminals who could be dangerous and unpredictable.

One in particular, Greg Weiler, was arrested and charged in a plot to blow up churches in Oklahoma.

Then, Todd said his wife started hearing voices telling her to leave him to be with another man. She listened to them.

It was the last straw.

Todd says he packed up his kids in the middle of the night while his wife was asleep and eventually brought them to Texas. Not long after that, she filed charges alleging kidnapping and he was arrested.

That was more than a year ago. Today, Todd is back in Texas fighting for his marriage and the custody of his children.

A Missouri court found he had reason to take them and the charges against him were dropped. Yet he still worries the Fellowship of the Martyrs may be growing dangerous.

“Nobody seems to want to label an organization as a cult until the disaster happens,” he said.

He is still hoping his wife has a change of heart and that his children come home.

Part 2: On Wednesday night, you will hear from the other side as Doug Perry shares his thoughts on the couple's separation and the allegations against the Fellowship of the Martyrs.

Adieu and Kudos President Mwai Kibaki: When Kenya’s old man called quits: Avoiding the legacy of shame perpetuated by African presidents such Gadaffi, Museveni, Mugabe and Kagame.

A well-deserved farewell | Kibaki and the rise of the ‘minimalist presidency’ – By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO –


Posted February 27, 2013 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Whether or not a clear winner emerges from Monday’s election thus avoiding a second-round run-off in April, one thing is for sure: In State House, President Mwai Kibaki will be packing his last suitcases, preparing to clear out.

CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO –A Ugandan Journalist who fled to Kenya to avoid Museveni's Persecution 

A lot has been said about what Kibaki’s legacy will be; how the disputed December 2007 election and the horrendous violence that followed it will impinge on it; and the extent to which he managed – or failed – to break away from the clientilist Kenyan politics of the past.

That, however, is a very Kenyan story. In wider African terms, for all his failings, Kibaki did two extraordinary things. First, he became the oldest president (possibly in the world) to preside over a technology/innovation mini-revolution.

So, first, we must ask how Kenya became touted as the “Silicon Savannah” under a president who is now 82-years-old, while elsewhere, leaders who are half his age have never attempted anything like it.

President Kagame of Rwanda

Secondly, the most consistent criticism of Kibaki is that he was too much of a hands-off, bumbling, and disengaged president. Part of this was a result of failing health during his first months in office following a car accident in late 2002.

Still, how did he manage to dig Kenya from the economic grave in which it was in 2003, and make it one of the continent’s most interesting economies?

How was it possible that this supposedly half-asleep president in less than 10 years poured more money into public infrastructure than other presidents since independence in 1963 combined had done; and the Nairobi Stock Exchange equity market capitalisation has grown by a record 1,137 per cent.

My sense is that Kibaki did two things that are rarely done in Africa. First, informed by the difficult years Kenya had in the last 10 years of Kanu rule, he took the ruling parties (Narc 2003-2007, PNU 2008-2012) out of government, and consigned them to being largely parliamentary parties.

 President Yoweri Museveni

There were no annual national congresses of Narc or PNU in which they made grand declarations about the economy. Several appointments to government were, to be sure, still informed by patronage considerations, but what Kibaki did was return government to some kind of technocratic management.

Without ruling parties meddling too much in government and policy, it opened up a space that was occupied by all sorts of creative forces; the technology community, telecom companies, and modernising bureaucrats like Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo.

Secondly, Kibaki introduced the “minimalist presidency”. No one had to sit and wait for what he would do or say. Observers and analysts were reduced to reading his body language, who sat next to him on a podium, and who went with him on the few foreign trips he made.

Amidst loud national denunciation about how he was a do-nothing president and addicted to fence-sitting, Kibaki most times refused to budge from the sanctuary of State House to speak on TV. He gave only one formal media interview in his presidency, to the Sunday Nation.

President Mugabe taking 'Holy' Communion

And even with that, the questions had to be sent ahead. The new political certainty thus came from a strange source; the near-guarantee that Kibaki would keep off.
Kenya had in the past become accustomed to a flywhisk-wielding Daniel arap Moi, a larger-than-life presence who had his finger in every pie.

Kibaki, we now know, was pulling a few strings behind the scenes. But his reluctance to publicly also be the country’s First Patriarch, forced Kenyan society to begin growing up and to learn how to find its own way in the dark without being led by an all-knowing Father of the Nation.

I can’t think of an African president who has done that in recent times and got away with it. South Africa’s Nelson Mandela took his hand off government early, but the rule of the ANC and his obsessive deputy, Thabo Mbeki, were still overwhelming and ubiquitous.

I must admit that my pathological loathing of overbearing Big Men disqualifies me as an objective commentator on this subject.

I believe, though, that one day, it will be written that Kibaki proved that sometimes, the best thing a leader can do for his country is to get out of its face.

If I were to write that story, I would call that the Kibaki Paradox.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Robertson: ‘Rebuke’ demons by praying over possessed secondhand clothes


Robertson: ‘Rebuke’ demons by praying over possessed secondhand clothes  

By David Edwards

Monday, February 25, 2013 15:51 EST

Televangelist Pat Robertson says that not every sweater at Goodwill is possessed by demons, but it’s a good idea to pray over secondhand clothes just in case.

On Monday’s 700 Club, Robertson responded to a viewer who wanted to know if she should bless purchases from Goodwill before bringing them home because her mother said that demons could “attach themselves to material items.”

Robertson recalled a story about a “witch who had prayed over a particular ring and asked for a spirit to come into it.” And then when a girl purchased the ring, “all hell broke loose.”

“Can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects? The answer is yes,” the TV preacher explained. “But I don’t think that every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it.”

He added that the viewer’s mother was being “super cautious” and “it isn’t going to hurt anything to rebuke any spirits that happen to have attached themselves to those clothes.”

Watch this video from CBN, broadcast Feb. 25, 2013.  

Substance Abuse Was Zachery Tims' 'Lifestyle,' Ex-Wife Says

Riva Tims

Substance Abuse Was Zachery Tims' 'Lifestyle,' Ex-Wife Says

By Anugrah Kumar , Christian Post Contributor

February 11, 2013|9:51 am

More than one-and-a-half years after her former husband was found dead inside a New York City hotel room, Riva Tims tells a lifestyle magazine that she believes the late Florida megachurch pastor, Zachery Tims, did not have a struggle with substance abuse, but it was his "lifestyle."

"I thought that was stuff in the past. I didn't realize it was still current. I found out for sure about the affairs and substance abuse at the same time. When he started telling me stuff, I began to dig and other things came out," Ebony quotes Riva Tims as saying in its latest issue.

"I had no idea it was so much. I'll put it this way: It's one thing to have a struggle; it's another thing to have a lifestyle," adds Riva Tims, who along with Zachery Tims founded New Destiny Christian Center (NDCC) in Apopka, Fla., in 1996. "When it's a struggle, there's grace. But when it's a lifestyle, there's no grace."

She also says she was perhaps an enabler while married to the NDCC senior pastor. "Looking back, he probably felt like he could just do anything. I was an enabler in a sense."

The Late Pastor Zachery Tim

Titled, "What Really Happened to Pastor Zachery Tims," the story in Ebony also carries quotes from friends on what could have led to his death on Aug. 12, 2011.

Police at the time said Zachery Tims was discovered on the floor of a room in the W Hotel in Times Square. An autopsy conducted on his body was inconclusive, but reports surfaced that a small glassine envelope holding white powder was found on the pastor.

Ebony remarks that with the late pastor's mother demanding that the medical examiner not release the autopsy report, the mystery may never be solved.

According to his biography on NDCC's website, Zachery Tims had a troubled youth before he was "miraculously saved, instantly delivered from drug addiction, and called into ministry."

Pastor Tims was very open about his struggle with substance abuse and his violent youth. In his book, It's Never Too Late, he thanks Jesus Christ for saving him and for using his life as a testimony to let others know that "God is in the recycling business and can change a messed-up life and make it beautiful."

When the pair divorced in 2009, Riva Tims left NDCC to found her own ministry, Majestic Life Ministries. But following her former husband's death, she filed a lawsuit against NDCC, claiming it was her "heritage and legacy," after Paula White was appointed as the new senior pastor last January.

In a public statement, NDCC said it wishes the best for Riva Tims and her ministry, but that she has no legal grounds to make claim over the church. "Obviously, we are saddened by the course of action Pastor Riva Tims as chosen to pursue. Her lawsuit is completely without merit and we are extremely confident in our legal standing."

Riva Tims has said, "My concern, as the mother of the children of the late Dr. Zachery Tims Jr., Zoelle, Zachery III, Zahria and Zion Tims is that they will never have an opportunity to receive the inheritance their father left for them. As the co-pastor to many that were birthed into the Kingdom of God at NDCC my concern is that the legacy and vision of NDCC will be abandoned."

Riva Tims Opens Up About Failed Marriage With Late Pastor Zachery Tims

April 4, 2012|3:40 pm

Months after the death of Pastor Zachery Tims, his ex-wife, Riva Tims, is finally speaking up about the events that led up to her late husband's death and the difficulty she experienced that led to their divorce.

Meeting at a local church at age 22 and marrying, the couple had a love for each other and an even deeper love to serve God and win souls. Shortly after their marriage, they were eager to begin their ministry.

"So we labeled ourselves as an outreach ministry. So, our whole goal was to pull people in from the streets, not to pull them from other churches but really to get those that were unsaved," she said in an interview with CBN.

"I think the people felt our love, they felt our sincerity and we were young. We had a lot of zeal for the Lord, a lot of excitement."

They quickly grew their Florida church from five to 8,000. But along with an attendance boost came a heightened level of celebrity with the church community. This began to take a toll on the couple.

"There was somewhat of a distance that began to take place. I could still connect, but I knew that there was something different."

She realized something was wrong when her husband began to travel a lot and prevented her from traveling with him.

"[There] was always a reason why I couldn't go. That's when I knew."

Her suspicions were affirmed when his extramarital affair was uncovered. She was hurt by the affair but more so by his reaction to them. When asked about his level of remorse, she said, "In the beginning he was remorseful he got caught and that's the part that hurt. There was no running after me, coming after me. He was trying to keep everything together."

Zachery Tims' Cause of Death to Remain Sealed, Appeals Court Rules

By Nicola Menzie , Christian Post Reporter

March 7, 2012|3:31 pm

Zachery Tims' mother won a temporary victory Tuesday when a New York City appeals court ruled in favor of her request to keep medical officials from making public the Florida pastor's cause of death.

In a decision filed Tuesday, the five-panel New York County Appellate court granted Madeline Tims' request to prevent the City of New York and the city medical examiner's office from revealing what killed Tims, who was found dead in the W Hotel in Times Square on Aug. 12, 2011. 

The case was transferred from the the NY County Supreme Court in December, when Judge Cynthia S. Kern ruled after about a month of deliberation that there were no laws strictly prohibiting the medical examiner's office from publicly disclosing Tims' cause of death, as it does with other high-profile cases.

The New York City Law Department, representing New York City and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), had agreed to keep the cause and manner of Tims' death private until Judge Kern had made her decision.

However, Madeline Tims filed an appeal on Jan. 11, with the effect of temporarily preventing the City from making that information public. The law department responded with its own claim on Jan. 27, challenging the request and insisting that it was unlikely Tims would be successful in her appeal.

According to court papers filed March 6, 2012, Tims' motion for an injunction against NYC was granted on the condition that her appeal against the Supreme Court's decision is filed by July 9.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Sept. 4, and a ruling is expected sometime in 2013, Madeline Tims' attorney, Ricardo E. Oquendo, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Oquendo had argued before Judge Kern late last year that since New York City has no right to publicly disclose autopsy reports in full, neither should it be allowed to disclose information contained in those reports – such as the cause and manner of death. Judge Kern decided on the side of the OCME.

The court's interim decision allows Oquendo to once again argue why NYC must keep Tims' cause of death quiet, however NYC officials have expressed confidence that Kern's decision will be upheld.

"We are confident the appellate court will ultimately uphold the previous decision," Ave Maria Brennan, Senior Counsel with the NYC Law Department, told The Christian Post Wednesday in an emailed statement.

Zachery Tims, who founded New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla., was succeeded by Paula White as senior pastor of the church he led for 15 years. Although no official cause of death has been provided, Madeline Tims initially told the court that disclosing her 42-year-old son's cause of death would be an emarrasment to her, his children, and his NDCC congregation.

God’s continuous shaking of prosperity Christendom: Indiana's Largest Megachurch Faces New Foreclosure Proceedings

  The Family Christian Center


End of the Prosperity Gospel: Crystal Cathedral File For Bankrupcy

When the Prosperity Gospel Finally led to Rome: Crystal Cathedral Member Sues Catholic Church with $30-Billion Claim


Indiana's Largest Megachurch Faces New Foreclosure Proceedings

By Leonardo Blair , CP Contributor

February 26, 2013|7:57 am

Indiana's largest megachurch, and America's 15th biggest congregation, the Family Christian Center, is now facing a new foreclosure case for a bank debt of more than $600,000.

Citing information from documents filed in Lake Superior Court last Tuesday, an nwitimes report said the First National Bank of Illinois filed the mortgage foreclosure case against the church, senior pastor Steve Munsey, the Internal Revenue Service and Sutton Place Condominiums. The church owed the bank $604,447.02, as of Jan. 4, according to the court records seen by nwitimes.

The Christian Post searched for the court documents on the county website, but the dockets were no longer available.

CP also reached out to church officials for comments on Monday, but the only response came from a receptionist who declared, "We are not in foreclosure!"

Both the IRS and Sutton Place Condominiums are listed as defendants in the foreclosure case because they filed liens against Family Christian Center. Sutton Place is owed $5,700 in unpaid association dues and the IRS has outstanding federal tax liens against the church amounting to $53,790.34, according to the nwitimes report.

An earlier investigation conducted by the publication claims that Family Christian Center was spending millions of dollars a year on leadership pay and perks like travel, meals and jet fuel while it fell behind on mortgage payments.

In 2011, the Evangelical Christian Credit Union based in California is also reported to have filed a foreclosure case against the church after it defaulted on the mortgage payments for its worship center at 340 W. 45th St. in Munster, Ind.

Family Christian Center was reportedly bringing in about $10 million per year and had a $98,000 monthly mortgage payment at the time the credit union filed its foreclosure case, according to court documents. It now brings in $7.3 million and has a $72,000 monthly mortgage payment.

According to, Pastor Munsey only informed his congregation of the 2011 lawsuit last summer, explaining that he never told them earlier because he "really didn't know what to do but trust God."

The church's most recent foreclosure case connected to four condos was filed due to non-payment of mortgage and property taxes. Its loan with First National Bank of Illinois has been in default since Sept. 1, according to the complaint filed Tuesday.

According to the church's website, the Family Christian Center has been a part of the Indiana/Chicago community for more than 50 years. The church is led by senior pastors Steve and Melodye Munsey. It has a national reputation for its innovative use of visual and dramatic arts. The church is 18,000 members strong and growing.

Munsey has produced written works such as Jesus of Nazareth which has been seen across America and has authored several books. He has also appears frequently on television..

Local megachurch navigates precarious path

February 17, 2013 12:00 am

MUNSTER | While the Family Christian Center was spending millions of dollars annually on leadership compensation, travel, meals and jet fuel, it was falling behind on its mortgage payments and racking up a list of past-due bills, a Times investigation found.

Five properties owned by the megachurch were sold last year in the Lake County treasurer's tax sale because of unpaid property taxes, though Family Christian Center later reclaimed four of them, county records show.

Family Christian Center's financial situation grew so precarious, it agreed to turn all its money and financial records over to a court-appointed administrator in 2012.

"When I saw some of the expenditures being made in this church when there was a mortgage not being paid, I was astounded," Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider told attorneys during a Dec. 4 hearing relating to a California-based credit union's attempt to foreclose on the church.

At the time the mortgage foreclosure case started in 2011, Family Christian Center had been bringing in about $10 million per year and had a $98,000 monthly mortgage payment, a transcript of the Dec. 4, 2012, hearing states.

Outreach Magazine ranked Family Christian Center the 15th largest church in the country in 2011. It currently has an average weekly attendance of 15,235, according to figures provided by the church.

The Times is unable to provide a complete picture of the church and its leaders' finances. Family Christian Center's spokesman, Roy Dominguez, an attorney and former Lake County sheriff, declined to speak publicly about its situation. Few public records are available, and the church's recent mortgage foreclosure case was sealed by the judge.

However, the transcript of a recent court hearing, county documents and records generated by an affiliated nonprofit organization offer a glimpse of how the Family Christian Center's leaders spent its money as the church's financial woes mounted.
Making a living
Senior Pastor Steve Munsey received at least $519,514 in total compensation in 2011, the most recent year for which records were available, according to a return filed with the Internal Revenue Service by Refuge Productions Inc. His wife, Senior Pastor Melodye Munsey, made at least $201,607 in salary and benefits in 2011.

The Munseys' actual salaries could be higher, as they are connected to several other nonprofits and for-profit companies affiliated with Family Christian Center. Compensation information was not available for those entities.

Refuge Productions Inc. is Family Christian Center's nonprofit production company. It handles the center's elaborate stage productions and fine arts summer workshops, according to the church's website.

The Munseys' salaries and benefits listed in Refuge's 2011 IRS return were paid by Refuge and Christian Family World, IRS records state.

Records indicate Christian Family World is actually Family Christian World Inc., the nonprofit that operates Family Christian Center in Munster. The center itself is not required to file an annual return with the IRS because it is a church.

In total, Steve and Melodye Munsey received at least $2.9 million in total compensation from 2008 through 2011 from organizations connected to Family Christian Center, IRS records show.

In March 2008, the IRS filed a $167,870.43 federal tax lien against the couple — $85,656.53 for tax year 2005 and $82,213.90 for tax year 2006, county records show. A federal tax lien is the government’s legal claim against a person's property when he or she neglects or fails to pay a tax debt, according to the IRS website.

The Munseys paid the IRS the taxes and penalties they owed by June 2008.

IRS records show the couple also received a $183,934 loan from Refuge Productions in 2010 — the same year they took out a $2.3 million mortgage on their home in Briar Ridge subdivision in Schererville. The home, which has been put up for sale, has an assessed value of $550,800, according to the Lake County assessor's office.

The Munseys had not repaid the loan from Refuge Productions as of 2011, IRS records show.

Refuge Productions also owned a Mercedes that cost $80,611 and was part owner of an airplane that cost the nonprofit more than $100,000 per year in 2007 and 2009, IRS records show. The airplane was not clearly listed in records from 2008, 2010 or 2011.

The Munseys' son, Kent Munsey, made at least $914,886 in salary and benefits from 2008 through 2010 from Refuge, Family Christian Center and City Church Fellowship, IRS records show. City Church Fellowship operates City Church Chicago, which is led by Kent Munsey and his wife, Alli. The couple also work at Family Christian Center.

Kent Munsey's compensation was not listed in Refuge Productions' 2011 IRS return. His wife's salary is not listed in any of Refuge's IRS returns, because she is not an officer of the organization.

Kent Munsey told The Times he has never taken a salary from City Church Fellowship. He said he could not comment on anything related to Family Christian Center because of the pending mortgage foreclosure case, but noted a portion of his salary listed in Refuge's annual return comes from his speaking engagements and related product sales such as DVDs and CDs.

In April 2011, the IRS filed a $58,233.73 federal tax lien against Kent and Alli Munsey relating to tax year 2009, county records show. They paid the outstanding taxes and penalties by February 2012.

Through a church spokesman, Steve Munsey declined to be interviewed for this article. Last August, he told congregants that he, his wife and other staff members had taken significant salary reductions as a cost-cutting measure.

But during the years the Munseys' personal finances flourished, the fiscal health of the church they served faltered, according to a Times review of available records.

Strained coffers
Kavadias Schneider, the Lake Superior Court judge, told attorneys she was "a little shocked" when she read Family Christian Center's initial financial report, according to a transcript of the Dec. 4 court hearing in the mortgage foreclosure case.

"When I saw some of the expenditures being made in this church when there was a mortgage not being paid, I was astounded," she told attorneys during the hearing.

The church annually spent $3.5 million in leadership compensation and had a $900,000 budget for travel and meals, a $500,000 housing allowance and $500,000 for jet fuel and other expenditures, according to the transcript. In 2010, the church paid $1 million for property in Illinois, the transcript states.

Dominguez, spokesman and attorney for the church, declined to comment for The Times article, but he provided the media company with a lengthy list of charitable efforts undertaken by Family Christian Center in 2012.

Those efforts include Operation Care, which provided more than 23,000 families with food and toys; the hospital and prison ministries, where church officials regularly visited 38 local nursing homes and hospitals and visited more than 1,500 inmates at five nearby prisons; and World Missions Department, which supports missionaries in places such as India, China, Uganda and Central America, according to the list Dominguez provided.

Family Christian Center also spent large amounts of money relating to a three-year federal investigation, Steve Munsey told his congregation in August 2012.

Dominguez previously said the investigation was conducted by the IRS and other federal agencies after a complaint was filed against Family Christian Center. He did not give details of the complaint.

Dominguez previously said the church hired a law firm specializing in tax work as well as certified public accountants to work on its behalf and turned over about 90,000 documents.

No charges have been filed as a result of the investigation. However, the IRS has filed a series of federal tax liens against Family Christian Center totaling $623,132, according to the Lake County recorder's office.

The first lien, which the IRS filed in 2008, cost the church $569,342 in taxes and penalties. The church paid the money it owed the IRS by August 2010.

In 2012, the IRS filed two more tax liens against Family Christian Center — $17,774 relating to tax year 2010 and $36,016 for the period between Sept. 30, 2010, and March 31, 2012, according to the Lake County recorder's office. The church had not paid those taxes and penalties as of Friday, county records state.

An internal audit also revealed the church had failed to pay some state payroll taxes, which church officials reported to the state, Munsey told his congregation in August.

At the same time, officials at Family Christian Center fell behind in the church's mortgage payments and failed to pay some vendors, the court transcript from Dec. 4 shows.

The church went through several modifications with its current mortgage lender, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, before the California-based credit union filed a foreclosure case in 2011, according to records from the Lake County recorder's office and Lake Superior Court.

Credit union spokesman Jac La Tour said he could not comment on the foreclosure proceedings. Attorney Carl Greci, who is representing the credit union in the proceedings, did not return calls from The Times seeking comment.

In March 2012, the church agreed to have its financial operations taken over by an appointed financial administrator, Steven Baer, of Rally Capital Services LLC, based in Chicago, according to court records obtained by The Times.

"Rally offers financial, administrative and operational management advisory services to under-performing and distressed companies in and out of bankruptcy," according to its website.

Steve Munsey retained control of Family Christian Center's worship and ministries, according to the stipulated and agreed Lake Superior Court order dated March 30, 2012.

Family Christian Center agreed to turn over all its money and financial records to Rally, which maintains money and records on the church's behalf, court records show. Church officials and the appointed administrator were required to collaborate on developing a cash operating budget subject to the administrator's approval, according to the agreement.
The financial administrator, Baer, told Judge Kavadias Schneider the budget they created should address the church's past-due accounts payable, the Dec. 4 court transcript shows.
'Precarious position'
Family Christian Center appears to have owed at least $550,000 in verified past due bills as of Dec. 4, according to the court transcript. Baer said the church was in a "very precarious position" with "a couple of critical vendors," the court transcript shows.

Baer also said Family Christian Center had not paid property taxes for two or three years on five townhomes it owned. Family Christian Center does not pay property taxes on the worship center because it is a church.

Baer recommended the townhomes be put up for sale and advised the church to get out of the real estate business.

"They're so deep that we couldn't possibly find the funds to correct the tax situation, which is why we recommend walking away (from the townhomes)," Baer said during the court hearing.

He declined to comment for The Times' article.

Lake County Treasurer John Petalas said five properties owned by the church were sold Aug. 27, 2012, in the treasurer's tax sale. He said Family Christian Center's attorney, Dominguez, came into his office before that date, but the church didn't have enough money to get on a payment plan to avoid the tax sale.

Four of the properties were purchased by SMK Group LLC, based in Hammond, according to the treasurer's office. The fifth was purchased by Carl Spackler LLC, in South Bend.

Since then, Family Christian Center has redeemed four of the five properties it lost in the tax sale, Petalas said. To do so, the church had to pay Lake County all its back taxes and pay the buyer the amount for which the property was purchased plus 10 percent interest, Petalas said.

Attorney Dominguez told Judge Kavadias Schneider the properties were used by visiting pastors of the church. The judge told Dominguez that Family Christian Center no longer could afford the townhomes, according the the Dec. 4 court transcript.

Moving forward
Baer told the judge he believes Family Christian Center's current budget is "workable."

Family Christian Center brings in about $140,000 per week, Baer told the judge on Dec. 4. That amounts to roughly $7.3 million per year.

He said the church puts money aside each week toward paying its now $72,000 monthly mortgage payment to Evangelical Christian Credit Union. The rest of the money is used for other items in the budget, according to the court transcript.

It is unclear, based on available information, how much Family Christian Center owes on its mortgage.

A mortgage modification for the church filed in 2009 increased the outstanding principal at that time to about $12.3 million, Lake County recorder's office records show. A subsequent modification filed in 2010 did not list the amount owed.

The worship center is assessed at $10.4 million, Lake County assessor's records show.

Although there is a budget in place for Family Christian Center, officials connected to the mortgage foreclosure case have struggled to agree on how the church's financial affairs should be handled moving forward, according to a transcript of the Dec. 4 court hearing.

During the hearing, Dominguez said officials at Family Christian Center are entitled to regain control of their own affairs. He asked the judge to withdraw the previous court order agreeing to an appointed financial administrator and to return control of the church's finances to church officials, the transcript shows.

Dominguez told the judge the church paid nearly $350,000 to Rally Capital Services, where Baer works, between last April and the Dec. 4 hearing.

"This is a prime example where the cure is killing the patient," Dominguez told the judge. "We cannot afford that."

Baer agreed the fees were unsustainable, but he said the fees are the result of clashes over the budget.

"There's superficial cooperation, but it's grudging," Baer told the judge on Dec. 4. "It's reluctant. There's a lot of tension. It's become very difficult. We've tried very hard to listen to accommodate church leadership."

Baer said he and church officials could not agree on the disclosure of financial information from Refuge Productions and City Church Fellowship, which are separate entities whose operations are intertwined with the church.

The IRS revoked City Church's tax-exempt status on May 15, 2010, because it failed to file tax returns for three consecutive years, IRS and Guidestar records show. The church, led by Kent and Alli Munsey, had not been reinstated as of Friday, according to an official at the IRS.

City Church's executive director, Kevin Ernzen, said the revocation was the result of a coding error made by the IRS. Churches typically are not required to file annual returns with the IRS. Ernzen provided The Times with documentation showing attorneys are working with the IRS to resolve the issue.

Refuge Productions still is a tax-exempt organization, IRS records show. However, the IRS did file an $84,974.59 federal tax lien against the nonprofit in 2007. It was paid off by May 4, 2009.

Baer said Refuge Productions collects money during the productions it holds at Family Christian Center but does not give the money to Rally Capital Services. At the same time, Rally had paid bills submitted by Refuge, including a bill for feed for animals used in plays at the church, court records show.

Baer said he'd like to see Refuge's books and records to make sure church funds aren't being diverted into the nonprofit.

Dominguez argued Refuge and City Church's finances are outside the scope of the appointed financial administrator, because they are separate entities.

Refuge Production's 2011 IRS return shows a series of loans made to and from Family Christian Center, City Church and two of Steve Munsey's for-profit companies, IRS records show.

Kent Munsey said he would be willing to show Baer the financial records for City Church but has never been asked to do so.

Judge Kavadias Schneider said the church only will pay expenses for productions in which it receives revenue, according to the Dec. 4 transcript. Otherwise, Refuge Productions is responsible for its own expenses, she said.

The judge said she will consider Family Christian Center's request to cancel the financial administrator agreement during the next hearing, scheduled for Feb. 22.

Times Staff Writer Keith Benman contributed to this report.