Tag Archives: donations

the £93m pastor

Laughing on his private jet – the £93m pastor accused of exploiting British worshippers

By GEORGE ARBUTHNOTT  Daily Mail

A church run by a controversial multi-millionaire African preacher has been accused of ‘cynical exploitation’ after its British branch received £16.7 million in donations from followers who were told that God would give them riches in return.

Followers are ferried in double-decker shuttle buses to the church, handed slips inviting them to make debit card payments, and are even told obeying the ministry’s teachings will make them immune from illness.

Today’s Mail on Sunday revelations about the Winners’ Chapel movement, which holds charitable status, have prompted the Charity Commission to carry out an assessment of the church – one of the fastest-growing in the UK.

Winners’ Chapel is part of a worldwide empire of evangelical ministries run by Nigeria’s wealthiest preacher David Oyedepo, who has an estimated £93 million fortune, a fleet of private jets and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

revelations about the Winners¿ Chapel movement have prompted the Charity Commission to review the charitable status of the church ¿ one of the fastest-growing in the UK.

Plenty to smile about; Preacher David Oyedepo of the Winners Chapel movement aboard one of his private jets. He also owns a Rolls Royce Phantom

Dubbed ‘The Pastorpreneur’, he was accused earlier this year of slapping the face of a young woman he said was a witch. The assault case was struck out but is being appealed.

Branches of the church have sprung up in major UK cities in a huge recruitment drive centred on Mr Oyedepo’s ‘prosperity gospel’. This claims that congregants who make regular donations and pay tithes – a ten per cent levy on their income – will be rewarded financially by God.

Followers are urged to target vulnerable people such as the lonely, the sick, the homeless and the suicidal as potential candidates for conversion.

Last night, Labour MP Paul Flynn said Winners’ Chapel was cynically exploiting supporters. ‘They [Winners’ Chapel] are making clearly spurious claims and it seems to be a cynical exploitation of the gullible,’ he said.

Referring to the slapping incident, Mr Flynn added: ‘What is also alarming is the reported violence and the lack of respect for the status of women. It’s taking us back to a previous age of ignorance and prejudice that we all thought the church had escaped.’

Caught on camera: Video of Mr Oyedepo striking a young 'witch' across the face in front of a congregation

Caught on camera: Video of Mr Oyedepo striking a young ‘witch’ across the face in front of a congregation

This newspaper’s investigation can further disclose:

  • Congregants are handed a payment slip requesting payments using cheque, cash or debit card when they enter London’s Winners’ Chapel.
  • Donations to the ministry in England almost doubled from £2.21 million to £4.37 million between 2006 and 2010.
  • Mr Oyedepo’s superchurch in Nigeria received £794,000 or 73 per cent of the charitable donations paid out by the British Winners’ Chapel between 2007 and 2010. This was despite claims in Africa that he is enriching himself at the expense of his devotees.
  • The registered charity has spent £6.81 million on evangelism and ‘praise, worship and fellowship’.
  • The church’s ‘Joseph Squad’ preaches in British prisons and has a weekly broadcast named ‘Liberation Hour’ on satellite and cable TV here.

In the past three years, Winners’ Chapel churches have been established in Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Bradford, adding to those in London, Manchester, Dublin and Glasgow.

An undercover Mail on Sunday reporter attended Sunday services  at Winners’ Chapel’s ‘London HQ’  in Dartford, Kent, which attracts 1,000 congregants – chiefly African and Caribbean immigrants. It is run like ‘a business conference’ by Mr Oyedepo’s son, David Oyedepo Jnr. Packed buses deliver singing worshippers from South-East London, Essex and Kent to the huge auditorium.

The reporter saw a payment slip being given to every person entering the church encouraging them to donate money by cheque or cash or to fill in a form with their debit card details. The slip said tithes should be paid separately using a ‘Kingdom Investment Booklet’ and the reporter was informed that payments could also be made by phone. A pastor told the worshippers: ‘You shall be financially promoted after this service in Jesus’s name if you are ready to honour the Lord therefore with all your givings, your tithes, your offerings, your Kingdom investment, your sacrifices.’

Congregants were told to fill in their slips and hold them above their heads while the donations were blessed.

Caught on camera: Video of Mr Oyedepo striking a young 'witch' across the face in front of a congregation

One of the fleet: A jet belonging to Mr Oyedepo – he has at least two that he bought with his huge fortune

The service was interspersed with testimonies. ‘I received a bill from  the bank that I didn’t understand, so I prayed,’ said one congregant. ‘A few days later, the bank wrote to apologise for their mistake – Hallelujah!’ ‘Hallelujah,’ the audience shouted back.

Congregants were told they could gain favour by persuading others to follow Mr Oyedepo’s teachings. His son said: ‘Look around you. Someone is sick and already wishing he or she were dead, that is a fruit ripe to harvest. Someone is confounded and considering suicide as an option, that is another fruit that is ripe to harvest.

‘Someone else is lonely and wondering if there is any future for him, that is another fruit ripe to harvest.

‘Also there are many men and women, young and old that are homeless, these are fruits ripe to harvest.’

The reporter was taken, with 20 other new recruits, to a room where preachers gave sermons claiming acceptance of the Lord would prevent them ever being ill or suffering misfortune.

The Mail on Sunday has seen video footage of Mr Oyedepo striking a woman across the face and condemning her to hell after she said she was a ‘witch for Jesus’. He attacked her in a Winners’ Chapel superchurch, believed to be in Nigeria, in front of worshippers. A separate video shows him saying: ‘I slapped a witch here last year!’

In May, he was sued for £800,000 over the alleged assault. The case was struck out – a decision which is now reported to have been appealed.

The Winners’ Chapel movement, also known as the Living Faith Church, has hundreds of churches in Nigeria and across Africa, the Middle East, the UK and the US.

Mr Oyedepo has received fierce criticism in Africa. One Nigerian journalist accused him of ‘leading a growing list of pastorpreneurs – church founders exploiting the passion and emotion that Christianity commands to feather their nests’.

Caught on camera: Video of Mr Oyedepo striking a young 'witch' across the face in front of a congregation

Marriage: Seen here with his wife Faith, Mr Oyedepo has a son who runs services at the chapel’s London headquarters

Catholic Cardinal Anthony Okogie criticised such preachers for placing materialism above Jesus’s message. He reportedly said: ‘They have been skinning the flock, taking out of the milk of the flock.’

Among Mr Oyedepo’s fleet of aircraft are said to be a Gulfstream 1 and Gulfstream 4 private jets. It is also claimed he and his wife, Faith, travel in expensive Jeeps flanked by convoys of siren-blaring vehicles. He is the senior pastor of Faith Tabernacle, a 50,000-seat auditorium in Lagos reputed to be the largest church in the world, and runs a publishing company that distributes books carrying his message across the world.

His other business interests span manufacturing, petrol stations,  bakeries, water purification factories, recruitment, a university, restaurants, supermarkets and real estate. The latest addition is a commercial airline named Dominion Airlines.

A Charity Commission spokesman said: ‘The Charity Commission is  currently assessing what, if any,  regulatory role there is to play with regard to the complaints made against the World Mission Agency. It is important to clarify that this does not constitute an investigation at this stage.’

Winners’ Chapel administrator Tunde Disu declined to comment.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

A Trucker’s Tale -” Something for Stevie” is a work of fiction by author Dan Anderson, published in rpm Magazine for Truckers in November 1998

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued sp…eech of Downs Syndrome.

I wasn’t worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don’t generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade. The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck stop germ” the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot. After that, I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.

Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Downs Syndrome often have heart problems at an early age so this wasn’t unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news. Bell Ringer, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look.

He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?” he asked.

“We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.”

“I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?”

Frannie quickly told Bell Ringer and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: “Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be OK,” she said. “But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by as it is.” Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.

Since I hadn’t had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn’t want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do. After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I didn’t get that table where Bell Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off,” she said. “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.”

She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.

Pony Pete asked me what that was all about,” she said, “so I told him about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this.” She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds.

Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: “truckers.”

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy.

I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.

“Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!”

I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.

“First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said. I tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother.

“There’s more than $10,000 in cash and checks on table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. “Happy Thanksgiving,”

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what’s funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table. Best worker I ever hired.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic