Kingsway International Christian Centre” Forced to Repay Funds by Charity Commission, Now Set to Receive Millions From the British Taxpayer!

The 'Prosperity Gospel' Surges Forward Among the British Poor...

On October 7, 2005, Ruth Gledhill of the TimesonLine reported the following,

'THE pastor of an Afro-Caribbean church will have to repay £200,000 after an investigation by the Charity Commission found “serious misconduct and mismanagement” within his church.

A £120,000 birthday party was among benefits received by Matthew Ashimolowo, the pastor of the Kingsway International Christian Centre. He was also able to use his church’s Visa card to buy a timeshare apartment in Florida.

The organisation, a registered charity, is the fastest growing church in Europe and a proponent of the “prosperity gospel”, which equates faith with material abundance.

The commission’s report, published yesterday, shows that some of the church’s trustees were being paid as employees of the charity. Mr Ashimolowo, 53, and his family were living rent-free in a house owned by the charity and the pastor also had an interest in a company operating from the premises in Hackney, East London. He had also been given an £80,000 car.

The commissioners said that charity trustees should always ensure that personal interests did not conflict with their duties as trustees and make sure that assets were used only to further stated purposes.

Further, the trustees had delegated almost all control of the charity to a pastoral board that included the pastor and his wife Yemesi and had the power to spend up to £1 million at a time. Over eight years, to 2002, Mr and Mrs Ashimolowo were paid £384,600.

They were also given £141,400 from weekly collections. Mr Ashimolowo also had several private companies selling his books, videos and tapes in Nigeria, advertising them free on the church’s website.

Kingsway was started 20 years ago with a congregation of 17. It now has 12,000 regular worshippers and is expected to reach its target of 25,000 members by 2010. In 2001 its income was £7.3 million.

Churches such as Kingsway promote wealth as a reward for hard work and living a godly life. They use the opening text of the third letter of John, in which the apostle prays for his friend’s prosperity and health, and other texts espousing the abundance of harvest reaped from the well-sown seed, to support this view.

A prosperous pastor is seen as proof that prosperity preaching — known to its detractors as the “blab-it-and-grab-it gospel” — works. Vast sums are generated by the congregations of these churches, where “tithing”, or donation of 10 per cent of net income, is common.

Kingsway was placed in the hands of receivers in 2002 after a routine visit by Charity Commission officials led to concerns about governance and the benefits granted to trustees.

The commission investigation found that hundreds of thousands of pounds had been transferred overseas with little documentation to explain how these payments furthered the objects of the charity. The report says that when investigators visited the church in September 2002, they “noted boxes containing finance papers being loaded into a car”. These turned out to be invoices, cheques and cash related to that financial year. The investigators concluded that this incident showed “at the very least a serious lack of control” by the trustees.

The commission claims in its report to have safeguarded nearly £20 million of charitable funds and the charity was allowed to regain control of the church in March, though restructured as a charitable company rather than a trust.

Kingsway said yesterday that the commission had made clear in March its satisfaction that the church had a new structure. It said: “Six months on, the church is moving forward and we remain committed to our vision for growth.”'

Ruth Gledhill's Times report is quite comprehensive, so much so, that there is little point in adding much to it. UK Apologetics have simply used the Times report as it appears on their website.

In fairness to Kingsway, following the inquiry, Pastor Ashimolowo was ordered to repay £200,000, and a new charity with fresh trustees has since been established.

But much has happened to 'Kingsway' since:

The London Development Agency wanted Kingsway's huge London site in order to help house facilities for London's coming 2012 Olympic Games. They have paid Kingsway an estimated £13.5m (coming directly from British taxpayers!) to compensate the church for having to take over its present site area for the 2012 Olympics. The London Development Agency insists it has only purchased the site at the market price, yet this has nevertheless raised questions in many quarters. In response to this huge 'windfall', Kingsway has immediately commissioned architects to design Britain’s first US-style “mega-church” with an amphitheatre and television studio. The 8,000-seat capacity of the £35m building, on a disused industrial site in Rainham, east London, will dwarf Liverpool Cathedral, currently the UK's largest Anglican church, which can seat 3,000.

A visit to Kingsway's official website is an interesting experience. For instance on its Vision 2010 page, Kingsway make it plain that they eventually want to open their own bank, ... a KICC Bank to empower God's people economically, and promote the Kingdom of God.” The site contains no Statement of Faith or any page which we could find to describe their theological foundation/basis. But the group are obviously Christian charismatic 'Word of Faith' (the health, wealth and prosperity gospel) proponents.

UK Apologetics do not seek particular issue with Kingsway International Christian Centre of the UK. However, we do believe that sincere worshippers should be aware of such facts and should take them into account before making any sort of commitment to this (or any other) prosperity gospel organisation. For ourselves, we are wholeheartedly opposed to the teaching of the prosperity gospel since it is a substitute for the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. We willingly call it a 'substitute' for it is a different message to the biblical gospel and a message which would have been unknown to Jesus and the early apostles.

The Christian Hawk

November, 2006.

We have a whole page of articles about the prosperity gospel here:

The Prosperity Teaching

We believe it is also helpful to read the following articles:

All About Faith

Can “Positive Confession” FORCE God to Change Course?

Understanding the Vulnerability of Godly Prayer

The Shame of the Gospel Money-men!