Ministries headed by evangelists Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn are both changing the way they operate even as a Senate probe into alleged lavish spending by six prominent ministries continues, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday, July 7.
"Both Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn have indicated that they are instituting reforms without waiting for the committee to complete its review," said Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, in an update on the investigation he began last year.
"Self-reform can be faster and more effective than government regulation."
Roby Walker, a spokesman for Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Mo., confirmed that changes are being made but could not release details on Tuesday.
Don Price, a spokesman for Benny Hinn Ministries in Grapevine, Texas, also declined to comment in detail but said "reforms and improved governance practices" were being shared with Grassley's office.
Grassley's update noted instances of "whistleblower intimidation" where former employees "have received phone calls reminding them of their confidentiality agreements and threatening lawsuits if the agreements are breached."
Jill Gerber, a spokeswoman for the committee, would not disclose which ministries were involved in such calls, and declined to elaborate on the changes planned at Hinn's and Meyer's ministries.
Grassley's update described the responses from Hinn and Meyer as "in good faith and substantively informative," but said the others are "incomplete" or "not responsive."
Broadcaster Kenneth Copeland has reportedly said his Texas-based ministry will not respond even if a subpoena is issued. Grassley's memo said staffers are "consulting with Senate attorneys about next steps."
In other cases, staffers continue to contact ministry lawyers and officials in hopes of further cooperation.
"Sen. Grassley still very much wants to avoid subpoenas and hopes that those ministries will agree that subpoenas would be an unnecessary step," Gerber said.
The other ministries under investigation are: Bishop Eddie Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.; Creflo Dollar Ministries in College Park, Ga., and Randy and Paula White, who co-pastored Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla.