Defrauding the Church

Recently I was looking at the résumé of a famous preacher who was outed as a adulterer some years ago by another famous preacher (who was himself then outted in the same way). I was looking mostly because he calls himself “Dr.” Under his education he lists “Correspondence Courses Continuing Education – Berean School of Bible”, then an honorary MA (who gets an honorary MA?), two honorary doctorates, and what purports to be a Ph.D. in Religion from North Carolina College of Theology. I had never heard of this institution, but you, dear reader, can probably can probably smell the same rat I did. It is just a bit unusual to go from correspondence courses with no certificate, diploma, or not to mention degree, straight to a Ph.D.

How do you get a doctorate from NCCT? Let them tell you how in their course catalog (spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation, including random elipses, from the original):

The North Carolina College of Theology does award degrees for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE. The specific requirements for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE Degrees are outlined in this catalog. NCCT DOES NOT sell degrees…Qualified applicants must submit proof of verifiable time in ministry in order to receive the degree for which he or she has applied….All applicants must meet NCCT requirement with approval of the President and Executive Board. Each individual application is assessed with consideration of various jobs and positions in which an applicant has worked within the church or ministerial realm. Many pastors and five-fold ministers are NOW deserving a Doctorate, and should rightfully be awarded. NCCT LIFE-EARNED DEGREES are identical to the degrees that are issued to students who graduate from the Satellite Extension Program or “Individual Study Program”. It is the desire of the NCCT President, Board, Staff, and Faculty to be a blessing to those in the field of ministry and offer confirmation of education to the many deserving men and women of God.

That’s right. If you have been in full-time ministry for ten to fifteen years, and you have $2,750.00 plus $60.00 application fee, plus $100.00 administration fee, plus the $860.00 graduation fee, you deserve a doctorate. They would like you to write a 25,000 word paper, which they even have the gall to call a dissertation, but that can be waived. That will get you a Doctor of Biblical Studies. If you want to have a Ph.D. you need to have been in ministry 20 years, have bought one of the other doctorates, and it will cost an additional$5,500.00, plus all the other fees. Because you deserve it. And because you have a ministry that can afford to spend the $10,290.00 in total from the offerings you have received from other people. The one thing NCCT is very clear about: no money, no degree, and absolutely no refunds if you ever realize that you paid for a worthless piece of paper.

From whence comes this idea that a degree of any kind is deserved? A degree is earned through a demonstration of academic achievement in a field of study.

NCCT will tell you not to worry about the value of your LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE degree, because it is accredited. According to the course catalog, NCCT is accredited through Accrediting Commission International, Inc. of Beebe, Arkansas. ACI is run by non-trinitarian Pentecostal preacher “Dr.” John Scheel who is the bishop of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church of Beebe. “Dr.” Scheel got his Ph.D. from Toledo Bible College and Seminary, which had to be re-branded when it was run out of Ohio by the authorities. ACI is also a rebranding of the International Accrediting Commission (IAC) which was run out of Missouri after a sting operation.

But why have one fake accreditation with four is better? A real college doesn’t need the approval four accrediting agencies, but according to the NCCT website, they are accredited by three other bogus accrediting agencies in addition to ACI.

NCCT likes to keep things tightly controlled. The President is “Dr.” J. L. Cook. The Senior Vice-President is “Dr.” Judy Cook, the wife of J. L. Cook. The Executive Vice-President is “Dr.” Jon Cook, the son of J. L. Cook. The rest of the Executive Board includes “Dr.” W. L. Baltimore with two diploma mills doctorates, including one from NCCT;  “Dr.” Varnie Fullwood, who got his Bachelor’s from diploma mill Zoe University (also accredited by ACI) before getting his Master’s and Ph.D. from NCCT; “Dr.” Stephen Thomas, with two diploma mill doctorates, one from Rhema University (accredited by one of ACI’s competitors and not to be confused with Rhema Bible Training Center, which does not offer degrees) and one from NCCT; and Revs. Dan and Tim Cook, who bears a striking resemblance to the other Cooks and each other.

All of the Cook sons, Baltimore, and Thomas also serve on the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board, though how the two Cook non-doctors serve on a doctoral dissertation review board further boggles the mind. Ever other member of the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board about whom I can find any further information also appears to their doctorates from NCCT or another mill.

NCCT is just one of many purveyors of bogus theological degrees. I just picked them out by chance, due to their association with Marvin Gorman, mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m sure there are others who are making just as much money out of spreading false credibility throughout the Church. But be clear about this: it is fraud and it is rife.

It may be found predominantly, but not exclusively, in Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Baptist circles. Does that mean that there is anything wrong with these groups within the Church? Absolutely not. It does mean that there is a need to be extra vigilant. Does it mean that someone has to have a real doctorate or even a real degree of any kind to minister in the Church? No. God uses all sorts of men from all sorts of backgrounds and all levels of formal and informal education.

It does mean that no one should represent that they possess formal educational achievement that they have not earned. I don’t care what else they want to say about how great their ministry is, or how fruitful it is in whatever way their group acknowledges fruitfulness, they are defrauding the Church.

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Intellectual Dishonesty

I have recently discovered how plagued the Church is with deception. I’m not talking about people wandering around in false doctrine, though there is plenty of that about. I’m talking about Christian ministers — some in high profile ministries — in collusion with faux educational institutions, deliberately deceiving others with regard to their academic qualifications. The real scandal is that it is not a scandal.

I just thought it was a bit silly when I saw the late Kenneth Hagin calling himself “Dr. Hagin” after Oral Roberts gave him an honorary doctorate courtesy of ORU. But one preacher, however popular, flaunting his honorary degree does not a scandal make.

Recently I was looking at the websites of various leaders involved in what is known as the “Apostolic-Prophetic” movement. A disproportionate number of them seemed to have doctorates. Cindy Jacobs even has two. It didn’t take long to discover that all of these doctorates were from “schools” of theology started run by their friends. Cindy Jacobs got her honorary first doctorate from Christian International Ministries, run by Bill Hamon. Hamon “earned” his bachelor’s and master’s from his own Christian International School of Theology before allegedly receiving an honorary doctorate from an unnamed university.

Beyond those who are using honorary doctorates to call themselves “Dr.”, there are those who are claiming to have earned doctorates. They have them from organizations like the Wagner Leadership Institute. They get credit for attending each other’s meetings and conferences or watching each other’s videos. They take two-day and three-day courses like “Discovering Your Destiny through the Fivefold Ministry Gifts” and “Apostolic Breakthrough”.  Each of these equates to “training units”. Get enough training units and you get a doctorate. Or as WLI states on their website:

WLI  desires to remain unhindered from traditional higher-level educational requirements and is not an accredited institution. WLI offers three diploma tracks: Bachelor, Master, and Doctor of Practical Ministry. Diplomas do not certify levels of attainment, but rather accumulation of training units.

You can’t get your training units simply by attending a seminar or webcast or listening to a CD or watching a DVD. You have to write a 3-5 page paper. Within 90 days. Unless you bought a CD or DVD, in which case you have one year. The paper should not have anything to do with demonstrating knowledge of the “course” content. It is only a self-evaluation. “Students fail a course only when they neglect to turn in papers on time.” Not academically up to watching a DVD and taking a year to say what you got out of it? “Students may also receive training unit credit for on-going ministry, writing books, mission trips, and pre-approved self-studies.” It is nice that WLI admits that its diplomas are essentially worthless.

However, do those who attended conferences and other meetings and sit under the teaching of these “doctors”, know where their spurious credentials were obtained? Or do they trust that Dr. Chuck Pierce or Dr. Cindy Jacobs or Dr. Bill Hamon or Dr. Rus Jeffrey or Dr. Don Lynch or Dr. Jim Goll or hosts of others have legitimate claims to use the title?

To put oneself forward as having what a reasonable person would expect to be academic credentials in the promotion of Christian ministry, when no such credentials exist, is nothing less than fraud. It is deception. Fraud and deception are not condoned by the apostles and prophets of the Bible, those who claim to be such today notwithstanding.

I wish that the rot in worthless academic credentials ended with this particular infestation, but it runs deeper and wider in the Church. Of this, more later.

You Shall Not Bear False Witness

As a conservative Republican, I get sent a lot of email from like-minded friends attempting to expose the foibles and failings of the current presidential administration. As the 2012 election campaign heats up, the mail volume has increased, even including various virals that have been around for a couple of years now.  These get passed on and on and on as if they are the Gospel truth.

It appears that a reckless disregard for the truth is okay as long as it is against the other side. The ends justify the means. In some of the hundreds of blogs and forums where these virals have been reproduced, any challenge to them is met with venom.

While I may disagree with President Obama on most issues and will undoubtedly vote for his opponent in the next general election, I cannot condone the rampant behavior of sending emails and posting any combination of personal attacks and false information. No Christian should condone it either.

If you feel so opposed to President Obama that you consider him an enemy, then you are to love your enemies.  That love is described in I Corinthians 13. It sound wonderful when being read in a wedding service, doesn’t it? Loving your enemies is when it is actually put to the test.

You are to pray for those in authority over you. It is difficult to hate someone for whom you are praying, unless you are just using your prayers to vent your feelings, like those people who try to preach sermons with their prayers if called upon during a church service. God isn’t impressed in either case.

And let’s not forget the Ninth Commandment: you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You must not lie about other people. Even Democrats. Even President Obama. Even if you think he has lied to you from time to time. There’s no quid pro quo when it comes obeying God. Even if you are a hard core theonomist and you wanted to invoke the lex talionis, an eye for an eye isn’t a lie for a lie.

To demonstrate just how bad the problem is, I am going to reproduce the contents of a viral unleashed with renewed vigor recently. However, I independently researched each claim made.  This is the list of all of Obama’s “czars” – heads of policy areas that report directly to the President.  If you care about the truth, read on.

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