Financial intrigue on the religion beat

moneyofferingCompared to the Womb story, this next Presbyterian Assembly story may not seem terribly exciting. But it is spicy in its own way. The Denver Post‘s Eric Gorski is one of my favorite religion reporters. He takes the time to understand and accurately convey the theology of complex stories’ various players. Well, Gorski had a different kind of story worth noting in Wednesday morning’s Post.

Here’s the background. On June 15, businessman Stanley Anderson promised a $150 million donation to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to help reverse some of its declining budget and membership trends. Everybody at the Presbyterian gathering was ecstatic and gave him a standing ovation. Well, here’s Gorski’s story from yesterday morning (which he wrote with J.P. Eichmiller):

A Denver businessman who promised a record $150 million donation to the Presbyterian Church (USA) failed to pay his homeowners association fees, dental bills and mortgage payments, and he owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to jilted creditors he persuaded to help keep his business afloat, according to public records.

Yowza! Way to run with the local angle there. And in trademark Gorski style, he goes right to the man and asks him what the deal is:

Anderson, 62, said Tuesday that he is working to pay off his debts and is confident he will be able to deliver on his pledge. An official with the 2.3 million member denomination in Louisville, Ky., also expressed confidence in Anderson, a member of Central Presbyterian Church in Denver and active in the local and national church.

“Going through the trials and tribulations that I have today is just part of life,” Anderson said. “You have challenges, and you find ways to meet those challenges, and the greatest comfort is your faith.”

The story has much more research and is very interesting. Well, as you can imagine, this religion reporter caused quite the stir. The Presbyterian news service responded, AP’s Richard Ostling noted it in his daily report, and many others also published accounts. Peter Smith of Louisville’s Courier-Journal, who regularly covers the PC(USA), added this interesting color in the story’s aftermath:

Portions of the Post article were reprinted in Wednesday’s Birmingham News and The Courier-Journal. Word of the article spread among delegates, many of whom sighed or groaned when [PC(USA) Executive Director John] Detterick spoke about it at the start of the morning’s deliberations.

Detterick defended his decision not to check Anderson’s ability to pay the money before announcing the pledge with great fanfare.

He said the church is “unlike a business that oftentimes requires verification of capability” to pay.

I’ll be interested to see how this story plays out. Let’s look for coverage in the coming months.

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  • dw

    I think someone in Louisville is about to hit the unemployment line.

    I wish Gorski could follow up by trying to dig out Anderson’s true motives behind doing this. Something about this says that he’s facing prison time soon.

    Anderson is, not Gorski. Silly unclear antecedent.

  • Mollie

    That would be pretty interesting if Gorski was going to the slammer!

  • Steve

    This is similar to the issue facing the early Chruch in Acts 5. While I don’t believe that Gorski will be struck dead, the quesion is will the PCUSA be willing to act as Peter and refuse the money and call that action “sin”?

  • Steve

    I made a mistake. I should have said that Anderson, not Gorski would not be struck dead.

  • Mollie

    Why do you people wish harm on Gorski?

  • Michael Rew

    “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4 King James Version).