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Love Offerings and Bad Church Books Lands One Pastor and His Wife In Jail

By Raul Rivera

The pain of change

Though Bishop Anthony L. Jinwright wanted to make sure that his church and finances were right, he was reluctant to make the changes needed in order to get in compliance with state and federal law because he dreaded the period of discomfort those changes would bring.  He failed to report reimbursements, seed offerings and his housing allowance as taxable income from 2002 to 2007.  As early as 2001, it was brought to the church's attention that several items were out of compliance and in need of correction. There were eight major items that required modifications and most of those items affected the way he filed his personal tax returns. When he met with an accountant, he often said that he just wanted to "get it right."  He had labored for many years to grow the church, but now that Bishop Jinwright was confronted with the mistakes of the past, "getting it right" would require time and energy.  Below is a list of the 8 major items the church needed to correct.

  1. The church's accounting methods were not compliant with accounting principles 
  2. On several occasions the church's tithes and offering s were given directly to the pastor without being counted as taxable compensation 
  3. His compensation package did not adequately document his compensation 
  4. Church board meeting minutes were missing 
  5. No church minutes concerning the approval of his housing allowance could be located 
  6. The church did not have an accountable reimbursement policy in its corporate records 
  7. Then church did not have an adequate tithes and offering counting procedure, which often caused bank deposits not to match the offering count sheets 
  8. Monthly seed offerings were taken up for the pastor and not reported as compensation

God is our protector

As time passed, Bishop Jinwright continued to allow the problems to remain.  In 2004, he decided that the Lord would protect and cover his ministry.  While trusting God is a noble and worthy stand of faith every minister should take, it does not relieve us of the responsibility of excellent stewardship that is required.  I believe that God's zeal is on your ministry.  He wants you to succeed.  However, He wants your success to come as a result of your diligence and faithfulness to manage with integrity the ministry He has placed in your hands.  The discomfort that comes with facing and fixing the problems of the past is well worth the rewards that follow. 

Building the infrastructure that leads to lasting success

Bishop Jinwright had his moment to invest time and money in building the infrastructure the church needed to manage the finances.  It is not that hard to get it right.  In fact, it is only hard in the beginning, and then every year thereafter it gets easier and easier.  On the contrary, if we let the problems persist, they only increase and cost more to correct. Creating an infrastructure requires that you allow those persons serving in your ministry the ability to get the training they need and then the room to do their job.  Pastor, remember that your board members serve because they believe in you.  If you pick them right, then trust them to do what is right.

How his problems began

Bishop Jinwright continually filed his tax returns late between 2000 and 2007.  That caught the attention of the Department of Justice, sparking an investigation, which began in 2007.  Meanwhile, Bishop Jinwright's ministry continued to exist and he often traveled to speak at conferences and churches across America.  "I feel that we have been blessed tremendously," was his description about that period of time.  Indeed he was blessed.  The Lord had marked his life and as a minister he was able to preach the Gospel giftedly.  Yet, one problem remained, a problem that occasionally kept him awake at night looking at the ceiling and wondering what would happen to him and the ministry if the IRS stepped in before he could voluntarily fix the problems himself. 

Charges filed

Finally, nearly nine years after the church discovered that it was not compliant with state and federal law, the Department of Justice charged him in April of 2009 with fraud for filing false tax returns and tax evasion for not paying the taxes that should have been paid had he properly filed his tax returns.  The 16-page indictment made it clear that he did not commit honest mistakes, but rather that he knew better and chose not to comply with the law.

After he was indicted, the prosecution continued to develop its case against Bishop Jinwright by combing over church records, interviewing witnesses and reviewing his personal records.  In that process, they found some information they believed was credible enough to charge his wife.  She, too, was charged and arrested. 

The verdict

Now faced with the possibility of prison not just for himself, but also for his wife, the painful financial adjustment that should have been made back in 2001 suddenly appeared like a very small and simple thing.  In fact, it now felt like it would be a joy!  After 4 weeks of testimony, Bishop was found guilty of 13 counts of fraud and tax evasion.  His wife was found guilty of 4 counts of fraud and tax evasion.  It is a sad ending to a chapter in their lives that began so happily.  The Department of Justice issued a press release on May 3rd, 2010 stating that Bishop Jinwright faced a maximum of fifty-three years in federal prison while his wife Harriet faces twenty years.  On December 10th, 2010, US District Judge Frank Whitney, Anthony Jinwright received eight years and nine months in prison, while his wife received six years and eight months. Additionally, they must also pay the Internal Revenue Service more than $1million, plus $213,666 to the state.  I believe that he and his wife will bounce back and one day testify of the goodness of God.

God's call on your life will require you to handle money.  You and I will never be able to do ministry without having to get the money part right.  It does not matter where you live or what type of ministry you have, ministry and money will always exist together. It is part of God's internship to prepare us to become partakers of His riches in glory.

Closing argument

This article was very difficult for me to write because I risk the possibility of coming across as fear mongering.  Yet, the facts speak for themselves.  My goal in this article is to stress the necessity for compliance with state and federal laws so that your ministry is positioned to prosper.  It is what keeps me awake late into many evenings looking for changes in the law and how those changes affect you and your ministry. I know that there are many churches in America today that face the same circumstances as Bishop Jinwright, and so long as they have ears to hear, my message of empowerment to them could not come at a better time.  It's time that you look at your church's financial records . . . face the facts . . . and move forward to fix them.


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