Ministry gives money to Murdock’s relatives

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mar. 3, 2003
http://www.dfw.com/
By Darren Barbee, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Second of three parts. Part 1. Part 3.

The brass-colored door knocker on the small house in Argyle is engraved with the words The Murdocks.

The Rev. J.E. Murdock, wearing a blue jumpsuit, answers the door of the home he believes his son, Denton televangelist Mike Murdock, bought for him.

The house is tax-exempt and belongs to the nonprofit Mike Murdock Evangelistic Association, Denton County records show.

J.E. Murdock is a lean, broad-shouldered man with a firm handshake. And even if some memories have faded from the 86-year-old’s mind, Scripture saturates his language, and his voice rises and falls as if he were still in the pulpit.

When asked whether his son bought the house, J.E. Murdock said he believes that is so.

“And [he] furnished everything,” he said.

Some of the ministry’s chief beneficiaries are Mike Murdock’s relatives, documents show. The ministry, incorporated in 1973 to spread the Gospel and provide charity, gives money to or employs Mike Murdock’s father, sister, son and niece.

Since the Star-Telegram began examining the association’s finances, Murdock has offered a few more details about how ministry money benefits people close to him.

After years of using donations to provide his father with not only a home but also a car and a salary, Murdock acknowledged the arrangement in a letter in November to those on the ministry’s mailing list.

IRS forms haven’t shown the extent of the ministry’s support for Murdock’s relatives. The 2001 form is not yet available.

Murdock’s son, Jason, gets $1,400 each month, Murdock said Oct. 19 in Grapevine.

“I want my family blessed. I want my children blessed. I want my son, Jason, blessed,” Murdock said. “In fact, our ministry underwrites him about $1,400 a month while he works in a safe house in Atlanta, just to help him out. He’s working night and day in a street ministry there.”

Murdock said his sister Deborah Murdock Johnson works for him. The ministry’s accounting firm said she handles publishing for the association.

One of his nieces works for the ministry, Murdock said last year.

The house where J.E. Murdock lives — valued at $104,095 — was Mike Murdock’s parsonage when the ministry had a church in Argyle, according to the Denton Central Appraisal District. A 1997 Lincoln Continental owned by the ministry is routinely parked in the garage for J.E. Murdock to use.

Each month, J.E. Murdock receives a salary for preaching, Mike Murdock wrote in the November newsletter. He didn’t disclose the amount.

The ministry reported on one of its IRS forms that J.E. Murdock received no compensation for serving as a board member, though it listed him elsewhere on the form as having received an allocation.

According to the instructions, the IRS documents must “show all forms of cash and noncash compensation received by each listed officer, etc., whether paid currently or deferred.”

Filing an incomplete form can lead to penalties for the nonprofit corporation and the individuals responsible.

J.E. Murdock said he has lived in the house for several years. None of the tax documents from 1997 to 2000 indicate that he was allowed to live in the home.

An attachment to ministry tax forms shows that J.E. Murdock received an allocation during those years. In 2000, the ministry gave him $13,250. It is not clear what the money was for. But some of the others who were listed on the attachment said that they had been paid for preaching or singing or that they had received gifts.

In the ministry’s newsletter, Murdock wrote that his father’s accommodations and salary were “a very small reward for 63 years of ministry.”

In October in Grapevine, Murdock said his father never earned more than $125 a week when he worked as a pastor.

It’s up to the board to decide whether a ministry should provide salaries and living arrangements for trustees, said Chris Hempe, an accountant and the president of MinistryWatch, which monitors Christian nonprofit organizations.

“The bigger-picture issue is if you’re going to compensate a board member for something they’re doing … there’s a rule there against providing what they call excess benefit,” he said.

“If it can be proven that the nonprofit gave somebody basically some sort of compensation … that exceeded the value of what it was really worth, that’s excess benefit.”

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