‘Prosperity is the promise of God’

Times Online (England), Mar. 16, 2003
By Laura Peek

Greediness is next to godliness, according to worshippers at one of Britain’s fastest-growing Churches yesterday.

More than 8,000 worshippers a week flock to services at the Kingsway International Christian Centre in an old warehouse near Hackney Marshes, East London.

It was founded 17 years ago by Matthew Ashimolowo, the centre’s pastor, and claims to be the fastest-growing Church in Europe with a total membership of about 12,000. It runs a range of services from televised preaching in Africa to an internet chatroom for singles.

Worshippers are encouraged to pray for wealth. Sermons delivered by Mr Ashimolowo, a Nigerian-born convert from Islam, have titles such as “101 Answers to Money Problems” and “Sweatless Wealth”. Prayers include sentiments such as: “Ask the Lord to open your eyes to that which shall be profitable.”

Worshippers are mostly Afro-Caribbean and most contribute a tenth of their income to the Church. Scores of security guards, wearing black suits and earpieces, patrolled the compound for Sunday service yesterday. The Times was not allowed to attend.

Outside, one member of the congregation, Steve Eyamba, 44, a lorry driver, said: “It is part of our worship to pray for prosperity — that is the promise of God. It is also part of our worship to give money to the Church. It is good to give the money if it is used well — if it is sending food home to Africa.”

KICC had an income of £7.4 million in 2001, of which £6.5million came from “tithes” and other offerings from worshippers.

Its commercial operation includes selling videotapes, music and books, and its assets include the 9.5-acre Hackney site, where it plans to build a £22 million complex, including an hotel and 10,000-seat church.

The Church is under investigation by the Charity Commission over the “possible misapplication” of funds and is under the financial control of a receiver and manager.

A spokeswoman for KICC declined to comment.

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