An evangelical church with an income of £3.5 million was plunged into debt after “misconduct and mismanagement”, with its idolised preacher drawing a large unauthorised wage from worshippers’ donations, a probe showed today.
Pastor Douglas Goodman and his glamorous wife Erica were paid “significant” salaries and enjoyed other benefits from the funds of the Victory Christian Centre charity.
The charismatic couple lived a life of luxury, owning a £1.5 million house, driving sports cars and taking holidays to exotic destinations.
Goodman, who preyed on his congregation for sex, was jailed for three and a half years in May for sexually assaulting loyal followers.
The Charity Commission closed the independent church in Kilburn, north London in December 2002 amid allegations money had gone missing and that the Goodmans were receiving large personal benefits.
Concerns were also raised that the self-styled preacher and his wife exerted a “dominant influence” over the trustees, despite resigning from the trustee body themselves in 1999.
An investigation published today found that former bus driver Goodman signed most of the church’s cheques as sole signatory.
In 2001, the charity had an income of £3.5 million, but by 2002 was an estimated £200,000 in debt and it was unable to pay its creditors.
The report stated: “The Charity Commission investigation revealed evidence of misconduct and mismanagement, including significant unauthorised salary payments and other benefits provided to the Pastor and his wife, as well as a number of the trustees.”
It added: “The trustees were not in control of the Charity and were not aware of scope and measure of the expenditure of the Charity’s money.
“The Pastor signed the majority of cheques as sole signatory, in breach of the Charity’s Constitution.
“There was a lack of financial controls surrounding cash collections and charitable expenditure was not adequately accounted for.”
Despite the findings, the Commission is not attempting to recover the missing money and has advised the Metropolitan Police of its decision.
“The Commission considered the issue of restitution and concluded that it would not be a proportionate use of resources to try and recover unauthorised trustee benefits,” it said.
The Goodmans were so respected at the VCC that they were treated like idols and during an appreciation day by members were crowned King and Queen.
The church had just 100 members when the pair took over the running of the centre in 1996.
Its congregation swelled to 3,000 and followers paid 10% of their salary to the charity by direct debit.
New guidelines are being drafted by the Charity Commission in the wake of the scandal and other problems with independent churches.
Governing documents which set out how a charity church will be run will in the future include a remuneration clause clarifying exactly how much a pastor is to be paid.
Mrs Goodman is running another church, Victory to Victory or ‘V2V’, which meets in Wembley, north west London. She acts as its senior pastor.
A spokeswoman at V2V said of the findings: “We don’t give interviews to the press. We’re not going to be giving any comment.”
Douglas Goodman, who is in his late forties and who lived in Northampton, was convicted at the Old Bailey of assaulting a 19-year-old woman, attempted indecent assault on a 26-year-old woman and perverting the course of justice by threatening to send compromising pictures of a woman to a newspaper.
Sep. 7, 2004
Laura Elston, PA News