Faith healer runs lucrative operation
RALEIGH – Thousands of church services will take place in the Triangle today, but none is likely to match the religious — and financial — performance that has already come and gone in Raleigh.
Through two days of four-hour services last week, a racially diverse collection of believers crammed into Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium to receive the Holy Spirit, sing along with a rocked-out gospel band, and to maybe find a cure where doctors had failed.
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They came to see the Rev. Benny Hinn, an international preacher and native of Israel who claims that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, sick people are supernaturally healed in his presence.
Where he preaches, women cry. Men do, too. And the spirit knocks people to the floor when Pastor Benny waves his hand.
Hinn is one of the country’s best-known faith healers, with a television ministry that claims viewership in more than 200 countries.
Hinn preaches a version of the prosperity gospel, which holds that God wants his followers to have financial wealth. To become prosperous, one must give money to God, who returns it multiplied.
“The only way to get out of debt is to give to God’s work,” Hinn said during the Friday morning service. He then challenged his audience. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of faith for $50.”
Instead, he asked for $1,000. Those who wrote checks or filled out their credit card information for $1,000 donations (the form was on the outside of the envelopes distributed by the ushers) were asked to come to the stage. About 70 did, holding their envelopes in the air.
Hinn shouted his elation.
“Thank you, Jesus!”
Despite his success, Hinn is not universally loved. A Durham street preacher protested outside Thursday night’s service, shouting “Benny Hinn is a false prophet!”
In an interview, the Rev. Stephen Davey of Cary’s Colonial Baptist Church was just as direct. “The long and short of it, I think he’s a con man.”
Benny Hinn Ministries is headquartered near Dallas, although Hinn lives in California, near the ministry’s TV studio.
It takes money for an organization as big as Hinn’s to travel the world, sponsor orphanages in Third World countries and produce “This is Your Day!,” the ministry’s hallmark television program.
Benny Hinn Ministries is a tax-exempt organization. It does not release specific financial reports, according to its Web site, because the ministry is “mindful of the fact that both corporate and ministry financial reports can be manipulated by unscrupulous people with unsavory agendas.”
Hinn travels by private jet. Several years ago, an NBC television investigation estimated the ministry brings in $100 million annually. The envelopes passed out at his services feature a box that givers can check if they would like to pledge $10,000. Efforts to reach a ministry spokesman were unsuccessful.