The Really Big Business of Bethel: Part 2 – Who’s in Charge?

Editor’s note: Since submission of this story, Bethel church staff updated its websites to accurately reflect their leadership structure.

If physical and financial growth is any metric of success, Bethel Church has a lot to teach us about how to run a church. Or perhaps how to run a business, since the majority of Bethel’s income comes from the business-like nonprofits operating under the church’s auspices.

A quick recap of my Part 1 on Bethel: The church has 11,000 attendees “who call Bethel Church home” and it had an income of more than$60 million last year, most of which came from its supporting organizations, not from tithes and offerings. If you’re like me, you’ve started wondering who’s spending that income.

But Bethel’s leadership structure, like its finances, is surprisingly obscure. Despite the international attention Bethel has received, and the international donors they court, it’s difficult to determine the genuine structure of their leadership. In fact, Bethel’s two main websites. Bethel.com and BethelRedding.com, offer contradicting and incomplete information on the leadership structure of the church, a subject I raised with Aaron Tesauro, Bethel Church’s Communications Director.

So who’s really running the church/business/international sensation that is Bethel Church? How do decisions get made? Who’s steering this ship?

If you’re a Bethel attendee, you’ve frequently heard the term “Senior Leadership Team”. These are the core people who oversee the church and its ministries, both local and global, with responsibility for managing their 800 full- and part-time employees and the spending of their $60 million annual budget. It’s an 11-person team, five of whom are quite directly related: Bill Johnson, his sons Eric and Brian, and their sons’ wives, Candace and Jenn, all have positions on this team. Bill’s very close friend Kris Vallotton and Kris’s wife Kathy are also on the Senior Leadership Team. Other team members include Dann Farrelly, who’s best known in the church for being a theologically minded pastor, and Charlie Harper, Church Administrator and Project Manager. The final two Senior Leadership Team members, Danny Silk and Paul Manwaring, both used to live in Redding, but have moved away in the last several years and participate mostly from a distance. There are no female leaders on the Senior Leadership Team other than spouses of other senior leaders.

Most Bethel attendees I’ve met aren’t aware of any oversight of the Senior Leadership Team, which is provided, according to Mr. Tesauro, by a 13-member group, which is alternately referred to as either the Council of Elders or Board of Directors. Bethel Church’s bylaws state this group provides oversight to the board, although very little mention is made of what this oversight includes or how it is accomplished. Aaron Tesauro shared with me that the Board/Elders broadly approve an annual budget suggested by the directors of ministries and “senior staff are empowered to manage allotted dollars to meet the set goals or needs in their areas of ministry”.

Interestingly, the Board is comprised of many of the same members as the Senior Leadership Team it oversees, with almost half (five out of 11) of its members holding positions on both groups. Bill Johnson serves as Senior Elder on the Board that oversees him and decides his salary, while his close friend Kris Vallotton is his associate Senior Associate Elder on the Board. Eric Johnson, Dann Farrelly and Charlie Harper also all play a role on both teams, de facto supervising themselves. Other members of the Board of Directors include Andre Van Mol, Mike and Julie Winter, Josh and April LaFrance, Gene and Nell Nicolet, and Ron Rock. These eight independent members of the Board/Elders are also less independent than one would expect; six of them are in a spousal relationship to another member of the Board/Elders and Andre Van Mol is the supervising physician to Nurse Practitioner (and Redding Mayor) Julie Winter.

Phew! Is nepotism alive and well at Bethel Church? Obviously. What about cronyism? No doubt at all.

In fact, this is the kind of board that non-profit advisory councils warn against. Although it’s common practice for the head of a non profit to serve on its oversight board, it is recommended that they serve in a non-voting, advisory capacity, to reduce the potential of conflict of interest, arguably the greatest concern for any board. The California Attorney General’s Guide for Charities, among many other publications, includes a section on “adopting a conflict of interest policy” which is strongly recommended by the IRS, per this guide. No such policy was to be found in the Bethel bylaws. Rookie mistake? Byproduct of an organization that has grown too fast? Accidental oversight? Not likely. This is because Bethel’s board and leadership team actually mirrors the theology that they espouse, in both composition and function.

Theirs is a theology and movement that is rooted in experiences and personal revelation. And a new book, “The Rise of Network Christianity” (recommended to me by the incomparable RV Scheide) almost perfectly elucidates the thought patterns behind it all. The authors of this book, Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, call this new kind of Christianity, Independent Network Christianty (INC). It’s characterized by strong independent leaders who gain their “legitimacy and influence from their perceived ability to access supernatural power to produce ‘signs and wonders’ rather than through speaking ability or educational credentials.” (“The Rise of Network Christianity”.)

In INC churches such as Bethel, a few top leaders are given full discretion over the revenue streams produced by their ministries, and ultimately make their spending and other leadership decisions based upon what they are hearing from God directly. And in a ministry where God himself speaks to the top leader or leaders, who are their Board/Elders to tell them otherwise? To quote again from “The Rise of Network Christianity”: “We were told repeatedly in our interviews that prophets, apostles and other transformative leaders should not be hindered in their use of money by boards, councils, denominations, and other oversight bodies.”

Informed by this background, I asked Aaron Tesauro, Bethel’s PR guy, “can individual senior leaders direct money without the approval of the board or senior leadership team? Why or why not? If so, which ones?”

Tesauro’s answer was broad: “Once the budget is approved by the Board of Directors, as is standard practice in most organizations, senior staff are empowered to manage allotted dollars to meet the set goals or needs in their areas of ministry.” Which, to me, can mean almost anything depending on what the budget looks like, who controls which ministries, the number of allotted dollars and what stated goals and needs there are.

But regardless, here’s the bottom line: Bethel Church is a non profit with an annual income of $60 million last year. With its 11,000 regular attenders, it represents a good tenth of Redding’s population. Management of this local “force of nature” seems to come down to two people: Bill Johnson, a fifth-generation pastor, and Kris Valloton, the former owner of a small auto repair business in Weaverville (who now calls himself a prophet.) Oversight of these two leaders is provided primarily by themselves, as the heads of both their Leadership Team and their supervising Board.

And maybe it’s working, because Bethel Church continues to grow.

More to come in Part 3.

Editor’s note: Annelise Pierce is a graduate of Bethel’s ministry school and a former member of Bethel Church.

Annelise Pierce
Annelise Pierce is fascinated by the intersection of people and policy. She has a special interest in criminal justice, poverty, mental health and education. Her long and storied writing career began at age 11 when she won the Louisa May Alcott Foundation's Gothic Romance short story competition. (Spoiler alert - both hero and heroine die.) Annelise welcomes your (civil) interactions at AnnelisePierce@anewscafe.com
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60 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim says:

    $60 million income or $60 million revenue?

  2. Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

    Bethel Church’s annual report refers to this money as income. I spoke with an accountant prior to my first story who told me that non profits don’t usually use the terms revenue or profit and instead refer to their funding sources as income.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Describing funding sources as income makes sense when you’re a nonprofit taking in donations and putting 80-95% of it towards your goal. But with Bethel we’re talking about a record label, a college, and a church.

      UMG, Sony, and Warner Music Group had 2016 profit margins of 13%, 12%, & 16% respectively. Even if Bethel music is twice as profitable, a majority of its income will be eaten up by the expenses necessary to do business.

      For profit colleges averaged a 20% profit margin in their heyday. Bethel presumably doesn’t have to hire professors with advanced degrees to teach mystic healing, but they still have to pay teachers and provide classrooms etc. And Bethel is charging a pretty low tuition – $11,000 total (compared to ~$48,000 for University of Phoenix)

      Long story short, Bethel probably doesn’t have $60 million to play with each year.

      PS: Guys who brag about net income are douche bags. Guys who brag about gross income are hucksters.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Tim,

        Are you actually comparing an unaccredited “supernatural” scam with an accredited state university?

        And as I recall, Bethel also charges extra for certain “classes”, and for access to some of its various sites.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          University of Phoenix is not a state university, it is a for-profit college owned by a hedge fund.

          That doesn’t mean accredited state universities can’t be a scam – Chico State charges $80,000 for an Art History degree.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            I mistakenly read “University of Arizona” rather than “University of Phoenix”.

            However, tuition for the actual accredited state university is very similar to what Bethel charges (and Bethel students can’t even access financial aid):

            https://www.collegetuitioncompare.com/edu/104179/university-of-arizona/tuition/

          • Avatar Tim says:

            The tuitions are not similar at all. BSSM is $11,000 total over 3 years. The University of Arizona is $12,500 per year — $50,000 total (and that does not count the portion of tuition Arizona taxpayers are paying).

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Tim,

            There are a few things you’re overlooking.

            First of all, every Bethel supernatural student is required to go on a “mission trip” every single year, which can add as much as four thousand dollars to their yearly tuition.

            Secondly, you also aren’t accounting for all the additional classes, presentations, events, and website access students are required to pay for in addition to their basic tuition.

            Based on everything I’ve heard from former Bethel students and read, the actual cost for a single year can easily run into an amount comparable to the state university tuition I linked above.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            The accounting does not support what you heard through the rumor mill. According to part 1 of this series, Bethel took in $13.7 million in total tuition & fees from BSSM, Bethel K-8, Bethel preschool, etc plus all of their various summer classes and boot camps like BethelTech, Bethel Conservatory, & BethelU. There are ~2,000 students enrolled in BSSM and ~500 enrolled in K-8 so even if Bethel’s other schools had zero enrollment, the average tuition & fees for Bethel would still be just ~$5,500/year.

            Keep in mind that real universities charge tons of extras too. My CSU lab fees cost nearly as much as my textbooks, which of course had to be $200 new editions each year. I had fees for instructors to print stuff of paper, fees for my student ID — they even charged one fee for my diploma and another fee just to walk in the ceremony!

  3. Avatar Chris Solberg says:

    Great article and brings out some very important points. When family members are placed in positions of administrative power it creates a dynamic that makes church discipline next to impossible. Its the family members within protected under the umbrella of im gonna tell big daddy ( Johnson) what you did etc… throwing Matthew 18 and the Bibles method of problem solving within the church out the door.

    Enough to cause a future church split, “fire to break out from within” Sparked by God O Mighty Himself

    https://tinyurl.com/y4u7o9wv

  4. Avatar Alice Bell says:

    Another clarifying article about Bethel Church. What I don’t understand is what attracts so many young people to come to Redding to be part of Bethel. What are the demographics of its followers? Where are they from? What are the seeking that they haven’t found elsewhere? What happens to them when they finish their studies at the School of Supernatural Ministry?

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      Outstanding article, and very informative. Many thanks to Annelise for her excellent research, and to ANC for publishing it.

      I’ve spent years researching Bethel, but am still unable to understand what motivates so many people to pour their hard-earned money into Bethel coffers, and to slavishly buy its leader’s many books, tapes, and other for-sale materials. Bethel leaders urge their followers to basically donate more than they can afford (beyond the customary ten percent, and before paying their rent and other bills). They claim that God considers it “robbery” if congregants don’t donate extravagantly enough to the church. On the other hand, people who “trust God” by making generous monetary gifts will be magically rewarded with wealth in return. Of course they’ve given themselves an out by claiming that if this promised wealth doesn’t materialize, it’s only because the person isn’t “obedient” enough in other areas of their life.

      Below is Bethel CEO Bill Johnson’s “Ten Points on Tithing”, in which he states that God intended any money coming into the church to be given to “the priests” to do with as they please, and that congregants are to be given no say in how their money is spent:

      https://oslo.church/read/billjohnson-tenpoints-tithing

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      Alice: Would make an interesting future topic!

      • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

        Annelise, thank you so much for another engaging article. I would sure appreciate you taking on this topic! When I lived in Redding, I experienced two very different types of Bethel members. From the computer tech who came to my house, and was low key about being a Bethel member, to the rather intense individuals approaching me, with an offer to pray. Like Alice, I too have been curious.

        Your bio describes that you are a graduate of Bethel’s ministry school, and a former member. Have you previously addressed your reasons for involvement, and I missed it?

        Anyway, if you don’t mind, is there an average length of time it takes to become a graduate of the ministry school? And the cost? Forgive me if you have already addressed these questions.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Alice, I can take a stab at your questions…I have hired hundreds of Bethel students in my business (I am now retired) and still follow many on FB. Where do they come from? All over the world which I believe is the biggest benefit of Bethel to Redding, The diversity it brings to the city should be celebrated. Some are well off, some had to have sponsors to pay for their schooling. I can’t speak to what they are seeking other than a love of Jesus and the drive to become better people. The Bethel students that I follow that have left Redding are universally successful in life and career. and runs the gamut of career choices, one favorite young lady that worked for me is now a successful film maker, One is an airline pilot, another is in law school. many are overseas working in impoverished countries…and on and on. One thing I can say for the Bethel kids I have known is that they have a strong work ethic and are driven to success.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Doug Cook,

        I’m taking your post with a grain of salt, because I know how you love to defend all things Bethel.

        However, having worked for many years with the poor and homeless in Shasta County, I can attest that many Bethel students also wind up homeless and living on the streets of Redding at some point either during or after their so-called “education”.

        Some can’t continue to manage the heavy financial burden being placed on them by Bethel (between the excessive tithes Bethel demands, the not-inconsiderable cost of tuition, and housing – which Bethel doesn’t provide). Others who had psychiatric issues to begin with had those issues exacerbated by Bethel’s delusional teachings, and wind up in psychiatric wards.

        That some Bethel students may have gone on to get a real education is not exactly a testament to Bethel’s supernatural school.

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          In addition, I don’t think I would label the money Bethel students frantically manage to piece together on their many GoFundMe pages as “sponsors”, and I don’t like Bethel’s practice of taking – and keeping – any money these young people raise above a certain amount.

  5. Avatar Ann B. says:

    Income vs. Revenue. For a business, income refers to net profit i.e. what remains after expenses and taxes are subtracted from revenue. Revenue is the total amount of money the business receives from its customers for its products and services.

    I had to look it up to understand the difference between income vs. revenue so I’m curious is the $60 million before or after expenses. Since they are a nonprofit, taxes would not come into play. If churches of this size were for profit businesses, just think of the tax revenues that would be gained. Other large church organizations that are nonprofit include LDS Mormon Church, Billy Graham Evangelical Asociation, Scientology, and other ministries such as Joel Osteen.

    One could make comparisons on Bethel and these large religious organizations and how their “business” is a large part of their communities. Take the Mormon Church for example, they employ a huge number of people in the Salt Lake City area. And I would guess that the elders of the church may be involved in city management like we are seeing here in Redding. The Billy Graham organization has a large complex in Charlotte NC and it may be possible that church elders may also delve into city politics. I’m not for or against Bethel or any other church organizations but I do think the nonprofit status of these organizations should be changed but I doubt we will ever see that happen on our lifetime. Financially speaking, is Bethel any different than these other large religious organizations?

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Two other religious organizations that dwarf all others are The Catholic Church with 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and the Nation of Islam with 1.8 million Muslims in the world.

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      Ann B. $60 million is before expenses from what I have read in the annual report. Bethel’s income is different from many churches in that the majority of it comes from profit earning supporting organizations such as Bethel Music and Bethel Media rather than from donations/tithes/offerings. These organizations are under the umbrella of Bethel and thus are tax-free other than appropriate product sales tax, per Bethel Communications Director, Aaron Tesauro.

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      Ann B: According to Bethel’s Annual Report, the $60 million is before expenses. Bethel differs from many other churches financially in that its primary income comes not from donations/tithes/offerings but from the income of it’s non-profit supporting organizations, Bethel Music and Bethel Media. These organizations pay appropriate sales tax only and are otherwise not taxed as subsidiaries of a religious organization.

  6. Avatar Jess Wander'n says:

    Please add link to first article in this second article.

  7. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

    The difference between Bethel (which is a leading force in the vast international 7 Mountains Dominionist movement) and other large church organizations is that those other organization don’t subscribe to Bethel’s admitted plans – well underway locally – to take complete religious control of government and all other aspects of society to supposedly prepare for the Second Coming.

    And as far as I’ve been able to determine, Bethel is a very insular organization that doesn’t provide jobs or other benefits to the general community.

    For example, when Bethel’s direct offshoot, Advance Redding, took over the Civic Auditorium, something like a hundred non-Bethel people lost their jobs – replaced by a small paid Bethel staff and a lot of Bethel volunteers. It then moved on to other actions that were harmful to the general community, like denying the use of the Civic parking lot to Senior Nutrition’s once-monthly food distributions (after 33 years in that central location). It also tripled the rents for public service events it agreed to continue, forcing some of them to scramble to find other, often much less convenient locations.

    I’m no particular fan of the Catholic Church. However, during my fundraising days I found it to be very generous with donations and all forms of help to the community – even outside of its membership. Bethel does nothing even remotely comparable.

    • Avatar Jason says:

      Where’s your source on said “admitted plans” to control government? Is there a Bethel blog post on that somewhere? Please directly cite your sources in light of these massive assertions, which potentially amount to unconstitutional action.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Jason,

        It’s obvious you haven’t followed Bethel’s activities or done any research on its 7 Mountains Dominionism theology. Bethel’s “Expansion Mandate” (describing its plans to “infiltrate” and “take-over” local government and other aspects of local society) was removed from its website when it came to the attention of the general pulic. However, the video at the top of the link below features Lance Wallnau, who has co-written several books with Bethel leader Bill Johnson on world religious domination (I don’t suppose you’ve read those either). In this short video Wallnau talks about “sneaking” into positions of power to effect the religious take-over of government and all the other “systems”, and other “stealth” acivities. These people claim to believe that Jesus can’t return until fundamentalist Christians are in complete control of the world.

        There is actually a wealth of information available if one takes the time to investigate this subject – much of which implicates Bethel and its leaders. I don’t have time to post years of research here. However, if you’d like to take the trouble to become more informed on this subject (as I have), there’s plenty of information out there.

        https://thechurchoftruth.org/plan-for-christian-domination/

        • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

          Patricia, Bethel is a small town cult few outside Redding have even heard of. White hate groups are prevalent in Redding, per RV’s article, and are worldwide linked by the same name, something Bethel can only dream about.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Bruce,

            You are dangerously uninformed. Bethel is a leading force in the vast international Dominionist movement, which has millions of followers and tremendous wealth at its disposal (“small town cults” don’t build $148 Million mega-churches).

            In addition, Bethel has a direct line to the White House through two of Bethel leader Bill Johnson’s co-authors, close associates, and fellow New Apostolic Reformation “aspostles”, who the national mainstream media describe as members of Trump’s evangelical “inner circle”.

            And since I’m sure you don’t know what NAR is – it’s an international umbrella organization that is absorbing churches all over the world at a rapid pace, and which Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton are likely to soon be leading.

            Finally, R.V. wrote one article on white supremacists, but has done an entire series on Bethel. Why are you obtusely ignoring those?

        • Avatar Jason says:

          Hi Patricia, while I appreciate your well-written response you still have no source on this and yet throw responsibility on me—the general reader—to find out for myself. For the record I have no affiliation with Bethel.

          I respectfully note that your attempt to shift responsibility on your reader—yours truly in this case—to back up your argument is as audacious as your claims.

          The source you link to doesn’t mention Bethel. However, if you can show me where exactly Bethel admitted said plan I will happily do more research on this topic.

          In light of my opinion on Bethel, I will say that I believe its view against homosexuality in fact stands against the core message of Jesus Christ; and I believe in Jesus Christ.

          • Avatar Jason says:

            I should note that by “no source” in my previous comment, I mean something that explicitly says “Bethel wants to take complete religious control over government” or something else to that effect. The page that you link to is quite interesting, though

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            I suppose I have the advantage of years of research into Bethel, and have followed its website over the years as it has gradually removed anything available to the general public that exposes its agenda. However, I’ve posted quite a few links in this forum over the past 6 months or so, and simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours replicating them for every person who has made no effort to become informed.

            One suggestion I would make, though, is to pull up R.V. Scheide’s excellent articles on Bethel in ANC (you apparently haven’t been a follower of this site for very long). R.V. does meticulous research, and I know that some of his articles have dealt with Bethel’s dominionist plans, which are well underway.

          • Avatar Ken says:

            Well, he did write this book. Guess that’s evidence enough for some.

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Jason, other than stuff written by Bethel there is no other link or source that I have found that said Bethel wants to take over the world. Several other church cults around the world spout the same dogma as Bethel but there is no pro0f they are connected just an opinion that one poster on here states are facts.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Bruce,

            “Other than what Bethel has written”? Isn’t the admission by Bethel leaders that they “want to take over the world” enough?

            The article below is several years old. However, Bethel and its national and international dominionist cohorts (who are obviously very much connected) continue to make huge strides in taking over existing churches, and planting new churches and “supernatural” schools all around the world.

            http://www.spiritoferror.org/2013/07/the-changing-of-the-apostolic-guard-13-names-to-watch/3718

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patricia, you post a link to a minor blog for proof. Where is the link to a major source like the Southern Poverty Law Center that has no mention of Bethel. As for groups with world domination ambitions the SPLC lists Identity Evropa(which has a chapter in Redding}, they also list the Nation of Islam which has chapters in most states(four here in Arizona}. They also list the FLDS on the Utah/Arizona border(which the infamous Bundys are part of}, but no mention of Bethel The Bundys have garnered more news, short lived as it is, than Bethel.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Bruce,

            I see you’re getting more and more nit-picky in your demands – now the Southern Poverty Law Center needs to have mentioned Bethel specificially. Below is a lengthy SPLC article in which Domionism is discussed at several points, and clearly identified as a threat. There are so many inter-connected Dominionist churches and religious organizations that I wouldn’t expect every one of them to be mentioned by name.

            You might also be interested to know that SPLC identifies both the American College of Pediatricians and the Alliance Defending Freedom as hate groups. Bethel Elder and Board of Directors member Andre Van Mol is a co-chair of the American College of Pediatricians (not be be confused with the legitimate American Academy of Pediatricians). ACP is a small group of roughly 200 fundamentalist fanatics who formed this hate group to prevent lesbian and gay couples from adopting, to lobby public schools and the government to institute provably harmful, ineffective gay conversion therapy for minors, etc. ACP has often been cited by Bethel leaders as a medical “authority”.

            The Alliance Defending Freedom has been praised in glowing terms by Bethel leaders on their social media pages and elsewhere. The ADF claims that homosexuality and pedophilia are synonymous, and that a vast majority of homosexuals sexually abuse children (a claim which has been thoroughly debunked by the entire legitimate medical community), along with a whole slew of other homophobic, sexist, and racist claims and activities. The ADF is celebrated by Bethel leaders as a champion of justice. There is no way to prove any connection beyond that. However, Bethel is getting some heavy legal advice from somewhere (per a national separation of church and state organization I contacted about Bethel’s activities), and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the ADF wasn’t providing it.

            https://www.splcenter.org/20170925/hate-god’s-name

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patricia, I admire your use of the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon. I could probably use Six Degrees to show Bethel actually supported Gay rights.

  8. Avatar Tim says:

    How are the elders elected to the oversight board? What power do they have?

    For instance, if the majority of the congregation were to revolt, could they oust leadership and reclaim the church finances?

    • Annelise Pierce Annelise Pierce says:

      Tim: Excellent question, should have probably addressed this in my piece. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Per my understanding and summary of Bethel Church bylaws, the senior elder will be the lead minister. The senior elder chooses his associate elder. The senior elder also chooses other elders (from a pool of deacons who have been chosen by the congregation) although those positions must be agreed upon by a 2/3 vote of the other elders. Elders can be removed from their positions in a similar way, except for the senior elder whose removal requires more complexity. If 50% of voting members sign a petition a special congregational meeting could be held. But this seems a rather silly point to consider, as Bethel members are not the ousting type.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Annelise, Bethel was Steeple Jacked. When many organizations were trying to become tax free the IRS cracked down on both Liberal and Conservative groups. So some of those groups took over, Steeple Jacked, small churches that already had a tax free status. Bethel has been in Redding for over half a century but the new Bethel took over about twenty years ago. before that Royal Blue and the North Valley Baptist was the “Big Dog”.

  9. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    Brilliant inside-look at Bethel’s “brain,” Annelise. As the authors of INC note, Johnson, Vallotton, etc. preside over a congregation that is arranged vertically, beneath them. All the money from their various ministries, which are classified as “religious organizations,” not “churches,” and must file tax forms every year, is sucked up from the bottom to the top, the church, which does not have to file the same forms annually. This vertical organization is complimented by a global horizontal network of similar apostles who claim the same magical powers. These guys, and a few gals, anoint one another. It’s kind of like Mary Kay.

  10. Avatar Randy says:

    “Christianity” seems to be one of the more successful capitalistic business ventures around the world. Ever drive by the Crystal Cathedral in Orange Co.? Just here to ‘do good’ and it looks like they are doing pretty good.

    • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

      Randy . . . interesting you should bring up the Crystal Cathedral. . . which, by-the-way, is no longer. Everything fell apart when Robert Schuller was no longer able to steer the organization and the organization fell victim to squabbling among his children. The building was bought by . . . wait for it . . . the Catholic Church with massive amounts of renovation taking place since most of the glass in the structure had failed.
      And I’m surprised no one had brought up the success of the Mormon Church. It has managed to weather several generations of shifting changes both externally and internally.
      Good research good writing Annelise . . . thank you!

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        I have brought up the good of the Mormon Church, grew up in Salt Lake City, many times and it has brought out the Mormon haters on these pages. In fact I wrote in Mitt Romney in 2016.

  11. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Nothing wrong with making a little money….however, when things are not quite clear and the top leaders are skimming the cream, then the flock should take notice. Is it a sign when the top leaders are driving flashy Corvettes and taking trips around the world to gain more flock….hmmm. Yes, this church is different from other churches in many ways, just like Annelise points out. Especially from her inside info on this mega-corporate church. I still say the crumbling effect is on its way, you can only sustain a fools paradise for so long.

  12. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    As a longtime agnostic, I have no dog in this theological fight since religious belief systems are predicated on faith rather than factual evidence. My personal experience with Bethel folks has been overwhelmingly positive, and never have I been proselytized or prayed over. My concern is that history demonstrates that organizations like Bethel, with a concentrated, non-transparent leadership team comprised primarily of family and close friends, will ultimately meet the same fate as other organizations with similar structure. And when they sometimes implode, many innocent people and their communities can be impacted. A few examples are below:

    https://abcnews.go.com/Business/schuller-hour-power-church-insiders-18m/story?id=12306917

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/crystal-cathedral-robert-schuller-downfall

    https://www.nytimes.com/1978/07/02/archives/church-founder-excommunicates-his-son-garner-ted-armstrong-world.html

    https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-founder-of-harbor-freight-tools-sues-ceo-son-2010jul21-story.html

    More here:

    https://www.cnbc.com/2011/01/31/Famous-family-business-feuds.html

    What will Bethel be in 2040?

  13. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

    I keep hearing people predict that Bethel will implode, but I don’t think that takes into consideration the fact that it’s part of a vast international movement with tremendous wealth at its disposal. It also has more than one national “Christian” legal organization guiding its actions every step of the way.

    I’m not sure that whatever benefit it adds to the community outweighs its negative impact. There are now so many Bethel attendee-owned businesses flooding the Redding area that I believe we’ll soon see a Bethel near-monopoly on the local business community. And of course Bethel’s relentless expansion takes more and more real estate off local tax rolls.

    When the Redding City Council approved Bethel’s upcoming $148 Million 39-acre mega-church complex (almost immediately following its half-million-dollar “donation” to the City), City officials dismissed something like 26 formal complaints from citizens with legitimate concerns about things like the already-inadequate water supply in that area, the impact of daily heavy traffic on surrounding residential neighborhoods, the lack of access for residents and emergency vehicles, and the further impact on Redding’s extreme shortage of housing (Redding’s rental vacancy rate was less than 2 percent at the time – which was even BEFORE the fires).

    As more and more Bethel respresentatives wind up on the City Council and in other local governing bodies (per Bethel’s Dominionist “Expansion Mandate” – put over the top by Bethel’s politicallly active membership), I believe we’ll be seeing many more decisions made that advance Bethel’s agenda, at the expense of the general population.

  14. Avatar Dan says:

    Financial Genius! Built a better tax-free mousetrap! Only 11k to get into the school? Seems like a bargain. You can start your own Bethel franchised Church for less $$ than a Subway franchise fee? ? Much less than a four-six + year degree in theology from one of the old-time mainstream churches! If you are a foreign student, it could the ticket to a low threshold F-1 Student Visa, without the expense and tests to gain admission to an accredited institution. I see Bethel applied and got the clearance. :)(https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/school-search?)

    If you are a foreign single, you MIGHT just meet MR or Mrs. right and gain dual citizenship for zero dollars AND learn a trade (a bargain for dad, saving the $10-50k+ for sham marriage costs).
    https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/zngkje/until-citizenship-do-we-part-how-people-pull-off-green-card-marriages

  15. Avatar Marcia says:

    Patricia, are you still a resident of Arizona? You keep saying “we” when last I heard you don’t even live here. Oh, before you say it, I know you still own property here. Not quite the same thing as living it daily.

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      Marcia,

      Actually I moved out of state fairly recently, and had lived in Redding for 40 years (during which I was heavily involved in the community). Even though I lived in many other places previous to that, I consider Redding my home town, and still keep in touch with a number of people, and in a variety of ways.

  16. Avatar Candace C says:

    Marcia, I believe it’s quite feasible for one to know/care about a city where one lived in for years but is not currently residing in. My kids moved away from home (Redding) but they still care about it and keep up on the goings on as much as possible.

  17. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

    Dan,

    It’s interesting that you should mention marriage as a way to build the local following (which of course is encouraged between adherents of the church – many of whom are foreign students whose visas will expire upon graduation). Bethel leaders spend an inordinate amount of time urging their followers to rush into marriage – whether they are financially and emotionally ready or not – after which they are expected to immediately start having babies for the cult. Below Kris Vallotton claims that people should be forced to get married if they want to have sex, and that those who don’t marry early enough are “selfish” and/or “afraid of responsibility”.

    https://krisvallotton.com/2018/11/16/7-reasons-people-put-off-marriage-and-how-to-take-a-risk-for-love/

  18. Avatar Viree says:

    Read your Bible if you have a problem with these views. Sounds like you haven’t. That is your right. But look at this city. So many having drug babies because they are selfish they don’t care about being married, a baby is a precious gift. It should be for a man and woman who make that commitment to love one and another. And there are counseling meeting for them to attend to make sure they are ready. We grandparents have to accept the immature people who have the babies. Well we end up taking care of the little children who are so mixed up they don’t know who Mom is really or Daddy. It’s heartbreaking! But we all are ready to accept the responsibility. Yes selfish is a harsh word but so spot on! This is one part of the church! The other is the Christians who give their time to try to help people of the world! This is Bethel.

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      Vince,

      No responsible person would advise young people to rush into marriage and child-bearing before they are financially and emotionally ready, which is exactly what Bethel Pastor Kris Vallotton is doing in the link I posted above. Marriages of that type tend to end in divorce, so you often have a worst-case scenario anyway.

      A caring, responsible person would advise young people to pursue higher education or training before getting married and having children, to become financially established in a profession or trade, then take some time to find the right person for them. They would also realistically encourage the use of effective birth control in the meantime, human nature being what it is. They could suggest abstinence as an option, but only with the realization that it fails in most cases.

  19. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

    And Viree – I don’t particularly care what the bible says. It also advocates the mass murders of babies, children, women (including heavily pregnant women) and elderly people, the stoning to death of people for a whole slew of minor “offenses”, slavery and the beating of slaves, incest, burning pregnant women at the stake (immediately – not after giving birth), the death penalty for rape victims, and endless other primitive atrocities.

    I suspect that I know considerably more about the bible than you do. In fact, I’d bet on it.

  20. Avatar christian gardinier says:

    Interesting! I wonder, is there a way to track the political donation Bethel Church has made? Bethel Church leadership has advocated for Trump and pence. I wonder if such an article could be done on the political parts of Bethel that include The southern mountain mandate, supporting Trump, and supporting prosecution of the LG GQ community. There’s a lot of tax-free money float floating around. Is it going to support social and political oppression?

  21. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Viree and Patricia, you two, along with many others, are debating over and referring to the Bible which is a collection of Myths based on unprovable events. Having knowledge of a myth doesn’t make one smarter. I probably know more about, as others do, King Arthur when there is no prove he was a real person.

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