While the “European Winners Convention” of the Living Faith Church, better known as Winners Chapel ends on Saturday, Street Journal has gathered that Britain’s Charity Commission is investigating the church over some of the policies of the church, especially those concerning charity.
British media have reported that the church’s UK branch received more than £16 million in tithes between 2008 and 2011. Reports however indicated that over £1 million of that money was returned to the Nigerian operation of the church.
One of those who attended the European Winners Convention in Kent found it surprising that as worshippers, mostly Nigerians and West Africans living in Britain, arrived for the programme, they were given credit card forms to make donations. The forms were inscribed with a verse from Corinthians: “God loveth a cheerful giver.”
Findings have revealed that the Charity Commission is investigating an allegation that charitable funds have been misapplied and concerns about the reputational management of the charity and conflicts of interest. A spokeswoman for the commission disclosed that inquiries “regarding the charity’s management and policies” are ongoing, “We have considered documents and information shared by the trustees and our case is continuing,” she said.
Accounts have shown that the charity behind the church, World Mission Agency, has £8.5m in assets and large sums are paid back to Nigeria. Findings showed that in 2011, £663,532 “donated” by members of the church was repatriated to the headquarters in Nigeria. In 2010, the payment to the Living Faith Church amounted to £324,683 while in 2009, £149,000 was sent “for charitable activities in Africa”.
Donations were also received each week from members for purposes including the sum of £192,000 contributed in 2009 and 2010 as “welfare assistance” for “certain members of the church”.
Named charitable donations are smaller and include £10,500 to Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital, £9,000 to Christian Aid for the Haiti earthquake appeal and £2,500 to charities in Lewisham.
Winners Chapel, founded in 1981 by Bishop David Oyedepo commands large followership in Nigeria and beyond and the church owns one of the biggest church auditoriums in the world as well as a university.
Faith Tabernacle, the 50,000 capacity church that serves as Winners Chapel’s headquarters is located in Canaanland, a 42 kilometre expanse of land in Otta, which also houses some facilities belonging to the ministry including Covenant University, Faith Academy Secondary School, and Kingdom Heritage Nursery/Primary School. Several business ventures operated by the church are also located within the Canaanland complex, including Dominion Publishing House, Hebron Bottled Water Processing Plant, a bakery, various restaurants and stores, four banks, and several residential estates.
Winners’ Chapel officials have so far declined to make comment on the issue.