By Diane Silver
The Rev. Jerry Johnston -- who climbed to prominence on the backs of Kansas lesbians and gays -- allegedly runs a church with little to no financial accountability and engages in a host of questionable money deals.
Johnston's church, First Family Church in Johnson County, has also shunned involvement in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which sets financial guidelines for evangelical churches. Meanwhile, many of the members of Johnston's family are in key church positions and Johnston lives a lavish lifestyle even as he preaches Christian sacrifice to his congregation.
And under the category of petty ego, Johnston bills himself as "Dr," even though he never went to graduate school and never received a doctorate. His so-called degree is an honorary one.
All of this information and much more came Sunday from an investigation published by The Kansas City Star. Kudos to reporter Judy L. Thomas for the work and to the Star for publishing this fascinating series of stories.
Johnston, by the way, is one of three pastors who lead the charge to ban same-sex marriage in Kansas. Another one of the three, The Rev. Terry Fox, abruptly resigned from his church in Wichita recently after he was accused of misusing funds.
The KC Star reports that hundreds of members of Johnston's congregation have left because of concerns about money and the way the church is run.
“What he preaches from the pulpit, he doesn’t put into action,” said Bruce Shalberg, who was co-chairman of a fundraiser that he said raised millions of dollars several years ago to pay off the new church building. “You would have to call someone like that a hypocrite.”This entire series is well worth reading. I have to admit, once again, to being shocked. I never expected to agree with Johnston's politics or his theology, but naively I expected him to at least be honest.
Johnston, of course, says the criticism is instigated by Satan. What makes this group of articles so damning, though, is the number of former church members and evangelicals who see red flags and numerous concerns in the way Johnston does business. These are folks who agree with him in all ways, except that they have a sense of morality that Johnston doesn't seem to come close to understanding.
Once again, I have to admit to being a bit of an innocent. I was honestly surprised to see that Johnston's books and DVDs don't send money to his church, but instead are sold by a company he owns. This is a for-profit business.
I can't even come close here to quoting all the evidence in these articles, but taken together this information appears to be quite damning. For example, I haven't even mentioned the many millions raised for a school that was never opened and the questionable land deal.
All I can say is that it must be heartbreaking to be a member of Johnston's congregation to realize that he's in it for the money.