The Trouble with TBN
The Trouble with TBN
Amid the latest drama surrounding the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), should mainstream ministries seek reform or pull their programming?
Brittany Koper, the granddaughter of TBN founders Paul and Jan Crouch and its chief financial officer until September 2011, has accused network directors of illegally distributing "charitable assets" worth more than $50 million for their personal use. In response, TBN has filed half a dozen lawsuits nationwide accusing Koper and her husband of engaging in a smear campaign to divert attention from their own financial sins.
The filings recently prompted a California federal judge to threaten to brand the network a "vexatious litigant" because its lawsuits seemed designed to "overwhelm the courts … so as to avoid a rational decision on the merits."
The Trinity Foundation, a group long critical of TBN, publicly called for ministries associated with evangelical icons such as Billy and Franklin Graham, Charles Stanley, Ron Luce, Jack Graham, and the late Adrian Rogers to withdraw from the network's airwaves.
"It's a spiritual and moral snake pit," said Trinity founder Ole Anthony. "TBN uses these legitimate preachers to justify [its] existence."
Another donor advocacy group, MinistryWatch.com, has issued warnings about "widespread abuse of ministry funds by TBN directors." But founder Rusty Leonard does not think pressuring ministries to leave the network solves the problem.
"We decided long ago that we did not want to try to embarrass the legitimate ministries that were broadcasting on TBN," he said. "Instead, we decided to try to get TBN's management and board changed so that there could be more good, biblically based teaching."
Evangelical ministries that appear on TBN declined to comment.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, points out that evangelical television ministries have always faced an airwaves quandary. "Unless you own your network, you're facing the fact that you're on with people who do not share your worldview," he said. "Billy Graham had to buy one-hour specials … on the same channel as soap operas and everything else."
But like Anthony, Mohler sees a difference with TBN: the expectation that the network is Christian.
"It's increasingly awkward for the mainstream ministries to stay on the network," he said. "Every new allegation, every new headline, makes it more difficult."