“I know there are people who believe in the prosperity gospel. As someone who covered religion for 30-plus years, I can tell you there aren’t a lot of good stories in the end,” said Michelle Bearden, the former Tampa Tribune reporter who investigated the Whites’ ministry. “Because they had charisma and charm and these great backstories, people were mesmerized and sucked into it.”
White has reiterated that the inquiry into her ministry launched by Iowa Republican senator Chuck Grassley from 2007 to 2011 never found any wrongdoing.
Bearden pointed out that officials were unable to obtain adequate financial documentation to complete their investigation. “They never got full financial disclosure from the Whites,” she said. “I think they ran out of steam.”
Grassley ended up handing over the accountability effort to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), whose commission recommended no new laws, favoring better enforcement of existing laws.
The ECFA sets forth responsible stewardship standards; among them, the agency requires that organizations establish “reasonable expectations” for donors; avoid manipulating potential donors with misleading statements; and make a reasonable effort to ensure their giving doesn’t place them in financial hardship.
In a statement issued in early January, White assured fellow Christians that she rejects “any theology that doesn’t affirm or acknowledge the entirety of scriptural teaching about God’s presence and blessing in suffering as much as in times of prosperity.”
She knows quite a bit about the former, describing 2007 as the year “all hell broke lose” for her personally and professionally.
“The greatest blessing of my life is that God loved me enough to reduce me to Christ,” said White in her interview with CT. In the years after, she moved on to New Destiny and got remarried, to Journey songwriter Jonathan Cain.
White brought up how God uses people “in the marketplace, in the White House, wherever.” She said she has seen how Trump approaches the oath of office he will take Friday as something “very holy and very sacred.”
“My interest is God and people,” she said, laughing at where her unexpected friendship with the billionaire businessman had led her. “If he uses that in the realm of politics, then I believe that is the fulfillment of the church.”
Leading up to the inauguration, Nicola Menzie—founder of Faithfully Magazine, which reports on Christians of color—described how the “seed” model used by White and others tends to harm African American congregants in particular.
“Her consistent abuse of Scripture to solicit specific donation amounts from supporters is beyond troubling,” said Menzie, noting how White’s emails have pulled from numbers in the Bible to suggest donation amounts ($229 to represent 1 Chronicles 22:9, for example).
“Do I believe that God is involved in my finances? Absolutely,” White told CT, “because I honor God with a tithe. I worship God with an offering.