Embezzlement is a growing problem, globally, impacting Christian ministries and churches of every shape and size. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity projects thieves will take $170 billion in the year 2050, if current trends continue, but there are things that individual churches can do to protect themselves.

Recent Cases of Church Embezzlement

1 Oakland, California

A bishop and a lay leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church mortgaged properties owned by congregations in Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles to obtain $14 million in high-interest loans. The money was used to buy real estate in North Carolina.

2 Lubbock, Texas

A bookkeeper took $450,000 from Church on the Rock, using the church’s credit cards to pay for a car loan, medical expenses, meals, and to sustain a bakery she co-owned with her daughter.

3 Formosa, Brazil

A Catholic bishop and five priests under his supervision stole the equivalent of $608,000 and used it to buy luxury watches, laptops, cellphones, cattle, a ranch, and even a shop selling lottery tickets. The congregation first noticed the fraud when the reported cost of running a parsonage skyrocketed.

4 Lagos, Nigeria

A church bookkeeper took the equivalent of about $99,000 from Living Faith Church (also known as Winners’ Chapel). When confronted by the pastor, he made a full confession and wrote out an explanation of how he’d stolen the funds.

5 Singapore

The founder and senior pastor of City Harvest church siphoned off the equivalent of $17 million through bogus bond investments. Much of the money was used to support his wife’s music career, which many church members supported as part of a project to use pop music to reach nonbelievers. Church leaders ...

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