Thursday, July 16, 2009

Todd Bentley's sock-puppet will now field questions from the press?

(Crossposted at The Shotgun, Dec. 2, 2008)

Readers who remember my post last Friday on beleaguered Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley may be interested to know that, in a surreal turn of events, he has responded  to the criticism levied by the governing board of his ministry last week. In a second-hand way.

The details come in a story in today's Lakeland Ledger, the newspaper in the city where Mr. Bentley held his revival earlier this year. Reporter Cary McMullen, who has done a lot of great coverage on Mr. Bentley's recent work in Florida, decided to report on the board's public complaints about Mr. Bentley's conduct.

Pastor Stephen Strader (of Ignited Church, host of the revival meetings) was asked for comment and  passed on some alleged comments from Mr. Bentley about the statement by the ministry. Mr. Bentley, vacationing in California, reportedly made some specific denials of items in the statement, but did, allegedly, confirm that he is shacked up with his former intern while still being married to his wife.

What is odd about all this is that there is nothing preventing Mr. Bentley from telling Pastor Strader that he would be happy to answer questions himself--just pass on his number. Certainly, being honest and upfront would be part of a process of adopting the appropriate moral character to resume ministry, but Mr. Bentley sees no need for that yet. He could have even issued his own statement, or found a reporter willing to lob softball questions at him. If it is so urgent to reply to the criticism, I am sure he could find a sympathetic reporter.

Mr. Bentley has reportedly said that he is not able to return home to Canada to see his wife and kids due to visa issues. Actually, the issue is access to the United States. American charismatic Christians like to stay close to home to attend meetings and conferences--complete with collection plates and groaning book tables full of things to buy--and Americans have most of the money in this wing of Christianity. So, in order to make a better living, you move to where the money is. It appears that Mr. Bentley, who bought residential property in Florida this summer and rented an office for his ministry, might have been thinking along these lines when his revival imploded.

It looks like a donnybrook may be in store if Mr. Bentley and his board start to snipe at each other. But Mr. Bentley may have an ace up his sleeve. Fresh Fire Ministries needs him more than Mr. Bentley needs them. The evangelist (his books, his DVDs and tapes) is the ministry's main source of revenue. Mr. Bentley, however, may have a alternative ready to go. 

When Mr. Bentley first published his autobiography, it was self-published under the imprint of Sound of Fire Productions, a private company on Vancouver Island, where his father and stepmother live. Mr. Bentley has always been careful to keep Sound Of Fire viable and separate from Fresh Fire. At meetings and conferences featuring Mr. Bentley, Sound of Fire materials and Fresh Fire materials were kept strictly separate, with separate sales staff and separate cash registers. If you have a look at the Sound of Fire website, linked above, you will note that it includes video teachings, an online bookstore and such. It could easily be turned quickly into a new charity for Mr. Bentley, if it comes to that.

A new chaity could force the parents of Mr. Bentley's wife, Valerie and Earl Andres (who both currently work for Fresh Fire) to find new work. Mrs. Andres, who no doubt remembers "doing Timmy runs (trips to Tim Horton's)" and working in a room of Todd Bentley's house as his first employee hoping that he would be able to pay her, would, I am sure, be chagrined to see this happen.

UPDATE: Mr. Bentley has now spoken to a reporter to the U.S. charismatic magazine Charisma, but Charisma has "buried the lede" in the story by not highlighting the fact that their reporter is the first to speak to Bentley in months. An obvious question would be "Have you filed for divorce, since you are now in a relationship with another woman?", but I don't know if it was put to him.

I may have more to add after a careful read of what he has to say.