Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Larry Rice Takes Financial Hit for Ideals

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Larry Rice Takes Financial Hit for Ideals

Article excerpt

Televangelist Joyce Meyer and her followers are fond of blaming "agents of Satan" for negative publicity aimed at her "Life in the Word" ministries. The latest agent for Beelzebub appears to be the Rev. Larry Rice.

"It's time for people to choose between Jesus and Joyce," said Rice, who operates KNLC-TV (Channel 24), as well as the New Life Evangelistic Center, an outreach program for the poor and homeless.

Rice recently axed Meyer's syndicated programs which preach a "prosperity gospel" that God can make you rich.

"We canceled all our prosperity ministers--and it's going to make things rough for us," Rice said. "It means a loss of about $35,000 to $40,000 a month for our operation. But, it was the right thing to do.

"So far, we're getting support for the move in our e-mails and letters," Rice said. "We've been interviewed by Charisma and Christianity Today about what we've done. Hopefully, this will inspire others to put a stop to this gospel of greed, this taking the words of Jesus out of context to justify amassing wealth."

Rice also canceled TV contracts with evangelists Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis. Rice said he has become concerned with Fenton-based Meyer's lavish lifestyle, which he said is contrary to the call of Jesus to "sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."

The success of Meyer's Life in the Word, Inc. is most obvious in the impressive $19 million headquarters, built within the past two years by R. Messner Construction Co. The sprawling complex is anchored with a giant white cross on a hilltop adjacent to the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and Highway 30 just inside Jefferson County.

Meyer herself is easily one of the wealthiest residents of Sunset Hills. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the ministry, which is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a church, owns a fleet of vehicles valued at $440,000. In addition, the family keeps a $10 million Canadair jet most often used for convention trips.

Since 1999, the ministry has purchased five homes for Meyer and her four children. The collective value of all homes is in excess of $4 million. The ministry pays upkeep on the homes and their grounds.

"Meyer excuses her extravagance saying that God wants her to be blessed," Rice said. "Her message fits in beautifully with the materialistic times in which we live. It makes people feel good about their greed, but it is contrary to the message of Jesus."

Life in the streets

Rice said his disappointment with Meyer increased in October when the ministry called security to remove about 30 homeless women from an area outside the Edward Jones Dome, site of Meyer' s annual Christian Women's Conference. Rice said the women were handing out literature that read, "Life in the Word does not mean life in the streets."

In December, Rice wrote Meyer, admonishing her for turning away the poor and homeless. He said his ministerial advisory board would consider canceling her show. Rice concluded, "Well, Joyce, when it comes to siding up with Lazarus or the Rich Man spoken of in Luke 16:19-31, I have chosen Lazarus. It may mean eating crumbs from the rich man's table, but so what--I still believe in heaven."

"I was trying to get her to change--to repent," Rice said. "I was appalled at the way she treated 30 homeless women. …

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