Spending Raises Questions

The ethical and financial profile of anti-Israel preacher Rick Godwin

Abe Levy
Posted: 11/21/2007 06:06 PM CST

Pastor Rick Godwin constantly presses his flock at Eagle’s Nest Christian Fellowship to give generously for a new $36 million megachurch under construction on the North Side at the same time he spends tens of thousands of dollars of church money on luxury items for himself.

When he flies, it’s first class or private chartered plane. He stays in high-end hotels and buys expensive gifts for some of his church associates. He can watch the Spurs from an AT&T Center luxury suite and play golf at the exclusive Club at Sonterra.

In 2005, an independent audit done at the church’s request questioned similar expenditures, such as spa services massages and vitamins for Godwin, and warned that changes were needed to bring the church into compliance with tax rules for religious nonprofits.

Accounting changes were made, Godwin recently told church members at a regular business meeting, and a new tax compliance audit has begun.

This year, financial records show, the church spent $143,000 on charter planes from January to July. For a ministry consulting trip that included his wife and another church couple, Godwin charged Eagle’s Nest more than $11,000 for a week’s stay in a luxury resort in Hawaii.

While in London, Godwin stayed at the elegant Berkeley Hotel in the Knightsbridge area at a cost of $4,500. As gifts for his church associates, Godwin charged to the church $2,600 for an Armani suit and accessories and $2,518 for a Cartier watch.

Godwin wouldn’t grant requests for an interview with a San Antonio Express-News reporter about church finances, including his travel and gifts, so it’s unknown whether he has reimbursed the church for any of these expenses or accounted for them as compensation, in keeping with the 2005 audit recommendation.

A reporter did contact several longtime church members upset by some of Godwin’s spending habits, but they said they have felt intimidated to say so publicly.

A growing church

As pastor since the independent church’s inception 23 years ago, Godwin, a former Baptist minister who trumpets the motto “Real, Raw, Relevant,” has built church attendance to as many as 3,000 for its three weekend services.

Now located near U.S. 281 and Bitters Road, the church promotes itself as a break from traditional denominations, offering rock-style worship music and multimedia presentations. It’s evangelical but cuts against the grain with a nonjudgmental approach, even on topics such as homosexuality and alcoholism. It also promotes racial diversity in its membership and leadership.


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