Amplifications to ABC 20/20's Story on MinistryWatch Founder Rusty Leonard
- Some viewers may have been left with the impression that Mr. Leonard left his employment with Templeton Investment Counsel to devote his full efforts to starting MinistryWatch. Actually, Mr. Leonard and his wife founded the ministry in June 1998 while still employed by Templeton. He hired Mark Long to actually start the ministry but did work closely with Mark and the other ministry employees over the ensuing years. Mr. Leonard eventually left Templeton on January 2, 2000 and took a fifteen month sabbatical. In April 2001, he started managing money again in his own company, Stewardship Partners Investment Counsel. Mr. Leonard has always served the ministry in a part time, voluntary capacity as CEO and/or chairman of the board.
- The claims made about the various preachers mentioned were researched by ABC 20/20. MinistryWatch gave some advice and counsel to 20/20 but we had no control of the story and did not know what would be broadcast until the show was aired. We believe that ABC did a good job in gathering information about the various prosperity preachers that donors should know about. Indeed, there was far more that they could have reported on.
- Nevertheless, we had urged 20/20 to consider reporting on the worthy ministries as well as the unworthy. We are grateful that 20/20 included Rusty mentioning that the good ministries far outnumber the bad as we were concerned that many viewers might be led to believe that no Christian ministry could be trusted when this could not be further from the truth. We were also thankful that 20/20 allowed us to note that our website contains not only Donor Alerts but also what we call Shining Lights ministries. MinistryWatch's work is not just about pointing out to donors our concerns about unworthy ministries. We actually have far more information on the worthy ministries. Our goal is to help donors to Christian ministries to be wiser and more effective in their giving with the hope that we can divert as little as 10% of the giving to unworthy ministries to the worthy ministries. If we are successful we will have redirected between $50 and $100 million annually to the worthy ministries and it excites us to think how any more of those in need would be blessed.
- 20/20 reported that Rusty Leonard had a seven figure salary when he worked at Templeton. Mr. Leonard's salary was considerably less than seven figures but his total compensation, including performance-related bonuses, averaged over seven figures in the last five years he worked at the company.
- Churches are exempt from reporting financial information but ministries organized as 501(c)3s are required by law to turn over their IRS tax returns to anyone who asks for them. 20/20's report left the impression that all religious ministries did not have to release financial information.