Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., has sparked monumental controversy over a new 16,000-square-foot home he is building with his wife, Holly.
The home's size and cost have renewed a question that often follows large ministries and churches: Is it wrong for faith leaders to command large salaries and live in mansions?
Despite the attention, Furtick doesn't appear to be backing down or apologizing. He spent the first 10 minutes of his Sunday sermon essentially defending the home and proclaiming that all blessings come from God, the Charlotte Observer reported.
"My wife and I made a decision, and we built a house," he said. "It’s a big house, and it’s a beautiful house, and we thank God for it …. We understand everything we have comes from God."
WCNC-TV reported that the home has 7 1/2 bathrooms and that the contract value of the house is $1.4 million. In addition, the land was $325,000. In sum, the home will cost about $1.7 million.
While Furtick didn't apologize, he did tell the congregation he was sorry that they were forced to have "uncomfortable conversations" in recent days and told the congregation that he has always worked hard to protect Elevation's reputation.
"I have always tried to make this a church where you could be proud of your church," the preacher said, going on to pledge a renewed commitment to having a ministry that is characterized by integrity.
No church money has been used to build the home. While Furtick is spending his own money from book sales, Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation, a group that examines religious fraud, says there are still some ethics issues at play.
"What happens is these pastors are on television or on radio and they write a book, and it's based on their sermons," Anthony told The Christian Post. "But then what happens is the church is paying for the time and the place to write the book, and then the church is paying for the airtime to advertise the book. And it's just unseemly."
And Anthony wasn't done there.
"The idea of being a servant is lost. It's just a job and they try to make more and more money, and the congregations are losing out," he said. "It just infuriates me. It's the opposite of the pastor being the servant and feeding the sheep, the pastor's eating the sheep."
Pastor Steven Furtick has caught flack for his large new home. (Image source: StevenFurtick.com)
Chris Rosebrough, who runs a protest podcast against pastors who profit from their work, agrees. He told WCNC that there is no distinction between Elevation Church and Furtick's books.
"The two get mashed together in a way that creates a real conflict because the job of the pastor is not to preach his book," Rosebrough said.
Since the church reportedly paid to promote the book, critics say it's a problematic interconnection that simply leads to profit for the pastor. However, the church claims that the book also benefited the congregation.
Elevation purportedly makes money from its sale and Furtick donates money from the book's advance to the church, but neither of these amounts are not public.
It's unclear what Furtick's salary is, as staff compensation has not been made public by Elevation Church. Multiple outlets, including the Observer, have reported that the church has given more than $10 million to outside groups during its eight-year history.
Furtick has also not lashed out at reporters for covering the story, defending their right to ask questions.
Do you think a pastor, especially one who speaks regularly about giving and helping those in need, should be living in an extravagant home? Take the poll:
(H/T: Charlotte Observer)
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