SHORE CHRISTIAN CENTER, Squankum Rd, Wall, NJ
Edited and greatly reduced by Russell Earl Kelly, PHD, January 31, 2010.
On January 30, 2010 APP.com writer Jason Method wrote a continuing article about G. Dewey Friedel, the 60-year-old, pastor of Shore Christian Center in Wall, NJ.
Friedel is a Prosperity Preacher who has built an overpriced and overbudgeted amphitheater-style church which has shrunk from 1200 to 300 members and is being taken over in bankruptcy on February 3, 2010. The church began in 1979.
He says that the devil and a "spirit of control" were attacking the church but that great things were coming.
Friedel has already lost his second home in Lee County, Miami, Florida.
He wanted to build his own worldwide network similar to the Trinity Broadcasting Network saying "If we offer what we have, he's going to do something with it."
The church was foreclosed on in July because Shore Christian Center could not make payments on its $4.7 million mortgage.
"It is unusual for any church to be foreclosed on, experts say, but there is special irony for a pastor who is an adherent to a strain of Christianity known as the prosperity gospel" says Method.
Friedel's consistent message over the years has been: God is going to bless believers' lives with bigger houses, better jobs and more money.
Friedel, who dresses in designer clothes like the leather sport coat he wore one recent Sunday, has seemed to personally enjoy that heavenly blessing for years. He lives in a spacious house, assessed at $747,600, with two driveways and a pool, writes books, appears regularly on national Christian television, and socializes with famous preachers and Major League Baseball players
Until this year, he owned two condos in Florida, before they were both lost to foreclosure.
Church finances fell apart after its adjustable rate mortgage changed from $23,000 to $47,000 a month. Friedel, who declined to be interviewed by communicated via e-mail, has been promising for years that a huge donation is coming through the United Nations, China and Saudi Arabia and that "all participants involved with the U.S. Treasury had to and did pass an FBI and CIA inspection." He and the church have declined to provide specific information about the deal.
A senior program officer for the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships said that neither that office nor the United Nations Foundation had any involvement with the church.
Friedel's wife, Ronda, 61, is co-pastor and son Isaac, 25, as assistant pastor.
Nancy Bensing, 59, and her husband have been very active supporters now
say the church has reaped what it has sown. "I'm mad at myself — for buying all that bull-crap all these years."
A graduate of Oral Roberts University and Princeton Theological Seminary, Friedel had served as a missionary in India and Methodist minister in Avon before taking off to start his own church.
In 1999, the church added a 36,000-square-foot multipurpose complex,
Evangelist Oral Roberts visited the church twice. Around 2005, the church appeared to reach its crest of 1200.
With membership high, the church borrowed $4.5 million, refinancing previous debt and spending some for needed renovations on the original building. "We are not too small to accomplish this forty million dollar project."
Friedel was willing to borrow money on his own properties as well.
The Friedels refinanced their Wall home for $720,000, with a notation that the maximum balance secured by the mortgage could be as high as $900,000, land records show. They had has purchased the home for $550,000 in 1998.
They also refinanced their condo in Lee County, Florida, for $548,000, land records show. Later, in 2007, they refinanced their Aventura, Florida, condo for $354,975.
"The best way to honor your pastor is cold hard cash in the palm of the pastor's hand.' " The Czerwinskis contend that Friedel was not joking.
Meanwhile, Stephen Czerwinski said, the church never reported to members or leaders what it was doing with the donations. "You never saw the budget," he said. "You never saw how much (Friedel) was paid. You were told to have faith. . . . You were told you could ask (about salaries) privately, but anyone who did was reprimanded for not having faith."
The church has long required that congregants who want to become members must pledge to give 10 percent of their income to the church, a practice known as tithing.
The current elders confirm that the church does not share financial data with the congregation, which has no say on the church budget.
Elder Joseph Raspanti of Brielle said any member was always free to raise questions, but he also believes that objecting to decisions would display a lack of faith. "When you give to the church, you give what you believe belongs to God. To give it, and then say, "I don't like the way it's being used.' That's not tithing," Raspanti said.
According to a 2005 financial statement obtained by the Asbury Park Press, the church spent $974,280 on salaries for its church and school staff of 39. The church also spent $106,178 in "casual labor," $182,834 for housing allowances, and $154,446 for travel, meal and lodging of guests [$3000 per week].
At the end of the year, after bringing in $2.6 million in revenue, the church finished $221,302 in the red.
Church officials have declined to discuss specific salaries.
Rick Davis tells the story of retrieving a dropped wallet and discovering that it had been dropped by the king of Saudi Arabia who is has been about to financially help the church with millions in donation since 2007.
Friedel passed out bonus checks to leaders in anticipation of the donation arriving. On January 1st, 2008 the youth leader received a bonus check for $12,000 but never cashed it and was asked to return it but refused.
Joseph Lane, an elder and church attorney, said he has seen the contract.
On Easter Sunday in 2009, Friedel promised the church a season of abundance. "Hear me now," Friedel said. "You are about to flourish and be on the receiving end of something that is happening as an undercurrent in this world. We've been meeting with government officials from all over the world."
On Nov. 8, more than three months since the congregation had lost ownership of its sanctuary and facilities, Friedel alluded to the pending donation again and promised the church would embark on the big building program.