Televangelist Creflo Dollar wanted a $65 million, state-of-the-art private jet. But unlike many people who want expensive things, Dollar believed he had a plan to acquire it: simply ask 200,000 of his friends and followers to donate a few hundred dollars towards its purchase.
But there was just one problem for Dollar: The campaign, “Project G650,” was roundly mocked by those who felt that perhaps a pastor should focus on something other than obtaining a Gulfstream G650 plane of his very own. A spokesperson for Dollar’s ministries told the Christian Post on Monday that the campaign no longer exists. Instead, Dollar and company will wait for the opportunity to buy a “properly priced” private jet.
“There is no campaign. It’s a moot point. The ministry will now focus on spreading the Gospel,” Juda Engelmayer of 5W Public Relations said to the Christian Post. It’s not quite an apology, but it does hint at the extent of the backlash Dollar’s ministry faced for the campaign.
In case you missed this story, here’s a catch-up: on Friday, the Christian Post first reported on Dollar’s campaign, noting that Dollar says he “needs one of the most luxurious private jets made today in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” To get a sense of just what kind of plane Dollar was fundraising for, here’s a soothing advertisement:
This jet literally had a wait list of billionaires interested in buying one.
In a campaign appeal that has now been removed from Dollar’s site — along with the page collecting donations — Dollar’s ministry explained that the pastor’s current plane is more than 30 years old, and that it was damaged in November.
“We believe it is time to replace this aircraft so that our Pastors and staff can continue to safely and swiftly share the Good News of the Gospel worldwide,” the appeal text read. “Believe it or not, there are still millions of people on this planet who have never heard of Jesus Christ and know nothing of His greatness. Our hearts desire to see precious lives changed and snatched out of darkness and thrust into His marvelous light!”
Dollar is the founder and pastor at the World Changers Church International in Georgia, which has about 30,000 members. He preaches the prosperity gospel, which basically boils down to the idea that God rewards faithful followers with earthly riches. And it encourages adherents to “sow a seed” with, or give money to, their pastor as a kind of investment. Sarah Posner explained more about the theology behind Dollar’s big fundraising campaign over at CNN. One other thing that’s important to know about prosperity teachings: Most Christians, including evangelicals, do not consider them to be a mainstream interpretation of Christianity.
The popular reaction to this campaign was not particularly kind to Dollar’s argument that his plane would help fulfill the Word:
Could you imagine if before feeding the multitude w/ 5 loaves and 2 fishes, Jesus set up a gofundme account to buy a plane? #CrefloDollar
— RiPPa (@RippDemUp) March 15, 2015
Creflo Dollar needs $65 million for a new jet so he can spread the Gospel…is the Gospel so weak it can't endure coach?#CrefloDollar
— Tonyaa Weathersbee (@tonyaajw) March 13, 2015
— Tracy Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) March 13, 2015
Engelmayer, speaking on behalf of the church, told the Christian Post that Dollar was now forced to fly commercial after his old private jet was damaged. He needed a new one, he said, to carry “12 people plus 100,000 pounds of food” with him on his international trips. With that statement, Dollar’s team angered some aviation experts in addition to those already fed up with his fundraising campaign for the jet. One aircraft captain wrote the Christian Post, almost entirely in uppercase letters, to note that the plane Dollar wants to buy can’t carry 100,000 pounds of anything.
By Monday, the fundraising campaign was scrubbed from Dollar’s sites. But that doesn’t mean the ministry is done trying to buy a private jet.
“He’s gonna continue traveling commercial. And if and when he obtains another jet, it’s gonna be used for ministry purposes, just like the current one.” Engelmayer said. “But right now, there is nothing that they are looking at.”