The Gulfstream G650 isn’t just any private jet. The billionaires lining up these luxury jets, which sell for upwards of $65 million each, are willing to put their names on a waiting list for years just for the pleasure. It is the “Holy Grail” of luxury private jets, Bloomberg once wrote. And now, televangelist Creflo Dollar’s ministry has announced that it will also buy a G650, a purchase the ministry says is “necessary” to spread God’s word.
The announcement comes months after Dollar’s ministries abandoned an earlier campaign to raise funds from his faithful followers for the same plane, following considerable backlash.
The board of World Changers Church International — which also operates as Creflo Dollar Ministries — said in a statement that the ministry will now go ahead and buy a Gulfstream G650 jet anyway, “at a time, place and price of our choosing.”
“We wholeheartedly reject the notion that the ministry’s airplane project is an imposition on our community or that it somehow takes advantage of our people,” WCCI said in a lengthy statement. “We plan to acquire a Gulfstream G650 because it is the best, and it is a reflection of the level of excellence at which this organization chooses to operate.”
Dollar’s first fundraising effort for the plane, “Project G650,” was dropped in March, just days after it was announced. A video outlining the campaign encouraged Dollar’s followers to donate at least $300 each towards the purchase of a luxury jet. In the video, the ministry explained that the televangelist’s current jet was more than 30 years old and was damaged in November.
With the plane out of commission, Dollar and the senior members of the international ministry were forced to travel the world on commercial flights in order to spread the Word, a spokesperson told told the Christian Post.
In its most recent statement, the ministry described the luxury jet campaign as “standard operating procedure for people of faith” in “our community.”
Dollar, the founder of the 30,000-member World Changers Church International in Georgia, preaches prosperity gospel, or that God will send earthly rewards (including wealth) to those who are properly faithful. In Dollar’s ministry, that often includes “Honor Giving,” a name Dollar sometimes uses for a practice akin to tithing, or giving 10 percent of your income to the church.
“If you sow a seed on a good ground, you can expect a harvest,” Dollar said in a 2006 New York Times story about his prosperity ministry.
[The death of prominent pastor Myles Munroe in a plane crash leaves behind a ministry struggling to cope]
Although Dollar is a pretty high-profile evangelist, it’s worth noting that most Christians, evangelical or otherwise, do not consider prosperity gospel to be a mainstream interpretation of Scripture.
“A long-range, high-speed, intercontinental jet aircraft is a tool that is necessary in order to fulfill the mission of the ministry,” says WCCI’s statement justifying the restart of the plane fundraising. “In light of an unfortunate accident that recently resulted in the ministry’s aircraft being declared a total loss, it is our intention to purchase another airplane at a time, place and price of our choosing.”
It continues: “We respectfully request that those who are not involved respect our right to practice what we believe, and only ask of the press that they report facts, and not fictional reports or biased perspectives. We encourage our community, and our pastors, to dream big, because we know that God loves us just that much.”
You can read the full statement here.
As the ministry revamps its campaign and resumes fundraising for the jet, it’s not actually clear when a Gulfstream G650 would be available for it purchase, should it raise all the funds. The Christian Post, which first noticed the WCCI announcement, spoke to Kevin Valik, Gulfstream’s sales director for New Jersey, Delaware and New York, about just how difficult these planes are to buy:
He said there are only 120 Gulfstream G650 jets that have been delivered globally since the company started meeting orders on the jet in 2013.Since 2013, the company has delivered about 50 of the jets annually and they are getting orders for the multimillion dollar aircraft “every day.” The company now has a backlog on orders for the aircraft through the beginning of 2018.
Valik added that it’s only getting harder to buy a used G650, too.