Three months after the birth of Buddy Holly, the town of Lubbock, Texas, welcomed its newest son and heir, Kenneth Edward Copeland. He, like his forebear, set out to become a star and the two landed record deals around the same time. Ken Copeland was the first to have a hit, although the fame that came with it turned out to be of the ‘fifteen-minute’ variety. Being as his song was titled ‘Pledge of Love’, Ken was able to pledge his allegiance to his adoring followers long after the record’s sell-by date. This very week, over the past three days in fact, rock & roll pundits with long memories could have witnessed the man doing his thing at the Hippodrome in London’s Golders Green. Not only would you have seen Ken on stage, but you would have witnessed his loyal wife Gloria and all of the dedicated folks who go to make up the Kenneth Copeland Ministries, expounding their doctrines about bad luck, sickness and financial misfortune. It’s clear that not every one-hit wonder ended up in the car wash.
Ken Copeland gave up his singing career in 1962, and began working as a pilot and a chauffeur for Oral Roberts, a top American television evangelist. Roberts was known for pronouncing himself as a prophet of peace. He once claimed he’d had a series of visions including that of a 900 ft. Jesus who told him to raise money to build a medical centre. By the 1970’s, Roberts’ one-time driver and sky pilot was hosting his own TV show, “Believer’s Voice of Victory”, and running Kenneth Copeland Ministries. With headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, the business empire became international with offices spread across the globe. Whilst all of this was happening, Ken’s adoring followers grew and grew. He seemed to have the answer to everyone’s problems. However, it didn’t take long before he was being criticized for teaching about wealth, and his dramatic claim that believers would receive a ‘hundredfold return on their seed’.
Translated into plain English, that means he was, is, and forevermore will be, looking for donations. The predictions that congregations always hear at a Copeland gathering, are laced with positive assurance. “While everyone else is experiencing a famine, the Lord’s covenant people will be having the best of times” he says. “Any time a worried thought about money pops up into your mind, the next thing you do is sow. Stop worrying and start sowing, that’s God’s stimulus package for you.” At this point in the proceedings, the faithful usually stream down the aisles to stuff cash and coins into offering buckets and to lay bulging envelopes on the stage. This is the moment of truth.
Kenneth and Gloria currently own seven aircraft, two yachts, a Harley and a Rolls Royce, as well as a series of valuable properties including their own private airport. There’s just one downside. They have recently been accused by former business associates of leaving behind tens of thousands of dollars of debt after an Affordable Homes business partnership collapsed. Besides this, the Copelands are being investigated over the way in which their vast amount of collected donations is being spent. Yet, somehow, the threat of having their accounts scrutinized doesn’t sway their confidence. “God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you,” promises Gloria Copeland from the lectern.
It can’t be denied that the Copelands and their all-star lineup of ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers delight crowds with anecdotes about the quality of life they’e attained by following the Word of God. Intriguingly, though, they barely acknowledge the recession during their exhortations. When they do touch on the subject, they make a point of saying that it is no excuse to curtail giving. “Fear will make you stingy,” warns Ken Copeland. And he should know, because this is the man who gave the world ‘Pledge of Love’. Ken Copeland is still searching for those loving pledges, and any currency will do. He knows that rock & roll and religion walk hand in hand. He has trod the path of righteousness. And, best of all, he knows that the way ahead is looking brighter every day. Lest we forget, Ken Copleand first got the call when his life had reached a crossroads – right after the hit had dried up.