On October 7, I reported that evangelist Joyce Meyer claimed to have an earned PhD in theology from Life Christian University. She claimed to be a graduate on a promotional video still housed on the LCU website and said the degree was earned on her website. On October 11, I filed a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s office in keeping with MO law which forbids the use of false and misleading degrees in connection with one’s business or profession.
Sometime after the initial post and the AG complaint was filed, Joyce Meyer Ministries changed the designation of the LCU degree from “earned” to “honorary.” I know the change happened after the complaint was filed because the degree was described as “earned” on October 15, 2016 (from the Wayback Machine on Oct. 15). I discovered the change in November.
Until recently, I did not know why Joyce Meyer Ministries changed the designation from “earned” to the more accurate “honorary.” A few days ago, I received an email from the MO AG office indicating that action had been taken on my complaint. Attached to email was a March 29, 2017 letter from an attorney for Joyce Meyer Ministries to the MO AG’s office indicating that the designation had been changed on the website because the description was inaccurate. About LCU’s description of an earned degree, the spokesman for Joyce Meyer Ministry wrote:
While we are aware that this is the verbiage that Life Christian University uses on their own website and literature, we simply felt it did not accurately reflect the information correctly. Because of this we took the initiative to change the wording on our website and literature from “earned” to “honorary” before this complaint was filed.
While it is a small point, the initial post was public and the complaint was filed before the change was made. Nevertheless, I commend Joyce Meyer Ministries for this change and for acknowledging the truth about the situation. This is much more than David Barton or other so-called “earned degree” holders have done. I now call on her to remove her endorsement of LCU which she has acknowledged incorrectly reflects information about the degrees given to LCU’s “distinguished degree holders.”
Missouri’s law is one of the toughest in the nation on false and misleading degrees. Other LCU “distinguished degree holders” from MO include Billye Brim and Larry Ollison.
Over a month ago, religious right luminary and self-styled historian David Barton bragged for one day in a video that he had an “earned doctorate.” Although he hid the diploma on the video, the doctorate appeared to come from Life Christian University, a school in FL which gives degrees in consideration for ministry experience. The day after he posted the video on Facebook and YouTube, Barton removed it from social media. He has not commented since about the video or “earned doctorate.”
Now it seems sure that the degree Barton called earned was given to him by LCU. According to a statement to Christian Today from Life Christian University president Douglas Wingate, Barton’s written history works were considered as an aspect of awarding a doctorate. Wingate was quoted in an article today by Mark Woods at Christian Today.
Christian Today asked whether Barton had a PhD from LCU. Wingate appears to imply he does, saying: “All of the candidates work is thoroughly examined before credit is awarded and it is clearly identified on their transcript. That is certainly the case with Dr David Barton, whose work in comparison to the revisionist historians, make[s] them look completely foolish.”
Reviewing the full statement from Wingate, it seems that Barton’s work in history was used as a basis for his “earned degree.” Wingate said:
It seems that questions have arisen concerning various well-known ministers of the Gospel who we refer to as Distinguished Degree holders. These ministers are not graduates of LCU but are those for whom we recognize the comparable academic work in their published teaching materials, many of which we use as texts in our university, and we have matriculated degrees for their work. As with any regularly enrolled student, when we do an assessment on the former education that a student desires to transfer into LCU, we consider any former Bible School credit, liberal arts school credit, Bible School teaching credit and Published Works credit. It is a common practice for even secular liberal arts institutions to offer Life Experience credit.
When a minister has enough credit beyond their customary transfer credit, LCU is able to matriculate degrees for each of the various levels of credit. The first degree is the Bachelors degree, then the Masters degree, then the Doctor of Ministry degree and finally the Ph.D. The necessary credit hours of study that match these degrees is 120 credits of undergraduate study for the Bachelors degree, 36 credit hours of graduate study for the Masters degree, 15 hours of post-graduate study plus a 30 credit dissertation for the D.Min. and 15 hours of post-graduate study plus a 30 credit dissertation for the Ph.D. Again, these degrees may consist of transfer credit, and previously published works. This work, of course, must be for that which falls into the disciplines traditionally offered by the university, but an exception can be made for some work that is outside of, but related to those disciplines. One such discipline would be in Christian American History, which falls into the category of Modern Church History. All of the candidates work is thoroughly examined before credit is awarded and it is clearly identified on their transcript. That is certainly the case with Dr. David Barton, whose work in comparison to the revisionist historians, make them look completely foolish.
The crux of the problem is in Wingate’s description of “matriculated degree.”
These ministers are not graduates of LCU but are those for whom we recognize the comparable academic work in their published teaching materials, many of which we use as texts in our university, and we have matriculated degrees for their work.
A matriculated student is one who is enrolled in a degree program. Wingate says these “distinguished degree holders” didn’t graduate. Elsewhere Wingate has said they didn’t attend. If they didn’t attend or graduate, there is no meaningful way to describe their degree as “matriculated.” In short, he just added up any previous academic work somewhere else and added enough credit to get to a PhD without any attendance at LCU. By federal definition, this is what diploma mills do.
In light of the LCU statement, let’s review Barton’s claim:
No wonder Barton wanted to hide the LCU degree behind one of his honorary degrees. If words mean anything, the degree can’t be considered earned.
Of course another problem with the degree is that it may be in Christian American History. One wonders who at LCU is qualified to judge whether or not Barton’s history is accurate. The answer is no one, because LCU president Wingate allowed the student to be the teacher. Here is what Wingate said about Barton in relationship to his critics.
One such discipline would be in Christian American History, which falls into the category of Modern Church History. All of the candidates work is thoroughly examined before credit is awarded and it is clearly identified on their transcript. That is certainly the case with Dr. David Barton, whose work in comparison to the revisionist historians, make (sic) them look completely foolish.
A little later in the statement, Wingate admits that LCU doesn’t offer liberal arts courses.
We do not offer any liberal arts in our programs, nor are we in competition with any liberal arts institutions, and therefore do not receive any government monies for our educational programs. In a way you could say we also believe in the separation of church and state. We simply believe that the state should not be involved in the church’s ministry education. In reality, since the first institutions of higher learning in America originated in the church, it seems that the liberal arts institutions should have to come to the church for accreditation. It would certainly change things if they had to meet our standards of spirituality and morality.
How could Barton get a degree in history from an institution which doesn’t offer history courses? As an exempt from licensing school in FL, LCU can’t offer degrees in anything other than ministry.
Perhaps, Barton took the video down because the use of a fake or misleading degree is illegal in Texas and other states. In any case, he has some explaining to do.
Last week, self-styled Christian nation historian and and Donald Trump supporter David Barton crowed that he possessed an earned PhD. In a video posted to his YouTube account, Barton chastised “progressives” for saying he did not have a PhD. In the video, Barton told viewers that he had an earned PhD but did not say where he got it. In the background, three diplomas were displayed but one of them was partially hidden behind honorary degrees from Ecclesia College and Pensacola Christian College. However, enough detail could be seen to identify the mystery degree as a diploma from Life Christian University, an unaccredited school based in Lutz, FL. The next day Barton took down the video without explanation.
Barton claimed the degree from LCU was earned. However, the definition of “earned” in the land of LCU appears to be at odds with the rest of academia. LCU’s website identifies 18 people (e.g., Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland) who are labeled “Distinguished Degree Holders.” They are described as follows:
The distinguished ministers shown on this page are some of the most renowned preachers and teachers in the world today. Many are recognized throughout the entire world, but all of them are famous in heaven.
It has been the privilege of Life Christian University to recognize their published works, along with their lifetime ministry achievements in consideration for earned degrees from LCU. Doctorates in Ministry, Missiology, Theology and Philosophy are all earned degrees, recognized for the highest level of academics and spirituality.
LCU is honored to be associated with God’s greatest ministry gifts given to the Body of Christ today.
It sounds like LCU simply conferred a degree without any actual work.
Earlier this year, LCU president Douglas Wingate told Jonathan Miller that the “big name” preachers didn’t even attend the school. Watch:
Wingate: Big name ministers? What we’ve done in their cases; they haven’t attended Life Christian University but we’ve, we were able to recognize all of their scholarly work, their published material, whether it’s print materials or things that they’ve put out in teaching CDs and everything. And so Dr. Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, the list goes on and on and on, and the Lord’s just given us grace and favor to be able to come along side. We use their books in the university, we use theirs as textbooks. So to us it’s an honor to be able to recognize their academic work and the things that they’ve done for the Kingdom of God and so the degrees that they have are earned degrees. So we stack everything up, you know, from all of their teaching, their former education, everything else, all the way through their doctorate degrees and issue those.
Now there are a number of them that haven’t published as much and whatever and so they have some honorary degrees, but we know they have the equivalent ministry education. But you can go on our website, that’s LCUS.edu and take a look at all of those distinguished degree holders that we have, that we’re so proud to be able to be associated with, and labor in the harvest with them.
LCU is exempt from Florida’s law governing independent education. However, even exempt schools must meet some standards, including one about degree duration (1005.06-1.f.4).
4. The duration of all degree programs offered by the institution is consistent with the standards of the commission.
The Florida Commission for Independent Education sets standards for the duration of earned degrees and not even being enrolled in the school isn’t consistent with those standards. Schools like LCU are permitted to award honorary degrees but they must be clearly labeled as honorary degrees. By any definition, the degrees given to people who didn’t attend the school cannot meet the standard for an earned degree.
As I will demonstrate in a future post, I think LCU may be in violation of additional facets of the rules governing exempt schools.
David Barton opened a can of worms last week with his proud video.