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EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Rooting For The King’s College, and Pastors and Planes

Editor’s Note:  Most Saturdays we will feature this “Editor’s Notebook” column. MinistryWatch President Warren Smith will comment on one or more stories in the week’s news, adding an additional perspective or, sometimes, a behind-the-scenes look at how the story came to be. 

Rooting For King’s. We reported this week that The King’s College in New York City is experiencing a $2.6 million shortfall for the spring semester. The cash flow problem at King’s is just the tip of a large iceberg in the path of higher education. 

Changing demographics, COVID, evolving technologies that make distance learning more attractive, and changing public perceptions about the value and high costs of a college education have reached what some are calling an “inflection point” in higher education.

In 2020, Moody’s Investment Service downgraded the higher education sector of the economy from stable to negative. Moody’s analysis said nearly a third of America’s public and private universities were already operating at a deficit. MinistryWatch has reported on the closure a number of Christian colleges over the past few years.

That said, I wish The King’s College all the best. It has a unique mission.  It’s attempting to bring an academically rigorous and distinctively Christian higher education option to one of the great cultural capitals of the world:  New York City. The loss of The King’s College would be a hard blow to New York City and to evangelicalism.

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Pastors and Planes. We began a new feature at MinistryWatch this week.  Working with The Trinity Foundation, we plan to publish a list each month of the airplanes owned by churches and ministries, and how many flights they take. We hope that this list will shine a light on Prosperity Gospel preachers and others who use these aircraft.  We further hope that donors will directly question these ministries about the need for these aircraft.

For years, the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation has been tracking the use of private aircraft by ministries and churches.  Recently the Trinity Foundation started posting graphics on Twitter to track daily usage.  (You can find that Twitter account, @PastorPlanes, here.)

A few things jump out at me about this list.  First, a lot of people say they use private aircraft because they live where there are no major airports, or because they are flying lots of people and it is cheaper to use a private airplane than it is to buy 10 or 15 airplane tickets.  However, an examination of these flight records don’t support that.  First, most of the take offs and landings are at major airports, and most of the flights we tracked cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Secondly, we were not surprised to find that many of the Prosperity Gospel preachers had private airplanes.  But we were surprised to learn that Bob Jones University had a private jet and the school used that jet often.

Also, we left off aircraft that are obviously used for ministry purposes.  For example, Samaritan’s Purse has a DC-8 that is strictly a cargo plane and they use it for transporting their mobile hospital and other heavy equipment to disaster and conflict zones.  We did not track that aircraft. Neither did we track the airplanes of missions organizations, such as Mission Aviation Fellowship, who use their aircraft for training here in the U.S. before sending planes and pilots overseas.

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.