Founders of Christian Ministry Resign After Allegations of Abuse, Misuse of Donations

(Photo by Shelagh Murphy from Pexels)

The founders of a Montana-based ministry are resigning after accusations surfaced that they emotionally abused staffers.

Rob McCoy—chairman of the board for Potter's Field Ministries and Potter's Field Ranch—stepped in to legally dissolve the ministry and its affiliated missions program and restaurants after founders Michael and Pamela Rozell stepped down from day-to-day operations.

The Rozells founded the Potter's Field Ministries 27 years ago in Whitefish, Montana. The ministry was legally registered as a church and would often minister in various congregations, especially Calvary Chapels. Michael's unique gospel presentations regularly involved him forming a pot on a potter's wheel on stage.

Together with Calvary Chapel churches, Potter's Field Ranch ran the Ignite internship program, which trained young missionaries. But the Calvary Chapel broke its affiliation with Potter's Field Ministries when accusations arose that leaders were mistreating staffers and that the ministry functioned similarly to a cult, according to reports.

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The Rozells also ran several MudMan hamburger restaurants and food trucks, which are now closed down. The ministry fed children in Uganda, Guatemala and Cambodia through its kids program, but allegations arose that donations amounting to thousands of dollars were diverted to IGNITE.

The Rozells allegedly verbally abused, manipulated and harassed staffers and trainees.

"They control everything—your finances, where you live, everything," says Dawn Marie Grice, who left the group in 2012. "You can't think for yourself."

Kenzie Kinney, a former Ignite student who handled the ministry's finances tells Aaron Bolton on the Montana Public Radio that "there were always more donations coming in than there were kids in the program. ... Kinney added the Rozells would show videos with hundreds of children being fed during their presentations in order to solicit donations from Calvary church members, but that those images were from infrequent larger pastor conferences."

Kinney also says that workers at MudMan restaurants were paid $2 to $3 per hour and worked as many as 90 hours a week, according to the Daily Inter Lake.

All websites and social media affiliated with Potter's Field have been shut down. The ministry's main website now only shows a statement by McCoy, who says the accusations against the Rozells have the potential to undermine the "sponsorship base that supports both children and missionaries domestically and internationally."

McCoy—who is also mayor of Thousand Oaks, California, and pastor of GodSpeak Calvary Chapel—also writes that the Rozells will formally resign from the board of directors, as will the rest of the sitting board members. After speaking with the attorney general's office, McCoy found the nonprofits could not be immediately shut down. Instead, newly elected Board members would run the children's programs under the direction of GodSpeak.

"In relation to the sponsorship program moving forward, no more than 15% of donations will be used for administration costs," he says. "A minimum of 85% of all donations will go directly to the children and missionaries. There will be full transparency and financial accountability of the audit and of the sponsorship program."

Potter's Field's properties will also be sold, McCoy says, while he and other pastors outside of the ministry will investigate the accusations. He says he will not receive any compensation from Potter's Field.

"This is my first experience with this type of situation," he says. "In the rapid decline of these ministries, the bulk of my time has been spent attempting to pull students back from foreign missions, returning students to their families, paying the debts and monthly expenses of the ministries and the resignation of some 40 staff people who today may be hurting due to their sudden loss of employment and loss of community."

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