Charitable Wing of Sister Aimee's Foursquare Church Gets Shakeup Following Scandalous Investment

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15 Feb 2013

Carolee Carmello as a young Aimee Kennedy, who later used her married names.
Carolee Carmello as a young Aimee Kennedy, who later used her married names.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The board of the Foursquare Foundation — the charitable arm of The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, founded by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson — has been "repopulated," apparently partly as a result of the Foundation's investment in the Broadway bomb Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson.

In a posting on its website from Nov. 8, 2012, a week before Scandalous opened to bad reviews (and during a preview period of limp sales), The ICFG board announced, "When Foursquare Foundation was established, a firewall between the foundation and International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (ICFG) was put in place as a financial safeguard. Through the years, this firewall became an unintentional challenge for the ICFG board on several fronts. Though ultimately responsible for the foundation's decisions, the ICFG board was unable to directly effect governance changes, unable to align the foundation's actions with Foursquare's vision and mission, and unable to adequately respond to field concerns about the foundation's processes and decisions.

"The ICFG board of directors came to realize the existence of a growing disconnect between the field and the foundation. Many people took issue with the foundation's narrow scope regarding evangelism, the difficulty of the grant process, and, most recently, the decision to invest in Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson. Taking the action afforded it by the Foursquare Foundation bylaws, the ICFG board of directors repopulated the foundation board with an interim board. This is the first step toward realigning the administration of the $171 million Foursquare Foundation corpus with the vision and mission of The Foursquare Church. This interim board will work to make necessary adjustments so that the foundation can become more inclusive and more effectively steward its resources to accelerate the vision and mission of The Foursquare Church nationally and globally."

Edward Watts and Carolee Carmello in Scandalous.
photo by Jeremy Daniel

Citing church insiders, The Los Angeles Times reported on Feb. 14 that the Foursquare Foundation invested $2 million into the musical biography of its founder, a show that was a passion project for lyricist-librettist Kathie Lee Gifford. The musical closed Dec. 9 within a month of its Nov. 15 opening, losing millions. (Foursquare Foundation has not said how much it invested in the multimillion-dollar show.)

Greg Campbell, the foundation's executive director, exited his position shortly after the show closed. All but one foundation board member was swept out last fall.

In a statement to The Times, the church said, "The conclusion of Greg Campbell's employment with The Foursquare Church was completely unrelated to our investment in the musical Scandalous" and "changes made to the Foursquare Foundation board of directors were also unrelated to the investment in the musical Scandalous."

Read the L.A. Times piece about how Scandalous was costly for the Foursquare Foundation.

As indicated by the church's November statement, Scandalous was apparently only one factor in the shakeup of the board.

On Feb. 1, the Broadway cast of Scandalous gathered to record a cast album of the score by Gifford and composers David Friedman and David Pomeranz. Such large-cast recordings usually cost at least $250,000 to produce. One way investors in flop Broadway shows can make some money back is if the property is produced in the future in stock, amateur, school and regional markets. A cast album is a good calling card for future productions, though Scandalous may be clouded by its bad reviews.

Foursquare Foundation, one of the producers, is affiliated with The Foursquare Church, which McPherson founded. Today, The Foursquare Church has more than 1,800 U.S. churches and almost 60,000 churches and meeting places in 140 countries. Read more about the history of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (the organization's official name) here.


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