The Bible warns against pride. But that hasn't stopped Robert Ulrich, the chief apologist of beleaguered pastor Jerry Johnston, from allowing First Family Church to post a version of his résumé that's nearly 1,000 words long.
The Overland Park megachurch has been weakened by public defections and a potential foreclosure. Ulrich, the chairman of the church's board of directors, has stood by Johnston amid criticism of the evangelist's empire building and comfortable lifestyle. And in case anyone's wondering, Ulrich's an accomplished guy. Very accomplished.
Ulrich's 942-word bio on the First Family website is like a piece of origami, with professional life histories folding into themselves. One description of Ulrich's "many years of distinguished experience" -- he's a former U.S. attorney and Court of Appeals judge -- is repeated on the site, as if to hammer the point that Highly Distinguished People continue to support Johnston.
First Family was staggered by a 2007 story in the The Kansas City Star that depicted a minister who chased fame and resisted accountability. The story derived its power from the complaints of former members, a number of whom were professionals who spoke on the record.
At the time, Johnston pointed to the oversight provided by the church's board of trustees. "They're respected Christian leaders," he told the Star's Judy L. Thomas. "And they're everything from the former United States district attorney to very accomplished Christian businessmen."
But Ulrich, the Rev. Jerry's lawman, seemed to be living an alternate reality when Thomas caught up with him:
[Ulrich] said no one had ever voiced concerns about church finances. But four former members of the church's building committee said they raised such issues repeatedly with Ulrich several years ago before leaving the church in frustration.Ulrich continues to defend First Family, which is being hounded by the bank it reportedly owes $14.4 million.
The bank has asked a judge to appoint a receiver, citing the $915,000 in combined salaries that Johnston and members of his family apparently received in 2010. Church representatives say staff salaries have been cut drastically. But was Jerry making $400K last year? Ulrich made a classic non-denial denial when Thomas asked him about it.
I can't speak specifically to the figures right now. I don't have the figures in front of me.