The members of Livets Ord donates millions of Swedish kronor every year to their church. The money goes to social projects in Uppsala and in aid to poor countries. Money is important to Livets Ord and something that its founder Ulf Ekman has preached about for many years. Generosity has been central in the church, but little has been said about what benefits the leaders’ enjoy.
Testimonies from pastors in Ukraine, Canada, Norway and Sweden, published by SVT and the show Uppdrag granskning, describes how Ulf Ekman has asked for cash when preaching around the world and how he has received thousands of dollars. Leonid Padun is a pastor, based in Ukraine. He describes the gifts to the Swedish church Livets Ord.
Reporter: How did you pay the money? Did you put it into an account?
– We put it in their hands.
Reporter: You gave cash?
– Yes, always. To Ulf Ekman, says Mr. Padun.
”Ulf wanted it for himself, in cash”
Another testimony describes Ulf Ekman’s visit to Canada. The pastor Peter Youngren at the International Celebration Church in Toronto describes how Ekman asked for cash.
– I remember this because it was such a surprise. I wasn't used to guest speakers wanting the money for themselves. But Ulf wanted it for himself, in cash. I was astonished. That's why I recall it. We thought we'd be wiring the money to Livets Ord in Uppsala but that wasn't the case.
Reporter: He wanted the money in cash? How much?
– It's a big congregation, and people were generous. Maybe 10 – 15 000 dollars, says Mr. Youngren.
And there were more benefits for the leaders. Ulf Ekman and the board of Word of Life in secrecy decided the size of their own pensions. Meanwhile the workers in the congregation in Sweden were told to trust God and not to worry about the future, the board at the congregation did the opposite. They paid 11 million Swedish Kronor to their own pensions, to secure their future.
The founder, Ulf Ekman, doesn't want to answer any questions about this. When the team asks him for an interview, Ulf Ekman, dismisses the reporter and her questions.
Reporter: How can you take all that money for your own pension?
– It's not like that. And there's no reason for you to come bursting in here.
Reporter: We need answers to these questions because many people want to know. People have donated lots of money.
– Come on, my dear, time to leave.
Reporter: People have given you lots of money, Ulf, because you preach that.
– No, they haven't.
Reporter: They have! Lots of money. Because you preach that those who give will receive from God.
– You're just saying that for the cameras.
”Listen, my dear girl”
Reporter: I've listened to hours of sermons! Your annual reports show huge sums.
– That go to Livets Ord.
Reporter: That go to Livets Ord, which pays huge pensions to you and the board.
– That's not true. And with that I'd like to end this.
Reporter: It is true! You've led the congregation for 30 years. Surely you can answer the question?
– I can't stand here. I'm in the middle of something.
Reporter: I understand, but we know that you've received cash and gifts. When you've preached around the world. Why have you always asked for cash?
– Listen, my dear girl, I will not speak to you about this, says Ulf Ekman, preacher and the founder of Word of Life.