An investigation has found that a London church spent £95,000 on overseas trips, as well as funding gym memberships and other personal expenses.
The Charity Commission found Rhema Church, an evangelical church based in Croydon, had “failed to fulfil its duties and protect the charity and its assets”.
The Commission has accused the church of “failing to demonstrate any effective oversight of senior staff” and “serious mismanagement.”
Three of the churches have been seized and sold by the Commission.
The regulator found evidence that the charity spent approximately £95,000 on trips overseas without any authorisation or clear charitable purpose.
The trips, to locations including Italy, Greece and Austria, were led by former pastor, Martin Phelps.
Day-to-day living expenses such as food, domestic purchases, medical bills, vets’ bills, and gym memberships were claimed and paid out by the church.
The church’s bank accounts were frozen in 2015, following concerns from the Commission.
It was found that most of the spending was incorrectly labelled or categorised, and a former pastor has been accused of moving money around via the church accounts in order to lessen mortgage payments.
Amy Spiller, Head of Investigations at the Commission, said: “Trustees must use their charity’s funds to further the charity’s purposes and ensure there are robust financial controls in place to stop the abuse of these funds.
“From our investigation it was clear that trustees at Rhema Church London had failed to meet this obligation, leading to significant misuse of funds by a former senior employee.
“These expenses did not appear to serve any charitable purpose or benefit to the charity’s beneficiaries.
“The Interim Managers worked at length to settle the charity’s accounts and I am pleased they were able to recover over £136,000 which could be put to good use at charities with similar purposes.”
Premier Christian News has reached out to the church for a response to the investigation and is waiting for a response.