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(RNS) The Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, an early proponent of the prosperity gospel best known as “Rev. Ike,” died Tuesday (July 28). He was 74.
Rev. Ike was among the first in the 1970s to harness the power of television for evangelizing and was fond of saying that his church was for the “do-it-yourself … the only savior in this philosophy is God in you.”
He was a proponent of the belief that came to be known as the prosperity gospel, which holds that Christians should feel no guilt over obtaining riches. Rather, he argued, they should embrace prosperity as a divine gift.
A self-help element was an important part of the flamboyant preacher’s ministry, and his church, based in a converted movie house in upper Manhattan, took the name United Church Science of Living Institute.
The requirements of advertising his church from a movie marquee forced Eikerenkoetter to abbreviate his name to “Rev. Ike.”
Born in Ridgeland, South Carolina, the son of a school teacher and a Dutch-Indonesian Baptist minister, Rev. Ike was criticized by fellow African American pastors who said his ministry ignored long-standing social and racial problems.
Others called him a con man who became wealthy at the expense of his followers.
A stroke in 2007 removed Rev. Ike from the spotlight. In announcing his death, a family Web site suggested supporters visit YouTube to see a video of him preaching. In one of the videos, apparently decades old, the minister exhorts his followers to think positively. “Anything that you can honestly think and feel that you deserve,” he said, “must come to you.”
— Chris Herlinger
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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