Okay, this one has an old-fashioned mailing address as its primary contact. It took a while to actually find a Web site affilitated with this group, because the good Rev. Ewing apparently doesn't want the international exposure that an Internet presence would give, as his methods work best in secret and private. The recpients of his mailings are often asked to open them in private and keep them a secret – don't want the word to get out to your neighbors and friends who might also have received "special" letters from your close personal friend! But his organization is definitely worth mentioning here, if for no other reason than to make you aware of him.
The religion business has been a lucrative moneymaker for generations – just ask any televangelist that. But the ultimate in religious scumbags who prey on the elderly, the innocent, and the gullible may not be a famous cult or a televangelist…rather, it just might be Rev. James Eugene Ewing and his infamous "Church By Mail" begging letters. Ewing has been in business for years – at least long enough to warrant an entry in High Weirdness by Mail noting him as "the lowest in money-grubbing for God." Apparently Rev. Ewing is still in business, and still hiding behind tax-exempt status, too. His mailings go out to people pretending to be "personal correspondence," encouraging them to make offerings for little bottles of annointing oil or a "prayer cloth" – which have raked in offerings and "donations" by the millions. Many of the persons targeted for these mailings are elderly, mentally handicapped, and even homeless…all of whom are especially susceptible to pleas for mercy and kindness. Rev. Ewing apparently lives in a multi-million dollar mansion, but of course this has no bearing whatsoever on his earnestness and compassion for his "friends," does it?
This group uses the term "seed faith" to describe its begging letters. They state: "Saint Matthew's members are encouraged to include God in their finances by sowing seeds of faith: giving to the church regularly in obedience to the Scriptures." In essence, give them what you can – and by sending you lots and lots of begging letters, they're encouraging you to send offerings as often as possible. This is where we see them taking advantage of people's pity: the people most likely to send donations are the ones who can't afford it. The vast majority of faithful, believing (and gullible) worshipers in society come from the bottom rungs of the social ladder, and this is why St. Matthews' letters target these people in particular.
A letter from Ewing may include a paper facsimile of a "prayer rug," similar to the prayer rugs used by Muslims. The accompanying letter with the "rug" may say something like this:
(A picture of the prayer rug can be seen here!)
Ewing's outfit has also sent out copies of a book called Divine Help, which contains "testimonies" from people who've benefitted from the prayer "seed plan" outlined by St. Matthews. As with the prayer rug, the book encourages the reader to keep quiet – and to send in a postage-paid card in the back of the book, which is an offer for Ewing's "Gold Book" that outlines the St. Matthews "seed faith plan."
The real trick to this scheme comes by convincing the "faithful" to return the rug to St. Matthews…which indicates that they've attracted someone willing enough (or gullible enough) to follow their instructions and not simply throw the whole thing in the trash. The act of returning the rug, or sending in the card, puts your name on their mailing list, which thereby opens you up to a barrage of mailings encouraging you to sign up for St. Matthews' "Seed Plan."
Ewing's business has gone by a number of names, including:
You know, I'm amazed this guy hasn't taken to spamming. According to a 2003 article on Rev. Ewing, his organization sends out about 1 million letters a month – direct postal mail, postage paid! If he started spamming, he could do it a lot cheaper…and with any luck, more of his messages would be rejected and caught by spam filters.
A few other Web columnists have seen fit to expose Rev. Ewing, and their words are definitely worth reading. You may want to take a look at The Thought Emporium: St. Matthew's Reactions for a starter. From there, you can visit The Master's Table. The Trinity Foundation also has its own warning about Ewing's outfit.
Ewing's name isn't mentioned at all on the Web site, but the link between the Web site and the mail correspondence can be found in their explanation of why they have a Tulsa, Oklahoma P.O. box. This page notes their law firm, Joyce & Pollard – which is the same law firm used by Ewing in the Master's Table article on his finances.
Mailings from St. Matthew's Churches might claim that the actual mother church for the organization is the Cathedral of St. Matthew, based in Houston (9101 Airline Drive, Houston, TX 77037 ). Actually, this building was purchased by Ewing's outfit in 2004 and dressed up as a church…and strangely, no one seems to know what denomination this church is. The Web site for the church doesn't specify it, either…although there is a specific Web page about seed faith that mentions "Bishop" James Eugene Ewing. (A Houston Press reporter tried to visit this site in person in 2007, with some interesting results.)