Last week I wrote about the doctorate which some American bible group had awarded to Andre Roebert, the East London (in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa) televangelist and hotelier (if one adds his worldly interests). I received a very stern rebuke from a Dr Anderson, which you could read as one of the comments on this blog. I published it in full but told Anderson that I would deal with it in my weekly Daily Dispatch column, which I did today. It reads:
I never thought the simple and innocent question I asked about the doctorate of East London’s River Ministries’ André Roebert would cause such a stir. I was severely rebuked by Dr Steve Anderson, president of Transworld Accrediting Commission International (TACI), who said my column was “not factual and replete with misinformation and … reckless with regard to the truth”.
Anderson feels that on-line organisations such as Wikipedia and GetEducated.com, which runs a sub-section, Unrecognised and Fake Agencies for Online College Accreditation, are sources “highly adverse to our non-traditional and non-governmental institutions, that are highly regarded by the consuming public more and more in spite of cowardly and scurrilous attacks such as yours”.
It seems Anderson has no high regard for Wikipedia et al. He says “Dr André Roebert’s Honorary Doctor of Divinity was NOT, as you claim, issued by TACI … we do NOT issue any degrees … The degree was issued by River Bible Institute of Tampa, Florida.”
It’s good that the good Dr Anderson enlightened me and others about where Roebert’s new title comes from. Even the pastor himself seems to be in the dark about the honorary degree’s origin. It was André and Jenny Roebert’s personal assistant, Dianne Brauns, who categorically told me that “it is a (sic) honorary doctorate certificate. It is from the Transworld Accreditation Commission International in Riverside, California.” Poor Ms Brauns. Did she make this up?
So I checked Wikipedia’s list of colleges and universities in the US state of Florida. Listed by the free encyclopaedia are the names of public colleges and universities, private colleges and universities, trade and technical institutions, other private institutions, and … religiously and affiliated institutions. River Bible Institute of Tampa, Florida does not feature among these institutions.
But then, as Anderson admits, no college in America is accredited or federally recognised for religious teachings. It is barred by the US Constitution, he says. TACI is one among many such institutions. But because I quoted Wikipedia, which states that many, but not all, of the entities in its list “are considered to be fraudulent accreditation mills”, Anderson wrongly feels I tainted his organisation with the same brush. I can assure him that was never my intention.
I also did not infer that Roebert’s doctorate (honorary) is a sham as Anderson feels I did. Personally however I attach no importance to such a piece of paper.
Anderson and I agree on one point. He says an honorary doctor of divinity degree “is on its face ‘honorary’, not earned”. Exactly my point too, Dr Anderson.
Finally Anderson says I need to apologise for my “cruel attack on this credible man of God, Dr Roebert”. Well, Dr Anderson, perhaps you can explain to me why a “credible man of God” would refuse to repay a poor black man from Mdantsane (a township outside East London), who has been certified mentally ill by real doctors (university-educated specialist psychiatrists), his pension money that he donated to Roebert’s Trinity Broadcasting Network while mentally ill?
I know Roebert would tell you there was nothing wrong with the gentleman when he made the donation. But that is the view of a televangelist with an honorary doctorate, who rejects the medical diagnosis of real qualified academics.
Has your credible Dr Roebert explained to you why he has – despite the millions he has invested in hotels – rejected numerous pleas to return the sick man’s money to him and his poverty-stricken family?
May I humbly add that my coverage of this shameful action by Roebert earned me a fellowship from President Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter’s Centre for Mental Health Journalism in Atlanta. I can send you the news clippings, which appeared in this newspaper. That is if Dr Roebert has not done so already, which I doubt.
I forgot to mention that Roebert’s benefactor, the River Bible Institute, is listed on the Internet as a spiritual healing school, in the same vein as televangelist Benny Hinn’s Ministries School of Signs and Wonders.