Amway: The Untold Story

What is the Gospel Films connection?

"A business meeting, after all, is not a platform to pitch politics. Nor is it a forum to promote personal causes or religious beliefs. A business meeting is simply that: a get-together to discuss the various aspects of running a business. Amway meetings, of course, should be no different … If the business platform becomes a pulpit for preaching religious doctrines or political causes, people with differing beliefs who attend what the expect to be a business meeting are turned away--or turned off--from Amway. In essence, they are discouraged from participating in a business opportunity."
--From the Amagram, U.S. edition, September 1993
"The topic given to me by Ron is this: God, free enterprise and Amway. I want you to listen as I try to, concisely, in twenty-seven minutes put together some thoughts on this. First of all, you recognize that in this country as Shakespeare has quoted, so the Bible has quoted, thank God. Many of us have a personal belief that comes from God and his son, and tomorrow morning at Chapel Service or your devotional service, will discuss that. Both Bill [Britt] and I will be preaching."

"People say, 'Well, why do you base so much in God?' Let me say this, there is no other option. The other option is Evolution."

"We believe in God, people expressing their belief in God."

"I put my hand and I touched Rich Devose's shoulder and I said 65 years ago when you were  born God said tag, you're it."

"We've seen people that said God is dead. I talked to Him last night, He's not even sick. And their concept of atheism, dialectic materialism, it's dead, it's gone."

"And Jerry Ford and I were together that day and I've never said this before to him or anybody. I said Jerry I believe you're God's man to be Vice President of the United States. Two days later he was Vice President of the United States. So we went there are had bible study and prayer."
Gospel Films President Billy Zeoli, blatantly violating Amway's stated policies at "Free Enterprise Day" rallies in 1990 and 1991, presumably with the knowledge and consent of Rich DeVos, Chairman of the Board of Gospel Films.

Gospel Films (GF) is a non-profit organization that produces and distributes evangelical films, videos and software.  Their mission statement and other information can be found on  the Gospel Communications web site. What you won't find, on their web site or in their annual report, is any mention of the close (and seemingly symbiotic) relationship between GF and Amway. This is curious indeed, considering that the GF board is loaded with Amway Diamonds, and that GF  president Billy Zeoli is a frequent speaker at Amway rallies and that his audio tapes are sold to Amway distributors.

According to the 1995 GF annual report, the GF board  at that time consisted of:

Richard M. Devos, Chairman
Billy Zeoli, President
Peter Cook, Vice chairman
John  Bouma,  Secretary
Paul Buiten, Treasurer
Bill Britt
Doug DeVos
Jim Dornan
Ted Essenburg
Louis Helder, MD
Jim Janz
John Peterson
Ron Puryear
Don Wilson
Dexter Yager

Britt, Dornan, Janz, Puryear, Wilson and Yager are Amway Diamonds whose names I recognize; there may be others who I'm not yet familiar with. Doug DeVos, of course is the son of  Rich DeVos. The senior DeVos has been GF's Chairman of the Board for many years. Britt, Yager and the younger DeVos were added to the board about four or five years ago. As you can see from this announcement posted on GF's web site at the time, there is no mention whatsoever that Doug DeVos is one of Amway's top executives, or that Yager and Britt are two of Amway's most influential distributors and "Tools Kings."

The GF/Amway connection has been mutually profitable for at least some of the board members. Zeoli is a (presumably paid) speaker at Amway rallies, and his tapes are sold to Amway distributors. I've also gotten comments like these regarding the solicitation of donations for GF at rallies:

"I was a distributor for 3 years in the Britt Org. and have attended the  major functions. I can confirm to you that a collection is being done every sunday morning in each of the functions that I attended. Emeralds will be positioned on the aisles distributing and collecting Gospel Films envelopes. They would fill buckets and buckets of envelopes. They would have somebody talk about Gospel Films and what it does before the collection. Multiply this by the number of functions that Britt Org. have in a year. There is no escape, they fleece you from different angles."
It's hard to believe that GF Chairman of the Board Rich DeVos is not aware of Zeoli's Amway activities, which certainly seem to violate Amway's professed policy regarding the promoting of policital/religious agendas at Amway "business meetings." Of course it's well known that this policy is routinely  ignored,  and that right-wing politics and religion are standard fare at Amway rallies, but here is at least one instance where Amway's owners can hardly claim ignorance of what is going on.

Being on the GF board has also been a financial boon for other board members. In the "Related Party Transactions" section of the 1995 annual  report, we find the following statements:

"Gospel Films, Inc. purchases business, health, and liability insurance through an agency in which a member of the Organization's Board of Directors has a financial interest.  Insurance expense for coverage purchased through the Board member's agency, totaled $158,163 and $140,756 for 1995 and 1994, respectively.

"Gospel Films, Inc. contracts with a son of an officer of the Organization and with a company in which the officer's son is a stockholder to provide professional services including project consulting, film research and editing, and as an outside producer. Total payments to the officer's son and his company were $603,201 and $506,905 for 1995 and 1994, respectively.  At December 31, 1995 the Organization had $20,000 included in accounts receivable from the related party.

"A company owned by a son of an officer of the Organization provides  professional  services  to  the  Organization  including coordination of outreach ministry-Africa, production of related film and video materials, coordination of events, and consultation regarding promotion and donor relations. Total payments to the related company for services rendered, reimbursement of expenses and payment of contractors were $21,785 and $25,278 in 1995 and 1994, respectively."

Since Britt and Yager both own  media production and distribution facilities, it seems likely that they were the beneficiaries of  the over $1 million paid out by GF for "project consulting, film research and editing."

Of course we're all entitled to our own opinions about the GF/Amway connection. Some will see no contradiction in self-professed "committed Christians" being less than truthful and  violating their own policies (or lying about what those policies really are). Some will.