Moody Bible Institute Accused of Taking Advantage of Elderly

A class action lawsuit accuses Moody Bible Institute of taking advantage of the elderly

-by Kathi


Moody Bible Institute was started in 1886 by D.L. Moody as a way to train individuals in Biblical studies and evangelism. The Institute has since grown to include campuses in Chicago, Spokane and Michigan.  Moody Bible Institute has been very well respected around the world for its training of pastors, evangelists, and for its radio program.

A recent class action lawsuit in Atlanta is accusing Moody Bible Institute of taking advantage of elderly people in estate planning. This lawsuit was filed by Lisa Higdon on behalf of 89-year-old Hazel Turner who is suffering from dementia. Higdon, Turner’s caretaker, started to become suspicious of a Moody representative who frequently visited Turner. Higdon requested that the Moody representative not visit Turner to discuss her estate when she was not present. In the end, Hazel Turner signed papers that made Moody Bible Institute the trustee of her estate, a beneficiary, and the executor of her will.

Estate planning assistance by non-profits is not unusual. And, it is not unusual for non-profit religious-oriented schools to offer assistance in estate planning. Hope International University, my alma mater, has a very detailed section on its website in regard to planned giving and different ways an individual can incorporate charitable giving in their estate planning. Moody Bible Institute, however, has absolutely no information on its website about incorporating planned giving through an estate.

The lack of information Moody has available in regard to estate planning is not what concerns me, it is Moody’s response to the pending lawsuit from the news article that troubles me:

A spokesperson for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago issued a statement saying:

“Moody Bible Institute is a non-profit, accredited institution of higher education based in Chicago that also includes radio and publishing ministries. Since our founding by D. L. Moody 130 years ago, we have trained thousands of men and women to serve as missionaries, church leaders, as well as founders and leaders of non-profits and humanitarian-based organizations around the globe. Because of the generosity of donors, we are able to provide a biblically based tuition-paid education to our undergraduate school students in Chicago. We have been made aware of the lawsuit recently filed in the Northern District of Georgia. A nearly identical lawsuit filed by the same law firm was recently dismissed by the Court earlier this year. Like the previous lawsuit, there is absolutely no merit to the Plaintiff’s case and we intend to vigorously defend against the unfounded allegations and are confident we will again prevail.”

Where is the concern for Hazel Turner? When informed by Lisa Higdon that she had signed over her entire trust to Moody, Turner replied, “I would never do that.” Somehow, a Moody representative was able to convince Ms. Turner to do that. Moody could do the right thing by stating that it will look into how their representatives consult individuals in estate planning in order to ensure that they are not taking advantage of vulnerable aging adults.

My concern is that as the aging population grows in the United States, we may see more cases of non-profits taking advantage of vulnerable adults like Hazel Turner.

23 thoughts on “Moody Bible Institute Accused of Taking Advantage of Elderly”

  1. Kathi – Thanks for doing this post. I was livid when I read about it.

    Once Moody heard that Hazel Turner did not intend to turn her estate over to them, the honorable and Christian thing to do would be for them to revoke the trust. Where is Christ in this fiasco?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. This is Elder Abuse at its finest. In the business sector that I work, heads would roll from the Fed. There would be fines and charges from the head of the company to the person responsible. I would like to see the same thing in this situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I wonder how long she has been legally incapacitated to make decisions like this. If they could prove she was not capable of doing so at the time she signed the papers, Moody is screwed.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In the end, Hazel Turner signed papers that made Moody Bible Institute the trustee of her estate, a beneficiary, and the executor of her will.

    Just like my NPD/Master Manipulator brother did to my grandmother when her dementia set in. All LEGAL, all airtight, all planned twenty chess moves in advance.

    All about the Benjamins, baby!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know people personally in planned giving dept. @ Moody so I personally believe they would not take advantage of a elderly person.


  6. I guess Moody could argue that Higdon convinced Turner that she did not want to turn over her estate. The argument could go both ways. Personally, I think Moody was taking advantage of the situation. It would be interesting to know if Turner had her estate planning done prior to meeting with the Moody rep. Most people have their estate planning done well before Turner’s age. Either she did not have it done, or the Moody rep convinced her to change her plans.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Here’s what Jesus had to say on the matter:

    …Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation…
    ~ Matthew 23:14 ~

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My question is what type of fee does the Moody representative receive when he/she “sells” such a plan. Do they get a flat fee or a percentage?


  9. I’ve often thought churches and parachurch organizations doing this is a conflict of interest to say the least.

    Muff Potter nailed it.

    I’m also leery of churches that bring in Dave Ramsey because he teaches tithing, again it seems to benefit the church, even churches that know tithing is not a NT teaching bring him in. Hmm…

    Don’t get financial advice from clergy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well this seems to be going around in Christian circles, this end justifies the means fund raising. Makes me pretty sick to see this still occurring. In the 90’s Billy Graham’s organization was sued for doing the exact same thing. I think Moody is going to be in trouble on this one. First off they didn’t just make themselves beneficiary of an incompetent person’s estate, they made themselves the TRUSTEE. How convenient is that. The NEW trustee is the NEW beneficiary. CHARMING stunt to pull on an old lady. The legal problem arises when a ” trustee” acts in their own personal benefit. Hopefully the court will see through this and give Moody a good slap down. This year Clearwater Christian college & Tennessee Temple both went under and closed. I would be over joyed to see Moody added to that list. These ends justifies the means entities need to vanish so contributions can flow into legitimate ministries that are propagating the gospel NOT growing their asset base like some sort of hedge fund operator.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I know a woman who was widowed and caring for her mother in law who was suffering from some dementia. While she was at the grocery store, her MIL’s pastor visited and departed with the daughter in law’s sterling silver tea set that she had inherited from her grandmother. She called and explained that her MIL had given away something that was not hers to give. The pastor insisted he was keeping it until the DIL threatened to call the police and press charges. Disgusting behavior! Even if the tea set had been hers, I would have refused to accept an expensive gift from a woman who was not in her right mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Some years ago my wife and I became friends (or so we thought) with a Pastor from India. We made small monthly gifts for his personal support, plus separate gifts to support children in his orphanage. Well, we recently came to find out that the the money we, and many others, contributed for the support of orphans was going for things like shopping trips to Singapore for his wife, and a rather expensive lake front residential property for himself and his wife in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

    I choose to believe that early on our friend was what he presented himself to be. It’s just that it seems that when even a true servant of our Lord begins to require money for his “ministry,” few can handle the temptations of the availability of wealth they did not earn.


  13. Amen Muff, you are spot on with those Scriptures. Guess the mammom means more than peoples’ souls to these ‘ministries (?).’ Sit in the nursing homes sometime and watch the pastors file in and “schmooze” with the elderly (my loved ones included). It certainly is a spectacle to behold with Academy Award winning performances on their part, specifically designed to pour out all of that fake love for the sake of earning their victims’ financial nesting eggs.

    And early Happy Birthday to you H.U.G.!


  14. Well, there’s so much to this story that we don’t know. Why doesn’t Hazel Turner have a power of attorney to manage her affairs? Certainly it is warranted at her age and in her condition. Does the caretaker perhaps have an interest in inheriting monies from Hazel Turner’s estate? This is certainly possible. It is also possible that Moody Bible Institute is not being forthcoming in this matter. So, I’d say it’s a matter of wait and see until more evidence comes out.


  15. We had a pastor from India come to our church, we sent him money regularly. We found out that he had a wife in the city, and a mistress in the mountains where he preached. So much for our elders vetting people properly.


  16. This is currently happening in my family as well and has been going on for years.
    They set it up very slowly. Then, over the years as the senility began to turn toward dementia they closed in and started to seal the deal for real.
    Now, they have power of attorney, durable power of attorney, are executor of the will, are in the will. They pay themselves out of her money to handle her money. Of course, by the time they took her finances out of the hands of the financial adviser she’d had for years, she saw “no conflict of interest” with it.
    She doesn’t have access to her money now, only MBI does, but she doesn’t need it because she’s bedridden and out of it.
    The specialty seems to be older widows who “want to go home to be with Jesus”.
    It is quite sad.


  17. If she has dementia then how does this Higdon know she’s telling the truth. Maybe she turned it over to Moody when she was in her right mind. Who is this Higdon girl anyway. Linkden says she’s a full time professional in the electric business. Also when you follow up on the case (which the press never does) it says it was dropped. Wonder if Hazel died before the case was finished or if Lisa Higdon got her money. How does a caregiver become a power of attorney…. that’s weird.


  18. I work with seniors at Moody’s Jenkins hall chicago could you please let us know the attorneys who handled the case? Thankyou


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