Reverend Ike dies at 74; preached gospel of prosperity

Associated Press

The minister known as Reverend Ike, who preached the gospel of material prosperity to millions nationwide, has died. He was 74.

The Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II died Tuesday, according to a statement on his website. The cause of death was not given.

Reverend Ike preached the power of what he called “positive self-image psychology” to his 5,000 parishioners at the United Church Science of Living Institute in New York.

In the 1970s, Reverend Ike was one of the first evangelists to reach an audience of millions through television.

“This is the do-it-yourself church,” he proclaimed. “The only savior in this philosophy is God in you.”

Reverend Ike stretched Christian tenets, relocating the idea of God to the interior of the self, with the power to bring the believer anything he or she desired in the way of health, wealth and peace of mind.

The philosophy did not sit well with traditional Christian ministers and civil rights leaders who felt that black churches should focus on social reform rather than self-fulfillment.

His critics said he preyed on the poor and conned the faithful into giving him donations that he spent on cars, clothes and homes. The IRS and the Postal Service investigated his businesses.

Others defended his philosophy of mind over matter, which appealed to middle-class believers who felt their hard work should be rewarded in this life.

“If it’s that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven,” he said, riffing on the famous verse from the book of Matthew, “think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn’t even have a bribe for the gatekeeper.”

Reverend Ike was born June 1, 1935, in Ridgeland, S.C., to an elementary school teacher and a Baptist minister from Dutch Indonesia.

He became an assistant pastor in his father’s church at age 14. He attended the American Bible College in Chicago and spent two years in the Air Force as a chaplain. He founded his first church in Boston and moved to New York City two years later.

He moved his church into a Harlem movie theater with a narrow marquee that forced him to shorten his name to “Rev. Ike.”

In the 1970s, Reverend Ike toured the country and preached over some 1,770 radio and television stations in major markets.

He is survived by his wife, Eula May Dent, and his son, Xavier F. Eikerenkoetter, who took over the ministry when his father retired.