After clear-cutting trees, Mac Hammond ordered to restore bluff

A case of clear-cutting trees along the Mississippi River in Crow Wing County shows that times are still pretty good for “Mac” Hammond, the megachurch owner and preacher of the prosperity gospel.

Hammond, who does a morning gig on WCCO called the “winner’s minute”, isn’t shy about his wealth and spread a theology around it which insists that God favors some people with material wealth.

And Hammond and his Living Word Church have plenty of material wealth, Hammond and his wife own 10 acres of the land; the church owns hundreds of acres around it.

A neighbor insists the Hammonds wanted a better view so down came the trees. The Hammonds blame nature.

They’ve now been ordered to restore them, the Brainerd Dispatch reports.

“When we got out there and talked to the guys from the church, they didn’t disagree,” Chris Pence, environmental services manager for the county, tells the paper. “They didn’t want to have any problems up there either. They’re building a building up top, and the last thing they would want is to have erosion causing that to have any questionable issues.”

The paper tried to talk to the Hammonds but got directed to a church associate pastor who said the Hammonds are on sabbatical, but are “mortified” by the tree clearing. They blamed a logger for clearing the area they said was created by a “blowdown.”

A neighbor isn’t buying it, based on the lack of evidence around the forest still standing.

“I think there are a lot of developers who would like to get their hands on it,” associate pastor Brian Sullivan said. “We want to protect it. We think it’s a good investment. At this point, we have no intention of selling it. It certainly—having that property has enhanced our loan-to-value ratio as a ministry. Really recognizing the value of that property in context to the river and the community has caused us to really, as a ministry, go, ‘Let’s continue to care for it. Let’s continue to protect it.'”

  • John O.

    I would imagine the good Reverend is one of those souls who takes the offering outside well after the last parishioner has left, looks up and says “Lord, I’m going to throw all these offerings up in the air. Whatever doesn’t come down is yours.”

    • jon

      Pay no attention to those red letters in your bible about the camels and eye of the needle… instead let’s go look at the jewish laws from the old testament!

      Call me old fashioned, but a rich guy pretending to be jewish seems a little offensive to me… kind of like black face.

  • FWIW, Mac Hammond buys a 60 second ad spot on WCCO called “The Winner’s Minute,” he doesn’t have a gig with WCCO.

    • Agreed.

      It’s VERY apparent that it is a paid for advertising spot.

      • Al
      • Jack Ungerleider

        The only value of the Winner’s Minute is that the “4 things you need to know” comes on right after it, followed by the last minute traffic and weather.

        • KariBemidji

          Quickly followed by ‘your day in 90 seconds’ and I’m ready to go!

        • It’s sometimes uplifting.

          I didn’t know Mac Hammond’s background though. Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of “those” types…

  • Bob Sinclair

    // “having that property has enhanced our loan-to-value ratio as a ministry”
    This tells me all I need to know about this particular organization.

    • Kevin

      What could this possibly tell you? That like someone saying if a house went up in value and the loan to value ratio benefited the owner that you know all you need to know. Please – if you’re going to judge something, find a better angle.

      • Bob Sinclair

        If this truly was a Christian ministry, I doubt the Assistant Pastor would be espousing loan to value ratios. Rather I would hope he would say something about how the property is benefiting those who need help – “Hey we use this place to feed our neighbors” or “This building is used to help the homeless get back on their feet” That sort of thing. To me, bragging about loan to value ratios makes him look like another wall street banker.

        • Kevin

          You’re kidding. Mentioning loan to value directly conflicts with being “christian” – So if I own a business, and file taxes, I am not truly Christian? Ouch… that is pretty judgmental. The entire article is written with a slant on money…and prosperity. You want the land to feed the “feed neighbors” or building to “help homeless” but probably haven’t looked into how this man or ministry does those exact things. Do some research and get back to me.

          • X.A. Smith

            They’re not “running a business,” they’re running a church. Tax exempt.
            The building in question is the pastor’s retirement home.

          • Kevin

            so… I’m missing your point. I’m not a real estate mogul, but any building or property appreciates and depreciates – no matter who owns it. right? separation of church and state doesn’t impact loan to value. Everything you own…or Mac, or any church or business has a loan to value ratio… weather its taxable or not is another conversation.

          • X.A. Smith


            It’s just that it’s a creepy sounding thing to hear from a pastor.

  • Zachary

    Replant! Replant! And Thin no more!

  • Kevin

    Did everyone miss this part: “When we got out there and talked to the guys from the church, they didn’t disagree,” Chris Pence, environmental services manager for the county, tells the paper. “They didn’t want to have any problems up there either. They’re building a building up top, and the last thing they would want is to have erosion causing that to have any questionable issues.”

    The church has owned that land for years…. which is why the loan to value is so great. Its part of a longterm goal to build a camp… keeping the land in tact as much as possible.

    • X.A. Smith

      But the part that was cleared was owned by the pastor. The church owns other surrounding land. Now, any property owner on the river can do the same thing, and for the price of clearing and landscaping, can have a view of the river for 20 or more years. Just tell them there was a blowdown event, and they accidentally cleared the hill. No punishment.

      • Kevin

        It wasn’t cleared by the pastor, it was cleared by the logger hired to clear the area from natural blow down that the county acknowledges needed to happen. So, if you’d like an apology from the pastor for not showing up to personally manage the project – fine. But the article says the guy was shocked… or “mortified”. To say there was no penalty ignores the 10,000 invested in replants with strict adherence to the county plan. If this wasn’t a prosperity pastor.. this is a non-story.
        It happened in the fall – 6 months ago… I guess the election cycle was more important then so MPR is digging back in their inbox.

        • Forum.

          • Kevin

            I’m sorry – what do you mean here bob?

          • Forum Communications did the story on Sunday. MPR didn’t dig into its inbox.Z

            I always attribute the source story, which I also did on this post.

          • Kevin

            Noted 🙂

        • X.A. Smith

          The article says the guy had his staff say he was “mortified” about it. As it says in the article:

          “Lawrence Severt said when he followed up with county land services concerning the site, he was not convinced a blowdown was a reasonable explanation for what occurred. Severt based this skepticism on observing the surrounding landscape, which did not appear affected by any recent wind storms. He said he believed the land was cleared to create a view of the river and surrounding attractive landscape. Even with the trees and shrubs the property owners were required to plant, Severt said it would take decades for the site to begin resembling the old-growth forests that once stood there.

          “That was criminal,” Severt said. “As far as I’m concerned, it was criminal. There should have been more of a reaction to it than just, ‘Plant some trees or shrubs.'”

          As I said, this is now a recipe for anyone who wants a view of the river. “Accidentally” clear cut it, plant some trees and shrubs, and you have a view of the river with no punishment. The cost of planting the shrubs is merely part of the expense of what one would normally do to landscape after clear-cutting.

          • Kevin

            Great – now please post the quotes cited by the government official that actually walked the property instead of some random guy who has never been on it….

          • Kevin

            Here is the highlight of an actual environmentalist instead of a concerned citezen:

            Chris Pence, Crow Wing County division manager for environmental services, said he and another staff member visited the site late last summer in response to complaints concerning the tree clearing. After walking the property, Pence said they found an area stretching 320 feet wide and 210 feet up the bluff where the trees were removed. He said they determined it met criteria for an enforcement case and would be subject to a restoration order.

            Pence said the property owners quickly agreed to comply with the order.

            Pence said the property owners completed all that is expected of them concerning restoration of the bluff.

            “They got right on it,” Pence said. “From a compliance perspective, this was fast.”

          • X.A. Smith

            Right. That doesn’t support your case. They got what they want and were not punished.

            They were smart to comply quickly. That way, it would be grown-in by the time their retirement home was finished being built. With a nice view of the river!

          • Kevin

            So they wanted to be “mortified” or horrifed or whatever the word was? C’mon. And one guy who obviously cares a lot about the river and the trees just so happens to be found by the reporter doing the article? What are the chances? And no, he doesn’t speak for everyone, and certainly not for the county officials overseeing this project.

            You can’t just pick and choose who you believe in the article. You believe the accuser and not the people saying they are moritfied… and you probably know neither one… so what’s your angle?

          • X.A. Smith

            There are no quotes from the pastor. The only info about their reaction comes through intermediaries. It’s moot. You are picking and choosing, too.

          • Kevin

            no sir, I’m reading the full context of the article. obviously there are two sides here. I believe both. The citizen has a right to be concerned and the county took action. The other side was mortified with the way the land was treated and took full responsibility and complied with every recommendation. You’re choosing to believe half of the story.

            Meanwhile, the county guy say it could have been from blow down and the resulting damage caused be cleaning it up. –

            I get it… you don’t like this guy – but believe me. there are far greater challenges facing our rivers and streams then this one case – accidental or not. This has zero to do with rivers and shorelines…. and that is the real tragedy of this story.

          • X.A. Smith

            I’m inclined to be more skeptical on this one, it’s just my gut feeling. You’re giving the pastor the benefit of the doubt, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

            What I want is to hear is the logger’s account of the whole thing. What were they told to do, what were the conditions of the job, and why did it end up like it did?

            Without that perspective, we’ll just have our personal inclinations. Fascinating story, though.

          • X.A. Smith

            He’s a guy that’s affected by what happened. As is everyone who happens by it.

          • Kevin


  • X.A. Smith

    I’d like to see mainstream Christians speak out against this “prosperity gospel” crap.

    • Kevin

      How would you define the “gospel” – if the prosperity gospel is bad… what parts of the gospel are the good ones?

      • X.A. Smith
        • Kevin

          this doesn’t answer my question…

          • X.A. Smith

            Please rephrase your question. It confuses me.

          • Kevin

            You said you’d like to see christians speak out against the “prosperity gospel”- meaning to you, the gospel can be divided into different categories. You don’t like the prosperous part of the gospel… so which parts of the gospel are acceptable to you?

          • X.A. Smith

            I didn’t say that. I said—and it was a joke about conservatives who constantly use the trope of “I wish members of mainstream Islam would speak out against radical Islamic terrorists,”—I’d like to see mainstream Christians speak out against “prosperity gospel” crap. Meaning the longstanding tradition in this country of con artists using religion to fleece the poor, for their own wealth, while preaching to rich people that they shouldn’t feel guilty about living lives of luxury while exploiting the poor. I’m against that. I don’t care so much about the actual texts concerned.