60 Minutes Interview
'60 Minutes' shot turns into a bonanza
By J. Robert Razemore
In the opening shots of the television
program "60 Minutes' Sunday night, the Rev. Kirby J. Hensley
of Modesto quipped with a smile and his tongue rolling to one
side of his mouth,
"Yeah, I'm a con man."
Yesterday he opened the first big sack
of mail prompted by that national exposure, sifting out checks
and cash totaling maybe $10,000. There's more today, and there
will be more tomorrow.
"Ooooo wheee ... This is mining.
This is gold mining. It's surprising what money will do for you,"
the peppery head of the Universal Life
Church exclaimed as he opened more letters in his world church
headquarters in west Modesto.
Money to Hensley has only begat more
money, something he has not frittered away. He still lives a modest
life in his Poland Road home.
"I can't see spending it ... If
the Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, I'll get by."
That he does. He has bought his own
church, several rentals in Modesto and 640 acres of foothill land
in Wilcox, Ariz., for a retirement village. But that project is
stalled in a tangle of legal problems with Arizona officials.
When Hensley "gets by" best
is when the television cameras are whirring and the newspapers
are writing about him - good or bad.
The news has been both to Hensley in
the 10 years since he started telling people he would ordain anyone
for the asking. And with the minister's license goes an invitation
to become an honorary doctor of divinity for a $20 donation.
Hensley was pleased when a San Jose
policeman challenged his issuing of degrees, as he fought the
state, the Internal Revenue Service and the federal courts. The
public watched, listened and read of his trials and tribulations.
And they responded - his flock of mail order ministers grew to
more than 5 million worldwide.